The first child gives you a long stare trying to read signs from your expression, your clothing, working out what kind of person you might be, measuring you against others whom she knows. She is seven or eight. The second child is a little older, in a pink sweatshirt. In her case the extended gaze seems to communicate something that was not so of the younger child, who interrogated your appearance from a more remote vantage point. Wishing not to make contact, on realising that her look was being met, she turned away. The old child is more confident. As she looks, her gaze incorporates an appeal. You cannot interpret it precisely. It may be a request for approval. Or perhaps she is asking you to look away.


Watch from the first floor window as people pass in the street below. Notice what they wear. To begin with you will not think to comment. Certainly, the way people dress attracts your attention but, somehow, when encountered first, the evident diversity in the scene disables your forming comments. Then someone will appear whose clothes are different enough to break the spell, for instance a man wearing red jeans with a sandy coloured jacked and a cravat, or a man with a ponytail, in his early twenties, in a black and orange tracksuit. Even as you are inclined to single out one or two individuals for comment, the clothing choices made by all the others who pass in the street will become ripe for comment.






The Names

Sandra Bedstroke

Richard Blizzard

Cameron Tonkinwise

Dr Pepra


Arthur Boxbender

Rhynd- Tutt

Professor Hemisphere

Luke Buckmaster

Miriam Undercoat

Conrad Rossiter

Rumpkin Pilstilt


Erika Fudge

Murry Bookchin

Phil Tinline

Admiral Tawdry

Jimmy Spratt


T. J. Clark quoted in Brian Dillon, Essayism, London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017

Many of us, maybe all of us, look at some images repeatedly, but it seems we do not write that repetition, or think it, once written, worth reading by others. Maybe we deeply want to believe that images happen, essentially or sufficiently, all at once. . . . Maybe that actual business of repeated gawping strikes us as embarrassing, at least when set out in sentences. (‘Too passive? Too privileged? Too rudimentary? Too male’?) Maybe we fear that the work we depend on images to do fur us — the work of immobilizing, and therefore making tolerable — will be undone if we throw the image back into the flow of time. Whatever the reason for the omission, I think it should be repaired. [p. 121]


Jean-Luc Nancy, The Ground of the Image, Jeff Fort (trans.), New York: Fordham University Press, 2005

There are other modalities in which the text is not given as such [ . . . ] In fact, each of these modes may or may not display a text. In any case, there will be a title, a tag, even if only the negative “untitled.” Somewhere there will be an indication that there is what one calls a “work”. The minimum of discourse is the word work, or some other designation or deictic (a pointing finger, a pedestal) with the same funcation. Work then means not so much the product of a setting-into-work, not so much a particular piece of work, as the following indication: freeze frame here. A still image, meaning also: a still text, a fixed point and a cut of the weave in process, an immobilized needle, an eternalized movement. [p. 71]


Nadine Boljkovac, ‘Mad Love’, Gilles Deleuze: Image and Text, Eugene W. Holland, Daniel W. Smith, Charles J. Stivale (eds.) London: Continuum, 2009.

La Jetée‘s heartbeat, its tracing of love, indeed evinces Bergson’s classification of an ‘image’ as that which exists ‘halfway between the “thing” and the “representaiton”‘, once more a thisness (Matter and Memory, p. 9) [p. 139]


Marguerite Duras, The Lover, Barbara Bray (trans.), London: HarperCollins Publishing, 1984.

So, I’m fifteen and a half.

   It’s on a ferry crossing the Mekong river.

   The images lasts all the way across. . .

I think it was during this journey that the images became detached, removed from all the rest. It might have existed, a photograph might have been taken, just like any other, somewhere else, in other circumstances. But it wasn’t. The subject was too slight. Who would have thought of such a thing? The photograph could only have been taken if someone could have known in advance how important it was to be in my life, that event, that crossing of the river. But, while it was happening, no one ever knew of its existence. Except God. And that’s why — it couldn’t have been otherwise — the image doesn’t exist. It was omitted. Forgotten. It never was detached or removed from all the rest. And it’s to this, this failure to have been created, that the image owes its virtue: the virtue of representing, of being the creator of, an absolute. [p. 8-14]


W. G. Sebald et al., The Emergence of Memory: Conversations with W. G. Sebald, Lynne Sharon Schwartz (ed.), London: Seven Stories Press, 2007.

[the pictures included with the text] have a number of different sources of origin and also a number of different purposes [ . . . ] The first and obvious notion is that of verification [ . . . ] The other function that I see is possibly that of arresting time. Fiction is an art from that moves in time, that is inclined towards the end, that works on a negative gradient, and it is very, very difficult in that particular form in the narrative to arrest the passage of time. And as we all know, this is what we like so much about certain forms of visual art — you stand in a museum and you look at one of those wonderful pictures somebody did in the sixteenth or the eighteenth century. You are taken out of time, and that is in a sense a form of redemption, if you can release yourself from the passage of time. And the photograph can also do this — they act like barriers or weirs which stem the flow. I think that is something that is positive, slowing down the speed of reading, as it were. [p. 41-42]

. . . writing and creating something is about elaboration. You have a few elements. You build something. You elaborate until you have something that looks like something. And elaboration is, of course, the vice of paranoia. If you read texts written by paranoiacs, they’re syntactically correct, the orthography is all right, but the content is insane, because they start from a series of axioms which are out of synch. But the degree of elaboration is absolutely fantastical. It goes on and on and on and on. You can see from that that the degree of elaboration is not the measure of truth. And that is exactly the same problem because, certainly in prose fiction, you have to elaborate. You have one image and you have to make something of it — half a page, or three-quarters, or one-and-a-half — and it only works through linguistic or imaginative elaboration. [p. 114]


Rosalind E. Krauss, The Optical Unconscious, London: MIT Press, 1994, p. 210 – 214.

The silence and the stillness go together, the stillness that is painting’s hallmark, painting’s genius. She remembers Picasso saying, “For me, Hélène, the role of painting is not to depict movement, to put reality into motion. Its role is rather, I think, to arrest motion. In order to freeze the image you have to outdistance motion. If not, you are always running behind. Only at that very moment,” he would add, “do you have reality.”

That very moment, she muses, is a paradox. That very moment involves the amazing speed of the eye as it outruns motion by synthesizing it into the single image of its “meaning.” Photography’s picture can never be anything but frozen movement, the gesture deprived of its inner life. Painting, she thinks, in its very stillness, its carefully structured immobility, is the true analogue of the visual completeness of this mastery by the gaze.

Silence, the silence of these studios in which Picasso obsessively works, the completeness of this silence, guaranteed by this baking, dazzling sun, is the necessary medium within which the blade thrust of this gaze which is both lightning-quick and timeless — hanging as it does in the perpetual suggestiveness of this race between the tortoise and the hare — will be able to swell to infinity.

She tears her eyes away from the painting mounted on its easel to look through the deep arches of the doorway-windows. Her gaze sweeps over the tops of the olive trees past the silhouettes of the distant buildings to the sea lying in wait in the background. Under the flaming sun the sea is molten, a buckling sheet of metal, its surface radiating waves of heat. She hears the cicadas’ frenzy as they fill the air with a constant shriek. “There is this kind of invisible cloak of crazy heat,” she thinks, “under which the whole of nature vibrates, the air trembles,” as even the sound of the highway below — “this incessant ronron,” she smiles — completes the quality of the atmosphere in its almost hysterical pulsing, shimmying, beating, bopping…

She looks back at the painting on the easel, Jacqueline royally lounging on her green chaise. “The absolute silence of this place,” she jots in her notebook, “its utter stillness, this perfect ambience for painting’s timeless, motionless gaze.”

Hélène Parmelin is, in this, nothing if not orthodox. She agrees with the art historian about painting’s genius, painting’s truth. She agrees that this is coextensive with the truth of the terms of vision. Those terms, she concurs, have their existence in a space that has nothing to do with sequence, with narrative, with movement through time. The terms of vision’s truth are instead a function of what happens in the twinkling of an eye.

The visual pyramid on which classical perspective is built is a geometry, after all, by which the lines of sight and the lines of light are absolutely coordinated, a coordination that produces the identity (in mirror) between the vanishing point within the picture and the viewing point within the eye. And it is not for nothing that this geometry turns around the almost unimaginable limit of “infinity,” a point that is literally reduced to nothing. Far from nothing coming from nothing, the truth that arises from this Euclidean meeting of parallel lines at the point beyond the limit of imagining is the solidity of the construction’s basis in geometrical law. And the infinite smallness of this point in the eye from which the entire architecture is suspended is, as well, an infinite rapidity. If, in the art historian’s perspective diagrams, the eye is always pictured open and fixated, staring into the pyramid’s tunnel, that’s because it is an eye that sees with such dazzling quickness that it has no need to blink. It sees in a twinkling, before the blink. And this twinkling, this infinite brevity or immediacy of the gaze, is the analogue for the picture’s own condition in the all-at-once, for painting’s ontological truth as pure simultaneity.

It is in this sense that painting is radically unassimilable to time. For it lives in a perpetual “now”.

If the Renaissance had diagrammed the punctuality of this viewing point, it was modernism that insisted on it, underscored it, made the issue of this indivisible instant of seeing serve as a fundamental principle in the doctrine of its aesthetic truth. Modernism was to absolutize this “now,” to insist that Painting exist within the indivisible present of the extremest possible perceptual intensity: the rush of pure color; the shock of light-on-dark as ground pulls level with figure; the reduction of the world to pattern. Nothing was to segment off the “now” from itself, not the chatter of narrative nor the distraction of description nor even the sense of a separation between the surface life of the image and the physicality of its support. The singleness of the pictorial datum was to be the mirror image of the form through which it was apprehended, it was to be the very picture of the instantaneity of vision-in-consciousness.


Edgar Allan Poe, ‘Bernice’, The complete tales and poems of Edgar Allan Poe, London : Bloomsbury Books, 1994.

There is, however, a remembrance of aërial forms — of spiritual and meaning eyes — of sounds, musical yet sad; a remembrance which will not be excluded; a memory like a shadow — vague, variable, indefinite, unsteady; and like a shadow, too, in the impossibility of my getting rid of it while the sunlight of my reason shall exist. [p. 642]



Roy Sorensen, Seeing in the Dark: The Philosophy of Shadows, Oxford University Press, 2008.

Fascination with shadows begins in infancy. We innately gravitate towards principles for understanding objects and often extrapolate them to shadows. Shadows are treated as honorary physical objects.

Developmental psychologists regard these overextensions as clues to “folk physics.” Just  as linguists figure out the innate grammar of tense construction from the child’s use of”runned” and “goed,” psycologists hoped to figure out the scheme for objecthood and causality from mistakes children make about shadows. Shadows are the irregular verbs of object perception.

Children rapidly acquire a fold physics that allows them to predict the behavior of middle-size objects fairly accurately. (Otherwise, toddlers would not be intrigued by magic tricks.) Children are much slower to acquire a comparable understanding of shadows — even though the shadows almost always accompany objects. Surprisingly, many children younger than nine cannot predict on which side of an object a shadow will fall when told where the light source will be. This ignorance survives the attention children lavish on shadows. Children are opinionated about shadows and emotionally involved with them. they commonly believe shadows emanate from their bodies. (When asked to make their shadows move around a room, six-year-old children rotate their bodies.) Children believe that shadows persist in the dark and are made up of a smoky substance. Shadows give a black eye to the empiricist.  [p. 9-10]




Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought, London: Harvard University Press, 2010

Masculine Nature fears its own shadow — subjectivity itself. It wants no truck with the night of the world . . .  [p. 82]


Michel Foucault, ‘Fantasia of the Library’, Language, Counter-memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, Donald F. Bouchard & Sherry Simon (trans.), New York: Cornell University Press, 1977.

[On reading The Temptation of Saint Anthony, Flaubert’s] friends were enraptured by the “richness of his vision” (François Coppée), “by its forest of shadows and light” (Victor Hugo). [p. 89]


John Douglas Millar, Brutalist Readings: Essays on Literature, Berlin: Sternberg, 2016.

If conceptual writing was anything it was a depleted replay of Conceptual art masquerading as institutional critique of a literature it could not define. A shadow of a shadow of a shadow. [p. 79]


Samuel Beckett, The Lost Ones, Samuel Beckett (trans.), New York: Grove Press Inc. 1972.

No other shadows then than those cast by the bodies pressing on one another wilfully or from necessity as when for example on a breast to prevent its being lit or on some private part the hand descends with vanished palm. [p. 40]


Nicolas Bourriaud, introduction to The Mattering of Matter: Documents from he Archive of the International Necronautical Society, Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2012.

. . . in order for any message to carry real force, it must negotiate a danger zone, cross a frontier, transgress a prohibition. On this subject, Michel Leiris evoked the corrida, “the shadow of a bull’s horn” hanging over the act of writing, which is consequently placed under the sign of a mortal threat, a personal endangerment. [p. 18-19]


Clarice Lispector, The Passion According to G.H., Idra Novey (trans.) London: Penguin, 2014.

Like me, the apartment has moist shadows and lights, nothing here is abrupt; one room precedes and promises the next. From my dining room I could see the mixtures of shadows that were a prelude to the living room. [p. 22]


Mark Dorrian, ‘Adventures on the Vertical’ Cabinet Issue 44, 2011-2012.

In his book The Voice in Cinema, Michel Chion examines the powers of what he calls the acousmêtre–the voice that is heard but whose source cannot be located within the image. As such, it forms, Chion writes, “a special being, a kind of talking and acting shadow.”


Susan Sontag, ‘Against Interpretation’, Against Interpretation and Other Essays, London: Andre Deutsch Ltd, 1987.

To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world — in order to set up a shadow world of “meanings.” [p. 7]


Jorge Luis Borges, The Book of Imaginary Beings, Andrew Hurley (trans.), New York: Viking, 1967.

To see the most lovely landscape in the world, a traveler must climb the Tower of Victory in Chitor. A winding staircase gives access to the circular terrace on top, but only those who do not believe the legend dare climb the tower. On the stairway there has lived since the beginning of time a being sensitive to the many safes of the human should known as A Bao A Qu. It sleeps until the approach of a traveler and some secret life within it begins to glow and its translucent body begins to stir. As the traveler climbs the stairs, the being regains consciousness and follows at the traveler’s heels, becoming more intense in bluish colour and coming closer to perfection. But it achieves its ultimate form only at the topmost step, and only when the traveler is one who has already attained Nirvana, whose acts cast no shadows.


Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 23.00.23from Goodbye To Language, Jean-Luc Godard (dir.) 2014.


• Mark Ford, Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams, London: Faber and Faber, 2000.

As Alain Robbe-Grillet noted in his 1963 essay on Roussel, his works are characterized by a ‘total transparency, which leaves neither shadow nor reflection behind it’. [p. xxii]

. . . Roussel’s openness in La Saine to drift and contingency does exert a peculiar kind of fascination. Towards the end of Act II a character called Clotilde Park explains to an acquaintance, Nicourt, how she enjoys watching the play of dust motes in sunlight, in terms that clearly reflect Roussel’s experience of la gloire [his profound experience of inspiration].

I had thought deeply/While watching this long space full of light/Seething with activity . . . I am, besides, in the habit/ Of engaging in deep, endless meditations;/ I would remain thus, without feeling hungry,/ Thirsty or tired for inconceivable amounts of time./ Each grain of dust quickly became untraceable/ As soon as it passed beyond the line where the beam of light/ Finished, and entered into shadow. [p. 72-73]

In his essay ‘Énigmes et transparence’, Alain Robbe-Grillet relates the pure ‘deathlessness’ of Roussel’s fiction to its mysterious lack of chiaroscuro: Roussel’s stories, Robbe-Grillet suggests, ‘eave neither shadow nor reflection behind them.’ Cocteau similarly argues that Roussel’s style leaves ‘no intriguing shadow’ but creates a kind of pure ‘illumination’. Revelling in the Egyptian sunlight, Claude appears on the very verge of discovering the ‘pays de re[grave]ve’ of Roussel’s fiction, the shadowless realm in which every aspect of existence is transfigured into narrative, ‘tout come un roman’. [p. 92]


• Henri Focillon, The Life of Forms in Art, New York: Zone Books, 1989. Introduction by Jean Molino.

. . . the products of a single culture at a single moment harmonize “in a profound and shadowy unity,” [p. 15]


• Etel Adnan, Paris, When It’s Naked, Sausalito: The Post-Apollo Press, 1993.

The champions have been skiing under an intense snow fall. I looked at the screen covered with white-in-motion, as if it became an electron microscope. It drew me into it, my tired mind spinning and going sideways, which I had to keep pulling back into what became a moving nothingness. But nothingness and I are long-time friends, and it was one of the most meaningful hours of my life. The snow continued to come in diagonals, and between the diagonals where other lines made of snow, falling, modulating the air as they were modulating my vision. Between all these diagonal lines I was able to perceive shadows, white shadows, so to speak, separating the falling threads. [p. 84-85]

My friend was much attracted to the agonies of incarceration, and died imprisoned in a sickness. He lived what he had imagined. What happened? I think that he was ruled by the imagination which is everyone’s shadow. When the mind reaches the imagination’s deepest end, the imagination gives in but remains intact and active. Then our mind, under the pressure of unleashed impulses, shatters all the interdicts we know into bits and pieces. The imagination feeds then on these pieces as flames on fuel. The mind, left without its shadow, ends up walled in into itself, into its own hell. [p. 114-115]


• Steve Van den Bosch (in Nico Dockx & Clara Meister (eds.), A Poem A Day calendar, published by Bruno Devos in collaboration with Curious.

, so perhaps shadow is enough light. [29/01]


• Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven []

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!


• Gillian Wylde, The Nabokov Papers, a project by Kate Briggs and Lucrezia Russo, Acklam: Information As Material, 2013

A as in shadow theory-isms. “dust rufflers”, “bed skirts”, or gathered drapery. [p. 82]


• Briony Fer, ‘Poussière /peinture: Bataille on painting’, Bataille: Writing the Sacred, Carolyn Bailey Gill (ed.), London: Routledge, 1995.

Dust and its network of associations are woven through Bataille’s writing on modern painting, in particualr his writing on Miró , Masson, Picasso and Dali. . . I am concerned with the ways in which this constellation of metaphors around dust relates to Bataille’s view of the origins of modern painting in a psychic scenario of sexual difference, a scenario which does not so much illuminated as deal in shadows. My interest is in Bataille’s sense that obscurity — as it is played off against insight and enlightenment — is a condition of modern painting. It is a question of how dust, as a metaphor, can migrate from waste, from matter, to ‘dust in your eyes’ and a blurring of sight and of meaning, where meaning is necessarily opaque and impervious to light. [p. 154]


• Hal Foster et al., Art Since 1900: Modernism Antimodernism Postmodernism, second edition, London: Thames & Hudson, 2011.

Very early on — and  [Robert] Smithson directly borrowed from this tradition — the laws of entropy was applied both to language (the way words empty out when they become clichés) and to the displacement of use-vaule by exchange-value in an economy of mass production. The final book of the nineteenth-century French novelist Gustave Flaubert, Bouvard et Pécuchet, one of Smithson’s favorites, already merged these two lines of enquiry in recounting the growth of the entropic shadow being cast on our lives and our thought under the conditions of capitalism. [p. 549]


• W. G. Sebald et al., The Emergence of Memory:Conversations with W. G. Sebald, Lynne Sharon Schwartz (ed.),  London: Seven Stories Press, 2007, [quoted from The Rings of Saturn]

The invisibility and intangibility of that which moves us remained an unfathomable mystery for Thomas Browne too, who saw our world as no more than a shadow image of another one far beyond. . . And yet, says Browne, all knowledge is enveloped in darkness. What we perceive are no more than isolated lights in the abyss of ignorance, in the shadow-filled edifice of the world. We study the order of things, says Browne, but we cannot grasp their innermost essence. [p. 114.]

. . . the dominant event [in Sebald’s After Nature] is the solar eclipse of 1502, a “catastrophic incursion of darkness”:

on the first of October the moon’s shadow
slid over Eastern Europe from Mecklenburg
over Bohemia and the Lausitz to Southern Poland,
and Grunewald, who repeatedly was in touch
With the Aschaffenburg Court Astrologer Johann
will have travelled to see this event of the century,
awaited with great terror, the eclipse of the sun,
so will have become a witness to
the secret sickening way of the world,
in which a phantasmal encroachment of dusk
in the midst of daytime like a fainting fit
poured through the vault of the sky,
while over the banks of mist and the cold
heavy blues of the clouds
a fiery red arose, and colors
such as his eyes had not known
radiant wandered about, never again to be
driven out of the painter’s memory. [p. 130]


• Luce Irigaray, Marine Lover of Freidrich Nietzsche, Gillian C. Gill (ed.), New York: Columbia University Press, [date?]



• David Berridge, The Fluxus President, Rhos-on-Sea: Dark Windows Press, 2012.

Was that tall shadow Ban Ki-moon? [p. 47]


• Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star, Giovanni Ponteiro (trans.), Manchester: Carcanet Press.

… surely words are actions? Yet I have no intention of adorning the word, for where I do touch the girl’s bread, that bread would turn to gold — and the girl (she is nineteen years old) the girl would be unable to bite into it, and consequently die of hunger. So I must express myself simply in order to capture her delicate and shadowy existence. [p. 15]
• Paul Hammond, The Shadow and Its Shadow: Surrealist Writings on the Cinema, London: City Lights Books, 2000.


• Charles Bernstein’s Showtime, quoted in Marjorie Perloff, Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century, University of Chicago Press, London, 2010.

Walk slowly
and jump quickly
the paths into
briar. The
pricks are points on a
that take
you back behind the stares
where shadows are
thickest at

The book of Jonah, King James Authorised version, 4:5.

So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.


Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, London: Routledge, 2001.

. . . and rendering to Roussel a small part of what is still his due, I use the word ‘table’ in two superimposed senses: the nickel-plated, rubbery table swathed in white, glittering beneath a glass sun devouring all shadow . . . [p. xix]


• Joseph J. Tanke, Foucault’s Philosophy of Art: A Genealogy of Modernity, London: Continuum, 2009.

the movement Foucault is discussing refers to the process by which, from the Classical age onwards, the artist is linked with his or her work and forced to serve as its ground of truth. Foucault is here sifting the soil by which the life, the psychology, and the intentions of the artist form a shadow, exterior to the work itself, which must be traversed if one is to access to [have] access to the work. [p. 38]


John Williams, Stoner, London: Vintage, 2012.

Sometimes, in his attic room at night, he would look up from a book he was reading and gaze in the dark corners of his room, where the lamplight flickered against the shadows. If he stared long and intently, the darkness gathered into a light, which took the insubstantial shape of what he had been reading. And he would feel that he was out of time, as he had felt that day in class when Archer Sloane had spoken to him. The past gathered out of the darkness where it stayed, and the dead raised themselves to live before him; and the past and the dead flowed into the present among the alive, so that he had for an intense instant a vision of denseness into which he was compacted and from which he could not escape, and had no with to escape. [p. 14-15]


• Henri Lefebvre, Rhythmanalysis: space, time and everyday life, Stuart Elden & Gerald Moore (trans.) London: Althone, 2004.

… the concept of rhythm, hence the rhythmanalytical project, emerges bit by bit from the shadows.’ [p. 9]


Catherine Clément, Syncope: The Philosophy of Rapture, Sally O’Driscoll & Deirdre M. Mahoney, London: University of Minnesota Press, 1994.

. . . we will cheat with the shadow’s shadow. [p. 23]

There was only one way [for Socrates] to put himself in accord with the daemon’s strange signal: start again with a new discourse, cancel out the first one, and speak about love again, in the shadow of the plane tree, philosophizing it. [p. 37]


• Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, (c. 60 BC)

“Observe what happens when sunbeams are admitted into a building and shed light on its shadowy places. You will see a multitude of tiny particles mingling in a multitude of ways…


• Rosalind E. Krauss, The Optical Unconscious, London: MIT Press, 1994.

… in the 1926 picture The Virgin Chastising the Infant Jesus before Three Witnesses (A.B., P.E., and the Artist), [Max Ernst’s acknowledgement of his interest in Freud’s case studies] is dropped in as a kind of private witticism, in the shadow of a bird cast onto the garments of the Virgin. [p. 63]

I enter the picture as a cast shadow, cast because, dumbly, I get in the way of the light. And because I get in the way of it, I cannot see it. The point where it would be, if I could see it, is held for me by a marker, a placeholder, a structural substitute. This is the automaton, the readymade, the thing the gap both produces and hides behind. This is what marks the point in the optical system where what is thought to be visible will never appear. [p. 88]

Both the animism of primitive peoples and the narcissism of the infant, [Freud] notices, populate the world with extensions of themselves, with projections in the form of doubles or cast shadows (shades). [p. 177]


• Michel Foucault, Manet and the Object of Painting, Matthew Barr (trans.) London: Tate Publishing, 2011.

Rather than penetrating into the picture, the light is outside, and it is outside precisely because the viewer is on a balcony; we must assume that the midday sun strikes the balcony head on, strikes these figures here, on the point of eating away the shadows; and you notice these large white layers of the dresses in which absolutely no shadow is drawn, just a few sparkling reflections; consequently no shadow, and so eery shadow is behind, because, by the effect of back-lighting of course, one cannot see what there is in the room; and instead of having a light-dark picture, instead of having a picture where light and shadow mix together, you have a curious picture in which all the light is on one side, all the shadow on the other, all the light is from in front of the picture and all the shadow is from the other side of the picture, as if the very verticality of the canvas separates a world of shadow, which is behind, and a world of light, which is in front. [p. 70]


• Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker, London: Picador, 1982.

Lorna said, ‘Nimbel you ever seen any dog peopl?’
Nimbel said, ‘O yes Ive seen them times a nuff.’
Lorna said, ‘Whatd they look like then?’
Nimbel said, ‘They throw a wite shadder dont they. Everybody knows that.’ [p. 16]

I seen some 1 move a way from the far wall then I seen like a wite shadder on that old conkreat wall. Like when you make a fire agenst a stoan and it gets black all round where the flame ben oly just where the flames been there its bernt clean. This wite shadder wer in the shape of a figger you cudnt tel if it ben man or woman it wer just some 1 stanning with legs a part you cudnt make out no arms parbly the hans ben covering the face. [p. 72]


• Georges Didi-Huberman, Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz, trans. Shane B. Lillis, London: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

. . . the cropping of these photographs is a manipulation that is at the same time formal, historical, ethical, and ontological. The mass of black that surround the sight of the cadavers and the pits, this mass where nothing is visible gives in reality a visual mark that is just as valuable as all the rest of the exposed surface. That mass where nothing is visible is the space of the gas chamber: the dark room into which one had to retreat, to step back, in order to give light to the work of the Sonderkommando outside, above the pyres. That mass of black gives us the situation itself, the space of possibility, the condition of existence of the photographs themselves. To erase a “zone of shadow” (the visual mass) for the sake of some lucid “information” (the visible testimonial) is, moreover, to act as though Alex were able to take the photographs safely out on the open. It is almost to insult the danger that he faced and to insult his cunning as résistant. The cropping of these pictures was no doubt believed to preserve the document (the visible result, the distinct information). But instead, their phenomenology was removed, everything that made them an event (a process, a job, physical contact).

This mass of black is nothing other than the mark of the ultimate status by which these images should be understood: their status as visual event. To speak here of the interplay of shadow and light is not the fantasy of the “formalist” art historian: it is to name the very structure of these images. [p. 35-36]

Let us take a fresh look at the four photographs snatched from the hell of August 1944. Is the first sequence not permeated by the deficiency of information? Shadow all around, a curtain of trees, smoke… [p. 45]


• Jacques Rancière, Preface to The Proletarian Nights, London: Verso, 2013.

Why has the philosophy of intelligentsia or activists always needed to blame some evil third party (petty bourgeoisie, ideologist or master thinker) for the shadows and obscurities that get in the way of the harmonious relationship between their own self-consciousness and the self-identity of their ‘popular’ object of study? Was not this evil third party contrived to spirit away another more fearsome threat: that of seeing the thinkers of the night invade the territory of Philosophy.


• Pierre Cabanne, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1971.

I executed the cast shadow of the bicycle wheel, the cast shadow of the hat rack . . . and the cast shadow of the corkscrew. I had found a sort of projector which made shadows rather well enough, and I projected each shadow, which I traced by hand, onto the canvas. Also, right in the middle, I put a hand painted by a sign painter, and I had the good fellow sign it. [p. 60]


Bushy to the Queen in Shakespeare’s Richard II

Each substance of a grief hath twenty shadows,
Which shows like grief itself, but is not so;
For sorrow’s eye, glazed with blinding tears,
Divides one thing entire to many objects;
Like perspectives, which rightly gazed upon
Show nothing but confusion, eyes awry
Distinguish form: so your sweet majesty,
Looking awry upon your lord’s departure,
Find shapes of grief, more than himself, to wail;
Which, look’d on as it is, is nought but shadows
Of what is not. [II, ii, 14-24]


Slavoj Žižek, How to read Lacan, London: Granta Books, 2006.

[Shakespeare’s Richard II] starts to perceive his kingship as an effect of anamorphosis, a ‘shadow of nothing’; however, getting rid of this insubstantial spectre does not leave us with the simple reality of what we effectively art – it is as if one cannot simply counterpose the anamorphosis of charisma and substantial reality, as if all reality is an effect of anamorphosis, a ‘shadow of nothing’… [p. 70]


Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows, Stony Creek: Leete’s Island Books, 1977.

I have written all this because I have thought that there might still be somewhere, possibly in literature or the arts, where something could be saved. I would call back at least for literature this world of shadows we are losing. In the mansion called literature I would have the eaves deep and the walls dark, I would push back into the shadows the things that come forward too clearly, I would strip away the useless decoration. I do not ask that this be done everywhere, but perhaps we may be allowed at least one mansion where we can turn off the electric lights and see what it is like without them. [p. 42]


• Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson & Robert Galeta, London: Althone Press, 1989. [p. 124]

Resnais has often declared that it is not characters that interest him but the feelings that they could extract from them like their shadows, depending on which regions of the past they are placed in. Characters are of the present, but feelings plunge into the past. Feelings become characters, as in the painted shadows in the sunless park (Last Year in Marienbad).


• Walter Benjamin, One Way Street, quoted by Susan Buck-Morss in The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project. London: MIT, 1991. [p. 19]

Our feelings, dazzled, flutter like a flock of birds in the woman’s radiance. And as birds seek protection in the leafy recesses of a tree, so our feelings take flight into the shaded wrinkles, the awkward gestures and invisible blemishes of the body we love, where they can lie low in safety.


• Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic, London: Macmillan Publishing, 1977.

I didn’t like the look of that cover. Its shadow wasn’t right. The sun was at our backs, yet its shadow was stretching towards us. Well, all right, it was far enough away from us. It seemed OK, we could get on with our work. But what was the silvery thing shining back there? Was it just my imagination? It would be nice to have a smoke now and sit for a spell and mull it all over–why there was that shine over the canisters, why it didn’t shine next to them, why the cover was casting that shadow. Buzzard Burbridge told me something about the shadows, that they were weird but harmless. Something happens here with the shadows. [p. 25]


• Julia Kissiner, When Shadows Cast People, Peperoni Books, 2010.


• Peter Sloterdijk & Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs, Neither Sun Nor Death, 1, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2011.

Words, for him, are creatures of the shadows, symbols of lack–to write means to adopt the appearance of an unknown face. [p. 98. on Edmond Jabès’ The Little Book of Unsuspected Subversion]


• Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1, London: Athlone, 1992.

The parts of the set are now intensive parts, and the set itself is a mixture which is transmitted through all the parts, through all the degrees of shadow and of light, through the whole light-darkness scale. [p. 14]


• Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, London: Continuum, 2004.

Bacon has often said that, in the domain of Figures, the shadow has as much presence as the body; but the shadow acquires this presence only because it escapes from the body; the shadow is the body that has escaped from itself through some localized point in the contour. [p. 16]

The shadow escapes from the body like an animal we had been sheltering. [p. 21]


• Hadley Freeman, ‘Go on, Werner, give us a smile’, Guardian, Saturday 5th March 2011

Herzog and his third wife, Lena, live in L.A. Herzog concedes this is a surprising choice of residency for him, not least because he hates sunshine: “I am always trying to find the next shadow.” [p. 27 – 29]


• The Invisible Committee, The Coming Insurrection, Paris: Semiotext(e), 2009

Everywhere, a new idea of communism is to be elaborated. In the shadows of bar rooms, in print shops, squats, farms, occupied gymnasiums, new complicities are to be born. [p. 15]

Freedom is no longer a name scrawled on walls, for today it is always followed, as if by its shadow, with the word “security.” [p. 85]


• Antonin Artaud, ‘Theatre and the Plague’, The Theatre and its Double, trans. Victor Corti, London: Calder Publications, 1993.

[of the plague victim] His stomach heaves, his insides seem to want to burst out between his teeth. His pulse sometimes slows down until it becomes a shadow, a latent pulse, at other times it races in accordance with his seething inner fever, the streaming wanderings of his mind.’ [p. 10]


• Richard Brautigan, ‘Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey, Won’t You Come Home?,  The Hawkline Monster, London: Jonathan Cape, 1975.

Meanwhile, down in the laboratory above the ice caves everything was very quiet except for the movement of a shadow. It was a shadow that just barely existed between forms. At times the shadow would almost become a form. The shadow would hover at the very edge of something definite and perhaps even recognizable but then the shadow would drift away into abstraction. [p. 125.]

The shadow was a buffoon mutation totally subservient to the light… [p. 129.]

The light possessed unlimited possibilities and took a special pride in using them. Its shadow was disgusted with the whole business and trailed, dragging its feet reluctantly behind.

Whenever the Hawkline Monster left the laboratory, drifting up the stairs and then slipping like melted butter under the iron door that separated the laboratory from the house, the shadow always felt as if it were going to throw up. [p. 130]


• W G Sebald in ‘Le Promeneur Solitaire: A Remembrance of Robert Walser’, introduction, The Tanners, trans. Susan Bernofsky, New York: New Directions, 2009.

‘How is one to understand an author who was so beset by shadows…’ [p. 4.]

Walser must at the time have hoped, through writing, to be able to escape the shadows which lay over his life from the beginning, and whose lengthening he anticipates at an early age, transforming them on the page from something very dense to something almost weightless. [p. 12.]


• JG Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition, London: Flamingo, 1993.

At times, when Xero approached the forlorn group sitting on the embankment, his shadows formed bizarre patterns on the concrete, transcripts of cryptic formulae and insoluble dreams. These ideograms, like the hieroglyphs of a race of blind seers, remained on the grey concrete after Xero had gone, the detritus of this terrifying psychic totem. [p. 31]


• W. B. Yeats, The Dreaming of the Bones

Why does my heart beat so?
Did not a shadow pass?
It passed but a moment ago.
Who could have trod in the grass?
What rogue is night-wandering?
Have not old writers said
That dizzy dreams can spring
From the dry bones of the dead?


• Thomas Bernard, ‘Breath: A Decision’, in Gathering Evidence, trans. David McLintock, London: Vintage, 2003.

I had been given a large quantity of drugs in addition to the penicillin and camphor, and these had brought an improvement in my condition, at least as far as my powers of perception were concerned. The shadows of people and walls and objects slowly transformed themselves into real people, real walls, and real objects. [p. 222]


• Michel Foucault, Raymond Roussel

…this gentle shadow that makes things visible from beneath their surface and their mask and allows one to speak about them, isn’t this from their birth, the proximity of death, of death that unlines the world like the peeling of fruit? [p. 156]


• Georges Perec, A Man Asleep, trans. Andrew Leak,  London: Harvil, 1999.

You follow across the ceiling the sinuous lines of a thin crack, the futile meandering of a fly, the progress – which it is almost possible to plot – of the shadows. [p. 141-142]


• Giorgio Agamben, ‘Potentiality for Darkness’, Potentialities:

Collected Essays in Philosophy, Stanford University Press, California

“… if potentiality were, for example, only the potentiality for
vision and if it existed only as such in the actuality of light, we
would never experience darkness (nor hear silence, in the case of the
potentiality to hear). But human beings can, instead, see shadows (to
skotos)…” [p. 181]


• Gilles Deleuze, ‘Spinoza and the Three Ethics’, Essays Critical
and Clinical.

“In Spinoza, on the contrary, everything is light, and the Dark is
only a shadow, a simple effect of light…” [p. 141]


• Riza Negarestani, ‘Remarks on Depth and Darkness’ http://www.cold-


• Mario Perniola, Art and its Shadow, Continuum 2004.


• Jacques Ranciere, ‘The body of the Letter: Bible, Epic, Novel’, in
Flesh of Words, Stanford University Press, 2004.

“…the episode of Peter’s denial enters this figural economy that
perceives in the prophecies and stories of the Old Testament
“figures” of the story of salvation, prefigurations or “shadows” of
things to come, shadows become truths by the becoming-flesh of the
divine Word.” [p. 75]

“This alone testifies to the truth of the “shadows” or figures of the
Old Testament.” [p. 84]


• Gilles Deleuze, ‘What is an Event?’, The Fold, Althone, London 2001.

Following the physical approximation, chaos would amount to
depthless shadows…, [p. 77]


• Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism, New York: Zone Books, 1991.

… In neither example is it a case of saying that problems are like
the shadow of pre-existing solutions… [p.16]


• Victor Ieronim Stoichita, . A short history of the shadow, London: Reaktion, 1997.


• Wallace Stevens, ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.


• Antonio Negri, The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza’s
Metaphysics and Politics, University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

Nothing: phantasm, superstition, shadow. [p. 220]

Jean-François Lyotard in ‘Newman: The instant”, The Inhuman, Polity, 1991.

…shadows […] may be ‘terrible’ in that they announce that the
gaze, the other, language or life will soon be extinguished. [p. 84]

• Georges Bataille, ‘The Notion of Expenditure’, Visions of Excess:
Selected Writings 1927 – 1939,

[poetry] condemns [the poet] to the most disappointing forms of
activity, to misery, to despair, to the pursuit of inconsistent
shadows that provide nothing but vertigo or rage. [p. 120]

• Michel Serres, ‘The Troubadour of Knowledge’, University of
Michigan Press, 2003

Each person maintains an amorous rapport with the two corresponding
dancers who border the space that each understands as part of his
destiny, but since the two others, as well, have a relation to the
two shadows that frame their space, in front of them, no one sees
anyone or speaks to anyone and no one answers them: this chain of
supplications produces the multiplication of the need to supplicate.
[p. 28.]

Epistemology and pedagogy meet, just as they did before, in the
centre, in exclusion, pain, violence, and poverty; the problem of
evil crosses knowledge. See the shadow. [p. 45]

As Kepler taught us, we believe that at the common centre of the
world the universal sun of knowledge and reason shines, but that the
shadow is dispersed in the second foci of diverse planets… [p. 46]

• Michel Serres, ‘Genesis’,

Or else–I’m not sure which way it points–the child Poussin in the
green boughs, Porbus at the main branching, and the old painter with
the diabolical look in the deep shade at the roots–looking like he’d
emerged from the dark shadows of Rembrandt. [p. 10]

From a piece by artist Hreinn Fridfinnson, Serpentine Gallery, Summer 2007.

I dreamt that I was on the farm where I was born and raised. My father (who is dead) and I were working in the homefield, collecting hay. We were going to transport the hay to the stables. It was rather dark outside, but quite warm. When we had loaded the wagon, my father disappeared, but his shadow was left behind and I knew that I was to apply it to the hubs of the wagon wheels to make them run more smoothly. Then I was to attach the wagon to the horses with strings made of light which had shone down through the sea. Then I woke up.

• Friedrich Nietzsche, Why I am so Wise, London: Penguin (Great Ideas
edition) 2004.

It was 1879 – I relinquished my Basel Professorship, lived through the summer like a shadow in St. Moritz and the following winter, the most sunless of my life, as a shadow in Naumburg. This was my Minimum: ‘The wanderer and his shadow’ came into existence during the course of it. I undoubtedly knew all about shadows in those days. [p. 9 – 10]

• Giorgio Agamben, ‘Genius’, in Profanations, New York: Zone Books, 2007.

Horace is no doubt right to suggest that there is, in reality, one Genius who changes – by turns candid and shadowy, sometimes wise and sometimes depraved. In other words, what changes is not Genius but our relationship to him, turning from luminous and clear to shadowy and opaque. [p. 16]

• W. G. Sebald and Jan Peter Tripp, Unrecounted, London: Penguin 2005, [p. 43]

The dor
mouse’s shadow

• Michel Foucault, ‘Of other Spaces (1967), Heterotopias’.

In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror.

• Raymond Queneau (quoted by Georges Perec at the beginning of W or The Memory of Childhood, London: Harvill, 1996.

That mindless mist where shadows swirl, how could I pierce it

• Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, What is Philosophy?

This is what we call the Event, or the part that eludes its own actualisation in everything that happens. The event is not the state of affairs. It is actualised in a state of affairs, in a body, in an experience, but it has a shadowy and secret part that is continually subtracted from or added to its actualisaton: in contrast with the state of affairs, it neither begins nor ends but has gained and kept the infinite movement to which it gives consistency. [p. 146-7]

• Enrique Vila-Matas, Bartleby & Co.

(The narrator has written a letter to himself, imagining it to have come from ‘Derain’, who give advice concerning ‘Bartlebys’ that could be included in the book of notes on Bartleby’s in literature.) Include Marcel Duchamp in your book about Bartleby’s shadow. Duchamp knew that shadow personally. He made it with his own hands. [p. 57]

In reality Scapolo is frightening, because he walks straight through a terrible zone, a zone of shadows which is also where the most radical of denials has its home and where the blast of coldness, in short is a blast of destruction. [p. 65.]

• Reza Negarestani, ‘Machines are Digging: Porous Earth and Emergence’

The Unground is a shadow outside of time and space.

Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, Hallward, (trans.) London: Verso, 2001.

[The human animal] has succeeded in harnessing to the service of his mortal life his own peculiar ability – his ability to take up a position along the course of truths such that he acquires an Immortal aspect. This is what Plato had already anticipate, when he indicated that the duty of these who escape from his famous cave, dazzled by the sun of the Idea, was to return to the shadows and to help their companions in servitude to profit from that by which, on the threshold of this dark world, they had been seize. [p.59]

From ‘Madness and Repetition: The Absence of Work in Deleuze, Foucault, and Jacques Martin’, by Eleanor Kaufman, published in Deleuze & Guattari: New Mappings in Politics, Philosophy and Culture, London: University of Minnesota Press, 1998.

Foucault’s very language resonates with the trill of the double: “lining unlined, there is no longer anything but a silence, a look, slow motion gestures that unfold in the empty space beneath the masks”; or, “tear that unlines the double and immediately restores it to its marvelous unity”; or still, “it is a question of the same figure of a language split in two, inside of which a visible scene, produced by this distance’s single call, takes up its abode”; and, finally, “this gentle shadow that makes things visible from beneath their surface and their masks and allows one to speak about them, isn’t this from their birth, the proximity of death, of death that unlines the world like the peeling of fruit?” [p. 232]

• Octavio Paz on Adolfo Bioy Casares quoted by Suzanne Jill Levine in her introduction to Bioy Casares’ The Invention of Morel.

The body is imaginary, and we bow to the tyranny of a phantom. Love is a privileged perception, the most total and lucid not only of the unreality of the world but of our own unreality: not only do we traverse a realm of shadows; we ourselves are shadows.

Adolfo Bioy Casares‘ narrator in The Invention of Morel, Ruth L. C. Simms, (trans.), published by New York Review of Books, 2003

Although I have been making entries in this diary at regular intervals, I have not had a chance to work on the books that I hoped to write as a kind of justification for my shadowy life on this earth.  [ p. 20]


Night & Darkness

Eugene Thacker, In the Dust of This Planet [Horror of Philosophy Vol. 1] Winchester, Zero Books, 2011

What an earlier era would have described through the language of darkness mysticism or negative theology, our contemporary era thinks of in terms of supernatural horror. [p. 2]


Thomas Bernhardt, Extinction, David McLintock (trans.), London: Quartet Books, 1995.

I stood up and walked over to the window. The Piazza Minerva was quieter than it had ever been before. Just two or three walkers, no more, which was unusual at five o’clock in the afternoon. I had drawn the blinds, so that the apartment was almost completely dark. This is how I like it: in this darkened apartment I have my best thoughts. [p. 153]


Mike McCormack, Solar Bones, Tramp Press, 2016

and the screen clouded to a fizzy interference before it blanked to darkness, the laptop closed on the desk with the room silent and my eyes with that scalded feel to them which would not be soothed away by anything but a couple of hours’ sleep so I did a final check on Mairead before going to our own bedroom and lying under the covers with my eyes closed for a long time, drifting in that black sea behind my eyes which spread into the darkness around me, bounded around by walls floors and ceiling, the house itself, which

like a child

I’ve always believed gets up to some foolishness during the night  [p. 128]


Brian Dillon, Essayism, London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017

You could make a study of particles in Woolf’s novels and essays. Fog, rain, mist and dust recur in her writing, working their minute presence, accumulating on furniture and drifting against windows, falling in torrents or floating aloft in the air. These substances are sometimes associated with certain effects of light or its abeyance, perhaps most often with the victory of darkness: a pall falling over the land as she drives through Sussex at dusk, the chilling defeat of the sun in her essay on viewing an eclipse, the shadow that in the latter reaches of The Waves advances without mercy to cover houses, hills, trees, grassy rides and empty snail shells, then snow lodges, running streams and girls sitting on verandas with fans before their faces. When I think of Woolf I think of glyphic dust motes and powdery shadows denoting some vast personal or historical anxiety.” [p. 30]

Of course [depression] came back. Slowly at first, just a slight darkening at the edge of thought . . . [p. 128]


Thomas Bernhard, Frost, Michael Hofmann (trans.) New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.

Often he had asked himself: “How will I get out of the darkness? My head enwrapped in darkness, swaddled in darkness, I always tried to put the darkness behind me. Signs, yes, signs of idiocy . . . The darkness reached the pitch of insanity. At twenty, thirty, thirty-five. More and more ruthlessly with the years. I tried to get about: it seemed important to me to alert you to this idea . . . I favor very simple explanations: a bend in the river, you must know, is like a bend in the human spine, glistening, sparkling, glistening in the afternoon sun, part of an unending spine curving over the horizon: that’s it . . . Under some circumstances, it’s enough to kill off the darkness in one’s own head—because it’s only inside one’s own head that there is the darkness–with the darkness in one’s own head. Mark you: the darkness is always a matter of one’s own self-contained, severed head.—The people, forced back from their own personal darkness into a more general darkness, continually forced back, you understand . . . Like myself, once, learning in my parents’ house with bare torso, in the darkness. In front of me: a bicycle wrapped in the wind, two dancing schoolchildren. A smell of raisins. And in between, the dullness that cements foundations. The face, clipped from the newspaper, of our math teacher, who confronted us with the achievements of Voltaire. The outline of Homer . . . dinned into my brain, in the dark, phenomena and epiphenomena, notions of time, and sub-notions of time. Riddled by all these. To all the questions of old age, no answer. The general bitterness proceeds with deadly precision: a dog writhes on the grass. It might be a dog, or a mole, or just some dirt that you suspect of wanting to exist . . . you dance over the abyss in which every day you smash your pains, and the pains of your pains.” [p. 77-78]

“The sky would get goose bumps if it knew something we didn’t. Eerie? That’s the many-dimensional darkness in the evening between the cliff faces.” [p 281]

“You know,” he said, “when you’re suddenly walking through the streets, from one meaningless thing to the next, through streets all of which are black, and the people are black, and they float as quickly and darkly and clumsily as yourself past you . . . You are standing in a square, and everything is black, suddenly everything inside you and outside you is black, no matter where you look at it from, black. and stirred smooth, and you don’t know what stirred it, and everything is broken . . . You still recognise an object here and there, but everything is broken and smashed and tipped, for the first time you prop yourself on a stick, which you’ve only ever used as a weapon before against humans or dogs, but now you prop yourself on it, and you seem to be floating in a sea of lead, and here and there you make out some new further blackness . . . [p. 291]

It was possible to drift on a raft with other people for years and years, pressed together, body against body, in a tiny space, without coming to know those people any better. “The darkness around one must be equal at moments to the darkness later on, that turns to stone inside us, at the end. Petrifies our blood, likes the veins in marble.” [p. 293]


Ursula K Le Guin, ‘Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction’, The Language of the Night: essays on fantasy and science fiction, Susan Wood (ed.), London: The Woman’s Press, 1989.

So it would seem that true myth arises only in the process of collecting the conscious and the unconscious realms. I won’t find a living archetype in my bookcase or my television set. I will find it only in myself: in that core of individuality lying in the heart of the common darkness. Only the individual can get up and go to the window, and draw back the curtains, and look out into the dark. Sometimes it takes considerable courage to do that. When you open curtains you don’t know what may be out there in the night. [p. 66]


Siri Hustvedt, ‘Giorgio Morandi: Not Just Bottles’, The Mystery of the Rectangle, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006,

When you look closely at the lower, bulbous section of the white fluted bottle, you see that the side that borders the small vase has been shorn of its fullness and a blackened area marks the space between them. It is very dark. The light and shadow of real perception cannot account for it. This is not an imitation of sensory experience. The diffuse gray light that illuminates these paintings would never produce such blackness. Morandi has invented it, and the recurring black and deep gray places in the paintings accentuate what the artist is after, which is not only to render the things themselves but the spaces between them–the drama of their relations. [p. 123]


Robert Walser, Looking at Pictures, Susan Bernofsky (trans.) with translation by Lydia Davis and Christopher Middleton, New York: New Direction Books, 2015.

I dreamed I was a tiny, innocent, young boy, more delicate and young than a human being has ever been before, as one can be only in dark, deep, beautiful dreams. [p. 53]


Simon Critichley, Memory Theatre, London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2014.

Then the bladder game would begin […] Do I need to piss or don’t I? Up and down, to and fro, throughout the night until the terrors of darkness disappeared with dawn. [p. 7]


Ursula K. LeGuin, ‘She Unnames them’, Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences, London: Plume, 1987.

As for the fish of the sea, their names dispersed from them in silence throughout the oceans like faint, dark blurs of cuttlefish ink, and drifted off on the currents without a trace. [p. 195]


Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz, New York: Zone Books, 1999.

. . . inscribed in every meaningful discourse as a function of its enunciation; it is the dark margin encircling and limiting every concrete act of speech. [p. 143]


Nicolas Bourriaud, introduction to The Mattering of Matter: Documents from he Archive of the International Necronautical Society, Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2012.

Perceived from the point of view of a coded message, referring back to the history of language in wartime, writing (for the INS [International Necronautical Society]), again, carries an aura of danger, like those phosphorescent organisms whose properties are only revealed in darkness. [p. 21]


Gaston Bachelard, On Poetic Imagination And Reverie, Connecticut: Spring Publications, Inc. (third edition), 1998.

In the heart of matter there grows an obscure vegetation; in the night of matter black flowers blossom. [p. 10-11]


Chris Kraus, Summer of Hate, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2009.

The death she imagined was preceded by pleasure, a dreamy trance ending in blackness.



Etel Adnan, Sitt Marie Rose: A Novel, Georgian Kleege (trans.), Sausalito: Post-Apollo Press, 1982.

Whether you like it or not, an execution is always a celebration. It is the dance of Signs and their stabilisation in Death. It is the swift flight of silence without pardon. It is the explosion of absolute darkness among us. What can one do in this black Feast but dance? [p. 105]



Terry R. Myers, Mary Heilmann Save the Last Dance for Me, London: Afterall Books, 2007.

Symbolically, black can be a void, so there could be a science-fiction-worthy solution to the puzzle [of the background in Heilmann’s painting] [p. 10]



Tony Morrison, Song of Solomon, London: Triad/Panther Books, 1978.

And talking about dark! You think dark is just one color, but it ain’t. There’re five or six kinds of black. Some silky, some woolly. Some just empty. Some like fingers. And it don’t stay still. It moves and changes from one kind of black to another. Saying something is pitch black is like saying something is green. What kind of green? Green like my bottles? Green like a grasshopper? Green like a cucumber, lettuce, or green like the sky is just before it breaks loose to storm? Well, night black is the same way. May as well be a rainbow. [p. 45]


Hannah Black, ‘Fractal Freedoms’, Afterall, Spring/Summer 2016, pp. 5-12.

An extraordinary recent news story reported that X-raay analysis of Kasimir Malevich’s 1915 painting Cherniy kvadrat (Black Square) had revealed a handwritten annotation on the white frame that surrounds the black square. The inscription appears to refer to a racist joke by writer and humorist Alphonse Allais, who in 1897 captioned a black monochrome ‘Combat de negrès dans use cave pendant la unit’ (‘Negroes fighting in a cave at night’). The art historical rupture of the Black Square, this radical gesture, turns out to rest, like so much of the history of modernism, on the illegibility of blackness. The painting masquerades as the negation of representation, but in light of the joke about darkness, negation itself becomes representation; what is represented is the nothingness of certain subjects, which indicates a certain nothingness in subjectivity itself.  Malevich wrote: ‘In the year 1913, trying desperately to free art from the dead weight of the real world, I took refuge in the form of the square.’ This break for freedom (for art), this place of refuge (for the artist), is founded on  or overlaid on top of black invisibility, itself unfree. [p. 5-6]


Tanya Shilian-Conte, ‘Black screen, white page: ontology and genealogy of blank space’, Word & Image, VOL. 31 No. 4, October-December 2015.

Drawing on the medium-specific properties of the cinematic apparatus, the white page exchanges its materiality for that of the light-suffused screen; or, conversely, the inky blackness of print for that of the black leader at the beginning and end of a film, or the cut/interstice between filmic frames. Similarly, the black or white screen in cinema exchanges its medium-specific properties for that of the literary apparatus. [p. 504]

The black screen in History and Memory [dir. Tajiri, 1991] acknowledges both the nonexistent images and documents that cannot be found at the National Archives and the unconscious desire that speaks on their behalf [ . . . ] Tajiri treats the black screen as a page of her diary, trusting it with the pain and disappointment she experiences in the search for her family history.


Hyden Williams, ‘COLORS / BLACK’ Cabinent, Issue 57 Catastrophe Spring 2015 [“Colors” is a column in which a writer responds to a specific color assigned by the editors of Cabinet.]

So, I ask again: why black? Did you detect a wee darkness in me that you felt the assignment would, as you might say, elicit and amplify?



H. G. Wells, The Outline of History (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1956), vol. 1, p. 41, quoted in Maria Golia, ‘It Came from Outer Space’, Cabinet, Issue 57 Catastrophe Spring 2015, pp. 94-102

We do not know what jars and jolts the solar system may have suffered in the past.  . . . Some huge dark projectile from outer space may have come hurtling through the planets and deflected or even struck our world and turned the whole course of evolution into a new direction  . . . [p. 98]


Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. 1972. ‘Confessions of a Color Enthusiast’ Journal of Color and Appearance 1, no. 3 (November-January): 32-37 quoted in Brian MassumiSemblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts, London: The MIT Press, 2011.
“I was in a totally white room. As I held the prism before my eyes, I expected, keeping Newtonian theory in mind, that the entire white wall would be fragmented into different colors, since the light returning to the eye would be seen shattered in just so many colored lights. But I was quite amazed that the white wall showing through the prism remained as white as before. Only where there was something dark did a more or less distinct color show. . . . It required little thought to recognize that an edge was necessary to bring about color. I immediately spoke out to myself, through instinct, that Newtonian theory was erroneous. . . . Everything unfolded itself before me bit by bit. I had placed a white sheet of glass upon a black background, looking at it through the prism from a given distance, thus representing the known spectrum and completing Newton’s main experiment with the camera obscura. But a black sheet of glass atop a light white ground also made a colored, and to a certain degree a gorgeous specter. Thus when light dissolves itself in just so many colors, then darkness must also be viewed as dissolved in color”(Goethe 1972, 35; emphasis added). The spectrum is convivial. It is always in the company of darkness.  [p.87]


Virginia Woolf quoted in Lisa Clughen, ‘Embodied writing support: The importand of the body in engaging students with writing’, Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, Volume 7, Number 2, pp. 283-300.

It is, [Woolf] argues, by allowing the body to move away from focussed consciousness that writing can form: ‘Undoubtedly [words] like us to think, and they like us to feel, before we use them; but they also like us to pause; to become unconscious. Our unconsciousness is their privacy; our darkness is their light’. [p. 291]


Clarice Lispector, The Passion According to G.H. Idra Novey (trans.) London: Penguin Modern Classics, 2014

I wonder: if I peer at the darkness with a magnifying glass, will I see more than darkness? the glass doesn’t expose the darkness, it only reveals more of it. [p. 13]

I cracked the wardrobe’s narrow door, and the darkness inside escaped like a puff. I tried to open it a bit more, but the door was blocked by the foot of the bed, which it was knocking up against. Inside the breach, I put as much of my face as I could fit. And, as if the darkness inside were spying on me, we briefly spied each other without seeing each other. [p. 37]


Lydia Davis, The End of the Story, London: Penguin, 2015

Knowing his name, after I had waited so many days to learn it, seemed to increase his reality. It gave him a place in the world that he had not had before, and it allowed him to belong more to the day than he had before. Until then, he had belonged to a time when I was tired and did not think as well as I did in the daytime, and did not see as well, when there was darkness on all sides of whatever light there was, and he came and went through darkness and shadow more than light. [p. 38]

Waiting from him again that night, when he would not come, created a dark space like a large room, a room that opened into the night from my room and filled it with dark draughts of air. Because I did not know where he was, the city seemed larger, and seemed to come right into my room: he was in some place, and that place, though unknown to me, was present in my mind and was a large dark thing inside me. And that place, that strange room where he was, where I imagined him to be, with another person, became part of him, too, as I imagined him, so that he was changed, he contained that strange room and I contained it, too, because I contained him in that room and that room in him. [p.117]

I could usually work till the morning was over. But the afternoon would be long and slow, so slow it just stopped and died where it stood. I liked to have daylight outside, and darkness hours away ahead of me and behind me. But I did not often want to go out into that light, and I kept the curtains closed. I liked to see the light at the cracks of the curtains, I liked to know it was out there. Then, when evening came and there was darkness outside, I kept the lights burning inside. [p. 162]

The English poets performed in a room with a glass wall behind them. Through it I could see a small, dimly lit courtyard bounded by a brick wall on which was painted a portrait of a bearded political leader. Behind the wall, sowing over the top of it, was the darkness of the eucalyptus wood that covered the campus. In the first piece, the poets read together, and what they read were sounds that had no meaning: they were making a kind of music with broken words, single syllables. And because these sounds had no meaning, they did not stop my mind from going out through the wall of glass, searching the darkness for him, flying beyond the fain light of the courtyard out to wherever he was. Because I did not know where he was, I located him in all of the large darkness, filling it, as though I had to make him large enough to fill the darkness and the night. [p. 198]

Later, at home, in bed, when I turned off the light, I went on calling up for myself images from the book I had been reading. I wanted to see if I could keep putting things between me and what I might think about. From the book I was reading I took a scrubbed oak table, a pantry, a dimly lit buttery, grey buckwheat pancakes, black sour gravy, a porch, raindrops in lines on the eaves of the porch, and spears of purple desert flowers. The very innocence of these things, of the food, the parts of the house, the light in the house, helped me to fight against him. I lay there with my arm hanging down out of the bed into the current of cold air that ran across the tiles of the floor and I thought of other things, things near me, roads running down to the sea, slopes and levels, a plain between the desert and the sea, flats at low tides, small figures walking to and fro seen from the cliff above. I listened to the tick of the clock, and thrashing sound of the cars going by fast on the rad below, and the dim roar of the ocean. But the sound of the ocean was as uncomfortable sound. So was the sound of a train coming through, which was like the sound of the ocean but heavier, steadier, and longer, with a beginning and an end to it. All the sounds of the night, in fact, were uncomfortable, carrying the same associations. Now I had come to a bad place, and when I tried to go back to something safer, when I tried to imagine things in England again, the large sound of the ocean was by then so heavy, so dark, that the hedge and the wall became thinner and flatter, until I couldn’t hold on to them any longer and they fade away. [p199-200]


Jacqueline Rose, ‘Introduction: Shame’, On Not Being Able to Sleep, London: Vintage, 2004.

. . . Suddenly caught in the middle of a flag-waving crowd of Nazi supporters shouting ‘Heil Hitler’, [Virgina Woolf] raised her arm in salute.

If there is something shocking and idolatrous about the gesture, there is something no less puzzling and scary about her wartime embrace of the night sky. What might lead someone, in a state of real potential danger, to identify with, stretch out – yearn – towards the aggressor? [p. 13]


José Saramago, The History of the Siege of Lisbon, London: The Harvill Press, 2000.

Only when a vision a thousand times sharper than nature can provide might be capable of perceiving the eastern sky the initial difference that separates night from day, did the muessin awake. He always woke at this hour, according to the sun, no matter whether summer or winter, and he needed no instrument to measure time, nothing other than the infinitesimal change in the darkness of the room, the first hint of light barely glimpsed on his forehead, like a gentle breath passing over his eyebrows, or that first and almost imponderable caress which, as far as is known or believed, is the exclusive and secret art never revealed to this day of those beautiful houris who attend the believers in Mohammed’s paradise. [p. 9]


Rachel Moore, Hollis Frampton (nostalgia), London: Afterall, 2006.

With each appearance of the silent floating carbon [burnt photograph] the film carries us towards the randomness and the amorphousness of the inform. This is not a mere negation of form but a movement towards pure materiality. From image to image, formlessness and pre-history lurk under and behind, and the world that carries on as if its frock coat were only natural begins to look presumptuous, if not strange. For after this reverent moment of speculative silence, there is a brief pause of blackness, sobering us once again to the rules of the cognitive game. [p. 26]


Marguerite Duras, Writing, Mark Polizzotti (trans.) Cambridge: Lumens Editions, 1998

When people were there I was simultaneously less alone and more abandoned. You can approach that solitude only through night. At night, imagine Duras in her bed, sleeping alone in a house forty-four hundred feet square. When I went to the other end of the house, over towards the “little cottage,” I feared the space like a trap. I can say that every night I was afraid. And yet, I never lifted a finger to have anyone come live here. Sometimes I went out late at night.  I loved those meandering walks with people from the village, friends, residents of Neauphle. We drank, We talked, a lot. We went into a kind of cafeteria huge as a village of several acres. It was packed at three in the morning. The name comes back to me now: Parly II. In those places, too, we were lost. There, the waiters watched like cops over the vast territory of our solitude. [p. 12]

Because a book is the unknown, it’s the night, it’s close off, and that’s that.

An open book is also night.

I don’t know why, but those words I just said make me cry. [p. 14]

There are still dead generations that produce prim books. Even young people: charming books, without extension, without darkness. Without silence. In other words, without a true author. Books for daytime, for whiling away the hours, for traveling. But not books that become embedded in one’s thoughts and toll the black mourning for all life. the commonplace of every thought [p. 18]


Mark Ford, Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams, London: Faber and Faber, 2000.

Ashbery has argued that ‘there is hidden in Roussel something so strong, so ominous and so pregnant with the darkness of the “infinite spaces” that frightened Pascal, that one feels the need for some sort of protective equipment when one reads him. [p. xxviii]


Nadine Boljkovac, ‘Mad Love’, Gilles Deleuze: Image and Text, Eugene W. Holland, Daniel W. Smith, Charles J. Stivale (eds.) London: Continuum, 2009.

[Describing the voice-over and a scene in Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962), ] Upon these words the screen darkens to a blackness pierced only by a subtle subterranean reverberation over which the droning voice continues: ‘And soon afterwards Paris was blown up.’ [p. 128]

If the human race survives, future men will . . . look back on our enlightened epoch as a veritable age of Darkness. . . . They will see that what we called ‘schizophrenia’ was one of the forms in which . . . the light began to break through the cracks in our all-too-closed minds. [Boljkovac quotes Deleuze & Guattari quoting R. D. Laing, p. 30]

Cinema ‘spreads’, Deleuze suggests, ‘an “experimental night” . . . ‘ [p. 137]


Robert Boyle, “Some Observations About Shining Flesh, Both of Veal and Pullet, and The without any Sensible Putrrefaction in those Bodies”, in The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle, 6 vols., Thomas Birch (ed.), fascimile reprint with an Introduction by Douglas McKie (1772; Hildesheim: Georg Olum, 1965-66), vol. 3, pp. 651-55, on p. 651, quoted in Lorraine Daston & Katharine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature: 1150-1750, New York: Zone Books, 2001, p. 9.

Yesterday, when I was about to go to bed, an amanuensis of mine, accustomed to make observations, informed me, that one of the servants of the house, going upon some occasion to the larder, was frighted by something luminous, that she saw (not wtihstanding the darkness of the place) where the meat had been hung up before. Whereupon, suspending for a while my going to rest, I presently sent for the meat into my chamber, and caused it to be placed in a corner of a room capable of being made considerably dark, and then I plainly saw, both with wonder and delight, that the joint of meat did, in divers places, shine like rotten wood or stinking fish; which was so uncommon a sight, that I had presently thought of inviting you to be a sharer in the pleasure of it.


Kathleen Stewart, Ordinary Affects, London: Duke University Press, 2007.

Worries swirl around the bodies in the dark. [p. 10]


Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage, San Francisco: Hardwired, 1996.

Until writing was invented, man lived in acoustic space: boundless, directionless, horizonless, in the dark of the mind, in the world of emotion, by primordial intuition, by terror. Speech is a social chart of this body. The goose quill put an end to talk. It abolished mystery; it gave architecture and towns; it brought roads and armies, bureaucracy. It was the basic metaphor with which the cycle of civilization began, the step from the dark into the light of the mind. The hand that filled the parchment page built a city


Ben Marcus, Notable American Women, New York: Vintage, 2002.

There is light enough for the one hour of transcription each day, and it is within this time that I have assembled these remarks, having carefully considered the true nature of what I think and feel during my other twenty-three daily hours, allotted to me as darkness by my captors . . .  [p. 3]


Jean-Luc Godard (dir.) Alphaville, 1962.

Alpha 60 (computer): Do you know what illuminates the night?
Lemmy Caution: Poetry.



Etel Adnan, Paris, When It’s Naked, Sausalito: The Post-Apollo Press, 1993.

From where I stand I see many lit windows, and many more which are dark, and in the dark, useless, closed Eyes. They’re frightening, letting darkness pour into homes, and scary, when the inhabitants are in the country. [p. 16]

O Heraclitus! what was the river you knew so well? How did you survive your own impermanence? Can we read you, for sure, through our dark streets and closed horizons? [p. 22]

I was going to Nice this morning but I got up after 10 and thought I’ll catch the 4 p.m. plane. My legs felt heavy, and the sky darkened. There was no eclipse of the sun, but just the same, something dark was descending on Earth. [p. 41]

When the sun itself, in all its torrid glory, does not succeed in warming the earth, the human mind accepts defeat. A cold wind blows across the soul and while the light ascends gradually over the land, a darkness of another nature envelops us. [p. 47]

We’re at the beginning of some private ice-age, the somnolence of winter will conduct us into the northern fields of solitude, where we will forget the interplays of life and death and subsist in darkness, on very little, indeed, very very little. [p. 49]

Who are these dark shapes running down the Avenue, hurrying towards multilayered shopping centers which are an immense failure although they shake the world? [p. 58]

Delacroix confided one day that he had in his heart “something black to satisfy.” That blackness is the substance of Paris, the city which makes the will infinite and gives to one’s fancy inexhaustible forms. [p. 114]

Darkness smoothes out the edges of my heart. [p. 115]


Roland Barthes, The Preparation of the Novel: Lecture Courses and Seminars at the Collège de France (1978-1979 and 1979-1980), Kate Briggs (trans.), New York: Columbia University Press, 2011

… (probably John 12:35: “The light is among you still, but not for long. Go on your way while you have the light, so that darkness may not overtake you.”) [p. 4]


Amanda Beech et al.Speculative Aesthetics, Robin Mackey, Luke Pendrell, James Trafford (eds.), Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2014.

…art discourses and SR discourses have often spurred each other on in the employment of a set of idioms and mannerisms, mediations that gesture toward the dark rapture of de-mediation. [p. 4]


Catherine Malabou, Changing Difference, Carolyn Shread (trans.), Cambridge: Polity, 2011.

… perhaps there is a second reason for this “failure,” [of Derrida’s grammatology to become a recognised science of writing] one which derives less from the aporetic nature of the deconstruction of the traditional concept of writing — the deconstruction that prohibits any positive theory or philosophy of writing — than from an area of shadow lurking in the deconstruction itself, and therefore also shading the redefinition of writing it proposes. I wish to focus on this darkness that negatively reveals writing’s “plasticity” — to introduce a new term that I’ll explain in the course of this analysis. [p. 43]


Roger Caillois, ‘Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia’, [online]

… the invariable response of schizophrenics to the question: where are you? I know where I am, but I do not feel as though I’m at the spot where I find myself. To these dispossessed souls, space seems to be a devouring force. Space pursues them, encircles them, digests them in a gigantic phagocytosis. It ends by replacing them. Then the body separates itself from thought, the individual breaks the boundary of his skin and occupies the other side of his senses. He tries to look at himself from any point whatever in space. He feels himself becoming space, dark space where things cannot be put. He is similar, not similar to something, but just similar. And he invents spaces of which he is “the convulsive possession.” All these expressions shed light on a single process: depersonalization by assimilation to space, i.e., what mimicry achieves morphologically in certain animal species.

The magical hold (one can truly call it so without doing violence to the language) of night and obscurity, the fear of the dark, probably also has its roots in the peril in which it puts the opposition between the organism and the milieu. Minkowski’s analyses are invaluable here: darkness is not the mere absence of light; there is something positive about it. While light space is eliminated by the materiality of objects, darkness is “filled,” it touches the individual directly, envelops him, penetrates him, and even passes through him: hence “the ego is permeable for darkness while it is not so for light”; the feeling of mystery that one experiences at night would not come from anything else. Minkowski likewise comes to speak of dark space and almost of a lack of distinction between the milieu and the organism: “Dark space envelops me on all sides and penetrates me much deeper than light space, the distinction between inside and outside and consequently the sense organs as well, insofar as they are designed for external perception, here play only a totally modest role.


Hito Steyerl, The Wretched of the Screen, Berlin: Sternberg press, 2012

Video essays and experimental films remained for the most part unseen save for some rare screenings in metropolitan film museums or film clubs, projected in their original resolution before disappearing again into the darkness of the archive. [p. 35-36]

. . . what kind of montage of two images/elements would produce something beyond and outside these two images/elements, something that would not represent a compromise, but would instead belong to a different order — roughly the way someone might tenaciously pound two dull stones together to create a spark in the darkness? [p. 91]


Laurie Penny, Meat Market: Female Flesh under Capitalism, Winchester: Zer0 Books, 2010.


Naomi Wolf described in 1991 how pornographic signs had come to “people the sexual interior of men and women with violence, placing an elegantly abused iron maiden into the hear of everyone’s darkness, and blasting the fertile ground of children’s imaginations with visions so caustic as to render them sterile. . . ” [p. 12]


Kathleen Jamie, ‘Darkness and Light’, Findings, London: Sort of Books, 2005.

Pity the dark: we’re so concerned to overcome and banish it, it’s crammed full of all that’s devilish, like some grim cupboard under the stair. But dark is good. We are conceived and carried in the darkness, are we not? When my son was born, a midwinter child, he cried pitifully at the ward’s lights, and only settled to sleep when he was laid in a big pram with a black hood under a black umbrella. Our vocabulary ebbs with the daylight, closes down with the cones of our retinas. [p. 3]


Susan Bernofsky, ‘Secrets, Not Code: On Robert Walser’s Microscripts’, introduction to Robert Walser, Microscripts, New York, New Direction Books, 2010.

Because certain clusters of letters in Walser’s minituration of Kurrent [script] wind up resembling entirely different combinations, the deciphering work required creative as well as critical leaps of faith. In one case, Morlag and Echte transcribed the words describing the long fingernails of a barbarian empress as Königindernachtnägel (Queen of the Night nails), only to discover at a later stage of revision that they’d misread — the proper transcription was Klytramnestranägel (Clytemnestra nails). [p. 11]


Malcolm Pollard, ‘The Use-value of Georges Bataille’, The Beast at Heaven’s Gate: Georges Bataille and the Art of Transgression, Andrew Hussey (ed.), Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006.

When Bataille considered what position in the history of thought should be ascribed to him, he identified a place at the edge of discourse, upon which he would shed a light that would, paradoxically, reveal the night. Illumination or revelation is here mediated by darkness. [p. 129]

Bataille’s use-value is indelibly marked with the trace of [ . . . ] excess; the place that he identifies for himself is located at the fading blackout of ‘le réel discursif’, illuminated by impending darkness. [p. 130]

William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act IV scene III.
Black is the badge of hell / The hue of dungeons and the school of night.
Chris Marker (director), Sans Soleil, 1983,
The first image he told me about was of three children on a road in Iceland in 1965. He said that for him it was the image of happiness and also that he had tried several times to link it to other images but it never worked. He wrote me, “one day I’ll have to put it all alone at the beginning of a film with a long piece of black leader. If they don’t see happiness in the picture, at least they’ll see the black”.
David Berridge, The Fluxus President, Rhos-on-Sea: Dark Windows Press, 2012.
[Arthur] Köpcke lives directly above her. She can hear him now, riding a bicycle around his apartment, as if night itself is pedal-powered. [p. 79]
Charles Baudelaire, Paris Spleen, Louise Varèse (trans.) New York: New Directions Books, 1970.
At Last! I am allowed to relax in a bath of darkness! [p. 15]
Dissatisfied with everything, dissatisfied with myself, I long to redeem myself and to restore my pride in the silence and solitude of the night. [p. 16]
“O night! O refreshing darkness! . . . in the stony labyrinths of the metropolis, scintillation of starts’s bright burst of city lights, you are the fireworks of the goddess Liberty!” [quoted in Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, Howard Eland & Kevin McLaughlin, (trans.), London: Harvard University Press, p.434]
Edmond Jabès, The Little Book of Unsuspected Subversions, Rosmarie Waldrop (ed.), Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.
Like the dark at the foot of night, subversion can issue only onto itself. [p. 4]
“The universe is a book; every day, a page of it. You read a page of light — of waking — and a page of dark — of sleep — a word of dawn and a word of forgetting,” he had noted. [p. 7]
Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star, Giovanni Ponteiro (trans.), Manchester: Carcanet Press.
My strength undoubtedly resides in solitude. I am not afraid of tempestuous storms or violent gales for I am also the night’s darkness. Even though I cannot bear to hear whistling or footsteps in the dark. Darkness? It reminds me of a former girl friend. She was sexually experienced and there was such darkness insider her body. [p. 18]
Acre Street. What a slum. The plump rats of Acre Street. I keep well away from the place. To be frank, I am terrified of that dark hole and its depraved inhabitants. [p. 30]
If I continue to write, it’s because I have nothing more to accomplish in this world except to wait for death. Searching for the word in darkness. [p. 70]


Doris Lessing, Mara and Dann, London: Flamingo, 1999.

Now the dark was coming up through the rocks. [p. 89]


Walter Benjamin quoted in Marjorie Perloff, Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century, University of Chicago Press, London, 2010.

To quote a word is to call it by its name. So Kraus’s achievement exhausts itself at its highest level by making even the newspaper quotable. He transports it to his own sphere, and the empty phrase is suddenly forced to recognise that even in the deepest dregs of the journals it is not safe from the voice that swoops on the wings of the word to drag it from its darkness . . . [p.89]


Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism, Winchester: Zero Books, 2009.

There is a kind of machismo of demythologization in [Frank] Miller and [James] Ellroy’s work. They pose as unflinching observers who refuse to prettify the world so that it can be fitted into the supposedly simple ethical binaries of the superhero comic and the traditional crime novel. The ‘realism’ here is somehow underscored, rather than undercut, by their fixation on the luridly venal – even though the hyperbolic insistence on cruelty, betrayal and savagery in both writers quickly becomes pantomimic. ‘In his pitch blackness’, Mike Davis wrote of Ellroy in 1992, ‘there is no light left to cast shadows and evil becomes a forensic banality. The result feels very much like the actual moral texture of the Reagan-Bush era: a supersaturation of corruption that fails any longer to outrage or even interest’. Yet this very desensitization serves a function for capitalist realism: Davis hypothesizes that ‘the role of L.A. noir‘ may have been ‘to endorse the emergence of homo reganus‘. [p. 11]


Michel Foucault, ‘Madness, the Absence of Work’, Critical Inquiry, Winter 1995, pp. 290-298.

. . . I am constesting something that is ordinarily accepted: that the advances of medicine could indeed succeed in eradicating mental illness just as they have done away with leprosy and tuberculosis but that the one thing to remain is the relationship of humankind to its ghosts, to its impossible, to its bodiless pain, to its carcass of the night; that once pathology is removed from circulation, the dark link of the human to madness will become the ageless memory of an evil that has been effaced as a form of illness but persists as misfortune.


Italo Calvino, Cosmicomics, William Weaver (trans.), London: Picador, 1993.

The planets of the solar system, G. P. Kuiper explains, began to solidify in the darkness, through the condensation of a fluid, shapeless nebula. All was cold and dark. Later the Sun began to become more concentrated until it was reduced almost to its present dimensions, and in this process the temperature rose and rose, to thousands of degrees, and the Sun started emitting radiations in space.

Pitch-dark it was,–Old Qfwfq confirmed . . . There was no way of telling time; whenever we started counting the nebula’s turns there were disagreements, because we didn’t have any reference points in the darkness, and we ended up arguing . . . What were we waiting for, nobody could have said; to be sure, Granny Bb’b remembered back to the times when matter was uniformly scattered in space, and there was heat and light; even allowing for all the exaggerations there must have been in those old folks’ tales, those times that surely been better in some ways, or at least different; but as far as we were concerned, we just had to get through that enormous night. My sister G’d (w) fared the est, thanks to her introverted nature: she was a shy girl and she loved the dark. For herself, G’d (w) always chose to stay in places that were a bit removed, at the edge of the nebula, and she would contemplate the blackness, and toy with the little grains of dust in tiny cascades, and talk to herself, with faint burst of laughter that were like tiny cascades of dust, and–waking or sleeping–she abandoned herself to dreams. They weren’t dreams like ours (in the midst of the darkness, we dreamed of more darkness, because nothing else came into our minds); no, she dreamed–from what we could understand of her ravings–of a darkness a hundred times deeper and more various and velvety.  [p. 19-20]


Michel Foucault, ‘Theatrum Philosophicum‘, originally in Critique 282(1970), pp. 885-908,  Donald F. Brouchard & Sherry Simon (trans.)

To think in the form of the categories is to know the truth so that it can be distinguished from the false; to think “acategorically” is to confront a black stupidity and, in a flash, to distinguish oneself from it. Stupidity is contemplated: sight penetrates its domain and becomes fascinated; it carries one gently along and its action is mimed in the abandonment of oneself; we support ourselves on its amorphous fluidity; we await the first leap of an imperceptible difference, and blankly, without fever, we watch to see the glimmer of light return.


John Williams, Stoner, London: Vintage Books, 2012.

‘Yes,’ William said and did not speak further. But he was for a moment very fond of Gordon Finch; and when he got out of the car and watched Gordon drive away, he felt the keen knowledge that another part of himself, of his part, was drawing slowly, almost imperceptibly away from him, into the darkness. [p. 92]


Michel Foucault, ‘A Preface to Transgression’, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, Donald F. Bouchard (ed.) New York: Cornell University Press, 1977.

Perhaps [transgression] is like a flash of lightning in the night which . . . gives a dense and black intensity to the night it denies . . . yet owes to the dark the stark clarity of its manifestation. [p. 35]


Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, London: Routledge, 2001.

Thus, European culture is inventing a depth for itself in which what matters is no longer identities, a distinctive characters, permanent tables . . but great hidden forces developed on the basis of their primitive and inaccessible nucleus, origin, causality, and history. From now on things will be represented only from the depths of this density withdrawn into itself, perhaps blurred and darkened by its obscurity, but bound tightly to themselves, assembled or divided, inescapably grouped by the vigor that is hidden down below, in those depths. Visible forms, their connections, the blank spaces that isolate them and surround their outlines – all these will now be presented to our gaze only in an already composed state, already articulated in that nether darkness that is fomenting them with time.  [p. 251-252]


Seamus Heaney, The redress of Poetry, London: Faber and Faber, 1995.

If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm. . .  [p. xvi]


Thomas Bernhard, Gargoyles, Richard & Clara Winston (trans.) London: University of Chicago Press, 1986.

Outside it is a warm summer evening and I propose to my son that we go out again on the walls. Let us use the evening, I say, let us walk. We all go out, including the women. In the yard then on the walls we all enjoy the combination of setting sun, walls, nature. Then darkness comes and we decide to walk down into the darkness, going as far as the gorge, past the Krainers’. We surrender ourselves to the darkness. We have surrendered ourselves to the darkness as to science, I say. My son says: A natural science. I say: A political science. The darkness is a political science. We all wish that this summer evening would not end. [p. 174]

In dialogue, in monologue, we draw everything more and more strenuously out of the darkness and cite it as proof; we exist only in proofs, you know, and then we lose it again in the darkness. [p. 176]


Catherine Clément, Syncope: The Philosophy of Rapture, Sally O’Driscoll & Deirdre M. Mahoney (trans.) , London: University of Minnesota Press, 1994.

The voyage begins with this violent desire for night. . .  [p. 20]

True night noes not exist. No, the black night, the primal one, will never exist. [p. 23]

On a November night in 1619, Descartes discovered in a kind of sudden flash the intuition that was to support his whole philosophy: there was a basic agreement between natural laws and mathematics. It was the night of one’s Dreams, a night tremendously full of dreams. From that moment, Descartes became the most cautious of philosophers, as if he wanted both to recover the terrifying light of that nocturnal truth and to reconstruct it, but step by step, with a slow and gradual patience. [p. 40]

Descartes was twenty-three when he spent his famous might of the revelation of the “wonderful science.” He waited patiently for maturity: not too old, not too young, Just right. Long years of slow trudging. The philosopher’s first distrust is of youth: the same youth that Bataille saw as the characteristic of night. [p. 41]

[Descartes’s] first certainty was gained at the expense of a total eclipse of the world, in a nighttime darkness no longer inhabited by anyone. [p. 42]

Plato, or the fight against Darkness. The struggle is endless. The shadow of the daemon always threatens, as does the whole shadow of the gods, which demands caution and steadiness. If Socrates wisely prays to the god Pan, if he pays his dues to Asclepius, it is because one never knows. the evil side of the gods can always attack a man, turn him into a tragic hero, an aborted god, a monster, in human in his lack of restraint and human suffering that overwhelms him and that he understands in darkness. [p. 59]


Italo CalvinoInvisible Cities, William Weaver (trans.) London: Pan Books, 1979.

… two forms of religion exist in Isaura.
The city’s gods, according to some people, live in the depths, in the black lake that feeds the underground streams. [p. 19]

Polo knew it was best to fall in with the sovereign’s dark mood. ‘Yes, the empire is sick, and, what is worse, it is trying to become accustomed to its sores. This is the aim of my explorations: examining the traces of happiness still to be glimpsed, I gauge it’s short supply. If you want to know how much darkness there is around you , you must sharper your eyes, peering at the faint lights in the distance.’ [p. 48]


Georges Bataille, ‘The Big Toe’,  Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939, Allan Stoekl with Carl R. Lovitt and Donald M. Leslie, Jr. (trans.) Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985.

The division of the universe into subterranean hell and perfectly pure heaven is an indelible conception, mud and darkness being the principles of evil as light and celestial space are the principles of good: with their feet in mud but their heads more or less in light, men obstinately imagine a tide that will permanently elevate them, never to return, into pure space. [p. 20]

Georges Bataille, ‘The Pineal Eye’,  Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939, Allan Stoekl with Carl R. Lovitt and Donald M. Leslie, Jr. (trans.) Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985.

… if the affective violence of human intelligence is projected like a specter across the deserted night of the absolute or of science, it does not follow that this specter has anything in common with the night in which its brilliance becomes glacial. [p. 81]

… It is thus that the Earth — whose immense regions are covered with plants that everywhere flee it in order to offer and destroy themselves endlessly, in order to project themselves into an alternately light and dark celestial void — releases to the disappointing immensity of space the totality of laughing or lacerated men. [p. 83]

… But the troubled feelings of a degradation even stranger than death do not have their source in a typical brain: heavy intestines alone press under this nude flesh, as charged with obscenity as a rear end — one that is just as satanic as the equally nude bottom a young sorceress raises to the black sky at the moment her fundament opens, to admit a flaming torch. [p. 84]

The intolerable cry of cocks has a solar significance because of the pride and feeling of triumph of the man perceiving his own dejecta under the open sky. In the same way, during the night, an immense, troubled love, sweet as a young girl’s spasm, abandons and throws itself into a giant universe, with the intimate feeling of having urinated the stars. [p. 85]


Rosalind E. Krauss, The Optical Unconscious, London: MIT Press, 1994.

‘… Whatever the beginning might be, the terrain of this counterhistory soon became guideposted with various conceptual markers, ones that did not map it — for this would be impossible — but only pointed to the way the foundations of modernism were mined by a thousand pockets of darkness, the blind, irrational spaces of the labyrinth. [p. 21]


Walter Benjamin, ‘A Small History of Photography’, One Way Street, Edmund Jephcott & Kingsley Shorter (trans.), London: Verso, 1997.

… soon advances in optics made instruments available that put darkness entirely to flight and recorded appearances as faithfully as any mirror. After 1880, though, photographers made it their business to simulate with all the arts of retouching, especially the so-called rubber print, the aura which had been banished from the picture with the rout of darkness through faster lenses, exactly as it was banished from reality by the deepening degeneration of the imperialist bourgeoisie. [p. 248]

And Tristan Tzara, 1922: “When everything that called itself art was stricken with palsy, the photographer switched on his thousand candle-power lamp and gradually the light-sensitive paper absorbed the darkness of a few everyday objects. [p. 254]


Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker, London: Picador, 1982.

Such a blackness. Nor jus over us and all roun it wer coming up inside me as wel. Not jus wood and paint I smelt the blood and boan the redness in the black. [p. 58]

That dog. I wunnert what the name of him myt be. Which I dont mean name like my name is Riddley or formers myt call a pair of oxen Jet & Fire. I knowit he dint have no name the other dogs callt him by nor I wunt try to put no name to him no moren Iwd take it on me to name the litening or the sea. I thot his name myt be a fraction of the nite or the number of the black wind or the hisper of the rain. [p. 81]


Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, London: Duke University Press, 2010.

For Adorno this gap [between concept and reality, object and thing] is ineradicable, and the most that can be said with confidence about the thing is that it eludes capture by the concept, that there is always a “nonidentity” between it and any representation. And yet, as I shall argue, even Adorno continues to seek a way to access — however darkly, crudely, or fleetingly — this out-side. [p. 13]

Adorno struggles to describe a force that is material in its resistance to human concepts but spiritual insofar as it might be a dark promise of an absolute-to-come. [p. 16]


Georges Didi-Huberman, Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz, trans. Shane B. Lillis, London: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

The question of images is at the heart of the great darkness of our time, the ‘”discontent of our civilization.” [p. 182]






Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities, Volume One, Eithne Wilkins & Ernst Kaiser (trans.) London: Pan Books Ltd. 1979.

Bonadea often led a double life, like that of any citizen who, entirely respectable in the everyday world, in the dark interspaces of his consciousness leads the life of a railway thief… [p. 43]

[Moosbrugger] turned round as the warders were already leading him out, he fought for words, stretched his hands above his head and shouted in a voice that shook itself free of his guards’ grip : “I am satisfied, even though I must confess to you that you have condemned a madman ! ” This was an inconsistency. Ulrich sat breathless. This was clearly madness, and just as clearly it was merely the distorted pattern of our own elements of existence. It was disjointed and steeped in darkness. [p. 85]

[Count Leinsdorf] very well knew the theological doctrine of the contemplatio in caligine divina, contemplation of the darkness of God, which is in itself infinitely clear, though for the human intellect it is a dazzling darkness . . .  [p. 100]

As [Ulrich] left the flat he was cheered by an agreeable impression that he had already had on his arrival. This was the little maid with the dreamy eyes, who now showed him out. Then, in the darkness of the hall, the glance of her eyes, fluttering up to him for the first time, had been like a black butterfly. Now as he went away it floated down through the darkness like black snowflakes. [p. 108]


J G Ballard, ‘The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista’, J G Ballard: The Complete Short Stories, Volume I, London: Harper Perennial, 2006.

– the walls of the lounge would stiffen and darken in a vortex of anger that converged upon a small zone of lightness hiding in one of the alcoves, as if to obliterate its presence, but at the last moment Gloria’s persona would flit nimbly away, leaving the room to seethe and writhe. [p. 430]


Scott Esposito, ‘Eight Glances Past Georges Perec’ in Lauren Elkins & Scott Esposito, The End of Oulipo?: An Attempt to Exhaust a Movement, Alresford: Zero Books, 2013.

[On the relationship between Georges Perec’s Life A User’s Manual and Edouard Levé’s Autoportrait, ‘reimagining how space may be used by a novelist’] It is not that their works lack organising conceits; it is that said conceits are deep wells of darkness that absorb meaning rather than radiate it. [p. 54]



The owl's hoot does not cause nightfall



Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows, Thomas J. Harper & Edward G. Seidensticker (trans.) Stony Creek: Leete’s Island Books, 1977.

And while I am talking of this whiteness I want to talk also of the color of the darkness that enfolds it. I think of an unforgettable vision of darkness I once had when I took a friend from Tokyo to the old Sumiya teahouse in Kyoto. I was in a large room, the “Pine Room” I think, since destroyed by fire, and the darkness, broken only by a few candles, was of a richness quite different from the darkness of a small room. As we came in the door an elderly waitress with shaven eyebrows and blackened teeth was kneeling by a candle behind which stood a large screen. On the far side of the screen, at the edge of the little circle of light, the darkness seemed to fall from the ceiling, lofty, intense, monolithic, the fragile light of the candle unable to pierce its thickness, turned back as from a black wall. I wonder if my readers know the color of that “darkness seen by candlelight.” It was different in quality from darkness on the road at night. It was a repletion, a pregnancy of tiny particles like fine ashes, each particle luminous as a rainbow. I blinked in spite of myself, as though to keep it out of my eyes.

Smaller rooms are the fashion now, and even if one were to use candles in them one would not get the color of that darkness; but in the old palace and the old house of pleasure the ceilings were high, the skirting corridors were wide, the rooms themselves were usually tens of feet long and wide, and the darkness must always have pressed in like a fog. The elegant aristocrat of old was immersed in this suspension of ashen particles, soaked in it, but the man of today, long used to the electric light, has forgotten that such a darkness existed. It must have been simple for specters to appear in a “visible darkness,” where always something seemed to be flickering and shimmering, a darkness that on occasion held greater terrors than darkness out-of-doors. This was the darkness in which ghosts and monsters were active, and indeed was not the woman who lived in it, behind thick curtains, behind layer after layer of screens and doors — was she not of a kind with them? The darkness wrapped her round tenfold, twentyfold, it filled the collar, the sleeves of her kimono, the folds of her skirt, wherever a hollow invited. Further yet: might it not have been the reverse, might not the darkness have emerged from her mouth and those black teeth, from the black of her hair, like the thread from the great earth spider? [p. 34-35]


Catherine Malabou, Ontology of the Accident: An Essay on Destructive Placticity, Carolyn Shread (trans.) Cambridge: Polity, 2012.

[Explosive plasticity may emerge] from apparently anodyne events, which ultimately prove to be veritable traumas inflecting the course of a life, producing the metamorphosis of someone about whom one says: I would never have guessed they would have “ended up like that.” A vital hitch, a threatening detour that opens up another pathway, one that is unexpected, unpredictable, dark.


Charles Moore, introduction to In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, Stony Creek: Leet’s Island Books, 1977.

…for us the act of inhabitation is mostly performed in cahoots with the sun, our staunchest ally… It comes with the thrill of a slap for us then to hear praise of shadows and darkness; so it is when there comes to us the excitement of realising that musicians everywhere make their sounds to capture silence or that architects develop complex shapes just to envelop empty space. Thus darkness illuminates for us a culture very different from our own…


Slavoj Žižek, How to read Lacan, London: Granta, 2006.

… in German Idealism, the metaphor for the core of subjectivity is Night, the ‘Night of the world’, in contrast to the Enlightenment notion of the light of reason fighting the darkness around. [p. 48]


JG Ballard, ‘Screen Games’, The Complete Short Stories Volume 1, London: Harper Perennial, 2006.

During the next days I painted several new screens, duplicating the zodiacal emblems, so that each afternoon the game became progressively slower and more intricate, the thirty screens forming a multiple labyrinth. For a few minutes, at the climax of the game, I would find Emerelda in the dark centre with the screens jostling and tilting around her, the sculpture on the roof hooting in the narrow interval of open sky. [p. 753]


Peggy Phelan, ‘Whole wounds: bodies at the vanishing point’, Mourning Sex: Performing Public Memories, London: Routledge, 1997.

Western theatre is itself predicated on the belief that there is an audience, an other willing to be cast in the role of auditor. The “act” at the heart of theatre making is the leap of faith that someone (that ideal spectator some call “God”) will indeed see, hear, and love those brave enough to admit that this is the movement that keeps us from our deaths (or at least from permanently dark houses). [p. 31]


Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project, London: MIT, 1991.

[Quoting WB] The “compact darkness” that at night seemed to leap out of the Passages at passers-by, causing them to hurry away in fear, are like “the places one was shown in ancient Greece that descended into Hades”; their “history, condition and dispersal” become this century’s key to the past, to the “underworld into which Paris sank.” [p. 102]

[Quoting WB] “Fashion, like architecture,  [. . . ] stands in the darkness of the lived moment. He has taken this phrase from Ernst Bloch. It is central to Bloch’s social utopian philosophy, describing the mystical “nunc stans,” the momentary, fleeting experience of fulfillment dimly anticipatory of a reality that is “not yet.” [p. 114]


Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness, New York: Harper & Row, 1969.


Kenneth Goldsmith, Uncreative Writing: Mannaging Language in the Digital Age, London: Columbia University Press, 2011.

Although we tend to focus on the vast amount of human-to-human social networking being produced, much of the conversation across [the internet] is machines talking to other machines, spewing “dark data,” code we never see. [p. 224]


Gabriel Josipovici, Whatever Happened to Modernism?, London: Yale University Press, 2010.

the very confidence of the articulation of the [illustrative] narrative gives the lie to our own sense of things being confused, dark, impossible to grasp fully. [p. 164]


Achille Bonito Oliva, Art Tribes, Skira, 2002.

In the darkness of their consumption images become interchangeable. They are lodged in the memory and end up constituting the heritage of a collective imaginary museum. [p. 56]


Peter Sloterdijk, Bubbles: Spheres I, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2011.

… we shall weave the fiction that we are able to split our adventurous intelligence in such a way that one half of it takes up position in the entry ramp to the mystical cave — still viewing it from the outside, that is — while the other half is initiated to enter the homogeneous totality of darkness. [p. 285]


Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973.

Man petrifies and darkens in the distances he has created [p. 19]


Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, London: Penguin, 2004.

I saw the dark sky above me, and the clouds going by me. I jerked my body so I could look down. I saw the dark mass of the mountains. My speed was extraordinary. My arms were fixed, folded against my sides. My head was the directional unity. If I kept it bent backwards I made vertical circles. I changed direction by turning my head to the side. I enjoyed such freedom and swiftness as I had never known before. The marvellous darkness gave me a feeling of sadness, of longing, perhaps. It was is if I had found a place where I belonged – the darkness of the night. I tried to look around, but all I sensed was that the night was serene, and yet it held so much power. [p. 125]


Alain Badiou, ‘The Unreconciled’, The Century, trans. Alberto Toscano, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007.

… The obscure  (almost ontological) tie that binds a satisfied Europe to a crucified Africa. Africa as the secret blackness at the heart of the white man’s moral detergent. [p. 27]


John Fowles, The Magus, London: Vintage, 2004.

I had always believed, and not only out of cynicism, that a man and a woman could tell in the first ten minutes whether they wanted to go to bed together; and that the time that passed after those first ten minutes represented a tax, which might be worth paying if the article promised to be really enjoyable, but which nine times out of ten became rapidly excessive. It wasn’t only that I foresaw a very steep bill with Julie; she shook my whole theory. She had a certain exhalation of surrender about her, as if she was a door waiting to be pushed open; but it was the darkness beyond that held me. [p. 241 – 242]


Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium, London: Vintage, 1996. (quoting Giacomo Leopardi in Zibaldone)

The words notte, noturno [night, nocturnal], etc., descriptions of the night, etc., are highly poetic because, as night makes objects blurred, the  mind receives only a vague, indistinct, incomplete image, both of night itself and of what it contains. Thus also with oscurità [darkness]… [p. 58]


China Miéville, Kraken: An Anatomy, London: Pan Books, 2010.

Billy nodded slowly. The nod mutated until it was a shake of the head. “It doesn’t make any sense,” Billy Said. He closed his eyes and tried to think. He looked into the black behind his own eyes as if it was the black of the sea. He tried to reach down into it, for some deep intuition. He could reach, and feel, nothing. [p. 229]

Kraken give me strength, he prayed. Give me strength out of your deep darkness. [p. 280]


Samuel Beckett, Texts For Nothing, trans, Samuel Beckett, London: Calder & Boyars, 1974.

And yet it’s changing, something is changing, it must be in the head, slow in the head the ragdoll rotting, perhaps we’re in a head, it’s as dark as in a head before the worms get at it, ivory dungeon. [p. 13.]


Hans Fallada, Alone in Berlin, London: Penguin, 2009.

They toss and turn, each listens to the other’s breathing, and in the end they start to talk. It’s easier to talk in the dark. [p. 143.]


David Toop, Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener, London: Continuum, 2010 (describing his early interest in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans)

Cooper wrote frequently of a ‘breathing silence’ through which the harried protagonists must pass, often in darkness or concealment [p. viii]

All of us, or should I say those of us equipped from the beginning with the faculty of hearing, begin as eavesdroppers in darkness [p. ix]


H. P. Lovecraft, The Colour Out of Space, London: Penguin Modern Classics, 2011.

The night had been dark and the buggy-lamps faint, but around a farm in the valley which everyone knew from the account must be Nahum’s the darkness had been less thick. A dim though distinct luminosity seemed to inhere in all the vegetation, grass, leaves, and blossoms alike, while at one moment a detached piece of the phosphorescence appeared to stir furtively in the yard near the barn. [p. 20.]


Michel Foucault, ‘The Thought of the Outside’, Essential Writings, Vol. 2

One is attracted precisely to the extent that one is neglected. This is why zeal can only consist in neglecting that negligence, in oneself becoming a courageously negligent solicitude, in going towards the light in negligence of shadow, until it is discovered that the light itself is only negligence, a pure outside equivalent to a darkness that disperses, like a blown-out candle, the negligent zeal it had attracted.

[its] perpetual manifestation never illuminates what the law says or wants: the law is not the principle or inner rule of conduct. It is the outside and envelopes actions, thereby removing them from all interiority; it is the darkness beyond their borders… [p. 156-157]


Antonin Artaud, ‘Theatre and the Plague’, The Theatre and its Double, trans, Victor Corti, London: Calder Publications, 1993.

‘… out of the mental freedom with which the plague evolved without any rats, germs or contact, we can deduce the dark ultimate action of a spectacle I am going to try and analyse.’ [p. 14]


Giorgio Agamben, ‘What is Contemporary’ in What is an Apparatus, ed. Werner Hamacher, trans, David Kishik & Stefan Pedatella, Stanford: Standford University Press, 2009.


The contemporary his he who firmly holds his gaze on his own time so as to perceive not it’s light, but rather its darkness. All eras, for those who experience contemporariness, are obscure. The contemporary is precisely the person who knows how to see this obscurity, who is able to write by dipping his pen in the obscurity of the present. But what does it mean, “to see an obscurity,” “to perceived the darkness”?

The neurophysiology of vision suggests an initial answer. What happens when we find ourselves in ta place deprived of light, or when we close our eyes? What is the darkness that we see then? Neurophysiologists tell us that the absence of light activates a series of peripheral cells n the retina called “off-cells.” When activated, these cells produce the particular kind of vision that we call darkness. Darkness is not, therefore, a privative notion (the simple absence of light, or something like nonvision) but rather the result of the activity of the “off-cells,” a product of our own retina. This means, if we now return to our thesis on the darkness of contemporariness, that to perceived this darkness is not a form of inertia or of passivity, but rather implies an activity and a singular ability. In our case, this ability amounts to a neutralization of the lights that come from the epoch in order to discover its obscurity, its special darkness, which is not, however, separable from those lights… The contemporary is the one whose eyes are struck by the beam of darkness that comes from his own time.


In the firmament that we observe at night, the stars shine brightly, surrounded by a thick darkness… [p. 44-47.]


John Ashbery, Introduction to Raymond Roussel, How I Wrote Certain of my Books, ed. Trevor Winfield, Cambridge: Exact Change, 1995.

… there is hidden in Roussel something so strong, so ominous and so pregnant with the darkness of the “infinite spaces” that frightened Pascal, that one feels the need for  some sort of protective equipment when one reads him. Perhaps the nature of his work is such that it must be looked at “from the outside” [Cocteau] or not at all. [p. viii.]


Georges Perec, A Man Asleep, trans. Andrew Leak,  London: Harvil, 1999.

As soon as you close your eyes, the adventure of sleep begins. The familiar half-light of the bedroom, a dark volume broken by details, where your memory can easily identify the paths your eyes have followed a thousand times (retracing them from the opaque square of the window, eliciting the washbasin from a shaft of reflected light and the shelving from the slightly less dark shadow of a book, distinguishing the blacker mass of the hanging clothes). [p.133]


Jorge Luis Borges, ‘The Secret Miracle’, Labyrinths, London: Penguin, 1970.

He thought how he still had two acts to do, and that he was going to die very soon. He spoke with God in the darkness: ‘If in some fashion I exist, if I am not one of Your repetitions and mistakes, I exist as the author of The Enemies. To finish this drama, which can justify me and justify you, I need another year. Grant me these days, You to whom the centuries and time belong.’ This was the last night, the most dreadful of all, but ten minutes later sleep flooded over him like a dark water. [p.122]


Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Journey To The End of The Night, John Calder, 1997.

I knew only one thing about the blackness, which was so dense you had the impression that if you stretched out your arm a little way from your shoulder you’d never see it again, but of that one thing I was absolutely certain, namely, that it as full of homicidal impulses. [P.27]

Everything that’s important goes on in the darkness, no doubt about it. [P.62]


Giorgio Agamben, ‘On Potentiality’, Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy, Stanford University Press California, 1999.

…Aristotle answers the question we posed above, namely: “Why is there not sensation of the senses themselves”? Earlier we answered the question by saying that it is so “because sensation is only potential.” Now we are in a position to understand what this means. When we do not see (that is, when our vision is potential), we nevertheless distinguish darkness from light; we see darkness. The principle of sight “in some way possesses color,” and its colors and light and darkness, actuality and potentiality, presence and privation.

Potentiality for Darkness

The following essential point should be noted: if potentiality were, for example, only the potentiality for vision and if it existed only as such in the actuality of light, we could never experience darkness (nor hear silence, in the case of the potentiality to hear). But human beings can, instead, see shadows (to skotos), they can experience darkness: they have the potential not to see, the possibility of privation.

In his commentary on De anima, Themistius writes:

If sensation did not have the potentiality both for actuality and for not-Being-actual and if it were always actual, it would never be able to perceived darkness [skotos], nor could it ever hear silence. In the same way, if thought were not capable both of thought and of the absence of thought [anoia, thoughlessness], it would never be able to know the formless [amorphon], evil, the without-figure [aneidon]. If the intellect did not have a community [koinonein] with potentiality, it would not know privation.

The greatness – and also the abyss – of human potentiality is that it is first of all potential not to act, potential for darkness. (In Homer, skotos is the darkness that overcomes human beings at the moment of their death. Human beings are capable of experiencing this skotos.)

What is at issue here is nothing abstract. What, for example, is boredom, if not the experience of the potentiality-not-to-act? This is why it is such a terrible experience, which borders on both good and evil.

To be capable of good and evil is not simply to be capable of doing this or that good or bad action (every particular good or bad action is, in this sense, banal). Radical evil is not this or that bad deed but the potentiality for darkness. And yet this potentiality is also the potentiality for light.


Sebald, W.G., Austerlitz, Anthea Bell (trans.) London: Penguin, 2002

Even now, when I try to remember them, when I look back at the crab-like plan of Breendonk and read the words of the captions – Former Office, Printing Works, Huts, Jacques Ochs Hall, Solitary Confinement Cell, Mortuary, Relics Store and Museum – the darkness does not lift but becomes yet heavier as I think how little we can hold in mind, how everything is constantly lapsing into oblivion with every extinguished life, how the world is, as it were, draining itself, in that the history of countless places and objects which themselves have no power of memory is never heard, never described or passed on. Histories, for instance, like those of the straw mattresses which lay, shadow-like, on the stacked plank beds and which had become thinner and shorter because the chaff in them disintegrated over the years, shrunken – and now, in writing this, I do remember that such an idea occurred to me at the time – as if they were the mortal frames of those who once lay there in that darkness. [P.30-31]

… if Newton really thought that time was a river like the Thames, then where is its source and into what sea does it finally flow? Every river, as we know, must have banks on both sides, so where, seen in those terms, where are the banks of time? What would be this river’s qualities, qualities perhaps corresponding to those of water, which is fluid, rather heavy, and translucent? In what way do objects immersed in time differ from those left untouched by it? Why do we show the hours of light and darkness in the same circle? [p. 142]


Agamben, G. ‘The Author as Gesture’, Profanations, Zone Books, New York, 2007

An author-subject does exist, and yet he is attested to only through the traces of his absence. But in what way can an absence be singular? And what does it mean for an individual to occupy the place of a dead man, to leave his own traces in an empty place?

There is perhaps only one text in Foucault’s work where this difficulty emerges explicitly and thematically and where the illegibility of the subject appears for a moment in all its splender. I am referring to “Lives of Infamous Men,” originally conceived as the preface to an anthology of archival documents, prison records, and lettres de cachet, in which, at the very moment when they are struck with infamy, the encounter with power pulls from darkness and silence these human existences that would otherwise not have left any traces…

The anonymous scribes, the insignificant functionaries who wrote these notes certainly had no intention of either knowing or representing these men: their only aim was to stamp them with infamy. And yet, at least for a moment in these pages, these lives shine blindingly with a dark light. [p. 64-66]


Robert Walser, quoted by Enrique Vila-Matas in Bartleby & Co., London: Vintage, 2005.

Were a wave to lift me and carry me to the heights, where power and prestige are predominant, I would destroy the circumstances that have favoured me and hurl myself downwards, to the vile, insignificant darkness. Only in the lower regions am I able to breathe. [p.18-19]

I have an non-existent story I wish to tell,” explains the narrator. This novel was originally called Letters to Captain Nemo and later changed its title to No-One Behind the Door. It came about in the spring of 1977, during a fortnight of rural existence and bliss in a small town near Siena.

Having finished the novel, the narrator says he sent it to an editor, who rejected it because he considered it not easily accessible and hard to decipher. So the narrator decided to keep it in a drawer to allow it to settle (“darkness and oblivion are good for stories, I think”) A few years later, the novel turns up in the narrator’s hands again by chance, the discovery giving him a strange sensation, because in fact he had forgotten all about it: “It suddenly appeared in the darkness of a drawer, beneath a mass of papers, like a submarine emerging from dark depths.”

The Narrator in Enrique Vila-Matas’ Bartleby & Co. [p.102] discussing Story of a Non-Existent Story from Tabucchi’s The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico.

Hawthorne and Melville, unwitting founders of the dark hours of the art of the No, knew each other, they were friends, and expressed mutual admiration. Hawthorne was also a Puritan, even in his violent reaction to certain aspects of Puritanism. He was also restless. He was never one to go to church, but we know that during his years as a recluse he would approach his window and watch those making their way to church, and his look is said to have contained the brief history of the Dark Side in the art of the No. His vision was clouded by the terrible Calvinist doctrine of predestination. This is the side to Hawthorne that so fascinated Melville, who to praise him spoke of the great power of blackness, that nocturnal side that we find in Melville as well. [p.105]

… the case of [literary] failures, all things considered, is not especially interesting, it’s too obvious, there is no merit in being a writer of the No because you have failed. Failure throws too much light and not enough shade of mystery on the cases of those who give up writing for such a vulgar reason. [p.106]


Alan Bourassa in ‘Literature, Language and the Non-Human’, published in A Shock to Thought: Expression After Deleuze & Guattari, Routledge, London, 2002. [page refs to follow]

Human or non-human? Our own creation or a gift that obsesses us? We might think of language as we would think of an apparition out of the darkness of an empty road. Is it a fellow wanderer? Does it share my nature and is it haunted by the silence and mystery of the darkness? Does it fear and ward off the imminent reality of the outside? Is it powerless to fight the spirit that possesses it? And can I speak to it? Gain comfort in a shared humanness? Or is this figure itself a secretion of the darkness? A ghost sent to haunt and possess me? Even if it shows compassion for my plight, will its infinite power over me always make it a stranger?

Emotion, sensation, possibility, material, force, all have their place in language. And though we may argue along with Benjamin that it is only in the human that the most perfect language takes place, we must also argue (and not against Benjamin) that human language has nothing to communicate of the non-human world without that non-human world communicating itself to him. What, for example, is less human than light? Less removed from the fleshy weight of the body, the torpidity of muscle? And yet what is more the basis of human knowledge and understanding, Heidegger’s Dasein standing in the lighted clearing of Being? How much is clarity, uncovering, dispelling of darkness the proudest achievement of the human mind? This is what I mean when I say that affect is non-human, yet far from being hostile to the human, gives it the gift of possibility


Vonnegut, K., Mother Night.

In preparing this edition of the confessions of Howard W. Campbell, Jr., I have had to deal with writings concerned with more than mere informing or deceiving… The title of this book is Campbell’s. It is taken from a speech by Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust. As translated by Carlyle F. MacIntyre (New Directions, 1941), the speech is this:

I am part of the part that at first was all, part of the darkness that gave birth to light, that supercilious light which now disputes with Mother Night her ancient rank and space, and yet can not succeed; no matter how it struggles, it sticks to matter and can’t get free. Light flows from substance, makes it beautiful; solids can check its path, so I hope it won’t be long till light and the world’s stuff are destroyed together. [p. x – xi]


McEwan, I. Atonement, London: QPD, 2002.

She paused in the entrance to the drawing room and observed that the chocolate-smeared cocktail glasses had yet to be cleared away, and that the doors into the garden still stood open. Now the faintest stirring of a breeze rustled the display of sedge that stood before the fire place. Two or three stout-bodied moths circled the lamp that stood upon the harpsichord. When would anyone ever play it again? That at night creatures were drawn to lights where they could be most easily eaten by other creatures was one of those mysteries that gave her modest pleasure. She preferred not to have it explained away. At a formal dinner once a professor of some science or other, wanting to make small-talk, had pointed out a few insects gyrating above a candelabra. He had told her that it is the visual impression of an even deeper darkness beyond the light that drew them in. Even though they might be eaten, they had to obey the instinct that made them seek out the darkest place, on the far side of the light – and in this case it was an illusion. It sounded to her like sophistry, or an explanation for its own sake. How could anyone presume to know the world through the eyes of an insect? Not everything had a cause, and pretending otherwise was an interference in the workings of the world that was futile and could even lead to grief. Some things were simply so. [p.148-149]


Casati, R., Varzi, A.C., Holes and Other Superficialities, London: MIT, 1994

A spot in the wall. Let us start with some facts from daily life. Suppose you wake up one morning and look at the white wall in front of you. It is the usual wall you see every morning, of course. But this time, right there in the top left corner, something new catches your eye: you see that a little hole is now there that was not there yesterday.

How do you describe what you see? A spot in the wall, darker than the rest, filled with shadow, that goes deep inside (though you cannot really tell how deep). It looks unitary and complete, compact, though less dense than the wall. A thing, perhaps, but a bit mysterious. It is not made of the shadow you see. It is not even made of the sort of stuff ordinary things are ordinarily made of: not of the air that is inside it, nor of the plaster and bits of paint that have fallen on the floor over night. In fact, if it is something, it does not seem to be made of anything. [p9]

Concavities. Let us go back to our hole in the wall. We argued that it is the presence of a discontinuity in the wall’s surface that makes you see the hole – the dark, shadowy spot that goes deep inside. It is the discontinuity that marks the hole and gives it the individual integrity that caught your attention – unlike other superficial parts of the wall that you never noticed and perhaps never will. And it is this particular type of discontinuity that makes this a hole as opposed to, say, a bump or a protuberance: the dark spot is a hole because the discontinuity involves a concavity. [p19]


Michael Richardson, ‘The Look of Colette Peignot’, Inventory Vol.5 Nos.2 & 3

The injunction ‘don’t accept’ is turned positive, negation attains its apotheosis in a scattering of diamonds on a dark night. [p.69]


Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse, London: Penguin, 1996.

… For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others. [p.95]

… Lily Briscoe knew all that, Sitting opposite him, could she not see, as in an X-ray photography, the ribs and thigh bones of the young man’s desire to impress himself, lying dark in the mist of his flesh – that thin mist which convention had laid over his burning desire to break into the conversation? [p.137]


Claude Burgelin, ‘Georges Perec, or the Spirit of Beginnings’, Pereckonings, Yale University Press, 2004.

Penser/classer is a libretto of beginnings. Perec responds to Descartes’s magnificent assertion – “I think therefore I am” – with a modest and groping: “I don’t think but I’m searching for my words.” His manner of zigzagging about in order to better “refer thinking back to the unthought [l’impensé] on which it rests, and the classifiied to the unclassifiable (the unnameable, the unsayable) which it is so eager to disguise” is clearly a way of keeping alive the link between thought-words [mots-pensées] and the vacillation, hesitation, and treacherous darkness from which they emerge. [p.13]


Alphonso Lingis, The Imperative, Indiana University Press, 1998.

A Field of perceived things is not the basic form of our sentient contact with our environment. We must elaborate a phenomenology of the levels upon which things take form, the kinds of space, the sensuous elements, and the night. [p.5]


As the day comes to and end, the twilight dissolves the surfaces, absorbing their colours, leaving their reflections suspended in space. The luminous transparency is open spaces condensed into beams and phosphorescence. Things lose their separateness. The shadows advance over the colors and the contours that they outlined are lost. Darkness infiltrates the landscape, obliterating its paths and filling up its open planes. Overhead the blue of the atmosphere recedes and the starlights drift over unmeasureable distances.

The electrification of human habitats maintains this twilight and stops the oncoming of the night. Along city streets the shop windows, restaurants, bars, and discos enclose twilight havens where the hard edges of things are softened into glows and reflections.

When the night itself is there, there is no longer anything to see. The cries, murmurs, and rumbles no longer locate separate beings signalling one another or colliding with one another on observable coordinates. Shouts or distant lights do not mark locations in the night but make the whole of the night vibrant. The odors drift. The ground which we feel and which extends indefinitely about us no longer supports things in their places. What we touch adheres to our hands and is no longer the contours of something closed over its own structure and substance. The rain no longer streaks the distance of its fall.

Though there is no longer anything to see, we see and do not see nothingness. We see the darkness. The night is not a black mass that stops our sight on the surfaces of our eyes; our look goes out into the night which is vast and boundless. The sense of sight can be taut and acute in the depths of the dark. The night is not a substance but an event; it pervades a space freed from barriers and horizons. It extends a duration which moves without breaking up into moments; night comes incessantly in a presence which does not mark a residue as past nor outline a different presence to come.

The darkness which softly wipes away the urgencies and the destinations and the hard edges of reality is felt in a enjoyment that conforms to its depths without resistance and that gives itself over to the rumble of the city and the murmur of nature, to the silken, mossy, and liquid substances that caress our bodies, to the odors and savors adrift in their own space. The visible night gives way to a high noon of sounds, odors, and textures.

When we close our doors to forces that may prey on us under the cover of darkness, we redouble the visible night with an auditory night, an olfactory night, a tactile night… [p.10]

In the darkness of the crowded bus, we feel the warmth of the body of the passenger next to us and the shiftings that stir from within. We do not make contact with his sensibility through some visible surfaces we see, some sounds we hear, and for which we find evidence that the other sees and hears them too. With no quasi-determinate sense of what it is the other sees and hears, we are awake with the sense of another sensibility in the dark parallel to our own. [p.20]


Cary  Wolfe writing in his introduction to The Parasite, by Michel Serres, London: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

… Serres suggests that therefore “the system is very badly named. Maybe there is not or never was a system.” “The only instances or systems are black boxes,” he continues:

When we do not understand, when we defer our knowledge to a later date, when the thing is too complex for the means at hand, when we put everything in a temporary black box, we prejudge the existence of a system. When we can finally open the box, we see that it works like a space of transformation. The only systems, instances, and substances come from our lack of knowledge. The system is nonknowledge. The other side of nonknowledge. One side of nonknowledge is chaos; the other, system. Knowledge forms a bridge between the two banks. Knowledge as such is a s pace of transformation.


Georges Bataille quoted by Allan Stoekl in Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion and Postsustainability, University of Minnesota Press, London 2007, from Visions of Excess.

In practice it is possible to give as a leitmotiv of Gnosticism the conception of matter as an active principle having an eternal,  autonomous existence, which is that of darkness (which would not be the absence of light but the monstrous archons revealed by that absence), that of evil (which would not be the absence of good, but a creative action). [p. 47]


John Mullarkey quoting William James on Henri Bergson’s Creative Evolution (Henry Holt & Co. New York, 1911), in ‘The Rule of Dichotomy: Bergson’s Genetics of Matter, Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy,  Volume 15 (2004), p128.

William James was taken aback by what he saw as its profuse originality, warning Bergson in a letter from 1907 that this work ‘risks remaining in darkness for a hundred years’.


Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, Hallward, (trans.) London: Verso 2001.

[The human animal] has succeeded in harnessing to the service of his mortal life his own peculiar ability – his ability to take up a position along the course of truths such that he acquires an Immortal aspect. This is what Plato had already anticipate, when he indicated that the duty of these who escape from his famous cave, dazzled by the sun of the Idea, was to return to the shadows and to help their companions in servitude to profit from that by which, on the threshold of this dark world, they had been seize. [p. 59]


Jean-Luc Nancy, The Ground of The Image, Jeff Fort (ed.) New York: Fordham University Press, 2005.

Such is the image: it must be detached, placed outside and before one’s eyes (it is therefore inseparable from a hidden surface, from which it cannot, as it were, be peeled away: the dark side of the picture, its underside or backside, or even its weave or its subjectile), and it must be different from the thing. The image is a thing that is not the thing: it distinguishes itself from it, essentially. [p. 2]

Text calls Image: perhaps it says nothing other than this call. Image illustrates Text: it dazzles it and us with it, and perhaps does nothing else. | Thus, on both sides there is a pressure and a precipitation towards the presence of the image, the blinding brilliance and the inteimate conviction, immediate certainty. One believes the image with one’s eyes closed. But there is also on both sides a disquietude and a melancholy in the text and its sense: eyes wide open, one sees it sink into the night, into which one would like to follow it. [p. 76]

For the secret Image of . . . –there is no word for an absence of image. Perhaps the text-word? There is no work to say without an image. Which is not darkness. Nor blindness. But the unformed (rather than the formless, always somewhat deformed and therefore discernible), the inapparent, the unappearing. Without parency or potency or latency: but no image. The unimaginable that no word brings to image, not even this word unimaginable. The privative un- here is the entire image, the darkness on stage, the end of the film, the film not printed. Not a thing behind the image waiting to appear, but the reversal and underside of the image, the back of the painting without a painting on the back. Rough surface of the real. Speaking of it turns us away from it, makes it an image after all, as when a painter paints the back of a painting. It is an image that must be unimagined, that is, thought, if thought is a commotion, a syncope, and a bedazzlement. Its flash is not the image of the obscure, but the brilliance that sparks out from having knocked against it: a flash of darkness sliced away. A blow and a shout, a stupefying pain, a breath cut short, the wordless unimagined, in a bark, a wail, a groan, a sonorous uprising. [p. 79]