The One Who Was Standing Apart from Me.
This particular recit--the word brings up its musical parallels, "recital" or "recitatif"--appears here a full forty years after it first came out in French. The work takes the form of a conversation, an interview. An obsessive questioning back and forth builds up Blanchot's narrative, with its sense--shared with Kafka's famous "doorkeeper" parable--that behind each question lies the spooky possibility of a further, more imposing, more insoluble question. Melveille's "Bartleby" is close to this work, in its spirit and potency--where, for example, he writes, "for it seemed to me that I belonged, not to the order of things that happen and that one remembers with joy or sadness, but to the element of hunger and emptiness where what does not take place, because of that, begins again and again without any beginning or any respite."
Thematically, powerlessness, inertia, insufficient speech, weariness, falling, faltering--everything tied to a negative or nonexistent value in ordinary discourse is given here by its being articulated, moved into writing and thought. What's insignificant or worthless gathers weight through its troubling persistence, its failure to disappear--and by Blanchot's adherence to these barely audible voices.
The address to these "negatives," these voides or hollow spaces is--another paradox--without cynicism. There's none of the speed of fiction about Blanchot. Or rather, it disappears, breaks down. An initial openness decelerates, slows to an impacted pace. Careful attention seems too fast, to push you past the reading, to lose it. What keeps it compelling (keeps it happening) in its fragility. Enigmatically liberating and tied up around its knotted complex, the "endless" conversation of Blanchot's writing turns "fiction" toward an experience of listening--a far cry from the storytelling most fiction (still) takes itself to be. [Steve Dickison]