Language and Style

Ideas are certainly important-who would deny that?-but the fact is, the ideas that operate in novels and poems, once they are unpicked from their context and laid out on the laboratory table, usually turn out to be uncomplicated, even banal, Whereas a style, an attitude to the world, as it soaks in, becomes part of the personality, part of the self, ultimately indistinguishable from the self.


2 thoughts on “Language and Style

  1. A fabulous quote! In my view, a style has its own rhythm as our body has its own, like breathing, heartbeat, etc. therefore a style can be a part of our self, as Coetzee points out. An idea, on the other hand, can appeal to our reason/ mind. Coetzee quote is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, in which Antony defeats Brutus in his speech, as Antony appeals to people’s emotion while Brutus to reason and Antony succeeds in inciting people to riot.

    • Thank you, Esther. Valéry also writes beautifully of style, as born from a technical instrument, the stylus, “an active faculty of simulation and dissimulation which sometimes becomes dominant”. The zone of artless artfulness, for which Italy has the word sprezzatura, a word/concept I’ve always loved.

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