Unreal Nature

January 11, 2015

Without Me

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

… what is prior to the day is still the day, but in the form of an inability to disappear, not a capacity to make something appear: the darkness of necessity, not the light of freedom.

This is from the essay ‘Literature and the Right to Death’ found in The Work of Fire by Maurice Blanchot (1949):

… as soon as the page has been written, the question which kept interrogating the writer while he was writing — though he may not have been aware of it — is now present on the page; and now the same question lies silent within the work, waiting for a reader to approach — any kind of reader, shallow or profound; this question is addressed to langauge, behind the person who is writing and the person who is reading, by language which has become literature.

… A writer is not an idealistic dreamer, he does not contemplate himself in the intimacy of his beautiful soul, he does not submerge himself in the inner certainty of his talents. He puts his talent to work; that is, he needs the work he produces in order to be conscious of his talents and of himself. The writer only finds himself, only realizes himself, through his work; before his work exists, not only does he not know who he is, but he is nothing. He exists only as a function of the work; but then how can the work exist?

… Every work is an occasional work: this simply means that each work has a beginning, that it begins at a certain moment in time and that that moment in time is part of the work, since without it the work would have been only an insurmountable problem, nothing more than the impossibility of writing it.

Let us suppose that the work has been written: with it the writer is born. Before, there was no one to write it; starting from the book, an author exists and merges with his book. When Kafka chances to write the sentence, “He was looking out the window,” he is — as he says — in a state of inspiration such that the sentence is already perfect. The point is that he is the author of it — or rather that, because of it, he is an author: it is the source of his existence, he has made it and it makes him, it is himself and he is completely what it is.

… At this point [when the book is published], a disconcerting ordeal begins. The author sees other people taking an interest in his work, but the interest they take in it is different from the interest that made it a pure expression of himself, and that different interest changes the work, transforms it into something different, something in which he does not recognize the original perfection. For him the work has disappeared, it has become a work belonging to other people, a work which includes them and does not include him, a book which derives its value from other books, which is original if it does not resemble them, which is understood because it is a reflection of them.

… Why make it public if the splendor of the pure self must be preserved in the work, why take it outside, why realize it in words which belong to everyone? … [Or] Another solution — the writer himself agrees to do away with himself: the only one who matters in the work is the person who reads it. The reader makes the work; as he reads it, he creates it; he is its real author, he is the consciousness and the living substance of the written thing; and so the author now has only one goal, to write for that reader and to merge with him. A hopeless endeavor. Because the reader has no use for a work written for him, what he wants is precisely an alien work in which he can discover something unknown, a different reality, a separate mind capable of transforming him and which he can transform into himself. An author who is writing specifically for a public is not really writing: it is the public that is writing, and for this reason the public can no longer be a reader; reading only appears to exist, actually it is nothing. This is why works created to be read are meaningless: no one reads them. This is why it is dangerous to write for other people, in order to evoke the speech of others and reveal them to themselves: the fact is that other people do not want to hear their own voices; they want to hear someone else’s voice, a voice that is real, profound, troubling like the truth.

[ … ]

… The word [in literature] acts not as an ideal force but as an obscure power, as an incantation that coerces things, makes them really present outside of themselves. It is an element, a piece barely detached from its subterranean surroundings: it is no longer a name, but rather one moment in the universal anonymity, a bald statement, the stupor of a confrontation in the depths of obscurity. And in this way language insists on playing its own game without man, who created it. Literature now dispenses with the writer: it is no longer this inspiration at work, this negation asserting itself, this idea inscribed in the world in its totality. It is not beyond the world, but neither is it the world itself: it is the presence of things before the world exists, their perseverance after the world has disappeared, the stubbornness of what remains when everything vanishes and the dumbfoundedness of what appears when nothing exists.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] That is why it cannot be confused with consciousness, which illuminates things and makes decisions; it is my consciousness without me, the radiant passivity of mineral substances, the lucidity of the depths of torpor. It is not the night, it is the obsession of the night; it is not the night but the consciousness of the night, which lies awake watching for a chance to surprise itself and because of that is constantly being dissipated. It is not the day, it is the side of the day that day has rejected in order to become light. And it is not death, either, because it manifests existence without being, existence which remains below existence, like an inexorable affirmation, without beginning or end — death as the impossibility of dying.

… if we call the day to account, if we reach a point where we push it away in order to find out what is prior to the day, under it we discover that the day is already present, and that what is prior to the day is still the day, but in the form of an inability to disappear, not a capacity to make something appear: the darkness of necessity, not the light of freedom.

… Whether the work is obscure or clear, poetry or prose, insignificant or important, whether it speaks of a pebble or of God, there is something in it that does not depend on its qualities and that deep within itself is always in the process of changing the work from the ground up. It is as though in the very heart of literature and language, beyond the visible movements that transform them, a point of instability were reserved, a power to work substantial metamorphoses, a power capable of changing everything about it without changing anything.

-Julie

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