Jan 18, Jason rated it it was amazing A man and a woman alone in a room. This is the staging ground. A lot of the talk is about waiting. It is hard not to think about Beckett.

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Biography and Intellectual Itinerary a. His family was conservative and Catholic; his father encouraged Blanchot and his siblings to practice Latin at the kitchen-table. Blanchot studied Philosophy and German at the University of Strasbourg, which at the time boasted one of the most extensive libraries in France. It was here, around or , that Blanchot first met Emmanuel Levinas, and the two became life-long friends.

It was around this time that Blanchot began his first collaborations with the journals of the French far-right. An exhaustive examination of all articles signed by Blanchot during the s, however, reveals no instances of racially-exclusionary language or overt anti-Semitism.

In his later writings, Blanchot addresses his dubious political commitments of the s, seeking to disambiguate his own youthful involvement in reactionary politics from the anti-Semitism of his one-time associates.

With the outbreak of war in Europe, Blanchot momentarily withdrew from political writing and concentrated his efforts on the writing of fictional texts and literary criticism. His first novel, Thomas the Obscure, was published in , meeting initially with poor reviews in the Parisian press. A second novel, Aminadab, was published a year later, in During this time, Blanchot was already beginning to develop a distinctive, literary critical voice.

The spring of was a difficult time for both men. Bataille became quite ill and temporarily left Paris for Samois, while Blanchot himself departed for his family-home in Quain. With the surrender of the German army in Paris, on August 25, the war effectively came to an end for Blanchot, who was on the move between Paris and various locales in the south of France throughout and By this point, Blanchot was producing a new critical essay for publication virtually every couple of weeks.

Indeed, it is perhaps for the writings found within The Space of Literature that Blanchot is most widely-known. If the story of Orpheus and Eurydice is important in this context, it is because Orpheus shows us, in turning back to gaze at Eurydice, a concern for the origin of the work, its absence and inspiration, which overrides any interest in its status as a completed and consummated work.

In turning to view Eurydice, Orpheus ruins the work of bringing her out of the darkness, and yet this ruination, Blanchot insists, in his June essay, reveals what is most essential to literature, namely, its concern for the impossibility and palpable absence that reside at its origin.

Here, Blanchot provocatively juxtaposes two versions of the literary image. It places the thing in question at a distance from us in order to help us understand it in its ideality, thus facilitating productive knowledge. Here, the seductive gleam of the image refers us not to the absence of the thing, but to the distance and difference that always separates each thing from itself—precluding any possibility for a neat, teleological recuperation.

In refusing to subordinate difference to identity and distance to presence, Blanchot is already anticipating the ascendency of the simulacral that will play such a prominent role in the post-structuralist theories of the decades to come. By all accounts, her passing affected the family greatly. After spending the winter with his brother and sister-in-law in Paris, Blanchot moved into his own flat, on rue Madame, in late summer , beginning a new phase in his intellectual and personal itinerary.

The return to Paris, in , was significant in a number of respects. First, it marked a renewed engagement with national politics. Second, it coincided with an increasing focus on questions of an explicitly philosophical nature which called-forth a new, ever more rigorous and demanding style of writing. The Algiers crisis of , the collapse of the French Fourth Republic, and the rise to power of de Gaulle ushered in a frightening new era in politics.

It is a text comprised solely of fragments, conjoined loosely by a shared emphasis on the themes of forgetting, waiting, and temporality bereft of presence. The publication of Awaiting Oblivion involved a radical subversion of the categories of genre. Readers are left to ponder: Is it a work of experimental fiction? Is it a philosophical text? Or is it something altogether other? With Awaiting Oblivion, Blanchot puts into play a form of fragmentary writing that refuses enclosure within any fixed genre, serving as testimony, rather, to that which escapes all categorization, all thematization, and all definition.

It is a text dedicated to radical alterity, and thus, to the neuter itself. In , Levinas published his groundbreaking book, Totality and Infinity. It is the neuter that Blanchot conceives as a notion that displaces the primacy of ontology and holds open the space of an ethico-political relationship always yet-to-come, always irreducible to fusion, identity, or Oneness. Published in , The Infinite Conversation contains critical essays on a host of literary topics Char, Duras, German Romanticism, Kafka, Flaubert, Roussel , as well as essays dealing with philosophical and theoretical considerations Levinas, Simone Weil, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Freud, Bataille, Foucault , which are in turn punctuated and disrupted by instances of fragmentation and dialogue between unnamed interlocutors.

It is a text without a center-point, without a single unifying theme—unless this theme is the movement of dispersion and dislocation that has always already destabilized all pretense of unity, and exposed all interiority to that which is radically outside it.

By mid, however, Blanchot had distanced himself from the group, citing as a reason in a letter to Levinas its position in support of Palestine and opposition to the state of Israel. As the s began, a veritable changing of the guard was underway. Blanchot himself endured hospitalization in the early s, and in early wrote letters to his closest friends thanking them, as though retrospectively, for a life in which he was privileged to meet them.

His text, The Step Not Beyond, which was written entirely in the fragmentary form, resembles at times a meditation on death—though less as a statement of its impending reality, than as a testimony to its interminable impossibility.

Consigning us to a time without present, the act of writing, Blanchot insists, makes the process of dying endless and the instant of death unattainable. Writing the Disaster Many of these themes reemerge in his text, The Writing of the Disaster, only supplemented by a somewhat broader panoply of accompanying themes and emphases. Blanchot devotes space to an engagement with the psychoanalysts Serge Leclaire and D.

Crucially, the disaster remains outside of all presence, beyond representation, and divorced from possibility and truth. The disaster has always already touched, inhabited, compromised, and ruined every worldly edifice predicated upon stability, totality, unity, and Oneness before it can even be founded. Blanchot followed this, arguably his most challenging text, with another important text, The Unavowable Community, in late Here Blanchot lays out, with reference to Bataille and the novelist Marguerite Duras, among others, a rethinking of the notion of community as irreducible to the notions of self-identity and presence.

Blanchot passed away on February 20, Engagement with Major Philosophers a. Levinas Blanchot and Levinas first met in Strasbourg in while studying philosophy.

Various anecdotes from their friendship are well-known. Yet anecdotes like these can only offer a superficial sense of the profound bond that came to be formed between these two men, so different in their respective backgrounds, beliefs, and interests.

Rather, Blanchot pays tribute to Levinas most devoutly at the precise moments in his texts when he accentuates the difference, and distance, between himself and Levinas. It is by bearing witness to the differences between himself and Levinas that Blanchot most eloquently testifies unto the profundity of their relationship. This Other is radically irreducible to any notion of the Same or the Self. Moreover, as Levinas maintains, the Other burdens the subject with an ethical responsibility that is both impossible to decline and impossible to fulfill satisfactorily.

This ethical relation is not chosen, but imposed upon the subject. It demands that the subject put the Other before all else. In the broadest of terms, what Blanchot aims to do, across these various engagements, is to explore ways in which the relation with absolute alterity described by Levinas might allow us to rethink the nature of human relations and community. In this sense, Blanchot is neither adopting Levinasian philosophy as his own, nor contradicting it, but rather pushing it toward its limit, to the point where the Levinasian philosophy of Transcendence, whose religious overtones loom large, opens onto a new form of secular humanism grounded in a concrete emphasis on ethico-political responsibility.

To move in this direction, Blanchot accords the Levinasian philosophy a privileged position within his texts, all the while refusing to spare it critique, interrogation, or transposition. Who exactly is this Other to whom Levinas refers? Is it possible to name the Other as such without compromising his radical alterity? Is such an ethical comportment exclusive to believers of the Jewish faith? Is it dependent upon a belief in the Jewish God? Difficult questions such as these are neither avoided by Blanchot, nor accorded facile resolution.

Blanchot senses, moreover, within Levinasian philosophy, a precedent for rethinking the meaning of social responsibility and community outside of the economy of being. Hegel Much as thinkers of the medieval period would have referred to Aristotle simply as the philosopher, for Blanchot, it is Hegel who most embodies the discourse of philosophy construed as a systematic whole.

Hegelian philosophy thus becomes the backdrop for much of what Blanchot has to say, not only about philosophy proper, but also about history and literature. What Hegel represents is the false-promise of totality in all its various forms epistemological, ontological, political, historical, and textual.

A Blanchotian reading will typically follow the author of the Phenomenology up to the point where the text begins to unravel on the basis of its own logic and its philosophy gives way to aporia. This means that the coherence of the Hegelian system depends upon the very thing that it excludes. Pointing out this dependency of the inside upon the outside is a frequently recurring Blanchotian trope, and it is used with great effect here, with respect to Hegel.

If Hegel is seen by Blanchot as the great totalizer, then Nietzsche, on the other hand, is the thinker without enclosure, without a Hauptwerk, without a system, and without any doctrine that would not, simultaneously, suspend itself. At the same time, Blanchot insists, Nietzsche is outside metaphysics, gesturing us toward the dispersive, the fragmentary, and the incommunicable.

To the extent that one reads Nietzsche attentively, one sees him to be a thinker at odds with all forms of totality, totalitarianism, and anti-Semitism. The eternal return is continuously deferred from all thought, according to Blanchot, because deferral of all presence is the very meaning of the thought itself.

Further reinscription of the thought of eternal return occurs in The Writing of the Disaster, where Blanchot repeatedly evokes a modality of temporal repetition that has always already dislodged presence, suspended the present, and withdrawn from the Self any basis upon which to construct a coherent notion of self-identity or subjectivity.

Heidegger The provocation posed by Heidegger to French theory during the midth century is well-documented. In this respect, Blanchot was no exception. Later, these engagements would come to include a deeper questioning of the status of Being, the problem of nihilism, and the notion of futurity, among other topics.

According to Heidegger, all genuine work of artistic creativity has Dichtung at its origin. Blanchot, in the early s, follows Heidegger by insisting upon the privileged role of poetic language as foundational with respect to the world.

It is poetic language that inaugurates a world and discloses the human subject. What the two thinkers share, in a general sense, is a refusal of any aesthetic philosophy based upon the distinction between form and content, subject and object. Waiting here does not refer to an anticipation for something or someone which could ever come to occupy a moment of fixed-presence.

Rather, it signifies a waiting for a moment that dislodges chronological temporality: a waiting for nothing other than waiting itself. Moving somewhat away from the notion of the il y a, which was still an ontological construct albeit a subversive one , Blanchot increasingly deploys the notion of the neuter, a pseudo-concept intended to displace all ontological primacy. Key Concepts and Themes a.

For Hegel, as Blanchot notes, death is what produces all possibility of meaning in the world by serving as the catalyst for the dialectic itself. For Heidegger, death is likewise related to the notion of possibility. In his writings, Blanchot does not directly oppose these accounts of death. What Blanchot suggests, however, is that there is also another side to death which these philosophies marginalize or exclude. It is a side in which the power and possibility of death are suspended. In a manner somewhat reminiscent of Epicurus, Blanchot argues that this second kind of death is incommensurable with any subjective, or personal, experience.

Thus death, which for Hegel and Heidegger is associated with possibility, comes to be contrasted with the anguish of anonymous death, which is impossible for the Self, and can neither be willed, mastered, or even undergone by any personal subject—in the present.


Awaiting Oblivion

Biography and Intellectual Itinerary a. His family was conservative and Catholic; his father encouraged Blanchot and his siblings to practice Latin at the kitchen-table. Blanchot studied Philosophy and German at the University of Strasbourg, which at the time boasted one of the most extensive libraries in France. It was here, around or , that Blanchot first met Emmanuel Levinas, and the two became life-long friends.


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We cannot take responsibility for items which are lost or damaged in transit. Located at the crossroads nlanchot fiction and philosophy, it is a daring, innovative, and strikingly original experiment in literary form. For purchases where a shipping charge was paid, there will be no refund of the original shipping charge. Awaiting Oblivion French modernist library. Please view eBay estimated delivery times at the top of the listing. Unauthorised returns will not be accepted. No eBook available Amazon.

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