For the Ariekei, who live on a distant planet in China Miéville’s latest novel Embassytown, speech is thought: “Without language for things that didn’t exist, they could hardly think them.”
In Miéville’s Ariekei language, there is no room for metaphor, no space between the thing – or the idea – and the word. As a result, the Ariekei have no concept of lying. Language is truth, rather than merely standing in for it. Quite the opposite of any human language.
The Ariekei’s form of communication is meant to echo the pre-language of the Garden of Eden, before Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Miéville plays on the idea that language itself– human language – represents the Fall. As Miéville says, maybe the adoption of language is “rather a good fall.” It’s a nice irony that the Ariekei have two mouths (as well as hooves and wings).
Miéville is – and I’m just learning this – one of the leading lights of the so-called New Weird generation of fantasy writers. Some say it’s only a matter of time until he busts out of his genre and wins some general fiction prizes.
Also in the pod this week: A short discussion of the word blagging, popularized by the News International scandal; why governments and aid agencies avoid using the word famine (more here). And, if you sing in French, don’t expect airtime in the Brussels metro (more here).
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Photos: Stuart Caie/Flickr, Wikipedia