I firmly believe that within literature one can find themselves. That is what makes the written word so emotive, so compelling and so powerful. It has the ability to re-write a history, to destroy a presence, to retell the world, to make the world. The beautiful moment though, is just between the created and the creation. When you are poised on the balance, on the teetering knife-edge of some poetry, prose, article, or simply a sentence. It speaks to you, and you recognize the sound of your own voice.
It may not be the physical manifestation of your audible speech. When I say voice I mean the thing, the sound, the idea that signifies you. Your eyes read, your mind reads and you see yourself there. Your ideas, your beliefs, your fears held within the palm of a few letters, a syntactic structure, a word, a story, a character painted in language. And you smile.
The knife-edge tips an inch lower and you fall into that world. You assimilate yourself with the ideas, the concepts, the feelings and actions of what is being expressed. Reading is an immersive action. It creates life, it holds the essence of life within it, and when you find yourself in literature you come alive. A sense of purpose, a clarity of mind befalls you. At times it is indescribable, but a sense of grounding, of definition embellishes the sketchy idea that is ‘you.’
It is one of the most rewarding experiences. To hear someone speaking about a theory, a feeling, describing a view, speaking under another name, and realize in truth it is yourself, speaking back at you, expressing, quantifying and exposing the inexpressible.
Today, I found myself again in literature. And it made me smile.
Language carries culture, and culture, especially through literature, carries the entire body of values by which we come to perceive ourselves and our place in the world.
(Ngugi wa thiong’o: Decolonizing the Mind: The politics of language in African Literature)