Anxiety and Writing

Dr William Large

Kierkegaard tells us of a fairy story where a youth goes on a journey in order to find dread or fear.[1] Was he successful we do not know, but everyone, Kierkegaard adds, must go on this journey, whether to find dread or be crushed by it: ‘he who has learned rightly to be in dread has learned the most important thing’ [139]. For it is only dread which defines us as human beings. Neither animals nor angels could experience dread: ‘the greater the dread, the greater the man’ [139]. However, and this is the most important matter, this dread which defines our very humanity is not to be understood in the normal way. It is not dread or fear of something in the outside world. This is why the youth in Grimm’s fairy tale does not have to go on a journey to find it. Dread is not something that we encounter outside of ourselves, rather it is we ourselves who produce it in our innermost being. This why I can live in dread or anxiety, though there is nothing at all outside of me which is dreadful or fearful. The question then becomes what is it that causes me to feel anxiety? Kierkegaard answers ‘dread is the possibility of freedom’ [139]. Why would freedom be something dreadful? Isn’t freedom something that we desire and treasure? Do we not pity those who have no freedom? But this freedom is the ‘freedom of the finite’; that is, the freedom to choose this or that thing, or this or that person to satisfy our desires and needs. The freedom of which Kierkegaard speaks is not the freedom of consumption but the freedom of existence. What I am choosing is not this or that thing, but myself. How can I choose myself. Am I not something given, something empty, am I not just what I am? Only from the outside, only from the view of a third person, but as such I am only a finite freedom which I have internalised and substituted for my infinite freedom. The fact is that I must choose myself, not as a limited existence chosen by another to satisfy their needs or desires, but as a totality. If I refuse to chose myself, by immersing myself in my desires and needs, such that I almost become indistinguishable from them and just become a desired thing, I have chosen not to choose, I have fled from this choice. Many of us do so, for to face the infinite freedom of being oneself is precisely what produces dread in us, a pitiless judge from which it is impossible to escape.

Finite freedom is the freedom of the actual, infinite freedom the freedom of the possible. I constrain my existence by actualities. I say to myself I will be this or that person. I limit myself by the actualities that surround me, but in fact my existence is radically open. It is this openness which is the hardest to bear, for it is the openness of the pure possibility, what has not been actualised, and therefore, in relation to the world of actuality, is quite literally nothing. It is this nothing, at the heart of my very existence, which fills me with dread. Possibility is not to be understood as luck, chance or good fortune, as when someone says, on a happy day, that they think anything might be possible, for the possibilities they are thinking of, winning the lottery, falling love, getting a good job, are all actualities in this world, banal and commonplace. Rather what Kierkegaard means is that in infinite freedom ‘everything is possible’ [140]., not this or that possibility in life, but my whole life as such has become a possibility, and one that can be torn away and annihilated. In relation to this, actuality and reality, the screen we create in order not to see our lives as a whole, which can disappear in the instance, is something easy and light to bear. One never learns anything from reality, because in the end one has not risked one’s life for it, whether one is a great or little person. On the contrary, one has become it by acquiescing to it, and one can always, Kierkegaard points out, stand a little apart from one’s career or social role. No one only learns from one’s actual existence, but only when this existence, as possibility, has robbed one of all the certainties of one's actual existence. Thus, the paradox that one only learns when the power to learn has been completely vanquished, because the I no longer has anything in which to recognise itself.

To learn from the possible, therefore, cannot be meant in the normal sense of education when I say that I learn from this or that event in my life, or this or that person; rather, the only relation to the possible is faith. When this happens every finite freedom is transformed by the ‘form of infinity’ [141], and at the same time my ‘individuality’, which is the individuality that is perceived from the outside, my social role, my function in live, disappears, as though in being thrown back upon myself, I discover to my horror that there is nothing there at all. This feeling of abandonment can only be saved by faith, otherwise I would fall into madness and despair.

It is true, Kierkegaard adds, that many people say that they have never felt dread, but usually what they are speaking about is the dread or fear, or they confuse dread and fear, about someone or something thing, but not about the possibility which is the whole of their lives. Perhaps because they are so comfortable, so involved, with their actuality, that possibility as such is not a question for them. These people, Kierkegaard says, are truly ‘spirit-less’ [141]. What he means by this is that they have no faith, or they only have a finite faith, a faith in the world that good things might come to them, and everything is well. The man of infinite faith knows immediately that all these are ‘evasions’, and not one thing or person in the world can answer the question of possibility which is not about this or that thing, this or that person, who might be answer to reality (oh if only I had this possession, or if only I were loved, then everything would be alright), but never the answer to the infinite possibility which is my life.

In reality, I can sink as far as I like, but I could always sink further, but to sink into possibility is to have nothing at all from the very start. It is to lose all foundations and orientation from the beginning. If I imagine my life as a reality, then I am imagining things and people in my life. If I wanted to depress myself, then I could imagine them disappearing one by one. But there is also something very comforting about this picture, for in reality I know that they are not going to disappear, and even in disappearing they reveal the secure and common stage points of my life. But if I imagine my life as a possibility before all these things and persons that surround me, then I am immediately lost, for everything that gives me a sense of direction and purpose has vanished. It is as though I were disappearing down an infinite vortex without beginning or end. And yet precisely because of this terror and horror, which is really the terror and horror that comes from the actual and not the possible, I become light and buoyant. Why? Because I realise that, in the end, none of these things matter, my attachments and involvements, and that they are merely suspended above an absence. From the viewpoint of actuality, this is terrible, because in immersing myself in things and people, I have given myself the false security of becoming a thing myself, that I really am this person that people tell me that I am, that all the things that I own and possess are really a fortress that I can surround myself by. From the side of possibility, however, this is almost a feeling of joy and liberation (a strange joy since it is to expose oneself, as Kierkegaard warns not to dissolution and depravity, but to ‘self-slaughter’) that I am not trapped by any of this precisely because they are suspended above an absence. It is this liberation from actuality that Kierkegaard calls faith. In the absence of this faith, then I am lost, because faith, subjectively, replaces what has been lost objectively. Dread frees us from the world of actuality, faith restores the world through the possible, through the infinity of the possible. I might still have my beautiful wife and house, but now they have been transformed by the ‘form of infinity’, as though in a different light of another sun. I experience, Kierkegaard says, ‘everything more perfectly, more precisely, more profoundly’, even if it is only the experience of the partridge bursting upwards into the sky on the Jutland heath, than any great man or genius with their great plans and events, could if they were not educated by the possible [143].

      For Heidegger, anxiety is the most distinctive mood of human beings.[2] The reason for this is that anxiety is the only mood, unlike fear or anger, for example, which forces human beings to look at their lives as a whole, rather than one or other aspect of this life. I am angry about this or that, this person, thing, or event that has befallen me, but not my life as a totality. Generally, Heidegger would, argue we are completely absorbed in our everyday lives. I am involved in this or that project. Buying a sandwich or developing a cure for cancer. This is involvement with things and persons, Heidegger calls 'falling' [229]. He does not mean any moral or religious, though the expression is borrowed from religion, censure by this term. 'Falling' just describes the way that we are in the world, absorbed by things and persons. Just because we absorbed in our everyday lives, however wonderful or mundane that they are, means, however, that our own being, the meaning and significance of our lives as a whole, is completely obscured from us. Nonetheless, we can turn this relation completely around. It is not that we are absorbed in the world that cause us to forget ourselves, rather we want to forget ourselves so we absorb ourselves in the world. We busy ourselves with our job, family and hobbies just so we don't have to think about ourselves. And yet for all this business, precisely because it is caused by forgetting ourselves, means that the question of the meaning of our lives as a whole,  hovers around the edge of our everyday activities; we have to continually repress it, but it keeps coming back.

      Anxiety must be clearly distinguished from fear. When I am afraid, I am afraid of something or some person in the world, and I try and flee from it if I can. But anxiety is quite different from that. In anxiety I not afraid of this or that thing, or this or that person, rather it is I that I want to escape, and instead of this causing me to flee from things and persons in the world it has precisely the opposite effect. When I am anxious I fling myself at things and persons so that I can forget myself. When I say that what I am anxious of in anxiety is myself, we should not confuse this self with a thing or a person. 'A thing or a person' is something in the world, which I can encounter or avoid, but my 'self' is not something I can encounter or avoid. I am irredeemably attached to it. My self expresses who I am, what Heidegger would call my Being (Sein) as opposes to a being (das Seinendes). Precisely because, however, in anxiety I am not anxious about this or that thing, or this or that being, but about my being as a whole, then the object of anxiety is indefinite and vague. This is part of the horror and terror of anxiety, its non-specific nature and mood.

Because I am not anxious about this or that person or thing, the everyday world of my involvements begins to lose significance for me. ‘The world,’ Heidegger writes, ‘has the character of completely lacking significance’ [231]. Thus anxiety comes from ‘nowhere’ and ‘nothing’. It is a mood that engulfs me, but I can’t really say what causes it or makes it happen, such that if someone where to ask me what it is that I am anxious about, I would not really be able to respond to them. Even though it doesn’t seem to come from anywhere, nonetheless it still oppresses me and weighs me down.

What, however, is this ‚nowhere' and ‚nothing’? It is not ‘nowhere’ and ‘nothing’, if one means by these words simply the not being there of something or some person. It is true that no one thing or person is making me feel anxious, but this does mean that there isn’t anything there at all. For strangely what anxiety reveals, or makes manifest to use Heidegger’s way of talking, is the presence of the nothing and nowhere as they are in themselves. It is though, in anxiety I experience nothingness and absence, as nothingness and absence, rather than as the absence or non-appearance of some particular thing or person. If were to imagine the world as a whole, our world, the world we live and work in, and then if we were to take this world, and subtract every thing and person it so that we would be left with no thing or person, then we would experience nothingness itself, but this nothingness would not just be the absence of things or persons, but it would be the world that is leftover from this subtraction. Nothingness, absence, refers to the world as a whole, and to some thing or person in the world. Anxiety detaches me from my attachment to people and things, and in so doing reveals the world that these attachments are suspended in, but in so doing it reveals that my world is nothing. It is from this that I flee in my attachments. I do not want to know that my world is nothing, so I confuse the world with persons and things that are in it.

What is the world which is revealed as nothing in my anxiety? It is not something, for it is the possibility of my relation to some thing or person. Rather the world is my being. So what I am fleeing from in anxiety is my own being. I am not anxious about this or that possibility of in the world; rather, I am anxious of the whole of my existence which constitutes this world. Anxiety, therefore allows me to see myself as myself, not as something in the world, but that from which relationships to things and persons in the world flow. I am the source of my world; without me my world would not exist. Heidegger says that what anxiety does is ‘individualises me’. It makes me realise that my world can only be understood on my own terms, and not through how others talk about it, so to speak, from the outside. What anxiety reveals is that I ought to be myself. This is what Heidegger means by freedom. I am free to be myself, which means I am free to choose myself. But I flee from this freedom because it makes me uncomfortable, because it is a freedom that rests on nothing and no-one. It is much easier to understand myself in how others speak about themselves and me in the everyday attachment to and involvement in things and persons in the world. Rather than understand myself as myself, I see myself in terms of the social roles that I occupy. I am a ‘teacher’, a ‘student’, a ‘man’, a ‘woman’ and so on; roles which I feel comfortable and at ease with: being anxious means to be uneasy with oneself, ‘not-at-home’ in the world.

Writing cannot be a project like any other, Blanchot says in ‘From Dread to Language’.[3] Rather than being a project it is the undoing of any action, teleology or desire. I cannot say to myself I will be a writer, when writing itself undoes my subjectivity, destroys me, and leaves me bereft of any initiative and principle to act. To counteract this destructive power, the writer turns dread into a reason to write, but precisely in doing so makes the work impossible. It falls back into itself and becomes completely self-sufficient. There is no longer anything attached to dread, no action in the external world. In the very moment, however, that it collapses into itself, like a star disintegrating into a black hole, it finds its way back to an outside into a new creative act. But the writer knows now that the work is always surrounded by the possibility of failure: ‘work is temporally possible in the impossibility that weighs it down’ [350].

The writer must have a project, dread must have its object, even though its makes its complete fulfilment impossible. But because this project is governed by dread, rather than by success, she is tempted into all kinds of crazy ambitions. Like writing a book which is completely ‘meaningless’, where language itself, stripped of common sense and realism, is justification enough for the work. Or she, like Lautréamont, decides to complete shut herself off from the work, and in so doing also shuts off the reader, so that it stands perfectly alone and impervious. Or the writer decides to destroy, like Kafka, everything that they have written. But do you have to destroy the work, when having written it you have complete destroyed the reader, the first of which would be yourself? Thus one can abolish the possibility of reading, whilst retaining the possibility of writing: to write not in order to give meaning, but to take it away, to subtract it. To such an extent that even the writer no longer knows what it means, even though she had written it with all strength and imagination: ‘Any banal sentence attests to the despair that exists in the depths of language’ [351].

What none of these choices are governed by is the distinction between success and failure that governs the actual world. This is not just a question of ambiguity, where we might say that the work is both nonsense and sense, intelligible and non-intelligible. But such an intention is not part of the work of a writer who is completely seized by dread. I can give as many readings of a poem as I like, but this multiplicity in no way threatens the intelligibility of the work for me. Rather than being the origin of the enigmatic quality of writing, I have to be taken over or engulfed by it. I have to become an enigma to myself, and let the enigma remain in the dark rather than miraculously transforming it into a thought or the idea of an enigma. Not to intend an enigma, but to let the enigma ruin my intention.

What is ambiguous reveals itself in not revealing itself, but in the revelation it is still possible to glimpse the truth of what is not there, of an outside that ‘has no other meaning that that of being absolutely outside of me’ [353]. Dread is part of this feeling of ambiguity, but it feels it as something that tears it apart; it isn’t just the thought of it. It keeps the multiple meanings that ambiguity holds opens, but strips it of any possibility of truth. In this sense, we can say that dread does not reveal anything all, as no ultimate truth or meaning to give me, or allow me to speak. Dread breaks my bonds with others, but it also destroys my own individuality. It breaks by ability to communicate, but permits me only to communicate this rupture.

I write not in order to achieve anything, but I do this with absolute seriousness and concentration. I do not write to express any absolute truth, not even the truth of dread, though I would not be able to write without the demands it makes upon me. I think that it is possible to communicate the torments within in me, just as I communicate any other thought, belief or feeling that I have, but there is nothing to communicate in dread; its pure surface without depth. One says ‘I am full of dread’, and that is it; there isn’t anything more to be said, because there is nothing more that can be said.

Writing is impossible. Of course it is possible to write a sentence just to mean what it says, but the writing of literature is impossible, for it is not something that is realisable. If it were, literature would disappear overnight. I write in order not to write, but since not writing is not possible, I still write. I write in order to write the most perfect sentence, but since that is not possible, I can continue to write. It is not because I am unhappy that I write, or writing makes me unhappy, but the impossibility of writing. What is particularly awful about dread is that I have nothing to say about it, and it has nothing to say to me. Nonetheless it doesn’t allow me to write anything at all. It is very serious to write in the demand of the impossibility of writing, such that I know that everything I will write will be a failure.

I can say to myself that I will write anything at all that comes into my mind (Blanchot might have in mind the technique of ‘automatic writing’, which has always fascinated him, which the Surrealists employed) but I have to take this as seriously as any other kind of writing, ‘the same search for language, the same cumbersome and useless effort as the act of writing’ [356]. One can either write through chance, or rationally, but it is much harder to write rationally as though through chance, so as to allow reason to follows the ‘absence of rules’ [356]. There is something disingenuous about automatic writing, for this abandonment to language is the normal way in which we write and communicate in the world without thought and reflection. Writing that is filled with dread is quite the opposite. It is to take chance and actually deliberate about it, rather than to lose oneself in it. To make of oneself chance, but to be conscious of it, even if the rule that I create is as arbitrary as the throw of a dice.

In writing, it seems that the words come from an immense reservoir of ordinary usage, and the temptation is to come up with novel and exciting effects, as though to create a new law, form, of writing, were about being original and novel. It is the ordinariness of language that we find the greatest adherence to dread. Think of the pages of Kafka's novel and stories, where the strangest of experiences is described in the most deadpan and ordinary language. To write is not to be flashy or new on purpose, but actually to listen to this language that comes from outside of oneself, but it almost exactly the same as the matter of fact. In reading I am ‘connected’ to this common language, but as something that is between me and dread. But in writing in writing I must push this common language towards dread to the point at which what is most ordinary becomes what is most strange and unfamiliar.

Every word has a meaning, is the expression of an idea and a thought, but every word is also the absence of meaning, as a ‘physical reality’ where ‘images signify themselves as images’ and what the word expresses is not just this thought, but the ‘thought of other thoughts’[358]. ‘Cat’ no longer signifies cat, but a whole series of different thoughts which each in turn signify a whole new series, and so on infinitely. The writer then seems to express what meaning is to the fullest extent. What she writes is overflowing with meaning, but precisely at this point, just because there is so much meaning, there is no meaning at all. One can no longer say what the word means; or one can only say what it means by preventing it from meaning, by cutting down the ‘thought of other thoughts’ and insisting that after all the word ‘cat’ does just mean cat, and nothing else.

Thomas is reading in his room.[4] He concentrates while he reads, his hand pressed against his forehead. Others come into his room, but he does not notice them, because he is concentrating so much on what he reads. They believe that he is only ‘pretending’ to read, because for all this time he has only been reading the same page. Yet in reality he is reading with absolute seriousness, not just reading each word, but each letter like a male praying mantis about to be devoured by a female (this image is beloved of the surrealists). It is the words on the page that are the female praying mantis (in French the praying mantis is called le mante religieuse), and Thomas the male. He is in a position of passivity, as though the book were just about to devour him, and not he the book. Yet even though reading this book was now a matter of ‘life and death’ [une puissance mortelle], there was something pleasurable and gentle about the experience. The book looks back at him, as he reads it. The words are like half-opened eyes on the page which return his glance as it wanders over it, as though he were captured in their look, and not them in his, and he seems himself in their eyes. This experience was so pleasurable that it actually tipped over to the other side, such that within it was also the feeling of ‘terror’ [effroi], because, caught in the gaze of the words, he felt that there was no reciprocity or interchange. It was not just the one word on the page that was looking at him, but all the words that were contained in this word, like a infinite chain of words whose beginning and end he could not perceive or grasp with any one thought, since each one of these words, in this infinite chain, also had an endless procession of words, from either side, coming from it. The gaze of one word on the page was the infinity of language looking back upon him, ‘like a procession of angels opening out onto the infinite to the very eye of the absolute’ [67]. Rather than he possessing the words on the page, though he thinks of himself as a ‘profound reader’, it is the words that possesses and take charge of him. He is trapped in the gaze of the words, and not the words by him. The words read him, and not he the words. For the very ‘being’ [être] of the words only comes from him. The words are like animals that bites into the reader, and the only life and animation that they have comes from the life of the reader. In themselves, words are ‘anonymous’ and nameless. The only ‘personality’ they have is from the personality of the reader. They capture the life of the reader in order to become living themselves to such a degree that the word ‘eye’ substitutes for the real one, replaces and supplants it, and Thomas has become the book itself, the books that is looking at and watching him, rather than he looking and watching it. It is as though the words themselves had taken control, as though they were devouring his very insides, rather than he thinking and contemplating them, turning words into thoughts and ideas.

The book becomes a strange, terrible and unrecognisable object. It is ‘rotting on the table’ [pourrissait sur la table] [68]. The room itself has become unnerving. It is night time. Light falls through the shutters, cutting the bed into two, and making the room so alien that it no longer seems to be appropriate for any object to be there. There is no one in the room, and he falls into complete solitude, so much so that he feels that the world itself is as empty of people, as the room he is in. Yet in this total absence, nonetheless he does feel that there is somebody there. Who is this person? They are not just inside the room, but inside him, inside his very dreams. He sits up in the middle of this room, darker than the darkest night. He tries to make some light (where has the light gone from the shutters?), but he cannot see a thing. It is so dark that nothing in his room seems to have any shape of form; he cannot recognise anything. They might as well not be there. He is combat with this strange presence that has invading his very being, yet he does not who or what it was.

Having struggled with this being all night and day, he suddenly becomes aware that the first has been replaced by a second presence. But perhaps ‘presence’ is the wrong word, for it was the presence of an absence, a void, a second absence or void, as though one could speak of an absence or void having a different kinds of presence. It is inside this absence or void that he comes to life, in which he find his own presence, a presence within an absence or void. He wanted to flee from this absence, but since it was part of him, or better, he had been replaced or substituted by it, where could he flee to, could he flee from the ‘not self’ that he had become? He throws himself in the corridor in the mistaken belief that he could escape this being, but in so doing he just feels that it is getting closer, so he returns to the room that he has been trapped in all day and night, and ‘barricades’ himself there, as though this terrible being were lying in wait outside his door. He waits there. He does not know how long he waits. He feels closer and closer to this absence which seems to be approaching him infinitely slowly, his back to the wall of the room. Every instant of every second, it was about to seize him, but every instant, by the smallest amount of time imaginable, he was just ahead of it, as though it were pressed against in him space, but outside of time. ‘A sort of Thomas’ (what is the Thomas, who is he, can we call it a 'he' at all) leaves his body and goes out ahead of this terrible presence in time, in a moment of time that did not yet exist. This other Thomas reaches out to it as it both withdraws and pulls him along in this withdrawal, and yet at the same time, appeared to be unbearably close to him, as though he might feel its breath against his neck. He falls to the ground, breathing, coughing in this evil [mal] [69], crawls under his bed, and lies in the dust. Laying there he suddenly feels himself bitten by a word that has taken on the form of a ‘giant rat’. He wants to devour this word, to take it inside himself, to make it part of himself. Has this dark presence inside and outside his room all along been the words that were staring at him as he looked at the page in the book, whose exteriority had become his interiority? He eviscerates it with his finger nails. Night falls, the light from the shutters disappears abruptly. The beast tears at his face and eyes trying to force itself inside of him. If he had looked human at all, anyone watching him would have said that he was mad. But he no longer looked human. He is soiled by the word ‘innocence’. He is disembowelled by all these words. If someone had come into the room they would have thought that he was asleep, but in fact he had never been more awake.

In the middle of the second night of the struggle, Thomas goes down stairs. He sees a cat that follows him. The cat goes into a tunnel. It meows trapped and frightened; the noise takes on a being of its own. It addresses the night. ‘What have I become? The “spirit” [l'esprit] that I was, that enjoyed the world, that had a place in the world, that was closest to my own being, has disappeared.’ Just like Thomas, the cat also experiences the void which surrounds it. It would fall but there is nothing to fall from or to fall in. The voice, the thought separate from the one who normal speaks, and turns against the thinker and the speaker, as though what was most intimate has become what is most alien and troubling, intimacy a pure outside, more outside than any reality had ever been. ‘I am the night of the night’ [je suis la nuit de la nuit] [72]. My innermost being has become what used to be my the outside, but this new outside is much worse, darker and foreboding than the previous one, because now it is impossible to distinguish the inside from the outside since my own inner life has begun to dissolve and collapse: the foundations on which all used to exist, the truth of reality, no longer exists; there is only shifting sand and desert. ‘I am dead, I am dead’ (the famous words uttered by the Vladimir in Edgar Allan Poe's story, the man who is dead but who is brought back to live as a dead man, who speaks with a voice beyond the grave[w1] ).

Thomas is digging in the dirt. Is he trying to save the cat? Or is he digging his own grave. He flings himself into the grave with a stone around his neck, but strikes against a body which is ‘thousand times harder’ than his. It is the body of the gravedigger who had dug the grave previously. The grave was exactly the same shape and size of his dead body, as though he was attempting to bury his dead body inside another dead body. Every grave or tomb that he might place this dead body was already filled with another dead body as its substitute and replacement. Was the other dead body the real death which he could not die, as the man who hangs himself, hopes in the last breath to catch sight of his death cannot do so because he is already dead? I cannot die my own death. My own death is that which is most not my own, most out of my grasp and reach, though it seems what is most personal to me, as though what were personal and impersonal were the same, almost identical. He is dead but rejected from death. In death we are all deprived of death because we cannot experience it or understand what it might be. We cannot be ourselves in death: the one who dies it not me. I am extinguished in the moment of death. He wakes, suffocated, crushed, tasting the dirt in his mouth, between life and death, neither alive nor dead. Like Lazarus he walks in the cold light of the sun, wrapped in bandages. What if what was resurrected was not life, but death, as though death itself could live in a human body, could walk and talk, speak and be spoken to?

Anne sees him. But what does she see? He is inevitable; that is, he has always been coming, straight as die, across the sea, the sky, the forest, straight to her. Escape is impossible, for everywhere she might turn he is already there, standing next to her. She enveloped by his feeling for her, insensitive and calm, perhaps even indifferent to her presence. She has her being in his feeling for her. What if my reality, hard or diaphanous, was not created in my thoughts, but in the thoughts of others, in the relation of others to me, and what if I could not see myself in their gaze? What if their gaze turned against me, shattered and destroyed my existence. As if I could see my own death, which is not my own any more, in the indifference of the other person to me. Each day the same is repeated again and again, the same death, and he stands motionless, a corpse, by her side.

That day she ‘walks before Thomas’, leading him to a small wood nearby. Those who were looking from the outside would think him receding, or motionless. Three-quarters dead, any person that he touches dies, through contact with the death and nothingness which he has become. Their lives disappear through a tiny hole their foreheads when he looks at them. The only one who resists is Anne, even though she is dead. From the shards of her shattered existence she collects an image of herself which almost resembles herself. ‘She changed without ceasing to be Anne. She was Anne, having no longer the slightest resemblance to Anne’ [78]. As a spider, he sees her walking towards him, on eight great legs, delicate and quick. She reaches him and rears up, and he looks behind himself with sadness and pain. What does he want? Does he know? He sees the strange landscape around him, the rotting trees, and cold sun. He looks into her eyes and sees a ‘flame’ there, and asks "'it’s you?"', and she feels that she is becoming herself again.

[1] Søren Kierkegaard, ‘Dread as a Saving Experience by Means of Faith’ in The Concept of Dread

[2] Martin Heidegger ‘Anxiety’ in Being and Time pp.228-35.

[3] The Station Hill Blanchot Reader: Fiction and Literary Essays (New York, Station Hill Press, Inc., 1999) 343-58

[4] ‘Thomas the Obscure’ in The Station Hill Blanchot Reader, 67-79.

 [w1]Find this reference to the Poe story

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