Blanchot, Maurice, 1907-2003

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Maurice Blanchot (1907-2003) was born in Quain, in Saône-et-Loire, to a conservative and Catholic family. Blanchot went on to study Philosophy and German at the University of Strasbourg, where he first met Emmanuel Levinas and became lifelong friends, likely in 1925 or 1926. By 1929, Blanchot moved to Paris. He briefly studied medicine at Saint Anne’s Hospital in the early 1930s and then became involved with writing for French far-right journals. With the outbreak of World War II, Blanchot withdrew from political writing, and would later seek to distance himself from his involvement in the rightist politics of the 1930s, especially anti-Semitism. He published his first novel, Thomas the Obscure, in 1941 and his second, Aminidab in 1942. His first collection of literary essays, Faux pas, was published in December 1943, with discussions on the work of Mallarmé, Proust, Kierkegaard, Rimbaud, and Melville.

Towards the end of 1940, Blanchot was introduced to Georges Bataille, and the two remained close until Bataille’s death in 1962. Blanchot was directly influenced by Bataille’s thought on Nietzsche and Hegel, and through Bataille, began participating in a regular philosophical discussion at 3 rue de Lille, where he met Denise Rollin, with whom he was also very close. With Bataille, he helped formulate the “College socratique,” and was present at the “Discussion on Sin” in 1944 organized by Bataille. Throughout his career, Blanchot continued to engage with Bataille’s thought and writings, particularly in The Infinite Conversation (or L’Entretien infini).

Blanchot departed Paris for Quain in the spring of 1944, and in June 1944, was put against the wall by a firing-squad and mock executed, which would later be recounted in “The Instant of My Death.” Blanchot moved around France throughout 1945-1946, continuing to write throughout the end of the war and after the German surrender, specifically on philosophers Kafka, René Char, Nietzsche, and Hölderlin, while assisting Bataille in bringing to publication the first edition of the journal Critique.

In late 1946, Blanchot relocated to Eze, near Nice, where he wrote quite productively, and also spent time in the late 1940s living with his brother, Rene and his wife Anne. During this time, Blanchot completed such works as Death Sentence (1947, published 1948), his third and final novel The Most-High (1948), The Madness of the Day (1949), and a volume of critical essays, The Work of Fire (1949), which included “Literature and the Right to Death,” andLautréamont and Sade (1949). He relocated more totally to Eze in September 1949, where he remained until 1957; while living there he wrote many critical essays, including those in The Space of Literature (1955). These works engage with Kafka, Rilke, Mallarmé, and Hölderlin, and more. Blanchot also published When the Time Comes (1951), The One Who Did Not Accompany Me (1953), and The Last Man (1957) during this time.

Blanchot’s mother, Marie, died in 1957, and he spent the winter with Rene and Anne in Paris before moving to rue Madame, his longheld apartment, in summer 1958. In the following period, Blanchot re-engaged with national politics and continued to develop his philosophical theories. Blanchot became engaged with the political issues and groups relating to the crisis in Algiers in 1958, the collapse of the French Fourth Republic, and Charles de Gaulle’s rise to power. His writings also shifted around this time, and he published Awaiting Oblivion in 1962, which challenged genre and thematization. He also published two other books during this time, The Space of Literature and The Book to Come (1959).

During the events of May 1968 in Paris, Blanchot was active in the anti-authoritarain movement as a member of the Comité d’action étudiants-écrivains, writing numerous unsigned pieces for the group’s magazine, Comité. He distanced himself from the group in mid-1969.

Published in 1969, Blanchot’s next monograph, The Infinite Conversation contains critical essays on literary topics such as Char, Duras, German Romanticism, Kafka, Flaubert, Roussel, among others, as well as essays dealing with philosophical and theoretical considerations, such as Levinas, Simone Weil, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Freud, Bataille, and Foucault. In the 1970s, Blanchot’s health declined, and his 1973 monograph The Step Not Beyond has death as a significant theme. The same themes reappear in his 1980 text, The Writing of the Disaster, with references to Levinas, Hegel, psycholanalysists Leclaire and Winnicott, as well as Derrida, Deleuze, Heidegger, and others.

In late 1983, The Unavowable Community was published, with reference to Bataille, Marguerite Duras, and others. He then published A Voice From Elsewhere in 1992, and a final work of short fiction, The Instant of my Death in 1994. Blanchot passed away on February 20, 2003.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Sylvere Lotringer Papers and Semiotext(e) Archive, Bulk, 1973-2000, 1960-2000 Fales Library & Special Collections
creatorOf Maurice Blanchot papers Houghton Library
referencedIn Stanford University Press archival book copies, 1900-2012 Cecil H. Green Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Lotringer, Sylvère. Sylvere Lotringer Papers and Semiotext(e) Archive 1960-2000 (Bulk 1973-2000). Fales Library & Special Collections
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associatedWith Lotringer, Sylvère person
associatedWith Lotringer, Sylvère. person
associatedWith Stanford University. Press. corporateBody
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Paris A8 FR
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Person

Birth 1907-12-22

Death 2003-02-20

French

French,

German,

English

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