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528 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 Ponomareff next turns to Camus, asserting that '[i]n Camus's absurd universe there is no place for God or for those who would take his place, the totalitarian spirits.' The chapter on 'Chekhov's Ghost in German Literature: From Heinrich Boll to Christa Wolf' deals with yet another manifestation of 'the totalitarian spirit,' this time in German writing between the 1950s and the 1970s. The author foregrounds the 'failure of human communication' in works by Boll, Max Frisch, Wolf Biermann, Gunter Kunert, Ulrich Plentzdorf, and Wolf. It is the latter who receives special attention. Nietzsche's assertion that 'each of us is the farthest away from himself' resounds in her question 'How does one separate oneself from one's own self?' Wolf's quest for self, however, was spurred by the fear of 'the new world of the unimaginative concerned only with data and facts,' i.e. the contemporary variations of the Nietzchean Super-man. Summing up, Ponomareff suggests that 'Perhaps Chekhov's ghost in German literature, the theme of human isolation, is the common denominator that gives structure, style and direction to modem German writing.' The final two chapters deal with recent exiles, Vladimir Nabokov and Anne Hebert. Ponomareff sees in Nabokov's autobiographical prose 'a metaphorical storehouse for his fictional work.' As a result, the essayist himself turns into the'creative reader' whom Nabokov invokes in his study on Gogol: 'Give me the creative reader; this is a tale for him.' For Anne Hebert, who left Quebec for Paris, the displacement and the self-imposed exile offer 'creative and spiritual survival.' Ponomareff uncovers in her work yet another source of isolation, namely the 'spiritual tension' caused by the friction between majority and minority, and the tribulation of a French Canadian living in Paris being torn between Canada and France. The collection exemplifies the benefits of comparative studies: it brings cultures, authors, and read.ers closer and helps to recognize the familiar in the foreign. Hence the diversity of the essays becomes an advantage. Moreover, by connecting the well-known with the lesser established authors, the philosophers with critics, it stimulates new reading and encourages extending the limits of 'the spiritual geography' beyond the national or etlmic borders. (VERONIKA AMBROS) Stephen Scobie. Earthquakes and Explorations: Language and Painting from Cubism to Concrete Poetry University of Toronto Press. xiv, 236.$45.00 In Earthquakes and Explorations Stephen Scobie examines the complex and shifting relationship between language and visual art in the twentieth century. Drawing on his expertise as both a literary scholar and a poet, he argues thatno painting ever inhabits a field of pure visuality, that discourse HUMANITIES 529 always surrounds and structures the social circulation of visual images. The theoretical reflection which Scobie finds most useful in articulating and describing the interaction of verbal and visual is Derrida's concept of the 'supplement.' In the Derridean sense the supplement gestures towards a paradox; it is both necessary and surplus at the same time. To supplement is to add something, something absent, which seems to imply a lackwaiting to be filled; to supplement is also to bring something from outside, something extra, which, .in turn, seems to imply a plenitude complete in itself. As Scobie explams it, the muteness of painting and the signification of language exist in a reciprocal relationship of supplementarity: 'What painting brings to language is its own non-verbal nature, its silence - a silence that may still be within the realm of the sign ... but that is nevertheless a mute sign, one that challenges words to interpret it.' The chapters that follow explore variations of the reciprocal framing of language and painting in a number of significant moments from the modernist period. The power of language in the process of naming and Apollinaire's crucial and sometimes unrecognized role in designating the style of the young Picasso and Braque as cubism; the dazzling mobility of cubist semiotics and the challenging freedom of representation cubism enabled; the shifts of metaphor and metonymy in the unique objectivist aesthetics of Gertrude Stein's poetry- all of these complex practices within modernism receive detailed and dense analyses. Perhaps the most provocative and challenging...


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