書抄 #15

11 Jul, 14 at 06:40pm © CL LEE

Toward evening I decided to write to Bouxx. This temptation to write was dangerous, and no one knew that better than me. But the hours were so long, so dead, that I couldn’t be satisfied just jotting an account: that could all be summed up in a single sentence, which was always the same and never sufficed.

“I know that you’re very busy. Nevertheless, please read these lines. I’ve led a calm and regular life in the service of the State, troubled occasionally by my poor health. Now, I witness with horror your efforts to change the course of events. It’s not that I blame you; I feel sympathy for you, and your madness soothes me. Alas, it puts you to work for everything you condemn.

“I’d like to be useful to you and demonstrate the very greatest loyalty. But you’re blind, you’re fighting into the abyss. How can I open your eyes? You’re fighting in the ranks of your enemies and I myself deceive you when I persuade you of my candor. If I tell you the truth, you will give up the struggle. If I allow you to be hopeful, you will be wrong about the struggle. Please understand: everything that you get from me is, for you, only a lie – because I’m the truth.

“I’d like to convince you of this: you’re on the wrong track when you attack the offices, the administration, all the visible apparatus of the State. They don’t count. If you do away with them, you do away with nothing. If you replace them with others, you replace them with the same. And, beyond that, their only goal is the public good: in order to act well they’ll always be in agreement with you. I assure you: there’s nothing mysterious in the offices; there are none of those little secrets that were the petty privilege of the old administrations which trouble the supplicant and make him think that behind the façade there’s something essential going on to which he’ll never have access. Anyone can always take everything into account. Administration, classification, decision making, all goes on in broad daylight, and perfect equality means that at every moment the whole State inhabits the bodies and minds of those who turn to it. The State is everywhere. Everyone feels it, sees it, everyone feels it live through him. In the offices it’s represented rather than present. It’s found there with its official features, and appearances are certainly not in short supply: historical buildings, institutions, civil servants, tables, filing cabinets, the smallest things takes on a particular dignity. Indeed it’s there that those looking for the center can flatter themselves upon having found it. But that is only the center. Having reached it, it’s grasped in no more than an indirect way, through unimportant markers like mottoes above doors, the uniform of the ushers, etc.; it evaporates for whoever’s not outside it. For those at home there, the offices vanish; they really exist only in the eyes of those attackers. Thus the empty feeling one gets there, which is not due exclusively to the somewhat sad and solemn appearance of the rooms, over which glides the hesitant gleam of the past. In every rooms, there’s a constant coming and going of the most serious working people, an extraordinary buzzing of activity, everyone’s busy, and yet the visitor is struck by something sad and useless, as if everyone were yawning in idleness and boredom.

“I’d like you to reflect on these false appearances. Everything the administration does to give the laws a tangible reality – decrees, rules, measures of all kinds – sometimes seems to be misleading manifestations of the power in which everyone participates. It’s as if thinking unjustifiably deforms spontaneous feelings. It’s well known that the law acquire their true value in this way; they are laws only thanks to this. But a disagreeable feelings of hidden activity, of intervention after the fact, remains. When the government , in order to give official approval to the definitive right, recognized by everyone, to know everything, delegates agents who keep individuals informed, or when it puts posters on walls and prints its principle decisions in newspapers, then, in the eyes of every citizen possessing tacit knowledge, fairly petty revelations – on the scale of the means available – seem rather to conceal measures of intimidation. And the law, far from being the meeting place where everyone feels called to the common spirit, is no more than the personal and foreign warning addressed to us by a civil servant who has resolved for some reason to treat us as enemies.

“This apparent deviation cannot be taken seriously. The prestige of the State, the love we have for it and above all our absolute adherence to it, maintained through reservations and rebellions, links every mind and doesn’t allow the mind to see the tiniest crack in the immense edifice from which it is inseparable. No one can distinguish the regime from its manifestations, for the law is not haphazardly revealed, and its truth lies only in the collective movement which has inscribed it deep within our souls, and which causes it to emerge in the sovereign system that represents it. In practice one can always criticize, and this often happens. Civil servants are people just like anyone else; they’re not at all superior to those they administer. If they were to claim special rights for themselves then we would no longer be in our native land, and we would have to keep struggling, as it was necessary to do for centuries, against a distant and dominating power. And it isn’t like men who are richer in humanity than the common run of mortals to carry out duties from which they derive no advantage. They are supposed to have a more active awareness of what they are; they live less and reflect more. I know very well that that’s what indicates our administrative deformation; our most inward thoughts have something about them that’s ordered, objective, as if they always had to be the subject of a report or pass unrevised into an account. Hence, no doubt, this meditative and cunning appearance which distinguishes certain important men in public and also the brutal and base manners often affected by agents of enforcement as if, among the latter, reflection, instead of manifesting itself through waiting, equivocation, and delays, demanded the haste and blind rigidity of authority. The law is sly; that is the impression it gives. It circumvents, even when it strikes. It interferes everywhere, under the pretext of never withholding itself. Never able to condemn anyone, it always seems to be concealing something under the benevolence and deceit of its plans. It is clarity itself, and it is impenetrable. It is absolute truth which expresses itself straightforwardly, and it invokes the most perfidious falsehood, one which leaves no traces, outside of , and within, our hearts. But don’t believe that it is always hatching plots. With all my strength I want to warn you against such an idea, one as naïve as it is depraved. We are the ones who sometimes feign to believe the law capable of dark plotting, in order to alleviate the feeling of vigilance with which its loyalty encircles us. We would like to free ourselves from this feeling and be able to rest. We imagine that there is a plot, because we cannot tolerate the idea of infinitely more complex relations, founded on good faith and clarity, relations which, far from being foreign to us, express that which is closest to us and most inward.

“Now, please listen. What I am going to tell you is serious. It is not only that I’m a danger to you through my mode of being, my turn of mind, and my habits. I also have to work: I play a role, I receive orders, I carry them out. How? I can’t say, because finally that isn’t true. They’re ideas that take hold of me, then leave me, restful phrases meant to keep me at a good distance from a situation at which I lack the courage to gaze straight on, a situation I lack the strength to undergo indefinitely. Still, they’re not fables – far from it. In the times that preceded our own, such a view of things would have been the truth itself; today, it still has all the precision of a metaphor. Civil servants, to the extent that they live in offices, sign decrees, work for the maintenance of the State, make decisions that seem to us brutal or unjust – are they themselves anything more than images that no one accepts as such, but which, as long bypassed relics, nevertheless give us an idea of the mores, the political fate, and the life of the world in general?

“Think about what’s so terrible. It’s that I myself, in a number of ways, am only a face. A face? Can you fathom what a dangerous , perfidious, hopeless, ways of life such a word implies? I am a mask. I act like a mask and as such I play a dishonest role in this universal fabrication which spreads, over a humanity too full of the law – like a light varnish, in order to soften the glare – a more crude and naïve humanity, one that recalls the earlier stages in an evolution which, once it has arrived its end, tries in vain to go back.”

Maurice Blanchot. The Most High. Trans. Allan Stoekl. Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 1996. p. 175-179.

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