Durability via superfluity. Contrary to superficial logic, it is not the usefulness of a work that makes it last. Rather, it is those elements that have no clear use that elevate the work beyond a mere use object, not to speak of an object of consumption. This is because unlike utility, which is always tied to a particular time, place, and subject, the superfluous elements, its decoration, have a value of their own outside of the work itself. Because of this, the most useful of goods will lose all of its durability the moment it is unable to perform its function, while a work enriched by superfluity will retain a value beyond itself, and will be valued for this even if the primary use of the object no longer matters. The phenomenon of collecting, such as, for example, stamp collecting, would not exist if the stamps were not decorated with unique illustrations with every new issue. The illustration on the stamp is wholly irrelevant to its function, and precisely because of that it elevates a tiny piece of paper to an object worthy of collection, infusing it with a durability unmatched by any purely utilitarian good.

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“For even falsehood, uttered by the tongue of man, seemed like truth and light before this hopelessly-deaf and unresponsive silence.”

My new book: a translation of selected short stories by Leonid Andreyev, the father of Russian Expressionism from the Silver Age of Russian literature. A piercing, pitiless glance into the heart of the human condition.

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Further Reading

Proust wrote that the true voyage of discovery is not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold a hundred universes that each of them beholds. Thus, in the words of Ruskin, what good books give us is not mere knowledge, but sight.

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