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Clandestine Encounters

Philosophy in the Narratives of Maurice Blanchot

edited by Kevin Hart

Publication Year: 2010

Maurice Blanchot is perhaps best known as a major French intellectual of the twentieth century: the man who countered Sartre’s views on literature, who affirmed the work of Sade and Lautréamont, who gave eloquent voice to the generation of ’68, and whose philosophical and literary work influenced the writing of, among others, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and Michel Foucault. He is also regarded as one of the most acute narrative writers in France since Marcel Proust. In Clandestine Encounters, Kevin Hart has gathered together major literary critics in Britain, France, and the United States to engage with Blanchot’s immense, fascinating, and difficult body of creative work. Hart’s substantial introduction usefully places Blanchot as a significant contributor to the tradition of the French philosophical novel, beginning with Voltaire’s Candide in 1759, and best known through the works of Sartre. Clandestine Encounters considers a selection of Blanchot’s narrative writings over the course of almost sixty years, from stories written in the mid-1930s to L’instant de ma mort (1994). Collectively, the contributors’ close readings of Blanchot’s novels, récits, and stories illuminate the close relationship between philosophy and narrative in his work while underscoring the variety and complexity of these narratives.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Title Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I would like to thank Christophe Bident and Jean-Luc Nancy for answering questions about Maurice Blanchot that I put to them while editing this collection of essays. As always, the Comité de Rédaction Espace Maurice Blanchot supplied exact information and sound advice. Marianne Peracchio translated Christophe Bident’s essay, and Alain Toumayan helped to...

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Introduction: Philosophy and the Philosophical

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pp. 1-31

Speaking at Maurice Blanchot’s cremation at Guyancourt, outside Paris, on February 24, 2003, Jacques Derrida evoked his friend’s “récits, novels, fictions” that “we are scarcely beginning, it seems to me, to read,” and observed that their “future remains pretty much intact,” untouched by literary or philosophical criticism.1 He then went on to mention L’attente...

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One. The Glory and the Abyss: Le ressassement

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pp. 32-60

Maurice Blanchot’s first récits, “Le dernier mot” and “L’idylle,”1 have repeatedly been called an “insoluble enigma.”2 They are, both in terms of their dark and oppressive atmosphere and the difficulty of comprehending them, disturbingly obscure tales of irrevocable alienation and apocalyptic destruction. The time and circumstances of their creation and...

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Two. The Neutral Reduction: Thomas l’obscur

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pp. 61-90

When Blanchot entitled his first novel Thomas l’obscur, he immediately released it into what would become an increasingly complex network of literary, philosophical, and religious associations, not all of which would help elucidate it. Some of these associations are borne out in the text itself, which plainly deals in some way or other with the figure of a twin or...

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Three. Aminadab: Quest for the Origin of the Work of Art

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pp. 91-118

In a 1951 essay, “Maurice Blanchot as Novelist,” Georges Poulet notes that for Blanchot, “the goal of the novel is not the fictional existence of characters or the portrayal of an imaginary world, even less is it that kind of supplementary reality which the naturalists attempted to weave into the compact pattern of an uncontested and preestablished world. Such...

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Four. A Law without Flesh: Reading Erotic Phenomena in Le Tr

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pp. 119-155

Maurice Blanchot’s 1948 novel Le Très-Haut is abundantly engaged with a variety of philosophical themes and issues, making it in some respects the work of fiction in Blanchot’s oeuvre most frequently read from a philosophical viewpoint. The novel’s engagement with philosophy occurs within several frames of reference: within the frame of the fiction...

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Five. The Haunted House of Being: Part II of L’arrêt de mort

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pp. 156-177

There is no doubt that in the canon of French modernism, Blanchot’s fiction occupies a privileged and unique place. Among the most perplexing and challenging works in French fiction, these texts, like their literary models and antecedents by such writers as Sade, Lautréamont, Kafka, and Bataille, defy interpretation and often resist description. The idea or...

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Six. Writing and Sovereignty: La folie du jour

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pp. 178-195

La folie du jour (The Madness of the Day) concludes with a statement of refusal, a “no” that counterbalances a prior acquiescence from which derives a large portion of the text that we read before those final words.1 From the present of this concluding refusal, the narrator’s avowed silence and the text’s own infinite recession are sealed: “A story? No. No stories...

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Seven. On Minor Reading Events: Orality and Spacing in the Opening of Au moment voulu

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pp. 196-215

I would like here to examine two minor reading events, focused on the openings of some r

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Eight. The Imperative of Transparency: Celui qui ne m’accompagnait pas

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pp. 216-240

To engage with a philosophical question already at work in a narrative, or rather, a récit, such as Maurice Blanchot’s Celui qui ne m’accompagnait pas (The One Who Was Standing Apart from Me), or to engage with one that may illuminate it—does this not require a prior philosophical reading to first locate such a question, or to establish the narrative’s philosophical...

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Nine. “As Though with a New Beginning”: Le dernier homme

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pp. 241-262

Maurice Blanchot’s The Last Man (1987), originally published as Le dernier homme (1957), addresses the philosophical question of the last man and, more broadly, life, death, and the limits of knowledge. Is Blanchot’s last man simply an individual who comes at the end of the human species, or does he perhaps stand for all of the long history of...

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Ten. Space and Beyond: L’attente l’oubli

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pp. 263-281

L’attente l’oubli (Awaiting Oblivion)1 occupies a singular place in Blanchot’s oeuvre. The way it begins suggests that it is the next in a series of narrative works that he had been writing since 1941. But unlike every other work in that series, it appeared without a generic marker. Its relation to the broad movement from roman to récit that Blanchot’s narrative...

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Eleven. Weary Words: L’entretien infini

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pp. 282-303

According to a letter of 13 February [1969] addressed to Dominique Aury, at the time general secretary of La Nouvelle Revue française, the influential literary journal in which many of his best-known essays and articles first appeared, Maurice Blanchot by autumn 1965, following Faux pas (1943), Lautréamont et Sade (1949), La part du feu (1949), L’espace littéraire...

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Twelve. Neutral War: L’instant de ma mort

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pp. 304-326

How does art approach the experience of death? Perhaps no other question underwrites Maurice Blanchot’s narratives and critical writings with such consistency and urgency. Blanchot’s final récit, The Instant of My Death, punctuates a long career devoted to thinking of death outside of Hegel’s negativity and Heidegger’s being-toward-death; neither dialectical...

Bibliography of Writings by Maurice Blanchot

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pp. 327-330

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 331-334


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pp. 335-336

E-ISBN-13: 9780268081720
E-ISBN-10: 0268081727
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268030926
Print-ISBN-10: 0268030928

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2010