Tuesday, June 28, 2011


The Hermit Crab

Jean Grenier (1898–1971), Notebooks (March 5, 1962, my translation):
The hermit crab, for its dwelling, uses a shell made by other mollusks. We make use of furniture and buildings made neither by nor for us. Why not once in a while express ourselves by sentences in which others, besides ourselves, have cast their own thought (and ours)? One can imagine a confidential diary composed solely of quotations, by means of which, without a single sentence of one's own, a person might express himself perfectly and reveal completely, precisely, without holding back, his own most complicated thoughts and innermost feelings.
French text, from Jean Grenier, Carnets 1944-1971, ed. Claire Paulhan (Paris: Seghers, 1991), pp. 342-343:
Le bernard-l'hermite utilise pour s'y loger une coquille construite par d'autres mollusques; nous nous servons de meubles et d'immeubles qui n'ont été faits ni par, ni pour nous; pourquoi ne pas à l'occasion nous exprimer par des phrases dans lesquelles d'autres que nous ont coulé leur pensée et la nôtre? On conçoit un journal intime composé uniquement de citations et par lequel, sans une seule phrase de lui, un homme s'exprimerait parfaitement et livrerait totalement, exactement, sans réserve, ses pensées les plus complexes et ses sentiments les plus secrets.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson, who also adds to How Would You Recognize a God? a reference to Waldemar Deonna, "ΕΥΩΔΙΑ: Croyances antiques et modernes: l'odeur suave des dieux et des élus," Genava 17 (1939) 167-263, rpt. as a book with introduction and epilogue by Carlo Ossola (Torino: Nino Aragno, 2003).

Update: Thanks to Pierre Wechter for pointing out misprints in my French transcription, which I've corrected.

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