As though terror-struck: who is speaking here? It cannot be Sarrasine, even indirectly, since he interprets La Zambinella's fear as timidity. Above all, it cannot be the narrator, because he knows that La Zambinella really is terrified. The modalization (as though) expresses the interests of only one character, who is neither Sarrasine nor the narrator, but the reader: it is the reader who is concerned that the truth be simultaneously named and evaded, an ambiguity which the discourse nicely creates by as though, which indicates the truth and yet reduces, it declaratively to a mere appearance. What we hear, therefore, is the displaced voice which the reader lends, by proxy, to the discourse: the discourse is speaking according to the reader's interests. Whereby we see that writing is not the communication of a message which starts from the author and proceeds to the reader; it is specifically the voice of reading itself: in the text, only the reader speaks. This inversion of our prejudices (which make reading a reception or, to put matters more clearly, a simple psychological participation in the adventure being related), this inversion can be illustrated by a linguistic image: in the Indo-European verb (for example, Greek), two diatheses (specifically: two voices) were set in opposition: the middle voice, according to which the agent performed the action for his own sake (I sacrifice for myself), and the active voice, according to which he performed this same action for another's benefit (as in the case of the priest who sacrificed on his client's behalf). In this accounting, writing is active, for it acts for the reader: it proceeds not from an author but from a public scribe, a notary institutionally responsible not for flattering his client's tastes but rather for registering at his dictation the summary of his interests, the operations by which, within an economy of disclosure, he manages this merchandise: the narrative.
Thursday, 15 November 2012
Barthes S/Z LXIV. THE VOICE OF THE READER
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