This essay first appeared in Public Seminar.
(via Friedemann W.-W. on Flickr)
The process of European unification is undergoing a deep crisis, certainly the deepest since it started at the beginning of the 1950s. In less than a year, the EU faced two major tests — first the Greek quarrel, then the refugee crisis — that revealed its true face: a mixture of impotence, unwillingness, egoism, arrogance and cynicism. It is not a pretty spectacle. No illusions can remain about this entity that, far from embodying the federal ideal, has become an empty shell, an object of shame and deserved sarcasm. Those who still ritually proclaim its virtues are the representatives of a highly discredited political elite who seem to no longer have any culture or values. The more they assert their belief in the EU, the more they disqualify it, even in the eyes of the millions of people who have never felt any sympathy for conservatism, nationalism and xenophobia.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Brussels Antonis Vradis warns that such actions are being used to facilitate the securitisation and growing authoritarianism of the EU 'supra-state'.
There’s no doubt, a lipogram is an acrobatic literary exercise — that is, depending on the letter that’s sacrificed. For precisely the skill that a lipogram requires is to write a text without using a certain letter even once. It took all Georges Perec’s talents to confront the the mother of all lipogram challenges in the French language — to write without using the letter ‘e’. His three-hundred-page book La Disparition [“The Disappearance”, published in English as A Void] — naturally — did not feature a single ‘e’. (For reader who wants to get a measure of his achievement, just try and form a single sentence that meets this criterion). Faithful to the Oulipo tradition [of which Perec was part] we could generalise the exercise, and pose the challenge of composing a sentence that is not allowed to use certain words or groups of words (a lipolexy? A liporem? A liposyntagma?). For example, let’s ask [TV presenter/journalist] Yves Calvi to write a sentence without “reform,” or [Libération editor] Laurent Joffrin to write one without “modern,” or [L’Express editor] Christophe Barbier to write one without “software” (“the Left has to change its software”… we will note in passing this index of the mediaocracy’s relentless desire for the Left to become the Right — after all, no one ever enjoins the Right to “change its software”). The great silence that would then fall over the public arena would finally give us the measure of Perec’s exceptional talent. “Alter-Europeanist” language also faces its own lipolexical challenges. Try forbidding it from saying “retreating into the national box,” and its own wheels will soon come off.