… [until] the only taste an apricot has is the taste of the word “apricot” …
This is from The Five Senses: A Philosophy of Mingled Bodies by Michel Serres (2008, 1985):
… And what if fairy tales — seven-league boots, beast become beauty, donkey skin, vair slipper, little mermaid with her lower body numb from cold and sheathed in blue-green scales, ogres smelling live flesh — and what if fétes galantes, masked balls, Harlequin theatre, visions and sabbaths were simply brightly coloured representations of the lost, forgotten, disintegrated ruins of the sensible, whose qualities our culture of language and religion of the word will no longer allow us to apprehend?
Saint Anthony, priest of the word, a hermit in the smooth, homogeneous desert under the immutable sun, a space where nothing new can appear beneath the metallic midday brightness, living amidst an infinity of stones, feeding himself on bread and water all day long, drunk on fasting, always chanting his text, his eyes worn out on the Book, his tongue numb from words and hard crusts, suddenly feels his logical anchoritic skin shudder as the multiple traces on him the silent, manifold caresses of its shimmering pattern. The lost paradise, the disparate garden of the senses, with fruits and animals and devils and women, returns to the unitary desert of the word which has never understood or received it, perceiving it rather as a hellish temptation: a banquet resurfacing in the middle of a diet, a feast of phantom sensation amidst the reign of language.
Saint Anthony Tormented by Demons, by Martin Schongauer [image from Wikipedia]
These days saints live and read in cities, surrounded by concrete as far as the eye can see, eating special diets conceived for fragile stomachs and dishes, the taste of which has been removed by the agro-alimentary or pharmaceutical industries, moves about in the unifying light of electricity which prevents even the night from adding something new to the day, breathes only the scent of petrol and kerosene, and most of all knows nothing beyond writing, word-images covering the desert city, walls, screens, billboards, shops, vehicles, even the sky; finally the saint exists in word alone, the word whose existence requires that ascetics know nothing else: logic, media, grammars, announcements, formulae, codes … cities and insipid diets never excite them as much as sentences and syntax do. The victory of reason: the only taste an apricot has is the taste of the word “apricot” passing over the lips.