It’s an endlessly fascinating subject, and the conversation was particularly timely, given the widely-acknowledged paucity of this year’s Booker shortlist - but we didn’t really break new ground until a few minutes before the end of the event, when Miéville made a point that I found so interesting I wanted to disseminate it further. The real schism, he suggested, lies not between “litfic” and fantasy/SF, but between “the literature of recognition versus that of estrangement”.
Sam Thompson in the LRB on Embassytown, Mieville’s latest novel:
Each Host has two mouths, so that its speech is a duet between two voices, but this is almost incidental beside the aliens’ main oddity: instead of the human system of signs yoked arbitrarily to referents, the Hosts’ language is ‘a direct function of their consciousness’, which somehow involves an inherent bond between each word and the thing it represents. In effect, they speak the prelapsarian language of Adam, in which words are numinous with meaning and the world is named without ambiguity. The aliens, walking contradictions of every theory of language, are perfectly literal-minded and incapable of lying.