"Reading at the Roche Limit"

Brook Aidan Rosini

Spinoza and Entropy

I was the universe and everything in it ... This indivisible subject is every being in the universe

In his Ethics (1674), Spinoza argues that all substances in the universe are one, and yet each is unique, individual, and non-identical.  This formulation is an excellent example of the paradox of entropy, for entropy is at the same time both complete chaos and utter order.  According to the second law of thermodynamics, entropy is the inevitable submission of the chaos of matter in a closed system to heat death, or total unavailability of energy, the result of which is complete uniformity or equilibrium.  Thus, total chaos begets total uniformity.  This principle provides an understanding of what it is to read at the Roche Limit, to absorb words and images at the border of the dissolution and coalescence of information.  The Roche Limit in Sebald’s texts is the moving dynamic threshold on one side of which information remains fragmented and meaningless and on the other side of which information comes together to make meaning.  In Die Ringe des Saturn, Sebald presents a Spinozistic universe in which all meanings are interconnected as one greater text, and yet each individual piece of information has its own life and function in the whole.