Analysis of the Space of Literature by Maurice Blanchot


Maurice Blanchot though being a heavy weight of Literature is largely ignored by the mainstream public due to the dense obscurity of his work. Blanchot’s literature remains largely ornamental like a piece of Baroque opera with strands of philosophy running through it. I would like to discuss the thoughts that I came through while reading his magnum opus: The Space of Literature.

Maurice Blanchot begins his work be characterizing Writing as Solitude. What is solitude in everyday life? It means an inner calm of tranquility. It is questionable to ask whether a writer writes out of solitude or excitement. He quotes Rilke: ‘I haven’t produced a single work: my solitude has engulfed me’. Why can’t the writer be agitated when he is writing his work? I am sure that Nietzsche wrote: Thus spoke Zarathustra while undergoing bouts of insanity. A Freudian ID gets provoked into the necessity of writing. Even mystics when they meditate are never in solitude. There are in a state of deep contemplation. One can also write out of the passion to write but one can never be in solitude when one is in a state of writing. When one is in the process of writing, one gravitates to the center of meaning. So I would like to reformulate Blanchot’s solitude as excitement, agitation, passion and contemplation. The mind can never be in solitude.

Again Blanchot goes on to say that a writer never knows whether his work is finished or not. In one sense it is true and in another sense it is not. Any work of Literature is only partial does not display art to sense of completion. But then again in a literary work, there’s a beginning and an ending. Let’s take an example of Ulysses by James Joyce. The novel running into eight hundred pages and depicts twelve hours of person’s life mainly Bloom, Stephen and Molly. There is a beginning and an ending to the work. Blanchot is partially right when he says that no work of art is complete. A work of art has got only degrees of perfection. Similarly Blanchot also mentions that a reader enters into solitude while encountering a work. Readers of pulp fiction are causal readers. The work of a serious reader is marked by the phenomenology of reading. The mind of a serious reader works as an inter-textual machine. Reading interferes with what has been read in the past. The ontology of existentialism, the autobiographical possession of the reader comes into play while reading. There is perfect reading but there are only imperfect interpretations.

It’s through an absence that word being of writer comes into existence. I would like to refute this statement by saying that writing is affirmation of presence, a saturation of it. Being is pronounced into the becoming of meaning. In writing there’s indulgence of the meaning of being. Writing is excess of being. Presence of being is an affirmation for a writer.

Again he goes on to say that a writer never reads his or her work. That can be true to some extent. Would a writer really enjoying editing his or work?  A writer does not function as a reader. The writer merely proof reads his or her work.

For a writer, a word is something that cannot be mastered. How could that be the case? A writer is a lingual-maniac. He finds new usages for pre-existing ones. He or she also creates new words: for example neologisms. A writer invents tropes of language. How can this be possible without mastery? Writing is not sterile but active and dynamic.

To write is to break the bond between the word and the self. I would like to say that writing is a catharsis. The bond between writing, the word, and the self is one of unison. Writing is akin to having sexual intercourse. The self and the word are bonded to a writer.

The writer belongs to a language that no one speaks. Yes, writing is inventive and seeks new paradigms of a discovery of meaning. Tropes belong to the language of nascence and newness. Writing is a process of self discovery.

When we admire the tone of the work, we are not referring to style or virtues of the language but to a silence. Blanchot is not sure about what this silence is. We are in fascination and catharsis when we unveil the imagery used by a writer. There is intellectual and emotional gratification. We do not encounter the work in silence.

What is the journal? It is not romantic, not essentially confessional. It is the writer when he or she is not writing. I feel that Blanchot is being vague there. Again he goes on to say that a journal is written out of fear and anguish. The writing of the journal is no longer historical. Romanticism has acquired new shades of meaning in blog writing. Taste, art and culture are all romanticized by bloggers undergoing a new experience. As Wordsworth has said ‘poetry is the spontaneous overflow of feeling’. To be romantic is to be in state of mind that’s in passion. Writing a journal can also be confessional. To be confessional is to be passionate and expressive. My writing on adultery is confessional. It is wrong to say that a journal is not historical. For example let’s take Ann Frank. Ann Frank is a passionate outburst of the oppressions that she encountered during a Nazi regime. Thus a journal can be confessional, romantic and historical.

To write is to surrender to time’s absence. I would like to disagree with the statement. Time in writing flows as streams of consciousness.   Time is reflective and contemplative when the writer engages in writing. Writing cannot be marked by the absence of time.

Fascination is solitude’s gaze. To write is to let fascination rule the language. The gaze of the writer could be a sexual, one; it could also be subjective, philosophical, materialistic and transcendental. The gaze is intentional and is borne out the repressed in the ID.

Again he quotes Mallarme: ‘When I write into verse, I encounter nothingness, an absence of God and my own death. It is questionable to ask Blanchot, how negation can enter the realm of writing. Negation is nihilism, a negative affirmation when something positive does not happen. Writing is self proclaiming and affirmative. Yes after Nietzsche’s proclamation that ‘God is dead’, writing has become anthropocentric. How can a writer enter the realm of death? Is the writer killing his self when he enters into the train of writing? According to Camus, while writing we enter into a philosophical suicide. Yes there’s death of the actual self and birth of the creative self.

Again Blanchot goes to distinguish between the crude word and the ornamental word. When we say that the flower is in the garden we are using crude language or the language of communication. If I use: I am flowering her lips, I am ornamentally decorating the language. Writing is ornamental, decorative and hyperbolic. Again he goes on to say: poetry is the universe of words where relations and configurations are attained through sound, figure and rhythmic language. Poetry is akin to the musicality of words, and it flows with the Dionysian rhythm and makes presence with the Orpheus of figures.

Kafka began his writing out of true despair. We should know that Kafka had a stormy relationship with his father. He was also an exiled Jew. Kafka despised authority figures. Writing for Kafka grew out of protest against authoritarianism. This is especially true when we analysis his work—the Metamorphosis.  The work is allegorical and shows the negation of individuality by authority figures. The individual in Metamorphosis is reduced into fragments. Writing for Kafka was spiritual and psychological salvation. Kafka made the affirmation that nothing else besides literature satisfies me. The more Kafka writes: the less sure is he of himself.

Art is primarily the consciousness of unhappiness not its consolation. How can art be the consciousness of unhappiness alone? One can experience art through the consciousness of joy and affirmation. Let’s diagnose Picasso’s painting of the Guernica. Was Picasso filled with angst of the bombing of Basque? Or was he affirming creativity while painting the Guernica. When I meditate on Dali’s painting: The persistence of Memory, I am filled with cathartic interpretation. I appreciate its meaning to portray time as streams of consciousness. I also marvel at the melting clock placed on the frozen embryo and interpret it as Dali’s own oedipal trauma.


An Analysis of Pierre Menard’s Quixote by Borges

I would like to analyze the story based on the literary codes developed by Barthes. They are: the hermeneutic code, Proairetic code, the Semantic Code, the symbolic code and the cultural code. For Barthes, the hermeneutic code represents the enigma of the text. The Proairetic code represents the spatial and temporal dimensions. The Semantic code refers to the level of connotation. The symbolic code represents the binary division of language and the cultural code the conventions of the society.

Looking at the story from a Hermeneutic code, Borges writes about an imaginary writer and a book that does not exist. He creates facts out of fantasy and fantasy out of facts and his whole fictional exploration is a futile phantasmagoria.
He begins the story by quoting a catalogue made by Madame Henri Bachelier on the omissions and additions made to the text of Menard which appeal to Calvinists, Masons and the Circumcised. Is he making a dig at conservatism? Is he being skeptical about tradition? One can never fully interpret due to the very obscurity of his comment. There is an ironic humor inherent in this statement.
Borges again becomes fictional and goes on to enumerate that an examination of the files of Menard is necessary for the exegesis of Quixote. The files are literary and mention the following:
(a) A symbolist sonnet which occurred twice in a review. Everyone is familiar with idea of symbolism and symbolist poets. What one can’t discern is to why Borges makes a random connection to symbolism while trying to explicate Menard’s Don Quixote. Is Borges playing some kind of practical joke with the reader?
(b) A monograph containing the possibility of creating a poetic vocabulary of concepts which would not be synonyms or periphrases of those which make up everyday language. Is Borges hinting at adornment of poetic language? Adornment can take place by clothing words with figures of speech or using neologisms.
(c) A monograph on certain connections and affinities with the Philosophies of Descartes, Leibniz and Wilkins. Is Borges making a big bluff or does he want to impress his readers that he is conversant with the philosophies of the above mentioned philosophers. Why does the author want to show off to an audience?
(d) The work sheets of a monograph on George Boole’s symbolic logic. It is very intriguing that Borges makes this strange connection. How can logic be related to fiction.
(e) An examination of the essential metric laws of French Prose. Borges is conversant in Spanish. I am not sure whether he has the adequate knowledge to comment on French Prose. Meter again is connected to poetry. How can it be equated with prose? Is this a structural flaw in the narrative?
(f) A work in which different solutions are given to the problem of Achilles and the Tortoise. It is really absurd, a canard of the mind. May be Borges is inducing the reader to think that Achilles won the race. Borges has not deconstructed the paradox of Zeno. I wonder why Borges does not suggest an alternative.
(g) A determined analysis of the syntactical customs Toulet. Menard says that censure and praise are sentimental operations which have nothing to do with literary criticism. This statement makes Borges a precursor to literary theorists.
Again Borges digresses and goes on to discuss texts which have inspired Menard to create Quixote. One is a philological fragment which mentions Christ on a boulevard, Hamlet on La Cannebiere and Don Quixote on Wall Street. The depiction of Christ is rather incongruous. What is the mystic connection between Christ and a boulevard? The same goes to Hamlet. Are the Moguls of Wall Street Quixotic?
Again Borges the writer mentions that Menard writes to him that the final term in a theological, metaphysical demonstration –the objective world, God, causality the forms of the universe is common in my framed novel. This demonstrates that Borges is a confused writer. If the world is created by God how it can be objective? Is he mixing up a broth of evolutionary theism?
Again he expostulates that to write Quixote, one must know Spanish well, recover a Catholic faith, fight against the Moors and forget the history of Europe between the years 1602 and 1918. Everyone knows that Quixote by Cervantes was a revolt against Catholicism. The fight between Catholics and the moors is related to History. Is Borges being ironic when he reiterates that we should forget History? 1918 is symbolic for the beginning of the First World War. The narrative of Borges is so fragmented and ambles irrelevantly from one topic to another.
Borges contradicts himself by saying that in a passage of Menard never authored by him there is a sentence: ‘the river nymphs and the dolorous and humid echo.’ This provokes the reader to laugh in delicious delight. Borges is embarking on a flight of fancy. This statement brings into the mind of Borges a quotation of Shakespeare ‘Where a malignant and a turbaned Turk’. Is the monument of literature a sheer extravagant waste? Is it built on the foundations of whimsical chicanery?
Menard in his novel Quixote has no gypsies, no conquistadors and no mystics. Is Borges making an allusion of irony? Again Borges says that in chapter nine of Menard’s Quixote there is a quote: ‘…truth whose mother is History, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and adviser to the present and the future’s counselor. Borges is being philosophical about History. But the fundamental questions are: is History a truth? In postmodernism History is a methodological discourse.

Analysis of Robbet Grillet’s Erasers

Robbet Grillet is an avant-garde novelist and film maker. His novel, the ‘Erasers’ belongs to the genre of detective fiction and it’s a deconstruction of the detective novel. Grillet is known for his minute and intricate description of people, places and things.

In Paris, a spate of killings has taken place. People belonging to influential sections of society are murdered. We come across a character DuPont who is a victim of a murder but he luckily survives the murder with the bullet just grazing his hand. He conspires with the doctor to make the assassination true. Wallas is sent to investigate the murder but he is not able to arrive at any suitable conclusions.

Unlike usual detective stories which are gripping with suspense, Grillet’s work is not a thrilling read. There is no suspense in the description of events. One is put into the throes of bewilderment by the random description of people, places and things which indeed have no coherent connection with the plot of the novel. The reader is rattled with the rambling dialogues of a multitude of people who in no way are connected with the novel.
Even though DuPont survives the assassination attempt, he does not go into hiding. He leads a very normal life even after the attempt. He goes back to the house and conducts his day to day affairs. This is rather puzzling for the reader. This reveals a structural flaw in the story. Wallas is led into a labyrinth of situations and he is absolutely clueless about the identity of the murder. Another thing which the novel lacks is a motive for murder. The author casually mentions that an underground organization is at work. The murderer Garinati apparently has no ideological moorings. May be the author wanted to provide a different kind of detective fiction. The actions by the police seem very incoherent. They are least interested to pursue the murder. There is no climax to the story. The story ends in a very irregular manner without the culprits being apprehended. The story is rather boring to read. The author deliberately wants to confuse the reader.

Looking at the novel from a Philosophical perspective one appreciates the effort made by the author to dethrone the quantum mechanics of blockbuster fiction. Instead of Binary Divide, there is a Binary synthesis of characters. The criminal as character is deconstructed. Crime is treated as an ordinary happening. The author has overruled the notions of plot. But we can’t evaluate it as a successive merit. The protagonist of the story DuPont apparently leads a very ordinary bourgeoisie life. It is rather senseless as to why he should be selected as the target of murder. It is a puzzle as to why the police are not able to discover the motive of murder or the murderers. But the novelist has a created a crime story that is different. He has deviated from the norm of traditional story telling. The novel is not an easy read. Yes, novels have to depart from tradition.