Ending and Unending Agony: On Maurice Blanchot

Ending and Unending Agony: On Maurice Blanchot

Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe
translated by Hannes Opelz
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Ending and Unending Agony: On Maurice Blanchot
    Book Description:

    Published posthumously, Ending and Unending Agony is Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe's only book entirely devoted to the French writer and essayist Maurice Blanchot (1907-2003). The place of Blanchot in Lacoue-Labarthe's thought was both discreet and profound, involving difficult, agonizing questions about the status of literature, with vast political and ethical stakes. Together with Plato, Holderlin, Nietzsche, Benjamin, and Heidegger, Blanchot represents a decisive crossroads for Lacoue-Labarthe's central concerns. In this book, they converge on the question of literature, and in particular of literature as the question of myth--in this instance, the myth of the writer born of the autobiographical experience of death. However, the issues at stake in this encounter are not merely autobiographical; they entail a relentless struggle with processes of figuration and mythicization inherited from the age-old concept of mimesis that permeates Western literature and culture. As this volume demonstrates, the originality of Blanchot's thought lies in its problematic but obstinate deconstruction of precisely such processes. In addition to offering unique, challenging readings of Blanchot's writings, setting them among those of Montaigne, Rousseau, Freud, Winnicott, Artaud, Bataille, Lacan, Malraux, Leclaire, Derrida, and others, this book offers fresh insights into two crucial twentieth-century thinkers and a new perspective on contemporary debates in European thought, criticism, and aesthetics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6461-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Translator’s Note
    (pp. vii-xviii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)
    Aristide Bianchi and Leonid Kharlamov

    On February 25, 2003, the day following the announcement of Maurice Blanchot’s death, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe spoke on a radio program over the telephone:

    If there ever was a “break [coupure]” in Blanchot’s trajectory—I don’t like the term, but if there was a transformation, perhaps from the publication ofDeath Sentenceonward (I say “perhaps,” as this is a hypothesis), then it is the moment Blanchot became posthumous. With the understanding, that is, that death is the condition of possibility of life, that he was thus already dead, that in a sense he had an experience without experience—an experience...

  5. Prologue
    (pp. 25-26)

    In one of hisFictions, “The Secret Miracle,” Borges imagines the strange death of a writer from Prague—“author of the uncompleted tragedyThe Enemies, of aDefence of Eternity, and of a study of Jakob Boehme’s indirect Jewish sources”¹—who is arrested by the Gestapo in March 1939 and sentenced to be shot by firing squad under the sole pretext of being Jewish and denounced as such. The night preceding his execution, he dreams that the very voice of God (clear and distinct, and truthful, according to Maimonides, because the speaker is invisible) grants him the time needed to...

  6. Fidelities
    (pp. 29-45)

    My dear Jacques,

    I had sworn not to give in to it, to do everything in my power to avoid it, and not to allow myself to be drawn in. A sentence, slightly overemphatic, but obstinately recurring, put it plainly to me: I don’t want to succumb; I don’t want this endless return of the samedemons; I don’t want this kind of “eternal repetition [ressassement éternel].”¹

    Before long, however, I realized that it was impossible. Strictly impossible.

    Then, another sentence, just as emphatic, I’m afraid, began to voice itself in me: I’ll yield to autobiography; I’ll make that sacrifice....

  7. The Contestation of Death
    (pp. 46-61)

    The Instant of My Deathmay well be Maurice Blanchot’s testamentary book. This very short narrative [récit], if indeed it is a “narrative,” in which, as is known, Maurice Blanchot recounts how on July 20, 1944, he experienced “the happiness of nearly being shot dead” (those were his words, reported by Jacques Derrida), was considered to be such by a number of us when it was published six years ago.

    “Testamentary book” can be understood in various ways; the word, the concept of testament (attestation, testimony, etc.), are among the most difficult to think rigorously, and I’m aware of the...

  8. Annexes
    (pp. 62-68)

    There are “primal scenes.” This is known, or recognized, since Freud—at least. These scenes are matrix scenes: remembered, reworked, or reconstituted, if not quite invented, through a kind of back projection—elaborated, then—they inform or govern adestiny, individual or collective. A life, like a civilization, is the repetition—the “reaction,” in the strict sense of the term—of these inaugural or, more exactly, immemorial scenes, if one allows the latter qualifier to mean what it should mean: they are prior to memory itself, of which they are in truth the most precise possibility—and hence impossibility: the...

  9. Ending and Unending Agony
    (pp. 71-82)

    At the center, or very nearly so, ofThe Writing of the Disaster(1980), a relatively short text—a fragment, if you will—stands out by two distinctive features.

    Printed in italics (according to a law of alternation that already for some time had presided over the composition of Blanchot’s “fragmentaries”),² the text bears a title in roman typeface—read aloud, let’s say, and with no particular intonation: “A Primal Scene”—which we come across again, several times, in the second part of the book (but whose first appearance is on page 72 [117]). In its typographical presentation, however, as...

  10. [In 1976, Malraux . . .]
    (pp. 85-90)
  11. Interview with Pascal Possoz
    (pp. 91-110)
  12. Dismay
    (pp. 111-114)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 115-132)
  14. Bibliographical Note
    (pp. 133-138)
  15. Index of Names
    (pp. 139-142)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 143-150)