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19 August 1982
The Siren’s Song 
by Maurice Blanchot, edited by Gabriel Josipovici and Sacha Rabinovich.
Harvester, 255 pp., £20, June 1982, 0 85527 738 6
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... The Siren’s Song is the first chance English readers have had to experience MauriceBlanchot. If it is the case, as Gabriel Josipovici pre-emptively asserts in his introduction, that Blanchot ‘is, with Walter Benjamin, the finest literary critic of the century’, then we have been grievously remiss in leaving him for so long untranslated. For Blanchot isn’t new: he is in his mid ...

Short Cuts

Joanna Biggs: Marguerite Duras

5 October 2016
... But she was in the habit of leaving the door of her apartment on the Left Bank open from dawn until dusk. Home, she thought, ought to be open to the outside: to her friends Georges Bataille and MauriceBlanchot, to Alain Resnais and Delphine Seyrig, to those who simply rang the bell on the rue Saint-Benoît, like the Italian journalist Leopoldina Pallotta della Torre. (It helped that she had ...

A Human Kafka

Gabriel Josipovici

5 March 1981
The World of Franz Kafka 
edited by J.P. Stern.
Weidenfeld, 263 pp., £9.95, January 1981, 0 297 77845 5
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... voices began to be raised which resisted such an interpretation and insisted on the ultimately mysterious and ambiguous texture of Kafka’s art. Chief among these were the voices of Walter Benjamin, MauriceBlanchot, Marthe Robert and Erich Heller. Heller’s essay on The Castle in The Disinherited Mind (1952) marked a real turning point. He argued persuasively that it was folly to go on debating ...

Who’s Who

Geoffrey Galt Harpham

20 April 1995
Subjective Agency: A Theory of First-Person Expressivity and its Social Implications 
by Charles Altieri.
Blackwell, 306 pp., £40, August 1994, 1 55786 129 3
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... humanistic Man, was no longer on the agenda. In 1991, a volume called Who Comes After the Subject? celebrated the triumph of this conviction. With essays by Derrida, Etienne Balibar, Luce Irigaray, MauriceBlanchot, Emmanuel Levinas and Gilles Deleuze, this book both established the distinctly French provenance of the dead-subject argument and, in characteristically French fashion, ‘put into question ...

The Politics of Translation

Marina Warner: Translate this!

11 October 2018
This Little Art 
by Kate Briggs.
Fitzcarraldo, 365 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 910695 45 6
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Translation as Transhumance 
by Mireille Gansel, translated by Ros Schwartz.
Les Fugitives, 150 pp., £10, November 2017, 978 0 9930093 3 4
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Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto 
by Mark Polizzotti.
MIT, 168 pp., £17.99, May 2018, 978 0 262 03799 0
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The 100 Best Novels in Translation 
by Boyd Tonkin.
Galileo, 304 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 903385 67 8
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The Work of Literary Translation 
by Clive Scott.
Cambridge, 285 pp., £75, June 2018, 978 1 108 42682 4
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... of Korean have been, by Smith’s own account and with Han’s full approval, enhanced by ‘occasional interpolations’ after she listened ‘more carefully to what it [the text] was telling me’. MauriceBlanchot once wrote that translators are ‘the silent masters of culture’. Kate Briggs amends this, commenting that Blanchot wrote ‘hidden masters of culture’ and that it’s ‘our ...


John Burnside: Visits from the Night Hag

27 September 2018
... lost all over again, but the bitterness and guilt that come of having to go back to the inadequate souls who populate the ‘real world’. ‘There is between sleep and us something like a pact,’ MauriceBlanchot says, ‘a treaty with no secret clauses, and according to this convention it is agreed that, far from being a dangerous, bewitching force, sleep will become domesticated and serve as an ...

Peas in a Matchbox

Jonathan Rée: ‘Being and Nothingness’

18 April 2019
Being and Nothingness: An Essay in Phenomenology and Ontology 
by Jean-Paul Sartre, translated by Sarah Richmond.
Routledge, 848 pp., £45, June, 978 0 415 52911 2
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... the fashionable Opéra district of Paris, to fill a vacancy created by the dismissal of a Jewish professor. Meanwhile the entertainment industry in Paris was flourishing: performers like Mistinguett, Maurice Chevalier, Django Reinhardt, Tino Rossi, Charles Trenet and Edith Piaf, abetted by the jazz-inspired youth culture of the zazous, offered the Germans opportunities for rest and recreation that ...

At the Crime Scene

Adam Shatz: Robbe-Grillet’s Bad Thoughts

30 July 2014
A Sentimental Novel 
by Alain Robbe-Grillet, translated by D.E. Brooke.
Dalkey Archive, 142 pp., £9.50, April 2014, 978 1 62897 006 7
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... a resolution, but our thwarted attempt to find one, to assign guilt and fill that maddening cavity, becomes the real story of Le Voyeur. The novel’s ‘clarity reveals everything except itself’, MauriceBlanchot wrote in his magisterial review. ‘It is as if we were seeing everything, without anything being visible. The result is strange.’ Robbe-Grillet’s mother said it was ‘a fine book ...
22 May 1980
Deconstruction and Criticism 
by Harold Bloom, Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida, Geoffrey Hartman and J. Hillis Miller.
Routledge, 256 pp., £8.95, January 1980, 0 7100 0436 2
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... It is not for nothing that the blurb tells him that they are called the ‘hermeneutical Mafia’.) Even the literary texts they take here – various works by John Ashbery, Shelley, Wordsworth and MauriceBlanchot – get so thoroughly devoured that they lose any intrinsic interest they might have had for him (which isn’t much); and while he probably won’t understand most of the book if he does ...

Unhappy Man

P.N. Furbank

22 July 1993
The Lives of Michel Foucault 
by David Macey.
Hutchinson, 599 pp., £20, June 1993, 0 09 175344 9
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The Passion of Michel Foucault 
by James Miller.
HarperCollins, 491 pp., £18, June 1993, 0 00 255267 1
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... core’ of his life. The line of argument runs that, from the very beginning, Foucault’s self-appointed duty was to confront the void that lies beyond the limits of language. When a writer like MauriceBlanchot takes language to its limits, he wrote, ‘what it finds is not a positivity that contradicts it, but the void that will obliterate it’. This void is, to use Miller’s words, ‘the ...
18 June 2014
... Mallarmé starts deforming it, cracking the spine, folding out the pages, trying to overhaul it into something up to the job. These are the terms under which Un coup de dés is written. But, as MauriceBlanchot points out, Mallarmé didn’t see Un coup de dés as the realisation of this: rather ‘it is its reserve and its forever hidden presence, the risk of its venture, the measure of its ...

On His Trapeze

Michael Wood: Roland Barthes

17 November 2016
Barthes: A Biography 
by Tiphaine Samoyault, translated by Andrew Brown.
Polity, 586 pp., £25, December 2016, 978 1 5095 0565 4
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... chapters to Barthes’s relations with quite different figures (Gide, Sartre, Sollers, Foucault), and she has some extended lucid comments on the connections and disconnections between Barthes and Blanchot, Derrida and Lévi-Strauss. None of this quite situates him as anything other than some sort of French intellectual, and indeed it is hard to situate him more precisely. Samoyault’s idea of ‘a ...

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