The poignancy of things?
September 10, 2010 6:40 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone know where the Lévi-Strauss quote in the film Sans Soleil comes from?

Thanks to this FPP, I watched Chris Marker's Sans Soleil recently, and I'm wondering where to find the source for the following bit of narration:

He wrote me that the Japanese secret—what Lévi-Strauss had called the poignancy of things—implied the faculty of communion with things, of entering into them, of being them for a moment. It was normal that in their turn they should be like us: perishable and immortal.

Other than references to Lévi-Strauss' work (and death) as poignant, Google is only turning up references to the quotation in the film. Some even call it "Lévi-Strauss' well-known remark." If it's so famous, where can I find it?

One thing I've already tried: thinking that the English film overdub might translate the quote differently than the standard English translation of the original source, I looked for a French text of Sans Soleil in order to trace the original French quote back to Lévi-Strauss...but I can't find a French text of the film online.
posted by Beardman to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Possibly it is: “Objects are what matter. Only they carry the evidence that throughout the centuries something really happened among human beings.” This appears on a number of websites, but I do not know the source and it does not ring a bell from the little Levi-Strauss I have read.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:14 AM on September 10, 2010

here's a french translation of the quote - #13 but, that doesn't bring anything up when I search for it in french.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:17 AM on September 10, 2010

It's a reference to mono no aware, I think the reference to Lévi-Strauss is simply that he translated it as "poignance des choses."
posted by theodolite at 7:48 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite] has this:
Il m’écrivait que le secret japonais, cette poignance des choses qu’avait nommée Lévi-Strauss, supposait la faculté de communier avec les choses, d’entrer en elles, d’être elles par instant. Il était normal qu’à leur tour elles fussent comme nous - périssables et immortelles.
posted by Wemmick at 8:55 AM on September 10, 2010

The only thing I can find attributing this phrase to Levi-Strauss is in this article by Patrick Prado(p.127).

My French is rusty, but here's a botched translation:

... Panofsky's essay ... where the word "transience" translates the feeling of something being transitory or ephemeral, indicated by the Japanese phrase mono no aware - the "poignance" of things. These are precisely the words used by Levi-Strauss in another work to indicate the emotion experienced when confronting the edge of loss ...

The author puts the word "poignance" in quotes as if it's his own literal translation of aware (as opposed to something like "impermanence" or "transience"). He says "These are precisely the words used by Levi-Strauss," but it's not clear whether he means the French phrase poignance des choses or the Japanese phrase mono no aware. And he doesn't say what the "other work" is. (The word I translated as "used" means "taken up again," "repeated," "reprised," which makes somewhat more sense if it refers to the Japanese phrase.)
posted by nangar at 10:30 AM on September 10, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone.
posted by Beardman at 1:06 PM on September 11, 2010

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