For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

The Step Not Beyond

by Blanchot, Maurice (1992)


This book is a translation of Maurice Blanchot's work that is of major importance to late 20th-century literature and philosophy studies. Using the fragmentary form, Blanchot challenges the boundaries between the literary and the philosophical. With the obsessive rigor that has always marked his writing, Blanchot returns to the themes that have haunted his work since the beginning: writing, death, transgression, the neuter, but here the figures around whom his discussion turns are Hegel and Nietzsche rather than Mallarme and Kafka. The metaphor Blanchot uses for writing in The Step Not Beyond is the game of chance. Fragmentary writing is a play of limits, a play of ever-multiplied terms in which no one term ever takes precedence. Through the randomness of the fragmentary, Blanchot explores ideas as varied as the relation of writing to luck and to the law, the displacement of the self in writing, the temporality of the Eternal Return, the responsibility of the self towards the others.

Key Passage

The neuter, by its nominal, thus positive, form, allows to be juxtaposed ­makes play themselves out-an affirmation and an indefinite series  of negation: it  does not put them together for a dialecti­cal reversal; this is in fact one of the peculiarities of its contribution, the affirmation by which what is in play would be neither one nor the other-affirmation that endlessly makes an echo of itself to the point of dispersion, dispersion going even to the  very  silence dispersed,-is not really affirmative or operative; its work, which consisted of veiling the other in showing it off under the veil and also in putting a  stop to the bad infinite (at work in the other), in putting it  back into play though a  negative scansion, is only pseudo-work. Something is at work by way of the neuter that is immediately the work of worklessness: there is an effect of the neuter-this says some­thing of the passivity of the neuter-that is not an effect of the neuter, not being the effect of a Neuter pretendedly at  work as a cause or a  thing. There would  then  not  be a  work of the neuter as one  speaks of a  work of the negative.  (p.75)


Blanchot, Writing, Literature, Hegel, Nietzsche


The Step Not Beyond



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