This is Blanchot’s The Most Profound Question as it approaches my work. It’s probably going to precede the Kafka text I posted yesterday in a list of texts accompanying the critical commentary I’m writing about the work I’ve done this year.

The question form “is speech that is accomplished by having declared itself as incomplete” (p.12). The particular incompleteness of the interrogative offers a “richness of possibility” by which we “give ourselves the thing and we give ourselves the void that permits us not to have it yet”. (p. 12) The void contained in the question form is indeed a lack –

“but this lack is of a strange kind. It is not the severity of negation: it does not do away with, it does not refuse. […] The word ‘is’ is not withdrawn; it is only lightened, rendered more transparent, committed to a new dimension”. (p. 13)

This lightness is reflected grammatically in English question formation when the word ‘is’ raises from its original position to the beginning of the sentence, illuminated like the heightened brilliance of a star just before it dies (p. 13). In its new position, the ‘is’ of the sentence – the verb that asserts the sentence’s ‘being’ – “abandon[s] its part of resounding affirmation, its decisive, negating part” and opens the sentence out into pure possibility “in such a way that, in this opening, the sentence seems no longer to have its center in itself but outside itself – in the neutral.” (p. 13)

With the centre of the sentence shifted outside of itself, the question form is disengaged from the bald statement of fact presented by an affirmative answer. ‘The sky is blue’ is quite different from the form ‘Is the sky blue? – Yes’ (p. 13). The affirmative misrepresents the centre, presuming it to be within the sentence rather than elsewhere, and in affirming the truth conditions of this centre it truncates the question’s potential and closes it into the singularity of a thing.

“Transformed for an instant into pure possibility, the state of things does not return to what it was. The categorical Yes cannot render what was, for a moment, only possible; still more, it withdraws from us the gift and the richness of possibility since it now affirms the being of what is, but affirms it in response, thus indirectly and in a manner that is only mediate.” (p. 13)

The immediacy of direct relation is denied between question and answer because they operate in irreconcilably separate spaces: the external/neutral and the concentric/specific.

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