Unreal Nature

April 19, 2015

To Save One’s Little Self

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… Down there … roars the risk of a work in which one has to disappear. Down there, in the space of the work, everything is lost and perhaps the work too is lost.

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

… No one has to be more sincere than the diarist, and sincerity is that transparency that allows him not to cast a shadow on the contained existence of each day to which he limits the task of writing. One has to be superficial to preserve sincerity, a great virtue that also requires courage. Profundity has its comforts. At least, profundity demands the resolution not to hold oneself to the oath that ties us to ourselves and to others by means of some truth.

… nothing can be more different from the daily reckoning than the anxious progression [in story as opposed to diary], without roads and without boundaries, that the pursuit of what has taken place requires, but which, through the fact of having taken place, tears the fabric of events. For whoever encounters chance, like the one who “really” meets an image, the image, chance opens onto his life an unperceived gap where he must renounce habitual language and the calm light of day to keep himself under the fascination of another day and in relation to the measure of another language.

… [in story] feelings turn toward their center of gravity, their true place, which they wholly occupy by banishing the movement of the hours, by dissipating the world and, with the world, the ability to live them: far from being attenuated one by one in an equilibrium that would make them bearable, they fall together toward the space of the narrative, a space that is also that of passion and night, where they cannot be reached or surpassed or betrayed or forgotten.

… The interest of the diary is its insignificance. [ … ] Charles du Bos, with the simplicity unique to him: “The diary in the beginning represented for me the supreme recourse to escape total despair confronting the act of writing,” and also: “The curious thing in my case is how little I have the feeling of living when my diary accumulates only its deposit.” But that a writer as pure as Virgina Woolf, that an artist as passionate to create a work that retains only transparency, the luminous aureole and light contours of things, felt obliged to come back to herself in a journal of chatter in which the “I” pours itself out and consoles itself, that is significant and troubling. Here, the diary seems very like a safeguard against the danger of writing. Down there, in The Waves, roars the risk of a work in which one has to disappear. Down there, in the space of the work, everything is lost and perhaps the work too is lost. The diary is the anchor that scrapes against the bottom of the day-to-day and clings to the roughness of vanity. In like manner, Van Gogh has his letters, and a brother to whom to write them.

… one writes [a diary] to save writing, to save one’s life by writing, to save one’s little self (the revenges one takes on others, the nastiness one distills) or to save one’s great self by giving it scope, and then one writes in order not to be lost in the poverty of the days, or, like Virginia Woolf, like Delacroix, in order not to be lost in this ordeal that is art, that is in the limitless demand of art.

… One writes to save the days, but one entrusts one’s salvation to writing, which changes the days. One writes to save oneself from sterility, but one becomes Amiel who, returning to the fourteen thousand pages in which his life has been dissolved, recognizes in them what ruined him “artistically and scientifically” by “a busy laziness and a phantom of intellectual activity.”

-Julie

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