He perceived all the strangeness there was in being observed by a word as if by a living being, and not simply by one word, but by all the words that were contained in that word, by all those that went with it and in turn contained other words, like a procession of angels opening out into the infinite to the very eye of the absolute.
– Blanchot, Thomas the Obscure (tr. R. Lamberton)
Oh God, X says, I feel it under the surface again, it’s coming, it’s still there, I’m terrified, look at me! What am I terrified of, what’s there to be terrified of? Oh Christ help me, you’re no help, he says. Who can I turn to? It’s all there like it always was, we have to do something, we have to get out, what can we do? I’m still scared, he says, scared of nothing, it’s waiting to get us, Oh Jesus, we need to get out, let’s go do something, see a movie, I don’t care how bad it is, anything, dive into the sea, find someone to talk to, run down the street, my stomach’s turning, nothing’s right, nothing’s changed, it’s still bubbling under the surface like my bubbling guts, this is a nightmare, do something, why can’t you help? Let’s get a few bottles, X says, and have a quiet night in.
Writing: no going back, no going forward. At the end and beginning of your tether.
In the field of writing before I can identify myself. I’ve fallen into some kind of error. Begin again, end again.
You wrote: writing enclosed you outside yourself. You wrote: nothing spoke through your words like wind through leaves.
When I began writing I’d get distracted by the movements of the pen in my hand and the ink marks on the page. Sometimes the hand of writing gripped mine, but the beginning never really got off to a start. Instead it doubled up as an ending, making writing both beginning and end.
I have brought nothing with me that life requires so far as I know, but only the universal human weakness, in this respect it is gigantic strength, I have vigorously absorbed the negative element of the age in which I live, an age that is of course very close to me, which I have no right ever to fight against, but as it were, a right to represent. The slight amount of the positive and also of the extreme negative, which capsizes into the positive is something in which I have had no hereditary share, I have not been guided into life by the hand of Christianity, admittedly now slack and failing, as Kierkegaard was, and have not caught the hem of the Jewish prayer shawl, now flying away from us as the Zionists have. I am an end or a beginning.
— Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks
Theo felt a kind of closeness to the man and said, ‘Why don’t you leave everything behind and get going? Walking is preferable to sitting still. Sitting only brings evil thoughts’.
‘Correct. You’re right. Thoughts are poisoning me.’
‘What are you thinking about?’ Theo tried to be forthcoming.
‘About myself. I’m ashamed to admit it. But I have to. I’ve lost everyone, my wife and my two daughters – and I still think about myself. I hoard sacks. It’s stupid. Even worse – evil. You understand me.’
‘What do you think will happen?’ Theo wanted to walk with him a short way.
‘That strange preoccupation with oneself is a sin which cannot be atoned for. It disgusts me.’
‘Are you a religious man?’ Theo asked cautiously.
‘No, my friend. I come from a middle-class home. Generations of merchants, whom trade, to tell the truth, did not always favour. But one thing it did develop in them was a good measure of egotism.’
— Aharon Appelfeld, For Every Sin (tr. Green)