Schwenger, Peter. “Agrippa, or, The Apocalyptic Book.”

South Atlantic Quarterly Fall 1993: 617-626.

This issue of South Atlantic Quarterly is devoted to discussions of cyberculture, and features a literary analysis of Agrippa.

“The idea has precedents. Maurice Blanchot’s essay on ‘The Absence of the Book’ argues from writerly experience that a work always becomes something other than what it is intended to be—what it is intended to be being, of course, a book. But the book (icon of law, presence, textual-cultural wholeness) is always betrayed by what Blanchot calls ‘the disaster.’ This disaster has to do with the necessary falling short of a work’s concept at the same time that an unexpected otherness beyond the work is evoked. A book never realizes its desired full presence; its realization occurs only and paradoxically through absence—’the prior determination of the book, the game of dissidence it plays with reference to the space in which it is inscribed; the preliminary dying of the book.’ In the end the original concept, and even the very idea of ‘concept’ must be exploded, Blanchot argues, citing Mallarmé’s curious statement that ‘there is no explosion but a book.’

Mallarmé also said that ‘the world exists in order to be put into a book.’ And he made this book—Le Livre—the ongoing preoccupation and project of his last twenty years, a project which came to nothing. Le Livre never appeared; its absence may have been the very point of it. The book’s nonappearance is linked to the disappearance of the world, a crucial component of Mallarmé’s art—so Sartre argues.” (pp. 618-20)