Unreal Nature

July 12, 2015

Of Melting Snow

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:19 am

… the memories are fragmented, atomized by the movement of thought that incessantly agitates them in order to return to them their power as seed …

This is from the essay ‘Battle with the Angel’ found in the collection, Friendship by Maurice Blanchot (1997):

… “All my friends know it: I am a specialist, a maniac of confession; yet what pushes me to confidences — especially with women — is timidity. When I am alone with a person whose sex is enough to make her so different from me, my feeling of isolation and misery becomes such that, despairing to find anything to say to my interlocutor that might be the basis of a conversation, incapable also of courting her if it so happens that I desire her, I begin, for lack of another subject, to speak of myself; as my sentences flow, the tension rises, and I am able to establish between my partner and myself a surprising dramatic current” [Michel Leiris, L’Age d’homme, (1939)]. This is, as it were, the point of departure: an empty need to speak, made of this void and in order to fill it at all costs, and the void is himself having become this need and this desire that still treads only emptiness. A pure force of sorts, of melting snow, of drunken rupture, and often obtained under the cover of drunkenness, where the being who speaks finds nothing to say but the flimsy affirmation of himself: a Me, Me, Me not vain, not glorious, but broken, unhappy, barely breathing, although appealing in the force of its weakness.

[ … ]

… [In contrast, when writing a later book, Biffures, (1948) ] he works on index cards, and these archives of himself in which the fragments of his history are deposited, mute dust as long as nothing disturbs it, give him the raw material of thoughts and facts that writing will have as its object to animate and to attract, in the manner of a magnet, in order that they group themselves, and in grouping themselves, form some new figure, true and exalting, in which, perhaps, a more exact knowledge of the conduct of life will also be affirmed.

For such work, a number of very different talents must, it seems, come together: a little method, a lot of patient rigor, and under the greatest suspicion, a receptivity to this free speech that has remained intact, in relation to the marvel that makes possible the commerce of beings and things. I think, moreover, that one would be mistaken if one made the author of Biffures into a man too knowledgeable about himself, an archivist and accountant who classifies himself and puts himself on file before putting himself together according to the flamboyant instinct of words. The notes in which he fixes himself are the products of distress more than science, written when he does not feel himself “equal to a literary work,” and can live only on the order of small projects and with a very small margin of hope.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] In Biffures, where the anecdotes are reduced to a minimum and the memories are fragmented, atomized by the movement of thought that incessantly agitates them in order to return to them their power as seed and their active force, the experience rests almost entirely on the life of reflection, the surveillance it exercises, the extreme effort and tension of a consciousness that is on the alert all the more because it not only has to verify facts but also must weigh the imaginary. Even the language has been transformed from L’Age d’homme. The sentences are longer, heavier, always weighed down by scruples, precautions, nuances, detours; by the refusal to go straight to the fact, because the “fact” risks being betrayed and then, once it has been communicated, risks giving way only to void. And precisely before this void the author withdraws, yet cannot withdraw, for he sees too clearly into himself to be able to consent to this flight that is but a feint.

… It is easy to say that the result is a book that is tethered, contorted, and without joy (I think it is an extraordinary book for the spirit of truth that incessantly comes to light in it).

-Julie

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