Unreal Nature

October 11, 2015

Who Is This Little Clerk?

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… The complaints, the cries of hate or madness are expressed only by the circumstance that they do not express themselves or by a faint trembling of the body or an incomprehensible caging of thought.

This is from the essay ‘Novel of the Stranger’ found in Faux Pas by Maurice Blanchot, translated by Charlotte Mandell (2001):

… Who is this little clerk, with such a banal comportment, suddenly led by the fatality of his insignificant actions to the point of being handed over to an appalling destiny? To a certain extent he is the very image of human reality when it is stripped of all psychological conventions, when one tries to grasp it by a description made uniquely from without, deprived of all false subjective explanations. He is profound absence, the abyss where there is perhaps nothing, or perhaps everything, that every human spectacle supposes.

Camus_TheStranger

… Society will not allow it to be revealed with so much ingenuity, with a kind of unconsciousness that dismays it, that man’s true, constant mode of thinking is an “I do not think,” “I have nothing to think about,” “I have nothing to say.” It cannot bear for the wellspring of great emotions with which society is so enchanted — nobility, shame, filial love — to dry up thus, and even less can it believe that one can live with a total indifference to the past and to the future, without a thought-out plan, without attention to the order that society supposes.

… The complaints, the cries of hate or madness are expressed only by the circumstance that they do not express themselves or by a faint trembling of the body or an incomprehensible caging of thought. Misfortune silences this explanatory voice that sums things up and that extracts from them a lesson accessible to words. If we tried to clarify the vexing thing that weighs down the second part of L’Etranger, we might see that the mechanism, the procedure, the setting of the trial are sometimes artificial; fatality seems to be invented out of whole cloth by society; and society, a combination of hypocrisy and fear, made up of idealism and regulations, submits to its arbitrary judgment, a certain type of man whose naivety does not understand its order.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] In reality Albert Camus’s hero does not signify only this too-easy opposition of human reality to social reality. His strangeness is not the characteristic of the individual who believes himself foreign to conventions and laws. It represents the meaning that existence takes on when it is grasped outside the ways of thinking and feeling that the use of words can specify.

-Julie

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