An essence?

An essence?

Is there an essential basis to the thing we call letterness or letter-writing (or otherwise representing)? Definitions are helpful here in pinning down what at any particular point in time are thought to be the basic components. Currently and for some time in the past and regarding letters, it goes like this: There is a communicative exchange, only one side of which may be extant; it involves the communicant and the recipient being apart, even if only fleetingly; it features a communication from the communicant to the recipient which presumes a response of some kind, but which may not be in the same form; it assumes relationship, which can be of many different kinds. Contemplate these definitional terms in respect of the two hearts shown in the photograph which accompanies this blog.

At the end of World War II, my father was in a prisoner of war camp after his ship was bombed. Three parts starved, he and others fetched up in Brisbane in Australia to be fed for six months before being repatriated. Among the things he did while there, he learned how to make different kinds of ornaments and jewellery. The two plastic hearts shown here were made by him and sent to my mother, his childhood sweetheart. She had never been to school, for various complicated reasons stemming from the 1920s influenza pandemic, so written exchanges between them are non-existent. I write that, but it is not actually correct, because the plastic hearts are written messages. They are communications from him to her, forged in a material form, one of which writes her name and the other of which represents his love for her. He also did something similar with actual letters, and indeed she did with envelopes, commented on in a much earlier blog. Some of these were extant, but they were cremated with my mother when she died.

Last updated: 15 December 2022


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