Unreal Nature

October 18, 2015

Becoming Monstrous to Remain Herself

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… she reigns in the disorder of her house … her excesses are part of her splendor, and her blindness is the sign of an undivided soul.

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

We know what Jouhandeau’s narratives are like. Whoever wanders without precaution, reader without passport, into these approachable stories does not suspect the terrible voyage he will make: he discovers a simple nature, all smoking in reality, that he naïvely thinks he recognizes; he encounters men who seem to him of his species; he hears a language fully charged with human sonorities. Delightful stroll. Who would stop him from peacefully following this gentle slope that the author has shaped for him?

[ … ]

Jouhandeau, by the interstices that he discovers in beings, perceives the abysses and the summits, the glory and shame of a realm that is not entirely unknown since he identifies it with hell, but hell is often for him just the symbol of the extreme; and his admiration of Evil is the final way station before the frontier that a night without memory sights. That he delighted to portray beings who to our troubled gaze seem monstrous, that he transformed Guéret, his hometown, into the fabulous city of Chaminadour, where the most familiar existence issues into the horrible — that is not all due to the fatality of a gloomy imagination; it is in order to seek out the meaning of things in the unknown to which they are linked.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] These images that he throws out to meet his own, the net that he launches into anguish as if eternally sure that the catch will be emptiness, form the negative of ordinary reality, what we would see if we looked at it from the point where we see nothing or that, at the most withdrawn depth of his soul, everyone can sense of himself.

The portrayal of Élise [the wife] has the greatness of figures that exceed common measures. In some respects the two volumes of Chroniques maritales [Marriage chronicles] reproduce the episodes of a conjugal tragedy: intimacy becomes the greatest alienation; community changes into divorce, the oppression of one existence by another, the slow, terrible asphyxia of beings who live together only to feel that they can only live alone, the purgatory of reproaches, the hell of silence.

[line break added] But from this indictment emerges, like a splendid glorious figure worthy of coronation, the image of the one against whom the indictment is directed. Heroine attracted by bedazzlement, lioness who devours the one she loves, demon who knows neither rest nor pity nor the sleep of complacency, she indeed belongs to the race of those whom Jouhandeau calls “My Own,” intrepid as they are, ready for the strangest challenges, capable of becoming monstrous to remain herself, and adding to this inner violence the brilliance of her exterior and her theatrical affectation. No doubt ignoring to the point of madness the inclinations of the one she loves, she reigns in the disorder of her house where she thinks herself freer than in the desert, but her excesses are part of her splendor, and her blindness is the sign of an undivided soul.




Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: