Maurice Blanchot. There could be little less discreet than writing "on Maurice Blanchot.

" Hopelessly redundant, in a sense, either one must accept the theory he provides, or reject it. There is little room for compromise. The real work of writing alongside, that which would work him silently (though not parasitically, or simply victim to mimetic contagion) into one's thinking. Well, I'm not sure that I'm there yet...though the danger his writing poses in such regard, is certainly far greater than most. It is especially hard to engage Blanchot's thought without extensive citation. The rhythms of his thought –– a unique intensity and persistent sobriety and patience (not to mention ambiguity of genre, use of paradox, double injunction and oxymoron)–place a high demand on the reader who would comment. At the same time, there is a wonderful alinearity at work, like all writing in fragments, one might suppose, that resists the sterile confinement of citation. Blanchot, maybe needless to say, is not so much concerned with preemptively parrying his every possible imaginary critic (and in the process reducing them to mere cookie-cutter versions of their former selves) as he is with pursuing a faithful description of that peculiar trembling or disquiet, namely the one which seems to have left its mark on a generation of thinkers left writing after Heidegger, and under the permanently fallen sky (dis-aster, the star-less night) of the Holocaust. But also like Kafka, Blanchot permits himself this strange indulgence, the pursuit of this some-thing that will forever float inverted commas around the word, 'literature'. In a sense, he is even more dismissive of his critics than Derrida (or for that matter Nabokov) both of whom at least respond, even if it's only to point again to their books. In any case, what follows is sort of long, and probably pushing the limits of bloggility. Also, it isn't very good. Be as gentle or as brutal as you wish with it. In short, this will have been a largely mediocre post, but hopefully somewhat productive nonetheless. And if it happens that to the question "When will you come?" the Messiah answers, "Today," the answer is certainly impressive: so, it is today! It is now and always now. There is no need to wait, although to wait is an obligation. And when is it now? When is the now which does not belong to ordinary time, which necessarily overturns it, does not maintain but destabilizes it? When? -- especially if one remembers that this "now" which belongs to no text, but is the now of a severe, fictitious narrative, refers to texts that make it once more dependent upon realizable-unrealizable conditions: "Now, if only you heed me, or if you are willing to listen to my voice." Finally, the Messiah -- quite the opposite in this respect, from the Christian hypostasis -- is by no means divine. He is a comforter, the most just of the just, but it is not even sure that he is a person -- that he is someone in particular. When one commentator says, The Messiah is perhaps I, he is not exalting himself. Anyone might be the Messiah -- must be he, is not he. For it would be wrong to speak of the Messiah in Hegelian language -- "the absolute intimacy of absolute exteriority" -- all the more so because the coming of the Messiah does not yet signify the end of history, the suppression of time. It announces a time more future, as the following mysterious text conveys, than any prophesy could ever foretell: "All prophets -- there is no exception -- have prophesied only for the messianic time [l'epokhe?] [Blanchot's brackets]. As for future time, what eye has seen it except Yours, Lord, who will act for him who is faithful to you and keeps waiting." (Levinas and Scholem.) (Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster, 142). As the German expression has it, the last judgement is the youngest day, and it is a day surpassing all days. Not that judgment is reserved for the end of time. On the contrary, justice won't wait; it is to be done at every instant, to be realized all the time, and studied also (it is to be learned.) Every just act (are there any?) makes of its day the last day or -- as Kafka said -- the very last: a day no longer situated in the ordinary succession of days but one that makes of the most commonplace ordinary, the extraordinary. (Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster, 143) Does Blanchot, as some have suggested, present a "negative eschatology?" In a time––this moment, now––so saturated with capitalist noise about the "victory of (neo)liberal democracy" and its accompanying, mantric, superficially (neo)Hegelian echoes of an "end of History"––we might do well to heed the warnings contained in Derrida's later writings, particularly Specters of Marx. It is surely a time of unprecedented change and inter-hypertextual exchange that is neither without its increasing fragility, and inequalities, nor its own accompanying jubilatory rhetoric, marked equally by false conjuring and denial. What might be called the "messianicity" in both Blanchot's and Derrida's thinking may stand in radical opposition to the messianism, or even--as Derrida once put it--"apocalyptic tone"--conditioning much of the

an "inessential commonality. "whatever singularities" that "do not possess any identity" or "bond. into a communication without the incommunicable. (Blanchot. But this also means that the petty bourgeoisie represents an opportunity unheard of in the history of humanity that it must at all costs not let slip away. the tanks will appear. and thus rejects all identity and every condition of belonging. even when it asserts itself. Because if instead of continuing to search for a proper identity in the already improper and senseless form of individuality. The fact is that the senselessness of their existence runs up against a final absurdity. where their shame can finally rest in peace. we know that we must refuse." On the other hand. in a more general and liberal or pragmatic sense. but a struggle between the State and the non-State (humanity).discourse now predominating. against which all advertising runs aground: death itself.." and so require no "recognition. this much seems clear. the politics of perpetual war and the threat of nuclear holocaust? What might a politics–– a "democracy" perhaps––seeking to become truly open to the other qua other in fact look like? Is it enough to swim in the waters of a relative "being in potential" without also risking the madness of decision. categorical.This means that the planetary petty bourgeoisie is probably the form in which humanity is moving toward its own destruction. Friendship. and. 111) How is it possible to affirm an absolute singularity without in any way referring to an essence of singularity (perhaps "irreducible" is not the same as "absolute")? What about refusing. is the principal enemy of the State.. 84-86) At the same time as they are lauded. nor does it voice its reasons. unshakable. as it must." are themselves-when they gather together ("being in common" without however belonging)––the true site of resistance against the State: The novelty of the coming politics is that it will no longer be a struggle for the conquest or control of the State. in the face of public events.. Whatever singularities cannot form a societas because they do not possess any identity to vindicate nor any bond of belonging for which to seek recognition. however. This is why it is silent and solitary.. (Agamben. as always. .What the State cannot tolerate in any way. its own being-in-language. acknowledging a radical aporia of responsibility? These questions are hopelessly general. pop-politically as well as philosophically. But what about a community oriented by a refusal of homogeneity and sameness? At a certain moment. to wrest some chance of survival from the (post)modern irony of an 'advertising without object' (soap commercials with everything but the soap--or maybe only soap)? (Agamben is no (neo)Marxist. This has nothing to do with the simple affirmation of the social in opposition to the State that has often found expression in the protest movements of recent years. The time of joint affirmation is precisely that of which they have been deprived. then they would for the first time enter into a community without presuppositions and without subjects. The Coming Community. In death the petty bourgeois confront the ultimate expropriation. The refusal is absolute. humans were to succeed in belonging to this impropriety as such. an insurmountable disjunction between whatever singularity and the State organization. the pure incommunicable. 18-19). The Coming Community. in making of the proper being-thus not an identity and an individual property but a singularity without identity. Wherever these singularities peacefully demonstrate their being in common there will be a Tiananmen.. and unmistakably in the spirit of Blanchot (though perhaps not without significant adaptation). Whatever singularity. Still. What might it mean for the "coming community. Agamben theorizes a politics of community oriented by a singularity without essence. a solidarity that in no way concerns an essence" (Agamben. their singular exteriority and their face. In his original reading of Spinoza. sooner or later. these "whatever singularities" then seem to foreshadow the inevitability of a final showdown of sorts. the friendship of this certain. Could such a thing still be called a "revolution" or a "war"? Might Agamben be articulating something both ancient and modern at once? What are the alternatives? Hasn't this being-in-common without belonging already taken place at so many moments? The question that orients most.. the ultimate frustration of individuality: life in all its nakedness. It does not only the thus.. Men who refuse and who are tied by the force of refusal know that they are not yet together. which wants to appropriate belonging itself. that humans cobelong without any representable condition of belonging (even in the form of a simple presupposition). is that the singularities form a community without affirming an identity. What they are left with is the irreducible refusal. in broad daylight." as Giorgio Agamben would have it. and Agamben is not so easily pinned down. although maybe this is not so easily said about certain others writing in Blanchot's shadow). rigorous No that keeps them unified and bound by solidarity. a common and absolutely exposed singularity--if humans could. concerns death. he does not seem to credit the recent mobilizations against the structuring of so-called "free trade" with much more than a sort of "simple affirmation.

after all.. without my being able to see in there myself and without my being able to see him in me? And if my secret self. then what sense is there in saying that it is "my" secret. Agamben. Maybe Agamben does not deny or surpress 'the secret'. even? A "communication without the incommunicable?" How might such an exposure be possible without being reduced merely to a hollow. nothing new about that!} In any case. as it is sacrifice itself that is affirmed through the One. which removes the seriousness from the search for reason (intelligibility) in history--and also from the requirement of messianic thought (the realization of morality)--simply attests to a time so frightful. in an important sense. who seems to want to hold on to the strong sense of what binds me to the other. the disaster can hardly be demanded "to come. (The . or in saying more generally that a secret belongs. (Blanchot. often seems closer to Blanchot. where the themes of secrecy and responsibility are defended in a condition without belonging: How can another see into me. finally no less homesick than speaking. you await it henceforth in the future.Selecting in the new planetary humanity those characteristics that allow for its survival. it can never be said to be at home or in its place [chez soi]. but that will remain. or unspoken. a process deprived of meaning or direction.The question of the self: "who am I?" not in the sense of "who am I" but "who is this 'I'" that can say "who"? What is the "I. although the power of the image extends beyond its concept. why do we not desire that which is without end? The messianic hope--hope which is dread as well--is inevitable when history appears politically only as an arbitrary hubbub. 65) Is Blanchot's politics of writing diagnosably apocalyptic? Having always already arrived. that which can be revealed only to the other. is Blanchot again: Dying means: you are dead already.) {There is an old surrealist film (whose title and author escapes me) in which two human heads composed of an enormously elaborate collage of random everyday objects are made to open their mouths and consume each other in a reciprocal. 65) An "absolutely exposed singularity"––one without secrets." already within the beast of advertising. still unbelievable. The Writing of the Disaster) The holocaust may figure in Blanchot's thinking as a sort of enforced apocalypse--one that has undeniably already taken place. Maybe impropriety is not without its secrets. Here." and what becomes of responsibility once the identity of the "I" trembles in secret? (Derrida. in an immemorial past. striding gargantuanly along. (Agamben." although neither has it once arrived (once and for all). 92) Writing. that it is not a matter of knowing and that it is there for no-one. but under the threat of which you believe you are called upon to live. closer to Levinas than Derrida. where one renders the other's argument even stronger in order to reorient it in one's own direction--the clutter of words from the other consumed and regurgitated back. constructing a future to make it possible at last––possible as something that will take place and will belong to the realm of experience. but each time they re-pool and resist being formed into one. And why the idea of the Messiah? Why the necessity of a just finish? Why can we not bear. however subtly disguised? How might such a "selecting. or willingly appropriated gesture? Does such an ontology remain bascially metaphysical. The exchanges marked as much by loud silences between Agamben and Derrida might resemble something like this. namely.. The Gift of Death. But if political thinking becomes messianic in its turn. that any recourse appears justified: can one maintain any distance at all when Auschwitz happens? How is it possible to say: Auschwitz has happened? (Blanchot. Very well. A secret doesn't belong. is a secret that I will never reflect on. that it is proper to or belongs to some "one. remains a potential site for a certain kind of politics-one not without fragility or risk. even if it must by definition remain unpronouncable. The Writing of the Disaster. occur––and occur in time? To be sufficient might such a "selecting" require nothing less than the reorientation of advertising itself? (Advertising is shaped by complex motives." or to some other who remains someone? It is perhaps there that we find the secret of secrecy. this confusion. The Coming Community. It is a battle of epic proportions. perhaps. but he does seem not to give it the same tension and certainly not the same attention as Derrida. so dangerous. into my most secret self. to the wholly other. on the other hand. in that it is not so much the One who is affirmed through the act of (always multiple) sacrifice. It is a movement of near-total appropriation. removing the thin diaphragm that separates bad mediatized advertising from the perfect exteriority that communicates only itself--this is the political task of our generation. that I will never know or experience or possess as my own. to God if you wish. of a death which was not yours. the above passages belonging to Agamben beg to be presented alongside those of Derrida. which you have thus neither known nor lived. vomitous movement.

While not necessarily opposed to one another.apocalypse has already disappointed. and different logics of possibility and impossibility. remaining. in the most open sense. always at least two languages. perhaps more philosophical sense––although what "philosophical" might mean of course in terms of Hegel and Nietzsche is far from certain. or even made in some sense.) Blanchot seems to be distinguishing here between a "political thinking" in a weak sense. no sooner is it pronounced than the finality of the apocalyptic 'come!' in fact suspends the end as a moment of perpetual (re)beginning." The need for more than one language is linked to the aporia of responsibility––in every demand." (Blanchot perhaps tending to speak of anguish where Bataille would rather talk of laughter. (Hill. or self-evident (perhaps everyday.) (Blanchot. is a trait common to all eschatology. 210) The separation between these "two rhythms" or "logics" as Hill puts it. a language belonging to a "restricted economy" would be that which is merely routine. if a bit strangely titled(?) book. he argues. But in the same breath Blanchot is clearly opposing the idea of an "end of history" inasmuch as such a thought is the reactive messianism. as Blanchot makes clear by pointing at the end to the self-defeating paradox of Wittgenstein's famous conclusion to the Tractatus. apocalypse without apocalypse. At least in Blanchot's reading. Apocalypse in Blanchot is therefore not an apocalypse. byt) while that of a "general economy"––(words in their stronger. The Coming Community. two demands. truth or finality. opened onto an abyss. and not homogeneous even within themselves. The invocation of the end is a tribute necessarily paid to infinity. for it is an apocalypse without end. the other demanding urgent and decisive action. different temporalities. if it were to contaminate politics--hasn't it already?--would lead only to the worst. still a future yet "to-come. there is always another demand requiring that justice be done without delay in the world. 63) In his wonderful. there is always more than one demand: There are. There is of course a potential playful element to this tragedy as well. subject to prescriptions. normative. "tragic. if one believes them to be always already conditioning each other. Blanchot argues. Blanchot: Extreme Contemporary. falls subject to an injunction which by definition cannot be satisfied and is capable of supplying neither sanction nor recompense. perhaps––belonging more to poetry. and one that resists such labeling efforts. ontic. "general economy" might suggest a language––while still remaining philosphical. 208) Derrida likes to distinguish between two types of "future"––one that is predictable. literary. at least as read by Derrida. These two demands. Such multiplicity of tone. To speak of the end is always to defer the end. But for every demand addressed to the act of writing by virtue of its own absence of worldly foundation or justification. According to Bataille. and we still live under their sign. and political strategy.) (Agamben. (From a strictly political point of view fascism and Nazism have not been overcome. It is. seeks also to go beyond this "dissymetry. "Affirmation and the Passion of Negative Thought. perhaps--by superficial political "hubbub. (Hill. In short. especially in Bataille)––would begin to interrogate or reflect upon its possibility beyond a condition of mere practicality or self-evidence. function according to different rhythms. programs. reacting in a time when the "meaning or direction" of history is rendered inaccessible--alienated. and one that seeks to remain almost indifferent to the present. Blanchot maintains. according to Derrida." in a sense. they are nonetheless radically disjoined. but Blanchot raises it to the status of a philosophical. Writing. that the dissymmetry arising from this disjunction be affirmed. the one requiring the obliqueness of infinite patience. or faithful to some desire for a language not yet formed. The language of a "general economy" is that––in Blanchot's terms––of the "limit-experience. is not rigorously possible. Leslie Hill provides a lucid reading of the affinities shared between Derrida and Blanchot in their conceptions of both community and the future. perhaps even to transform the space . The need to distinguish between two kinds of language finds not unrelated expression in the theory of Georges Bataille. the language of "general economy" might still take place in conversation––particularly between friends––whereby through repetition and re-affirmation meanings are not so much deepened as distended. There may in fact be something radically antielitist in this––an undoing of the hierarchizing of langauge––at the same time that the stakes and demands for a seriousness and complexity of thought have never been greater. respected and obeyed." 54). Blanchot's affirmation. forcasts and formulas. and it is essential." Thinking the future then requires a sensitivity toward two registers of language––one that is immediate or practicle." Such a reactive messianism. and a "messianic thought" whose demand for a certain "realization of morality" might be not altogether unimportant." or of "patience. in the nameless name of the neuter. practical. as Derrida had predicted. two voices.

(Blanchot. curious about. The hope is not for more. (It might be not unlike guiding a drop of water with a pin. the very present in which it took place and not attempting to provide a future. in a manner such that even if we suppress this "as" by . nothing if not a responsibility (very much in the sense Derrida gives to this word) to alterity and to the Other (as irriducibly other). and precisely without "the way. and when we think of it as the experience (the inexperience) of the disaster--always imply the words inscribed at the beginning of this "fragment. or ceaselessly opening––a prelude without hasty or absolute distinctions between "enemies" and "friends. withdraw from its appearing as such. Such a time might be open.Why does writing--when we understand this movement as the change from one era to a different one. extremely indifferent to any possible future (judged as success or failure). (Blanchot." even while it cannot help but imply such a thing the moment it begins.of both demands if not the meaning of affirmation itself. however. close of a period. "end of history. (Derrida. that is. outside. end of (metaphysical) philosophy. both on the side of thinking and of dying. as though the time it sought to open up was already beyond these standard determinations. Writing must "revoke" the pretension of any "end. (Blanchot. or if writing itself is the change between eras. But the image always fails. and so perhaps also the exigency that is an incessant dying (The Infinite Conversation. and nothing like a command merely to "obey. then one would have to be very naive not to think that the requirement to withdraw ceases from then on. without power." making us come into our "most proper. but never in the same way as the phrase. he thought to himself.destroying all without anything destructive. and from the moment it begins.. rather than the past. but rather for the destruction of the present as such and thus for a revolution that would open time itself to the otherness that presence always excludes (Hill. As is fitting. without unity. 76) Conversely.. in an excess of meaning and in excess of meaning. political speech--Blanchot refers especially to the "terrible monologues" of Hitler--often seeks to eliminate silence altogether.. 'N'oubliez pas!' that appeared in May 1968: a revolution." Hegel's thought must itself be "gone through" with patience in order to be effectively transformed and perhaps finally left behind. in an eschatology--eschatology beyond eschatology-which addresses the future not as power but as judgement.. The Writing of the Disaster. it is gone." or "own-most" (being). but an irreducible distance. end of history." forecloses on the present (or never in the same way twice). not as imminent presence but as infinite promise. more insistently. "Deconstructions: The Im-possible. The Writing of the Disaster.. It introduces the wait that measures the distance between two interlocutors--no longer a reducible. (Hill. And yet it is from then on that "withdraw" rules--more obscurely. More generally still. at least in Leslie Hill's reading. there is a sense in which writing both hears and refuses its own present––or at least its own presence as a representation of power (over the future. If writing has the power to transform eras. or better representation. Thinking as dying excludes the "as" of thought. Blanchot's politics of writing is. destroying." The Politics to which Blanchot's writing gives voice. To think the way one dies: without purpose.But if (since there is no other way of putting this) a decisive historical change is announced in the phrase "the coming comes.." Whence the effacement of this formulation as soon as it is thought--as soon as it is thought.) There may be nothing "essential" about the space of the 'neuter'. and convinced of mortality." 18) But there is another kind of interruption.. 101) I believe only in death. writing must also. 102) Writing then refuses the present. 209).." but without this affirmation of disjunction––without heeding the full weight of its injunction––there can only ever be no future––just "the end. for which reason I am obsessed with. The Infinite Conversation. for instance). turning point. Perhaps only a radical indifference to the first of Derrida's two futures––to the one that is prescribed or merely (in the "weak" sense) "possible"–– can clear a space for the gift of another kind of time. and precisely in death as impossible. No sooner is it thought than it has departed. Last witness. 209) "I" die before being born. Hill cites Blanchot's article. 75). more enigmatic and more grave. a radical change from which the present tense is excluded." which. crisis--or. it revokes? It revokes them even if what they announce is announced as something new which has always already taken place.

That is. irreducible.a momentary contact in a boundless space. (Blanchot. to the Openness of a community. and necessitated. estranged. that weakness deep inside and surrounding every thing and every face what bathes the belated effort of the origin and the dawnlike erosion of death in the same neautral light. a practically unbridgeable space. or concerns me. and at the same time escapes my scrutiny. The origin takes on the transparency of the endless. What calls me most radically into question? Not my relation to myself as finite or as the consciousness of being before death or for death. According to Derrida then. It places the origin in contact with death. not the form in which it says what it means). infinite. The Work of Fire. death is the condition of possibility for any community. as I speak. (The Unavowable Community. neither eternity nor man. The traditional directionality of Western thought is inverted. and the perpetually rebegun outside of death. but this distance is also what prevents us from being separated. given to each other through the act of witnessing. in a sense maybe. that nearly imperceptible neither truth nor time. Maurice Blanchot: The Thought from Outside) My speech is a warning that at this very moment death is loose in the world. Without death. Heidegger never attempts to acknowledge sufficiently the act of belief that allows him to say "we" in the first place (Derrida. the new God. only ever knowable by the other. And what language is (not what it means. Death. my thought is taken away from me." it forms an enigma in its absence. I am altered. by the Other’s attraction. The un-relation of thinking and dying is also the form of their relation: not that thinking proceeds toward dying. to take upon myself another's death as the only death that concerns me. which is a "limit-experience" because it exposes the subject to a certain fragility that is unavoidably at once immediate and inaccessible. but my presence in the proximity of another who by dying removes himself definitively. if anything would seem to require an act of true belief it would be atheism. is that softest of voices. everything would sink into absurdity and nothingness. in the gray neutrality that constitutes the essential hiding place of all being and thereby frees the space of the image . 218) Language. in its attentive and forgetful being. because it contains the condition for all understanding. or to a space of figural substitution in which my fantasy is able to play freely. Blanchot's writing is obsessively occupied with the experience of the death of the other. In such events. (The Writing of the Disaster. never solidifies into a penetrable and immobile positivity. They immediately flip sides. this is the only separation that can open me. (Blanchot. in an encounter that does not even occur in the time of my own . at once day and night. with its power of dissimulation that effaces every determinate meaning and even the existence of the speaker. Giving urgency and meaning to language. if that is indeed what language is eager to greet. proceeding thus toward its other. death opens interminably onto the repetition of the beginning. I am no longer able to refer the advent of the other person to my thought of that person. "Faith and Knowledge"). Metaphor gives way to metamorphosis. the Other affects me. 39) Presence is only presence at a distance. 9) he death of the Other is one of those overwhelming events which reverberate throughout L’arrêt de mort [Death Sentence]. and this distance is absolute--that is. what language is in its being. that it has suddenly appeared between me. Friendship. Atheism is precisely the belief in death. Orpheus's murderous forgetting. The pure outside of the origin. this is what puts me beside myself. but not that it proceeds toward its likeness either. It is thus that "as" acquires the impetuousness of its meaning: neither like nor different. are the very being of language. (Foucault. it exists in words as the only way they can have meaning. never sets the limit at which truth would finally begin to take shape. that is. neither other nor same. although carried toward the light by the essential forgetting of language. from the distance of the witness becomes. singularized. Ulysses' wait in chains. Death alone allows me to grasp what I want to attain. "if one only believed in what was believable. the concept of belief itself would disappear. in its very impossibility. and indeed all of Blanchot’s fiction. it is instead the always undone form of the outside. and the being I address: it is there between us as the distance that separates us." (In Derrida's reading. or rather brings them both to light in the flash of their infinite oscillation . and drawn outside of myself. Instead. 323-24) Derrida's emphasis on radical aporia extends to "belief" in this manner: "belief" in its strongest affirmative sense requires that the thing one is believing in remain unbelievable.paratactic simplification and write: "to think: to die. ethics or just relation toward the other.

though . there is the singularity of a glance or a voice that summons me. Just as writing is not a self-sufficient action. Speaking of Mallarmé. and so to cite it merely as support for some "theory" may be another violence toward Blanchot (or at least until several years ago. her youth seemed dazzling: only the very young and healthy can bear such a flood of tears that way. 153-154) Through this contact--an incommunicable intimacy or touch existing.) Something beautiful takes 'place'. That look was very human: I don't mean affectionate or kind.” there is the shock of the Other’s touch. and there is no repose. I wanted to release it. A little later. she looked at me. (But then again. and precisely as she gives. But the tale was not finished. Something enigmatic and yet extremely simple." This hope is touching in its simplicity. it does not open. immediately awoke and said in a cold way. (The disaster. Just as my thinking is sustained by a pensée that exceeds my capacity to think it. It is not the opposite of day--silence. The impersonality and nonintentionality of passion implies. although a willing that does not belong to anything except perhaps this willing itself. Prior to the very constitution of my subjectivity in obsession. Is then the witness in fact the one who dies? With something of a crude finger. but is drawn into and impelled by a broader movement of compulsion. Now it is something different again. That death is incurable.. faced by the silence of the night. . Something without cure. we know only dying.. When the nurse came to talk to me--in a low voice and about nothing important--J. woke up without moving at all--that is. In the night.happens.As I listened without pause to her slight breathing. Something takes place. (Shaviro. Blanchot writes: "If it gets finished (the tale). It seemed to understand me profoundly. I would like to point to a passage that should really not be pointed to in this way. but she seized me again right away with a savage quickness in which there was nothing human. Impotence--that abandon in which the work holds us and where it requires that we descend in the concern for its approach--knows no cure. 118-119) Death always means: the death of the other. almost a confession. But death itself remains unpronounceable. it would have been). so the obsessive repetition that initiates thought is itself exceeded in a moment of contact. The indifference that normally permits communication (as well as violence) is shattered by an even greater indifference. Can this touch even really exist? And yet it does. it does not welcome. The night is not perfect. the tears had dried and the tear stains had disappeared. his words. Far from being spoiled by it.interiority but precedes the constitution of myself as someone capable ot having such an encounter. but let us listen: She had fallen asleep. silence is speech. her awakening and the danger she was still in. Before the unhappy subsistence of the “I." She went back to sleep at once. but engagement with an Other. without being read in the full weight (or full 'lightness') of its context." and yet it may express things better than any theoretical argument ever could. she became severe. in a sense the closest thing to him-self that will have been possible. we are led to believe it is nothing less than an intensely personal act.. or pre-existing 'outside' of language-it is perhaps the other who is granted something like the potentially earth-and-self-shattering power of God.. and her slightly raised lips showed the contraction of her jaw and her tightly clenched teeth. her face wet with tears. only because it is bound up with a yearning or a willing toward a purity it knows to be impossible." (The Space of Literature. "I have my secrets with her too. and gave her a rather mean and suspicious look: her hand moved in mine to free itself. Then for the first time.) It comes from a work of Blanchot's "fiction. While I was still in that state of mind--it must have been about three o'clock--J. I had a thought that came back to me later and in the end won out. since it was neither. but it wasn't cold or marked by the forces of this night. maybe context is not so all-important after all. There the incessant and the uninterrupted reign--not the certainty of death achieved. that is why I found it terribly friendly. the cessation of tasks. her expression changed. not isolation. so in its turn that pensée is generated in the violence and surprise of a happening that it is unable to adequately formulate. At the same time. but not because it is pure. I felt extremely helpless and miserable just because of the miracle that I had brought about. however. but "the eternal torments of Dying. Passion and Excess. by withdrawing. for there is no position. writing as a witness. the writing of this story. Almost under my eyes. The absence that Mallarmé hoped to render pure is not pure. There is a willing for it. her youth made such an extraordinary impression on me that I completely forgot her illness. repose. I shall be cured.

Derrida elaborates: Life can only be light from the moment that it stays dead-living while being freed.The neuter is the experience or passion of a thinking that cannot stop at either opposite without also overcoming the opposition -.. an experience of lightness." and repeated insistently. mediating between a God (the narrator--death)--a God who sees in the other (J. Could it have been written--and can it be read--by someone who hasn't felt these things as well? Blanchot writes of having once been convinced he was about to die." she said.” of the “being without being. without himself being seen-. In a strange way. But the story also lends itself to being read in an opposite direction (and this is part of the performative ambiguity--if such a thing can be said without raising to many eyebrows at once--of the text). which I have all the time in the world to remember now. she lay awake because the danger was too great. neither happiness nor unhappiness (Demeure: Fiction and Testimony.nor: in this way the witness translates the untranslatable demourance. In his reading of Blanchot's récit. had leaned over her and suggested she have another shot. released from itself. Mumia Abu-Jamal. if you will. but without smiling. "you've made a fine mess of things. take a good look at death. But a little later she said to the nurse. consign or countersign the experience of the neuter as ne uter. spoken with a finger. years ago. between literature and the right to death." She looked at me again without smiling at all. and an alertness in that calm. as well as--perhaps?--a real person) occupies an interesting position as a sort of mediator between the narrator and "J. before the firing squad.” etc.” The proof that we have here. and for a death that is not his. She said this in a very tranquil and almost friendly way. Neither. A life without life. as she might have smiled. but I think my expression did not invite a smile. "The Instant of My Death". as I afterwards hoped she had.. not sure whether or not she was asleep. 88-90).” a logic without logic of the “X without X. but she purposefully kept herself at the edge of was at the same time terribly sad. neither-nor by bringing it together.. the logical and textual matrix of Blanchot’s entire corpus." Words. Then she turned slightly towards the nurse and said in a tranquil tone.. currently serving his twenty-second (24) year in solitary confinement (and in support of whose case Derrida wrote. then." The death worn on the witness's or narrator's face can only be seen by a third party or a second witness.) in secret. is passed from the dying to the witness. so to speak. "No more shots. manifesting a calm. One hesitates to read too much. but it would seem an experience that left him forever marked by death. whereby J." . has been given such a "death sentence. The affinities shared by this passage and the meditations on God that are pursued by Derrida in The Gift of Death are striking. is clearly the figure of God ("you've made a fine mess of things")--a God whose omniscience (seeing every secret) with regard to the narrator is a profound comfort. the political prisoner. the thinking as well as the writing of Blanchot. "Well. What proved to me that she was not asleep--though she was unaware of what went on around her because something else held her interest--was that a little later she remembered what had happened nearly an hour before: the nurse.” the thinking of the “X without X” comes to sign. a gift without giving--these are the aporias that Derrida transforms from Blanchot's logic of the 'neuter'.” we could read: “To live without living. like dying without death: writing returns us to these enigmatic propositions. and this story where every act of naming may or may not be quite deliberate. an instance of “without. "Now then. There is of course also a 'weaker' sense in which the phrase "death sentence" may be read. ("Death Sentence") A sentence of death. herself. Even though her eyelids were lowered. in its very passion. no shot this evening. it might just be noted that in Blanchot's story the character of the nurse (if she is a character. although one that is at once "terribly friendly" and "terribly sad." In any case. is that this lightness of “without. the nurse is not unlike a sort of priest.and J. In “A Primitive Scene.neither this nor that. with an exchange of looks. with this testimony and reference to an event. a suggestion which she did not seem to be at all aware of. The witness receives a death sentence. For example. that look did not last very long.” or of the “not” or of the “except. I am convinced that from then on she lay awake. that was very unlike her tension of a short time before. "No." and pointed her finger at me. Besides. or for some other reason. As precisely a sort of entirely banal prohibition against dying--a living death instead of a dying life. He miraculously escaped. much more might be said about this passage. to then-President Bill Clinton).. that is to say. An "alertness in that calm"--isn't this also the "passivity" of which The Writing of the Disaster speaks at such length? A friendship without friendship. This experience draws to itself and endures. But with that worry in mind.

We could appeal to all of Blanchot's texts on the neuter here--the neither-nor that is beyond all dialectic. There remained. nor unhappiness.To presume to pronounce the other's death--is this to exercise the violence of a sovereign. putting to death and putting of death. we would choose one immediately. but this possibility is. the feeling of lightness that I would not know how to translate: freed from life? the infinite opening up? Neither happiness. in an essential. mightn't? Derrida's critical reading of Carl Schmitt in The Politics of Friendship would point away from such a politics. Yet here is a more affirmative response.Let us not forget that the political would precisely be that which thus endlessly binds or opposes the friend--enemy/enemy--friend couple in the drive or decision of death.. we would make that choice. or indeed of any politics--such might even be the definition of injustice. nor even any friendship. the feeling that he was only living because. even in the eyes of the Russians. As if death outside of him could only henceforth collide with the death in him. moreover to justify this power as the condition of possibility for any relation at all to the other. real) dead for one another. even. then: and what if another lovence (in friendship or in love) were bound to an affirmation of life. seems to indicate. you can kill me. Hence we must be patient at the crossroads and endure this undecidable triviality. 122-123) No doubt what then began for the young man was the torment of injustice. in all cases. he belonged to a noble class. we already are (possibly. Nor the absence of fear and perhaps already the step beyond. if not a more positive and more assured one. We were speaking of the political enemy at the beginning of this analysis. Together or one another. In this very place. but I could love in friendship only a mortal at least exposed to so-called violent death--that is. A hypothesis. and this would be phileîn itself) in the step beyond the political. Without it--and this is the thesis and the decision--no decision would be possible. for others. 7-9) This lightness neither frees nor relieves of anything. Derrida writes (and it is well worth reproducing at a little length for the playful echoes of Blanchot's questions and indeed Blanchot's style that appear): One can infer symmetrically that there is no friend without this possibility of killing which establishes a non-natural community.. another politics to love. but also beyond the negative grammar that the word neuter. exposed to being killed. we can kill ourselves. Where Schmitt would affirm the permanent threat of war between sovereign nation-states (annihilation. In this very place? No. it is neither a salvation through freedom nor an opening to the infinite because this passion is without freedom and this death without death is a confirmation of finitude. politeía. neither happiness nor unhappiness." ("The Instant of My Death"." "No. The phileîn beyond the political or another politics for loving. possibly by myself. And by myself. This was war: life for some. Therefore. and so forth? If a choice between these three hypotheses and these three logical chains were simply or clearly possible. To love in love or friendship would always mean: I can kill you.. only in seeking its way (in loving its way." With regard to Schmitt. Not only could I enter into a relationship of friendship only with a mortal. philía. or beyond that political as the horizon of finitude. not an accidental manner. I imagine that this unanalyzable feeling changed what there remained for him of existence. (Demeure: Fiction and Testimony) Taking issue with the formula often attributed to Kafka--"Write to be able to die--Die to be able to write"-Blanchot in "The Work and Death's Space" responds: .. for love (à aimer)? Must one dissociate and associate together differently pólis.(The Politics of Friendship. of course. Derrida would rather dream of something else. precisely. and not only because he sees in Schmitt's analysis a dangerous sanctioning of a certain sanctified or legalized "killing without murder. at the moment when the shooting was no longer but to come. there. ne uter. There we are. The neuter is the experience or passion of a thinking that cannot stop at either opposite without also overcoming the opposition--neither this nor that. in the putting to death or in the stake of death. in lovence itself. to the endless repetition of this affirmation. "I am alive. No more ecstasy. I know. Éros. masculine or feminine. however. as if one could ever justly assume adequate authority over whether the other lives or dies (the implication being that one had then somehow mastered one's own death). you are dead. extending without limit the exigency of the Cold War's logic of "deterrance") as the condition of the political. the cruelty of assassination.

but only the name itself will echo." One way of approaching this enigmatic statement might run more or less like this: if death as such is only knowable or realizable through the experience of watching the other die--of witnessing the other in their absolute mortality from a perspective and necessary distance that they themselves will never know--then this “death” is also in some sense a pronouncement of immortality. Dying is at bottom an impossible contradiction that can never be resolved with any finality.” but. except by forgetting. and then remembered. (The Writing of the Disaster. and "death" becomes only a kind of epithet or slogan hurled at the living. which is at once to reference a time when such a call cannot be answered. 95) In the "brittleness of the unsure. It is a question whose tone has been uniquely and permanently altered by the events of the second World War. the real has already been forgotten." is not a simple question (Lacoue-Labarthe. To be truly responsible. signifying the impossibility of one's own death." 158). In this sense. Following in the steps of Nietzsche. (The Space of Literature. but at the same time it is not true. But in another sense (and there are many--Derrida has quipped in Demeure that “years could be spent on this sentence alone”--which is most convincing coming from him. This explains why no one is linked to death by real certitude. and because it is the deep of dissimulation. returning to the phrase: “Prevented from dying by death itself. Thus to hide from it is in a certain way to hide in it. However. if they avoid confronting it. without our bestirring ourselves at all. might suggest that it is also a question of shame. it is essential to be able to die without in fact dying. "The Echo of the Subject. and in a manner that may finally open beyond either one of them--requires a negotiation of the aporia of dying. The real is fragile.. why do these words--and the experience to which they refer (the inexperience)--escape comprehension? Why this collision of mutually exclusive terms? Why efface them by considering them as a fiction peculiar to some particular author? It is only natural. It is as in order to think authentically upon the certainty of death. and indeed quite possibly it lacks truth altogether. Just how one remains faithful to this infinite demand (and what being "faithful" might mean) without. of friendship. . one placed not unlike invisible quotes on “dying” rather than on death. At least it does not have the kind of truth which we feel in the world. but in any case).. the preoccupation of the writer who writes in order to be able to die is an affront to common sense. in fact--would be violently abridged by the imposition: death. and thus. yes. the brittleness of the unsure. No one doubts death. for one. more than our brain--the very substance and truth of thought itself--were bound to crumble. or rather to the demand placed by the enigma of their disappearance. we had to let thought sink into doubt and inauthenticity. 67) However. (In a sense it is the same everyday imposition of calling someone by their name. it is not certain. above all. the aporia might be said to be placed on dying. It may be a question of an “ethics without redemption.At first glance. then. again.often led to speak in overpraising term. but no one can think of certain death except doubtfully. which is the measure of our action and of our presence in the world. or yet again as if when we strive to think on death. one’s need for a kind of dying--an infinite dying. it will come. Blanchot emphasizes that memory is always a function of forgetting. having no guarantee. also one of lightness. paradoxically. This in itself indicates that if men in general do not thing about death. but this escape is possible only because death itself is perpetual flight before death. What makes me disappear from the world cannot find its guarantee there. if one thinks this sentence with a different emphasis. Freud. in the strongest possible sense of this word--a word that is so important in linking Blanchot and Derrida. Thought cannot welcome that which it bears within itself and which sustains it. and perhaps. as Freud once said. One can never be through responding to the dead.) In other words. Impossible necessary death. It would seem we can be sure of at least one event: it will come without any approach on our part. and perhaps even skipping a mountain peak every now and then (though we could argue about whether he reaches the clouds). That is true. No one is sure of dying. program or prescription--there is in fact no “at bottom” at all. in a way." thought finds its necessity. through the mantric or numbing false comfort of any formula. to die without death--otherwise the ethical demand of death is not addressed. it is doubtless in order to flee death and hide from it. and this is precisely what makes it real. being “unconsciously afraid of the dead and because of this hidden awe.

of course. In the end. to dismiss such phrases as mere "word play" is to miss hearing the serious tone of the game--one refusing to be excused from aporia and contradiction.. and that only the act of confronting death--not merely of facing it or of exposing oneself to its danger (which is the distinguishing feature of heroic courage). even prior to his "early" philosophy. it is perhaps a blinding glare. disappear (or nearly disappear). The phrase. The result was perhaps. weak or strong--is heard." or a day without dawn. "natural death"--could found the sovereignty of masterhood: the mind and its prerogatives. but of entering into its space. (Which is not. if it were not also the greatest burden in the world: how to fail responsibly and in failing. "Prevented from dying by death itself. But there might also be a kind of violence in reducing the enigmatic quality or multiplying expressiveness of such a phrase to a single point. and reforming. a "night without darkness.with style (but not into style). through and through on trial. The Other does not answer. (The Writing of the Disaster." Is this not the self-sacrificial "leap" that is required of 'belief'? Yes. even if the result is always failure. considered that the two deaths were indissociable. every reading might amount to much the same point. for any ethics (as essentiality necessarily devoid of essence). what anybody likes to hear. “prevented from dying by death itself” must finally be read in the light of the camps--where "light" is not a 'lightness' at all. of undergoing it as infinite death and also as mere death. This I without any identity is responsible for him to whom he can give no response.The "I" that is responsible for others. 119) The inessentiality and necessity of dying. is sheer fragility. absurdly. deforming. "Prevented from dying by death itself. 68) . and it may be only too easy to underestimate the power of this dislike. and that the entire subsequent process retained a sort of memory of this halt. and when.) But then as soon as one chooses an approach--a decision that is always in some sense "mad"--so Derrida follows Kierkegaard--one is constantly in danger of letting one’s style seduce and subsume the meaning or obscure the stakes of one’s intervention.. this I must answer in an interrogation where no question is put. can only be approached by first acknowledging the impossibility of doing so. he is a question directed to others from whom no answer can be expected either. the I bereft of selfhood. In fact there is no avoiding this obscurity. (The Writing of the Disaster. the experience of death--stopped it right away. because the inability of language to express the full weight of such a point is also part of the point. There might be a kind of relief in this. there is still genuine risk. let us remember the earliest Hegel. He too." This sentence plays on the many readings made possible depending on which language--general or restricted. If in fact every interpretation cannot help but transform what it interprets. To fail so that in failing. as if of an aporia which always had still to be accounted for. That is. that the experience which initiates the movement of the dialectic--the experience which none experiences. then one is still responsible for how one goes about transforming. but only degrees of patience.

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