Dirty Cosmopolitanism: Geschlecht III and the Enigma of the Black Box
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I will try to be brief as I discuss Geschlecht III, the third part of a series of four texts written by Jacques Derrida between 1983 and 1994. This third part, recently published, is dedicated to Heidegger’s reading of Georg Trakl in the 1953 text “Die Sprache im Gedicht. Eine Erörterung von Georg Trakls Gedicht.” I will also discuss The Chilean Poetry (La poesía chilena), a “poetical-object” or “artifact” elaborated in 1978 by Juan Luis Martínez. Far from asserting a secret and privileged connection between philosophy and poetry, I will argue in favor of de-suturing both, but not in the name of a mathematical ontology, rather in order to emphasize the difficult character of the poem, its enigma.
This enigma, I contend, de-sutures poetry from philosophy and interrupts the translation of the poem into meaningful discourses based on a conventional conception of language. I understand by conventional those considerations of language as a declarative and logical set of statements or enunciations. The enigma of the poem, therefore, does not have anything to do with its “linguistic or terminological” complexity, but rather with its anasemic condition, which is irreducible to clear statements and phenomenological analyses. The enigmatic condition of the poem, therefore, not only complicates standard criticism, but keeps the poem open-closed to the question of meaning beyond its phenomenological reduction. Thus, the poem, its enigma, as a crypt, encrypts its meaning not in the hidden character of its terms or idioms, but in the cryptic nature of its references.
Of course, it is Alain Badiou who, consistently, accuses Heidegger of suturing philosophy to poetry, a suture that characterizes “the age of the poets.” This age, roughly located between Hölderlin and Celan (in the aftermath of Hegel’s philosophy), would have triggered a series of philosophical interventions sharing the same decadent pathos, a pathos related to the exhaustion of philosophy as ontology and systematic thought. In fact, for Badiou, it is not Nietzsche or Wittgenstein but Heidegger who represents the highest moment of this pathetic path; particularly if one considers Heidegger’s turn to poetry in the context of his provocative text, “The end of philosophy and the task of thinking” (1964). However, Badiou not only accuses Heidegger of abandoning philosophy, he also accuses the “French Heideggerians” of doing something similar, as he explicitly says in the conclusion to his Second Manifesto for Philosophy (2009):
As I’ve already stated, the philosophical position I combated twenty years ago was principally the Heideggerian position in its French variants (Derrida, Lacoue-Labarthe, Nancy, but also Lyotard), which consisted in announcing the irremediable end of philosophy in its metaphysical form and considering the arts, poetry, painting and theatre as proffering the supreme recourse for thought. (117).
Badiou equates Heidegger and the French Heideggerians to justify his rehabilitation of a “platonic metaphysics” based on a mathematical multiplicity that takes the place of classical ontology, in order to rearticulate a philosophical system concerned with the triplet of being, truth and the subject. This is necessary since what mathematics brings to the discussion is a notion of multiplicity that complicates Heidegger’s ontological difference (if we follow Badiou, of course).
This demarcation already appeared in the first Manifesto for Philosophy, and although this short declamatory book has become decisive for the contemporary reception of Badiou’s thought, his work still demands further consideration. However, I would content myself with stating three objections to his complaint about the suture between philosophy and poetry: 1) I would question the so-called Heidegger’s onto-poetry, that is to say, Heidegger’s so-called turn toward the poem and toward certain poets, as the last and definitive feature of his thinking. 2) I would also question Badiou’s generalization of the French Heideggerians and their “passive” subordination to Heidegger’s turn to poetry, as well as their shared pathetic predisposition regarding the end of philosophy, or the exhaustion / realization of Western metaphysics. In fact, Lacoue-Labarthe explicitly contests this:
The theologico-political [in Heidegger], in turn, is supported by a call to myth. This thesis marks my opposition, friendly but firm, to one proposed by Alain Badiou. I do not contest the notion of a suturing of philosophy, since Hegel, to one or another of its generic conditions. I am simply saying that in Heidegger the suturing occurs not with the poem but with the Mytheme. (65).
And, 3) I would also insist on how Derrida’s interventions, since his 1964-5 seminar on Heidegger (if not before), to the series of Geschlecht (and beyond), far from sharing the so-called poetical turn of Heidegger, are precisely advocating for a complication of that suture, by interrogating the orders of poetry and philosophy, as well as poetry and conventional politics. However, Badiou’s argument, despite this rough generalization, interrogates the reduction of being to language (logos), which implies also a reduction of the poem to a sort of supplementary expression of this ‘intentional’ legein (apophantic determination of language as meaning). This accusation by Badiou, of course, requires further elaboration, but one might wonder if Heidegger is really reading poetry in a logocentric way or, rather, his is increasingly problematizing the phenomenological assumptions regarding language and the ego’s ability to discern the final sense of the world and the poem. Isn’t this the central misunderstanding regarding Heidegger’s reading of poetry as a narrative or meaningful declaration? but, on the other hand, isn’t this the ‘site’ for a departure, a demarcation between Heidegger and Derrida, as attested by Geschlecht III?  I leave these questions open.
Regarding Geschlecht III, it is of course too much to say that with it we have a definitive confrontation with “Heidegger’s thought” as if one could identify, with no ambivalence, the core, the signature of such a thought. On the contrary, even if each one of Derrida’s four Geschlecht seems to dwell on different aspects of Heidegger’s work, and even if we might assume that the four texts are magnetized by the crucial reading of his interpretation of Georg Trakl’s poetry, it is clear that the interrogations elaborated by Derrida in his texts, important as they are, in no way attempt to be conclusive regarding the name and the place of Heidegger, let alone his political misadventures. Along with being a rigorous reading of Heidegger, Geschlecht III enables a crucial interrogation of the place and the role of poetry in the constitution of a thinking (Heidegger’s) that, while appealing to the poem as a non-onto-theological form of thought, tends to reinstall, if we follow Derrida, the same kind of limitations that triggered, in the first place, his turn to poetry.
In this sense, the recent publication of this “lost” part, is in itself a great contribution to the ongoing debate about Heidegger’s thought and his relationship with National Socialism, particularly now, with the recent publication of the Black Notebooks. In other words, I contend that by his solicitation of Heidegger’s interpretation of Trakl and the question of poetry, Derrida is not only actively de-suturing philosophy and poetry, he is also setting the criteria for a thoughtful engagement with Heidegger’s spiritual nationalism.
Thanks to this engagement, I dare to affirm, Derrida’s deconstructive reading of “Die Sprache im Gedicht” should not be mistaken as another wishful evidence incriminating Heidegger for his undeniable relation to the Nazi apparatus. Far from limiting himself to this obvious but simplifying accusation (the so-called liberal hypothesis), Derrida seems more interested not in the “exceptional and inherently brutal corruption” of Heidegger’s thought but in inscribing the so-called “Heidegger case” within the complex political tradition of European cosmopolitanism. In this sense, Geschlecht III is part of a systematic Auseinandersetzung with the German philosopher that will allow us to think through the relationship between this European cosmopolitanism, its limits and possibilities, and what he calls national and metaphysical humanism.
Poetry, philosophy, and politics are convened to our argument then, but not to repeat the instrumental gesture of classical criticism. The so-called Politics of the poem is suspended, not in the name of a general neutralization that responds to a deeper politicization or a new aestheticism; but in order to rethink the meaning of politics and poetry. However, to rethink the meaning of politics and poetry, we should interrogate the ‘meaning’ of meaning itself, since the question of language and its function is important for us. Inevitably then we should wonder about the politics of politics and about the poem of the poem since, with these infinite doublings, what we keep present is both the metaphysical closure of language, politics and the poem, as well as their enigmatic condition.
Accordingly, far from a “necessary” politicization or re-politicization of the poem, Derrida’s interrogation of Heidegger and his reading of Trakl opens the question of poetry and de-sutures not only the poetic and the political, but also poetry and philosophy, which Badiou considers the defining trait of the “age of the poets”. At the same time and in so far as Derrida’s solicitation points toward the question of Geschlecht (race, gender, sex, family, nation, humanity) as an idiosyncratic and polysemic word, he is also questioning the closure of the German nation as a sensible community; one that identifies itself with a shared Muttersprache as a language that speaks to the senses and evokes the shared experiences and memories of a singular people. Already in the second Geschlecht Derrida, indicating the function and idiosyncratic character of this Muttersprache in Fichte and Heidegger, tells us:
Here Fichte is bent on distinguishing between Humanität and Menschlichkeit. For a German, these words of Latin origin (Humanität, Popularität, Liberalität) resound as if they were void of sense [...] Moreover, it is the same with Latin or neo-Latin people who know nothing of the etymology and believe these words belong to their mother tongue (Muttersprache). But say Menschlichkeit to a German, he will understand you without any other historical explanation. [...] Besides, it is useless to state that a man is a man and to speak of the Menschlichkeit of a man about whom one knows very well that he is not an ape or a savage beast. A Roman would not have responded in that way, Fichte believes, because, for the German, Menschheit or Menschlichkeit always remains a sensible concept (ein sinnlicher Begriff), whereas for the Roman humanitas has become the symbol (Sinnbild) of a supra-sensible (übersinnliche) idea. [“Heidegger’s Hand (Geschlecht II)”, 31].
This strong and sensible relationship between language, place, poem and thinking, which informs Heidegger’s reading of Trakl, is precisely what Derrida considers as the defining element of a subtle and elaborated form of spiritual nationalism based on a petitio principii, that of the exceptionality or exclusiveness granted to the German people. To this petitio of exclusiveness, one could add Derrida’s sustained interrogation of Heidegger, Husserl, Hegel and other European thinkers unable to think historicity without subordinating it to the logic, the ontology, and the onto-theo-teleology of the first cause, principle or archē: reason, conscience, science, tradition, language, and so on. This is a principle of identity that will be, at the same time, a property, a privilege, and a distinctive characteristic of the German and, up to certain point, of the European people. The rest of the world seems to be made of people without history, without reason, without languages (only dialects), even without conscience or without unconsciousness, that is to say, people with no transference and, therefore, unsuitable for “analysis”. Although, of course, Heidegger is more complicated.
Alors naturellement, l’histoire du monde et de l’être, pour Heidegger, ce n’est pas cette téléologie spiritualiste et liberté métaphysique (celle aussi de Husserl dans la Crise des sciences et de l’humanité européenne [...]) mais le schéma formel du geste est le même, penser l’Allemand depuis une origine ou un horizon qui le déborde, s’adresser à l’Allemand en un sens non régional, non “national” –empirico-national. Néanmoins, depuis cette proximité de l’être qui est la patrie de cet habiter historique, il ne faut pas effacer la patrie, ni l’Allemand, il ne faut pas céder à un universalisme vide, ‘a un cosmopolitisme souvent associé aux Lumières. Au fond cosmopolitisme et nationalisme, internationalisme et nationalisme seraient deux versions symétriques et au fond indifférentes de la même métaphysique humaniste. (Geschlecht III, 123-124)
Despite his difference with the “téléologie spiritualiste et liberté métaphysique”, Heidegger repeats the same formal gesture. A gesture of re-unification that grants to language and place the condition of holders of the arcane relationship between the Dichtung of the Gedicht and its Denken as the Denken of the Völk: “Heidegger propose d’entrée de jeu de repenser le lieu, la localité, le site, la situation: autant de traductions déjà défaillantes dès lors qu’elles perdent l’unité de co-appartenance entre Ort, Ortschaft, Erörterung.”(Geschlecht III, 41), since he is struggling for the restitution of the ‘original’ (and sensible) meaning to these words, as well as for their articulation in a topology of being that could be crucial to appreciate the singular character of Trakl’s poetry.
But what would be the status of this topology? Is it a formalization of Heidegger’s convoluted efforts to grant Germany a commanding role in the middle of the crisis, a crisis understood, not only by him but by many others, as a national crisis and as the crisis of European humanity? Or, alternatively, is this topology closer to an anarchic constellation of presence in which neither Dasein nor die Dichtung have any ontological priority or privilege? Despite Derrida’s rigorous philological and philosophical interrogation of Heidegger’s economy of terms and topoi in his Die Sprache im Gedicht, one might still wonder if this is all; if this series of critical observations really exhausts Heidegger’s approach to Trakl, to poetry in general, and to the problem of Western metaphysics. Reiner Schürmann presents us with an alternative reading of Heidegger, one that by considering his later works as fulfilment (and corrections) of the promises contained in his early writings, is able to clear up the misunderstandings and tendentious reductions of Heidegger to a mere symptom of his time.
Only in the last writings does he [Heidegger] raise the question of presencing as that of “loci.” These loci are the historical economies. In each moment they constitute a field of presencing. Across the epochs presencing articulates itself differently, sets itself to work differently. The ‘poietic’ character of presencing is what Heidegger calls Dichtung, “poetry that thinks is in truth the topology of being” [...] If this is the case, it is clear that the “phenomenological destruction of the history of ontology” promised in Being and Time, can be fully understood –and carried out—as a deconstruction only from the standpoint of Heidegger’s last writings. [...] The hermeneutical dilemma is noteworthy here: in Heidegger forward, that is, from the Existential Analytic to the Topology, an “idealization of unity to the detriment of plurality” may be construable out of a few sparse texts of his. But in reading Heidegger backward, from the Topology to the Existential Analytic, the evidence is to the contrary. Presencing then appears more Nietzschean, deprived of metaphysical principles, “chaotico-practical”. Instead of a unitary concept of ground, we then have the “fourfold”; instead of praise for the firm will, detachment; instead of the integration of the university into the civic service, protest against technology and cybernetic; instead of a straightforward identification between Führer and right, anarchy. (12-14).
Would the ‘originary’ or ‘restitutive’ topology of being, as expressed in Die Sprache im Gedicht, remain as such if one considers the fourfold as an anarchic constellation (with no principle or archē), as a topology without center, indeed, as Schürmann has put it, as an aletheiological constellation of presence?
This is an interesting crossroad.
On the one hand, if Derrida is right, Heidegger re-instituted, with his reading of Trakl, the whole ‘gathering effect’ that represses the poem and its dissemination from the point of view of a secret archeo-teleology; one, we might add, that is already working within the Seinsgeschichte as a frame that overdetermines the historicity of the poem. If this is so, the next step would be to examine Heidegger’s but also Schürmann’s notions of epoch and epochality and ponder the real gains in this demanded reading of Heidegger backward.
On the other hand, however, a more comprehensive consideration of Heidegger’s later works would show that Derrida is only provisionally right, insofar as the reading in reverse of Heidegger’s works is still awaiting; a reading that could allow us to understand how Heidegger’s elaborations on language, technology and thought exceeded this criticism and moved the whole problem to a formulation in which not only the ontological difference disappears, but Dasein loses its granted privilege regarding being (its vicinity). Actually, this is a reading that, while appealing to the fourfold configuration of the mortals, the gods, the sky and the earth, allows us to think in a presence other than the metaphysics of presence, an aletheiological constellation of presence, for which the poem, not just Trakl’s, but the poem as an enigma, resists any operation of articulation, of gathering. This would be a reading, finally, where the poem will not ‘resist’ but will ‘impede’ conventional and suturing operations, given its own historical condition, which is not subjected to the principial articulation of theory and practice, meaning and language. Thus, the enigma of the poem, its secret and cryptic nature (the poem itself as a crypt), remains untamed by philosophical interpretations.
Of course, we should not resolve this differendum abruptly, since what matters is the enigmatic condition of the poem as the interruption of the identification between being and logos, an interruption which is also an opening to the scattering effect of historicity once this historicity is de-articulated from any sort of archē, principle or criterion that attempts its regulation. In other words, thanks to the sustained interrogation brought about in this third Geschlecht, we can provisionally question the so-called onto-poetics of Heidegger and the perseverance of the Seinsgeschichte as a pre-given structure that organizes his elucidations of poetry in general, while, at the same time, we can problematize the naturalized misunderstandings regarding deconstruction as a practice (or exercise) of reading and thinking concerned with and reduced to language, where language is unproblematically reduced to a logocentric articulation of meaning.
Far from identifying deconstruction with the reduction of being to language (as logos), I claim that Derrida’s interrogation of Heidegger and his reading of poetry should be linked to his interrogation of the function, role, and place of poetry in the imagination and in the tradition of a cosmopolitical order that is frequently associated with a perpetual peace and a republican confederation of the world’s nations. By the same token, instead of placing the poem as the alternative foundation for a non-metaphysical dwelling, the poem becomes a crypt. That is to say, the poem becomes one of the enigmatic ‘places’ for an impossible mourning, one that has been given to us as inheritance and one we cannot fulfill or abandon. The relationship between the crypt and the poem encloses then a phantom that, as an intergenerational legacy, haunts us with the transmission of the “lost” (object) as a traumatic kernel that demands an infinite interpretation, a permanent “mourning”, since this phantom is always-already encrypted in the self. If this is so, as I will try to argue, the poem implies and even demands a different relationship to history, one marked by the logic of half-mourning and iteration, more than the logic of a reified event and its destination.
Let me come back to Geschlecht III. As we already said, it is a philosophical contribution in the sense that it not only confirms the solicitation Derrida addressed to the ambivalent dimensions of Heidegger’s thought, but also opens, beyond Heidegger, the whole problematic of national humanism, an articulated couple of words also used by Geoffrey Bennington, as he was translating the first part of Derrida’s lectures of that period. Actually, Bennington’s translation of the first part of this unpublished seminar Philosophical Nationality and Nationalism (1984-88), entitled The Ghost of the Other I, appeared in 1992 as “Onto-Theology of National-Humanism.” Recently, Rodrigo Therezo, pointing to the same complex structure feeding this national humanism, goes even further to attest Heidegger’s falling back into this spiritual nationalism as he discredits Goethe’s cosmopolitanism as a mere internationalism. Thus, despite the fact that Heidegger claims to be invulnerable to biologism and vulgar nationalism, Therezo would argue, the conditions of the existential analysis situate being in relationship to Dasein, which already involves the problem of the “site” and “vicinity” between being and Dasein, as conditions for the very question of being. These conditions, in other words, will come back later in Heidegger’s spiritual nationalism, no matter how much he pretends to distinguish his work from the Nazi appropriation. Let me quote Therezo here:
We find Heidegger yet again trying to shield his thought from the same charge of being unduly complicit with National Socialism, a charge to which Heidegger believes himself to be invulnerable. As he explicitly distinguishes Hölderlin’s Heimat from any patriotico-nationalistic attempt to co-opt Hölderlin’s poetry for the biologico-racist purposes of Nazi apparatus. After emphasizing that being bestows itself (gewährt) upon men so as to grant them a proximity to being (Sein) appropriately captured by the terminological term Da-sein (being-there), Heidegger links this nearness (Nähe) of being, its thereness, to the possibility of a dwelling that ‘explicitly experiences and takes up’ being as a neighbor (Nachbar), in the vicinity of what Heidegger, citing Hölderlin, calls “homeland” (Heimat). (17).
I just want to emphasize this opportune articulation of nationalism and humanism because in it we have access not only to Heidegger’s apparent privilege of the German language and culture, regarded as the preferable ‘site’ for the right formulation of a thinking that recovers and continues the classical tradition, but also because the co-incidence of humanism and nationalism shows us a constitutive inclination of modern European philosophy concerned with politics; an inclination to think of itself as the right and only ‘site’ for the correct formulation of a politics ‘worthy of its name’. In so far as the possibility of philosophy is tied to the question of a language, a national language, a sensible language of the community, it is already bent onto the double-bind of the vernacular and the identitarian, the proper and the foreign, the tradition and the legacy, but also to the question of the community’s future and destiny. As such, this politics is already tied to the question of the limits of language as the limits of the community that embodies it, which discloses the difficult and unavoidable relationship between nation and nationalism, beyond any vulgar (Nazi, biological, identitarian, racist) version of it. Paying attention to Fichte, but also to a great number of philosophers that want to separate themselves from nationalism, Derrida states:
The equivocality of the signs, the heritages, the historical junctions, depends, among other things, on the following fact, which has not escaped you: this essentially philosophical nationalism (as I believe every nationalism is philosophical; and this is the main point I want to emphasize at the outset) claims to be totally foreign to any naturalism, biologism, racism, or even ethnocentrism –it does not even want to be a political nationalism, a doctrine of the Nation-State. It is, further, a cosmopolitanism, often associated with a democratic and republican politics, a progressivism, etc. But you can see quite clearly that everything that ought thus to withdraw it from the reappropriation into the Nazi heritage (which is biologizing, racist, etc.) remains in essence equivocal. [...] Nationalism par excellence is thus not foreign to philosophy, like an accident come along to pervert an essentially universalist, cosmopolitan, essentialist destination of philosophy. It always presents itself as a philosophy, or better, as philosophy itself, in the name of philosophy, and it claims a priori a certain essentialist universalism –showing thus that philosophy, by virtue of a structural paradox that will dominate this seminar, always has in some way the potential or the yearning, as you wish, for nationality and nationalism. (“Onto-Theology” 16-17).
In fact, this politics worthy of its name (a worthiness given by its monopoly of reason, language, humanity, etc.), manifests itself through a geo-politics based on a particular philosophy of history, one unable to deal with the question of historicity in a radical and non-determinative way. Let me insist on this, if the question of deconstruction (as I want to sustain tentatively here) is the question of historicity (which is the question of différance, justice, and the democracy to come, in each case), then the deep entanglement of philosophy and nationalism, beyond the overtly anti-philosophical cases of racism and biologism, is logically connected to a spiritual cosmopolitanism that claims for itself a commanding position from which to save philosophy from political abuses, as much as to save the world from its inherent decadence, leading it to its pre-figured fulfilment. This commanding position (disguised under the idea of a lower faculty) secures for philosophy a hegemonic role regarding the fulfilment of a future to which almost every cosmopolitanism is naturally oriented or simply “destined”. In this context, a politics worthy of the name is a politics that requires for its own fulfilment an archeo-teleological structuration of historical temporality, and this is certainly the onto-political character of the European cosmopolitanism. In this sense, for this limited and nationalistic politics, the poem should always fulfill the allegorical or probatory function of presenting the “imagined community” to which we are destined. Lacoue-Labarthe gives us a strong argument when he ponders the way Heidegger reads poetry:
The Heideggerian apprehension of poetry is overdetermined by speculative Romanticism: That is indeed why poetry (Dichtung) is defined in its essence as language, die Sprache –or why language (and this amounts to the same) is defined as the originary poetry (Urdichtung) of a people— and, finally, why the latter in turn is defined in its essence as die Sage: ho muthos. Not the Heldensaga, the heroic legend, as Heidegger will specify in the 1950s: but the muthein that, in its indistinct difference from legein (the gathering, as language, or the “there is”), is alone capable of pronouncing divine places and names. (Heidegger and the Politics of Poetry, 65).
Consequently, in Geschlecht III we can notice a series of resistances to Heidegger’s powerful reading of Trakl that are not meant to correct or to produce an alternative version, but to show the kind of decisions Heidegger took in his interpretation. This interrogation supplements a sustained polemos Derrida held with Heidegger since the early 60s as expressed in a series of interventions among which we can mention “The Supplement of Copula”, “Ousia and Grammē”, “Différance”, Of Spirit, the recently published course of 1964-65 Heidegger: on Being and History, and Of Grammatology, which continues to the last seminars on The Beast and the Sovereign and The Death Penalty. Derrida’s critical interrogation of Heidegger, one might say, is not new nor focused on one single dimension or on a particular series of texts. From his skeptical reading of Heidegger’s famous footnote of Being and Time regarding the so-called “vulgar or Aristotelian notion of time”, to his observations regarding the legibility of being and the self-positioning of Dasein as a non-metaphoric metaphor that granted access to being, until his elucidation of the notion of Geist, Spirit (and specter), to his discomfort with the rhetoric of Dasein’s authenticity, being toward death and / or autarchy, all the way up to his questioning of the way solipsism expresses itself in an un-problematized relation to the question sovereignty; we might say that Derrida’s polemos with Heidegger is systematic, coherent and multidimensional, and that among the many consequences of this polemos, in Geschlecht III we find important elements to question the spiritual fundament of contemporary cosmopolitanism and the brutal facticity of globalization (mundialatinization).
Among these elements, one that is noteworthy is the idiomatic character of the word Geschlecht itself, which authorizes Derrida to interrogate a series of naturalized assumptions working in “the Heideggerian apprehension” of Trakl: Heidegger’s interpretation of the Gedicht, his economy of places and tropes, his dubious methodology of reading, the concatenation of words and meanings that allowed him to produce a particularly strong interpretation of such poetry, an interpretation that seems to confirm Heidegger’s own thinking if not an interpretation produced with the clear intention of confirming such a thinking, and so on. Derrida starts his reading by referring to Fichte’s Discourse to the German Nation (paying special attention to the Fifth and Seventh Discourses), and continuing with the exemplary use of the letter Heidegger sent to the chair of the denazification committee; a letter that proves his candor since he thought that by rejecting the biological and vulgar nationalism of the SS, he was released from a more complex relationship between exclusiveness, exceptionalism, and the prerogative of Germany as the savior of the West. Then, Derrida moves to question the particular lack of methodology in Heidegger’s reading of poetry; his complex and instrumental differentiation between the Dichtungen and the Gedicht; his claimings of having found the Grundton of Trakl poems, the key to interpreting the tonality of Trakl; and his almost aleatory or metonymic selection and jumping from poem to poem, if not from one stanza to another stanza that belongs to another section of the poem.
Nevertheless, more important than these observations (and as a consequence of them) is Derrida’s consideration regarding the gathering effect of the Heim, a site converted into home, familiarity, origin, etc., to which the wandering character of the poem returns. This observation is important because it defines his reading from the beginning: “Si le lieu est régulièrement, typiquement défini par le rassemblement (Versammlung) [gathering], toute notre approche du geste heideggérien devra questionner ce privilège du rassemblement et tout ce qu’il induit” (Geschlecht III, 42). Actually, this interrogation discloses the limitations forced on the disseminating effects of the poem; limitations that result both from his particular methodology (or the lack thereof), and from his bold insistence on the gathering effect of the plot, a gathering that is undifferentiating and re-centering, at the same time. Derrida asks:
Pourquoi insister sur le rassemblement, sur la semblable qui vient réunir une diversité polysémique dans la simplicité du lieu? C’est que Heidegger n’entend pas situer ici l’idiome en général mais cet idiome-ci, celui du poète et de tel “grand poète”, Trakl. “Grand poète”, se sont ses mots. “Tout grand poète (Jeder große Dichter) n’est poète (dichtet nur) qu’à partir de la dictée d’un Dict unique (aus einen einzigen Gedicht). L’unique (einzigen) marque le lieu dans sa singularité indivisible, le parole absolu et inimitable d’un idiome. (Geschlecht III, 50).
As is here clear, there is a relationship between the “simplicity of the place” and the gathering effect with the representation of Trakl as a große Dichter, a great poet. The very notion of ein große Dichter, that can be applied to Hölderlin, Trakl, and Rilke, is in itself complicated as it implies a sort of spiritual order that grants to poetry a privileged relationship with being, truth, and the people able to embody this historical truth as its destiny. Therefore, to question this figure of the great poet, as a leading voice in the spiritual arena, implies also suspending the assumption regarding the uniqueness of the German language and culture, an uniqueness that depends on the alleged cultural memory that each one of these singularly great poets has kept alive (Andeken). The final mechanism that makes these German poets great poets is their ability to elaborate a poetical commemoration that maintains language and culture thriving, making Germany an exceptional place, a place that establishes a singular relationship with the final meaning of a poem as Urdichtung, since the poem is also an idiom that survives its translation. And this is so precisely because translation seems to be the technical obliteration of the singularity of the poem, its vulgarization into the symbolic and abstract languages of the world, as opposed to the sensible and almost sacred language of the German Geschlecht.
In short, Derrida argues for a complex understanding of Heidegger’s shortcomings. He is not exculpating the German philosopher from his relationship with National Socialism and saving his thought from any biographical mistake or contamination. On the contrary, Derrida is inscribing the question of National Socialism in the long-standing tradition of national humanism, to show, without excusing him, how Heidegger’s complex case needs to be inscribed within an urgent and wider interrogation of the European spiritual nationalism and its limited cosmopolitanism. And this is what grants Derrida an undeniable relevance today, as he does not limit his interrogation to settle an academic dispute regarding the place of Heidegger. Actually, Derrida’s deconstructive reading differs from many unthoughtful interventions coming from the liberal-democratic philosophical tradition, the same tradition that has proven to be unable to think critically cosmopolitanism, let alone Americanism.
What then should be the relationship between the poem and the question of historicity? In so far as deconstruction formulates the problem of historicity and formulates historicity as a problem, which is also the solicitation of the archeo-teleological understanding of history, it already opens the possibility for a politics that is not trapped by the onto-political demand. This demand is organized, precisely, by a permanent politicization that articulates the metaphysical representation of time (metaphysic historicism) and human history, understood as fulfillment, realization or coming to be of being, gathering and re-unification. In this sense, it does not matter if we are talking about the realization of a rational State or about the reconciliation of humankind as a self-transparent community, or even about the reconfiguration of a sensible community congregated around the “great poets”, it is all the same in so far as what is still missing here is the question of historicity as a non-determinative relationship between language (logos) and the poem, the poem of history. This is, therefore, the relevance of the poem, its enigmatic condition, which not only de-sutures philosophy from poetry, but also complicates the definition of both. After all, we should not take for granted the univocity of the words “philosophy” and “poetry”.
I call the opening triggered by these deconstructive readings, “disarticulation”, in so far as what is disarticulated here is, on the one hand, temporality, which is no longer organized by the archeo-teleological structuration of history, as human history; and, on the other hand, human history, which is divorced from the demands of a calculative political rationality that starts and ends in the human as a rational and sovereign animal. Disarticulation is, indeed, the effect of the philosophy of history’s inability to comprehend historical facticity without reducing it to a schema. It is also the very condition of possibility for a non-normative relationship to historicity, one that moves freely from the gathering and scattering way in which the real, being, or presence, without metaphysic of presence, appears as a constellation, a constellation of singular entities without privilege or claims to uniqueness; an anarchic constellation that is, somehow, another name for a dirty cosmopolitanism. This dirty cosmopolitanism, in turn, is untranslatable to the principle of equivalence as a metaphysical principle, in so far as the principle of equivalence is, by definition, what animates the calculative logic of political thinking, particularly, but not exclusively, as hegemonic thought and as a thought of the hegemony. In other words, the non-hegemonic condition for this cosmopolitanism responds to the fact that, by nature, hegemony is a principial politics and a calculative thinking that imposes a gathering effect on the real and on the singularity of the poem.
There is no hegemony, therefore, without a logical reduction of the singular to the equivalent logic of articulation, whether we speak about organic life in the service of the concept and its logic (La vie la mort) or we speak about the poem and its logocentric reduction. Thus, the consideration of the status of language in the poem becomes relevant again, not only to question the suturing logic denounced by Badiou, but to come back to the enigma of the poem and the relationship between the crypt and the work of mourning. The poem, as a crypt, interrupts hegemonic articulations, suspending its equivalencial mechanism in favor of an experience of the singular. The defining characteristic of the hegemonic articulation is the translation of the singular into the equivalent, whereas the anasemic condition of the sign in the poem disturbs its conventional interpretation and its hegemonic reduction.
As we already stated, anasemia and anasemic language come from Nicolas Abraham’s interrogation of the psychoanalytical language. He observed not only that the meaning of words in psychoanalysis was different to their common meaning in everyday life, but also suspected the immediate, direct access to the meaning of those words. This is what motivated his observation regarding the limits of phenomenology to understand the deep stratification of psychical reality. Not everything was directly accessible to conscience and its infinite work of discernment, insofar as psychic reality is vaulted and enclosed by a shell that requires more than the phenomenological reduction /description. This is, finally, what motivates his appeal to a trans-phenomenology that could supplement the phenomenological task.
This trans-phenomenology was then fed by psychoanalysis, insofar as psychoanalysis deals with the encrypted meaning of the thing, even before the thing was possible. So, the direct translation between psychical phenomena and language is interrupted as the psychical phenomena is convoluted and anasemic, which means that it does not respond to a classical articulation between signifiers and signifying. Derrida interrogated the ambivalence of this anasemic language to further radicalize the deconstructive logic implicit in it, while paying attention to the mechanic of the crypt, and the way this crypt encloses (as a shell), the legacy of a traumatic event in a unconscious way. This traumatic event configures a kernel that exists between the je and the moi, between incorporation and introjection, and like a legacy in the form of a trace, it haunts us (intergenerationally) as a phantom. Abraham actually developed this topography of the psychic “apparatus” not only to deal with the famous case of Freud’s wolfman, he also attempted a systematic analysis of the poetic expression.
I am referring to this however only to indicate the complication deconstruction brings to the question of poetry and to the question of mourning. The enigmatic condition of the poem resists or desists its logocentric articulation by the archeo-teleology of a limited cosmopolitanism; a cosmopolitanism still organized in terms of the nation-state, which apprehends poetry in a functional (and foundational) way. At the same time, this enigma, which complicated the principle of reason feeding the political and hegemonic logic of such cosmopolitanism, makes the poem a “site” of memory, but a memory that resists its monumentalization. This is, therefore, what makes the poem, as a crypt, a non-natural thing, an artifice, an artifact, a prosthesis.
By resisting the “logic” that places poetry as the founding “site” for a self-centered and sensible community (auto-affection), and by desisting from making of poetry a sort of post-metaphysical entry into the question of being, what appears is, again, the question about poetry (Che cos’è la poesia). It is certainly a difficult question that demands from us a confrontation with its enigma, an enigma that I want to illustrate by referring to La poesía chilena, a book-object consisting of a black box (5.12 x 7.48 inches), that contains a booklet of 40 pages with some sentences in Latin and Spanish, the poet’s crossed name (Juan Luis Martínez Holger) and the name of his father (Luis Guillermo Martínez Villablanca), along with the death certificates of four major Chilean poets (and, at the end of the booklet, the death certificate of his father); plus 30 small Chilean flags made of colored paper, and a little transparent plastic bag with dirt from Chile’s Central Valley. This artifact was manufactured by the Chilean poet and visual artist Juan Luis Martínez and published in 1978, during the bloody years of Pinochet’s dictatorship.
This unclassifiable object, however, is not a sealed vault that hides the secret of an unintelligible text, but a mutation of the conventional communicative disposition of literary writing, by means of an anasemic sign or set of signs that disarticulate the history of Chilean poetry. Andrés Ajens reads this artifact as an “a-phono-logo-centered writing” (escritura afonologocentrada) that disrupts the beautiful soul of many Chilean critics, insofar as the cryptic character of the poem makes of it a complicated object for standard literary criticism. Ajens observes how La poesía chilena is absent from every anthology of Chilean poetry, and one could actually relate this exclusion from literary anthologies to its inner resistance to poetical ontologies, in so far as the apparent mutism of the poem is, paradoxically, a powerful statement regarding the Chilean poetical tradition. But, before commenting on this encrypted statement, let’s come back to the way this book-box has been described. The poet Felipe Cussen summarizes the conundrum around the definition, nomination, and classification of La poesía Chilena as follows:
When it comes to classifying it, even though some [critics] consider it a book, the range of allusions is wide open: “work” lacking “the attributes one would expect from a book,” “a work in which there are no texts written by him,” “a book without text or verbal language,” “graphic book,” “book object,” “poem without words,” “poem-object,” “poetic object,” “a truly object-like text,” “an unclassifiable object,” “an a-generic entity,” “artifact,” “suitcase,” “box,” “book-box,” “black box,” “little black book like...a cardboard coffin,” “box, metaphor for a coffin,” “coffin,” “urn,” etc. (Felipe Cussen quoted by Weintraub, 121).
Both Ajens and Weintraub focus their analyses on the powerful but desolate story being told in this “coffin-book” (Weintraub). As you can see, on top of the box, there are some sentences in Latin and Spanish saying this:
[AB IMO PECTORE / There exists a prohibition against crossing a line that is only imaginary. / The final possibility of crossing this line is set through violence: / And at that limit, my late father bestows these papers upon me] (Weintraub’s translation).
According to this, the poem stages the affectionate transference of a mourning process that is related to the inscription of the dead father (Ab Imo Pectore: from the bottom of my heart) and the death of a particular Chilean poetry, one that was inexorably entangled with the nation-state, which, in the context of Pinochet’s neoliberal administration, becomes commodified. The inclusion of the death certificates of four Chilean großer Dichter along with the death certificate of the father, who, in the last moment gave to Juan Luis Martínez “estos papeles”, “these papers”, papers that constitute the poem, extends the autographical condition of the poem to a heterographic inscription regarding the future, the à venir, of a Chilean poetry that should not be confined to the nomos of the earth and its sovereign logic. The poets whose certificates are included are Vicente Huidobro, Pablo de Rokha, Gabriela Mistral (with her civic name Lucila Godoy Alcayaga), and Pablo Neruda. These are, indeed, great poets, two Nobel prizes (Neruda and Mistral), and nothing less than the founding father of Creationism (Huidobro). Ajens contends that given Martínez’s afonologocentrada escritura, the book-box should not be mistaken or framed under the Chilean Neo-Avant-Garde (La escena de avanzada), which during those years was also emerging in the reduced cultural space of Chile. In fact, there is nothing really “innovative” or aesthetically experimental in the artifact, on the contrary, its anasemic and cryptic condition seems to complicate any meaningful attribution. Neither anthology nor ontology.
Actually, Martínez stages the intergenerational phantom (the death of the father and the papers this father bestowed on the author as an unavoidable legacy), which is marked by the violent act of the transference, along with the allusion to the exhaustion of this particular poetical tradition. Thus, the autographical and auto-affective dimension of the poem (related to the name of the father and the crossed name of the author) overlaps with the heterographic and hetero-affective dimension related to the Chilean poetry, a poetry that also confronts a decisive moment, if we follow the funerary rhetoric of the coffin-book. Weintraub makes a similar argument:
This is, in a sense, mourning for the future of Chilean poetry in La poesía chilena: bearing witness to the always already ruined archival space of the coffin-book while also silently sealing off the future crypt(s) of the living dead. La poesía chilena, then, mourns for the future (a future?) without horizon of expectation, insofar as its work of poetic mourning—necessarily incomplete and interrupted if it is to do its work—shows how the corpse/corpus of the Other buried in the Self is never quite laid to rest, and returns, obsessively, in literature and politics, in literature as politics. (Weintraub, 142)
Of course, Weintraub is thinking of Derrida’s Fors, the foreword to Nicolas Abraham’s Wolf Man’s Magic World. And this is precisely the point, Fors refers to the tension between the shell and the kernel, a tension that permits the interaction between the inner and the outer reality, prefiguring the logic of the extimité, the inscription (invagination) of the outside into the interiority of the subject. Thanks to this, the poem speaks in a non-verbal way, about the personal and the political, but in a way that impedes easy appropriations from conventional political discourses.
The incorporation of the death certificates of the major Chilean poets is a clear allusion to the exhaustion of a poetical tradition that has been always placed at the center of the national formation process. From the very inception of the Chilean republic of letters, poetry has been supplementary to the social contract of the nation-state. Alonso de Ercilla, Andrés Bello, Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda, Raul Zurita, all of them großer Dichter at the center of national history, conforming what we might call the country’s “long poem”. But the list becomes even bigger if we incorporate to it the names of those telluric poets, those poets that poeticize precisely the lieu, the site, the space and the naturally beautiful landscape of the nation. This poetic elaboration of the nation’s “site” in the world, would have achieved its highest points in El poema de Chile, a posthumous collection of poems by Gabriela Mistral (1967), and El amor de Chile (1987) by Raúl Zurita. But this is precisely what is being grieved here, this long and worthy tradition, a metaphysical and mytho-poetic tradition that corroborates the credentials of the nation-state, its belonging, by the right of a great poetical history, with the universal history of the spirit, after all, “The gods rule here as well, and great is // Their measure”. (Hölderlin, The Wanderer)
The coffin book stages then the interrupted tradition of a national poetry, while it pre-figures an impossible mourning, open to the future, but as an impossible poem, whose last referent is also incorporated in the box. The little plastic bag with dirt from Chile’s Central Valley thematizes the process of deterritorialization the country underwent during the brutal years of Pinochet’s dictatorship, when neoliberal’s deregulation and privatization processes were implemented, manu military. Chile, the homeland for a poetical people, was sacrificed to the logic of global capitalism and the general commodification of life. The little bag is the last encrypted allusion to the exhaustion of the nation-state and its final commodification, now accessible as a souvenir that can be accompanied with a little flag. However, there is not only a traumatic dimension to it, since the poem, the artifact, is also always-already an elaboration of this process, a half-mourning that recommences, again and again, the impossible but inescapable work of mourning (Trauerarbeit). This is also the politics of the poem, the dirty cosmopolitanism that, unable to appeal to belonging and territory, to the nation-state and its sovereignty, transports its dirt and its poetry beyond the “site” and territory of the national community. In short, the dirt in the poem and as a poem is also an opening to a dirty cosmopolitanism, which is possible now thanks to the exhaustion of the national “long-poem” as well to the very process of deterritorialization brought about by neoliberal globalization.
Therefore, the “literature as politics” Weintraub was referring to, cannot and should not be tied to the destiny of the nation-state, nor to the recovery of its poetical space. It is, as he says, a mourning for a future poetry, one that, beyond the inner limitations of our modern political institutions and imagination, is concerned with a dirty cosmopolitanism; a cosmopolitanism that cannot be circumscribed within the narrow definition of belonging and citizenship. I would finish right here, coming back to Derrida, to let him speak now, not about Heidegger and National Socialism, but about that democracy to come:
The concept of democracy, the word, originate in Greek culture, no one can deny this. And it is not to be Grecocentric or Eurocentric to say so; the word comes from Greek culture. But from the beginning, Greek culture associated the concept of democracy with concepts from which, today, the democracy to come is attempting to free itself: the concept of autochthony, that is, the concept of being born on a land and belonging to it through birth, the concept of territory, the very concept of State. I have nothing against the State, I have nothing against citizenship, but I dare to dream of a democracy that is not simply tied to a nation-state and to citizenship. And it is under these conditions that one can speak of a universal democracy, a democracy that is not only cosmopolitical but universal. Granted, cosmopolitanism is a very respectable notion, but it is nevertheless associated with the notion of the State and of politics linked to the polis as a nation-state and territoriality. Beyond all cosmopolitanism, there is a universal democracy, which goes well beyond citizenship and the nation-state. (Derrida quoted by Chérif, 43-44)
How to speak about the poem in a language that does not betray its singularity or closes the poem as a sort of hermetic vault? In his “Che cos’è la poesia?” Derrida appeals to the figure of the hedgehog (hérisson) to give us an idea, an image of poetry, of the poetical animal, “ahuman, barely domestic,” that “rolls up into itself” to preserve its enigma, to suspend its transferring or translation, his conversion into any form of knowledge other than the one we know by heart. See, Jacques Derrida. “Che cos’è la poesia?” in Between the Blind. A Derrida Reader. Edited by Peggy Kamuf (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991): 223-242.
“The crypt is thus not a natural place [lieu], but the striking history of an artifice, an architecture, an artifact: of a place comprehended within another but rigorously separate from it, isolated from general space by partitions, an enclosure, an enclave” (xiv). Jacques Derrida. “Fors: The Anglish Words of Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok.” Foreword to Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok. The Wolf Man's Magic Word: A Cryptonymy (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1986): xi-xlviii.
Manifesto for Philosophy (Albany: SUNY Press, 1999), originally published in 1992. Keeping up this combative spirit, Bruno Bosteels has edited a series of pieces under the title The Age of Poets (Verso: New York, 2015); and also, in 2015 Fayard published a seminar of Badiou dedicated to Heidegger, which is crucial to understand his demarcation and path, Heidegger. L’être 3- Figure du retrait 1986-1987. A path that led him to publish, in 1988, his monumental Being and Event, which marked the moment of his systematic departure from contemporary philosophy.
I don’t want to exaggerate my depiction of Badiou, but he seems to suggest that, from Heidegger to Derrida and the whole French Heideggerian Geschlecht (family), language as logos remains “the unquestioned domain of Being”, which not only seems careless regarding the very deconstruction of logocentrism, but also presumes “Being” as an unified and invariable “concept” shared by all. It is this presumption, I dare to say, that finally authorizes his turn to mathematics in search for a new ontology where Being is liberated for the (Jamesonian) prison-house of language. On the other hand, Heidegger’s famous sentence “language is the house of being” is well known (Letter on Humanism), of course, but its meaning remains controversial.
In fact, his reading of Heidegger’s interpretation of Trakl is already summarized in the last part of “Heidegger’s hand (Geschlecht II).” In Psyche. Inventions of the Other, vol 1 (California: Stanford University Press, 2008): 27-62. See also, David Ferrell Krell, “One, Two, Four—Yet Where is the Third? A Note on Derrida’s Geschlecht Series” Epoché, vol. 10, Issue 2 (Spring 2006): 341-357; and his Phantoms of the Other. Four Generations of Derrida’s Geschlecht. (Albany: SUNY Press, 2015).
Jacques Derrida. Geschlecht III. Sexe, race, nation, humanité. (Paris: Seuil: 2018). In the “Préface” (7-27), Rodrigo Therezo explains the way this third Geschlecht was ‘reconstructed’. On the other hand, this edition, done by Geoffrey Bennington, Katie Chenoweth and Therezo, was the central reference to the conference On Heidegger’s “National-Humanism” A Symposium on Derrida’s Lost Geschlecht III, held at Texas A&M University in February 14-15, 2019, and organized by Adam Rosenthal. This article is in part based on my presentation at this encounter.
Interestingly enough, with the recent publication of La vie la mort. Séminaire (1975-1976) (Paris: Seuil, 2019), one can appreciate the way this critical observation extends to Nietzsche’s complaints about the decadence of the Muttersprache and the future of “our” educational institutions.
But one should be clear that Derrida is not demanding a universal language, opposed to this Muttersprache. A radical democracy is only possible, he will insist, if we keep ourselves open to the idiom of the other: “What I call ‘idiom’ is the uniqueness of the language of the other, that is, the poetry of the other. There is not poetry and opening up without the idiom of the other.” Derrida quoted in Mustapha Chérif. Islam & the West. A Conversation with Jacques Derrida (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008).
See, as an alternative, Françoise Dastur. “Heidegger y Trakl: el paraje occidental y el viaje poético.” Escritura e imagen, Vol. 12 (2016): 249-266, and her “Heidegger and Derrida on Trakl,” in Phenomenology and Literature: Historical Perspectives and Systematic Accounts, ed. Pol Vandevelde (Würzburg: Koenighausen & Neumann, 2010): 43-57.
Let me insist on this: Heidegger’s turn to poetry is not to be taken as a simple replacement of motives neither as an aestheticist last recourse (Badiou). It demands, as we already said, a problematization of the question of the turn (die Kehre) that requires a further consideration of his later works, beyond his reading of Trakl and the economies of the gathering and destiny, into the fourfold (das Geviert), but also, a full consideration of the question of technology, from the early 1930s to the end of his works, as well as a further consideration of language and logos (of the zôom logon echon), from the point of view of the incorporation of mortals into the fourfold or anarchic constellation of presence, which withers away the “sovereignty” of man as Dasein of being.
I am, of course, referring to Kant’s famous text On Perpetual Peace, but also to the problematic status of poetry in German Idealism, and particularly to the tensions between the Greek ideal in Hölderlin and the positive religion in the young Hegel. See Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy. The Literary Absolute. The Theory of Literature in German Romanticism. (Albany: SUNY Press, 1988). The opacity of Hölderlin, who cannot resist the dispersion of the classical ethical life, contrasts with the clarity of a positive religion that, founded on reason, anticipates the Sittlichkeit of a post-Kantian time.
Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok. The Shell and the Kernel. Volume 1. Edited, translated and with an introduction by Nicolas Rand (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994). See, also, Jacques Derrida. “Me—Psychoanalysis.” In Psyche. Inventions of the Other, vol 1 (California: Stanford University Press, 2008): 129-142.
Derrida, complicating the customary binarization of Freud’s Mourning and Melancholia, speaks of an interrupted mourning, half-way, incomplete, bordering the melancholic pathos, subjected to iteration, and unable to elaborate the “lost” through its substitution. This interruption of the mourning process speaks to us also of a different relation to the cure, and to the time of the cure, which cannot, and should not be mobilized by the promises of the future. This demi-deuil, implies that with the death of the loved one, every time, there is also an end of the world. See the edited volume of Jacques Derrida by Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, The Work of Mourning. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), and Geoffrey Bennington. Not Half No End. Militantly Melancholic Essays in Memory of Jacques Derrida. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010).
Derrida, however, considers Marx as the first and one of the most important critics of this unproblematized nationalism. It is not the time, but I would contend that Derrida’s Geschlecht III could be read as a supplement to the critique of On the Jewish Question and The Sacred Family, in a different register. The convergence is, indeed, given by the interrogation of the modern European political imagination and its limits.
At the same time, and as a lateral speculation, the relationship between philosophy and nationalism that Derrida interrogated apropos the question of languages and institutions in the inception of modern “vernacular” philosophical discourses, is somehow related to the complex problematic Heidegger elaborates regarding the Roman reception of the Greek thought, a reception (translation) that prefigures the very constitution of the Roman imperial Pax and its problematic reduction of aletheia to veritas, inaugurating by that the horizon in which we might think the relationship between imperialism, nationalism, and cosmopolitanism articulated at the level of a veridic (veritative) notion of language and a equivalential notion of truth (Veritas est adequatio intellectus et rei). See, Martin Heidegger. Parmenides (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), and Jacques Derrida. “Transfer ex Cathedra: Language and Institutions of Philosophy”. In: Eyes of the University. Right to Philosophy 2 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004): 1-80.
In a beautiful essay on Heidegger and the question of translation, Pablo Oyarzún reminds us of an anecdote told by Víctor Farías, that happened 20 years before his name appeared related to the affair Heidegger (1987), in which Heidegger asked Farías to translate Being and Time. To this question, Farías responded by saying that if he were to read Plato, he would learn Greek, and if he were to read Heidegger, he would learn German. Of course, Oyarzún only suggests how Farías, instead of dedicating himself to the highly philosophical task of translating that great book, preferred to write his famous report. But the anecdote says much more, it speaks to the question of language, translation, and philosophy, but also about the encounter between self-assertion and a secret resentfulness. See, Pablo Oyarzún. “Heidegger: tono y traducción”. Seminarios de filosofía, n 2 (1989): 81-101.
To avoid any confusion, my claims are not to be mistaken as decolonial demands for a different history, a more authentic relationship with those people without history, denied and condemned by modernity, capitalism, colonialism, in sum, by Eurocentrism. In so far as those claims, those political and fair claims, are not dealing with the question of historicity, they remain forms of an inverted or substitutive logocentrism. This, of course, does not mean anything regarding the status of non-western or non-modern historical imaginations, which is the question of a forthcoming radical democracy, one able to overcome the pervasive dialectic of identity and difference.
And, of course, here rests the important link between the hedgehog, the poem, and the question of the animal, to which Derrida dedicated attention, to problematize, precisely, the assumption about the animal’s “poverty in world”.
The equivalence, as a principle that regulates our political reality, is the expression of a radical decadence or, even worse, of a radical disclosing of our current liberal democracies. See Jean-Luc Nancy. The Truth of Democracy (New York: Fordham University Press, 2010). This equivalence converted into a political principle of articulation is what defines, in turn, the theory of hegemony developed by Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau. Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Toward a Radical Democratic Politics (New York: Verso, 2001). Derrida’s interrogation of right, forgiveness and pardon are, precisely, possible only as a suspension of this equivalence.
See note 16, above. In his foreword to The Wolf Man’s Magic Word, Derrida speaks about anglish words, a neologism that combines “English” and “angled” to emphasize this question in Abraham, which, according to Barbara Johnson, the translator, is also a reference to English Words by Stéphane Mallarmé.
See note 2, above. As he previously did with the problem of genesis in Husserl’s phenomenology, now, by “applying” anasemia to the anasemic language of psychoanalysis, Derrida resists the idea that the meaning of the traumatic kernel is pure or uncontaminated, by emphasizing how the crypt implies a sort of extimité that connects the inner reality with the exterior. This kernel is then not fully inaccessible but not directly accessible, being infinite, as the work of mourning.
The relationship between poetry as artefact and the question of technics, particularly with regard to secondary and tertiary retentions, along with the question of the inorganic and the memory trace, open, no doubt, many other issues to be addressed within the fictive institution of literature.
Andrés Ajens. “La interrupción –del relato en la poesía chilena”. Merodeos en torno a la obra poética de Juan Luis Martínez. Edited by Soledad Fariña and Elvira Hernández (Santiago: Intemperie, 2001): 7-14.
Felipe Cussen quoted in Scott Weintraub. Juan Luis Martínez’s Philosophic Poetics (Bethlehem: Lehigh University Press, 2014). Weintraub’s book is probably one of the best systematic readings of Martínez that we have to this day.
One should add to this magnificent and monumental rhetoric of the landscape, Patricio Guzmán’s film trilogy: “Nostalgia for the Light” (2010), “The Pearl Button” (2015), and, “The Cordillera of Dreams” (2020), which is articulated by the same poetical monumentalization, radicalized by the auto-referential voice-over narrative.