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Friday, August 07, 2015

L'Arrêt de mort (Death Sentence) (1948) by Mauric Blanchot

Book Review L'Arrêt de mort (Death Sentence) (1948) by Maurice Blanchot What with World War II and all, it's a surprise that any books got written at all during the 1940s. Just numerically speaking, the 1940s are well underrepresented in the 1001 Books project, with maybe 35-40 titles all in, compared to twice that for the 1930s and 1920s. Few authors emerged during the 40s, meaning most of the representative from that decade in the 1001 Books project emerged in earlier decades: Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck. Maurice Blanchot is a clear outlier- he's more a literary theorist than a novelist, and he is best known for being a major influence on post-modern French theorist Jacques Derrida. I have a deep, deep antipathy for Derrida. Early on in my undergraduate studies I decided to eschew the study of literature for fear that I would have to take Derrida and his ilk seriously. Twenty years on, Derrida remains dominant within the graduate schools devoted to the humanities, much, I think, to the detriment of those students, teachers and the state of knowledge everywhere. Even though Death Sentence is short (80 pages) and uncomplicated, I can't really say what, if anything it is "about." There is a woman, she is dying from an incurable disease. The narrator is a man, he has relationships with more than one woman, the novel ends. It would have been nice to read an interpretive essay to explain the sequence of events. I would say that if you are in an existentialist phase high school, college or your early 20s, busting out this slim volume might win you cool points at the café.

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