Book Notes from the Unvowable Community by Maurice Blanchot


Maurice Blanchot’s book Unavowable Community has two parts, one part is The Negative Community and the other is The Community of Lovers.

The Negative Community is based on Georges Bataille’s works. At the very beginning of this part, he cites a sentence from Bataille’s, “The community of those who do not have a community”, which clearly explains what the negative community is according to Bataille.

For example, Communism, whose foundation is equality, can’t be called a community until the needs of all men are equally fulfilled. Thus, here comes a concept called the absence of the community. Due to the principle of incompleteness, setting up this concept would mean that the explanation of a completed status is no longer necessary. Additionally, the absence of community is not the failure of community: absence belongs to community as its extreme moment or as the ordeal that exposes it to its necessary disappearance.

It then follows a chapter discussing a relation related to life and death of each one in a community. “A man alive, who sees a fellow man die, can survive only beside himself.”

A friendship, Blanchot adds, “It is with that absence - its uncanny presence, always under the prior threat of a disappearance - that friendship is brought into play and lost at each moment, a relation without relation or without relation other than the incommensurable. Such is, such would be the friendship that discovers the unknown we ourselves are, and the meeting of our own solitude which, precisely, we cannot be alone to experience. ”

Towards the unworking, here comes the context in order to help readers to understand it, a decisive affirmation for Blanchot. He cites: Death is itself the true community of mortal beings: their impossible communion. It takes upon itself the impossibility of its own immanence, the impossibility of a communitarian being as subject.

“Whereof one cannot speak, there one must be silent” is a Wittgenstein’s famous precept. However, by enunciating it he has not been able to impose silence on himself, which means, he has to talk in order to remain silent.

It indicates that by opening unknown spaces of freedom, we’re also responsible for new relationships, always threatened, always hoped for, between what we call work, and what we call unworking. Thus, according to Blanchot’s novel When the Time Comes he kept writing until “the time comes”.

The Community of Lovers part starts with a quotation from J.L. Nancy’s works: The sole law of abandonment, like the law of love, is to be without return and without recourse.

The “arid solitude”, in Blanchot’s opinion, is precisely what justifies the comparison with what George Bataille has called “the true world of lovers, ” sensitive as he was to the antagonism between ordinary society and “the sly loosening of the social bond”.

For “the true world of lovers”, he places the opinion - that it is a world that is the oblivion of the world: the love is not necessary for itself. As love, which may impose its requirements on a circle as taking on the form of the impossibility of loving: be it the unfelt, uncertain torment of those who, having lost “the intelligence of love”, however still want to tend towards the only beings whom they cannot approach by any living passion.