The Space of Literature: A Translation of "L'Espace litteraire"
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Maurice Blanchot, the eminent literary and cultural critic, has had a vast influence on contemporary French writers—among them Jean Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida. From the 1930s through the present day, his writings have been shaping the international literary consciousness.
The Space of Literature, first published in France in 1955, is central to the development of Blanchot's thought. In it he reflects on literature and the unique demand it makes upon our attention. Thus he explores the process of reading as well as the nature of artistic creativity, all the while considering the relation of the literary work to time, to history, and to death. This book consists not so much in the application of a critical method or the demonstration of a theory of literature as in a patiently deliberate meditation upon the literary experience, informed most notably by studies of Mallarmé, Kafka, Rilke, and Hölderlin. Blanchot's discussions of those writers are among the finest in any language.
"the story" goes no further than a few lines; sometimes it rapidly attains coherence and density and yet stops at the end of a page; other times it continues for several pages, is affirmed, extended -- and nonetheless halted. There are many reasons for this, but the first is that Kafka does not find in the time he has at his disposal the long stretch which would allow the story to develop, as it wants to, in all directions. The story is never anything but a fragment, then another fragment. "How,
some reality, but wanting the Castle, which perhaps has none, detaching himself from Frieda, who retains some glints of life, to turn toward Olga, sister of Amalia, the doubly excluded, -78the rejected -- Amalia who, still worse, in a fearful decision, voluntarily chose to be so. Everything ought to proceed, then, for the best. But nothing of the sort. For the landsurveyor falls incessantly into the fault which Kafka designates as the gravest: impatience. 11 The impatience at the heart of error
according to an obscure choice incumbent upon me, die of the great death which I bear within me, but also of that little death, sour and green, which I have been unable to make into a lovely fruit, or yet again of a borrowed, random death: . . . it's not our death, but one that takes us in the end only because we have not ripened our own. This foreign death makes us die in the distress of estrangement. My death must become always more inward. It must be like my invisible form, my gesture, the
with a confidence not unaware that the task is difficult but which constantly renews the glad forecast. It is as if he were sure that there is in us, on account of the very fact that we are "turned away," the possibility of turning back, the promise of an essential reconversion. In fact, if we come back to the two obstacles which in life keep us turned toward a limited life, it seems that the principal obstacle -- since we see animals, who are free of it, accede to what is closed for us -- is the
they claim to recall, by interrupting "the murmur." Whoever wants to write and to produce has ceaselessly to put this exaltation to sleep within himself. Mastery presupposes this sleep by which the creator pacifies and deceives the power that leads him on. He is creative and capable, according to the capability which leaves its trace upon the world, only because he has placed between his activity and the center from which shines the original word, the interval, the thickness of sleep. His