feeling with the eyes

“When I first knew Gertrude Stein in Paris I was surprised never to see a French book on her table, although there were always plenty of English ones, there were even no French newspapers. But do you never read French, I as well as many other people asked her. No, she replied, you see I feel with my eyes and it does not make any difference to me what language I hear, I don’t hear a language, I hear tones of voice and rhythms, but with my eyes I see words and sentences and there is for me only one language and that is English. One of the things that I have liked all these years is to be surrounded by people who know no English. It has left me more intensely alone with my eyes and my English. I do not know if it would have been possible to have English be so all in all to me otherwise. And they none of them could read a word I wrote, most of them did not even know that I did write. No, I like living with so very many people and being all alone with English and myself.”

—from The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, by Gertrude Stein (pub: Harcourt, Brace—1933)

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