It is the endless unfoldings offered by a book which is so short, on the surface so simple, which is one of the marks of its greatness. That it laid the foundation, and led the way, for much essential 20th century literature, is another.How does one lay a foundation for an abyss?! The entry on page 145 of Blanchot's The Writing of the Disaster opens it up.
In 'Bartleby,' the enigma comes from 'pure' writing, which can only be that of a copyist (rewriting). The enigma comes from the passivity into which this activity (writing) disappears, and which passes imperceptibly and suddenly from ordinary passivity (reproduction), to the beyond of all passiveness: to a life so passive — for it has the hidden decency of dying — that it does not have death for an ultimate escape. Bartleby copies; he writes incessantly, and cannot stop long enough to submit to anything resembling control. I would prefer not to. This sentence speaks in the intimacy of our nights: negative preference, the negation that effaces preference and is effaced therein: the neutrality of that which is not among the things there are to do — the restraint, the gentleness that cannot be called obstinate, and that outdoes obstinacy with those few words. Language, perpetuating itself, keeps still.