Unreal Nature

April 5, 2015

The Space and Air and Possibility of Speaking

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:57 am

… the things to say can be said only once and cannot remain unsaid either, for they cannot benefit from the easy comprehension we enjoy in this ordinary world, this world where the chance and pain of true dialogue are very rarely offered to us.

This is from the essay ‘The Pain of Dialogue’ found in The Book to Come by Maurice Blanchot (1959; 2003):

… The critic almost does not read. It is not always because of lack of time: it is that he cannot read while he’s thinking only of what he has to write; if he simplifies (sometimes by making more complicated), if he praises, if he blames, if he hastily gets rid of the simplicity of the book by replacing it with the correctness of a judgment or the benevolent assertion of his rich comprehension, it is because impatience pushes him, it is because, being unable to read a book, he must have not-read twenty, thirty, and many more …

[ … ]

… They have to speak, and these cautious, almost ceremonious words are terrible because of the restraint that is not only the politeness of simple lives, but is made of their extreme vulnerability. The fear of wounding and fear of being wounded are in the very words. The words touch each other, they withdraw at the slightest contact; they are assuredly still living. [ … ] Here, in the simple world of need and necessity, words are devoted to the essential, attracted only to the essential, and so are monotonous, but they are attentive also to what must be said in order not to avoid the brutal formulations that would put an end to everything.

It is a matter of dialogue. How rare dialogue is; we realize this by the surprise it makes us feel, bringing us into the presence of an unusual event, almost more painful than remarkable. In novels, the “dialogued” part is the expression of laziness and routine: the characters speak to put white space on a page and out of an imitation of life, where there is no narration, only conversation; from time to time one must give speech to people in books; the direct contact is an economy and a repose (for the author even more than for the reader). Or, the “dialogue,” under the influence of some American writers, can be wrought of an expressive incommunicativeness: more threadbare than in reality, a little below the meaningless speech that suffices for us in current life.

[ … ]

… We feel that, for these two people, for her especially, the space and air and possibility of speaking, which there must be, is very close to being exhausted. And perhaps, if it is indeed a dialogue that is at stake, we find its first characteristic in the approach of this threat, a boundary below which wordlessness and violence will enclose the being. One must have one’s back to the wall to begin to speak with someone. Comfort, ease, mastery raise speech to forms of impersonal communication, in which one talks around problems, and in which each person renounces his ego in order to let the discourse in general momentarily speak.

… They do not entirely understand each other, they do not share between them the common space in which comprehension is realized, and all their relationship rests only on the very intense and very simple feeling of being both equally outside of the ordinary circle of relationships. That is a great deal. It creates an instantaneous closeness and a sort of complete understanding without understanding in which each one offers the other all the more attention and expresses himself with all the more scruples and patient truth since the things to say can be said only once and cannot remain unsaid either, for they cannot benefit from the easy comprehension we enjoy in this ordinary world, this world where the chance and pain of true dialogue are very rarely offered to us.

-Julie

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