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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Thomas the Obscure by Maurice Blanchot. Thomas the Obscure by Maurice Blanchot ,. Robert Lamberton Translator. Before Sartre, before Beckett, before Robbe-Grillet, Maurice Blanchot created the new novel, the ultimate post-modern fiction.
Written between and , Blanchot's first novel, here brilliantly translated by Robert Lamberton, contains all the remarkable aspects of his famous and perplexing invention, the ontological narrative--a tale whose subject is the nature of bei Before Sartre, before Beckett, before Robbe-Grillet, Maurice Blanchot created the new novel, the ultimate post-modern fiction.
Written between and , Blanchot's first novel, here brilliantly translated by Robert Lamberton, contains all the remarkable aspects of his famous and perplexing invention, the ontological narrative--a tale whose subject is the nature of being itself. This paradoxical work discovers being in the absence of being, mystery in the absence of mystery, both to be searched for limitlessly.
As Blanchot launches this endless search in his own masterful way, he transforms the possibilities of the novel. First issued in English in in a limited edition, this re-issue includes an illuminating essay on translation by Lamberton. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Thomas the Obscure , please sign up.
Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of Thomas the Obscure. Aug 23, BlackOxford rated it it was amazing Shelves: jewish , kabbalah , french-language.
Existentialist Kabbalah Interwar existentialism appeared as a sort of overnight philosophical and literary mushroom. Absurdity is lack of reason in every sense - the absence of implicit meaning, the sterility of human action, and ultimately the pointlessness of life.
According to Martin Heidegger, for example, the event which pro Existentialist Kabbalah Interwar existentialism appeared as a sort of overnight philosophical and literary mushroom.
According to Martin Heidegger, for example, the event which provokes the question of the reasonableness of life is its inevitable termination, death, which is the triumph of unreason. Maurice Blanchot is an existentialist. But he is not an absurdist in the same way that Heidegger or Camus are absurdists. For him, life itself, the experience of existence is the only motivation necessary to fill it with meaning, purpose and reason.
At the very outset of Thomas the Obscure , Thomas experiences near-drowning, apparently intentionally. He approaches death and spits in its eye when he feels his own existence quite distinctly from his other bodily sensations or his thoughts. In other words he has some sort of unique significance in the world of things.
He can simultaneously experience and reflect upon that experience. This is the miraculous character of his being. The existential void, nothingness, exists for Thomas, but it is hardly a threat. Not only did this eye which saw nothing apprehend something, it apprehended the cause of its vision Its own glance entered into it as an image And thought, having entered him again, exchanged contact with the void.
Where does it come from? Blanchot is certainly not from the same intellectual gene pool as Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Camus. His literary forebears are Flaubert and Kafka - the first aesthetic, the second spiritual. Blanchot testifies to both, especially the latter, in his writing and correspondence. Blanchot was not merely incidentally interested in Kafka. The Kabbalah is absurdist in the manner in which Blanchot and Kafka is absurdist. It seeks to undermine not just the dominance and distortions of language but also the conventions of reason language embodies.
This is what Heidegger called Dasein , the particular reflective mode of being of a person. Dasein , according to Heidegger, must decide what its life is, what it will be committed to, what its point will be.
For Heidegger, the content of these choices is all there is, this is Dasein tout court. But not so for Blanchot. He knows that any fixation of purpose is already lethal. It implies the cessation of new interpretations, of new possibilities, of learning about oneself as well as the world, of life in a sense more profound that the stopping of physical processes. This receptacle is not a thing in any concrete sense neither is Dasein but something, nevertheless, which is , and is independent of its contents - a psyche, a life-force, or if one prefers, a soul.
Its content is constantly changing. In fact, in some sense this entity is entirely beyond time; it is eternal and the locus of a potentially infinite series of interpretations passed on from generation to generation of physical persons largely through language!
It is an entity, therefore, not driven, like Dasein , by fear of death, but the continuously new possibilities of its interpretations of life. Thomas explicitly uses the method of Kabbalah while reading after dinner.
Every word, every letter, each mark of punctuation has a potentially hidden meaning, in fact an infinity of potential meanings, to be discovered and explored. The technique has an unusual effect. But as Blanchot suggests, Language also interrogates Man.
If so, there is no need to invent a new vocabulary as Heidegger has done. Much better to attend to the angels of words we already possess.
Thomas struggles with the merciless text as if he were a student with the Torah. Thomas encounters his own existence through the existence of the text. I am an expert neither in existentialism nor Kabbalah. Together I think they provide at least an entry into his method of writing and thought.
This idea of death giving significance to life, although having Greek philosophical precedents, is most fully expressed in Christian theology. The Christian motive for living is salvation after and, crucially, through death. This is markedly different from the Judaic and Islamic motive of obedience to the divine will as an end in itself. It is, I think, the primary differentiating factor of Christianity as a dogmatic religion of faith, and Judaism as an ethical religion of correct behaviour.
View all 21 comments. Jan 26, Stephen P rated it it was amazing. At once I was taken into the event, the hailstorm of ideas, thoughts, the words seeking their place and joining as magnetic twinings.
Ever repetitive, ever reaching, dense and incomprehensible while singing the poetry of prose. Relieved that I am finally done though the novel was a mere pages. Witho At once I was taken into the event, the hailstorm of ideas, thoughts, the words seeking their place and joining as magnetic twinings. Without the use of character or plot development Blanchot covers immense ground in pursuit of life and the living, the living of a death. Due to the extraordinary density I will not read this book again but I am grateful I did once.
Through the non-linear rendering a meaning entered silently into my pores. It is an experience. Once inside it does not leave. Some things better left unexamined? But it is different than the core messages I receive from linear novels no matter how profound.
By weathering? As never before I was inside the event unfolding.
Thomas the Obscure
He then embarked on a career as a political journalist in Paris. There is no dispute that Blanchot was nevertheless the author of a series of violently polemical articles attacking the government of the day and its confidence in the politics of the League of Nations, and warned persistently against the threat to peace in Europe posed by Nazi Germany. In December , he met Georges Bataille , who had written strong anti-fascist articles in the thirties, and who would remain a close friend until his death in Blanchot worked in Paris during the Nazi occupation. In these reviews he laid the foundations for later French critical thinking by examining the ambiguous rhetorical nature of language and the irreducibility of the written word to notions of truth or falsity. He was active in the Resistance and remained a bitter opponent of the fascist, anti-semitic novelist and journalist Robert Brasillach , who was the principal leader of the pro-Nazi collaborationist movement.
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