Unheimlich

A queer thing about that house:
There are no birds there, or enough
To bicker over whether it’s alive

Its windows blush flaxen in the hours
Between 2 and 4
With a radiance peculiar, familiar
Any man walking by will press his cheek to the pane
Just to feel the thrilling dissonance,
The paradox of being revolted and enticed
In equal portion
By its homey homelessness

The woman appears at 3:37
To make a speech:

What she regrets most about her life
Is that the brash piece of siding that always swings
Apart from the rest of the house
Gives it all away
About what is inside

She could stand the eyesore
If the house was unbreakable

 


 

Schelling wrote in 1835, in his book Philosophie der Mythologie, that “all things are called uncanny which should have remained secret, hidden, latent, but which have come to light.”

The “uncanny” pervades human experience, accumulating a variety of definitions — some of them contradictory — through time.  In Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche, for example, observed that “Uncanny is human existence and still without meaning: a buffoon can be fatal to it.”

In a word, the uncanny is anthropomorphic because it is a signal of human vulnerability.  Just that.

As the uncanny has its roots in German idealism (or does it?), a look at its German word may be more revealing of this vulnerability: unheimlichUnheimlich means, loosely, a stew of these concepts: not-at-home, dislodged, and unhomely.

Sure.  To be without a home suggests vulnerability.  But of what kind?

The root word of unheimlich is, of course, heimlichHeimlich is much more definitive of the uncanny.  In its various definitions, it can be described as some combination of these: familiar, native, belonging to the home, intimate, comfortable, surrounded by close walls, concealed, esoteric, hidden, behind someone’s back.  

This list gets more juicy as it progresses, doesn’t it?  It begins with the “familiar” and ends with a series of concepts that seem quite contradictory to homeliness.  The “canny” is, in many ways, more uncanny than the uncanny.

It certainly reveals human vulnerability more clearly.

Heimlich suggests that the most familiar aspects of human experience are the hidden ones.What goes on behind closed doors is always exposed to the public somehow, though — through gossip.  Confabulation.  Sharing with some — only pieces, maybe.  Embellishing our lives for others.  Keeping yet others in the dark.

The uncanny is internal gossip.

A fantasy of the inner space.

Is there anything more terrifying?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s