Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jews and Writers: On Impossibility

We often want something. And more often, at least for some of us, we savor the sensation of wanting detached from knowing. In other words--we want something, but we don't know what.

On these occasions there are two writers to whom I turn: Edmond Jabes and Rainer Maria Rilke. Every once in a while it will be something or someone else, but most often it's one of these two. I pull out a book and just open it randomly.

Tonight, Edmond Jabes's The Book of Questions is what I open. I see:

Faced with the impossibility of writing, which paralyzes every writer, and the impossibility of being Jewish, which has for two thousand years racked the people of that name, the writer chooses to write, and the Jew to survive. (223)

In both instances, it is impossibility that is chosen. We select the impossible, the "thou must, which takes no account of the thou can," to use Martin Buber's words. We chafe against what is not yet ours, but in the struggle it becomes, somehow, ours. Yes, it is perhaps discernible only in the struggle.

It's akin to the Maurice Blanchot quotation I opened my rhetoric class with last semester: You can only become a writer, you can never be one; no sooner are you, then you are, no longer, a writer."

It's only about process; abandon notions of product and myths of finality. Just keep moving. It should, in theory, give us great cause for anxiety--what with the assurance that we will never achieve what we set out to. And yet, we are liberated.

Don't be reluctant to struggle, is what it makes me think. And don't be fearful of agonizing over the friction. Fear, instead, the day you arrive or achieve.

No comments: