David Markson: Wittgenstein’s Mistress
Imagine you are the last living being on earth, what would you do? Write a book? But for whom? Have I mentioned that Kate is the last living being on earth? Kate is the last living being on earth. She is a painter, or she believes she is. All she has is a recollection of everything she knows, an information storage in the back of her mind, and a typewriter, which she feeds with endless thoughts and speculations. Kate writes, therefore Kate exists. But what is she writing about? Mainly, Greek heroes, painters as herself, writers, famous people, a cat who goes by the name “cat”. Written in one-sentence paragraphs, Kate’s thoughts are her cry out to the world, or what is supposedly left of this world, if ever there is something left. All the artists and mythological heroes she endlessly refers to keep her company. And knowing so many things about them makes her feel less lonely, more alive, as if her memory is what will help her keep her sanity.
Wittgenstein is revisited. In this ultimate battle between language and logic, Markson sorts out all logical possibilities that language offers, one by one, by correcting what sometimes language mistakenly conveys, and by creating connections with words. For instance, the only link that could exist between Gaddis and Gaddi might just be the resemblance in their names, therefore they are connected. The world is filtered through words. Kate’s obsession with mirrors is closely associated with the hypothesis that the mirror gives a truer representation of the object itself. Ergo, language is truer than reality.
Kate is also keen on rewriting Greek tragedies, endowing them with happy endings. Why is that so? Is it a way for her to restore faith in humanity? Perhaps, in the imaginary world she has created in her mind, she can rewrite history as she please and do away with the rest. One of her many hobbies is burning books, that constitute the last testimony of culture, of human beings. And why is Markson so intent on talking about Kate’s menstrual cycle? Is it his way of saying that the last woman on earth can still bare life? It is perhaps not a coincidence that her husband is called Adam. Finally, if Kate is Wittgenstein’s mistress, does knowing the fact that Wittgenstein was gay and had no mistress raise doubts about her existence?
The last survivor on earth may just be not Kate, but her words.