Unreal Nature

November 22, 2015

Through My Silent Mediation

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:38 am

… has nevertheless maintained within his effacement the authority of a power, the decision to be silent, so that in this silence what speaks without beginning or end can take on form, coherence and meaning.

This is from the essay ‘The Essential Solitude’ found in The Gaze of Orpheus and other essays by Maurice Blanchot, translated by Lydia Davis (1981):

… When Rilke writes … ” … at last my solitude has closed in and I am in my work like a pit in its fruit,” the solitude he speaks of is not essentially solitude: it is self-communion.

In the solitude of the work — the work of art, the literary work — we see a more essential solitude. It excludes the self-satisfied isolation of individualism, it is unacquainted with the search for difference; it is not dissipated by the fact of sustaining a virile relationship in a task that covers the mastered extent of the day. The person who is writing the work is thrust to one side, the person who has written the work is dismissed. What is more, the person who is dismissed does not know it. This ignorance saves him, diverts him and allows him to go on. The writer never knows if the work is done. What he has finished in one book, he begins again or destroys in another.

… the work of art, the literary work — is neither finished, nor unfinished; it is. What it says is exclusively that: that it is — and nothing more.

… The work can have no proof, just as it can have no use. It cannot be verified — truth can lay hold of it, renown illuminate it: this existence concerns it not at all, this obviousness makes it neither certain nor real, nor does it make it manifest.

… To write is to make oneself the echo of what cannot stop talking — and because of this, in order to become its echo, I must to a certain extent impose silence on it. To this incessant speech I bring the decisiveness, the authority of my own silence. Through my silent mediation, I make perceptible the uninterrupted affirmation, the giant murmur in which language, by opening, becomes image, becomes imaginary, an eloquent depth, an indistinct fullness that is empty. The source of this silence is the self-effacement to which the person who writes is invited.

… When we admire the tone of a work, responding to the tone as what is most authentic about it, what are we referring to? Not the style, and not the interest and the quality of the language, but precisely the silence, the virile force through which the person who writes, having deprived himself of himself, having renounced himself, has nevertheless maintained within his effacement the authority of a power, the decision to be silent, so that in this silence what speaks without beginning or end can take on form, coherence and meaning.

Tone is not the voice of the writer, but the intimacy of the silence he imposes on speech, which makes this silence still his own, what remains of himself in the discretion that sets him to one side. Tone makes the great writers, but perhaps the work is not concerned about what makes them great.

In the effacement to which he is invited, the “great writer” still restrains himself: what speaks is no longer himself, but it is not the pure slipping of the speech of no one. Of the effaced “I,” it retains the authoritarian, though silent affirmation. It retains the cutting edge, the violent rapidity of active time, of the instant. This is how he is preserved inside the work, is contained where there is no more restraint. But because of this the work, too, retains a content; it is not completely interior to itself.

My most recent previous post from Blanchot’s book is here.

-Julie

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