At Home with Hybrids

If we are looking to find ourselves, we might come across pieces of that mosaic in the novel where, according to Bakhtin, psychological life may be expressed through inner speech. Our monologues are indicative of who we are through word choice: either 'coming together' through the centripetal, or multiplying through the struggle of the centrifugal. In the violence of the centrifugal (things fall apart), words may be "half ours, half someone else's".
In one book that I can't find at the moment, a comparison is made between those who speak in hybrids and half-breeds; the implication, clear enough. Yet is it not a mark of the sophisticated intellectual to be fluent in more than one language; rather clearly put by the skeptical Mencken: "The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong ... The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant".
I grew up in a hybrid house. The other words one may adopt into one's vocabulary may contain varying levels of dynamism and friction. It takes work. They may be taken in, as it were, through the 'stylistic hybrid' of parody, framed by the ironic quotation mark, or may be fully internalised. But for the hybrid to exist, the other words must be consciously represented, mediated, not merely presented.
I'd argue that when words aren't mediated (so are 'samples'), one is quickly misunderstood by interlocutors unfamiliar with the other references. To mediate is to bring a bridge to the scene, or to paint one in the sand to heal a wounded soul, like the Navajos did.
If I am interested in art as a mode of problem-solving, it is only because I see it as a playground in the battleground of life: good literary theory is intimate - the kind that brings compassion to figures like Nietzsche, whose provocative dialectics reveal the Sisyphean task he set to his proud intellect.

Varied bird calls attract my attention away from these words. I remember a time from before, when I would listen to the call of the Koel be answered by the animals in the near by Gardens, where silhouettes of lovers merged. A variety of monkey calls - gibbons, de brazas - were the loudest, but we'd also hear the blade-grinder shout out from below. We could say that the city is the home to hybrids, but how many people let those sounds in? Most are greedy behind their forts, vigilant against "going native" - illustrated rather beautifully here: "In Kenya in the 1940s my father, aged 19, used to take off his shoes to save them getting dusty when riding his motorbike across the open savannah. When this was reported to his family he was taken to task by his elders for 'going barefoot in public like an African'".
The same source explains, "Diplomacy requires experience and understanding of the host country, but too much experience, and one can forget who's signing the pay checks," which is a rather succinct description of the fear involved in facing the other. But for the idealist or Mencken's "civilized man," surely one is interested in looking for a 'best of' type interaction?
These views don't seem pals to power play, but make for good literature. According to Bakhtin, the novelistic hybrid is "an artistically organised system for bringing different languages in contact with one another" - along with their inherent value systems, placed in dialogic opposition. The novelist is but a good listener and inspired host to a sophisticated selection of guests.
I'd like to think that the good artist can put things back in their places. Things fall apart seems to be the cry of colonialism, where the Passage to India is left to end in doubt - an inevitable end to the insistence of Arnoldian mechanization, refusing to soften into compassion. The hybrid is the chink in the stiff wall that lets in figurae, which represent the ideals we strive for.

No comments:

Post a Comment