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Embassytown Discussion > SECTION 6: Part 7: The Languageless

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message 1: by Nataliya (new)

Nataliya | 378 comments This section is by far my most favorite part of the entire book - the new regime spearheaded by Cal, the Liars, the final revelation of what exactly the similes are meant to do to the Language and why all this fuss about them and lying.

So welcome to the discussion about Part 7: The Languageless (Kindle 71%-86% , pages 250-296 out of 345) filled with my mental squeals of delight and happiness.
"I never, in Embassytown, the immer or the out, had the constitution for intrigue. Floaking, I’d hoped, was a way around it. But politics finds you."
Plotwise, Cal (in the form of EzCal) has started a new rule as, how the heading of the previous chapter suggested, 'New Kings' as his brand of god-drug, unlike that of EzRa, has meaning with which comes horrifying total obedience. EzCal is the true god-drug.

As Cal 'parades' in 'his fever of importance,' Avice realizes that the god-drug has become something else but mere means to survival. It became the embodiment of power, and she knows Cal will not just give it up because ultimately it all comes down to power. After all, the ruling cliques of Embassytown and the Ariekei have come together before, aided by Scile, and committed murder of the one who was threatening to become very inconvenient.
"A conspirator then, Scile would approve of EzCal now. Their priorities, like CalVin’s before them, were power and survival; Scile’s were always the city and its stasis."
And so Avice ends up on the other side of (so far) figurative barricades. Together with Bren and the former Ambassador YlSib she becomes involved with what's left of Surl-tesh-echer's 'Liars Club' who are trying to carry out the art of untruth even in the midst of overpowering addiction - which they are trying desperately to resist.
"It’s not good that we are this. We wish to be other than this. We’re like the girl who was hurt in darkness and ate what was given her because we imbibe what is given to us by EzCal.
There was a long silence.
We want instead to be like the girl who was hurt in darkness and ate what was given to her in that we want to be… and then there was silence again, and Spanish Dancer shook its limbs."

"We want to decide what to hear, how to live, what to say, what to speak, how to mean, what to obey. We want Language to put to our use."
And for the first time we see the sentiment of actually caring about what happens to those affected by this human-engineered god-drug - and not just the fears and desires of the humans to survive. Bren voices what the reader has been feeling - the idea that there are more victims to this situation than just the humans.
"So what about when the relief gets here? When we leave? He indicated Spanish Dancer. "What happens then, to them?"
The danger for all, in the meantime, is also coming from the self-mutilated Ariekei, those who in the attempts to free themselves from the addiction denied themselves the ability to hear Language - and maybe the idea of sentience as Language seems to be so tied to the entire sentience of the Ariekei. But while Avice is noticing the sentience and thought in this 'new threat', Cal is seeing just the threat, and his reaction to it is sadly very familiar to all of us, humans:
“We need to understand them,” Cal said. “So we can defeat them.”
In seeing what she in a stroke of brilliance recognizes as a form of communication resembling that of humans, Avice fully understands what the Liars were trying to do, why they were trying to escape the confines of Language, how they were trying to make Language work for them instead of the other way around, how they were essentially trying to develop new minds.
The Ariekei in this room want to lie. That means thinking of the world differently. Not referring: signifying."

“Similes start … transgressions. Because we can refer to anything. Even though in Language, everything’s literal. Everything is what it is, but still, I can be like the dead and the living and the stars and a desk and fish and anything. Surl Tesh-echer knew that was Language straining to … bust out of itself. To signify.”
No longer a floaker (and really, has she ever been one?), Avice has a clear idea of what needs to happen to give the Ariekei power over Language - and why.
“Similes are a way out. A route from reference to signifying. Just a route, though. But we can push them down it, even that last step, all the way.” It became clearer to me as I spoke. “To where the literal becomes …” I stopped. “Something else. If similes do their job well enough, they turn into something else. We tell the truth best by becoming lies.
Not paradoxes, I wanted to say; these weren’t paradoxes, they weren’t nonsense.
“I don’t want to be a simile anymore,” I said. “I want to be a metaphor.”


-----
I think this chapter is the true heart of this book. What happened before was the introduction, what happens later is the inevitable conclusion - all of which were written just so this part, 'The Languageless', could exist.

Thoughts?


message 2: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new)

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments And yet, nobody has had anything to say in a week? I'm only just about finishing this section, myself.

Ch. 23 begins: "As well as the Languageless ... at first we called the incoming army the Deaf. Embassytown's human deaf objected hard to that; they were right and we were ashamed."

It's hard, as an able-bodied WASP male, to have any credibility when complaining about the language of description of minorities, but "WHY?" The "Languageless" are indeed deaf. I remember when "handicapped" went out of fashion, and I heard a woman screaming into a microphone "I'm not handicapped, I'm disabled!" And I thought, "you're arguing that, if you're given the chance, you can do anything that able-bodied people can do, and you say that you're disabled, rather than merely handicapped?"

So I still don't get it. Why should the Embassytowners be ashamed of describing those who are deaf - even by self-infliction - as the Deaf?


message 3: by Cecily (last edited Mar 26, 2013 02:54PM) (new)

Cecily | 301 comments I agree it's odd, Derek. In the UK, the Deaf community proudly describe themselves as such, but maybe that's why it might be thought inappropriate for drug-addled or self-inflicted deafness?


message 4: by Nataliya (new)

Nataliya | 378 comments @ Derek: I think it's just the issue of context. At this point the self-mutilated Ariekei are first of all viewed as a threat, a looming danger with which, naturally, nobody wants to identify. They are the ruthless enemy - and who wants to be compared to that?

Also, the perception of human deafness and Ariekei 'deafness' are vastly different. The human deaf are it denied communication because of their deafness; they have other channels to communicate even if they cannot hear. The fanwingless Ariekei at this point are thought to really lack sentience because Language is tied to sentience and they have list their ability to participate in that; therefore unlike the human deaf they are considered sentience-impaired. With this in mind, I can easily see the Embassytown deaf being offended by being compared to presumably non-sentient enemy group. Wouldn't anyone be upset at such a comparison?


message 5: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Although it's not quite the same, I wonder whether there's an element of applying a term as a derogatory metaphor, like using words that mean "left" or "left-handed" as metaphors for clumsiness or evil (i.e., "gauche" and "sinister").

While the self-mutilated were literally deaf, the capitalised application of this word to them almost monopolised the meaning of the word and denies the non-pejorative application of the word to the human deaf.

The derogatory metaphor almost extinguishes the non-pejorative connotation of the word.

The Absurd introduces concepts of Existentialism and Alienation, which made me wonder about the Abyss. In confronting the end of the world, were they looking into the Abyss?


message 6: by Nataliya (new)

Nataliya | 378 comments Ian wrote: "In confronting the end of the world, were they looking into the Abyss?"

And, more importantly - was the Abyss looking back at them?

But seriously, they *were* confronting the end of the world for them and the addicted ones - but with it, they were welcoming the return of the sane world of before. A noble sacrifice for the sake of the future. So was it really the end of the world they were confronting then?


message 7: by Ian (last edited Mar 26, 2013 11:35PM) (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Nataliya wrote: "So was it really the end of the world they were confronting then?"

It would be in the film version ;)

Nataliya wrote: "Ian wrote: "In confronting the end of the world, were they looking into the Abyss?"

And, more importantly - was the Abyss looking back at them?"


Haha, the rest of that quote is interesting:

"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you."

"Beyond Good and Evil", Aphorism 146 (1886)."


message 8: by Annie (new)

Annie (aschoate) | 78 comments This all reminds me of "The Scar", with all of this looking into the Abyss and what look back at you. But that is another book to read. I see the Areikei as unlimited potential. They are very intelligent and poised at the tip of a invisible pin.

The Languageless have made the group decision to remove their hearing so that coming generations can live undrugged. This decision speaks loudly of their shared intention and will to assert control in they're lives.

At the same time the group of liars reminds me of very young children acquiring language first through imitation then playing with words and sound until they acheive the desired result.


message 9: by Traveller (last edited Apr 01, 2013 12:40AM) (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Nataliya wrote: ""We want to decide what to hear, how to live, what to say, what to speak, how to mean, what to obey. We want Language to put to our use.".."
I'm glad you mentioned this, Nataliya. There has been talk about innocence as if the latter is a good thing, even for adults. I agree that innocence is the most beautiful part of childhood , but even the Bible says something like: " When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, [in other words, an adult] I did away with childish things."1 Corinthians 13:11, I believe.

Why do the Ariekei want to be able to lie? Because they desire freedom, they want to escape from limitation. Is this "Evil"? It all depends on if you even have the word "evil" in your vocabulary. Most humanists don't.
As CM points out,in his characterization of what Scile has become, talking of 'evil' is the language of the religious, and it is usually the more fundamentalist conservative cadres who dwell on the concept.

In fact, Scile seems the embodiment of conservatism in the "pure" universal concept of the term conservative.
So, did the Ariekei become "evil",- or emancipated? It depends on your own value-system I suppose, but I'm with CM on this one. :)

Nataliya wrote: "Ian wrote: " So was it really the end of the world they were confronting then?
..."


Doubtless, as the saying goes, at the very least, "the end of the world as we know it."


message 10: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new)

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Traveller wrote: "Why do the Ariekei want to be able to lie? Because they desire freedom, they want to escape from limitation. Is this "Evil"? It all depends on if you even have the word "evil" in your vocabulary. Most humanists don't."

Awww. Please don't go there. Evil exists, and I don't know a humanist who wouldn't agree - and you've seen my argument. It's not a matter of whether there can be evil, but whether wanting freedom can ever, in itself, be evil. I completely agree that Scile thinks so, and that Miéville is in favor of the Ariekei's emancipation. Scile does use "evil" in a religious way (though, again, we have only Avice's belief that he's actually behind the religious movement Valdik starts), but to dismiss evil as merely the language of the religious is to deny the monsters that really do exist (and which the Ariekei aren't).


message 11: by Traveller (last edited Apr 01, 2013 07:36AM) (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Derek wrote: "Awww. Please don't go there. Evil exists, and I don't know a humanist who wouldn't agree - and you've seen my argument. ..."

Well, I'm afraid that I know a lot of people (don't call them humanists then, give them any name you prefer) who simply don't believe in such black and white distinctions as good and evil, heaven and hell, and so on. In fact, there are many people who don't believe in the existence of Satan either.

Personally, I prefer not to use judgmental language, and terms like evil and monsters can be pretty judgmental, so yeah, i guess in a certain sense, i deny them both when it becomes judgmental in context.

Of course, monsters exist between the covers of my fantasy books, and, well, sometimes when i read the newspapers, i believe in both monsters and evil in a real sense, sadly. But as far as my formal world-paradigm is concerned, i prefer to state that i deviate from the traditional view of seeing things in terms of good and evil.

Yip, I'm that tree-huggin' hippie but sans the flowers in the hair, and sans the toe-sandals and the marijuana. :P

..but I do hope that although all of the members here might have different world views, that we can still discuss the stimulating works of CM in comparative harmony. :) After all, variety is the spice of life, and if we all had exactly the same thoughts and beliefs, social discourse like we have here, would hardly be very stimulating.


message 12: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new)

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Traveller wrote: "...simply don't believe in such black and white distinctions as good and evil, heaven and hell,..."

And there you go framing "evil" in religious terms again. Evil doesn't have to be a matter of religion, and it surely isn't black and white - even you seem to be admitting that you do see things that you accept are 'evil'.


message 13: by Traveller (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments You know, the turn that the conversation is taking, I thought of that earlier conversation we had in the other thread about how we "lie" or remain quiet in order to preserve the peace, and I was thinking: "I wonder how many members will see this and say to themselves: "Uh-oh.. dissent -> uncomfortable. Let's duck..". Heh. I suspect that is the kind of thing that Cecily was talking about.

Ok, Derek, I'll go along for now to try to get your point of view. Let's define our terms: how exactly would you define "evil"? Maybe it's just a question of semantics.


message 14: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new)

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments As I defined it last time - a callous disregard for life. No moral judgements necessary. Most (but surely not all) religions would see that as evil. Many would consider a great deal more to be evil, because it never is black and white, but we can usually all agree about the extremes.


message 15: by Nataliya (new)

Nataliya | 378 comments Annie wrote: "At the same time the group of liars reminds me of very young children acquiring language first through imitation then playing with words and sound until they acheive the desired result."

That's an excellent observation, Annie. And very fitting - the Ariekei achieve their freedom from the constraints of Language by learning to develop abstract thinking, just like children ultimately transition from concrete thinking to abstract.


message 16: by Nataliya (new)

Nataliya | 378 comments @ Traveller and Derek: I find this conversation about whether there exists an "Evil" quite fascinating. And the disagreement seems to come from the different view of the concept of evil here, the different meanings and connotations we attach to that so deceptively simple word. On one hand, it can serve as a neat division into black and white, like Traveller suggests - in which case, with the exception of few cases, the distinction may be indeed too simplistic and needlessly polarizing. On the other hand, it seems that humans tend to gravitate to the concept that some things are, beyond any doubt, simply evil and are beyond justification. Derek uses disregard for life as an example - but for others, it may be disregard for freedom, or disregard for free will, like it seems was the case for the Ariekei. You can use 'evil' as a label - like Scile did, strictly and uncompromisingly, causing pain and tragedy. Or you can use it as a weapon - a caution, a line to not cross, a limit that holds you back from what you consider unthinkable, a limit that helps you preserve yourself. It's an example of having one word, so seemingly simple, having a completely different - and very charged - meaning to different people.


message 17: by Traveller (last edited Apr 02, 2013 01:31AM) (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Yip! How fitting that we should be debating the semantics of a word on an Embassytown thread!

Yes, if you particularly define it in that specific way Derek, I can agree, which is what I had hinted at in my post; though I would prefer it if members of our culture could find a new word for the term, (or more than one word for it, each closer to the context it pertains to) because this one has accumulated certain connotations, which it seems hard to divorce it from;- just as it is hard in modern times to use the words gay or queer or black in their original connotations; these words have now become emotionally laden by process of connotation.

The word "evil" has been used by so many as a weapon in religiouis and political senses, that it has become almost as meaningless as the words love or hate. They've turned it into an absolute which is supposedly the antithesis of 'good', and good is defined in terms that serves their purpose. If you were American in the 2nd World War the Japanese were evil, and if you were Japanese the Americans were evil. Same thing on either side with the US and USSR during the cold war. Etc.etc. Also, genre fiction has made it a nameless personified looming: "evil" lurls like a dark cloud under beds and in closets.

I read an ineresting poem by Margaret Atwood just the other day, named "Variations On The Word Love" which attempts to illustrate how loose the meaning of a word like love has become.


message 18: by Cecily (new)

Cecily | 301 comments Traveller wrote: "Well, I'm afraid that I know a lot of people (don't call them humanists then, give them any name you prefer) who simply don't believe in such black and white distinctions as good and evil, heaven and hell, and so on. In fact, there are many people who don't believe in the existence of Satan either. ..."

A rather major non-sequitur there, methinks. I don't believe Satan or God, but I certainly believe in evil (as well as good and all sorts of nuances in between). I wouldn't describe myself as a humanist either, but rather, an agnostic. I don't think I'm particularly unusual on any of those counts, or even in that particular combination.


message 19: by Ian (last edited Apr 02, 2013 03:53PM) (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Nataliya wrote: "It's an example of having one word, so seemingly simple, having a completely different - and very charged - meaning to different people."

Traveller wrote: "I read an interesting poem by Margaret Atwood just the other day, named "Variations On The Word Love" which attempts to illustrate how loose the meaning of a word like love has become."

As she says, "then there's the two of us":

"This word is not enough, but it will have to do."

and:

"O again and again, in wonder and pain."

and:

"You can hold on or let go."

When two lovers experience genuine love, it's not the different definitions of the word that matter, it's the inadequacy of just four letters to contain such a depth of meaning.

How can single word or brushstroke paint a picture of the real thing?

As Nataliya implies, how can such a small battery contain such a big charge?


message 20: by Traveller (last edited Apr 04, 2013 09:17AM) (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Yes, i think if you read that poem, you'll get the idea of what I'm trying to say. One man's evil is another man's bread. According to the Taliban, the US and the UK are evil. To me, many of the Taliban's laws and the ways they enact them is evil. See what I mean? It's a fluid word.

I think true humanists don't believe that humans are evil, one looks for other, more descriptive words: morally incapacitated perhaps; cruel, selfish, destructive, but where does one draw the line as to what falls under the definition of "evil" or not?

Why would it have been "evil" if the Ariekei learnt full mastery of signification? In which sense evil- what did Scile mean by that it would be evil?


message 21: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye I will leave the evil to someone else.

I guess what I implied was that [Margaret Atwood was saying that] words are such small things to be carrying such large meanings.

It's amazing what people can do with them in conversation and fiction and poetry.

Even if we don't get it precisely, hopefully we get it approximately.

When we're not misunderstanding and whining and head-butting, anyway ;)


message 22: by Nataliya (new)

Nataliya | 378 comments Traveller wrote: "The word "evil" has been used by so many as a weapon in religiouis and political senses, that it has become almost as meaningless as the words love or hate. They've turned it into an absolute which is supposedly the antithesis of 'good', and good is defined in terms that serves their purpose."

You are right about this, Traveller. Any time a word or a concept gets overused it runs a risk of becoming meaningless. I have noticed it with the word 'hate' - it's being thrown around so flippantly, so easily applied to anyone who disagrees with anything, that it's running the risk of losing its strong meaning.

Thanks to your post, I have read that poem by Margaret Atwood, and I love it.

"Why would it have been "evil" if the Ariekei learnt full mastery of signification? In which sense evil- what did Scile mean by that it would be evil?"

Evil for Scile appeared to be:

(a) a deviation from uniqueness of Language that fascinated him, a linguist. So, basically, evil here means what Scile disagrees with.

(b) His perception of lying as corruption of otherwise truthful (by necessity) society. Until Avice, it does not seem that many people really looked at the attempts to lie as a way to master the language; it was perceived as a silly fascination with untruth - at least by the humans.


message 23: by Traveller (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Glad you guys liked the poem. I thought it made the point of 'overusing' a word very well.

..and yes Ian, in the second stanza she does seem to say that a mere word is inadequate to describe something so enormous,something so hard to pin down, doesn't she?

Nataliya, I like your observation that 'evil' was, according to Scile, that which didn't agree with him...;)


message 24: by Daniel (last edited Nov 17, 2015 02:52AM) (new)

Daniel (zlogdan) Thanks a lot people, this thread has been quite quite helpful. Need to say that this is the section of the book where my Kobo English-Portuguese was used a lot and usually did not return anything so I switched to English dictionary.


message 25: by Traveller (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Good to hear, Daniel! Have you seen this thread? https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

Read through it to drastically increase your English vocabulary! ;)

You're welcome to add to the list as well, of course. :)


message 26: by Daniel (new)

Daniel (zlogdan) Traveller wrote: "Good to hear, Daniel! Have you seen this thread? https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

Read through it to drastically increase your En..."


Hi Traveller. I know that thread, I almost printed it all, I was thinking about it again after you mentioned it. :-)

I am afraid that it is a bit more advanced for me ( except for the words that come from Latin/Greek which are essentially the same in Portuguese) as I still have to improve more my vocabulary. Usually I need to get ( estimate ) 15-5% of words per page by context.


message 27: by Traveller (last edited Nov 17, 2015 06:51AM) (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Ah, and then you picked an author who likes to stretch one's vocabulary limits.
Perhaps that's a good thing - it will make other English books seem easy in comparison! :D


message 28: by Daniel (last edited Nov 17, 2015 07:29AM) (new)

Daniel (zlogdan) Traveller wrote: "Ah, and then you picked an author who likes to stretch one's vocabulary limits.
Perhaps that's a good thing - it will make other English books seem easy in comparison! :D"


It was not really a choice . If I did not start reading in English I would not read 90% of the books I wanted/want to read. :-(


message 29: by Traveller (last edited Nov 22, 2015 10:28AM) (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Well, good for you, Daniel!
I often wish I could read Russian and Spanish and Japanese... but luckily most of the best books in other languages are translated for us Anglophones; so I suppose we have it lucky. :)


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