At no other stage in his career did Blanchot write as much literary criticism as during the Occupation. Most of the articles and reviews published during those years are little known. They are now available as Chroniques littéraires du Journal des débats 1941-1944 [Literary Essays from the Journal des débats 1941-44] (Gallimard, 2007). The collection includes articles on Dante, Rabelais, Descartes, Montesquieu, William Blake, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Jarry, and Joyce, a host of authors to whom Blanchot in later years would never return. Various iconic figures recur: Giraudoux, Mallarmé, Valéry, the French Surrealists, the German Romantics. Blanchot's criticism is not academic criticism. It is in the first instance evaluative, opening onto a mode of criticism that is primarily interpretative. It is also the criticism of someone who is himself a writer, seeking to remain as close as possible to the act of creation itself. And the theories sketched out in these articles, admittedly not without contradictions or false starts, but in the febrile certainty of a life's work already beginning, are those Blanchot goes on to develop sometimes only later, from The Work of Fire (1949) to The Infinite Conversation (1969).
Maurice Blanchot; literary criticism; literary essays