3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

Feb 15, 1993 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on February 15, 1993. This particular issue originally was distributed in two parts, as indicated below.
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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France enewsletter, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Enewsletter subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: kessler@well.sf.ca.us .

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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
	kessler@well.sf.ca.us


     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
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which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their
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        Copyright 1992- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved.    

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