Writing is forsakenness: being forsaken (not by others, says Kafka, but

by oneself) : carried away by a worldless existence, inhabiting- no, not inhabiting,

being lost, being at a loss, wandering in a place that is not a

world. Better to call it a space without a world: a placeless space, a surface

across which one is dispersed, no longer a resident of oneself but dispossessed,

turned out of oneself, identifying oneself with errancy, separation,

drift. “Wandering in the Wilderness” becomes Kafka’s watchword.  Blanchot

refers to this as “the Abraham perspective” (ELS2/SL7o). In “How to

Read Abraham?” Blanchot reads Kafka’s Diaries (particularly the entries

from 1922) as a document of this perspective, summarized by Kafka’s

remark: “I live elsewhere” (29 January 1922: Diaries, p. 409) , where elsewhere

is not a private, interior, subjective space: not an imaginary space, a

dreamworld, nor is it a place set part on the model of aesthetic differentiation:

a museumlike preserve free from the claims of knowledge. Rather it

is a place where these claims have been superseded by the claim of writing


This place is where art is. Art neither dreams nor creates, nor does it describe

things either true or imaginary. What is true has no need for art; it is

a plenum. The true exhausts everything that is. The same is true of the

imaginary (in either its Aristotelian or Sartrean versions), which pours itself

into every vacuum, exhausts every absence, consumes it with its power

of possibility. But the world of art is the nonidentical; that is, in a world in

which things are recognizable, identifiable, self-identical, part of language,

“there is no place for art” (EL89!SL75)’

For art is linked, precisely as Kafka is, to what is “outside” the world [ “hors”

du monde 1, and it expresses the profundity of this outside [dehors 1 bereft of

intimacy and repose – this outside which appears when even with ourselves,

even with our death, we no longer have relations of possibility. Art is the

consciousness of this “misfortune.” It describes the situation of one who has

lost himself, who can no longer say “me,” who in the same movement has

lost the world, the truth of the world, and belongs to exile, to the time of distress

when, as Htilderlin says, the gods are no longer and are not yet. This

does not mean that art affirms another world, at least not if it is true that art

has its origin, not in another world, but in the other of all worlds. (EL89-90/


Art is a “movement outside the true” [demarche hors du vrai]” (EL92!

SL77) . It neither dreams nor creates – it demands. In this event the writer

experiences art as an incapacitation, a pure passivity, insomnia, waiting,

dying- “not death, alas, but the eternal torment of dying” (Diaries, p.

302). This is a demand which presupposes, not the possibility of action,

but its impossibility: a demand that exacts a useless patience. Kafka calls

it, Beckett-like, the “old incapacity” (Diaries, p. 33).

Maurice Blanchot

The Refusal of Philosophy

Gerald L. Bruns

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s