The Other Death: Language, Writing and Dread

Dr William Large

We have no idea of the inner life of Thomas. We are presented immediately with his situation. He is sitting near the sea. But this is not the beach that he normally swims at. This beach is surrounded by fog. Whilst Thomas is sitting on the shore, a powerful wave comes up to him. He goes into the sea, but it is not as though he is in control (is he usually in control in his normal location?). It is as though the sea attracts him, but only attracts him because it is bathed in the spectral light caused by the fog and clouds. And yet it is only this light which seems real to him, though everything in this light has lost its permanence and solidity. It is not he that enters the sea, but the sea that enters him, takes control of him, but not in a violent and threatening way, as though he might drown, but it grasps him in its ‘current’ and bears him a long, such that the effort of swimming is quite useless. It precisely because of the light, which drapes everything in its hazy glow, that he cannot see anything to aim at, and therefore has no reason to act or make a decision. Rather than the water, the beach, or the people (already anonymous as mere ‘bodies floating with difficulty [55]) surrounding him, there is only a sensation of a ‘void’ [le vide], as though the whole world had disappeared. Suddenly, the peace, if one might call it that, since it is a peace that resembles the grave, is shattered by a storm, which tears the fog open like a curtain, and turns the sky upside down. This violence is accompanied by silence and calm, as though ‘everything was already destroyed’ [56]. In this storm, the water (but he is not even sure that it is water) invades him, and fills his mouth. Yet it does not taste of normal seawater; rather than salty it is sweet. He has not only lost his eyesight, but even his ability to taste. It is not only the sea, the beach, and the people that have become ‘foreign’ to him, but even his own body, as though it were someone else’s body, anonymous and unknown, just as strange as the water that he is floating in. The loss of himself is not immediately frightening. Instead it is quite pleasurable. In losing his sense of his surroundings and himself, it is as though he as become one with the sea. Not through identifying or recognising it, but through a union which is beyond perception and thought. By losing himself, he becomes one with the sea, the waves and the wind, but only because the sea has also lost itself, unrecognisable, no longer even the sea, if the word ‘sea’ names a thing. What the sea has become is the void [le vide] itself, such that even though the real sea was drowning him, he had almost forgotten about it, so lost was he is this other sea, the ‘ideal’ [idéale] one. There was something stupid about the situation, but also he had the feeling that he had found what he was looking for ‘continuing his endless journey, with an absence of organism in an absence of sea’. [56]

This ‘illusion’, however, is not to last. He is given his body back. He feels his body, and the water that holds him up, or is at the point of drowning him. He must do something. He is called to action. But having lost the boundary between himself and the sea, what was he do, when his arm itself had become a wave, and to drown would be to drown in himself? In him a ‘hope remains’, so that through swimming a new possibility arrives. He becomes a ‘monster without fins’. Not a human body, but like a single cell amoeba struggling in a ‘single drop of water’, vibrating this way and that. In this drop, he falls into this ‘place’ [un lieu] (is this real, imaginary, do we any longer no the difference?), which is described as ‘holy’ [sacré]. It is enough to be in this place for him to be. In this place he regains his existence, which he had lost, when the first wave enticed him into the water. He can be there in a way that he can be no where else, because it appears to him he had already been in this place before; before he had even arrived there.

He comes back from this place; touches the bottom of the sea, returns to reality, a reality which is perhaps less real than the imaginary reality of the ‘holy space’. He tried to see where he was, but the murk, fog and cloud prevented him. At the edge of the horizon, he could see someone swimming, but doesn't know who it is, and he keeps losing sight of him. Nonetheless he feels close to this swimmer, closer than if he had actually been near him and could see him well. He stays there, watching and waiting, with a pained expression on his face, pained by an excessive ‘freedom’ [la liberté] [57].

He leaves the sea, and walks to ‘small wood’ that is nearby. The landscape too is bathed in a light that makes everything indistinct. Thomas lies in the grass. He is not supposed to be there, but wants to remain. The light falls and night descends. He needs to get up, but he does so like someone who is not really in control of his body. He stands, but he is not really sure what he is doing and what he is meant to be. His eyes are shut, but he has not stopped looking into the darkness, as though not looking were looking. It was the same when he started to walk, as not walking were the same as walking. ‘I will not walk,’ I say to myself. And yet I am walking, walking precisely because I will myself not to walk. He goes down into a ‘vault’ [le cave], which he first thinks is large, but is in fact small and cramped, as though it were a grave. He can feel the stone against his hands everywhere he turns. Now he was trapped. He can no longer find the entrance that allowed him to enter. Yet it is not the vault that he has to worry about, but his own will, which could easily descend into a sleep indistinguishable from death. He places his body against the wall and waits. Not because he had simply decided to stop, but his only movement forward was not moving, perfectly frozen in the moment of action. He stumbles a few steps forward; this is a miracle, a mystery even. How could he have moved? Did he decide to move? And yet this place is exactly the same as the one he left. Had he moved at all? The terror of the place trapped him and kept him there even though at the same time it seemed to propel him forward. He opens his eyes, but the darkness that is surrounding him is even worse than he had imagined. It was so dark that it penetrated his inside, to such an extent, that is was no longer possible to distinguish between an inner and outer darkness. Putting your hand out in this darkness was like putting your hand into yourself. He was aware that he could still use his body, and especially his eyes, but what he saw was only a dark mass, and this dark mass was himself. Was he sure that this mass was himself? He wasn’t, but such a hypothesis was the only way to orientate himself in this place, which really speaking wasn’t a place at all, but a non-place. He had lost any sense of time, so it probably took him many hours to come to this idea, even though he wasn’t very certain of it. What really motivated this thought was fear, and it was quite repulsive to think that outside of him there was something identical to the thought he thought. In this ‘repulsive fantasy’ [rêverie répugnante], the darkness gets worse, as though the night had come from ‘a wound of thought which had ceased to think’, as though this thought were an object of something that did not really think at all, a thought that had become alienated from itself, not because it had become separated from the object itself, but from thinking itself.

This other night was the night of thought itself, on the hither side of thought within thought, as though in the deepest interiority of the soul there was another outside which should not be confused with the outside of the world or reality. This other night one cannot see, but it not being able to see, his eye is penetrated by the darkness and sees the day within it. In this sight, the power of seeing and the object of sight are not held apart, but become one. In this co-mingling of the power of seeing and the object of sight, this eye saw what was preventing it from seeing an object of vision. It saw what cannot ordinarily be seen. Its seeing became an object for itself, its glance an image of when it saw nothing. No he was not alone, and his solitude not complete. It could have been just like something knocking against him in the dark and trying to get inside of him. It was as though a foreign body, a speck of dust perhaps, or something worse, had lodged itself against his pupil. His eye, rather than something looking outwards and internalising this ‘outside’ in a mind, was being invading by something outside that was trying to assault him. This sensation was made all the worse for it was not a speck of dust at all, but the whole world, the trees and the small wood that he had been walking through only a moment before he descended into this vault. The sensation undid him. He was no longer certain of himself. Had someone else entered by the same route as he did, was there someone else in the darkness with him? The waves from the outside, waves of darkness, like the sea that invaded him before, came crashing inside of him, and this inside was no longer a mind, or a consciousness, but an abyss [abîme]. It is not his eye that connects with the outside world, but his hands, and this hands do not recognise whole things, but only parts. From these parts whole cities and civilisations are created, but at whose centre were only emptiness, blood and violence. These parts of animals and things, Thomas, had once called ‘ideas and passions’. He is seized by a fear, which is indistinguishable from his own corpse, and by desire, which crawled back into his mouth like a dead thing. Rather than he feeling his feelings, they felt him, they took him over. His feelings, like corpses, had become him, and it is they who kept watch instead of him. He could feel all of this against his lips, but not pressing on them from the outside, but coming against them from within like vomit. All vanished, the cities, the trees, and all the other things. All that it left is Thomas, his body, like a corpse, and this other thought, a thought that entered him, rather than he thinking it, enters him again, and touches the void [le vide] [61].

He returns to the hotel. He eats. He needs to eat, needs to do the ordinary things everyone else does. But he chooses not to eat at the ‘main table’ where everyone else eats; rather, he keeps out of the way, keeps to himself. How would the others take him now? Was the expression of freedom still on his face, had the other night touched him and made him un-recognisable to the others? All he can hear is noise, which is indistinct, first of all loud and then quieter. It was the sound of conversation, but he couldn’t make out any of the words. It was just a noise. But as he listened he could make out one or two words that the speakers spoke so that he might understand them, like a child who did not quite know how to speak. He goes towards the people and stands there. They are, or seem to him, to be important people, but he doesn’t really know who they are. They invite him to sit, but he refuses. He remains standing there, next to their table. An old woman asks him whether he went for a swim, and he says ‘yes’, but she doesn’t seem at all satisfied by his response.

She leaves and he takes her place. He thinks of nothing but the meal that he had refused at this his own table which had been separated from the others. He thought they were well disposed towards him, for without their generosity he couldn’t have remained there for a minute. Yet in this generosity, there seemed to be something underhand as well, such that any proper communication wasn’t possible at all. Could he eat? Was it to late to eat? He noticed suddenly the person sitting next to him, a beautiful blond girl. When he first sat down she seemed interested in him, but now she turned away from him irritably, even though he moved closer to her. Did he want her to speak to him? She too is bathed in a light that makes her even more beautiful. Perhaps the same light as the sea and the small wood. He hears her name called out ‘Anne!’, and this is the only name we have heard apart from his. She seems to be real person, not like the swimmer against the horizon, or the person he thought had been in the vault with him. He hits the table. Perhaps he thought she would recognise him. But it has the opposite effect. Not only does it close her from him, but everyone else turns away from him as well. He will never be able to contact them again. He stares at them, with an empty and meaningless gaze; they have turned away from him, and even if they return his stare, it means nothing to them. The woman stands up. All the beauty that he had seen before in the light had faded. She now looked tired and was almost disappearing. It was as though the light were coming from inside her, from her very bones, and, like a bad X-ray picture, all that was left of her was a faint trace and echo of the real person that she had once been. The more that you looked at her, the lonelier you became. She leaves the room, and he continues to look at her. Everyone else gets up from the table, and in confusion and disorder, begin to leave. Thomas looks across the room, and suddenly it is lit up as though by a powerful light bulb. He hears her shout from outside the door which is open and shrouded in darkness. Her voice is a command and is urgent and rushes into the ‘empty space’. He is no longer sure, however, whether it was really him that the voice was calling, so he waits for it again. He waits and listens, like before on the beach. This silence reminds him of the distance of the people in the room. It is not something agreeable but is a sign of their ‘absolute dumbness’ [65]. How could this one call from a girl shatter it all? He hears nothing. Everyone has left the room, and he leaves too.

Philosophy begins with finitude. What is finitude? That we have one life and we will die and that there is no God to save us. You can understand this predicament existentially. You must have the courage to face the meaninglessness of life, but nonetheless carry on living heroically like Camus’ Sisyphus who laughs as the stone once more as it rolls down the hill[w1] . But what if death were not something that I could face heroically, something on which I could make my stand, but that which undoes and destroys me? What if the absence of God, the very absence left behind when God disappears, were more terrible than the fear of God itself? In the Writing of the Disaster, Blanchot describes a scene (a ‘primitive scene’ he calls it, echoing Freud’s primitive scene perhaps) of a child opening the curtains and looking up into the sky through the window. Suddenly the sky opens and reveals nothing but darkness and emptiness:

The child - is he seven or eight years perhaps? - standing, he pulls open the curtains, and through the window watches. He sees the garden, the winter trees, and the wall of the house: while he watches, undoubtedly in the manner of a child, his playground, he gets tired and slowly looks upwards at the ordinary sky, with clouds, grey light, dull day and far away.

What happens next: the sky, the same sky, suddenly opens, absolutely black and empty, revealing (as though through a broken window) such an absence that everything is always and for ever lost, to the extent that the vertiginous knowledge which affirms and dissipates itself there that there is nothing and above all there is no beyond. [ED 117][w2] 

What does it mean to have a world without God or gods? It means that there is no ultimate principle which guides or directs us. It means that no thing or person is justified or legitimised by anything behind or beyond our world. It means death to transcendence. For transcendence is above all what the idea of God or gods make possible, that there is a world of meaning or values behind this world which justifies it. The world is to be this way and no other, because this is the best of all possible worlds. Transcendence is always the legitimation of the status quo. But do we really know what it means to think without transcendence? Transcendence is what holds the world together; gives it meaning, sense and direction. Without transcendence there is no world. The death of God, if we were to think this thought to its ultimate limit, would be the end of the world. It is not enough to think the death of God, which is only the death of an idea after all, one has to think the absence which is left behind by this death, and not think this absence as another transcendence.

The philosophy of finitude which Blanchot is against, if saying ‘against’ is not to powerful for his kind of thinking, is that philosophy which makes of this absence something useful; something against which I can construct my own being. The universe is empty, but in this emptiness I can build my own heroic individuality. I am the great existential hero, like Thomas on the beach, my face screwed up by the effort of my freedom. I am hero, because there is nothing but myself. There are no values except my values, no world, except my world, for there is no transcendence to tell me otherwise. I stand alone in the empty echoing space. What concerns Blanchot is an absence which haunts this absence, an absence more absent than this absence, a death more horrible and terrifying than the death which I heroically and courageously face in the vacuum left by God’s demise.

Death is inside me. This is what amazed Bataille about Hegel and Kojève’s reading of Hegel. Death is at work in man. Why? Because man destroys the world in order that it better represents the world as he sees it. Man is the great destroyer and creator. He negates and annihilates the world in order to recreate it for his own. But as Bataille notes, even against the thinker itself, this power of the negative can turn against the one who yields it.

Hegel, at the moment the system was finished, believed, for two years, that he was going mad - perhaps he was afraid that he accepted evil - which the system justified and made necessary - or perhaps, linking the certitude of having reached absolute knowledge to the end of history - the passage of existence to the state of an empty monotony - he saw himself dying; perhaps the many different depressions composed themselves in him in most profound horror of being God. EI 128[w3] .

Can there be a useless negativity? Blanchot sees this in literature, and to understand why we need to think about language. Language is the great power of the negative. For in the word I negate the reality of the thing. In naming it, the individuality of the thing is annihilated. The word ‘tree’ does not just name this tree, but all trees and no one tree at all. In the word, the thing evaporates into the idea, and it is the idea which is the basis of transcendence, justice and legitimacy. But literature is not interested in the idea for its own sake; rather it concerns itself with words. For what is literature but the power of words? This does not mean that literature, like any other discourse does not express ideas, and when we normally study literary texts at schools, colleges and universities, these are what we hunting out, whether successfully or not, but it isn't just this. It if were the case that literature were just about ideas, then we would lose nothing at all if we just summarised every novel, story or narrative that we read. But I don’t want to read summaries, unless I am studying for an exam, I want to read the novel that Kafka wrote, or the short story that bears Melville's name, in the very way that he wrote it.

This is why very practical people can be irritated by modern literature, film or art, because it doesn’t seem to be about anything at all. You can't easily put it back into the world of idea, representations and concepts in which everything else in the world has a meaning. Why can’t Van Gogh’s picture of the sunflowers just be about sunflowers, or if we were to be slightly more sophisticated, why can’t it just be about his mental health problems. And at every point, we all tempted by reducing literature to ideas. Yet we all read literature, we all know what it is, and have experienced its enigmatic power and fascination. What it reveals is the strange power of language to express nothing but itself. We really hate that, because we want language to say something outside of itself: a thought, a thing, an object in the world. In the same way that we want paint to be more than paint and film more than film.

Blanchot would take this argument one step further and say that it is art which is the true origin of language, and rather than art being dependent on communication it is the other way around. Even if we agree that the language of literature, and other arts, is not purely representational or conceptual, then we would, like the linguist Jakobson, tend to argue that is merely a specialised use of language, whose primary function is to communicate ideas.[1] But the very possibility that language could communicate is dependent on the distance between it and reality, and not the other way around. Or to put it another way, it is only because words exist that we can communicate ideas. This means that humanity, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, is permanently banished from reality. We only know the world through words, and not words through the world. We live in words, like the fish in the water of the sea, or the birds in the air. Words are our reality, and the reality that we imagine exists beyond words, is a fiction of these words themselves.

It is not only reality of things that is annihilated by language, but also my own reality. Just as much as I imagine that there is a world outside of language, I also imagine that my own consciousness exists outside of it. I imagine that there can be thoughts without words, or that thinking is a wordless process that only in a second moment is translated into language, as though there could be a thought ‘cat’ without the word cat. On the contrary, rather than I speaking through language, it is language which speaks through me, and makes something like an ‘I’ possible at all. In terms of art, this disappearance of the ‘I’ has been seen positively. I write so that my works might outlive me. Only in the products of my genius is my immortality possible. It is not God, but the word that defeats death. Yet there is another way of thinking about the continued existence of the word. Could it not be that the word has no use of me, rather than I have no use of the word?

This seems a very strange thing to say in our culture of individualism, which is perhaps just a reverse image of the collapse of any public political space. We tend to think that writing, and perhaps any art, is the most perfect expression of our subjectivity. There is no doubt literature can be written and even read this way. We have all been to those dreadful poetry readings where poetry has been nothing but the misfortune and misery of the poet, as though writing were nothing but therapy. But the poet, the writer, the artist, the film marker, is also looking for the perfect expression of the material, where the aim is to disappear in the work itself. What matters is not me, but the work itself, the paint on the canvas, the word on the page, the image on the screen. No doubt any work of art can be interpreted as though it was nothing else but the personal expression of the artist, but it is also more than that. It is the work itself, what is particularly literary about literature, painterly about painting, filmic about film; when it becomes what it is.

The heroic death of the existentialist who faces their death with fortitude and courage is not the same as this disappearance of the author, for the existentialist death is an impossibility which belongs to their lives, and which they use to make their lives more meaningful. Obviously this death is not the same as biological death, for the existentialist rots in the ground like everyone else, but it is a death which gives meaning to life. I know I will die, and that I could die at any moment, but this death liberates me, for it means that every moment is gift from death, which I must seize and make use of.

The death of the author is not a useful death. No true writer would say they were a writer. Writing is not a job or profession like any other, which is why no creative writing course can ever create a writer. To write is to suffer writing, to suffer the discipline of writing, as Kafka did when he wrote every night after work, until that magical moment when he wrote The Judgement and disappeared in the work itself, and only came back to himself in the early hours of the morning, having written the story in one go, his legs aching from sitting all through the night. The demand of writing is not the same as the activity of writing, writing words on a page or typing into a computer; rather, the demand of writing is what ruins the activity of writing. I have a sense of something greater and larger than me, something that speaks through me rather than I speak through it. But this something greater than me is not God, or any other transcendence; it is the immanence of language which runs through us all. There is a great passage by Beckett which Blanchot loves, which expresses this immanence beautifully:

You don’t feel your mouth any more, no need of a mouth, the words are everywhere, inside me, outside of me… I hear them, no need to hear them, no need of a head, impossible to stop them, impossible to stop, I’m in words, made of words, others’ words, what others, the whole world is here with me, I’m in the air, the walls, the walled in one, everything yields, opens ebbs, flows, like flakes.  I’m all these flakes, meeting mingling, falling asunder, wherever I go I find me, leave me, go towards me, come from me, nothing ever but me, a particle of me, retrieved, lost, gone astray, I’m all these words, all these strangers, this dust of words, with no ground for their settling, no sky for their dispersing, coming together to say, fleeing one another to say, that I am they, all of them, those that merge, those that part, those that never meet.[2]



In The Space of Literature, Blanchot describes two different kinds of suicide[3]. Suicide perhaps represents the greatest deed of our existential hero. They have internalised the fact of death so much that they can decide and choose when to die. Is this not the great difference between human beings and animals? Animals only die, but human beings can choose to die; they can even die for an idea, principle, or belief. What strange animals we are! But this mastery of death involves another kind of death, just as the sea and the night in Thomas the Obscure, involve another kind of sea and night, which the one who commits suicide has to conceal from themselves if they were to make a choice. The paradox of suicide is that in reaching out to death, in hoping to master death, to make it mine and no one else’s, in the last moment it escapes my grasp. What is revealed is the other side of death, something more horrible and terrible: that death, in the end, is anonymous and neutral. It can belong to no-one, not even me.

Literature too has two sides for Blanchot. One side is the side of ‘culture’. This is the literature we find in prizes and reviewed in the Sunday newspapers, where we seem to have the next great writer monthly. This is the useful side of literature; literature as career, as a project of ambition like any other. The other side of literature does not appear in newspapers, doesn’t get prices; it is the demand of writing itself which every writer feels (whether they have published or not, win prices or not, have reviews of their work or not) in the sensation that they are not good enough, that they are less than the work they are creating, that in relation to the work they are something useless and worthless, that the work comes from elsewhere than themselves, and that it is fundamentally anonymous, and neutral just like the death which the suicide victim could not reach in the moment of their death.

It is funny for a writer to write ‘I am alone’, Blanchot writes, in the essay, ‘From Dread to Language’, since the very moment that they write it they are not alone, since they address this sentence to a reader[4]. The humour lies at the heart of language itself, for the word ‘alone’ is just as social as the word ‘bread’, and if I were really were alone, then, as Wittgenstein tells us, I would have no words at all; every word summons up the totality of the world.

We don’t tend to take these paradoxes of language very seriously. A sentence is written down on a piece of paper, it has a meaning, it communicates something; what more difficulty could there be? Well if we do think about it a little we will discover something. We will discover that the writer is a liar, or at least half a liar. If a writer writes about his unhappiness or misfortune, then he can’t really be that happy or he wouldn’t be writing about it at all. He tells us that he is alone, but in fact, through writing, he still wants to have connection with others. His solitude is only pretence, and exists only so that he can break his solitude. But maybe this reproach is quite silly. One can easily imagine it the other way around. It is not because Pascal is unhappy that he writes, but is unhappy because he writes. Perhaps it is the very fact that people admire him when he writes how worthless he is which causes his feeling of unworthiness. Some suffer because they can’t find the words to express their suffering, whereas others might suffer precisely because they can find the words. But why doesn’t the writer, then, just choose not to write. If he really where in despair wouldn’t he just not stop writing? Couldn’t he just go mad, like animal, rushing around his room sobbing and pulling his hair out? These images have a wonderful sentimental ring to them, and there are perhaps some who still think the writer’s life is something like that. But even this madman is not truly alone, for it is only the witness of his madness who can experience it. I am mad because others say that I am, and alone to the extent that others witness my loneliness.

No the paradox is that the writer is alone only to the degree that they can express it. It is the words themselves which become the witness to their misery or unhappiness. There is proximity between their loss of language and the need to express this loss in language. I can only write from the power of not be able to write, which gives me the strange sensation of moving forward only by moving backwards. I have nothing to write, no way of writing it, but I must write. The writer has nothing to say, because what interests him is the nothing which is at the heart of language. If he did have something to say, then he would not be a writer. He would be a person of action. For the writer, the world, things, ideas, are only ‘reference points across the void’ [345]. They are elements within his imaginary universe, part of a novel, story or narrative. What the writer is concerned with is nothing at all, rather than something solid and stable in this world.

All this sounds very stupid to the serious person. Isn’t writing an occupation like any other, like plumbing? Can’t you put ‘writer’ on your passport? Don’t you get paid for being a writer? Pay tax like everyone else? But it isn’t the object of an activity which needs to be explained here, as though the relation of the writer to writing is the same as the relation of the cobbler to a shoe. Let us say that the writer feels dread and anyone who has read the diaries of a writer will know this possibility, what is the object of this dread? To understand dread is precisely to recognise that the feeling of dread is completely out of proportion to the object. It is not the object that matters, but the feeling of dread itself. Dread is the paradox that at one at the same time you would be lost without the object, but at the same time this object is nothing, or there is nothing that lurks at the heart of it, for it could be any other object in the world which could fill you with dread. It is a though dread has chosen this object, not this object that is the cause of dread.

Writing would appear to be fundamentally attached to the feeling of dread. If one writes not for success or for oneself, but for the sake of the words themselves, for the loyalty of the words, then sooner or later you will experience dread. You are a writer because this fundamental experience has been revealed to you, but without this experience you wouldn’t be a writer at all. Anxiety only exists in the world because of the writer; that is to say, there are people in the world who take writing seriously. Just as the madman needs a witness, so anxiety needs the writer. Anxiety unseats the world, but without anxiety there would be no world at all. It is as though reason, the care of writing, meditation and thought, needs the spur of anxiety in order to work. But dread itself is only possible, because reason does not work. Reason requires its own impossibility which is anxiety.

Why is the writer important? Because he or she has nothing to say. Nothing to say in the way that a scientist or a politician does have something to say. This again seems a joke. Why is it important to have nothing to say? Lots of people have nothing to say, some from ignorance, some because they have chosen not to speak. They have cut themselves from language. But the writer has nothing to say in a very difference sense. They are tied to language, for ‘having nothing to say’, Blanchot writes about the writer, ‘is for him characteristic of someone who always has something to say’ [346-7]. This is a very strange situation to be in. It means to be close to silence, but not completely silent, as the one who has given up language, in the centre of a tumult of words and phrases. It means to write is quite close to not writing, which is why the best writers are the ones who write little, who know how to take things away rather than put too much in. To be able to do that, he must, Blanchot insists, be in touch with the nothingness that is at the heart of dread, and in this, he must ‘consume himself’. That is to say; that if he is to write authentically, he must destroy himself, and the power that makes writing possible.

[1] In his essay ‘linguistics and poetics’ in Language in Literature (Harvard University Press, 1987) 62-94, in which the status of poetry is seen, even if a important one, as a sub-section of the overall linguistic definition of language as communication.

[2] Samuel Beckett, Molloy Malone Dies The Unnameable, (London: Calder & Boyers, 1959), p. 390

[3] In ‘The Strange Project, or Double Death’, The Space of Literature, trans. A. Smock (London: University of Nebraska Press, 1982) 103-5.

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

 [w1]Find the reference for this

 [w2]English translation

 [w3]English translation of inner experience

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