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Theory and Hisiory of Lileralure

Ediled by \vlad Godzich and Jochen Schulle.Sasst

Volume 76.
Volume 75.
Volume 74.
Volume 73.
Volume 72.
Volume 71.
Volume 68.
Volume 66.
Volume 64.
Volume 63.
Volume 62.
Volume 61.
Volume 60.
Volume 59.
Volume 58.
Volume 57.
Volume 56.
Volume 55.
Volume 54.
Volume 53.
Volume 52.
Volume 5 I.
Volume 50.
Volume 49.
Volume 48.
Volume 47.
Volume 46.
Jean luc Nancy The Inoperatil'{! Community
Rey Chow Woman and Chinese Modernity: The Politics of
Reading between West and East
Paul J . Thibaull Social Semiotics as Praxis
Helene Cixous Reading with Clarice Lispector
N.S. Trubelzkoy Writings on Literature
Neil larsen Modernism and Hegemony
Paul Zumlhor Oral Poetry: An Introduction
Hans Robert Jauss Question and Ans wer: Forms of Dialogic
Paul de Man Critical Writings, 1953- 1978
Didier Coste NarrOlive as Communication
RenalO Barilli Rhetoric
Daniel COHom Tex/ and Culture
Theodor W. Adorno Kierkegaard: Construction of the
Kri sli n Ross The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and
the Paris Commune
Lindsay Walers and Wlad Godzich Reading de Man Reading
F.w.J. Schelling The Philosophy of Art
l oui s Marin Portrait of the King
Peler SIOlerdijk Thinker on Stage: NietlSche's Materialism
Paul Smilh Discerning the Subject
Reda Bensma'ia The Barthes Ef fect
Edmond Cros Theory and Practice of Sociocriticism
Philippe Lejeune On Autobiography
Thierry de Duve Pictorial Nominalism: On Marcel Duchamp's
Passage f rom Paiming 10 the Readymade
Luiz Cosla Lima Control of the Imaginary
Frederic Jameson The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971-
1986, Volume 2
Frederic Jameson The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971-
1986. Vollime I
Eugene Vance From Topic to Tale: Logic and Narrati vity in
the Middle Ages
Lyolard The Differend
For other books ill the series. see p. 177.
The Inoperative
Jean-Luc Nancy
Edited by Peter Connor
Translated by Peter Connor, Lisa Garbus,
Michael Holland, and Simona Sawhney
Foreword by Christopher Fynsk
Theory and History of Literature, Volume 76
University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis and Oxford
Copyright C> 1991 by the RegeTIlS of the: University of Minnesota
Chapters I. 2. and 3 origi naLL y appearai in La rommunaufl dtsoeu"rIr,
copyright ]986 by Christian 8ourgois Editeur. Paris; chapter" as
" L.aTIIOlJr en eclats," in Alia. copyright Cl 1986 by Paris: chapter $
as "Des lieu)! divins," in que Dieu? Philosophie/ TMologie.
HomrnQge 0 l'aW Daniel Coppieters de GibsOf/ (1919-1981). copyright C>
198$ by Publications des Facullb Universitaires Saint-L.ouis, Brussels: the
present English translation of "Des lieux divins" first appeared in
Paragraph: A Journal o/the Modern Crilkal Theory GroIlP, \'01. 7
(March 1986).
All ri,hlS resen'td. No part of this publication may be reproduced. stored
in a retrieval system. or Iransmined. in any form or by any means.
eLCC1ronic. mtthanieal. photocopying. recording. or otherwise. wi t hout the
prior ...-ritten perminion of the publisher.
Published by the Universi ty of MinllCsota Press
2037 Uni..-ersity Avenue Southeast. Minneapolis, MN H414
Printed in Inc Uni ted States of America on acid-free paper
Nancy. Jean-L. uc.
dtsccuvrh. Englishl
The inoperat ive communi t y I .lean-L. uc Nancy.
p. em. - (Theory and history of literature; v. 76)
Translation of : La communautf dtsccuvrh.
Incl udes index.
ISBN 08166 1923 9. - ISBN 0-8166- 1924-7 (pbk.)
I. Community. 2. l'oLitical participat ion. I. Title.
I I. Serle!.
IiM131.NBlJ 1990
CI .
A CIP catalog r('Cord for chis book is uailable from the British Library.
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Foreword: Experiences of Finitude ChrisLOpher FYflsk vii 2 t 'If
Preface xxxvi
I. The Inoperative Communi ty
-'2. Myth Interrupl ed 43
3. " Literary Communism" 71
4. $hallered Love 82
5. Of Divine Places 110
Notes 151
Index 171
Experiences of Finitude
Christopher Fynsk
A full introduction to Jean-Luc Nancy's philosophical work would require
trealment of thc practice of reading that he has pursued in carrying forward
the task of deconstrucling the hi story of metaphysics. Nancy has devoted
extensive study to thc major texts of modern philosophy, from Descanes
through Niet zsche. because he follows Heidegger in assuming that any erfor!
to think the present (the advent of a time that can no longer be thought
wit h any leleological or fundamental schema) presupposes a lucid under-
standing of philosophy's closure. Heidegger argued that traci ng the limit
formed by the end of metaphysics ent ai ls repeating the movements by which
phi losophy exhausted its possibilities-this. in order to release what phi-
losophy has closed upon in it s effort to secure an ideal order of meaning.
Nancy (with others: the communit y to which JacQues Derrida refers in the
opening pages of " Violence and Metaphysics" )' has recognized that this
task of repetition is far from compl ete, that in principle it cannot be
completed, and that it requires repet ition in its turn. Heidegger made it
clear that we cannot simpl y have done with philosophy: our language
"emains the language of metaphysics. He also showed some of the possi
bili ties that li e in thinking the closure of metaphysics (as Nancy reminds
us. a border marks an inside and an outside). But he restricted and even
foreclosed those possibilities in his turn, as we see most dramaticall y in his
polit ical statements. By repeating Heidegger's task of deconstructing meta-
physics in close readings of some of the major texts of the tradi tion. Nancy
also deconstructs Hcidcgger and works toward a new thought of difference.
Much of Nancy's work has thus taken the for m of commentary, and
continues to do so (as in the case of hi s essay on the Hegelian
But over the past ten years, Nancy has also sought to depart from this
mode and to pursue in a more independent fas hi on the notion of difference
to which hi s work has pointed. He has auempt ed to abandon the com.
ment ator's position of relative safety and to elaborate a thought that would
answer to the fact that many of the concerns to which fundamental phi.
losophy was addressed continue to speak to us today in the form of imper.
at ives (freedom, justice, communit y), even though the conceptual systems
from which these ideas have drawn thei r meaning are no longer viable.
Nancy has pursued aggressively the notion that the end of philosophy is
not the end of thought. Indeed, in hi s view the end of philosophy demands
thought, and he is wi ll ing to retain the name of philosophy to designate
the effort 10 answer 10 these obscure imperat ives.
Nancy has thus returned 10 a sct of themes Ihal still form the mainslays
of political and ethical thought but that arc rarel y taken up today as
qllesTi ons (and arc thus largel y abandoned to traditional philosophical com.
mentary: the endlessJ:eension. of philosophy's past positions or points of
view). He has done so from the basis of a ,hOllghl of hi story, a conception
of the event of philosophy's end (the collapse of all foundational discourses
and the advent of mOdernit y or postmodernity) and of the "event ual "
character of hi story it self. Proceeding from a not ion of the finitude of
Being-its essenti al difference from itself, or it s historicity-Nancy has
sought to rethink our experience of hi story, or what I might call the passions
of historicall y defi ned existence: among them, freedom, love, communit y,
and religion (the last three form the points of focus in this volume). He
has begun 10 elaborate in this manner a most severe, though also liberating,
thought of fi nitude.
My aim here will be to sket ch the basic lines of this thought and some
of the questions it raises, wit h particular reference to the essays contained
in this volume. I will neglect in this manner many of Nancy's contribut ions
to philosophical research (work that is freq uentl y at the margins of phi
losophy, at it s intersections with literary theory, psychoanalysis. and polit.
ical discourse), trusting that the increasing availabilit y of this material in
Engli sh lessens the need for an introductory overview.
But before approach.
ing what Nancy describes as the "singularit y" of Bei ng-its si ngul arity
impl ying its multiplici ty, and thus a differential structure that forms what
Nancy call s the "political space," and the site of cornmunit y-I would like
to pursue a liule further the singular character of Nancy's own work. For
the gesture of thought that ani mates the work upon which I am focusing
here constitut es its true novelt y and even it s decisive imporlance for con
temporary crit ical and philosophical thought.
I have alluded to the basic traits of this gesture: it consists in returning
to themes that play a cruci al role in all discourses concerned with politics
or the grounds of social existence but that have become abst ract - the prey
of ideology-by vi rtue of the fact that the philosophical presuppositions
defi ning their meani ng (Nancy will speak of the metaphysics of subjectivity,
referring thereby to the philosophical underpi nnings of humani sm) have
succumbed to the nihilism that inhabi ts them. A political imperat ive whose
grounds are necessarily obscure nevertheless dictates that themes such as
"freedom" and "communit y" be rethought. These themes still speak to us
in some sense; even if political di scourses have proven unabl e to give them
a meani ng that holds for a social practice devoted to sociopoli tical needs,
we find oursel ves unabl e to do wit hout them, even haunt ed by them in
some sense. Nancy's gesture is to confront the distress generated by the
haunting abstraction of such terms by pushing them toward limits he defines
with hi s understanding of the closure of metaphysics and of what this
closure reveals: the finitude of Being. He does this at an astoni shing speed,
as though all of the traditi onal themes were crowding into his thoughl and
demandi ng reconsideration. And he does it untiringl y-he exhausts the
terms upon which he focuses and the concept ual structures in which they
arc embedded. There is no piety here, and nothing esoteric (however difficult
the thought mi ght be): Nancy's is a hands-on approach that constructs
precarious conceptual formulas only to turn them inside out in an unre-
lent ing effort to expose thei r limit s once more. He is a laborer of the
concept, carrying to excess what Hegel described as the labor oj Ihe concept.
And this means that he does not shy from ri sks of redundancy or even
outright contradicti on- he is ai ming for the challC:e exposure of a limit .
Grace wil l come in a sudden turn of the phrase at moments of inspiration
or at moments of fatigue (the concept's fatigue, not hi s). But he does not
pause to search for it; it comes frequentl y enough, and the imperative to
which he is answering urges him on.
One should neit her neglect nor give in to the tcnsion created by this
conceptual work (a tension experienced sharpl y by any translator of Nancy's
work). There is no language for what Nancy is tryi ng 10 think that does
not at some point inhibit this thought. reinscribe in it the classical con
ceptual systems Nancy is tryi ng to work past. The tension keeps us from
too easil y upon the formulas with which Nancy seeks to defi ne hi s
not ion of difference. What Nancy is pointing to can be glimpsed onl y in
the movement of hi s text and the wake of hi s conceptual labor (which is
also where we will find hi s signature).
From a political perspecti ve. the gest ure of jorcing terms such as 'free
dom" and "community" - marking their philosophical limit s and reworki ng
them in relation to a thought of finitude-i nvoh'cs marking the gap alld
the bridge between hi s thought of community and any existent poli tical
philosophy or program, a gap and a bridge that also define the relation
between what Nancy call s in the preface to this volume " the polit ical " (Ie
politiqlle: the site where what it means to be in common is open to defi-
nit ion) and "politics" (/0 politiqlle: the play of forces and interests engaged
in a conflict over the representation and governance of social existence).4
His gesture is thus to work a term like "community" in such a way that
it will come to mark what Heidegger would call the difference between the
antic and the ontological and to oblige us to think from the basis of this
difference. I will be approaching Nancy's use of the term "communit y" in
the pages that follow by focus ing on several of his descriptions of the
grounds of the social or political bond (a structure of "exposure" that
Na ncy elaborates from the basis of Heidegger's notion of finite transcen-
dence and his notion of Mitsein). But for the purpose of these initial remarks
on Nancy's philosophical practice, let it suffice to say that communit y
names a relation that cannot be thought as a subsistent ground or common
measure for a " being-in-common." While a singular being may come to
its existence as a subject onl y in this relation (and it is crucial, in a political
perspecti ve, to note that Nancy thus starts from the relation and not from
the solitary subject or individual) , this communitary " ground" or condition
of exi stence is an unsublatable differential relation that "is" onl y in and
by its multiple singular art iculations (though it is always irreducible to
these) and thus differs constantl y from itself. It is not something that may
be produced and institUi ed or whose essence could be expressed in a work
of any kind (including a polis or state) : it cannot be the object or the telos
of a politics.
Thus anyone seeking an immediate political application of this thought
of communit y risks frustration (and the tension to which I have alluded
redoubles, for the task of pursuing a thought of communit y in the face of
an unacceptable political realit y-which includes an ongoi ng destruction of
much of what we have known as community- is not an unproblematic one).
Moreover. this frustration will not entirel y dissipate even if one recognizes
that Nancy's engagement with the polit ical (understood, once agai n, as the
si te where a being-in-common is at stake) proceeds from an acute sense of
the contemporary sociopolitical context and is indissociable from a political
position-taking. ' One does not have to read far to recognize the political
character of Nancy's thought (even when he does not themat ize political
issues), and it is not diffi cult to see where Nancy mi ght be situated in the
spect rum of political choi ces. But it is exceedingly difficult to define. for
example. how one mi ght move from his definition of a nonorganie. dif-
ferential articulation of social existence (which he illustrates via Marx in
chapter 3) to any currently existing politics. For once again. there is a point
at which this move becomes properly unthinkable in the terms of any
traditional conception of the relation between theory and practice: one
cannot work to institute or reali ze this thought of communil y.
One can, however, attempt to communicate what Nancy calls "com-
munity" (lhough we have to do here with an entirely different sense of
communication from the one Ihat is called upon in theories of consensus);
one can attempt to favor such communication. and one can attempt to
engage in a critique of the ideologies that di ssimulale what Nancy call s the
absence of community (or the fact of the impossibility of communion or
immanence as it appears to us today, after the closure of metaphysics). The
impossibility of immediately translating this thought into a polit ical pro-
gram does not di cl ate political paralysis. On the contrary, the experience
of the political, as Nancy defines it, demands political response-both
because it provides a sharp sense of the abstraction of the reigning political
ideologies and because it entails the experience of something like an imper-
ative. II requi res at the same time that we rethi nk the very concept of
pol itical practice, as Nancy begins to do with hi s not ion of writing (I will
turn to this later as I take up the question of language and the community'S
Nancy's gesture of Ihought points to and already involves another practice
of writing. But we cannot anticipate any rapid resolution of the tensions
to which I have referred, for our access to another thought of community
a nd political practice is through the language of the tradition and requires
t he kind of work Nancy has undertaken in attempting to mark the limits
of Ihe traditional terminology (whi ch is certainl y not to say that the decon-
struction of the tradition will suffice in a political perspective: we cannot
afford to neglect questions of immediate political urgency. and the work
of deconstruction must also be undertaken in relation to them). Nancy is
attempting to expose what still speaks in a term like "communit y" when
we assume the closure of the metaphysics of subjectivity-any communion
of the subject with itself, any accomplished self-presence-and wi th it the
closure of representation or signification (a signi fying order assured by and
for a subject). And if he persists so relentlessly with this impractical con-
ceptual labor, it is because he is trying to work a thought of difference,
or a thought of finitude , int o political terms that conti nue to speak to us
as impe'ratives despite their loss of philosophical meaning. The obscurit y
of these- imperati ves demands this labor. and the thought demands its
commun jcation.1
The Experience of Freedom
What is Ihis thought '? One of Nancy's most forceful articulations of it
comes in his essay on freedom. in which he retraces the fate of thi s concept
xi i 0 FON.EWON.I)
in Heidegger's work and tries to repeat Heidegger's effort to think the fact
of existence. or its fact icily. as its freedom. He demonstrates that the concept
of freedom gradually recedes in Heidegger's thinking, until it is abandoned
not long after the confrontat ion with Schelling (1936) and replaced wit h a
notion of "the free" (dos Freie). It recedes, we might say, from being a
trait of existence (the trail of existence: its ground, or rather Abgrund-
the abyssal foundation that is its transcendence, its "freedom to found")
to a trail of Being that in it s "freedom" gives a relat ion to what is in and
by a movement of withdrawal. Heidegger will never dissociate Being's move-
ment of advent /withdrawal. concealment / unconcealment , from a cerlain
intervention by the human Dasein; this is why Being has a history and is
nowhere other than in the history of its articulations-this is the finitude
of Being. Being needs humankind, Heidegger will say,' and in the late
essays on language he will reiterate that the speaking of language (that
event in which a determination of Being opens in language) can onl y occur
insofar as it is pro-voked by an act of human speaking. But in the course
of his thinking (feeling the grip of the metaphysics of subj ectivit y-par-
ticularly after the volumarism of his own polit ical engagemems). Heidegger
shifts the focus from the freedom that engages the human Dasei n in the
"accompli shment of Being" to the freedom (the Opcn, the "free" regIon)
to which the human Dascin accedes in answering to the event of Being's
advent. This shift of focus is not without its effect s. Questions are displacec'1
or even closed (including those that Heidegger fi nds most troubling: those
bearing most immediately on politics); others are brought more clearly int.o
view (i t becomes impossible to mistake Heidegger 's thought for an eX:ls-
tentialism). But the shift , or the Kehre, as it is commonly referred to, dc.>Cs
not alter Heidegger's basic notion of the finitude of Being and therefore
docs not alter Heidegger's initial understanding that Being must be IhOlight
in its differe"ce from itself, and thus in its existence, understood as an
always singular articulation of its withdrawal. Nancy's gesture consiMS in
carrying thi s thought of the fi nitude of Being-its eventual, singular char-
acter-back into the questions opened in the existential anal ytic of Being
und Time. He folds the later Hcidegger {a Hcidegger that Derrida has helped
us to rethink with hi s elaboration of the concepts of (/ifferance and. "writ-
ing") back into the earlier, and start s from the direct ion of the eX'pcrience
of the human Dasein- recognizing that thought begins from no other point
of departure. Thus he tries to think the event wherein a determination of
what it means to be comes about and beings come into their presence
(Ereigllis, Bei ng's advent). in relation to the mO"ement in which existence
is delivered to itself in its freedom and comes to know itself in and as an
exposure to an alterity that it draws out and communicate.' . Nancy is
perfcctly faithful to Heidegger's thought - to at least one, almost unbroken
. of it- in moving the focus back to the latter experience of
Hie r . . h' d' t" he
But by pushing the notion of the singularity 0 Belng.m t IS .Irec Ion,
. able to counter some of the most conservative tendenCIes of thIS
::s piety. the way it gathers to it self in its to
or appropriation of Being over its co-originary dlsappropnallon. and dl.s-
semination. By emphasizing the si ngular nature of the whe.rem D?Sem
opens to Being. Nancy brings forward Being's necessarily dlffer-
ntial character: if the articulation of Being is always si ngular, Bemg cannot
One, and it cannot be thought simply as a gatheri.n
or coll.ecti n
. And
if that to which Dasein opens is always already artlculaled (It could n?t
give itself or "communicate" itself otherwise-it other In
its articulations) then Being must be thought as dIfferential or
Once again, if we read carefully-if we read past. a r<:'wer ful .of
"gathering"- we see that this line of IS qUIte ,J I.#/
Heidegger's descriptions of the event of Erelgn!s. But by the Sln-
gular character of the factic!IY of also Its.strangeness '(..,.-.b.s)
_ for the subject that knows t1self only Itself relallon), Nancy
undoes some of the abstractness of the Heldeggenan discourse and
lenges the rhetoric of piety. In large measure, this has. to WIth
the fact that by returning to the existential or expenent131 dimenSion
I the thought of the finitude of Being- without sacrificing anythi ng. of Hel-
degger's critique of the metaphysics of subjectivity-Nancy opens ? new
manner the question of the implications of this thought or
et hics. And by recogni zing Ihat the experience of freedom IS mdlssocla.ble
).. from a political passion (the political passion, the experience.o.f the
of polit ical existence), furt her, by writing out of this recogmllon, he brings
forth the concreteness of a deconstructive approach. He shows that the
experience of freedom, and thus the experience of communit y, is
ience of the real, and while he deconstruclS the notions of the mdlvldual
and the subj ect's presence to itself, he points to the si ngularit y of the sel f
that knows itself as opening to aiterity.lo
"Freedom" then is a name for ecstasis (as is " love," as Nancy argues
in "Shattered Love':). It is the exposure of thought to the fact of. Being:
thut there are beings (and not nothing, Heidegger adds). " Or to put more
precisely, it is the opening, in thollght, to the possibilit y of meani ng, or
to the possibilit y of a world: thought's deli verance or to th.e
ope"ing of a time and space, and the drawing out or arllculatlOn of thiS
opening (what Kant approached with his notion of transcendental sche-
mat ism) whereby it is possible to remark the fact of being as .. TO
experience beings in their presence is to experience the fact of their havtng
been given or offered to our representation. In that fl eeting experience, we
remark the fact of the offering itself, or the relation by which we arc able
to recogni ze that a thing is as this or that thing, (Though the relation is
not the obje<:t of a perception; we remark no more than the fact that beings
gi,ven [0 our a pure opening, the relation gives
It self m lt S, Heldegger argued that the human Oasein is singular
precIsely the fact that this rel ation comes imo question
for It; It IS the bemg for whom its being is at slake, and with it it s relation
to everything that is (including other human beings), When Dasein is sur-
prised by the fact of being (and this surprise can take the form of an
experience of the uncanny, or vertigo), it discovers the fact of its aban-
donment or exposure, and thus discovers that it is Oasein (the " Oa" is the
site its It experiences its exposure in a kind of originary self-
because it comes to its being in this experience (its
IS defmed there) and discovers itself as existing: it finds ilself as
havmg been exposed to the opening of a relation to what is, and as com-
mitted to this relation (or as refusing it),12
It is important to emphasize here that the human Oasein does not have
freedom as one of its properties: Oasein comes 10 itself in its freedom
originally. It does not discover a pre-existent essence or potential' rather'
!ts being is this experience. The subject of freedom
freedom, and In thIs sense freedom (as the initial coup d'envol) precedes
Itself as the freedom of a self. Freedom is an eveOl, and though this event
may be assumed or affirmed, and only is as it is assumed (exposed or
drawn out in a si ngular "style" pitch that articulates what the German
tra?ition h,as thought, as a St.immung), it cannot be possessed. We dispose
of II only msofar as It has dIsposed (of) us. Because the subject comes 10
itself in its freedom, Nancy will frequentl y use the metaphor of birth, Or
he will speak of the syncope in which existence is delivered to it self and
speak of rhythm as the subject 's articulation of this originary suspen-
sIon. The human Oasein "del ivers" itself in the sense that it draws out
and communicates its being exposed. But this communicati on remains the
communicat ion of an exposure-Oasetn can communicate its birth and its
mortality, but it cannot give birth to it self (as in the metaphysical dream
of self-conception), no more that it can possess it s death as an object of
knowl edge.
Nancy consistently suggests that these two latter limits of Oasein's exis-
tence must in fact be thought together: any experience of "birt h" or "deliv-
erance" is inseparable from a knowledge of mortality. Heidegger made this
point in Being and Time by describing freedom as the passage to a free
of being-toward-death that is both made possible by and makes
poSSIble Oasein's deliverance to the fact of its existence. The experience
of mortalit y is fi nall y indissociable in Heidegger's text from all limit-
experience, and Nancy tends to follow Heidegger in this respect in hi s
references to death. However, Nancy's wri ting is not marked by either the
celebratory, tragic pathos of Being and Time and Heidegger's writings of
the early thirties or by the tonality of mourning that characterizes some of
Heidegger's later work and many Heideggerian discourses. Above all, he
avoids (or simply is not tempted by) the complacency of a mourning that
turns to a kind of self-recovery in whi ch the subject "communes" with it s
loss. He produces in this respect a most severe, rigorous thought of fi ni -
tude-one that has its precedent in the severity of Holderlin's late thought ( !/.-.V
of the modern experience of mourning and that turns, as frequently in
Holderli n, to a kind of joy and to a more affirmative or more abandoned
experience of dispossession (the reader will note this particularly in "Of
Divi ne Places" and "Shattered Love.")
Nancy also stresses a point about the experience of mortali ty that is
hardly more than implicit in Hei degger's text but that is brought forth
powerfully by authors stich as Bataille and Blanchot. This is the suggest ion
that the deat h of the other calls the subj e<: t beyond itself and thus del ivers
it to its freedom, Freedom is necessarily shared (parlage), and the experience
of the other's mortality constitut es something like a condition of this shar
ing. Like love (itself inseparable from an experience of mortality), it calls
the subject out and beyond it self, exposing it to alterity and to its freedom. 1)
Before turning to Nancy's elaboration of the communi cation that occurs
in Oasein's free assumption of its finitude, I would like to pause to consider
Nancy's remarks on death and love and what they indicate of the funda-
mental sociality of the experience of freedom.
Mortality and Love
In The Inoperative Community, Nancy follows Bataille (citing also Freud
and the notion of a primal murder, as well as Heidegger) in arguing that
the individual Oasein first knows communi ty when it experiences the impos-
sibility of communion or immanence (the self-presence of indi viduals to
one anot her in and by their communit y) before the dead other. Bataille
writes: " If it sees its fellow-bei ng die, a living being can only subsist olllside
itself."'4 In this ecstasis, Oasein discovers the possibilit y of community.
llataill e agai n, in an essay on Niet zsche: " In the existence of a community,
that which is typi call y religious, in the sure grip of death, has become the
thing most foreign to man, No one thinks any longer that the reality of a
communal life- which is to say, human existence- depends on the sharing
of nocturnal terrors and on the kind of ecstati c spasms that spread deat h." u
Nancy concurs (though in less heady terms) and argues that part of the
devastation wrought by the technical organization of adva nced capitalist
:.;vi L I'OREWORI>
societies (state or private capi tali sm) lies in the isolation of the individual
in it s \'ery death and thus the impoverishment of that which resists any
appropriation or objectification. Death is an experience thai a collectivity
ca nnot make il s wQrk or it s property. in Ihe sense of something thai would
find its meaning in a val uc or cause transcending the individual. A socielY
may well usc it (in the celebrations of heroes or the sacrificial victims), bUI
Ihere is a point at which death exposes a radical meaninglessness thai cannot
be subsumed. And when death presents ilself as not Qurs, the very impos-
sibility of its meaning suspends or breaches the possibility of
self-presentallon and exposes us to our finitude. Nancy argues with Bataille
(and as a Iragic intuition this is profoundly Nietzschean)'" that this exposure
is also an opening to community: outside ourselves, we firsl encounter the
The problem of death and community should be explored al much greater
and deserves a separate trealment. I would add here simply that the
expenence of deat h cannot be thought solely as the experience of the dead
other, as the line I have ciled from Balaille suggests. We note in Heidegger,
for example, that the encounter wi lh the dead other does not offer access
to the experience that concerns him in the existential analytic and Ihat is
Dasein's experience of the possibility of its own death, ils experience of its -,
own This is not to say that Dasei n's access to its mortality (and
Its finitude, it is in Ihe resolute assumption of the possibility of
li S death Ihat Dasem knows true anguish and thus opens to Ihe Nothing)
does come I? il way of Ihe olher. I believe Ihal an attentive reading
of Bemg T""e WIll suggest (whether Heidegger intended this or nOI)
thai Daselll comes to know its mOrlalilY precisel y by way of the other's
relation to its death. It is through its assumption of morlalit y Ihat Dasein
first encounters Ihe other-but Dasei n knows its mortality only by way of
Ihe other and what the other communicates of its mortality. The very notion
of an authentic being-together belies Heidegger's imporlant st atement in
pa.ragraph SO: " If Dasein stands before itself as this possibilit y I"no- Ionger-
.. it has been f ully assigned to its own most poten-
tlaill y-for- Bemg. When 11 slands before itself in Ihis way, all ils relations
I? Dasci n have been undone. This ownmosl non-re/ational pos-
slblltty IS at the same time the utt ermost one." " It would seem that only
the pressure of a long tradition thaI thinks the "authentic" indi vidual as
isolated could make il possible for Heidegger to reach such a
if being-toward-death is the condition of Dasein's knowing
as eXlstlllg (that is to say. as transcending, as opening to Being). Ihen
II musl be the condition of encount ering the other: it is the opening
of.a rclatlon at the same time that il is Ihe tracing of a si ngularity. As
Heldegger declares explicit ly. Mitsein and Dasei" are co-ori ginary; Dasei n
11Iust be Ihoughl in its very possibility as being-together. I have pursued
this argument elsewhere. !O My point here is 10 emphasize that Dascin knows
its mortality only by way of its experience of the other's relation 10 its
deat h. The other's existence (not its death. in the sense of something thaI
has overcome il) first seizes us and draws us beyond ourselves. Blanchot,
who has also provided a mosl extraordinary description of our relation to
the makes Ihis point in The Una\'owable Community:
The "basis of communication" IBlanchot is commenting on
Bataille] is not necessarily speech, or even Ihe silence that is ilS
foundation and punclUation. but exposure to death, no longer my
own exposure, but someone else's, whose living and closest
presence is already the eternal and unbearable absence. an absence
that the travail of deepesl mourning does not diminish. And il is
in life ilself that that absence of someone else has to be met. It is
wilh that absence-its uncanny presence, always under Ihe prior
threat of disappeari ng-that fri endship is broughl into play and
losl al each moment , a relation without relation, or without
relation other than the incommensurable.
Whal the Olher presems to us, and particularly in moments of the greatest
intimacy, is the fact of his/ her exiSlence. We encounter Ihe other as existi?g,
that is to say, in their finitude: as opening to us oul of Iheir own relallon
to alterity. And this relation is indissociable from the experience of mor-
tality-the other's presence is marked by ils mortality, even when presence
appears most vital. This encounter is probably the condition of all knowl-
edge of finitude-the other, as J said above, must coli liS out, call us to
our freedom. We know our linitude by way of the other, and by way of
Ihe other's finitude. But if all knowledge of finitude has to do with mortality
(and this is not an intelleclion but an experience of the limi ts of knowledge),
/ lhiS docs not imply, once again. that Ihe only relation 10 the other as other
,. 1 lakes the form of mourning. Nancy's description of love, as I have sug-

i , gested. answers to the same schema of encounler. . .
In hi s discussion of love in La coml1l11nallfe desoellvree (compnslllg
chapters I through 3 of this translation) and in "L'amour en eclats" ("5hal-
tered Love"), Nancy attempts to dissociate love from any experience of
communi on: eil her as Ihe subject's communion wilh itself (self-love:
"amour propre") or with an other, bel ween individuals, or in a communit y
at large. He shows the Ii mils of Bataill e's thought of communit y in the
for mer texl by demonstrating Ihat as Balaille loses faith in the possibility
of realizing in society a modern form of community Ihat would recover
something of Ihe commonality of experience characteristic of more primilive
social forms (though without repeating the "immense failure" of prior
hieratic structures), he progressively isolates the community of lovers, sep-
arat ing them from society, and losing sight of the fact that their uni on
communicates in its turn the separation that Nancy sees as (un)grounding
communi ty. Love, as Na ncy defines it, is once again an experience of finite
transcendence: the subject finds itself in love, beyond ilself This tra n-
scendence is not a movement from one bei ng toward another; its transport
happens (for all parties) by way of a transgression or effraction- love
comes, so to speak, from the outside, and it is not the other subject that
touches or exposes the subject in this manner, but what constitutes the
otherness of the other. It is the si ngularity of the other that provokes love,
provided we also understand by this term the marki ng of a certain strange-
ness or ot herness (in love this can take the form of a strange beauty). The
subject in love is a subject exposed-exposed (affected) by the other and
opening to the ot her: opening further to its exposure, opening to further
exposure. What it knows of love is this exposure and what Nancy call s a
"trembling on the edge of being"-always a si ngular self comi ng to it self
in Ihe presence of the other, enjoying " itself" only as the exposure to an
alterity and as the transport of this exposure. One is traversed by the ot her,
and traverses in this movement the limits of one's identity. But the fove
experienced in this movement cannot be possessed in any way and does
not constitute a higher identity. In a delightful passage, Nancy describes
it as a "coming and goi ng." It comes upon the self and draws the self
forth, prompting the self 10 offer its love to the other (its being-exposed);
but as further exposure this love that departs comes back to the self, onl y
to renew its transport. It is a traversal that constantl y remarks its passage
as passage but without ever presenting itself: " It traverses itself," Nancy
writes. " It comes and comes to itself, as that by which nothing comes
about other than that there is a coming about" (p. 102). An advent that
withholds itself by the return of its very advent, exposing us to our exposure,
and fu rt her exposure, but never secure in its \'ery return, never returning
to the self (as in the investments of narcissism), and never a possession.
There are all ki nds of love. What characterizes it in its endless forms is
nothing more than its Iats-and it is nowhere other than in these klals;
it has no other essence. We know it by the way it strikes us. But it is
always si ngular: "all loves . , . are superbly singular," Nancy writes (p. 99).
Love is known always si ngularly, though it is the knowledge of an encount er
and a relalion. Even when it is shared, it is the knowledge of a differential
relation, existing onl y si ngularl y in the passage from the one to the other.
It s singularit y does not belong to a self- it is the si ngulari ty of the opening
of one to anot her. II exposes the singularity of a being, its fi nitude, in ils
community-and thus the singularity of Being it self.
(It is interesting to note that for Nancy this, singularit.y
almost always with a cert ain sharpness and brlghtness-Lts IIl scnptLon LS
.. L '
incisive, its limi t is always rine. Responding in "Shattered. Love t.o
inas's critique of Heidegger and his claim concerning the IIldetermmatLon
or generalit y of "es gibt " [which might be translated as "it gives" or " there
's " "il y a" in French\, Nancy makes the crucial poi nt that for Heidegger
:l;ere is no generalit y of Bei ng; what is given, he says, is the "effraction
of generality, precise and hard" [po lOS). Being is at stake in this givi ng.
he argues: " It is bursting there, offered in dazzli ng multiplici ty, sharp and
singular." The same characteristics appear in the of I?ve
freedom. Nancy says little. for example, about the expenence of fascmatlon,
as Blanchot explores it, or about the experiences Blanchot describes as "the
death that is the impossibilit y of dying," the neutral or " fatigue."!J Whereas
Nancy speaks of li mits and thei r transgression la transgression that marks
a limit or draws it out), Blanchot tends to focus upon the
of this same experience of passage. Thus, in their respecti ve underst andlllg
of the limit experience, Nancy is closer to Heidegger than to Blanchot
IHeidegger, too, likes sharp, clear limi ts), though in hi s emphasis
deliverance, he produces a much freer description of the finitude of Bemg.
These are matters of style and of the singularit y of each text. In other
words, they are absolutely essential, as each recognizes in their elaboration
of the "same" thought of difference.)
The Divided Logos
In this rapid presentation of Nancy's development of the not ion of fi nitude,
I have tried to suggest what Nancy understands by "ecstasis" wit h his
concept of freedom and have tried to bring forth aspects of the "com-
munitary" dimension of thi s experi ence by focusing upon trea.tment. of
the motifs of love and death. I would like to add now a thLrd dLmenslon
of his thi nking by introducing the problematic of language and, by way of
conclusion, Nancy's use of the concept of wri ting.
Nancy takes up the question of language near the end of L'oubli de 10
philQsophie in the cont ext of a discussion of Benjamin's remark that "t ruth
is the death of intention."!' Nancy describes the "truth" implied in this
phrase as a present ation of "the existence in truth of the thing that is
known":' (a truth that is not grounded in the certitude of the subject of
representation), But while he desi gnates it as "simple truth ," he argues that
it must be thought in an essential correlation with language and that it
thus requires that we distinguish a concept of meaning (sens) from what
metaphysics has always thought as signirication.
Nancy insists here-and
thi s insistence goes along with his recent references to his thought as a
"t ranscendental malerialism" - Ihat to introduce the dimension of language
is not to introduce a mediation between thought and the real (in which
case we would reenter the order of signification); the meaning given in
language. at the limits of signification and constitutive of its possibility, is
of a reality that is "simultaneously empirical and transcendental, material
and ideative, physical and spiritual-a kind of unheard-of 'fact of rea-
son."m This "fact" is what thought opens to (and what opens to thought)
in its freedom-what makes freedom an experience. Its advent in language,
Nancy says , is the real, or the thing (fa chose); it is the irreducibly material
condition of a relation to what is and thus the material condit ion of the
possibility of signification or representation.
It is important. I belie\e. to keep in mind Nancy's efforts to think this
materiality of what he terms "meaning" and hi s emphasis (followi ng a
motif in Kant) on the facticity of the experience of freedom (related to hi s
emphasis on the/orce of an existent being in its freedom). u This materialist
dimension of a thought of wri ti ng or difference will have to be pursued as
this thought is taken in the direction of pol itics. But we must bear in mind
as well that meaning, in its materiality, constitutes something like the "ori-
gin" of language: what Benjamin approached with hi s references to a " p u ~
language," what Heidegger defined as "the essence of language" (I will
return to this notion), and what Derrida poinls 10 wilh his notions of
dil/erance and writing. As I will argue, Nancy's descriptions of a com-
munication of force and of the difference of forces that articulates an always
communilary meaning of Being require that we understand these material
grounds of representation as being in some sense oj language. Nancy is
making this point, I believe, when he defines freedom as "access to the
essence of the logos," and even as "the logos in its access to its essence."1'1
The term logos is, of course, heavily charged. Nancy does not hesitate
before it because he is describing thought's access to the event wherei n the
possibilit y of representation is given, and thus any possibility of representing
an order of concepts. But I would emphasize two further reasons for his
recourse to the term. First, it is dictated by the "measuring" Nancy assigns
to thought as it draws out the difference to which it is exposed in its
freedom and remarks it. The exposure of Dasein to the withdrawal of Being
(I he opening of a relation to what is, difference), is indissociable from the
movement in which this wilhdrawal is articulated (traced or inscribed:
drawn out):
Freedom is the specific logic of access to self outside of self in an
always singular spacing of Being. It is its logos: "reason,"
"speech," "division" [partage ]. Freedom is the logos-not alogical,
but open at the heart of the logos itself-of di vided Being. The
ontological division. or the si ngulari ty of Being, opens the space
that frecdom alone can properly "space" (not "fill"). "Spacing
space" means: holding il as space [Ie garder en /(Jnt qu 'espacej
and as the di vision of Being, in order to share {partagerj
indefinitely ,lie divisioll {parlagej oj singularity.
Si milar statement s may be found in relation to the themes of rhythm
and measure, and all of them follow in their way Heidegger's meditation
on Ihe legein-the laying out, gat hering, collecting, even "reading"-Ihat
is the essence of the logos. Thought, in its freedom, opens to and articulates
the logos as it draws out the opening of a relat ion to whal is: the logos
comes about (and comes to language as language, as a " saying") only
insofar as it is articulated by thought. This is not 10 say that thought and
Ihe logos are the same thing. Thought draws out the difference to which
it is exposed. Its gesture of inscription brings this difference to language
(as what Nancy terms "meaning")-remarks it and articulates it as the
difference that separates or divides, lays out, and (Heideggcr insi5l5) coll ects
and gat hers. But what thought thus articulates remai ns the other of thought.
The logos, in its essence, is nO! human, not a human product or possession
(thought's articulation is active, it is a praxis, but it is not a production
or "work" in the metaphysical sense of these terms). Nancy will make this
point repeatedly in discussing the grounds of community and all com-
munication, and though it will sometimes take a surprising and even mys-
tifying form, the declaration means simply that thought, in its finitude, is
exposed to alterity. Its opening to the withdrawal of Being (difference)
allows this withdrawal to come about as the event in which a rclation to
what is is given. We might even say that it provokes the speaking that
occurs in this event (t he advent of Ihe logos) and defines it or determines
it by tracing out a site of reception. Thought thus contributes to selling a
measure (always I1nite, always singular). But whi le it plays an initiatory
and "provocati ve" role, it also consists in answeri ng to what it leIS happen-
il takes its measure from the event that it allows to unfold: "The experience
of freedom ... is nothing other than the knowledge that in all thought there
is an other thought, a thought that is no longer thought by thought, but
that thinks it (that gives it , gives it prodigally, and weighs it [peser)- thi s
is what thinking [penser] means). '1 The "other" thought is a thought
because it measures thought-but it is the other of thought because even
while it opens only in and by thought in an always si ngular geslUre (it is
.1Owhere other than in its singular articulations-this is the point of a
thought of finitude), it remains that to which thought answers: what
addresses itself to thought and addresses thought to itself.
The experience of the "other" thought, Nancy says, is the experience
of freedom. BUI we have al so seen that it is the experience of language
(what Heidegger would call an "experience with language"), and this brings
)()(ii 0 FOREWORD
me to my second suggestion regarding Nancy's use of the term "logos."
When Nancy defines freedom as "the logos in ilS access to its essence,"
he is defining very precisely what Heidegger attempts to descri be as the
"speaking" of language: the movement wherei n language gives itself orig-
inall y in its essence (comes into its essence, "essences," we might say, west),
and gives thereby the possibilit y of signification.'! Heidegger's most exten-
sive development of this notion (or his most lengthy attempt to engage with
the movement in question) comes in hi s essay, "The Essence of Language."
There, he attempts to think the essence of language out of what he terms
the language of essence, defining essence as difference (the relation of
relations that gat hers the "fourfold") and as what "counters" {gegne/)
thought and "sues" it in the always si ngular acts by which thought answers
to (this is itself a "rejoinder," an entgegnen) and thus articulates its address.
Essence, as difference, is the "country" (Gegend) or "free region" in which
thought moves in those responses by which thought draws out the saying
of difference- responses that always pass by way of a relation to other
responses (as in the case of philosophy's relation to poetic speech). Each
mode of thoughtful sayi ng (and this includes poetry) bears a particular
and unique relation to its origin in the opening of language that occu'ts
with the saying of difference. But this always singular relation opens only
in rel ation to other modes of saying. The interrelation of these modes, their
interweaving, forms what Heidegger call s the Gef/echt. and the essence of
language- what gathers or joins these modes-cannot be thought apart
from this interweavi ng." The essence of language is one, Heidegger argues-
it gathers the modes of saying into a harmony or a si ngular measure (it is
this gathering), but it proceeds from the irreducibly multiple instances of
saying that art iculate it.
Nancy will concur that the logos is originally articulated in the irreducibly
singular modes of speaking that constitute it s web. But he will di verge from
Heidegger by denying that this originary articulation or division (what
Nancy names a portage) gathers in one speaking, the speaking of a dif-
ference that gathers all instances of speech into the si ngle fold of a unitary
logos. The logos, Nancy argues, is irreducibl y divided, portage; it is char-
acterized by a radical hi stori ci ty in that its always si ngular articulations
never voice the same origin. Of course, as aniculations, the single instances
of speech must in some sense be articulations of the same; but Nancy wants
to argue that this "same" differs radically from itsetf and is in a movement
that does not answer to a single measure or rhythm and cannot be gathered
in a single saying. There is a "voice" of the communit y, Nancy argues,
and this voice announces a law (I will relUrn to these points)-there is a
logos of the communit y. But this voice is always divided from itself, always
different. The logos accedes 10 its essence and thereby "speaks" (as the
FOREWORD 0 )()(iii
speech of essence) in si ngular acts of speaking that di vide it out
To put this in the terms from which we started: the logos of the communit y
exists only in its communication, in the si ngular acts by which Dasein sets
out difference in the accomplishment of its freedom. Every frcc act com-
rl1unicates or "speaks" in that it answers to the logos. And insofar as
Dasein is in and by the free acts in which it defines it s being (each time,
and each time differently-but always in retation), we may say that when
Dasei n communicates, when it "says" or articulates difference, it com-
municates itself. It communicates itself as an opening to alterity. This is
the always singular, always different opening of the logos.
Nancy sketches the logic of this communication in Le partage des voix,
and then proceeds to define communit y (and its communication) on its
basis in La communaUie desoeuvree. The reader will find a correction of
the argument of the former text in a footnote to the latter (p. 158, n. 24).
Nancy maintains here that the "exposition" of si ngular beings in their
fi nitude constitutes a "communication" of Being (in its singularit y) that is
in some sense prior to, or more originary than, the communication he
descri bed in Le portage des voix as a hermeneueifl. The exposition of a
singular being, he argues, is always the exposi tion to another being or other
bei ngs in thei r singularity (another Dasein, or other Dasein). Thus when
Dasein opens in its freedom to the withdrawal of Being and receives a
relation to what is, it does so in relation, and the address to which it answers
is always the address of an other. This address, or this "mulUal interpel-
lation" (Dasein's answer is itself an address, a response that articulates
anew the alterity that speaks in the other), is "prior," Nancy argues, "to
any address in language (though it gives to this latter its first condition of
possibility)." In this sense, Nancy continues in his footnote, the exposure
of singular beings is prior to the "division of voices" he described in Le
{)ortage des voix, unless "voice" is understood as prelinguistic.
Nancy would be suggest ing in his footnote that the mutual interpellation
of singularities is prior to what Heidegger names "discourse" (Rede) in
Being alld Time and prior even to what Heidegger call s in that volume the
"voice of conscience" (itself prelingui st ic in any strict sense of the term).
But without entering into a detai led discussion of Being and Time, I would
like to suggest that what Nancy described in Le portage des voix with his
interpretation of Heidegger's concept of Allslegung
is precisel y what he
is describing as "communication" in La conllflUf/aUie desoeuvree. The point
of Le partage, as I read it, was to think together the si ngular act of speaking
that occurs in the hermelleuei/l of Dasein's self-understanding with the
Irermeflellein Heidcggcr descri bes in his dialogue with the Japanese student lJ
as a speaking of language occurri ng in and by dialogue. As in hi s essay
on freedom (and I consi der this to be one of the crucial moves in hi s
thinking), Nancy was attempti ng to articulatc Heidegger's carlicr thought
of the facticity of existence with his later meditation on the "giving" that
occurs in the speaking of language. The "relay" in this argument was thc
word hermeneuein, which Nancy interpreted as an originary annunciation
(annonce, translating Kllfldgebllng) or address of meaning. In an effort to
follow Heidegger and to recover a more originary sense of hermencutics-
countcring the versions of hermeneutics that claim a descent from Heideg-
ger, principall y those of Gadamer and Ricoeur-Nancy argued that the
hermenellein of existence (which also grounds the hermellellein of the cxis-
tential analytic itself- Heidegger's interpretat ion of "existence") consists
not in the interprctation of a prior meaning to which Dasein would havc
access, but in Ihc openi ng of meaning that occurs as Dasein projetts for
itsel f a hori zon of significations. He suggested fun hcr that Heidegger recall s
and develops this notion of an acti\'e reception (both passive and active,
both a reception and a kind of performance) when he alludes to Plato's
Ion in the dialogue wil h the Japanese st udent, introduci ng thereby a
dimension in the concept of communication. Finall y, he suggested that
Heidegger's descript ion of this dialogue itself as a hermelleuein that art ic-
ulates t he speaking of language (die SpraclJe) should bc thought together
wi th Heidegger's earlier elaboration of this concept in such a way as to
permit us to define the logos as a partage des vaix. In short . he demonstrated
that Heidegger takes the hermeneutic relation to proceed from a he"lIe-
neuein that is the speaking of language as it is originall y drawn out in
always singular voices that open only in relation to one another and as the
differential articulation of a portage. The hermcneutic annunciation is (in)
a difference of voices.
When Nancy Qualifies hi s argument from Le portage by saying that
community, as a differential relation of singular beings, is prior to what
he called "the division of voices," because it is prior to l'()ice in any lingui stic
sense, he is suggesting that the opening of the possibilil y of signification
that is the "access of the logos to its essence" is something like a tran-
scendental condition of language. The "cvent" of this opening is logically
prior (bcing its condition of possibility) to any instance of speech. Hei-
degger, as I have noted, named the event of this opening reignis; Nancy'S
point would be that reignis is the limit of language and in it self nothing
li nguistic. He would be emphasizing further (though this point was clear
in Le portage des voix) that what a singular being articulates by its e:'<posure
is a "common" space that, whi le existi ng only by these articulut ions,
remains nevert heless the articulation of a "between" that joi ns them and
defines them (even as they dcfine it). Again. the otherness of the voice is
thc always different voicc of communit y.
My disagreement with this Qualification is a minor one, and finall y onl y
of the order of a terminological clarification. But I would like to suggest
that while the limit s of languagc cannot be understood as linguistic in a
restricted sense (that is, in the sensc that thcy might form the object of
li ngui stic science), they cannot be understood as other than language. As
soon as we have to do with articulation, as soon as we ha\'e to do with
meaning, we have to do with what Hcidegger called die Sprache. "Lan-
guage." taken in this extended sense (a sense that includes what Jean-
Franc;ois lyotard terms "phrase." and beyond this, what Derrida terms
'writing"). is a threshold we cannot cross in thought (though it is a thresh-
old). I speak of a threshold because we are designating a li mit. and a limit,
by its very nature, marks a relation to an "outside." But for thought. this
outsidc is nothing (in a phrase that is now well known, "There is no hors-
fexfe"). There "is" an other of language, but it is given to us in its alteri ty
only insofar as it is writtcn. And this writi ng occurs always in a si ngul ar
\'oice (or "signs" with a distinctive signature). The mutual interpell ation
of singul ari ties is not prior to any address in language, it is the address of
But Nancy is implicit ly rccogni zing that thc limits he is defi ni ng are the
limi ts of language simply by speaking of a "mutual interpell ation" and by
defining this reciprocal address as a communicat ion, and even as " litera-
ture. " The imperative to which he claims to answer in asserting that we
I1Il1sf continue to wrife the communify also presupposes that community
is something that can be communicated. What Nancy defincs as community
lies at the limits of language- it is even the "origin" of language (in a
Heideggerian sense of the term), but is always of language. Otherwise,
there would be no need to write and no way to write it.
The Community's Demand
There is a need 10 wrife it, because the communication that is community
e:<ceeds the horizon of signification. As the very possibility of signification
or representation, it cscapes representation and any theoretical grasp. Some-
thing other than a thcoretical discourse is required to answer to the cxigency
of community, even if this nccess ity can be gli mpsed only through a dis-
course that " Iabors" the conccpt:
Perhaps we should not seek a word or a concept for it, but rather
recogni ze in the thought of communit y a theoretical cxcess (or
more prccisel y, an excess in relation to the theoretical) that would
oblige us to adopt anothcr praxis of di scourse and community. But
we should at least try to say this, because "language alone
indicates, at the limit, the sovereign moment where it is no longer
current." Which means here that onl y a discourse of community,
exhausting itself, can indicate to the communit y the sovereignty of
its sharing .... An et hics and a polit ics of discourse and writing are
evidently implied here. (p. 26)
I cite these lines in part in order to rccallthe points from which I started
concerni ng Nancy's own practice of exhausti ng his guiding concepts. As
he notes in his essay "Of Being-in-Common," he will exhaust both "lit-
erature" and "communism" in La communaute desoeuvree (to the point
of abandoning a phrase such as " literary communism," though not without
having remarked wi th these terms the necessity of a writi ng practice that
would const itute the other praxis of discourse and community for which
he is calling). )6 Nancy is describing here the necessity of a theoretical dis-
course that would point beyond itself, just as the politics this discourse
would answer to would go beyond any given "politics" of discourse. He
understands this other politics inilially as one that would facilitate the
wri ting of the communit y ("literary communism"). Following Nancy's
emphasis on the arts (in a broad sense), we might understand this as a
kind of cultural politics-though it would not seek a refl ection or repre-
sentarion of itself in the creat ive acts it would seek to favor. It could not
answer to a cultural program or project of any kind (at some point it would
have to resist all programmatic imperatives), si nce its aim would be to
answer to an unforeseeable event that escapes any instituted order of mean-
ing and constitutes the site where the question of the very meaning of
pol itical existence is reopened. It would be a politics seeking to answer to
the limit of the political-a limit, as Nancy puts it, "where all politics stOps
and begi ns."
While describing this limit in ''' Li terary Communism,'" and in relation
to its tracing by the work of art, Nancy writes, "The work, as soon as it
becomes a work, ... must be abandoned at this limit " (p. 121 ). He then
adds in parentheses, " I say ' must'-but this cannot be dictated by any
will , to any will . It cannot be the objective either of a moralit y or of a
polit ics of community. And yet , it is prescribed. And a polit ics, in any
case, can adopt the objective that this prescription should always be able
to open a free way of access." The "cultural politics" in question would
seek to let the " unworking" communicat ion of community occur, or prevent
its inhibition, even by a "democratic" politics of consensus that cannot
tolerate a "communication" that speaks to an experience of communit y as
difference Y But of course such a politics of communit y would be blind if
it could not read, in some sense, the prescri ption to which it would answer,
or whose paths it would try to keep open . Thus, if it is even possible to
FOREWORD 0 x.wi i
speak of a politics in this cont ext, we would have to entertai n the
of a politics of community-a polities that would proceed from the Impcr-
ative 10 which the work itsclf answers and that is inscribed there.
does in fact propose such a politics in The Inoperative Community. The
first instance:
If the polit ical is not dissolved in the sociotcchnical element of
forces and needs (in which, in effect, it seems to be dissolving
under our eyes), it must inscribe the sharing of community. The
outli ne of singularit y would be "polit ical"-as would be the
outli ne of it s communication and its ecstasy. " Political" would
mean a communit y ordering itself to the un working of its
communication, or destined to this unworking: a communit y
consciously undergoing the experience of its sharing. To attain to
such a signification of the "political" ... implies being already
engaged in communit y, that is to say, undergoi ng, in whatever
manner, the experi ence of community as communication: it implies
writing. We must not stop writi ng, or letting the si ngular outline
of our being-in-common expose itself. (pp. 40-41)
Nancy is cauti ous to avoid speaking of a politics here, and aims rather
at redefi ning the nature of the political and what would constitute the
"political" moment in the self-definition of a communit y. In his conclusion,
however, he suggests that it is possible to speak of a political activity that
would answer to this essence of the political:
But it defines at least a limit, at which all politics stops and
begi ns. The communication that ta kes place on this limit, and that .
in trut h, constitutes it, demands that way of destining oursel ves in
common that we call a politics. that way of opening communit y to
itself. rather than to a destiny or to a future. "Literary
communism" indicates al least the following: that community, in
its infinite resistance to everyt hing that would bring it to
completion (in every sense of the word can also
mean "fi ni sh off"), signifies an irrepressible political exigency, and
thaI this exigency in its turn demands something of "literature,"
the inscription of our infinite resistance. (p. 80-81)
A politics of communi ty is possible (though again, this could not be a
program) because community demands it. A "prescription" occurs in the
wriling of the communit y that makes all writing political (it is wri ting, or
what Nancy also calls "literature," to the extent that it draws out this
prescri ption and brings it to speak as the exigency of community). '" And
the discourse that bri ngs forth this exigency as such-that would engage
"consciously" in the politics of community, "opening communit y to itsclf."
xxviii 0 FOREWORD
must itself be conceived as a kind of writi ng answeri ng to and repeat ing
in its fashion this exigency.
Nancy does not attempt to describe the traits of such writing in La
commllnallfe desoellvree, or the forms it might take (he notes, but leaves
aside, the import ant question of Bataille's use of language). But he relUrns
repeatedly to the "exigency" that speaks in what I have called the divided
logos of the community. This demand, as yet "unheard" and " unheard
of" (iI/ollie), Nancy says, manifests itself fir st in an expression of need, a
testimony that " involves," he says, all ot her testi mony of this time: "the
testimony of the di ssolution, the di slocation, or the conflagration of com-
munity" (p. 1). All writing of this time, he suggests, is part of this testi-
mony: what is said in our lime is the absence of community. But an answer
to this largely unheard and barely articulated testi mony (one that brings it
to speak precisely as a demand) is not lament, and it is somethill more
than protestation. Bataill e answers to it, Nancy argues, in writ ing out of
(and attempting to communicate, in the sense now almost of contagion)
what Nancy call s the passion of the absence of community: the ecstatic
experience of the impossibilit y of communion or fusion in a shared, imma-
nent Being, and the impossibilit y of a " myt hic" logos that would be the
sayi ng of such immanence. This passion, as we have seen, is the passion
of fin itude: the passion of a singular bei ng drawn to its li mits and drawing
out those limit s, communicati ng them as the limit s of communi ty itself.
Every such communicati on interrupts, or repeats the rupture of, the myt hic
space of communion (recast in various forms in the West 's constant recourse
to myt h)- it marks a break or caesura. What Nancy means by "li terature"
is precisely a communication thaI does not pass by the relays of the mythic
word and thereby interrupt s the scene of myth (or the scene of " Litera-
IUre"-since the myth of the author and the book perpet uates Ihe dream
of communion). BUI in exposi ng this break, it exposes the singul arity of
Bei ng (its essence as "portage"': divi ded and shared) and call s upon us, by
exposing us to this limit that is the li mit of our singular/common being.
The address is always singul ar, but the ot her that demands our response is
always the communit y. Its address bespeaks a need, but also an invi tation
and a perpetua11y renewed, perpetua11 y deferred (or perpetually relayed)
Community without community is to come, in the sense that it is
always coming, endlessly, at the heart of every coll ect ivity .... It is
no more than this: to come to the limit of compearance, to that
limit to which we are in effect convoked, call ed, and sent ... . The
ca11 that convokes us, as we11 as the one we address to one
another ... (t his call from one 10 the other is no doubt the same
call, and yet not the same) can be named, for want of a bctt er
tcrm, wri ti ng, or literature. (p. 71)
Derrida descri bes Ihis address wi th Ihe "viens" he reads in Blanchot's
textS (and eisewhere).-IO Hei degger, for his part, descri bes it as the counteri ng
word of an inj unction or command that he call s a Geheiss: a calling that
gat hcrs all acts of call ing (all speech in which the address of language itself
is articulated) and that enjoi ns thai all speech should answer to its call. '
When difference speaks, he says, it commands: its command is that all
should answer to its command (all answering being the articulation of this
command, which can only speak in its articulations). But if, as I have tried
to suggest, Nancy is in fact describing the same exigency of language, he
ma kes it dear that this exigency cannot be thought as an inj unction that
gathers all acts that answer to it. Rat her it woul d enjoi n fu rther acts of
speech that will articulate it differently, in always singular, always different
forms. The community enjoins it s own dissemi nat ion-it enjoins wri ting:
this is the law of community.
Di" ine Writ ing
I have referred Nancy's remarks on the communicar ive nature of exposure
(of the exposure Ihat occurs in all forms of ecstasis) to Heidegger's under
standing of the logos and its "communication" in order to suggest how
dose Nancy's t hinking is to Heidegger's, but also to mark the distance that
lies between them. The distance, we mi ght say now, is one that opens
precisely through Nancy's effort to ret hi nk Heidegger's not ion of a distance
and proxi mi ty that is measured by the speaking of language (the distance
and proxi mity being the nearness of the word itself as it withdraws and
traces out the defi ni ng li mits of what it means "to be," and thus the
distance- bot h temporal and spati al- that marks everything that is). The
distance between Ihe two texts becomes an ext reme proxi mity if we push
Heidegger's t hought of finitude in the direction of some of its most radical
formulations. And yet there is a poi nt , or a limit, where Heidegger's texts
resist (rhetoricall y, if not conceptuall y): they consistent ly draw back before
the description of the dislocati on, the dispersion that Nancy t ries to think
wit h the term "writing." It is not difficult to show Ihat Heidegger himself
pursues quite consciously a thought of wri ting; long before he ostent at iously
crosses out the word Bei ng, he points to Ihe necessity of the traci ng and
rctracing of difference. What Heidegger terms the " speaking of language"
is in fact the tracing of what he call s the Riss: the speech of language is
a silent, invisible inscripti on. But while he recognizes, as I have suggested,
that such a traci ng can only occur insofar as it is drawn out in singular,
finite acts of speech, he will always allempt to think thei r gathering in one
speaking. The Ge of terms such as Oesproch, Oehe;ss, OI.'IOllt, GeJlecht,
sounding repeatedly in his texts , signi fies precisely this gathering. Heideg-
ger's difference differentiates and spaces, but Heidegger wi ll always empha-
size the way it opens a space of the same. Nancy trics to think the same
spaci ng (even the "same" of thi s spaci ng)-but hc tries to think it as a
constant dislocation.
I have st ressed this point sufficientl y by now. But I reemphasize it as I
approach the conclusion of this foreword because I would li ke to suggest
that Nancy's "Of Divine Places"-in many ways his most beautiful, but
also hi s most chall enging piece of writing-is articulated around it. A brief
exposition of the Chapter's movement wi ll provide a final illustration of
the point. and serve, I hope, to bring fort h the precariousness of both
Nancy's stance vis-a-vis Hcidegger and of this extraordinary essay ilSoU as
it explores a notion of the divine in relation to the concept of writing. To
designate the articulation Nancy proposes, I am tcmpted by a phrase
prompted by Pasolini's "divi ne mimesis"-though "divine writing" is reall y
100 awkward. The phrase would signify, however, a ki nd of di vine abandon
of the ontotheological tradition and a reopeni ng of the quesi ton of a non-
secular experience that would be without a Book. without a Temple, and
without God, and for which even the epithet "divine" would no longer be
Nancy begins, as in his meditation on community. with the fact of an
absence. In La communaute desoeuvrh, this was the absence of communit y
and the absence of myth. In "Of Divine Places," it is the absence of the
divi ne, ilS desertion of all names and all temples, all sites where the presence
of the divine was once received and celebrated. Nancy, li ke Heidegger. ta kes
Holderlin's testimony as exemplary here. " Hol y names arc lacking," Hold-
erti n wrote in " Homecoming," and when he wri tes "der Oot!," it is as
though he is usi ng a common noun, signifying by its very abstraction the
lack of names that would manifest the divine presence. The holy names no
longer hold, they no longer give the possibility of a relation to a divine
presence; and prayer, by which even the improper name "God" would
invoke a singular relation to the divine ("my God") is now impossible.
The di vi ne not only withholds itself from all names , Na ncy suggests ; its
withholding is to be thought as a cessation.
Nancy makes this point with a st unning radicality in the face of the
resurgence of religious experience in the West and the challenging insistence
of it at the West's increasingly undefi neable borders. Once again, Nancy
is describing what he takes to be a hi storial event : rel igion in the West ,
and even beyond the West, is exhausted. The experience of the di vi ne has
emptied out as it has been charged with meaning (or gives way to meaning)
in the long history of morali ty described variously by Nietzsche, Hegel,
(Ind Heidegger. Nancy assumes this history (as the hi story of Being to which
Ihe divi ne also belongs) and assumes its culmi nation in "t he death of God."
He denounces in the strongest terms all thought that forgelS this " historical"
fact and refuses the temptation to rebaptize the abysses or extremit ies
revealed by thought's abandonment to an experi ence no longer guaranteed
by God. There is nothing we ca n say about God (about hi s being or essence),
or designate with the name of God, that cannot be ascribed to another
term: love, communit y, the SUblime, the other, Being. To smuggle back the
name of God, or to speak of divinity in relation to these limits revealed
to and by thought in ilS work over the past two centuries. could only inhibit
its efforts to confront its history.
Nancy will pass very close to this laller temptation, but wi ll try to avoid
it by aski ng whet her a different approach to the problem of the divi ne
might be conceived, a different topic that does not go by way of the question
of the divine essence. The point of fragmenting his text, he suggests, is to
approach the question of divine places. He takes his clue here (section 14,
after his "polemical note" against all trafficking of the supposed "ret urn"
of spiritualit y in the West) from Heidegger's commentary on lines from
Holderlin's " In lovely blueness .... " Having already suggested (sect ion 10)
that we must resist the dial ectical urge to turn the signs of the withdrawal
of the sacred into signs that would manifest the sacred as withdrawn (dis-
simulated and held in reserve), he ent ertains the possibil ity of an entirely
different understanding of di vine manifestation or divine presence from
that of the ontotheological tradit ion. Holderlin wrot e in his poem, "Is God
unknown? Is he manifest like the sky? This, rather, is what I beli eve."
Hei dcgger int erpreted thcse lines to suggest that God manifests himself in
the "open face" of the sky as unknown. Nancy qualilies Heidegger's inter-
pretation by arguing that Holderlin docs not speak of a manifestation
through the intermediary of the sky, but rather of an im-mediatc mani-
festation like that of the sky. Such a manifestation might be conceived as
taking place against the open aspect of the sky, on its face, so to speak-
as it might occur against the facc of anything as it is gi"en (0 us in its
simple presence (as Nancy consistent ly describes the ecstatic experi ence of
phenomenal presence when beings are given in the cvcnt of reignis)-but
not by way oj this aspect. This manifestation would not take the structure
of a mediation or rcprescntat ion. It would be here, against the surface of
what is: an im-mediate manifestation that would not be the revelation of
the divinc itself, Na ncy adds (still foll owi ng Hcidegger), but the evidency
of the possibi lity of a relation to it as absent or unknown, the possibili ty
of a "being-unto-God."
u;ocii 0 FOREWORD
The slructure of this "im-medialel y againsl" is the structure of writing
as Heidegger conceives of it: the traci ng of a difference that is the opening
of God to humankind (this is how Heidegger defines the sacred) and their
respective discovery or unconcealment as being of the same domain or
region, but as radicall y Strange in their being. Heidegger will consistent ly
describe such a differential relation as one of a "countering" (again, the
preposition is gegen), and Nancy is essentiall y working through Heidegger's
terms when he descri bes the relation of humankind and God (or the gods)
in terms of a face-Io-face encounter that remains "blind" and unavowable
inasmuch as gods and humans are present to one another in ulter
Men and women are men and women and the gods arc the
gods .... Li ving in the same world, they arc always face to face
with each other, on eit her side of a di viding-and a retreating-
line. They are, together, the vis-a.-vis itself, the face-to-face
encounter in which the unreserved appearing (parailre] of one to
the ot her engages them in an irredeemable strangeness . The gesture
of the gods is to conceal themselves , on this very line, from the
face of men. The gest ure of men is to stand back from this line
where it encounters Ihe face of the god. (p. 142)
Elsewhere. he writes, still working with this empty signifier "gods".
"Face to face, bUI without seeing each other from now on, the gods and
men are abandoned to writing" (p. 135).
Holderlin described in his "Remarks on 'Oedipus'" and his " Remarks
on 'Antigone'" a similar abandon in defining a properly modern tragic
experi ence, though he described the separation of the human and the di vi ne
in temporal rather than spatial The tragedy manifests, he wrote,
indeed it articulates wi th its "caesura," a veering of time by which the god
and the tragi c hero turn aside from each other. The "face to face" of the
human being and god is a " monst rous coupling," a " limi tless becoming-
one" that is " purified" (this is Holderlin's inlerpretalion of catharsis) by
a limitless separation: they finish back to back. Nancy describes the same
immediacy (even the same forgclting-this is Nancy's " syncope" ) and the
same separation; but whereas the god appea rs in Holderli n's account in
the figure of lime, it appears in Nancy's in a spatial di spersion. In ei ther
case, however, the event of separalion defi nes a radi cal impossi bility of
self-appropriation. For Holderlin, the modern experience of the di vi ne as
revealed in tragedy is one of an irreversi ble time (" beginning and end cannot
rhyme whatsoever" ): for Nancy, the experience of the sacred is one of dis-
location: a dispersion in multiple sil es. In both cases , all sel f-gatheri ng, or
FOREWORD 0 lUxi ii
all gat hering of the divine itself, is impossible: "What remains of the divine
hencefort h ... is an errancy" (p. 134).
Nancy makes this assertion immediately after clarifying how one must
nOI confuse God and Being in Heidegger's thought and before introducing
the theme of writing. Though he docs not take hi s distance explicitl y from
Hcidegger with this term (in fact he wi ll never signal this distance explicit ly),
it appears to mark in hi s essay the poim where he separates from him.
Nancy goes very far in foll owing Heidegger's description of a mutual event
of appropriation (Ereignis) defining the relation of the human and the
di vine. In fact, he nearly goes farther than Heidegger. Of the human "being-
unto-god." and the god's invisi ble revelation to humankind, Nancy remarks,
" 1 should like to write: always, whatever happens, a god protC("ts monals,
that is to say, exposes them to what they are; and in so doing the gods
expose themselves to the eyes of everyone, withdrawn like the sky. But this
is to write more than 1 can" (p. 126). It is to write more than he can
because he asserts consistently that we can know of the divine onl y its
abandonment-and he adds that we must not hasten to read this aban-
donment as the sign of the di vine. He will do so in fact, but onl y in the
mode of possi bility- in a kind of experimenl of writing.]
We know of the divine only it s abandon, and we know this abandon as
dispersion. " This is our share (portage)," Nancy writes, "that the divine
is no longer gathered anywhere. There is no longer any gathering." What
there is is open space:
Space is everywhere open, there is no place in which to gather
eit her the mystery or the splendor of a god. It has been granted to
us to see the li mitless openi ng of that space, it fall s to our time to
know- with a knowledge more acute than even the most
penctrating science, more luminous than any consciousness-how
we are delivered up to Ihat gaping naked face. It reveals only us-
neither men nor gods. (p. 148-49)
What we are given, then, or what is revealed, is our abandon. " The only
thing we might still gather for ourselves, apart from all the rest (the erotic,
the political, the poetic, the philosophical, the reli gious) is this abandon+
ment" (p. 149). At the start of his essay, he asked whether there might be
any place for God thai cannot already be designated with another term.
He ends by suggesting that the only thing " apart from all the rest" is our
apart-neither divine nor human, and " sacred" perhaps onl y in the ety-
mological sense. This "apart" has the st ructure of writing, and as such,
Na ncy assert s, it is multiple and dispersed. We are exposed, in the face of
an im-mediatc presence, but this exposure is always singular: "The face of
tile divine is not a coumenance (it is not the other 1(lII mli)). But it is the
u ...i ... 0 FOREWORD
material, local presence-here or Ihere, against somewhere-of the coming
or non-coming of the god. Its presence is a face, it is that in the face of
which we are offered, and this is inscribed in space, as so many di vi ne
places" (p. 146). "Writing" means for Nancy precisely that there is no
region (Gegend) that would gat her all face-to-face relations (by which we
would stand Gegeneinanderuber)-there is only the gegen.
Merely "apart " and " against"-and this "against" is itself drawn out
only in singular acts of exposure (in a gesture, in speech, in acts). Nancy
makes it clear that we finally know no "face" ot her than the face of our
exposure, which we draw out in receiving and defining a relation to what
is. This is why Nancy's relation to Heidegger on the problem of the di vine
remains one of "indecision" (the term appears in scrtion 28) and a will-
ingness to entertain the possibility of empt yi ng Hcidegger's "being-to"
(i tself conceived only in the mode of possibility) of any divinity. Our "being-
to," he suggests, may be the relation to "no god" {pas de dieuj. "No god"
designates at once an extreme experience of the death of god ("the place
of God trul y and broadly open, vacant , abandoned" ) and, proceeding from
this, an experience of im-mediate presence- a presence that would escape
all schematization by a conscious subject and would thereby represent in
its turn a deat h of subjecti vi ty:
It would be the death that is not the Aufhebung of life, but its
suspension: life suspended at every instant , hie el nunc, suspended
in it s exposure to things, to others, to itsel f, existence as the
presence of no subject, but the presence to an enti re world. An
invisible presence everywhere offered im-mediately with being-there
(a meme I'elre-Ia- again, im-mediately against ). im-mediately wit h
the there of being, irrefutable and naked like the brilliance of the
sun on the sea: millions of scattered places. (p. 137)
This is the same suspension that Nancy described in his essay on free-
dom- the same experience of ecstasis. the same abandon. II is the experience
of the world as offered, and of existence as a reception and articulation
of this offering. Nancy merely adds now (again, in pure indecision, and in
a kind of experiment in writing) that as the experience of what is ot her
than humankind, and as an opening, it may be the experi ence of an opening
to God: " The presence of no god could however carry with it the enticement ,
the call , the Wink of an a-dieu: a goi ng to God or an adieu to all gods.
Together, inextricably, divine presence and the absence of all gods"
(p. 137). Elsewhere, writing of mortal abandon, the "supreme indecision"
that constitutes the distinctive trait of humanit y and by which the human
being " risks itself beyond itsel f," Nancy says: " There is this. there is this
generosity and freedom outside of religion, and I don't know if t hi s abandon
FOREWORD 0 ............
would be still to gods, to another god that would come, or to no god"
(p. ])6). Reli gion, all reli gion. has blocked and sought to measure this
aba ndon of humanit y to what is ot her than itself. Nancy's effort is to
preserve the indecision. So he holds open the possibility of a bei ng-unto-
god even as he descri bes it as a being to no god.
It may well be that Nancy entertains the possibility of an a-dieu (though
from what position could we refuse this possibility?) because his experience
of "abandon" is essentially joyous, and because for Nancy, joy is the mark
of the divine ("when what concerns us is the gods, or no god, then we are
concerned with nothing else but joy" (p. 142]). The inscription of the
"divi ne place" of exposure is the outline of a di vine smil e, he says ..... Again,
the tonalit y of Nancy's writing as he attempts to think the death of God
is anything but mourning. Or it is something in mourning that both exceeds 7
and succeeds the work of mourning. Our abandonment is given to us in ~ I I ,.." .
a measureless opening of space, in the face of which no complete gathering
or collecting is possible (though we must measure ourselves against it).
Nancy wi ll speak of the gods or "no god" because he sees a smile in this
naked "face"-nowhere but here, inscribed against this infinitely dispersed
opening by which we have a relation to what is. Of course, this smile is
properly invisi ble; but smiles, Nancy would probably hasten to say. are
communicable. Our joy must be in response. This assumption, toget her
with a desire to call into question and dismant le everything that blocks
access to the communitary experience from which it proceeds, prompts
Nancy to write.
Translated by Peter Connor
Where do the texts gat hered here come from-and, in parlicular, where
does the text come from thaI provi des the ti tle for Ihis coll ecti on and that .
as ils primary text and its primary preoccupation, governs The Inoperative
I do nOI need 10 speak here about the ci rcumstances surrounding Ihe
composi ti on of this lext: these are in fact explained within the texi itself,
in a note at the end of chapler I, where one can see how these ci rcumstances,
this communit y of ci rcumstances, form the symptom of a unique conver-
gence that must ri ghtl y be called political rather than merel y anecdotal. It
is this political origi n that I wish to address here.
The place where these texts origi nate
is nOI one poli tical place among
ot hers. It is nOl a question of a political position that I hold, or might like
to hold, in accordance with a poli tical option or ideal, or even a poli tical
ideology and program. However, it is not independent from an unchanging
and defi nit e political determination, which I would say, to be simple and
direct. whil e not wi shing to be si mplistic, comes from the left. But as we
know, the task that now befall s us is to elucidate, to review, indeed to
revolutioni ze what the term " left" means.
In order to speak of the site that we are dealing with, I mi ght venture
the following thought : " left" means, at the very least, that the political,
as such. is receptive to what is at stake in community. (On the other hand,
" right" means, al least , that the poli tical is merely in charge of order and
admi nistration.) In this sense, and provided we remain open to all the
PREFACE 0 )lJr.X"ii
aborations and all the theoretical and pract ical ret hinki ng that might
~ necessary, the political is indissociable from something that the word
" communism" has expressed all too poorly, even as it remains the onl y
word to point toward it, albeit very obscurel y. even confusedly. .
I make no clai m to di ssipal e this obscurity enti rel y. Bul we shoul d begm
wilh Ihis much: Ihe political is the place where communi ty as such is brought
into play. It is not, in any case, just the locus of power relations, to thc
extent that these relations set and upset the necessari ly unstable and taut
equilibri um of collect ivit y. I do not wi sh to neglect the sphere of power
relations: we never stop bei ng caught up in it, being implicated in its
dcmands. On the cont rary, I seek only to insist on the importance and
gravity of the rel ations of force and the class and/ or party struggles of the
world al a moment when a kind of broadly pervasive democratic consensus
seems to make us forget that "democracy," more and more frequentl y,
serves only to assure a play of economic and technical forces that no poli tics
today subject s to any end OIher than that of it s own expansion. A good
part of the human communit y is payi ng the price for this. The cruelty of
thi s game is what defines the intolerable, which will dest roy " democracy"
if "democracy" persists in tolerat ing it.
But there would be no power relations, nor would there be such a specific
unleashing of power (t here would merely be a mechanics of force) , if the
political were not the place of communit y-in ot her words, the place of a
sped fie existence, the existence of being-in-common, which gives ri se to
Ihe existence of being-self. This presupposes that we are brought into the
world, each and everyone of us, according 10 a dimension of "in-common"
that is in no way "added onto" the dimension of "being-self," but that is
rather co-originary and coextensive with il. But this does not mean that
the "common" is a substance uni forml y laid out "under" supposed "i ndi -
vidual s," nor is it uniforml y shared out among everyone like a part icular
ingredient. No: this means that the mode of existence and appropriat ion
of a "self" (which is not necessarily, nor exclusively. an individual) is the
mode of an exposi ti on in common and to the in-common, and that this
exposition exposes Ihe self even in its "in itself," in its "ipseity," and in
its own di stinctiveness, in it s isolation or in its solitude. Only a bei ng-in-
common can make possible a bei ng-separated.
"To be exposed" means to be "posed" in exteriorit y, according to an
extcriorily, having to do wit h an out side in (he very infimacy of an inside.
Or again: havi ng access to what is proper to existence. and therefore . of
COurse, to the proper of one$ own existence, only through an "expropri-
ation" whose exemplary real ity is that of "my" face always exposed to
Olhers, always turned toward an ot her and faced by him or her, never facing
xxxviii 0 PREFACE
myself. This is the archi-original impossibility of Narci ssus that opens
strai ght away Onto the possibili ty of the polit ical.
This is the one thing the Western tradition has always known. Aristotl e
says that we li ve in ci ties-this is the political way of life-not for reasons
of need, but for a higher reason, itself without reason, namely to " li ve
well " (eu zein): here "well" means nei ther a comfort , nor a having; it is
the ownmost difference of man, which means also, for Aristotle (but for
Plato as well), the sharing of a logos. Logos means many things. But one
of its meanings is this: something (that one can at times determine as
" language," at times as "reason," and in many ot her ways as well ) whose
only worth lies in being exposed (among other ways, as when !I face li ghts
up, openi ng), that is, in being shared.
But this same tradition, which never envisioned anythi ng else for the
political, represented by Spi noza, Rousseau, and Marx (here is the " left,"
limited to a few names: as for the rest, they are nOI dealing with the thinking
of the political but with working OUI a polilical economy. which is quite
different}-Ihis same tradit ion ended up giving us only various programs
for the realization of an essence of comunit y. Exposit ion and sharing do
not make up an essence. And (Western) philosophy's political programs
have come to a close.
The acute awareness, which is our own, of t he closure of these programs
governs the movement of this book. We often call this "the end of ideology,"
and we silently and insidiously add "t he end of political opti ons" in order
to subsitute the consensus of a single program that we call " democracy."
And we fail to notice that this is how one loses sight of community as
such, and of the political as the place of it s exposition.
How and why the tradition has folded and closed the thinking of being-
in-common within the thinking of an essence of communit y is not something
I seek to examine. But I start out from the idea that such a thinking-the
thinking of communit y as essence-is in effect the closure of the political.
Such a thinki ng constitutes closure because it assigns to communit y a
common being. whereas communit y is a mailer of something quite different.
namel y, of existence inasmuch as it is in common, but without lett ing itself
be absorbed into a common substance. Being in common has nothing to
do wit h communion, wi th fusion into a body, into a unique and ul ti mate
ident ity that would no longer be exposed. Bei ng in common means, to the
contrary, no longer hoving, in any form. in any empirical or ideal place.
such a substantial identity. and sharing this (narcissistic) "lack of identity."
This is what philosophy call s " finitude," and the following texi s are entirely
and uniquely devoted to an understanding of it.
Finitude, or the infinite tack of infinite identity, if we can risk such a
formulation, is what makes communit y. That is, community is made or is
PREFACE 0 xxxix
formed by the retreat or by the subtraction of something: this something,
which would be the fulfilled infi nite identit y of communit y, is what J call
it s 'work." All our political programs imply this work: either as the product
of the working communit y, or else the communit y itself as work. But in
fact it is the work that the communit y does not do and that it is not that
formS communit y. In the work, the properly "common" character of com-
munity disappears, giving way to a unicity and a substant iali ty. (The work
it self, in fact , should not be understood primarily as the exteriority of a
product, but as the interiorit y of the subject's operation.) The communit y
Ihal becomes 0 single thing (body, mind, fatherland, Leader ... ) necessaril y
loses the in of being-in-common. Or, it loses the with or the together that
defi nes it. It yields its being-toget her to a bei ng of togetherness. The truth
of community, on the contrary, resides in the retreat of such a being.
Communit y is made of what retreats from it: the hypost asis of the "com-
mon," and its work. The retreat opens, and continues to keep open, this
strange being-the-one-with-the-other to which we are exposed. (Not hing
indicates more clearly what the logic of this being of togetherness can impl y
than the role of Gemeinschaft. of communit y, in Nazi ideology. )
If I had to attempt to state the principle guiding the analyses in these
texts, I mi ght do so by saying this: communit y does not consist in the
transcendence (nor in the transcendental) of a being supposedly immanent
to community. It consists on the contrary in {he immanence of a "tran-
scendence"-that of finite existence as such, which is to say, of it s "expo-
sition." Exposi tion, precisely. is not a "being" that one can "sup-pose"
(like a sub-stance) to be in communit y. Communit y is presuppositionless:
this is why it is haunted by such ambi guous ideas as foundat ion and sov-
ereignty, which are at once ideas of what would be completely supposi-
tionless and ideas of what would always be presupposed. But communit y
cannot be presupposed. It is onl y exposed. This is undoubtedly not easy
to thi nk . But such thinki ng, which is perhaps inaccessible (inaccessi ble
wi thout the being-in-common of thinki ng, wi thout the sharing of reading,
wit hout (he politics wi thin which all writing and reading are inscribed),
forms a point of essential convergence and solidarity among the studi es
here dedicated to community properly speaki ng, to myth, to love, and to
the ret real of the divine.

By inverting the "principle" stated a moment ago, we gel totalitarianism.
By ignori ng it , we condemn the political to management and to power (and
(Q the management of power, and to the power of management). By taki ng
it as a rule of anal ysis and thought . we raise the quest ion: how can the
community wi thout essence (the communit y that is nei ther "people" nor
"nation," neither "dcstiny" nor "generic humanity," etc.) be presented as
such? That is. what might a politics be that does not stem from the will
to realize an essence?
I shall nOl venture into the possible forms of such a politics, of this
politics that one might call the politics of the political, if the polit ical can
be taken as the moment, the poim, or the event of being-in-common. Thi s
would be beyond my competence. But I do enter int o the bond (not only
the " social bond," as one says today, all too readil y, but th$ properly
political bond) that binds the political, or in which the poli tical is bound
When I speak, in the studies that follow, of "literature," of a "voice of
interruption," of " shattered" love, of "coming," of "joy," and finall y of
"placcs" of "dislocation," it is always of the same bond that I shall be
speaking: of a bond that forms tics without attachments, or even less fusion,
of a bond that unbinds by binding, thai reunites through the infi nite expo-
sition of an irreducible fi nit ude. How can we be recepti ve to the meaning
of our mUltiple, dispersed, mortall y fragmented existences, which none-
theless only make sense by existing in common?
In other words, perhaps: how do we communicate? But Ihis question
can be asked seriously onl y if we dismiss all "theori es of communication,"
which begin by posit ing the necessity or the desire for a consensus, a
continuit y and a transfer of messages. It is not a question of establishing
rules for communication, it is a question of understanding before all else
that in "communication" what takes place is an exposition: fi nite existence
exposed 10 finile existence, co-appeari ng before it and with it.
To think this point, or rather this limitlhat exposition " is," is necessaril y
to think the point or the limi t at which the moment of revolwion presents
itself. The idea of revolution has perhaps still nOl been understood, inas-
much as it is the idea of a new foundation or that of a reversal of so\'ereignt y.
Of course. we need gest ures of foundation and reversa\. But their reason
lies elsewhere: it is in the incessantly present moment at which existence-
in-common resists every transcendence that tries 10 absorb it. be it in an
All or in an Individual (in a Subjcct in general). This moment cannot be
"founded," and no foundation, therefore, can be "reversed" in it . This
moment- when the in of the " in-common" erupts, resists, and disrupts
the relations of need and force-annuls coll ective and communal hypos-
tases; Ihis violent and troubling moment resists murderous violence and the
turmoil of fascination and identificat ion: the intensit y of the word " rev-
olution" names it well , a word that, undoubt edly. has been bequeat hed or
delegated to us by an ambiguous hi story, but whose meaning has perhaps
still to be revolutionized.
I'REfACE 0 xli
One thi ng at least is clear: if we do not face up to such questions. the
political will soon desert us completely, if il has not already done so. It
II'ilI abandon us to political and technological economics, if it has not
already done so. And this will be the end of our communities. if Ihis has
not yet come about. Being-in-common will nonetheless never cease to resist,
but its resiSlance wi ll belong decidedly to another world entirel y. Our world.
as far as politics is concerned, wi ll be a desert, and we will wither away
without a tomb-which is to say, without communit y. deprived of our finite
e:< istence.
Chapter 1
The Inoperative Community
The gravest and most painful testimony of the modern world. the one that
possibly involves all other testimonies 10 which Ihis epoch must answer (by
virt ue of some unknown decree or necessit y. for we bear witness also to
the exhaustion of thinking through History), is the testimony of the dis-
solution, the dislocation, or the conflagration of communit y. Communism,
as Sartre said, is "the unsurpassable horizon of our time," and it is so in
many senses-political, ideological. and strat egic. But nOI least important
among these senses is the following consideration, quite foreign 10 SaTIre's
intentions: the word "communism" stands as an embl em of the desire to
discover or rediscover a place of community al once beyond social di visions
and beyond subordination to technopolitical dominion. and thereby beyond
such wasti ng away of li berty. of speech. or of simple happiness as comes
about whenever these become subjugated to the exclusive order of pri va-
ti zat ion; and finally. more simpl y and even more decisivel y. a place from
which to surmount the unraveling that occurs with the death of each
one of us-that death that . when no longer anything more than the death
of the individual, carries an unbearable burden and coll apses into
More or less consciously, more or less deliberatel y, and more or less
POlitically, the word "communism" has constituted such an emblem- which
no doubt amounted to something ot her than a concept, and even something
other than the meaning of a word. This emblem is no longer in circulation,
except in a belated way for a few; for sti ll others, though very rare nowadays,
it is an emblem capable of inferring a fierce but impotenl resistance 10 the
visible collapse of what it promised. If it is no longer in circulation, this
is not onl y because the Slates that acclaimed it have appeared, for some
lime now, as the agents of it s betrayal. (Bataille in 193]: "The Revoluti on's
minimal hope has been described as the decl ine of the Slate: but it is in
fact the revolutionary forces that the present world is seeing perish and, at
the same ti me, every vi tal force today has assumed the form of the tOla l-
itarian State." )' The schema of belrayal, aimed at preserving an origi nary
eommunist purit y of dOClrine or intent ion, has come to be sccn as less and
less tenable. NOIthal totalitarianism was already present , as such, in Marx:
this would be a crude proposi tion, one Ihat remai ns ignorant of the strident
protest against the destrUClion of communil y that in Marx continuously
parall els the Hegelian attempt to bri ng about a totalit y, and that thwarts
or displaces this attempt.
But the schema of betrayal is seen to be untenable in that il was the
very basis of the communist ideal that ended up appeari ng most problem-
atic: namely, human beings defi ned as producers (one mi ght even add:
human beings defined at all). and fundamentall y as the producers of thei r
own essence in the form of their labor or their work.
That the justice and freedom-and the equalit y-included in the com-
munist idea or ideal have in effect been betrayed in so-called real com-
munism is something at once laden with the burden of an intolerable
sufferi ng (along with other, no less intolerable forms of sufferi ng inflicted
by our liberal societ ies) and at the same time politicall y decisive (not onl y
in that a political strategy must favor resistance to this bet rayal , but because
this strat egy, as well as our thought in general, must reckon with the
possibili ty that an entire society has been forged, docilely and despite more
than one forum of revolt , in the mold of this betrayal - or more plainly,
at the mercy of this abandonment : t hi s would be Zinoviev's Question, rather
than Solzhenitsyn's). But these burdens are st ill perhaps onl y relative com-
pared with the absolute weight that crushes or blocks all our "horizons":
there is, namely, no form of communist opposition-or let us say rather
"communit arian" opposition. in order to emphasize that the word should
not be reslricted in this context to strictl y political references-that has not
been or is not still profoundly subjugated to the goal of a human community,
that is, to the goal of achi eving a communit y of beings producing in essence
their own essence as thei r work , and funhermore produci ng precisely this
essence as communi/yo An absolute immanence of man to man-a human-
ism-and of communit y 10 communit y-a communism-obstinately sub-
tends. whatever be their merits or strengths, all forms of oppositional
communism, all lefti st and ultraleftist models , and all models based on
the workers' counci l.
In a sense, all ventures adopting a communitarian
opposit ion to " real communism" have by now run their course or been
abandoned, but everyt hing continues along its way as though. beyond these
ventures. it were no longer even a Question of thinking about communit y.
Yct it is precisely the immanence of man to man, or it is man, taken
absolut ely, considered as the immanent being par excellence, that constit ut es
thc stumbling block to a thinking of communit y. A communit y presupposed
as having to be one of hI/man beings presupposes that it cffcct, or that it
must effect, as such and int egrall y, it s own essence, whi ch is it self the
accomplishment of the essence of humanness. ("What can be fashioned by
man? Everyt hing. Nature, human societ y, humanit y," wrote Herder. We
are swbbornly bound to this regulati ve idea, even when we consider that
this " fashioning" is itself onl y a "regulati ve idea.") Consequently, economic
ties, technological operati ons, and political fusion (into a body or under a
leader) represent or rather present , expose, and realize this essence neces-
sarily in themselves. Essence is set to work in them; through them, it
becomcs its own work. This is what we have called " totalitarianism," but
it might be better named " immanentism," as long as we do not restrict
the term to designating ccrt ain types of societies or regimes but rather see
in it the general hori zon of our time, encompassi ng both democracies and
their fragile juridical parapets.

Is it reall y necessary to say somet hing about the individual here? Some see
in its invent ion and in the culture, if not in the cull built around the
individual , Europe's incontrovertible merit of havi ng shown the world the
sole path to emancipation from tyranny, and the norm by which 10 measure
all our collective or communitarian undertakings. But the individual is
mcrely the residue of the experience of the dissolution of communit y. By
it s nature-as its name indicates, it is the atom. the indi visible-the indi-
vidual reveals that it is the abstract result of a decomposition. It is anot her,
and symmetrical, fi gure of immanence: the absolutel y detached for-it self,
taken as origi n and as cert aint y.
But the experi ence through which this indi vidual has passed, since Hegel
at least, (and through which he passes , it must be confessed, with staggeri ng
Opinionatedness) is simply the experience of this: that the individual can
be the origin and the certaint y of nothing but its own death. And once
immort ality has passed int o its works, an operarh'e immort alit y remains
its own alienat ion and renders its death still more stra nge than the irre-
mediable strangeness that it already 'is."
St ill, one cannot make a world with si mple atoms. There has 10 be a
clinumetl. There has to be an inclination or an inclining from one toward
the other, of one by the other, or from one to the other. Communi ty is at
least the clinamen of the "individua1." Yet there is no theory, ethics, polit ics,
or metaphysics of the indi vidual that is capable of envisaging this clinamen,
this declination or decline of the individual within community. Neit her
" Personali sm" nor San re ever managed to do anything more than coat
the most classical individual-subject with a moral or sociological paste: they
never inclined it, outside itself, over that edge that opens up its bei ng-i n-
An inconsequential atomism, individuali sm tends to forget that the atom
is a world. This is why the question of communi ty is so markedly absent
from the metaphysics of the subject, that is to say, from the metaphysics
of the absolute for-itsel f- be it in the form of the individual or the total
State- which means also the metaphysics of the absolufe in general, of
bcing as ab-solute, as perfect ly detached, distinct, and closed: being wi thout
relation . This ab-solute can appear in the form of the Idea, History, the
Individual, the St ate, Science, the Work of Art, and so on. It s logic will
always be the same inasmuch as it is wi thout relation. A simple and redoubt-
abl e logic witt always impl y that withi n its very separation the absolutely
separate encloses, if we can say this, more than what is simpl y separated.
Which is to say that the separation itself must be enclosed, that the closure
must not onl y close around a territory (while st ill remaining exposed, at
its outer edge, to anot her territory, with which it thereby communicates),
but also. in order to complete the absoluteness of its separati on, around
the enclosure itself. The absol ut e must be the absolute of its own abso-
luteness, or not be at alt . In other words: to be absolutely alone, it is not
enough that I be so; I must also be alone being alone-and this of course
is contradictory. The logic of the absolute violates the absolute. It implicates
it in a relation that it refuses and precludes by its essence. This relation
tears and forees open, from within and from without at the same time,
and from an outside that is nothing other than the rejection of an impossible
int eriori ty, the "without relation" from which the absolute would constitute
Excluded by the logic of the absolute-subject of metaphysics (Self, Will ,
Li fe, Spirit, etc.), communi ty comes perforce 10 cui into this subject by
virtue of this same logic. The logic of the absolute sels i l in relalion: but
this, obviously, cannot make for a relation between two or several absolutes,
no more than it can make an absolute of the relation. It undoes the abso-
luteness of the absolute. The relation (the communit y) is, if it is, nothing
ot her than what undoes, in its very pri nciple-and at its closure or on its
limit- the autarchy of absolute immanence.
Batai ll e constant ly experienced this violent logic of being-separated. For
But if the ensemble of men-or more si mpl y their integral
existence-WAs INCARNATED in a si ngle being-obviously j ust as
solitary and as abandoned as the ensemble-the head of the
INCARNATED one would be the place of an unappeasable combat-
and one so violent that sooner or later it would shatter into pieces.
For it is difficult to see what degree of storming and unleashing
the visions of the one incarnated would altain since it ought to see
God but in the same instant kill him, then become God himself
but only to rush straightway into nothingness: what would come
about then would be a man just as deprived of meaning as the
fi rst passerby. but deprived of all possi bilit y of rest. (O.C. 1 :547)
Such an incarnation of humanit y, aggregating its absolute bei ng beyond
relation and communit y, depicts the desti ny will ed by modern thought. We
shall never escape the "unappeasable combat" as long as we remai n unable
to protect communit y from this destiny.
Carryi ng this logic into the sphere of knowledge, Bataill e, in anot her
text, assert s:
If I " mimic" absolute knowledge, I am at once, of necessity, God
mysel f (in the system, there can be no knowl edge, not even in
God, which goes beyond absol ute knowledge). The thought of this
self-of ipse-could onl y make itself absolute by becoming
everyt hing. The Phenomenology oj Spirif comprises two essential
movements completi ng a ci rcl e: it is the completion by degrees of
the consciousness of the self (of human ipse) and the becoming
everything (the becoming God) of this ipse completing knowledge
(and by this means destroying the particularity withi n it, thus
completing the negation of oneself. becomi ng absol ute knowledge).
But if in this way, as if by contagion and by mime, I accompl ish
in myself Hegel's ci rcul ar movemcnt, I defi ne-beyond the limits
attained-no longer an unknown, but an unknowable. Unknowable
not on account of the insufficiency of reason, but by its nature
(and even, for Hegel, one could onl y havc concern for this beyond
for lack of possessing absolute knowledge ... ). Supposing then that
I were to be God. that I were to have in the world the assurance
of Hegel (suppressing shadow and doubt)- knowing everything and
even why fulfilled knowledge required that man, the innumerable
particularities of selves, and hi story produce themselves- at
precisel y that moment , the questi on is formulated which allows
human, divine existence to enter ... the deepest foray into darkness
without ret urn; why must there be what I know? Why is it a
necessity? In thi s question is hidden- it doesn' t appear at fi rst-an
ext reme ru pture, so deep that onl y the silence of ecstasy answers
it. J
The rupture (dechirure) hidden in the queSlion is occasioned by the
question itself, which breaks up the totalit y of things that arc-considered
in terms of the absolute, Ihal is to say, separate from every other "thing"-
and Being (which is not a "t hing"), through which or in the name of whi ch
these things, in their totality, are. This rupture (analagous, if not identical,
to Heidegger's distinction between the ontical and the ont ological) defines
a relulion to the absolute, imposing on the absolute a relation (0 its own
Being instead of making this Being immanent to the absolute totalit y of
beings. And so, Being "itself" comes to be defined as relat ional , as non-
absoluteness , and, if you will-in any case this is what I am tryi ng to
argue-os community.
Ecstasy answers-i f it is properly speaking an " answer" -to the impos-
sibili ty of the absoluteness of the absolute, or to the "abso[ute" impossibi lity
of complete immanence. Ecstasy, if we understand it according to a rigorous
strain of thi nking that would pass, were we to trace its philosophical hi story
before Bat aille and during his time, by way of Schelling and Heidegger,
implies no effusion, and even less some for m of effe rvescent illumination.
Strictl y speaking, it defines the impossibil ity. both ontological and gno-
so[ogical, of absolute immanence (or of the absolute, and therefore of
immanence) and consequentl y the impossibility either of an indi viduality,
in the precise sense of the term, or of a pure coll ective totalit y. The theme
of the individual and that of communism are closely bound up with (and
bound together in) the general problematic of immanence." They are bound
together in their denial of ecstasy. And for us the question of the communit y
is hencefort h inseparabl e from a question of ecstasy-which is to say, as
we are beginning to understand, from the question of Bei ng considered as
somethi ng ot her than the absoluteness of the totalit y of beings.
Communily, or fhe being-ecslalic of Being itself? That woul d be the

I would like to introduce a quali fication, to which I wi ll return later: behind
the theme of the indi vidual, but beyond it , lurks the question of singularity.
What is a body. u face, a voice. u deat h, a wri ti ng-not indivisible, but
singular? What is Iheir singular necessity in the sharing that divides and
that puIS in communication bodies, voices, and writi ngs in general and in
totalit y? In sum, t hi s question would be exactly the reverse of the question
of the absolute. In this respect . it is constitutive of the questi on of com-
munity. and it is in this cont ext that it wi ll have to be taken into account
later on. But singularity never has the nature or the structure of indivi d-
uali ty. Si ngularit y never takes place at the level of atoms, those identifiable
if not identical idenl ities; rather it ta kes place at the level of the clillomell.
which is unidenti fiable. It is linked to ecstasy: one could not properly say
thai the singul ar being is the subject of ecstasy, for ecstasy has no "sub-
ject"-but one must say that ecstasy (communit y) happens to the si ngular

The solidarity of the individual with communism at the heart of a thinki ng
of immanence, whi le neglecting ecstasy, does not however entai l a simple
symmetry. Communism-as, for example, in the generous exuberance that
wil l not lei Marx conclude without pointing to a reign of freedom, one
beyond the coll ective regulation of necessity. in which surplus work would
no longer be an exploi ti ve ....'Ork. but rat her art and invention-commu-
ni cates with an extremit y of play, of sovereignt y, e\'en of ecstasy from which
the individual as such remains definitively removed. But this link has
remai ned distant , secret, and most often unknown to communism itself
(let us say, to lend concreteness , unknown to Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky),
except in the ful gurati ng bursts of poetry, painting, and cinema at the very
beginning of the Soviet revol uti on, or the motifs that Benjamin allowed as
reasons for call ing oneself a Marxist , or what Blanchot tried to bri ng across
or propose (rather than signify) wilh the word "communism" ("Com-
munism: that which excludes [and excludes it self from] every communit y
already constituted").' But agai n even this proposal in the fi nal anal ysis
went unrecogni zed. not only by "real" communism, but also, on close
inspection, by those singular "communists" themselves, who were perhaps
never able to recogni ze (until now at least) either where the metaphor (or
the hypcrbole) began and ended in the usage they made of the word, or,
especiall y, what other trope-supposing it were necessary to change words-
or what effacement of tropes mi ght have been appropriate to reveal what
haunted their use of the word "communism."
By the usage to which this word was put , they were able to communicate
with a thi nking of art, of literature, and of thought itself-other figures
or Ot her exigencies of ecstasy- but they were not truly able to communicale.
explici tl y and thematicall y (even if "explicit " and "thematic" are onl y very
fr agi le categories here), with a thinking of communit y. Or rather, their
communication with such a thinking has remained secret, or suspended.
The et hics, the politics, the philosophies of community, when there were
any (a nd there always are, even if they are reduced to chatter about fraternit y
or to laborious constructions around "intersubjecti vi ty" ), have pursued
their paths or thei r humanist deadends without suspecti ng for an instant
that these si ngular voices were speaking about communit y and were perhaps
speaking about not hing else. without suspecting that what was ta ken for
a " literary" or " aestheti c" experience was entrenched in Ihe ordeal of
community, was at grips with il. (Do we need to be remi nded, to take a
further example, what Barthes's first writings were about, and some of the
later ones as well?)
Subsequently, these same voices that were unable to communicate what,
perhaps wilhout knowing ii, they were saying, were exploited-and covered
up again-by clamorous declarations brandishing the flag of the "cullUral
revolutions" and by all kinds of "communist writing" or "proletarian
inscri ptions." The professionals of society saw in them (and not without
reason, even if their view was shortsighted) nothing more than a bourgeois
Parisian (or Berliner) form of Proletkult, or else merely the unconscious
return of a " republic of arti sts," the concept of which had been inaugurated
two hundred years earlier by the Jena romantics. In one way or anot her,
it was a matter of a simple, classical, and dogmatic system of truth: an
art (or a thought) adequate to politics (to the form or the description of
community), a politics adequate to an. The basic presupposition remained
that of a community effectuating it self in the absolute of the work, or
effectuati ng itself as work. For this reason, and whatever it may have
claimed for itself, this "modernity" remained in its principle a humanism.
We will have to return to the question of what brought about-albeit
at the cost of a certain naivete or misconception-the exigency of a
experience of communit y or communism. This is even, in a sense, the only
question. But the terms of this question all need to be transformed, to be
put back into play in a space that would be dist ributed quite differently
from one composed of all-too-facile relations (for example, soli tude of the
writer/ collectivity, or culture/ society, or elite/ masses-whether these rela-
tions be proposed as oppositions, or, in the spi rit of the "cultural revo-
lutions," as equations). And for this to happen, the question of community
must first of all be put back into play, for the necessary redistribution of
space depends upon il. Before getting to this, and without resci nding any
of the resistanl generosity or the acti\'e restlessness of the word "com-
munism" and without denying anything of the excesses to which it can
lead, but also without forgelling eit her the burdensome mortgage that comes
along with it or the usury it has (not accidentall y) suffered, we must allow
that communism can no longer be the unsurpassable horizon of our time.
And if in fact it no longer is such a horizon, this is nOi because we have
passed beyond any horizon. Rather, everyt hing is inflected by resignmion,
as if the new unsurpassable hori zon took form around the disappearance,
the impossibi lity, or the condemnmion of communism. Such reversals are
customary; they have never altered anything. It is the horizons themselves
that must be challenged. The ultimate limit of community, or the limit that
is formed by community, as such, traces an entirely different line. This is
why, even as we establish that communism is no longer our ullsurpassable
horizon, we must also establish, just as forcefull y, that a communist exi-
gency or demand communicat es with the gesture by means of which we
IllUSt go farther than all possible horizons.

The first task in understanding what is at stake here consists in focusing
on the horizon behind us. This means questioning the breakdown in com-
Illunity that supposedly engendered the modern era. The consciousness of
this ordeal belongs to Rousseau, who figured a society that experienced or
::acknowledged the loss or degradation of a communitarian (and commu-
ni cat ive) intimacy-a society producing, of necessit y, the solitary figure,
but one whose desire and intention was to produce the ci ti zen of a free
sovereign communit y. Whereas polit ical theoreticians preceding him had
thought mainly in terms of the institution of a State, or the regulation of
::a society, Rousseau, although he borrowed a great deal from them, was
perhaps the first thinker of communit y, or more exactly, the first to exper-
ience the question of society as an uneasi ness directed toward the com-
munity, and as the consciousness of a (perhaps irreparable) rupture in this
communit y. This consciousness would subsequently be inherited by the
Romantics, and by Hegel in The Phenomenology of Spirit: the last figure
of spirit, before the assumption of all the figures and of history into absolute
knowl edge, is that which cleaves communit y (which for Hegel figures t.he
split in religion). Unt.iI Ihis day history has been thought on the basis of
a losl communit y-one to be regained or reconstituted.
The lost , or broken. community can be exemplified in all kinds of ways,
by all kinds of paradigms; the natural family, the Athenian city, the Roman
RepUblic, the first Christian community, corporations, communes, or broth-
erhoods-always it is a mailer of a lost age in which community was woven
of tight, harmonious. and infrangible bonds and in which abo\'e all it played
back to itself, through its institutions. its rituals, and its symbols, the
representation. indeed the livi ng offering, of its own immanent unity, inti-
macy. and autonomy. Distinct from society (which is a simple association
and division of forces and needs) and opposed to emprise (which dissolves
community by submitting its peoples to it s arms and to its glory), com-
munity is nOI only intimate communication between its members but also
it s orga nic communion with its own essence. It is constituted onl y by
a fair distribution of tasks and goods, or by a happy equi li brium of forces
authorities: il is made up principally of the sharing, diffusion. or
Impregnation of an identity by a plurality wherein each member identifies
himself only through Ihe supplementar y mediation of hi s identificat ion with ving body of the communit y. In the mOIlO of the Republic , fraternity
deSIgnates communit y: the model of the fami ly and of love.
Bul it is here Ihal we should become suspicious of the relrospcclive
consciousness of the lost community and its identity (whether this con-
sciousness conceives of itself as effectively retrospective or whether, dis-
regarding the realities of the pasl, it constructs images of this past for the
sake of an ideal or a prospective vision). We should be suspicious of this
consciousness rirsl of all because il seems to have accompanied Ihe Western
world from it s very beginnings: at every moment in its history, the Occident
has given itself over to the nostalgia for a more archaic community Ihat
has disappeared, and to deploring a loss of familiarily, fraternit y and
convivialit y. Our history begins wilh the departure of Ulysses and with the
onsel of rivalry, di ssension, and conspiracy in hi s palace. Around Penelope,
who reweaves the fabric of imimacy without ever managing 10 complete it ,
pretenders set up the warring and political scene of society-pure eXleriorit y.
But the true consciousnesss of the loss of communil Y is Christian:
the communi ty desired or pined for by Rousseau, Schlegel, Hegel , then
Bak-ouine, Marx, Wagner, or Mallarme is understood as communion, and
communion lakes place, in it s principle as in its ends, at the heart of the
mystical body of Christ. At Ihe same time as it is the most ancient myt h
of the Western world, community might well be Ihe aitogelher modern
Ihought of humanity's panaking of divine li fe: the Ihoughl of a human
bei ng penelrating imo pure immanence. (Christianity has had only two
dimensions, antinomical to one another: Ihat of the deus obscondiflls. in
which Ihe Weslern disappearance of the divine is slill engulfed, and that
of the god-man, deliS commllnis. brother of humankind, invention of a
fami li al immanence of humanit y, then of hi story as the immanence of
Thus, Ihe thought of community or Ihe desire for it might well be nothing
other than a belated invemion that tried to respond to the harsh realit y of
modern experience: namely, Ihat di vinit y was withdrawing inrinitely from
immanence, thai the god-brother was at bottom himself the deus obscon-
dillls (this was Holderlin's insighl), and that the divine essence of com-
muni ly-or communil Y as the existence of a di vine essence-was the
impossible itself. One name for this has been the death of God: this expres-
sion remains pregnant wit h the possibil ity if not the necessity of a resur-
rection that restores both man and God to a common immanence. (Not
only Hegel, but also Nietzsche himself, at least in part, bear wilness to
this.) The di scourse of the " death of God" also misses the point Ihat the
"divine" is what it is (if it " is") only inasmuch as it is removed from
immanence, or withdrawn from it- within it, one mi ght say, yet withdrawn
from it. And this, moreover, occurs in the \'ery precise sense that il is not
because Ihere is a "divine" Ihal its share would be subtracted from imma-
nence. but on the comrary, il is onl y to the eXlent that immanence itself,
here or there (bul is iI Is it not rather this that
spaces?), is subtracled from there can be somclhmg hke
Ihe 'divine." (And perhaps, m the end, II Will no longer be necessary to
speak of the "divine." Perhaps we will come to see that communit y, death,
love, freedom. singularity are names for the " divine" nOI just because they
substitut e for it- and neither sublate nor resuscilate it under another form-
but equall y because Ihis substitut ion is in no way anthropomorphic or
anthropocentric and gives way to no becoming-human of the "divine."
community henceforth constitutes the limit of the human as well as of the
divine. Through God or the gods communion- as substance and act , the
act of communicated immanent substance- has been definitivel y withdrawn
from communily.)7
The modern, humaniSI Chrislian consciousness of the loss of communily
therefore gives every apearance of recuperating the transcendemal illusion
of reason when reason exceeds the bounds of all possible experi ence, which
is basically the experience of concealed immanence. Commullity has nOI
takell place, or rather, if it is indeed certain that humanity has known (or
sti ll knows, outside of the indUSlfial world) social ties Quite differem from
those familiar 10 us, communit y has never taken place along the lines of
our projections of it according to Ihese different social forms. II did not
take place for the GuayaQui Indians, it did nOl take place in an age of
huts; nor did il lake place in the Hegelian " spiril of a people" or in the
Christian agape. No Gesellschajt has come along to help the State, industry,
and capilal dissolve a prior Gemeinschojt. It would undoubt edl y be more
accurate to say, bypassing all the twists and turns taken by et hnological
interpretati on and all the mirages of an origin or of " bygone days," Ihat
Gesellscl!ajt-"society," Ihe dissociating associalion of forces, needs, and
signS-has taken Ihe place of something for which we have no name or
concept, something thai issued at once from a much more extensive com-
municat ion than that of a mere social bond (a communicalion with the
gods, the cosmos, animals, the dead, the unknown) and from much more
pierci ng and dispersed segmentation of this same bond, often involving
much harsher effects (solitude, rejection, admonition, helplessness) Ihan
what we expect from a communitarian minimum in the social bond. Society
was not built on the ruins of a commllnity. It emerged from the disap-
pearance or the conservation of something-tribes or empires-perhaps
JUSt as unrelated to what we call "communit y" as 10 what we call "society."
So that communit y, far from being what society has crushed or lost, is what
happens to lis- questi on, waiting. event, imperative-in the w(lke ojsociety.
Not hing, therefore, has been lost. and for this reason not hing is lost.
We alone are lost, we upon whom the " social bond" (relations, commu-
nication), our own invention. now descends hea\' il y like the net of an
economic. techni cal. political. and cultural snare. Entangled in its meshes,
we have wrung for ourselves the phantasms of the lost communit y,

What this community has "Iost"-the immanence and the intimacy of a
communion-is lost onl y in the sense that such a "loss" is constituti ve of
"communit y" itself.
It is nOt a loss: on the contrary, immanence, if it were to come about.
would instantl y suppress community, or communication, as such. Death is
not only the example of this. it is its truth. In death, at least if one considers
in it what brings about immanence (decomposition leadi ng back to nature-
"everything returns to the ground and becomes part of the cycle"-or else
the paradisal versions of the same "cycle") and if one forgets what makes
it always irreducibly singUlar, there is no longer any communi ty or com-
municati on: there is only the continuous identity of atoms.
This is why political or coll ective enterprises dominated by a will to
absolute immanence have as their truth the truth of death. Immanence,
communal fus ion. contains no other logic than that of the suicide of the
communi ty that is governed by it. Thus the logic of Naz.i Germany was
not only that of the extermi nation of the other. of the subhuman deemed
exterior to the communion of blood and soil. but also. effect ively, the logic
of sacrifice aimed at all those in the" Aryan" communit y who did nol
satisfy the criteria of pure immanence. so much so that-it being obviously
impossible to set a limit on such crit eri a-the suicide of the German nation
itself might have represented a plausible extrapolation of the process: more-
over, it would not be false to say that this reall y took place, with regard
to cerlain aspects of the spi ritual realit y of this nation.
The joint suicide or death of lovers is one of the mythico-!iterary figures
of this logic of communion in immanence. Faced with this figure, one
cannot tell which- the communion or the love-serves as a model for the
other in death. In realit y, with the immanence of the two lovers, death
accomplishes the infinite reciprocit y of two agencies: impassioned love con-
ceived on the basis of Christian communion, and communit y thought
according to the principle of love. The Hegelian State in its turn bears
witness to this, for alt hough it cert ainl y is not established on the basis of
love-for it belongs to the sphere of so-call ed objecti ve spirit-it nonetheless
has as its principle the realit y of love, thai is to say the fact "of havi ng in
another the moment of one's own subsistence." In this State, each member
has hi s truth in the other, which is the State itself, whose reality is never
more present than when its members give their lives in a war that the
monarch-the effective presence-toself of the Subject-State-has alone and
freely decided to wage. '
Doubtless such immolation for the sake of community-and by it, there-
fore-could and ca n be full of meaning, on the condit ion that this " mean-
ins " be that of a communit y. and on the further condition that this
cOlllmunity not be a ' communit y of death' (as has been the case since at
least the First World War, thereby justi fyi ng all refusals to " die for one's
country"). Now the community of human immanence, man made equal to
himself or to God, to nat ure. and to hi s own works, is one such community
of death-or of the dead. The full y reali zed person of individuali stic or
communistic humanism is the dead person. In other words, death, in such
a community, is not the unmasterable excess of finitude, but the infinite
fulfill ment of an immanent life: it is death itself consigned to immanence;
it is in the end that resorption of death that the Christi an civilization, as
though devouri ng its own transcendance. has come to minister to it sel f in
the gui se of a supreme work. Since Leibnitz there has been no death in
our universe: in one way or another an absolute ci rculat ion of meaning (of
values, of ends, of History) fill s or reabsorbs all finite negat ivi ty, draws
from each finite si ngular destiny a surplus value of humanit y or an infinite
superhumanit y. But this presupposes, precisel y, the death of each and all
in the li fe of the infi nit e.
Generations of citizens and militants. of workers and servants of the
States have imagined thei r death reabsorbed or subl ated in a communit y.
yet to come, that would allain immanence. But by now we have nothing
more than the biller consciousness of the increasi ng remoteness of such a
community, be it the people, the nation, or the societ y of producers. How-
ever. this consciousness, like that of the " loss" of communi ty. is superficial.
In truth. death is not sublated. The communion to come does not grow
distant, it is nOI deferred: it was never to come; it would be incapable of
coming about or formi ng a future. What forms a future, and consequently
what truly comes about , is always the singular death-which does not mean
that deat h does not come about in the community: on the contrary, I shall
come to this. But communion is not what comes of death, no more than
death is the simple perpetual past of community.
Millions of deaths, of course, arc justified by the revolt of those who
die: they are justified as a rejoinder to the intolerable, as insurrections
agai nst social, political , technical, military, religious oppression. But these
deaths are not slIbloted: no dialectic, no salvation leads these deaths to any
ol her immanence than that of ... deat h (cessalion, or decomposition, which
forms onl y the parody or reverse of immanence). Yet the modern age has
COnceived the justification of death onl y in Ihe gui se of salvation or the
dialectical sublat ion of history. The modern age has struggled to close the
circle of the time of men and their communities in an immortal communion
in which death, finall y, loses the senseless meaning that it ought to have-
and that it has, obstinatel y.
We are condemned, or ralher reduced, to search for this meaning beyond
meaning of death elsewhere than in communit y. BUI the enl erpri se is absurd
(it is the absurdit y of a thought derived from the individual). Death is
indissociable from communit y, for it is through death that the community
reveals it self- and reci procall y. It is not by chance that this mot if of a
reciprocal revelation has preoccupied thought informed by et hnol ogy as well
as the thinking of Freud and Heidegger, and at the same time Bataill e, that
is to say in the time leading from the First to the Second World War.
The mot if of the revelation, through death, of being-together or being-
with, and of the crystalli zat ion of the communit y around the death of its
members, (hal is to say around the "loss" (the impossibilily) of Iheir
immanence and not around their fusional assumpt ion in some coll ect ive
hypostasis, leads to a space of thinking incommensurable with the prob-
lematics of sociality or intersubjectivity (including the Husserli an problem-
atic of the alter ego) within whi ch philosophy, despite it s resistance, has
remained capti ve. Deat h irremediably exceeds the resources of a metaphysics
of the subj ect. The phantasm of this metaphysics, the phantasm that Des-
cartes (almost) did not dare have bUI that was already proposed in Christian
theology, is the phantasm of a dead rnan who says, li ke Vi lli ers' Monsieur
Waldemar, " I am dead "-ego Slim ... mOrllll/s. If the I cannot say that it
is dead, if the I disappears in effect in ils death, in that death that is
precisely what is most proper to it and most inalienabl y its own, it is
because the / is somet hing other than a subject. All of Heidegger's research
into "being-for (or toward)-dealh" was not hing other than an attempt to
state Ihis: / is not- am not- a subject. (Although, when it came to the
question of communit y as such, the same Heidegger also wenl astray wit h
his vision of a people and a destiny conceived at least in part as a subject,9
which proves no doubt that Dasein's " being-toward-death" was never rad-
icall y implicated in it s being-with- in Mitsein- and that it is this implication
that remains to be IhoughL)
ThaI which is not a subject opens up and opens onlO a communit y whose
conception, in turn, exceeds the resources of a metaphysics of the subject.
Communit y does not weave a superior, immortal, or transmortal life
between subjects (no more than it is itsel f woven of the inferior bonds of
a consubstant ialit y of blood or of an association of needs), but it is con-
stit uti vely, to the extent that it is a matt er of a "constituti on" here, cali -
brated on the dealh of those whom we call , perhaps wrongly. it s "members"
(inasmuch as it is not a questi on of an organism). But it does not make a
work of this cal ibrat ion. Communit y no more makes a work out of death
than it is it self a work. The deat h upon which community is calibrated
doeS not operate the dead bei ng's passage into some communal intimacy,
or docS communi ty, for its part , opera/e the transfiguration of its dead
some substance or subj ect-be these homeland, nati ve soi l or blood,
nation. a delivered or fulfilled humanity, absolute phalanstery, famil y, or
mystical body. Communit y is calibrated on deat h as on that of which it is
precisely impossible to make a .work (other a of death, as soon
as one tries to make a work of II). Commulllt y occurs III order to acknowl-
edge Ihis impossibilit y, or more exact ly-for there is neither function nor
finalit y here-the impossibility of making a work out of deat h is inscribed
and acknowledged as "communit y."
Communit y is revealed in the death of ol hers; hence it is always revealed
10 others. Community is what takes place always through others and for
ot hers. It is not the space of the egos-subjects and substances that are at
bottom immortal - but of the I's, who are always others (or else are
nothing). If communit y is revealed in the dealh of OI hers il is because death
itself is the true communit y of / 's thai are not egos. It is not a communion
that fuses the egos into an Ego or a hi gher We. It is the communit y of
OIhers. The genuine communit y of mortal beings, or death as communit y.
establishes their impossible communion. Communit y therefore occupies a
si ngular place: it assumes the impossibilit y of its own immanence, the
impossibility of a communitarian being in the form of a subject. In a
certai n sense community acknowledges and inscribes-this is its peculiar
gesture-the impossibility of communit y. A communit y is not a project of
fusion. or in some general way a productive or operative project-nor is
it a project at all (once again, this is its radical difference from " the spirit
of a people," which from Hegel to Heidegger has fi gured the coll ectivit y
as project, and figured the project. reciprocall y, as coll ective-which does
not mean that we can ignore the question of the singularit y of a " people").
A communit y is the presentation to its members of their mortal truth
(which amounts to sayi ng that there is no community of immortal beings:
one can imagine either a society or a communion of immortal beings, but
not a community). It is the present ation of the fini tude and the irredeemable
excess that make up finit e being: its death, but also its birth, and onl y the
Community can present me my birth , and along wit h it the impossibilit y
of my relivi ng it. as well as the impossibility of my crossing over into my
death .
If it sees it s fellow-bei ng die, a li vi ng bei ng can subsist only
ou/side itself . ...
Each one of us is then driven out of the confi nes of his person
and loses himsel f as much as possible in the communit y of his
fellow creatures. It is for this reason that it is necessary for
communal li fe to maintain it self at a level equal 10 deal/!. The lot
of a great number of pri vate li ves is pettiness. But a community
cannot last except at the level of intensit y of death-it decomposes
as soon as it falls shy of danger 's peculiar grandeur. It must take
upon it what is "unappeasable" and " unappeased," and maintain
a need that thirsts for glory. A man among thousands can have an
intensity of life that is practically zero throughout the day: he
behaves as though death did not exist and holds himseIr, without
harm, beneath ilS level. (O.c. 7:245- 46)

No doubt Bataille has gone farthest into the crucial experience of the modern
destiny of community. Whatever the interest accorded his thought (and this
remai ns, despite ever yt hing, a meagre and all too often fri volous interest),
what has not yet been sufficientl y remarked
is the extent to which his
thinking emerged out of a poli tical exigency and uneasiness-or from an
exigency and an uneasiness concerning the political that was itself guided
by the thought of community.
Bataille first of all went through the ordeal of seeing communism
" betrayed." He discovered later that this betrayal was not to be corrected
or made up for, but that communism, having taken man as its end, meanin&
the production of man and man as producer, was linked in its principle to
a negati on of the sovereignt y of man, that is to say to a negation of whac
in man is irreducible to human immanence, or to a negation of the sovereign
excess of finitude:
For a Marxist, value beyond the useful is conceivable, even
inevitable; but it is immanent to man, or else it does not exist.
What transcends man (li vi ng man, of course, here-below), or in the
same way what goes beyond common humanit y (humanit y without
pri vilege) is without question inadmissi ble. The sovereign value is
man: production is not the only value, it is merely the means of
responding to man's needs-it serves him, man does not serve
it ....
But it remai ns to be determined whether man, to whom
communism refers as the producer, has not taken on this sovereign
value on one primary condition: namely. havi ng renounced for
himself everything that is trul y sovereign .... For the irreducible
desire that man is. passiona/ely and capriciollsly, communi sm has
substituted those needs that can be brought into harmony with a
life entirel y devoted to producing. (O.c. 8:352- 53)
Meanwhile, in the thirties. two directions had converged in Bataille's
thought : a revolutionary impulse that sought to give back to the revolt the
incandescence that the Bolshevik State had stolen from it and a fascination
\.ith fascism inasmuch as it seemed to indicale the direction, if nOI the
~ a l i l Y ' of an intense community, devoted to excess. (This fasci nation is not
to be taken lightl y. no more in Bataille's case than in the case of several
others. Ignoble fascism. and fascism as one of the recourses of capitalism,
this despicable fascism was also an attempt to respond-despicabl y and
ignobly-tO the already establ ished, already stifling reign of society. Fascism
was the grotesque or abject resurgence of an obsession with communion;
it crystalli zed the motif of its supposed loss and the nostalgia for its images
of fusion. In this respect , it was the convulsion of Christianity. and it
ended up fascinating modern Christianit y in its entiret y. No political-moral
crit ique of this fascination holds good if the critic is not at the same time
capable of deconst ructi ng the system of communion.)!!
But aside from the scorn immediately aroused in him by the foulness of
the fascist ringleaders and thei r methods. Bataille went through the exper-
ience of reali zi ng that the nostal gia for a communal being was at the same
time the desire for a work of death. He was haunted. as we know, by the
idea that a human sacrifice should seal the destiny of the secret communit y
of Acephale. He no doubt understood at the time. as he was later to write, l:
that the truth of sacrifice required in the last analysis the suicide of the
sacriricer. In dyi ng, the latter would be able to rejoin the being of the
victi m plunged into the bloody secret of common life. And thus he under-
stood that this properly di vi ne trut h-the operative and resurrectional truth
of death- was not the truth of the communit y of finite bei ngs but that.
on the contrary. it rushed headlong into the infinit y of immanence. This
is not merel y horror, it is beyond horror, it is the total absurdit y- or
disastrous puerility. so to speak-of the death work. of death considered
as the work of common life. And it is this absurdity. which is at bollom
an excess of meaning, an absolute concentration of the will to meaning,
that must have dictated Bat ai lle's withdrawal from communitarian
enterpri ses.
Thus he came to understand the ridicul ous nat ure of all nostalgia for
communion, he who for a long time-i n a kind of exacerbated consciousness
of the " loss" of communit y, which he shared wi th a whole epoch- had
represented archaic societies, thei r sacred structures, the glory of military
and royal societies. the nobility of feudalism, as bygone and fascinati ng
forms of a success ful intimacy of being-in-common with it self.
:n opposition to this modern, feveri sh kind of " Rousseauism" (which,
nonetheless, he perhaps never completely overcame-I shall come back to
this), Bataille made two observati ons: on the one hand, sacrifice. glory.
and expenditure remain simulations as long as they stop short of the work
of deat h, so nonsimulation is the impossible it self: but, on the other hand,
in the simulalion itself (that is to say, in the simulati on of immanent being).
the work of death is nevertheless sti ll accomplished, at least to a relat ive
degree, in the form of the domination, oppression. extermi nati on, and
exploit ation to which all socio-political systems finall y lead, all those in
which the excess of a transcendence is. as such. willed, presentcd (simulated)
and institutcd in immanence. It was not onl y the Sun King who mi xed the
enslavement of the State with radiant bursts of sacred glory; this is true
of all royalty that has always al ready distorted the sovcreignly it exhibits
into a means of domination and extorti on:
The truth is that we can suffer from somet hing we lack. but even
if we have a paradoxical nostalgia for it, we cannot , except by
some aberration, long for the reli gious and royal edifice of the
past. The effort to which this edifice corresponded was nothing but
an immense failure, and if it is true that something essenl ial is
missi ng from the world in which it coll apsed, then we can only go
farther ahead, without imagining even for a moment the possibilit y
of turning back. (O.c. 8:275)
The reversal of the nostalgia for a lost communit y into the 00'""';0"""',
of an "immense fai lure" of the history of communit ies was linked
Bat aille to the "inner experience," whose cont ent. truth, or ultimate lesson
is articulated thus: "Sovereignty is NOTHING." Which is to say that sover-
eignty is the sovereign exposure to an excess (to a transcendence) that does
not present itself and does not let itself be appropriated (or si mulated).
that does not even give itself-but rat her to which being is abandoned. The
excess to which sovereignlY is exposed and exposes us is not, in a sense
qui te close to the sense in which Heideggerian Being "is nOI," that is. in
the sense in which the Being of the fi nite being is less what makes it be
than what leaves it abandoned to such an exposilion. The Being of the
fi nite being exposes it to the end of Being.
Thus, exposure to the NOTHING of sovereignt y is the opposi te of the
movement of a subject who would rcach the limit of nothingness (and this
constitutes, at boltom, the permanent movement of the Subject , indefi nitely
devouring in itself the nothingness represented by everything that is not for
itself; in the end, this is the autophagy of truth). " In" the "NOTHINO" or
in not hing-in sovereignty-being is "ou/side itself'; it is in an exteri orit y
that is impossible to recapture, or perhaps we should say that it is oj this
exteriorit y, that it is of an OUlside that il cannot relate to itself, but with
which il enterlai ns an essent ial and incommensurable relation. This relation
prescribes the pl ace of the singular being. This is why the "inner experience"
of which Bataille speaks is in no way " interior" or "subject ive." but is
indissociable from the experience of this relation to an incommensurable
outside. Only communit y furni shes Ihis relat ion its spacing. ilS rhythm.
In Ihis sense, Bataille is wit hout doubl the onc who experienced fi rst,
st acutcly the modern experi ence of communit y as neither a work
.m ' , '
be produced, nor a lost communion. but rather as space Itself, and the
to ing of the experience of the outside, of the outsideof-self. Thc crucial
of this experience was the exigency, reversi ng all nostalgia and all
pO mmunal metaphysics, of a "dear consciousness" of separation-that is
cO sa), of a "dear consciousness" (in fact Ihe Hegeli an self-consciousness
... If but sllspended on Ihe limi t of it s access to self) of the fact that
LtS .. ,
' mmanence or intimacy cannOI, nor are they ever to be, regoined.
L For this very rcason, however, the exigcncy of "dear consciousness" is
everything but that abandonment of communi ty that would favor, for exam-
ple. a re\'crsion to the positions of the indi vidual. The individual as such
is onl)' a thing,n and the thing, for Bataille, can be defined as Ihe being
without communication and wi thout communit y. Clear consciousness of
the communal night-this consciousness at the extremit y of consciousness
that is also the suspension of Hegelian desi re (of consciousness's desi re for
recognition) , the finite interruption of infinite desire, and the infinite syn-
cope of finite desire (sovereignt y itself: desire outside desire and mastery
outside itsel f)-this "dear" consciousness, then. cannot ta ke place else-
where than in communit y, or rather it can only take place as the com-
munication of community: both as what communicates within community.
and as what community communicates. I.
This consciousness-or this communicat ion- is ecstasy: which is 10 say
that such a consciousness is never mine, but to the cont rary, I onl y have
it in and through the communit y. This resembles, almost to the point that
one mi ght confuse it with, what in other contexts one might call a "coll ective
unconscious"- a consciousness that perhaps more closely resembles what
can be located throughout Freud as the ultimately collect ive essence of what
he call s the unconscious. But it is not an unconscious-that is to say it is
not the reverse side of a subjcct , nor it s splitting. It has nothing to do wi th
the subjcct's structure as self: it is clcar consciousness at the ext remit y of
it s clarity, where consciousness oj self turns out to be outside the self of
Community, which is not a subject, and even less a subject (conscious
Or unconscious) greater than " myself." does not hove or possess this
communit y is the ecstatic consciousness of the night of
Imm"nence, insofar as such a consciousness is the interruption of self-

Ilataille knew bCller than anyone- he alone pioneered the pathways of such
a knowledge_what exceeds the formation of a simple connection belween
ecstasy and communily, what makes each one Ihe locus of the olher, or
agai n, according 10 an atopical lopology, why Ihe ci rcumscri ption of I
community, or better its areality (its nature as area, as formed space), is
not a territory, but the areali ty of an ecstasy, " just as, reci procall y, the
form of an ecSlasy is that of a communit y.
However, Balaille himself remained suspended, so 10 speak , between the
two poles of ecstasy and community. The reciprocity of these two poles
consisls in the faCI that, even as they give ri se to one another-by arealizinl
one another-each limits the olher. and this produces anOlher "arealiza.
tion," a suspension of Ihe immanence thai their connect ion nonetheleq
implies. This double arealization instit utes the resiSlance to fusion. 10 the
work of death, and this resistance is Ihe fact of being-in-common as
without this resislance, we would never be in common very long, we
very quickly be "realized" in a unique and lotal being. For Balaille
pole of ecslasy remained linked to the fascist orgy, however, or at least
the festival (whose clement of ambiguous nostal gia re1Urned, after him, .
1968) to the eXlent that it represented ecstasy in terms of the group
the political order.
The pole of communit y was, for Bataille, bound up with the idea
communism. This included, in spile of everything, themes of justice
equalit y; wi lhout these themes, regardless of the way one chooses to
scri be them, the communitarian enterprise can onl y be a farce. In
respect al least , communism remained an unsurpassable exigency, or,
Balaille wrote, "'n our times the moral effect of communism is p"ed"m,- '
inant " (D.C. 8:367). Nor did he ever stop sayi ng, even as he was analyzina
communism's negating relation to sovereignty, "It is without doubl desirable
thai differences be effaced ; it is desirable that a genuine equalil Y, a genuine
indifferentiation be establi shed," and he added right away, "But if it is
possible Ihat in Ihe fU1Ure men will be less and less interested in their
difference from ot hers, this does not mean thai they will stop being inter
ested in whal is sovereign" (D.C. 8: 323).
Now, other than by way of a clause of this kind, it was impossi ble for
him to link Ihe for ms of sovereignt y-or ecstasy-to the egalitarian com-
munity. indeed to community in general. These forms-essentiall y the sov-
ereignty of lovers and thai of Ihe anist, the one and the other and the one
in the other set apart from the orgiaslics of fascism, bUI also from com-
munist equalit y-could nOI but appear to him as ecstasies, and if not
properl y speaking "private" (what could such a thing mea n?), then at leasl
isolated, without any hold- any noticeable or arl iculable hold in any case-
on the community into which Ihey nonelheless had to be woven, arealized,
or inscribed, lest they lose, fundamentally, Iheir sovereign value.
community refusi ng itself ecSlasy, ecstasy withdrawing from communi ty,
d bOlh in the very gcst ure through which each effects ilS own commu-
alion: onc might suppose that this decisive difficult y explai ns the fact
La SO/lverainete remained unfi ni shed and. that The Theory. of Religion
went unpubl ished. In both cases, the enterpnse ended up falltng short of
he ecstat ic communit y it had set out to Ihink . Of course, to not reach an
t nd was one of the exigencies of Bataille's endeavor, and this went hand
hand with the refusal of projeclto which a thinking of communit y seems
incxorably linked. But he himself knew that there is no pure nonproject
("One cannot say outright : this is play, this is a project, but onl y: the play,
the domi nates in a given activit y" [D.C. 7:220]). And in La Sou-
I'('raine/e, even if play strives for dominance, Bataille indeed sels himself
a project, one that never gets formul ated as such. As for the share of play,
it tends inevitably away from the project and in general from the very
thinking of communit y. Al though the laner was Bataill e's sole concern, in
accordance wit h hi s experience (with that terminal experience of the modern
age, which marks its limit , and which might be summari zed as follows:
oUlside of communit y, there is no experience), he was in the end, in the
face of the "immense fai lure" of political, .reli gious, and mililary hi story,
able 10 oppose onl y a subjective sovereignt y of lovers and of the artist-
and with this, also t.he exceplion of darting " heterogenous" flashes cleanly
split from the "homogenous" order of society, wilh which Ihey do not
communicate. In parallel fashion, withoUi wanting to and without the-
matizing ii, he arrived at an almost pure opposition belween "desirable"
equolity and an imperious and capricious freedom quite like soverei gnty.
with which in fact it could be confused. '6 1t could never reall y be a quesl ion,
for example. of freedom desiring desirable equality. That is, it was not a
quest ion of a communit y thai would open up, in and of itself, at the heart
of being-i n-common. the arealit y of an ecstasy.
Bataille had nonet hel ess wriuen, much earlier (before 1945 in any case):
I can imagi ne a community wilh as loose a form as you .....iII-even
formless: the only condition is that an experience of moral freedom
be shared in common, and not reduced to the fl at, self-cancell ing,
selfdenying meaning of panicular freedom. (O.C. 6:252)
He also wrote:
There can be no knowledge without a communit y of researchers,
nOr any inner experience wit hout the communil Y of those who live
il. . .. Communication is a fact that is not in any way added onto
huma n real ity. but rather consti tut es if. (D.C. 5:37)
(These lines follow a quotation from Heidegger, and the term
" human realit y" repeats Corbi n's translati on of Dasein as "realile
And yet, in a paradoxical but apparently ineluctable way, the theme
communit y grows indist inct in hi s writings from the period of La
ainete. At a profound level, the problematic no doubt remains the same
in the earlier texts. But it is as Ihough the communication of each
with NOTHtNG were beginning to prevail over the communication be,w,'"
beings. or as if it were necessary to give up trying to show that in
cases it was a question of the some thing.
It is as though Bataille, despite the constancy of his concern and
lions, was led nonetheless to endure the extremity of the dist ressed
in which he lived-this world at war, torn apart by an atrocious
of communit y and a mortal conflagrati on of ecstasy. In this severe a
he no longer saw any face, any schema, or even any simple
for community. now that the fi gures of reli gious or mystical
belonged to the past and the too human face of communism had
In a certain way, this world is still our world . and the hasty
often rough drafts , always heavil y humanistic, that have been sketched
around the theme of communit y si nce the war have not changed the essen"iaI!
givens, and may in fact have aggravated them. The emergence and
increasi ng consciousness of decolonized communities has noo;,
modified this state of affairs. nor has tOOay's growt h of u
forms of bei ng-i n-common- through channels of information as well U
through what is call ed the "multiracial society"- triggercd any genuine
renewal of the question of communit y.
But if this world, even though it has changed (and Bataill e, amo",
ot hers, was no stranger 10 the change), proposes no new figure of com-
munity, perhaps this in itself teaches us something. We stand perhaps 10
learn from this that it can no longer be a matter of figuring or modelina
a communitarian essence in order to present it to ourselves and to celebrate
it, but that it is a matter rather of thinking communit y, that is. of thinkina
its insistent and possibly still unheard demand, beyond communitarian
models or remodelings.
Moreover. this world no longer even refers back to the closure of com-
munist humanism that Bat ai lle was analyzing. It refers to a "totalitari -
ani sm" that Bataille could never have suspected as such, limited as he was
by the conditions of the cold war and haunted as he was by the obscure
but persistent idea that in spite of everything the promise of community
lay in the direction of communism. But for us, by now beyond even the
"totalitarianism" that was to be the monstrous reali zat ion of this promise.
ains only the play of imperiali sms against the background of still
.. . .,
, empire or anot her techno-economical ImperatiVe, and the sOCia
-_. . . f
a hal such an imperative creates. It IS no longer even a question 0
.-, . , ..
;,y But this is also because the techno-economlca orgalll zalion or
otll nlU . . . h
, ,. operational" of our world has taken over, even IIlheTited, t e
-,q ..... f
r ' I communitarian orgalll7.allon. It ]S stili essentiall y a matter 0
plans '. . .
\\'ork. of operallon or opcrall vLt y. . . .
It is in this sense that Ihe exigency of commullit y ]S stili unheard and
. s '0 be discovered and thought. We know at least that the very terms
. . . .
of the promise of communltanan. work already,.1Il themselves,
heard "mcaning" of ,"communit y," " and that III sum the CQmmllnlUJrwn
as sllch participates in the "immense failure."
P We know this in part thanks to Bataille-but we must henceforth also
knoW it in part against him. But this it is not a of measuri ng
our experience against the differenl expcnence of s time, rather
against a limit we must ultimately acknowledge, a I1mll that
difficulty and the paradox at which his thinking came 10 a halt . ThiS hmn
is itself the paradox: namel y, the paradox of a thinking magnelicall y
attracted toward communit y and yet governed by the theme of the sover-
eignty of a sllbject. For Bataille. as for us all, a thinking of the subject
thwarts a thinking of communit y.
Of course, the word "subject" in Bat aille's text might be no more than
a word. And, no doubt , the concept he had of it was nei ther the ordinary
notion of "subjectivit y" nor the metaphysical concept of a sel f-presence
as the slI bjectum of representati on. In Inner Experience, indeed, he defines
it thus: "Oneself is not the subject isolating itself from the world, but a
place of communication, of fusion of the subject and Ihc object" (O.c.
5:21). This will not prevent him. in La SOllverainete, from speaking, for
example, of "t hat instantaneous jOll issance from which proceeds the sub-
ject's presence of itself" (O.C. 8: 395). The first of these sentences does not
suffice to correct or complicate the second in a way that is commensurate
with what is at stake. The "place of communication" can in the last analysis
still be determined as presence-to-sel f: for example. as the presence-to-self
of Communicati on iuelf, something that would find an echo in cert ain
ideologies of communication. What is more, the equivalence between this
place and a "fusion of the subject and the object"-as if there were never
Communication between subject and objcct- Ieads Batai lle back to the core
of a constant thematic in speculati ve ideal ism. With "object" and "fusion,"
\lith "the object of consciousness" becoming "t he object of self con-
sciousness , that is to sayan object also suppressed as objcct, as concept," "
What disappears, or rather what call1lot appear is both the other and com-
II/'lIIictlliotl. For the other of a communication becomes the object of a
subject- even and perhaps especiall y as " suppressed object or
as in the Hegelian relation between consciousnesses (unless one u
with Bataille and beyond him, a reading Ihat strai ns the text). Thi s other
is no longer an other, but an object of a subject's representati on (or, in a
more compl icated way, the representati ve object of anot her subject for
subject's representation). Communication and the alt erit y that is its con.
dition can, in principle, have only an instrumental and not an ontological
role and status in a thi nking that views the subj ect as the negat ive but
specular identity of the object, that is, as an exteriority wit hout a"',,-' ..
The subject cannot be outside itself: this is even what ultimatel y defines
it- that its out side and all it s "alienations" or "extraneousness" should
the end be suppressed by and sublated in it. It is altogether different
the being of communication. The being-communicati ng (and not the
ject-representing), or if one wants to risk saying it, communication as
predicament of being, as " transcendental," is above all being-outside-itseU.
The " Hegeliani sm without reserve" that Derrida finds in
not not be subject, in the end, to the Hegelian law of a reserve alwaYi
more powerful than any abandonment of reserve; a reserve that is in fact
the sublation of the Subject reappropriating itself in presence-this is iu
jouissance, and its instant- until it attains to sovereignt y, NOTHtNG, and
Properl y speaking, Bataille had no concept of the subject. But, at least
up to a certain point, he allowed the communication exceedi ng the subject
to relate back to a subject, or to insti tute itself as subject (for example-
at least this is a hypothesis that will have to be examined as contradictilll
the one that I will treat later in regard to Bataille's writi ng-as subject of
thc literary production and communicat ion of Batai lle's own texts).
The historical and the theoretical limits are intenwined. It is not sur-
prisi ng that at this limit the only thing to respond 10 the communal obsession
was an accursed isolat ion of lovers and of the artist. The sole answer, in
a tragic mode, to the haunting experience of a communalit y that had j ust
proven to lead directl y to works of death. Batai ll e's lovers are also, at the
limit , a subject and an object-where the subject, moreover, is always the
man, and the object always the woman, due no doubt to a very classical
manipulat ion of sexual difference into an appropriat ion of self by self.
(However, on another register and in another readi ng of Bat aille's text, it
is 110t cert ain that love and jOllissoflce do not penai n essentiall y to the
woman- and to the woman in man. To discuss this it would be necessary
to consider Batai ll c's writing [ecrilllre)lO, something I ca nnot do here, inas-
much as I am for the moment considering only it s "t hemes.") Community
could onl y obey an analogous model, and consequent ly. albeit simplifying
a litt le, though barely, either a fascist or a communist model. Bataille must
, sensed this, and havi ng sensed it he secretl y, discretely, and even
11 knowing it himself, gave up the task of thinki ng community in
\\'11 01
! proper sense. .
[ I\hat is 10 say he gave up thinking the shoring [portage] of commulll ty
d [he sovereignt y in the sharing or shared sovereignty. shared between
seins. between singular existences that arc not subj ects and whose rela-
. a I_ the sharing itself- is not a communi on, nor the appropriation of an
nor a self-recognit ion, nor even a communication as this is under-
o 10 exist between subjects. But these singular beings are themselves
by shari ng, they are distri buted and placed, or rather spaced,
by the sharing that makes them others: other for one another, and ot her,
infinitely other for the Subject of thei r fusion, which is engulfed in the
sharing. in the ecstasy of the sharing: "communicating" by not "com-
muning." These "places of communication" are no longer places of fusion,
even though in them one passes from one to the other; they are defi ned
and exposed by their dislocat ion. Thus, the communication of sharing woul d
be this very dis-location.

In what would appear to be a di alectical move, I might say the following:
Bataille thought nothing else but this very thing he gave up thinking. Which
would mean that in the end he thought it to the limit - at and to its limi t,
and at the limit of hi s thought (and one never thinks anywhere else). And
what he thus had to think at his limit is what he leaves for us to thi nk in
our turn.
In reality, my observations constitute neither a cri tique of nor a reser-
vation about Bataille, but an attempt to communicate with his experience
rather than simpl y draw from the stock of hi s knowledge or from hi s theses.
This involved simpl y movi ng along a limit that is our own: his, mine, that
of our time, that of our community. At the place where Bataille assigned
the subject, at this place of the subj ect- or on it s reverse side-in pl ace of
communication and in the " place of communication," there is indeed some-
thing. and not nothing: our limi t lies in not reall y havi ng a name for this
"Somethi ng" or for this " someone." Is it even a question of having a true
name for this singular being? This is a mailer that can be raised only much
later on. For the moment, let us say that in li eu of a name it is necessary
to mobilize words, so as to set the limit of our thinki ng back in mot ion.
What "there is" in place of communication is nei ther the subject nor
communal bei ng, but communit y and sharing.
BUI this still says nothing. Perhaps, in truth. there is nothing / 0 say.
we should not seck a word or a concept for it , but rather recognize
In the thought of communit y a theoretical excess (or more precisely. an
excess in relmion to the theoretical) that woul d obli ge us 10 adopt another
praxis of di scourse and communit y. But we should at least try to say this
because " language alone indicates, at the limit, the sovereign moment
it is no longer current." l l Which means here that onl y a di scourse of
communit y, exhausting itsel f, can indicate to the communit y the sovereignty
of its sharing (that is to say neither present to it nor signify to it its
communion). An ethics and a politics of di scourse and writing are evidently
implied here. What such a discourse should or can be, how and by whom
in societ y it should and can be held, indeed what holding such a discourse
would call for in terms of the transformation , revolution, or resolution of
that society (for example, who is writing here? where? for whom? a "phi.
losopher," a " book," a " publishing house," " readers" - are these suited,
as such, to communication?): this is what we wi ll have occasion to look
into. This is nothing other than the question of literary communism, or at
least of what I am trying to designate with this clumsy expression: something
that would be the sharing of communit y in and by it s writing, its literature.
I shall come to this in the second part of the book.
From here on, our ai m will be to approach this question with Bataille,
because of 8alaille-as well as others; but as you will have understood, it
is not a question of produci ng a commentary on Bataille, nor a commentary
on anyone; for community has sti ll not been thought . Nor am I claiming,
on the contrary, to forge alone the new discourse of communit y. Nei ther
discourse nor isolat ion is what is at stake here. I am trying to indicate, at
its limit , an experience-not, perhaps, an experience that we have, but an
experience that makes liS be. To say thai communit y has nOI yet been
thought is to say that it tries our thinking, and that it is not an object for
it. And perhaps it does not have to become one.
In any case, what resists comment ary in Bataille's thought is wha1
exceeded hi s thought and exceeds ours-and what for this reason demands
our thought: the sharing of community, the mortal truth that we share and
that shares us. Thus, what Bataill e wrote of our relation to " the religious
and royal edifice of the past" is valid of our relati on to Bataille himself:
"We can only go farther."22 Not hing has yet been said: we must expose
ourselves to what has gone unheard in communit y.

Sharing comes down to this: what communit y reveals to me, in presenting
to me my bi rth and my deat h, is my existence outside myself. Which does
not mean my existence reinvested in or by communit y. as if community
were anot her subject that would subl ate me, in a dialectical or communal
mode. Community does not sublate the finitude it exposes. Community
itself, in sum, is nothing but this exposition. It is the communit y of fi nite
. s and as such it is itself a finite communit y. In other words, not a
g . , d , . . b I 't b t
. . cd communit y as oppose 10 an m lillie or a so ut e commullL y, u
hillit db 'd" " .. db ,
mmunity offinitu e, ecause mllu e IS commumtanan, an ecaus
a Co . ..
finitude alone IS communllanan. . .
Being-in-common does nOI mean a hi gher form of substance or subject
laking charge of the limits of separate indi vidualities. As an individual , I
closed off from all communit y, and it would not be an cxaggcration
am say that the indi vidual- if an absolutely indi vidual being could ever
lOist _ iS infi nite. The limit of the indi vidual. fundamentall y, does not con-
e\n it it simpl y surrounds it (and escapes the logic of the limit I was
" , h I . b . .
describing above: but since one cannOI escape t IS OglC, ecausc It reSists
nd because it makes communit y resist , there is no indi vidual).
a However, the singular being, which is not t he individual, is the
being. Whal the thematic of indi vi duation lacked, as it passed from a certam
Romanticism to Schopenhauer and to Nietzsche, 2J was a consideration of
singularity, to which it nonetheless came quite close. Indi viduation d.cta:hes
closed off entit ies from a forml ess ground-whereas onl y commumcallon,
contagion, or communion constitute the being of indi viduals. But singu-
larit y does not proceed from such a detaching of clear forms or figures
(nor from what is linked to this operation: the scene of form and ground,
appearing (/'apparailrejlinked to appearance I/ 'apparencej and the slippage
of appearance int o the aest heti zing nihilism in whi ch indi vidualism always
culminates). Singul arity perhaps does not proceed from anything. It is not
a work resulti ng from an operat ion. There is no process of "singulariza-
lion," and singularit y is neither extracted, nor produced, nor derived. Its
birth does not ta ke place from Ollt of or as an effect o/' on the contrary,
it provides the measure according to which birth, as such, is neither a
production nor a self-positioning, the measure according to which the infi-
nite birth of fi nitude is not a process that emerges from a ground (fond)
or from a fund (fonds) of some kind. The "ground" is itself, through itself
and as such, already the finitude of si ngul arit ies.
It is a groundless "ground," less in the sense that it opens up the gaping
chasm of an abyss than that it is made up only of the network, the inter-
weaving, and the sharing of si ngul arities: Ungrllnd rather than AbgTllnd,
but no less verti ginous. There is nothing behind si ngul arit y-but there is,
outside it and in it, the immaterial and material space that distribut es it
and shares it out as si ngularity, distributes and shares the confines of ot her
Singularities. or even more exactly distributes and shares the confi nes of
singularity- which is to say of alterity- betwcen it and itsel f.
A Singular being docs not emergc or rise up against the background of
a chaotic, undifferentiated identity of beings, or against Ihe background
of their unitary assumption. or Ihat of a becoming, or Ihat of a will . A
si ?gular bei ng appears, as finitude itself: at Ihe end (or al Ihe beginning),
wuh the. contaci of the skin (or the hear!) of another singular being, at
the confines of the some si ngularity that is, as such, always other, always
shared, always exposed. This appearing (opparaitre) is not an appearance
it is on the cont rary the at once glorious and destitute appear_
(parailre) ?f bei ng-fi nite itself. (The "ground" is the fini tude of Being;
UIS what Bataille was not entirely in a posi tion to understand in Heidegger_
and it is why Heidegger, with or without a reading of Batai lle, was never
quite in a position to be troubled by "communication.") The essence of
Being as being-finite is inscribed by finitude a priori as the sharing of
Communit y means, consequently, that there is no si ngular being without
being, and that there is, therefore, what might be call ed,
In a rather Inappropriate idiom, an ori gi nary or ontological "sociality"
that in its princi ple extends far beyond the si mple theme of man as a social
being (the 1.001'1 polilikon is secondary to this communit y). For, on the one
hand, it is nOt obvious that the communit y of si ngul ariti es is li mited to
"man" and excludes, for example, the "animal" (even in the case of " man"
it is not a fortiori cert ain that this communit y concerns onl y "man" and
not also the "inhuman" or the " superhuman," or, for example, if I may
say so with and without a certain Win, " woman": after du, the difference
between the sexes is itself a singularity in the difference of singularities).
On the other hand, if social being is always posited as a predicate of man,
community would signify on the contrary the basis for thinking onl y some-
thing like "man." But this thinking would at the same time remain depen-
dent upon a principial determination of communi ty, namely, that there is
no communion of singularit ies in a totalit y superior to them and immanent
to thei r common being.
In place of such a communion, there is communication. Which is to
say, in very precise terms, that fini tude itself is nothing; it is neither a
ground, nor an essence, nor a substance. BUI it appears, it presents itself,
it exposes itself, and thus it exisls as communication. In order to designate
this si ngul ar mode of appearing, this specific phenomenality, whi ch is no
doubt more originary than any other (for it could be that the world appears
to the community, not to the indi vidual), we would need to be able to say
that finitude co-appears or compears (com-poroi/) and can only compear:
in this formulat ion we woul d need to hea r that finit e being always presents
itself "toget her," hence severall y; for finitude always presents itself in being-
in-common and as this being itself, and it always presents it self at a hearing
and before the judgment of the law of communit y, or, more ori ginarily,
before the judgment of communit y as law.
Communication consists before all else in this shari ng and in this com-
pcarance (com-porution) of finitude: that is , in d.i slocati on. in the
intcrpell ation that reveal themselves to be constituti ve of bemg-m-com-
mon-precisel y inasmuch as being-i n-common is nOi a common being. The
finite- being exists fi rst of all according to a di vision of sit es , according to
an extension-partes extra paries- such that each singularity is extended
(in the sense that Freud says: "The psyche is extended"), It is not enclosed
in a for m- although its whole being touches agai nst its si ngular limit-but
it is what it is, singular being (singul arity of being), onl y through its
extension, through the areality that above all extroverts it in its very being-
whatever the degree or the desire of ilS "egoism"-and that makes it exist
only by exposing it 10 on outside. This outside is in its turn nothing other
than the exposition of anot her arealit y, of another si ngulari ty-the same
othcr. This exposure, or this exposing-sharing, gives rise, from the outset,
to a mutual int erpellation of singularities prior to any address in language
(though it gives to this latter its first condition of possibility).u Finitude
compears, that is to say it is exposed: such is the essence of communit y.
Under these condi tions, communication is not a bond. The metaphor of
the "social bond" unhappil y superi mposes upon " subjects" (that is to say,
objects) a hypothetical reali ty (that of the "bond") upon which some have
attempted to confer a dubious " intersubjective" nat ure that would have the
vi rtue of attaching these objects to one another. This would be the economic
link or the bond of recognition. But compearance is of a more origi nary
order than that of the bond . It docs not set itself up, it does not establi sh
ilSelf, it docs not emerge among already given subjects (objeclS). It consists
in the appearance of the between as such: you and I (between us)- a formula
in which the and does not imply juxtaposition, but exposition. What is
exposed in compearance is the following, and we must learn to read it in
all its possible combinations: "you (are/ and/ is) (enti rel y other than) I"
("toi [e(s)l! [tout oulre que! rnoi"). Or again, more simply: you shores me
("roi portage moi ").
Onl y in this communicat ion are singul ar beings given- wit hout a bond
on(/ without communion, equall y distant from any notion of connection
or joining from the outside and from any noti on of a common and fusional
interiorit y. Communication is the constitutive fact of an exposition to the
Outside that defines singularit y. In ilS being, as its very being, singularit y
is exposed to the outside. By vi rtue of this position or this primordial
structure, it is at once detached, distinguished, and communit arian. Com-
mu nity is the presentation of the detachment (or retrenchment) of this
di stinction that is not individuation, but fi nitude compearing.
(Rousseau was the first to conceive of this: in his thinking, societ y comes
about as the bond and as the separation between those who, in "t he state
of nature," bei ng wit hout any bond, are nonetheless not separated or iso-
lated . The "societal" state exposes them to separation, but this is how it
exposes "man," and how it exposes him to the j udgment of hi s fell ows.
Rousseau is indeed in every sense the thinker par excellence of compearanee:
it may be that a paranoiac obsession is merely the reverse side-morbid
because detained in subjectivit y-of the communitarian assignation.)
What makes si ngularities communicate is nOi to be confused with what
Bataille calls their lacerations. True, what tears apart is the presentatioq
of fi nitude in and by communit y-the presentat ion of the triple mourning
I must go through: that of the death of the ot her, that of my birt h, and
that of my death. Community is the carrying out of this triple mournina
(1 would not go so far as to say that it is the "work" of this Iriple mourning.
or in any case it is not simply this: there is something broader and less
productive to the carryi ng through of mourning). What is lacerated in this
way is not the si ngular being: on the contrary, this is where the singUlar
being compears. Ralher, it is the communal fabri c, it is immanence that
is lacerated. And yet this lacerat ion does nOi happen (0 anything, for this
fabric does not exist. There is no ti ssue, no fl esh, no subject or substance
of common being, and consequent ly there is no laceration of this being.
But there is sharing out.
Properly speaki ng, there is no laceration of the si ngular being: there is
no opcn cut in which the inside would get lost in the outside (which would
presuppose an inilial "insi de," an interiority). The laceration that , for
Batai ll e, is exemplary. the woman's "breach," is ultimately not a lacerat ion.
It remains, obsti natel y. and in it s most intimate folds, the surface exposed
to the out si de. (While the obsession wi lh the breach in Bat aille's text indeed
indicates something of the unbearable extremity at which communication
comes into play, il also betrays an involuntarily metaphysical reference to
an order of interiori ty and immanence, and to a condition involving the
passage of one being inlO an other, rather than the passage of one through
the exposed limi t of the ot her.)
" Laceration" consists only in exposure: the entire "i nside" of the si n-
gular being is exposed to the "outside" (and it is thus that the woman
serves as an example, or limit -which is the same thing here-of com-
munit y). There is laceration of not hing. with nothing; there is rather com-
pearance before NOTHI NG (a nd, before NOTHI NG, one can only compear).
Once agai n. neither being nor communit y is lacerated: the being of com-
munit y is the exposure of si ngularit ies.
The open mouth is nOt a lacerati on ei ther. It exposes to the "outside"
an "inside" Ihat. without this exposition, would nOI exist. Words do not
"come out" of the throat (nor from the "mind" "in" the head): they are
formed in the mouth's art iculation. This is why speech- including sil ence-
. a means of communicati on but communication it self, an exposure
IS . riO the way the Inui t Eskimos si ng by making their own cries resonate
(SImI a .
open mouth of a partner). The speaking mouth does not Iransmll,
in tIe . . h I k
t inform. does nOI effect any bond; It Is-perhaps, t otl g 1 la en
docS I . f " I ' . Ih
" /,'mil as with the ki ss-the beatlllg 0 a slIlgu ar sIt e aga msl 0 er
.p " "" "
" I,r sites' " I speak and from then on I am- I he bemg m me IS-
smgu ,
outsidc myself and in myself.': (O.c. . .
No doubt the Hegelian deslTe for recogmtlOn IS already operatI ve here.
Nevertheless, before recognition, there is knowi ng: knowi ng wi thout knowl-
_"' c and without "consciousness ," that I am fir st of al1 exposed to the
and exposed to the exposure of the ot her. Ego Slim exposllllS: on
ot e,. bh" d
ser inspecl ion one mi ght discern here a paradox. namely that e III
,0 " h h b' t ot
Cartesian evidence-t hat evidence so certalll t at t e su Ject .canno n
have it and that it need not be proven in any way-there must he not some
nocturnal bedazzlemenl of the ego, not some existential of a
self-affection, but solel y communit y-the about whIch
cartes seems to know so lillie. or nothing at all. In thIS respect the Ca.rtesmn
subject would form Ihe inverse figure of Ihe experi ence of communll y and
of singularity. Thc Cartesian subject knows himself to be exposed. a.nd he
knows himself because he is exposed (does not Descart es present himself
as his own

This is why community cannot arise from the domain of work. One .does
not produce it , one experiences or one is constituted by it the expenence
of finitude. Community understood as a work or through ItS works would
presuppose that the common being, as such. be objectifiable and. producib.le
(in sites, persons. buildings. discourses , insti tUli ons. symbols: III short: III
subjects). Products derived from operat ions of this kind, however grandiose
they mi ght seek to be and sometimes manage to be, have no more com-
munitarian existence than the plaster busts of Mariannc.
Communit y necessarily takes place in what Blanchot has call ed " unwork-
ing," referring to that which, before or beyond the work , from
the work. and which. no longer having to do either with production or
with compl cti on, encounters int errupt ion, fragmentation, suspension.
muni ty is made of thc int errupt ion of singularities. or of the suspenSion
that singular bei ngs are. Communit y is not the work of si ngular beings,
nor can it claim them as it s works, just as communication is nOI a work
Or evc n an operation of singular beings. for community is simply their
being-their being suspended upon its limit. Communication is the unwork-
ing of work Ihat is social. economic, technical, and insti lUlional.
The unworking of communit y takes place around what Bataille for a
very long time call ed the sacred. Yet he came around to saying, "What I
earli er called the sacred, a name that is perhaps purely pedantic ... is
damentall y nothing other than the unl eashing of passions" (O.C. 7:371).
If this " unl eashing of passions" is only partially represented by the
violent and unbridled movement of a free subjecti vit y disposed toward the
sovereign destruction of all things as toward its consumpti on in NOTHtNG,
and even though as a characterization of the sacred it fail s to illuminate
the communit y through which passion is unleashed, it nevert heless remains
the direction always privi leged by Batai l1 e. It furni shes, as ErOfism puts it,
the "awful sign" by which our impossible truth mi ght be recognized, at
least from afar. But it is not at all sure that this privilege is not itself
submitted to an ultimate reserve (or sublation) of the Subject : the sovereignly
subjective annihilat ion of subjecti vit y itself. A kind of incandescent nihilism
carries the subject to its poi nt of fusion. This st ill recall s Hegel, and yet
it is no longer Hegel. It is no longer the State, but it is sti ll a work of
death . Bataille sees its fasci nating aspect in Sade, who proposed communit y
as the republic of crime. But the republic of cri me must also be the republic
of the suicide of cri minals, and down to the last among them- the sacriflCe
of the sacri ficers unleashed in passion. Thus, even though Bataille very
often affirmed a communit y founded in sacred separati on, separat ion
resenting the rupture of passion, he was nonetheless led (because he felt
all too st rongly the at once liberating and overwhelming exigency of
munication) to recogni ze in communit y, to the contrary. Sade's limit: the
phrase " I speak, and from then on I am ... outside myself and in myself"
is the phrase that decides irrevocably and fundamentall y Bat aille's refutation
of Sade's "crude error," which he states as follows: "The world is not, as
Sade ultimatel y represented it , composed of himself and things" (OC.
Hence. if the inoperative community is to be fou nd in the vicinit y of
the " sacred," it is only inasmuch as the " unl eashing of passions" is noC
the free doing of a subjecti vity and freedom is not self sufficiency. (Up to
a certai n poi nt , Bataille fail ed to recognize to what extent a very classical
and very subjecti ve concept of freedom weighed on hi s thought.) But the
" unleashing of passions" is of the order of what Bataille himself often
designated as "contagion," anot her name for "communication." What is
communicated, what is contagi ous, and what , in this manner- and only
in this manner-is " unl eashed," is the passion of singularit y as such. The
singular being, because it is singul ar, is in the passion- the passivit y, the
suffering, and the excess-of sharing its singul arity. The presence of the
other does not constitute a boundary that would limi t the unl eashing of
" my" passions: on the contrary. onl y exposition to the other unleashes my
si ons. Whereas the indi vi dual can know anot her indi vidual, juxtaposed
both as identical to hi m and as a thing-as the identit y of a thing-
10 ' h ' / ' " (
h singular being does not know, bUI rather expertences ]s /"e son
t " Bei ng is never me alone, it is always me and those /ike me"
8:297) .. This is its passion .. is the passion of being.
The likebemg bears the revelallon of sharmg: he or she does not resemble
llle as a portrait resembles an ori ginal. It -:vas thi s type of that
constituted the init ial given of the class]c and tortuous problematic (or
impasse) of the " recognition of the other" (supposedl y opposed to the
"knowledge of the thing"). And one has to ask whet her, above and beyond
the Husserlian alter ego, one mi ght not still pick up traces of this prob-
lematic and this impasse in Freud, Heidegger, and Bataille, restraining
thought , as it were. at the threshhold of communi ty, in a certain specul arity
of the recognit ion of the ot her through death. However, it is in the death
of the olher, as I have said, that communit y enjoins me to its ownmost
register. but this does not occur through the mediation of specul ar rec-
ognition. For I do not recognize myself in the death of the ot her-whose
li mit nonetheless exposes me irreversibly.
Hcidegger leads us farthest here: " The dying of Others is not somet hing
that we experience in an aut hent ic sense; at most we are always j ust " there
alongside." ... By its very essence, death is in every case Here, the
specular arrangement (of recognition of the sel f in the ot her, which pre-
supposes the recogniti on of the other in oneself, and, consequentl y, the
agency of the subject) is- if I may say so-turned inside out like a glove:
I recogni ze that in the death of the other there is nothing recognizable.
And this is how sharing-and finitude- can be inscri bed: "The ending
implied in death does not signify a Dasein's Beingat-an.end, but a Being
to .....ard. the.end of thi s ent ity."21 The similitude of the likebeing is made
in the encounter of "beings toward the end" that this end, their end, in
each case " mine" (or " yours"), assimilates and separates in the same limit,
at which or on which they compear.
A likebeing resembles me in that I myself "resemble" him: we "resem-
ble" together, if you will . That is to say, there is no ori gi nal or origin of
identity. What holds the place of an "origin" is the sharing of singul arities .
This means that this "origin"-the origin of community or the originary
Community-is not hing other than the limit: the origin is the traci ng of
the borders upon whi ch or along which si ngular beings are exposed. We
are alike because each one of us is exposed to the outside that .....e are for
Ourselves. The like is not the same (Ie semblable n'est pas Ie pared). I do
not rediscover myself, nor do I recognize myself in the ot her: I experience
the Ot her's alterit y. or I experience alterity in the other toget her with the
al teration that "in me" sets my singularit y outside me and infinitely delimits
i1. Community is that singular ontological order in which the other and
the same arc alikc (SOIll Ie sembloble): that is to say, in the sharing of
The passion that is unlcashcd is nothi ng other than the passion of and
for community. and this passion emerges as the desubjcctivization of the
passion for death-that is. as its reversal: for it does not seek jOllissonce
being neither the Hegelian dcsire for recognition, nor the calculated oper:
ation of mastery. liI II does not seek the self-appropriation of subjective
immanence. Rather. it is what is designated by the doublet of the WOrd
"jollissollce," namel y joy Uoie). The practice of "joy before death" thai
Bataille tried to describe is a ravishing of the singular bei ng that does nOi
cross over into death (it is not thc joy of rcsurrection, which is the subject's
most inward mediation: it is not a triumph; it is a splcndor- this is the
etymological meaning of thc word "joy"-though it is a nocturnal
splendor), but rather attains, to the point of touching but without appro_
priating it to itself, the extrcme point of it s singularit y, the end of its
fin itude; that is to say the confines upon which compearance with and
before the other occurs, without respite. Joy is possiblc. it has meaning
and existence, only through community and as it s communication.

What is currentl y in thc air- if one is speaking of collecti ve
cxistence-is the poorest thing one can imagi ne, and no
rcpresentation can be more disconccrti ng than one that prescnts
death as the fundamental objcct of the commllno/ activity of men,
death and not food or thc production of the means of
production .... What is tragically religious in the existence of a
community, in formal embrace with dcath, has become the thing
the mOSt alien to man. No one thinks any longer that the realit y of
a common life- which is to say, human existence-depends on the
sharing of noclUrnal terrors and thc kind of ecstatic spasms that
are spread by death ....

Yet JUSt as we must not think that communit y is "lost"-juSt as Bataille
himself had to tcar himsclf away from this mode of thinking-so it would
bc fooli sh to comment upon and to deplore thc "loss" of the sacred only
thcn to advocate its rcturn as a remedy for the evils of our socicty (something
Bataille ncver did, following in this Nict zschc's most profound exigcncy-
nor did Bcnjamin, nor Hcideggcr nor Blanchot . in spilc of cerlain appear-
anccs 10 thc contrary hcre and thcrc). What has disappeared from the
and this means finall y 0/1 of thc sacred. engulfcd in the "immense
- ..' If
f ' Iurc"-reveals rather that commulllty Itself now occupi es the p a.ce 0
sacrcd. Communit y is the sacred. if you will: but the sacred stnppcd
r the sacred. For the sacred- thc separated, thc set apart- no longer proves
o be thc haunting idea of an unattainable communion. but is rather madc
to of nothi ng othcr than the shari ng of communi ty. Thcre is neither an
UPtit)' nor a sacred hypostasis of communit y-there is thc "unleashing of
.. fr.
," the sharing of si ngular beings, and thc commUnication 0 10-
ftudc. In passing to it s limit, rinitudc passes "from" Ihe one "to" the
other: this passage makes up the sharing. . .
Moreovcr, there is no entity or hypostasis of community because thiS
sharing, this passage cannot be completed. Incomplct ion is it s
taking the term " incompletion" in an. scnsc: however, as
not insufficiency or lack, but the aCllvlly of sharlOg, thc dynamiC, If you
will, of an unintcrrupted passage through singular rupturcs. That is to
once again, a worklcss and inoperative activity. It is not a matter of makmg,
producing, or inst ituting a community; nor is it a. matter or
fearing within il a sacred power- it is a matter of IOcompletlllg li S shartng.
Sharing is always incomplcte, or it is bcyond complction and incompletion.
For a complete sharing implies the disappearance of what is sharcd .
Community is given to us with being and as being, wcll in advance of
all our projects, desi res, and undertakings. At bottom, it is impossible for
us to lose communit y. A socicty may bc as little communitarian as possible;
il could not happen that in thc social descrt there would not be, however
sli ght, even inaccessible, some communit y. We cannot not compear. Only
the fascist masses tend to annihilate communit y in the delirium of an
incarnated communion. Symmctrically, the concentrati on camp-and the
extermination camp, the camp of extcrminating concentration- is in essence
thc will to destroy communit y. But even in thc camp itself, undoubt edly,
communit y never entirely ceases to resist this will. Communit y is. in a
sense. resistance itself: namcly, resistance to immanencc. Consequently,
communit y is transcendcncc: but "transcendcnce," which no longer has
any "sacred" meaning, signifying preciscly a resistance to immancnce (resis-
tance to the communion of everyone or to the exclusive passion of one or
scvcral: to all the forms and ail thc violcnccs of subjectivity).J'
Community is given to us-or wc arc givcn and abandoned to the com-
munit y: a gift to be renewcd and communicatcd. it is not a work to be
done or produced. But it is a task, which is different-an infinitc task at
the heart of finitudc.
(A task and a struggle, onc that Marx grasped and
Ilataiile undcrstood. The imperative of the st ruggle, not to be confused
with a "communist" tcleology, int crvencs at thc levcl of communication,
as when Lyotard, for example. speaks of the "absolute wrong" done to
the one who is exploi ted and who does nOi even have the language to
express the wrong done to him, ll bUI also-and fundament ally the stakes
are no doubt the same-the imperative emerges at the level of the incom.
mensurabl e "literary" communicati on of which I will be speaki ng.)

For Bataille, community was fi rst and fi nall y the communit y of 10vers,14
Joy is the joy of lovers. Thi s conclusion, if it is one. is ambiguous. As I
have already said, in the face of sociely, Bataille's lovers present in many
respects the figure of a communion, or of a subject that , if not precisely
Sadi an, nonetheless ends up being engulfed alone in its own ecstasy. To
this extent , Batai ll e's celebrati on of lovers, or what one mi ght call his
passion for lovers, reveals the inaccessi ble character both of thei r own
communi ty and of another community, one shared nOi by one coupl e, but
by all coupl es and all the love in a society. As either one of these li gures,
lovers in Bataille thus represent, aside from themselves and their joy, the
despair of " the" communit y and of the political.
Ullimatel y. it is possible
that these lovers remain trapped in the opposition of the " pri vate" and
the "public"-in princi ple so foreign to Bataille, and yet perhaps insidiously
recurrent in his texts precisely insofar as love seems to expose, in the end,
the whole trut h of community, but onl y by opposing it to every other
plural, social. or coll ective relation- unl ess, and this comes down to the
same thing, love is opposed fundament all y to itself, its own eommunion
bei ng inaccessible to it (according to a Iragic dialeclic of love conceived on
the ground of immanence and visi bl y connected to the thinking of the
political that works from the same ground). Thus, love would seem to
expose whal "real" communism renounced, and that for the sake of which
this communism had to be renounced, but it would Ihereby leave social
communi ty with onl y the exteri ori ty of things. of producti on, and of
exploitati on.
In spite of Bataille, and yet wilh him, we should try to say the following:
love does not expose the entire communit y, il does not capture or effect
its essence purely and simpl y-nol even as the impossi ble itself (this model
would st ill be Christian and Hegeli an, although minus Ihe assumpt ion of
love into the objecti vit y of the State). The ki ss, in spite of everyt hing, is
nOI speech. Of course. lovers speak. But their speech is ultimately impotent ,
excessive in that it is excessively poor, a speech in which love is already
mired: " Lovers speak, and their overwhelmed words defl ate and inflate at
the same lime the sentiment that moves them. For they trans fer int o duration
something whose truth holds for the instant of a fl ash" (O.c. 8:500). In
the Ci ty, on the olher hand, men do not embrace. The reli gious or political
symbolism of the kiss of peace and of the accolade indeed indicates some
hing, bul merely a limit. and most often a comical one. (Nevertheless,
t "" ial speech-cult ural , polit ical, and the like-seems as impoverished as
. r
that of lovers. It is at this poi nt that we shoul d revive the quesllon 0
Lovers form nei ther a society, nor its negati ve, nor its assumption, and
it is indeed in their diSlance from socicty in general that Bataille coneeives
them: " I can conceive of man as open since the most ancient ti mes to the
pOssibility of individual love. I need onl y imagine the subtl e relaxing of
the social bond" (O.c. 8:496). Nevert heless. he also represented them as
a society, as anot her society, one that harbors the impossi ble and communal
truth that si mple society despai rs of attai ning: "Love unites lovers only in
order to expend, to go from pleasure to pleasure, from delight to delight:
their society is one of consumption, the inverse of the State's, which is one
of acquisi tion" (o.C. 8: 140). The word "society" here is nOI- not onl y, in
any case-a metaphor. It sounds a belated echo (1951), as if stifl ed or
resigned, of the motif of a society of festival , of expenditure, one of sacrifice
and glory. As if the lovers had preserved this motif, rescuing it in extremis
from the immense fai lure of the polit ico reli gious, and thus offering love
as a refuge or substi tut e for lost community.
Now, just as communit y is not "lost," so there is doubt less no "societ y
of consumption." There arc not twO societies, nor is there a more or less
sacred ideal of society in communit y. In society, on the other hand. in
every society and at every moment , "community" is in fact not hing ot her
than a consumpti on of the social bond or fabric-but a consumpti on thaI
occurs in this bond, and in accordance wi th the sharing of the linitude of
si ngular beings. Thus lovers are neit her a society. nor the communi ty
effected through fusional communion. If lovers harbor a t rut h of the social
relation, it is neil her at a distance from nor above society, but rather in
that, as lovers, they are exposed in the community. They are not the com
munion that is refused 10 or purloined from society; on the contrary. they
expose the fact that communication is not communion.
And yet in the Batai ll ean representation of lovers, indebted as it is in
this respect to a long tradition-perha ps the ent ire Western tradition of
amorous passion, but since Romanticism al least clearl y in confront at ion
with and opposi ti on to Ihe coll apse of the polit icoreli gious-communion
remains a muted but obsessive theme. The sovereignt y of lovers is no doubt
nothi ng ot her than the ecstasy of the inst ant ; it does not produce a union,
it is NOTHI NO-but this nothing itself is also, in it s "consummation," a
Batail1c knew, however, the limit of love- opposing it, at least at cert ain
1l10ments, and by a paradoxical re\'ersal, to the sovereign capacity of the
Cit y:
The mortal individual is nothing and the paradox of love would
keep him limited to the lie that the indi vidual is. For us, only the
(I he CiI Y) assumes by right a meaning beyond the indi vidual,
II alone holds the sovereign truth that neilher death nor the error
of pri vate interest can alter. (O.c. 8:497)
But immediately after this, Bataille comes back to the impotence in
which the State nonetheless finds itself (today, at least, he says in a still
nostalgic logic) when it comes to giving "the totality of the world," which
must final!y be considered as accessible only in love. lost tOiality.
or tOiallt y accomplished in the lie of the individual: there is no way out
of the ci rcle of disenchantment.
It should be possible to think otherwise. Not in terms merel y of an
ultimatel y successful access to this "totality" (which serves here as another
name for immanence or the Subject), but according to another articulation
both of love and of communit y.
The death of lovers, indeed, exposes them, both between themselves as
well as outside of themselves, to communit y. The acknowledged limit of
love is not an external li mit - it is nOl, as Batai ll e seems to think, the limil
of the "privale" and deceitful insuffi ciency of the "individual": it is rather
the sharing of communil Y precisely inasmuch as Ihe indi vidual also passes
through love, and precisely because he exposes himself 10 it , Love docs nOI
complele communit y (neit her against the City, nor outside of it , nor on ils
fringes): in that case it would be its work, or it would put it to work, On
the contrary, love. provided it is not itself conceived on the basis of the
polil ico-subjective model of communion in one, exposes Ihe unworking and
therefore the incessant incomplelion of community. It exposes community
01 ils limil.
Lovers form Ihe eXlreme though not external limit of community. They
are poised al the extremity of sharing (and the extremity of shari ng is
perhaps lodged in its midst rather Ihan at its outer edge, which moreover
docs not exist). The "unleashing of passions" confronts lovers with com-
munil Y not because iI would place them at a simple remove from community
(Ihere is occasionall y in B3Iaille something of this faci le view: accursed
lovers, censored passion ... ), but rather because lovers expose 10 the com-
munil y, in it s midst, and in sum even UIllO it, Ihe extremity of com pea rance.
For Iheir singularities share and split them, or share and spli t each ot her,
in the instant of their coupling. Lovers expose, at the limi t . the exposition
of singular beings to one another and the pulse of this exposition: the
compearance. the passage, and the divide of sharing. In them, or between
them- this is exact ly the same thing-ecstasy. joy IOllches its limit. Lovers
touch each OI her, unlike fe llow ci li zens (unless, once again, in the delirium
f a fanat icized mass or in the piling up of exterminated bodies-wherever
? 's a matter of a work). This banal and fairl y ridiculous truth means Ihat
not attained but close, as though promised (no longer
t pcech, nor gaze)-is the limit.
S Touching the limit-which is the possibility of touch itself-the lovers.
defer it: except in the case of a common suicide, an old mylh
nd an old desire that abolishes limit and touch al the same time. Joy self-
l overs know joy in drowning in the instant of intimacy, but because
this foundering is also Iheir sharing and di viding since il is neither death
nor communion-but joy-even this in ils film is a Singularity thaI exposes
itself to the outside. In the inslanl, the [overs are shared, their si ngular
beings-which constitule neither an identity nor an indi vidual, which effcel
nothing-share each olher, and the singularity of their love is exposed
to communilY. Communil Y in turn compears: for example in literary
But this is not an example: " lilerature" docs not designate here what
this word ordinarily indicates. What is in fact involved is the following:
that there is an inscription of the communit arian exposit ion, and that this
exposit ion, as such. can only be inscribed, or can be offered onl y by way
of an inscription.
[t is not only, or even primarily, a matter of amorous or "literary"
literature here, but solely of the unworking or' lileralure-alJ unworked
"communicati on," lilerary as well as philosophical. scienlific, ethical, aes-
thetic, and political. This communication would be the inverse of lovers'
di scourse such as Bat aille presents it, and in Ihis respecl. at least, one would
have to call it , if not "Iilerature," Ihen "writing." While lovers' speech
seeks a duration for their joy that joy eludes, "wriling." in this sense, would
on the contrary inscribe the collective and social duration of time in the
inst ant of communication, in Ihe sharing. "lilerary communism" would
be the sharing of Ihe soverei gnt y that lovers, in their passion, expose 10
the outside ralher Ihan produce: Ihey expose it fir st of all 10 themselves,
to their singul ar beings, but as singular beings these beings already, as soon
as the lovers embrace, compear in and before an entire communilY. Be it
for them or for the community, in love or in writing, Ihis docs not occur
without anguish- nor without joy. But eCSlasy comes at a price: at the ri sk
of being nothing more than an erotic or fascist work of death, ecstasy
passes through the inscript ion of finitude and its communi cation. Which
is to say that it also presupposes, necessarily, works (literary, political, etc.).
Hut ..... hat is inscribed, and what passes to the limil in inscribing itself,
eXPOses and communicates it self (instead of trying 10 accomplish a meaning,
like speech): what is shared is the unworking of works.
Lovers expose above all the unworking of community. Unworki ng it
they show in their communal aspect and intimacy. But they expose
ItlO the already shares their intimacy. For the community.
lovers are on they are outside and inside, and at this limit they
have no mealllng wit hout the communit y and withoUi the communication
?f.wri ting: this is. where they assume their senseless meaning. Reciprocally.
II IS the eommulllt y that presenu to them, in their very love, thei r singu_
larities, their binhs, and their deaths. Thei r births and thei r deaths escape
them, although their joy touches these for an instanl. In the same way, the
birth of their child, should it take place, escapes them: this birth OCCurs
as a sharing of anot her singularity, which does not amount to the production
of a work. The child might well be a love chil d, but it is not love's work
it is not, as Hegel would have it, "a seed of immortali ty, a seed of
develops and produces itself from OUt of itsel f," "suppressing (sublatin&)
all distinction between the lovers." When the infant appears, it has already
compeared. It does not complete the love, it shares it agai n, making it pass
again int o communication and exposing it again to communit y.J6
This does not mean that, beyond or above the lovers, there would be a
City or a State in possession of their truth: there is nothing to possess
here, and what communication wri tes, what wri ting communicates. is in
no way a truth possessed, appropriated or transmitted-even though it is.
absol ut ely, the truth of being-i n-common.
There is community, there is sharing, and there is the exposition of this
limi t. Community does not lie beyond the lovers, it does not form a larger
circle within which they are cont ai ned: it traverses them, in a tremor or
"writing" wherein the literary work mingles with the most simple public
exchange of speech. Without such a trait traversing the kiss, sharing it .
the ki ss is iuelf as despairing as communit y is abolished.

The political, if this word may serve to designate not Ihe organi zat ion of
society but the disposition of communit y as such, the desti nation of its
sharing, must not be the assumption or the work of love or of death. II
need neil her find, nor regai n, nor effect a communion taken to be lost or
still to come. If the political is not dissolved in the sociotechnical element
of forces and needs (in which, in effect, it seems to be dissolving under
our eyes), it must inscri be the sharing of communit y. The outline of sin-
gul arity would be "political"- as would be the outline of iu communication
and its ecstasy. "Political" would mean a communit y orderi ng it sel f to the
unworking of its communication, or destined to thi s unworking: a com-
munity consciously undergoing the experience of it s sharing. To altai n such
a signification of the hpolitical" does not depend, or in any case not simply.
hat is call ed a "political wil l." It implies being already engaged in the
. Illlnunity, that is to say. undergoing, in whatever manner, the expenence
cornlllunit y as it impli es We must not. stop
, ting. or letting the stngul ar outhne of our betng-tn-common expose Itself.
"rl . I h .
Not only will this have been written after Rat al lie, but a so to 1m, Just
he wrote to us-because one always writes lo-communicating to us the
as guish of community, writing from a soli tude prior to any isolation,
a community that no society contains or precedes, even though
every society is implied in it:
The reasons for writing a book can be brought back to the desire
10 modify the existing relations between a man and his fellow.
beings. These relations are judged unacceptable and are perceived
as an atrocious misery. (o.e. 2:143)
Or else, it is communi ty itself- though it is nothing, it is not a coll ective
subject-that never stops, in writing, sharing itself.
The anguish which you do nOI communicate to your fell ow being is
in some way scorned and mist reated. It has onl y to the weakest
extent the power to refl ect the glory that comes from the depth of
the heavens. (o.e. 5: 444)
In My Mother, Helene, the mot her, wri tes to her son:
I admire myself for writi ng to you like this, and I marvel to think
that my leller is worthy of you. (o. e. 4:260)
But this hand that writ es is dying, and through this deat h promised
to it. it escapes accepted limits by writing. (O.C. 3: 12)
I would say, rat her: it exposes these limits , it never passes beyond them,
nor passes beyond communi ty. But at every instant singular bei ngs share
their limits, share each other on their limits. They escape the relationships
of society ("mot her" and "son," "aulhor" and " reader," " public fi gure"
and "private figure," "producer" and "consumer"), but they are in com-
munity, and are unworked.
I hal'(> spoken of a community as e:risting: Niet;,sche brought his
affirmations to this, but remained a/one . ... The desire to
communicate is born in me 0111 of a feeling of community binding
me 10 Nietzsche. and not Ollt of an isolated originality. (O. C. 5:39)
We can onl y go far ther.
Note: A firs t version of "La communaulC dcsoeuvrce" was published in
the spring of 1983 in issue number 4 of Alea. which editor Jean-Christophe
l1ailly had devoted to Ihe theme of communit y. Preceding my text was
Bai ll y's minimal leXI, slating Ihe tille for Ihe issue: " the communit y, the
number." Already a text, already an aCI of writing, increasing in number
summoning writing. '
At the end of Ihe same year Maurice Blanchot 's La commllnaute ina_
appeared. The first pan of this book engaged " La communaute
desoeuvree," in order 10 "take up a reflection never in fact inlerrupled
concerning the communisl exigency" and "Ihe flaw in language such words
as communism or community seem 10 comain, if we sense Ihal they carry
something complelely other than what could be common to those who
would bcJong to a whole, to a group."
Not hing is more common to the members of a communit y, in principle,
than a myth, or a group of myths. Myt h and communi ty are defined by
each other, al least in part- but perhaps in totality-and this mOli vates a
reflection on community accordi ng 10 mYlh.
A little later, from Berlin, Werner Hamacher asked me to comribul e to
a series of works devoted to Ihe question of myth. This resulled in the first
version of "Myth Int errupt ed." It soon became evidenlthat Ihis was simply
anOlher way of returning to Bataille's "communil arian" exigency, and of
fun her prolonging Blanchot's " unimerrupled refl ection."
This refl cclion cannot be imerrupted-indeed, in this it is unlike myth.
Reflcclion is the resistance and the insistence of communit y. Many ot her
names should be added 10 those just ment ioned. Their presence must be
inferred, or rather what has been written under their names, imercalated
here-a communit y IInovowoble because 100 numerous but also because it
does nOI even know itself, and docs nOI need 10 know ilSelf- intercalated,
allernal ing, shared texts, like alllexlS, offering what belongs to no one and
relUrns 10 everyone: the communil y of wri ti ng, the wriling of communilY.
Including-one day J will try to an iculate Ihis, I must-I hose who neither
writ e nor read and those who have nothing in common. For in realit y, Ihert
is no such person.
Translated by Peter Connor
Chapter 2
Myth Interrupted
We know the scene: there is a gathering, and someone is telling a story.
We do not yet know whether these people gathered together form an assem-
bly, if they arc a horde or a tribe. But we call them brothers and sisters
because Ihey are gat hered logelher and because they are li slening 10 the
same story.
We do not yet know whelher the one speaking is from among them or
if he is an outsider. We say that he is one of them, but different from them
because he has the gift, or si mply the ri ght-or else il is his dut y-tO tell
Ihe story.
They were not assembled like this before Ihe story; the recitation has
gathered them logether. Before, they were dispersed (at least this is what
the story tells us al ti mes), shoulder to shoulder, working with and con-
fronti ng one anot her without recognizing one another. But one day, one
of them stood still, or perhaps he turned up, as though returni ng from a
long absence or a mysterious exile. He stopped at a particular place, 10
the side of but in view of Ihe others, on a hillock or by a tree that had
been struck by lightning, and he started the narrative that brought togelher
the others.
He recount s to them their hi story, or hi s own. a story Ihat they all know,
but th"t he alone has the gift. the right , or the dut y to tell. [t is the story
of their origin, of where Ihey come from, or of how they come from the
Origin itself- them, or thei r mates. or their names. or Ihe authority figure
among them. And so al the same time ;1 is also the story of Ihe beginning
of world. of the beginning of their assembling together, or of
b.egmnmg of the narrative itself (and the narrative al so recount s, on occa.
slon, . who taught the story to the tell er, and how he came to have the gift
the nght, or the duty to tell it).
He speaks, he recites, sometimes he sings, or he mimes. He is his own
hero,. and they, turns, are the heroes of the tale and the ones who have
the nght to hear It and the duty to learn it. In the speech of the narrator:
their for t.he first time serves no other purpose than that oi
presen!mg the narrati ve and of keeping it goi ng. It is no longer the language
of exchanges, but of their reunion-the sacred language of a foun.
dation and an oat h. The teller shares it with them and among them.

It is an ancient . immemorial scene, and it does not take place just once
but repeats itself indefinitely, with regularit y, at every gatheri ng of
hordes, w.ho come to learn of their tribal origins, of their origins in broth_
. m or in cities-gathered around fires burning everywhere
In the mists of lime. And we do not yet know if the rires are lit to warm.
the people, to keep away wi ld beasts, to cook food, or to light up the face
of the narrator so that he can be seen as he speaks. sings, or mimes the
story (perhaps wearing a mask), or else to burn a sacrifice (perhaps with
his own fl esh) in honor of the ancestors, gods, beasts, or men and women
celebrated in the story.
The story often seems confused; it is not always coherent; it speaks of
powers and numerous metamorphoses; it is also cruel, savage, and
pllliess. but at times it also provokes laughter. It names things unknown.
beings never seen, But those who have gathered together understand ev-
erything, in listening they understand themselves and the world, and they
understand why it was necessary for them to come toget her. and why il
was necessary that this be recounted to them.

We know this scene well. More than one storyteller has told it to us. ' havi ng
gathered us together in learned fraternities intent on knowing what our
origi ns were. Our societies, they have told us, deri ve from these assemblies
themselves. and our beliefs. our knowledge, our di scourses, and our poems
derive from these narrat ives.
They have call ed these narrati ves myths. The scene that we know so well
is the scene of myth, the scene of its invention, of it s recital and its
It is not JUSt any scene: it is perhaps the essent ial scene of all scenes,
of all scenography or all stagi ng; it is perhaps the stage upon which we
represent to or whereupon we. all .our
, )rescntations, If myth, as levI-Strauss would have II , IS prlmanl y defined
(( I that wit h which or in which time turns into space.! With myth, the
of time takes shape, its ceaseless passing is fixed in an exemplary
P - d I-
place of shOWing an revea mg.

And so we also know that this scene is it self mythic.
1\lId much more evidently so, it seems. when it is the scene of the very
birth of myth , for this bi rth is identical wi th not hing less than the origin
of human consciousness and speech-Freud himself, whom one might single
oul as the last inventor, or rather the last dramatist of this scene, declares
it to be mythic.) But the scene is equally myt hic when it is simply the
apparcntl y less speculati ve, more positi ve scene of the transmission of myth.
or when it is what onc might call the ethnologico-metaphysical scene of a
humanity structured in relation to ilS myths: for what is in question is
always , defin itively. the ori gi nal or principial function of myth. Myt h is
of and from the origin. it relat es back to a mythic foundation . and through
this relation it founds itself (a consciousness, a people, a narrative).
It is this foundation that we know to be mythic. We now know that not
only is any " reconstitution" of the initial surging fonh of myt hic power
itself " a myth," but also that mythology is our invention. and that myth
as such is an " unl ocatable genre."" We know-at least up to a certain
poi nt-what the contents of the myt hs are. but what we do not know is
what the following might mean: that Ihey are myths. Or rather. we know
that although we did not invent the stori es (here again, up to a certain
point). we did on the other hand invent the function of the myt hs that
these stories recount. Humanit y represented on the stage of myt h. humanit y
being born to itself in producing myth-a trul y my thing humanit y becoming
truly human in this mytllation: this forms a scene just as fantas tical as any
primal scene. All myths are primal scenes, all primal scenes are myths (it
is still Freud playi ng the role of invent or here). And we also know that the
idea of a "new mythology," the idea of moving on to a new, poetico-
religious foundation. is contemporaneous with the invention or the modern
reinvention of mythology in the romant ic epoch. Romanticism itself could
be defined as the invention of the scene of the founding myt h, as the
awareness of the loss of the power of this myth. and as the
desi re or the wi ll to regai n this li ving power of the origin and. at the same
time. the origi n of this power. For Nietzsche. who is al least in part heir
to thi s romantic desi re for a " new myt hology," the freel y creative power
he likes to credit to the Greeks more than to anyone else stems from the
"myt hic feeling of lying frcely": s the desire for myt h is expressly directed
toward the mythic (fictive) nature of (creative) myth- romamicism, or the
will to (the) power of myth.
This formulation in fact defines, beyond romanti cism and even beyOIlCl
romanticism in its Nietzschean form, a whole modernity: the whole of that
very broad moderni ty embracing, in a st range, grimacing alliance, both the
poctico-elhnological nostalgia for an initial my thing humanit y and the wish
to regenerate the old European humanit y by resurrecting its most ancient
myths, including the relentl ess staging of these myt hs: I am referring, of
course, to Nazi myth.
We know all this: it is a knowledge that takes our breath away, leavin.
us speechl ess, as we always are when faced with humanit y at such a poim
of extremity. We shall never return to the mythic humanity of the primal
scene, no more than we shall ever recover what was signified by the word
"humanity" before the fi re of the Aryan myth. We know, moreover, that
these two extremities are bound up with one another, that the invention 01
mYlh is bound up with the use of ilS power. This does not mean that from
the nineteenth century onward thinkers of myth are responsible for Naz.ism,
but it means that the thinking of myth, of mythic scenography, belongs
with the stagi ng and selling to work (mise en oeuvre) of a "Volk" and or
a "Reich," in the sense that Naz.ism gave to these terms. Myth, in fact, is
always "popular" and "mill enary"-at least according to our version,
according to the version that our mythic thought gives of the thing called
"myth" (for it may be that for ot hers, for "primitives," for example, this
same thing is quite aristocratic and ephemeral).
In this sense, we no longer have anything to do with myth . I would be
tempted to say we no longer even have the right to speak about it, to be
intereSled in it. Comprised within Ihe very idea of myth is what one might
call the entire hallucination, or the entire imposture, of the self-conscious-
ness of a modern world that has exhausted itself in the fabu lous represen-
tation of its own power. Concentrated within the idea of myt h is perhaps
the ent ire pretension on the part of the West to appropriate ilS own origin,
or to take away its secret, so thai it can at last identify itself, absolutely,
around its own pronouncement and its own birth. The idea of myth alone
perhaps presents the very Idea of the West, with its perpetual representation
of the compulsion to rcturn to it s own sources in order to re-engender itself
from thcm as the very destiny of humanity. In this sense, I repeat, we no
longer have anything to do with myth.

Unless thi s is, as often happens, the surest way to let that which we wanted
to be done with proliferat e and become evcn more threat ening. It is perhaps
not enough to know that myt h is mythic. This knowledge is perhaps tOO
nd is perhaps even- this will havc (0 be verified-strict ly speaking
scan, '. ...
.,d,' contained 10 myth . Perhaps thiS logiC of myth sull needs to be
3 rt: .' f
del1lonstrated in order to understand how n can lead to that 0
' ll'S knowledge of it self and in order to try to conceive what we might
m)t . . ' h h
'II h;!\'C to do nOi wllh mYlh, but rather wnh the end 10 whlc myt
.' , ' . cxorably seems to lead. For whet her one laments that mythiC power IS
l:h3USICd or that the will to this power ends in crimes against humani ty,
leads us to a world in which mYlhic resources are profoundly
To think our world in terms of this " lack" mi ght well be an
indispensable task.
Ilamille named Ihis stat e, to which we are doomed, the absence of myth.
For reasons that I shall explain later, I will substitutc for this the expression
the interruption of myth. It is nonetheless true that " the absence of myth"
(the "interruption" of whi ch will designate rather its provenance and it s
modality) defines what it is we have arrived ai, and what we are confronted
with. But what is at stake in this confrontation is not simply an alternative
between the absence of myth and ilS presence. If we suppose that " myth"
designates, beyond the myths themselves, even beyond myth, something
that cannot simpl y disappear, the stakes would then consist in myth's pas-
sage to a limit and onto a limit where myth itself would be nOi so much
supprcssed as suspended or interrupted. This hypothesis perhaps says noth-
ing more than what Bataille had in mind when he proposed considering
the absence of myth itself as a myth. Before examining this statement more
closely, one might say at least that it defines, on a formal level, an extremity,
an int errupted myt h, or a myth in the process of being interrupted.

We must try to proceed to the outcrmost bounds of this extremity; hence-
forth, we must try to percei ve this interruption of myth. Once we have
touched the blinding spot-BIIII lind Boden, Nueht IIl1d Nebel-of myth
sel to work (mis en oelll're), all that remains is \0 move on 10 the interrup-
tion of myt h. This is not the same thing as what has been called "demy-
thologizing," an activity that distingui shes between "myth" and "fait h"
and that depends, moreover, on Ihe possibi lity of positing something like
"faith," while leaving untouched the essence of myth itself. ' The notion
of interruption proceeds quite different ly.
But before getti ng to this notion, and in order to get to it, we must first
fllap out the terrain that leads to the extremit y at which it is interruptcd .
What needs to be asked, then, is not what myth is (and who knows the
answer to this question? Mythologists di scuss it endlessly),- but rather what
is involved in what we hu\'e been call ing "myth" and in what we have
invested. with or without the support of positi ve, hi storical. philological,
or clhnological myt hologies. in what must be called. once agai n. a
of myth. in whatever sense we take the word. (Moreover. the formation
an abyssal myth- myth of myth. myth of its absence. and so on-is
doubt incvitable and inhcrent in myth itself in that myth. as we have
to th!nk of it . perhaps says nothing. but says that it says this: myt h
that II. and says that this is what it says. and in this way 0'""';,;,
and dlst nbut cs the world of humanit y with its spetth.)
. We might begi n. with what myt h ended up becoming. After bei ng ''';;"."'
simultaneously of liS mystery and its absurdity. of its magic and ;" ,. .. ,e,,,:
by mca ns of a formidable structural synthesis-which cannot be i
havc "emptied myt h of its mcaning" unl ess we add straight away that
of meani ng" surel y belongs to myth itself-the totalit y of
myt hiC syStem of humanity then instantl y regained, through a kind
reinstitution in the form of a systematic, organizat ional.
bmatlve, and articulative totalit y, a positi on or a funct ion that one
rightfull y call "of mythic status." No doubt the langauge of thi s
of myths is of anot her order (as is the language of each
as a myth is "t he totalit y of its but it is st ill a
language; the element of an inaugural communication in which
and sharing in gcneral arc founded or inscribed.1O
It may be that we have not yet grasped the full extent of the
to which this st ructural myth of myth has brought us: in the
ambiguity of this appellation lurks at least the suggest ion of an
stage where myth touches its limit and can do away with itself. But if
have not grasped this it is because the event has remained in some way
hidden wit hin itself, disguised by the "mythic status" that the structur'll
myth persisted in givi ng to myth (or else to structure).
What is "mythic status?" What privileges has a tradition of thinkiRl
about myth attached 10 myth-privileges that the structural analyses of
myth reintroduced, int act or preny nea rly so?
Myth is above all futl. original speech, at times revealing, at times
founding the inti mate being of a communit y. The Greek muthos-Homer's
mmhos, that is, speech, spoken expression-becomes "myt h" when it takes
a wh.ole of values that amplify. fill , and ennoble this speech, givinS
II the dimenSIons of a narrative of ori gins and an explanation of desti nies
(in the post-Homeric, and then modern, definition of " myth," it matters
little whet her one believes in the myth or not , whether one views it di s-
trusti ngly or not). This speech is not a discourse that would come in response
to the inqui sitive mind: it comes in response to a wait ing rather than to a
question, and to a wait ing on the pan of the world itsel f. In myth the
world makes it sel f known, and it makcs itself known through declaration
or through a complete and dedsive revelation.
The grealness of the Greeks-according to the modern age of mythol-
,,_ is to have li ved in intimacy wit h such speech and to have founded
Og .. logos in it they are the ones for whom ,ml/hos and logos are "the
theIr ' . . . .
e " 11 This sameness IS the revelat ion, the hatchlll g or blossomlllg of the
of the thing, of being, of man in speech. Such speech presupposes
\\Oll ra pieri! thMn. "all things filled with gods," as Thales is supposed .to
{"ve said. It presupposes an unint errupted world of presences or an ullln-
world of truths. or else. for this is already saying too much, it
" h" . "od"b
resupposes neither "presence" nor " trut nor at times even g s, ut
a way of binding the world and attaching oneself to it, a religio
whose utterances would be "great speech" (grand parler). 12
The enunciation of this myt hic "great speech"- the "anonymous great
voice"-belongs in turn to a space in which "exchange, the symbolic func-
tion ... play the part of a second nature."1) There may be no better way
of defining myth in brief than by saying that it constitut es the second nature
0/ a greal speech. As Schelling put it , myth is " rouregoricar' (borrowing
the word from Coleridge) and not "all egori cal ": that is, it says not hing
othcr than itself and is produced in consciOUSness by the same process that ,
in nature, produces the forces that myth represent S. Thus, it docs not need
to bc interpreted. since it explains itself: "die sich selbst erkliirende My thol-
ogie, " " the mythology that explains or interprets itself. Myth is nature
communicating itsel f to man, both immediately-because it communicates
itself- and in a mediated way-because it communicates (it speaks). It is,
in sum, the opposite of a dialectic, or rather its completion; it is beyond
thc dialectic element . Dialect ics , in general, is a process that ari ses from
Sf" mc given. The same could be said of its twin, dialogics. And the given
is always in some way the logos or a logos (a logic, a language, any kind
of structure). But myth, being immediate and mediated. is itself the ren-
dition of the logos that it mediates, it is the emergence of its own organ-
ization. One might even say- thereby doing j ustice to the structual analysis
of myth-that from it s birth (whether one locates this birth in Plato, in
Vico, in Schlegel, or elsewhere) myth has been the name for logos structuring
i,self, or, and this comes down to the same thing, the name for the cosmos
s'ructllring itself in logos.
Even before ent eri ng into narrat ive, myth is made up of an emergence.
it is inaugural. " It is," wrote Maurice Leenhardt . hthe spetx: h, the fi gure.
thc act that ci rcumscribes the event at the heart of man. emotive li ke an
infant. before it is a fixed narrative."" Thus it s init ial act (but myth is
always init ial, always about the initial) is to represent or rather to present
the lil'ing hearl of logos. Mythology, understood as the invention and the
recitation of myt hs (t hough the reci tation cannot be disti nguished from its
invcntion) , is "lived and living"; in it "arc heard words springing from the
a humani.ty. to the world." I. It is speech li ve from the
ongm, li ve because It IS ongmal and ori gi nal because it is live. In its firq
declamation Ihere ar.i ses the dawn. simult aneously, of the .....orld, of gOds.
and of men. Myth IS therefore much more than a kind of firs t cultuft
it is the "ori ginal culture," it is infinitely more than a culture: i;
IS transcen.dence of o.f speech, of the cosmos, and so on}
presented Immedmtely, Immool3tely Immanent to the very thing it tra
scends and it il!uminates or consigns to it s destiny. Myth is the
of a mouth Immedl3tely adequat e to the closure of a uni verse.
. Thus myth is not 70mposed of just any speech, and it does not speak
Just language. It IS the speech and the language of the very Ihings that
mamfesl themselves, it is the communicati on of these things: it does not
speak of the appearance or the aspect of Ihings: rOll her. in mYlh, their
rhythm speaks and Iheir music sounds. It has been written Ihal "myth and
Sprachgesang (I he song of language) are fundamentall y one and the same
Ihing ....
Myth is very precisely the iI/canto/i on tha! gives ri se 10 a world
and brings forth a language, that gives rise to a world in the advent of.
language. It is therefore indissociable from a rit e or a cult. Indeed ill
enuncialion or recital is itself already a rimal. Mythic ril ual is the
munitarian articulat ion of mythic speech.

This not somelhing added on to myth: mythic speech is
communltanan In lIs essence. A pri vate myth is as rare as a strict ly idiomatic
language. Myth arises onl y from a communilY and for it: Ihey engender
another, infi ni tely and immediatel y. ,I Not hing is more common, nOlhin,
IS more absolutely common Ihan myth. Dialogics can only occur belwem
those who are situaled in Ihe space of exchange or the symbolic function
or bot h. II is mYlh that arranges the spaces, andl or symbolizes. Myth
the. shares and di visions that distribut e a communil Y and dis-
tingUi sh 11 for II self, articulating it wit hin il sclf. Neither dialogue nor mon-
ologue: myth is the unique speech of the many, who come thereby to
one another, who communicate and commune in myth.
. ThIS IS because myth necessarily contai ns a paCI. namely, the pact of
liS own recognition: in a single gest ure. in a single sentence, in sum, myth
says what is and says that we agree 10 say that this is (it also says, therefore,
what sayi ng is). It docs not communicate a knowledge Ihat can be verified
from elsewhere: it is self-communi cat ing (in this respect it is again /(lu/e-
goricaf). In olher words, along wit h knowledge, about whatever object it
might be, it communicates al so t he communicat ion of this knowledge.
Myth communicates the common, the being-commoll of whal it reveals
or what it recites. Consequent ly, 31 Ihe same time as cach one of il s revc-
I lions. it also reveals the community to itself and founds it. Myth is always
mYl h of community, thm is to say, il is always Ihe myth of a com-
I lunion-t he unique voice of the many-capable of invent ing and shari ng
myth. There is no myt h that does not at least presuppose (when it docs
in fact state it) the myth of the communitarian (or popular) rcvelation
of myths.
The community of myt h is Ihus properl y speaking mYlhing humanity.
humanity acceding to itself. The mYlh of communion, like communism-
"as the rcal appropriat ion of human essence by man and for man, man's
lOla! return 10 himsel f as social myt h, absolutely and ri gorously,
in a lotal reciprocit y of myt h and communit y at the heart of myt hic Ihought
or the mythic world.
(This does not contradicl , indeed the contrary is the case, the fact Ihat
O1)'ths are at the same time most often about an isolated hero. In one way
or another, Ihis hero makes Ihe communil y commune-and ulli mately he
always makes it commune in the communication that he himself effects
between existence and meaning, between the individual and the people:
"The canonical form of mythic life is precisel y that of the hero. In it the
pragmatic is at the same time symbolic.")!O
Thus there can be no humanil y that does not incessantl y renew its act
of my/hoI ion. The notion of a " new myt hology," which appeared in lena
around 1798,:1 cont ains bot h Ihe idea of a necessary innovation in order
to create a new human world on the ground of the fi nished world of anci ent
mythology. and at the same time the idea that mythology is always the
obligatory form-and perhaps the essence-of innovation. A new humanit y
must arise from/ in ilS new myth, and this myth ilself must be (according
to Schlegel) nothing less than the tOialization of modern literature and
philosophy, as well as ancient mythology, revived and united with the
mythologies of the ot her peoples of the world. The totalization of myt hs
goes hand in hand wilh the mYlh of totali zation, and Ihe " new" mythology
essent ially consists in the production of a speech that would unite, totalize,
and thereby put (back) inlo the world the totalit y of the words, discourses,
and Songs of a humanit y in the process of reaching it s fulfillment (or
reaching its end).

It ca n thcrefore be said that romanticism. communism, and structuralism,
through their secret but very precise communit y, constitute the last tradition
of myth . Ihe last way for myt h to invent itself and to transmit itself (which,
for l1lyt h, is one and the same Ihing). This is the tradition of the my/halion
of Illyth it self: myt h becomes (wants to become, through Ihe will to its
own power) its own enunciation. il s own talltegory, equivalent to ilS own
Inu h and il s own reaIi 7.ation, it s own suppression and entirely new
guralion, and hence Ihe final inauguration of the inaugural it self Ihat
has always been. MYlh realizes ilself dialcctically; it exceeds all
figures 10 announce the pure my tho-logy of an absolutel y fc
symbolizi ng, or di stributive speech.11

II is here Ihat things are interrupt ed.
The tradilion is suspended at the very moment it fulfill s itself. It
interrupted at that precise and familiar point where we know that it is
a myt h.
It is true that we do not know very much aboul what mythic truth
or is for men living in the midst of what we call " myths ." Bul we
Ihal we-our communit y, if it is one, our modern and post modern h,.m, ...
ity- have no relation to the myth of which we are speaking, even as
fulfi ll it or try to fulfill it. In a sense, for us all that remai ns of myth
its fulfi llment or ils wi ll. We no longer live in mythic life, nor in a
of mythic invention or speech. When we speak of "myth"
ogy" we mean the negation of something at least as much as II
of something. This is why our scene of myth, our discourse of myth,
all our mythological thinking make up a myt h: to speak of mYlh has
ever been 10 speak of its absence. And the word "mYlh" ilself desi,: .....
the absence of what il names.
This is what constitutes the interruption: "myth" is cm off from
own meaning, on its own meaning, by its own meaning. If it even still has
a proper meaning.
In order to say that myth is a myth (that mYlh is a myth, or that "myth"
is a mylh), it has been necessary to play on two quile distinci and opposite
meanings of the word "myth." The phrase " myth is a myth" means ill
effect Ihat myth, as inauguration or as foundation, is a mYlh, in other
words, a fiction, a simple invention. This disparilY between the possible
meanings of "myt h" is in a sense as ancient as Plato and Aristot le. However,
it is not by chance Ihat its modern usage in this phrase that underlies our
knowledge of myth- that mYlh is a mYlh-produces, in a play on words,
the Slructure of the abyss. For this senlence cOnlains, as well as two hel-
erogeneous meanings for a single vocable, one mYl hic realit y, one single
idea of myth whose two meanings and whose infinitely ironic relat ion are
engendered by a kind of internal disunion. This is the same myth Ihat the
tradition of myth conceived as foundati on and as fiction. The phrase that
plays on the disuni on PUIS to work the resources of a former union, a secrcl
and profound union at the heart of myth itself.
/101 'Ihic Ihoughl-operating in a certain way through the dialectical sub-
, of the two meanings of mYlhl.J-is in effect nothing other than the
.- ...
,hi of a founding fiction, or a foundatIOn by ficllon. Far from bemg
//IOII!! . d h h
. positi on to one another, Ihe twO concept s are conJolne In t e myt IC
1' ,.. hI "h I
ht of myth. When Schlegel call s or a new myt oogy, e appea s
!lIOUg .. . . I . h
expressly 10 art, to poetry, and to the creatI ve Imaglnallon. t IS t e Imag-
.' . " in facl that holds the secret of an original force of nature, alonc
" . ... .
le of genuine inauguration. Poetic fictI on IS the true- If not truthful-
capa .... Shl I
origin of a world. And when Schelling ta kes obJcctlon, In a sense, 1.0 c ege
d everyone he reproaches for considering mythology as a ficti on, when
declares that Ihe forces al work in myth "were .imagi nar
forces. bul were the true theogonic powers themselves, 201 hiS .none-
theless tends to pri vilege what one would have 10 call an autOimagtnlllg or
an autofictioning of nalUre.
Schell ing's analysis of mythology is undoubtedly the mosl powerful to
be produced before structual analysis. One might even think that these
constitute two versions-the " ideali st" and Ihe "positivist"- of the same
myth of mythology, and of Ihe same mythology of myth.
According 10 this myt h, or according to this logic, mythol ogy.cannot
be denounced as a fiction, for the fiction lhat it is is an operation.' an
operat ion of engenderment for Schelling, of distribution and
the slrucluralists. Myth is not "a myt h" if it has, qua myth, Ihls operative
power and if Ihis operative power is fundamentall y not
homogeneous with Ihe different but similar operations for Schelhn.
by consciousness. for the structuralists by science. In thIS mYlh IS
not suscept ible to analysis on the basis of a Iruth other than It s own, and
consequentl y above all nOI in terms of " fiction." Rather, it must be analyzed
according to Ihe trUlh that its fi ction confers upon it , or more
according to the truth that ",ything fictioning confers upon mythIC tales
and narrati ves. This is what Schelling demands with his "taulegory." Mylh
Signifies it self, and Ihereby converts its own fiction into foundation or into
the inaugural ion of meaning itself.
Myth is therefore not only made up of a proper truth, sui generis, bUI
it perhaps tends to become truth itself, that truth that for Spi nOla. as well
as for essential philosophical thought in general, se ipsa", patefacit. But
again it is this "patefaction" of myth, and precisely this, thaI confers upon
its fictive character- in an auto-fictioning. As Schell ing admits, " It
is true in a certain way" that "the expressions of mythology are figurati ve":
bUI "for the mythological consciousness" this is the same thing as the
impropriety of the majorit y of our "figurati ve expressions." Which is to
say that. JUSt as thi s figuration is appropriate in language. so wilhin mythol-
ogy impropriety is quite proper. appropriate to the Iruth and the ficlion of
mylh. MylllOlogy is therefore figuration proper. Such is its secret, and the
secrel of its myth-of its truth-for Ihe whole of Western consciousness.l6
To be figural ion proper, to be Ihe proper figuration of the proper, is to
realize properly- improperly-properly, as a supplement of propriet yZ1-
proper itself. Nature with all ils .. po .....ers .. would never attain 10 ils truth
withoUi the double process of natural and figurative "theogony," effective
and represented in consciousness, presenting itself, ullering itself in its
For Schelling this is not a mailer of a secondary representation. of an
interpretati on of nature by a primitive consciousness. It concerns rather
much more the fact that nature, in its ori gin, engenders the gods by affect in.
immediate consciousness (which becomes thereby, and onl y thereby, true
consciousness). It affects it from the outside, it strikes it with swpor, as
Schelling says (sillpefacio quasi el aUonila).!1 It is in this stupor, which is
anterior to all representation, that represenlation itsel f is born. It marks
the representative rupture it self, the "initial break effected by myt hic
thought" of which Levi-Strauss speaks, and more exactly the rupture
brought about by "the primary schematism of mythi c
Here, as in Kant , "schematism" designates the essential operation of
transcendental imagination, which in Kant produces the "non-sensible
images" that furnish a " rule for the production of empirical images,"
whereas for Levi-Strauss, in an inverse bUI symmetrical movement, myt h
"subsumes indi vidualities under the paradigm, enlargi ng and at the same
ti me impoveri shing the concrete givens by forcing them one after the other
to cross over Ihe disconti nuous thresh holds that separate the empirical order
from the symbolic order. from the imaginary order. and fi nall y from sche-
malism." Myth, in short, is the transcendental autofigurati on of nature
and of humanity, or more exact ly the autofiguration-or the autoi magi-
nation-of nature as humanit y and of humanity as nat ure. Mythic speech
thus performs the humanization of nature (and/ or it s di vinization) and lhe
naturalization of man (and/ or hi s di vinization). Fundamentally, mylhos is
the aci of language par excell ence, the performing of the paradigm. as the
logos fictions this paradigm to itself in order to project upon it the essence
and the power it believes to be its own.
In this respect, the romantic goal of a new mythology, one that would
be fi cti oning, imaginary, playful, poetic. and performative, merel y brings
to li ght the thinking from which the myth of myt h arises: it consists in the
thought of a poeticofictioning ontology, an ontology present ed in the figure
of an ontogony where being engenders it self by figuring itself, by givi ng
it self the proper image of its own essencc and the self-represent ation of its
presence and its present. Die sicll selbsl erkfiirende MylilO/ogie is the cor-
rel ative of an essentiall y I1IYllli"8 bei ng or of a my thing essencc of being.
And thc myth of myt h, it s truth . is thai fiction is in effect. in this ontogony.
inaugural. In sum, fictioning is the subject of bei ng. Mimesis is the poesis
of the world as true world of gods , of men, and of nature. The myth of
Il\.th is in no wayan ontological fiction; it is nothing other than an ontology
, . I
of fiction or representation: it is therefore a particularl y ful fi lled and fu -
fill ing form of Ihe ontology of subjecti vit y in gcneral.
But this is also what provokes the interrupti on. From Schelling to Levi-
StraUSS, from the fi rst to the last version of mythic thought , we pass from
one interruption to another. In the beginning, the power of myt h stri kes
consciousness wi th stupor and putS it "out side of itsel f" (that is , it makes
it conscious). In the end, this consciousness become consciousness of self
and of the totalit y qua myth suspends itself on (or as) the consciousness
of thc mythic (or subjecti ve) essence of the "self" of all things. Levi-Strauss
in fact writes:
My analysis ... has brought out the myt hic character of objccts: the
universe. nature and man which. over thousands, millions or
billions of years, will, when all is said and done. have simpl y
demonstrated the resourccs of their combinator y systems, in the
ma nner of some great mythology, before coll apsing in on
themselves and vanishing, through the selfevidence of their own
decay. lD
Or again:
Wisdom consists for man in seeing himself li ve hi s provisional
hi storical internality, whil e at the same time knowing (but on a
different register) that what he lives so completely and intensel y is
a myth-and which will appear as such to men of a fut ure
century. J1
The disunion of the meanings of "myth" is therefore once again at work
at the heart of the very thinki ng meant to dismiss any denunciation of
myth on the basis of its being fiction, at the heart of a thinking of the
communion of foundati on and ficti on (of fou ndation by fiction). In fact.
the same Levi-Strauss, in a tone all in all very close to Schellings. contended
that myt hs, " far from being the works of man's ' myth-making facult y'
turni ng its back on realit y." preserve "modes of observation and refl ection"
whose results "were secured ten thousand years" before those of the modern
and which " sti ll remain al the basis of our civilizat ion."J!
r he phrase "myth is a myth" harbors simli/Illneolisly and in tile same
{hough { a disabused irony ("foundat ion is a fiction") and an onto-poelico-
logical affirmation ("ficti on is a foundation").
This is why myt h is intcrrupted. It is interrupted by its myth.
:hiS is why Ihe idea of a "new mythology" is nOI onl y dangerous, it is
futile, for a new mYlhology would presuppose, as its condition of possibility.
a myth of myth that would not be subjeci to the rigorous logic whose
course extends from Schelling to Lcvi-StraussJl_or else, from Plato to us_
and thai is composed essentiall y of this nihilist or annihilating logic (or
this mytlrics): Ihe being Ihat mYlh engenders implodes in it s own fiction.

The power of myth has spanned two interruptions: Ihe interruplion of pure
nalure and the interruption of myth itself. The appeal to the power of mYth
(whether this appeal be poetical or pol itical, and il can only be, necessarily.
both al the same li me: this is what mYlh is, it is Ihe poeticity of the poli tical
and the polilicality of Ihe poetic-foundat ion and ficlion- inasmuch as the
poetical and the political arc included in the space of myth's Ihinking), thil
appeal, then, or this desire for the power of myth, has sustained itself
through these two int erru ptions- between the nature opened up by an
auto fi guration of its natural power and the culture closed by an aUIO-
resolution of it s illusory fi gures.
Essentially. myth's will to power was totalitarian. It may perhaps even
define totalilarianism (or what I have called immanent ism), which is there-
fore strict ly speaking also interrupted.
Usi ng a rather poor di sti nction for the sake of clarity, one might say
that myth's will (to power) is doubly totalitarian or
form and in its cont ent.
In its form, because myth's will, which is manifesl more exactly as the
will to mythation, is perhaps nothing other than the will to will Y We must
turn 10 Kant for the definition of will: will, which is nothing but the faculty
of desiring determined according to reason, is the facullY enabling the
cause of representations to coi ncide wilh the realil Y of these same repre-
sentations. Schelling's my tiring nalUre is a will: il is even, anticipating
Schopenhauer, the will of the world and the world as wi ll. Myth is not
simple representation, il is representation at work, producing itself-in an
autopoet ic mimesis-as effect: it is fiction that founds. And what it founds
is not a fictive world (which is what Schell ing and Levi-Strauss challenged),
but fictioning as the fashioning of a world, or the becoming-world of
fictioni ng. In other words, the fashioning of a world for the subject, the
becoming-worl d of subjectivily.
As theogony, cosmogony, mythogony, and mythology, myth's will is
myth's will to will. As I have already said, essentially, mYlh communicates
it sel f, and nOI something else. Communicaling itself. it brings into being
what it says. it founds il s ficlion . This efficacious self-communicalion is
", ill-and wi ll is subj ect ivity presented (representing itself) as a remain-
dcrless totality.
i\IYlhic will is totalitarian in its content, for its content is always a
communion, or rather all communions: of man with nature, of man. with
God. of man with himself, of men among themselves. Myth commUlllcates
itself necessaril y as a myth belongi ng 10 the communit y, and it commu-
a myth of communit y: communion, communism. communitarian-
ism. communication, communit y itself taken simpl y and absolutely,
absol ute communit y. For Pierre Clast res. the communit y of Ihe Guarani
Indill ns provides an exemplary figure (or myt h) of this:
Their great god Namandu emerged from the darkness and invented
the world. He first of all made Speech come, the subSlance
common to divinities and humans . . .. Society is the enjoyment of
the common good that is Speech. InSlituled as equal by divine
decision-by nalure!-society gat hered itself togelher int o a single,
that is, undi vided whole .... The men of this society are all Olle.
Absolute community- myth- is nOi so much the 100al fusion of indi-
vidual s, but the will of communit y: the desire to operate, through Ihe power
of myth, the communion that myth represents and that it represents as a
communion or communication of wi ll s. Fusion ensues: myth represents
multiple existences as immanent to its own unique fiction, which gat hers
them together and gives them their common figure in ils speech and as
this speech.
This does not mean only Ihat community is a myth, that communilarian
communion is a myth. It means Ihat myt h and myt h's force and foundation
are essential to community and that there can be, therefore, no communi ty
outside of mYlh. Wherever there has been myt h, assuming there has been
something of the sort and that we can know what this means, there has
been. necessarily, community, and vice versa. The intcrruption of myth is
therefore al so, necessari ly, the interruption of community.

Just as there is no new mythology, so there is no new community either,
nor will there be. If myth is a mYlh. communit y is reabsorbed into this
abyss along wit h it or is di ssolved in this irony. This is why lamenting the
" loss of communit y" is usuall y accompanied by lamenting the " loss" of
the power of myths.
And yet the pure and simple cffacement of community. without remain-
der, is a mi sfortune. Not a sentimental misfortune, not even an ethical one,
but an ontological misfoTlune-or disaster. For beings who are essentially,
and more than essentially, beings in common. it is a privation of being.
Being in common means that singular beings are, present themselves. and,
appear only to the extent that they compear (comparoissenl). to the extent
that they are exposed, presented, or offered 10 one anot her. This
pearance (comporution) is nOI somet hing added on to thei r being; rather,
thei r being comes int o being in it.
Hence communit y does not di sappear. It never disappears. The
munilY resists: in a sense, as I have said, it is resistance it self. Without the
compearance of bei ng-or of singular beings-there would be nothing, or
rather nothing but being appearing to itself, not even in common with
itself, just immanent Bei ng immersed in a dense pearance (porence). The
communi ty resists this infi nite immanence. The compearance of si ngular
beings-or of the singul arit y of bei ng-keeps open a space, a spacing wit hin
Is there a myth for this community of compearance? If myth is always
a myth of the reunion and the communion of communi ty. there is not. On
the contrary, it is the interruption of myth that reveals the disjuncti ve or
hidden nature of communit y. In myth, communit y was proclaimed: in the
interrupted myt h, community turns oul to be what Bl anchot has named
" the unavowable community."
Does the unavowable have a myth? By defini ti on, it does no!. The
absence of avowal produces neither speech nor narrative. But if community
is inseparable from myth. must there nOI be, according to a paradoxical
law, a myth of the unavowable communit y? But this is impossible. Let me
repeat: the unavowable communi ty, the withdrawal of communion or corn-
munit arian ecstasy, are revealed in the interruption of myt h. And the inter-
rupti on is not a myt h: " It is impossible to contest the absence of myth,"
wrote Batai ll e.
We are thus abandoned to this "absence of myth." Bataille defined it
If we say quite simply and in all lucidi ty that present day man is
defined by his avidit y for myt h, and if we add that he is al so
defined by the awareness of not bei ng able to accede to the
possibili ty of creating a veritable myth, we have defined a kind of
myth that is the 'absence oj myth.
Bataille arri ved at this definition after havi ng considered the proposal,
which came from surrealism (that is, from an avatar of romanticism), to
create new myths. He goes on to say that " neither these myths nor these
rituals wi ll be true myt hs or rituals since they will not recei ve the endorse-
ment of the communit y." This endorsement cannot be obtai ned if the myth
does nOl already exist in the community-be it in the mouth of a sole being
who lends it hi s si ngular voice. The very idea of inventi ng a myth, in this
e is a contradiction in terms. Nei ther the communit y nor, consequentl y,
sellS . f h " I" ) . ts the
Ihe indi vidual (the poet , the priest . or ?ne 0 t elT Iste.neTs mven
h' 10 the contrary it is they who are mvented or who 1O\'ent themselves
IllYt . ' . If h h th
. the myth. And it is to the extent that he defi nes hlOt se t roug e
of community that modern man defines himself through the absence
of myt h.
t\I the same ti me, Batai lle defi nes the absence of myth as "a ki nd of
myth" in itself. He explains this as follows:
If we define ourselves as incapable of arriving at myth and as
though awaiting its deli very, we define the of present -day.
humanit y as an absence of myth. And he finds himself before thiS
absence of myth as one who lives it, and li ves it, let us
wit h the passion that in former times animated those
who wanted to li ve not in tern reality but in mythic realit y
18ataille therefore also defines myt h as a myth); this absence of .
myth before him can be infinitely more exalting than had been. In
for mer times, those myt hs linked to everyday li fe.
What makes the absence of myth a myt h is no longer, or not directl y,
in any case, its communitarian character. On the contrary, the mythic
relat ion to the "absence of myth" is here presented, in appearance, a.s. an
indi vidual relation. If the absence of myth marks the common condmon
of present -day man, this condition, rather than constituting communit y,
undoes it. What assures the functioning of a life led accordmg to myth,
here, is the passion and the exaltation wi th which the content of myth-
here the "absence of myt h"-can be shared. What Bataille understands by
"passion" is nothing other than a movement that carri es to the limit-:-t.o
the limit of being. If bei ng is defined in the singul arity of bei ngs (t hiS IS
at bOllom the way Batai lle, consciously or not, transcribes the Heideggerian
thought of the fi nitude of being), that is to say if bei ng is not
communi ng in itself with itself. if it is not its own immanence, but If It IS
the singular aspect of bei ngs (this is how I woul d transcribe Heidegger and
Ilat aille, one by the ot her). if it shares the si ngul arities and is itself shared
out by them, then passion carries to the limit of si ngularit y: logicall y, thi s
li mit is the place of community.
Thi s place, or poi nt , might be one of fusion, of consumpti on c?m-
munion in an immanence regai ned, wi ll ed anew, staged once more: ,t mIght
be a new myth, that is to say the renewal of the old myth, still identical
to itself. But at this point- at the point of communit y-there is,
no communit y: nor, therefore, is there any myth. The absence of myth IS
accompanied. as Batai ll e says a moment later. by the absence of communit y.
The passion for the absence of myt h touches upon the absence of com-
munity. And it is in Ihis respect thaI it can be a passion (something other
than a wi ll to power).
This point is not the inverse or negative image of a community gat hered
in and by its myth, for what Bataill e call s the absence of community
IS not the pure and simple dissolution of community. The absence of com_
munity appears with the recognition of the fact that no community, in the
fusion that it is essent ially seeking, for example in "the ancient fest ival "
can fail "to create a new individual, that one mi ght call the
individual." The fusion of community, instead of propagating its movement
reconstitutes its separation: community against communit y. Thus the fUI:
fillment of community is its suppression. To attain to immanence is to be
cut off from another immanence: to allain immanence is to cut off imma-
nence itself.
Absence of community represents that which does not fulfill community
or community itself inasmuch as it cannot be fulfilled or engendered as
new individual. In this sense, " the appurtenance of every possible com-
munity to what I call ... absence of communit y must be the ground of any
possible community." In the absence of community neither the work of
communit y, nor Ihe community as work, nor communism can fulfill itself;
rather, the passion of and for communit y propagates itself, unworked,
appealing, demanding to pass beyond every limit and every fulfillment
enclosed in the form of an individual. It is thus nOI an absence, but a
movement, it is unworking in its singular "activity," it is the propagation,
even the contagion, or again the communication of community itsel f thai
propagates itself or communicates its cont agion by its very interruption.
This contagion int errupts fusion and suspends communion. and this
arrest or rupture once again leads back to the communication of community.
Instead of closing it in, this interrupt ion once again exposes singularity to
its limit, which is to say, to other singularit ies. Instead of fulfi lling itself
in a work of death and in the immanence of a subject, communit y com-
municates itself through the repetition and the contagion of births: each
birth exposes another singularit y. a supplementary limit , and therefore
another communication. This is not the opposite of death, for the death
of this si ngul ar bei ng who has just been born is also inscribed and com-
municated by it s limit. It is already exposed to its death, and it exposes
us to it as well . Which means. essentially, that this death as well as this
birth are removed from us, are neither our work nor the work of the
coll ectivit y.
On all sides the interruption turns community toward the outside instead
of gathering it in toward a center- or its center is the geographical locus
of an indefini tely multiple exposition. Singular beings compear: their corn-
pearancc consti tutes their being, put s them in communicati on with one
anol her. But the interruption of community. the interruption of the totalit y
that would fulfill it, is the very law of compearance. The singular being
appears to other singular beings; it is communicated to them in the singular.
II is a cont act , it is a cont agion: a touching, the transmission of a trembling
at the edge of being, the communication of a passion that makes us fellows,
or the communication of the passion to be fellows, to be in common.
The interrupted community does not flee from itself: but it does not
belong to itself, it does not congregate, it communicates itself from one
singul ar place to another. "The basis of communicati on," writes Blanchot,
"is not necessari ly speech, nor even the silence that is it s fou ndation and
punctuation, but exposure to death, and no longer my death, but someone
else's, whose living and closest presence is already an eternal and unbearable
absence." J'
Thus "the myth of the absence of myth"-which corresponds to the
interrupted community-is itself neither another myth, nor a negative myth
(nor the negative of a myth), but is a myth only inasmuch as it consists
in the interrupt ion of myth. It is not a myt h: there is no myt h of the
interruption of myth. But the interruption of myth defines the possibility
of a " passion" equal to mythic passion- and yet unl eashed by the sus-
pension of mythic passion: a "conscious," " lucid" passion, as Bataille calls
iI , a passion opened up by compearance and for it. It is not the passion
for dissolution, but the passion to be exposed, and to know that community
itself does not limit community. that community is always beyond, that is,
on the outside, offered outside of each singularity, and on this account
always interrupted on the edge of the least one of these singularities.
Interruption oceurs at the edge, or rather it constitutes the edge where
beings touch each other. expose themselves to each other and separate from
one another, thus communicating and propagating their community. On
this edge, destined to this edge and call ed forth by it, born of interruption,
there is a passion. This is, if you will , what remains of myth, or rather, it
is itself the interruption of myth.

The int errupt ion of myth-and the interruption of myt h as the passion of
and for communit y-disjoins myth from it self, or withdraws it from itself.
It is not enough to say, "Myth is a myth," since the formula for irony, as
I have already said , is fundamentall y the same as the formula for the identit y
of myth (and for its mythic identity).
In the interruption there is no longer anything to be done with myth,
inasmuch as myt h is always a completion, a fulfillment. But the interruption
is not a silence-whi ch itself can have a myth, or can be myth itself in
one of it s ful fi llments. In the interruption of myth somethi ng makes itself
heard, namely. what remains of myth when it is int errupted- and whi ch
ho or h "
not I .not. I e \lery \loice of interruption, if we can say this.
!hls \lOl ce IS I.he \loice of communit y, or of the community's passion.
If 11 must be that mYlh is essential to communil y-but only in
that It completes it and gi\les it the closure and the destiny of an
of completed totali ty-it is equall y necessary to afrirm that
In the of myth is heard the \loice of the interrupted community,
Ih: of the Incomplete, exposed communit y speaking as mYlh without
being III any respect mythic speech.
. This seems to play back the declarations of myth, for in the
IIlterrupt lon there is nothing new to be heard, there is no new myth breaki
h h " ng
t roug ; .. t IS Ihe old story one seems to hear. When a voice, or music, is
one hears just at that instant somet hing else, a mi xture
of and noises that had been cO\lered over by the sound,
but III thI S somelhlllg else one hears again the \loice or the music that has
become in a way the \loice or the music of its own int erruption: a kind of
echo, but one that does not repeal that of which it is the re\lerberation.
In itself, in il s presence and in it s fu lfillment , the \loice or the music is
played OUI, it has dissolved . The mythological prestalion is ended. it no
longer good and no longer works (i f il e\ler worked in the way we
thoughl It was supposed 10 work, in our functional. structural and com.
munal mythology). But in some way the interrupted \loice or music imprints
the schema of its retreat in the murmur or the rustling to which the int er.
r.upti?n gi \les It is no longer the sermOn- or the performance, as the
lingUI sts or arllSlS say-though it is ncither without \loice nor without music.
The interruplion has a voice, and it s schema imprint s ilSel f in the rustling
of the exposed to its own dispersion. When myth stops playing,
the communlly that resists completion and fusion, the communit y that
propagates and exposes it self, makes it self heard in a certain way. It does
not speak. of course. nor does it ma ke music. As I have said it is it self
interruption, for it is upon this exposure of singular thai myth
IS IIll errupt ed. But the interruption itself has a singular voice, a \loice or
a ret iring music that is taken up, held, and at the same ti me exposed in
an echo that is not a repetition-il is the \loice of community, which in its
way perhaps a\lOWS, wi thout saying it, the una\lowabl e. or states without
declaring it the secret of communit y. or more precisel y presents. without
enunciating it . the mythless truth of endless being-in-common. of this being
in common that is not a "common being" and that the communit y itself
therefore does not limi t and that mylh is incapable of founding or con-
taining. There is a voice of communit y art icul ated in the int errupti on. and
even out of the int errupt ion itsel f.
A name has been given to this \loice of interrupt ion: literat ure (or wri li ng,
if we adopl the acceplation of this word that coincides with literature). This
name is no doubt unsuitable. But no name is suitable here. The place or
the Illoment of interruption is without suitabi lity. As Blanchot put s it. " The
only communicati on that henceforth suits it (the communit YI ... passes
through literary unsuit abilit y.") What is unsuit able about li terat ure is that
it is not suited to Ihe myth of community. nor 10 the communit y of myt h.
It is suited neither to communion nor to communication.
And yet, if the name " literature" is always in a state of not being suited
to " literary unsuitability" itself. is this not because li terature is so closely
related to myth? Is not myth the origin of literature, Ihe origin of all
literat ure and perhaps in a sense il s sole cont ent , its sole narrative. or else
its sole poslUre (that of the redlali st, who is hi s own hero)? Is there any
literary scene nOI taken from the mythological scene? (And is nOI this true
also, in this respect , of the philosophic scene or scenes . which, in one way
or another, belong to the "genre" of literature?)
NOI onl y is literature the beneficiary (or the echo) of myth, lileralure
has it self in a sense been thought and no doubt should be thought as
myth- as the myth of the myth of mythless societ y.l9 In an early text by
Bl anchot. one cven reads that in li terature " e\lerything should end in a
mythic in\lention: onl y where the source of re\lealing images opens up is
there a work ... .., It is not certain that Blanchot would sellle for such a
sent ence today. Certainly. there is a work onl y if there is " re\lelation" (you
mi ght interrupt me here: What arc we to make of this word "revelat ion"?
Does it not go along with "myth." as it does moreo\ler wi th "image"? But
this is the space of absolute unsuitabilil Y: eaeh one of these words also
bespeaks it s own interrupt ion). But literature's re\lelation. unlike myth's.
does nOi reveal a completed reality. nor the realit y of a completion. It does
not re\leal, in a general way, some Ihing-it re\leals rather the unrevealable:
namel y. that il is itself. as a work that re\leal s and gi\les access to a \lision
and to the communion of a vision, essent iall y int erru pled.
In the work. there is a share of myth and a share of literature or writi ng.
The latter interrupts the former, it " reveals" precisely through its inter-
ruplion of the myth (through the incompletion of the story or the narra-
ti\'e)-and what li terat ure or wri ting reveals is above all elsc its int erruption,
and it is in this respecl that it can be called, if it still can be-and it no
longer can be- a " mythic invention."
l3ut the share of myth and the share of lilerature are not two separable
and opposable parts at the heart of the work. Rather. they arc shares in
the sense that communit y di vides up or shares out works in different ways:
now by way of myth. now by way of literature. The second is the int er-
ruption of the first. " Literature" (or " writing" ) is what . in lit erature- in
sharing. or .the communication of works-int errupts myth by givi n
to. which has no myth and ca nnot have one 0:
smce bcmg-m-common is nowhere, and does not subsist in a mythic;p
be revealed to .us'. Iit eralUre does not give it a voice:
IS bemg In common that IS li terary (or scri pt uary).

What. this Does it mean anythi ng? I have said that the sole
IS the question of " literary communism," or of a " literary
of B.lanchOl has insisted that "communit y, in
remams. m some way 10 writing," and has referred 10 :
Ideal community of literary communication."' This can always make for
myth, a new and one not even as new as some would
believe. the myt h of the li terary community was outli ned for the fi rst ti
in reali ty it was perhaps not the first time) by the Jena roman(mt
and It down to us in various different ways through everyt h:
the of. a "republic of artists" or, again, the idea of
mUni sm (of a certatn ktnd of Maoism, for example) and revolution inherent
leis quels, in writing itself.
.But. because the of myth does not make up a myth, the
bcmg-m-common of ,:hlch I am speaking-and that many of us are tryilll
to speak that IS say, to write-has nothing to do with the myth
of communi on ! hrough. literat ure, nor with the myt h of literary creation
by If we say, or if we can at least try to say, while
remamtng conSCIOus of liS unsuitability, that being-in-common is
e.rary, If we can attempt to say that it has its very being in " literature"
wrumg, m a certai n voice, in a si ngular music, but also in a paint in, .
tn a dance, and in the exercise of thought), then what " literature" wiD
hav.e to designa.te is this being. it self ... in it sel f. In other words, it would
designate that ontological qualit y that gives being in common, thal
does not hold It m reserve, before or after communit y, as an essence or
man, of God, or of the State achievi ng its fulfillment in communion bul
that rather makes for a being that is only when shared in or
rat her whose quality of being, whose nat ure and struct ure are shared' (or
It is as .to the struClUre of sharing as it is to assign an
essence to II. Sharmg di vides and shares itself: this is what it is to be in
common .. One tell its story, nor determine its essence: there is no
myth, nor IS there a philosophy of it. But it is " li terature" that docs
the shanng. Y. does it, or is it , precisely to the extent that it interruptS
myth. Myt h IS mterrupted by li terat ure precisely 10 the extent that literature
docs not come to an end.
If literature does not come to an end, this is not in the myt hic sense of
an " infinite poetry," such as the romantics desired. Nor is it in the sense
in which, for Blanchot, "unworking" would be attained and presented by
nor in the sense that this " unworki ng" would be purely exterior
to the work. Literature does not come to an end at the very place where
it comes to an end: on its border, right on the di viding line-a line sometimes
st raight (the edge, the border of the book), sometimes incredibl y twisted
and broken (the writing, readi ng). It does not come to an end at the place
where the work passes from an author to a reader, and from this reader
to anot her reader or to another author. It does not come to an end at the
place where the work passes on to anot her work by the same author or at
the place where it passes into other works of other authors. It does not
come to an end where its narrative passes int o other narrati ves, its poem
into ot her poems, its thought into ot her thoughts, or into the inevitable
suspension of the thought or the poem. It is unended and unending-in
the acti ve sense-in that it is literature. And it is literature if it is speech
(a language, an idiom, a wri ti ng)-whatever kind of speech it may be,
written or not, fictive or discursive, literature or not-that puts into play
nothing other than being in common.
" Literature," thought as the interruption of myt h, merely communi-
cates-in the sense that what it puts into play. sets to work, and destines
to unworki ng, is not hing but communicat ion itself, the passage from one
to anot her, the sharing of one by the other. What is at stake in literature
is not just literature: in this. it is unli ke myt h, which communicates only
itself, communicating its communion. It is true that the profound texture
of the literary work seems at times similar in its int ention: it is indeed true
that the text represents nothing ot her than itself and that its story is always
its own story, it s discourse the discourse of itself. And it is precisely to
this extent that there can be a myt h of the tex!.J
But the text that recounts its own story recount s an unfinished story; it
recounts it interrupted and it essentiall y interrupt s its own recitation. The
text interrupts itself at the point where it shares itsel f out-at every moment ,
to you, from him or her to you, to me, to them. In a sense, it is the sharing
of myt h. It is communit y exchanging and distributing its myth. Nothi ng
could resemble more closel y our myth of the foundation and communion
of a tribe, or a people, indeed of humanit y. And yet , this is not what it
is. It is not the ori gi nal scene of our communion. This docs not mean that
there is no theater-as though there could be literature without theater. But
theater, here, no longer means the scene of representation: it means the
extreme edge of this scene, the dividing line where singular beings arc
exposed to one anot her.
66 0 il, t YTH t NTERRUPTED
What is shared on this extreme and diffieult limit is not communi
not completed identi ty of all in one, nor any ki nd of completed
What IS shared therefore is not the annulment of shari ng. but shari ng
and consequent ly everyone's non ident ity, each one's nonidcnt ity to himsel;
and. to o.thers, and the non ident ity of the work to itsel f, and fi nall y the
nomdentuy of li terature to literat ure itself.
Thus, the text its own story, when it recounlS it unfi nished
and .when It .mterruPIS .,tself- and when it goes on to recount Ihis inter:
ru ptlon, but In mterru pts itself agai n- it is because it has a stake
an end, and .a pri nciple beyond itself. In one sense, literature only
c.omes fr:om literature. and returns to it. But in anot her sense- which
Interferes with the fi rst in such a way that. wit h each int erference
IS myth Iha.t is text, or the writ ing, stems onl y from
sIngul ar relat ionship between singular bei ngs (t hey arc call ed, or we ha
call ed them up t h' . ve
a t IS POlOt , men, gods. and also animals' but once again
arc T.he text stems from. or is ;his relationship;
renders It s ? ntoloSlcal :em: as bei ng in common is (the) being (of)
literature. ThiS docs not Impl y a bemg of literature: it is nei ther a narrative
nor a theoretical fi cti on. On the contrary, what this mcans is thm lit erature,
at least from the. moment we understand this word as the interrupt ion or
myth: as bemg (as essence, if you will , or again , as tra nscendental
conslltutlon) .the common exposure of singular bei ngs. their compearance.
The most soli tary writers wri tes only for the ot her. (Anyone who writes
for th.e same, for hi mself, or for the anonymity of the crowd is not a writ er.)
It IS not because there is literature that there is community. One could
even say, no doubt , that it is because there is li terat ure that there is the
of communi.on and by extension the myt h of li terary communion. In
thiS hterat ure correspondi ng to the great modern interruption
.myth engendered it s own myth. But now this myth in tum ItSelf. And the interruption reveals that it is because there
IS that there is li terat ure: literature inscribes being-in-common,
bemg for Others and through others ..... It inscribes us as exposed to one
anOt.her and to our respccth'e deaths in which we reach one anot her- in
to the limit - mut uall y. To reach one anot her- in passing to the
It mll- IS not to commune, which is to accede to another total body where
melt s together. But to reach one anot her, to touch one another,
IS to touch the limit where being itself, where being-in-common conceals
us one from the other, and, in conceal ing us, in withdrawing us from the
other before the other, exposes us to him or her.
It. is a b.irt h: we never stop bei ng born into communit y. It is deaf h-
but If one IS permitted to say so, it is not a tragic death, or else, if it is
more accurate to say it thi s way, it is not myt hic deat h, or deat h followed
b ' a resurret: ti on, or the deat h that plunges into a pure abyss: it is death
) sharing and as exposure. It is not murder- it is not death as ext ermi-
at ion- and it is nOI death as work . no more than it is the nay-saylOg
'\nbellishment of death; rather, it is deat h as the un worki ng that unites us
it interrupts our communi cati on and our communion.

It is because there is this, this unworki ng that shares out our bei ng-in-
common, that there is " li terature." That is to say, the indefi nitely repeated
and indefi nitely suspended gesture of touching the limit , of indicating it
and inscribing it , but wit hoUI crossing it, wi thout aboli shing it in the fi ction
of a common body. To write for ot hers means in realit y to wri te because
of others. The writer neit her gives nor addresses anything to the ot hers;
he does not envisage hi s project as one that involves communicat ing some-
thing to them, be it a message or himself. Of course, there are always
messages, and there are always persons, and it is important that both of
these- if I may for a moment treat them as ident ical- be communicated.
BUI writing is the act that obeys the sole net:essity of exposing the limit :
not the limit of communicati on, bUI (he lim;( upon which communication
takes place.
Communication, in truth, is without limi ts, and the being that is in
common communicates itself to the infi nit y of singul arities. Instead of
gCll ing upset over the gigantic (or so they say) growth in our means of
communication. and fearing through this the weakening of the message,
we should rat her rejoice over it , serenely: communication "itself" is infi nite
between fi nite beings. Provided these bei ngs do not try to communicate to
one another myths about thei r own infinity. for in such a case they instantly
disconnet:t the communication. But communication takes place on the limit,
or on the common limits where we are exposed and where it exposes us.
What takes place on this limit requires the interrupt ion of myth. It
requires that it no longer be sai d that a word, a discourse, or a fable gathers
us together beyond (or on the near side) of the limit. But it requires equall y
that the interruption itself make itself heard, with its singul ar voice. This
voice is like the cut or the impri nt , left by the int errupt ion, of the voice
of myth.
It is each time the voice of one alone, and to the side, who speaks, who
reci tes , who someti mes sings . He speaks of an origin and an end-the end
of the origin, in truth- he stages them and puts himself on stage along
wit h them. But he comes to the edge of the stage, to its out er edge, and
he speaks at the soft est limit of his voice. Or rat her, it is we who stand at
the furthermost extreme and who barel y hear him from this limit. Ev-
erythi ng is a matter of one's practi cal, ethical , political- and why not add
erupti on of a voice. You can
begi n interrupt ing the myth .' U ,I IS VOice, or another, will alway,
On Ihis limit th h us back to the limiL
cone w 0 exposes himself d h .
read: if our ethical and poli tical
does deliver a ,founding speech. On t:
interrupting it. speech, he Interrupts II and he says thai he is
And yet even Ihis his 5 h h "
writer, each work ur:
, as about iL Each
and an unim..
who wnlcs (or reads), or tries to write (0' d)' . e ".ngs anyone
by imposi ng himself (aod a h' rea by expoSing himself- not
nyane w 0 Imposes hi If ' h '
exposi ng himself is no longer writing no longer WIt I out In any way
no longer communicating), But the no thinkin
It is nOi fi ni shed; on the contrary ' t ' d re IS , not, fi nal.
mythic communion and com ,I IS e up of the mterruptlOn of
be, a little the ;;oTUhe
commumsm of be' , "
in-common) is and, of (of the wri ting of bcina:.
nei ther a foundation ,or an a message nor a fable.
this respect , not consIsts, In llS entirety-it is total in
d h In e Inaugural act that each work ta kes
:; s t text in coming to the limit, in letti ng the limit ap":::;
uc , ,In , interrupting the myth,
What IS Inaugural is this forward '
the dividing line-f moving forward here alol1l
rom you to me, from Silence to speech f th
the singular, from myth 10 wri ting. And there is no to
augural act founds nothing entai ls no estabr h' .
no history of communit y is ; ngendered by it governhs n,o
of myth . SI r k' . ' sense, t e interruption
, ,JU I e It s birth, according to Schelling takes I .
of a cenain'
ruption docs entail' so s But at the same time, the inter
" ) methlng. It entaI ls nOi annulling its gest ure in fact
It ent al s recommenci ng il In th' h -
' h . IS sense t ere is once agai n a history' there
IS anot er story another history ; ,
the ' t .' go ng on, one that has been goi ng on since
In errupllon of myth,
or be a of a literat ure thai espouses
b' , h" Istory, nor WI ll It be a question of communism
isrmgmg ' . IS HlstorY, to a close. It will be a questi on, and in truth it already
a questi on, of a hi story that comes b ' h' ,
It ' I " a out wit m a lit erary communism.
IS a most nothing, thi S communi sm- it ,'s OOt ,"eo"
h a communism," in
w atever sense one takes thi s word. (It must be said, however, that if this
word had not had a meaning in other connections, if it had nOl had so
)' mythic and practical meanings, the history of which I am speaking
\\'ould not be happening to us. ) For the moment, it offers us onl y this
rather poor truth: we would not wri te if our being were nOl shared. And
consequent ly this truth also: if we writ e (which mi ght also be a way of
speaki ng), we share bei ng incommon, or else we are shared, and exposed,
by il.
Thus, once myth is inlerrupted, wri ti ng recounts our history to us agai n.
But it is no longer a narrative-neither grand nor small - but rather an
offering: a history is offered to us. Which is to say that an event-and an
advent- is proposed to us, without its unfolding being imposed upon us.
What is offered to us is that communit y is coming about ;U or rather, that
something is happening to us in common. Neither an origi n nor an end:
somet hing in common, Only speech, a writing-shared, sharing us.
In a sense, we understand ourselves and the world by sharing this writing,
just as the group understood itself by li stening to the myth. Nonetheless,
we understand onl y that there is no common undersranding of community,
thai sharing does not constitute an understanding (or a concept , or an
inwi tioll, or a schema), that it does not constitute a knowledge, and that
it gives no one, including communit y itself, mastery over beingincommon.

Of course, the writer is always in some way the tell er of the myth, its
narrator or fabuiator, and he is also always the hero of his own myth . Or
rather, writing itself, or literature, is its own recital; it stages itself in such
a way that once again the mythic scene is reconstituted. In spi te of this ,
al the heart of this inevitable repetition, something has happened to the
writer si nce the interrupt ion of myt h, For also int errupted is the myth of
the wri ter-a myt h perhaps as old as myths in general, and yet as recent
as the modern notion of the writ er, but above all a myth through whose
mediatioll (among ot hers) the modern myth of myth has been elaborated:
the primitive teller is imagi ned from out of the writer, and referred back
to him as hi s originary model. (In a word, this represenl s the subjecl of
literature, of speech or of writing, a subject that can take all forms, from
the pure recitalistannouncer to the selfengendering of the text, passi ng
Ihrough the inspired genius.)
The myth of the writer is interrupt ed: a cert ain scene, an attitude, and
a creativity pertaining to the writer are no longer possible. The task of
what has been designated as ecriwre (wri ti ng) and the thinking of ecrilure
has been, precisely, to render them impossible- and consequentl y to render
impossible a cert ain type of foundation, utt erance, and li terary and com
mu nitarian fulfillment: in short, a politics,
The gifl or Ihe right to speak to of gi fts or ri ghts) no
longer the same gi rt or Ihe same nght , and If IS perhaps no longer ell her
a gift or a ri ght. No more is there the mythic legi timacy that myth conferred
upon it s own narrator. Wri ting is seen rather as ill egit imate, never author.
ized, risked, exposed to the limit. But this is not a compl acent anarchy.
For il is in this way that writing obeys the law- the law of community.
The int erruption of the myt h of the writer is not the disappearance of
the wri ter. II is certainl y not "t he death of the last wriler," as Blanchot
has represented it to be. On the contrary, the writer is once again there,
he is if you will more properly (and therefore in a more unsuit able way)
there whenever his myth is interrupted. He is what the withdrawal of his
mYlh imprints through the interruption: he is not the author, nor is he the
hero, and perhaps he is no longer what has been call ed the poet or what
has been called the thinker; rather, he is a singular voice (a wri ting: which
mi ght also be a way of spea king). He is this singular voice. this resolutely
and irreducibly singular (mortal) voice, in common: just as one can never
be " a voice" ("a writing" ) but in common. In singul ari ty takes place the
literary experience of communit y-that is to say, the "communist " exper_
ience of writing, of the voice. of a speech given. played, sworn, offered,
shared, abandoned. Speech is communitarian in proportion 10 its si ngu_
larit y, and singular in proporti on to its communi tarian truth. This properly,
in the form of a chi asmus, belongs onl y to what I have called here speech,
voice. writing, or literature-and literature in this sense has no other fina]
essence than this property.
Translated by Peter Connor
Chapter 3
" "
"Literary Communism
Literature cannot assume rhe rask of
directing collecrive necessity.
- Georges Bataille
The communit y of int errupt ed myth, which is in a
is wit hout communit y, or communism without commumty, IS our b" "
" ( ommunism) is what we are elllg
nation. In other words communtt y or c .. t a " to
call ed toward. or sent to, as to our ownmost fUlUre. But. It IS no .
come" it is not a future or final reality on the verge of fulfi llment ,
only ;he delay imposed by an approach, a :e
if this were the case, its realit y would be mythic-as wou
of its idea. . h t it is always
Community without communit y is 10 come. In the sense t
coming. endlessly, at the heart of every collect ivit y (because
resists collect ivity itself as much as \I resls s
coming, it ........ ........ " r . f ompearanee
individual) It is no more than this: to come to the Imll 0 c d"
" " ff ked call ed and sent - an
to that limit to which we are In e ect con va. ,
whence we are convoked, called, and sent. The call that convokes us, as
well as the one we address to one another at this limit (this call from
to the ot her is no doubt the same call, and yet not the same) can ?c name
" " I". "ure But above all Its essence
for want of a better term, wnt mg. or I cr. ' h' (
is not to be "'0 chose lilleraire" however one mi ght understand t. IS . as
"f commerce or commulllcatt on
an or style as the producti on 0 texts, as . ' h
" ." ) does it conSIst In what t e
between thought and the ,magmary, etc . . nor .
vocabul ary of Ihe "call " understands in terms of invocation,
or declaration, nor in the effusion of a solemn subjecti vity. Its essence IS
composed only in the act that interrupts. with a si ngle st roke-by an incision
:Uldlor an inscri ption- thc shaping of Ihc scenc of myth. '
,!,hc is no doubt as ancicnt as its emcrgcnce or its
deslgnallon as myth. This mca ns thai "literature" begins . .. with liter_
aturc (epic. tragic, lyrical, philosophical: these distinctions arc of liUle
hcre). If thc fulfilled scene of myth-the scene of li ved exper_
Icnce and of the performance of myth- is in a sense such a belated mont
. h ..
our Istory, 1\ IS because this scene is in fact the scene of the myth or
a scenc that literature has (re)constitutcd as if to erase the trail
of wrmng by means of which it had cut into myth.
But. all things this perhaps means nothing more than the
myt h si mpl y the invention of literature. Literature, which
Will not cease unti l it has reestablishcd a continuit y beyond
thiS lIlterruptlon.
. does know whal it has interrupted: it only knows that it
Itself Wit h one stroke, one incision, and it names "myth" thai
whi ch It represents to itself as having been present before this stroke. Its
?wn consequentl y, is to link up again with "myth," to reground
111 "myth" (i n its and performative power). which is to say,
/fIllsefj. But as II IS. haunted by this myt h. the st roke of writ in"
confrontmg thiS hauntmg mcmory, must never stop interrupt ing il
Literature intcrrupts itself: this is, essentiall y, what makes it literature
(writing) and. not myth .. Or, better, what interrupts itself-discourse or song,
or VOice, narratIVe or proof-Ihat is literature (or writing). Precisely
what Interrupts or suspends its own mythos (that is to say, its logos).

It is here, in this suspension, that the communion less communism of sin-
gula r beings takes place. Hcre takes place the taking place (which is itself
without a place. without a space rescrved for or devoted to it s presence)
? f not in a work that would bring it to completi on, even Jess
m lIself as work (famil y, people, church. nalion, party, literature, philos-
ophy) . but in thc unworking and as the unworking of all its works .
Therc is the unworking of the works of indi viduals in the community
whatever thcir mode of writing might be), and there is the
unworkmg of works that the communit y as such produces: it s peoples, it s
towns, its trcasures, it s patrimonies, its traditions, its capital. and it s col-
Icctive propert y of knowledge and product ion. These arc thc same unwork-
ing: thc work in thc communit y and work of the community (each,
moreover, belongs to the other, sincc either one can be reappropriatcd or
unworked in thc other) do not have their truth in the complction of their
LlTER .... Ry Cm.IMUNISM 0 73
opcralion, nor in thc subslance and unit y of thcir OP!'S ..
in Ihc work, or through the works, begins and cnds II1fLllllcly w!lhm and
b yond the work-within and beyond thc operative conccn1ration of the
\\: rk: thefe where what we have called up to now mcn, gods, and animals
arc themselves exposed to onc another through an cxposition lies
thc heart of lhe work and that givcs us the work at the same IImc as II
dissolvcs its concentration, and through which the work is offcred up to
Ihe infi nite communication of communit y.
The work-be it what we designatc as "a work" or be it the community
presenti ng itself as work (and thc onc is always in the ot her, and be
lIladc into capital, made profitablc by the other, or elsc exposed agalll)-
lIlust be offered up for communication.
This does not mean that the work must be "communicablc": no form
of intclli gibility or transmissibility is required of it. It is not a mattcr of
a message: neither a book nor a piece of music nor a people is, as such,
thc vehiele or the mediator of a mcssagc. Thc function of the messagc
concerns socicty; it does not take place in community. (This is why the
vast majority of critiques addressing the "elitist" charactcr of ccrtain works
havc no pertinence: the communication taking place between a writcr
somconc who, for lack of information or instructi on, cannot even be hiS
reader, is not the communication of a message-but communication does
take placc.r
That the work must be offered up for communicati on means that it must
in cffect be offered. that is to say, presented, proposed, and abandoned on
the common limit whcre singular beings share onc another. The work, as
soon as it becomes a work, at the moment of its completion-which also
means as soon as it becomes a project , and in its vcry texture-must be
abandoned at this limit. And this ca n onl y happen if, by itself and for
itself, Ihe work does nothing other than trace and retrace this limit: in
Othcr words, only if it does nothing othcr than inscribe si ngularit y/ com-
munity, or inscribe itself as si ngular/ common, as infinitely si ngular/
(I say "musl .. . ," bUI Ihis cannot bc dictated by any will, to any will.
I! cannot be Ihe objcct either of a moralit y or of a politics of community.
And yel, it is prescribed. And a politics, in any case, can adopl the objectivc
Ihat Ihis prescriplion should always bc able to opcn a free way of access. )
Whcn the work is thus offcred up to communication, it docs not pass
into a common spacc. Let me rcpeat : only the limit is common, and the
limit is not a placc, but the sharing of places. their spacing. There is no
COmmon placc. The work as work mi ght wcll bc a communal work (and
in some rcspect it always is: onc ncver works alone, onc ncver writes alone,
and thc " singular being" cannot bc reprcscntcd, quitc to thc contrary, by
Ihc isolated. indi vidual): offered, in its unworking, the work does not go
back 10 belll g a common substance, it does not circulale in a common
It does melt into the community itself as work, and it does
nOI functIon commercially in society. The specific character of
commU1IICOl/on that the work lakes on only on condition of being aban_
d.oned work. consists neither in a unitary int eriority nor in a general
circulatIon. This character functions as does, for Marx, the "social" char.
acter of labors in primitive "communes":
Under the ru.ral patriarchal syslem of production, when spinner
an.d li ved under the same roof-the women of the fami ly
splllnlllg and the men weaving, say for the requirements of the
and linen were social products, and spinning and
labour wi thin the framework of the famil y. But
theIr. SOCial did not appear in the form of ya rn becoming
a uOlversal eqUI valent exchanged for linen as a universal
equi valent, i.e., of Ihe two products exchangi ng for each other as
equal and equall y valid expressions of the same uni versal labour-
<?n contrary, Ihe product of labour bore the speci fic
Imprint of the family relationship with its nat urall y evolved
dIVIsIOn of labour .... It was the dislinct labour of the indivi dual in
its original form, the particular feat ures of his labour and not its
universal aspect Ihat formed the social ties .... In Ihis case Ihe
soci?l of labour is evidently nOI effected by the labour of
the IIId,vldual assuming the abst ract form of universal labour or
hi s product assuming the form of a uni versal equivalent. (It is
clearly community,) on which this mode of production is based,
(thai ) prevents the labour of an indi vidual from becoming private
and product the pri vate product of a separate individual;
II (IS communlly thaI) causes individual labour to appear ... as the
direct funClion of a member of Ihe social organisation.'
For the moment , we need not SlOp to evaluate the element of relTOspcctive
illusion in Ihis interpretation, which represents for Marx the Iruth of "com-
labor in il s spontaneously evolved form as we fi nd it among all
CIVIli zed peoples at the dawn of their history.'" What is important, beyond
the noslalgic ideology that is common to Marx and 10 many ol hers is the
thinking of community that in spite of everyt hing still comes through 'here-
for it is a thinking, not merely an idyllic narrali ve ready to be transformed
into a future ut opi a. Community means here the sociall y exposed panic-
ul arity, in opposition to the sociall y imploded generalit y characteri stic of
capit ali st communit y. If there has been an event in Marxist thought , one
that is not yet o\<er for us, it takes place in what is opened up by this
though!. '
Capi tal negates community because it places it the and
,he generali lY of producti on and product s: the operatLve commulllron
ncral communicati on of works . (And whcn it plays the game 0 mu II-
'ing differcnces, no one is fooled: difference belongs neither to the work
p to Ihe product as such). As I have already said, it is a work of death.
", s the work of dealh of both capitalist communism (including when it
I ' .
OCs under Ihe name of "advanced liberal socielY") and of commUIllSI
pitalism (called "real communism"). Standing opposite and 10 the side
" . h hi
f both of these-and resisting them both, in every SOClety-t ere IS w a
designates as community: a division of tasks Ihat does not divide up
a preexisting generali ty (as though society, or humanity, could general
task that could be given, and known, in advance-only capllait sl acc.u-
lIlulation has ever tried to represent such a general lask) , but rather artlc-
\lImes si ngularities among themselves. This is "socialit y" as a sharing, and
not as a fusion, as an exposure, or as an immanence.
\Vhm Marx designates here , or at least raises as a thought-and in such
a way that "we can onl y go farlher" - is the samc thing he poi nts to
time he proposes, as though at the limit of his thinking, the idea of "indI -
vi dual properlY" beyond private property and its sociali st aboli tion (for
example: "Truly common propert y is Ihat of the individual owners and not
of the union of Ihose owners having an exiSlence in the cilY di st inct from
particular individuals'T-namcJy, community: but communit y formed by
an articulation of " panicularities," and not founded in any aut onomous
essence that would subsist by iu elf and Ihat would reabsorb or assume
singular bei ngs into ilscJf. If communilY is "posited before production,"
it is not in the form of a common being that would preexist work.s and
would still have to be set to work in Ihem, but as a being in common of
the singular being.
This means that the articulation from which communit y is formed and
in which it is shared is nOI an organic articulation (although Marx can find
no other way 10 describe it). This articulation is doubtless esscntial to
singular beings: these latter are what they are to the extent that they are
articulated upon one another, to the extent that they arc spread out and
shared along lines of force, of cleavage, of twist ing, of chance, whose
network makes up thei r being-i n-common. This condition means, moreover,
that these singular beings are ends for one another. It even goes so far-
thi s is necessarily impli ed- as to mean that toget her thcy relate, in some
rcspect or in some way, from thc very heart of their singul arities and in
the play of their articulation, to a totality Ihat marks their common end-
Or Ihe common end (communit y) of all the finalities that they represent
for one another, and against one another. This would therefore resemble
an organism. However, Ihe totalily or the whole of community is nOI
organic whole .
....- Organic 10lalily is a 10taHlY in which the reciproca l articul ation of he
paris is though I under the general law of an instrumentation which c I
d d
h oop.
erates 10 pro uce an maintain t e whole as form and final reason of he
ensemble (al leasl this is the way the "organism" has been "on"eved .'
K ." b'" ..... 1 SlOce
ani: II IS not 0 Ihat a hVlOg body is 10 be thought only accordin
10 IhlS model). Organic tOlal ity means the lotalit y of the operat ion as mea.!
and of Ihe as end. But the totality of communit y-by which I under.
r- siand the of. res!sting its own selling to work- is.
whole of slngularllles. Articulati on does not mean organizat io
It refers neither to the notion of inSlrumenl nor to that of operal' n,
wokA ' I ' h . Ion or
r . . allan as nothmg 10 do, as such, with an operative syStem
of it no doubt always be related 10 such a SYSlcm
or be Integrated Into It . By Itself, articulalion is only a junclUre or more
exactly the play of the j unct ure: what takes place where pieces
touch each OIher without fusi ng together, where they slide, pivot, or tumble
over another, the !imil of the ot her-exactly at its limit-where
Ihese singular and dlstmct pieces fold or stiffen, flex or tense themselva
together through one another. unto one another, withoul Ihis mUluai
.. ch always remains, at the same time, a play bel .... een them-evcr the substance or the higher power of a Whole. Here, tM
IS play of the articulations. This is why a whole of sin.
gul antles, which tS IIl deed a whole, does nOI close in around the singularities
to .' hem .10 this whole is essentiall y the openi ng of si n.
gulan.tJes In .thelr arllculatlons, the tracing and Ihe pulse of thei r limits.
.. ThIS totality is the tOlality of a dialogue. There is a mYlh of the dialogue:
II IS I.he of the "inlersubjcctive" and intrapolitical foundation of logos
liS truth. And there is also Ihe interruption of this myt h: lhe
IS no longer to be heard except as the communicat ion of the
singularity/ community. I no longer (no longer essentially)
hear In It whal the other wants to say (to me), but I hear in it that the, or. some other (de I'autre) speaks and Ihat there is an essential archi-
of the v?ice and of voices, which constilUtcs Ihe being in
the VOice is always in it self aniculated (different from iuelf,
IISelf?, and this is why there is nOI a voice, but the plural voices
of smgular bemgs. Dialogue, in a sense, is no longer " the animation of
the Idea in subjects" (Hegel); it is made up only of Ihe aniculation of
one art iculaled upon it self or in it self, facing the ot her, al
the limll of II self and of the other. in this place Ihat is a place only in
order to be Ihe spaci ng of a si ngular being-spacing it from the self and
from others-and constiluling it from the very OUlsel as a community being.
Dialogue. this articulation of speech, or ralher this sharing of voices-
which is also Ihe articulated being (being aniculated) of speech itself {or
it s written bei ng/being written)-is, in Ihe sense I am trying to commu-
nicate, " literature" (afler all , art itself owes its name to the same etymon
of juncture and the dis-positi on of the juncture).
II is nOI an exaggerati on to say Ihat Marx's community is, in this sense,
a communilY of literature-or at least it opens onto such a communit y. It
is a community of articulation, and not of organization, and precisely
because of this it is a communit y situated "beyond Ihe sphere of material
production properly speaking," where "begi ns the flowering of that human
power that is its own end, the true reign of li berty.'"
The only exaggeralion, all things considered, in reference to such a
formation, would be the confidence apparentl y placed in the epithel
';human," for Ihe unworked communit y. the communil y of articul ation
cannot be simply human. This is so for an extremel y simple but decisive
reason: in the true movement of community, in the infleclion (in the con-
j ugation, in the diction) that anicul ates ii , what is at stake is never humanity,
but always the end of hI/inanity. The end of humanity docs not mean iu
goal or its culmination. It means somet hing quile different, namely, the
limit that man alone can reach, and in reaching ii, where he can stop being
simply human, all too human.
He is not transfigured into a god, nor into an animal. He is not trans-
figured at all. He remains man, sni pped of nature, stripped of immanence
as well as of transcendence. But in remai ning man-at his limit (is man
anything but a limi t?)-he does nOI bring forth a human essence. On the
contrary, he lets appear an extremit y upon which no human essence can
take place. This is the limit that man is: his exposure-Io his death, to
others, to his being-in-common. Which is to say, always, in Ihe end, to his
singularity: hi s singular exposure to his singularit y.
The singular being is neither the common being nor Ihe individual. There
is a concept of the common being and of the individual; Ihere is a generality
of what is common and of the indi vidual. There is neil her of these for the
singular being. There is no singular being: there is, and this is different,
an essential si ngularity of being il self (i ls finitude, in Heidegger's language).
That is to say, the "singular bei ng" is not a kind of being among beings.
In a sense, every being is absolutely singular: a stone never occupies the
Space of another stone. But the singularity of being (that is. beings are
given one by one-which has not hing 10 do with the idea of indi visibilit y
that makes up the concept of the individual; on the contrary, the singularity
of the singular being endlessly di vides Being and beings, or rather divides
the Being of beings, which is only through and as its division into singular/
Common), the singularit y of bei ng, then, is singular on the basis of Ihe
limit that exposes it: man, animal, or god have been up to now the diver
names for which is diverse. By defi nition, the fact of bei:;
this limit leads to the ri sk-or the chance-of changi ng ident ity
In It. Nell her gods nor human beings nor animals arc assured of th .
0d ' .. Ctr
I entlly. It IS In this respect that Ihey share a common limit upon which
they are always exposed to their end, as is witnessed. for example, in the
end of the gods.
sharing of this limit resembles, to the point of confusion, the inter.
through which myth holds together and struct ures men, gods,
and y of the world. But myth relentlessly announces the
passing of the itmll , the communion, the immanence or the confusi on
Writing, on the other hand, or "literature," inscribes the sharing: the limi;
marks the advent of singul arity, and its wi thdrawal (that is, it never advenes
as indi visible: it docs not make a work). The si ngular being advenes at the
limit : this means thai it advenes only inasmuch as it is shared. A singular
bei.n.g (" you" or " me" ) has the precise structure and nature of a bei ng or
wTllmg, of a "literary" bei ng: it resides onl y in Ihe communication-which
does nOI commune-of its advance and its retreat. It offers itself, it holds
itself in suspense.

In writi ng's communication, what does the singular being become? II
becomes nothing that it is not already: it becomes its own truth, it becomes
simply Ihe truth.
This is what is inaccessible to mythic thought , for which "the problem
of truth is no longer asked," as Benjamin wrote.' In myth, or in mythic
literature, existences arc not offered in their singularit y: but the character.
istics of part iculari ty cont ribute to the system of the "exemplary life" in
whi ch nothing holds back. where nothing remains within a si ngular limit.
where, on the cont rary. everything is communicated and sci up for iden
ti ficat ion. (This can take place, I would repeat, as much in reading as in
writing: it is a mailer of the mode of the inscri ption, the operation or the
unworki ng of the work in community.)
This is not to say that mythic literat ure is si mpl y the literat ure of the
hero, while the literature of truth would be that of some kind of anti hero.
It is more than JUSt a mailer of models, or literary genres. Everything can
playa role in every genre. It is, rat her, a question of a comnlUnitari an
exi stence of the work such that, whatever its genre or its herO- Ajax,
Socrates, Bloom, theogony, di scourse on method, confessions, divine or
human comedy. madness of the day, recollections of a worki ng girl , cor-
respondence, hatred of poetry-t he communication of this work incom
LITERARY CQ:l.I .... t UNISM 0 79
leles it instead of completing it, and suspends the completion the
p 'Ihic figure it cannot fai l to propose (the fi gure of a hero 10 the st nct
n>' S" figure of the author, figure of literature it sel f. or of thinki ng, or of

con1lllUnication. figure of ficti on or figure of truth). For the 109 IS
ffe red wherever writi ng dOf!s not ('omplele 0 figure. or a fi guration, and
does not propose one, or does not the content or the
exemplary (which means also legendary, hence. mythiC) message of the
figure. .
This does not mean that the work renounces presenllng any figure: for
in such a ease, it would never become a work, it come to a halt
before existi ngY' If it is a work. or if it makes a work, 11 proposes. at least
itself (if not at the same time its hero, it s aut hor, ete. ). as a that
indeed must be exemplar y. in some respect, however shght thIS may be.
But in the end, what corresponds in the work to writing as well as
eommunit y is that by means of which such a tracing exemplifies (if it IS
st ill an example) the limit , the suspense, and the int erruption of its own
exemplari ty. What the work gives us to understand (10 read) is t.he with
drawal of ilS si ngul arity, and what it communicates is the foli owlOg: that
singular beings arc never founding, ori gi nary fi gures for another,
places or powers of remainderless identifieation. Unworklng tak,:s ?Iace 10
the eommunicati on of this wit hdrawal of singularit y on the very !tmlt where
singul arity communicates itself as exemplary. on the limit where it makes
alld IInmakes its own figure and its own example. This does not take place,
of course, in any work: it ne\'er fukes place ill un e:o.:emplary wuy, neither
through an effacement nor through an exhibition. but il can be shared by
all works: it is something offered to the communit y, because it is through
thi s that communit y has already been exposed in the work as it s
Here the mythic hero-and the heroic myt h-interrupts his pose and hiS
epie. He tell s the truth: that he is not a hero, not even, or especiall y not ,
the hero of wri ti ng or literature, and that there is no hero, there is no
figure who alone assumes and presents the heroism of the life and deat.h
of eommonl y singular bei ngs. He tells the truth of the interruption of
myth, the truth of the interruption of all fou nding speeches, of all creati ve
and poietic speech, of speech that schemati zes a world and that fict ions an
origin and an end. He says, therefore. thai fou ndation. poiesis, and scheme
are always offered, endlessly, to eaeh and all , to the communit y, to t.he
absence of communion through which we communicate and through whIch
II'e communicate to each other nOl Ihe meaning of communit y. but an
i lljillile reserl"/? oj COli/mOil anti singular meanings.
If, in the writing of communi ty, the hero traces the interrupti on of the
heroic myth, this docs nOI mean Ihal hi s aelS arc deprived of something
that we can perhaps no longer corrcctl y eall heroism, but that is no doubt
at least courage. The si ngular voice of interruption is nOI a voice without
courage. This courage, however, is not-as one might at first think-tht
courage to say something that it would be dangerous to dare to proclaim.
Of course, such courage exists-but the courage of interruption consists
rather in daring 10 be sil ent, or rather, to put it less summaril y, it consists
in allowing 10 be said something that no one-no individual, no represeq.
tative-could ever say: a voice that could never be the voice of any subject,
a speech that could never be the convict ion of any understanding and that
is merely the voice and the thought of community in the interruption of
myth. AI once an interrupted voice, and the voiceless interruption of every
general or particular voice.

In this consists what I have call ed, provisionally, "literary communism."
What must be understood by this can hardly be aligned with the idea or
"communism" or with the idea of "literature" as we habitually use either
of them. "literary communism" is named thus onl y as a provocative
gesture-although at the same time the name cannot fai l to be a necessary
homage to what communism and the communi sts, on the one hand, and
literature and writers on the other, have meant for an epoch of our hi story.
What is at stake is the articulation of community. "Articulation" means,
in some way, "writing," which is to say, the inscription of a meaning whose
transcendence or presence is indefinitely and constitutively deferred. "Com
munity" means, in some way, the presence of a being-toget her whose imma
nence is impossible except as its death-work. This presupposes that neither
literary art nor communication can answer to the double exigency proposed
in "literary communism": to defy at the same time the speechless imma
nence and the transcendence of a Word.
I! is because there is community-unworked always, and resisting at the
heart of every collectivity and in the heart of every individual-and because
myth is interrupted-suspended always, and divided by its own enuncia-
tion-that there exists the exigency of " literary communism." And this
means: thinking, the practice of a sharing of voices and of an articulation
according to which there is no singularity but that exposed in common,
and no community but that offered to the limit of si ngul arities.
This does not determine any particular mode of socialit y, and it does
not found a politics-if a politics can ever be "founded." But it defines at
least a limit, at which all politics stop and begin. The communication that
takes place on this limit, and that, in truth, constitutes it, demands that
way of destining ourselves in common that we call a politics. that way of
opening communit y to it self, rather than \ 0 a destiny or to a future. "lit-
erary communism" indicates at least the following: that community, in its
. ite resistance to everything that would bring ;t to completion
inf1l1 f th word "ache\'er"-which can also mean "finish off"), slgmfles
political exigency. and that this exigency in its turn demands
ail Irr .. r "'I cs;stance
f "literature" the inscnptlon 0 our tnl1O! cr
tng o. r . f the contrary
It defines neither a politics, nor a writing, or It re ers, . '
Ihal wh
'lch resists any definition or program, be these polil1cal,
10 d d 'h' . Y "po ItlCS
'! h al But it cannot be accommo ate wn tn e,er
or P IOSOP IC . . r r h " !' Ierary com-
, h' Y "writing" It signals a bias In avor 0 tel
or Wit tn ever . t that pre-
. t" resistance that precedes us rather than our tnvenl1ng I -
mums f the depths of community. A polit ics that does not want to
about this is a mythology, or an A that
I 10 S
ay anything about it is a mere diversion, or a he.
does not wan I be d what
Here, I must interrupt myself: it is up to you alow to sal
no one, no subject, can say, and what exposes us tn common.
Translated by Peter Connor
Chapter 4
Shattered Love
Thinking: of Lo\-'e
"{lol'e you more thun aI/111m hos been thollght lind ('on
be (hought. I give my so1l1 fO you."
- Hcnricuc Vogel to Heinrich von Kleist
The thinking of love so b
, . . .' anCient, so a undant and diverse in its forms
"I 10 Its m?dut allons. asks for an extreme reticence as soon as it is solicited
I IS a question of modesty pcrha b " 1
h . : PS. Ul It IS a so a question of exhaustion:
as " ,01 been saId on the subj ect of lave? Every CJ(ccss and every
cxaClilu e? not the impossibilit y of speaking about love been as vio-
as has been the experience of love itself as the Irue source
',he of speaking in general? We know the words of love fO
C inexhaust ible. but as to speaking uholll love could we pc, h,p' be
e;{hausled? '
. well appropri3le that a discourse on love-supposing that
It 511 has somethmg 10 say b I h .
.. . - e a I e same time a communication of love,
a lell er. a mISSI \'e. smee love sends itself as much as it enunciates itseJr.
BUI the of is well known, sparsely. miserabl y repeat their
.declar,atlon. IS always the same, always already suspected of
acklllg lo\e because It declares it. Or else this declaration always ca rries
SHAlTERE!) lOVE 0 83
promise of revealing itself as the unique incarnation. the unique and
(ertai n. if derisory manifestation of the love that it declares, The discourse
IIli ghl well have nothing more 10 say or to describe than this communal
indigence, these dispersed and tarnished flashes of an all-too- familiar love.
This is why, at our slightest attempt to solicit the thinking of love, we
arc invi ted to an extreme reticence, (Should this thinking be solicited? I
will not discuss this. As it happens. il is, As il happens, indeed. this solici-
tation regularly returns, throughout OUT hi story, to formulate its demands.
One asks what has become of love, but one does not forget to return to it
after a certai n period, When, for example, as is the case today, love is no
longer the dominant theme of poetry, when it seems to be essentiall y rele-
gat ed to dime-store novels instead, it is then that we inquire and quest ion
ourselves about love, about the possibil ity of thinking love. As though this
possibilit y were always, recurringly indispensable to the possibility of think-
ing in general-that is to say. to the possibilit y of the life of a community,
of a time and a space of humanit y- something that would not be the case
for other objects, such as God, for example, or history, or literature, or
even philosophy.)
This reticence of thi nking that beckons to us does not impl y that it would
be indiscreet to deflower love, Love deflowers and is itself deflowered by
ils \'ery essence, and its unrestrained and brazen exploitation in all the
genres of speech or of art is perhaps an integral part of this essence-a
part at once secret and boisterous, miserable and sumptuous. But this
reticence might signify that all, of love, is possible and necessary, that all
the loves possible are in fact the possibilities of love, its voices or its
characteristics, which arc impossible to confuse and yet ineluctably entan-
gled: charity and pleasure, emotion and pornography, the neighbor and the
infant, the love of lovers and the love of God. fraternal love and the love
of art, the kiss, passion, friendship"., To think love would thus demand
a boundless generosi ty toward all these possi bililies, and it is this generosit y
Ihat would command reticence: the generosity not to choose between loves,
not 10 pri vil ege, not to hierarchize, not to exclude. Because love is not their
Substance or their common concept, is not something one can extricate and
Contemplale at a distance. Love in its si ngularity, when it is grasped abso-
lutely. is it self perhaps nothing but the indefinite abundance of all possible
loves, and an abandonment to Iheir dissemination, indeed to the disorder
of these explosions. The thinking of love should learn to yield to this
abandon: to recei ve the prodigality. the collisions, and the contradictions
of love, without submitting them 10 an order that they essentiall y defy,
But this generous reticence would be no different from Ihe exerci se of
thought itself. Thinking rejects abstraction and conceptualization as these
arc recogni zed by underslanding. Thinking does nOI produce the operators
a knowledge: it undergoes an experience, and lets the experi ence u' '"" ;b,
It Self. Thought therefore essentiall y takes pl ace in the t' h I
. I re Icence t at ets lhe
moment s. t.his experience offer and arrange themselves. The
thmkmg of love-I f It IS necessary to solicit it, or if it is necessary Ihat iI
be proposed anew, as a 10 be discussed or as a question to be posed_
does th.erefore lay claim to a particular register of thinking: il invite.
us to .as such. Love does not call for a cenain kind of Ihinki
or for of love, bUI for thinking in essence and in it s total:
And thiS IS thinking, most properl y speaking, is love. It is the
for reaches experience; that is to say, for that aspect of
thai gives It self to be welcomed. In the movement across discourse
and concepl , nothing but this lOve is at stake for thought thil
love, of the intell ect or of reason would be wort hies&.
mtlmate connivance between love and thinking is present in
or.lgms: the word bet rays if. Whatever it s legendary ;" we'n""
have mean.t by 11 ,. philosophy," in spile of everything-and perha",
m splle of all philosophies-means this: love of thinking, si nce thinki na II
love. (Love of love, love of Ihe self, in consequence? Perhaps, but we
have to return to this. )
. We cannot , however, dispense with asking what we must understand bJ
Ihls. To say that "t hinking is love" does not mean that love can be unga'.
stood as a 10 the question of thinking-and cen ainl y nOI in
a sentl.mental response, in the directi on of a unifyi ng, effusive.
doct nne of thinking. Even Ihough the paradox mi ghl appear
Si mple, II IS necessary to say that "t hinking is love" is a difficult severe
thought promises rigor rather than effusion. Faced wilh this ;hought
aboul we can nDlhing bUI begin Ihe quest for an ignored
essence thinking for which we lack any evident access. It might well be
that nothing that has been designated, celebrated, or meditaled under the
of " love" is appropriate for this determinalion: "t hinking is love."
!t ml.ght. also be that everyt hing is appropriate, that all loves are at stake
In thlnkmg and as thinking.
.to .s ay is love" (10 pensee est amour) is differenl from
IS .Love, (10 pensee I!St/'amour) ' or " Thinking is a certai n
species love. Neit her genre nor species, perhaps not any genre or perhaps
all Ho.wever thi s may be, " Io\'e" Ihus employed would be, so to
eXistenti al rat her than categorial, or again it would name the aCI of
thmklng as much as or more than it would its nature. (The model for (his
phrase is obviously (he ancient " God is love." whi ch entailed Ihe same
formal implications. ) We know not hing more about whal this means. We
onl y know. by a sort of obscure cert aint y or premonition, thaI it is necessary
or lhat it wi ll one day be necessary to attest this phrase: Thinking is love.
Btl! philosophy has never explicitly attested this.
One single time, however, the first philosopher expressly aUlhent icated
:til identity of love and of philosophy. Plato's Symposium does not represent
part icular treati se that this author set aside for love at Ihe heart of his
II.ork. as others would do later (and often by relating to this same Plato:
Ficino. among others, or Leon Ihe Hebrew, as Ihough Plato were the unique
or at least necessary philosophical reference. de amore, always present ,
beyond the epoch of treatises. in Hegel or in Nietzsche-"philosophy in
the manner of Plato is an erotic duel "-in Freud or in Lacan). But the
SYIIIPosium signifies fi rst that for Plato the exposit ion of philosophy, as
such. is not possi ble wilhout the presentation of philosophic love. The
commemary on the lexi gives innumerable confirmations of this, from the
portrait of Eros to Ihe role of Socrates and to the figure-who appeared
here once and for all on the philosophical scene-of Diotima.
Alt hough the Symposium speaks of love, il also does more than that;
it opens thought to love as to il s own essence. This is why this dialogue
is more than any ot her the dialogue of Plato's generosil Y: here he invites
orators or thinkers and offers Ihem a speech tempered altoget her di ffereml y
from Ihe speech of Ihe interlocutors of Socrates. The scene itself, the gaiet y
or the joy that traverses it, attests to a eonsideralion Ihat is unique in PlaID
(to such a degree, at ieast)-consideralion for others, as well as for the
objcct of discourse. All the differem kinds of loves are welcomed in the
Symposillm; there is discussion, but there is no exclusion. And Ihe love
that is finall y exhibited as true love, philosophical Eros, does not only
prescm ilSelf with the mastery of a triumphant doctrine; it also appears in
a Slate of deprivation and weakness , which allows the experi ence of the
limit. where thought takes place, to be recogni zed. In the Symposium,
Plato broaches the limi ts. and all his thinki ng displays a ret icence or reserve
not always present elsewhere: it broaches its own limit. that is to say, its
SOurce; it effaces itself before the love (or in the love?) that it recognizes
as its truth. Thus it thinks its own birth and its own effacement , but it
thinks in such a way that il restores to love, to the li mil, its very task and
desti nation. Philosophy is not occupied with gat hering and interpreling the
experiences of love here. Instead. in the fi nal analysis, it is love that recei ves
and deploys the experi ence of Ihinki ng.
11tH this has only ta ken place once. at the inauguration of philosophy,
and even thaI time it did not really take place, since it did not reach it s
ends. For all its generosity, the Symposillm also exercises a mastery over
love. At any rate. we cannot fail to read or 10 deduce here, in the order
and Ihe choi ces of philosophical knowledge. a truth regarding love, one
that assigns its experience and hicrarchizes its moments by substituti ng the
im,pat,ience ,and CQ1IO',US of des,ire for its joyous abandon, Thus in Plato
thmkmg will have said and Will have failed to say that it is love-or
explain what this means, to
There is not <>, ne philosophy has escaped Ihis double constraint. III
each, love occupies a place that IS at once evident and dissimulated (as '
Descart es, Ihe ,theory o,f union and that of admirat ion), or
rassed and (as. 10 Kant. 10 the theory of sublime reason), or essential
and (as, in in the theory of the State), At the COSt of
these contradIctions and evaSions, love consistently finds the place that '
cannot not but it only finds it at this cost. What we would have rtf.
IS why this place is essential for it, and why it is essential to
pay thiS price. 0
ne,ver arrives at this thinking-that "thinking is love," even
It IS at the head of it s program, or as the general epigrapb
alt It S ,treat ises , One might say: it reaches toward it, it does not reacb
It. But thIS not mean that it does not have any thinking of love, Quite
Smce the Symposium-or, if you prefer, since before Plalo.
In Heraclitus or Empedocles. in Pyt hagoras or Parmenides-the general
schema of a philosophy of love is at work, and it has not ceased to operate
even now, determining philosophy as it unders!ands and construes ilsel[
as well as love as we understand it and as we make it.
If it. were necessary to take the risk of grasping this schema in a formula
might this: love is the ext reme movement, beyond the self, of
being reachmg completion, The !i rst meaning of this formula (and it delib-
erately has several meanings) would be that philosophy always thinks 10Ye
as an arri ving at a final and defi nit ive complet ion. The
second meanlOg would be that philosophy thinks love as an access rather
than an end: ,the end is the completion of bei ng (even though this might
al so concelv
d as " love," which would thus designate its own result),
!he third meani ng would be that philosophy thinks the being in lovel as
a,nd led by love toward a completion, The fourth meaning. that
thiS what it completes, and consequently fu lfills it
onl y by depTl vmg It of itself- which comes down to suppressing ilS tension:
love suppresses itself (inasmuch as it reaches its end), The fifth mean-
Ing would be that philosophy thinks the suppression of self in love and
the correlative suppression of thc self of love, as ilS ultimalC truth as
it s ultimate effecti vi ty: thus, love infinitel y restitutes itself beyond itself (in
fi nal death and transfi gurati on- and this is not by chance the
title of a musical work, since music accomplishes the philosophical erOlic).
The sixth meani ng would be that this "beyond the self" in which, in a
general manner love has taken place is necessari ly the place of the
vcr ' ,
r or of an alterit , without which nei ther love nor complellon .....ould
011 " h h'
be possible, But Ihe seventh meaning would nevert heless be t at t IS
"beyond" is the place of the same, where love fulfills itself, the, of
Ihe same in the other, if love consists, in Hegel's terms. of "havlfl g m an
olher the moment of one's subsistence." ,
Accordi ng 10 this schema, Ihe nature of love IS shown to be double and
cont radiclory, even though it also cont ains the infinite of own
contradiction. This nature is thus neither simple It the
cont radiction of contradiction and of noncontradicti on, It operates In an
identical manner between all the terms in play: Ihe access and the end, the
incomplete being and the completed being, the self and the beyond
If the one and the other. the identical and the different. The contradlCllon
;he contradiction and of the noncontradiction organizes love infinitely
and in each of its meanings. II is this that definiti vely confers on love the
universality and the totalit y to which, according 10 philosophy, it is destined
by ri ght-and that have crystallized in the fi gure of Christian love,
the love of God and the love of men form the poles of a new contradiction
and of its resolution, since each of them is carried out by the other and
in the other,
Of course this kind of philosophical Ihinking is not confined only to
philosophicai discourse or to its theological avatar, It is ,to see that .it
structures all occidental experience and expression of love (11 IS not certam
that the "Occident" here mighl not include bot h Islam and Buddhism):
its poetics , its dram'a, its its mystique, from the Grand Rhet.oricians
to Baudelaire from the troubadours 10 Wagner or Strauss, from Samt John
of the Cross ;0 Strindberg, and moving through Racine or Klei st, Marivaux
or Malurin, Monteverdi or Freud. For all of them, love is double, con-
fliclual. or ambivalent: necessary and impossi ble, s .....eet and bitter, free and
chained, spiritual and sensual . enlivening and monal, lucid and blind,
altruistic and egoistic, For all , these oppositional couples constitute Ihe
"ery structure and life of love, while at the same time, love carries out the
resolution of these very oppositions. or surpasses them, Or more often, il
si multaneously surpasses them and maint ains them: in the realizalion of
love. the subject of love is dead and ali ve, free and imprisoned, ,resl<>,red
to the self and outside of the self, One sentence by Rene Char best epitomIzes
this thinking and it s entire tradition: "The poem is the fulfilled love of
desire remaining desire."J This sentence. in effecl , does not only speak the
truth of the poem. according to Char ; it speaks the truth of love. More
precisely, it intends to speak the truth of thc poem by grace of the truth
of love, thus confirming, moreover, that love holds the highest truth for
us: Ihe conlradiclion (desire) opposed 10 Ihe nonc d
., d . h . ontra ICllon
reconci e wit II ("remai ning desi re").
BUI Ihis thinking Ihal so profoundl y and '0 co ,. " .
h r
. n lOua y IOnervates
mue 0 our thought received ilS name and ' I .. , SO
Ihe of dialeclic. One might say II
of a dlal ecllC, which formulates the law of 1 b g ypolhes"
This law is not only the formal rule of th; y way of a rc:tu,rn.
a contradiction: it gives, under this
and as lhe
ofb Ad 0
h em
,. n 11 .15 nOI surprisi ng that these two ideas have coexisted
even m.t ermlxed: Ihat "God is love" and Ihat God is the Su or
Love IS nOI only subj ect 10 the ontological dialectic il does
o'hm, on.e case of ilS ont ic application. If one may say one 'I
ri g I y, m the most accurate 0 0Ul'J.
dialeclic Th d fl' . r proper manner- love is Ihe heart of Ihis
.. . e I ea 0 ove IS m Ihe dialecl ic, and Ihe idea of Ihe dial
IS m love, ChriSlian theology into the ontology
;hle Absolute wi shes to be close 10 us," says nothing olher:
heart of us-and the Absolute dialectizes itself. Love is at the
0 hrabev
. a or still . more ri gorousJy.
f . mg means nothmg but the be
t:at}y virtue of being. To suppose that "the
in r the essence of bemg, IS an expression endowed wilh mean-
rt II be to Suppose that the essence of being is somethiDi
.1 e a . eart-that IS to say: that which alone is capable of love Now lhis
IS precisely .never been attested by philosophy. .
its 115 essence, is affected by the dialectic that annihilates
. p e poslllon m order to reveal this contradiction in the becoming 01
rea It y {or of reason of th Id r
h . ' e ea, 0 hl story)- and in this sense one might
say t .at bemg bealS, that il essentiall y is in the bealing indeed in the
e-motton of its own h t, b '. "
sat' Ad ' ea r , emg-nothmgness-becoming, as an infinite pul-
f lon
n yet, thiS heart of being is not a hean, and it does not beal
rom.t e love. Philosophy never says this, and above all, never
Its ImplicatIons, as close as it might come to thinking it It is nol
I at love is. excluded from fundamental ontology; on the contrary e'verything
summons It thither a h . '
I . . . s we ave Just shown. Thus. one must rather say that
ove .I S from the very place where it is prescribed. Or beller still
ove IS mi SSing from the ve , h . . . '
I ry pace were thiS dlalecllcal law operates-Ihe
we have to recognize as the law of love, And there is nothing
dial ecti cal about thiS loss or this " lack"; it is not a eonlradicti on, it is not
to be sublaled or resorbed. Love remains absent from the heart of
bei ng.
That love is missing from philosophical ontology docs not mean that Ihe
di alectical law of being is inappropriate for love, In one sense, nothing is
false in what we have just demonstrated regarding this law and Ihe nature
of love. Nothing is false. but love is missing, because the heart of being,
\\.hit h has shown il self to be commanded by Ihe dialectic. is not a heart.
That which has Ihe power of the di alectic is not a heart . but a subject.
Perhaps one could find a heart in the subject. But this heart (i f there is
one) designates the place where the dialectical power is suspended (or per-
hapS shattered). The heart does not sublale contradictions, since in a general
sense, it does not live under the regime of contradiction-contrary to what
poetry (or perhaps onl y its philosophical reading?) might allow us to believe.
The heart lives-that is to say, it beats-under the regime of exposition.
If the dialect ic is the process of that which must appropriate its own
becoming in order to be, exposition, on the other hand , is the condition
of that whose essence or destinalion consists in being presented: given over,
offered to the outside, to others, and even to the self. The two regimes do
nOI exclude one another (they do not form a contradiction), but they are
nOI of the same order. The being that has become Ihrough a dialectical
process is perhaps destined to be exposed (one could show that this is what
happens, despite everything. at the end of The Phenomenology of Spirit)-
but the dialectic knows nothing of this, it believes it has absorbed the entire
destination in the becoming-proper. The exposed being is perhaps also the
subject of a dialectical process, but what is exposed, what makes it exposed,
is that it is not completed by this process , and it "incompletes itself" to
the outside; it is presented, offered to something that is not it nor its proper
becomi ng.
The heart exposes, and it is exposed. It loves, il is loved, it does not
lo,e. it is not loved. Affirmation and negation are prescnt here as in the
dialectic. But in its modes of affirmation and negation, the heart does nOI
Operate by reporting its own judgment to itself (if it is a judgment). It does
not say "I/ove, " which is the refl ection or the speculation of an ego (and
which engages love neither more nor less than the cogito), but it says " I
lOve you," a declaration where " I" is posed only by being exposed to
" you." That is to say that the heart is not a subject. even if it is Ihe heart
of a subj ccl. The subject is one who report s to himself, as his own, his
judgments and Iheir contradiction, in order to constitute therefrom hi s
proper being: for example, thaI he is (Descartes), that he is not hi s immediate
bcing (Spinoza), that he becomes what he is by traversing the other (Hegel).
This resembles love; in any case it calls to and even demands love-and
yet this is nOI love, The subject poses its own contradicti on in order to
report it 10 ilself and to " maintain it in itself," as Hegel says. Thus'
surmount s it or infini tely.sub.lates it . By principle, the moment of expositiO::
is evaded, even though 11 dImly emerges. This is the momenl when it .
nOI a mailer posing or of and Ihen of resorbing the same an:
Ihe. I.t IS when affIr matIOn '" love you" is given over to that
whIch IS neIther contradIctory nor nonconlradictory wit h it: the ri sk ttuu
the ot her does not love me, or the ri sk that I do not keep the promise or
my lovc.
is the subject. The heart of the subject is again
subject: 11 . IS th.e mfi.Otte .rapport to the self. That this rapport demandl.
tn turn, tnfiOlte through the other, even the gift of the self,
not 10 .any way the of subject from thence derivina:
all ItS conSistency. PhIlosophy Will not fal[ to retort : what is at stake'
but a dialectic of the heart and the subject, of love and the
sCience or the reason. From Pascal to Hegel and beyond, this dialectic is
well But thc response of philosophy is not admissible. There is
no of the heart and the reason, nOi because thcy would be irrec.
(the Question of their rapport , if it be a Question, cannot be posed
m these terms; the perhaps pseudo-Pascal of the Discourse on (he Passioru
of Love writes, "They have inappropriately removed the name of reason
from love, and have opposed them withoUi a sound foundation, si nce
love and reason IS but the same thing"), but because the heart is not able
to enter into a dial ectic: it cannot be posed, disposed, and sublated in a
moment. The heart does nOI return to itself beyond itself, and
thiS IS not, as Hegel would have wi shed, " the spi rit which is anendant to
the power of the heart." Or again, there is no sublimation of the hean,
love. Love is what it is, ident ical and plural, in all its registers or
In all liS explosions, and it does not sublimate itself, even when it is "sub-
lime." It is always the beat ing of an exposed hearl.
This argument carrics a corollary: because it is a stranger to the dialectic,
the heart does not maintain itself in opposition to the subject, any more
than love does to reason. But they are one in the other and one to the
ot her, in a manner that is neither a mode of nor of identity
nor of This mode might declare itself thus: The heart exposes
the subject. It does not deny it, it does not surpass it, it is not sublated
in it; the heart exposes the subject to everything that is not
ti s dlalecllc and its mastery as a subject . Thus, the heart can beal at the
heart of the subject, it ca n even beat in a movement simi lar to that of the
di alectic, but it does not confuse itself with that.
This is why love is always missed by philosophy, which nevertheless does
not cease to designate and assign il. Perhaps it cannot hel p but be missed:
one would not know how to seize or catch up with that which exposes. If
. , 'ns is lo\'e that would mean (insofar as thinking is confused with
thlll 1 , . b
' Iosophy) thai thi nking misses its own essence-thai It mIsses y
essence In philosophy (and in mysti cism, in poetics, etc.) thmkmg
thus said all that it could and all th.aI it should
lovc-by missi ng it and by missing itself. Lovmg, and lovmg lo\e, It " .111
h:\VC lost love. It is thence that Saint Augustine's umure omobom draws It s
excmplary force of confession. . ' . .'
This does nOi at all mean that in all thIS lTadmon thtnkmg has never
occurred, or that love has never occurred, or that thinking about .Iove
. r occurred On the contrary. But this does mean that love Itself, III
. . . . If .
thai it is missed by thinking, and by the love of thi nkmg, gIves lise . agal.n
10 thinking. This is to say that in thinking,. it forth once
love that it is. Something revealed and re-velled with the SymposIUm, like
a mi ssed rendezvous, call s again for its repetition.
The Heart: Broken
Love is a series of scars. "No heart is as whole as a
broken heart," said the celebrated Rabbi Nahman of
- Elie Wiesel, The Fifth Son
One would want to be able 10 engage this repetition, at least in part,
outside of the Occident that is to say, apart from love as we have come
to know it from our his;ory and from our thinki ng. That which is not the
Occident is, in facl , no stranger to any of the figures or forms we. know
as love (sexuality, erot ism, tenderness, passion, friendship, fratermt y, or
even fidelity, abandon, union, desi re, jealousy, or what we represent the
emoti on of love, as the adoration or supplication of love, or gl fl
the self or deli verance by love, etc.). But in all these figures (which Ihelr
denominations here ri sk fal sifying, and which, moreover, are
perhaps not figures, but rather so many distinct essences-or so many
flashes) whal is at issue, outside of the Occident, is not love absolutely.
Only the Occidenl designates within love-absolutel y and in every sense,
or in the absolute of all its conjoined meanings, whi ch obsti nately make
lip one sole meaning, one sole essence-an orderi ng (or prin-
ci ple of the totali ty of bei ng and of beings, of nature, of the Clly, of
knowledge, and of God. Onl y the Occident raises with this one
"love," such a claim to uni versal ity. Thai Ihis claim is continuall y dIsap-
pointed or ridiculed, that it is continuall y found guilt y of delirium, of
contradiction or of bad faith. only confi rms its imperious demand"
"" ""d" ,
IOSISte.nt. or lOS] ]OUS characlcr, When we namc love. we name something"':
and ":"hoUI a doubt, the onl y thing of this kind-I hat diffuses itself throup
alt, that comes closer and closer to tOialily, because Ihis Ihing is the
or the movemem proximity and of the neighbor, because it is
the .evldence and Ihe of recogniti on, and at Ihe same lime the
po"er of, fulfillment. Di verse as the realit ies are that are designated by
omor jO/I, by the love of God, by Ihe love of Tristan, by love in the
afternoon, love on the ground, love in flight, or by the sacred love of the
father land, the meaning remains the same, unchangeable and infi nite: it is
always the funhest movement of a completion,
If we take love within the Occidem, and Ihe Occident in turn wit hin
love, then can we hope to repeat the rendezvous that seems to have
been m,lssed once and for all , since it is the very nature of this love-unique
and uOlversal, plenary. fulfi lling-that caused the rendezvous to be missed?
If Such. an undertaking will always be in vai n, it is nonctheless certain
love ]S to bc found elsewhere. Elsewhere (if such an "elsewhere"
eXists. but thiS .IS not the question here), one will find , by definition, only
or deslTe, vows, sacri fice, or ecstasy, but " love" will not be found.
We Will .not .be able to redirect love to the edges of the Occident, if such
edges 10 to abandon it to voluptuous rituals, innocem games.
or commuOions, as cert ain ethnological or archaeological fictions
li ke to there we would instantly lose what makes "love,"
ItS uOlque nommatlon, and the intimate communication it establishes
between caress and devotion, between charity and nuptials (we would in
fact, lose the very meaning of these words, of all love's words). NothillJ
leads us more surely back to ourselves (to the Occident to philosophy to
the dialecti c, [0 literature) than love. ' ,
is why one would want to separate oneself from love, free oneself
from II. of this law of the completion of being, one would want
to deal.o.nly wllh a moment of contact between beings, a light, cuuin
and d
hclous. of comact, at once eternal and fleeting. In its phil.
osoph]cal ass]gnallon, love seems to skirt this touch of the heart that would
complete anything, that would go nowhere, graceful and casual, the
JOy of the soul and the pleasure of the skin, si mple luminous flashes of
freed from it self. That is Don Juan's wish, it is hi s fervor, it is even
but we can think Don Juan onl y condemned, unl ess we represent
hiS ]mpumt y as a diabolical or perverse chall enge to the very law of love.
Thus there is no innocent or joyouS Don Juan. Mozart's, it is true, conti nues
the .end merril y thwarting the condemnat ion. And, yet. perhaps
spite of h]mself, Mozart let him be condemned. But even in hell, the
figure of Don J uan testifies with remarkable force and insistence that this
style of love as heart's touch obstinately haunts the thinking of love as law
of full'i llmenl.
(Actually, when we represent modes of existence and thinking forei gn
\0 the law of love, we supplemem this law. in our by
sonlething else: it is a sacred order. a social tie, or a natural aUracllon that
layS, in the final analysis. the role of love and that gives tenderness,
and fraternity their independence. This mea ns that we think love
in the guise of a subSl itute or a transfiguration of these things that our
imaginary figures as realities that we would have possessed. then.
religion, communi ty, the immediate emoti on of the Olher and of the dl vme.
But this substitute is nOI satisfied with coming to the place of whal would
havc been lost-or in the most Christian version, it is not sat isfied wilh
transfiguring it. Love conceals a fundamental ambivalence in which it at
the same time challenges that which it must replace: we represent love as
hostile or as foreign to the city and to religion-so that while affirming
that they are founded within love or vi rtuall y fulfill ed in it. they multiply
with respect to love the procedures of control or of conciliation, But for
itself. in its li vi ng essence, love is reputcd to be rebelli ous. fugitive. errant ,
unassignable. and inassimilable. Thus love is at once the promise of com-
pletion-but a promise always disappearing-and the threat of decompo-
sition, always imminent. An enti re modern eroticism and an entire modern
spiritualit y. those of romantic love, of savage love, of transgressive love,
are determined according to this dialeetic.)
Love is thus not here. and it is not elsewhere. One can neither attain it
nor free oneself from it, and this is at bollom exact ly what it is: the excess
or the lack of this completion, which is represented as the truth of love.
In other words, and as it has been extensively said, extensively represented,
and extensively theori zed for some twO centuri es: the impossible.
We wi ll Ihus have to engage the repelition differentl y. We will have to
stop thinking in terms of possibility and impossibilit y. We will have to
maintain that love is always present and never recognized in anyt hing that
we name "love." We will have to admit that the rendezvous, our rendezvous
with love. takes place not once, but an indcfinite number of times and that
it is never "love" that is at the rendezvous, or uni que and universal love
(Catholic love), or nomadic and multiple loves, bUI another presence or
another movement of love. Or rather, anot hcr love presence or another love
movement that we in fact touch or that touches us, but that is not the
" love" we were expecting. (Classical figure of romant ic comedy or drama:
it is another who is at the rendezvous, but it is love itself that is revealed
Cosi fan rllfle.) Another love presence or anoth
lo\c that !s what Ihe repetition should lei emerge. This wo er
not at all Impl y the Im'cntion of another " love" 0' of " _ d I uld
' ld " I I ' 31AOyonove h
'I love once again open up its paths within thou'
Icltrng II once agam call thought toward ii, thought exposed . S.hl.
love as ",:cll as to being touched by it , exposed to being
as account o.r it s mi serable means of loving. well
WII] sct o,ut from the given that is perhaps the simplest a
IS offered nght In the middle of the tradition. In this tradition I nd
IS above all as Ihat which is not self-love. Any other detcrminat: OVC
ontol ogIcal, crOl ic , political-is excluded from the start and co ld
recaptured, .if is necessary, starti ng from there. u on y be
f was Within the spiritualit y of the mystic tradition that this formulation
o ove camc to be pri vilegcd. As an cxamplc, some lines from Fenelon:
The ownersh.ip with such rigor by the mystics , and
oft e,n Impurl.ty, IS onl y the scarch for one's own solacc and
one s own mtcrest m the jOllissance of the gifts of God at th
of thc. jealousy of the pure lovc that want s CVe;ything
.for the The angel's sin was a sin of
o ncrsh.lp, slel." In se, as Samt Augustine says. Ownership, of
course, IS but self-love or pride, which is the love of onc's
own. exccllencc Insofar as it is onc's own, and which, instead of
conllng completel y and uniquely to God, still to a small
extent the gifts of God back to the self so that it can take
pleasure 10 them.
" is expre.ssed in these terms and under the rubric of a relation 10
belongs 10 one way or another to all modes and all forms of the
thlnkmg of that we have been able to know. In one sense, this does
not anythlOg Othcr than .wh?t the philosophical schema of love already
containS, nonethel ess , 11 di splaces it s entire economy of a fulfillment
proper. It IS a of letting oneself be carried by a tiny movemeOl,
pcrccpllblc, whIch would not reconsti tut e the dialectical logic but
whIch the heart of the schema, the heart of love it self.)'
Lovc deflOes Itself as the absolUie opposite and as the destruction of
Selflove is not simply the love of the self; it is, as we have just
read, the love of .one's own excell ence insofar as il is one's o wn." One
can love oneself wllh a real love, and it might even be that one must do
so (how.ever, it is. not certain that these words, "the self," "oneself," can
us. dl sc?ver. wllhout being themselves put into play. precisel y who is at
Issll.e 10 tlus love of "self": Ihat is a question thaI we will have to take up
agam later). But self-love, understood according to the signi ficati on the
SHArrER!!!) LOVE 0 9S
spirilUal authors gave 10 it , and not as a tcrm in psychology almost syn-
onymous with sensiti vit y. is the love (which, from this moment on, is no
longer one) of possession. It is the love of the self as property.
Propert y is an ontological determination. It does not designate the object
pOssessed, but the subject in thc object. " Maller. for it sel f, is not proper
to itself" (Hegel). it can therefore become my possession. But in this pos-
session. il is I mysel f. as subject. that rinds myself reali zed. it is my
subjecti vit y (me as will, need. desire, consciousness-of me), and in this
rcspect possession properly becomes propert y. Which is to say that propert y
is the objectivized presence of subjecti vity, its reali zation in the outside
world. and thus "the first existence of freedom" (Hegel). Propert y is the
att cstation and the assurance of the self in the actuality of the world. The
sel f presents itself there outside itself, but in this presentation it is it self
that it posits. Self- Iovc is the desire and the affirmation of this autoposition:
outside itself, in objectivity and in exteriority, the subject has the moment
of it s authenticit y and the truth of it s fulfillment.
Thus self- Iovc indeed has the structure of love: here also, it is a matler
of " having in another the moment of one's subsistence." In one sense, the
formulas of love and of property respond to each other infinitely in the
philosophical e<::onomy, each one gi ving to the other its stability or its
If love is the gift of the self, it would thus also be, dial e<::ticall y, the
appropriation of the self. Self-love would therefore be at thc heart of love,
it would be its heart, the heart of love. and this implacably reconstitUled
economy-the dialectical economy of fulfillment , the capitalist economy
of an absolute surplus value of the self- would proscribe love from the
heart of love it self. The tradition knows well this absence of love from love
itself. La Rochefoucauld. in this rcspect, sums it all up, or there is
Nietzsche's formula : "a refined parasitism," and so on until Levinas, for
exampl e, who writes. "To love is also to love oneself within love and thus
10 return to the selL" Actuall y. the problem had been posed since the
Aristotclian di scussion of phi/alllio, of the love of oneself, and it has
traversed and troubled all Christian thought since Saint Augustine. (The
question thaI dominated all the debates of the Middlc Ages about love was
the question of knowing "if man . by nature. is capable of loving God more
Ihan himself.") One could even explain by way of this absence the missed
rendezvous between philosophy and love: if the laller always frustrates love
or di verts il to self-love, if love finall y li es to itself and lacks itself. how
could one fail to forever lack it? And how could one not substitute for it
sometimes its di smembered part s (the sexual organ, scntiment .. . ), some-
times it s subl imations (fri endship, charit y ... )7
96 0 SllAlTERED lOVE
But this knowledge is too sli ght. Love frustrates the simple oppositio
between economy and noneconomy. Love is precisely-when it is when
. hr ' . , II
IS t. e act. 0 a singular being, of a body, of a heart , of a thinking_that
which an end to the dichotomy between the love in which I lose
reserve and the love in which I recuperate myself, to the
oPposl[lon between gift and propert y.
.. Of and theology have always surmounted and dialec_
tlclzed thiS OPPOsitIOn: God's love for himself in hi s son brings it self about
as a for man the part of this same Son, given, abandoned, and
retaken m glory, Wit h all of creation redeemed and brought into relation
through the love thus received, with its creator. But the separation is
surmounted onl y because it is annulled in it s principle: God gives onl
what he possesses infinitely (in a sense, he thus gives nothing), and reci;
rocally, he onl.y what he g!ves. (He is the proprietor par excellence;
appears to himself m the totaht y of objectivity-and that is what the
Idea of the " creation," in this respect , signifies. And if our time still had
to be one of such a research, it is in an ent irely different direction that we
would to look for the mystery of the "god of love.")
Love an to the opposition between gift and property without
surmounting and without sublating it: if I return to myself within love, I
do not to myself from love (the di alcctic, on the contrary, feeds on
th.e I do it, and consequently, something of
liS lost or diSSOCiated m It S act of loving. That is undoubtedly
why I return (If at least it is the image of a return that is appropriate here),
but I return broken: I come back to myself, or I come out of it broken
The "return" does not annul the break; it neither repairs it no;
for the return in fact takes place onl y across the break itself, keeping
It open. Love re-presents It o itself broken (and this is not a representation).
It present s thi s to it: he, this subject , was touched broken into in his
and he is from then on, for the time of'love, opened ' by this
sli ce, broken or fractured, even if only sli ght ly. He is, which is to say thai
the or the wound is not an accident, and neither is it a property that
the subject could rel ate to himsel f. For the break is a break in his self-
as subject; it is, essentiall y, an interrupti on of the process of
relatmg oneself to onesel f out side of oneself. From then on, I is conSfi(llfed
broken. As as there . is, the sli ghtest act of love, the sli ght est
spark, there IS thiS ont olog]cal fi ssure that cuts acTOSS and that di sconnects
the elements of the subject-proper- the fibers of its heart. One hour of
love is enough, one ki ss alone, provided that it is out of love-and can
there, in truth , be any ot her kind? Can one do it without love without
bei ng broken int o, e\'en if onl y slightl y? '
The love break simpl y means this: that I can no longer, whatever presence
[0 myself I may maintain or thaI sustains me, pro-pose myself to myself
(nor im-pose on another) ,:"ith.out. something of
ne remaining, outside of me. ThiS slgmfles that the Immanence of the
:ubject (to which the dialectic always returns to fulfill itself, incl uding in
\.hat we call "intersubjcct ivit y" or even "communication" or " commu-
is opened up, broken into-and this is what is call ed, in all rigor,
t! transcendence. Love is the act of a transcendence (of a transport, of a
trt! ll sgression, of a transparency, also: immanence is no longer opaque).
But this transcendence is not the one that passes into- and through- an
ex!eriority or an alterit y in order to reflect itself in it and to reconstitute
in it the interior and the identical (God, the certainty of the cogilo, the
C\'idence of a propert y). It does not pass through the outside, because it
comes from it. (Transcendence is always thought as a self-surpassing: but
here it is not at all a "surpassing," and even less " self-"; transcendence is
the disimplication of the immanence that can come to it only from the
outside.) Love does not stop, as long as love lasts, coming from the outside.
It does not remain outside; it is this outside itself, the other, each time
singular, a blade thrust in me, and that I do not rejoin, because it di.sjoins
me (it does not wound, properly speaking: it is somet hing else, foreign to
a certain dramatics of love).
The movement of the transcendence of love does not go from the singular
being toward the other, toward the outside. It is not the singular being that
puts it self outside itself: it is the other, and in the other it is not the subject's
identity that operates this movement or this touch. But in the other it is
this movement that makes it other and which is always ot her than "itselP'
in its identity; that is what transcends " in me." This transcendence
fulfills nothing: it cuts, it breaks, and it exposes so that there is no domam
or instance of being where love would fulfi ll itself.
This does not mean that this transcendence accomplishes only what we
would call - for example, in the theory of the sublime- a " negati ve
tation." (Love, certainl y, has the most intimate relations with the sublime
and wit h this extreme mode of presentation that I have attempted to des-
ignate elsewhere as the "sublime offering" (see chap. 2, n. 45); but with
Ihe offering, it is already a question of what, in faCl, exceeds the sublime
itself. and within love it is perhaps a question, in the final analysis, of Ihat
which exceeds love.) When the transcendence that touches me presents the
unfulfillment of love (which becomes neither substance nor subj ect), it at
Ihe same time offers its actual advent: love takes place, it happens, and it
happens endlessly in the withdrawal of it s own presentation. It is an offer-
ing, which is to say that love is always proposed. addressed. suspended in
its arrival , and not present ed. imposed. already having reached its end.
l ove arri ves, it comes, or clse it is not love. But it is thus that it endlessly
goes elsewhere than to "me" who would receive it : its coming is only a
depanure for the other, its departure onl y the coming of the other.
What is offered by transcendence, or as transcendence, is this arriVal
and this departure, this incessant coming-andgoing. What is offered is the
offered bei ng itself: exposed to arrival and to depanure, the singular being
is traversed by the alt erity of the other, which docs not Stop or fix itself
anywhere, neither in "him," nor in " me," because it is nothing ot her than
the coming-and-going. The other comes and cuts across me, because it
immediatel y leaves for the other: it does not return to itself, because il
leaves only in order to come again. This crossing breaks the heart : this is
not necessaril y bloody or tragic, it is beyond an opposition between the
tragic and serenit y or gaiety. The break is nothing more than a touch, but
the touch is not less deep than a wound.
Transcendence wi ll thus be better named the crossing of love. What love
cut s across, and what it reveals by its crossing, is what is exposed to the
crossing, to its coming-and-going_and this is nothing other than fi nitude.
Because the si ngular being is finite, the other cut s across it (and never does
the other "penetrate" the singular being or " unite it self" with it or " com.
mune"). l ove unveil s fi nitude. Finitude is the being of that which is infi.
nitely inappropriable, not having the consistency of its essence either in
it sel f or in a dial ectical subl ation of the self. Nei ther the other nor love
nor I can appropriate itself nor be appropriated (" Infi nity of one and of
the other, in the ot her and in the one"-Valery).
This is why desire is not love. Desire lacks it s object- which is the
subject-and lacks it whi le appropriating it to itself (or rather, it appro-
priates it to itself while lacking it). Desire- I mean that which philosophy
has thought as desire: will , appetite, conatus, libido-is foreign to love
because it sublates, be it negath'CI y, the logic of fulfi llment. Desi re is self
extending toward its end- but 10\'e does not extend, nor does it extend
it self toward an end. If it is extended, it is by an upheaval of the other in
me. (Along with desire, all the terms of thi s contemporary lexicon are
forei gn to love: demand, seduction, dependence, and so on, and more
generall y, an entire analyti cs-that is not onl y of the "psych" vari ety-of
the amorous operation as calculation, invest ment , completion, retribution,
and the like.)
Desire is unhappiness without end: it is the subjectivist reverse of the
infinite exposition of finitude. Desire is the negati ve appropriation that the
dialectic tri es indefi ni tely to convert into positivity. It is infelici tous love
and the exasperati on of the desired happiness. But in the broken heart ,
desire it self is broken. Thi s hean is no more unhappy than it is happy. It
is offered, at the limit between one and the ot her "sentiment ," or one and
ther "state." And this limit corresponds to that of its .finitud: : the

lesS I f h n to which I cannot acce e.
utS a totality into play-that 0 t e crossi. g- he heart of the
ilium nondum est tolllm tlmm du that it is his
si ngular being is that which is not totall y his. but It IS I us
/leart . h heart is not broken, in the sense that it does not exist
Bul it hthe
. tanorgan andnelterlS I .' . n t
IS no d b the 'other where it s presence is most intimate and li S I e mas
traversT' h bY . of the heart-rhythm of the partition of being, syncope
open e eating n sc ousness That
f sharing of singularity-cuts across presence, I e, I : f
. k'n which is nothing other than the welghmg or 0
IS why thm I g- f n of consciousness-thinking II seif
the limi ts, the ends, of presence, 0 I e,
is love. ) f' r ' de and it docs not carry out it s trans-
Love does not trans Igure mllu . .. . h t being
. . . 'nfinity (The transsubstantiation is tnfmlte, Wit au
substanttatlOn 10 I . f th other to the other
the infinite.) Love cut s across finitudd:
alike, are superbl;
",:hich never truth; it' is finitude's dazzling. presen-
be said in English: glamour, this fascination, thIS
reserved today for the language of m.akeu
and of the stagmg
of faces. Glamour: love's and. t once because it
Or perhaps love itself is eclipsed 10 thiS out urst, a d because
. d ' never being simply present , an
does not StOP commg an gOtng. . would have to

IO\'e, abandoned love). letuc e
wanl love- they want more."
To Joy and Concern
So I say it again and again, pleasure is
- Lucret IUs
In one sense-and in a sense that will perhaps always the IOta.lil Y
of sense, assignable as such- love is the and It dO:S not
or it arrives only at the limit , while crosslllg. It IS also for thiS reas? I ve
it is missed by philosophy and no less by poetry. They do not miss a
100 0 Sl lAlTERED lOVE
si mply because they say il and because they say Ihal il is ful fi ll ed, whether
by a divine force or in the splendor of words. II is true that in saying "I
love you," I suspend all recourse to gods as much as I PUI myself back in
Ihei r power, and Ihal I unseat the power of words as much as I affi rm thaa
power at its peak. But philosophy and poetry still feed themselves on these
cont radictions. But Ihere is more, for in one sense, nOlhing happens with
'" love you," neither power nor effacement. " I love you" is not a perfor_
mative (nei ther is it a descripti ve nor a prescriptive statement). This sentence
names nothing and does not hi ng. ("Though spoken billions of times, 1_
/OW!-YOII is eXlralexicographical; it is a figure whose defi niti on cannot tran_
scend the heading.")' It is the very seOl ence of indigence, immediately
destined to its own lie. or to its own ignorance. and immediately abandOned
to the harassment of a reality that will never authenticate it without reserve.
In one sense, love does not arrive, and. on the contrary, it always arrives,
so that in one way or another "t he [ave boat has crashed against the
everyday" (Mayakovsky).
But " I [ave you" (which is the unique utt erance of love and whi ch is,
at boltom, its name: love's name is nOI " love," which would be a substance
or a facul ty. but it is this sentence. the " I love you," just as one says "Ihe
cogi to")- the " I [ave you" is something else. It is a promise. The promise.
by constitution, is an utt erance that draws itself back before the law thai
it lets appear. The promise neither describes nor prescribes nor performs.
It does not hi ng and thus is always vai n. But it lets a law appear, the law
of the given word: that this must be. '" love you" says nothing (except a
limit of speech), but it all ows 10 emerge the fact that love must arri ve and
that not hing, absol utely nothing, can relax, divert , or suspend the rigor or
Ihis law. The promise does not anticipate or assure the future: it is possible
that one day I will no longer love you. and this possibili ty cannot be taken
away from love-it belongs to it. It is against this possibility, but also w;lh
it , that the promise is made, the word given. Love is its own promised
eterni ty, its own eterni ty unveiled as law.
or course, the promise must be kept. But if it is not , that does not
mean that there was no love, nor even that there was not love. Love is
faithful onl y to itself. The promise must be kept , and nonetheless love is
not the promise pIllS the keepi ng of the promise. It cannot be sUh-Jected in
this way to verilication. to j ustification, and to accumulat ion (even if there
are, indisputabl y. illusory or deceitful loves, loves wi thout fahk and law,
that are no longer of love-but these arc coumerfeits, and even Don Juan
is not one of them). Love is the promi se and its keeping, the one independent
of the other. How coul d it be otherwise, since one never knows what must
be kept ? Perhaps unl ike all other promises , one mUSI keep only the promise
itself: not its "contents" ("love"). but its utterance (" I love you"). That
. , love's ul ti mate paradox, untenable and nonet heless is that
lets itself be represent ed simultaneously by figures li ke Tnstan and
It S Don Juan or Baueis and Philemon-and that these are
th t a genre nor the metaphors of a realny,
neither e ypesb ' SIS of love which reflect love in its entIrety each ti me
al her so many u ,
r . ... it or holdi ng it back.
it is not the keeping, but it .is the
hat makes love. Love does not ful fi ll ilself, it always 10 the promIse
, d as the promise. It is thus thaI it touches and that n traverses. For one
an " \ love you" and one does
docs not know what onc says when one says '. .
not say anythi ng, but one knows that one says it and It IS law. abso-
I telY instantl y one is shared and traversed by that whIch does not fix
i n any subject or in any signi lication. (I f one proof
were necessary: the same holds true when one hears. J love. you saId by
ther whom one does not love and whose expectatIons Will not be
ite everything, it cannot be that one is not by,
while not love itsel f, is nonethel ess the way 10 whIch ItS promIse
lOuches us.)
Love arrives then in the promise. In one sense (in anot her sense,
ot her always at the limit of sense), il always arri ves, as scx:.n as IS
promised in words or in gestures. That is why. if ex auste or
by the proliferating and cont radictory multl phclty of
r I
h h mpose in effet:t the enclosure an
lalions and thoughts 0 ove-w IC co . I . r still offers
the extenuation of a history of love-thiS same mu ti P ,
however, anot her thought : love arrives in all the forms and Ifl all the fi gures
of love it is projected in all ils shatters. . I
The;e are no parts moments, types, or siages of love. There IS y
inli nity of shatters: is wholl y complete in one sale .embrace or .10 t a:
history of a life, in jealous passion or in It
much in taki ng as in givi ng, as much in reqUl rmg as 10 renounclOg,
. .. h . It and in appeasement, Ifl
much in protect ing as in expos1Og. It IS 10 t e JO ' I d
the fever and in serenit y, in the exception and in the rule. It IS ,
it is nOI: it cutS across the sexes wi th anot her difference 10 e-
. f h' ) h does not aboli sh them, but
schlech, initiated the analySIS a t IS t at .d .
Iheir identit ies. Whatever my love is, it culS across my
. 'r' . b which I am a mascu me or
my sexual property, thai obJecti Icatl on y . . . . . 5
feminine subject. It is Uranian Aphrodi te and Pandem13n \
Eros, Cupid, Isis and Osiris. Diane and Acteon. Ari adne and Dionysus, I
is lhe princesse de or the en/onl de Boheme; it is Death enlaced
around a naked woman; it is the lellers or Hyperion, or Kierkegaard 0
or Kaf'ka. ' r
(II is perhaps that-a hypothesis that I leave open here- in love and in
hale, but according to a regime other Ihan that or Freudian ambi valence
there would not be a reversal from hate to love, but in hate I would
traversed by the love of :whom I deny in hi s alterity. Ultimately, I
be traver.sed by thIs negation. This would be the limit of love, but
st.1 1I ItS black glimmer. Peverse acts of violence, or the cold rage to anni_
hIlate, are not hale.)
one burst .to anothe.r, .never docs love resemble itself. II always
.Itsel r recogmzed, but 11 IS always unrecogni zable, and moreover it
IS not In one 0: its shatters, or it is always on the way to nO! being
It s. y, or .us truth as love, consists only in this proliferation, in
Indeflnue of its essence-and this essence itsel f at once gives
It self and flees It self In the crossing of this profusion. Pure love refuses
orgasm, the seducer laughs at adoration-blind to the fact that they each
pass through the other, even though neither stops in the other. Plato had
the nature of Eros; son of Poros and of Penia, of resources
indigence, love mUltiplies itself to infinity, offering nothing ot her than
li S povert y of substance and of property.
. Bu.t love is not "polymorphous," and it does not take on a seri es of
dIsgUises: It does not withhold its identity behind its shatters: it is itself
the their multiplicit y, it is itself their multiplication in one si ngle
act of love, II IS the trembling of emotion in a brothel, and the distress of
a desire within fraternity. Love does not si mply cut across it cuts itself
across itself, it and arrives at itself as that by which arrives,
except that there IS "arriving," arrival and departure: of the other, always
of the so much other that it is never mode. or dOl/e (one makes love,
because It IS never made) and so much other that it is never my love (if I
say '.0 th.e " my love," it is of the OIher. precisely. that I speak. and
nOlhlOg IS "mlOe").
. There is no master figure. there is no major representation of Jove, nor
IS there any common assumption of its scaltered and inextricable shatters.
That is why " love" is sat urated, exhausted with philosophy and poelry
(and threatened with fall ing into sexology, marriage counseling, newsstand
moral edification all at once, as soon as it no longer supports
ItS major figures, sealed in the destiny of occidental love), if we mi ss what
love itself mi sses: that it comes ucross and never simply comes to its place
or to term, that it comes across itself and o\,ertakes itself, being the finite
touch of the infini te crossing of the other.
What thus arrh'es in the crossi ng, crosswise, is not an accident of being.
nor an episode of existence. It is an ontological determination of that
existent that Heidegger names the Dasein-which is to say, the being in
which Being is put into play. The putting into play of Being in the Dasein
and as the Dasein is indissociable from the following: that the world of
the Dusein is right away a world "that I share with others," or a "world-
with." Because Heidegger, at the final frontier of philosophy, is the first
to ha\'e assigned the being-with in Being itself, we must consider him for
a moment.
The " world" that is here in question is not an exteriority of Objects,
nor an environment or neighborhood. It designates the mode of the putting
into play of Being: through the Dasein, Being is being-in-t he-world (thrown,
abandoned, offered, and set free: that is what "in the world" means). If
the world is Milwell. shared world, Being insofar as it is "in the world"
is constituti vely being-with, and being-according-to-the-sharing. The orig-
inary sharing of the world is the sharing of Being, and the Being of the
Dasein is nothing other than the Being of this sharing. (One could transpose
this approximately into a more classical language as foll ows: that which
confers Being, on whatever it may be, is that which puts in the world; but
the world is a "with"; Being consists thus in being delivered to the with.")
The Dusein is what it is in being originarily wilh others. And if concern
most properly creates the Being of the Dasein ("concern," that is to say
the structure and the thrust of the existent that is offered-to, ahead of
itsel f) . concern for the other is its constituti ve determination. Heidegger
names it Fiirsorge. "concern for " the other, whose analysis shows that it
is, in its "advancing" (as opposed to its domineering) form, the movement
of touching the other in his own concern. of restoring him to this concern
or of liberating him for it, instead of exempting him from it. The concern
for the other sends the other-in sending me to him-ahead of him, outside
of him, once more into the world. The shared world as the world of concern-
for- the-other is a world of the crossi ng of singular beings by this sharing
it self that constit utes them, that makes them be, by addressi ng them one
to the ot her, which is to say one by the other beyond the one and the other.
I am certainl y betraying in part the Heideggerian descri ption. Concern
Or preoccupation for things-and not for others-that are in the world
(Besorgen) plays a role in Heidegger parallel to the Fiirsorge. and although
the latter is in effect a fundamental ontological determinalion. it does not
exactl y accede 10 the privi leged position I ha\'e just given il. The analytic
of the being-with remains a moment, which is not returned to thematicall y,
in a analytic Ihe Dosein appcars firsl of all and mosl fre_
quenl ly as In some way Isolated, even though Heidegger himself emphasiz
that there is SOlitude "only in and for a being-with." Moreover. love
ne:er and consequent ly never furnishes, as such, an ontologico- (although the description of Fiirsorge greatl y resembles
a classical descri ption of Ihe most demanding, mOSI noble. and
most splrUual love).
wi ll undert ake here the dense and meticul ous explication thac
Heldegger s text would demand. I will be cont ent to propose dryly th'
double hypothesis: in approachi ng more closely than we ever have the olter;;
(crossed the other) const itution of Being in its singularit y, Heidegger
(I) essence of the Dosein outside of subjeclivity (and a
fortiori outside of Inler-subject ivit y) in a being-exposed or in a being-offered
10 others, which (since Plaia? despite Plato?) has always
the denial. and (2) kept (despite himself?) the
assignation of IhlS Dosein in the apparent form of a distinct indi viduality,
as opposed as exposed to other indi vidualities and thus irremediably
kepI In a sphere of autonomic, if not subjecti ve, allure. In accordance with
these Heidegger was prevented from summoning love to the
onloJoglcal register. On the one hand, he could, in effect, onl y collide with
the melaphysical-diaJeclical thinking of love, whi ch had redirecled the Mil-
sein into Ihe of subjectivity. On the other hand, Jove insofar as it is
traversed by Being exceeds the very movement of Fiirsorge. which "sur-
passes and liberates the other": this movement is Slillihought starling from
an "' " or from an "identity" Ihat goes loward the other, and it is not
thought as what cuts across and alters I going to Ihe other while Ihe other
comes to it.
It is not at all by chance that Hei degger is silent aboul love (at least his
10 Scheler. his critique of the theory of empathy, and at leasl
one allUSion made to love demonSlrate that this sil ence was del iberate-if
it were not al ready obvious that it is deliberate with respect to the entire
Iradit ion). Love forms the limit of a thinking that carries
It self to the limit of philosophy. Until thinking eXlricales itself. it wi ll not
be ab.le to reach love. But what this thinking, al its limit . lets emerge could
be thiS: that one never reaches love, even though love is always happening
to us. Or rather, love is always offered to us. Or yet again, we arc always,
in our Being-and in us Being is-exposed to love.
(Note: I will be even less expl ici t with Levinas than with Heidegger.
Every philosophical inquiry on love today carries an obvious debt toward
Levinas. as well as points of proximily. such as arc easily detected here.
For Levinas cleared the pat h toward what one can call . in the language of
Tofali fY and Infinity, a metaphysics of love, to the Ihat this meta-
physics commands, at bOllom, hi s entire oeuvre. ,:,er
reason, .a
di scussion of Levi nas would have to be an enterprise dlSllnct t.hls
essay. I should, however, indicate what ils princ.iple would .be. a cuallon
above recall ed, love remains equi\'Oco/ for Levlflas, reduclflg Itsel: to .ego-
. "' Its transcendence li fts the equivocation only by transcendlflg uself
,. .
intO fecundit y, filiation, and fraternit y. If I, for my part, do not themall ze
Ich notions here, it is because another work would be necessary 10 atlempl
extract them from the orient ed sequence that . in Levinas, in a
classical manner, hierarchi zes them and prescribes them to a teleology. ThiS
Ieleology proceeds from the first given of his thought. "the epiphany of
the face": love is the movement stressed by this epiphany, a movement that
transcends it in order to reach, beyond the face, beyond vi sion and Ihe
"),ou," the " hidden- never hidden enough-absolutely ungraspable."l
From this "verligo that no signification any longer clarifies" (that of the
Eros), the frat ernit y of children, lifting its equivocation, can .emerge, the
fraternit y of children in which, again, the epiphany of the face IS produc: d.
Love thus ret ains at least certain trai ts of a di alectical moment. It relalflS
them. it seems to me, due 10 the motif of the face. The laller the
pri mordial relalion as the expression of anot her and as
Because this signification is given at the begi nning, it must disappear wlthlfl
love and be recaptured in ils surpassing. I can, on the contrary, grasp the
relation with the face onl y as second and as constituted. Levinas opposes
it, and pre-poses it, "to the unveiling of Being in general ," a
theme in which he sees "the absolute indetermination of the Ihere Is-of
an existi ng without exi stents-incessant negation, infinile limitation,"
"anarchic." I can be in solidarit y with Levinas's distaste for cert ai n accents,
shall we say, of dereliction in Heidegger's discourse. But in the es gibl ("it
gives li tselfJ ") of Being. one can see everything except "generality."
is the "each time" an-archie in fact (or even archi-archic, as Derrida might
say?), of an singular occurrence. There is no exisling
existents and there is no "existing" by itself, no concept- it does not gI ve
there is always being, precise and hard, the theft of the generalit.
Being is at stake there, it is in shallers, offered dazzling, multiplied,
and singular, hard and cut across: its being is there. Being-with is consll-
tUlive of this stake-and that is what U!vinas, before anyone, understood .
But being-with takes place only according to the occurrence of being, or
its posi ng into shatters. And the crossing-the coming-and-going, the com-
ings-and-goi ngs of love-is constituti ve of the occurrence. This takes place
before the face and signification. Or rather, this takes place on another
level: at rhe heart of bei ng. )
We are exposed by concern-not that which "we" "hold" for the other
but by this concern, this solicitude, this consideration, and this
for the other that cuts across us and does not come back to us, that Comes
and goes incessantl y, as the being-other of the other inscribed in being
itsel f: at the heart of being, or as the promise of being.
This concern exposes us to joying. To joy is no more impossible, as
Lacan wanted iI, than possible, as the sexologist would want il. To joy is
not an eventuality that one might expect , that one might exclude, or that
one might provoke. To joy is not a fulfillment, and it is not even an eVent.
Nonetheless, it happens, it arri ves- and it arrives as it depart s, it arrives
in departing and it departs in the arrival, in the same beat of the heart .
To joy is the crossing of the other. The other cuts across me, I cut across
il. Each one is the other for the other-but also for the self. In this sense,
one joys in the other for the sel f: to be passed to the other. This is the
syncope of identity in singularit y. A syncope: the step marked, in a suspense,
from the other to me, neither confusion nor fading, clarity itself. the beating
of the heart , the cadence and the cut of another heart within il.
Everything has been said of joying, as of love, but this word resists. It
is the verb of love. and this verb speaks the act of joy (the joi of courtly
love). Something resists, through these two words (that are onl y one), the
overwhelming exhaustiveness of discourses on love. It is not so much a
result, or "discharge," as Freud says and as it is said vulgarly, as an acute
insistence. the very formation of a shaner (one mi ght say. like Deleuze. ".
hardening that is one with love"). It is not something unspeakable. because
it is spoken, the joy is named, but it is something with which discourses
(narratives and poems) can never be even. They have never said it enough.
having always discoursed it too much, declared it too much.
Joy is the trembling of a deliverance beyond all freedom: it is to be cut
across, undone. it is to be joyed as much as to joy: "Love is joy accompanied
by the idea of an exterior cause," writes Spi noza, and he specifies that with
this joy it is not a matter of desire, for "this definition explains with enough
clarity the essence of love. Regarding thai of the authors who define love
as the "'ill of he who to join himself to the object, it does not
express the essence of love, but its property." But we have to push " the
idea of an exterior cause" to this: to be joyed- to face the extremity of
being, which is to say at once its completion and its limit, beyond desire
or short of it. This is joy. and this also reflects on the essence of chagrin
and of pain. For joy is not appeasement, but a serenit y without rest. To
joy is not to be satisfied- it is to be filled, overflowed. It is to be cut
across wi thout even being able to hold onto what "to joy" makes happen.
To joy cannot contain itself. Joy is not even cont.ain. joy itself. nor the
ain that consequentl y accompanies it. The JOy of JOYlllg docs not come
to anyone, neither to me nor 10 you. for in each it the
In the one and the other, and in the one by the other, JOy offers
- If - ,( makes bcing felt shared. Joy knows concern. and is known by II .
ttse .' . h . be
joy makes felt, and it lets go the very essence of shari ng t at IS
(Although it means diverting the sentence from li S. proper I Will
. Michel Henry: "Far from coming after the am val of bemg and mar-
- - -0)
,.eling before it, joy is consubstantial with it. founds II and consll tut es II.
This puts one beside oneself, this irritates and exasperates, and the
language for saying it is exasperated. (It :-V0uld be better to lei .
speak, and in a language that would remam. somewhat, on the Side.
Laura the basilisk made entirely of asbestos, walking to the fiery
stake with a mouth full of gum. Hunkydory is on
lips. The heavy flut ed lips on the sea shell, Laura s lips. the of
lost Uranian love. All floating shadowward through the slanllng
fog. Last murmuring dregs of shell-like lips off
Labrador coast, oozing eastward with the mud tides, easmg
starward in the iodine drift .... I kept it up like a !uggernaut.
Moloch fucking a piece of bombaz.ine. Organza The
bolero in straight jabs ... . We embraced one another Silentl y and
then we slid int o a long fuck. (Henry Miller])
But this is shared too much within the other. It is not that identit y, in
joyi ng, si mpl y loses itself. It is there at its peak. in fact tOO much
identity-and joying opens the enigma of that which, III the syncope. of
the subject, in the crossing of the other, affirms an self To JOy
poses without reserve the question of the singular bemg, which we are
doubt barely on the way to broaching. It is the question of. that ",hlch
remains "self" when nothing returns to the self: the very quesllOn of love,
if lo\'e is always proffered (" I love you") and if joy, coming from the other.
coming and going, is however always mine.
h is the question of a presence: to joy is an extremity of presence. self
exposed, presence of self joyi ng outside itself, in a that no present
absorbs and that does not (re)present. but that offers Itself endlessly.
To try to enter il110 the question, one could say at least self that
joys joys of its presence in the presence of the other. He. she, IS only the
presence of the reception of the other presence- and the laller cuts
The presence that cuts across is a burst. To joy, joy it self, is to. receive
burst of a si ngular being: its more than mani fest presence. liS seemmg
beyond all appearance- ekphanestaroll, Plato said. But it is by also
Ihal he, she who joys is bedazzled. 11 is in himself Ihus Ihat he IS delighted.
But he does not belong to himself, and he does not come back to himsezr
he is shared, like the joy he shares. :
What. appears in at once excessive and impeccable, what q
,!Ike belly,. like. a ki ssed is the singular being insofar as it
IS .thls self that IS neuher a nor an individual nor a communal
being, but or .he-whlch cuts across, that which arri ves and
The singular bemg affirms even better its absolute singularit
It offers in passing, which it brings about immediately in t':
crossing .. What .IS through the si ngular being-through you or me,
this re.lallon that IS only cut across-is the singularity of being, which
to say this:. that being itself, " being" taken absolutely, is absolutely
singular (thUS 11 would be that which remains "selr' when nothing comes
back to the self).
This is buried at the heart of being, but il emerges in
of JOy .. One could say: being joys. One would thus define an! neceSSity love. But love is neither unique nor necessary. II
It IS offered; It IS not establi shed as a structure of being or as ill
and even less as its subjectivity. One would thus define a necessity
Without a law, or a law wi thout necessity, Ihus: the heart of being within
love, and love in surplus of being. One could say, at the limit, the fun-
damental ontology and the caprices of love. The correlation would neither
be causal nor expressive nor essential nor existential nor of any other known
genre. Perhaps it would no longer be necessary to speak of correlation.
But there is this brilliant , shanering constitution of bei ng. "Love" does
not define it, but it names it, and obliges us to think it.
- You wrote: "It might welt be appropriate that a discourse on love be
at the same time a communication of love, a letter, a missive, since love
sends itself as much as it enunciates itself." But you didn't send this text
anyone. And you know very well that that doesn't mean that you sent
It to everyone. One can't love everyone.
- But a leuer, a missive. once published, is no longer a mi ssive. It is a
citalion a mimicking of one. About how many poets do the biographers
or the crlllCS tell us that their poems are far from the reality of theiT loves?
- And don' t you think that " I love you," by itself, is already a citation?
Listen to Valery: "To say to anyone I love you is to recite a lesson. It was
never invent ed!" Recitation for citat ion, you might have ri sked that. You
might have ri sked playing at losi ng the distance of discourse.
- \ didn' t want to. I was afraid, if I played that game, that it would
be even more discourse, and not necessarily more love.
_ And nonetheless, aren't you ever touched by a poem. by a letter, by
dialogue of love? And do you really believe that your love-if you have
how could one know?-owes not hing to these public dispatches?
_ I know. I know my debt. and I know that I don't pay returns. But
)'ou also read that I would want to be. exempt from love, to be even with
it . The splinters that cut across me, commg from another, from you perhaps,
or coming from me, thai is st ill something other than " love," other than
this burden of the word and it s declaration. It is lighter. more relaxed; it
is nOI subject to the grandiloquence of love.
_ There is then no excess, no infinite transport in this raving: it must
be only lhis Olher? Only him. her. to whom you send your love, and if not
Ihere is no love? But each time, and even if you switched every day, and
even if you love several at a time, love is addressed to one alone, singularly
and infinitely: does not your li ghtness forget that ?
- No, I haven't forgotten that. But this infinity is minute, and the words
of love are too bi g for it. Or rather, they are really tOO small .... I don't
know anymore. I should perhaps give them all to you, send them all to
you. all imprinted, as one touches everywhere the minute infinity of skin,
with impatience, with this boundless disorder that never finds an order or
a measure. except by being always shaken. always broken, rushed to mul-
tiply itself. a nervousness of fingers on masses, on flanks, and in secret
folds-with nothing more that is secret, in the end .... I should have sent
everything, a thousand pages of love and not one word on it, to you alone.
All the words of love from everyone .. .. It would have fl own into pieces.
barely thrown toward you, as it always flies into pieces as soon as it is
- Yes. ii's made for that.
Translated by Lisa Garbus and Si mona Sawhney
Chapter 5
Of Divine Places
W ~ Q I is God? Why this question? Can God be said to be a thing? Since
he IS dead, do we not al least owe him respect for the person he was?
"What is God?" is nonetheless a classic question, admissible and admit -
ted in the strictest theologies. Quid sit Deus?: neither the Fathers nor the
Councils reject the question. On the cOnl rary, it is the theological question,
for it presupposes quod Deus est-Ihat God is. If it is established for the
theologian that he is, il may then be asked whal he is. what sort of thina
o ~ being-even if the question cannol be answered, for Ihis 100 is in keepin.
with the strictest Iraditions, nOI solely of Chri stianit y but probably of all
monot heism: we must say that God is, or we must say of God thai he is,
but it is possible that we will be unable to say of what being his unique
and eminent being is made.
" What is God?" will perhaps turn out to have been the necessary but
unanswerable question in which the god set about wi thdrawing.
" I say: God is an essence; but immediately and with greater force I deny
it, sayi ng: God is not an essence. since he is not of those things which are
definable for us in terms of type, difference and number. And after thai
I infer from thi s contradiction that God is an essence above all essence,
and, proceeding thus, my understanding establishes it self in infinit y and
is engulfed by it" (51 . Albert the Great).
I can therefore answer. since I can set aside the wrong answers-which
is 10 say ultimat ely all answers-God is not predicable. (This places us
instantaneously at a peak of phi losophical saturation, in a Hegelian reab-
11 0
sorption of predication: subject and predicate have here. in God. merged
wit h one another.) In rai sing the question of the theology o f the sole and
entinent God, we already have the answer : DeliS esl quod eSI, God is the
\"cry fact of his being, the quod of which is inaccessible to the question
(Iuid? It defies the question, it submerges it, and in that way it satisfies it.
The god of the Jews said " I am who I am"; he did not say. as the
Greeks understood it, "I am that I am." The gods of other nations said
Ihey were gods, or sai d nothing. One way or the ot her the god offered
hi mself in hi s concealed presence. If the god no longer offers himself. if
he no longer even conceals hi s presence in hi s di vine being, he leaves only
bare places, where no presence withdraws or comes (odvienr).
I. The question "what is God?" is an essenti all y monothei stic one. Not
because it names God in the singular: that naming itself is after all merely
a consequence of monotheism, and monotheism consists fi rst of all in the
pre-valence of the being of the divine, or of the divine considered as being,
over the qualiti es, functions, or actions of the divine. Contrary to a vague
and widespread beli ef. monotheism definitely does not arise out of a reduc-
ti on in the number of the gods. nor does it result from a condensation or
an Assumption of the Pantheon: in short , monotheism does not consist in
the positing of one single god as against several gods. It signifies another
posi tion of the divine altogether, or an altogether different way of looking
al it: here the di vi ne is equi valent to being, and it s qualities and actions
depend upon the fact of its being.
(Certai nl y, this presupposes that bei ng is one by definition, that we are
talking about being in itself, or of the particular bei ng of such and such
a being l eIOn/ ). The question whet her being could be said to be several,
that is to say more than one-or less Ihan one- li es quite a way ahead of
us. )
Quid sit Deus? presupposes quod DellS eSI, whereupon we ask oursel ves:
what is the being peculiar to thi s god who is-Deus t!SI , ergo linUS eSI. His
qualit y may remai n unknowable, but his quant ity at least is certai n, and
forms as il were the primary quality o/all di vine qualit y: God wi ll be good,
vengeful, powerful, merciful , insofar as he is one, and not the reverse.
Hence God is god insofar as he is, or exists. preeminently, being one. The
idea o f the preeminence of existence in being-as-one (l'etre- lIn) provides
the essence of monotheism- whi ch is not to say that monotheism always
simpl y confuses God wit h Bei ng: but in it God is at least the preeminence
of being. (Hence non-Greek Judaism is not monotheisti c: fait h in the god
of one people is not faith in one god. It is rather the opposite. )
Polytheism- which takes it s name from monotheism- also posits gods
who ore, bUI Ihis bei ng, as such, they ha\'e in common wilh all lhings that
are, and it does not constitute the preeminence of being. What does d
. . h h 15-
unguIS t e god, on Ihe olher hand, is first and foremOSI a qualil Y comma
to the race of the gods (immonality), then one or several qualilies
to each one of In spite of this they do not make up a group of
of one They do all panake togelher of di vine immortality,
but thiS dIVine quahty does not exist by itself, no more than for its pa
the human quality of being mortal. Immortality and mortalilY do
on the cOnlrary, exis(ing takes place either in a mortal or in an
Immortal fashion. The di vine only exists in the gods , in each god inSOfar
as he is this or (hat distinct god. the that one who exists immortally: Apollo
Indra, or Anubis. In that case the question must be expressed as: who
that god? It is a question concerning Ihe distinctness of an existent, and
nOI the preeminence of exislence. That is why the question may on occasion
concern new gods: gods can lurn up.
2. "As Aris.tOl le so right ly said. we should never show more restrainl than
speakmg of the gods," wrole Seneca. The passage by Aristotle is lost,
like the gods of whom he spoke. We who come after must show all the
more restrai nt . For we cannot escape a feeling of futility: Ihere is no more
to be said about God.
"God," motif or theme of God, the question of God, no longer
means anYlhmg to us. Or else-as is all too obvious to an unbiased eye-
what the theme of God might mean to us has already moved or been carried
entirely outside of him. Is there any stalemenl about the divine thai can
hencefonh be distinguished, sl rictly speaking, from another aboUI "the sub-
ject" (or its "absence"), " desi re," " history," "others" (autrut) , "I he Other,"
"bei ng," "speech" (10 parole), "Ihe sublime," " communit y," and so on and
so fOrlh? It is as if "God" were in fragments, an Osiris dismembered
throughout all of our discourse (indeed there are those who will now con-
linue to speak of the divine in terms of explosion, dispersal, suspension,
etc. ). As if the di vi ne, God, or the gods formed the common name or
place-common and as such erasable, insignificanl-of every question,
every exigency of thought : wherever thought comes up against Ihe furthesl
extreme, Ihe limit. against Iruth, or ordeal (l'epreuve) ,1 in shon wherever
it Ihinks, il encounters somelhing that once bore, or seems to have borne,
at one time or another, a divine name.
In a pithy formula that was not in itself without force, Jean-Luc Marion:
once defined what he saw as the necessary encount er between the modern
age and theology in terms of "the principle of insuffi cient reason": moder-
nity recogni insufficiency everywhere (in consciousness, discourse, etc.)
and theology proposing, along with God and the gift of Charity, the notion
of "insufficient reason," or of what Marion calls "the gap," "the distinc-
tion," or "the difference" between beings, as opposed to the fullness of
metaphysical being. In fact this was tantamount 10 proving the opposite:
far from being rediscovered, God disappears even more surel y and defin-
ith'ely through bearing all the names of a generali zed and multiplied dif-
ference. Monolheism dissolves into polyatheism, and il is no good asserti ng
that this polyatheism is the !rue word and the true presence of God in his
distance from the supreme Being of metaphysics. For the infinitely absent
god, or the god infinitely distended by the infinite distance of god, should
nO tonger be termed "God," nor be in any way as "God" or as
divine. Try as it may, is no theology that does not turn out here to
be eit her ontological or anthropological -saying nothing about the god that
cannot immediately be said about "evenl," about "love," about "poetry,"
and so on and so forth. Why not recogni ze, on the contrary, that thought
in this age of ours is in the process of wresting from so-called theology
Ihe prerogative of talking about the Other, Ihe Infinitely-ot her, the.Other-
Infi nite. It is taking away from theology the privilege of expressing Ihe
absconditum of experience and discourse. In so doing, perhaps the modern
age secretly corresponds to the !rue destination of a theology: for it indicates
to theology that, in order 10 speak of God, we have to speak of something
Ol her than the Other, the Abstruse, and their infinite remoteness (if indeed
it is still a matter of "speaking of something"). So long as we have not
understood what is here made clear to us, we will never move beyond an
interminable post-theology in which transcendence endlessly converts to
immanence (the "metareligion" of Ernst Bloch, in all of its metaphysical
candor, is an excellent example of this). In our abysses with the
name of God, we are guilty of at least twO errors or two incoherencies:
we fill in the abysses by altributing a boltom to them, and we blaspheme
(in the true sense of the word) the name of God by making it the name
of something. On the other hand, the most subtle-and most theological-
error would doubtless consist in believing that Ihe infinite cannot provide
a bottom and Ihat naming a person is not naming a sort of "thing."
Levinas may well say, in many an admirable text, that God is " Infinite,"
in the sense of "unthematizable": the very term "Infinite" thematizes him,
and meanwhile Ihal "revision of Hegel's bad infinite," which Levinas pro-
poses, begins to suggest itself, a revision thai he claims will give the unac-
complishable the dignity of the divine. One thus finds oneself wondering
whet her any discourse on God can deviate, however sli ght ly, from that of
Hegel (even were he revise(/), that is to say from the discourse of philosophy
itself, or of ont ot heology (which culminates in the dialectical ontothcology
of the death of God). One finds oneself suspecting that everyt hing could
be no more Ihan a question of baptism: from one moment to the next,
what has been debaptizcd could just as easil y be rebaptized with the name
of God. And this "baptism" itself would scarcely be a metaphor: from
there on there woul d be ample scope, yet again. for thematizing the " myS_
tery" of the "sacrament " in various discourses on Ihe name, the
name, the propert y of names, on election, the symbolic , and so on.
It is thus not enough to ask oneself what God is. That can even turn
out to be the surest means of fall ing short of the question (if indeed it is
a question, if it sti ll hides or still reveals a true question), for God has
perhaps become everything (or nothi ng); perhaps he has become, potentiall y
at least, every true quest ion, exigency, or furthest ext reme of thought. We
would need 10 be capable of asking, by a very diffe rent turn of questi on
or inqui ry, If there is a place for god, if there is still room (place) for him:
thaI is, a place where he does not become indistingui shable from somethina
else, and where it is consequently still worth call ing him by the name of
God (i s this the only possible name? I shall come back to that.) A place
that all ows us to prescribe, with Bias of Priene: "When speaking of ,he
gods. say 'hey are 'he gods."
Could we then in fact be dealing wi th a question of place, of distinct
locat ion (liell) and not with a questi on of being? But access to such a
question (or such an "i nqui ry" or "quest"), whose turn quite honestly
escapes me, is not offered me by a discourse de Deo, of whatever sort. I
can dist inguish nei ther the "question" itself nor any access to it. But I
suspect thaI one would need to move away, to find a place at some remove
in order to say of the gods that they are the gods. ThaI is why, by way of
a met hod, I fi nd myself obliged here to fragment my argument.
3. (OJ divine places: of the gods and thei r places; of the places they have
abandoned and of those where they hide; of gods without heart h or home,
of nomadic gods; of the here where the gods are also; of the common
places of God; of the gods common to all places, to some places, to no
place; of God: in what way he is a topos; topics and atopics of the divi ne;
of gods and places: treati se on di vine paronomasia; where is God to be
found? in what place?
"For yoursel f, 0 God of glory and majesty, you have need of no place;
you live entirely withi n yourself" IBossuetJ . But then what are these places
"within yoursclr'1)
4. Jean-Marie Pontevia once wrote: "The cul t of the Virgin is one of the
major event s in Western history. It is certainl y an event. whose pri nci pal
phases are datable, and it is a major evenl , because it may well perhaps
be the last example in the West of the birth of a divi niIY.") I propose to
add that this " Iast" example perhaps signifies. and must perhaps have
signified for Pont evia. that a di vine birth is always possi ble. and that it is
Iherefore still possi ble. But at the same time it means a birth
bears no relation to a " ret urn." a restorati on, or a rem\,ent,on of the
divi ne- quite the opposi te. Ponlevia was well aware of this: .sacred
be rei nvented." The divi ni ty born in the fi gure of the V, rgm was
no way the return or the reincarnati on of a former di vini ty. It was the
divi nity of a new age: of a new age of painting and of woman, as well as
of the age in which God himself would vanish into the Concept. It was a
divine sign opposed to God.
The " last god" of which Heidegger speaks ought to be understandable
in this sense: not Ihe god who comes after all the others. concl uding thei r
series. and perhaps not "a god" at all . but rather the fact that. there is
always another lasl god to be born, a last god 10 come. or to
Whether he comes or goes-and perhaps his coming is made up of hiS
departure-his passing makes a sign. He is "im .he is j ust
passing, or he is in passing. It is in passing that I S. IS why he
has his essential mode of bei ng in the Wink,' that IS to say 111 the
we make in order to give a sign. call, invite. lead on. seduce: a wll1k of
the eye. a motion of the hand. The god. the last god: he who, in passing,
invites. call s, leads on, or seduces-whil e " signifyi ng" nothing.
This could Iherefore be entitled: a wink from lhe Holy Virgin. It would
be the movement of profanati on. the Virgin becoming Venus (Pont evia
st udied this). That is 10 say il would raise the question: what sort of advances
docs the profane make to us? Not that, like a good dialectician, the profane
makes a sign in the direclion of the sacred. But to "give a sign" is perhaps
always-divi ne. And the Virgi n could be said to have given a sign for the
firs t time-or else for the last-in the very profanation of the god, beyond
the "sacred."
5. It would appear that the twO questions "what is God?" and "who is
this god?" arc implied by each ot her. For we cannot ask "who is this god?"
if we do not already know we are deali ng with a god and if, consequent ly,
we do not know what a god, or the divine. is in general. Conversely, we
can onl y ask "what is God?" when an exist ing being has been present ed
Or indicated to us as "God." However. this is only apparentl y the case. To
ask " who is this god?" docs suppose lhal we recognize him as bei ng a
god, but this is not lhe effect of a knowledge of the di vine previously
acquired through examining the question "what is God?" We recognize a
god as god. or as di vine, without having Ihe least idea of what that is, or
cven that it can be, but because it manifests itself as such . (This constit utes
what we call conversion.) The divi ne is precisely what manifests itself and
is recognizable outside of all knowledge about its "being." God does not
propose himself as a new type of being-or of absence of being-for 111
to know. He proposes himself, that is all.
Conversely. Ihe "what is God?" is not posed, despite appear.
onc.e a has m fact proposed himself: for by so proposing himscl(
(or hIs pr:sence). he has eliminated the very possibilily of the
quest.lOn. The questIon "what can .only be put when nOlhin.
of God or Ihe gods thai IS dlvme, Ihat IS to say nOlhing Ihat mak
known through i.ts alone, Ihrough its passing or i:
alone. The question anses when all Ihal remains of the gods or o(
God IS the name. "God," a SOrl of strange half proper, half-common name
?r And only then is it appropriate to ask what thing or type of beina
It slgmfles.
6. Is "God" a proper name or a common noun?$
SI. Thomas denies it is a proper name. For the proper name does not
refer. 10 the of a but to Ihat precise being-hoc aliquid_
conSidered as a smgular subject. Now God is not a si ngular subject, says
St. Thoma.s, although he is not a universal nature either. The commoa
noun, for It s pari, refers to the nature of a being: but thai of God is for
10 us. What remains is that the name God refers to God by
liS operalton, and th.rough thai at leasl he is known 10 us. It wi ll be
name borrowed from one of the divine operalions, as St.
John mdlcates: "God comes from thein, which means provide
for all Ihl.ngs. care all things; or from ailhein, meaning burn (for
?ur God IS a fIre consummg all wickedness); or else from theaslhai, that
IS to say to see all things." There is a more appropriate name for God, ir
we are considering the origin of the name, and that is "He who is." But
the name God, despite its metaphorical origin, remains the superior name
when we consider what it has the task of signifying, that is the nature or
the divine. (He who is does not qualify his nature; it signifies Ihat he is.
bUI not what he is. nor even that he is being.) However, for St. Thomas
there is an even more appropriate name, and thai is the Hebrews' Tel ragram
"which signifies the very substance of God, which is incommunicable and,
so to speak, si ngular."
Hence the God who is considered as Ihe preemi nence of being, and not
at as a si ngular subject, is nevenheless acknowledged, in Ihe end. to
be m some way singUlar, and as answering to an unpronounceable proper
name. The Tetragram is in no way a metaphor, eilher for care, or for fire,
or for vision, but is the proper noun for him whose proper name cannot
be pronounced. The Tetragram is magis proprium than any other name,
but because it is unpronounceable (Tetragrommaton is the name of this
Name, but is nOt the Name) it is therefore also improper. Consequent ly
'God"-what we call "God," and not the name Deus/ Theos and all its
rnetaphors-is the very name for the improprielY of Ihe name. Tetragram
moton is the common noun for this Name, or for this name considered as
[hc lack of a name. "God" call s the god where his name is lacking: bUI
the di vi ne is a name thaI is lacking.
That is why, above and beyond the metaphysics of {he Treatise on Divine
Names that, from Pseudo Dionysius to Thomas and down to the present,
repeats that God is unnameable (Ihe absolule excess of being the.wor.d
or of the thing over the sign is merely a law of metaphYSICS, which
eminenlly applicable in the case of Ihe preeminence of being), "God" IS
common noun (that metaphor, proper/ improper by definition) Ihat
becomes a proper name only when it is addressed 10 that singular existent
who lacks a name. It is thus prayer, invocation, supplication, or whalever-
addressed to the lack of a name:
My God , my God. li fe is there
Simple and peaceful . .. b
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
7. What does "my God" mean?
It is in no wayan appropriation, a privatization, even less a subjecli v.
ization of God. "My God" says that it is I alone, each time, who can call
on God or the god. It is the voice of someone who is himself singular that
can call upon and name that other singular being. Speaking of "God,"
di scourse speaks of Ihe god. the gods, or the divine. But when someone
speaks they are addressing God. We say "my God" as we say "my friend"
or as we used to say "my Lord," (mon Seigneur) which became "man
sieur:' In each case, behind the apparent possessive there in fact lies what
we ought to call an interpellative: you, here, now, are entering into a si ngular
relationshp with me. This does not ensure the relationship, nor in any way
provide the measure of it. But it proclaims it, and gives it its chance.
" My God" signifies: here, now, I am enlering imo a singular relationship
with the lack of a singular name. Hence our justification in asking: who
then has the right or the abilit y to say "my God?"
8. Today what is no doubt most cruci al concerning God is this: he is not
unnameable in the melaphysical sense of that being that is inaccessible 10
all names, of that being that Iranscends all names, including the name of
being itself, according to an unbroken tradition that is the very tradition
of olllo. theo.logy.} (SI. John Damascene once again: "He is above allihat
is, and above bei ng itself." This brings to mind the divine "superessence,"
of Pseudo Dionysius, Eckhart, or Ruysbroek, and even certain of Lcvinas's
!njunctions, such "Understand a God uncontaminated by being").' GOd
IS not unnameable In that sense, because in that sense unnameabi lity is the
result of an overflowing of names and language, whereas the unnameability
of the god to whom I address myself (if I can) results from the lack of
name. unnameable today in that his name, or hi s names, are lacking.
There IS no Impotence on the pari of names in general to express or refer
to God (just as, conversel y, the unnameable is neither necessaril y nor exclu_
sively divine: after all , the name " being" is not appropriate to being either
if as Heidegger says being " is not"). In fact it could well be that Ih;
"unnameable" is never di vine, and thai the di vine is always named-even
if it is for want of a name. But it is the proper name of God Ihat is wanting.
Such for us is the fate of all di vine names-or of the di vine in all names:
they no longer refer to gods, that is to say we can no longer call upon the
gods wilh these names (Indra, Zeus, Wotan, Yahweh, Jesus). They are, as
divine names (and not as the nomenclature of worship), stricll y unpro-
nounceable: they no longer call upon "my God." So it turns out that all
divine names refer, as to a common destiny wriuen down in Ihe distant
past of the Western world, to the unpronounceable Name, the unutterable
Tetragram. As if in Judaism it were written that the divine is deslined 10
withdraw its own name, and in so doing to abscond from call and from
prayer. And that we would then be left with only Ihis withdrawal of the
name of God, in place of all gods, and al so in place of the god of Israel.
When H61derlin wriles: " sacred names are lacking" or "there is a lack
of sacred names" (es fehlen heilige Nomen) ,'O he is not implementing the
problematic of the Treatise on Divine Names (and in conlrast, this latter
appears much more as constituting a problematic of the concepts of God).
No doubts are cast. in H61derlin, on the possibilily of di vi ne names . On
Ihe contrary, the assert ion of a lack of sacred names implies that we know
whal such names are- names, as Heidegger's commentary puts it. "which
are commensurat e with the sacred (or the hol y) and whi ch Ihemselves cast
light upon il." l1 These names are thus not only peculiar (propre) to the
divine, they bring il to light, they make it known as the di vine thai it is.
These names are the manifestation of the divine, they are thus perhaps not
far from being the di vine itself. It is simply (if one may say so) that these
names, here and now, arc lacking.
(Thus we arc fami liar with the name God, and it is undeniable, when
all is said and done, that it does bring 10 light something of Ihe di vine,
however litt le- at least when we still say ;'my God," in a sort of mild
relaxalion of thought and speech. However. even this name is seriouslY
lacking: "God," " god." the God, the god, the gods, gods ... whi ch way
arc we to take il'? When H61derlin writes "der GOII ," because in German
all nouns lake a capilal leller. we do not know if it should be translated
by " Ihe God" or "the god"; but H61derlin himself docs nOI know what
he is naming. Der Goll names something divine that no longer has any
identilY. or else il names Ihe very unidentification of the di vine and .of all
the gods. The Tetragram itself is drawn into this unidenlification: II can
no longer be the common noun for the proper Name of the god. but is in
turn subsumed under this even more common noun, "the god," which is
the name of no presence of a god.)
And so a history ends as il began: " In former limes , so I have heard
it said in Dodona, the Pelasgians offered up all thei r sacrifices whi le invok-
ing 'the gods,' without referring 10 anyone of them by a qualifier or a
personal name; for they had as yet heard of no such thing" (Herodotus).
9. What is a proper name'? Is it part of language'? This is not certain, or
at least it is not cert ain Ihat it is a pari in the way a common noun is. It
does not behave like a sign. Perhaps its nature is that of a Wink. of a
gesture that invi tes or call s. On that score. the lack of proper names has
nothing whatever 10 do with the metaphysical surfeit of the thing over Ihe
sign. of the real over language. The lack of a proper name is a lack of
Wink, and not of signifying capacity. It cannot be judged in relation 10
sense but in relation 10 gesture. For the same reasons il could be that there
is something of the divine-rather than any meaning- in all proper names.
Thus all names could be given to the gods, so that if there is a lack of
sacred names, it is not because certain names are lacking. There is a lack
of naming, of appellatives , of address.
I am she, says Apuleius's Isis, "cuius numen unicum multiformi specie.
ri tu varia, nomine multiiugo lotus veneratur orbis. lode primigenii Phryges
Pessinuntiam deum matrem, hinc aUl ochtones Anici Cecropeiam Miner-
vam, iIIine f1uctuantes Cyprii Paphiam Venerem, Cret es sagittiferi Dietyn-
nam Dianam, Siculi trilingues Slygiam Proserpinam, Eleusini
deam Cerrerem, et lunonem alii, Bellonam alii , Hecalam isti , Rhamnuslam
illi , sed qui nascent is dei Solis inchoanlibus inlustrantur radiis Aethiopes
Arique priscaque doctrina pollenles Aegyptii caeremonis me propriis per-
colentes appellant vera nomine reginam Isidem" (whose single godhead is
adored by the whole world in various forms, in differing rites and with
many di verse names. Thus the Phrygians. earliest of races, call me Pes-
sinuntia, Mother of the Gods; thus Ihe Athenians, sprung from their own
soil. call me Cecropeian Minerva; and Ihe sea-tossed Cyprians call me
Paphian Venus, the archer Cretans Diana Dictynna, and the tril ingual
Sicilians Ortygian Proserpine; to the Eleusi ans 1 am Ceres, the ancient
goddess, to others Juno. to others Bellona and Hecate and Rhamnusia.
But the Ethiopians, who aTe illumined by the first rays of the sun-god as
he is born every day. together with the Africans and the EgYPlians who
excel through having the original doctrine, honour me with my disti ncti
. d
rues an give me my true name of Queen Isis). U
10 .. That God has a name, that the gods have names , which are theirs and
which ?re, hol y or sacred names, of that there is no doubt.
One thlllg only remams undetermined: whether " the lack of sacred names"
amounts to a pure and simple absence- be it definiti ve or provisional-of
sacred, or whether this lack still belongs to the sacred itself. Heidegger
writes that " the source of this lack is probabl y concealed in a reseryt
(Voremhall) of the sacred." The lack of divine names-the suspension of
prayer, of worship- would thus be a way for the sacred to keep itsel f in
to itself, and as a consequence, thereby to offer itself, to
offer Ltself m reserve, both as its own reserve and as its own withdrawal
The suspension of worship: no longer to be able to sing, as in the Catho&
to the Hol y Sacrame"" "Adoro Ie devote. laetens deitas." For there
IS no longer a lalem divinity, that is to say a di vinit y hidden by appearances
and revealed as present in in latency. There is nothing latent, there is only
the manifest, and what is manifest is nothing other than the lack of sacred
names, visible and legi ble everywhere . There is no longer a si ngle divine
name that cannot be pronounced in the most profane and ordinary way.
Moreover- proof 0 conlrario-we no longer blaspheme the name of God.
The di vi nity is not concealed by this lack, it does not pass from one form
of latency into another. This lack reveals the di vinit y itself as suspended.
We should beware of the dialectical reserve, the Aufhebung to which He.
degger's words could give ri se: I would argue that we should understand
those words as meaning that it is the sacred itself that is lacking, wanli na.
fai ling, or withdrawn. The lack of sacred names is not a surface lack
concealing and manifesting the depths of a sacred held in reserve. II ban
the way to the sacred, the sacred as such no longer comes (advient), and
the di vine is withdrawn from itself.
II. I should like here. without violence and without confusing them, to
force together Levinas and Heidegger momentaril y and say: the lack of
sacred names is the a-Dieu of the sacred. An a-Dieu from the depths of
its withdra .....ol: a thought that is for the moment quite simply impossible-
and impossible in any case as a unified thought.
Each of them knows that a waiting concerning the divine is inscribed
at the heart of our experience. at the heart of our slow-footed Weslern
necessity. For Levinas, this waiting. the vigil traverses. perishes (transit).
and pushes to the breaking point consciousness, man, the self, being, and
philosophy. In this "breach of immanence" a presence comes (advienl )-
God, the in-finite, "t he beyond of bei ng," transcendence as an "ethical
,,,.:h_for_the_other." The breach deli vers us up to an "a_Dieu." ll For Hei-
the breach of immanence is constitutive of (of. being-
,here) , and the god is not a presence that could come. there: In thiS
is being-unto-death and not unto-a-god. But thIS act of ontological
constitution opens precisely onto the possibility of waiting for the strange-
nesS of Ihe divi ne. which would then in short be a strangeness strange to
the in-finite breaching of existence and of the existent . could be
exposed to the di vine, not in death. nor in its place, but as II were at the
arne time as to death. "Man di es continuall y, under heaven, before the
Thus the possi bility of a "being-unto-God" (ein mogliches. Sein
2;11 GOtl) is opened up. but nOI established.'" I say: the
Lcvi nas is constitut ive of the "passivi ty more passive than passLvLt y m
which immanence is breached; Heidegger's being-lInto-God (or unto-the-
god) is merel y a possible: opened up. offered (but equall y withheld, with-
drawn) , in the finite lTanscendence of being-unto-death. Thought relates
10 the beyond of being and to the finit eness of being; to the for-the-other
and to the for-death: in each case thought has so to speak its a-dieu . It is
doubtless too soon to be able to say what clashes or encounters, what
evasions or confrontations. mark its passage from one relat ion to the other:
I simply wished to recall. here, the sign (Wink) that is addressed thus to
the thinking of our times.
12. The singular address to a singular god-my god!-is prayer in general.
The lack of names suspends prayer. To celebrate transcendence beyond
being or the immanence of the di vi ne, or else, like the German mystics
hei rs we all are, the " sublimeness" of God (nowadays "the sublime"
has at times begun to take on the role of a new negative theology), is not
to pray. is no longer to pray. To pray is fir st and foremost to name the
singular god, my god. Prayer is suspended. All that remains is a distant
quotati on (citation) in the memory: schema Israel . .. Paler noster . .. tao
illii '1I6h .... This recitation, like our cultural or cult memory of dIVine
names, merely sustains the realit y of a lack of prayer. This recitation
for want of praying. It does not implore so as to be able once agam to
pray: it addresses a lack of prayer to a lack of sacred name, it is a li tany
laid bare.
13. (A polemical note that it is unfortunatel y diffi cult to dispense with
when one ventures to speak of " god" today: in the last few years a sickening
traffic has grown up around a so-called return of the spi ritual and of the
religious. IS Simultaneously. the rel igious aspect of recent Polish history. the
avowed end of Marxism, the renewed assertiveness of Islam, the rediscovery
and return 10 circulation of several currents of Jewish thought, have all
been exploil ed, then indiscriminately and uncritically enlisted in the p
' r , ",.
mOllon 0 a new tural value, a spirituali ty deemed necessary for a jaded
Western which has. lost faith in all its "ideologies." This is to forget,
.of or cunmng, the philosophical work that has been unre_
mlllmgly carned out from a starting point in the death of God (think'
od ,
I ay s among ot her things recognizi ng and meditating ceaselessly
upon thIS Irrefutable and unshiftable event that has rendered derisory'
a vance any return of the religious"). The death of God call ed for and
brought a of thought that ventures out where God no longer
guarant ees euher or the subject or the world. At these extremes, Over
these abysses or amid this drifting no god could possibly return. First
because there is no reason why the divine should lend its name to
what thought or confronts in it s withdrawal. Second, because gods
arc .always at least can always come-but doubt less never come
agal.n. the death of God, when not politically or commercially
moti vated, IS tantamount to forgetting thought. It is moreover ironic
though not reall y surprisi ng, to note that this " return of the religious':
proposes it self at Ihe same time and often under the same colors as the
of .an empirico-liberal pragmatism (roughl y speaking of the Pop.
penan vanety) that accurately refl ects, in an ident ical forgetting of thought
the actual " spiritual" cont ent or conduct of these movements of opinion.;
14. is God?" is the question of a man wanting for prayer, wantin.
for dIVine names. It is the question of a man wanting for God (which i5
not necessaril y to say lacking God), or else it is the question put by a man
to the want of God.
It is Holderlin's quest ion, which Heidegger chooses to take up, because
the question "who is the god?" is "perhaps too difficult for man and asked
too soon."
What is God? The sky's aspect,
Though so rich in qualities,
Is unknown to him. lightning indeed
Is the anger of a god. All the more invisible
Is that which has its envoy in something foreign to it.'.
The world is unknown to God. The visible and its brilliance, appearing
(I'apparoilre) is unknown to him. But he, the invisi ble, delegates himself,
or rather sends himself-or desti nes himself (sich schicke/)- in the visible,
something foreign in which, having sent himself there, he is all the more
invisible. Heidegger wriles: " The Invisible sends itself there so as to remain
what il is: invisible." So what is God? He who wishes 10 remain unknown,
he who wishes, sending himsel f in the visible, there 10 remain invisible.
God is not the Hegeli an Absolute who "wishes to be close to us." God
docS not wish to be close to us when he sends himsel f to us. in the visi ble
we know: he wishes to make himself invisible therein.
(But whal if the fact that he wishes to remain himself, obsolulflm,
separate in his invisibility at the heart of the visible in which we dwell,
were another form of the same Absolute will? And if that is indeed the
case, can we still be cont ent to go on conceiving of God, with or agai nst
Hegel, with or against St. Augusti ne, as a form of ext reme int imacy? Will
a day not come when we shall have to confront a god outside, exposed in
the open sky, nowhere hidden and internal to nothing? We must leave these
questions to fi nd their own way.
God is that which knows not the world and which does not manifest
itself there, does not present itself there, alt hough it penetrates it , sends
itself, and dispatches itself therei n. The beginning of PolltI OS is well known:
He is near
And diffi cult to grasp, the God.
The nearness of the god is inscribed in these ot her lines out of which
Heidegger develops his comment ary:
Is God unknown?
Is he manifest like the heavens? It is rather that
Which I beli eve.
Heidegger writ es: "This God who remai ns unknown must, at the same
time as he shows himsel f for who He is, appear as he who remains
unknown." The god is therefore as manifest as the heavens, he is as revealed
(offenbar) as the open sky and offered to view, selfsame with its aspect Y
The face of God is as manifest as the Angesichl of the heavens. Heidegger
writes that "the God who remains unknown is, as such, made manifest by
the heavens."
But the poem does not say that God is made manifest by means of the
heavens. What it says is quite different : the god is as manifest as the heavens.
That God is manifest like the heavens, that is to say that he is as visible,
as offered to the view of men as the radiance open and offered over the
entire horizon, indicates that the radiance of the divine is equal to that of
the heavens, but not that it is mediated by it. The god may very well be
made manifest selfsame wi th Ihe heavens, or wi th the sea, or with the skin
of man or the ani mal's gaze; it may be that he is manifest selfsame with
everythi ng that is open and offered and in which he has dispatched himself.
But none of that serves as a (re)presentali,e of the god-contrary to what
:,eidegger's text may at least lead us to believe. If the heavens, or if aspect
In general, Angesichl, countenance, is also the place of divine revelation
it is not as a visible image of the invisible. The invisible di vine lets itself
be seen rest ing, itself, upon Ihe face, or woven into it, sent or destined
therein, but as another face that lets it self be seen here, without " here"
serving as mediation jar if.
(This im-mediacy of the god, who is nevertheless nOI something imme_
diate, this immediacy withdrawn from proximity and immanence in its most
manifest presence, is no doubt so unamenable to our modes of discourse
that Heidegger, like Hegel perhaps before him, seems to lose sight of il
almost as soon as he has gl impsed it.)
Here-on a face, but equall y, perhaps, in a name- the divinity lets itself
be seen, manifestly invisible and invisibly manifest. God reveals himself_
and God is always a stranger in all manifestation and all revelation. Rev-
elation- if such a thing must be conceived of- is not a presentation, or a
representation: it must be the evidence of the possibility (never Ihe necessity)
of a being-unto-god. What there is revelation of is nOI "God," as if he
were somet hing that can be exhibiled (that is why to the question "what
is God?" there is and there is not an answer), it is ralher the unt o-God (I'
ll-Dieu) or being-unto-god. Or more exactly, it becomes manifest that such
a being-unto-god is possible, that man is invited and permitted 10 be-that
is, to die-before the face of the god.
Pascal: "Instead of complaining because God has hidden himself, you
will give thanks to him for havi ng revealed himself so much."
15. Moreover this is what grounds such a revelation: the essence of the god
is recognizable simultaneously by two features , the first being Ihat man is
not the god, the second that man and the god are together in an identical
region of being (neither of Ihem is being; in levinas's language they are
together "beyond being"-but there is no such "beyond").
Heidegger says: "The gods and men are not only illumined by a light. ...
They are illumined in their being. They are conquered by light (er-
Iichtet) ... , never hidden, but dis-lodged (em-borgen)." "
Man and the god, in thei r radical difference, which is none other than
the opening out of the " sacred" - but which is equally well an im-mediacy
outside of the profane and the sacred-disclose themselves to each ot her,
and perhaps by means of each other. They disclose themselves , they are,
each for hi s part and each for the other, those who come disclosed.
But what is disclosed here is Iheir strangeness. Where man and Ihe god
cease to disclose one another, and to be disclosed to each ot her, as strangers,
in strangeness itself, there the god disappears. (For Hegel, on the contrary,
"man can know he has a refuge in God, si nce God is not a being strange
to him.")
Perhaps, at the extreme-but everything is always decided at the ex-
treme-we will one day have to face the fact (decouvr;r) that the god is
essentiall y distinguishable by nothing save the extreme strangeness of his
coming. Euripides:
Numerous are the forms of the di vine,
and numerous, the unexpected decision of the gods.
What was expected does not come about,
but for the unexpected, the god has found the means.
16. If God is God, his death is also his supreme strangeness. Although
Hegel himself cannot ultimatel y think this death except as " the death of
deat h," he neverthel ess cannot avoid remaining suspended, seemingl y dumb-
founded (so that we remark thai he too did after all experience the divine)
in the face of the event: "The supreme alienation of the divine Idea: 'God
is dead, God himself is dead,' is a prodigious and dreadful thing to represent
to oneself, something which presents to represent at ion the deepest abyss of
schism ... . God is no longer alive, God is dead; a most dreadful thought:
so everything which is eternal, true, is not, there is negation even in God;
supreme suffering, a feeling of out-and-out perditi on."
In the death of God-inasmuch as ""'!' haw! killed him"-something
of the di vine is announced, or rather called upon, as Nietzsche knew. It
is not "the death of death," it is nOI the dialectic of the God of triumphant
subjectivit y. Of course the gods are immortal, they all rise again: Osiris,
Dionysus, Christ. But resurrection is not what Hegel would lik.e it to be.
It is not the end of the process, nor is it the final appropriation of the
livi ng Concept. Resurrecti on is the manifestation of the god inasmuch as
he comes in his own withdrawal , leaves his mark in his own obliterat ion,
is revealed in his own invisibilit y (it is not a " resurrection," it is not a
return). The god is invisibl y manifest and manifestl y invisible: this is like
a dialectic, but it is not one. However, the fact that it is not one can only
be revealed by the god (here perhaps lies the difference in knowl edge, or
in experience, that distinguishes Hegel from Holderlin).
What "resurrection" refe rs to-inadequately- is the radiance of mani-
fes tat ion. Osiris, Dionysus, Christ are never as radiant as when they have
ri sen again. They are then what they are: gods of radiance itself, di vine
glory open, offered, dauling as the heavens and effaced like them. But
this glory, this splendor, lik.e thai of the heavens, emerges from shadow
and in shadow, in the darkness of the absence of the heavens, of the absence
of the world and of god. Divine radiance is juSt as much the manifestation
of this darkness, which is itself divine.
This is not a dialectic: the gods are immortal. "Death" and
do not to them. What does apply to them is what they have
10 common wllh the heavens, without the heavens being their mediation'
soverei gn int erplay of darkness and radiance, of radiance
mt o darkness and of darkness as manifest as radiance.
For if mortals have the possibility or the freedom to be-unto-god, unto
what or unt o whom can the god be? Unto nothing, unless it be unto divine
mani festati on itself: radiance. effulgence, and darkness. The god is not the
freedom to be-un(o in general. He is not projected-toward or destined-to
He simpl y comes, in radiance and in the withdrawal of radiance, Or rather;
his pure radiance withdraws him.
17. Gilles Aillaud: " The invisible does not conceal it self like an essential
secret, like the stone in fruit, at the heart of what we see. Freely displayed
for all to sec, the hidden always protects the
I should like to write: always, whatever happens, a god protects mortals
that is to say exposes them (0 what they are; and in so doing, he
himself for all to see, withdrawn like the heavens. But thai is to write more
than I can.
Yet Seneca in his time wrote: "Many beings akin 10 the supreme divinity
both fi ll our eyes and escape them" (Ocll/OS noslros el imp/en( el effugiunt).
Eyes filled and deserted by divinity, that is our condit ion.
18. Origen: " If there is an image of the invisi ble God. it is an invisible
19. One might say: there is nothing more di vi ne than a new god shining
in all his young splendor. But this new god never comes in any temple; it
is the empt iness of the temple and it s darkness that make i( the sacred
Art is sacred, not because it is in the service of worship. bUI because it
makes manifest the withdrawal of divine splendor, the invisibilit y of its
manifestation, the inconspicuousness of its exposure. No passage in Hegel
beller salutes the gods than the one in which fat e is shown offe ring their
absence to us: "Statues are now corpses whose animating soul has fled,
hymns are words which fait h has abandoned. The tables of the gods are
without food and spi ritual beverage, and games and festi vities no longer
restore to consciousness the blessed unit y between it self and essence. Lack-
ing in the works of the Muses is that strength of spirit which saw certai nty
itself spring forth from the crushing of both gods and men. Henceforth
they arc what they arc for us: beautiful fruits plucked from the tree; friendl y
fate has offered them to us, as a young girl presents this frui t.";
Who is this young girl? She is herself a work of art. she is painted on
a fresco, she is deprived of divine life-she is thus a goddess herself, exposed
to her own withdrawal. The girl , in Ihe flush of her youth in the midst of
the world of "that pain expressed in the harsh words God is dead," is the
divine truth of the presentation (Hegel writes priisentierl) or the offering
of this fruit in its beauty. It is a god- or a goddess-who offers /I S art:
that is something we have still to think abou!.
20. The sacred in art, thus defined, means that all an is sacred, and that
there is nothing sacred save in art or through it. That is what Christianity
in the grip of the Reformation ceased to understand. (For it s part, the
Catholic church forgot God. Thus it tOO ended up losi ng art. and so be-
coming indistinguishable today from the Reformation.)
There is no profane art, and there is nothing sacred outside of art.
However, that is only intelligible if we have done with "aesthetics." And
also perhaps with "art." The divine manifests itsel f at the limits of
but without art. nothing would reach those limi ts. And to understand thIS.
ought we not also to have done with the divine?
21. In his study, Di vine Names, Usener saw a primary species of gods in
those he called "the gods of the instant," di vi niti es attached ( 0 nothing
other than a momentary state, a sensation. or an isolated feeling. "The
singular phenomenon is di vinized without mediation, without the
venti on of any generic concept, however narrow its limits; the bare thlOg,
which you see before you, that and nothing else is the god."l' Usener is
certainl y wrong to be cont ent with what we might call the positivist and
anthropocentric notion of "divinizalion," precisely when describing this
encount er and this nonconceptual designation of the god. (Not to be able
to place, face to face with reli gious fait h, anything other than this paltry,
artless reversal, Ihe "divinization" by man of a natural thing. is not to be
in the death of God, it is to have forgotten the death of God it self: God
would not be dead if he had simpl y been a projection. As Nietzsche well
knew. the death of God requires of us something very different from anthro-
pological idolatry!) But Usener does unwillingly furnish the essence of all
divine manifestation: the bare thing, which you see before you, that and
not hing else is the god. (The "thing" can be an animal. a person. a stone,
a word, a though!.) God is never anything other than a singular. bare
"God is not present to things by si tuation, bUI by essence; his presence
manifests itself by its immediate operation" (Leibniz).
All gods are "gods of the inslant" I
endure. ' or as ong as they can or wish to
i;h!here. is! he god who ceaselessly plays with the world , and Ihe god wh
.s Ions It In a perpetual labor. There is the god who comes ado

I ates and the god who dwells in his gaze. anm
There IS the god who approaches man to the extent of touchin h'
.the god who retreats from man to the extent of abandoning l?l'
. Th.e two the same: the god who touches man touches
as to him to not so as to take hold of him and detain
Hence. The first desertion consists in the fact that God does not d t . .
7hich leaves him, bringi ng about the second
IC eaves In one of these desertions God follows and the
;s no mystery about It; for there is not hing strange in the fact that
eaves the men who leave him. But the first desertio .
and incomprehensible" (Pascal). n IS Quite mystenous
23. is an atheism with God. Protestantism, on the other hand is
without. God. Cat holicism is the worship of all gods in God ' or
t oss of In all gods. Islam is the pure proclamation of God to "he
It becomes an empty clamor. Buddhism is the worship of God
In a g s 0: th.e loss of all gods in God. Philosophy, for its part thinks
beyond it s confines and the absolute of the
IOllmte su stance of God.
So an entire for which God will prove to have been the ain
the fer.vor of separat ion, comes to a close: di vision beco!ing
Immanent 10 the dIVIne, the death of God inscri bed as his li fi
In a sense, all our great religions are inseparable from that
say from the ontotheological end-the aim and the
re Iglon.
And as for paganism wh d ..
1 d f . ,ere 0 we grasp II If not at that extremit y where
" da re.a y fe rs, In the god, the death of the god: Tammouz Auis Osiris
oms, DIOnysus. ' , ,
The death of God is thefinolthought of philosophy which thus p,opo'-
LI as an end to r .. ' ..... "
. re Iglon: II IS toward this thought that the West (which in
excludes neither Islam nor Buddhism) wi ll have ceaselessly tended
t slgmfies: the death of death, the negation of negation, the end of
of C?od: the divinization of man, the making absolute of his
o ledge and hiS hi story (or the affirmation of their total insignificance),
and the infinite suffering that his labor. his discourse, and his death become
when they have as their goal and their meaning an infinite reconciliation.
The god is abandoned in thought of absolute separation and reconcili
at ion, which is thought of the " death of God." The god does not die in
that thought, since he rises again there endlessly, like the very being of
nothi ngness that has passed through the nothingness of bei ng. But things
arc worse: he is abandoned there-or else, he abandons us. He abandons
uS to our philosophy and our religion of the deat h of God .
24. But we must not jump to the conclusion that the "god of the philoso-
phers" is a vanit y pure and simple. Every philosopher in his way, according
to the order and the ordeal of thought , also experiences the approach or
the fli ght of the divine.
There is at the heart of every great philosophy (and this could be the
measure of its greatness), a mystery concerning God or the gods. This is
in no way to say that the mystery is the heart of the philosophy that bears
it. It certainly is not; but it is placed in that heart, even though it has no
place there.
An example-which is al so of necessity to say, an approxi mation: " In
divine understanding there is a system, but God himself is not a system,
he is a li fe." You will always Qui te justifiabl y be able to demonstrate the
deep.rooted equivalence, in speculative idealism, of "system" and " life,"
and in so doing make that statement of Schelling's contradict it self. Yet
you will not be able enti rel y to deny that the same statement tends or
pretends to somet hing that is not exhausted by that equivalence and that
testifies here to the ordeal of thought. All would seem to hang, were one
inclined to attempt a commentary, upon an exegesis of the words "God
himself." Schell ing is suggesting that the god himself is somet hing other
again than "God." From Kanl to Holderlin, by way of Schelling, Noval is,
and Hegel , this exigency of thought was put to the test (l'epreuve) and
transmitted to Nietzsche, Rilke, Heidegger, Wilt genstein , U:vinas, and us:
the God of the philosophers has himself made god or the gods hi s concern.
25. Though all art is sacred, and though there is doubtless nothing sacred
except where there is art , art and the divine are nevertheless twO totall y
disti nct things. Which is to say that when the divine manifestS itself, art
itself is reduced to not hing.
Selfsame with whatever thing the divi ne is made manifest (for example,
a thi ng of nature, an animal , a stone, or else man himself), this mani fes-
tation places the thing wit hin the sphere of art. But at the same time it
reduces art as such to nothing.
Conversely, art transports what it sets to work upon into the sphere of
Ihe divine, btxause it is always a god-or a goddess-who offers us art
But of itself, insofar as it is art or for as long as it is aTl, it keeps th'
di vine at a distance. In this sense art is always profane, no less than thOUght
discourse, or science. '
Perhaps we are dealing here with two forms of the sublime, different to
the extent of being opposites:
There is the sublime in art, goi ng from Kant to Benjamin and from
there on down to us. It signifies: to feel the fainting away of the sensible.
to border on the furthest extreme of presentation, on the limit where the
outside of presentation offers it self, and to be offered up 10 this offering.
And there is divine sublimit y, that in terms of which Hegel seeks to
characterize the Jewish moment in religion. In this case it is the presence
of God insofar as it overwhelms the sensi ble. The coming of God reduces
the phenomenon to nothing. Here the sublime is no longer to be found at
that furthest extreme of presentat ion where presentation is transformed into
offering. It is in a presence that ruins all presentation and all representation.
It is no longer the gesture of offering, it is the imposition of glory. It is
no longer the limit of forms and figures, it is the light that disperses the
vi sible. God imposes hi s presence outside of all presentation. He comes in
the ruin of all appearing (Ie paral/re). Art, on the contrary, infinitely incises
the edges of appearance (I'apparailre), but keeps it intact.
Between the " thing" of sublime art and the sublime " thing" of the
divine, there can be said to be that infinitesimal (and in its turn sublime?)
difference that lies between presentation at the limit and naked presence:
it follows that each can offer the other, but also that it is impossi ble to
confuse one with the other.
26. Whoever speaks of god ri sks the detestable effects of the sacralization
of discourse. The language that names God is always well on the way to
taking on some semblance of his glory. "God," "the di vi ne," "the sacred,"
"the hol y" are insuperabl y sacred words: how could they avoid being a
prey to sacerdotal arrogance, ecclesiastical love of power, not to mention
clerical cupidit y'! Alternati vely, it is prophetic bombast that threatens them,
not to mention a mystic intensity-whatever their reserve and their sobriety.
In each case, discourse appropriates to its own advantage the hi erophany
behind which it ought to disappear.
We must not be blind to the danger today of a certain spiritual posturing,
of a particular bland or sublime tone with which a "sacred dimension" is
"rediscovered": it is one of the best signs of the absence of the gods. When
the god is there, in fact, his presence is close, familiar, simple, and unob-
trusive, even though it be strange, disconcerting, and inaccessible.
(In Africa, for example, whether conspicuous or concealed from view,
the sacred appears familiar. Not that it tipS over into profane or profanatory
familiarit y: but it offers itself-or withholds itself-with simplicity, and
even in laughter and disrespect, because it has no need of a certain solemn
seriousness, affected and inspired, which belongs onl y to Churches, States
and Speeches. Need I add, the Africa of which I speak is at least in part
a symbolic place.)
27. The essence of art is to be offered, and it is a god-or goddess-who
offers us an. However, art docs not lead to god. Indeed nothing leads to
god, neither art, nor nature, nor thought, nor The gods come or do
not come. They impose their presence or they WIthdraw.
28. "The god is almost always the imminence of a god, or even the mere
possibility of a god" (Alain). .
To keep open, avai lable, undecided, the possibility for man of '.'bem
unto-god" is in it self a most resolute gesture of wel come to the dlV1ne. As
if this undecidedness alone-our own-were already unto-the-god. However,
it is not, by definition (and that is where Alain is wrong in the end).
29. To have done once and for all with a constant ly rct:urring error: being
is not God, in any way. Being is the being of beings, what is. Or rather-
for it is not pan of a being-what it is about a being is the fact that that
being is. Consequently, being itself, in return, is not. ?n the
contrary, is. If he is not, then there is no god: whereas If bemg IS not,
then there is being (or more accurately, there is "" being). u The god then?fore
is a being, and in that respect he is one being among all other. bemgs.
Being is the being of the god, as it is the being of every other but
the god is not the god of being (that expression would have stnctl y no
meaning; the god is always, whatever and wherever he may be, the god of
man). . .
Of what sort is this being, god? That is the elusive quesl1on: what IS
god? However, it is at least possible to say this: God is not the supreme
bei ng (etanl) (assuming that there is any sense in about a
being). God is the being we are not, but which is not a bemg at dl s.posal
in the world around us, ei ther. God is the bei ng we are not, whIch IS not
at our disposal, either, but which appears or disappears before the face of
the existing, mortal bcings we are.
For example, it is only from this angle that we may understand the idea
of god as creator, if we wish to avoid lapsing into error. God creator
is not he who makes being be. Nothing and no onc " makes" bemgs "be":
they are not produced and production exists onl y within the world of beings.
On the other hand, bei ng makes the being (Joit I'elre) of beings and this
is not a "making," it is a being, '
God d?es not make be, does he make the being of beings.
Ihe (If we can keep this word) means: beings appear before
him, emerging from the nothingness of Iheir being. They are summoned
and appear (its apporoissent el comparoissent) before him- who manifests
himself or conceals himself before their face, in the visible. "Fiat lux!"
not mean: " I invent something like light and I make it come into
eXi stence by the sole power of my word," as a metaphysical catechism
repeatedly asserted. "Fial lux!" means "the li ght appears before my face
and I send mysel f in it ." Hegel: " This figure is the pure luminous essence
of the dawn, which contains and fi ll s everything, and which is preserved
in its formless substantiality."
Nothing can be summoned to appear before being, for being has no
face and ullers nothing. Being, by not being, delivers beings up to what
arc. It ''is'.' the fact that a being detaches itself from the nothingness
It. I.S . Hence bemg does not make beings, but it finishes them all: their
fmlle detachment takes place, infinitely, in it and from it . That is the finitude
of being, in all beings. It detaches the gods as well as men. The immortality
of the gods does not exclude thei r finilUde: they appear or they disappear
(whereas being neither appears nor disappears: it is).
Between beings there can be all sorts of relations. There can be, among
ot hers, that of the god to man, or that of the man to the god. Beings, on
the other hand, have no relation to being, since it is nothing other than
the fact that beings are. From this point of view the god is (or is not) in
the same way as man-or a star- is. The divine is not the fact that man-
or the star-is. The divine is that , or he, with which or with whom man
finds himself involved in a cert ai n relation, be it one of presence or of
absence, one of appearance (parution) or of disappearance. He involves
the star in it with him.
That is why the gods necessaril y have places, just like a person, a Slar,
or a bird. Being has no place: it is (it "makes") the dis-position, the spacing
out of beings according to their places (that is to say also according to
thei r times), but it has it self neither place nor ti me. It is not, and this nOI-
being "consists" in the fact that beings are dis-posed throughout their
places and thei r times. The gods have their places and their times. They
are immortal and they have a history. The gods have a history and a
geography: they ca n move off, withdraw. spring up, or decl ine; they can
come, here or there, now or later, and show themselves . and not show
30. "God exists," "God does nOI exist ," "the proposi tion 'God exists' (and
therefore the opposing proposit ion. too) has no meaning" : these propo-
sit ions have not merely been argued back and forth to excess; they have
all-and a few more besides-been ri gorously proved true. All of these
proofs and counterproofs put together have perhaps never. demonstrated
anything other than the fact that being is and is nol. For thiS array
of proofs was based on a confusion, in its discourse, between bemg and
God. It was demonstrated that there is necessari ly being and God. It was
demonstrated that there is necessaril y bei ng, or some bei ng, as sD?n,;U we
admit that there is something. Then it was demonstrated that thiS there
is" of being is in itself nothing that is.
On the other hand, if in the advancing or the thinking of t.hese pro?fs
there was anything that was at the same time preserved from thiS confUSIOn
and that truly had to do with the divine as such, it must have been a totally
different sort of concern (souC/). Not the concern to show that God ( = nec-
essary being) is, but the concern to intimate God .existS. (One can
conceive of the conjunction, one might say the mterweavmg, of these twO
concerns in the writings of Descartes. and also in those of Hegel and
Nietzsche.) To intimate that God exists: that is to say that he
precisely, be according to the mode of what we know and. as positIOns
of being. and that his is a quite different existence, a qUlle different ordeal
of existing.
On this subject . proofs and counterproofs have doubtless always
curred: the proof of the existence of God corresponds to the ordeal of hiS
im-mediacy (hence the idea of the infinite in me: an idea al ready present-
and yet by which I am myself overwhelmed), and the critique of this
agai n corresponds in its turn to this experience. of being .overwhelmed. (II
says , for example: God is not an object of poSSible experience; so leavtng
impossi ble experience open). .
We thus need to ask some quite different questions. Not whet her God
exists, but how (or else: where and when) he exists-which is equall
say: how he withdraws from existence, how he is not where we him
to be how he docs not duplicate in another world the mode of eXistence
of ou'r own, but is in ours the exislence of that other world, or .else how
hi s existence is strictl y inseparable from that of the world, an ammal or a
Slar, a person or a poem. and how il unceasingly remains beyond the reach
of all these existences. and so fort h.
31. Deus. in ajutorium nostrum intende . .
Domine, ad adjuvandum me fast ina ...
Introibo ad ahare Dei.
ad Oeum qui laetificat juventutem meam ...
What is there to say about vani shed rites. lost sacred languages. about
the necessary incomprehensibilit y of those languages. which brought wit h
them at the same time a familiar truth; what is there to say about the
solemn rhythms of Latin, about genu fl exions, incense, versicles, and
responses, about the church, that remot e place full of darkness and splendor;
what is there to say about signs of the cross, clasped hands, open palms,
outstretched arms, chasubles on shoulders, stoles, shoes left at entrances
ablutions, prayer mats, prostration, or intoning; what is there to say abou;
divine service?
NOIhing, nothing must be said about them. It is too late or tOO soon.
Wherever divine service takes place, we cannot be sure that it is not merely
the pious and ridiculous repetition of what it once was, or else that it is
not confined to being the exercising of a social convention, not to say a
social obligation. Yet after all has it ever been any different ? Where and
when can we say that true worship takes place? We can say it when the
god is present at the ceremony.
But in that case we are not far from sayi ng that the presence of the
god-in the heart, for example-replaces to advantage the mimicry of
worship. And this is not what is call ed for by our requirement of the divine,
our thought of it, our feeling for it : we feel that there must be worship,
divine service; we feel that there must be celebration of the glory of the
god. And yet we can say nothing about worship. We can say: there are
men and women who observe rituals; there are millions of them every day,
in every place. But nowadays we have also to take account of the possibility
of gods wandering from place to place, without all otted temples or estab-
lished rituals. Einai gar kai entautha Iheous: "Here too are the gods to be
found"; these words of Heraclitus can today be given one further meaning
a! least (it could also be Ihat they now only have this mea ning), according
to whieh " here" can be without place (/ieu), nowhere, or from place (place)
to place, a "here" wandering in and OUt of places.
It could well be-this is all that can be said- that it is henceforth to a
wandering of the gods that di vine worship and its permanent locations must
be adapted: not so as 10 disqualify these, bUI so as 10 assert that in temples
or outside of them, in rituals or with no ritual, what henceforth is divine,
or that part of the divine that withdraws and confides itsel f, is a wandering,
nOl to say a st raying (egaremenl) of the gods. There is no ritual of wan-
dering, nor should the significance of divine service be overstrct ched so as
to make it, with Hegel. the equivalcnt of reading one's dail y paper. But in
divine wandering a ritual remains to be invented, or forgollen.
32. JUSt as former materialists or former freeth inkers began intoning the
mumbo jumbo (palenotres) of a return of the spi ritual, thcologians were
getting down to reading Ihe Scriptures and understanding the message of
fai th in terms of all the codes of the sciences of this world: semiology,
psychoanalysis. linguistics, sociology, and so .on. General anlhropol.o
was called upon with the sole end of converllng the word of God IntO
human speech, so that men might better grasp its Over
above the manifest contradictoriness of this st range logiC, there IS
curiously aberrant herc: as if God let himself be understoo.d, as If he
made himself understood. In the time of the Scriptures, God did not make
himself understood: he showed himself, his word obliged, there was no
question-even when the Doctors were interpreting-of knowledge or of
It is high time we learned that no Scripture can be of any help to us,
be it through a decoded message or a mystery held in reserve. The BOO.k
is no longer. (I am not saying "there is no longer a for there IS
ndeniably to the same extent that there is di vine service, 10 every temple,
or mosque; but I am saying that the Book is flO
as we ought to know since Mallarme and Joyce, BlanchOi and Dernda.)
It is not in vain that Ihe text has proliferated, has and
fragmented in all our writings. The writing we practice, ,":hlch us
and is infinite to us, is in no way the Aufhebung of Scnpture .. Scnpture,
on the contrary, is undone and swept away in it, without end.
defi niti vely without God or his Word, toward nowhere except thiS carrYlOg
away, and this disaster, and this fervor bereft faith and
Writing and its trace lie outside of Hol y Scripture, along It s outer edge,
which they contribute endlessly to frayi ng and breaking down . The.
when the Book was placed on the altar and read is past and
will no longer speak of the divine: it no longer speaks of but liS
own insistence which is neither human nor di vine; it inscribes the
edges of altars, and readings, it disjoining
of their religions, it traces a divesting of the dlvme, the denudmg of the
gods that no word announces.
Face to face but without seeing each other from now on, the gods and
men are to writ ing. This abandonmcnt is the sign given to us
for our history yet to come. It has only just begun. My god! We are only
jusl beginning to write.
33. But aft er all , all gods are odious (lOllS les dieux sont odieux). All
sacrality is oppressive. eit her through terror or through (As for
arating the di vi ne from the sacred altogether, is it possible yet agam
null ifying the divine'?) All sacrifice is a traffic in vieti".'S .and mdul gences.
Christ's sacrifice sums it all up: mankind redecmed as If It were a band of
slaves, at the cost of the most precious blood. (How can anyone have
10 argue that Christianity was a nonsacrificial religion? Because It IS a
reli gion, it is sacri ficial. And because it represcnts faith in a god, il is a
religion. )
The gods are odious to Ihe extent that they sat urate the universe and
exhaust mankind : that extent is no doubt always measured by reli gion as
such, and religion, whatever we try to make words mean, reli gion and the
sacred remain the measure of the divine: the god who deserted religion
would no longer be a god (Levi nas, among others, knows thi s; he even
speaks of atheism, but it is an atheism of God, there is no gelling around
the fac!).lJ The god keeps an eye, an ear, a hand on everyt hing, he holds
or pronounces " the alpha and the omega," he accounts for everyt hing and
in the end we must give account of everyt hing to him. The gods prevent
the supreme undecided ness of man; they close off his humani ty, and prevent
him from becoming unhinged, from measuring up to the incommensurable:
in the end God sets the measure. The gods forbid that man should be
risked further than man. And most serious of all , they take away hi s death.
That is to say they take away hi s sacrifice-this time in the sense of his
abandonment. For there is an abandonment that is not a traffic, but that
is an offe ring, an oblation, a libation. There is that: a generosi ty and a
freedom out side of religion- however, I am not sure whether this aban-
donment is still to gods, to anot her god said to be coming, or to "no god."
But it has death as its generic name, and an infinite number of forms and
occasions throughout our li ves.
No doubt this abandonment has always forged a path for itself through
the religions. In the end, though, these reli gions have fai led to allow it to
be accomplished. They have irresistibl y di verted it and misappropri ated it-
not modern religions onl y, but all reli gions, all forms of worship, all riles.
What there is to say here can be said very simpl y: reli gious experience
is exhausted. It is an immense exhaustion. This fact is in no way altered
by the upsurge in the poli tical, sociological, or cultural success of religions
(I slam in Africa; the Catholic church in Poland or, from another angle. in
South America; Protestantism in the United States; Jewish, Islamic, or
Christian fundament alism; sects; theosophies; gnoses). There is no return
of the religious: there are the cont ort ions and the turgescence of its exhaus-
lion. Whet her that exhaustion is making way for another concern for the
gods, for their wandering or their infi nite disappearance. or else for no
god, that is another mailer : it is another question alt oget her, and it is not
something that can be grasped between the pincers of the reli gious. nor
indeed between those of atheism.
No god: this would be, or will be, unrelated to atheism-at least to that
met aphysical atheism that is the counterpart of theism, and that wants to
put somet hing in the place of the god that has been denied or refuted. No
god: that would mean God's place reall y wide open, and vacant , and
abandoned, the divine infi ni tely undone and scattered. It could equall y well
be the god so cl ose thai we can no longer see him. Not because he has
disappeared inside us, but , on the conlrary, because in coming closer, and
disappearing the closer he comes , he has made all our insi de, all subjectivit y,
disappear with him. He would be so close that he would not be, either
before us or in us. He would be the absolute closeness to oursel ves-at
once tormenting and glori ous-of a naked presence, stripped of all sub-
jectivit y. A presence that is no longer in any way a self-presence,. neither
the self-presence of a consciousness nor the presence to that consciousness
and its science of its represent ations (of Self, World, God). But a naked
presence: less the presence of something or of someone, .than
" it seW' as such. But presence "itself" as such does not constuute a subject ;
it does not constitute a substance-and that is why " no god." The accom-
pli shment of the divine would be no god's presence.
To return to the problem: this would not be a di alectic of death and
resurrection. It does not lie by way of a death of subj ecti vit y (which for
Hegel is precisel y the definit ion of death, and more part icularl y of
death of Christ). in which death is defined as the very moment at whi ch
the subject is constituted, discovering itself and accomplishing itself in the
suppression of its particul arit y. God, in this sense, has always signi fied the
very idea of the Subject . the death of death, truth and life in the suppression
of existence and of si ngular exposure in the worl d, in the suppression of
place and instant.
The presence of no god would be what thinking on the Subj ect has never
been able to approach-even though it was onl y ever separat ed therefrom
by an infinitesimal distance, indeed an intimate distance. It would be death
that is not the Auf llebllng of life but its suspension: life suspended at each
instant , hic et nunc, suspended in its exposure to things, to others, to it self;
existence as the presence of no subject. but the presence to an entire world.
An invisible presence everywhere offered selfsame wi th being-there, selfsame
with the there of being, irrefutable and naked like the brilliance of the sun
on the sea: millions of scattered places.
This presence of no god could however carry with it the enticement , the
call . the Wink of an a-dieu: a going to god, or an adieu to all gods-
together, inextricabl y, divine presence and the absence of all gods. The
pl ace-hie et nunc-in place of the god. Perhaps that was written between
the lines of the very principle of ont o theo-Iogy: DeliS interior ifltimo meo;
there is a place more remote than the place of any subject , a place without
substance consisti ng enti rel y of exposed presence, sheer invisi ble brilliance
(eclal) where the subject-God-fl ies into pieces (ecl uts).
34. Why Christianity?
That is to say: why did Hellenistic Judaism, given Roman form, have
to engender that new era by which we once li ved?
In a sense, not hing new came of it, apart from a new configuration for
a Western world already at least ten centuries or so old. St. Paul drains
from the .of He.lI eni stic mystery religions (a language impregnated
at the same time With philosophy, and dating back to Egypt) the thin trickle
wa.ter from one or two marginal Jewish baptisms, and offers it in the
Impenous style of Roman activism to a world given over totall y to morals.
(I mean here in Hegel's sense: the reign of Verslellllng, of a
ceaseless shlftmg between the pragmatic density of the here below and the
of values and wills in the beyond. I also therefore mean it in
Nietzsche s sense: ressentiment against this world, servility, the organization
of weakness-and in addition, work, technology,z .. subj ecti vit y, the modern
which will all nevertheless still have been, to use Heidegger's terms,
mi SSives from being.)
. not come from Christianity: Christianity, on the contrary,
ongmated m them. They are neither reli gious nor philosophical. In phi-
they are a forgett ing of thought, and in religion a forgetting of
dl .. Morals are Socrati c thought without Plato, and Socratic thought
IS the Impiety of Greece without art .
What was new was merely the ordo romanus (which tended both to be
a religion on its own, not to say an absolute religion, and to dissolve in
itself all religion). which provided morals with a frame. In that sense
Christianity was the Empire depoliticized and rendered moral, which is
to say unburdened of strictl y Roman sacrality-and it was morals rendered
imperial, that is, preserved from the adventures that they had after all been
through from the Cynics to the Epicurians (and perhaps down to the
But w.hat then was radicall y new was the twilight of the gods in morals.
the opemng out of humanism and atheism-and the simultaneous invention
of theodicy considered as the general matri x of modern hi storical thinking,
tech.nology, or of politics. Theodicy can only emerge when the god is
m decline and finds himself tangled up, as he deelines , in the affairs of
the world: it is then that he must be justified. shown to be providcnt and
considerate, because the ways of the world and its affairs must be justified.
Theodicy is thinking about meaning and the guarantee of meaning: in this
thinking it engulfs the gods.
Theodicy-that is to say anthropodicy, and logodicy-is the truth of
Christianity. of that religion that abolishes all rel igions and itself- having
completed the task of making the gods odious. II consists in providing the
meaning of morals by means of a morals of meaning: God is resolved into
a justified history (the history of a subject, hi story itself as Subject), and
the ultimate justification of this hi story li es with man coming everywhere
onto the scene in place of the gods.
He is the last species of odious god: the man-God, himself abandoned
by God, the totally secular divinity of humanit y, in its arrogant forcefulness
(in hoc signa vinces) and in its complacent effusions (the Sacred Heart of
Something else was offered simultaneously, however. It was a prayer:
" Let us pray to God to rel ease us and free us from God" (Meister Eckhart ).
This marked the return, in the modern gui se of dialectical thinking, of the
old ordeal of the religion of the God who abandons, the religion that the
Western world looks upon as that of the Jewish people, the people whom
"God had kept aside to be the age-old anguish of the world," and that
was " destined to witness the agony" of the end of the world of the gods
(Hegel). With the Judeo-Christian religion, moral assurance and anguish
at the passing of the gods progressed side by side. Our atheism will (Urn
out to have been inextricably woven from these two strands: morals that
dissolve the gods. and prayer to God to be abandoned by him.
I f we are to pass beyond our atheism one day, it will be because we no
longer even pray to God to deliver us from God.
35. However, Christian faith- not to say Christianit y (but it is advisable
not to have too much faith in that sort of disti nction)-exposed something
else agai n, a thing apart: Christ. That is to say something to be confused
neither with the personage whose moral preaching is told of in the Gospels,
nor with the sublime or bland figure exploited by centuries of piety. Set
apart from the doctrine of the Gospels and from the exploits (fa geste) of
Jesus, Christic theology propounds the mystery of the man-god . This mys-
tery corresponds to the fact that the essence or the instance or the presence
of the man-god is neither the fruit nor the product of any process, of any
operation. It is not a union, and strictly speaking the term " incarnation"
is not appropriate to it. The strict canon of Cat holic fait h lays down that
in Christ "the two natures are not united solely by homonymy, nor by
grace, nor by relation, nor by interpenetration, nor by naming alone nor
by Worship, nor by the conversion of one nature into the other, but through
subsistence (hypostasis)." There is onl y one hypostasis for the two natures
of man and the god. There is neither fusion nor differentiation, but a single
place of subsistence or presence, a place where the god appears entirely in
man, and man appears entirely in god. This is nei ther a di vi nization of
man nor a humanization of God. What there is is this: how man appears
to the god, in the god, how the god appears to man, in man, and how
that itself is lOt all y unapparent.
In Ihis unapparent appearing (parUlion), failh and Iheology (and in
thought) somewhere link up, while religion and philosophy (and
10 phi losophy, theology) turn obslinalely away from Ihis point. AI least
Ihat is one mighl be lempled 10 say, but this opposi tion is tOO si mple:
vam. What the mystery of Christ borders on, that is to say what all
dl vlOe has eventuall y bordered on-from whatever religion we
eXlract It henceforth-this poiOl of the naked appearing (parulion) or the
dis-lodging of man before god and of the god before man, this point of
thei r im-mediacy can no longer be preserved as if il belonged to an order
Of. distinct from an order of reason and of institution. On the contrary.
IS what we must affirm: wilh the gods, fai th 100 has disappeared. That
IS our truth, and against it the evidence of the heart and inward conviction
are powerless: for failh, as long as il is failh, belongs neither to the inward_
ness nor to Ihe feelings of Ihe failhful. Faith is eOlirely an outward acl of
presence (une comparulion a I'exlirieur) , of Ihe order of presence and of
because it is (or was) faith in god, it is (or was) like clearly
turning one s face loward the mani fest heavens.
There is no faith in a vani shed god: as he withdrew he took fait h with
him, for failh had never addressed itself to darkness, but solel y to the
radiance of Ihe divine. What henceforth puts us face to face with the no-
of the gods cannot be a faith, nor even-nor espe-
Cially-a faith In the mystery of this no-ret urn, or this "no god." Faith is
faith in myslery, which is god made evident. Along with the god and with
faith, mystery has withdrawn. There is no more mysterious revelation, no
more mystical revelalion-nOI even Ihe soberesl, most reserved sort, the
sort most given up to its own darkness or its own unapparenlness.
There is in a way a zero mystery (mystere nul), inscribed in the margins
of hol y books, on lemple court s, al the close of the prayers of those who
st ill meditate before the mystery, inscribed also on our artificial suns and
moons, in our caiculalions, and always selfsame with Ihe heavens. This is
much more and much less Ihan a dealh of [he gods, or their absence, or
their withdrawal. It is something else agai n, something totall y different.
Zero mystery means no mystery, and Ihe mystery of Ihere being none. And
always it is a mailer of Ihe appearing (parailre) of the god to man and of
man before Ihe god. This dual appearing is without mystery: everything
has been explained. One has onty to read The Essence of Christianity or
The Future of an lIIusion
! (and it is not worthy of thought 10 took down,
as is very near [0 happening, upon such arguments: for the gods that Ihese
arguments laid to reSI or denounced had themselves long si nce become
unwonhy of thought and of failh) . One has only 10 read De Rerum Nat ura;
it is the poem of clarity wrested from mystery-which promptly plunges
into insignificant obscurit y. BUI there is a myslery-a zero mystery-about
Ihis very claril Y, about this peak of clarity regarding the nature of Ihe Ihings
among which and to which our existences appear. It is a zero mystery:
there is nothing to seek, nor to believe-no god; but it is a mystery: Ihis
closeness of things, this mani fes t world is predsely what conceals itself.
36. (In Ihe end, something resists. To all of the harshest and most justified
criticism of Christianily-of ils polilical and moral despotism, in hatred
of reason as much as of the body, it s instilu[ ional frenzy or its pietistic
subjecti vism, ils traffic in good works and intentions, and ultimately. its
monopoli l.8lion and its privatil.8tion of the di vi ne- to all of that somethlOg
puiS up a resislance, beneat h the hori zon of everything: somelhing that, it
is not impossible to claim, has lin spite of alilhe mumbo j umbo) left upon
the form of the Pater noster-that prayer which Val ery in his unbelief
j udged to be perfecl-a mark that is difficult totally to erase: a generous
abandonment to divine generosit y, a supplication out of that distress 10
which the divine alone can abandon US-I he divine or it s withdrawal.
No doubt something in us resists thai resistance: the tille " Falher"
appears suspect to us; we see only 100 well what this god is modeled on.
But perhaps we see very badly. Perhaps the " Father," for those who made
up this prayer, and for those who prayed ii, was not something paternal
on the lines of our petty famil y affairs; perhaps paternit y was nothing
more, but also nothing less, than Ihe obscure evidence of a naming.
However, in the end, beyond the end if necessary. we can yet bUI say:
the Pater noster is finished, in Lalin as well as in all languages. For we
speak another language than its language of prayer. We speak another
language, one whose names, proper and common, profane and sacred, have
yet-in a still unheard of sense-to be sanctified.)
37. To strive against idolatry presupposes that one has the hi ghest and most
demanding idea of God, or of the absence of all gods. That is precisel y
what shows up the limits of criticism of idols. For in opposilion 10 Ihe
idol Ihere is no idea we can form of God, nor of his absence (apart from
a moral or metaphysical idea, which in essence has nothing to do either
wit h the gods or their absence).
I am nOI proposi ng a return to idols (in any case there is nothing [Q be
proposed). I would merel y posit that idols arc onl y idols wi lh regard to the
Idea. But above and beyond idol and Idea, in the effacement of every God,
be he old or new, it could be that we see emerge, like an Idea imprinled
upon an idol, serene and secret, the unmovi ng smile of the gods.
Their smil e would be there. on Iheir clearl y delinemed lips. They would
not be idols. They would nOI be represent at ions. But the outline of divine
place would be in the smile of Iheir face, a face effaced but exposed, here
or present . offered. open- and barred across. withdrawn by tha! same
This place of gods has no place- though there are archaic statues
tha.t suggest that It does. But it is nOi just anywhere. It is delimited by the
smile of the that thinnest ti ghteni ng of their lips. which do nOi even . In that Singular the smile of the gods-a feature (trait) as
sl.ngul ar as a (tr alf) of the pen-there is this: where the god presents
hl.mself. withholds his di vi ne name and his divine knowledge; but this
appears in hi s smi le as an Idea imprinted on an idol. (Idea
.Idol. undo each other infini tely. All that remains is their speechless.
smliLng. Ideal. and di vine exchange.)
38. "The gods. whose life is nought but joy" (Homer).
. (We too once had a word or a shout for that : Alleluia! Henceforth our
JOy and the thought of our joy wi ll keep themselves more secre!. But when
what concerns us is the gods. or no gods, then we are concerned with
nothing else but joy.)
39. A dual temptation is constantly recurring: either to baptize with the
name of " god" all the obscure confines of our experience (or our thought),
or on the contrary to denounce such baptism as superstitious metaphor.
For as as the Western world has existed, perhaps nOi a single argument
concerning God has avoided yielding to one or OIher of these temptations.
or to both at once. But god is not a manner of speaking-and of
protecllng ourselves-nor is he the ulti mate truth of humankind. Men and
women arc men and women and the gods are the gods. They are disti nct
can never mix. Li vi ng in the same world, they are always face to face
With each other, on ei ther side of a di vi ding-and a retreating-line. They
are, together, the vis-a-vis itself, the face-to-face encounter in which the
appearing (paral,re) of one to the other engages them in an
st rangeness. The gest ure of the gods is to conceal themselves.
on thiS \'ery line, from the face of men. The gesture of men is to stand
back from this line where it encounters the face of the god.
They thus have no names for each OIher. For the gods, man is unname-
able, for there are no names in the language of the gods (it knows only
the summons, the order, the expression of joy). And the name of God,
a.mong men, names only the lack of sacred names. But men and thc gods
find themselves brought together face to face in this way; unnameabl e, and
perhaps absolutely intolerable to each other.
40. God is for the communit y, the gods are always the gods of Ihe com-
munit y-and a community. in ret urn, is whal il is onl y berore Ihe face of
the gods.
" Finite consciousness onl y knows God 10 the extent that God knows
himself in it ; hence, God is spirit . and more precisely he is the spirit of
his communit y, that is to say of Ihose who honour him" (Hegel).
If there are no more gods, there is no more communit y. That is why
community has been capable of becoming horrifying. massive, destruct.ive
of it s members and itself, a society burned at the stake by its Church. its
Myt h, or its Spirit . Such is the fate of communit y without god: it thinks
it is God. thinks it is the devastating presence of God, because it is no
longer placed facing him and his absolute remoteness. But it cannot be
brought back face to face with its vanished gods-the less so in that it is
wilh the withdrawal of the gods that community came into being: a group
of men facing its gods does not conceive of itself as a community. that is
to say it does not seek within itself the presence of what binds it together,
but experiences itself as this particular group (famil y, people. tribe) before
the face of the god who holds and preserves in hi s innermost self the truth
and the power of its bond.
(That is why we should not say that God is for the community. Com-
munity as such indicates that the gods have taken their leave. We should
say rather that the god is always for several people together, including when
he is my god: as soon as I name my god, or as soon as I am summoned
and appear before him, I find myself precisely thereby placed alongside
other mortals like me-which is not to say that they are always those of
my tribe or my people.)
We should therefore rather lead communit y toward this disappearance
of the gods, which founds it and di vides it from itself. Over divided com-
munity, selfsame with its expanse, like a sort of ground plan, the traces
of the paths along which the gods wilhdrew mark out the partition of
community.!6 With these traces communit y inscribes the absence of its
communion. which is the absence of the representation of a divine presence
at the heart of community and as communit y itself. Communion is thus
the representation of what the gods have never been. when they were or
when they are present, but what we imagine to ourselves, when we know
they are no longer present. In place of communion, in fact , there is the
absence of the gods, and the exposure of each of us to the other: we are
exposed to each other in Ihe same way as we could, together, be exposed
to the gods. It is the same mode of presence, wi thout the presence of the
In place of communion there is no place, no site. no temple or altar for
community. Exposure takes place everywhere, in all places, for it is the
ex posure of all and of each, in hi s soli tude. to not being alone. (This does
not only or necessaril y take place at Ihc level of families. tribes. or peoples:
on the contrary, these, as wc know, can all ci rcumscribe solitude. But on
the contrary, because in our great metropolises, where more and more
different "communities" exist side by si de, intersccl, pass each other by
and intermingle, the exposure 10 not being alone, Ihe ri sk of face-la-face
encounter, is constant ly becoming more diverse and more unpredictable_
before whom, at this precise moment, am I wriling? Before what Arabs,
what Blacks, what Vi etnamese, and in the presence or the absence of which
of thei r gods?)
Not to be alone, that is divine (but I shall not say; that is the divine;
that would be another baptism). For the god is never alone: he is always
presenting himself, to Ihe other gods or to mortals. Solilude onl y has
meaning and existence for mankind, not for the god. He is always addressing
himself, assigning himself, sending himself, or else-and it is the same
thing-he is being invoked, or encountered, or worshipped. How are we
nOt alone when we are neither before the gods nor within the bosom of
the communit y? That is what we have to learn, through a community
without communion, and a face-la-face encounler with no di vi ne
41. What if we were to shift the question very slightlY, and instead of asking
" what is Ood?"-a question of essence that it is impossi ble for us to answer,
since God has already provided an answer to the question of essence itself,
and even to the question of "superessence"-we were to ask "what is a
god?" We would not have gai ned very much, no doubt, but at least we
would have gained this: "God" is indistingui shable from hi s own essence;
"a god" would be a presence, a some "one" present -or absent-that is
not simply indislinguishable from divine essence, thai does not represent
it eilher, or individualize it, but thai rather put s it as it were oUlside of
it self, revealing that "a god" does not have "God" or "the divine" as its
essence. Essence here comes to be indistinguishable from the mode of
presence-or absence-from that singular mode of manifesting, hic el nunc.
Q god, never God, the god of one instant, in one place-and so always
another god, or always another place, and no god.
"Come . .. I cannot see you, and yet my heart strains toward you and
my eyes desire you . ... The gods and mankind have turned their face toward
you and weep logether." This is the lament of Isis to Osi ris-I he god whom
the gods themselves cannot percei ve.
"This God who quickens us beneat h his clouds is mad. I know, [ am
he," wrote Bataille. These words count less for their meaning, which is
clear, evident. dazzling, and mortal, than for the impetuousness that bears
them along and in which in their turn they carry me away: in the infinite
anguish or infinite joy al the fact that God is always outside of God, that
he is ne"'er what God himself would wi sh him to be (if in general God
wished anyt hing at all). II is this impetuousness it self-which is not mad.
which is something other than madness-of which we should say that it is
no longer atheist . but indefi nitel y loosed from God in God. and di vi ne
beyond the divine.
42. "/ am God": it is perhaps impossible to avoid this answer, if the
question "what is God?" presupposes that God is a
it does presuppose that-or else it must take the extreme nsk (as
perhaps wished) of givi ng no meaning to the word "God" and laking II
as the pure proper name of an unknown.
If this answer is mad, its madness is no different from that of thoughl
thaI seeks to identify itself, it and its "thing," as subject , as its own
subSlance and its own operation: something that happens continually in
But I cannot answer the question "what is a god?" by saying I am he.
" A god" signifies: somet hing other Ihan a subj ect. It is another .sort .of
thought, which can no longer think itself identical or consubstantial WIth
the divine that it questions, or that questions it.
43. "The gods wen! away long ago," said Cercidas of Megalopolis, in the
third cent ury B. C.
Our history thus began with their departure, and perhaps even afler
thei r departure- or else. when we stopped knowing they were present. .
They cannot relurn in that hi slOry-and "\0 return" has no sense outSIde
of that hi story.
But where the gods arc- and accordi ng as they are, whatever the present
or absent mode of their existence-our history is suspended. And where
our history is suspended. where it is no longer history, Ihat is (0 say where
it is no longer the time of an operation but the space of an opening, there
something may come to pass.
44. "God is something extended" (Spi noza).
Alone among painters of our time. Cy Twombl y ceaselessly paints the
Gods: Apollo, Pan, Venus, Bacchus, others besides. There is ncver a face,
Ihere is oftcn- not always-t he name of the god, writtcn in broad, unsteady
ICllcrs. There is no reall y identifiable outline, though forms do from time
10 timc fleetingly appear: a breast, a sexual organ. a palm. a wavc .. But
al so a lot of patchcs, of lines leading nowhere. And always a lo.t of
Selfsame with every canvas, without there being a face. therc IS a dl vme
smile, secret and serene.
NOIhing is dumb
More than the mouth of a god. (Rilke)
45. face of the .divine is not a count enance (it is not the ot her [aurrUll).
But It IS the matenal, local presence-here or fhere. selfsame wit h some_
where-of the coming, or the noncoming of the god. All presence is that
of a body, b.ut the of the god is a body Ihat comes (or that goes).
!ts. pres.ence }s a face; It IS that before whose face we arc offered, and this
IS In space, as so many divine places. ("My pri nciple ... : in the
nOll on of 'Ood as spiri t', God considered as perfection is denied"
(Nietzsche)) .
46. Naming or cailing the gods perhaps always necessaril y resides not in a
name. even one equipped wi th subli me epit hets, but in whole phrases, with
their rhythms and their tones.
The. gods w.iII go away one day, as mysteriously as they came,
behind them a shell in human form, enough to fool the
beli evers. (Henry Miller)
This is the true hi story of the gods: this fading. The gods: what I
call thus so as to help you. A name. But I do not eall the gods.
They are. (Jean-Chri stophe Bailly)
Gathering toget her the fragments of the di vi ne, even pieci ng
together what will be lacking. (JeanClaude Lescout)
God keep us! And hot Eh? Amen on earth to all phenomena.
What? (James Joyce)
No im.age is The background on ei ther side might be
acceSSIble to the lIVIng .... But it has been clouded over out of
respect, with a dark glaze. He alone-god wishes to be'apparent.
(Victor Segalen)
Every gesture you make repeat s a divine pattern. (Cesare Pavese)
The divine name, li ke an immense bird,
Has escaped from my breast
Before me the wreat hs of a dense fog
And behind me an empt y cage. (Osip Mandelst am)
(when a complete phosphorescence warns)
is linear by nature. (Jean Dai ve)
God shines. man hi sses, echoing the snake. (Victor Hugo)
I sat astri de God in the distant -the close by, he was si ngi ng,
it was
our last ride above
the hedgerows of men. (Paul Celan)
Hybris is the belief that happiness could be anyt hing other than a
present from the gods. (Walter Benjamin)
And our dead hearts li ve with the li ghtning in the wounds of the
Gods. (Norman Mailer)
We all pray to some god, but what comes of it has no names.
(Cesare Pavese)
Then the Gods are seized by dizziness. They stagger, go into
convulsions, and vomit fort h their existences. (Gustave Flaubert)
47. The god expels man outside of himself.
For Lucan, when the god penetrated the Pythia, "mcnt emquc priorem
cxpulit atque hominem toto si bi cedere iussit pectore" (he expell ed all pri or
thought and ordered that she should y,ield herself up wholehearledly to
However. out side or inside of himself, man, insofar as he is the place
of the god (on that account , perhaps, another name than man would suit
him beuer, since we are no longer accustomed to hearing that name as the
name that stands face to face (vis-a-vis) with the name of the god), finds
himself fi rst and foremost in a state of destitution.
It is always in ext reme destitution, in abandonment without shelter or
protection. that man appears, waxes, or wanes before the face of the god.
Wherever he presents himself, God brings about destitution and denuding.
Whether he presents himself or absent s himself- and that is the secret of
God-he denudes man and leaves him destitute.
Destitut ion should not be contrasted with the magni ficence of worshi p
or with the splendor of hymns. All of these, on the contrary, are apt to
reveal the infinite abandonment and fragility of the one who performs the
rites. One might even say: desti tution before the face of the god is the
experience of the templ e.
48. In the temple, Worship, prostration, celebrati on take place. Hieratic
postures, sacred recitations, consecrat ed actions bring us int o contact with
divine mystery, with the nakedness of god himself. The alt ars where accord
ing to ritual sacred substances are touched are always basicall y theatres of
obsceni ty-and places of obscenity in turn are altars: the eye of Horus
between the thi ghs of Pharaoh's wife.
Hencefonh all experience of temple and altar has passed into experience
of the obscene. To name God as Bataille did in the heal of love and in a
brothe]!l is still to yield to a modern temptation. Altars and temples-does
it need repeating?-are deserted. Obscenity, love, their agony and their
ecstasy, have devolved to us alone, as have the dereliction of Dasein or the
disquieting essence of power. There is positively no use wi shing to find or
name the divine in all that : for the gods have lefl it all behind for us.
If I say the divine has desened the temples, that does not mean, as a
ruse of dialeclic is always ready to suggest, that the emptiness of the temples
now offers us the divine. No: it means precisely and literally thai the temples
are deserted and that our experience of the divine is our experience of its
desenion. It is no longer a question of meeting God in the desert: but of
this-and this is the desert: we do not encounter God; God has deserted
all encounter. Let us not precipitately see this as the very sign of Ihe divine.
From all the rit es and all the lirurgies, not the least canticle is left over:
even the belie\ler who prays can onl y QuOle hi s prayer. Not Ihe least gen-
uflection remains. Music, theater, or the dance have taken it all over. That
is our porti on: the fact that the divi ne can no longer find refuge anywhere.
There is no more meditation.
All that remains of the experi ence of the temple or the desert is dest itut ion
before the empt y temples. These are not merel y the temples of the West,
God died in the West, and because of it. he died of the reason and the
poetry of the West, of ilS cupidity and its generosity. of its coldness and
ils ardor, of its hate and its love. More perhaps than of anything else. God
died of the love of God, of that intimacy with man-and to this extent ,
the dead God was still only the God of the West. But everywhere else,
wherever there can be said to be somewhere other Ihan the West, the gods
have long since-perhaps si nce the beginning-exhausted themselves in a
surfeit of signs and powers, in clergies, clans and castes, in the scrupulous
observance and the fi rm tics that form the IWO possible meanings of the
word religio.
If a god can still come, he can come neither from the East nor from
the West, nor through a binh. nor through a decline. (if he comes, he
comes just as much in the rites and the prayers of Ihose who honor gods
as in the indifference and the blasphemy of others. [f he withdraws. it is
just as much from the former as from the laner.) But the mere formulation
of this possibility-"that a god might come" - is devoid of sense. ,Space
is everywhere open, there is no place wherein to receive either the mystery
or the splendor of a god. It is granted us to see the limit[ess openness of
that space. it fall s [0 our age to know- with a knowledge more acute than
even the most penetrating science, more luminous than any consdousness-
OF D[ VINE !'LACES 0 149
how we are delivered up to that gaping naked face. It reveals to us nothing
but us-neither gods f10r mefl - and thai too is a joy.
49. What presents itself is destitution. The only thing we can still receive
into ourselves, aside from all the rest (the erotic, the political, the poetic,
the philosophical. the reli gious) is such a destitution.
We must no longer seek eilher temples or deserts; we must abandon
meditation. We must let ourselves be delivered up to dispersal and desti-
tution. Yet we must not even do this: neither the god nor the destitution
of the god can impose any obligations. God has no part in law. He simply
indicates this: there is no longer any divine meditation. There are the
heavens, more manifest than ever, and there is our destitution, sel apart
from the heavens and the eart h.
Where does this take place? Nowhere, if there is no longer any place
for the gods . And yet it docs take place: we happen to find ourselves
destitute. That opens something up. outside of all places. it makes a spacing
out. If we are in it, we do not stand in it : there is no place there-but we
ourselves are opened up there, parted from ourselves, from all our places
and all our gods. We are in this place, denuded, berore the dest itute (deflul)
face of the god.
50. Does there nOI remain, in spite of everything, a possibil ity that God
may ri se again, once more, and perhaps again and again?
No doubt this possibility exisls, in defiance of everythi ng. It is written
into the most stringent logic of our philosophy, thai is to say into Ihe power
of the negative: that God is nOI "God," that is divine. That is ontothoo-
logical ecslasy, from SI. Paul to SI. Thomas and from St. Thomas to
Eckhart, Luther, and Hegel. Di vi ne is the kenosis whereby God empties
himself of himself, of his separation from man, of his abstract absoluteness.
God is precisely that: Ihe negation of his own particularity, his becoming
man and corpse, and the negation of that negation-his resurrection, and
hi s transfiguration into the universally radiant count enance of his own
mystical body.
But the final resurrection of God left upon this countenance some slrange
features. God is resurrected a fi nal time with Nietzsche, wi th the parodic
and dizzying uttering of the inevi table "I am God" of self-consciousness.
I am Dionysus, the Crucified, and all gods. A sort of monstrous spasm
brings to completion, in Ecce Homo, both Holderli n's frat ernit y of gods
strange to the world and the "simple most intimate knowledge of self"
where in Hegel there resounds " the harsh word that God himself is dead."
God ri ses again, God gambles his own resurrection in the madness of
Nietzsche. which combines the madness of Holderlin with that of Hegel:
the madness of derangement in an exhausted calling to the gods, and the
madness of the ni ght of consciousness that knows the Self as negated ("that
harsh expression is the expression of the most inti mate self-knowledge, the
ret urn by consciousness into the dept hs of the night of Me = Me, which
no longer percd ves or knows anything outside of that night " ).
The last God to ri se agai n went mad. His madness is bot h what ari ses
at the furthest extreme of the cogito: the "ego sum" uttered in the negation
of its own substance- and who)! is sel off, me<:hanicall y, in the infi nite
re<:i ting of the extreme edge of language, that is to say in the impossible
naming of all divine Names, which are lacking. God has become the twofold
madness of the absolute subject of utt erance (I 'enonciolion) and of the
infini te number of subjC(1S of the uttered (I'enonce) in our logos.
His mouth can no longer smil e, his hands can no longer bless. He has
lost charit y as well as sereni ty. Those who can still pray, those who still
understand mercy no longer recognize him.
The madness of God is not a new death. The mad god can no longer
either di e or ri se agai n. He no longer has any freedom. He is fi xed, frozen
in his madness, in the absolute logic of a being ident ical to its own utt erance,
in the implacable aut omat ism of the subjC(t who is himself his own acting
The im-mediat e and incommensurable presence, everywhere manifest and
everywhere concealed, before the face of which we are bereft (denlles) of
discourse and of cogito, is not in turn the negation of the mad God. It
does not have that po, and even if it had, it could not use it , for it
does not take place wit hin the logic of the mad God.
That is why we shall not call this presence " god," we shall not even say
it is divine: we shall not say it- .....e shall leave it to set out the places of
its reserve and its generosity.
51. Divine places, wi thout gods, with no god, are spread out everywhere
around us, open and offered to our coming, to our going or to our presence,
given up or promised to our visitati on, to frequent ation by those who are
not men either, but who are there, in these places: ourselves, alone, out to
meet that which we are not, and which the gods for their part have never
been. These pl aces, spread oul everywhere, yield up and orient new spaces:
they are no longer templ es, but rather the opening up and the spaci ng out
of the templ es Ihemselves, a dis-locat ion with no reserve hencefort h, wi th
no more sacred enclosures-ot her tracks, other ways, other places for all
who are there.
Transla1ed by Michael Holland
I. Jacques Dc-rrida, "Violence aod in Writing ond Dif/efl!nce. traos. Alao
Bass (Chicago: Uoi\'CriI Y of Chicago PI'CS5, 1978). pp. 79- 1B. .'
2. "La juridict ioo du mooarquc in Rejoue Ie (Pans: 1981),
. u_ .
) . Nancy's publ ications in English include, " Larvalus Pro Dco," trans. Damel:-.
in Glyph 2 Johns Hopkins Universil Y Pros, 1977), pp. 14-36; " De,
PTOll'CSSi va," Storl/onf /tolion Rn ie ... 6. nos. 1- 2. Nietzsche in 'to/y. Thomas Hamson,
pp. 199- 208; " VOlt Clamaos in DocrIO," Noiebooks in CII/turu/ Anu/)'s/S \'01. 3, ed. Norman
F: Cantor and Nalhal ia Kiog ( Durham. N.C.: Univftsity Press. ]986), pp. 13- 14;
':ElIi pt ical Sense," forthcomi ng in in Phl'nomt'nology; " Finite History," in Thr Stotes
of (New Yor k: Columbia Unh-nsit y Pl'CSs. t989): " Wild Laughter in t he Throat
of Dealh ," MLN 102, no. 4, 1988, pp. ' 19- )6: " t mreduct ion," in Who Comes rifter t he
Subject?, ed. Eduardo Cadava, Peter Connor, and .kan l,. uc Nancy (New .York : Rout ledge,
1990). "Sharing Voices," in Trons/ormingthr Hermenl'ulic Comext: From NH!tzsche 10 None'Y,
ed. Gayle L. Ormislon and Alao O. Schrift (Albany: Stale University of New York PrtSS,
1989). Sec also the book wit h I' hili ppe Lacoue Labanhe, Thr Literury Absolute. lrans.
Phili p Barrard and Cheryl Lester (Albany: Stale Uni\'eni lY of New York. Press. ]988). aod
lhe forthcoming lranlat ion (Sl ate Universit y of New York l' ress) of thclr book on Lacan,
1.1' litre dl' l(l lellfl'. The Stan ford Uni\'ersil y l' ftSS is also pft pariog a (ol1e<:tioo of essays in
tr anlation under the ti tle The Bi"h 10 I'N'Sl'nce.
4. We see a par ticularl y "h' id e:u mple of Ihe gap 10 "'hich I am referring in Nancy's
re<:em essay on freedom, Le.t.l1hiel1t:e cit' 10 ( I' aris: Galilee, 1988). On 107, . he
.... riltS, " A polit ics- if Ihis ....ere 5till a poli t ics- of init ial freedom ....ould be a politiCS
freedom to begin." On page 109. while poioli ng 10 lhe igns of such a nOl ion of In
Hegel's thought . he wri tes: "Theft is oOl hing upon .... hich freedom depends, Ihat,condltl ons
it or thaI renders it possible- or ncsS3ry." The gap begins to appear already In the first
phrase:. bet ....ttn "politics" and "politics": it then "'idens as Nancy arglK'S that tile politic5
in quntion can no causal relation to iu ost ...nsible objecl. Freedom (an e;. ... nt that Nancy
lias defined as "roming into tM pl"C"('nce of e:o;iSlence" Who COllin tljter
lhe Subjec-t.1}), like community. is not can be prodll(:ed or that can be guaranlttd
"'ith any pragmat M: poli t ics. It is "'hat ... "OUld be called in traditional philosopllical terminoloay
a "transcendental": tile condition of any fret' poli t ical act or an)' fret' clloicc of pragmatic
objecti,"tS. Tlit lerm "transcendental:' howe;.w. is mi sleading because this tran.$Cendental
condition is radically lIistorical and cannot be thought apan from ilS inscription in 1M fini tc
acts it makn pouible (jUSt as "communi t )" cannOi be thought as subsisting som ........hcTt
beyond the singular acts by .... hicll it b. dra .... n out and communicated). It is thus "'hat Dtrrida
lias called a "quasi tran.$Cendental" : somctlling that comn about and is marked in a practice
of writing (in a large sense of this term tllat embraces acts of all kinds). but that resists any
lepresentation or objectirtcation.
S. Indissociable in prindple. I ....ould say, with all due camion. We toucll lIere upon a
llt'Cessity to "'hich Heid ..."er pointed throughout his ""01"k before the Second World War (()fJe
of the key poinlS of wllat I ... ould call his political thougllt. and indeed of th ... key point$
of a thought of finitude): namely that a fundamental questioning. as Heide"er defin ...s it in
thc first chapt er of his essay. An Imroduclion to Melaphysics (trans. Ralph Manheim [New
Ha\'Cn : Yal e Uni"ersity Press, 19591). is inseparabl e from a sociohistorical and sociopolilical
stance: a decision aboul one's history (Heid"'gger defined this "one" as a IH'OIJ/el that must
be understood as poli t icol. e;.'Cn if political phenomena are in turn read in relation 10 the
history of Being. The relation asserted here bet"'ecn the "ontic" and III ... "ontological" is
what I referred to abo\'C as a "gap and a bridge"; it remai ns in large Ill('asure to be thought
in political terms. but it demands our an ...ntion toda)'. as ... e sec from the reemergence of the
quntion of Heilk-gger's politics in the context of a larger concern (elll('rging. we might say.
nudtrliglich) "'ilh the questions of nationalism and fascism.
6. Let me anticipate thb di scussion by saying that in focusing on the problemalic of
language. I .... ill be tOll(:hin, upon ... hat I lake to be one of thc crucial implications of Nancy"
thinking (and deconstruction in fOf" any philosophical or literary prac:tia:-any domain
where act ivity bean upon tlit order of the symbolic. A meditation on languag ... in tilt contOI
of a thou,hl of difference and iu bearing on politics will suggnt tllat a politically effecliVE
language in tllese domains is a languag ... tllat inltn'tntS in lunguuge (laflluage underslood
litre as the site of art iculation of our being-in-rommon, and thus the si te of its historicity).
This view of pllilosophical or literary praxis implin that tlit dfort to politici1.t critical discoul"$I!
must fTlOorc tllan an increasing tlltmalization of political iS5utS. This thtmatizal ion is
for political purposo, and in this rnpeet tile current shift of allenlion 10 history
and to political tllemes is an e:o;trelll('ly important and val uable ckv ...loplll('nl. But I ....ould
ar,ue Illat this turn in critical thought must be accompanied (and tllis may be one of tlit
conditions of escapi ng the foren of the academy) by a meditation on the cootlitions
under "'hich a discourse can ...ngage "'i th what is al Slake in politK:s along ... i,h practical
political "'01l(:ern5 and i un as social justice: nalll('l ) .... xistence in it s historicily and
materialilY. or the tntuning of social exist ...n<:e.
7. It is worth nOling Ihat a large port ion of the ... ork I am eommenting upon here was
intended for a broad public. The difficulty of the Ihought in qunt ion ( .... hich d"'rivn primarily
from th ......... ight of tradition) and tile economy of Nancy's style of h:I\"'" tended 10
frustrale lIi s aim of writing for a communit y beyond tile university. Out it remuins !rue that
essays likc "Tlltorie CI pratique"' (init iall y prepared for Le ,\.Iontle. but nOt and
works like L'oubli de lu philosoph;'" (Paris: Galilee. 1986) and Lu commlUluull tlbOf'II\'rk
were addrn scd to the lIeneral public. In fact, it might be observed that Nancy eonsistently
takes hi s from polil K:al or !-IXi al concerns ll1al are in lhe air (this was much
the case: wi,1I the ... orks eontained in tllis \'olume: lo'e. religion. and myth ha,'c "current"
topics ewer tlit pasl decade). Nancy docs not take up eurrent themes in order to kttp up witll
intellectual fashion. ho .....e;.er; he is atldrnsing tM concern .... itll topics-atlempting 10
think through the reasons (philosophical. but also sociollistorical) for their cUlTCncy.
II. This theme is already presenl in "The Origin of tile Work of Art" in Heidegg
description of lhe "'a)' Iruth is .. dra .... n to the .... ork ... Set pp. 60-66 of Albert HofSladter's
translation of Illis nsay in Poelr)\ Lunguagl', Thoughl (Nev-' York : Harper and Row. 19711
9. I migllt note thai til ... concept of abo an importanl rok in Heickuer's
later thought. See. for the openin, paragraphs of 11eideuer's ('Ssay, "Th ... 1O$5COCe
of Language." in On Ihe lI'ay 10 Lrmguogt. trans. Peter I). liertz (Nev-' York: Harper and
Row. 1971). pp. 57-59. (Hertz translatn tile li lle of Illis essay "The Nature
10. Nancy's emphasis on the raclicit) of exptriel1l:e warrants some emphasIs here. smce [(
is .....idel)" tllought that a discourse (or a thought of dissol\"tS the
id ...ntity of the subject and suspends it s relation to the ... orld. Nancy makn it evident, howe;.cr,
Illat deconstruction is concerned with precis the subject's relation to and to ....hat is
(il s relati on to us a relation to ... hat is: not in the mode of a founding. ra.ther in
that or an opcning)-it represc:nts an effort to O\'en,:olll(' an abstract concept of and
to think the subjects exposure to "'hat is other thall it. Deconstruct ion auempls to th1llk the
openi"g of Ihc subject 01110 the ... orid. and the opening of tile ... orld (a spatiOiemporal
di sposit ion) that both determines and is determined by the subject's int ...rv ...ntion ("writing."
iY.."rimre. designates nothing else). In a Heidcggerian terminology. t llis means that deconst ruc-
tion is with tile subject's testasis, or "finite transcndence."' and ... ith truth. und ...r
stood as thc opening of a time and a space "'herein beings ha\'e a m ...aning and are available
to representation. . .
II. Set Martin Htickgg ...r. "What is Metaphysic,?" trans. David Farrell Krell, 111 Basrr
Writings (Ne ..... York: Harper and Ro ...... 1977).
12. See. on this point. Nancy's di seussion of tvil in tile concludi n, pagn of Lexper;"'nce
de III
n. Since Nancy to define thought as to\'C in "ShaueTed Lo-.c" ("the love of wllat
comes 10 "'C might be prompted to ask ... hcther rreedom should not be ckfi,ned
as being in pari tile capacilY ror to\'C (though a capacit y not in our But . IO\.'C
also be thought as SOI"Iltthin,that us to our freedom in the that to\'C IS a passIon
tllal seizes Dasein and calls it OUI. I could not tlit relation btt .. Io-'e and freedom
morc precisely than by sa)' ing that is a s;nglliar txperif'nce of frerdom. This is ... hat
Nancy means. I belie;.c, ....hen hc speaks of " tile frttdom of Io-'C."'
14. Cited on p. IS.
15. Citorgn Bat aille. "Nietzschean Chronicl .... " in Visions of xctss: S4'lected Writings.
1917-19J9. trans. Allan Stockl (Minneapolis: Universit y of Minnesota 1985). p. 208.
16. Tile question of community something like a limil in Nielzsche's tllought .
BUI I ... ould argue that .... lIat NiCIl.5Che is tllinking .... ith tile term "soli t ude" ( .... lIich he uses
to describe his own ClIpericnce first of all) is nothing other t han an C)Iperieoce of thc grounds
of community as Nanc)" is tryillg to define them. It is on this basis tllat Matailte claimed him
a\ a companion.
17. See paragraph 47 of Heidegger. Ul'ill g ami Time. John Macquarrie and
Edward Robinson (New York : Harper and Row. 1962).
18. Ibid . p. 294.
19. Unless Heide"er means by "undone" the dissolution of defined social or political ties
and Ihe opening of "'hat BlanchO! might call a "relation without rdation" and what Nancy
calls "communiIY"
20. Christoph('T" Ueidegger: Thoughl (lnd Historki,y (Ithaca. N.Y.: Cornell Uni.
Prns, 1986), chapter I.
21 . Mauri Blaochoc, "T ...o Versions of the lmaginar)"," trans. Lydia Davis, in The Gau
of Orpheus (Barrytown, N. Y.: Station Hill Press. 1981), pp. 82-8S.
22. Maurice Blanchoc, The Un(lI'O""'(lble Community, trans. Pierre Joris (Barrytown, N.Y.:
Station Hill Press, 1988). p. 2S.
23. In this respect, I cannot Mlp but remain slightly punled by Nancy's use of a term
li"e or terms .....ith a Blanchotian cast. One can 5Ce
how Blanchot .....ould de>"Clop tM term in relation to his meditation on death and tM neutral
and in st rnSinllhe community'S undoing, one can see how he might call upon his notion or
1M quocidian . But to my kno .... ledge. Nancy ncver explores thC"SC senses of in
any of his wrilin,s. I .....ould hal'e to say that whether ....e underMand the term in a Blanchoi ian
sense or el"Cn in a more everyday sense, "idlcnns" is not part of Nancy's uruicrstandin, of
communit y (and if 1 may say SQ, the term is profoundly forei,n to hi s way of bein, in Ihe
....orld). Nancy is dri"en to write because the community (or its concept) has grown idle, and
if he trin to turn disoeuvf('mem imo an active trait of the community he is trying to think,
....e must surel y understand this "activi ty" more: as an un working (a praxis that is nOt a
production: the key term is " ....ork") than an undoing. Let me insist thlt I 1m not makin,
a critique here. I am trying to gel at the "pi tch" or tonality of Nancy's work: the di stinctive
trait s of his gesture of thougtll as it proceeds from and articulatn a singular experltllfe of
freedom and community.
24. Nancy. L'oubli de /a philosophic, p. 81.
2'. Ibid., p. 86.
26. "lIIeoning , .. is the dement in whkh there can IN significations, imerpretations. rep-
resentation ... . The clement of meaning is given 10 us ...... e are SCI. placed, or thrown in It as
into our most proper possibility, that possibi lity that distinguishes from any other the idea
of a signifICant world and the fact of this .....orid (since the idea and the facl are Slricll y
rontemporaneQlI$ in this case). A signiflCam ....orld is a ....orld offered to comprehension.
explication, Of" interpretalion before hal'ing any signifICation. Our ....orld is a ....orld presented
as a ....wld of meanin, before and beyond any constituted meaning .... The presentation of
ils meaning, or il s presentation in meaning. this nemenlQrity of meaning occupies. in a ...ay.
the place of schematism" (ibid., p. 91).
27. Ibid.
28. "Freedom as the forcr of 1M Ihing as 511Ch. or as the force of the act of docs
not cJ.csi, nate a force opposed 10 or combirtcd with the other forces of nature. It dni,natn
ralher that on the basis of ....hich there can exist relations of force as such, bet .....een humankind
and nature and bet .....een human bcinp. It is the force of force in general, or t he '"Cry rniSlanee
of the cxiSlence of the thing-its resistance to absorption in immanent !king or in the succession
of changes. A tranS(:endental force, consequently. but as a material dftivity. Becallse uis
lellCl' as such has il5 being (or il5 thing) in the act, or, if you will. in the prQ)lis of cxiSlin"
it is not possible not to rognize in it the crfti,"C characler of a force, .....hich implies for
thought something like a transcendental materialilY of force, or. if you prefer, 311 ontological
maleri ality" (Nancy, L'expirkncr de la pp. 132-33).
29. Ibid .. p. 88.
10. Ibid., p. 96.
31. Ibid., p. 82.
32. Heidegger allempu to think Ihis movement with the phrasc "S gibl"- "S. lias /l Qr/,
gibl"; .....hat the ....ord gil"Cs, with itself, is the "is:' S "The Essence of Language," p. 88.
33. For Ihe theme of the Gef/eehl. sec the essay. "The Way 10 Language," in On Ihe If flY
to Lungllugf".
34. The concept appears prominentl y in Hcideg.gers definition of ....hat he means by pile.
nomenolog)": "Our investigation itsclf will show that the meaning of phenomenological descrip-
tion as a method lin in interpretation IAus/egung; Nancy adopt s the FT\'nch translation.
"e.xp/ici/(llion',. The logos of the phenomenology of Dasein has thc character of a herlllf"-
neuein, through ....hich the allthentic meaning of !king. and also those basic structures of
Being that Dasein itself possesses, arc moM known lkundgegebtnlto Oasein's undeT$tanding
of Being. The phcnomenolo8)" of Dasein is a ,,"menf"u/ic in the primordial sense of this
....ord ...... here it designates this businns of interpreting" (Bting (lnd Time, pp. 61-62).
35. Martin Heidegger. 'A Dialogue on Lan,uage," in On the Way /0 Language, pp. 1-
36. See Nancy, "Of Beingi n,Common," in Community (It Loose Ends, ed. Miami Theory
Colltive (Mi nneapoli s: Unh'crsilY of Prns. forthcoming).
37. Here, authors such as Habcrmas and ROf"t y meet as allies. Thc inl oleranee sho ... n by
these authors vis.a.vis mIlCh m()(krn Frcrtch ...or .. (particularly when il takn on a political
cast) has to do in part wilh thc fact Ihat what i$ It sta"e in this ...ork is a thought of the
social or political bond and a thollght of language (with implications for the practice of
philosophy) that radically challenges the nOlions of communicllion and consensus pursued
by them.
38. Hcidegger points to the paradox in which .....e arc turning here when he describes the
..... ay in ..... hich the ....-ork of art "demands in selling up" ("The Origin of the Work of Art."
p. 44). Heidegger's argumcnt implies Ihat the artist (like the "prescrv('T"") ans to ala .....
that initially opens in thc ....or .. .
39. Let me specify that I am IIsing the term "wri ting" here to designate the practice that
traces out the "writing" that is the yoice of communit y (described hcre as a "preS(:ription").
"Writing" carries a double sense because the practice and the prescription are indis.sociablc
from one another: the laller happens in the former, and the structure of this relation is one
of TqlC\ition (one will find a similar double usage of the lerm in Dcnida's texts). In my
discussion of 'Of Di"inc Placn," I will be focusing primarily on the more originary sense
of tM term (in which " .....riting" names the original tracing QUt of a differential articulation).
But il should be recalled that this ori,inary tracing must be drawn 0111 (i n a gestUT\', or in
a text: it can be in any form of sianifying act) in erik, 10 011'-
40. Sec the nsa)'s on Blanchot collccted in Paroges (Paris: 1986). as ....ell as "D'un
tOn apocalyptique adoptl en philosophic," in Les/ins de /'homme: A partir du lravail
de Jacques De"ida (Paris: 1981), pp. 446-79, and 'En ce moment menlC dan5 CCi
oU"rage mc void," in Tex/es pou' Emmunuf"/ Lb';naJ (Paris: JeanMichcl Place, 198O),
pp. 21-60.
41. S Heidegger's nsay "Language" (the first essay in the German edition of On lhe
Iloy 10 Lllnguage) in Pottry, Langlillge, Thoughl. trans. Albert Hobtadtcr (New York: Harper
and RO'N, 1971), pp. 189-210.
42. A translation of the Remar"s" is available in Friedrich H6lderlin, 5sIlYs and Lellff.S
on Throry. ed. and trans. Thomas Pfa u (Albany: State Uni"ersity of New Yor" Press, 1987),
pp. 101 - 16.
4). In discussions with various readen, Nancy has come to recognize that he actually ....em
a bit tOO far in this experi ment- for thc text inevitubl y gives the imprcssion of a greater
religiosity than is appropriate. Thus I .....ould IIntkrscore a point that is already dear in thi s
essay, bUI that may require greater emphasis: Nancy's essay is an "experiment" ....ithout faith-
une saIlS fo;.
44. In intcrpreting this smile. and in seeki ng to presen'c it from any sentimental associat ion,
I cannot but rall Celan's lincs: "Entmiindigte l.ippe rndde/ das et noch geschict, noch
immt'r,lunwt'it \00 dir." In Pit'rrt' Joris's Hanslation: "UnmOlJlhed lip. announce,/that some.
thing's happening, still, / not far from )'01,1,"
I. As C'\'ery of Blanthot kno"'5, the Frendl dt!:soeulrtmtn/ does not ha\'e any
adequate t r1lrulation in English. The of tilt' 1\IOrd in this book is explained on paae JI.
There- and throughout tilt' whole chapter- the ""'ord is translated by "unworking," as in
Pierre JoriS'5 translation of Blanchol's Lrt rommunrtull (TM UnuV(JM'ub/e Com.
muni/y, Barryto., .. n, N, Y.: Stat ion Hill Press, 1988), Pierre Joris thanks ChriSlopher Fynsk
for suggesting "un",orkilll ," and ""'e tOO ",ould like to express our gratilude 10 him for his
helpful and amicable guidanct' in the prcsc:m translation.
Another po$sible translat ion, by Ann Smock in The Writin, oj the Disusler (Lincoln:
Uni\'ersity of Nebraska Press, 1986) and The 0/ Literrt/ure (Lintoln: University of
Ncbr1lska Press, 1982), is "ullC'\'entfulness," which emphasizes the fact that the work doesn' t
happen as such ",ithout its own withdrawal. a notion also helpful for the understandi ng of
t he thinking of "community" here. Ho"" C'\w, nei ther O/IC of these " translat ions" or substitutes
was deemt'd suitabl e for t he titl e of t he book, since a title ought not to infl ict upon the reader
an unrecogniuble word. Therefore we decided for the title to shift the emphasis of the meaning
a lilLie by choosing The illoperalive Comml/llily.
2. As well as other text s, ",riILen after these'. See especially L 'exphience de /a 1i1N1'l1
(Paris: Galilh, 1988). forthcoming in English from Harvard Uni-'euity Press; "Fini te History,"
in The Siules 0/ Theory (New York: Col umbia Unh'ersi t y Press, 1989); and "Abrege philo-
sophique de la rholution in Po&.sle, no. 48 (1989).
I. The Inopel'1lUve Communily
1. Georges Batlille, (kUI'res Comp/ttes. vol. I (Paris: Gallimard. 1970). p. 332, Sub-
SC'quent refC11:nctS to this ""'ork are indicated in tilt' text as D.C.. and page number.
2, Considered in detai l. taking into account the precise' historical conjuncture of each
instlnce. this is not riaorously exact IS regards, for example, t he Hungarian Counci l of '56.
and C'\'en more so the left of Solidarity in Poland . Nor is it absolutely oact as re,lrd. I II of
the diSCotlrses held today: one mi,ht, in thi s I'eSpCCI alone, jU:lltapose the situltionim of not
so lon, ago wi th cert ain ISpCCIS of Hannah Arendt's thought and also, as stran,e or provocltive
as the mi:llture might appear, certain propo$itions adyanccd by Lyotard, Badiou. Ell ul, Dcleuzc.
Pasolini, and These thoughts occur, although each one engages it in it s own particullr
"'ay (and ""'hether the)' knO'll' it or not), in the wake of a Marllist C'\'ent that I will
try to characterize below and that signifies for us the brin,ing into quest ion of communist
or communitarian humanism (quite different from the questionin, once undertaken by Althus
se'r in the name of I Marllist science), This is also ",hy such propositions communicate wi th
what I shall tentativcly and in spite of "l iterary communism."
3. Georges Bataillc, Inlll'r experience. trans. Leslie Anne Boldt (New Yor k: State Uni
versit y of New York Press, 1988), pp. 108- 9,
4. Michel Henry's readi ng of Marll, .....hich is oriented around the conceptual reciproci ty
of the "i ndiYidual" and "immanent life," bears witness to this. In this regard. "by princi pl e
the individual ecsapes the power of the dialectic" (Michel Henr y. /If"rx (Paris; Gall imard,
1976J. vol. 2, p. 46). This might permit me to preface e\'eryt hing I h.\'e to say with the
follo .....ingaell('ral remark : thcre arc two ways of escaping the dialectic (that is to say mediation
in a totali t y)- either by slipping away from it into immanence or by opening up iu ncgat ivity
to the pOint of rendering it "unw'orked" (di$()('uI'ri), as Bataille puts it. In this lall er case,
there is no immanence of ncgati vity: "there is" f'Nlasy . ecstasy of knowledge as well as of
history and eommunily.
5. " l.e oommunisme Ins ht ritlge," revue 1968. in Grrtmmu no. 3/ 4 (1976).
p. For the moment , let us retain si mpl y that "l iterl ture," here, must al.' ,not be
taken in tnc sense' Bataille ga\'e to the ",,'ord ""'hen he wrote, for (In hIS crmque of
Inner and Guilty ): " I ha\'e come to realize through expenence that books
lead those' who read them into complacenty. They plea!oC mlt often Iho!oC
minds ",ho want to flee and sleep and salisfy themse'h'C'!i .....ith the ncape provided by
(D.C. 8:S83), He al so SpOke of the "sliding into impOltnl:e of thought that t urns to hterature
7. See chapter 5, "Of Diyine Places." . . .
8, See J .. L, Nancy. "La juridiction du monarque htaelien," in Rejouerll.' po/lllqut
Galilh. 1981). Translation forthcoming in Thf' Bil'lh 10 Prestnce (Stanford: Stanford Umversny
Press). .. " P: C 'S in
9 See Philippe Lacouc:l.abarthe. "Transcendence Ends in POhllCS, trans. . aw.
Typog'rUPhy: /Ifiml'Sis. Philosophy. Politics, ed . C. Fynsk, Harvard Uni\'ersity Press, 1989.
pp. 267.300, and G. Grane!. " Pourquoi avoir publie cela?" in De (Toulouse:
= R _
10 Except For Deni s Hollier, already in Lu prise de /0 COllcorde (pam: a lmar. .
, .. Mrticular .....ith the publication of Colltge de socia/ogle (Paris: Gallimard. 1979), Enghsh
an tn .. _ U ' . fM' nota
transl ation by Betsy Wing. The College 0/ Sociology (Minneapohs: nm:r.stt
0 . f
Press. 1988), More recently, Francis Marmande lias published a ellamonallon 0
Batailk's pOl itical preoccupat ions, See Georzn BOluille poliliquf' (Pans:
II. But it is unfortunately in the name of t he moSt convent iona.1 political or moral alllludcs
that the most haughty-and the most vain- eritiques of fascism llself and of those' ..... ho had
to confront its fascinat ion are undertlken.
12. See, for example, D,C. 7:257.
13 See for example, D.C. 7:312. .
14: I the term "communication" in tilt' manner of Bataille, that is to sa)',
the pattern of a pemIIInelll violence done to the ""ord's .both because 1\ Imphes
or inlersubjectivit y and because it denotes the trlnsml$5I01l of,a
. R' this .....ord is umenable, I retain it because it resonatcs WIth "communIt y.
meanlllg. . . rd" h . "
but I would superimpose UpOn it ( ..... hich sometimes means SuMl1Iute for II) the wo s.
Bataille ""'as aware thaI the violente he had innicted upon the contept of "communICallon insuffICient: "To tlt' isolrtlrd. romml/nkulion. ha\'e only one: N:') ..' .. do there
exist 'isolated beings' who do not communicate, nor is there a 'commumcauon
of poi nts of isolation. Let us be careful to SC'I aside t .....o poorly made contepts, the
of pucrile beliefs; by this means ""'e ",,ilI eut through the most poorly const ructed problem
(D.C. 7: 553). What this calls for. in short. is the of the. concept. , sueh has
Jaequcs Dcrrida has undertaken in "Signature. Event. Context, In /Ifurgms 0/ Phl/osap y,
trans. A. Bass (Chicago: Univer sit y of Chicago Press, 1982). and such as it h:u
in another manner. by Gilles Delcule and Guallari ("I'ostulato of LmgulsllcS. In A
Thousand P/me{,lltx. trans. B. Massumi [MinneapOlis: Unh'ersity of Minnesota Press. 1987]).
. f . "on in and o/tlle
These operations necessaril y enLlli l a lencral reeva uallon 0 commUlllCll t .
community (of spea:h. of litcrature, of of the image. etc.). in respect to which the
currenl use of the term "communication" can onl y be provisional and preliminar y, .
15 . Ahhough alilhe qucstions concerning tcrritory, frontiers, local of kmds-
urban distri bution for .....ould ha\<e to be rethought in accordance w'llh thts.
16. This is not unrelatcd 10 thc opposition drawn b)' Hannah Arcndt between !"C'\'olution
of re' .. oIutions of equality. And in Arendt, also. thc fruitfulness of thc
limited after a ccrtain point and not entirdy congruent with othcr delll('nts in hc
thinking. r
I: . On the,other hand. in the bourgeois world , "'hose "confusion" and " helplessneSl"
perfectly well, the uneasi neu O'o'C:r communi ty has made felt in many
ways Since 1968, but most oflen in a nai\'C, indeed puerile way, caught up in the $arne
"confusion" that reigns over ideologies of communion or con\ivialil).
18. Georg Wi lhelm Friedrich Hegd, The ' )hl'nomenolov of Spirit. trans. A. V. Miller
(O.lford: Oxford University Prcss, 1977).
19. JacqLICS Delrida, "From Rest ricted to General Economy," in W, iting and Dif!erellC'l',
Irans. A. Bass (Chicago: Uni''Crshy of Chicago I)ress. 1978), pp. 251-77,
20. cr. Bernard Sichere's umarb in " L'erotislll(' sou"crai n de Georgn Bal ainc," Tel QIII!I,
no, 93.
21. Goorges Bal aille. Erotism. lIans. Mary Dalwood (Sa n Francisco: Chy Lights Books
1986). '
22. Conccrning Il'IOre specifICally the cxhaus.tion of religion, is<< Marcel Gauchet, U dts/!n.
chQntemf'nI du mOflde Waris: Gallimard. 1985).
23. And as it on, in one in the Dc:ieudan thelll(' of haeceily, which,
in anot her sense, turns UPOIl the theme of "singularity."
In this sense, the compearaoce of singular beings is anterior e\'en to the preliminary
condmon of language that Heickgger undcrstands as prelinguistic " interputalion" (AW'.
Irgung), to which I refcrred the singularity of ,'oicn in "Sharing Voices," in Tf'Q/Jiforming
Ihe Herml'nf'ulic Comat, ed. Gayle L. Ormiston and Alan D. Sehrifl (Albany: SUNY Pm!,
1989). Contrary to "'hat this essay might lead one 10 think, the sharillg of \'oicn does not
lead to communil y; on the contrary, it depends 011 this originary sharing that commllnity
"is," Or this "originary" sharing itself is nothing other than a "sharing of \'Oices,"
but the ""olCe" should be understood not as linguistic or e\'en prelinllliMic, bul as
commllni larian.
25. See JeanLuc Nancy, Ego sum (Pari s: Flammarion, 1979).
:!-6. I do not include the political here. In the form of the State, or the ParlY (if not t he
State Pany). it indeed is<<ms to be of the ordcr of a "'Ork. But it is perhaps at the hear! of
the political t hat commllni tarian Iln"" or king mists. I will come back 10 this.
27. cr. Martin Bring and Timt>, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson
(New York : Harper and Row, 19621. paragrapll 47.
:!-8. Ibid .. paragraphs 47 and 48.
:!-9. It is no doubt also anterior 10 Girard's "mimetic desire." Both I kgd and Girard
pmuppose at bottom a subject who knows all about rccosnition or joui$$QIIC'l'. Such a
"knowledge" presupposes in turn the passional communication of si ngularit irs, thc e.\pcriencc
of the .. fello .... creature."
30.0.C. 1:486. 489: and Georges Balaille, Visions of Excess; Se/t'C'If'l1 Writings, /9]7.
/919, ed. Allan StlX'kl, trans. Allan StlX'kl "' ilh Carl R. LO'o'ill and Donald M. Leslie, Jr.
(Minneapolis: Uni\'ersity of Minnesota Press, 198'1, pp. 208. 210. (Translation modified .)
JI. There is perhaps no better tC'Stimony to this nscntial, archi-t'Sscntial resistance of Ihe
community-.... hose affirmation dot's not stem from any "opt imism." but from truth, and
whose trulh stems from the of limiu- than Robc: rt Antelmc's atcouni of his
capti .. ity in a Nui cOI1l,.'Cntralion camp. Let me these lines. among others: "The morc
the SS beliC\'l'S us to be reduced to indistinction and an appearaocc .... c
undoubtedly gi\'C, thc more our commllni ty in fact contains di stioctions. and the mar'C strict
the.w: di stinctions are. The man of tile camps is not the abolition of his differencC'S. On the
contrary, he is their effecti\'c real i13lion." And t he resistancc of commllni t y has to do "'ith
the faet thai sinSular death impo.w:s its limit. It is death that makC'S the un .... orking: "The
dead man is st ronger than the SS. The 55 cannot pursue ooc's friend into death .. ,' He toucilcs
a limit. There are mOlnents .... hcn onc could kill oneself. if only to force the SS to run lip
agai nSI the limi t of the dead obja:t onc .... ill ha\'e become, the dead body that turns its back,
that has no reSard for [he law." Sec L'espkt humaint> (Paris: Gallimard . 19'7).
n. On thc notion of lost, Jcan Luc Nancy, "Din irac" in LaflXuflt tk jugf'f' (Paris:
'- l inuit, 1985).
H . Sec n" Differend: Phrosf'S in Dispule, trans. Cirorges Van
Den Abbe-ell' (Minneapolis: University of i\ l innesota Prns. 1988).
34. I am leaving aside here co,nnlunit y aa:ording to the ani st, or rather accordi ng to "the
SO\'Creign man or art." Bataille's affront to wcicty and the State comes most e)lpreuly and
cominously from the eommunity of lovers. But the commllnication or the contagion il rep-
resents are at bottom those of the commllni t y in thc "SO\'ereian abandon of art"-remO'o'l'd
from any aest heticism and C\'en from any aesthetic "abandon." This .... ill be taken up latcr
in a discussion of "literature."
35. Faced with the impossibility of referring w ldy 10 t he erotic or libidinal relation,
e\'Cn in a sublimated form, Freud introdllCCd [hat ot her "affecti''C'' Tl'lation, ... hich he named
"ident ification." The question of community in\'ol"'CS all the problems of ident irlCation. Sec
Philippe Lacoue Labart he and Jean Luc Nancy, "La pallique polit ique" in C"OIljrof! '
IUtiOrlf. no. 2 (1979), and "The Jewish Peopl e Do Not Dream," t rans. It Holmcs, Part I of
" Thc UTlCons.ciolls Is Ontruc[ured like an Affect," in SIQrtlO#'d LiIf'rQture Fall 1989,
pp. 191 209.
36. But Hegel knew this: This unit y [the childl , howC\'C:r, is only a point. a seed; the 1000'Crs
cannot contribute anything to it. ... EltCrythins which S;"'Cs the newly bcsotlen child a manifOld
life and a specirlC existence, it must draw from itsclr." In a simi lar "cin, he writes: "Since
1o>'C is a s-ensi ng of somcthina living, Io>'Crs can be di stinct from one anothcr only insofar u
they are mortal" ("The Spiril of Christ ianity and Its Falc," in On Christ ianity: Eorly Thr-
%gH:a/ W';l ings. trans. T. M. KnOll IChica,o: of Chicago Press, 19481. pp. J.07,
2. M)'lh Inl t rrupted
I. One ,,'OUld ha,'e to name far tOO many of them. if one .... anted to be complcte. Let
us IiaY that the complete ",/Sion of Ihis scene has be-en elaborated from Herder to OliO,
passi ng through Schlegd, Schelling, Gorres, Oachofen, Wagner. et hnology, !'reud, Kereny;'
Jolles, Cassirer .... Nor should we forget. in t he beginning, Goethe, whose mytho-Iogico-
narratl\'C Thf' TQ/e is in sum the archet ype of the modct'n myth or myth. Reccntl y,
a German theoretician has pthered and react ivated all the ,rand traits of Ihis scene. picking
lip again t he romantic appeal to a "new (and he, tOO, milln into it, as one mi, hl
the motif of an end of mythology or, more c)lactly, its selfsurpassing): Manfred Frank,
Der tOIl/Illende GOII (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1982). BUI Ihe strains of the mythological mot if
are to be heard prelly much e\'ery ... -here Ihco;c last
2. Claude LeviStraun. The View from Afar, trans. Joachim Neugroschcl and Phoebe:
Hoss iNew York: Books, 1985), p. :!-19.
J. Sec Sigmllnd Frcud, Group l'3:ych%gy unci Ihe AlloIY$i$ of Ihe Ego. app. B. in The
Sla,l(/ard Edilion. ''01. 18.
4. Marcel Det ienne. L'in''('nfion de la m)'lhologie (Pari s: Gallimard, 1981). In another,
more recent article ("I.e mYLhe. en pillS ou en moills." in L'jtifini, no. 6. Spring 1984),
D<:tienne, speaki ng of "Ihe fleeling, ungT3spable of myth," seems 10 me LO contribute
e'o-en more factual and t heoret ical elements to the renection I am proposing here, As to the
in\-ent ion, t he ava!ars, and the aporia of the di<;l;ourst on myth, sce st\'eral of the comributions
and thc discussions in T/.>rror rind Spiel: Probleme der (Munich: Fink Verlag,
S. Fragmtnt from 1872, qIKMC'd in Terror und SiMI, p. 25.
6. See !.ton Poliakov, The Ar)'ll'n My/h, Hans. E. Howard (Nev.' York: Basic Books
1974); Robert Ceci l. The My/h and /he M OSier ROC(' : A, Rosenberg ond IdoofoS),
York: Dodd, 1972); PhilipDC' Lacouc-Labanhe and Jean Luc Nancy, " The Nazi Myth," trans.
B, HoImC$, in e ri/ica/lnquiry 16, no. 2 (Wimer 1990), pp. 291 )12. But it would be IlC'CtsSary
to uudy more txtensi"dy myth's entry into modern political thinking, for oample in Sorel,
and before him in Wagner _ and also more generally the relationship bel wecn myth and idcology
as Hannah Arendt understands il. as well as the idcology of myt h. I will limit mystlf here
to a mar,inal and elliptic.l reference: Thomas Mann wrote to Kerenyi in 1941, must
be taken a ..... y from intellectual fascism. and its function d;'-ertcd in a human dirct'tion."
This, il stems to me. is exactly .... hat must not be done: lile function of myth, as such. cannot
be im-ersed. II must be interrupted. (Thi s does nOl mean that Mann, the author morcover of
the famous phrast "life in m)' lh," did nOl t hink or stnst somet hing OI her t han ""hat these
"'-ords 58yexplici tl y.)
7. It remains nonethelC$S elaquem. and memorDble, that one of the most acute thinkers
of "demythologil.l1tion." Diet rich Ikmhocffer, was kill ed by the Nazis, Furt hermore, what
remains intact of myth e'o'en .... ithin the thinking of demythologization is brought to light
perfcctly in the opposition dra .... n by Paul Ricoeur "demythologiution" and "demy.
t hirlCation." On these problems in general. see the analysts and referencC$ in Pierrr Barthd.
Illierpri/ol ion du longuge my/hique 1.'1 Ihealogk blb/i(llie (Leiden: Drill . 1963).
8, In addi t ion 10 the "''Orks already cited, sce the acu of the Colloque de Chantilly,
ProbIlmes du mylheel de:Jon inlerprlllllWn (Paris: Belles LellI'CS, 1978). In a hiahly
"'a),. JeanPiene Vemant ends his My the el en Grke (lflC'knne (paris: Maspero, 1982)
by calli ng for "a logic OIher than that of the logos" in order to arr;"e at an understanding
of 1he spccifl( func1ioning of myths,
9. As Uvi Strauss 58)'S. And if "'-e muu see. in Li-viStrauss. "1he m)th of man "''thout
myt h," 10 borrov. a phrase from Blanchot's L'amilil, th,s m)'th is then made up of the: ty
of the myths of humanity.
10, LeviStrauss again: "That an'at anonymous \'oice ullering a di scourst from the depths
of the liles, issuing from the: eX1reme depths of the mind" (The Nuked Mon, trans. John and
Weightman [Ne .... York: Harper and Row, 1981]).
II. The trai ts of this characterizat ion all' borrowed from SC'\'Cral of the .... rilCrS quoted at
!he beginning of thi s essay. I ""ould add here a t rDi1 from Heidcgger. In what he says about
myth. Heidegger is in many respttts heir 10 the Romantic tradition and "scene" of myth.
Yn his di<;l;ret ion. inckcd his re5er\'C, in regard to tile themt of m)'th is quite remarkable in
itstlf. He ""rotc. "i\ lyth is .... hat mOSt merits being thought," but also, " I'hilosoph)' did nOi
dC\'e!op out of m),t h. It is born onl), of 1hinking. and in thinkina. Bu! 1hinking is the think ins
of Being. Thinking is nOl born." Ra1her than a thinking of myth, it is a question here of a
thinking a/ lhe eXlremity of m),t h ..... hich in this I'CSpttt is, mOf'eO\-er. indcbtC'd to HOlderli n.
12. Sec Pierre Clastl'CS, Le Grund Purfer (paris: Scuil, 1974).
13. Maurice McrlcauPonty. SillIJ.S, trans. R. C. McCleary (Evanston. HI. : Northwestern
Uni\'Crsi1y Press. 1984), p. 124,
14. FriC'drich Wilhelm JOstph \"00 Schelling. Philosop/Iie der Mylhologie (StUligart : COIta,
1857), Se\'enth Lecture.
15. Sec Maurice Lttnhard1. Do Komo: Person ond MYlh in /he " ' f>lunl!!!iun World, trans.
II . M. Gulati (Chicago: Universit)' of Chicago Press, 1979).
16. ,\larcel Dttienne. L'inwnlion de 10 my/hologie. p. 230,
17. W. F, 0110. "Die SprKhe als in My/has und 1 . .. // (Smugart : Klnt. 19621.
p. 285. With the invcll1cd ....ord Spruchgl'song (simil ar to Schonberg's Spr('(:hgeSQng), 0110 is
trying to designate ooh the rhythm and the melody presell1 IOllcther in language, .... hich
acconIing to him makc up "Ihe supreme. close 10 d;"ine being of things themsthes."
IS. As the: Wagnerian definition pUIS il. " Mylh unleashes the common poetic fortt of a
people" (in Manfred Frank. IRr KommelJdf> GO/I. p, 229). And I.lviStrauss: "All indi\'idual
....orks arc po1ential myths. bUI onl)' if they are adopted b)' the collcrtivil), as a ""hole do they
achie'o'C mythic s1atus" (The Nuked Mon. p. 627).
19, See Karl Marx. "Economic and PhilOM)phic Manu<;l;ripts of IS44," in The MorxEngels
Reodf>r, 2d ed .. C'd. Robert C. Tucker (New York : Norton. t97S), esp. pp, 120((.
20. Walter Benjamin, "Goct hcs Wahl\'cr ....andtschaften: in Gesollllllf!lle S,:hrijlen (Frank
furt: Suhrkamp. 197280), vol, 1.
21. This .... as myth of an ephemeral communit y So;:helli na. Holderlin, Hegel.
and thc Schlegels crossed paths. Among other tell ts, see Le plus uocien programme de
l'idNilisme uf/l'lIIulld and the Diseours sur 10 m)"lholQgif> by Friedrich Schlegel. (Cr. P. Laeoue-
Labarthe and J .. L, Nancy. L'obsolu lil/eraire. Paris: Scuil, 19S0,)
22 , But this tradi1ion is as old lU lhe concept Of as the myth of my1h: Plato is the fiat
to have evoked a new mythology . .... hich "'ioold be 1he mytholO\l.y or the Ci t y, and .... hich was
to its ....ell being by protecting it agai nst the seductiveness of the allCient myths. c r.
M. Dttienne:. L'inl'('nlion de la m)'lh%gie, chap. 5.
2). This is a simplirICa1ion, of courst. What dist inguishC'd and constituted 1"''0
meanings was already the operalion of my1hic thinking. that is to sa)', of philosophical thinking,
....hich could detcrmine: Ihe t ....o conceptS of "foundmtion" and "rlCt ion," (On t he Platonic
elaborat ion of the meaning of my/has, set' Luc Brisson. Plmon, les mots 1'1 /es lily/hI'S (pari s:
Maspcro, 1992). The tTUe thinking of mylh is philosophy. which has al""ays- in its \'Cr)'
foondation- ....antC'd to teU the truth (I) of myth and (2) in relation to (as oppostd to) myth.
The t"'o tru1hs const itute t he philosophical myth of the logical/ dialcctical sublation
of myth. In this subiati0l1, the "fiction" is converted integraUy imo "foundation," Thus
FMier. for example. can writc that for Holderlin myth dOC'S nOl ha\'e "today's current
meaning. roughly that of fiction." It is on the contrary "pure speech, a\'Crrinll speech" (in
QII'es/.ce que Dieu? Phi/osophie/Thffilogie. Hommuge Q I'abb/ Donkl Coppie/ers de Gjbstm
11919. /98JI, IBrussels: Publicalions des Uni\'ersitaires Saint - Loui s. 1985J p. 113). The
sublation-profoondly 1ribular)' of a metaphysics of the speaki ng sub;ecl. or of speech as
subjcct-consists lherefore in foondinlltruth in a truthfulness, in lhe "aYCTmenl" of a speaking.
thai is, in the fi nest of determinat ions, the one: most unlinkC'd to a rlCtion-that of diction.
The whole phi losophical problem of Diehlung on this.
24. Friedrich Wilhclm Jostph \'on Schelling, Philosophie der Of/enborung (SlUlIgart :
Cotta, 18SS). p. 379.
25 . Cr., limi1ing to a !ilriking si milari ty. this stntence from Lt.iStrauss at the
end of Thf> Nokft/ Mon; " Myt hs ... were si mply making a general application of the prOCC'Sses
according to .... hich thought finds itself to be operating. these processes being the in
both areas. si ncc thooght. and the world .... hich encompasses it. arc 1 ....0 correlati\'e manifC$
tat ions of lhe same feality" (p. 67g).
26, Schelli nll. PhilusO/Jhie der M)'lhu/ogk, p. 139. For an anal ysis of the: porlico-mytho-
logical configuration of philosophy- in ....hich philosoph)' subilltes-scc P. Lacoue Labarthc,
I.e sl(je/ df> la philosophie (!'aris: Flammarion. 1979). especially the chapter entitled "Nictl.5Che
27 , According to the logic of the "prOl'lCr," .... hose me1aphysical eonst rain1s Jacques l)er,ida
has anal)'zcd in 01 GrummulQlQgy, trans. Gaya1ri Chakra\"or t y Spivak (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Prt'Ss, 1914), and in "White Mythology," in Margins of Philosophy, trans.
Alan Bass (Chicago: Uni\'('rsity of Chicago Press, 1982). pp. 207- 71.
28. inleilUns in die Philosophie der MYlholoSie (Stuttgart : Cot ta. 1856), p. 19).
29. Slrauss, Thf' Nuked Man, pp. 679 and 61S.
30. Ibid . p. 694.
)1. Claude Lti-St rauss. The S(1)"ose Mind (Chicago: of Chicago Pless. 19(6).
p. 22S,
n. Ibid, p. 16.
n . MoreoveT, iI is nOl only the idea of a "new mythology" that is at stake here, but the
w!lole itka of a dircC"li\'(' or relulati>'(' rICtion. In this respect, the Kantian model of a "rtgulativoe
Idea" is up to a point only a modem variation on the function of myth: it itself to
the rICtion of a myth that will nOl come about but that gives a rule for thinking and acting.
Hence there is an entire philosophy of the "as if" - "'hkh docs nOI belong solely to Hans
Vaihingcr, whose Die Philosophk des Als Db (The Philosophy of "As If." trans. C. K. Ogden
[New York ; Barnes 3nd Noble. 19681) is well known, but 31so to Nietzsche. to Freud, and to
a "'nole modern $lyle of thinking-.. -hich ;s not to be with a mythology but "'hich
nonetheless beaT!; comparable markings. It is still a question of the foundation of rICtion,
Even L)'OIard's recent use of t he regulat;"e Idea (in Thf' Difff'rend). where it is e:cplicilly
distinguished from myt h and set in opposition to it. does not seem to me to be determined
precisely enough to escape this function completely. It is nessary to go so far as to think
an interruption or a suspension of t he Idea as such: what it s rlCtion reveals has to be suspended,
its figure incompleted.
34. In ... hich resolves Nietzsche's ... ill to power. and circumscribes the ultimate
esSCTK'C of subjectivity.
33. Pierre Clastres. Hecherchn d'Qnthrop% gie poIit;que (Palis; Scuil, 1980). p. IU
36. Georges Bataille. " L'abscncc du my the" in Lt surrealisme en /947 (paris: Maeght,
1947). and his Iture "La religion vol. 1 (Paris; Gallimard,
1972), p.)8Iff.
37. Maurice Blancho!, The UnO\'OM-abJe Community, trans. Pierre Joris (New York: Station
Hill PrcsJ, 1988). p. 23.
38, Ibid .. p. 20.
39. From Romantici sm to our timt'S. even outside the Schlegdian contellt of the "new
mythology:' one can trace an uninterrupted sequence of instances of thi s mythological. or
rather myt hopoietic, vision of literature. A rtnt example .... ould be Marc Eigcldinger's
Lumilres du m)tht (Paris: Presses Unh'Cfsitaires de France. 19831.
40. I\.laurice Blancho!, Fuux pas (Paris: Gallimard. 1943). p. 222. Shortly before this
passage, Blanchot had defined thc mythic dimension, opposed to psychology. as sian of
great realhit'S t hat one anains by means of a tragic effort against oneself." Only after the
composi tion of my O"' n text did I beeome aware of Blaochot's article "Les imelltu3ls en
question" in thc May 1984 issue of Le dibtlt. "'here .... rites; "The Jews iocarnate ... Ihe
refusal of myths, the abandonment of idols, the rognition of an ethical order that manifcsts
itself in respccl for the law. What Hitler wants to annihilate in the Jew. in the 'myth of the
) rv.',' is prisely man freW from myth." This is another .... ay of showing "'here and .... hen
myth .... as definitively interrupted. I ""OIJld add this; "man freed from myth" henceforth
10 a that it is incumbent upon us to let corne. to let write itself.
41. Blanchot, The Unu\'OM'Qble p. 21.
42. "The un"'orking that haunt s l ....orksJ, if they cannot reach it" (ibid).
4). Just I! there is, a lext of myth that interrupu it al the same time as it
shares it and reinscribes it in "literature": literature is perhaps only nourished on myths,
but is only e>'er wrillen from ,heir interrupt ion.
44. In this respect. it is not lo\e . indeed il excl udes it. In a scnse, the communi t y of
lovers cxCds the sharing and will nOl let itself be wriuen. But 1000'e as the assumption of
communit y is prisely a myth, C\'cn myth itself. Literature inscribes its interrupt ion. In this
interruption a voice that is no longcr the derisory voice of the to-,'ers, but a voice thaI comcs
from their 10-.'('. makcs itself heard to the community.
45. The theme of the offering is SCt out rully in " L'offrandc sublime," Po&.sit. no. 30
3, Literar)' Communism
I. In a general sense. the interruption. the suspension, and the difference" of meanina
at the very origin of meaning. or even the bei ng-trace (always already traced) of the " Ii vina
present" in its most proper structure (which is nC\'er a structure of
fundamental traits of what Jacques Derrida has thought through under the names of wrltmg
and "archl-writing." . .
2. Only ....hen ....e manage to comprehend this will "'e be liberated from the SOCIologICal
concc-pt of "culture."
). Karl Marl!, A Conlribulion to the Crilique 0/ PoIilkal Econonu\ trans. Ryazanskaya,
ed . Maurice Dobb (London: La .... rence and Wishart, 1910), pp. 33-34.
4. Ibid .
3. The rcqucst ioning of communism ment ioned above depends uT'On this (cf. chap. I,
n, I).
6. But .... e should not forget 10 recall thaI the universality and generalit y that govern
capitalism ha\IC as rorollary the atomization of tash in the industrial division of labor-
as distinct from its social di vision-and the solitary dispersion of indiyiduals Ihat result s from
this and that continues to result from it. And rrom this stems a possible confusion or singularit y
and the individual. of difrerential articulation and "private" part itioning, a confusion leading
to the collapse: of the dreams. the kleals. or the myths of communitarian. or
communal societ y_including. or course. the ones that Marl! shared or brought to hfe. To
get beyond this confusion, to int errupt the myth, is to make oneselr available ror a relation
to one's rellows.
7. Karl l\.13rx, Grundrisse (New York: Vintage, 1973), "Pre-Capitalist Propert y and
8. Karl Capillli (New York : Vintage, 1977), "Cooclusion."
9. Walter Benjamin. "Gocthcs WahlveT ... andt scharlcn." in Ge:sommelle Schrifttn (Frank
rUTl : Suhr kamp. 1972-80). vol. I.
10. The constituth'c fU!1C1ion of cxcmplarit y in literature is analyzed and dcconstructed-
in t he strict sense of the word- by Philippe Lacouc-Labarthe. in particular in "TYpography,"
trans. E. Cadava in 'TYpography. pp. 43- 138.
4, Shattered Love
NOll': The litle of the French tell! is "L'Qmour en kla/s." The ....ord kllll should be read in
all its outbursts. The ....ord can mean. and appears here as. shaner, piece, splinter, glimmer.
flash. spark, burst, outburst, explosion, brilliance. da7.7.Le, and splendor.-Trans.
l . The di sti11Ction that Nancy makes here is very easy to render in French, where abstraCI
nouns mayor may nOl be pleceded by the definite articlc. depending uT'On t he context. Hence.
Nancy is able 10 distinguish "Ia pensec CSt amour" and "Ia pcnsCc est I'amour." In
the first instance, 10-.'(' qualifies or describes thinking; in the second, it is offered more u a
definition of thinking: thinking is it is ident ical "'ith
2. Fl"('lleh teltl reads, "I'ltre dans I'amour:' bUI il is important to that the
Enllish eltpression "being in I()\"(''' docs not translat e literally imo idiomatic Frelleh. That
milht, then, be OIl(' of the l11I,'aninp in"oked here, but it is not ne.:cssaril y the sole dominant
3. Rent Char. 11)'11110:; Il ukillg, trans. Jackson Mathcv.s (Nev.' York: Random
1956), p. 59.
4. Roland A LOI'l'r 'J f"rugml'nt:;, Irans. Hichard Howard (Nev.' York :
Farrar. Strauss and 19781, p. 148.
5. Sec Emmanuel ltvinas. TQllllifY und Infinity, trans. Alphons.o lingis (pimburlh:
DuquC!i11(' Uni,"('rsity Prus. 1969), pp. SOff.
6 . is no adequate translat ion for Ihe Frelleh ' -erb ''jouir.'' Translated as "10 enjoy,"
''jouir'' lastS its ronnotation; translated as "to rormo," it lostS it s relation to "joy."
Following a SUIIC!it ion by NalleY, I ha,-e erealed a I1('W ,"erb to translate '/Ouir": "to joy."_
7. The citation is in Enllhh in original._ Trans.
5. Of Divine Places
All notes to Chapter 5 arc pro"idcd by transl:uor. - Ed.
I . The use of iJPfl'IH'I' in relation to thought is a reference!O a work by Hcidcgger
emitled Aus lit'( Erjuhrwrg des IAntrns (Pfii ll ingen: Ncske. 1954). (Thanh to Marian Jeannert
for thi s lead.) Thi s work has been trandated into Fl"('neh under the title LI'. ... phirnC(> df' III
pl'IISk (in QUf'stlollS IIf [paris: Gallimard, 1966]), NalleY's usc of (},,,,'m'l' would SC<'m to be
an attempt to I"('finc upon tke much-used term 1'..../HrwllCl'. and carry O\'er in translallon some
of tke silnirICan of Ike "erb f'rJahren. which is defined as juhrrnd I'rkllntl('tI: to find OUI
while Of thrOlllh t ra>"(' linl. My choke of ordeal docs not achiel.'e an analogous effect. The
""ord is close.' 10 the German Urlei/ (judgmenl). rather than 10 Kuntl (knowledge) or "kllndell,
Nel.'ertheless, I hope that ordeal will scn-c to spedfy the particular process to ",'hich HeidCUer
and Nancy refer. It is also possible 10 poinl to a posthumous work of Edmund HU!i!iCl'I's in
justirlCation of the choi of "'ord: Erjahrung und Urlf'i/ (Hambul1: Claascn and
19411). Irans. Jamrs S. Churehill and Karl Amcrik$ 3!i Expl'ri{'nry untl Judgl'ml'nf (london:
Routledge and Kegan Paul. 197JJ.
2, Works by kan- l uc Marion include L'idolr n III distunry (Paris: Grassel, 1977): Sur
fa fhAJlogw blU/lC"M rIr DesnJrtes (Paris: P.U.F.. 1981): DiI'u SQns l'Itft (Paris: Fa)'ard, 1982).
3. Jean-Marie PontC'o-ia, La pl'intuft, musqlll' rf miroir William Blake. 1984),
p. 69.
.. . In " Holderlin und das WC$Cn der Dichtung" ( H6lderlin and Ihe of poetry),
wril es:
Dichten ist das ursprungliche Nennen der Goner, Aber dcm dichterischen WOrt wird
erst dann scinc Nennkraft zUlcil, wenn die (;Qt\er sclbst uns zur Sprache bringen,
Wie sprechen die GOller?
... und Winke sind
Von Alters her die Spntche der GOller."
Das Sagen des Dichter ... ist das Auffangen dieser Winke, um sie weiter zu winken in
sci n Volk.
lPoel ry is the original narninll of the lods. HUI Ihe pOelic ....ord only recei ' -es ih
po .... er 10 name when t he Gods thcrnse!,cs bring us 10 speech. How do the Gods
... and ha'"(' been
Since lime immcmOfial the language of the Gods."
TIM: poet's ullerancc is the act of beinl rttcpli,'C to these nods so u to pass them
on 10 his people.]
(I n l::rliiulerutlgf'n 1I{}lderlins DichfUII' II'ranHurl: Villorio Klostermann. 1951). pp. 42-
43. An English >"('liion of particular stud)' can be found in Existl'lIC"e anti Being. ed ,
Werner Brock [Chicago: Regnery, 1968). pp. 270-91.)
5. The French nom means both "noun" and "name," and the tCllt pia)'", on thi scon.lantly.
English is slighl ly handicapped in having t\Oo words. What is mol"('. although there arc proper
nouns, common nouns, and proper names. "common nama" is not a relC'o'ant here. It
was thus ralher difrlCult sometimes 10 decide which of Ihe ""ords "noun" or "namc" to
choose. In each the reader should al""a)'5 be aware of the pressure conslanlly elterted
in the origi nal by Ihe play of rmoaning lhal the word nom sets up.
6. Paul Verlaine. "Le ciel cst par-dC$sus Ie toil" (Suge5S1' 3. p. 61.
7, The lerm ontQ-Iheo--logical - it s scnsc and it s form-belongs 10 a particular in
Heidegger's Ihinking as it relales to Ihe divi'le. At first hc simply bracketed Ihe of
God, so as 10 d('Vole himscl f 10 layina Ihe foundation of metaphysics. Thi s done, he
the quest ion of God could then properly be addressed. A coherent ontology would
t he basis for a cohef('nt theolollY. Subsequently. h(l\\le,"('r. he came to consider
and ontology as an obstacle to Ihinki ng aboUl being, and he included III Ih.s con-
demnation , His articulation of Ihe lerm ontol heolosital is intended to brong out Ihe separate
components of this obstacle, For a full discussion of what is usually called Ihis Kehre?," lur.n
in Heidegger's thinking, sec James L. Perotti, IIl'idrsg" 011 the Di,irll.' (AI hens:
,'ersiIY Press. 1974). S also John I). Capulo, " Heidegger's God and the Lord of HI story.
{IlI'W Scholasticism 57 ( 19113), 439-64. ,
II. In Ihe DMtll' Names, the Arcopagile di st ingui shes bet ween
emialed and undifferentialed names for the One of the undifferentiated names .s
hypl'fOUSion. Nancy this as and I follow suit. William J . Carroll,
hoo.oC'o-cr. Pfefers the traMlal iOll SllfNllMin, . Carroll dislinguishc!i bet",'CCn the prefiltcs
and super- as follo...-s: lhe laller "i ndicatcs an exceptional or oumand!n
while Ihe former "indicates that which transcends or is be-yond a partICular category ( UnllY.
Part icipation and Wholes in a Key Text of the Arcopagite's Divim' !"lImes."
/Ill'''' Scholasticism 57 (1983). 25).-62 (p. 25". nOle). Sec abo Dionysiws 1M Arropagllf' on IhI'
DMm' {Ilaml'S and tM Mysticul translaled wilh an introduction by C. E. Rolt (Nev.'
York and London: Io. l acmiUan. 1920).
9. S Emmanuel Ltvinas. AUfremrnt qu'itre, ou ull-tlela rIr f'C$M1IC"e (The Hague:
tinus Nijhoff. 197"). p, "Mais entendre un Dieu non cont amim! par I'em est
humaine non moins important e el non rnoins prkaire que de tirer ntl"(' de l'oubh OU ,I .\Crall
tomb\! dans la metaphysique ct dans l'ontQ-t hOOIogie" (But to eomprehcnd a God
taminated by beinl is a human poibility thaI is no less important and no. less
than to rescue bting from the int o which il is , 10 ha" e fallen III meta physlCs
and ontQ-theology). Thi s is a clear statement of position as il relatcs 10 Heidcgger's.
(The work appears in English Olherwisl' l/run B" ing. Qr Bl'yoll(l Essetlcl', trans. Alphonso
Lingis [Hingham: Kluwer MadcIIlic, 19811 ) .. .
10. These ....ords arc from "ersc VI of Ihe Elegy 1/t'jmkmt!I, where Holde"111 says of the
Ihn zu fassen. iSI fast Freude lU klein.
Schweigen IIlu>sen of I: e> fehlen hdli ge Namen.
I-I erlen schlagen. und doel. blcibcl die Rede zuriick?
(Our joy is almost too small for us to grasp him.
We mUSI orten be sacred name$ are lacking
Heam beal, and speech hal13s back?) ,
. 11. rl/iul .. nmgl'n aliiO contains the entillC'd " Heimkunft / An die Ver_
... andlen, pp. 9- 30 (transl.l C'd as " Remembrance oflhe Poel" by 00\1 las Sco! . Ex '
and !king, C'd. Brock). g I, In ISIl'nrt
12 A I ' , pu elUS, Ml'lomorplrosn, Book XI. 5. Translalion laken f,om The Isis-Book' ' i" .
tlmorn,"OStS 800k X I " -' . . . "',
. I'" , . , .... u ..... wuh an mt roductlon, translalion, and by J . Gw n
Grlffilhs (LelCkn: E. J . Brill, y
. 13. For English introduction to see "Ethics of the Infinite," in Richard Kearney.
DIalogues ,ulh COfllemporory Conlmental Thi"kers (Manchesll'r: Manchesler Universi ly
Pre$S, 198-1 ). pp. 47- 70. Of man's relalion to God Le ...inas says:
is Ihe mosl plo.found relationship man can ha"e wilh God pret:isdy as a goin
Theft IS an exccliencl' i.n time which would be Iml in eternity .... To
li me 15 10 aCl;cpl death as thc of presence. To be in ell'rni l), is
to be 0111', 10 be O,tltw(f To be in lime is to be for God [e,re Q Diell], a
perpelual leavelakmg [0(1/1'111. (1'1. S9)
Stt also De Dkll qlli vient d I'M" (Paris: Vrin. 1982), especialiy p. 250:
,Dieu .,'. n'esl pas lernlC, mais Infini. Infi ni auquel je suis vout par une pens non-
Inten\Lonlll'l1l' donI aucune preposi tion de nOIre langue- pas mcme Ie 6 auquel nous Iraduire la dhol ion. A-Dieu donI Ie lemps diachronique eSI Ie
unlq.ue: II devotion l'l IranscendaOtt. 11 n'est pas Cl'rtain que la nOl ion
du mfim dl' Hegel n'admette aucunl' revision.
... is. nOl a":" bUl an Infinile. An Infinite 10 which I am de$l incd by a
non-mlenllonal Ihlnklng ....hose devotion can be IranslalC'd by no preposi l ion in our
I:\'('n the' 10 which "''(' ha\'(' ret:ourse 10. An "-DWII ror which
time is.che' $OIc index and which is iimuhaneously devotion and
a scendeOtt. It IS by no means Cl'nain Ihal Hegel's notion of "bad infinit y"
allo .... s of no fl",;sion.)
Nancy alludes 10 Ihi1 lasl refeKncl' in seclion 2
For dialO&ue wilh in English ElhicJ and Infinity, Irans. Richard Cohen
(AllaotlC Ihghlands: Duquesne, 1985).
14. Sec /'o lanin Heideuer "Vom Wesen de!; Grundc$" (Frankfun: Klmll'rmann, 1949),
die onlologisdle Inlerpretal ion des Dasti ns als In-der- Wdl-sein ist ....roer
POSit I'" negali ... Gbcr ein mOgliches Scin zu GOII erlischicdl'n. Wohl aber wird
d,e d:tr Transzendenz allerC$t ein zurl'ichenck:r Begrifr des DaJl'ins
gc:"'onncn, mil Rucksacht auf welches Sdende nunmehr gefragl "''('rden kalln wie l'S
mn dem Gones\'erhaltnis dl's Dascins ontologi sch bestl'lh is!. '
(Thf ont ological. iOlcrp.retal ion of Dasl'in as Being-in-the-World 11'115 neither for nor
aga Ihe. poss.lblc. eXIstence or God. One must firSl gain an adequate concept of
b)' transc.endence, ":hen, by considering one can ask
ho Ihe of 10_ God IS onlologically constitull>d.) (Thl' $selicI' uf
H{'(tSOIlS, trans. Malich [Evanston: Nort hweSlern Press. 1969).)
early an altitude 10 God and lhe divine Ihat HeideUer will subsequenll y
tcJet:1. Sec nOle 18.
IS. See, e."ample, Guy Lardreau and Chr islian Jambel. L'AlIge (Paris: Gra'Ct, 1976):
Bernard-Iknn I_tvy. L" '1tSlamem dl! Dwu (Paris: Glas!tl:t. 1979): Maurice Cla"d, Dil!lll'sl
Dieu, nom tk Dwu! ( Paris: Grasset, 1976): Philippe Nemo. Job 1'1 I'ads dll mal (Paris:
Grassel. 1978). Menlion should also be matie of IWO ....orks by Rene Girard: Lo I' iolence 1'1
Ie socri (Paris: Gras!tl:l, 1972). Irans. Palrick Gregory as Violence and the Socred (Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins UnivenilY Press. 1977); .nd Des chosn chm d"puis 10 fondolion du mondt
(Paris: Grasset & Fasquelil', 1978). See also Philippe SoUers, "La leuK voltt de l'Evangile."
in "Oieu CSI-it mort?" Art Prns 19 (1918), 1'11'1 . 6-g. Refl'rring to Gi rard. Sol lers ....rites:
"L'idtc que la Bible ct les E ...angiles som ce qu'on nc voil pa$ paree qu'on I'a trop 50US les
m'esl \'enue en poursui ...ant mon expl'rien d'kriluK .. _. 11 Ill' s' agil pa$ tie retour du
refoule. C'esl Ie fail que quelque chose s'klaire qui I. depuis IOUjours. C'est It retour
de vous-mcml' comme Kfoule. C'cst It retour d'un suitt qui n'csl pa$ '\'OW,' Ie retour du
nom. du sujct dans Ie nom." [fhe idea that the Bible and Ihe Gospels are whal ... '(' do nOl
see baUK ....e see it too much came to me during the course of my experiences (and
upcriments) with ....riling .... This is no Kl urn of t he' Tl'fIreucd. It i5 lhe facl that something
i5 brought to light thaI has alwa)'s been lhe're. II i5 Ihe Kturn of yourself a5 Kpre55Cd. It is
the relurn of a subjecl Ihat is not "you," lhe Klurn of I he' name, of l he' subject in t hl' name.)
16. These lines come from Holderlin's poem " Was iSI Got t? ... ,'. whose opening words
are et: hoc:d by Nancy al Ihe beginning of this lex!. The original rcads:
Was iSI Gon? unbckannt, dennoch
VoU Eigcnschaftcn ist dlls Angesichl
Des Himmcls ...on ihm. Die Rli ltt nahmlich
Dcr Zorn sind ei nes GoIICS. Je mehr ist eins
Unsichlbar, es sich in Frl'mde$.
11. "Selfsame wil h" is used to translate Ihl' pKposit ion 6 mtme throughout. In justi fICat ion
of my use of such a nl'Ologism I ....ould qUOIt Philip E. LC\\'is who, in a recenl st udy of
t ranslation l'ffecu, positS an "abuse principle" "" hose application he describes as follows:
"The abusi ...e move in Ihe Iranslation . .. ....iIt bear upon a key operator or a decisive texlual
knOl lhal will be by dinl of its own abusive feal ures, by its resistan to Ihe
pKponderanl values of the 'usual' and the' 'useful'" ("The MeasuK of Translation Effects,"
in Difference in Trtlnslalion. C'dilcd wilh an introduct ion by Joseph F. Graham (It haca: Cornell
Univcrsity Press, pp. 31- 62 11'11'1. 42- 3]). A ml_ is used by Nancy io jusl such an
abusive rashion, I ""olild daim. And though ils usual l ranslalion, "on lhe surface or," ",'Ould
have linkC'd it to the' topK of it would have eliminalC'd all rdeKn 10 Ihl' quesl ion or
identily and samellC$S lhat is found in Ihe word mime, and Ihat is crueiallO lhe problcmatic
of Nancy's IUt. In justiflCltion of my ehoicl' of term, I ""ould refer to lhe' entry for se(fsome
in lhe OED. which quotes 1 ....0 inSlances of i15 use, each of ....hich seemed to fi t il for my
purpo$C: " ThaI "''(' should ;n Him as Hl' ""ho is, the self-oisting, Ihe self-same"
[fhom3li Pusey, 1860): "Always selfsame, like the sky" (Ralph Waldo Emerson. 1870)_
IS. Each of Ihese German terms is a neologism coined from a Il'rm Ihat is basi<: to
Heidegger's Ihinking: .. r_lkhlen eome$ from Lichlll nl (dearing). which hc uses 10 describe
the opening up and lhe illumination thaI consl itute Ihe I:\'('nl (reignis) of bei ng; e",_borgen
is lhe pasl partici ple of Ihe neologism "",-btrren . by means of which he KinlerpretS lhe Greek
term for Irul h, o/elheio. as an un-conctaling. Nancy Iranslales elll-bergen as desabri/er, ....hich
is also a neologism. Consequenlly, Ihe English lranslalion shoul d perhaps ha\'e been somethi ng
like IIn-shelll!r . The term dis-lodge 5temed. however, despite in lexkal orthodoxy, to Iranslale
e",-btrren so welllhal I decided 10 usc il in prdl'rence 10 uns hel ter, and to Iry 10 reproduce
solOe of the effecl of the neologism by IOl'anS of the hyphen.
19. Sec Gilles Aillaud, John Bergcr, and Calherine Tieck, Le proche 1'1 Ie lointain (Paris:
Regard. \980); GiIle$ Aillaud. Pe;,III1fl'S ", priumbulcs (paris: Galerie Karl Flinker, 1982).
20. This ... occurs in Hegel, Thl' /'lwfI()III(',wIQg)' of Spirit, scction VII, C,
21. Hermann Ucllrr, Giitll!f"n(lIIlen: Vf'r.JlI('h nfll!f" lA-hrr ''On dl'r rrligiOsfon 8egriffsbildlmg
(Boon, 1896).
22. In !Win und Zril, Heidener writcs, "Sein litgt im Dass- und Sosein, in Reali tal,
Btsland, Gtltunl, Dascin. im 'cs gib!'" (B<-ing lics in the raet Ihal !iOfTlC1hinl
is, in ils Reinl as il is, in Reality: in in subsistence: in validily; in Dascin;
in tile is") (lking und Tilllr, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson [Oxrord:
Basil Black ....ell, 1973J, p. 26).
Ltvinas translates es gib! as iI )' u, and makes this specirlC mode of being hi s main
preoccupalion. Sec De L'exislenct tJ I'exisuml (paris: Vrin. 1947). Relevant to t he present
discussion is hb declaration in thaI ...."OI"k Ihal "plutOI qu'lI Dieu, la notion de I'il Y a nous
ramene" l'abscnce de Dieu" (ralher Ihan to God, the notion of Ihere is leads 10 Ihe absence
of God) (po 99).
21. SC'C Emmanuel Ltvinas, Tololiti 1'1 infini HaIUC: Martinus Nijhoff, 1%1),
pp. 29-30:
On peut appeler athtisme celie 5i complete que l'elre se mainlient
tout seul dans l'e:cislence sans participer 11 I'El re dont il esl
t-,tntuellcment d'y adhtrer par la eroyaoce. La avcc la parlicipalion esl
irnpliquCe dans celie capacil t. On viI en dehors de Dieu, chez wi, on cst mai,
taoisme. L'lIme-la dimension du psychique-accomplissement de la CSt
nalUrelltment alhk. Par atht-isme, nous comprenons ai nsi une position anttrieure 6
la negation comme 11 raffi rmation du divin, la rupture de la participation 11 part ir
de laquelle Ie mol se pose comme Ie meme C1 comme mol.
(We can lerm athebm this separation that is ID complete that the separat e being
subsisls all alorte in and does nOI parlicipate in the Ikina from which it is
.separated- "hile remaininl capable on occasions of to it through faith.
The break .....ith participation is implied by Ihi s capaci t y. You iiI"" oulside of God,
wilhin yourself, you are an ' I', an egoi sm. The soul- Ihe dimcnsion of Ihc
psychic- "'hich is consummate separation, is naturally By I thus
mean a posilion prior to both the negation and arfi rmation of the divine, the
breaeh or participation from which the ' 1' goes on to posit itselr as stir and as I.)
For an English vnsion of this "'ork sec TOlulit)' (1m! "tfinit)" trans. lienry J . Koren (Atlantic
CiIY: I)uqucsllr, 1969).
24. Tcchnology (die 7khni/c) is the term by "'hkh Hcidegger characterizes the modern
relationship to bei ng. It is the technological or caiculatil"" relationship 10 world that, he
claims. is responsiblc for our forgelfulness of being. For a di scussion of this crucial notion,
!oCt Thf' Piet)' of Thinking: Essu)'s b)' Mortin IIl!idrggl'r. transl:nions, nOlCS, and commentary
by James G. Hart and John C, Maraldo (Bloominl tOn: Indiana Unil ....rsi t y Press. 1976),
pp. 152-67, "Some Heideggerian Path"'ays to TC(!hnology and t he Trans.
25. Ludwill Feucrbach, Das Wtsf'n drs Christtn/ulIIS (1841): Silmund Freud. Die ZU/cllnjt
rintr Illusion (1927).
26. Tht question of part ition (/(' portugl') is examined by Nancy in Le purtugf' des ,"Oix
(paris: Galiltt, 1982), lind again in '"La commurtaut t dkocuvrtt." .. hcre the author rcvises
his position IDITIC\IIhat. It is a dirrlCuh term to translate. The e:.-o:pression un /XIrtuge des ,"Oix
mearts thc cast ina of ' OII.'S equally on both sides. Thi s sense is present in Nancy's usc of the
lerm. Ilo"'el'l: r, the t .....o mai n scrtSCS of Ihe \'crb IHJrtuger. to divide or share, nrtd to be torn
(ifrr /XII/ogi) art alS(l brought into play by Nancy, and lhey in turn h:lI"" a comiderablc
f I
. I Th-" i< no equivalcm English ,erb. My choice of partilion, "'hich
amount 0 pay III t lCtn.
is not totally satisfactory, sccmed justified by the semantic richnC"SS of term as 11 appears
in the OED. . J J I'n "Crt 1963) Also in
27. GCOrlCS Uataille. ,'l-Iuduml' Edwurdu (pans: acqucs .UI.
Georges Ilataille, (')ell"rcs vol. 3 (Paris: Galhmard. 1971). pp. 9- 31.
Compiled by Hassan Melehy
Aillaud, Gilles. 126
Alain. B.
Albert the Greal , SI., 110
AllhuS$eT, Louis, 156 ell . I n. 2
Apu1tius, 119
Arendt. Hannah, 156 ell . I n. 2, IS7-S8 n.
16. 160 n. 6
AristOlle, xxxviii. 112
art : and god, Il l ; and God, 126-27,
Augustine, SainI. 9-1, 122: and 10\'e, 91. 95
Baill y. Jean-Christophe. 42. 146
Bakolli nc, Mikhail. 10
Barthes. Roland, 7-8, 164 n. 4
Salaillt'. (;(orges, xv-xvi. xxvii. :uvii i, 2,
6, 14, 1S7 n. 6, IS8 nn. 17,21: and
absohllt, 4- 5; and community, 16-42
passim: and God, 144, 148: and
literature. 71: and myth, 47. 58-61
Bauddaire. Charles, 87
Being: and absolute, 6: and communit y,
)l1<iii, 18. 57- 58: finillilk of. vi ii . ix. 28-
29: alld frttdom. xi- xv: and god. 111 -
32; of God. 110-12, 115- 16. 122- 25:
and language, )til : , "d logos.
and Im'c. 88- 89. 103- 5: and singularit y.
xiii, 28, 77- 78. S olso
Heideggtr; mtlaphysics
BeinB and Time (Sein und Zeit), xii, xiY-
XY, XYi, uiH, 168 n. 22
Iknjami n. Wallt r. xix, )S, 78, 161 n. 20;
and an, 130; and God. 147; and
8ias of Pritnt. 114
8lanchOl. Maurice, XY, xix. xxviii, 3$, 42,
US, In n. 19, 1$6 prd. n. I, 160 n. 9;
a nd communism. 7; and community. S8;
on deal II, xvii; and li leralUrt, 63, 6S;
and work , 31: and wri lin" 70
8loch, Ernsl. 113
8ossuet . 114
8uddllism. 128
Cassircr. Ernst , 159 n. 1
Ctlan, Paul. 147. n. 44
Ccrcidas or Mcgalopolis. 14S
Char. 87- 88
127: and communi t y. LO-Il.
17; a nd God. 128. 133-41: and loo.'C. 87.
88. Sn 0110 rdi,ion
ClaslrC$. Pierre. 57. 160 n. 12
CQgiw. Set' Descanes; " I" ; subjc<;t
Samutl Taylor. 49
172 0 INDEX
communicat ion: and community, xl, xxvi-
xxvii, 19, 23-24, 25, 29, 39, 41, (1)..61,
73; and literatun', 39, 67- 68; and myth,
50-5 1, See il/SO language; writing
communion: and communi ty, 15, 143_44;
and literature, 6S61
communism: and community, 1- 3, 7 9, 16-
17, 75; literary, 26, 39, 64, 68 69, 71-gl
community: absence of, 5960; and Being,
xxiii, 18, S7-S8; and capital, 74- 75; and
Chrbti anity, 10- 11, 16-17; and
communication, lUIvi- lUIvii, xl, 19, 23-
24, 25, 29, 39, 41, (1)..61 . 73; and
communion, 15. 143-44; and
communism, 1- 3. 1-9. 16-17: and
Dastin. xv- xvii: and <kath. xv- xvii, IJ-
16. 34,60-61,66-67; and dialosue, 76-
77; and ecstasy, 6-7. 19-21; and
fascism, 16-17: and God, 10-11, 142-44;
and humanit y, 3, 77; and the I, 15; and
individual. 3-4, 27; and joy (ioit), 34;
and language, lUI V; and literatun', 64-
66,71 - 81; and logos, xxii-lUIiii; loss of.
9- 12, 17- 18; and love, xvii-xviii, 36-40;
and man, 28: and Marxism, 16; and
modernity, 9-12; and music, 62; and
myth, 42, H-1OpII$Sim: and Nadsm,
12: and passion, 32-33. 34: and the
political (Ie poIitiqut), ix-xi, xxxvi-xli,
40-41: and politics (/il polit iqut), xxvi-
xxvii; and tht sacred, 34-35: and
singularit y, 6-7, 27- 30, 32-33, 59-61,
71- 78: and societ y, 31; and State, 12;
and subject , xi, xiii, 18- 19,23- 25,31,
32: and totalitarianism, 2-3, 22- 23; and
totality, 75-76: and voice, 62-63, 76-77;
and ""Ork, XlUIix, 31 - 32, 72-75, 79: and
writing, xxv- lUIvi, xxvii -xxix, 41, 42
Daive, Jean, 146
[Jus,in: and community, xv-xvii; and
death, xiv-xv, and freedom,
xi i- xv; and God, 121 ; and hermencutic$,
xxiv: and 10gO$, xxiii ; and love, 10)-4.
See il/SO Being; "I"; Heidegger: subject
Dt Rffum Nil{uru (011 the NOlUft oj
Tlrings), 140
death: and community, xv- nii, 11- 16, )4,
(1)..61, 66- 67; and Dasei n, xiv_xv; xvi-
xvi i; and God, 121-n, 125- 26, 127,
137; and " I," 14; and other, xvi- nii
deoonstrUdion: and poiit )cs, xi . See also
Dcleuzc. Gilles, H16, 156 ch. I n. 2, IS7 n.
14, 158 n. 23
Dcrrida, JacquC$, vii, xii, xx, xxviii, 24,
101, lOS, 135, 152 n. 4. 15$ n. 39, 1S7
n. 14, 161- 62 n. 27, 163 ch. ) n. I
Descartes, Rent, vii, 14, 164 n. 2; and
God. 133; and love, 86; and subject ,
11, 89
Marcel, 159 n. 4, 160 n. 16, 161
n. 22
Don Juan, 92- 93, 100, 101
Eckhart, Meister, 117, 139, 149
$lasy: and absolute, 6: and communi ty,
6-7, 19- 21, See u/so
Ellul, Jacques, 15-6 ch. I n. 2
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 161 n. 17
Empedocles, 86
C$SCnce: of God, 144; and logos, xxii
Esstne(' oj Chr!slionity, TM (Dos ff-esen
dts Chr!sltntu/llS), 140
Euripides, 125
Ftnclon. Frantois, 94
Feuerbach, Ludwig, 168 n. 2S
Fitino, Marsilio, 85
fICtion: and myth, B, 54-"
finitude: of Being, viii, ix, 28- 29
FllUben, 147
Frank, Manfred, 159 n. I, 161 n. 18
f!'dam: and Being, xi-xv: and Dr:Jstin,
xii-xv: and language, xx: and logos,
xxi; and<:t, xi", III'V
Freud, Sigmund, xv, 14, 29, 31, 87, 159 ch.
I n. 35, 159 ch. 2 n. I, 162 n. 33, 168
n. 25; and 1000'e, 85, 106: and myth, 45
FUlUrt oj iln Illusion, TM (Dit ZukunJI
tint', Illusion), 140
Gadamcr, Hans- Gcorg, xxiv
Girard, Rent, 158 n. 29, 167 n. IS
god: and art, 1)1: and Being, UI - 32; and
history. 145; and joy, 142: and man, 132
God: and absolute, 5; and art, 126-27,
129- 30; and Dtllcism, 136; being of,
INDEX 0 173
110- 12. 115- 16. In - 2S; and
ChriMiani ty, U3-41; and communit)',
10- 11 ,142-44: and Dasein, 121; and
death, xxx- xxxi, 10- 11 . 121 -
22, 125-26, 127, 137; and discourse,
11 2- 14; C$$Cnte of, 144; existence of,
1l2-}}: and idol, 141-42: and Judaism,
II I; and 94, 96; and madrlCS$,
149-50: and man, 128, 1)9, 147; name
of. 116- 21, 146- 47: and obscenit y, 147-
48; and other, 11 3; and philosophy, 128-
29; and religion, 128-29: and ScriplUn',
134-)5; and subject. B6-37, 14S, 149-50:
and Virgin, 114- 15; and the West, 148
Gospels: and God, 139
Guarani Indians: and myth, 57
GUlltari, Ftlix, 157 n. 14
Habermas, Hirgen, ISS n. 37
Hamacher. Werner, 42
Hegel, G. w. F .. viii, ix, xxx, 2, ), 10, 11 ,
IS, 36, 76, 95, 129, B8, 151 n. 4, 158 n.
18,161 n. 21; and absolute, 5; and
community, 9, 142: and Bod. 132: and
God, 110- 11 , 11), 123. 124, 125. 126,
127, B3, 139, 149-50; and love, 40, 85,
86, 87, 88. 90: and religion, BO. 134:
and State, 12; and subject, 19, 24, 31,
n. 34, 89-90
Heidegger, Martin. vii. x, xxviii , 6, IS, 18,
22, 28, 35, 59, 17, 129, 138, IS2 n. 5,
ISS n. 38, ISS n. 24, 160 n. II, 162 n.
)4, 164 n. I, 165 nn. 7, 9, 168 nn . 22,
24; and death, xvi, 14; and Dcrrida, xii;
and freedom, xi - xv: and God, xxx-
xxx .. ', li S, 122-24: and hermeneutics,
xxiii-lUIiv; on H6lder!i n, xxxi; and
language, xx, .ui- xxii, lUI iv-xxv, xxix-
xxx; Ltvinas on, xix: and logos, xxi;
and love, 103-5; and name or God, 11 8,
120-21; and ot her, 33
Hel lenism: and morals, 138
Henr)', Michel. 107
Heraclitus, 86, 134
Herder. Johann Gottfried, 1, JS9 n. I
hermeneutics: and DoSl!in, xxiv; and
language, xxiii - xxiv
Herodotus, 119
history: and god, loiS; and literature, 68- 69
Hitler, Adolf. 162 n. 40
HOlderlin, I'riedrich, xv, 111'.0, xxxi, 10, 32,
129, loi S, 160 n. 11, 161 nn. 21, 2), 164-
65 n. 4; and God, 122_23, 125, 149_50;
and name of God, 118- 19
Hollier, Denis, 1S7 n. 10
I-Iomer, 48, 142
Hugo, Victor, 146
humanity: and communi ty, ), 77; and
myth, 45- 46, 51. See also man
Husserl, Edmund, 14, )3, 164 n. I
Hyperion, 102
" I": and rommunity. 15; and death, 14;
and love, 96. Sn also Dasein: subject
imagination: and myt h, 53, 54-55
individual; and community, 3- 4, 27
Inner Exptritnce inIP,;euft), 23
interruption: of mYth, 43- 10 pll$Sim, 72
l on, xxiv
Islam, 121, 128, 136
John or the Cro, St., 87
John Damascene:, St .. 116, \17
.ioY (jolt): and community, )4; and god,
142; and love, 36, 39- 40, 106-8
Joyce, James, BS, 146
Judaism, 121, 136, 131- 38: and God, III ,
128, 139; and name of God, 11 8: and
sublime, 130. Sn also religion
Kail:a, Franz, 102
Kant , Immanut'I, xiii , xx, 76, 129, 162 n.
JJ: and art , 130; and imaginat ion, 54;
and love, 86: and will, 56
Kerenyi, Karl, 159 n. I, 160 n. 6
Kierkegaard. !Wn'n, 102
Kleist, Heinrich von, 82, 87
La Rocllcfoucauld, Frantois, 95
Lacan, Jacques, 85, 151 n. 3
Lacouc-Labarthc, Phi lippe, 151 n. 3, 157
n. 9, 159 n. 35, 160 n. 6, 161 n, 21, 161
n. 26, 163 n. 10
langua8e: and Being. xii; and communit),
xxv; and f!'dom, xx: and metaphysics,
vii: and myth, SO; and truth. xix- xx:
and writin&, xx, xx,'. xxix- xxx. See also
literatun' ; logos; speh
Lcenhardt, Maurice, 49
Leibnil. Gottfried Wilhelm, 13, 127
174 0 INDEX
Lenin, V. I.. 7
Leon thc Hebrew, 85
Ll.'!iCOUt, Jean-Clau6l', 146
Uvinas. Emmanucl. 129. ISS n. 40. 168
nn. 22. 23; and God, 11 3. 124. 136; on
Hcldrgger. xix; and lovc. 104- 5; and
name of God. 117- 18. 120-21
Lhi-St rauu, Claudc. 45, 54. 55, 56. 160
nn. 9- 10. 161 nn. 18. 25
litcraturc: and communication. 39, 67- 68:
and communion. 65-67; and
communi ty, 64-66, 71-81; and
68-69; and m)lh. 63-66. 69-70. 71- 72;
and politics. 80-81; and truth, 78-79.
See also languagc; writing
logos, xxxvi ii; and Being. xx-xxi; and
community. xxii-xxiii: and xxiii ;
and xxii: and freedom. xx- xxi:
and myth. 49-50; and thou8ht. xxi. See
also wri ting; speh
k ....e: and Being, 88-89. 103-5; and
Chri$tianity, 87, 88: and community.
xvii -xviii. l6-4{}; and 103-4;
and desi re. 98-99: and dialectic. 88-90:
and God, 94, 96: and " I." 96: and .ioy
(joit), 36, 39-40. 106-8: and OIher. xvii-
X\'iii. ]02. 105- 7: and philosophy, 85- 91.
99- 102, ]04-5; and poetry. 99-102; and
self. 94-95: and singulari ty, 38-39, 98-
99. 107-8: and State. 37; and subject.
xvii - xviii. 89-90, 96-97: and thinking,
82-91. 104; transcendence of, 97-98:
and the West. 91 -92
Lucan, 147
Lucretius, 99
Luther. Martin. 149
L)'OIard. xxv. 36. 156 eh. I
n. 2. 162 n. JJ
Mailer. Norman, ]47
MaUarmt. 10. I3S
man: and community. 28; and god. 132:
and God. 128, lJ9, 147. 5 01$0
MandelSlam. Osip. 146
Mann. Thomas. 160 n. 6
Maoism. 64
Marion. Jean- Luc. 112- 0
Marhaux. Pi erre Carlet de. 87
Marx. Karl . x, 2. 7. 10. 35. 156 n. 4. 16]
n. ]9; and rommunilY, 74- 75, 77; and
the poIilical (It' poIifiqut'). XJtl(viii
Marxism; and community. 16: end of. 121
Maturin. Charles. 87
Mayakovsky. Vladimir. 100
Mer1eauPonty, Maurice. 160 n. 13
mctapllysics; of absolute subject. 4; and
language. vii. See 01$0 Being;
Miller. Henry. 107, 146
MonlC'\'trdi. Claudio. 87
morals: and Hclleni sm. 138
Mo:tan. Wolfgang Amadeus. 92- 93
Il ly Mo/her (Ala 41
n1)th: of. 58-61; and
communicat ion, 50-51: and community,
42, 53-70 possim; and rl(:tion. n. 54-
SS: and humanit y, 45--46, 51: and
Imagination, 53. 54-55; and
immanentism, 56-57; interruption of.
43 70 possim. 72; and language. SO; and
literatun::. 69- 70. 71-72; aod
logos, 49- 50: of myth. 48, S2- 56; and
Nazism. 46; power of. 56-57: and
reprcsc:ntation. 54. 56: and romanticism.
45; and spch. 49. 50.51; and subject,
SS; and totalitarianism. 56-S7; and
100aliution, 51: and trutll. 53- 54; and
West. 46: and wi ll. 56-57; and writing
(I!criwre). 68- 70
name: of God. 116-21. 146-47. !Xt ,,/so
language; logos
Nazism: and community, 12; and myth, 46.
See 01$0 totalitarianism
Nietzsche. Friedrich. \'ii. xv- x"i, lIXlI. 10.
34, 41. 129, ])8. 161 n. 26, 162 nn. ll-
)4: and death of God. 125. 127. ])3,
146, 149-50; and 85. 99: and
myth. 45-46: and singularit y. 27
Novalis. ]29
Origen. 126
other: and deaell . wi - xvii; and God, 1l3:
and IO\-e. 102. IOS- 7: and
self. 33- 34. Sff 01$0 subject
Parmenides. 86
Pascal. Blai se. 90. 124. 128
Pawlini. Pi cr Paolo, xxx. 156 , h. I n. 2
Paul. St .. ])7-38. 149
I'avest. Cesare, 146. 147
PhenolTlI!'nology 0/ Spir;I, TIlt (Die
PhiinomenolQsie des Geis/ts), S. 9. 89
phi losoplly: and God. 128- 29: and lo'c.
85-91. 99-102. 104- 5: and politics <10
viii -xi; and thought. ,iii.
01$0 Being: metaphysics
Plato. xxiv. xllJlviii. 49. 56, ])8: and joy,
107; and love. 85. 86. 102. 104; and
myth. 56
ponry: and Io\'t. 99- 102
political. the (Ie poIiliqul'). xxxvi- xli; and
community, ix- xi. 40-11 ; and politics (/0
poIiliquf' ). x
poIilics (/0 poIifiqlll'): and communily.
uvi-xnii; and da::onstruction, xi; and
literature, 80-81; and phi losophy, viii -xi
l'ontevia. 114* 15
Popper. Karl , 122
Pseudo-Dionysius. 117
Pythagoras. 86
Racine. Jean, 87
Rancihc. Jacques, 156 eh. ] n. 2
n::ligion: and faith. 140: and God. 128- 29
representation: and myth, 54, 56
Ricoeur, Paul, xxiv. 160 n. 7
Rilke, Rainer Maria. 129. 145
romanticism: and myth, 45: and
singularit y. 27
ROt' ty. Richard. 155 n. 37
Rou!l5eau. Jean Jacques, 10: and
communit y, 9, )0; and Ihe political (It
po/ilique). xxxviii
Willem van, 117
Salle, Marquis dc, 36: and communit y. 32
Same. Jean Paul. I. 4
&:helcr, Max. 104
ScfIelling. Friedrich, xi i. 6. 1S9 n. 1. 161 n.
2]: and God, 129: and m)lh. 49. 53.
54. 55. 56. 68
&:lIlegel, 161 n. 21
Schlegel. Friedricll. 10. 159 n. I. 161 n. 21,
162 R. 39: and myth, 49. 5]. 53
SchopenhauCf. Arthur. 27; and myth, 56
Scriptun::: and God, ])4- 35
s.c,ga\en, Viclor. 146
self: and 10\'t. 94- 95: and other. ll- 34; and
property. 95. 5 also " I "; subject
ScJ\C'Ca. 112. 126
sin8ularity: and Being. xiii. 28. 77- 78: and
communily. 6-7. 27- 30. 32-33. 59-61,
13- 78; and I()\'t. 38-39. 98-99. 107*8
Socrates. 78. ])8; and I()\'t. 85
Sollers. Philippe, 167 n. 15
Soldlenitsyn. Alexandr. 2
SoIlPrl'ignfy La). 21. 22, 23
spch: and myth. 49. 50-51. 5 also
language; logos: ,"oice; wri ting
SpinOla. Baruch: and God. 145; and kr.-e.
106; and lhe political (It' poIiliquf') ,
xxxviii: and subject. 89; and trut h. 53
Sialin. Josef. 7
State: and community. 12: and ]O\'e. 38
story: community function of. 43--44
Strauss. Johann, 87
Sui ndl)crg, August. 87
subject: and community. xi. xi ii, 18- 19, 23-
25. 31. 32; and freedom. xiv. xv: and
God, 136-37. 145. and I()\'t.
xvii-xviii. 89+90. 96-97: metaphysics of.
4; and myth, 55. See olso Dosf'in: " I ":
Symposium, 85, 86, 91
Tetragrammaton. s,.,. name. God
Tha]es, 49
Theory 0/ Religion (ThkJrit' de 10
religion). 21
thinking: and 10\'t, 82-91, 104. Set 01$0
Thomas Aquinas. St .. 116, 149
thought: and logos, xxi; and philosophy,
10taJitarianbm: and communit). 2-3. 22-23:
and m)tll . 56-S7
Trotsky. Lcon. 7
truth: and language, xix- xx; and literature.
78- 79; and myth. 53- 54
T ....ombly. C)'. 145
Unow)'''''ub/f' Commun;r)\ Thf' (La
Communul/I! inOI'OUU/1lf'J. xvii. 42. 156
pref. n. 1
UsentT. Hermann. 127
Valtry. Paul . loll; and lo\'t, 98. 108
176 0 INDEX
Verlairlt, Paul. 1M n. 6
Vernam, 160 n. 8
VicQ, Giamballista, 49
Vogel, Henri eue, 82
voice: and community, See
Qlso communiCalion; speech
Wagrltr, Richard, 10, 87, 159 n. I, 160 n. 6.
161 n. 18
Wesl, tile: and God. 148: and love. 91- 92:
and myth, 46
Wiesel, Etie. 91
Wiugcnslein. Ludwi g. 129
",or k: and community, lOOIi.l[ . JI - J2.
72- 75. 79
wri ting (<<fil II "' ): and book, IJS: and
community, . xv- .![Xvi .![Xvii-xxix, 41 . 42:
divirlt .![X[x-x.![Xv: and language. xx,
.![Xv, ui,ll: -xu ; and myth, 68- 70. See
Qlso literature: speech
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Jean-Lue Nancy teaches at the Universi ty of Human Sciences of Strasbourg,
France, and is a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
Among his many books and articles are L 'experience de 10 liberti, "Sharing
Voices" in Transforming Hermenewics, and "Finite History" in States of
Theory (1989). He is also the coauthor, with Phili ppe Lacoue-Labarthe, of
The Literary Absolute (1988).
Peter Connor recentl y received hi s doctorate in French from the University
of Cali fornia at Berkeley. He is currently assistant professor of French at
Barnard College. He has translated essays by Georges Batai ll e and several
other philosophical essays.
Christopher Fynsk is associate professor of comparative literature at SUNY
at Binghamton. He is the author of Heidegger: Thought and Historicity
(1986) and the editor of Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics (1989).
Mk hael Holl and teaches at St. Hugh's College. Oxford, and is the editor
of Paragraph: A Journal of the Modern Critical Group.
Lisa Garbus is a graduate student in comparative literature at the University
of California at Berkeley.
Simona Sawhney is a graduate student in comparative literature at the
University of California at Irvine.