Absent Writing

How does writing happen, when it cannot be authored? How does the disaster happen without ever being present? These questions, among many others, implicit and explicit, explode from Maurice Blanchot’s The Writing of the Disaster, existing in individual fragments, in collections of fragments, and even in the fragmentation itself, overflowing the text and its language. For this same reason, such questions have no answer–absence answers the questions inasmuch as it turns these into mortified questions (31). To answer the questions would mean to find a meaning, to totalize through a code (thought and language) something that belongs to infinity. “The code no longer suffices. The translation is infinite.” (136).

Thus, the madness of writing, to which one abandons oneself in an attempt to master it (43). Yet, writing refuses to be mastered, to be appropriated. Rather, writing is a gift, close to the Heideggerian idea of Being (and language, its dwelling) as a gift too. In a Levinasian notion, writing “[language] is in itself already skepticism” (110)–writing distrusts writing.  “The gift of writing is precisely what writing refuses.” (99). Language perpetuates itself through this skepticism, an-archic, writing without desire; an absence of origin and end; “every beginning is a beginning over.” (117).

How to write of the disaster? How to give form to that which is absent? The disaster is always to come (much like Derrida’s hauntology), always passed, and never present–it’s beyond ex-perience, belonging to infinity (1), and breaking away from the totality, “breaking away from the star” (75); but not denying a need of fulfillment, a vacuum, a lack of light without darkness, a “clarity without light.” (36). Writing of the disaster does nothing. Writing does not explain the disaster, nor does writing help prevent the it. Writing doesn’t instantiate the disaster either. “How is it possible to say ‘Auschwitz has happened’?” (143). The disaster effaces any questions and answers (52), rendering itself absent of meaning, a “thunder and silence.” (99).

Silence, just like the gaps in a fragmented text or the lexical gaps of a language, might be what answers Blanchot’s questions–answering by not-answering, by not writing. “He wrote, whether this was possible or not… Such is the silence of writing.” (100). Silence exceeds all language, addressing no one, encompassing everything that cannot be said, “what remains to be said.” (146). The writing of the disaster–“let us leave to silence this sentence which only means, perhaps, silence.” (138).

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