[Maurice Blanchot] cares nothing about a work as an individual accomplishment or as the product of one personality but only as a specimen of verbal creation, the phenomenon which never ceases to fascinate [him], for in it he reads the riddle of art, life, and the world—a riddle of antimonies: speech and silence, presence and absence, life and death.
— Laurent LeSage, The French New Criticism, “Blanchot” 1967 (55).
“However, the work – the work of art, the literary work – is neither finished nor unfinished: it is. What it says is exclusively this: that it is — and nothing more. Beyond that it is nothing. Whoever wants to make it express more finds nothing, finds that it expresses nothing. He whose life depends upon the work, either because he is a writer or because he is a reader, belongs to the solitude of that which expresses nothing except the word being: the word which language shelters by hiding it, or causes to appear when language itself disappears into the silent void of the work.
“The weakness of suicide lies in the fact that whoever commits it is still too strong. He is demonstrating a strength suitable only for a citizen of the world. Whoever kills himself could, then, go on living: whoever kills himself is linked to hope, the hope of finishing it all, and hope reveals his desire to begin, to find the beginning again in the end, to inaugurate in that ending a meaning which, however, he means to challenge by dying. Whoever despairs cannot hope to die either voluntarily or naturally: he has no time, he has no present upon which to brace himself in order to die. He who kills himself is the greatest affirmer of the present. I want to kill myself in an “absolute” instant, the only one which will not pass and will not be surpassed. Death, if it arrived at the time we choose, would be an apotheosis of the instant; the instant in it would be that very flash of brilliance which mystics speak of. And surely because of this, suicide retains the power of an exceptional affirmation. It remains an event which one cannot be content to call voluntary, an event which one can look neither back upon nor forward to.
“Whoever dwells with negation cannot use it. Whoever belongs to it can no longer, in this belonging, take leave of himself, for he belongs to the neutrality of absence in which already he is not himself anymore. This situation is, perhaps, despair — not what Kierkegaard calls “sickness unto death”, but the sickness in which dying does not culminate in death, in which one no longer keeps up hope for death, in which death is no longer to come, but is that which comes no longer.
“The writer senses that he is in the grasp of an impersonal power that does not let him either live or die: the irresponsibility he cannot surmount becomes the expression of that death without death which awaits him at the edge of nothingness; literary immortality is the very movement by which the nausea of a survival which is not a survival, a death which does not end anything, insinuates itself into the world, a world sapped by crude existence. The writer who writes a work eliminates himself as he writes that work and at the same time affirms himself in it. If he has written it to get rid of himself, it turns out that the work engages him and recalls him to himself, and if he writes it to reveal himself and live in it, he sees that what he has done is nothing, that the greatest work is not as valuable as the most insignificant act, and that his work condemns him to an existence that is not his own existence and to a life that has nothing to do with life. Or again he has written because in the depths of language he heard the work of death as it prepared living beings for the truth of their name: he worked for this nothingness and he himself was a nothingness at work. But as one realises the void, one creates a work, and the work, born of fidelity to death, is in the end no longer capable of dying; and all it brings to the person who was trying to prepare an unstoried death for himself is the mockery of immortality.
— Maurice Blanchot, The Space of Literature 1955.