Monthly Archives: November 2009

A profound enough gaze

It is not that the poet thinks ceaselessly of all the things in the world; they think of him. They are in him, they dominate him. Even his arid hours, his depressions, his dismay are impersonal moods; they correspond to the jags on a seismograph, and a profound enough gaze could read in them secrets still more mysterious than the poems themselves.

— Hofmannnsthal



The leap is inspiration’s form or movement. This form or this movement makes inspiration unjustifiable. But in this form or movement inspiration also comes into its own: its principle characteristic is affirmed in this inspiration which is at the same time and from the same the same point of view lack of inspiration – creative force and aridity intimately confounded. Hölderlin undergoes the rigours of this condition when he endures poetic time as the time of distress, when the gods are lacking but where God’s default helps us: Gottes Fehl hilft. Mallarmé, whom sterility tormented and who shut himself into it with heroic resolve, also recognised that this deprivation did not express a simple personal failing, did not signify that he was deprived of the work, but announced his encounter with the work, the threatening intimacy of this encounter.

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

This is how Juliette, at 3.37 p.m.

This is how Juliette, at 3.37 p.m., watched the turning pages…
…of that object known in journalese as a magazine
And this is how, 150 frames later, another young woman, her twin…
…saw the same object. Where, then, is the truth?
Full-face or profile? But first, what is an object?
Perhaps it is a link enabling us…
…to pass from one subject to another, therefore to live together
But since social relations are always ambiguous…
…since thought divides as much as it unites…
…since words unite or isolate by what they express or omit…
…since an immense gulf separates my subjective awareness…
…from the objective truth I represent for others…
…since I constantly blame myself, though I feel innocent…
…since every event transforms my daily life…
…since I constantly fail to communicate…
…since each failure makes me aware of solitude…
…since I cannot escape crushing objectivity or isolating subjectivity…
…since I cannot rise to the state of being, or fall into nothingness…
…I must listen, I must look around more than ever
The world… my kin… my twin

— Godard, Two or Three Things I Know About Her…

Tarkovsky and Bergman

A. The pressure Rublev is subject to is not an exception. An artist never works under ideal conditions. If they existed, his work wouldn’t exist, for the artist doesn’t live in a vacuum. Some sort of pressure must exist; the artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world. This is the issue in Andrei Rublev; the search for harmonic relationships among men, between art and life, between time and history. That’s what my film is all about.

Q. What is art?

A. Before defining art or any concept we must answer a far broader question. What’s the meaning of man’s life on earth? Maybe we are here to enhance ourselves spiritually. If our life tends to this spiritual enrichment, then art is a means to get there. This is in accordance with my definition of life. Art should help man in this process. Some say that art helps man to know the world like any other intellectual activity. I don’t believe in this possibility of knowing; I am almost an agnostic. Knowledge distracts us from our main purpose in life. The more we know the less we know; getting deeper, our horizon becomes narrower. Art enriches man’s own spiritual capabilities and he can then rise above himself to use what we call ‘free will’.



When film is not a document, it is dream. That is why Tarkovsky is the greatest of them all. He moves with such naturalness in the room of dreams. He doesn’t explain. What should he explain anyhow? He is a spectator, capable of staging his visions in the most unwieldy but, in a way, the most willing of media. All my life I have hammered on the doors of the rooms in which he moves so naturally. Only a few times have I managed to creep inside. Most of my conscious efforts have ended in embarrassing failure.

— Bergman, Laterna Magica

The yoga of despair

This mastery of our innermost movements, which in the long run we can acquire, is well known: it is yoga. But yoga is given in the form of coarse recipes, embellished with pedantism and with bizarre statements. And yoga, practiced for its own sake, advances no further than an aesthetics or a hygiene, whereas I have recourse to the same means (laid bare), in despair.

— Bataille, Inner Experience (tr. L.A. Boldt)


The cleaning lady

As she rubbed the furniture to make it shine, she upbraided me, telling me that the life I led was unhealthy. She had remarked that I had a tendency to drink a little too much, it was bad for the health. Very bad, for a man at the height of his powers. Wasn’t I going to buckle down and find some work for myself? All right, so I had an inheritance. That was no reason to sit around and do nothing all day. At least get married. Did I intend to go one living all alone, like some impotent? I ought to start a family. Man is made to have children, and there’s nothing cuter than little ones underfoot. And then when they grow up and you grow old, they don’t abandon you to poverty; no, they reach out a helping hand when you need it most. If there’s anything worse than living alone, it’s dying alone, with no one around to offer you a little milk of human kindness. I didn’t know what was in store for me.


She was downstairs, with the concierge, next to her door. When they saw me they stopped talking. Were they talking about me? All I want is for them to leave me alone. I can do whatever I want. I can loaf all day if I’ve a mind to. That’s my business. Oh! I can feel myself getting angry. I hurried through the lobby. But before I exited I glanced back: I saw them looking at me. They were waiting till I had disappeared before going on with their backbiting, their malicious small talk. What could they be dreaming up about me? The whole concierge system is a kind of plot.


She had grown used to my comings and goings at the same time every day, and adjusted to my strange solitude. ‘You look to me’, she said to me at one point, ‘like you’re hiding from the police. Or from some rivals’. I told her that no one was after my skin, that as far as my hash was concerned I was sure no one was trying to settle it, and that I had never belonged to the underworld. ‘Just as I suspected’, she said, ‘you don’t look brave enough for that’.

— Ionesco, The Hermit (tr. R. Seaver)

The hermit

I wasn’t a rebel. Which is not to imply that I was resigned, for the fact was I didn’t know what I ought to resign myself to.


I was in a vast space, and yet it was locked.


When do I hit upon the truth, when I see everything as desolation and despair, or when I see all creation as a joyous month of May in full bloom? But we cannot know, our ignorance is boundless. We have neither the right to judge, nor the possibility of judging.


I don’t have any desires, or rather only a few, or rather I don’t have them any more. If I have any, they’re not worth being exploited and encouraged. Perhaps I actually do have desires. But they’re dormant. I’m not inclined to wake them up. What are my desires? That people leave me alone; that other people’s desires leave me alone and don’t involve me in their repercussions. What I desire most of all is not to have any desires. And yet I notice that I do have some.


‘Aren’t you ashamed to have no goal in life, to be living for nothing?’ Pierre Ramboule asked me one day, unless it was Jacques, I don’t remember which. After a thorough self-examination, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t ashamed […] I don’t feel obliged to answer that question.


People tend to avoid or forget the unthinkable; their thinking begins where the unthinkable ends; they base their thinking on the unthinkable, and for me too that is unthinkable.


I think that I’m at the wall of the world; forget the other side of the wall.


No one is guilty of anything. Or else everyone is guilty of everything, which comes to the same thing.


— Ionesco, The Hermit (trans. R. Seaver)

Intellectual aims

Q. ‘What kind of intellectual aims do you…’

A. ‘These are all questions that can’t be answered because no one asks themselves that sort of thing. People don’t have aims. Young people, up to 23, they still fall for that. A person who has lived five decades has no aims, because there’s no goal.’

Thomas Bernhard

‘I am not an artist’

Zola says, ‘Moi artiste, je veux vivre tout haut – veux vivre’ [I, as an artist, want to live as vigorously as possible — (I) want to live], without mental reservation – naive as a child, no, not as a child, as an artist – with good will, however life presents itself, I shall find something in it, I will try my best on it. Now look at all those studied little mannerisms, all that convention, how exceedingly conceited it really is, how absurd, a man thinking he knows everything and that things go according to his idea, as if there were not in all things of life a ‘je ne sais quoi’ of great goodness, and also an element of evil, which we feel to be infinitely above us, infinitely greater, infinitely mightier than we are.
    How fundamentally wrong is the man who doesn’t feel himself small, who doesn’t realize he is but an atom.
    Is it a loss to drop some notions, impressed on us in childhood, that maintaining a certain rank or certain conventions is the most important thing? I myself do not even think about whether I lose by it or not. I know only by experience that those conventions and ideas do not hold true, and often are hopelessly, fatally wrong. I come to the conclusion that I do not know anything, but at the same time that this life is such a mystery that the system of ‘conventionality’ is certainly too narrow. So that it has lost its credit with me.
    What shall I do now? The common phrase is, ‘What is your aim, what are your aspirations?’ Oh, I shall do as I think best – how? I can’t say that beforehand – you who ask me that pretentious question, do you know what your aim is, what your intentions are?
    Now they tell me, ‘You are unprincipled when you have no aim, no aspirations.’
    My answer is, I didn’t tell you I had no aim, no aspirations, I said it is the height of conceit to try to force one to define what is indefinable. These are my thoughts about certain vital questions. All that arguing about it is one of the things of which I say ‘embêtera.’
    I am not an artist – how coarse it sounds – even to think so of oneself – oughtn’t one to have patience, oughtn’t one to learn patience from nature, learn patience from seeing the corn slowly ripen, seeing things grow – should one think oneself so absolutely dead as to imagine that one would not grow any more? Should one thwart one’s own development on purpose? I say this to explain why I think it so foolish to speak about natural gifts and no natural gifts.

— van Gogh, Letters

Blanchot on suicide

The anguish which opens with such assurance upon nothingness is not essential; it has drawn back before the essential; it does not yet seek anything other than to make of nothingness the road to salvation. Whoever dwells with negation cannot use it. Whoever belongs to it can no longer, in this belonging, take leave of himself, for he belongs to the neutrality of absence in which already he is not himself anymore.


I go to meet the death which is in the world, at my disposal, and I think that thereby I can reach the other death, over which I have no power – which has none over me either, for it has nothing to do with me, and if I know nothing of it, it knows no more of me.


Whoever wants to die can only want the borders of death, the utilitarian death which is in the world and which one reaches through the precision of a workman’s tools.


It is the fact of dying that includes a radical reversal, through which the death that was the extreme form of my power not only becomes what loosens my hold upon myself by casting me out of my power to begin and even to finish, but also becomes that which is without any relation to me, without power over me.


The expression “I kill myself” suggests the doubling which is not taken into account. For “I” is a self in the plenitude of its action and resolution, capable of acting sovereignly upon itself, always strong enough to reach itself with its blow. And yet the one who is thus struck is no longer I, but another, so that when I kill myself, perhaps it is “I” who does the killing, but it is not done to me.

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