The Unavowable Community

I am happy to report that there is now a paperback edition of my translation (with a 25 page introductory “translator’s preface”) of Maurice Blanchot’s The Unavowable Community, just out from Station Hill Press. This is probably the core text of Blanchot’s later years — it was published in 1983, when MB was 76 — the repercussions of which can be heard in the work of the likes of Jean-Luc Nancy or Giorgio Agamben. Here, the blurb for the 1988 hardcover edition:

The Unavowable Community is an inquiry into the nature and possibility of community, asking whether there can be a community of individuals that is truly “communal.” The problem, for Blanchot, is that the very terms of an ideal community make an “avowal” of membership in it a violation of the terms themselves. This meditation ranges from the problematic effects of a defect in language to actual historical experiments in community. The latter involves the life and work of George Bataille whose concerns (e.g. “the negative community”) occupy the foreground of Blanchot’s discussion. Taking as his point of departure an essay by French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, Blanchot appears once again as one of the most attentive readers of what is truly challenging in French thought. His deep interest in the fiction of Marguerite Duras extends this inquiry to include “The Community of Lovers,” emerging from certain themes in Duras’ récit, The Malady of Death. As Blanchot’s first direct treatment of a subject that has long figured in or behind his work, this small but highly concentrated book stands as an important addition to his own contribution to literary, philosophical, social, and political thought, figuring as it does at the center of the emerging concern for a redefinition of politics and community. Readers of Blanchot know not to expect answers to the great questions that move his thought — rather, to live with the questions at the new level to which they have been raised in his discourse.

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