Approaching Disappearance (Dalkey Archive Scholarly)
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Maurice Blanchot (1907-2003), one of the most influential figures of twentieth-century French literature, produced a wide variety of essays and fictions that reflect on the complexities of literary work. His description of writing continually returns to a number of themes, such as solitude, passivity, indifference, anonymity, and absence-forces confronting the writer, but also the reader, the text itself, and the relations between the three. For Blanchot, literature involves a movement toward disappearance, where one risks the loss of self; but such a sacrifice, says Blanchot, is inherent in the act of writing. "Approaching Disappearance" explores the question of disappearance in Blanchot's critical work and then turns to five narratives that offer a unique reflection on the threat of disappearance and the demands of literature-work by Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, Louis-Ren? Des For?ts, and Nathalie Sarraute.
as the spontaneous and confused entry of one of the several female characters, or the narrator himself, into a stranger’s room in the middle of the night. No event appears to be singular in this récit, but rather finds itself repeated in various ways, as if each penetration of the night forcefully reopens a profound wound that is always, ceaselessly open. In Foucault’s brief reference to L’arrêt de mort, he seems to touch upon that very idea when he suggests that the narrator’s gaze upon J.’s
us aware that neither the “I” nor the content of the narrative should be understood as anything more than the result of a tendency to chatter. In addition, the reader could be any reader, as long as he or she keeps reading, in order that the bavard can keep “talking.” As readers, we are anonymous, and our interpretive efforts are rejected even before they might begin. After all, there’s no point in interpreting a narrative that discloses its lack of substance and its singular goal of simply
coherence. It was one thing to be unable to communicate and thereby to be deprived of the pleasure of pure and sincere friendship, but quite another to suffer from an apparently organic deficiency whose most obvious result was to repress a vice that might be dangerous and was, in any case, sterile, since I did not feel I could derive from it that vital satisfaction that we seek through confiding in another person. But still the two experiences had at least one thing in common: anguish. (16)
me legere,” experiencing inability for a second time. Blanchot tells us that “the writer never reads his work. It is for him illegible, a secret” (24).12 But he also clarifies that the refusal, the Noli me legere, establishes the writer’s relation with the work. It is not the force of an interdict, but, through the play and sense of words, the insistent, the rude and poignant affirmation that what is there, in the global presence of a definitive text, still withholds itself—the rude and biting
relation with death and bring her into the world of living, speaking beings. Like Orpheus, the narrator appears to seek J. in her deathly state, even as she disappears beyond his grasp. As the narrator recalls times he shared with J. throughout her illness, he reveals a curious interest in preserving her existence in various ways. He makes vague mention of mysterious objects hidden in closets and secret notes that he never discloses, but there are also other vestiges about which he speaks