The Written World

May 31, 2006

I just stumbled across this amazing quote by Imre Galambos in Peter Hessler’s Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present (2006):

    People talk about this idea of literary worlds. There are certain cultures, like the Byzantine and the Chinese, in which the written documents create a world that is more significant than the real world. The officials who ran the country in ancient China — they were selected through exams, through this process of memorizing the classics. They lived in this quazi world of letters. Whoever came in from the outside became a part of it. Even the Mongolian tribes that eventually became the Yuan dynasty — for God’s sake, they were complete nomads, with very little written language. But they became like the Chinese for a time; they assimilated themselves. I think this literary world is the link in time that permits this thing we call “Chinese history.” It’s not the number of people or anything like that; it’s the enormous written world that they produced. They produced this world that’s so big that it eats them up and it eats up everybody around them.

Awesome. Not sure what this means for The Game I Can’t Write Yet, but it’s definitely closely related.

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