Category Archives: Writing

Endless

It’s endless, isn’t it, I ask X, the injustice is endless, the rage is endless. I’ve barely dipped my toes in it and I’m full of rage and grief and thoughts of hurricanes and floods. What you’ve done to me, what I’ve done to people, what people have done to me, what they’re doing to young people in this country, what they’re doing to this world! There’s no end to it, because there’s no end to human evil. Don’t be hysterical, he says, haven’t you grown out of this sort of thing by now?

The teacher

You had me by the throat from day one, I tell X. You’d started undermining me before I had any idea what was happening, before I had any resources to combat you or the fear you were planting in me. You were teaching me about fear, watching me give myself over to it before I knew the danger I was in, give into it wholeheartedly before I knew what I was doing. Oh, you taught me, but you taught me without teaching, you weren’t interested in teaching, you cared only about power. I was left to learn what I could, and I learned much more than you and very quickly, once I started learning. It was easy, fear is always one step ahead, you catch up almost instantly, almost despite yourself, yet in a sense you learn nothing, less than nothing. The foundation was rotten from the start, it couldn’t withstand the pressure from above. (In this way you made sure that none of it seemed real, that I could easily be convinced it was all in my head, something I’d made up because of the weakness that was in me from the beginning.) If you’d put a chain around my ankles, if you’d beat me into submission, it would have made no real difference, and at least I would have had an excuse, something real to fight against or at least try to escape, some proof of wrongdoing that anyone could understand. Instead your wrongdoings became mine. Because you didn’t acknowledge them in the slightest their burden had to fall on someone, and I accepted them willingly, happily, shamefully. I accepted the burden of your sins to the point when I began to commit those very sins myself, seeking others to undermine, to plant fear in, to complete the circle. Because that’s what you taught me, my teacher. You still monitor me, don’t you, still read every word I write, hear every word I say, indifferent to everything except my fear and my self-disgust (at the slightest signs of which you perk up from your slumber), stupid in every respect but this one, in this one respect you’re a genius, you have the subtle eyes of a torturer. And I, too, am a torturer, who longs to torture his torturer, to teach his teacher.

I’m making a test

I’m making a test: on the balcony is a sparrow which expects me to throw some bread from the table on to the balcony, instead of which I drop the bread beside me on the floor in the middle of the floor. It stands outside and from there in the semi-darkness sees the food of its life, terribly tempting, it’s shaking itself, it’s more here than there, but here is the dark and beside the bread am I, the secret power. Nevertheless it hops over the threshold, a few more hops, but farther it doesn’t dare go and in sudden fright it flies away. But with what energy does this wretched bird abound, after a while it’s back again, inspects the situation, I scatter a little more to make it easier for it, and – if I hadn’t intentionally-unintentionally (this is how the secret powers work) chased it away with a sudden movement, it would have got the bread.

– Kafka, Letters to Milena (tr. T. and J. Stern)

One of these days

One of these days I’m really gonna blow up, I tell X. One of these days when I come across a psychopath, when I come across one of those scumbags who can’t tell right from wrong, I’m gonna do something bad, really bad. You realise what you’re doing, writing these things down, says X. You think you’re anonymous? I don’t care, I say. Sure you don’t, he says, you don’t know very much. And you don’t understand what you’ve done to me, I say, you don’t know and you don’t seem to care, you’re one of them. That’s nice, he says. No it’s not, I say.

Then you should know

Do you have any empathy? I ask X. Do you? Why do you always side with them over me? Why? Listen to yourself, X says. I am, I say. Then you should know, he says.

A speech of the infinite

‘How can we live without the unknown before us?’ [Rene Char] The pressing form of this questioning, then, comes from the following: (1) to live is necessarily to live ahead of oneself; (2) to live ‘authentically’, ‘poetically’, is to have a relation with the unknown as such, and thus to put at the centre of one’s life this-the-unknown that does not allow one to live ahead of oneself and, moreover, withdraws every centre from life […] Here let us recall René Char’s now long-standing affirmation, which will bring forth everything we have just tried to say: ‘A being of which one is ignorant is a being that is infinite – capable, in intervening, of changing our anguish and our burden into arterial dawn.’ The unknown as unknown is this infinite, and the speech that that speaks it is a speech of the infinite.

– Blanchot, ‘René Char and the Thought of the Neutral’ (in The Infinite Conversation, tr. S. Hanson)

The unknown is at stake

The unknown is neutral, a neuter. The unknown is neither object nor subject. This means that to think the unknown is in no way to propose it as ‘the not yet known’, the object of a knowledge still to come, any more than it would be to go beyond it as ‘the absolutely unknowable’, a subject of pure transcendence, refusing itself to all manner of knowledge and expression. On the contrary, let us (perhaps arbitrarily) propose that in research – where poetry and thought affirm themselves in a space that is proper to them, separate, inseparable – the unknown is at stake; on condition, however, that it be explicitly stated that this research relates to the unknown as unknown. A phrase all the same disconcerting, since it proposes to ‘relate’ the unknown inasmuch as it is unknown. In other words, we are supposing a relation in which the unknown world would be affirmed, made manifest, even exhibited: disclosed – and under what aspect? – precisely in that which keeps it unknown. In this relation, then, the unknown would be disclosed in that which leaves it under cover. Is this a contradiction? In effect.

– Blanchot, ‘René Char and the Thought of the Neutral’ (in The Infinite Conversation, tr. S. Hanson)