Monthly Archives: October 2009

Prayer

Another terrible night. It was raining so hard I didn’t dare go to the church. I couldn’t pray. I know very well that the desire to pray is already prayer, and that God couldn’t ask for more. But it wasn’t a question of duty. At that moment, I needed prayer like I needed air in my lungs or oxygen in my blood. Behind me, there was no longer familiar day-to-day life which one can leave behind in one fell swoop. Behind me there was nothing, and before me was a wall. A black wall. Suddenly something seemed to shatter in my breast, and I was seized by a trembling that lasted over an hour. What if it had only been an illusion? Even the saints knew their hour of failure and loss.

— Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest

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The vanishing point

When we look at the sculptures of Giacometti, there is a vantage point where they are no longer subject to the fluctuations of appearance or to the movement of perspective. One sees them absolutely: no longer reduced, but withdrawn from reduction, irreducible, and, in space, masters of space through their power to substitute for space the unmalleable, lifeless profundity of the imaginary. This point, whence we see them irreducible, puts us at the vanishing point ourselves; it is the point at which here coincides with nowhere. To write is to find this point. No one writes who has not enabled language to maintain or provoke contact with this point.

— Blanchot, The Space of Literature (trans. A. Smock)

Strange laughter

And at the thought of the punishments Youdi might inflict upon me I was seized by such a mighty fit of laughter that I shook, with mighty silent laughter and my features composed in their wonted sadness and calm. But my whole body shook, and even my legs, so that I had to lean against a tree, or against a bush, when the fit came on me standing, my umbrella being no longer sufficient to keep me from falling. Strange laughter truly, and no doubt misnamed, through indolence perhaps, or ignorance. And as for myself, that unfailing pastime, I must say it was far now from my thoughts. But there were moments when it did not seem so far from me, when I seemed to be drawing towards it as the sands towards the waves, when it crests and whitens, though I must say this image hardly fitted my situation, which was rather that of the turd waiting for the flush.

– Beckett, Molloy

For days and weeks on end

For days and weeks on end one racks one’s brains to no avail, and, if asked, one could not say whether one goes on writing purely out of habit, or a craving for admiration, or because one knows not how to do anything other, or out of sheer wonderment, despair or outrage, any more than one could say whether writing renders one more perceptive or more insane. Perhaps we all lose our sense of reality to the degree to which we are engrossed in our own work, and perhaps that is why we see in the increasing complexity of our mental constructs a means for greater understanding, even while intuitively we know that we shall never be able to fathom the imponderables that govern our course through life.

— Sebald, The Rings of Saturn (trans. M. Hulse)

I just feel things

– I never read philosophy.
– Why not?
– I don’t understand it.
[…]
– Why did you write your books?
– I don’t know. I’m not an intellectual. I just feel things. I invented Molloy and the rest of the day I understood how stupid I’d been. I began then to write down the things I feel.

– Beckett, interview

Flowing unbroken

Only the words break the silence, all other sounds have ceased. If I were silent I’d hear nothing. But if I were silent the other sounds would start again, those to which the words have made me deaf, or which have really ceased. But I am silent, it sometimes happens, no never, not one second. I weep too without interruption. It’s an unbroken flow of words and tears. With no pause for reflection. But I speak softer, every year a little softer. Perhaps. Slower too, every year a little slower. Perhaps. It’s hard for me to judge. If so the pauses would be longer, between the words, the sentences, the syllables, the tears, I confuse them, words and tears, my words are my tears, my eyes my mouth. And I should hear, at every little pause, if it’s the silence I say when I say that only the words break it. But nothing of the kind, that’s not how it is, it’s for ever the same murmur, flowing unbroken, like a single endless word and therefore meaningless, for it’s the end gives the meaning to words.

– Beckett, Texts for Nothing, #8

Roots in the question

A sound response puts down roots in the question. The question is its sustenance. Common sense believes that it does away with the question. Indeed, in the so-called happy eras, only the answers seem alive. But this affirmative contentment soon dies off. The authentic answer is always the question’s vitality. It can close in around the question, but it does so in order to preserve the question by keeping it open.

– Blanchot, The Space of Literature (trans. A. Smock)