Unreal Nature

May 3, 2015

The Powers that Change

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:52 am

… as soon as one sees that this air is not the void, that this clarity does not just illumine but distorts by giving objects a conventional daylight …

This is from the essay ‘The Search for Point Zero’ found in The Book to Come by Maurice Blanchot (1959; 2003):

… Undoubtedly, the feeling of limitless freedom seems today to animate the hand that sets to write: one thinks one can say everything and say it every way; nothing holds us back, everything is available to us. Everything — isn’t that a lot? But everything is finally very little, and the one who begins to write, in the insouciance that makes him master of the infinite, perceives, in the end, that he has at best devoted all his strength to searching for only one single point.

… Literature begins with writing. Writing is the totality of rites, the overt or subtle ceremony by which, independently of what one wants to express and of the way in which one expresses it, this event is announced: that what is written belongs to literature, that the one who reads it is reading literature. This is not rhetoric, or rather it is a particular kind of rhetoric, destined to make us understand that we have entered this closed, separate, and sacred space that is literary space.

Roland Barthes wants to arrive at this statement: there was a time when writing, being the same for everyone, was welcomed by an innocent consent. All writers then had only one wish: to write well, to carry ordinary langauge to a higher degree of perfection or consonance with what they were trying to say; for all of them there was a unity of intention, an identical morality. It is no longer like that today. Writers who distinguish themselves by their instinctive language are even more opposed, by their attitude, to the literary ceremony: to write is to enter a templum that imposes on us, independently of the langauge that is ours by right of birth and by physical destiny, a certain number of uses, an implicit religion, a rumor that changes beforehand all that we can say, that charges it with intentions that are all the more effective since they are not avowed; to write is first of all to want to destroy the temple before building it; it is at least, before passing over its threshold, to question the constraints of such a place, the original sin that formed the decision to enclose ourselves in it. To write is finally to refuse to pass over the threshold, to refuse to “write.”

Thus we explain, and better discern, the loss of unity from which literature today suffers, or on which it prides itself. Each writer makes writing his problem and this problem the object of a decision that he can alter. It is not only by their vision of the world, the characteristics of their language, the chance of talent, or their particular experiences that writers are divided; as soon as literature makes itself seen as an environment in which everything is transformed (and embellished), as soon as one sees that this air is not the void, that this clarity does not just illumine but distorts by giving objects a conventional daylight, as soon as one feels that literary writing — genres, signs, the use of the past-historic and the third person — is not a simple transparent form, but a world apart in which idols reign, in which prejudices slumber, and in which live, invisible, the powers that change everything; for each person has to try to extricate himself from the world, it is a temptation for everyone to destroy it in order to reconstruct it pure of any previous use or, even better, to leave the place empty.

-Julie

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