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  • In Praise of the Different and of Difference
  • Édouard Glissant
    Translated by Celia Britton (bio)

“Beauty is the sign of what, here, is going to change.” All this accumulation of the World and everywhere the hideous ugliness and the indifference, the streaking acts of violence and outrage, and even those who “make art,” who seem to be such liberators, who seem to promise a transition to something different, to something which at least acknowledges beauty’s impossibility, the appeal to and the renunciation of beauty, all this, simply the terrifying weight of that which we know we can no longer attain through beauty, and we stammer out this impotence, and we shout it in all the various excesses of which we make art, we don’t listen to the song of the world any more, the world is screaming around us, the path is lost and the connection withered, because we have failed, all of us, to put into practice that magnetic connection, not only with our immediate surroundings and the species which people them (that we can do, we have rediscovered the secret, where it is still possible), but also with the other groups of human beings, static or wandering (instead of enveloping them in a cloth of morality, as we do), so that all this noise that we are letting loose serves only to express our regret at no longer having access to beauty, we pile up flash upon crash so as no longer to have the time to perceive the differences of the world, which could show us the way to beauty, we want to crush everything that exists under the indistinct thunder of this heavy exacerbation, that’s what it is and what it will be, the cry opens up a noisy absence and a giving up of all sorts of difficult searches for harmony, we make more and more noise so as not to have to listen to ourselves, we refuse the world’s differences, and the very idea that there could be differences, we reconstruct one enormous savage vague Identical, which means Undifferentiated, but meanwhile, and unintentionally, our bacchanalia and our din have disrupted ways of talking, less than ever do they recite and sustain their strategy from a beginning to an end, now they’re crushing together little islands of words that bob up undissolved in the huge flood that has brought them together, and the spoken-written languages become oral-sung languages and within these languages the ways of talking multiply, with the result that this enormous violent machine for producing the undifferentiated has also, simultaneously, conceived what will fissure it into so many fertile fragmentations, and it’s the ways of talking that will save the languages, at least those that have survived until then, and it will be the ways of talking that will cherish the memories of the languages that have vanished, will reawaken among us traces of murdered languages, and will weave the maze fertilized by the multiplicities of languages, and then the seas that are closed and concentrated in on themselves, Mediterranean or Black Sea or Marmara Sea, will immediately bring together the mouths of their long rivers and the frontiers of their fresh water and their salt water. [End Page 856]

No place in the world can condone the slightest forgetting of a crime, the slightest shadow cast. We ask that the ban on the unsaid of our histories should be lifted, in order that we may enter, all together and all freed, into the Whole-world. Together also, we name the Transportation and slavery perpetrated in the Americas a crime against humanity.

— Soyinka Chamoiseau Glissant, March 1998

March 1998. Against any sly, calculating determination to forget on the part of those who consider themselves the bearers of the colonial legacy, as against any tormented, angry desire to forget on the part of those who have long wavered between shame for the experience undergone and pride in a history reclaimed. May the memories of a shame suffered in the past not lead us to despise those who in their turn are reliving what was once our fate. And may the old desire to forget not mutate...


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pp. 856-862
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