THE LOST EPIGRAPH The passage quoted below [by Italo Calvino] [tentatively considered on 11/20/85 as a potential epigraph to a novel then in progress entitled The Chronicle of a Disaster] was uncovered [8/12/95] while cataloguing the [handwritten] manuscript of that novel] This would-be epigraph [which does not appear in the published version of the book entitled To Whom It May Concern] reveals the radical shift in the author's view and function of literature [some ten years earlier] It is unfortunate that this epigraph was not included in the final [published] version of the novel for it clearly reveals how the author [in this work-in- progress] is renouncing his addiction to the theory that says that writing is simply playing games with language [arte dolce] and that he is now squarely embracing the theory that says that writing is an attempt to say what cannot be said [the unspeakable-unnamable] [arte utile] Had this epigraph [from Italo Calvino] appeared in the [published] book [in 1990] critics and scholars would not have been misled in their reading of To Whom It May Concern and would have understood that the author [known until then mostly as a chaos-drunk experimental surfictionist playgiarist who played gimmicky typographical games with deliberate outrageous self-reflexiveness] had not regressed into more conventional forms [as the critics claimed] [some of them going so far as t suggest that the author had returned to realism] [or what was passing for realism at the time these critics were saying that] and more conventional language [whatever that may be] [all language is a deviation from language] and that he was now writing as if he wanted to say something [tell a story] [the real story] but of course knew that it would never happen [could never happen] [but nonetheless took the risk of stumbling upon the right aggregate of words] [before the final silence] It is really unfortunate that this marvelous [most valuable and revealing] statement by Italo Calvino did not appear with the [published] book [in 1990] for it does certainly inform the entire oeuvre of the author [especially its duplicity] [its doubleness] [not to mention its evasiveness] We are delighted [therefore] to be able to present here [today] [with the kind permission of the author] the full text of the Calvino epigraph [contemplated] [in 85] so that readers [critics scholars and whoever else is concerned] may know [once and for all] that the author of To Whom It May Concern never regresses in his work [he only transgresses] Here is the absent-[epigraph]-text by Calvino: Let us attempt a thesis contrary to the one I have developed so far. That is always the best way to avoid getting trapped in the spiral of one's own thoughts. Did we say that literature is entirely involved with language, that it is merely the permutation of a restricted number of elements and functions? But is the tension in literature not continually striving to escape from this finite number Does it not continually attempt to say something it cannot say, something it does not know and that no one could ever know? It is hoped that this revelation will renew interest in this greatly neglected [even forgotten] novel and help correct a major misconception on the part of the general public [in terms of the author's view of literature] It becomes clear also [in the light of this statement] how for the past ten years or so the author has been working in a form of writing which brings together [in a critifictional-autobiographical mode] the real and the imaginary [the remembered and the forgotten]

Copyright © 1997 Raymond Federman