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Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in Tongues is a terrific piece of writing by Zadie Smith. It's a little bit about Barack Obama. Mostly, though, it's about "world"-traveling and polyvocality. (pdf)
The first stage in the evolution is contingent and cannot be contrived. In this first stage, the voice, by no fault of its own, finds itself trapped between two poles, two competing belief systems. And so this first stage necessitates the second: the voice learns to be flexible between these two fixed points, even to the point of equivocation. Then the third stage: this native flexibility leads to a sense of being able to "see a thing from both sides." And then the final stage, which I think of as the mark of a certain kind of genius: the voice relinquishes ownership of itself, develops a creative sense of disassociation in which the claims that are particular to it seem no stronger than anyone else's. There it is, my little theory—I'd rather call it a story. It is a story about a wonderful voice, occasionally used by citizens, rarely by men of power.

posted by anotherpanacea on Feb 26, 2009 - 16 comments

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