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Blog Post #1: What is the “disaster”?

The Writing of the Disaster by Maurice Blanchot is a confusing piece. Reading through it, I wasn’t quite sure what to call “disaster”. It still remains nameless.  However, I can’t help but wonder, is”disaster” is a passionate word for love?

The very first paragraph can be dissected in many ways. “The disaster ruins everything, all the while leaving everything intact. It does not touch anyone in particular.” There is such ambiguity in this language. Here, the “disaster” does not scream “love” to the reader, but it does have an aura of volatility, a silent whisper that can shake the very canal of your ear. It can do damage without actually touching you. Now that I think about it, the opening to this novel may regard love as something that may not have been directly experience, but through others, it can be palpable enough to leave its mark. “It ruins everything, all the while leaving everything intact.”

Blanchot then says, “”I” and not threatened by it, but spared, left aside. It is in this way that I am threatened, it is in this way that the disaster threatens in me which is exterior to me – an other than I who passively become other”…what? I’m not if anyone else was as confused by this as I was. But there is a sense of contradiction. It’s almost like saying, “Love will grab you by the love handles and show you a whole new world, but in that world, there is also pain.” I don’t get it. It’s a good thing, but it is also an entity that will shake your entire being apart. However, at the same time, Blanchot might be discussing that although this “disaster” does not touch anyone in particular, it is random and one can be a victim at any time, and that is what’s frightening. “There is no reaching the disaster.” Yeah, until it grabs you by the loins.

“Out of reach is he whom it threatens, whether from afar or close up, it is impossible to say; the infiniteness of the threat has in some way broken every limit.” I think this sentence draws back to my earlier thought where the aura of volatility that irradiates “love”, which I presume to be the “disaster” is silently assaulting your soul. As a result of the rays that stretch from “love”, it breaks barriers and becomes more infinite than believe, and that is what I believe to be the most threatening part of it all. I think this may be the threat that Blanchot is so cautious of in this first paragraph.

“We are on the edge of disaster without being able to situate it in the future…” One doesn’t know when love will come about, and that is what puts everyone at the edge. At any moment, one could fall off. There is no way in telling when one of those rays will tap on right on the chest and push you over. Nearly everything about this first paragraph pinpoints “disaster” in the direction of “love”. Or perhaps, I’ve got it all wrong.

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~ by Ravenn Haynes on August 29, 2017.

5 Responses to “Blog Post #1: What is the “disaster”?”

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  2. Ravenn,

    I begin by confessing that I, too, had a difficult time reading Blanchot’s work. Having said that however, I do not believe your interpretation is, as you at times suggest, entirely wrong. “Love,” among other subjects, can easily stand in for the “disaster” and I believe this is what Blanchot is trying to suggest with “the disaster has already passed beyond danger, even when we are under the threat of –––––” (4). The ––––– seems to provide a space for specificity all the while denoting some sort of universality, which made me share your observation of a latent contradiction. Indeed, at one point I thought the purpose of the text was to have the reader experience “disaster” in its many forms especially after reading “the fragmentary promises not instability (the opposite of fixity) so much as disarray, confusion” (7). I tied this last citation with Shelley’s “Ozymandias” and thought maybe Blanchot is proposing that we, after a “disaster,” are left as scattered and chaotic as the statue of Ozymandias despite our insistence of preserving the words engraved on our pedestal.

    Of course, I can be totally off and so for that I apologize in advance as well as thank you for enduring my analysis.

  3. Bryan,

    I don’t think that you are wrong at all. Actually, I agree with the connection you made between Shelley’s “Ozymandias” and Blanchot’s “The Writing of the Disaster”. And quite frankly, I don’t know how I missed it. The “disaster” can be either something as definitive as love, or it can be the aftermath of one’s experience of love. This analysis can certainly be a representative of the “scattered and chaotic” as you put it. This piece definitely has many layers to it.

  4. Blanchot’s reading left me confused and unsure of what the meaning behind his work is, but I think what I took away from it is that disasters, whether they be natural or man-made, are not recognized as disasters in the moment that they occur, but we recognize them as such in hindsight when we have time to process what happened to us; it’s weird though because we know that disasters are inevitable, or rather Blanchot knows this, because he writes that “the disaster is its imminence, but since the future, as we conceive of it in the order of lived time, belongs to the disaster, the disaster has always already withdrawn or dissuaded it”. The word “imminence” in this quote means “the state or fact of being about to happen”, so that is what I meant when I wrote that Blanchot knows that disasters are inevitable. We can look to the past to reflect disasters, and assume that disasters will happen in the future.

    I am not sure if the disaster that Blanchot refers to is love, but love can certainly be disastrous. If the disaster is love, then maybe Blanchot’s writing is not just about the imminence of disaster (love), but also how to deal with love when love becomes disastrous? He writes “it is not you who will speak; let the disaster speak in you, even if it be by your forgetfulness or silence”. Maybe what he is saying in regard to love in this quote is that the trauma of disaster (or love gone wrong) speaks through us in the way we interact with others in the future, kind of like post-traumatic stress disorder. I feel like I am rambling at this point; I did not make the connection of disaster to love until I read your post but I thought what you wrote is insightful and it has me rethinking what I thought I understood about this reading.

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