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The Language of Presence in Varley's "The Persistence of Vision" La Langue de Présence dans "The Persistence of Vision" de Varley

Clayton Koelb
Science Fiction Studies
Vol. 11, No. 2 (Jul., 1984), pp. 154-165
Published by: SF-TH Inc
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4239614
Page Count: 12
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Language of Presence in Varley's "The Persistence of Vision" La Langue de Présence dans "The Persistence of Vision" de Varley
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Abstract

"The Persistence of Vision" de John Varley offre une utopie linguistique où le langage ordinaire, composé de signes caractérisés par un élément de distance et d'absence, est remplacé par un langage où le procès de signification est court-circuité en faveur d'une "lecture directe" de ce monde même. Varley conscient du fait qu'un tel langage in praesentia est incompatible avec les structures de notre monde, en sépare son utopie. La séparation est légère au départ et le récit reste dans les limites du vraisemblable, mais à la fin Varley ne permet pas de douter du fait que son histoire est un conte merveilleux où les données sont impossibles et non destinées à être crues. Cette invraisemblance importe car si nous devions croire que le texte impose une lecture directe ou allégorique, ses récits apparaîtraient soit auto-destructeurs d'une part, soit vainement prétentieux de l'autre. Ce récit qui d'abord communique l'apparence d'une foi absolue dans la possibilité d'une forme parfaite de communication se démasque à la fin pour montrer que ce langage onirique ne peut exister que dans un domaine de radicale fantaisie. /// John Varley's "The Persistence of Vision" proposes a linguistic utopia in which ordinary speech, which is composed of signs inevitably possessing an element of distance and "absence," is replaced by a language (or set of languages) in which the process of signification is set aside in favor of the direct "reading" of the world. Since Varley is fully aware that such a language of presence is incompatible with the structure of the world we live in, he separates his utopia from this world. The separation is at first relatively slight, and the story stays close to the margins of credibility; but at the end Varley leaves no doubt that his tale is a magical fantasy treating a world very different from the one we inhabit. What happens in Varley's story is impossible and not to be believed. This impossibility and this incredibility are precisely the point, for if we were to suppose that Varley meant to solicit the reader's belief, either directly or allegorically, his story would appear either curiously self-destructive on the one hand or emptily pretentious on the other. Neither is the case. This story that at first gives every appearance of expressing absolute faith in the possibility of a perfect form of communication unmasks itself at the end by showing decisively that this dream-language can exist only in the realm of outright, incredible fantasy. The language of this fantasy world is shown to be most powerful precisely when it is most incredible.

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