Unreal Nature

December 6, 2015

In So Doing Unburdens It

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:52 am

… reading may be a difficult kind of happiness, but reading is the easiest thing in the world, it is freedom without work, a pure Yes blossoming in the immediate.

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

… Usually someone who does not like music cannot tolerate it at all, just as a man who finds a Picasso painting repellant excludes it with a violent hatred, as though he felt directly threatened by it. The fact that he hasn’t even looked at the picture says nothing against his good faith. It is not in his power to look at it. Not looking at it does not put him in the wrong; it is a form of his sincerity, his correct presentiment of the force that is closing his eyes.

… The plastic work of art has a certain advantage over the verbal work of art in that it renders more manifest the exclusive void within which the work apparently wants to remain, far from everyone’s gaze. Rodin’sThe Kiss” allows itself to be looked at and even thrives on being looked at; his “Balzac” is without gaze, a closed and sleeping thing, absorbed in itself to such a degree that it disappears.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] This decisive separation, which sculpture takes as its element and which sets out another, rebellious space in the center of space — sets out a space that is at once hidden, visible, and shielded, perhaps immutable, perhaps without repose — this protected violence, before which we always feel out of place, does not seem to be present in books. The statue that is unearthed and displayed for everyone’s admiration does not expect anything, does not receive anything, seems rather to have been torn from its place.

[line break added] But isn’t it true that the book that has been exhumed, the manuscript that is taken out of a jar and enters the broad daylight of reading, is born all over again through an impressive piece of luck? What is a book that no one reads? Something that has not yet been written. Reading, then, is not writing the book again but causing the book to write itself or be written — this time without the writer as intermediary, without anyone writing it.

[line break added] The reader does not add himself to the book, but his tendency is first to unburden it of any author, and something very hasty in his approach, the very futile shadow that passes across the pages and leaves them intact, everything that makes the reading appear superfluous, and even the reader’s lack of attention, the slightness of his interest, all his infinite lightness affirms the book’s new lightness: the book has become a book without an author, without the seriousness, the labor, the heavy pangs, the weight of a whole life that has been poured into it — an experience that is sometimes terrible, always dangerous, an experience the reader effaces and, because of his providential lightness, considers to be nothing.

… Reading that accepts the work for what it is and in so doing unburdens it of its author, does not consist of replacing the author by a reader, a fully existent person, who has a history, a profession, a religion, and is even well read, someone who, on the basis of all that, would begin a dialogue with the other person, the one who wrote the book.

[line break added] Reading is not a conversation, it does not discuss, it does not question. It never asks the book — and certainly not the author — “What exactly did you mean? Well, what truth are you offering me?” True reading never challenges the true book: but it is not a form of submission to the “text” either. Only the nonliterary book is presented as a stoutly woven web of determined significations, as an entity made up of real affirmations: before it is read by anyone, the nonliterary book has already been read by everyone, and it is this preliminary reading that guarantees it a secure existence.

[line break added] But the book whose source is art has no guarantee in the world, and when it is read, it has never been read before; it only attains its presence as a work in the space opened by this unique reading, each time the first reading and each time the only reading.

… But these remarks would also risk deceiving us, if they seemed to say that reading was the work of clearing a way from one language to another, or a bold step requiring initiative, effort, and the conquest of obstacles. The approach to reading may be a difficult kind of happiness, but reading is the easiest thing in the world, it is freedom without work, a pure Yes blossoming in the immediate.




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