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3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive
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From: Jack Kessler
Subject: Bib.de France, preservation, and Umberto Eco (15 Feb 93) February 15, 1993 FYI France: Bib.de France, preservation, and Umberto Eco by: Jack Kessler firstname.lastname@example.org A number of you have asked for a more full description of Eco's views, on the above subjects and a few more, as expressed in the _Le Nouvel Observateur_ (no.1406, 17-23 Octobre, 1991), issue entitled, "No, Imaging Has Not Killed the Civilization of the Written Word: The Revenge of the Books", to which I referred in an earlier posting here. I now have permission to post the following translated (by me) quotations from his interview: "It is thanks to the computer that relations with the audiovisual image have been overturned, since, on the computer screen, there are words...The civilization of the computer is that of the alphabet just as civilizations from the pyramids to the baroque church were those of the image...To speak of a war between the visual and the written is totally passe'. We now must, on the contrary, analyze the synergy between the two... "...what interests me in this synergy is the manner in which it will record things in the collective memory of the species...with (writing) one passed from the linearity in time of spoken discourse to a linearity in space which permitted one continually to retrieve preceding information. This retrieval, we must note, is sequential...hyper-text permits us to have on the screen, at the same time, different information which comes from different spaces on the disk. It is basically like a book which offers the possibility of retrieving simultaneously chapters 1, 3, and 17 and having them simultaneously before our eyes. "We face, though, dangers from the abundance and the triumph of the written...The excess of information has become noise. The political powers of our nations now understand this. Censorship no longer is exercised by retention or elimination, but by profusion: to destroy a news event, it is enough today to push forward another just behind it. That which happened during the Gulf War is a perfect example of this...A bibliography of 20 titles is useful...But what do we do with one of 10,000 titles obtained by pushing a computer button? Into the wastebasket! Just so, photocopying kills reading, and therefore understanding. Before, I would have gone to the library and taken notes on the books which interested me. Now, I am content to carry home this reservoir of knowledge which I have photocopied -- because it's easy -- and which I never again will open...The problem is to filter this information overload... "Beyond all this is the issue which gives me the greatest anxiety of my life: the conservation of books. All thinkers, all writers, ask the essential question: how will we face eternity? I am terrorized by the idea that all the books which have appeared on cellulose paper since the 19th century are destined to disappear because they are so fragile. Average age: 70 years! When I pick up a Gallimard from the 1950s, I have the impression of having in my hands a lamb being burned as a sacrifice... "We are confronted by a fundamental choice of civilization. The Bibliothe`que de France is studying all the methods of conservation. It will cost a fortune...But who, what authority will decide which books to retain? Plato and Dante have known their periods of disgrace, although they have been able to transcend the centuries... "There are the idiots of the computer, just as there are the idiots of the Walkman, whom one sees shaking and throwing themselves around at rock concerts. But are they more idiotic than the self-flagellants of the Middle Ages? The forms of self-destruction change a bit across time. And then, we don't all have to resort to such an idiocy. Among those who listen to a Walkman, there are some who read Plato or who do scientific research. In the society of babble which we have, there is the imbecile, but there also is the mutant, he who is capable of experiencing, in an interesting manner, this plurality of modern languages. I myself don't judge any of this, I content myself with observing it...One has invented the term postmodernism to define that which I prefer to call the generalized polyglotism of culture. "The narrative is a fundamental dimension of the human essence. The Bible, the Iliad, and the Odyssey are nothing more than narrations: the paintings in the tombs of the pyramids, also, and Piero della Francesca equally so. From the beginning, verbal narrative and visual narrative were fused. This fusion attained its culminating point with the cinema and the bande dessine'e comic strip. In the meantime, from Mme. de Lafayette to Proust, there developed a particular form of narrative: the bourgeois novel, in which a class described itself, explained itself to itself. Yet finally Proust chose other paths, then Joyce sounded the death-knell. The central chapter of Ulysses offers a species of perspective game by which the same event is observed from different points of view: the written narrative seizes the techniques of the visual. From that moment the (bourgeois) novel was dead. But works of narrative, a narration of a different type, continue to arise. I cannot see how they will stop, because people have such a hunger for narrative, and look for it everywhere, in journals, in televised scripts, in cinema... and in books." --Umberto Eco, interview in _Le Nouvel Observateur_ (no.1406, 17-23 Octobre, 1991). *** ISSN 1071 - 5916 end XXX FYI France (sm)(tm) e - newsletter ISSN 1071 - 5916 * | FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic newsletter, | published since 1992 as a small - scale, personal, | experiment, in the creation of large - scale | "information overload", by Jack Kessler. Any material / \ written by me which appears in FYI France may be ----- copied and used by anyone for any good purpose, so // \\ long as, a) they give me credit and show my e - mail --------- address and, b) it isn't going to make them money: if // \\ if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYI France archives are at http://infolib.berkeley.edu (search for FYIFrance), or via gopher to infolib.berkeley.edu 72 (path: 3. Electronic Journals (Library-Oriented)/ 6. FYIFrance/ , or http://www.univ-rennes1.fr/LISTESemail@example.com/ (BIBLIO-FR econference archive), or via telnet to a.cni.org , login brsuser (PACS / PACS-L econference archive), or at http://www.fyifrance.com . Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison - pen letters all will be gratefully received at firstname.lastname@example.org . Copyright 1992- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved.
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