Recommendation

Maurice Blanchot's L’entretien infini (The Infinite Conversation)

By Mark C. Taylor


Maurice Blanchot’s L’entretien infini (The Infinite Conversation) is one of the most important and unappreciated works of modern literature. The singularity of his prose makes his work difficult — perhaps impossible to define or describe. The problem begins with the title — entretien is not incorrectly translated as "conversation," but the nuances of the word are lost in this translation. Entretien is formed by combining "entre (between)" and tenir (to hold)." A more accurate rendering, therefore, might be The Infinite Holding-Between. Holding between is what Blanchot’s work stages — stages without exactly analyzing, describing, or defining. Not precisely literature or philosophy, his work remains suspended in an alternation, oscillation, and vacillation that both inhabits and dislocates the neither/nor of the between. In his strange text, Blanchot names the unnameable by drawing close to what we always struggle to avoid.

 

A rare speech, indeed, in which conversation is the interruption, which allows us no rest. This is the rhythm of the infinite.
-- In this turn that is rhythm, speech is turned toward that which turns aside and turns itself aside. This is a rare speech; it knows no precipitation, just as it does not know the refusal to go on, or oscillating doubt. It is most open in its obliqueness, through interruption always persisting, always calling upon detour, and thus holding us as though in suspense between the visible and the invisible, or on the hither side of both.