A hand which writes

Proust first of all speaks the language of La Bruyère, of Flaubert: this is the alienation of writing, from which he gradually frees himself by writing constantly, letters above all. It is, it seems, by writing ‘so many letters’ to ‘so many people’ that he edges towards the movement of writing which will become his own, revealing the form which nowadays we admire as marvellously Proustian and which naive scholars relate to its organic structure. But who is it that speaks here? Is it Proust, the worldly Proust, the one who has the vainest social ambitions and a hankering for the Académie Française, the one who admires Anatole France, the one who writes in the Figaro’s society column? Is it the Proust who has vices, who leads an abnormal life, who takes pleasure in torturing rats in a cage? Is it the Proust who is already dead, motionless, buried, the one whom his friends no longer recognize, a stranger to himself, nothing other than a hand which writes, which ‘writes every day, at every hour, all the time’ and as if outside time, a hand which no longer belongs to anyone? We say Proust, but we sense strongly that it is the wholly other which writes, not simply someone other, but the very demand to write, a demand which employs the name of Proust, but does not express Proust, which only expresses him by disappropriating him, by making him Other.

— Blanchot, ‘The Pursuit of the Zero Point’ (trans. I. Maclachlan)

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