September 22nd – Maurice Blanchot

“But this is the rule, and there is no way to free oneself of it: as soon as the thought has arisen, it must be followed to the very end.”

Maurice Blanchot

Maurice Blanchot was born September 22nd, 1907, in the village of Quain in France. 

He studied philosophy at the University of Strasbourg, then went on to be a political journalist in Paris. He contributed to a series of radical nationalist magazines that were fiercely anti-German, and continued to work in Paris through the Nazi Occupation in the 1930s and 1940s. During WWII he wrote book reviews to support his family, and was active in the Resistance. 

His first novel, Thomas l’Obscur (Thomas the Obscure), an abstract, post-modern work, was published in 1941.

1973 American Printing from Riverrun Books & Manscripts on Biblio.com

After the war Blanchot removed himself to the countryside where he lived and wrote in relative isolation. His novel Death Sentence was published in 1948. From 1953 to 1968 he wrote a monthly article for La Nouvelle Revue Française. The Book to Come published by Stanford University Press in 2002, is a collection of essays originally published in La Nouvelle Revue Française.

The Space of Literature (1955) is a critical work on the experience of reading and the process of creativity. 

He remained politically active, in 1960 writing the final version of the Manifest des 121 calling French soldiers to desert rather than employ torture in Algeria. Then in 1968 he joined the student protest movement in France, where he met philosopher Jacques Derrida. 

His 1980 book The Writing of the Disaster attempts to describe how writing can explain and possibly redeem enormous disasters, such as those Blanchot lived through in the 20th century such as World Wars, concentration camps and the detonation of atomic bombs.  

During his life Blanchot wrote more than thirty works of fiction, literary criticism and philosophy.  His works explored the relationship between literature and philosophy, and he was a major intellectual figure of the 20th century, having a major impact not only on French thought, but philosophy as a whole.

Maurice Blanchot died on February 20, 2003, at the age of 95, in France.

Lesson from Blanchot

Blanchot may not today be regarded as a well known novelist or writer, but his work had a strong influence on thought and on future bastions of knowledge such as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. You never know the great affect the thoughts and ideas you share will have. 

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