There are insufficient words. Is that what I mean to say? Words are insufficient. Language is insufficient. How can language express emotion? I make a declaratory statement, “I love you” or “I hate you”. What can either predicate, love or hate, possibly mean when its usage is so indiscriminate? How can “I love my daughter, or my friend” use the same predicate when its subject is ice-cream or Camembert. I love Camembert. I hate my enemy and football: in one case I wish the subject’s annihilation, the other merely bores me. In East Coker, Eliot uses the language of conflict to depict this battle with inarticulacy:
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion.
Eliot uses his shabby equipment exquisitely, but he still fails to articulate the inarticulate. Trying to find the mot juste is to run into failure, flailing like Victor Krap in Beckett’s Eleutheria: [Victor] runs to the footlights, wants to say something but can’t, makes a helpless gesture, exits, gesticulating wildly. Silence.
Anselm Kiefer’s Aschenblume captures how exile has transformed me in a way that my language is inadequate to express. Forsakenness, vastness, loneliness, despondency, curiosity, emptiness; none of these concepts are sufficient.
You needn’t speak German to comprehend the pain and cursed exhilaration of Winterreise. The music reaches into the inarticulate beyond the expressive range of language.