The Last Man By Maurice Blanchot Translated by Lydia Davis, 1987 Originally published as Le Dernier Homme, Gallimard, Coll. Blanche, 1957 ©2007 /ubu editions
Cover image: Dirk Rowntree & Robert Fitterman, from Cedars Estates (2001). Cedars Estates can be found in UbuWeb’s Contemporary section.
/ubu editions www.ubu.com /ubueditions series editor: Danny Snelson
The Last Man
I AS SOON AS I was able to use that word, I said what I must always have thought of him: that he was the last man. In truth, almost nothing distinguished him from the others. He was more retiring, but not modest, imperithoughts which he gently rejected; this could be read in his eyes, which queshelp me? Hiseyes were pale, of a silvery pallor, like a child’s eyes. In fact, be considerate, but also to feel vaguely protective. ous when he wasn’t talking; then, in silence, one had to attribute to him tioned us with surprise, with distress: why is that all you think? Why can’t you there was something childish about his face, an expression that invited us to I believed that he had a kind of discretion,sometimes that he was a little Certainly he talked very little, but his silence often went unnoticed.
scornful, sometimes that he withdrew too much into himself or outside of us. Now I think that maybe he didn’t always exist or that he didn’t yet exist. But I’m also thinking of something more extraordinary: he had a simplicity that didn’t surprise us.
useless, the most superfluous of allpeople. be met”?
changed everyone’s condition, maybe only mine. Maybe he was the most is something terrible there, a difficulty that slips away, an obstacle that can’t And right afterward: “He says he can’t think about himself: about
Yet he was disturbing. He disturbed me more than others. Maybe he
And what if he hadn’t said to me, one day, “I can’t think about myself: there
others, still,about one other, but it’s like an arrow coming from too far away that won’t reach the target, and yet when it stops and falls, the target quivers in the distance and comes to meet it.”
tences that seem infinite, that roll with the sound of waves, an all-encomto it, who wouldn’t have the feeling of being that target?
At these times, he talks very fast in a sort of low voice: great sen-passing murmur, a barely perceptible planetary song. This goes on and on, He wasn’t addressing anyone. I don’t mean he wasn’t speaking to
is terribly imposing in its gentleness and distance. How to answer? Listening me, but someone other than me was listening to him, someone who was per-
the last man
haps richer, vaster, and yet more singular, almost toogeneral, as though, confronting him, what had been “I” had strangely awakened into a “we,” the presence and united force of the common spirit. I was a little more, a little less than myself: more, in any case, than all men. In this “we,” there is the of this is I before him, and he seems almost nothing at all. earth, the power of the elements, a sky that is not this sky, there is a feeling
ofloftiness and calm, there is also the bitterness of an obscure constraint. All ruin, I wanted to persuade him to disappear, I would have liked to make him annihilated me, I surrounded him with attention, calculations, hope, suspiand vulnerable where that was concerned. A superficial glance directed at cion, forgetfulness, and finally pity, but I always protected him from the There were reasons forme to fear him, to dream endlessly of his
admit that he didn’t doubt himself, an admission that would probably have curiosity of the others. I didn’t draw attention to him. He was strangely weak his person seemed to expose him to an incomprehensible menace. A profound look, capable of seeking him out where he was, did not trouble him, still have reached, in him. troubled him less. Down...