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The Writing of the Disaster Paperback – May 1, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0803261204 ISBN-10: 0803261209 Edition: New Edition

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The Writing of the Disaster + The Space of Literature: A Translation of "L'Espace litteraire" + Gaze of Orpheus: and other literary essays
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 153 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; New Edition edition (May 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803261209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803261204
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

About the Author

Ann Smock is a professor of French at the University of California at Berkeley. She has translated Blanchot’s The Space of Literature, also available as a Bison Book. Jeffrey Mehlman, a professor of French at Boston University, is the author of many books and articles on twentieth-century France and French literature.

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Customer Reviews

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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Sagi Cohen on November 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
In my opinion, this book is a purified example of what theory should be, how theory should be written. Granted that I've not read the original in French; but even through this darkened glass, there's enough light that breaks through. Enough to blind one.
In reading Blanchot, I think, you must never be "one". There is no Unity in the Disaster of Writing. "Just" Ethics. Blanchot's writing, to me, echoes that of Nietzsche (and also the later Wittgenstein): both are written in - so called - aphorisms, short phrases, unconnected by language's rules or direct meanings. No longer a detailed/derailed "Treatise" that's going to "make it all understood"; I view the Levinassian heritage - prominent in Blanchot's thought (he was good friends with Emmanuel Levinas) - as an "Ethics of Deconstruction" (to quote Critchley's wonderful book of Levinas and Derrida), as a fragmentation rather than unification. This fragmentation, this disintegration, this death - - allow the only Ethical standpoint available to a mortal facing the world: an infinite responsibility toward the Other.
That's why Blanchot - and also Derrida, in my opinion - is an Ethical Philosopher: his Writing of the disaster is always aware of the catastrophe the Other brings upon any "Unity" - whether Political (Totalitarianism) or psychological (what Lacan called "Ego Psychology") - and our Ethical obligation toward the Other as an infinite responsibility, one that does not have an "end", one that doesn't end.
In Blanchot, Form adheres to content, and therefore that's what makes his writing - again, in my eyes - Ethical. Writing ABOUT Ethics is one thing (and a pretty dead-end thing at that); But Writing Ethics, The Writing of the Disaster - is what Blanchot's book is all about.
One of the closing/opening remarks of His is "learn to Think in Pain". this is how I understand Ethics, if at all.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ian Gazarek on January 28, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I can't say that I'm usually a huge fan of philosophical texts; I figured I was taking a gamble by picking this one up. A philosophical theory book written in fragments that deals with the holocaust? Not usually my thing.

The first few pages I was just mystified; they seemed full of wilfully contradictory phrases about the other, about truth, about literature and death, concepts I understood in my own language but which this book was not making clear how I should interpret.

After I got into the swing of its vocabulary, however, I was swept away in its philosophical power. Some say theorizing is just a way to avoid confronting how little we control in the universe. Maybe that's true, even though this theory seemed concerned mainly with showing us how little control we have, and how fragmented our existence is.

The organization--fair for a book about traumatized writing in fragments--is hard to follow at times, but most of the fragments, if arbitrary, are dazzling, even dazzlingly beautiful in their demistifying quality. Some on writing, some on existence, some on death, some on the need for a God; the ones I understood I almost universally loved. I found myself in the midst of endless pleasure as I read this book, as difficult as it was.

A few choice quotes:

On Etymology: It is not the arbitrariness that is surprising here, but on the contrary, the mimetic effort, the semblance of analogy, the appeal to a doubtful body of knowledge that makes us the dupes of a kind of transhistorical necessity.

On Writing: But this "task" cannot be limited, as he would have it, to the job of exhausting life--causing life, through the constant renewal of desire, to be lived completely.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Steiner VINE VOICE on May 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
The Writing of the Disaster is an immensely difficult text- a text which deals with issues as totalizing as writing, the holocaust, and the text itself. Blanchot's style is naturally Nietzschean, drawing on the example of the aphorism, a fragmentary and disjointed fragment of thoughts, remarks, and of course contradictions. True, the use of explicit contradictions is a bit tiresome, and often difficult to comprehend, but Blanchot is playing with the impossibility of the writing of the disaster. The play of disaster and ruin is both destabilizing and ordering. Blanchot writes:
"Energy, as destruction of things or as removal from among things, destroys and removes itself. Let us acknowledge this. However, this loss, as the disappearance of things-the disappearance, indeed, of the order of things-seeks in its turn to get into line, either by reinvesting itself as another thing, or by letting itself be spoken. Thereby, thanks to this discourse that makes a theme of it, it becomes considerable, it fits back into order and 'consecrates' itself. Only order gains from its loss" (90).

The Writing of the Disaster is a thinking of and in pain. It is a deeply perplexing meditation on the impossibility of the text and the disaster of absence.
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22 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Kevin F. Dolan on February 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
To rate this book is to do its author a disservice. I might as well have given the text one star, for it makes no 'sense'. It is a multiple work, in the spirit of Nietzsche's aphoristic style, that attempts to lend a few scents to the reader. These scents might lead one to a space of silence in which the artist or writer relates with the source of his or her law, the inactive voice of reason. Can silence be rated? Our mistake is thinking that it can be rated and adhered to, giving rise to the disaster. The disaster is always already past; it is embedded in the way we read, the way we write, and the way we relate to texts. The disaster is something like the silencing of silence, and Blanchot's project attempts to rimind us to forget what we've read, as a historical community, and remember that which gives us pleasure in creating attempts to communicate with others.
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