tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > When the Time Comes

When the Time Comes by Maurice Blanchot
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Ok, I'm an unabashed enthusiast for French literature - at the same time that I'm an anti-nationalist. I'm reminded of a French-Canadian friend asserting to me that French culture is much more supportive of language play than American culture is & I find that easy enuf to believe. My friend sd that there're French comedians whose comedy is oriented around complex puns - contrast this to endless dick jokes & you get the idea.

W/ the preceding in mind, I mention that 5 of my favorite writers are French: François Rabelais, "Comte de Lautrémont" (honorary Frenchmen despite his being an Uruguayan expatriate - he wrote & died in France), Alfred Jarry, Raymond Roussel, & Georges Perec. Raymond Queneau is certainly high up there too. + many others that I'm probably not thinking of at the moment.

As such, I've definitely read more French writers (in English translation) than most Americans. & I tend to seek out the more experimental ones. & I've found some of them to be colossal bores. On the minus side there's been Michel Butor's "Passing Time" [you can read my shoddy review here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29...] & Nathalie Sarraute's "The Planetarium" (don't remember this one at all). I even plowed thru at least 5 novels by Alain Robbe-Grillet. I almost liked those - if only for their formal severity.

& then there's Maurice Blanchot. I read "The Madness of the Day" 1st. It did nothing for me [you can read me saying the same thing in 5 sentences here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11...]. Then I read the considerably longer "Aminadab". I liked that a bit more but still not enuf to really embrace Blachot [See my somewhat more extensive review here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44...].

But I'm stubborn. So I just read this 3rd bk b/c I'm curious - he's obviously a thoughtful writer but what can I get out of it? A man goes to a door. He's surprised by who opens it. There's another woman who lives there. Maybe he knew her before, maybe he didn't. He moves in.. or stays there for a little while.. or something.. Maybe he had a history w/ one or both of the women.. Such is the skeleton of the 'plot'. But no 'meat' fleshes out these bones - the rest of the bk is all 'marrow' instead, it's all internal - in the 1st person narrator's excuse for a mind. If this guy were a friend of mine he'd drive me crazy.

The bk seems to be based around canceled-out dualities. "Time has passed, and yet it was not past" The narrator seems to be trapped in some sort of limbo of microscopic analysis - so tedious as to be borderline monomaniacal. As he got thru the doorway & the internal monologue started in earnest I practically groaned w/ the knowledge that, yes, this was going to be a Blanchot novel like the other novels. Was Blanchot like this as a person? Did he spend all his time FIXATED on ideas that he was incapable of putting into any kind of life-affirming action? If so, I'd hate to be him on his death-bed.

All of wch isn't to say that this wasn't 'good' in some sense. As a reader, just navigating the narrative was an interesting challenge: Who are these people? What is their interrelationship? The 1st-person implies things that it doesn't deliver - as if the narrator already knows it so why shd he say anything about it? Then again, who these characters are & what they're doing w/ each other appears to just be a pretext for presenting the narrator's introversion:

"Now I have to say this: even though I saw how real it was, this gesture left me feeling uncomfortable, uneasy. Why? This is hard to understand, but it made me think of a truth whose shadow it would be, it made me think of some sort of unique, radiant thing, as though it had tried to condemn to mere likeness an inimitable instant. Bitter suspicion, disconcerting and burdensome thought."

What's he 'reacting' to? One of the women taking his 2 hands & putting them against her throat. Is he a paranoid?
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