Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Gaze of Orpheus

When Orpheus descends to Eurydice, art is the power that causes the night to open. Because of the power of art, the night welcomes him; it becomes the welcoming intimacy, the understanding and the harmony of the first night. But Orpheus has gone down to Eurydice: for him, Eurydice is the limit of what art can obtain; concealed behind a name and covered by a veil, she is the profound dark point towards which art, desire, death, and the night all seem to lead. She is the instant in which the essence of the night approaches as the other night.

Yet Orpheus' work does not consist of securing the approach of this point by descending into the depths. His work is to bring it back into the daylight and in the daylight give it form, figure and reality. Orpheus can do anything except look this "point" in the face, look at the center of the night in the night. He can descend to it, he can draw it to him--an even stronger power--and he can draw it upwards, but only by keeping his back turned to it. This turning away is the only way he can approach it; this is the meaning of the concealment revealed in the night. But in the impulse of his migration Orpheus forgets the work he has to accomplish, and he has to forget it, because the ultimate requirement of his impulse is not that there should be a work, but that someone should stand and face this "point" and grasp its essence where this essence appears, where it is essential and essentially appearance: in the heart of the night.

-Maurice Blanchot, "The Gaze of Orpheus," in The Gaze of Orpheus and Other Literary Essays by Maurice Blanchot (Station Hill Press, 1981), translated by Lydia Davis, p.99.


Blogger Happyflower said...

I am not familar with this, but I love it, I wish I could write like this.

1:15 PM  

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