Unreal Nature

October 26, 2014

More and More Sufficient Absence

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:38 am

… But it is also an incarnate consciousness … giving us to believe that this reality opens up who knows what path to us into the obscure heart of things.

This is from the essay ‘The Myth of Mallarmé ‘ found in The Work of Fire by Maurice Blanchot (1949):

… “What is the use of the miracle,” said Mallarmé, “of transposing a fact of nature into its vibratory near-disappearance according to the play of speech, if it is not so that a pure idea emanates from it, without the annoyance of a near or concrete reminder?” We find, in this response, a remarkable specification: the word has meaning only if it rids us of the object it names; it must spare us its presence or “concrete reminder.” In authentic language, speech has a function that is not only representative but also destructive. It causes to vanish, it renders the object absent, it annihilates it.

… We see that all is not so simple. The word distances the object: “I say: a flower!” and I have in front of my eyes neither flower, nor an image of a flower, nor a memory of a flower, but an absence of flower.

… In truth, none of that exists without contradictions. It is clear that, if Mallarmé gives language the mission of referring by absence to what it signifies, it risks entering an impasse. Of what absence is it a question? If it is necessary not to name, but only to qualify the defined void the object creates by disappearing, we will begin to glide toward the image. Allegory is this first step toward absence. “Water cold from boredom in its iced container.” But the emancipation is still illusory: as soon as we understand the circumlocution, the object revives and imposes itself again. The fault of simple metaphor is less in its simplicity, which makes its deciphering easy, than in its stability, its plastic solidity; it is as weighty and present as what it represents.

… When one has discovered an exceptional ability in language for absence and questioning, one has the temptation to consider the very absence of language as surrounded by its essence, and silence as the ultimate possibility of speech. Everyone knows that this silence has haunted the poet. What we have sometimes forgotten is that this silence no more marks the failure of his dreams than it signifies an acquiescence to the ineffable, a betrayal of language, a “what’s the use” thrown to poetic resources too inferior to the ideal. Silence is undoubtedly always present as the one demand that really matters. But, far from seeming the opposite of words, it is, rather, implied by words and is almost their prejudice, their secret intention, or, rather, the condition fo speech, if speaking is to replace a presence with an absence and to pursue a more and more sufficient absence through more and more fragile presences.

… We see now around what dangerous point Mallarmé’s reflections turn. First, language fits into a contradiction: in a general way, it is what destroys the world to make it be reborn in a state of meaning, of signified values; but, under its creative form, it fixes on the only negative aspect of its task and becomes the pure power of questioning and transfiguration. That is possible insofar as, taking on a tangible quality, it becomes a thing, a body, an incarnate power. The real presence and material affirmation of language give it the ability to suspend and dismiss the world. Density and sonorous thickness are necessary to it to extricate the silence that it encloses, and that is the part of the void without which it could never cause a new meaning to be born.

… the most remarkable of all is the impersonal character of language, the kind of independent and absolute existence that Mallarmé lends it. We have seen that this language does not imply anyone who expresses it, or anyone who hears it: it speaks itself and writes itself. That is the condition of its authority. The book is the symbol of this autonomous subsistence; it surpasses us, we can do nothing beyond it, and we are nothing, almost nothing, in what it is. [ … ] But it is also an incarnate consciousness, reduced to the material form of words, to their sonority, their life, and giving us to believe that this reality opens up who knows what path to us into the obscure heart of things. Perhaps that is an imposture. But perhaps that trickery is the truth of every written thing.

-Julie

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