David Trotters recension av en ny berättelse av Helen DeWitt och en bok om hennes roman The Last Samurai packar så mycket information, så många relevanta teman och uppslag som vad det verkar rimmar så väl med DeWitts estetik att den närmar sig att vara helt oklanderlig. Eftersom jag nyligen har läst DeWitts korta bok The English Understand Wool så var det extra roligt att upptäcka saker i efterhand som jag kan hänga upp läsningen på (fullständigt “preposterous”/bakvänt: “A preposterous idea is one which positions that which should come after (posterus) in advance of that which should come before (prae-).”
Om den lakoniska stilen:
The laconic must be terse. It is understatement weaponised: a rejoinder that cuts grandiloquence off at the knees as much by what it doesn’t say as by what it does. Plutarch found in the terseness of Spartan diplomacy plenty of ammunition for his own campaign against garrulity. When King Philip II of Macedon sought to intimidate the Spartan leadership by declaring that ‘If I invade Laconia, I shall turn you out,’ their reply was a simple ‘If’. The laconic riposte is a pivot or judo throw that makes use of an opponent’s superior weight and strength in order to tip them off-balance.
Om kopplingen mellan det spartanska/lakoniska och Shannons informationsteori (igen!):
A solution often found to work in contexts which don’t make it easy to establish and maintain a channel of communication – battlefields, for instance – is terseness. Xenophon records in his Hellenica a dispatch sent by the second-in-command of the Spartan fleet after the disastrous sea battle of Cyzicus that roughly translates as ‘ships sunk, admiral dead, survivors starving, no idea what to do next’.
Och om The English Understand Wool:
It’s not giving too much away to say that the final twist in this artful tale involves the use of language not to convey meaning, but to establish and maintain a channel of communication. The English Understand Wool is DeWitt’s most Spartan utterance to date.