Abstract

Maurice Blanchot and Marguerite Duras experienced May ’68 as a miraculous event, a radical interruption of the order of things. Throughout the 1970s, both writers explored whether it is possible to account for, while remaining faithful to, a movement that interrupted the political, economic, and axiological frameworks that structured the Western world. By focusing on the May revolution as a pivotal moment in the writers’ friendship, intellectual life, and political commitments, the author traces the afterlife of May ’68 in their respective texts, concentrating specifically on one of Duras’s most understudied works, Les Mains négatives (1979). In this cine-poem, Duras pursues a dialogue begun with Blanchot during the general strike over the reconceptualization of communism as a form of communal experience antithetic to all power structures. Duras envisions this inoperative communism as a manifestation of “desire” conceived as an impersonal force that establishes an ethical relation with the foreign, the inassimilable, the other. More specifically, this essay ponders the aesthetic, ethical, and political implications of the cine-poem’s construal of the negative hands of upper-Paleolithic art as the first representation of desire, positing that, for Duras, the negative hands are both the prehistoric archetype and the afterlife of the soixante-huitards’ communist desire.

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