An Obscure Linguistic Item.

Jeremy Adler reviews (TLS, Oct. 16, 2015) a book by “the writer Schuldt, who never uses his first name” that is obvious LH material:

The reappearance, after more than thirty years, of one of his finest short works, In Togo, dunkel (In Togo, Dark), at long last coming out from a leading publisher, thus provides cause for celebration. The book could perhaps best be described as ethno-fantasy. In style, the title text, for example, veers disconcertingly between a short story, a philological investigation and an anthropological field study. Throughout its several twists and turns, In Togo, dunkel teeters on the edge between factual report and fancy, tricking the reader into believing that its clever concoction is just plain true. An African tribe, so the story goes, uses an obscure linguistic item, both rather like a noun and rather like a verb, mostly at the end of a sentence, and especially after exclamations. The trick lies in the detective work required to explain the etymology of this most puzzling artefact. If this seems unpromising material, Schuldt develops it with wit, artistry and consistent intensity, making this little exercise in style a tour de force of inventiveness.

Though Adler calls him “one of the youngest and most interesting figures in that remarkable group of experimentalists who came to play such a prominent role in the German literature of the last third of the twentieth century,” the internet seems to know nothing about him beyond this book; if anyone knows anything else, feel free to pass it on.

Comments

  1. There’s your lad. He also wrote Leben und Sterben in China. 111 Fabeln nach Lius Wörterbuch which starts off with a Chinese-English dictionary as its source.

  2. Aha, thanks! Interesting fellow.

  3. Bathrobe says:

    Der Klang ist die Seele der Sprache, während die Bedeutungen der Wörter ihr Körper sind.

    Hmmm. A significant development on Saussure.

  4. Am I the only one who read that snippet of Adler’s review as something Borgesian, and therefore expected Schuldt not to actually exist?

  5. January First-of-May says:

    Am I the only one who read that snippet of Adler’s review as something Borgesian, and therefore expected Schuldt not to actually exist?

    More reminiscent of Lem than Borges to me (though that doesn’t change the conclusion).

  6. minus273 says:

    While we’re at it, what’s the adjective for Lem? Like, lemming, lemmatic?

  7. Doubts regarding his existence seem hardly compatible with the Wikipedia article.

  8. J.W. Brewer says:

    I find it hard to believe that German wikipedia has exactly zero hoax articles setting forth the biography of someone whose actual historicity is uncertain. Here’s an enjoyable wikibio of an alleged English literary-world marginal figure of the same approximate vintage which totally reads like an elaborately detailed hoax although I’m not ruling out the possibility that the fellow actually exists. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heathcote_Williams

  9. Williams’s IMDB page says that he “got the role of Prospero in Derek Jarman’s adaption of The Tempest (1970) after Terry Thomas had to turn it down due to his ill health.” I think every Shakespeare play should have Terry-Thomas in his prime, playing one of the leading roles.

  10. Terry-Thomas as Lear is an especially enticing prospect.

  11. The German Wikipedia isn’t immune to hoaxes, no. Bielefeld has slipped in.

  12. I think Williams is too visible to be a complete hoax. It’s possible that the person who appears on video is not the author of the books, etc., but is there really any reason to think so?

    I understand that WP.DE hs stronger standards for who can be an editor than WP.EN (which basically has none).

  13. Marja Erwin says:

    … Is it as weird as English, which uses gerunds, both rather like a noun and rather like a verb, sometimes in the middle of exclamations…?

  14. David Marjanović says:

    Am I the only one who read that snippet of Adler’s review as something Borgesian, and therefore expected Schuldt not to actually exist?

    No. 🙂

    (I haven’t read any Lem, though.)

    WP.DE hs stronger standards for who can be an editor

    No, but edits only become visible after someone higher up in the pecking order has approved them. (Hence Bielefeld.)

  15. While we’re at it, what’s the adjective for Lem?

    Lemesque.

    For an Iron Curtain Party group — Lem is probably a composite committee rather than an individual, since he writes in several styles and sometimes reads foreign, to him, languages and sometimes does not — to gain monopoly positions of power from which they can control opinion through criticism and pedagogic essays is a threat to our whole field of science fiction and its free exchange of views and ideas. [Philip K. Dick, Letter to the FBI, 1974]

    They say Dick wrote many such letters and sometimes didn’t even bother to post them. He just placed them in his trash can, since he believed the FBI was surveilling him and would read them anyway. Which was very Dickian, of course.

  16. David Marjanović says:

    Less of a dick move, though, than actually posting them…

  17. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Lem is probably a composite committee rather than an individual.”

    We can identify with that.
    We’re an anarcho-syndicalist commune: we take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week.

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