If I were Queen

The subjunctive mood is where we can imagine and articulate possibilities. It is how we can think and express other worlds, other systems, other politics, other structures. It is the part of language devoted to speaking our desires, wishes and dreams as things in themselves.

A language strong in subjunctive mood permits exchanges about experiences such as serendipity, intuition and premonition without slaughtering the experience through explanation and rationalisation. A complex subjunctive mood language creates a world before the corruptions of the -ologies (psychology, sociology and so forth). Yet, while the subjunctive mood is a frequent state in our actual living, it is not well tolerated when we write prose and fiction in English.

This is a problem.

We are living, and we are being, yet we have let our language slip and harden into structures of fact and reason. We have fixed ourselves to what is, not what can be.

On 19 September falls ‘Talk Like a Pirate’ day. Around the world women and men resurrect the world of Treasure Island in their everyday observations and conversations. Perhaps, in years to come, we will celebrate ‘Talk in the Subjunctive Mood’ day.


8 thoughts on “If I were Queen”

  1. This is interesting. Have you read Musil’s The Man Without Qualities? Musil uses powerful similes which radically destabilise reality, which has reified or as you suggest “harden[ed] into structures of fact and reason”; and he does so in a bid to “awaken possibilities”, similarly to your interest in imagining and articulating possibilities. A good example: Musil describes the blinking of a girl’s eyelids as like “the rapid fire of a Browning”.

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    1. I have not read Musil. I searched for more information on this book and I was intimidated by its length. I’m not sure I could read all of The Man Without Qualities!
      Have you tried writing without metaphors? It is quite a challenge to describe things in terms of themselves. It generates a different sort of writing.


      1. Don’t be afraid! Do give him a shot — he’s really funny, and some of the metaphors almost wrench you into an alternate way of perceiving. As for trying to write without metaphors: only in academic writing so far. But it sure sounds like a great challenge for writing fiction. I’m reading Sartre’s Nausea at the moment and for the most part he is just describing things phenomenologically, as they appear to him, without any use of metaphors. I think you are quite right that it generates a different sort of writing, though I’m not sure of the benefit.

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      2. Nausea is one of my favourite books. It makes me feel quite unlike myself when I read it.
        On your recommendation I shall get a copy of Musil and try to read it – no promises that I finish the whole thing 🙂

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      3. Wonderful! According to my professor (who is German/English), the best edition is by Eithne Wilkins and Ernst Kaiser, published by Picador Classics. It’s from 1979, so more dated than the Sophie Wilkins’ 2017 edition, which I have been told to avoid due to frequent mistranslations. Eithne & Ernst’s edition comes in three volumes, and you can buy each for £2-5 on Abe Books or Amazon, assuming you don’t mind a second-hand copy. This way you can buy one volume to see if you like it. Otherwise Sophie Wilkins’ edition contains all three volumes, as well as Musil’s unfinished and previously unpublished “ending”, so it might be worthwhile getting both! In the meantime, here is some quintessential Musilian satire to whet your appetite:

        “[…] of course if Plato were to walk suddenly into a news editor’s office today and prove himself to be indeed that great author who died over two thousand years ago, he would be a tremendous sensation and would instantly be showered with a most lucrative offers. If he were then capable of writing a volume of philosophical travel pieces in three weeks, and a few thousand of his well-known short stories, perhaps even turn one or the other of his older works into a film, he could undoubtedly do very well for himself for a considerable period of time. The moment his return had ceased to be news, however, and Mr. Plato tried to put into practice one of his well-known ideas, which had never quite come into their own, the editor in chief would ask him to submit only a nice little column on the subject now and then for the Life and Leisure section (but in the easiest and most lively style possible, not heavy: remember the readers), and the features editor would add that he was sorry, but he could use such a contribution only once a month or so, because there were so many other good writers to be considered” (MwQ I: 352).

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  2. If I were king, even if no one has done any task in the modern Revolution, people are moving rapidly backward and that is not a social progress, that is no coincidence to decay, we all have a monument to dream who else can eat salt and broccoli while walking ,.my love I owe you, your great words have really made me feel good !!! Thank you.((((*L*)))

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      1. Thank you I feel honored by your words too.
          that precious metal exploration says, there is a difference between precious or not, and in the case of thinkers or authors is no different case, are people also difference that you should respect and evaluate right, your words were for our social future, worried words, I thank you and a wonderful weekend, i wish you and your family. Thanks again,((((((((*L*))))((((°J°)))))

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