Friday, 31 July 2015

...of peripheries

When she came around, entirely speechless now, refusing any expression to her eyes as well as her lips, still stretched out on the ground, the silence showed her so united with silence that she embraced it furiously like another nature, whose intimacy would have overwhelmed her with disgust. It seemed as if, during this night, she had assimilated something imaginary which was a burning thorn to her and forced her to shove her own existence outside like some foul excrement. Motionless against the wall, her body had mingled with the pure void, thighs and belly united to a nothingness with neither sex nor sexual parts, hands convulsively squeezing an absence of hands, face drinking in what was neither breath nor mouth, she had transformed herself into another body whose life - supreme penury and indigence - had slowly made her become the totality of that which she could not become. There where her body was, her sleeping head, there too was body without head, head without body, body of wretchedness. Doubtless nothing had changed about her appearance, but the glance one might direct toward her which showed her to be like anyone else was utterly unimportant, and, precisely because it was impossible to identify her, it was in the perfect resemblance of her features, in the glaze of naturalness and sincerity laid down by the night, that the horror of seeing her just as she had always been, without the least change, while it was certain that she was completely changed, found its source. Forbidden spectacle. While one might have been able to bear the sight of a monster, there was no cold-bloodedness that could hold out against the impression created by this face on which, for hours, in an investigation which came to nothing, the eye sought to distinguish a sign of strangeness or bizarreness. What one saw, with its familiar naturalness, became, by the simple fact that manifestly it was not what one should have seen, an enigma which finally not only blinded the eye but made it experience toward this image an actual nausea, an expulsion of detritus of all sorts which the glance forced upon itself in trying to seize in this object something other than what it could see there. In fact, if what was entirely changed in an identical body - the sense of disgust imposed on all the senses forced to consider themselves insensitive - if the ungraspable character of the new person that had devoured the old and left her as she was, if this mystery buried in absence of mystery had not explained the silence which flowed from the sleeping girl, one would have been tempted to search out in such calm some indication of the tragedy of illusions and lies in which the body of Anne had wrapped itself. There was in fact something terribly suspicious about her mutism. That she should not speak, that in her motionlessness she should retain the discretion of someone who remains silent even in the intimacy of her dreams, all this was, finally, natural, and she was not about to betray herself, to expose herself, through this sleep piled upon sleep. But her silence did not even have the right to silence, and through this absolute state were expressed at once the unreality of Anne and the unquestionable and indemonstrable presence of this unreal Anne, from whom there emanated, by this silence, a sort of terrible humor which one became uneasily conscious of. As if there had been a crowd of intrigued and moved spectators, she turned to ridicule the possibility that one might see her, and a sense of ridicule came also from this wall against which she stretched herself out in a way one might have taken (what stupidity) for sleep, and from this room where she was, wrapped in a linen coat, and where the day was beginning to penetrate with the laughable intention of putting an end to the night by giving the password: "Life goes on." Even alone, there was around her a sad and insatiable curiosity, a dumb interrogation which, taking her as object, bore also, vaguely, on everything, so that she existed as a problem capable of producing death, not, like the sphinx, by the difficulty of the enigma but by the temptation which she offered of resolving the problem in death.

[Thomas The Obscure, Blanchot, M.]

...of an answer

Although she did not expect to hear him answer and even if she were sure that he would not answer she would not in fact have questioned him, there was such a presumption in her manner of assuming that he could give an answer (of course, he would not answer, she did not ask him to answer, but, by the question she had posed him personally and relating to his person, she acted as if she might interpret his silence as an accidental refusal to answer, as an attitude which might change one day or another), it was such a crude way to treat the impossible that Anne had suddenly revealed to her the terrible scene she was throwing herself into blindfolded, and in an instant, waking from her sleep, she perceived all the consequences of her act and madness of her conduct. Her first thought was to prevent him from answering. For the great danger, now that by an inconsiderate and arbitrary act she had just treated him as a being one might question, was that he might answer and make his answer understood. She felt this threat deposited in the depths of her self, in the place of the words she had spoken. He was already grasping the hand held out to him. He seized it cruelly, giving Anne to believe that he understood her reasons, and that after all there was in fact a possibility of contact between them. Now that she was sure that, pitilessly unrelenting as he was, if he spoke he would say everything there was to say without hiding anything from her, telling her everything so that when he stopped speaking his silence, the silence of a being that has nothing more to give and yet has given nothing, would be even more terrifying, now she was sure that he would speak. And this certainty was so great that he appeared to her as if he had already spoken. He surrounded her, like an abyss. He revolved about her. He entranced her. He was going to devour her by changing the most unexpected words into words she would no longer be able to expect.
"What I am..."
"Be quiet."

[Thomas The Obscure, Blanchot, M.]

...of thought

Anne saw him coming without surprise, this inevitable being in whom she recognised the one who might try in vain to escape, but would meet again every day. Each time, he came straight to her, following with an inflexible pace a path laid straight over the sea, the forests, even the sky. Each time, when the world was emptied of everything but the sun and this motionless being standing at her side, Anne, enveloped in his silent immobility, carried away by this profound insensitivity which revealed her, feeling all the calm of the universe condensing in her through him, just as the sparkling chaos of the ultimate noon was resounding, mingled with the silence, pressed by the greatest peace, not daring to make a move or to have a thought, seeing herself burned, dying, her eyes, her cheeks aflame, mouth half-open exhaling, as a last breath, her obscure forms into the glare of the sun, perfectly transparent in death outside this opaque corpse which stood by, becoming ever more dense, and, more silent than silence, undermined the hours and deranged time. A just and sovereign death, inhuman and shameful moment which began anew each day, and from which she could not escape. Each day he returned at the same time to the same place. And it was precisely the same moment, the same garden as well. With the ingenuousness of Joshua stopping the sun to gain time, Anne believed that things were going on. But the terrible trees, dead in their green foliage which could not dry out, the birds which flew above her without, alas, deceiving anyone or succeeding in making themselves pass for living, stood solemn guard over the horizon and made her begin again eternally the scene she had lived the day before. Nevertheless, that day (as if a corpse borne from one bed to another were really changing place) she arose, walked before Thomas and drew him toward the little woods nearby, along a road on which those who came from the other direction saw him recede, or thought he was motionless. In fact, he was really walking and, with a body like the others, though three-quarters consumed, he penetrated a region where, if he himself disappeared, he immediately saw the others fall into another nothingness which placed them further from him than if they had continued to live. On this road, each man he met died. Each man, if Thomas turned away his eyes, died with him a death which was not announced by a single cry. He looked at them, and already he saw them lose all resemblance beneath his glance, with a tiny wound in the forehead through which their face escaped. They did did not disappear, but they did not appear again. As far away as they became visible, they were shapeless and mute. Nearer, if he touched them, if he directed toward them not his glance, but the glance of this dazzling and invisible eye which he was, every moment, completely... and nearer yet, almost blending with them, taking them either for his shadow or for dead souls, breathing them, licking them, coating himself with their bodies, he received not the slightest sensation, not the slightest image, as empty of them as they were empty of him. Finally they passed by. They went away, definitively. They slipped down a vertiginous slope toward a country whence nothing was any longer visible, except perhaps, like a great trail of light, their last phosphorescent stare on the horizon. It was a terrible and mysterious blast. Behind him there were no more words, no silence, no backward and no forward. The space surrounding him was the opposite of space, infinite thought in which those who entered, their heads veiled, existed only for nothing.

[Thomas The Obscure, Blanchot, M.]

...of strangers

He came back to the hotel for dinner. Of course, he could have taken his usual place at the main table, but he chose not to and kept to one side. Eating, at this point, was not without importance. On the one hand, it was tempting because he was demonstrating that he was still free to turn back; but on the other hand, it was bad because he risked recovering his freedom on too narrow a foundation. So he preferred to adopt a less frank attitude, and took a few steps forward to see how others would accept his new manner. At first he listened; there was a confused, crude noise which one moment would become very loud and then lessen and become imperceptible. Yes, there was no mistake about it, it was the sound of conversation and, moreover, when the talking became quieter, he began to recognise some very simple words which seemed to be chosen so that he might understand them more easily. Still, unsatisfied by the words, he wanted to confront the people facing him, and made his way toward the table: once there, he remained silent, looking at these people who all seemed to him to have a certain importance. He was invited to sit down. He passed up the invitation. They encouraged him more strongly and an elderly woman turned to him asking if he had swum that afternoon. Thomas answered yes. There was a silence: a conversation was possible, then? Yet what he had said must not have been very satisfying, for the woman looked at him with a reproachful air and got up slowly, like someone who, not having been able to finish her task, has some sort of regret; however, this did not prevent her from giving the impression by her departure that she abandoned her role very willingly. Without thinking, Thomas took the free place, and once seated on a chair which seemed to him surprisingly low, but comfortable, he no longer dreamed of anything but being served the meal which he had just refused. Wasn't it too late? He would have liked to consult those present on this point. Obviously, they were not showing themselves openly hostile toward him, he could even count on their goodwill without which he would have been incapable of remaining so much as a second in the room; but there was in their attitude also something underhanded which did not encourage confidence, nor even any sort of communication...

[Thomas The Obscure, Blanchot, M.]

...of a decree

She took off her clothes. Her body was covered in long black tights. She went over to get the book and then tore out some pages. She handed me a few of them; we sat down side by side, each wrapped in a blanket.
"This is an excerpt from the discourse on the third State," I said to her, after looking at the pages. "Listen to what it says. 'There was a time when language no longer linked words according to simple relationships. It became such a delicate instrument that most people were forbidden to use it. But men naturally lack wisdom. The desire to be united through outlawed bonds never left them in peace, and they mocked this decree. In the face of such folly, reasonable people decided to stop speaking. Those who had not been forbidden to speak, who knew how to express themselves, resolved to stay silent from then on. They seemed to have learned words only to forget them. Associating them with what was most secret, they turned away from their natural course."

[Vicious Circles: The Last Word, Blanchot, M.]

...of an idyll

"Don't ask for my opinion on this subject. I'm an overseer. I don't know anything except what I see."
"Precisely. Tell me what you've seen." Silence from the guard. "Well," said Akim, "you're afraid to talk. I'll find out everything myself."
"No, Alexander Akim, don't try to find out: what good will it do? I'm going to speak to you with an open heart. I would tell this to anyone. When they were married, I already had my job at the Home. I had a wife, too. For the first few days, they didn't leave their room. There was a strange silence in the house, a feeling of idleness. In spite of all the work, you didn't know what to do with yourself. After a week, some strangers came, and I had to go tell them. In the first room, I didn't find anyone. There was dust on the furniture, as if no one had lived there for several years. I was afraid, I called out. Then I went into the little office. But no one was there either. Everything was in order, and yet I already knew that something dreadful had happened. I stood there for several moments waiting. I wanted to run away. I thought they were both dead. But finally I opened a door a crack and lifted the curtain. They were sitting apart, not looking at each other, not looking at anything at all. I couldn't read anything in their faces. The only thing was that air of emptiness, and it made me turn away. Yes, an air that explained this bleak, heavy silence that was indifferent to misery, without bitterness towards anyone. I felt that I couldn't stay there. I moved, and he looked at me and said: "Yes, yes, I'm coming."
"Is that all?" asked Akim. "But what you're describing is tranquil happiness, something extraordinary - the feeling that's at the heart of every idyll, a true happiness without words.
"Really?" said the overseer. "Really? Is that what you would call it?"

[Vicious Circles: The Idyll, Blanchot, M.]

...of a marriage

"What makes them enemies?" he said. "The lack of family? Orphans can never find happiness. They don't have the gentle common instinct that lies at the heart of family life to prepare them for living with others. And they themselves have no child. They hate everything that could make life easier for them.
"They've made a fatal mistake," he went on. "They thought love was drawing them together, but they really detested each other. Certain signs led them to think they were tied to the same destiny, but it was really a desire to tear each other apart through disagreements and torments. How long did they fool themselves? When they finally discovered the marks of their old intimacy on their bodies, it was too late; these marks did no more than prove to them the fury that has been holding them together. They must go on loving each other in order to go on hating each other.
"Has she deceived him?" he said. "No, she's been very careful; she's denied him the possibility of moving away from her a little, of breathing some other air, another life perhaps free of violent feelings. She doesn't leave him, and in that way she can overwhelm him with her solicitude. This makes him see all the hatred she has for him, all the detachment she inspires in him. She follows him around, as if her only reason for existing were to represent the void his life has become. He's calmer than she is. But nothing ever distracts him from his despair. He's silent. He speaks without caring what he says. When he says nothing, his silence is made into something infinitely sad, humiliated, contemptible. Unhappy young people. Sad house."

[Vicious Circles: The Idyll, Blanchot, M.]