their Of thetwotextsunitedhere,thesecondalone will accountfor thesetwotexts, and thereader commontitle.Elevenyearsseparate ofthesecondbrought me back will sensethisdistance.'The writing A continuity in an unexpected seemed however, way,to the first. withBataillewhichgoes beyondand inescapable,of a community theoretical discussion(whichI can supposeliveson, can go without what can be called the tragicreligionof or at least endureswith therefore also goes beyond Bataille).This community commentary, of Bataille.It is not withoutdistanceor exegesis,or interpretation It is a community buttheseareprecisely theoretical. in reservations, to me thatpain and that communicates thatBataille immediately theimpossibility from ofcommunicating pleasurewhichresult anythelimitwhere all meaning at all without thing touching spillsoutof on theword"meaning."2 likea simpleinkstainon a word, itself This of "communication," spillingand this ink are the ruinof theories chatter whichpromotes conventional reasonable and does exchange and lies, while leavingthe but obscureviolence,treachery nothing withno chanceofbeingmeasured. powerofunreason Butthereality wherenothing is sharedwithout ofcommunity also beingremoved from thatkindof "communication," thisreality has alwaysalready revealedthe vanityof such speeches.They communicate onlythe ofthecommunication ofa meaning, and ofthemeaning postulation As for of"communication." whathe saysand someBataille, beyond
1. The first, in a slightly different was published version, in theanthology Misere de la litterature(Paris:Bourgois, collection "Premiere livraison," 1977). 2. See my La CommunautW The University desoeuvree (Minneapolis: of MinnesotaPress, translated Connor forthcoming), and Christopher byPeter Fynsk. YFS 78, On Bataille,ed. Allan Stoekl,C 1990byYale University.



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itself. community whathe says,he communicates timesapartfrom haunandhow one silently, nakedwriting, That is, nakedexistence, nakedness: us to the other, makingus sharemeaning's refers tingly nor that us and insuperably imperceptibly but thoughts neither gods it this, ofsaying is a kindofnecessity ofsaying Todaythere exscribed. we write, spillageofmeanthisstaggering only"for" again:we exist, here;ourwholetradition ing.Morethanjusta fewyearsarerepeated its experience foritself. un versde vrai ferai mustre-appropriate "Je rien ... J'aifaitle vers,ne sais sur quoi" [I will make a versefrom
nothing at all . . . I made the verse, about what I know not], writes

aroundtheyear1100.3 Guillaumede Poitiers I. REASONS TO WRITE on theBook Writing,

in fact-it is no doubtnearly imposIn a certain sense-very certain, on thebook.Thispeculiar to "rien ecrire" anything] [write sibletoday one tounderstand atthesame French usageoftheword"rien"obliges on thesubjectof timeboth:it's no longer possibleto writeanything on thebook. thebook,anditis no longer possibletogetoutofwriting whatever aboutthebook: Itis no longer anything possibletowrite the ifindeed"thequestionofthebook"mustbe theissue,to borrow fromone of the textswhich markthe horizonof this expression impossibility ("EdmondJabeset la questiondu livre,"by Jacques we mustat once postulatethatas ofnow thisquestionhas Derrida), it has not been nor can it everbe the been fullytreated(although aboutit A wish to posit,to inventanything objectof any treatise). real or or naivete,whether fromignorance todaycan only spring definitive is as of now accomplished regarding Something feigned. one wantsto call it, orwhatever a network thisquestion, bya group, namedMallarme, Kafka, Proust, Joyce, oftextsthatcan'tbe avoided, Derrida.An incomplete list no Laporte, Blanchot, Bataille,Borges, certain thatwe must an unjustone perhaps-it is nonetheless doubt, Which is not butstaythere. themon theway, notsimply pass through as or conservative-quitethe contrary, at all fetishistic, idolatrous, thatthequestionofthe book is shouldbe clear.It is timeto affirm
from arewovenintothistextand will notbe themanyauthors 3. All citations for ofthearticle. thespirit footnoted out ofrespect



in already here.Reactionary pietismconsistsin the exactopposite, these same textsso as to extract indefinitely soliciting from them, moreorless declared and start up againin a thousand ways, bygloss, a questionofthebookin theform imitation or exploitation, ofspecor ulation,mise en abyme, staging, denunciation fragmentation, as faras theeyecan read. ofthebook,stretching enunciation I myself shouldhave liked to content withpatiently remyself these textshere.Nothingcan assureme thatI shouldnot copying have done so. But-at the same time,bythe same categorical imperative-it's on thebook. no longer possibleto getout ofwriting it is nota subject Forthisquestionis nota question, whichcan be or incompletely as completely considered explored-stillless as exexhaustion-forms hausted.Exhaustion-an undefined rather the hereas elsewhere. subjectwhichmustbe tackled, titleand program), theloose endsof As forthebook (Mallarme's in our history have now been tiedup. The powerofthis something ofthese"authors" the "genius" knotdoes notcomefrom butsignals morethanhistorical, andnecessity thehistorical, whichmust power ofbooksto getall knotted have caused thewriting Since up in itself. madeus think ofas theWest-decidedas theWest-what Heidegger farbackas humanmemory to bookstheknowledge goes,to consign in a Book-of theWorld, ofa truth ofGod,indeedofthe deciphered to reador write, Id-which was nonetheless impossible theWestis This is in brief knotted thewell-known up withwriter's main cramp. reasonforwhat we have continually to go and read again in these texts. And ofwhatwe have to writeagain-on condition thatwe not, whichforgets the implacablelesson ofPierre the fashion following allow theconceptof"writing Menard, again"to tumbledownto the level ofthe "rewrite." to a law whichall thesetextscontain, and articulate, According needs no demonstration, and whose rigor this history stricken by writer's itself.Neverfullydealt crampcan only end by repeating with,the questionof the book marksthe resurgence ofrepetition. Not ofsa propre becauseit is, inasmuchas it is, [itsown]repetition thequestionofwhatremains without property andliterary (property thatis the question).Repetition is the form, communism, the substanceofwhatdoes nothaveits identity once and printed for all (nor morethanonce)in theuntranscribable Book.Forwhoever to happens


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of this identity-for be deprived everyone in the West-repetition forms thequestionofthebook,thequestionwhichmustbe written in order to dissolvein its writing-what? ofwriting In order-but thegesture is never satisfied witha teleology-to dissolve-but in a dissolution itself dissociated from the on it by metaphysics-notmerely values of solutionconferred the in theblinding ideal identity inscribed whiteness oftheBook. in thedepthofeternal (for light, everything whichis scattered in as ifboundbyloveintoa single is reunited theuniverse book.Dante.) to the point of a loss, a privation but to dissolve this identity to dissolveeventheBook itself whichis also a privatization, to the The Book is there-in every pointof loss, privation, privatization. of the book takes place (Mallarme)-we book the virginrefolding overload mustwriteon it, make it a palimpsest, it,muddy its pages of signsand of with added lines to the pointof utmostconfusion fulfill itsoriginal we mustin short writings: unreadability, clutching handofthecramp. it in the shapelessexhausted we must indeedtake the risk:we mustwriteon the Whatfor? Whichwouldscarcely bookfora deliverance. have to do withFreedom(I meanwiththatsubjective, Freedom subject, subjugated which confer God or the Spiritof metaphysics automatically upon themofthe strange homselves).Writing oughtto slip intotheinterstice oflivraison intotheeveryday onym ambiguity [delivery]. liber/liber, for themoment Writing? tormenting yourself, quitevainly hoping ofdeliverance? (Bataille) in thesame story, -and the sentencewhichfollows Histoirede rats: is to reachB. My reasonfor writing butherinitialandthesentence B. is thewomanin thestory, itself a womananda manandB.; Bataille thiswoman, haveus readwoman, anddeliverance anda placeanda bookanda thought himself, "itself," in personwithoutanyallegorism. ofthepetition, oftheeffort Such is repetition: renewal, rewriting ofthe demand,of the plea, ofthe to reachand join, of the request, on the book is the renewed claim, of the supplication. Rewriting ofa demand, ofa pressing call. Ifthetexts whichI clamorormurmur in our history, have mentioneddo remainhenceforth it's because buthaveknotted thiscall intoa havenotdealtwithanyquestion they ofwriting: a grand lump in one or morethroats glottalspasm. the ethicaland morethan ethicalcall fora They have knotted



It is imperative notto answerit ... deliverance, ontoa deliverance. theneutral, writes as neutral theliterary act Blanchot, denominating whichbringing an unanswerable totheclosure ofan aliquid problem it would be to which the questionwouldn'tcorrespond-orrather withall possiblecare two incommento distinguish indispensable surableconcepts:the answerto a questionand theanswerto a call. It may be thatone can answera call onlybe repeating it-like It maybe thatit is nottheresponse night watchmen. whichis imperofresponding, whichis calledresponsibutonlytheobligation ative, it is bility. How,in thebook,can theissue be responsibility? Eluding this:how, inwriting where no longer possibleanymorethanavoiding is at onceabsolutely theVoiceis absent(a voicewithout alive writing dead. Derrida), is a call to be heard,how can it be a and absolutely or advocation? invocation How in general can questionofvocation, be delivered? thebook'sfullotherness thetheme, haveexhausted thetheory, thepractice, All thesetexts the or the cut of thefuture, fugue, thebookfor themetamorphosis, no other reasonthanto repeatthiscall. else towrite, I myself had something andfor morethanone longer It wouldbe a book as longas theThouperson.Longin thewriting. sand and One Nights, butquitedifferent perhaps, (Proust). Repetitions to dot thei's ofrepetition, All the same,it is probably better at the somewhat. riskofrepeating myself ofthebookat itsownheart, The reduplication theself-representaeachbook'sstory ofitsownbirth-ofitsowndelivtionofliterature, orperhaps theinvolution ofitsmessagein the ery-its self-analysis, ofitsprocedures ofits code,orthefiguration in thenarrative display ordemonstrative ofitsfigures ortheputting processoftheformation intoplayofitsrulesbythegame'srulesthemselves, all thatin a word I will call autobibliography, all thisdatesfrom theinvention ofthe on the strength of which our modernity book. Everything gained entire libraries-it had to be,it was necessary bythatvery necessity ofthebook whichno written textescapes (theuselessprolixepistle whichI am writing existsin one ofthethirty already volumeson the in oneoftheinnumerable five bookshelves hexagons-and so doesits Thelibrary refutation.ofBabel-, all thismakesup theself-repetitionwhichunavoidably constitutes thebookfrom birth. The reasonI


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writeis to reach B.: Babel, Bible, bibliology, bibliomancy, bibliomania,bibliophilia, bibliotheque[library]. This is whatthebookhas moreaccurately endedup reciting and back to, in the age of its materialinvention: harking in the age of printing, ageofthetruebook,ageofthefully developed subject andof has satisfied communication. the need to relate to each Printing in an idealmode(Hegel). other Sincetheneverything has happened as ifall theideal content ofcommunication consisted in autobibliography.All books displaythe beingor the law of the book: from the ithas no objectbutitself, andthissatisfaction. beginning I amwriting withpleasure, eventhough I haveno newsfor to you,daughter, you de Sevigne). (Mme has beensaid,andwe cometoo late,in themorethan Everything havebeenthinking seventhousand men:so it is that yearsthatthere on booksmustbe begun, in a bookentitled thefirst chapter Characof materialprescribes the infinite ters.The exhaustion numberof possibleways to formthe signsof it. It's the history of the world thegoddesstellshim: it's thebookofits whichwe arenow visiting, roomand thereis another destinies.Move into another world,anotherbook-somewhere in it you will findthe Essays concerned and you'll read therethatall whereit's all written, with theodicy ofLeibnitz's everwrotewas buta thought whichLichtenberg Borges the will be libraries cities. No had already recopied: placewill be free shouldhappento be a lack.You arequiteright, ofbooks,evenifthere a hole ofatleastten is a wholechapter there sir, missing here, leaving theauthor who also recounts his pagesin thebook,writes Tristram, not contentto own birth.Nor will any book be freeof books,for, we inscribeour name on anonymous thoughts by a singleauthor, ofindividuals, thoseofthousands liappropriate epochs,and entire writes andwe stealevenfrom Paul plagiarizJean braries, plagiarists, one moretime.The textual flowers inghimself anthology-choosing in eachbookthebouquet booksso as to arrange from books,choosing unabatedall thewaydownto us. ofits literariness-continues en abymeofthebookconstitutes All thisrepetition itsredundanReduncy,bothnativeto it and morenaivethanis usuallythought. of overflow the its excess: theBookhas dancyis the undulating wave, of as the endlessly alwaysbeen thought spouting sprayof an inexofthought, orofconsidhaustible ocean-wouldn't a jet ofgrandeur, in large erable a sentence emotion, pursued type spacedoutto one line in goodcondition forthelength a page,keep thereader ofthebook




and fallsbackagain.This repetiThe waverepeats itself (Mallarme). tionis perhaps properly called composition: to composeis to gather backtogether, toputbackin,tobring backhome,andtoreduce. Every oftheBook to thespacedelimited back theredundancy book brings is by an inscription.In each of its temples, autobibliography worshiped. thatit knownothing of the otherrepetition -on condition for oftheremuneration. The age of whichin factit is onlytheexchange is indeedtheage ofthesubject-thereis no bookthatis not printing the book of an 'I,' and 'IF repeats itself,that is how it can be recognized. I have no moremade my book thanmy book has made me-a with its author.The subjectsets itselfup as book consubstantial has ever secured thesubstance a Book,andonlythisself-erection ofa dissimulation allowsdesireto be readlike an subject-whose frank I am myself the matter of my book; you open book: thus,reader, to spendyourleisureon so frivolous wouldbe unreasonable andvain a subject. I am not buildinghere a statue to erect at the town and to amuse a neighbor. this is fora nook in a library, crossroads, I of tell and a particular Othersform illman; him, portray one,very I wantpeopleto see mynaturaland ordinary formed. pace,however is to reachB.-to reach offthe trackit is. My reason forwriting toreachin hermysociety, hersolitude, myself, toreach him,herwho not ordinary. says 'I,' not natural, 'IFrepeats its desireto itself-but can thatdesirebe anything but the I off thetrack? That itself is notenough to makeitvisible. display in thematter Someonegetslostirremediably ofhis book-someone whowillnotstoprepeating tohimself: "thematter ofmyexperience, ofmybook"andthistimeit'sProust. whichwillbe thematter Lostin every book,someone-who is and isn'ttheone who saysI-repeats himself. theabymeofautobibliography Through and in spiteofthis walks intothe abyss.Its errant abyme,an autograph movement beas its self-erection. ginsat the same crossroads This is the autograph whichtakes its singular leave at the very of thisfirst opening its book. So farewell. Montaigne, dayofMarch, fifteen hundredand eighty. of place, signature Signature of name, offarewell, it enters it own book as ifit werea tomb.It is signature samenesswhich,in altering its identity and its singularity, divides theirseal (Derrida). Literaland literary repetition belongsto him who goes astray in


Yale French Studies

his own marks-in the speechesofhis own wake,like Finnegan's, upon signsare on ofa merebytokenthatwills stillto be becoming this thereonce a here was: an exodus has begunagain,here,and ofhis diaspora.The repeated into the history someonehas entered any him. It's the call ofa solitudewhichpreexists call comes from nor whichneither contains ofa community theinvocation isolation, to all common How to deliver thefullotherness anysociety. precedes or other, an 'I' who is called. books?someoneasks,some writer
bentoverthebook open to thesame page whathe hearsare thesongsfrom Risset) are (Jacqueline side wheretheothers theother The Storyhe Writeshimself about the Book

he withhis desireandhis exodus.Writing, whichconforms is a story That is, ofwhathe theend ofcommunism. says,markseverywhere because he was bornwithwriting. has neverknown, in his books-and in all his books-what commuButhe writes to anything pretends nismwas, the book'sabsence.The booknever whatexceedsit.The questionofthebook'sorigin less thanretracing you will neverbelongto any book (Derrida)-and yet,0 memory! whatI have seen,herewill be seen yournobility who have written thestoryteller, thesacred theworldofthebard, (Dante).So he writes himself through The first poet,whotookthisstepso as tofree reciter. it knowshow to return through to reallife. thecrowd's imagination, whichhis and leftto tell thecrowdtheexploits Forhe goes off right no to the hero.This herois, fundamentally, attributes imagination whounderstand Butthepoet'slisteners, him,know one buthimself. This pure selfwith the hero (Freud). themselves how to identify and hauntsall ofliterature: continually poiesis in purecommunity in the whois hisownnarrator, a manofthenow, it'sa manofthehere, end (Robbe-Grillet). It was, he says,theworldofa mimewho had no modelsand no ofthedancerdrunk theworldofthebrilliant improviser, imitators, ofan unwritten the blows,thewhistling on god,ofthe drumbeats, It's thetribe invocations. supplications, music,theworldofprayers, oftheprimitive comthechanting andrecitations, cry withitswords ofa fire so bright thatit tears itshearth-silentwriting munearound withoutleavinga trace(Laporte).



in thestory we tellourselves, of Whichis followed, bythesociety ofsacred whichis notthebookbuttheengraving characthatwriting of the Laws on tabletsof stone or metal,on ters,the inscription hard writingand columns,pilasters,pediments,and mouldings, the erectionof steles setting forth the Orderand the everywhere and theModel,forno one and thusfor the Structure Arrangement, all: this was monumentalcommunism, architectural and writing All thewordsmusthave a characteristic hieroglyphic monarchy. asor sculpture, the writer of pect of depthor prominence, engraving And every book tendsunmaxims(Joubert) says of sacredwriting. towardthe maxim: maxima sententia,the greatest controllably ... thought from Last comes-from nowhereand everywhere, Egypt, Ionia, Canaan-the book; last comes ta biblia,theirremediably pluralBitheScripture, as itdivides ble,theLaw,theProphets, itself, laysitself en abyme,and disseminates itself. It is andis notthe out,putsitself Book ofonlyone-author or people. oldreligion ofbooks,andall the Lastcomesthevery belated, very Canaan exodibegin.Egypt, comIonia, move,constantly scattering thedesert. munescrossing ofbooksbegins in thebookofhistory. The history bylosingitself wrote Therenothing tellsus whoifanyone thevery first pactwhichis nonetheless called the Book of the Alliance (Exodus,27:7). It's the of the pact-a pact of deliverance-broken, history kept,betrayed, oftherenewed call to signit once again.Scarcely stilloffered-and the Tabletsare neverset up, they gravenbefore theywere broken, in theArkwiththewandering wander tribes. The Scrollsunrolland thevolumeofhistory swellsuntilitreaches us; thebookis inseparable from the story, the history of the novel: the age of the book is romanticism. In our writings seems to proceedwith the thought movement ofa man who walksstraight ahead.In thewritings ofthe on thecontrary, it seems to proceed ancients, bythemovement ofa birdwhichsoarsand whirlsas it goes forward (Joubert). Who does not see thatI have takena roadalongwhichI shall go, without andwithout as longas there stopping effort, is inkandpaper in theworld? Books beginwiththeir repetition: two stories ofgenesismingle, overlap,repeat and contradict themselves.Books are copied, reproduced, published because they are not in themselvespublic as eithera songor an obelisk;we transmit them,translate them-


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six fromeach tribein seventy-two days on the Jews, seventy-two them,countermade theBibleGreek-, we betray islandofPharos, says and citethem.Whoever recite, recopy, feitthem,imitatethem, in his book: In thereasonings and 'I' mixesup books and signatures I into soil and my own, I confound with that my transplant inventions not indicatedthe author, in orderto have sometimesdeliberately thatare of thosehastycondemnations hold in check the temerity Here the repeated begins repetition tossed at all sortsof writings. Books are made ofwood: biblos, matter. Books are a corruptible it decomliber,codex,Buch,it's alwaysbarkortree.It bums,it rots, of mice. poses, it can be erased,it falls to the gnawingcriticism an impossiblelove,its Bibliophiliais, just as much as philosophy, fullofholes. Books are worn-out, cut-up, faded, objectsdiscolored, Descarteshatesthejob ofmaking books.Thereis hateful. miserable, thesame;whosays'I' (think)-in for theSubject-the other, nothing but loss of time,a lifeuselesslyconsumedin the tomes,nothing thatI myself canfound. of Thereshould thescraps knowledge reading aimed againstineptand useless writers, as be some legal restraint and idlers.BothI and a hundred others thereis againstvagabonds would be banishedfromthe hands of our people. This is no jest. ofan unruly seemsto be a sortofsymptom age.Whendid Scribbling began?since ourwriting we writeso much as since ourdissensions has been troubled. thedemonstration is Forhe who says 'I' mustnonetheless write, oftheegoandthealterego, theproblem through thinking inexorable: Husserlwrites: andthehumancommunity, oftheoriginary coupling laws or an essential essential are stylethe rootof In all this there in thetranscendental whichlies first ego,and in thetranscendental in it,and consequently in whichthe ego discovers intersubjectivity of transcendental motivation and constituthe essentialstructures themwouldin itself givethisaprioristic tion.Success in elucidating rational finaltranscendenhonorable explanation: stylea supremely whathe doesn'twant-to write. He Husserlwrites tal intelligibility. ofthe ego,the community alteration of writesthatthe originating even the ultideforms or forms intelligibility, writing, style, men, mate success ofwhichit deciphers. thebookbeganat thesametimeas the Thus supplication through is tiedto a cruelsimulacrum oftorture ofbooks.Writing persecution theglasseveryone can see theinscription Andnow, through (Laporte).




a simplewriting beingetchedon thebodyoftheprisoner. Obviously kill on thespot,butwithin can'tbe used,it mustn't twelve hourson the average(Kafka,"The Penal Colony"). in charge ofthemachineexecuteshimself, The officer at theend on his own bodythe law which he has of the story, by engraving violated:Be just! But onlythemad machineis leftto applythelaw savagely-communismand capitalismwriting machines.Yet it is thebook'sfullotherness? the same appeal: How to deliver Apocalypse theresumpAndwhatifbooksalwaysannounced, alwaysprovoked, does nothappenthere? ofwhathas no place there, tionin thisstory we must And what ifwe understood why, today, speaking, writing, to alwaysspeakseveraltimesat thesame time,speaking according ofthetheological and thusunderthenostalgia thelogicofdiscourse of speech logos, speakingtoo to make possible a communication ofrelations whichcan onlybe decidedon thebasis ofa communism and thusofproduction-butalso not speaking, ofexchange writing in a breakwithanylanguageofspeechand writing (Blanchot)? This is the kindof At the end ofbooks,thereis theApocalypse. written. It is thebook of prophecy-call,thatis-which is actually the book ofthenew beginning. Its writer the end oftheworld, says he and I say his name-John-and names his place of exile-the to the scattered islandofPatmos.This book is a letter to churches, ofitscommunion. bereft In thisletter thesecretcommunity a letter is addressed to each one ofthe churches, to each one ofthe, assemis repeated, blies.The letter transformed: To theAngelofthe divided, write:Thus speakshe whoholdsthesevenstars ChurchofEphesus, To themin Ysat Loka. Hearing. The urbit orbs.Then's now (John). Heard.Whohaving withnow'sthenin tensecontinuant. has he shall have had. Hear! (Joyce). in thisbookthevisionswhichitis given writes John tohimto see: buthe onlywritesbecause thevisionscommand him to write.The theBookbutJohn Angelspeaksto himholding doesnotrecopy it: he writeswhat the Angeldictatesto him. Whatis revealed is not the He who is announced Angel nor the Book: it is man's writing. whosaysin his turn whohe is,is he whosays-of through revelation, writesthathe sayshe is thealpha and omega.He is the whomJohn butalso: nothing butthefinal countofthecharacters Book,ofcourse,



seals ofthe is all thatis revealed ofthesevenbroken ofwriting-that Lamb.It's theend ofreligion. book ofthe slaughtered But in the middle,he is writesall his visions of writings. John No book to writethe wordsof the seven thunderclaps. forbidden tudeafening speech-the primitive inaudible, theunheard, delivers rise to have of the of which would the exaltation given multthesound But the book knowsof the scattering of the mysticalcommunity. ofit andit communicates its call: communion-it is theinscription and the Apocalypse Let the hearersay "Come!" Come! punctuates to and restore us the of what conventions on books. Come, ourbooks It's ofa heart themovement quotedbyDerrida). (Blanchot disappears, Thereis no chanceofdeciding, up to youto takethestepofmeaning. in whatever whatcomesin "Come" language, in deciding, no future but the propagation of the It is not a call to communication, and ofthedemandwhichbear, oftheappeal,or theorder repetition a teachnothing, convey, produce, rien-viens, -which donotcall for to respond, theresponsibility butforthesimpleobligation response letters whichcontainno revelato writeagainwiththe twenty-five tionbut onlytheirown exhaustion. is toreachB.-to is initial:thereasonI write Heretheexhaustion tiedone to the to traceletters to the secondletter, the first go from which calls a woman,a man, a book,a which calls writing, other, storyand alwayslike B. in the storyan impossibleunsustainable nudity. Far beyondand farshortof what any speech can unveil of the ofanyOne Book,apocalypse is stillto and farshort real-far beyond whichshakesall books: thatthe book the discovery be discovered, in all books. The dis-covered, and the communionare stripped, ora book'sabsenceis theabsenceofCommunion-our communion Butalso thepresenceshareofone toall andofall toone (Mallarme). must swallowa swallowedup-of the book. John alwaysinstantly in ithad and swallowed mouth little book the I took it; my book. little butwhenI had eatenit,itfilled ofhoney, mygutswith thesweetness bitterness. is is nothing, whatis takenin communion Whatcommunicates, buta call; another butbitterness, communism, nothing notnothing, a communism ofexodusand butnottheclose ofhistory, in thefuture in additionto as Blanchot wouldmeannothing says, (but, repetition, thusof ofexchange, whatthey mean,whatdo wordswant:relations




of would writethe deliverance but this communism production?), who books,in books. Vain so long as it is bookish(it'sMontaigne made up theword)-and how couldit notbe, starting right here?-, still butno doubtalso bookishso longas it is vain,so longas writing, and once again,is not openlyat riskin it. a book can be reducedto the I repeat:The reasonsforwriting a manandhisfellows. therelations between to modify desire existing andareperceived arejudgedunacceptable These relations as a dreadfulmisery (Bataille). Farcalls. Coming, far. Endhere.Us then(Joyce). (April1977) II. REASONS TO READ on Bataille(eventhough to stop commenting It is becoming urgent on him is still quite sparse). We oughtto knowit, the commentary to commenton this Blanchothintedat it, appropriately, refusing I haveno intention Therefore ofcommentary. ofcommentrejection stead.(ButBlanchotso often does nothing ingon him in Blanchot's on" Bataille:thinking withhim,conversing withhim but "comment to infinity. Thus he writes:"How had he endedup wishingforthe of discourse? And not the legitimate interruption pause whichperto stopitcold,tobreak intothecircle. And something quitedifferent, theheart at once ithad happened: ceasingtobeat,theeternal talking drivestopping.")4 there Moreover can be no questionof"refusing." Therehas never be anything beenandwill never orsimply false simply reprehensible in commenting on what,byventuring intowriting, has already preand in reality senteditselfforcommentary, has alreadybegunto on itself. comment ofBataille:he has becomeinvolved But such is theambiguity in and in to to thefull discourse, writing, deeply enough exposehimself Andthusto its servility. ofcommentary. He has advanced necessity for his thought far itsseriousness to deprive enough himofthedivine whichwas however capriciousevanescent sovereignty his sole "oband sorrowful, ject." (That limit,heart-rending joyousand relieved,
L'Entretien 4. MauriceBlanchot, infini 26. (Paris:Gallimard, 1970),

of conversations . .. What he had wanted was mits the give-and-take


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whichdoes not abdicate-quite the from thought, thatdeliverance has reasontobe,orhas notyetreason whichno longer contrary-but all thought, whichthere be can never predating to be. That freedom objector subject.) anyquestionofmakingintoeither theproposition and theposition Butwhenhe eludedthegesture, a philosopher, a writer (andhe ceaselesslyeludes,not of a thinker, stillless the"sum"orthe"system" ofhisthought, histexts, finishing on occasion,or else relentleavingeven his sentencesunfinished what theproglopsidedsyntax by an eccentric, lesslywithdrawing downas a logicor a topic)was laying ressionofa line ofthought us access to what he was when he stole away,he also stole from to us. communicating ifit'sa matter is thattheword? ofacting, of Perhaps, "Ambiguity": a simulacrum-whichwe mustn'thesitateto imputeto him also. put on an act of Bataille alwaysplayed at beingunable to finish, to its bursting point,the excess of what writing excess,stretching thatis to saywhatsimultaneously and exinscribes makeswriting: he an for wrote and It a it. was writing ceaselessly, scribes act, game ofhis writing. He bothsaid and always,the exhaustion everywhere, oftalking about thathe was guilty thisgame,thisact.He wrote wrote itandgetting ofdrinking drunk. Drunkon theglassofalcoholinstead theimmense andat thesame timedrown wordsandpagesto express thatway, too,as it were,and futile guiltofthegame.Savinghimself of finding salvationin the game itself.Thus not always oversure a Christian theater ofconfession, from too visibly himself detaching on forgiveness all and relapseintosin,and ofdependence absolution as theater:the repairof the irreparable. over again. (Christianity there was in sacrifice. But knewhow muchtheater Bataillehimself to thistheabyssofa "purely thequestionis notofopposing irreparaofcatastrophe whichdominates ble." Whatmustridus ofthespirit butin quiteanother moreterrible way. perhaps us is a higher freedom, ofwriting too is ours: a sacrifice which That theater bywriting, redeems.There is no doubtthatsome have hammedit up writing Bataille'srestraint withwhatwere,in spiteofeverything, compared No doubtthattoo muchhas beenmade ofthewriter's and sobriety. inunderground vaultsofliterature nailsbeingtorn out,ofsuffocation have been hastilyreUnless sequencesof thought and philosophy. in withideas. (A commentary in bothcases.) constructed, gapsfilled on Bataille(andifthat commentaries This does noturgeon anycritic Therearepowerful thecase I wouldbe implicated). werenecessarily




without whichwe couldnotevenpose andimportant commentaries, the questionofhis commentary. all Bataillewrote"I wantto arousethegreatest Butafter mistrust. I onlyspeakoflivedexperiences; I do notconfine toimaginary myself How can we simply How can we notbe affected bythismistrust? thenclosethebook,ormakenotesinitsmargins? go on withreading, IfI underline justthispassageandquoteitas I havejustdone,I betray I reduce it to a "state of intellection" it already, (as Bataille says Yet it had alreadybeen reducedto something in which elsewhere). doesn't exhausteverything, but nonetheless intellection certainly stillBataillewrites thatwriting overseesthestage.Elsewhere is the anda non-knowledge. Whatthendoesthatwriting "mask"ofa cry do How could it not mask what at one whichwritesthatverything? Andhow couldit notmask,in theend,thevery it unveils? moment to a "screammaskwhichit saysit is andwhichit saysit is applying themechanism ingsilence"?The blow cannotbe parried, or machiFarfrom is implacable. to deafen nationofdiscourse rising us,thecry (orthe silence)has been spirited awaybybeingnamedor indicated, to locate forhavingbeen supundera mask whichis all theharder in order to be denounced. posedlyshown,namedin its turn, is therefore insurmountable. It is nothing Ambiguity inevitable, ofmeaningitself. otherthantheambiguity Meaningshouldsignify, orthemeaning ofmeaning as itwere, butwhatmakesmeaning, is in than other "this truth this infinite nothing empty freedom, transofwhatfinally doesn'thavetheburden ofhaving parence a meaning" ceasedtofight thisburden, he wrote (6,76).Bataillenever onlytofree from it-to reachliberty, to let it reachhim-, butwriting, himself speaking,he could only make himselfonce again responsible for some signification. to this si"Dedicatingoneselfout of principle lence,philosophizing, is alwaysa murky speaking, business:theslidwhichtheexercise couldnotbe thenbecomesthemoveingwithout ment of thought itself"(11, 286). The ambiguity lies in emptying of experience thought, this is philosophy, through thought; this is literature. Andyetemptied is notstupidity-even experience ifthere is stupor in it. on Batailleinvolves himin a direction Anycommentary ofmean5. All references to Batailleare takenfrom the Oeuvrescompletes Gal(Paris, limard, 1970),andwill appearin thetextas vol.,p.

actions" (6, 261).5


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whenhe Bataillehimself, univocal.Therefore something ing,toward withwhichhe had mostin common, on thethought wantedto write onnotcommenting intent wroteSurNietzschein a moveessentially on him. "Nietzschewrotewith his on Nietzsche,on not writing himor,better, putshimto thetextcan do blood-whoever criticizes "Letno one doubtit for an instant: is bleeding." it onlyifhe himself of experiencing before a word Nietzsche's work youcan'tunderstand in its totality" (6, 15,22). thatdazzlingdissolution of author, of whatever But the same goes forall commentary, itmaybe.In a writer's text, andalso in a commentator's text whatever what textis in its turn)what matters, text (which everywriter's ifnecessary) limitofthought is whatdoesnotlend thinks (atthevery underthe itselfwhollyto a univocalmeaningbut whichstumbles it off stopsexposand throws balance.Bataillenever load ofmeaning all the ing this. Alongsideall the themeshe deals with,through but a protest againstthe questionshe debates,"Bataille"is nothing Ifhe is to be read,ifreading rebels ofhis owndiscourse. signification whichit is, and againstthe straight away againstthe commentary to be,we haveto readin every line the whichit ought understanding againstmeaning. workor theplayofwriting norwiththe absurd, nor to do withnonsense, This has nothing Paradoxically, orpoeticesotericism. witha mystical, philosophical, thewords a from andsyntax, from thesentence-straight it'sstraight in anycase as muchas posremoved often clumsyor lopsided, way, of a "style"("in the acoustico-decorative sible fromthe operation on meaning as Borges itself, given senseoftheterm" says)ofweighing withorimpeding thecommua wayofinterfering and recognizable, to us, but to thismeaning not first itself. nicationofthismeaning, awkward initsturn mustremain and,without unwieldy, Andreading in This reading remains caught decoding. ceasingto decode,beyond with the singular it conforms of language, the strange materiality which is carriedon not only by meaningbut by communication morethanthecommunicawhichis nothing orrather, itself language out meaning, in a suswithout with itself making tion oflanguage unReal reading goes forward repeated. fragile, pensionofmeaning, cut in the it always opens a book like an unjustifiable knowing, at thisbreak. It mustgo astray ofmeaning. supposedcontinuum of all all inevfirst is reading, itself, reading This reading-which movement ofa writsliding flashing, itably givenoverto thesudden, it it and whichit will rejoinonlybyreinscribing ingwhichprecedes



andotherwise, in ex-scribing itoutside itself-thisreading elsewhere stilldoes notcomment an incipitwhich (thisis a beginning reading, it neither is alwaysbegunagain), is equal to nor in a positionfor forcausing meaning.It is rather a surrender interpreting, to that wherethewriter abandonto language has exposed himself. "Thereis no pure and simple communication; what is communicated has a direction [sens]anda color"(2,315),(andsensheremeansmovement, and doesn'thaveto. No It does notknowwhereit is going, advance). other is possiblewithout reading it,andevery "reading" (inthesense ofcommentary, mustcome backto it. exegesis, interpretation) But in thiswayBatailleand his reader are already displaced with to ambiguity. Thereis noton theone handtheambiguity respect of theambiguity ofunivocalmeanmeaning-ofall possiblemeanings, ingsmultiplied hand byall "actsofintellection"-andon theother of the meaningwhichunburdens the "ambiguity" itselfof all posin question, is finally siblemeaning. which Something quitedifferent thevery thathe "knew"aboveall, Batailleknew:it is perhaps thing It's not a questionofthatnecessary, "knowing nothing." ridiculous ofmeaning whichputsitself machination forward as itwithdraws, or whichputs on a mask as it signifies itself. To leave it at thatconwithout demnswriting thiscondemnation appeal(certainly haunted Bataille) and also condemnsto beingridiculousor intolerable the removed from a writing intellection wish to affirm and identicalto life("I havealwaysputintomywritings mywholelifeandmywhole about what mightbe purely intellectual self,I knownothing problems"[6,261]).Forthisis still,always, a discourse fullofmeaning and whichstealsthe "life"ofwhichit speaks. There is somethingelse, and withoutthe "knowledge"of it Bataillewouldnothave written thananyoneelse: in truth anymore oritexists doesnotexist, "ambiguity" onlyas longas thought considBut thereis no moreambiguity ers meaning. once it is clear(andit is before ofmeaning) necessarily any consideration thatwriting exscribes meaningjust as much as it inscribessignifications. It exscribes thatis it showsthatwhatit'sabout,thething meaning, itself, andfinally theexistence Bataille's"life"or "cry," ofeverything which is "in question"in thetext(including mostsingularly writing's own existence)that all these are outside the text,take place outside writing. At thesame timethis "outside"is notthatofa referent to which wouldrefer signification (thusthe "real"lifeofBataille,signified by


Yale FrenchStudies

thereferent doesnotpresent itself as suchexcept life") thewords"'my But this "outside"-entirelyexscribedinto the by signification. ofmeaning retreat exbywhicheach existence text-is the infinite concrete, reputed to be outside ists. Not the brutedatum,material, freedom" but the "empty meaningand which meaningrepresents which the livingbeingcomes to presence-and absence. through in thesense ofbeingvain.No doubtit is is notempty This freedom a project, a meaningor a work.But it uses the toward not directed workofmeaningto expose,to laybaretheunusable,unexploitable, and unfoundable That being of being-in-the-world. unintelligible that thereis being,or some beingor evenbeings,and in particular that there' is us, our community (ofwriting-reading): is whatinstithatis whatis thevery placeofmeaning, gatesall possiblemeanings, butwhichhas no meaning. is to be'exposed,to exposeoneselfto this and reading, Writing, and thusto "exscription." The exnot-having (to thisnot-knowing) notas an "unsayable" from thefirst oras an is exscribed scribed word, but on the contrary as that openinginto itselfof "uninscribable" to itself, to its own inscription as the infinite of discharge writing Writing, meaning-in all thesensesone shouldgivetheexpression. thething the "real"-which is I exscribe "existence," itself, reading, and whose beingalone is what'sat stakein inscriponlyexscribed we exscribe the presenceofwhat tion. In inscribing significations, withdrawsfromall signification, being itself(life,passion, substance... ). it presents itself when The beingofexistencecan be presented: it makesitself maskednorstifled; Bataille'scryis neither exscribed. therealdoes notrepreheardas thecrythatis notheard.In writing andrestraint, thesurtheunheard-of-violence it presents sentitself, in where at of freedom writing every being exscription prise and unburdens ofitself. itself, emptiesitself, momentdischarges itself, norcan one fabriis not a wordin thelanguage But "exscripted" cate it as I do herewithoutbeingmangled by one's own barbarism. exscribesnothingand writesnothing, it The word "exscripted" makes clumsygesturesto indicatewhat must writeitselfalone, oflanguage. "The nudity outofthealwaysuncertain thought straight who compares writesBlanchot,6 it to ofthe word'write'remains," ofMadame Edwarda. thenudity his nakedwriting, exposing ThereremainsBataille'snakedness,
6. Blanchot, 91. (Paris, Minuit,1983), Apr&s-coup



the nakednessof all writing. Obscureand clear like a skin,like a pleasure, like a fear. Butcomparisons arenotenough. The nakedness ofwriting, is thenakednessofexistence. is nakedbecause it Writing existence is nakedbecause it is "exscripted." "exscripts," Fromone to theother passes thelightandviolenttension ofthat all "meaning"; suspensionofmeaningwhichcomprises thatjouissance so absolutethatit accedesto itsownjoyonlybylosingitself in it,byspilling intoit,andit appears itself as theabsentheart(absence ofpresence. whichbeatslike a heart) It is theheart ofthings whichis exscripted. In a senseBataillemustbe present tous withthatpresence which and which itselfwould be communication. distancessignification Not a unitedbodyofworkmadecommunicable, interpretable ("Collected Works," so preciousand necessary, still cause unease; they communicate as completewhat was onlywritten in pieces and by now over,of an exscription chance) but the dawdling, of finitude. Releasedin it arean infinite jouissance,a pain and a pleasureso real them(reading thattouching convinces us at once ofthe exscripted) absolutemeaningoftheir nonsignification. In yetanother sense,it is Bataillehimself, dead.Thatis, theexasof every momentofreading peration in the certitude thatthe man who wrotewhatis beingreadexisted and theconfounding evidence thatthemeaning ofhis workandthemeaning ofhis lifearethesame nakedness,the same denudingof meaningwhich distancesthem fromeach otheras well-by the fulldistanceof an in(x)scription. The deadBatailleandhisbooksoffered as hiswriting leavesthem: the same thing, they're the same ban on comment and comprehension (thesame ban on killing). It's the implacableand joyouscounterblow one muststrikeagainstall hermeneutics so thatliterature can once againexposethemselves; in thesingularity, (and)existence in the reality, in the freedom of "the commondestiny ofman" (11, 311). Speakingof Bataille's death,Blanchotwrote: "the readingof booksmustopenus to thenecessity ofthatdisappearance in which Books themselves theywithdraw. refer to an us existence."7 (August1988) Translated byKatherine Lydon

7. Blanchot, LAmitik (Paris, Gallimard, 1973), 327.