Eternity by the stars: An astronomical hypothesis - Louis-Auguste Blanqui

Submitted by dendrite303 on November 13, 2018

In a century replete with radical politics, final liberations, historical codas, and dreams of eternity, the shadowy figure of Louis-Auguste Blanqui, the constant revolutionary, wrote Eternity by the Stars in the last months of 1871 while incarcerated in Fort du Taureau, a marine cell of the English Channel. In the midst of contemplating his confinement, Blanqui devises a simple calculation in which the infinity of time is confronted with the finite number of possible events to suggest a most radical conclusion: every chain of events is bound to repeat itself eternally in space and time. Our lives are being lived an infinity of times across the confines of the universe, and death, defeat, success and glory are never final. For the world is nothing but the play of probabilities on the great stage of time and space.

By straddling the boundaries of hyperrealism and hallucinatory thinking, Blanqui's hypothesis offers a deep, tragic, and heartfelt reflection on the place of the human in the universe, the value of action, and the aching that lies at the heart of every modern soul. This first critical edition of Blanqui's incantatory text in English features an extended introduction by Frank Chouraqui. Exploring sources of Blanqui's thinking in his intellectual context, Chouraqui traces the legacy of the text in critiques of modernity devoting particular attention to the figures of Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, and Borges. It features copious illuminating annotations that bring out the web of connections which interlace the great marginal figure of Blanqui with more than two millennia of European culture.

Blanqui’s Eternity by the Stars is a must read for anyone who has been enthralled by Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, or Borges. Chouraqui’s perceptive and erudite introduction and notes clarify the logic of the argument, Blanqui’s reception by major thinkers, and the context of the essay’s composition in solitary confinement following the Paris Commune. This book should certainly be in the canon of philosophical prison literature, alongside writers like Boethius & Gramsci. — Gary Shapiro

Blanqui’s Eternity by the Stars is the late, phantasmagoric manifesto of a man who had been condemned to prison for the better part of his life on account of his radical politics. Encountering this text toward the end of his career, Walter Benjamin pronounced it an incomparably bleak (yet potentially messianic) articulation of the Ever-Sameness of the New on the order of Nietzsche’s doctrine of the Eternal Return. Here rendered and admirably introduced into English for the first time by Frank Chouraqui, Blanqui’s cosmological prose stands alongside Blake’s later prophecies, Poe’s Eureka, & Borges’ Ficciones as an homage to the human mind’s capacity “to see the world in a grain of sand” (and “hold infinity in the palm of your hand”) — that is, to imagine the boundless self-sameness of the universe across space and time as a revolutionary opportunity to dissolve the antinomies between the actual and the possible, liberty & fate. — Richard Sieburth

Introduction: At the Crossroads of History: Blanqui at the Castle of the Bull by Frank Chouraqui
I. The Universe - The Infinite
II. The Indefinite
III. The Prodigious Distance of the Stars
IV. The Physical Composition of the Stars
V. Observations on Laplace's Cosmogony - The Comets
VI. Origin of the Worlds
VII. Analysis and Synthesis of the Universe
VIII. Summary