Unreal Nature

October 10, 2012

The Act that Illuminates

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:59 am

… Only the act is heroic, and the hero is nothing if he does not act — nothing outside the clarity of the act that illuminates and brings him to light.

This is from The Infinite Conversation by Maurice Blanchot (1993; originally published in 1969):

… Even with a divine origin one must be born as a man: he is awaited, he waits for himself, and when he declares himself it is easy to say that he could not have failed to appear. Yet before he proved himself nothing had established him as a child from on high; on the contrary, he was but a bastard without sure parentage — his illegitimacy is even what prompts him to make himself known. He thus comes to possess an origin only at the moment when he bestows upon himself a beginning and, without lineage, without belonging, makes his appearance on the basis of a non-appearance that only hid the plenitude of being.

Achilles is the hero, but Agamemnon is the king of kings. This difference, this distance setting the hero apart, will forever continue to exist, obliging him to be unique in order not to be second. Nephew of the emperor, paladin and necessarily noble, the hero is close to power, and often stronger than power, but his strength is excentric, it represents another center that could not, even should it claim to be so, unfold into a system without disappearing. He therefore incarnates in his radiance, that is, in the most direct manifestation, something that is nonetheless indirect, an oblique affirmation, an equivocacy from which the frankness of his exploits will not succeed in clearing him. Even if he does not lie, he is on the verge of falsehood, his essence deceptive. His simplicity, indeed the most simple — that of a braggart showing off — is vitiated by a duplicity that gnaws at him: he is thus divided between origin and beginning, between being and doing, magic and strength, strength and sovereignty, glory and the throne, rank and blood. That is not all. One must add: between saying and doing.

The hero is nothing if not glorious. The word exploit marks this relation with the outside: heroism knows nothing of conscience, as it knows nothing of the virtual and the latent. Glory is the shining forth of immediate action, it is light, it is radiance. The hero shows himself; this dazzling manifestation is that of a being’s being, the transfiguration of origin into beginning, the transparency of the absolute in a decision or an action that is nonetheless particular and momentary. But this glorious disclosure that leaves nothing to disclose (the hero’s soul is the most empty) and at the same time claims to be inexhaustible, is the privilege of his near namesake, the herald: he who announces and makes resound. Heroism is revelation, the marvelous brilliance of deed that joins essence and appearance. Heroism is the act’s luminous sovereignty. Only the act is heroic, and the hero is nothing if he does not act — nothing outside the clarity of the act that illuminates and brings him to light.

My most recent previous post from Blanchot’s book is here.

-Julie

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