Unreal Nature

March 8, 2015

It Is This Minus

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… there is less reality in reality, being only unreality negated …

This is from the essay ‘Literary Infinity: The Aleph’ found in The Book to Come by Maurice Blanchot (1959; 2003):

… The world in which we live and as we live it is, fortunately, limited. A few steps are enough for us to leave our room, a few years to leave our life. But let us suppose that, in this narrow, suddenly dark space, suddenly blind, we were to wander astray. Let us suppose that the geographic desert becomes the Biblical desert: it is no longer four steps, no longer eleven days that we need to cross it, but the time of two generations, the entire history of all humanity, and perhaps more.

… The error, the fact of being on the go without ever being able to stop, changes the finite into infinity. And to it these singular characteristics are added: from the finite, which is still closed, one can always hope to escape, while the infinite vastness is a prison, being without an exit — just as any place absolutely without exit becomes infinite. The place of wandering knows no straight line; one never goes from one point to another in it; one does not leave here to go there; there is no point of departure and no beginning to the walk.

… one can doubt the reason of the universe, but the book that we make — and in particular those cleverly organized books of fiction, like perfectly obscure problems to which perfectly clear solutions suffice, such as detective novels — we know to be penetrated with intelligence and animated by that power of arrangement that is the mind. But if the world is a book, every book is the world, and from this innocent tautology, formidable consequences result.

This first of all: that there is no longer a limit of reference. The world and the book eternally and infinitely send back their reflected images. This indefinite power of mirroring, this sparkling and limitless multiplication — which is the labyrinth of light and nothing else besides — will then be all that we will find, dizzily, at the bottom of our desires to understand.

Then this: that if the book is the possibility of the world, we should conclude that at work in the world is not only the ability to make [faire], but that great ability to feign [feindre], to trick and deceive, of which every work of fiction is the product, all the more so if this ability stays concealed in it.

Borges understands that the perilous dignity of literature is not to make us suppose a great author of the world, absorbed in dreamy mystifications, but to make us experience the approach of a strange power, neutral and impersonal. He likes it to be said of Shakespeare: “He was like all men, except for the fact that he was like all men.”

… The difference between the real and the unreal, the inestimable privilege of the real, is that there is less reality in reality, being only unreality negated, distanced by the energetic labor of negation and by the negation that labor also is. It is this minus, a sort of thinning, a slimming of space, that allows us to go from one point to another according to the fortunate way of the straight line. But it is the most undefined essence of the imaginary, which prevents K. from every reaching the Castle, as for eternity it prevents Achilles from catching up with the tortoise, and perhaps the living man from meeting up with himself in a point that would make his death perfectly human and, consequently, invisible.

-Julie

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