File spoon-archives/blanchot.archive/blanchot_1997/blanchot.9706, message 32

Date: Mon, 30 Jun 1997 18:11:10 +0100
Subject: MB: re: Blanchot Before and After

>The work is "ended" by the reader, but I hesitate, in fact I refuse, to 
>call it "completion."  I would say, rather, that when the work meets 
>the reader, it has gone as far as it  possibly can in its "original" 
>form -- the form in which it "began." Blanchot says that the distance, 
>or "distancing," which "dispossesses" the writer, "takes the form of 
>the reading" (p. 200).  That is to say that the act of reading itself, 
>and not its consequences, constitutes the completion of the work; but 
>the consequences of this act of reading (all that comes from 
>interpretation, which is the next step after reading) alter the work, 
>strip it of its original form.  Now the idea of this original form can 
>only be held in that it is a "given," for the reader holds such a power 
>that s/he can, in his/her _total absence_, alter the work even before 
>receiving it.

The work is not "ended" by reading, the work never ends. "Completion", 
occuring in reading, has the work come to rest (but not as inactivity), 
in a space created by the work and the reader, by virtue of the writer. 
This is the 'originary', never complete, irrepeatable moment. The work 
becomes in reading, it is not a matter of alteration since that would 
imply a finality which occurs before the work is read. A work is not a 
work until it is read.
I cannot agree with your interesting dualism of "weakness"=reader and 
"strength"=writer. I think it is not the case that there is any 
hierarchy in Blanchot regarding the two. The writer must experience 
death as writer to be a reader, the writer is not the reader in the 
work, but in order to read the work, the work must be read by the 
>literary writing is not to communicate meaning, but to "glorify" or
>crystallize or preserve in a glorious form moments of being (becoming)
>that are a testament to the life lived.  The writer's work only ends
>with death because, for the writer, life should not be something that
>unfolds gradually, while never unfolding its meaning, except when it is
>too late, but rather something that lights up and reveals its essence 
>--Meaning is being, '...we are in the element of meaning' (Jean-Luc Nancy, 
'The Gravity of Thought', p.61) Meaning exceeds signification in the 
openness and exposure of ourselves to ourselves as experience. Reading 
does not engage in an act of sovereignty over the work, in a search for 
completion, but in the experience of reading, meaning is experienced. 
Meaning which is not closed, finalised or accomplished, but experienced 
at the limit where meaning communicates itself as the experience of our 

>What the reader _is_ aware of, though, is the difficulty or obscurity 
>the work, set against the idea of or hope for clarity.  The extent to
>which a work is more or less obscure is a gauge of the level of
>influence of the "archi-interpretive" action: a "clear" writer, whose
>"meanings" are easily perceived, is one whose anxiety concerning the
>realization of his/her effect has led to the detouring of that effect
>through the road of communication of a meaning, one who has felt the
>_presence of the absent reader/desire for completion of the work_ most
>oppressively; an obscure or difficult writer, who has utilized his/her
>words more fully in the cause of the desired effect, is one who was 
>most absorbed by the process of the work, the movement of becoming of 
>the effect; and who perhaps relinquished the work to its "completion" 
>most reluctantly.

I cannot agree that obscurity in the work is an act of will in the 
writer. Obscurity, which is not necessarily difficulty, is the call of 
the work. It is heard before and after signification as that which 
exceeds understanding, but which can be heard and known, but not 
explained or interpreted as such. Obscurity, remaining within the realm 
of obscurity, is an exposure to meaning which is beyond definition. The 
difficulty of a work, I believe, rests within the the system of 
signification. A work of 'difficulty' waits for the ideal reader. 
Obscurity is the secret which the writer, the work and the reader share.
I think you give the work of the writer too much intention, as if the 
writer plans to produce the work before it is produced. The work becomes 
work for the author and for the reader at a distance from the activity 
involved in both instances.

Irene Hossack Sime


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