Volume 4, Number 3 (October 2007)
Author: Maurice Blanchot
Translated by: Elizabeth Rottenberg
“We must give up trying to know those to whom we are linked by something essential; by this I mean we must greet them in the relation with the unknown in which they greet us as well, in our estrangement. Friendship, this relation without dependence, without episode, yet into which all of the simplicity of life enters, passes by the way of the recognition of the common strangeness that does not allow us to speak of our friends but only to speak to them, not to make of them a topic of conversations (or essays), but the movement of understanding in which, speaking to us, they reserve, even on the most familiar terms, an infinite distance, the fundamental separation on the basis of which what separates becomes relation. Here discretion lies not in the simple refusal to put forward confidences (how vulgar this would be, even to think of it), but it is the interval, the pure interval that, from me to this other who is a friend, measures all that is between us, the interruption of being that never authorizes me to use him, or my knowledge of him (were it to praise him), and that, far from preventing all communication, brings us together in the difference and sometimes the silence of speech.
It is true that at a certain moment this discretion becomes the fissure of death. I could imagine that in one sense nothing has changed: in the ‘secret’ between us that was capable of taking place, in the continuity of discourse, without interrupting it, there was already, from the time in which we were in the presence of one another, this immanent presence, though tacit, of the final discretion, and it is on the basis of this discretion that the precaution of friendly words calmly affirmed itself. Words from one shore to the other shore, speech responding to someone who speaks from the other shore and where, even in our life, the measurelessness of the movement of dying would like to complete itself. And yet when the event itself comes, it brings this change: not the deepening of the separation but its erasure; not the widening of the caesura but its leveling out and the dissipation of the void between us where formerly there developed the frankness of a relation without history. In such a way that at present, what was close to us not only has ceased to approach but has lost even the truth of extreme distance. Thus death has the false virtue of appearing to return to intimacy those who have been divided by grave disagreements. This is because with death all that separates, disappears. What separates: what puts authentically in relation, the very abyss of relations in which lies, with simplicity, the agreement of friendly affirmation that is always maintained.
We should not, by means of artifice, pretend to carry on a dialogue. What has turned away from us also turns us away from that part which was our presence, and we must learn that when speech subsides, a speech that for years gave itself to an ‘exigency without regard’, it is not only this exigent speech which has ceased, it is the silence that it made possible and from which it returned along an insensible slope toward the anxiety of time. Undoubtedly we will still be able to follow the same paths, we can let images come, we can appeal to an absence that we will imagine, by deceptive consolation, to be our own. We can, in a word, remember. But thought knows that one does not remember: without memory, without thought, it already struggles in the invisible where everything sinks back into indifference. This is thought’s profound grief. It must accompany friendship into oblivion.”
About the Author
Maurice Blanchot (1907- 2003) Friendship. Stanford CA.: Stanford University Press, 1997: 291-292.