Maurice Blanchot: A Critical Biography

Maurice Blanchot: A Critical Biography

Maurice Blanchot: A Critical Biography

Maurice Blanchot: A Critical Biography

Synopsis

Maurice Blanchot has long inspired writers, artists, and philosophers with some of the most incisive statements of what it meant to experience the traumas and turmoils of the twentieth century. Bident's magisterial biography provides the first full-length account of Blanchot's itinerary, drawing on unpublished letters and interviews with the writer's close friends, while also providing a sophisticated genealogy of his thought.

A journalist and activist, but also inclined to secrecy, Blanchot lived public and private lives that converged at some of the century's most momentous occasions: He was nearly executed during the Occupation, participated prominently in the May '68 revolution in Paris, and, more controversially, wrote for the far right in the '30s. Even-handed throughout, Bident offers a much-needed fleshing out of a life too easily sensationalized.

Excerpt

Ignorance, whether of his life or of his work, was the twentieth century’s favored response to Maurice Blanchot, born in 1907. Yet he incessantly recounted his life to that century, just as he incessantly made his work accessible to it. Baseless and persistent mythologies paint Blanchot as the conspicuous absentee, the invisible ghost, the unreadable author of utterly abstract work, a man literarily terrifying and politically impure. None more than he, however, interrogated the presence, visibility, readability, vitality, culpability, and possibility of the writer. He worked incessantly on these notions, contesting them, placing them in a dialectic, pushing them to their limits, where paradox carries them far from the false simplicity of the political language that masquerades as our common language. This permanent struggle—the struggle of the body, of writing, of thought— fascinated and inspired, in an often reciprocated exchange, the greatest contemporary creators of forms and thoughts (and forms of thought), starting with Blanchot’s two most intimate friends, Emmanuel Levinas and Georges Bataille.

This book in turn will interrogate the presence, visibility, readability, vitality, culpability, and possibility of the biographical, in a life and a work, in a life-made-work, a life sustained through the most extreme confrontations with death. For this life-become-work addresses being, as Bataille wrote, “in an unbearable surpassing of being,” in an unbearable surpassing of the work. This life is bequeathed infinitely through narrative writing, which bears witness with untiring patience, inflexible courage, and excessive pain to the worst visions of death, to the worst wounds caused by it. This life is infinitely conducted via a prose whose sustained intensity and almost drunken attentiveness tears through novels and récits, essays and fragments. It addresses our modes of knowledge: What can we make of it together—and where can we take this? in what friendship, in what community of real thought can we discover its obverse and reverse sides, its errors, its lapses and its insights? This life also asks questions of our responsibility: What form of attentiveness and judgment does it demand . . .

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