Lacan was without illusions as to the nature of the book. What
is the page for the writer but “‘the turd of his fantasy’? Publication Lacan referred to in an untranslatable pun as “‘poubellication” [poubelleis French for trash—trans.]. A contemporary of Samuel Beckett, Lacan understood the meaning of the trashcan.
The cradle of waste, the gathering-place of garbage, the trashcan,
sublimated, became something grandiose. But a book could also
become a piece of shit, something many books are judged to be.

Catherine Clément

“Only he who one day has abandoned everything and has been abandoned by everything, for whom everything has capsized and who sees himself alone with the infinite, has come to the very bottom of himself and recognized all the profundity of life. This is a great step which Plato compared to death.” (Schelling, cited by Heidegger.)

The Writing of the Disaster
Maurice Blanchot


In one of our last conversations, Borges did not lament in the face of the forgetting into which, as he foresaw, his work would disappear. Although this certainty did not weigh on him, he wished that, among the thousands of pages, one poem could be conserved: “The Golem.” But then, repentant at having staked too excessive a claim, he reduced his wish to one stanza, the first:

If (as the Greek affirmed in the Cratylus)
The name is the archetype of the thing,
In the letters of rose is the rose
And all of the Nile in the word Nile.

Why preserve only “The Golem”? Why only one part? Why the first stanza? Why not all of it? Why not only a name? Many years earlier, in the famous “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quijote,” already cited, the narrator, agreeing with the author, affirmed:
There is no intellectual exercise that is not infinitely futile. A philosophical doctrine is at first a verisimilar description of the universe; the years turn and it is a mere chapter—if not a paragraph or a name—of the history of philosophy. In literature this caducity is even more notorious.

It is not the first time that, anticipating by many years the alarming forecasts of a century split down the middle, Borges foretold the disappearance of literature, of poetry, of the word.

“All the Nile in the word Nile,” said Borges, and in these italics he finishes. But if the conjectures are resplendent, the final word Nile, the last or only that remains after the elimination that the poet prophesied with less resignation than joy, would be the only relic. Vernichtung, in German: a destruction that erases even the traces of that annihilation, in English, nil. Its French homonym, Nil, returns to the name of the river.

In “Le démon de l’analogie,” Mallarmé speculates about the painful enjoyment (pénible jouissance) that the words of sad nature produced in his mouth. He did not avoid that same analogical perversity taking over his words in order to suppress the reference at the same time that he invoked it. “The Penultimate is dead,” said Mallarmé, stressing the strange magic that torments the syllable nul, penultimate and nul, on the verge of disappearing in “that absurd sentence.”

It is not strange that an aesthetics of annihilation swaddles a century that has made of sheer annihilation its shadow, of silence and sounds, its danse macabre. In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul said: “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” According to certain contemporary academic radicalisms, the prophecy has already been verified: if history disappeared again, if poetry was condemned and hermeneutics grew through the decline of theories— or the inverse, if the death of the author was announced more than once, confirming greater deaths that preceded it and those of them who announced it, if in this disappearance en masse, reality also fell, whom could it surprise that the work disappears and there only remains a word?
Like Cratylus, Borges believes in the truth of words, in the similarity they guard between themselves and with things, and this is why he would preserve a stanza, the first, and the final word, several times final: Nile, a variation of nil or of nihil, res nata, “nothing” is the contradictory redemption. In Genesis, golem designates the man created in the image and likeness, an embryo, a “larva,” mask and specter, a being who still is not or is no longer. Similar is strange. He who prohibits imitation, does he imitate himself? That is why, observing the contradiction more than the interdiction, the rabbi of Prague does something further: he gives life to his semblant by way of the word, inscribing emet, Hebrew for “truth,” in the same way as, in order to destroy it, he obliterates aleph, the first letter, leaving met, in Hebrew, and it remains transformed into a cadaver, or it does not remain at all.

BORGES The Passion of an Endless Quotation
Lisa Block de Behar

In his recent monumental book on Hegel, Zizek makes the point that the “Lacanian” split subject is driven, not just by the famous triad of how it imagines itself over and against the big Other of the social symbolic order and its Real material/animal existence, but also by its non-appearance of the self to itself. Here, as is typical, Zizek uses a joke: two men are at a theatre, knocking back a few drinks while in the audience. At some point, one of the men gets up to use the toilet, embarrassingly lurching around for the WC. Finally, desperate to relieve himself, he pops through a door and spots a potted plant. Frantic, he relieves himself right there. After some copious urination, he zips up and eventually finds his way back to his seat. “What a pity;’ his friend tells him as he sits down. “You missed the best part! Some man just came on stage and pissed in the potted plant!” Zizek provides the moral from here: “The subject necessarily misses its own act, it is never there to see its own appearance on the stage, its own intervention is the blind spot of its gaze:’ In the movie theatre, is this not the split between what Zizek calls the void of the subject, the pure cogito that has exited the room, and the subject as he appears to the Other in the social symbolic pissing on the plant?

Peter Gratton

Disaster Communism, Disaster Capitalism, Or Simply Disaster? Thoughts On Žižek’s PANdemIC! (Carl Raschke)

“There is no return to normal, the new ‘normal’ will have to be constructed on the ruins of our old lives, or we will find ourselves in a new barbarism whose signs are already clearly discernible.”
Thus writes the Slovenian philosophical “rock star” Slavoj Žižek in his quick and dirty little book, entitled PANdemIC!: Covid-19 Shakes the World and made available for readers within just weeks after the start of the spread of the Covid-19 virus beyond China. (12)
The economic shortfalls and social dislocations of the pandemic, Žižek writes, will “compel us to re-invent Communism based on trust in the people and in science.”(46-7) Communism with a New Yorker magazine face!

At the same time, Žižek seems to fear that instead of such a smily-faced “communism” might not turn out to prevail in a post-Covid world. Instead we are just as likely to experience “barbarism with a human face—ruthless survivalist measures enforced with regret and even sympathy, but legitimized by expert opinions”.(96) Further on in his meandering, little tractate, however, Žižek makes it clear that what he is calling “communism” is really nothing more or less “simply as a name for what is already going on (or at least perceived by many as a necessity), measures which are already being considered and even partially enforced” – in other words, city-wide lockdowns, closures of restaurants, demands for “social distancing,” and so forth.

With typical demurral Žižek admits: “It’s not a vision of a bright future but more one of ‘disaster Communism’ as an antidote to disaster capitalism. Not only should the state assume a much more active role, organizing the production of urgently needed things like masks, test kits and respirators, sequestering hotels and other resorts, guaranteeing the minimum of survival of all new unemployed, and so on, doing all of this by abandoning market mechanisms.”(116)

If the new “disaster communism” that Žižek sees as facing its own summons to manage the world after the presumed collapse of the neoliberal world order following the viral onslaught were to be worthy of its name, it would have had a distinctive plan for the dissolution of the asset-holding classes. Instead, the asset-holders have become even more entrenched, while what was left of the working class became truly (in Marx’s famous phrasing)“immiserated.”

Of course, we have already witnessed from the late twentieth century onward a unique kind of “zoonostic” transfer of the chromosomic material of” disaster capitalism” to the genomes of what was supposed to be the purest form of communism itself – Chinese Maoism.

The point is that at some point – which may be much sooner than one anticipates – a certain politico-theological pseudo-Trinitarian homoousiosis of “disaster capitalism,” “disaster communism”, and smiling neoliberal barbarism may become the preferred political strategy for the urban, cosmopolitan political elites who desperately want to hold on to their capital assets while the real workers starve but the planet cools down.



Georges Bataille: An Intellectual Biography by Michel Surya

There is plenty here to keep fans of Story of the Eye happy, but Surya is more at pains to give Bataille his due as a philosopher and political thinker. Yes, this is the man who masturbated in front of his mother’s corpse while his pregnant wife slept in a neighbouring room, but he is also the author of “The Psychological Structure of Fascism”. Yes, this is the man who experienced a kind of ecstasy at London Zoo at the sight of a monkey’s arse (“a beautiful boil of red flesh”), but he also analysed the role of utility in social exchange in “The Notion of Expenditure”.
And yes, this is the man who was obsessed by some horrific photographs (reproduced in the book) of the Chinese torture of a hundred pieces, convinced that the young man being cut up alive was in a state of religious ecstasy (“hideous, crazed, lined with blood, as beautiful as a wasp”), but he also wrote “The Problem of the State”. It soon becomes clear that the morbid, obsessional erotic novels cannot be entirely divorced from the morbid, obsessional political philosophy.
Bataille’s literary works are not directly autobiographical, though they frequently borrow from his life. Unfortunately he only remembered the bad times, leaving us with the (probably) mistaken impression, says Surya, of “a black and completely accursed life”. Surya overcomes the lack of documentary evidence by focusing on Bataille’s intellectual development. However perverse Bataille seems, he argues, there is a systematic philosophy behind the work, although he was better at sudden insights than sustained argument. Nevertheless, through no fault of Surya’s, this remains a curiously bloodless portrait. The flesh-and-blood Bataille is missing – which is odd, for a man so obsessed by flesh and blood.
Surya traces Bataille’s pathological state of mind to his childhood. His syphilitic father was blind and paralysed and eventually went mad, and the family had to leave him behind when they were evacuated in September 1915. His tormented mother became delirious and attempted suicide. Two months later the family returned home to find “a fastened coffin in the bedroom”. Little wonder, then, that Bataille was fascinated by death.
Reacting against his irreligious father, Bataille found God and converted to Catholicism. He devoured medieval texts depicting the body as a bag of excrement, and studied the horrible tortures of the Christian martyrs. Looking back, he saw this devout period as an attempt to evade his “destiny”, which turned out to be Nietzsche. God was dead and “the tide of laughter sweeping over me had turned my faith into a game”.
Suddenly everything was permitted and he became devoted to the pleasures of the flesh (“My true church is a whorehouse”). He cared only for that which was “dirty”, and he wanted to make dirty anything sublime and pure. In the end only death was filthy enough for him, as is evident in Story of the Eye.
Bataille rarely mentions love except to degrade it. He was “systematically and copiously unfaithful”, says Surya, and his marriage in 1928 did not stop him from frequenting nightclubs, brothels, orgies (his wife left him in 1934), nor from having a mistress, Colette Peignot, the model for many of his heroines. It remains a mystery how Colette died (aged 35 in Bataille’s bed). Bataille said he would speak of it one day, but never did, and in truth women seem to pass through his life like figures in a dream.
It was a life of extreme solitude and, ultimately, disappointment. He never became the respected writer he dreamed of becoming. As Surya points out, Bataille was envious of André Breton’s celebrity and covetous of his position as leader of the Surrealists, yet he refused to join them, preferring to carp from the sidelines. Breton thought he went too far in embracing filth and corruption. “Mr Bataille loves flies,” he said. “Not we.” So Bataille remained on Surrealism’s fringes, a buzzing fly that would not go away.
Illness and age caught up with him in the end. On top of pulmonary tuberculosis he was diagnosed with cerebral arteriosclerosis aged 58. Dizzy spells and lapses of attention followed and he complained that his mind was “undoing itself “. In 1962, at the age of 65, he gladly succumbed to the “laughter of death”.
An important question hangs over this serious and respectful biography, and Surya returns to it several times: was Bataille mad? Surya does not think so, and neither did Bataille. “I was not insane,” he wrote, “but I undoubtedly made too much of the necessity of leaving, in one way or another, the limits of human experience.”

Ian Pindar,
Via Justin Murphy <>


Аristocratic radicalism. Nietzschе

As Thus Spoke Zarathustra later observed, reality looked very different: ‘Far too many are born: the state was invented for the superfluous!’ or rather, the social state (Za, I, On the New Idol [35]). The reforms brought in by Bismarck not only promoted levelling and massification but could not even achieve the goals pursued by them, the integration of the labour movement into the existing order. So, in the face of absurd pretensions, one was to reaffirm a fundamental principle: ‘There is no right either to existence or to work, or even to “happiness”; for the individual person is no different from the meanest worm’.

‘Great men like Caesar and Napoleon are living species! All other governing is imitation [nachgemacht]’.

‘When I look for the highest formula for Shakespeare, the only thing I can find is the fact that he conceived the type of Caesar’.


What a relief it is for these European herd animals, what a deliverance from an increasingly intolerable pressure, when, in spite of everything, someone appears who can issue unconditional commands; the impact of Napoleon’s appearance is the last major piece of evidence for this:  the history of Napoleon’s impact is practically the history of the higher happiness attained by this whole century in its most worthwhile people and moments.

One becomes a respectable [anständig] human being because one is a respectable human being, i.e., because one is born a capitalist of good instincts and prosperous conditions [Capitalist gutter Instinkte und gedeihlicher Verhältnisse] … If one comes poor into the world, of parents that have squandered everything and saved nothing, then one is ‘incorrigible’, ripe for the penitentiary or the madhouse.

‘I was always taught to trace the origin of my blood and name to Polish nobles called Niëtzky’. ‘And this is where I come to the question of race. I am a pure-blooded Polish nobleman. […] But I am a huge atavism, even as a Pole’.

‘It usually stinks in places where the people eat and drink, even where they worship. You should not go to church if you want to breathe clean air`

‘The nobleman must in all cases keep his distance from the rabble [a plebis commercio]’.

‘One must be very superficial, so that one never returns home full of remorse after having been with the common people’.

[W]e are delighted by all who love, as we do, danger, war, and adventure; who refuse to compromise, to be captured, to reconcile, to be castrated; we consider ourselves conquerors; we contemplate the necessity for new orders as well as for a new slavery – for every strengthening and enhancement of the human type also involves a new kind of enslavement – doesn’t it?

Basically, I had put into practice one of Stendahl’s maxims: he suggests entering society with a duel. And how I chose my opponent! The leading free spirit in Germany! … In fact, the essay introduced an entirely new type of free-spiritedness: to this day, nothing is more foreign and unrelated to me than this whole European and American species of ‘libres penseurs’. Just with dyed-in-the-wool idiots and clowns of ‘modern ideas’, I find myself even more in conflict with representatives of this Anglo-American species than with any of their opponents. […] I am the first immoralist.

What are the profound transformations that must derive from the theories according to which it is affirmed that there is no God that cares for us and there is no eternal moral law (atheistically-immoral humanity)? That we are animals? That our life is transitory? That we have no responsibility? The wise man and the animal will approach one another and produce a new type!

The strongest and most evil spirits have so far done the most to advance humanity.

How long have I been trying to demonstrate the perfect innocence of becoming! And what strange ways I have taken in so doing! […] And to what end is all this? Was it not to procure for myself the feeling of absolute irresponsibility [völlige Unverantwortlichkeit]?

What would have become of the human being without fear envy greed! It would no longer exist’.

You are young and wish for a child and marriage for yourself. But I ask you: are you a person who has a right to wish for a child? […] [T]hat which the far-too-many call marriage, these superfluous ones – oh, what do I call that? Oh, this poverty of the soul by two! Oh, this filth of the soul by two! […] Which child would not have reason to weep about its parents?

‘Oh my brothers, am I perhaps cruel? But I say: if something is falling, one should also give it a push! […] And whomever you cannot teach to fly, him you should teach – to fall faster!’

‘One ought to do away with [abschaffen] beggars: for you feel annoyed giving to them and annoyed when you don’t’.

The biblical prohibition ‘Thou shalt not kill’ is naïve in comparison to my prohibition on the décadents, ‘Thou shalt not reproduce!’ – it is something even worse … In regard to the dross and refuse of life there is only one duty, to destroy; to be compassionate here, to want to preserve at all cost, would be the highest form of immorality, actual counter-nature, deadly enmity to life itself.

There has never been a human being with greater right to destroy than I’.

This is my endeavour, to have claimed for the first time a counter-reckoning! – to have asked: what unspeakable misery, what deterioration human beings have undergone, because altruism has been raised to an ideal, because selfishness was called evil and experienced as evil.

And whatever harm [Schaden] the evil may do, the harm of the good is the most harmful harm [der Schaden der Guten ist schändlichste Schaden]’.

[T]hese days, people everywhere are lost in rapturous enthusiasms, even in scientific disguise, about a future state of society where ‘the exploitative character’ will fall away: – to my ears, that sounds as if someone is promising to invent a life that dispenses with all organic functions. ‘Exploitation’ does not belong to a corrupted or imperfect, primitive society: it belongs to the essence of being alive as a fundamental organic function; it is a result of genuine will to power, which is just the will of life.

‘In general the tendency of socialism, like that of nationalism, is a reaction against becoming individual. One has difficulties with the ego, the immature, crazy ego: they want to put it back under the bell’.

‘[T]alking about spirit and the Good like Plato did meant standing truth on its head and disowning even perspectivism, which is the fundamental condition of all life’.

‘Good’ is no longer good when it comes from your neighbor’s mouth. And how could there ever be a ‘common good’! The term is self-contradictory: whatever can be common will never have much value. In the end, it has to be as it is and has always been: great things are left for the great, abysses for the profound, delicacy and trembling for the subtle, and, all in all, everything rare for those that are rare themselves.


Rebellion – that is the nobility of slaves. Let your nobility be obedience! Your commanding itself shall be obeying! To a good warrior “thou shalt” sounds nicer than “I will.” And everything you hold dear you should first have commanded to you.

‘Selection in the species, its purification of dross’, was ‘the virtue par excellence’; ‘one must [man soll] amputate sick limbs: society’s prime morality’, ‘society is a body of which no part may be sick [an dem kein Glied krank sein darf ]’.


Nietzsche, the Aristocratic Rebel

Domenico Losurdo







My terrible ‘antidemocratism’. Nietzsche

Like its promoters and protagonists, the revolution haunting Europe was a sickness. This was also the thesis of Comte, who invited people to step up against this ‘chronic sickness’, this ‘insidious unrest’, these ‘deceptive hopes’. Along with his diagnosis of the sickness, he also revealed a concern, like Nietzsche, that it might spread among the ‘proletarians’, especially given the state of ‘continual excitement systematically directed towards passions related to their social condition.
Le Bon argued similarly. According to him, revolution represented the ‘triumph’ of ‘atavistic instincts’, ‘instincts of primitive barbarism’, ‘instincts of the ancestral wild’, or the ‘natural instincts transmitted to man from his primitive animality’. Taine also argued in the same way, at least in the interpretation of the crowd psychologist Le Bon, who credited the French historian with having finally clarified the meaning and course of the revolution, starting from its regression to a ‘wild primitive stage’. So it was clear that the key to understanding revolutions was not sociology or political economy, and not even history. Precisely because revolutions were not unleashed by objective contradictions, psychology or psychopathology were called upon to explain them.
But Nietzsche too credited the French historian with explaining the upheavals in France by the passions and history of the ‘modern soul’. As for the German philosopher, so too for Le Bon there was no more effective way of liquidating an author than to demonstrate his lack of psychological penetration. Which was more or less what Le Bon does with Rousseau, ‘a stranger to all psychology’.
Starting from the assertion that the sickness as diagnosed was incurable, as confirmed by its periodic re-emergence, it was easy to slip from psychology to physiology. The same was true of Nietzsche: ‘The means of comfort thought up by beggars and slaves are the thoughts of malnourished, tired or overexcited brains; that is the yardstick by which Christianity and the socialist visionary spirit [Phantasterei] should be judged’.
This led us once again back to Comte. Not by accident, after the Revolution of 1848 and in polemical opposition to it, doctors joined the Société Positiviste, driven by a clear conviction that the revolutionary agitation, ‘decomposition’ and ‘social sickness’ then raging increasingly required an energetic ‘medical intervention [médication]’, as a challenge that could only be met by a ‘regeneration of the medical art’.
For a whole historical period, apart from a few isolated and partial exceptions, revolution had been denounced because of its irreligiosity and atheism. Now this accusation underwent a thoroughgoing reversal: revolution now became synonymous with messianism or a theological-metaphysical stage. Whatever else, it was a symptom of sickness. Thus Comte, Nietzsche and Le Bon ended up perpetuating a tradition of thought that saw in the upheavals in Paris the eruption of delirium or madness, of plague or smallpox, in any case of a sickness of the soul or body.
It was against this tradition that Hegel polemicised: the revolutionary crisis could in no way be equated with ‘an anomaly and a transitory morbid paroxysm’, as the theorists of the Restoration claimed; rather, objective contradictions underlay it; these formed ‘the principle of all self-movement, which consists only in an exhibition of it’.
Against this historical background we can better understand Nietzsche’s development. ‘The barbaric slave class’ posed a terrible threat to culture in the years of The Birth of Tragedy, and then turned into reborn savages in the ‘Enlightenment’ period, to finally become the malformed and those whose lives had turned out badly. Leading this mass inclined to revolt were the innerly sick intellectuals. If continuity was expressed by means of the denunciation of the revolutionary sickness, what changed was the diagnosis of this sickness and the nature of the antidote. In the first and second phase, the so-called ‘metaphysical’ period, or rather the period the ‘enlightened’ Nietzsche called ‘metaphysical’, the revolutionary sickness was synonymous with the hypertrophy of reason and historical consciousness, so the antidote was represented by instinct, instinctive wisdom and super-historical myth. In the period of ‘Enlightenment’, the revolutionary sickness was above all the Schwärmerei in which the religious and political Phantasten or ‘metaphysical and artistic’ people engaged, people that had not yet achieved the ‘manliness’ reached by the rest of humanity.
In the final phase, the revolutionaries were represented as the malformed and those whose lives had turned out badly; their ideology and their behaviour were explained by means not only of psychopathology but also of a physiological component, which sometimes seemed to be inherited (Nietzsche now spoke, not by accident, not only of delirium and hallucination but also of epilepsy).

Nietzsche, the Aristocratic Rebel
Domenico Losurdo


Understandably, Nietzsche saw the new figure of the plebeian intellectual embodied above all in Rousseau, plebeian on account both of his social origin and his ideological positions and particularly treasured by the Jacobins. In his speech on inequality, Voltaire had already commented: ‘This is the philosophy of a beggar [gueux] that wants the rich to be robbed by the poor.’ One can see why Rousseau became for many the first and best of the gueux plumées. Constant accused him of having inspired with his ‘tirades against wealth and even against property’ the most brutal phase of the French Revolution, namely the social unrest of the disinherited masses and the Jacobin policy of intervention in the economy and the private sphere. Similarly, Flaubert saw in the author of The Social Contract ‘the progenitor of envious and tyrannical democracy’. These themes also found support in Germany, so a contemporary and opponent of Hegel, Gustav Hugo, ranked Rousseau among the ‘opponents of private property’. But it was above all Taine that took us back into the immediate vicinity of Nietzsche, whose school he claimed to have followed. While the French historian denounced Rousseau on account of the ‘rancour [rancune] of the poor plebeian’ that oozed from his writings, Nietzsche called him the ‘person of rancour [Ranküne-Mensch]’, who sought ‘in the ruling classes the cause of his being miserable [Miserabilität]’ (XII, 421), or a person of ‘ressentiment’ (GD, Expeditions of an Untimely Man, 3 [193]). He was ‘idealist and canaille rolled into one’.
The consonance between Nietzsche and the culture of his time is clear. But no less obvious and equally important are the new elements. After pointing out that ‘the duality of idealist and canaille’ could also be seen in the French Revolution, the aphorism from Twilight of the Idols continues: ‘I do not really care about the bloody farce played out in this Revolution, its “immorality”: what I hate is its Rousseauian morality.’ Rousseau, ‘this deformity of a person’, ‘needed moral “dignity” in order to stand the sight of himself’. And, in the name of morality, the revolution propagated the ‘doctrine of equality’, which ‘seems as if justice itself is preaching here, while in fact it is the end of justice’, since it claimed to even out realities actually separated by an abyss (GD, Expeditions of an Untimely Man, 48 [221–2]). Not only the claim to social equality, made especially by liberal authors, but also the claim to equality as such, and even the reference to an allegedly universal morality, itself pervaded by an egalitarian logic, was an expression both of plebeian rancour and exalted revolutionary utopianism.

Nietzsche, the Aristocratic Rebel
Domenico Losurdo