Blanchot wrote that Nietzsche was the first to teach us that, “if you begin to think, then you can hope for no rest.” [The Writing of the Disaster, p 123] And yet it’s a fact, lucidity cannot be maintained perpetually. It’s also a fact that the human brain cannot conceive its own nonbeing. We cannot grasp death or nonbeing as an experience, only as an abstraction or a presumption. Granted, the presumption can be very strong: we strongly presume death will result in nothingness. But it is not secure, it remains a presumption. If I could know for sure that my consciousness would end when I die I would welcome it like a homecoming. The idea that this (consciousness as a “me”) could go on and on, in some form (always the same?) forever is too painful to bear. But if such reassurance were possible, would we see an increase in the suicide rate? Blanchot: suicide is that “fraud” that reveals the other fraud—“natural” death. A further consideration: eternal life would only make eternity (or “heaven”) stink with life. Bataille:
To imagine oneself effaced, abolished by death, missing from the universe . . . On the contrary, if I continue to exist, with me the crowd of the dead, the universe would grow old, all of these dead would leave a bad taste in its mouth…. I can only bear the weight of the future on one condition: that others, always others, live there—and that death washes us, then washes these others without end. [Inner Experience, p 27]
To write is to know that death has taken place even though it has not been experienced, and to recognize it in the forgetfulness that it leaves…. Impossible necessary death: why do these words—and the experience to which they refer (the inexperience)—escape comprehension?…. Thought cannot welcome that which it bears within itself and which sustains it, except by forgetting…. If it weren’t for prisons, we would know that we are all already in prison.” [The Writing of the Disaster, pp 66-7]
Blanchot doesn’t mention Sade in this context, but surely he is the writer here, the writer par excellence, the truest, fullest example of what it means to be a writer. For Sade was in prison, and yet he knew. Sade’s final wish that “the traces of my grave will vanish from the face of the earth just as I as I like to think memory of me will be effaced from men’s minds.”—he meant it. Unmarked grave, fucker. Scattered over with acorns. His whole adult life, as a writer, was a relentless war of his consciousness against his mother-in-law, the authorities, the church, Enlightenment Reason, and indeed the whole world, apart from a small band of friends who were kind to him to the end. I want it to end! “It” nothing other than the war, consciousness itself. An effaced grave wouldn’t guarantee it, but it’s the final comfort of the last measure of control.
Doesn’t Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence figure in here? —As the noblest (yes, let’s use his word) way to confront these issues? Suicide is a fraud, and the only way to live is to persist in one’s utmost (one eye always open in the sinking sand, as Bataille put it), and this reassurance of nothingness is unavailable, so one must go on as if it will all be repeated, over and over. But again, as Bataille and Blanchot point out, only moments of forgetting can make life bearable.