« Head Vase | Home | Superscript Tote »

November 19, 2010

Synesthesia — Yevgeny Zamyatin-style


L — pale, cold, light blue, liquid, light

R  — loud, bright, red, hot, fast

N — tender, snow, sky, night

D or T — stifling, grave, foggy, obscuring, stagnant

M — kind, soft, motherly, sea-like

A — wide, distant, ocean, misty mirage, breadth of scope

O — high, deep, sea-like, bosom

I — close, low, pressing


I happened on the glossary above in Natasha Randall's introduction to her 2006 translation of Zamyatin's 1921 novel "We."

The book itself was brought to my attention in an earlier post on forgotten/obscure yet great science fiction, "We" being the "Experts' Experts" choice of Margaret Atwood.

Bruce Sterling began his foreward for "We," "Yevgeny Zamyatin has a sound claim to the invention of the science fiction dystopia."

According to translator Randall, Zamyatin "told artist Yuri Annenkov of the qualities he ascribed to certain sounds and letters."

The source being Annenkov's memoirs, "Dnevnikh Moikh Vstrech; Tsikl Tragedii" (New York: Mezhdunarodnoe literaturnoe sodruzhestvo, 1966).

From Zamyatin's 1919-1920 essay "On Language": "[I]f you try to follow the language of thought in your own mind, you will not find even the simplest sentences — only shreds, fragments of simple sentences. Only the most essential elements of a sentence are used: sometimes only a verb or only an epithet, an object.... At first glance this assertion may seem paradoxical: why should fragments of sentences, scattered as after an explosion, have greater effect on the reader than the same thoughts and images arranged in regular, steady, marching ranks?... [because] you meet the reader's natural instinctive need. You do not compel him to skim...."







November 19, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Synesthesia — Yevgeny Zamyatin-style:


The comments to this entry are closed.