Tuesday, April 26, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Thomas the Obscure by Maurice Blanchot, Part II

"Mysticism"  "Mysticism" is another loaded word. I am not referring to metaphysics (a conception of the world) but simply to a journey inward. Georges Bataille, a contemporary of Blanchot's with similar concerns, used the term "Inner Experience." However, in the context of Thomas the Obscure, I believe a slightly better description would be inner exploration. Blanchot's characters, Thomas and Anne, go deep within, to the very limits of the "self." And what do they find? Nothing:

   "It seemed to him that the waves were invading the sort of abyss which was himself"
   "He saw, he heard the core of an infinity where he was bound by the very absence of limits."
   "She passed through strange dead cities where, rather than petrified shapes, mummified circumstances, she found a necropolis of movements, silences, voids; she hurled herself against the extraordinary sonority of nothingness which is made of the reverse of sound."

In this inner state, the borders of the self begin to blur:
   "And yet, sure as he was that there was no one in the room and even in the world, he was just as sure that someone was there, occupying his slumber, approaching him intimately, all around him and within him."

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, "If you stare into the abyss long enough, the abyss may stare back at you." This is a theme of Thomas the Obscure:
   "He was locked in combat with something inaccessible, foreign, something of which he could say: That doesn't exist...."
   "He felt ever closer to an ever more monstrous absence which took an infinite time to meet."

   The word "Obscure" in the title is apropos. At the conclusion of the "story" we know nothing about Thomas, and Thomas knows nothing about himself.  After all his "explorations" he remains adrift in a sea of empty experience, with a "feeling which has to be give a name and which I call anguish. Here is the night."

   With all that explanation, are we any close to understanding Thomas the Obscure?

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