By Charlotte Mandell
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Extra resources for The Work of Fire
At first glance, language's interest i s thus t o destroy, through its abstract power, the material reality of things and to destroy, through the power of sensible evocation of words, this abstract value. Such an action must lead us rather far. When language contents itself with naming an object, it gives us the picture of it. The thin coating of everyday speech gives way to the pressure of the thing it designates. Since it is ordinary, it vanishes as soon as it is pronounced; it hands us over to the presence from which it was supposed to defend us.
Is this absence, however, the sign of something else-of truth, for example, in the classic sense-having The Myth ofMallarme 31 value for everyone and in every age? Let us not hasten to conclude this; despite the use of abstract words, "known calyxes, idea," it is to be felt that the poet is of an order that demands nothing of learning. He does not replace the real absence of an object with its ideal presence. "Suave" and "musically" are assuredly not intellec tual concepts asserted by these paths.
By throwing light on him, he relegated him to the shade; he gave him too much, and borrowed too much from him. The two bodies of work are quite distinct, but their ideas are less so; and the extreme singularity of Mallarme's ideas has been as if erased by the importance they have been accorded from ideas that are almost identical, but that are stronger and especially more strongly and more obstinately put forth, ideas we find in the pages of Valery's Variety or in so many other prose pieces. Certainly, we know that Valery scorned literature and that Mal larme made it his reason to exist.