Too much to say, and I don’t have the heart for it today. There is too much to say about what has happened to us here, about what has also happened to me, with the death of Gilles Deleuze, with a death we no doubt feared (knowing him to be so ill), but still, with this death here (cette mort-ci), this unimaginable image, in the event, would deepen still further, if that were possible, the infinite sorrow of another event. Deleuze the thinker is, above all, the thinker of the event and always of this event here (cet evenement-ci). He remained the thinker of the event from beginning to end. I reread what he said of the event, already in 1969, in one of his most celebrated books, The Logic of Sense. He cites Joe Bousquet (“To my inclination for death,” said Bousquet, “which was a failure of the will”), then continues: “From this inclination to this longing there is, in a certain respect, no change except a change of the will, a sort of leaping in place (saut sur place) of the whole body which exchanges its organic will for a spiritual will. It wills now not exactly what occurs, but something inthat which occurs, something yet to come which would be consistent with what occurs, in accordance with the laws of an obscure, humorous conformity: the Event. It is in this sense that the Amor fatiis one with the struggle of free men” (One would have to quote interminably).
There is too much to say, yes, about the time I was given, along with so many others of my “generation,” to share with Deleuze; about the good fortune I had of thinking thanks to him, by thinking of him. Since the beginning, all of his books (but first of all Nietzsche, Difference and Repetition, The Logic of Sense) have been for me not only, of course, provocations to think, but, each time, the unsettling, very unsettling experience – so unsettling – of a proximity or a near total affinity in the “theses” – if one may say this – through too evident distances in what I would call, for want of anything better, “gesture,” “strategy,” “manner”: of writing, of speaking, perhaps of reading. As regards the “theses” (but the word doesn’t fit) and particularly the thesis concerning a difference that is not reducible to dialectical opposition, a difference “more profound” than a contradiction (Difference and Repetition), a difference in the joyfully repeated affirmation (“yes, yes”), the taking into account of the simulacrum, Deleuze remains no doubt, despite so many dissimilarities, the one to whom I have always considered myself closest among all of this “generation.” I never felt the slightest “objection” arise in me, not even a virtual one, against any of his discourse, even if I did on occasion happen to grumble against this or that proposition in Anti-Oedipus(I told him about it one day when we were coming back together by car from Nanterre University, after a thesis defense on Spinoza) or perhaps against the idea that philosophy consists in “creating” concepts. One day, I would like to explain how such an agreement on philosophical “content” never excludes all these differences that still today I don’t know how to name or situate. (Deleuze had accepted the idea of publishing, one day, a long improvised conversation between us on this subject and then we had to wait, to wait too long.) I only know that these differences left room for nothing but friendship between us. To my knowledge, no shadow, no sign has ever indicated the contrary. Such a thing is so rare in the milieu that was ours that I wish to make note of it here at this moment. This friendship did not stem solely from the (otherwise telling) fact that we have the same enemies. We saw each other little, it is true, especially in the last years. But I can still hear the laugh of his voice, a little hoarse, tell me so many things that I love to remember down to the letter: “My best wishes, all my best wishes,” he whispered to me with a friendly irony the summer of 1955 in the courtyard of the Sorbonne when I was in the middle of failing my agregation exam. Or else, with the same solicitude of the elder: “It pains me to see you spending so much time on that institution (le College International de Philosophie). I would rather you wrote…” And then, I recall the memorable ten days of the Nietzsche colloquium at Cerisy, in 1972, and then so many, many other moments that make me, no doubt along with Jean-Francois Lyotard (who was also there), feel quite alone, surviving and melancholy today in what is called with that terrible and somewhat false word, a “generation.” Each death is unique, of course, and therefore unusual, but what can one say about the unusual when, from Barthes to Althusser, from Foucault to Deleuze, it multiplies in this way in the same “generation,” as in a series – and Deleuze was also the philosopher of serial singuarity – all these uncommon endings?
Yes, we will all have loved philosophy. Who can deny it? But, it’s true, (he said it), Deleuze was, of all those in his “generation,” the one who “did/made” (faisait) it the most gaily, the most innocently. He would not have liked, I think, the word “thinker” that I used above. He would have preferred “philosopher.” In this respect, he claimed to be “the most innocent (the most devoid of guilt) of making/doing philosophy” (Negotiations). This was no doubt the condition for his having left a profound mark on the philosophy of this century, the mark that will remain his own, incomparable. The mark of a great philosopher and a great professor. The historian of philosophy who proceeded with a sort of configurational election of his own genealogy (the Stoics, Lucretius, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Bergson, etc.) was also an inventor of philosophy who never shut himself up in some philosophical “realm” (he wrote on painting, the cinema, and literature, Bacon, Lewis Carroll, Proust, Kafka, Melville, etc.). And then, and then I want to say precisely here that I loved and admired his way — always faultless — of negotiating with the image, the newspapers, television, the public scene and the transformations that it has undergone over the course of the past ten years. Economy and vigilant retreat. I felt solidarity with what he was doing and saying in this respect, for example in an interview in Liberationat the time of the publication of A Thousand Plateaus(in the vein of his 1977 pamphlet). He said: “One should know what is currently happening in the realm of books. For several years now, we’ve been living in a period of reaction in every domain. There is no reason to think that books are to be spared from this reaction. People are in the process of fabricating for us a literary space, as well as judicial, economic, and political spaces, which are completely reactionary, prefabricated, and overwhelming/crushing. There is here, I believe, a systematic enterprise that Liberationshould have analyzed.” This is “much worse than a censorship,” he added, but this dry spell will not necessarily last.” Perhaps, perhaps.
Like Nietzsche and Artaud, like Blanchot and other shared admirations, Deleuze never lost sight of this alliance between necessity and the aleatory, between chaos and the untimely. When I was writing on Marx at the worst moment, three years ago, I took heart when I learned that he was planning to do so as well. And I reread tonight what he said in 1990 on this subject: “…Felix Guattari and I have always remained Marxists, in two different manners perhaps, but both of us. It’s that we don’t believe in a political philosophy that would not be centered around the analysis of capitalism and its developments. What interests us the most is the analysis of capitalism as an immanent system that constantly pushes back its proper limits, and that always finds them again on a larger scale, because the limit is Capital itself.”
I will continue to begin again to read Gilles Deleuze in order to learn, and I’ll have to wander all alone in this long conversation that we were supposed to have together. My first question, I think, would have concerned Artaud, his interpretation of the “body without organ,” and the word “immanence” on which he always insisted, in order to make him or let him say something that no doubt still remains secret to us. And I would have tried to tell him why his thought has never left me, for nearly forty years. How could it do so from now on?
Translated by David Kammerman
Tympanum (c) 1998
- Wolf Becoming Anus (averypublicsociologist.blogspot.com)
- Reconsidering Nietzsche – Six Questions for Julian Young (3quarksdaily.com)
- Ideas of the Century: Film as Philosophy (3quarksdaily.com)
- Experiments in Philosophy (opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com)
- The Philosopher Who Would Not Be King (3quarksdaily.com)
- Nietzsche and “Christian Morality” (losthighwaytimes.com)
- The Winners of the 3 Quarks Daily 2010 Philosophy Prize (3quarksdaily.com)
- Philosophy and Simulation (bogost.com)
- Theology is not about what exists: a Deleuzian meditation (blakehuggins.com)
- Philosophy (independent.co.uk)