In the twentieth century, the diversity and the conceptual fragmentation of our lives force our thinking towards literary coalescence, towards extreme nuances of feeling, in a sort of “liquefaction” of discourse: thought freed from methodological constraints thus rediscovers the “fluid” form of the essay, understood here in the cognate French sense of essai, an “attempt.” In that sense, Vilém Flusser’s essays are both a ludic phenomenon and a form of committed writing. In two works written in Brazil, entitled “Ensaios” [Essays], one unpublished and the other published in the literary supplement of the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo in its issue of August 19, 1967, and later included in his Ficções Filosóficas [Philosophical Fictions] (1998), Flusser describes its characteristic features.
The essay, as dened by José Ortega y Gasset and Albert Camus, should be understood, Flusser says, as a phenomenological narrative that makes the observer’s point of view and his or her way of looking at things its true subject; the advantage of the essayistic approach within philosophy would therefore seem to be that it deals with a learned subject in a free, lively, and vivid way – and that is the case with all Flusser’s works. For him, the choice of the essay form is thus connected with an existential commitment, in a dialogic relationship with the reader.
With his almost complete rejection of quotations, notes on sources, bibliographies, and footnotes, Flusser makes visible a style of nomadic thinking, without a basis (literally bodenlos, without firm ground) in the external form of the text. Flusser’s entire work is therefore rootless: that is what gives it its airy lightness.