Friday, September 22, 2006

Blanchot the Obscure


"Despite some stiff competition, Blanchot . . . has acquired a reputation for writing some of the most enigmatic prose in modern French." -- John Lechte.

Maurice Blanchot was born on this day in 1907 in Quain, France.

The reclusive, mysterious Blanchot's critical and fictional themes revolve around indeterminacy. From a critical perspective (in works such as The Space of Literature, 1955, and The Infinite Conversation, 1969), the concept of indeterminacy is Blanchot's argument, generally, against the inevitable homogeneity produced within a Hegelian system of knowledge in which extremes are ultimately erased; and specifically, against critics who cease to be readers and instead become authors who seek to stuff a text into a pre-existing category. Blanchot asks readers to focus not on the author, who produces his work in solitude, but on the text, and the experience of the text as a singular reinvention of writing in every instance. Because writing is always a reinvention produced in solitude, there are no stabilizing or determinative contexts available to the reader -- nothing exists but the writing -- and "what is seen [by the reader] does not belong to the world of reality, but to the indeterminant milieu of fascination."

In his fiction (Thomas the Obscure, 1941; Aminadab, 1942; Death Sentence, 1948; The One Who Was Standing Apart From Me, 1973)), his use of language is deceptively transparent; waiting, forgetting and randomness operate as the habits and hallmarks of the indeterminacy of consciousness while the mind strives, in Nietzschean fashion, to locate a moment in which it might impose its will.

Blanchot died on February 20, 2003 in Paris.

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