I am not learned; I am not ignorant. I have known joys. That is saying too little: I am alive, and this life gives me the greatest pleasure. And what about death? When I die (perhaps any minute now), I will feel immense pleasure. I am not talking about the foretaste of death, which is stale and often disagreeable. Suffering dulls the senses. But this is the remarkable truth, and I am sure of it: I experience boundless pleasure in living, and I will take boundless satisfaction in dying. I have wandered: I have gone from place to place. I have stayed in one place, lived in a single room. I have been poor, then richer, then poorer than many people. As a child I had great passions, and everything I wanted was given to me. My childhood has disappeared, my youth his behind me. It doesn’t matter. I am happy about what has been. I am pleased by what is, and what is to come suits me well enough. Is my life better than other peoples lives? Perhaps. I have a roof over my head and many do not. I do not have leprosy, I am not blind, I see the world—what extraordinary happiness! I see this day, and outside it there is nothing. Who could take that away from me? And when this day fades, I will fade along with it—a thought, a certainty, that enraptures me. I have loved people. I have lost them. I went mad when that blow struck me, because it is hell. But there was no witness to my madness, my frenzy was not evident: only my innermost being was mad. Sometimes I became enraged. People would say to me, Why are you so calm? But I was scorched from head to foot; at night I would run through the streets and howl; during the day I would work calmly.
Harvard University’s website ofers for download in PDF a conversation between Christie McDonald and Leslie Morris about the acquisition of the proofs of Maurice Blanchot’s L’Entretien infini [The Infinite Conversation] by Harvard’s Houghton Library:
They were described by the seller: “[these] may be the only remaining materials reasonably describable as ‘manuscripts’ to have been preserved from among his effects at his death in 2003, and it was only by chance that these survived. They were salvaged from the rubbish-bin by the husband of Blanchot’s long-time housekeeper.” All were priced accordingly.
An appealing story, and sure to whet the collector’s appetite with its claim of extreme rarity, a ‘last chance’ to own a piece of one of France’s most important literary theorists. Was it true?
Read the full account here (caution pdf): TROUVAILLE
It’s fairly well-known (I think??) that when asked about the life of Aristotle, Heidegger retorted that all we need to know is that Aristotle was born, he thought, he died. That is to say, who cares about the life of Aristotle, it’s irrelevant to understanding what he wrote down on paper. Derrida suggested (somewhere) that the “official” biography of anyone is problematic because it serves to freeze that person’s image, and in turn, produces a truth that give rise to a predominant perception of that particular person for, well, who knows how long. Derrida counters such a view of biography (however successful) with a more fragmentary and “novel/radical/interesting” (whatever that means) reading of a philosopher’s writings that may actually contain and “reveal” a more more accurate biography than the “official-minded” biographies. Yet, there may be a better way. Osip Mandelstam wrote something to the effect that, “It is enough for us to tell of the books one has read, and his biography is done.” Emmanuel Levinas provides us with some sparse details–an “inventory” as he calls it– of his biography in “Signature,” and pauses to note that his biography was “dominated by the presentiment and the memory of the Nazi horror.” This business about philosophy and biography isn’t really new, Diogenes wrote a biography of a bunch of philosophers, and that was a while ago after all. I recall some biography of Nietzsche suggesting he was a closeted homosexual and that’s why he was so filled with vitriol against Christianity and the conventional morality that goes along with it. I don’t know, how much should we pay attention to philosophers lives as a way to illuminate their writing? Here’s a rather odd answer in the form of a biographical reflection by Alain Badiou,”Philosophy as Biography,” which appears in the latest issue of The Symptom:
Nietzsche wrote that a philosophy is always the biography of the philosopher. Maybe a biography of the philosopher by the philosopher himself is a piece of philosophy. So I shall tell you nine stories taken of my private life, with their philosophical morality… Continue reading →