It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow human beings: M. K. Gandhi / People all seek to know what they do not know yet; They ought rather seek to know what they know already-Zhuang Zhou / If a person ain't careful; they can make a profession out of revenge: Godless, TV serial
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Maurice Blanchot : The Infinite Conversation
There are many remarkable facts about the long life of the French novelist and philosopher Maurice Blanchot. The strident – perhaps Fascist – nationalism of his pre-War journalism; his near-death at the hands of the Nazis during the war; his reclusive devotion to writing that is similar to, but more significant than, Pynchon’s and Salinger’s; his deep influence on more famous French thinkers (Barthes, Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze). And, finally, in this list, his return to public life to oppose French colonialism in Algeria and then to support the May 1968 student uprising, during which he drafted pamphlets released by those opposing General de Gaulle’s autocracy.
Maurice Blanchot, 1907-2003
But to concentrate on these facts, relevant as they are, would be to ignore what Blanchot offers, which is a return to the fundamental mystery of literature. That is, why do written words have so much power over us, yet also seem completely estranged from the world they supposedly refers to? When we say that literature takes us to “another world”, we say more than we might imagine. It is an asymmetry that Blanchot presents to us relentlessly. “There is an a-cultural aspect to art and literature which it is hard to accept wholeheartedly” he says. In this age of shortcuts, in which the value of literature is judged by how well literature effaces itself, so that the asymmetry is denied, avoided, denounced even, Blanchot’s resistance makes him, in my opinion, one of the most important writers.
In my opinion. What is that worth? The question of authority – mine, Blanchot’s or anybody else’s – is the invisible centre of our cultural ideology. We all know that Liberal Democracy is based on choice; each individual is free to choose and each individual’s choice is as good as any other’s. So, when I write in my opinion, I remove all weight from the judgement. The complete opposite is equally valid. Despite this, we still make definite choices in what to read, watch or listen to, as if hoping, despite everything, for something more than nothing. The act of choice itself speaks of a need: for nourishment, entertainment or distraction, or all three combined. But we have little guidance on what and why to choose. Perhaps the recent proliferation of award ceremonies and prize competitions for each art form is no coincidence: the award-winning novel, the platinum-selling album, the blockbuster movie. We want a guarantee of value. Each offers a mitigation of one’s apparently random choice. At the same time, however, we know, like a General Election, it is meaningless. Nothing changes. Such is the totality of Liberal Democracy.
Worse still, the condition has a retrospective affect. Nothing escapes its scything action. History is flattened too, shorn of meaning. Even critiques of the condition become just an opinion under the smiling curve of the scythe. Blanchot does not propose an answer. Rather, he looks at how this condition might have arisen, offering in the process a startling revision of our understanding of what literature is. Might the asymmetry of art and world be what makes it vital and important? In a short essay from 1953, published in a new translation by the Oxford Literary Review, Blanchot goes back to the beginnings of modern thought to investigate this possibility, specifically to ancient Athens, and Socrates’ preference for speech over writing.
In the Phaedrus, Socrates says that speech has the guarantee of the living presence of the speaker. One can ask questions and receive answers; there is always the movement of dialogue with those involved always mindful of truth. In dialogue, progress is possible. On the other hand, written words can only maintain a solemn silence: “if you ask them what they mean by anything,” he says, “they simply return the same answer over and over again.” The philosopher links this to religious superstition, when Greeks listened to “the sacred voice” emerging from a stone or the stump of a tree. Blanchot compares this to the silent confrontation with written words:
“Like sacred language, what is written comes from no recognisable source, is without author or origin, and thereby always refers back to something more original than itself. Behind the words of the written work, nobody is present; but language gives voice to this absence, just as in the oracle, when divinity speaks, the god himself is never present in his words, and it is the absence of god which then speaks.”
If, as Blanchot says, the voice of the divine and the voice of literature are comparable, they are effectively indistinguishable, thereby doubling the threat to the human project represented by Socrates. What can be done if the oracular voice develops an alternative outlet in literature, luring truth into “the abyss where there is neither truth nor meaning nor even error”? Blanchot reminds us what was done: “both Plato and Socrates are quick to declare writing, like art, a simple pastime which does not jeopardise seriousness and is reserved for moments of leisure”. Of course, Socrates went on to pay with his life for his commitment to the more serious matter of debate. And while his sacrifice remains emblematic of our notion of the freedom of speech, his dismissal of writing and art sounds very familiar, very now, particularly to anyone searching for truth in art. We can see the correlation between postmodernism (no truth, no meaning), popular culture (no error), and the ancient philosophers’ dismissal of art. It is attractive as there is another correlation, perhaps the most important: both are also liberations. In each case, freedom is granted to those previously enslaved to truth. Writers can let their imagination run wild; there is no comeback.
Instead of celebrating or lamenting this development, Blanchot considers the silence of the gods revealed in the written word. He wonders what it is that disarms Plato and Socrates so much that they deny it is even relevant, and compels us, their descendants, to fill the empty space with reductive theories: social, psychological, post-colonial. For a possible answer, he turns to Heraclitus, the first poet-philosopher, pre-dating Socrates, the first rationalist. In one of his enigmatic fragments, Heraclitus says the oracle “neither speaks out nor conceals, but points”. From this Blanchot deduces that the “language in which the origin speaks is essentially prophetic.” .. Read more: http://www.spikemagazine.com/0602blanchot.php
The People’s Union for Democratic Rights on Tuesday alleged that third degree torture methods were used by the Gurgaon Criminal Investigation Agency while interrogating workers of Maruti Suzuki India Limited’s Manesar plant who are accused of involvement in the killing of an HR manager and the violent attack at the plant on July 18. The PUDR alleged that the Gurgaon CIA investigation “did not seem” to be directed at solving the crime or probing the involvement of the arrested workers in the incidents and crimes recorded in the FIR but instead was based on their involvement in trade union activities. Grave doubts “The use of third degree torture in police custody, and the securing of arrestees’ signatures on blank papers by the police, gives rise to grave doubts regarding the ability of such an investigation in effectively identifying or arresting those guilty. The police and the State seem keener to reassure Maruti Suzuki Ltd. and ensure that production continues,” the PUDR stat
According to Murakami, “1Q84” is just an amplification of one of his most popular short stories, which (in its English version) is five pages long. “Basically, it’s the same,” he told me. “A boy meets a girl. They have separated and are looking for each other. It’s a simple story. I just made it long.” One beautiful April morning, on a narrow side street in Tokyo's fashionable Harujuku neighborhood, I walked past the 100% perfect girl. Tell you the truth, she's not that good-looking. She doesn't stand out in any way. Her clothes are nothing special. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn't young, either - must be near thirty, not even close to a "girl," properly speaking. But still, I know from fifty yards away: She's the 100% perfect girl for me. The moment I see her, there's a rumbling in my chest, and my mouth is as dry as a desert..." read the story: http://www.youmightfindyourself.com/post/22131227
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NB: This is the text of my address to the Eighth East-West Inter-cultural Relations Conference held at Ramjas College, the University of Delhi, on March 17. The details of the conference may be read here . A pdf file of the address is downloadable here - DS Satyagraha - An answer to modern nihilism Dilip Simeon Keynote address to the Eighth East-West Inter-cultural Relations Conference Ramjas College, March 17-18 2016 Zilu stopped for the night at Stone Gate. The gatekeeper said, Where are you from? Zilu said, From the household of Confucius. The gatekeeper said, The one who knows there’s nothing that can be done but keeps on trying? - from the Analects of Confucius (14:40) What is truth? asked jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer – Francis Bacon In fact it is more correct to say Truth is God than to say God is Truth – Mohandas Gandhi Introduction: The human being is the speaking animal, the discerner of good and evil. This featur
Mother of Cities to me, For I was born in her gate, Between the palms and the sea, Where the world-end steamers wait Rudyard Kipling , To the City of Bombay "Few people who have criticized England from the inside have said bitterer things about her than this gutter patriot" : George Orwell IT WAS a pity that Mr. Eliot should be so much on the defensive in the long essay with which he prefaces this selection of Kipling's poetry, but it was not to be avoided, because before one can even speak about Kipling one has to clear away a legend that has been created by two sets of people who have not read his works. Kipling is in the peculiar position of having been a byword for fifty years. During five literary generations every enlightened person has despised him, and at the end of that time nine-tenths of those enlightened persons are forgotten and Kipling is in some sense still there. Mr. Eliot never satisfactorily explains this fact, because in answering the shal
In Asia Minor or in Alexandria, in the second century of our faith (when Basilides was announcing that the cosmos was a rash and malevolent improvisation engineered by defective angels), Nils Runeberg might have directed, with a singular intellectual passion, one of the Gnostic monasteries. Dante would have destined him, perhaps, for a fiery sepulcher; his name might have augmented the catalogues of heresiarchs, between Satornibus and Carpocrates; some fragment of his preaching, embellished with invective, might have been preserved in the apocryphal Liber adversus omnes haereses or might have perished when the firing of a monastic library consumed the last example of the Syntagma . Instead, God assigned him to the twentieth century, and to the university city of Lund. There, in 1904, he published the first edition of Kristus och Judas ; there, in 1909, his masterpiece Dem hemlige Frälsaren appeared. (Of this last mentioned work there exists a German version, Der heimliche Heilan
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