Maurice Blanchot Essay - Critical Essays

Blanchot, Maurice


Maurice Blanchot 1907-

French critic, novelist, short fiction writer, and essayist.

The following entry presents an overview of Blanchot's career through 1999.

Though unfamiliar to many English-language readers until recent decades, Maurice Blanchot is regarded as one of most significant French literary theorists of the twentieth century. As the intellectual progenitor of other renowned French theorists such as Michel Foucault, Paul de Man, and Jacques Derrida, Blanchot exerts a profound influence on contemporary thinking concerned with the nature of text and the process of creative writing itself, particularly among structuralist and postmodern writers. An enigmatic figure who refuses any literary affiliations, Blanchot attracts increasing acclaim for his challenging literary essays, several novels, and trademark récits, a hybrid of philosophical meditation and fragmented narrative that embody his view of literature as an intractable act of self-negation.

Biographical Information

Born in Quain, Saone-et-Loire, France, Blanchot studied philosophy at the University of Strasbourg from 1926 to 1930. There, he immersed himself in the writings of Martin Heidegger and befriended philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, with whom Blanchot maintained a lifelong association. During the 1930s, Blanchot worked as a political journalist for the nationalist daily Journal des débats and right-wing publications such as Combat and L'Insurgé, through which he espoused fascist and anti-Semitic views and incited acts of terrorism against the socialist Popular Front government of Leon Blum. In 1933 Blanchot co-founded and served as editor of his own journal, Le Rempart. He completed his first work of fiction, “L'Idylle” in 1936, later published in Le Ressassement éternel (1952; Vicious Circles). When the German army invaded and occupied France in 1940, Blanchot's fascist sympathies gave way to his greater nationalism, and he joined the French Resistance. During this time he entered into an important affiliation with writer Georges Bataille and published his first two novels—Thomas l'Obscur (1941; Thomas the Obscure) and Aminadab (1942). Shortly thereafter he published his first volume of criticism, Comment la littérature est-elle possible? (1942; How Is Literature Possible?), a study of Jean Paulhan's Les Fleurs de Tarbes, and his first collection of critical essays, Faux Pas (1943). After the war Blanchot abandoned his extreme right-wing positions for new leftist associations and withdrew from politics altogether, except to oppose French military action in Algeria during the 1960s. Over the next several decades Blanchot continued to publish récits and volumes of criticism, notably L'Espace littéraire (1955; The Space of Literature) and L'Entretien infini (1969; The Infinite Conversation). He also regularly contributed to periodicals such as Nouvelle Revue francaise and Critique. Though his writings continued to exert an important influence on postwar French literature, Blanchot himself virtually disappeared. Almost nothing is known of his later life, since he has retreated so completely from the public eye and declines to be interviewed or photographed. In 1996 Blanchot (then in his late-eighties) resurfaced in a flurry of published letters concerning his decision to abandon long-time publisher Fata Morgana, whose publication of a work by right-wing ideologue Alain de Benoist prompted Blanchot to demand the withdraw of his own books from Fata Morgana's catalog.

Major Works

Blanchot's works of fiction and criticism—often indistinguishable as separate genres—consistently explore the problematic nature of language and the fate of the creative writer, whose task of transforming experience into text merely reveals the inherent futility of such an endeavor. As Blanchot repeatedly demonstrated, the artist's effort to speak the truth necessarily devolves into silence and extreme passivity—exemplified by death. The Greek myth of Orpheus is central to Blanchot's work, representing the writer's failure to triumph over silence (death) through his work, and the perpetual isolation and self-annihilation that befalls such failure. Like Orpheus, who descended into Hades to retrieve his dead wife, Eurydice, and forever lost her when he prematurely turned to look at her, the writer loses the object of his or her desire the instant it is sought after. Thus, the creative project is a circular process of grasping after an unattainable meaning that vanishes before one can apprehend it. Blanchot's first three novels—Thomas the Obscure, Aminadab, and Le Très-Haut (1948; The Most High)—are unconventional in form and anticipate the near-total evaporation of plot and character in his later récits. Assuming a novelistic posture merely to unmask its artifice, these self-reflexive narratives take as their principal subject the act of writing and the protagonist's untenable position as observer and interlocutor in his own story. Notably influenced by the fiction of Franz Kafka, the tone of Blanchot's novels evokes entrapment, indeterminacy, and resignation, and Blanchot's austere prose and emphasis on mysterious circumstances, esoteric associations, and dualities reveals the absurdity of conventional plot and characterization. Thomas the Obscure consists of a hallucinatory series of episodes involving two characters, Thomas and Anne, whose actions and interactions are rendered ambiguous by Blanchot's ceaseless qualifications and evasions. In Aminadab, the protagonist, also named Thomas, is mistakenly drawn into a strange, labyrinthine boarding house in which he encounters various inhabitants while searching for the ominous “Law” that directs them from the upper floors. The insidious omnipresence and machinations of the “Law” are also central to The Most High, in which the bedridden protagonist and narrator, Henri Sorge, a character based upon the Greek Orestes, describes a surreal, postwar police state inhabited by bureaucrats and revolutionaries. After The Most High, Blanchot abandoned the novel form for the récit, a self-styled type of fragmentary philosophical-literary narrative that approximates the intersection of criticism and fiction, but is neither. The first of these, L'Arrêt de mort (1948; Death Sentence), introduces a dominant and recurring motif in Blanchot's subsequent work—the death of the “other” as a metaphor for the alienation of the writer from his own work. In this eighty-page narrative, an unnamed protagonist relates the circumstances surrounding a young woman's fatal illness many years ago and realizes with horror that his current lover may be a ghostly incarnation of the long-deceased woman. In 1950 Blanchot also published a récit adaptation of Thomas the Obscure . In subsequent récits, including Au moment voulu (1951; When the Time Comes), Celui qui ne m'accompagnait pas (1953; The One Who Was Standing Apart from Me), Le Dernier Homme (1957; The Last Man), L'Attente, l'oubli (1962; Awaiting Oblivion), and La Folie du jour (1973; The Madness of the Day), Blanchot further explored the limitations, paradoxes, and fallacies of fictional representation, as well as critical interpretation of such literary and philosophical writings. The possibility—or impossibility—of literature is also the principal subject of Blanchot's criticism, much of which evolved out of occasional writings and reviews, which typically serve as a starting point for Blanchot's philosophical departures. Le Part du fe (1948; The Work of Fire)—a collection of essays dealing with Kafka, René Char, Friedrich Hölderlin, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, and Jean-Paul Sartre, among others—questions the purpose of the critic and challenges basic assumptions about the nature of authorship and text. This volume also includes the extended essay “Literature and the Right to Death,” in which Blanchot linked writing to a death-wish, whereby the writer—by the act of creation—follows language and its subject to total negation. Blanchot's apparent fascination with death, however, is not merely morbid or nihilistic, but embodies a dialectical aesthetic approach that locates artistic creation in annihilation. In The Space of Literature, another collection of essays, Blanchot elaborated upon the dilemma of Orpheus and the paradox of death as an affirmation of totality in negation. The “space of literature,” as Blanchot indicated, is the perpetual void in which, like Orpheus, the writer is simultaneously seeking and losing. This encounter with nonpresence and anonymity, endlessly repeated, characterizes the writer's striving to name what cannot be named. The Infinite Conversation, a collection of essays dating from 1953 to 1965, addresses the dialectical methods of G.W.F. Hegel and Alexandre Kojève, discusses language and its impact on relationships, and provides commentary on works by Friedrich Nietzsche, Bataille, Marquis de Sade, Blaise Pascal, and Kafka. L'Amitié (1971; Friendship), inspired largely by the 1962 death of Bataille, contains essays on Blanchot's close relationships with Bataille and Jean Paulhan, as well as discussion of André Malraux, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Marxism, war, and contemporary culture. L'Écriture du désastre (1980; The Writing of Disaster), the title of which alludes to the great human catastrophes of twentieth-century history, examines the problematic epistemology of critical discourse and reaffirms his skepticism concerning the possibility of fixing meaning or interpretation in text. The myth of Narcissus is presented as another metaphor for the futility of the writer to view the nonexistent self beneath appearances. La Communauté inavouable (1983; The Unavowable Community), a two-part essay with contributions by philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy and Marguerite Duras, considers the possibility of relationships with others, particularly the contradictory necessity and futility of such connections. Blanchot continued to publish short works of criticism during the 1990s, including Pour l'amitié (1996), which first appeared as the introduction to Dionys Mascolo's 1993 book A la recherche d'un communisme de pensée. Les Intellectuels en question (1996), which discusses the recent history and definition of the “intellectual,” begins with the Dreyfus affair at the turn of the nineteenth-century and focuses on figures such as Simone Weil, Levinas, and Char.

Critical Reception

Though slow to acknowledge his influence in the Anglo-American world, many scholars hail Blanchot as one of the preeminent French literary philosophers of the twentieth-century. Geoffrey Hartman, one of the first English-language commentators to discuss his work, ranked Blanchot with Sartre as a dominant force in the development of postwar French letters. Regarded by some as “the hidden center” of contemporary literature and criticism, Blanchot is regularly cited in the works of more famous French theorists such as Foucault, Derrida, de Man, Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan, and Jean-Francois Lyotard, several of whom have paid homage to Blanchot in their lectures and writings. Blanchot's writings are also noted for precipitating the emergence of the French nouveau roman during the mid-1950s. During the late 1970s Blanchot's major texts, long unavailable in English, experienced a surge of interest as postmodern criticism infiltrated American universities. Death Sentence attracted a cult following among certain American intellectuals, and his critical writings, especially The Space of Literature, The Writing of Disaster, and his essay “Literature and the Right to Death,” gained scholarly appreciation. Blanchot's critical studies of other authors, particularly those for whom he expressed his deepest admiration—Kafka, Sade, and Lautremont—are considered exemplary. Critical evaluation of Blanchot's work is largely positive, especially among those eager to bring his underappreciated contributions to the attention of others. In recent years, however, Blanchot has come under new scrutiny for his early fascist associations, a problematic fact that has been forgiven by most critics in light of his subsequent writings and apparent pacifism. While interest in Blanchot's work has grown steadily since the 1980s, he has yet to achieve the widespread recognition that his admirers insist upon. Blanchot's particular genius lies in his uncanny ability to subtly deconstruct the problem of textual representation and the limitations of language. His daunting aesthetic approach, with its constant inversions, negations, and indeterminancies, also accounts for his rather limited audience of academic specialists. As many critics note, Blanchot's efforts to elucidate the deceptions of literary expression strangely seem to render his own work nearly uninterpretable, leaving critics to adopt an esoteric “Blanchovian” tone in their analyses of his work. Blanchot's refusal to write or speak about his own work further hinders interpretation of his elusive oeuvre. Yet, despite such difficulties, scholars continue to praise Blanchot's important contributions to modern literature and his role as a founding father of postwar French literary theory.

Principal Works

Thomas l'Obscur [new version, 1950; Thomas the Obscure] (novel) 1941

Aminadab (novel) 1942

Comment la littérature est-elle possible? [How is Literature Possible?] (criticism) 1942

Faux Pas (criticism) 1943

L'Arrêt de mort [Death Sentence] (fiction) 1948

Lautréamont et la roman (criticism) 1948

La Part du feu [The Work of Fire] (criticism) 1948

Le Très-Haut [The Most High] (novel) 1948

Lautréamont et Sade (criticism) 1949

Au moment voulu [When the...

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Geoffrey Hartman (essay date 1962)

SOURCE: “Maurice Blanchot,” in The Novelist as Philosopher, Oxford University Press, 1962, pp. 147-65.

[In the following essay, Hartman discusses Blanchot's fiction and critical writings, providing an overview of his literary associations and theoretical principles.]

The seriousness, the suffering, the patience, and the labour of the Negative.


Blanchot’s work, says one of his few interpreters, offers no point of approach whatsoever. Today, twenty years after his first novel, he is still the most esoteric writer of contemporary France. There have appeared only three or four essays on...

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Roland A. Champagne (essay date 1978)

SOURCE: “A Mosaic View: The Poetics of Maurice Blanchot,” in The Literary Review, Vol. 21, 1978, pp. 425-38.

[In the following essay, Champagne discusses the influence of Judaic thought and biblical paradigms on Blanchot's philosophy of language. In particular, Champagne considers the poststructuralist literary theory with which Blanchot associates literary space with the Promised Land, literary text with scripture, and the writer-reader relationship with that of a sacred covenant.]

“For the writer, the genuine responsibility is to support literature as a commitment not yet realized, as a Mosaic view of the Promised Land of reality.”...

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Edouard Morot-Sir (review date Autumn 1981)

SOURCE: A review of L'Écriture du désastre, in World Literature Today, Vol. 55, No. 4, Autumn, 1981, p. 642.

[In the following review, Morot-Sir outlines Blanchot's literary principles and theoretical perspectives in L'Écriture du désastre.]

Blanchot warns his eventual critics and, by the same token, himself that any commentary is an effort at “producing meaning” and thus of reconstructing a text; it is heavy prattling and gross distortion. Far from being the “ideal reader,” the critic destroys the pure quality of writing and brings writing back to an oral status; he forces it into the artificial world of Letters. Once and for all, Hegel gave the...

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Walter Kendrick (essay date May 1982)

SOURCE: “Pure Writing for Now People,” in Voice Literary Supplement, No. 7, May, 1982, p. 8.

[In the following essay, Kendrick discusses some of Blanchot's major themes and theoretical preoccupations in his fiction, the English translations of his writings, his association with other writers, and his critical reception in the United States.]

“A story? No. No stories, never again,” says the narrator of The Madness of the Day. Actually, he says it in French: “Un récit? Non, pas de récit, plus jamais.” This edition is bilingual, so you can compare the English with the French, a bold stroke for a translation. In a footnote to his note, “Thomas...

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Leon S. Roudiez (review date Autumn 1984)

SOURCE: A review of La Communauté inavouable, in World Literature Today, Vol. 58, No. 4, Autumn, 1984, p. 566.

[In the following review, Roudiez discusses Blanchot's intellectual concerns in La Communauté inavouable.]

Georges Bataille had provided an intellectual backdrop for several of Maurice Blanchot’s recent texts; that is again the case for this brief, two-part essay [La Communauté inavouable]. Each part has its own pre-text, an essay by the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy (“La communauté désœuvrée”) and a narrative by Marguerite Duras (“La maladie de la mort”). Blanchot’s assumption, not an unusual one, is that human beings are...

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Jay Caplan (review date Spring 1987)

SOURCE: A review of The Writing of Disaster, in Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts, Vol. XXIX, No. 2, Spring, 1987, pp. 264-5.

[In the following review, Caplan mentions the contributions of The Writing of Disaster to contemporary French thought.]

In the past few years, English translations of many Blanchot texts (both criticism and fictions) have finally become available. Ann Smock’s beautiful and moving translation of L’Ecriture du désastre will contribute, among other things, to the re-evaluation of Maurice Blanchot’s role in the definition of contemporary French thought. Blanchot’s relentless concern with death and...

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Welch D. Everman (essay date Summer 1988)

SOURCE: “Maurice Blanchot, the Story, and the Vicious Circle,” in New Orleans Review, Vol. 15, No. 2, Summer, 1988, pp. 35-40.

[In the following essay, Everman provides an analysis of The Madness of the Day, drawing attention to the paradoxical circularity of its premise and elaborations. According to Everman, “Blanchot's text establishes itself, repeats itself to infinity, and cancels itself at the same time by establishing its own impossibility.”]

The act of writing is interminable, incessant.

—Maurice Blanchot

Like Finnegans Wake, Maurice Blanchot’s brief text...

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Irving Malin (review date Summer 1989)

SOURCE: A review of Thomas the Obscure, in Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 9, No. 2, Summer, 1989, pp. 241-2.

[In the following review, Malin comments on the elusive text and obscurities in Thomas the Obscure.]

It is impossible to review briefly this subtle, haunting novel [Thomas the Obscure]—or meditation—because we must deal with deliberate evasions, absences, obscurities. The text, in effect, drowns us; it apparently refuses to permit breathing, rational discourse. Although it is divided into twelve short sections, we are unsure about the chronology. Should the sections be read consecutively? Does time advance? Are there two characters (Anne...

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Brian Evenson (review date Fall 1993)

SOURCE: A review of The Infinite Conversation, in Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 13, No. 3, Fall, 1993, pp. 241-2.

[In the following review, Evenson describes the contents of The Infinite Conversation.]

Written during the struggle between Hegelianism and anti-Hegelianism in French thought preceding poststructuralism, Blanchot’s Infinite Conversation provides a crucial link for understanding the more immediate roots of poststructuralism. Though Blanchot did much of his major writing in the forties, fifties, and sixties, his work has received little attention in America until recently. He is especially important for those interested in contemporary...

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John Gregg (essay date 1994)

SOURCE: “Blanchot's Suicidal Artist: Writing and the (Im)Possibility of Death,” in Maurice Blanchot and the Literature of Transgression, Princeton University Press, 1994, pp. 35-45.

[In the following essay, Gregg examines Blanchot's preoccupation with death, particularly as associated with suicide, literary creation, and the function of autobiography.]

Language and human beings share the same destiny of incompletion. Death as an approach, a passivity that cannot be rendered present or personal, worklessness and failure: these exigencies that Bataille posits as the basis of both sacrifice and his expérience are also categories that serve to organize...

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Steve Dickison (review date Fall 1994)

SOURCE: A review of The One Who Was Standing Apart from Me, in Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 14, No. 3, Fall, 1994, p. 214.

[In the following review, Dickison comments on the themes of The One Who Was Standing Apart from Me.]

The mark of Lydia Davis’s translation can be cited right away in the American title for this most recent of Maurice Blanchot’s fictions to appear in English. Davis’s elegant variation of Blanchot’s French title (Celui qui ne m’accompagnait pas—a “straight” translation might be “The One (or He) Who Was Not Accompanying Me”) carries in the word apart the echo of Blanchot’s ambivalent terminal...

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Gabriel Josipovici (review date 27 October 1995)

SOURCE: “Precise, Lucid, and Quiet,” in Times Literary Supplement, October 27, 1995, p. 26.

[In the following review, Josipovici praises Blanchot's early works of literary criticism but finds shortcomings in the cryptic assertions of The Work of Fire and The Writing of Disaster.]

When, in the early 1970s, I was trying to persuade British publishers to bring out a selection of the essays of Maurice Blanchot, no one was interested. Now at last the bulk of his work is becoming available in English, thanks largely to the Anglo-American academic interest in his friends and contemporaries Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Edmond Jabès and Emmanuel Levinas. But...

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Christopher Fynsk (essay date 1996)

SOURCE: “Crossing the Threshold: On ‘Literature and the Right to Death,’” in Maurice Blanchot: The Demand of Writing, edited by Carolyn Bailey Gill, Routledge, 1996, pp. 70-90.

[In the following essay, Fynsk examines the ambiguous nature of language, the function of literature, and the negative dialectic of death expressed in “Literature and the Right to Death.”]

Literature begins, Blanchot says, when it becomes a question, when the language of a work becomes literature in a question about language itself.1 This question concerns the source of literature’s ambiguity: its ‘origin’ in an irreducible ‘double meaning’ that is not a movement...

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Wallace Fowlie (review date Spring 1996)

SOURCE: “Blanchot and the New French Criticism,” in Sewanee Review, Vol. CIV, No. 2, Spring, 1996, pp. xxxvii-xxxix.

[In the following review, Fowlie comments on the literary and historical significance of the essays in The Work of Fire.]

The goals of the new French criticism, in which Maurice Blanchot holds his place beside Derrida, Foucault, Bachelard, Starobinski, and Jean-Pierre Richard, seem very complex. Such criticism may entail more than the analysis of a sonnet or even of a novel: it may be involved with the understanding of the entire experience of an author seen in the light of all his writing, and it may even attempt to illuminate the entire age in...

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Marc Lowenthal (review date Fall 1996)

SOURCE: A review of The Most High, in Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 16, No. 3, Fall, 1996, pp. 185-5.

[In the following review, Lowenthal summarizes The Most High comparing its narrator to that of Kafka's The Trial.]

Despite the wealth of translation of Maurice Blanchot’s work available, the arrival of one of his novels in English tends to be not only welcome but needed: the profound depthlessness, the illuminating opacity of his essays and fiction continue to put the very possibility of literature at stake.

Written in the aftermath of World War II, The Most High depicts a society of vague familiarity, one made up of...

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Leslie Hill (essay date 1997)

SOURCE: “The (Im)Possibility of Literature,” in Blanchot: Extreme Contemporary, Routledge, 1997, pp. 53-69.

[In the following excerpt, Hill provides an overview of the literary techniques and thematic preoccupations of Blanchot's Thomas the Obscure and Aminadab.]


Literature is perhaps essentially (but neither solely nor overtly) power of contestation: contestation of established authority, contestation of that which is (and the fact of being), contestation of language and the forms of literary language, lastly contestation of itself as power.

‘Les Grands...

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Irving Malin (review date Fall 1997)

SOURCE: A review of Awaiting Oblivion, in Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. XVII, No. 3, Fall, 1997, pp. 228-9.

[In the following review, Malin comments on the “terrible beauty” of Blanchot's prose in Awaiting Oblivion.]

Blanchot is a terrifying writer [in Awaiting Oblivion]. The action takes place in a hotel room; a man and woman make cryptic remarks about such subjects as waiting, writing, time, and death. But the man and woman seem to melt into other ghosts—these may or may not be another man and woman or their secretive doubles. “He” and “she”—and “I,” the author—become ambiguous pronouns so that identities remain obscure....

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Lynne Huffer (essay date 1998)

SOURCE: “Blanchot's Mother,”1 in Yale French Studies, No. 93, 1998, pp. 175-95.

[In the following essay, Huffer examines the relationship between gender and nostalgia in the rhetorical strategies of The Space of Literature.]

The death of the other restores men to each other.

—Nancy K. Miller, “The Exquisite Cadavers: Women in Eighteenth-Century Fiction”

I have to admit, the first time I read Maurice Blanchot’s The Space of Literature2 over a decade ago, there was much that I just didn’t get. Strangely, though, the book haunted me—not because I...

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Steven Jaron (review date Winter 1998)

SOURCE: A review of Pour l'amitié and Les Intellectuels en question, in World Literature Today, Vol. 72, No. 1, Winter, 1998, pp. 101-2.

[In the following review, Jaron discusses the intersections between literature, politics, and morality in Pour l'amitié and Les Intellectuels en question.]

Like Paul Valéry before him, Maurice Blanchot explains of himself that he has very little “historical” memory, which is to say, he knows that he lived during a dark age and in some measure participated in it, but he is unable to reconstitute it in his current writings. The recent release of two short books by him therefore gives us pause for reflection...

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Ian Pindar (review date 1 May 1998)

SOURCE: “A Sort of Defeated Tenderness,” in Times Literary Supplement, May 1, 1998, p. 6.

[In the following review, Pindar offers a positive assessment of Awaiting Oblivion and evaluates the critical studies of Blanchot by critics Leslie Hill and Gerald Bruns.]

The lengthy trial and recent conviction of Maurice Papon marked a turning-point in France’s gradual acceptance of the Vichy regime’s complicity in the Holocaust. As one of the lawyers in the case argued, Papon did not have blood on his hands, but blood on his pen. After the verdict was announced, a representative of the Jewish deportees’ families said: “France now knows that the soulless...

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Bridget Conley (review date December 1998)

SOURCE: A review of Friendship, in Modern Language Notes, Vol. 113, No. 5, December, 1998, pp. 1180-82.

[In the following review, Conley discusses the main themes of Friendship.]

In an August 1997 review of Maurice Blanchot’s Friendship in Library Journal (122.13, p. 90), Robert T. Ivey expressed his perplexity at the regard with which Blanchot is increasingly held among literary theorists and philosophers. Giving Blanchot’s text a grade of “C,” he wrote that those seeking commentaries on friendship such as Montaigne offered readers will be disappointed by these “rambling, disjointed essays …” I agree. Without reservation. It is true...

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Deborah M. Hess (essay date 1999)

SOURCE: “Introduction,” in Politics and Literature: The Case of Maurice Blanchot, Peter Lang, 1999, pp. 1-15.

[In the following essay, Hess provides an overview of Blanchot's literary career and political involvements, noting the critical obstacles of Blanchot's writings and political commitments due to his private nature and reticence concerning his own work.]

A great deal has been written on the subject of Maurice Blanchot: on his criticism, on his view of literature, on the difficulty of interpreting his fictional works, on his politics. Because there have been many widely divergent theories advanced, and very little dialogue between the different points of...

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George Quasha and Charles Stein (essay date 1999)

SOURCE: “Publishing Blanchot in America: A Metapoetic View,” in The Station Hill Blanchot Reader, Station Hill, 1999, pp. 511-27.

[In the following essay, Quasha and Stein consider Blanchot's writings in an American context and discuss the difficulty of translating, reading, and interpreting his texts, particularly in light of their poetic openness and prophetic quality.]

After two decades of publishing the writing of Maurice Blanchot, we find ourselves still standing at the threshold. Slowly—very slowly—we may be learning the meanings of our own commitments. The decision to publish Blanchot has seemed at times fully conscious, perhaps willful, and yet...

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Leslie Hill (review date 13 August 1999)

SOURCE: “Cardiac Arrest,” in Times Literary Supplement, August 13, 1999, p. 24.

[In the following review, Hill comments on the historical significance of Blanchot's oeuvre in general, highlighting the implications of the death theme in The Station Hill Blanchot Readerand Friendship.]

Maurice Blanchot, novelist, critic, philosopher, now in his ninety-second year, is at last receiving the sustained critical attention his work deserves. These two volumes of translations explain why. The Station Hill Blanchot Reader brings together in one compendium edition previously out-of-print English versions of the author’s shorter fiction or récits,...

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Further Reading


Blegen, John. “Writing the Question: About Maurice Blanchot.” Diacritics 2, No. 2 (1972): 13-7.

Discusses Blanchot's fiction and theoretical writings in a review of Collin Francoise's Maurice Blanchot et la question de l'écriture, a critical study of Blanchot's work.

Bruns, Gerald L. Maurice Blanchot: The Refusal of Philosophy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997, 339 p.

A book-length critical study of Blanchot's major writings.

Cixous, Hélène. Readings: The Poetics of Blanchot, Joyce, Kafka, Kleist, Lispector, and Tsvetayeva, edited and translated by...

(The entire section is 528 words.)