Ruth Barker

Caesar: Prologue, The Violence of Abbreviation

2006

Caesar aims at the heights of multum in parvo, the ability to suggest a great deal in a short amount of time. In some ways this intention is a somewhat faltering metonym to the properties of language itself, as articulation could disingenuously be described as the process of consolidating the ineffable and infinite space of thought into the finite and sometimes disappointing recourse of words. 

 

In Of Exactitude in Science, Borges posits an Emperor who commissions a 1:1 scale map of his kingdom that cloaks both continent and landscape, smothering the topographical reality with a simulacra. If the parable is taken as an analogy for language, we see the depth of the tussock-strewn physical terrain of anti-linguistic thought overlaid by an articulated approximation, as the definition reveals its shortcomings through the act of direct comparison. The parable’s complexities could be further explored (long after the kingdom itself has dissolved, for example, fragments of the map can still be found wind-blown and scattered, hinting at the absent whole), but the basic premise raises a basic question that may be more significant: is the act of forcing the ineffable into the definitive in itself an act of lachrymose brutality?

 

If language is only ever a ghost of thought, Caesar, by condensing complex argument into hearsay and (un-footnoted) suggestion, goes one further by brutalising the already compromised form of the academic essay, hacking off such appendages as references as Cinderella’s sisters amputate their own toes to fit the glass slipper. In taking such an elliptical path, however, Caesar tries its’ hardest to mix metaphors with good reason, asking the biggest questions it is able, but answering only when provoked.