File spoon-archives/blanchot.archive/blanchot_1999/blanchot.9906, message 8

Date: Fri, 4 Jun 1999 10:53:26 -0400
Subject: Re: MB: Une =?iso-8859-1?Q?pr=E9sentation?= , un malaise et une 

I'm not sure I understand all that Nosfe is saying, but it's certainly the
case that the translations of Blanchot are inadequate; a lot of that is the
impossibility of translating Blanchot into English, an issue that I talk
about a little bit in my foreword to Thomas Wall's book; some of that I
agree comes from the geneaology of interest in Blanchot in the U.S.  People
who cut their teeth on Derrida learned to be interested in the relation of
philosophical and literary writing to (let's call it ontological) scandal,
so that Blanchot's gravity risks getting lost in hyperbolic diction in
English translation, a diction that might be associated with Derrida.
Among the most influential of interpreters of Blanchot in English,
especially for his enemies, has been Jeffrey Mehlman, a Derridean who
rather specializes in being scandalizing.  Thus, alas, Omer Bartov, a
historian specializing in French military history and Israeli politics, but
with no knowledge of or sensitivity to literature or philosophy or
Blanchot, amswers a very sober letter by Leslie Hill in the TLS with an
approving citation of Mehlman's article on "Blanchot at Combat," as though
that odd piece (of which Blanchot himself says mildly enough that "il est
cair que l'ecrit de Mehlman, redige plus inconsiderement que mechamment a
fait meme ici des ravages") had any real authority.

It's not clear to me what's wrong with loving L'arret de mort, or with
loving any of Blanchot.  It seems to me that the problem with theoretically
informed Anglo-American criticism is its implicit claim to being above
love.  Well, I certainly love Blanchot, and find that the best way to look
for a way to describe that love is in Blanchot.  The important thing to
remember is that love is the beginning, and not the end, of thinking.  It's
not just a matter of declaring a preference, but of living with it in
thought and in writing and in conversation.

I think that's what Wall's book does, and Steven Shaviro's, and Joseph
Libertson's, to add to Nosfe's citations; but it's a very rare thing indeed
in English.  It seems to me that Lydia Davis does love Blanchot, and that
her translations work hardest at attempting to translate the
untranslatable.  The worst are by Alan Stoekl and by Sacha someone, who did
the translations collected in the Josipovici volume The Siren's Song, and
which gave rise to a bunch of idiocy in the UK when John Sturrock wrote a
silly dismissive review of Blanchot (also highly reliant on Mehlman--on a
French translation of Mehlman which Mehlman himself disavowed!) in the
London Review of Books.

William Flesch


Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005