Time Essay: THE LIMITATIONS OF LANGUAGE

IN J.M.G. Le Clézio's novel The Flood, I the anti-hero is a young man suffering from a unique malady. Words—the deluge of daily words—have overloaded his circuits. Even when he is strolling down the street, minding his own business, his poor brain jerks under the impact of instructions (WALK—DON'T WALK), threats (TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED), and newsstand alarms (PLANE CRASH AT TEL AVIV). Finally, Le Clézio's Everyman goes numb—nature's last defense. Spoken words become mere sounds, a meaningless buzz in the ears. The most urgent printed words—a poem by Baudelaire, a proclamation of...

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