The Writing of the Disaster may best be understood within the context of Maurice Blanchot’s ongoing concern to create a fragmentary writing that explores the extremes of human experience. Such a mode of writing, or thinking (and for Blanchot these amount to much the same thing), seeks not to provide answers but to provoke questions about the fundamental problems of life and death, memory and forgetfulness, and culture and anarchy. Whereas earlier in his career as writer and critic, Blanchot had sought, in dialogue with French philosophers Emmanuel Lévinas and Georges Bataille, to explore the Hegelian mode of negation—the moment of antithesis in the dialectic—in The Writing of the Disaster, he seeks to go beyond negation, to explore the realm of the neutre, or the neutral. The concept of the neutral, as developed by Lévinas, denotes a passive position between being and nonbeing, a space that cannot be identified with the activity of the production of meaning or with productivity of any kind. Rather than the finished work or thought, Blanchot promotes the fragment, which is not to be mistaken for the aphorism—the latter being in some sense “finished,” or closed. Fragmentary writing, by its nature, seeks its own erasure; it is self-consuming and eludes the possibility of unity, totality, or continuity.
The Writing of the Disaster is not simply a meditation upon fragmentary writing but is itself composed in a...
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