Monthly Archives: February 2010

Form and chaos

It only means that there will be a new form, and that this form will be of such a type that it admits the chaos and does not try to say that the chaos is really something else. The form and the chaos remain separate. The latter is not reduced to the former. That is why the form itself becomes a preoccupation, because it exists as a problem separate from the material it accommodates. To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now.

Beckett (via A Piece of Monologue)

Despair

To class Beckett himself as the simple incarnation of ‘despair’ is a drastic oversimplification. To begin with, the concept of ‘despair’ implies the existence of a related concept ‘hope,’ and ‘hope’ implies a certain predictable continuity in time—which continuity Beckett would seriously question. ‘Despair,’ with all its inherent moral overtones, is a term which is wholly inadequate to describe Beckett’s attitude towards the human condition; nor is this condition, in the most current sense of the definition, ‘absurd.’ It is literally and logically impossible. And in this central concept of ‘impossibility,’ his thought has most of its origins – as does also his art.

Richard Coe (via A Piece of Monologue)

Philosophers

‘Have contemporary philosophers had any influence on your thought?’
‘I never read philosophers.’
‘Why not?’
‘I never understand anything they write.’
‘All the same, people have wondered if the existentialists’ problem of being may afford a key to your works.’
‘There’s no key or problem. I wouldn’t have had any reason to write my novels if I could have expressed their subject in philosophic terms.’

Interview with Beckett (via A Piece of Monologue)

‘I’m a king who’s been deposed’

“You’re young,” the principal says to me, “you’re bursting with prospects. Wait a moment, was there something else I forgot to say? You must realise, Jakob, that I’ve got a lot of things to say to you, and yet you can have forgotten the best deepest things before you know where you are. And you yourself, you look like good fresh memory itself, whereas my memory is getting old now. My mind, Jakob, is dying. Forgive me if I’m saying things that are too weak, too intimate. It’s a laugh. So I ask you too forgive me, whereas I could give you a good beating if I thought it necessary. What stern looks you’re giving me. Well, well, I could throw you against that wall there, so hard you’d never see or hear anything again. I don’t know what’s happened to make me lose all authority over you. Probably you laugh at me, secretly. But between ourselves: watch out. You must realise that wild feelings seize me sometimes and before I can stop myself I forget what I’m doing. O my little lad, no, don’t be afraid. It would be so completely impossible, completely, to do you any harm, but – well, now, what was it I meant to say to you? Tell me, are you just a little frightened? And you’re young and you’ve got hopes, and soon you want to find a position. Isn’t that so? Yes, that’s it. Yes, that’s it and I’m sorry, for just think, sometimes I feel that you’re my young brother or something near as nature to me, you seem so related to me, with your gestures, talk, mouth, everything, in short, yourself. I’m a king who’s been deposed. You’re smiling? I find it simply delightful, you know, that precisely when I’m talking about kings deposed and deprived of their thrones a smile escapes you, such a mischievous smile. You have intelligence, Jakob. Oh, it’s so nice to be talking with you. It’s a delightful little prickling feeling to behave with you in a rather weak sort of way and more softly than usual. Yes, you really do provoke easy going, loosening up, the sacrifice of dignity. One attributes to you – do you believe me? – a nobility of mind, and this tempts one very strongly to indulge, when you are there, in fine and helpless explanations and confessions, as I do, for example, your master, confessing to you, my poor young worm, whom I could utterly crush if I chose to. Give me your hand. Good! Let me tell you that you’ve managed to make me feel respect for you. I respect you highly, and – I – don’t mind – telling you. And now I want to ask you: will you be my friend, the small sharer of my confidences? I ask you, please do. But I’ll give you time to think it over, you may go now. Please go, leave me alone.”

– Walser, Institute Benjamenta (aka Jakob von Gunten), tr. C. Middleton

Dying

This existence is not life as unmediated fondness for, and perpetuation of, self, nor is it its death. But the “dying” of which Blanchot speaks — and which is not at all to be confused with the cessation of living, but which on the contrary is the living or “sur-viving” named by Derrida so close to Blanchot — shapes the movement of the incessant approach to absenting as true meaning, annulling in it any trace of nihilism.

Jean-Luc Nancy (tr. C. Mandell)