Nothing Personal


I’ve just spent a terrifying year: my Thought has thought itself and reached a pure Concept. All that my being has suffered as a result during that long death cannot be told, but, fortunately, I am utterly dead, and the least pure region where my Spirit can venture is Eternity. My Spirit, that recluse accustomed to dwelling in its own Purity, is no longer darkended even by the reflection of Time.
Unfortunately, I’ve reached this point through a dreadful sensitivity, and it’s high time I wrapped it in an outward indifference, which will replace my lost strength. After a final synthesis I have reached the stage of slowly acquiring that strength — you can see I am unable to distract myself. But this was even more the case a few months ago, firstly in my terrible struggle with that old and evil plumage, which is now, happily, vanquished: God. But as that struggle had taken place on his bony wing which, in death throes more vigorous than I would have suspected him capable of, had carried me into the Shadows, I fell, victorious, desperately and infinitely, — until at last I saw myself again in my Venetian mirror, such as I was when I forgot myself several months before.
I confess, moreover, but to you alone, that the torments inflicted by my triumph were so great, I still need to look at myself in that mirror in order to think and that if it were not in front of this desk on which I’m writing to you, I would become the Void once again. That will let you know that I am now impersonal and no longer the Stéphane that you knew, — but a capacity possessed by the spiritual Universe to see itself and develop itself, through what was once me.
Letter to Henri Cazalis, 14 May 1867 from: Selected Letters of Stéphane Mallarmé (ed. and transl. by Rosemary Lloyd)


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