Maurice Blanchot on Kafka

French philosopher reflects on the writing of Franz Kafka
Photograph by Jiří Šebek
Two excerpts from Maurice Blanchot's The Writing of the Disaster:
When Kafka allows a friend to understand that he writes because otherwise he would go mad, he knows that writing is madness already, his madness, a kind of vigilence, unrelated to any wakefulness save sleep's: insomnia. Madness against madness, then. But he believes that he masters the one by abandoning himself to it; the other frightens him, and is his fear; it tears through him, wounds and exalts him. It is as if he had to undergo all the force of an uninterruptable continuity, a tension at the edge of the insupportable which he speaks of with fear and not without a feeling of glory. For glory is the disaster.


As the German expression has it, the last judgement is the youngest day, and it is a day surpassing all days. Not that judgement is reserved for the end of time. On the contrary, justice won't wait; it is to be done at every instant, to be realized all the time, and studied also (it is to be learned). Every just act (are there any?) makes of its day the last day or - as Kafka said - the very last: a dat no longer situated in the ordinary succession of days but one that makes of the most commonplace ordinary, the extraordinary. He who has been the contemporary of the camps if forever a survivor: death will not make him die.

Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster
Translated by Ann Smock