how derrida reads derrida…

How Derrida Reads Derrida
from “Unsealing (‘the old new language’)” pp. 115-117

Q.: “An interview with Derrida? At last maybe we’re going to understand something about him!” That’s what some people said when I announced I was preparing this work with you. It is said your texts are difficult, on the limit of readability. Some potential readers are discouraged in advance by this reputation. How do you live with that? Is it an effect you are seeking to produce or, on the contrary, do you suffer from it?

J.D.: I suffer from it, yes, don’t laugh, and I do everything I think possible or acceptable to escape from this trap. But someone in me must get some benefit from it: a certain relation. In order to explain this, it would be necessary to draw out some very ancient things from my history, and make them speak with others, very present, from a social or historical scene that I try to take into account. It is out of the question to analyze this “relation” while improvising in front of this tape recorder, at this speed. But don’t you think that those who accuse me in the way you described understand the essential of what they claim not to understand, namely, that it is a matter first of all of putting into question a certain scene of reading and evaluation, with its familiar comforts, its interests, its programs of every kind? No one gets angry at a mathematician or a physicist whom he or she doesn’t understand at all, or at someone who speaks a foreign language, but rather at someone who tampers with Your own language, with this “relation” precisely, which is yours…

I assure you that I never give in to the temptation to be difficult just for the sake of being difficult. That would be too ridiculous. it’s just that I believe in the necessity of taking time or, if you prefer, of letting time, of not erasing the folds. For philosophical or political reasons, this problem of communication and receivability, in its new techno-economic givens, is more serious than ever for everyone; one can live it only with malaise, contradiction, and compromise.

Q.: In short, you demand for the philosopher what is accorded at the outset to the scientist: the necessity of a translation, of an explanation that will be performed by others.

J.D.: We are all mediators, translators. In philosophy, as in all domains, you have to reckon with, while not ever being sure of it, the implicit level of an accumulated reserve, and thus with a very great number of relays (teaching, newspapers, journals, books, media), with the shared responsibility of these relays. Why is it apparently the philosopher who is expected to be “easier” and not some scientist or other who is even more inaccessible to the same readers? And why not the writer, who can invent, break new paths only in “difficulty,” by taking the risks of a reception that is slow to come, discreet, mistaken, or impossible? In truth–here is another complication–I believe that it is always a “writer” who is accused of being “unreadable,” as you put it, that is, someone who is engaged in an explanation with language, the economy of language, the codes and the channels of what is the most receivable.

The accused is thus someone who re-establishes contact between the corpora and the ceremonies of several dialects. If he or she is a philosopher, then it’s because he or she speaks neither in a purely academic milieu, with the language, rhetoric, and customs that are in force there, nor in that “language of everyone” which we all know does not exist.

Things became virulent (since it’s the case, isn’t it, and fortunately so, that people do not always complain about those they cannot read) when, after some books on Husserl, I accelerated or aggravated a certain contamination of the genres. “Mixing the genres,” people thought, but that’s not the right word. So certain readers resented me perhaps when they could no longer recognize their territory, their “being-at-home” or “among-themselves,” their institution, or–still worse–when these were being perceived from this angle or this distance…

Q.: In short, in order to read you, one must have an idea not only of philosophy but also of psychoanalysis, literature, history, linguistics, or the history of painting…

J.D. : There is especially the potential that opens up necessarily, whether one wishes it or not, from one text to another, a kind of chemistry..

Q.: To read you, one has to have read Derrida…

J.D.: But that’s true for everyone! Is it so wrong to take account of a past trajectory, of a writing that has in part sealed itself, little by little? But it is also interesting to undo, to unseal. I also try to begin over again in proximity to the simplest thing, which is sometimes difficult and dangerous.

You know, the “thinking” that has it out with [s’explique avec] philosophy, science, or literature as such does not totally belong to them. It calls for a writing that sometimes can be read with an apparent facility..

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~ by aikaterine on June 11, 2007.

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