“Human speech is like a cracked tin kettle”

As if the fullness of the soul did not sometimes overflow in the emptiest metaphors, since no one can ever give the exact measure of his needs, nor of his conceptions, nor of his sorrows; and since human speech is like a cracked tin kettle, on which we hammer out tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars.

— Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

I saw this quote on a wall at the Maira Kalman exhibit “Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World)” at the Jewish Museum. Kalman claims this as one of her talismanic texts. And while human language is an amazing thing, there certainly are times when words seem like so many waves lapping at reality’s shore: caressing it, suggesting its contours, but never fully grasping it.

I’ve never read Flaubert before, but clearly now I must.

(Image via deviantART)

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