Each one has his reasons: for one, noding is a flight
; for another: a means of conquering. But one can flee into a hermitage
, into madness
, into death
. One can conquer by arms. Why does it have to be noding
? Because, behind the various aims of noders
, there is a deeper and more immediate choice
which is common to all of us.
Each of our perceptions is accompanied by the consciousness that human reality is a ‘revealer’, that is, it is through human reality that ‘there is’ being, or, to put it differently, that man is the means by which things are manifested. It is our presence in the world which multiplies relations. It is we who set up a relationship between this tree and that bit of sky. Thanks to us, that star which has been dead for millennia, that quarter moon, and that dark river are disclosed in the unity of a landscape. With each of our acts, the world reveals to us a new face. But, if we know that we are directors of being, we also know that we are not its producers. If we turn away from this landscape, it will sink back into its dark permanence. At least, it will sink back; there is no one mad enough to think that it is going to be annihilated. It is we who shall be annihilated, and the earth will remain in its lethargy until another consciousness comes along to awaken it. Thus, to our inner certainty of being ‘revealers’ is added that of being inessential in relation the the thing revealed.
One of the chief motives of artistic creation is certainly the need of feeling that we are essential in relationship to the world. If I fix on canvas or in writing a certain aspect of the fields or the sea or look on someone’s face which I have disclosed, I am conscious of having produced them by condensing relationships, by introducing order where there was none, by imposing the unity of mind on the diversity of things. That is, I feel myself essential in relation to my creation. But this time it is the created object which escapes me; I can not reveal and produce at the same time. The creation becomes inessential in relation to the creative activity. First of all, even if it appears to others as definitive, the created object always seems to us in a state of suspension; we can always change this link, that word, that align. Thus, it never forces itself.
Noding is virtually considering one’s work with someone else’s eyes and revealing what one has created. But it is self-evident that we are proportionally less conscious of the thing produced and more conscious of our productive activity. We work according to traditional norms, with tools whose usage is codified. In this case, the result can seem to us sufficiently strange to preserve its objectivity in our eyes. But if we ourselves produce the rules of production, the measures, the criteria, and if our creative drive comes from the very depths of our heart, then we never find anything but ourselves in our work. It is we who have invented the laws by which we judge it. It is our history, our love, our gaiety that we recognize in it. Even if we should regard it without touching it any further, we never receive from it that gaiety or love. We put them into it. The results which we have obtained on our screens never seem to us objective. We are too familiar with the processes of which they are the effects. These processes remain a subjective discovery; they are ourselves, our inspiration, our ruse, and when we seek to perceive our work, we create it again, we repeat mentally the operations which produced it.
The noder touches only his own subjectivity; the object he creates is out of reach. He does not create it for himself. If he re-reads himself, it is already too late. The sentence will never quite be a thing in his eyes. He goes to the very limits of subjectivity but without crossing it. He appreciates the effect of a touch, of an epigram, of a well-placed adjective, but it is the effect they will have on others. He can judge it, not feel it. Thus, it is not true that one nodes for himself. That would be the worst blow. In projecting his emotions on Everything 2, one barely manages to give them a languishing extension. The creative act is only an incomplete and abstract moment in the production of a work.
All is to do and all is already done; the node exists only at the exact level of one’s capacities; while he reads and creates, he knows that he can always go further in his reading, can always create more profoundly, and thus the work seems to him as inexhaustible and opaque as things. Since the creation can find its fulfilment only in reading, since the noder must entrust to another the job of carrying out what he has begun, since it’s only through the consciousness of the reader that he can regard himself as essential to his work, all literary work is an appeal. To node is to make an appeal to the reader that he leads into objective existence the revelation which I have undertaken by the means of language. And if it should be asked to what the noder is appealing, the answer is simple. The noder appeals to the reader’s freedom to collaborate in the production of his work.
The noder should not seek to overwhelm; otherwise he is in contradiction with himself; if he wishes to make demands he must propose only the task to be fulfilled. The reader must be able to make a certain aesthetic withdrawal.
Noding is a certain way of wanting freedom; once you have begun, you are engaged, willy-nilly.
Translated and edited version of Jean-Paul Sartre’s ‘Qu’est que c’est la Littérature?’