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.
‘You may have noticed that here at Flavorpill, we’re pretty big fans of Andrei Tarkovsky – indeed, theunexpected archive of his Polaroids that we stumbled across a while back is one of our favorite ever Flavorwire posts. We’re also big fans of Solaris, the novel by Polish writer Stanislaw Lem that Tarkovsky so famously adapted into a strange, wonderful feature. Apparently, however, Lem never liked the English translation of his novel, mainly because it was a double translation from the French version, which he didn’t like much either. Translating the book twice gave results akin to feeding something through Babelfish a few times, a situation not helped by the translator’s penchant for rewriting as they saw fit — and it means that by all accounts, the English version of Solaris the novel is markedly different to the original Polish. However, that’s all about to change with the first direct Polish-English translation of the book. Rejoice!’