The Power of the Key

“Creation, infinitely rarer [than invention], can, indeed must, open on to “the terra incognita of the soul” (Coleridge). Its avenues are those of the trackless. It can, as Walter Benjamin argues, wait for us to follow, to catch up with it, although it is implausible to suppose that we will do so.”

– George Steiner, Grammars of Creation

This reminds me of Kafka’s letter to Oskar Pollak: “Some books seem like a key to unfamiliar rooms in one’s own castle.” (There is of course his more often quoted passage about the ‘axe for the frozen sea’.) Steiner’s paragraph above, and in expanded detail in his book, is as good a description of the spirit of extreme seriousness that ought accompany the splendour of reading.

8 thoughts on “The Power of the Key

  1. In A Long Saturday whe he is talking about how one’s experience with a book is the most passionate there can be, he quips: “And because I believe that God is Kafka’s uncle, (I’m convinced of this), he doesn’t make like easy for us.”

      • I’ve also bought a copy of My Unwritten Books. He mentions it a lot in A Long Saturday and it appears to have elects of autobiography. Do you know anything about that title?

        • I know of it, and will certainly get around to it at some point. The others I have on the way are Language and Silence: Essays and Notes, 1958-66, The Uncommon Reader and The Poetry of Thought: From Hellenism to Celan.

          • Oh, I also ordered The Poetry of Thought! The one on Language and Sikence looks good as well. He touches on that topic in Saturday.

          • I think my rough plan is to read Errata, A Long Saturday and then work back chronologically from The Poetry of Thought.

          • That sounds like a great plan. A Long Saturday is a good basis for understanding his thoughts. Glad I read that first. Happy reading, Anthony!

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