The Pure Event of the Word

An extract from my review of Aaron Hillyer’s The Disappearance of Literature: Blanchot, Agamben, and the Writers of the No (Bloomsbury) featured in this week’s Times Literary Supplement:

If language cannot speak the world, “can the world speak in language”? That is the crucial question at the heart of The Disappearance of Literature. It proceeds from an agonistic relation to language, which is construed as a curse or, at best, a negative force. From this post-Hegelian perspective, words give us the world by taking it away: they negate things and beings in their singularity, replacing them with concepts. The answer, Hillyer argues, is to negate the negation by deactivating “the tendencies that cause our experience of the world to be as abstract as the language we use to describe it”. Literature must go through a “zone of decreation” that deactivates its habitual signifying and informative functions “in order to communicate communicability itself, openness to the world itself”. Such openness is predicated on the author coinciding with her work; disappearing momentarily into a thingly, asignifying language that now speaks itself. Only a writer who has vanished into “the pure event of the word” — where the telling becomes the teller — may express (although not in so many words) “what absolutely escapes our language”.
disappearance

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Those Who Never Achieved Greatness

Stuart Kelly, “Stuart Kelly: Diversity Rules in Non-Fiction,” The Scotsman 13 December 2014

But my personal favourite in this genre [literary biography] has to be The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure, by CD Rose and Andrew Gallix, a glorious alphabetical compendium of those who never achieved greatness.

The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure 300dpi

Beautiful Losers

Julian Hanna, “Beautiful Losers,” Rev. of The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure by C. D. Rose, 3:AM Magazine 11 December 2014

The introduction, a brilliant extended meditation on ‘real’ failure by 3:AM’s own co-editor-in-chief Andrew Gallix, complements the fictional failures that follow.
The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure 300dpi