Unreal Nature

February 15, 2015

There Is Another Language

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… He prefers it. He resists it, being unable to renounce himself, and, in the end, dismisses it, but he prefers it.

This is from the essay ‘Claudel and the Infinite’ found in The Book to Come by Maurice Blanchot (1959; 2003):

… it is indeed true that he wants everything, nothing more, and in this everything, only each thing, one by one, already formed, already created, a solid reality he can appropriate and know. He wants everything, the certainty of everything, not the origin, not that which is yet to be but the present universe, the world in its limits, closed and circumscribed, where nothing is lost, which he can count, measure, and confirm by his permanent language. Even if he is linked to desire, Claudel is first the present man and the man of the present; he speaks only in the present; there is always for him, in whatever is there, enough of being so that he can rejoice in it, glorify it, and provoke it, by his language, to even more being.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] But what is this present to which he wants to correspond by tumultuous pressure? Is it the instant, “that hour that is between spring and summer,” of which the Cantate [Cantata] will sing? Is it the moment of bliss? Of happiness that one seizes and tastes, carefree or in ecstasy? Nothing is more contrary to him, we know well. For he wants the present to be present for him, not to lose himself in it. Just as he has a horror of the indeterminate, he has a horror and loathing of drowning in pantheism; and the present is made not just so one can be absorbed in it and be happy with it, but also so that one can nourish oneself from it, develop it, and surpass it by a progressive growth and ever-widening development.

[line break added] Will he be content then, with a spiritual appropriation, possessing each present thing in its form or touching only its surface? He needs more: he wants not only to see but to have, to possess with his entire being the entire being down to its substance. he thus becomes the elemental poet. “The element itself! The first matter! It is the sea, I say, that I need” — and the solid, primordial earth, the “Earth of Earth, the breast’s abundance,” “the burning dark blood,” “the plasma that labors and destroys, that transports and shapes,” the voluminous abundance, all that is enormous, and not only clear flowing water but “the peaty flood,” “impregnated with the substance of the Earth,” knowledge of which the rivers of China brought him, “current that with a heavier burden flees toward the deepest center of an ever enlarged circle” (which is the very definition of the present that suits him: the present for him is not a point, but the constant circular flowering of the being in perpetual vibration).

But, if one gives in to this impulse, doesn’t he risk getting bogged down in the formless, possessing everything but dissolved at the heart of everything, “Chaos that has not received the Gospel”?

[ … ]

… And yet there is another language: this one gives nothing, brings nothing but solitude, retreat, separation; it is without knowledge, without result; the one who speaks it does not know it, knows only its weight, its pressure, its infinite demand, speech that is not human, that comes not to the capable man, but to the one who sees himself all of a sudden alone, “detached, refused, abandoned.” Will Claudel not try to demean this language so contrary to himself, so foreign to what he wants and what he believes? Will he not prove it wrong? He prefers it. He resists it, being unable to renounce himself, and, in the end, dismisses it, but he prefers it. Everything that is poetry to him is complicit with the very thing that he refuses, which is purity, a rigor to which he sees desperately that he cannot conform.

Paul Claudel [image from Wikipedia]

[ … ]

Go away! I turn back desperately, to earth!
Go away! You will not take away from me this cold taste for the earth …

He chooses, then, not wanting only to be chosen, but he chooses what he does not prefer, without thinking himself justified, and without hoping ever to be at peace.




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