From the foot of the Great Khan’s throne a majolica pavement extended. Marco Polo, mute informant, spread out on it the samples of his wares he had brought back from his journeys to the end of the empire: a helmet, a seashell, a coconut, a fan. Arranging the objects in a certain order on the black and white tiles, and occasionally shifting them with studied moves, the ambassador tried to depict form the monarch’s eyes the vicissitudes of his travels, the conditions of the empire, the prerogatives of the distant provincial seats. (more…)
Archive for November, 2011
… Newly arrived and quite ignorant of the language of the Levant, Marco Polo could express himself only by drawing objects from his baggage – drums, salt fish, necklaces of war hogs’ teeth – and pointing to them with gestures, leaps, cries of wonder or of horror, imitating the bay of the jackal, the hoot of the owl.
Kafka, incidentally, was a dedicated user of Ohropax (or ‘ear peace’) earplugs, the invention in 1908 of Maximilian Negwer, a Germany pharmacist who was initially inspired by the same episode of the Odyssey [where Odysseus used kneaded, sun-softened wax to block the ears of his crew as a protection against the song of the Sirens]. (more…)