Unreal Nature

April 26, 2015

Only What Is Concealed

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:43 am

… it is never already there, it always has to be rediscovered or reinvented.

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

… We are speaking of literature, work [oeuvre], and experiments; what do these words mean? It seems false to see in the art of today a simple occasion of subjective experiences or a dependence on aesthetics, and yet we never stop, when on the subject of art, talking about experiment. It seems right to see in the concerns that animate artists and writers not an interest in themselves, but a concern that demands expression in work. The works, then, should play the greatest role. But is that how it is? Hardly.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] What attracts the writer, what moves the artist, is not directly the work; it is the search, the impulse that leads to it, the approach of what makes the work possible: art, literature, and what these two words conceal. Thus the painter prefers the various states of a painting to a painting. And the writer often wishes not to finish anything entirely, leaving as fragments a hundred stories that led him to a certain point and that he must abandon to try to go beyond that point. Thus, by another surprising coincidence, ValĂ©ry and Kafka, separated by almost everything, close only in their concern to write rigorously, meet each other to affirm: “My entire work is only an exercise.”

[ … ]

… These are necessary contradictions. Only the work matters, the affirmation that is in the work, the poem in its compressed singularity, the painting in its own space. Only the work matters, but finally the work is there only to lead to the quest for the work; the work is the impulse that carries us toward the pure point of inspiration from which it comes and which it seems it can reach only by disappearing.

… the essence of literature is precisely to escape any essential determination, any assertion that stabilizes it or even realizes it: it is never already there, it always has to be rediscovered or reinvented. It is not even certain that the word literature or the word art corresponds to anything real, anything possible or anything important. It has been said that to be an artist is not to know that art already exists or that the world already is there.

[line break added] Undoubtedly, the painter goes to the museum and there gleans a certain awareness of the reality of painting: he knows painting, but his painting does not know it; his painting knows that painting is impossible, unreal, unrealizable. Whoever asserts literature in itself asserts nothing. Whoever looks for it looks for only what is concealed; whoever finds it finds only what is on this side of literature or, what is worse, beyond it. That is why, finally, it is non-literature that each book pursues as the essence of what it lives and wants passionately to discover.

-Julie

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