Saturday, 19 October 2013


Intolerable: reading about other men's despair makes my despair more tolerable.

Great men's great despair against my measly little one.

A "loneliness that is experienced together" (Blanchot). And the observation, still by Blanchot, that whoever uses the phrase "I am alone" is necessarily comical.

I have no idea who first "used" the line "this loneliness won't leave me alone", but at least Otis Redding used it, before many others, such as the band Portishead.

On 'Depressive Realism' II

Depressive realism plus narcissism: I don't deserve myself.

A moment later, taking up Kafka's diaries, I come across these two subsequent notes ("Das dritte Oktavheft", Nov. 21, 1917):

Das Böse weiß vom Guten, aber das Gute vom Bösen nicht.

Selbsterkenntnis hat nur das Böse.

After another moment, this one (Jan. 14, 1918):

Es gibt nur zweierlei: Wahrheit und Lüge.
Wahrheit ist unteilbar, kann sich also selbst nicht erkennen; wer sie erkennen will, muß Lüge sein.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

A voice from the desert: reading notes on Levinas's Difficile liberté

Man is not a tree and humankind is not a forest

Emmanuel Levinas dismisses the metaphor of rootedness:

L’homme, après tout, n’est pas un arbre et l’humanité n’est pas une forêt.

For Levinas, the “notion of Israel” is not coextensive with the historical, geografical or geopolitical borders of the state of Israel. His “essays on judaism” actually provide a strong argument against the political misuse of the name of Israel. For judaism, in contrast to what a certain “great contemporary philosopher” teaches about rootedness and the world, it is not the “houses, temples and bridges” that let the world become intelligible, but the face of the other; to put it briefly, being-with-others rather than being-in-the-world.

L’homme commence dans le désert où il habite des tentes, où il adore Dieu dans un temple qui se transporte.

In the Talmud, Levinas maintains, the notion of Israel remains separate from all historical, national, local and racial determinations. This separation implies a freedom with regard to all landscapes and architectural monuments, all “these heavy and sedentary things that one is tempted to prefer to human beings”. With respect to this freedom, rootedness (enracinement) becomes secondary, compared with other forms of fidelity and responsibility; other more vast horizons than the village and a given human society emerge for the vision that presupposes a conscious engagement.

An extreme conscience

Le judaïsme est une extrême conscience.

The extreme nature of this conscience – both consciousness and moral conscience – is, to use words that Derrida might use to counter-sign Levinas, a confrontation with aporia, a desert kind of pathlessness, and the undecidable.

Engagement, disengagement

Même lorsque l’acte est raisonnable, lorsque l’acte est juste, il comporte une violence. […] Voilà aussi pourquoi l’engagement nécessaire est si difficile au juif, voilà pourquoi le juif ne peut pas s’engager sans se désengager aussitôt, voilà pourquoi il lui reste toujours cet arrière-goût de violence, même quand il s’engage pour une cause juste […]

  1.  Emmanuel Levinas, Difficile liberté Essais sur le judaïsme, Troisième édition revue et corrigée (Paris: Albin Michel, cop. 1976, repr. 2012), 45.
  2.  Difficile liberté, 44.
  3.  Difficile liberté, 44-45.
  4.  Difficile liberté, 19.
  5.  Difficile liberté, 125, 126.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Roger Laporte sur la vie et l’écriture

« Alors que la vie ordinaire précède le récit que l’on peut en faire, j’ai parié qu’une certaine vie n’est ni antérieure, ni extérieure á écrire » — Roger Laporte

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Against segregationist relativism

A multivalent, multicultural society should not be structured like a honeycomb whose cells are isolated one against the other, so that none of the individual or group-related values gets challenged, but a society with a multitude of values that are subject to debate and exchange, a multitude of cultures that are exposed to the influence of each other, a society that is subjected to nothing else than the radical idea of a “democracy to come”.

Muqarnas are stalactite or honeycomb ornament that adorn cupolas or corbels of a building

"Muqarnas are stalactite or honeycomb ornament that adorn cupolas or corbels of a building." A Year in Fez — The photo was found through an image search with the terms arabesque honeycomb commons

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Note to self: might dig into this some day

"... l'amitié, elle aussi, tend à devenir totalitaire." (Jean-Paul Sartre)

This tendency towards a "totalitarianism" or totalisation, even in questions of friendship, is something I don't quite approve of in Sartre. I don't think he's joking in his rather brutal reply to Camus.