The Diaries of Waslaw Nijinsky and the Absence of the Work

Peter Orte

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Autobiography; Madness; Affect; Diaries; Letters


This article attempts to think through the possibility of a purely affective text in relation to the book as it reads The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky. The Diary’s autobiographical status is problematized, the first edition having been heavily edited to produce a more conventional literary work; the unexpurgated edition, while restoring the text’s integrity, heightens the sense of the book as the absence of its author. I argue that the interest of Nijinsky’s text lies not in the record of his daily thoughts and activities, as in a diary—an apparently straightforward autobiographical genre—nor in the memoires of a famous individual, i.e. the famous dancer Nijinsky’s recollections of his life and times to be preserved for the future.  The interest is rather expressed by Nijinsky’s “de-facement” and his singular writing of «чувство», or “feeling.”  Through comparisons with Tolstoy, as well as the texts of philosophers Maurice Blanchot and Brian Masumi, Nijinsky’s writing is shown to involve an experience that is ruinous to both the subject as a form of expression and the form of the work as a unified whole, an experience inscribed in Nijinsky’s trace of “feeling,” which is comparable to Blanchot’s notion of “the absence of the work”.


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Copyright (c) 2016 Peter Orte

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