Literature seems to be mainly about absences: giving words to what we can’t quite grasp, to what we wish were there, to what we fear we’ve lost. The Latin expression “verba volant, scripta manent” (“the spoken word flies away, the written word remains”) can be read as a profession of faith in the power of the text to hold on to what is fleeting. And yet, there are presences that every literary text seems to require: the writer who describes these absences and the reader who acknowledges them. To imagine the word or the world without us as witnesses is an almost impossible exercise.
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There is a term from the visual arts, “reserve”, that denotes the empty space on an otherwise populated canvas or paper, kept by the artist for a later completion that is often never realised. This visible absence, the promise of something essential and as yet unfulfilled, allows viewers to construct their own mental picture and in a sense collaborate on the work presented to them.
Alberto Mangueo, review of Mireille Juchau’s novel, The World Without Us.
The Guardian (from here)