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“this is not a detached dissertation but an exploration of my origins, an indirect attempt at self-definition” —Octavio Paz

The Existence Machine on Josipovici on the Bible

The Bible does not offer reasons why things happen or why certain people are affected or chosen–why Abraham? for example; indeed, why the Jews?–and of course this is how life is. Things happen. Things are. What matters is how we respond to things. In this way, he argues, the Bible is above all, realistic, which may seem odd to us, given how used to the conventions of the so-called realist novel we are, and how unlike such a novel the Bible is, regardless of our attempts to read it as if it were one.

From Richard’s excellent post about Josipovici’s discussion of the Bible, which I mentioned briefly in my last post, which, as always, feels utterly inadequate once the enthusiasm of saying it has worn off…  Luckily, Richard decided to discuss one of the essays that has influenced my thinking on the subject, so be sure and read him talking about it much more eloquently than I did.

Filed under: Josipovici, Quotes

—Used Language

I have been thinking lately about what, for lack of a better term, would be my ‘aesthetics’— what I think makes good art good art (or just what makes art art— that’s one I wish we’d talk about more: is only good art art?). Taking courses in ‘analytic aesthetics’ and ‘continental aesthetics’ back to back forces you to spend a lot of time circling those words. Reading Heidegger over and over again in an effort to actually follow the progression of thought, the evolution within the single work of his own vocabulary (the dizziness that sets in when you think that that goes on in forty more volumes before and after!), and then thinking about others I am having to read— Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, Derrida— and my own reading outside of class— Proust, Josipovici, Blanchot— it is a rigorous tactility in the writing itself that snares me. I would be remiss to say that I think Heidegger is right, that his philosophy has it pinned down, but I nevertheless feel drawn to his language, his way of talking about it, as I do Derrida and Proust and Josipovici and Blanchot— almost irrespective of the actual thought being developed, I am entranced by the development. To coopt some of the language from Origin, it is writing that does not ‘use up’ language.

How is that, though? On the practical level, when I am reading or watching something, what is it that makes me say, or, how is it that I actually can say, “This does not ‘use up’ its medium”? Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Heidegger, Josipovici, Synecdoche, Writing

Blanchot’s Infinite

“One sometimes hears strange questions asked, like: ‘What are the tendencies of today’s literature?’ or: ‘Where is literature going?’ Surprising questions, but the most surprising thing is that if there is an answer, it is easy: literature is going toward itself, toward its essence, which is disappearance.”

If there is any change, one probably hears this question asked often, nowadays, not just sometimes. I am only beginning to read Blanchot— mostly from The Book to Come, but a few other essays as well— and I can’t help but feel there is something major with which I disagree. It is difficult to say, though, because there appears to be a difference between when one is reflecting on Blanchot after the fact, and when one is reading Blanchot. The surface of his prose, when pushed on by reading, changes. I noticed this consciously after Steve posted Jonathan Littell’s essay on ‘Reading’ and I went on to read Blanchot’s essay and, with my rudimentary French, attempted to pick my way through the original, always relying on the translations to clarify. I ended up reading both Lydia Davis’ and Anne Smock’s translations. There’s a peculiar aspect of Blanchot which Smock’s translation either engenders or captures, because it is not there in Davis’. Davis’ feels much more by the letter of the law, a fairly rigorous translation of the literal language— which is useful when attempting to read in the process of translating on the fly— but I couldn’t grasp what Blanchot was doing; the gears just wouldn’t line up. Smocks’ seems to balance against itself much more delicately. Where in the former the essay tends to come out a little more analytic, the latter feels almost poetic, the controlling ideas having a strange coherence despite their jagged edges and the lingering questions they prompt.

That strange incommensurability of ideas is what I find again when I try to reread ‘The Disappearance of Literature.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Blanchot, Josipovici, Writing

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