cover image Thomas the Obscure

Thomas the Obscure

Maurice Blanchot. Station Hill Press, $15.95 (124pp) ISBN 978-0-88268-076-7

Admirers of Kierkegaard, Sartre and Beckett will enjoy Blanchot's philosophical rumination on existence in the form of this odd novela tragic existential romance of sorts. Thomas and Anne meet at a country hotel and believe themselves to be in love. We learn nothing of their pasts, mutual or personal, or of their plans or hopes. Such superficialities as character development do not concern Blanchot. Instead, the narrative focuses on the neurotic pair's inner worlds, where every slight notion and observation of the outer world carries explicit philosophical implications. The mental processes play unbroken for pages like impassioned and cerebral jazz piano pieces: the ocean is the modern soul, creatures are ideas, cats talk in monologues and the greatest action is a nervous collapse. With this couple, Blanchot examines the extent to which we are separated from our fellow humans by our solipsistic natures. Insight and true high comedy reign throughout these suffering-soaked chapters, remarkably and elegantly translated by Lamberton. For those who dare, this new version of the first novel by the influential French writer, a mystifying and ingenious work, will not soon leave the memory. (Oct.)