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“Man is a rope […] – a rope over an abyss.” (Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, 1917, p. 29)

Biographical, linguistic, intercultural: Vilém Flusser’s notion of abyss spans at least three signficant existential realities or atmospheres. It begins with facing the abyss at the moment Prague faced Nazi occupation.The “catastrophe of the Czech people,” as Flusser put it in his autobiographical text Bodenlos (1992) [No Firm Ground] (1992, pp. 24–25; translated from the German), resulted in a splitting of identities and loyalties: an abyss between him and his German friends as well as his Czech friends. Only his Jewish “component” remained, a somewhat uncomfortable, forced trifurcation at the time and there- after. A closely related linguistic abyss became central for Flusser’s theory of translation: the repetitive, obsessive, cathartic performance of jumping across an abyss, between languages and cultural atmospheres, akin to a “dicing with death” (Guldin, Philosophieren zwischen den Sprachen, 2005, p. 39; translated from the Ger- man). Flusser himself de ned the abyss as a negative, as a nonexistence of the bottom. “Have you experienced the abyss? You fall into the word, so to speak.” (Hamburg 1990, interview with Hans-Joachim Lenger, in: Zwiegespräche, 1996, p. 150; translated from the German)

The creator, the author, the translator also “falls around” the text as Flusser relied on the notions covered by the Hebrew term pilpul (see two essays by Flusser, both entitled “Pilpul,” in: Jude sein, 1995) to approximate the meaning or possible truth of a text by approaching it from different perspectives.This approximation also informed his understanding of an intercultural abyss – between individuals, between cultures, between epistemologies – the most radical of which he expressed in Vampyroteuthis Infernalis (2011–2012). On the one hand, mirroring the human and the vampyroteuthic worlds, Flusser concedes that “these two cultures are incomparable” (Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, 2012, p. 39). On the other hand, Flusser readily extends “invitations to harrow this hell” (ibid., p. 43)

Original article by Anke Finger in Flusseriana

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abyss.txt · Last modified: 2023/03/12 17:07 (external edit)