10/21/2014

Jean Marcel Genest

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Jean-Marcel Genest received his first communion when he was 11 in June of 1922. Now that was a day haloed Jesus and the Abbé.. a  holy second... weeding  hours ... grass... The Last Supper... I was the living bread... a supper for you Jenet ... in the hours before seconds at the hanging.. ..


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Jenet December 5, 1940

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9/14/2014

Elias Sanbar - Histoire sociale de la Palestine (1/4): Une terre sainte

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Marcel Liebman a joué un rôle précurseur, en Belgique, dans l'ouverture d'un dialogue entre Israéliens et Palestiniens. En ce sens, l'invitation cette année d'Elias Sanbar, Ambassadeur de Palestine à l'UNESCO, intellectuel renommé et grand spécialiste des relations internationales, exprime

parfaitement les objectifs de la Chaire. Le Professeur Elias Sanbar a donné quatre leçons publiques sur l'histoire sociale de la Palestine du 10 au 13 février 2014 à l'ULB.



En regard de l'actualité et des passions que soulève le conflit israélo-palestinien, il a restitué l'histoire d'une Palestine polychrome, terre de pluralité, des origines et des croyances.


La Chaire Marcel Liebman a été créée en 1986 afin de pérenniser un enseignement de l'histoire du socialisme et des théories politiques, sociales et économiques dans la perspective critique qui fut celle de Marcel Liebman. Chaque année, la Chaire est ouverte à un professeur invité.














               

 

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  visitors at Larache

    at 
S aint Genety's grave   ~ _________________________

8/28/2014

Counter Signature _ Derrida




A friend sent this copy of Jacky Dereader's essay  (its  was whats called pdf and so there's little numbers speckled throughout but they dont connect here ) about Jean Genetty's last books. Its callED countersignature and like mosty things writ by the late greate Jack pretty impossible to read no fun at all. after aLL he (always) he took a long and winding labyrinth to get to sometimes a little simple point. reminds me of how, well last night it reminded me of how the Israel government strings out forever and delaying, deferring, referring, delaying, detourining, dilly dallying with the Palestinians in the infinite obfuscation of denial, retrial, (not mere  deconstructing but just down & out destroying , blowing up, blasting off, massacreing villages, towns, high rises, familes, farm land, sea coasts, drone dumping drone buzzing day and night) planatation, settlement resettlement, conquest foundation, reconquest, question,  more legal points and questions  security question, maritime secure, air domination, support from outer space, under the shrines of all concerned this, mind that never stops,  no,  contest, turning left, switch right, returning, spinning, retracing, untracking and the other thousand squiggly combinations of worm like meticulations, so as to conserve, preserve, and reserve  for themselves and their colleagues the americans, a day of change and reckon, a place and space to make treaty and peace. Derrida works from a not dissimilar mind set, that is the epistemology of deferral has its historical counter point or living and real living parallel in the relation between the Palestinians,   and the Israeils.  Derrida never bombed and blasted . to my knowledge he was never a pilot in the air force of Israel nor.
a soldier in the not nice Tsal.


    How did he avoid that? he was not a citizen of this country they call israel.

Nor a country nor  a man was a death sign ? was Ishmael his brother? and the Palestinians ? were they delayed in court as forever the sign of death? the apocalypse ever ending never coming the sign of the signifier the son's , the Messiah or some such name as Adam's displacement. but what good does this on the ground of daily life , and sacrifice?

Naturally as I wrote above a friend sent this rest assured it's not true there are no friends who sent this. the web? was th at a  friend?  of lonesomeness and soldiering? did the river bed have a friend 
               a  river with the web?   is that what the Jewish prophet said?

                                        O Jeremiah
                                                                                        O Ishmael  Hagar 

 I think it's from a talk he gave no it's something he wrote about uncle genetty's last book Prisoner of Love.

  





Countersignature

So I do not begin. But even before beginning, I shall read some lines
from a great book that was not yet published when I was writing
Glas, a book I love and admire, in spite of some questions that leave a
kind of wound in me, in a disconcerted, divided ‘me’, proving Genet
both wrong and right, today more than ever. The book is Prisoner of
Love. Countersigning without countersigning what is said there—for
example about an occasionally undecidable frontier between a ‘Jewish
question’ and an ‘Israeli question’. We shall doubtless be speaking
again later about the Jewish question, precisely between Hegel and
Genet. Facing each other in Glas, Hegel and Genet perhaps say
something analogous about the Jewish people and its history. Prisoner
of Love can be read, especially in its final pages, as the last signature of
Jean Genet that countersigns all the others. I shall begin and end there.
So, before beginning to begin, I would like to use as an epigraph
some lines from Prisoner of Love concerning what I would call the
‘betrayal of truth’. Leaving this expression ‘betrayal of truth’ all its
chances and risks of ambiguity. Its polysemy [plurivocit´e] is obviously
terrifying, oscillating endlessly between at least three distinct possibilities.
I say terrifying deliberately. I say it deliberately, for terror,
terrorism (and not only ‘terror in letters’ as Paulhan would say) are
on the programme of a semantic instability oscillating between an
objective genitive and a subjective genitive.
Three possibilities therefore: first, the ‘betrayal of truth’ means
that if truth is betrayed, this can only be by a lie, falsification, nonveracity,
infidelity, perjury, simulacrum and a countersignature that,
instead of authenticating a first signature, sets about imitating it, that
is counterfeiting it. It would already be a betrayal. A betrayal of truth
and of an authentic countersignature.
Second possibility: truth, without itself being betrayed, is what
betrays, lies, deceives, perjures, is unfaithful. Truth is then a lie. A
well-known Nietzschean theme. But to whom, to what, how can
truth or veracity lie? How can a truth not only be betrayed, but betray?
Third possibility: truth is betrayed, it can only be betrayed in
the sense that one says in French that truth is ‘revealed’, that is
unmasked, denounced or demonstrated by someone or something,
in a moment of unveiling that is also a moment of denunciation.
For example, in writing, a fiction or a simulacrum that does not
8 Paragraph
pretend to be ‘true’—and because it does not pretend to truth and
authenticity—betrays the truth, suddenly lets it appear, manifests or
signifies it as if despite itself. In this sense too, truth can be betrayed,
but this time in a logic of the symptom or of fiction and through an
effect of countersigning. The countersignature can thus betray itself
in betraying what it countersigns.
Supposing that a countersignature betrays the truth of an earlier
signature, in what sense does it do this? If the betrayal of truth in its
three meanings counterfeits and contravenes by means of a counterfeiting
that can, in certain singular cases, ‘make the truth’ (Veritatem
facere, as Augustine says), it can be said that the countersignature betrays
the signature by counterfeiting it or, on the contrary, respects it by
not imitating it, by not counterfeiting it, for example by signing very
differently. The question becomes: what does it mean to countersign
and counterfeit? And especially, what does it mean to betray?
In French, a symptom is said to ‘betray’ a truth. This expression
does not operate in every language. I am posing these questions here
very quickly, but they shall remain unresolved, watching over the
development of this introduction. I could of course have begun by a
long lecture on Genet as a poet and partisan of betrayal, and evoked
his ethics as an ethics of betrayal. As you know, there are a thousand
elements that support this view. In Glas, I had moreover tried to think
the possibility, thus the necessity, of this betrayal at the very heart
of the signature and to posit the authentication of the signature in
the countersignature as the first betrayal of the signature, beyond all
disciplines, literary criticisms, exegesis, etc. Before the quotation from
Prisoner of Love that I announced, allow me therefore to read a passage
from Glas on the question of the betrayal lodged at the heart of the
signature [au sein du seing]. Not by chance, this passage is opposite a
reading by Hegel of Judaism and circumcision. Here first is a fragment
in the ‘Hegel’ column:

What comes and deposits itself in the Abrahamic cut? Two remarks on this subject:
(1) Errance, the war with nature and nations, the ruse, the control, the violence
do not dissolve the Jewish family. On the contrary, the Jewish family constitutes
itself in isolation, the jealous closure of its identity, the fierceness of its endogamy.
Abraham will have cut his bonds with his family and father only in order to
become the stronger father of a more determinate family. What remains of/from
the cut becomes stronger.
In order to remark the isolation, to reinforce the identification, to call itself a
family (a family less natural than the preceding but still too natural by the very
fact that it opposes nature): circumcision.


Circumcision is a determining cut. It permits cutting but, at the same time
and in the same stroke [du mˆeme coup], remaining attached to the cut. The Jew
arranges himself so that the cut part [le coup´e] remains attached to the cut. Jewish
errance limited by adherence and the countercut. The Jew is cutting only in
order to treat thus, to contract the cut with itself. [One could play endlessly at
transposing these motifs into certain passages of Prisoner of Love.] ‘He [Abraham]
steadily persisted in cutting himself off from others, and he made this conspicuous
by a physical property imposed on himself and his posterity.’ (. . .)
(2) Opposing himself to hostile, infinitely aggressive nature and humankind,
Abraham behaves as a master. Through his infinite opposition, he reaches that
thought of the infinite the Greek lacks. In this sense the spirit of Judaism elaborates
a negativity or an abstraction indispensable to the production of Christianity. (. . .)
He could not even love his son [that is what Hegel says]. Just as he imposes
on himself the sign (or simulacrum) of castration, he is constrained to cut himself
off from his son, or at least to engage the operation that remained, it too, a
simulacrum of sacrifice.2
In the ‘Genet’ column opposite this passage on Hegel, here is the
passage of the notice given to all experts at reading:
Departed [second movement of the crowd on the theoretical agora] are those
who thought the flower signified, symbolized, metaphorized, metonymized, that
one was devising repertories of signifiers and anthic figures, classifying flowers
of rhetoric, combining them, ordering them, binding them up in a sheaf or
a bouquet around the phallic arch (arcus, arca, K˛ K , which trap you fall into
doesn’t matter).
Departed then are, save certain exceptions, duly so considered, the archeologists,
philosophers, hermeneuts, semioticians, semanticians, psychoanalysts,
rhetoricians, poeticians, even perhaps all those readers who still believe, in
literature or anything else.
Those still in a hurry to recognize are patient for a moment: provided that it
be anagrams, anamorphoses, somewhat more complicated, deferred and diverted
semantic insinuations capitalized in the depths of a crypt, cleverly dissimulated in
the play of letters and forms. Genet would then rejoin this powerful, occulted
tradition that was long preparing its coup, its haywire start from sleep, while
hiding its work from itself, anagrammatizing proper names, anamorphosing
signatures and all that follows. Genet, by one of those movements in (n)ana,
would have, knowing it or not—I have my own views about this, but that
doesn’t matter—silently, laboriously, minutely, obsessionally, compulsively, and
with the moves of a thief in the night, set his signatures in (the) place of all the
missing objects. In the morning, expecting to recognize familiar things, you find
his name all over the place, in big letters, small letters, as a whole or in morsels
deformed or recomposed. He is no longer there, but you live in his mausoleum
10 Paragraph
or his latrines. [The book opened on an allusion to latrines.] You thought you
were deciphering, tracking down, pursuing, you are included. He has affected
everything with his signature. He has affected his signature. He has affected it
with everything. He himself is affected by it (he will even be decked out, later
on, with a circumflex). He has tried, he himself, properly to write what happens
between the affect and the seing.
How does one give the seing to an affect? How does one do it without a
simulacrum to attract the attention of all? By postiches, fetishes, pastiches? (. . .)
Visibly dreaming about becoming, so as to resound, his own proper (glas), to
attend his own interment after giving birth to himself or performing his own
decollation, his own ungluing, he would have been watchful to block up all
that he writes in the forms of a tomb. Of a tomb that comes down to his
name, whose stony mass no longer even overflows the letters, yellow as gold or
betrayal, like the genˆet. Letters without a pedestal, a contract with writing as a
funeral rite.
[And here is the betrayal:]More precisely, the contract does not have the burial
(place) as its object. Burial is not an event to come, foreseen by a contractual
act. Burial is the signature of the contract. So much so that in determined
places—those that seem to interest us here—this so-called literature of betrayal
would itself betray itself; concealing, stealing the signature would have its stoolie
in the text. (40-3)
And here now, twelve years later, is Prisoner of Love that I follow
in its letter. What really should be done, to hear properly the ten
lines I am about to read, and what I cannot do here, is to reconstitute
the sequence without sequence, the organized breaks in construction,
the discontinuities, the series of anacoluthons, the play of narrative
ellipsis that both connects and isolates pensive maxims, aphorisms
resembling asides like apostrophes apostrophizing another addressee
in the audience, in a word the art of writing. These sequences,
these aphorisms are separated by gaps that seem to interrupt all
relation, all significant complicity, all internal and logical complicity
between them, as if there were a leap and an arbitrary break in
construction, even though precisely the secret link is thus revealed
and can retrospectively be interpreted, revealed, betrayed.
The sequence preceding the passage I am going to read concerns a
scene of photography, the would-be capture of the truth by faithful
reproduction. Photographers, then, from all countries, want to capture
images of the fedayeen and ask them—Genet underlines it—to
‘pose’: ‘The French made one fedayee pose twelve times for a single
picture.’3 Sometimes, photographers, notably Italian, want to show
that they know how to take low-angle shots, what Genet calls ‘l’art
Countersignature 11
de la contre-plong´ee’ [literally, the art of counter-diving]. I shall read
two or three lines before and after the passage most important to me
in an attempt, in my turn, not to overly betray this masterpiece of
the staging of writing, that is of betrayal speaking about betrayal, of a
traitor who ‘makes truth’ by betraying it and by saying the betrayal.
Since it involves photographers, reporting or information, it is also a
meditation on the testimony and politics of the media:
A photographer is seldom photographed, a fedayee often, but if he has to pose
he’ll die of boredom before he dies of fatigue. Some artists think they see a halo
of solitary grandeur around a man in a photograph, but it’s only the weariness
and depression caused by the antics of the photographer. One Swiss made the
handsomest of the fedayeen stand on an upturned tub so that he could take him
silhouetted against the sunset.
Here there is a gap, then these lines that should be read in a
different tone:
What is still called order, but is really physical and spiritual exhaustion, comes
into existence of its own accord when what etymologically should be called
mediocrity is in the ascendant.
Again, a space, and then this aphorism isolated between two gaps:
‘Betrayal is made up of both curiosity and fascination [vertige].’ Obviously,
Genet is still talking about photography. The sentence is again
followed by a space and then there is a long paragraph talking about
writing and lies in general:
But what if it were true that writing is a lie? What if it merely enabled us to
conceal what was, testimony being only a trompe-l’oeil? Without actually saying
the opposite of what was, writing presents only its visible, acceptable and, so to
speak, silent face, because it is incapable of really showing the other one.
Here Genet is speaking about his book, about what he is doing as a
witness, a would-be witness to truth:
The various scenes in which Hamza’s mother appears are in a way flat. They
ooze love and friendship and pity, but how can one simultaneously express all the
contradictory emanations issuing from the witnesses? The same is true for every
page in this book where there is only one voice. And like all the other voices my
own is faked [truqu´ee, retain this word, we shall come back to it], and while the
reader may guess as much, he can never know what tricks it employs. [In other
words, you may know it’s faked, you may know that I betray, but as you do not
know how, it is as though you knew nothing.]
12 Paragraph
The only fairly true causes of my writing this book were the nuts I picked from
the hedges at Ajloun. But this sentence tries to hide the book, as each sentence
tries to hide the one before, leaving on the page nothing but error: something of
what often happened but what I could never subtly enough describe—though
it’s subtly enough I cease to understand it. Hicham had never been shown any
consideration by anyone, old or young [I stress this because I shall be coming back
constantly to this question of age for Genet]. No one took any notice of him,
not because he was nothing, but because he did nothing. But one day his knee
hurt him and he put himself down for medical inspection. . . (32-3; translation
slightly modified)
The text returns to standard narrative mode, but you can see the
work of writing. The question of the knee will moreover come back.
Everything follows on. Thus on the next page we cross an enormous
narrative mass to find the word truqu´e, faked, again:
The show they’d put on for me demonstrated their disillusion, for to play only
with gestures when your hands ought to be holding kings and queens and knaves,
all the symbols of power, makes you feel a fraud [donne le sentiment de truquer], and
brings you dangerously close to schizophrenia. Playing cards without cards every
night is a kind of dry masturbation. (34)
A brief notation concerning age that you might scarcely have noticed
if I hadn’t laboured the point—‘Hicham had never been shown any
consideration by anyone, old or young’—initiates at a distance the
reflections that, two pages later, after a long narrative digression and
the description of the card game where the word truqu´e reappears,
pursue a meditation on the truth of testimony, but this time from the
point of view of age. The age of the signatory and witness, as if there
was an age of truth as much as a truth of age. A little later, just after
a gap:
At this point I must warn the reader that my memory is accurate as far as facts and
dates and events are concerned, but that the conversations here are reconstructed.
Less than a century ago it was still quite normal to ‘describe’ conversations, and I
admit I’ve followed that method. The dialogue you’ll read in this book is in fact
reconstituted, I hope faithfully. But it can never be as complex as real exchanges,
since it’s only the work of a more or less talented restorer, like Viollet-le-Duc.
But you mustn’t think I don’t respect the fedayeen. I’ll have done my best to
reproduce the timbre and expression of their voices, and their words. Mahjoub
and I really did have that conversation; it’s just as authentic as the game of cards
without cards, where the game existed only through the accurate mimicry of
hand and finger and joint.
Countersignature 13
And here is the question of age:
Is it because of my age or through lack of skill that when I describe something
that happened in the past I see myself not as I am but as I was? And that I see
myself—examine myself, rather—from outside, like a stranger; in the same way
as one sees those who die at a certain age as always being that age, or the age they
were when the event you remember them for happened? And is it a privilege of
my present age or the misfortune of my whole life that I always see myself from
behind, when in fact I’ve always had my back to the wall?
I seem to understand now certain acts and events that surprised me when they
happened there on the banks of the Jordan, opposite Israel—acts and events
unrelated to anything, inaccessible islets I couldn’t fit together then but which
now form a clear and coherent archipelago. I first went to Damascus when I was
eighteen years old. (34-5)
And if you want to follow the thread of age, of the truth of the age of
peoples or the age of the signatory, I refer you one hundred and ten
pages on to another passage that I detach from a narration and where
the question of age recurs:
A few days later came what might be called the children’s revolt. Some Palestinian
boys and girls of about sixteen, together with a few young Jordanians of both
sexes, all laughing and smiling and shouting, ‘Yahya-l-malik!’ (Long live the king!)
went up to a line of Jordanian tanks in the streets of Amman (. . .)
Those children make me think of a fox devouring a chicken. The fox’s muzzle
is covered with blood. It looks up and bares its perfect teeth—white, shiny and
sharp. You expect it to beam like a baby at any moment. An ancient people
restored to youth by rebellion and to rebellion by youth can seem very sinister.
I remember like an owl. Memories come back in ‘bursts of images’. Writing this
book, I see my own image far, far away, dwarf size, and more and more difficult
to recognize with age. This isn’t a complaint. I’m just trying to convey the idea
of age and of the form poetry takes when one is old: I grow smaller and smaller
in my own eyes and see the horizon speeding towards me, the line into which I
shall merge, behind which I shall vanish, from which I shall never return. (133-4)
And about two hundred pages still further on, the question of age
comes back yet again:
As I’m not an archivist or a historian or anything like it, I’ll only have spoken of
my life in order to tell the story, a story, of the Palestinians.
The strangeness of my position, then, appears to me now either in threequarter
or half-profile or from the back. Never from the front, with my age and
stature apparent. I calculate my dimensions from the scope of my movements and
14 Paragraph
those of the fedayeen—reconstruct my size and position in the group from the
pattern of a cigarette moved downwards, a lighter upward. (237)
These two themes, age and the betrayal of truth, are linked together
in the interview with Antoine Bourseiller:
I hazard an explanation. Writing is the last recourse one has when one has
betrayed. There is still something else I would like to say to you. I knew very
early on, from the age of about fourteen, fifteen, that I could only be a vagabond
or a thief, a bad thief of course, but at any rate a thief. My only success in the
social world was, could have been of that kind, if you like: a bus conductor or
perhaps a butcher’s assistant or something like that. And as that sort of success
horrified me, I think that I prepared myself, while very young, for having such
emotions as could only lead me towards writing. If writing means experiencing
emotions or feelings that are so strong that all your life will be shaped by them,
if they are so strong that only their description, their evocation or their analysis
can really account for them to you, then, yes, it is in Mettray and at fifteen that I
began to write.
Writing is what remains when you are driven from the domain of the
given word.4
First definition: writing is ‘the last recourse one has when one
has betrayed’. And last definition: it is ‘what remains when you are
driven from the domain of the given word’. Thus betrayal, perjury,
writing D betrayal, perjury, etc. What remains.
Genet also uses the word ‘betrayal’ in the interview with Madeleine
Gobeil when he wishes to define what pederasty, an outlawed experience,
represents in terms of revolutionary force, that is, as a
radical ‘questioning of social values’ (ED, 24). As a ‘pedagogy’ too.
Pederasty as pedagogy. That is, as the art of guiding children; as an
initiation—when pedagogical pederasty is linked to writing—into
the revolutionary adventure or, as we shall have occasion to examine
further, into the poetic adventure—insofar as Genet, as you know,
never separates the two. The interview weaves all these words and
motifs together: ‘pederasty’, ‘pedagogy’, ‘betrayal’, ‘writing’, ‘outlaw’.
To the question: ‘Have you ever been interested in women?’ Genet
answers: ‘Yes, four women interested me: the Holy Virgin, Joan of
Arc, Marie-Antoinette and Madame Curie.’ To the question: ‘What
meaning does pederasty have at this moment in your life?’ he answers:
I would like to talk to you about its pedagogical side. Of course I made love with
all the boys I took care of. But I took care not only to make love. I sought to
repeat with them the adventure I lived whose symbol is bastardy, betrayal, the
Countersignature 15
refusal of society and finally writing, that is the return to society, but by other
means. Is that an attitude unique to me? Pederasty, because it places the pederast
outside the law, obliges him to question social values, and if he decides to take
care of a young boy, he will not take care of him in a flat way. He will make
him aware of the incoherencies, both of mind and heart, that are obligatory in a
normal society. At the moment, I’m taking care of a young racer, Jackie Maglia.
The thematics of betrayal insists yet again in a passage of Prisoner of
Love where, again at the heart of a narrative sequence, it is linked to
the motif of translation—here the translation of the Koran—and of
venal treachery:
What inspired leap launched the naked child, warmed by the breath of an ox,
nailed with nails of brass, hoisted up finally, because he had been betrayed, into
universal glory? Isn’t a traitor one who goes over to the enemy? That among
other things. The Venerable Peter, abbot of Cluny, in order to study the Koran
better, decided to have it ‘translated’. (69)
So: betrayal, tradition, translation. Further down:
Once we see in the need to ‘translate’ the obvious need to ‘betray’, we shall see
the temptation to betray as something desirable, comparable perhaps to erotic
exaltation. Anyone who hasn’t experienced the ecstasy of betrayal knows nothing
about ecstasy at all.
The traitor is not external but inside everyone. (69-70)
And a little further on: ‘Treason was everywhere. Every kid that
looked at me wanted to sell his father or mother; fathers wanted
to sell their five-year-old daughters’ (70). And finally, in the same
perspective, a quotation from That Strange Word. . . (I remember
the time when Genet was writing this text, I saw a lot of Genet
around then):
To betray is perhaps traditional, but treason is no repose. I had to make a great
effort to betray my friends: in the end, there was a reward.
So, for the great parade before the burial of the corpse, if the funeral mime
wants to make the dead man live and die again, he will have to discover, and dare
to say them, those dialectophage words that in front of the audience will devour
the life and death of the dead man.5
Now, after this long epigraph, I can finally begin to begin. ‘Countersign’
is a word I love, a word I have much loved. There is a sort of
love story—the story of a love that holds me ‘prisoner’—between
16 Paragraph
that word and me. I shall perhaps say more about it in the informal
interview arranged for later with Albert Dichy and Patrice Bougon.
Through them, I also thank my Cerisy friends and hosts for welcoming
me, yet again, unwearyingly, where I, for my part, am afraid of being
wearisome. So I will tell this love story between this word, this lexical
family (with its homonyms: seing, contreseing, countersignature) and
me with lots of suspension points and ellipses, through the story of a
friendship, as Albert Dichy recalled earlier. A friendship for someone
who shares or shared with me the sometimes unavowable, sometimes
cruel, often painful, often treacherous, taste for the words of the
French language. That doesn’t mean of France, or even of French
literature. In his interview with Madeleine Gobeil, Genet says (how
much I understand him, right down to his denial!): ‘I never looked to
be part of French literature’ (ED, 19). Even if it is false, even if Genet
ultimately failed to not be part of French literature, this sentence, the
tone of this sentence, this derisory ‘be part’, is a stroke of genius in a
burst of laughter. It rallies, in its feigned vulgarity, so much scorn and
irony towards a French literature that would rally together, protect
itself in a gregarious, national way, like a private club or a social class or
a family or a clan, a clique, a band of which one is or is not ‘part’, from
which one is or is not excluded, of which one is or is not a recognized
member, with a passport, title, identity card to legitimate it. . . I would
like to inscribe what I will say under the sign of ‘testimony’, but you
have heard what relation exists between ‘testimony’ and ‘betrayal’, or
between ‘testify’ and ‘sign’. With this hypothesis, this hypothec of a
betrayal of truth that threatens testimony in advance, whether it’s a
matter of the words of language, of writing, or of friendship, I would
like to bear witness and counterwitness to a certain friendship between
Genet and me, a friendship, however enigmatic it was and stays for me,
that remains a chance for which I am grateful and that I will consider
a blessing until the end. A friendship without apparent contrarieties
[contrari´et´es], upset [contrari´ee] by nothing, to my knowledge. Nothing
even political—and I say this with an awareness of contradiction and
betrayal inspired by the previously unpublished 1970 text that Albert
Dichy placed as an epigraph to L’Ennemi d´eclar´e and that, had I known
of it, I should have quoted and commented on in my book Politics of
Friendship. In it, speaking of himself in the third person, Genet says:
J.G. is looking for [cherche], or seeking [recherche], or wants to discover, without
ever discovering, a delicious enemy (. . .) And irreconcilable with me at any rate.
No friends. Especially no friends, a declared but untorn enemy. (ED, 9)
Countersignature 17
‘No friends’: does that not echo with the entire tradition from Aristotle
to Montaigne: ‘O my friends, there is no friend.’ Genet: ‘No friends.
Especially no friends (. . .) I seek a declared enemy’.
Having read this text, I am obviously not going to draw authority
from my friendship with Genet. The friend’s signature, countersignature
can doubtless always be converted into the enemy’s signature
or, in the other sense, countersignature. Nietzsche, for example, has
many texts that I quote in Politics of Friendship, where, like Genet,
he complains of the disappearance of the enemy: there is a need
for enemies. Enemies are lacking, not friends. . . In the story of this
friendship, it is thus right to give the word the inverted commas
it needs.
I am coming back to the word ‘countersignature’ (or ‘counterseing’)
that, according to the Robert dictionary, designates: ‘a second signature
destined to authenticate the main signature or to mark a commitment
in common’. This preliminary definition, that we will have to
complicate endlessly, tells us two or three essential things. Firstly it
indicates an apparent order: there is a first signature that comes before
another. In principle, the signature precedes the countersignature. The
signature is thus first, it preexists the countersignature. And apparently
nothing can make this antecedence disappear. The definition of the
countersignature says clearly that it is ‘a second signature destined
to authenticate the main signature’. The countersignature is thus a
second signature which can ‘second’ the first one to mark an agreement
but which, in all cases, remains secondary. The one countersigning
intervenes after the one signing. In the word’s technical history, the
countersignature was initially a signature authorizing someone to sign
in another’s place. For example, a secretary has the right to sign a
letter in place of the minister who merely adds a little sign so that it
can be posted without a stamp. In this case, the countersignatory is
authorized to authorize, to take the place of the author or authority
in order to sign in his place or to confirm or authenticate a protosignature,
an archi-signature that has already taken place. I would
like to say a word about the word ‘counter’ in countersignature, that
can be an adverb and/or a preposition. The word ‘contre’, counter
or against, can equally and at the same time mark both opposition,
contrariety, contradiction and proximity, near-contact. One can be
‘against’ the person one opposes (one’s ‘declared enemy’, for example),
and ‘against’ the person next to us, the one who is ‘right against’ us,
whom we touch or with whom we are in contact. The word
‘contre’ possesses these two inseparable meanings of proximity and
18 Paragraph
vis-`a-vis, on the one hand, and opposition, on the other. Clearly
in countersignature, the word has the meaning of proximity and
vis-`a-vis. It is what is facing us, beside us. We shall of course come
back to this double meaning of the word ‘contre’ that summarizes what
is at stake in this discussion. When it’s a question of the indelible,
irreducible anteriority of the signature, the proto-signature, in relation
to the countersignature, authorized or authorizing, things immediately
get complicated and are contaminated precisely by the betrayal of
truth. In effect, a performative value determines every signature and
every countersignature. The signature, like the countersignature, is a
performative. When one signs, one doesn’t merely write one’s name,
one affirms: ‘Yes, I am signing, and naturally I promise to confirm this
yes.’ Or again: ‘Yes, it’s I who’s signing and naturally I can confirm
that it’s I who signs by countersigning if necessary.’ This performative
value is already affected by an immediate iterability: as soon as I sign,
I promise that I can do so again, that I can confirm that it was I
who signed, etc. There is thus a repetition that, from the moment of
the proto-signature, from the first act of the first signature, prohibits
distinguishing a before and an after. The repetition of ‘Yes, I sign’,
‘Yes, yes, I sign’ is at work from the moment of the proto-signature.
Rather than repetition, I would say repeatability or what I call
iterability, the possibility or need to repeat. Iterability, to determine
it, is already haunting the proto-signature, or archi-signature, which
is therefore from the outset its own countersignature. Consequently
all future countersignatures come to countersign what was originally
a countersignature, an archi-countersignature.
To stay at this level of preliminary generality, before getting to the
text, to more than one text, I want to stress further the ambiguity
of the ‘counter’ that means less opposition, even dialectical contradiction—
you can see this is Hegel country—than the proximity of
the vis-`a-vis. So here countersigning, like the word contract in Latin,
adverb or preposition, before or beside the opposition of contrariety, is
in the situation of something facing, something that is across, or near,
or next, right against, and consequently designates the accompaniment
or inseparability of two terms vis-`a-vis each other, two terms that can
meet [se rencontrer] or find themselves in a chance encounter [rencontre]
with each other, as well as reflect each other face to face, double each
other, mirror the other’s image, as a signature and a countersignature
are meant to do to confirm each other. They should be close to each
other, in relation to each other.
Countersignature 19
This abyssal double meaning of ‘counter’, of the contract, reflecting
proximity or opposition, is of course at work in Glas, not only in
the Genet column, but between the two columns, the Genet one
and the Hegel one—and their spyholes [judas]. So many traitors.
I would even say that this oscillating law rules their relations, for
sometimes the two columns contradict each other, in an opposition
whose dialectical formalization—itself evidently contested, queried in
Glas—is revealed to us by Hegel, sometimes they do not contradict
each other but rather wink at each other—the word clin, wink, like
the word class, obviously echoing all the cl of the text. The Hegel
column and the Genet column are not only opposed, they sometimes
confirm and countersign each other, strangely, surprisingly, with slight
displacements and occasionally even authenticate or betray themselves
by betraying the other’s truth. That would be the case, for example,
not in Glas, but in what I could think of Genet’s politics generally
concerning a ‘Jewish question’, where the discourse of a certain Hegel
is a strangely close rival to that of a certain Genet.
If I might add a very quick note before returning to the text, I
would say that, even beyond my love for the word and the abyssal
thing called ‘countersignature’, it happens that for a long time I
have ‘cultivated’ or ‘allowed to be cultivated’ in numerous texts the
formidable ambiguity of this ‘contre’, as determined in the French
idiom. The word ‘contretemps’, for example, designating exhibition
less than time-lag, anachrony; the word ‘contrepartie’ [counterpart],
that marks not so much opposition as exchange, the equivalence
of a gift and countergift; the word ‘contre-exemple’ [counterexample]
that, like an exception, challenges the generality of the law. All these
words recur in many of my texts, often to designate the relation
between me and me, as close as possible to the authenticity, the
authentication of my own signature. Here and there, I have had
occasion to say that I am at the wrong time [`a contretemps], or that
I am my own counterexample or counterpart. Allow me to read a
passage from Circumfession, emphasizing the words ‘encounter’ and
‘counterexample’:
not only I do not know anyone [but] I have not encountered anyone, I have
had in the history of humanity no idea of anyone, wait, wait, anyone who has
been happier than I, and luckier, euphoric, this is a priori true, isn’t it?, drunk
with uninterrupted enjoyment, haec omnia uidemus et bona sunt ualde, quoniam tu
ea uides in nobis, but that if, beyond any comparison, I have remained, me the
counterexample of myself, as constantly sad, deprived, destitute, disappointed,
impatient, jealous, desperate, negative and neurotic. . .6
20 Paragraph
And, after the counterexample, the counterpart:
too late, you are less, you, less than yourself, you have spent your life inviting
calling promising, hoping sighing dreaming, convoking invoking provoking,
constituting engendering producing, naming assigning demanding, prescribing
commanding sacrificing, what, the witness, you my counterpart, only so that he
will attest this secret truth i.e. severed from truth i.e. that you will never have
had any witness, ergo es, in this very place, you alone whose life will have been
so short, the voyage [I underline the word ‘voyage’] short, scarcely organized, by
you with no lighthouse and no book, you the floating toy at high tide and under
the moon, you the crossing between these two phantoms of witnesses who will
never come down to the same. (314-5)
If I underlined the word ‘voyage’ in this text, it is not only to
beckon towards what will surely one day be an approach towards
Genet’s work based on travel, that is, Genet’s displacement, his
geopolitical wanderings, his whole text being a series of bordercrossings,
expulsions, exiles, but also to authorize myself (please
forgive me again) to quote another passage, a letter in a book that is
a book on the journey called La Contre-all´ee, where I try to explain
to my correspondent my fascination for the lexicon of ‘counter’, the
very term ‘counterpath’ being only one example.
Before doing so, I would like to recall that at the opening of one
of his articles, ‘Lenin’s Mistresses’, to which I’ll come back, Genet
describes himself in the third person as a ‘traveller’:
When a traveller returns from abroad, for example from Morocco, he reads in
L’Humanit´e an article on Cohn-Bendit—both article and man inset—designating
him as a fanatic and a German; he leafs through Minute [I can testify to this:
Genet read many newspapers at that time, he was all the time reading papers, all
papers]: Cohn-Bendit is a dirty Jew; he buys L’Aurore and Le Figaro: Cohn-Bendit
is an agitator. (ED, 29)
In La Contre-all´ee [sidepath, literally counterpath], the contre refers
less to opposition than to the proximity of a path parallel to the main
alley. All in all, it is a little like the countersignature that itself is a sort
of counterpath. The passage in question figures in a letter:
Spacing itself, the spatiality of spacing, distancing, that is not derived, and what
is a priori original, absolutely prior, is ‘encounter’, the en-counter with space as
land [contr´ee]. [Countersignature in German is called Gegend or kontrasignieren. We
should stop in order to think travel on the edge of the encounter.] Everything isn’t
equivalent to an encounter but can you imagine a crossing without encounter?
Countersignature 21
We should cultivate the virtualities of this lexicon between ‘with’ (Apud, hoc,
cum) and ‘contra’. In Latin, then, against Heidegger (I always travel, as I told you,
and I think against Heidegger’s order, I am on the side of his counterexample or
his counterpart. Small-minded prosecutors will claim that it amounts to the same
thing; perhaps, it’s not sure.) I would have liked to write to you on postcards full
of memories of hundreds of words derived from contra, from contr´ee to contrada.
To (Siena)—and to Country. Contradictions, contretemps and contracts would
be there to show us the way, directing [renvoyant] us to what in the idea of
countering [encontre] and encountering [rencontre] sets us travelling again, and thus
sends us away [renvoie]. Besides, I wonder if I don’t travel so much because
(I’ve the feeling that from France) I’ve always been, as from school, sent down
[renvoy´e]. Does one travel because one is expelled [renvoy´e] or to run towards an
encounter? To run counter? What is meant by ‘counter’? and counterhospitality?
and counterpath? Is it really a question of travel? (There would thus be travelquestions,
like travel-kits, travel-bags, travel-agents.) But there, if one travels with
a view to encountering, there is no encounter, nothing happens. The encounter
is the undecided rush, without any preparation, at the mercy of the other who
decides the irruption of what one has especially not seen coming—and that can
happen, oh yes, ‘at home’.7
I would now like, in one last detour, to come closer to Genet and
Glas in relation to the countersignature. A detour via Cerisy. For it
happens that, on three occasions, in 1975 for Ponge, in 1982 for Jean-
Fran¸cois Lyotard, and now today, I have had the chance, the honour
and the privilege of speaking there about writers or thinkers who
were friends. Admired and respected friends. All three are now dead.8
But two of them were present at the conference devoted to them.
I have always been very afraid of speaking about the living—about
Genet in particular, as I said in Glas: ‘he will vomit all that. . .’ These
three friends are all dead but only Genet was not present in Cerisy.
Those who knew him can easily imagine that, rightly or wrongly
but at no price would he have come here to attend or participate in
a conference about his work. There too, I would have a lot to say
concerning his irony in relation to such things, particularly in relation
to academics—I myself was often his first target. . . If I refer to the two
other conferences during which I dared to speak about two friends
in their presence, it is because at the first of them, devoted to Ponge
in 1975—Ponge who said to me one day, perhaps a year or two
before his death: ‘You see, I am someone who doesn’t die’—about
a year after the publication of Glas, I had proposed a sort of general
logic of the countersignature that came from Glas—without coming
from it—but especially from Ponge who had elaborated a theory, a
22 Paragraph
discourse on the countersignature. This is the strange junction that
I would like to reconstitute here between my reading of Ponge in
1975 following closely on the writing of Glas, and the fact that it
is in Ponge, not in Genet, that the word countersignature echoes
insistently and literally. I had given a lecture here entitled Sign´eponge,
in the presence of Francis Ponge, where the words seing, signature,
countersignature were to be found, as were other words coming from
Glas such as colossus, colossos, colossal. . . I talked of Ponge’s ‘colossal
corpus’ that, while being countersigned by the Ponge that I was
countersigning in my turn, came both from Glas, as I showed earlier,
and literally from Ponge. For, curiously, whereas Genet very rarely
uses the word, Ponge, as you will hear, brilliantly and emphatically
uses the noun ‘countersignature’ and the verb ‘countersign’. Without
claiming to have done an inventory, I only found a single occurrence
of the word in Genet, moreover a banal, slightly furtive one, in the
article published in May 68, ‘Lenin’s Mistresses’, that I just evoked.
There Genet says, still in relation to Cohn-Bendit to whom the
article is generally devoted: ‘Some students are asked if they could
countersign—not all but nearly all—what Cohn-Bendit said and
wrote; many answer ‘yes’, but they also say that he brought to orgasm
the minister’s daughter who brought him to orgasm, that he got paid
for his photos, and his interviews with the big papers’ (ED, 29).
A severe indictment, then, of those, including the students, who
are interested not in Lenin but in his mistresses, not in Cohn-Bendit
but in the fact ‘that he brought to orgasm the minister’s daughter’,
etc. I quote this article of Genet’s for several reasons. Firstly because
of the use of the word ‘countersign’, of course, that is followed
by a ‘yes’—the ‘yes’ being what always doubles a countersignature,
being itself a countersignature, since the signature is constituted by a
‘yes’—as in a wedding. ‘Yes’ is always an answer, and it is structurally
the answer to the other’s question, an answer subjected to the other’s
law like the countersignature itself. ‘Yes, yes’: the doubling of the yes
is irreducible. That begins by a ‘yes yes’ as the promise to say ‘yes’ to
the ‘yes’, that is to confirm, authenticate, countersign the first ‘yes’
that already carries iterability, thus the countersignature, within it. In
other words, the first ‘yes’ inscribes the second ‘yes’ in itself. The
second ‘yes’ is there before the first, so to say. Or, at any rate, as early
as the first.
The second reason I quote this article is that its date (May 68) marks
a very powerful moment for Genet, the beginning of his engaged
period, ‘the departure point of his political itinerary’ as Albert Dichy
Countersignature 23
rightly emphasizes in his edition of L’Ennemi d´eclar´e (335). I do not
know if the common expression ‘political engagement’ is appropriate
for Genet, for his engagement was always that of a writer and poet
who acted only at the margin, by speaking and writing, and who never
separated the idea of revolution from that of poetic event, whether
for May 68, the Black Panthers or the Palestinians.
The third reason, finally, is that I was seeing Genet a lot at that time,
in May 68, and I remember him not only writing and publishing this
article with jubilation but walking with me until dawn in the streets
of Paris empty of cars. . . It was the greatest general strike the country
had ever known, the greatest and the longest: there was no petrol, no
cars for eight days. And Genet, in these carless streets, confronted with
the country suddenly immobilized, paralyzed, stunned by the lack of
petrol, would say: ‘Ah, how beautiful it is! Ah, how beautiful it is!
Ah, how elegant it is!’ And I found the same tone in two passages that
I want to quote because they display this affect of May 68 that was so
critical for Genet and the combination of the poetic and the political
allied with the motif of the traveller:
Cohn-Bendit is the origin, poetic or calculated, of a movement that’s in the
process of destroying, at any rate of shaking, the bourgeois apparatus and, thanks
to him, the traveller crossing Paris [Genet is still speaking of himself as a ‘traveller’]
knows the sweetness and elegance of a city in revolt. The cars, that are its fat,
have disappeared. Paris is finally becoming a thin city, she’s losing a few kilos,
and for the first time in his life, the traveller has a sort of joy, returning to France,
and rejoices in seeing faces he knew dull, at last joyous and beautiful. If the days
of May had only produced that, already. . . (31)
May 68 is evoked again two years later in the text entitled ‘It Seems
To Me Indecent To Speak About Me’:
Then there were five or six years of silence, then I suddenly wrote five plays,
and the last, The Screens, was a long meditation on the Algerian War. And that
happened twelve years ago. In May 68, I saw that, without seeking to be, I was
completely on the side of the protesters, students and workers. In May, France,
that I so hated, existed no longer, but, for a month, only a world suddenly freed
of nationalism, a smiling world, extremely elegant if you will. And May was
wrecked by the strong comeback of the Gaullists and the reactionaries. I can
thus say that in June 68, my sadness and my anger made me understand that
henceforward I would not pause until the spirit of May in Paris was found again,
in France or elsewhere. If I indicate a very subjective mood of my person, it is so
that you will better understand the extent to which I feel close now to the Black
Panthers. (. . .)
24 Paragraph
Since I have known them, I keep discovering in them [the Black Panthers]
this liberty and this exchange of fraternal tenderness. (ED, 41-2)
I point out and highlight the word ‘fraternal’ because, having sharpened
and mobilized my permanent suspicion of the theme of fraternity
some years ago in Politics of Friendship, in relation to something like
a male homosexuality, the dominant model of friendship, my first
impulse on reading the word ‘fraternal’ was one of disapproval or,
more discreetly, of worried disappointment. Why does Genet say
‘fraternal’? As if Genet, as a homosexual who explicitly declared the
link between his sexual desire and his political choices, was actually
confirming my most suspicious fears about the fraternalistic schema
I tried to deconstruct in Politics of Friendship as a Christian schema,
a phallocentric, macho schema and a genealogistic, familial schema.
One’s neighbour, in the Christian sense, being first of all a brother.
But not at all. On the contrary, in his May 1970 ‘Letter To American
Intellectuals’, Genet displays his distrust of the word ‘brother’, by
following moreover one of the themes (it was not the only one but
one of the important threads) that I followed in Politics of Friendship to
deconstruct a certain tradition of the canonical model of the friend,
that is, the brother in the Christian, even evangelical or Pauline sense
of the term, man as brother, neighbour as brother, and what is valid for
the Christian is naturally also valid for theMuslim. Here is what Genet
writes, once again linking the poetic to the revolutionary political:
I believe the time has come to use an equally new vocabulary and a syntax capable
of making everyone mindful of the double poetical and revolutionary combat
[in other words, to make revolution, language, vocabulary and grammar must be
changed. There is no true revolution without such change] of the movements
among Whites that are comparable to the Black Panthers.
For my part, for example, I refuse to use the word ‘brother’ that is steeped in
evangelical sentimentalism and when I speak about the Blacks, I want to speak of
armed comrades fighting the same enemy. (ED, 46)
The word ‘brother’ is thus denounced as Christian, evangelical.
In relation to this Christian, evangelical tradition that Genet knew
only too well, an ineradicable culture, I would like to specify and
highlight two features that lead in the direction of the countersignature
of and in Glas towards which I am moving. Firstly, the question of
Christianity in all its aspects—and they are numerous—is clearly
at the centre of Glas, posed between Genet and Hegel who are
often close. Playing with proximities and contradictions, one can
Countersignature 25
say that they are close in what opposes them and in what connects
them. In Glas, all the scenes from the Gospels are replayed in both
columns, on both sides, squinting at each other because of the
analogies, staggered or opposing each other in every way. It’s one
of the reasons I emphasize the Christian aspect. Secondly, one of
the oppositions between these two great Christians Hegel and Genet
remains that between a Protestant, Hegel, who believes that Reform
has a privileged link with philosophy and absolute knowledge (many
of Hegel’s texts show that Protestantism makes thought possible,
makes Hegelian thought possible), and on the other hand a perverse,
very Catholic choirboy, very marked, as Genet himself says, by
faith, by a faith initially carried by the Catholic catechism then
freed from the catechism and religion but especially from a theology
that Genet holds to be more Protestant than Catholic. In other
words, he liberates himself more easily from Protestantism than from
Catholicism. In the interview with Madeleine Gobeil, he distinguishes
his faith from theology and religion, in a way from all Churches, but
in passing he makes a barbed remark about theologians as Protestant
theologians:
M.G.: Do you believe in God?
J.G.: I believe that I believe in him. I don’t have much faith in the mythologies of
the catechism. But why must I account for my lifetime by affirming what seems
to me most precious? Nothing compels me. Nothing visible compels me. So why
do I feel so forcefully that I must do it? Previously, the question was immediately
resolved by the act of writing. My childhood revolt, my revolt when I was
fourteen wasn’t a revolt against faith, it was a revolt against my social situation,
my condition of humiliation. It didn’t impinge on my deep faith, but in what?
M.G.: And do you believe in eternal life?
J.G.: That’s the question of a dying Protestant theologian. [Then he comes back
to the Catholic Church:] Are you a Vatican II Council Father? It’s a meaningless
question. (27)
This pirouette is typical of Genet. In Glas, it is sometimes from a Jewish
or Arabo-islamic outside that the Christianity, Protestant or Catholic,
of Hegel or Genet, is both observed and deconstructed. I leave that
aside for the moment. But if for me, I’ll explain it better later, the act of
reading a work is or should be or has always been an affirmation rather
than an act, it’s because this affirmation is not only active or actual but
involves a submission, a subjection, a certain passive receptivity in the
decision as decision of the other. It is thus not merely performative.
If the experience of reading a work as such has always been for
26 Paragraph
me an affirmation of countersignature, that is, of authentication and
repetition without imitation, without counterfeiting, a doubling of
the ‘yes’ in the irreplaceable idiom of each ‘yes’, as at a wedding
where each ‘yes’ says ‘yes’ to the other, doubling it without repeating
it—and I could insist on this paradigm of the wedding, the conjugal
couple, spousal conjugality, countersignature joining two conjoined
affirmations, absolutely identical and different, similar and radically
other—well, the formulation of what may here resemble a theory
or working out of a theory of reading-rewriting is linked for me
to the tangling together of the different Cerisy conferences and my
texts on Genet, then Ponge and Genet. I recall that Glas was written
but already contained references to Ponge whom I was reading a
lot at the time, to whom also a great friendship bound me, after I
met him in the same years as Genet through our common friend,
Paule Th´evenin. Glas was thus already written, with all its work
on homonyms, Genet’s proper name, the very fac simile of Genet’s
signature, his falling signature, his relentless pursuit [acharnement] of
signatures, seings, the mother’s signature and countersignatures, driven
fiercely [acharn´e] indeed by the lure of the signature (this is the very
sense of ‘acharn´e’ [fierce, literally meaning ‘with the taste for meat’], a
hunting term: the lure for a falcon is given the taste of meat). When
I wrote Sign´eponge for Cerisy, in it I elaborated a sort of formalized
discourse—that had been a long time in the making, dating back as
far as texts such as ‘Signature, Event, Context’ where at the end of
Margins Of Philosophy I play with the imitation by someone else of my
own signature—on the experience of countersignature which is to
be found in Ponge’s text and which finds in that text an extraordinary
and exemplary support.
Not being able or willing to make too long a detour via Ponge and
what in Sign´eponge, in an allusion to Glas, I called the ‘colossal structure
of the seal [seing]’, I shall quickly read some passages whose rereading
I would like to relate to the event of consenting to marriage, to more
than one marriage. A consent to a provisional conjugality, the double
‘yes’ of the spouses, the nuptial experience of the countersignature
here being a not fortuitous paradigm. In this passage, an anguished
question—from me to me—emerges that is the same as the one
echoing in Glas: will Ponge accept this? How will he bear it? Will he
approve what I say about him? In other words, will he countersign
my countersignature? This anguished question involved Ponge’s text
as much as Genet’s. It wasn’t merely a matter of knowing if Francis
Ponge or Jean Genet would approve or accept what I said, but
Countersignature 27
whether their text would reaffirm my own countersignature. So it
was as much about the texts as the then living subjects, my friends.
That is why I have emphasized the friendship, the fact that those
friends were alive and present at the time. Would these friends, Ponge
or Lyotard, approve what I wrote about them? Would they even be
able to read it? In a way, I will never know, I know that I will never
know. I learned that Genet said kind things about Glas, Ponge about
Sign´eponge, but did they read those books and how did they read
them? I do not know. That could be said of all readings, but at any
rate it’s the question echoing in Glas:
Anyhow, he will vomit all that (¸ca) for me, he will not read, will not be able
to read.
Do I write for him? What would I like to do to him? do to his ‘work’? Ruin it
by erecting it, perhaps. (200)
Here now is the passage from Sign´eponge concerning the countersignature:
The colossal structure of the seal assumes a number of aspects, all of them
original. (. . .) Someone now [the passage concerns Ponge’s play on his own
name, Franciscus Pontius Nemausensis Poeta]—but who?—will have signed Ponge
and pulled it off.
He now needs the countersignature of the other, of the thing that is not yet
his own and is to be found in representation in the whole of phusis. [What I am
trying to show there is that ultimately Ponge wants to countersign or rather sign
the thing itself, and wants the thing to countersign what he writes about it.]
Chance obliges. But despite the chance of this extraordinary double name
(others can carry it without obligation) the immense autograph would have
remained consigned to the invisible, a sort of murmuring, impotent autoaffection,
an infatuation bound to a minor narcissism, had he not, in obedience to
the mute and tyrannical law of the thing, expended so much force to effectively
sponge off the debt: in the world. To acquit himself by washing his hands [like
Puntius Pilate, as Ponge himself says], I don’t wish to exaggerate, of a spot, the
task of spot checking, the task of his name, entrusted to him by the thing. Of a
debt, contracted with Nature.
All the nominal signatures together would not have produced this colossal
text if the signatory (but who?), in order to sponge off the slate and give a gift
without counterpart to the thing in its own turn, had not interested the thing in
the signature.
Not only by entering a contract with the thing but a contract where nothing
is exchanged, where the obligated (impossible, unapproachable) parties remain
irrelevant, released from everything at the very moment when they are most
28 Paragraph
bound up with each other, a contract where all is exchanged for nothing, a
contract without contract where what is exchanged is not something determinate
to be signed at the end, but the signature itself, all by itself. (. . .)
Now there is no text here which, in the final analysis, lacks this effect of
countersignature by means of which, setting my seal at the bottom of an IOU
made out for an infinite debt in regard to the thing as something other, I interest
the thing that regards me, I interest it in signing itself, by itself, and in becoming,
while remaining the thing it is, entirely other, also a consigned part of my text.
This is also the condition allowing my text to escape me and fly like a rocket
along the path of its own trajectory, freed up, in my name and in the laws of my
language, from my name and my language.9
I now get to Ponge’s own text on the countersignature:
‘This has to do with a kind of countersignature. With the signature of the other,
your momentary partner [conjoint, spouse; this is the marriage].
‘To the signature (always the same) of the artist, is eventually added a far more
voluminous, grandiose and impassioned one (and different each time), the one
imposed by the emotion aroused by the encounter with the object, by an emotion
which was the occasional cause of the work, which one can finally surrender to
all risks: it doesn’t regard us any more.’
It is thus from the countersignature that a signature is properly carried off.
And it is in the instant when it is thus carried off that there is text. You therefore
no longer know which of the two partners will have signed first. ‘Rightly or
wrongly, I don’t know why, I have always thought, ever since childhood, that
the only worthwhile texts were the ones that could be inscribed in stone; the
only texts I could proudly agree to sign (or countersign), ones that could not be
signed at all; texts that would still stand as natural objects in the open air, in the
sun, in the rain, in the wind. This is precisely the property of inscriptions (. . .)
In sum, I approve of Nature . . . I countersign the work of Time (or Weather).’ [This
quotation from Ponge comes from For a Malherbe.] (130)
There, I now come to the theatre of the countersignature in
Glas. My interest in the countersignature in Ponge and in Genet, in
what it does in their texts, has always been in competition, if I may
say—as a sort of counterpath—with what in essence, spontaneously
or deliberatively, will have always been of the order of an ethics
or law of my writing when it responds to the other’s, to another’s
work. What I here call, with a word that leaves me a little dissatisfied
because it is ambiguous, the ethics of my writing, the law it is out
of the question I should infringe, is to say ‘yes’ to the work that
comes before me and that will have been without me, a work that
was already affirmed and signed with the other’s ‘yes’, so that my
Countersignature 29
own ‘yes’ is a ‘yes’ to the other’s ‘yes’, a sort of blessing and (ring
of) alliance. Not infringing this law thus means doing everything not
to betray it, not to betray either the law or the other. But, firstly,
the possibility of betrayal is part of respect for the law. It must be
constitutive of respect for the law. To obey, to be faithful, it must
be possible to betray. Someone who couldn’t betray couldn’t be faithful.
Secondly, there is also a terrible law of betrayal, as in the declared
friend-enemy we spoke of earlier, a terrifying law meaning that the
more I betray (by writing differently, signing differently), the less I
betray; and the less I betray (by repeating the same ‘yes’, by imitating,
counterfeiting), the more I betray. This means that perjury—or
betrayal, if you prefer—is lodged like a double band at the very heart
of the countersignature. That is the betrayal of truth as truth of betrayal.
That is also, however terrifying it may seem, faithfulness. One must
faithfully recognize it and be as faithful as possible to faithfulness. But in
order for my countersignature, that is, this law that comes before any
literary theory, before any critical methodology, before any concept
of exegesis or hermeneutics or criticism or commentary, in order for
this absolutely anterior, absolutely original countersignature, subject to
this law, to attest both to knowledge [connaissance], the best and most
competent knowledge possible, and to recognition [re-connaissance,
also gratitude], for it to be both knowing and recognizing—and
this ‘both’ is a double bind or, to borrow the word organizing all of
Glas, a double band—it must both respect the absolute, absolutely
irreducible, untranslatable idiom of the other, of what Ponge or Genet
did and was only done once, and inscribe in my own ‘yes’, at the
moment I recognize the other’s singularity, the work of the other. In
my ‘yes’, in my own untranslatable, singular idiom, I must countersign
the other’s text without counterfeit, without imitation. It is obviously
impossible. One must imitate without imitating. One must recognize,
countersign, reproduce the other’s signature without reproducing or
imitating it.
What can be done to marry the singularity of a non-counterfeiting
countersignature with the equally irreducible singularity of a protosignature?
A protosignature, however, that, like all language, let me
say it again, is itself already divided, repeats itself in a double ‘yes’.
In other words, how can my ‘yes yes’ also attest to the singularity
of the other’s ‘yes’, to which I say ‘yes’ without imitating it? How
can one imitate without imitating, when the other’s first ‘yes’, the
protosignature, already involves a repetition, involves a division and
an iterability, and thus in a way imitates itself? That makes for a strange
30 Paragraph
arithmetic. How can this be done? Well, I ask the question but I have
no answers. Not only I have no answer, but I hold that there must
not be an answer in the form of a general norm, a rule or a prior
criterion. By definition, there can be no prior answer or method or
technique. Each time it is necessary to invent the singular law of what
remains and must remain a unique event, held in this aporia or double
bind. That is in any case what I tried, with no certainty of success,
each time I wrote in the alliance, in the sense of the nuptial bond
or hymen—with all the paradoxes of the hymen that I evoked with
respect to Mallarm´e’s Mimique in ‘La Double S´eance’—with Artaud,
Celan or Ponge.
In relation now to Genet, I shall limit myself to picking out a
number of places in Glas that, more explicitly and quickly than others,
can situate what is at stake in the countersignature. Naturally I shall fail
to catch, even on a single page, the crisscrossing plays of consonances,
displacements or agglutinations, collages, gluings, parallelism, counterapposition
(the plays of the ‘contre’ as proximity and opposition) that
work, are at work in Glas. What I will do, perhaps unjustifiably,
is to outline four centres of focus. This number is clearly arbitrary,
given the system of contagion or radiation between the places of the
text, the columns and the spyholes [judas]. I called ‘spyholes’, if you
recall, the inset sequences of text that are precisely like spyholes, like
openings made or pierced in columns to spy and to lie in wait, to
see without being seen. Judas is also the traitor’s name, the figure
of the disciple, the Jew who betrayed Jesus, his master, precisely by
kissing him.
Again to go quickly, let me say that the first three centres of focus
configure in Glas the knell [glas] of the signature or seing—that is
also the tocsin, alarm-bell, and somewhere in Glas, according to its
etymology, I believe, the ‘toc seing’ [fake signature]—as signature.
The fourth centre of this elaboration would assign its knell, and the
sound glas, to the countersignature. So three focusing on the signature
and one on the countersignature.
The first centre staged, from the opening pages, the counterpoint
or contradiction between, on one hand, the suppression, repression,
withdrawal, exclusion of the signature and the proper name by
philosophical discourse and, on the other, its teaching, especially by
Hegel whose discourse on the religion of flowers or on the family
I follow throughout the book. The contradiction, then, between a
discourse of philosophical teaching that represses, effaces and excludes
the signature, and Genet’s poetic text that carries his own signature,
Countersignature 31
is or becomes or incorporates his signature. Everything in Genet’s
text begins with a question of the remainder—the signature being
precisely a remainder—that, throughout the book and beyond, orders
a problematic of remaining [restance] that I cannot reconstitute here,
but that escapes all ontology, all philosophy that sees in the remainder
‘what remains’, that is, a substance, persistence or even a state. The
remaining of the remainder is not a substance that subsists or stays, it
isn’t a being that resists time. That is the book’s ‘philosophical’ ambition:
to think a remaining or a surviving that doesn’t fall into the philosophical
category of ontology, substance, being, existence, essence, etc.
To give some reference points to anchor this centre that, all in all,
opposes signature and teaching, I shall skim through the first page of
Glas gleaning some words, for example concerning the undecidable
syntax of the remainder, and pick out, in a doubtless insufficient way,
some elements in both columns. The left-hand column, devoted to
Hegel, starts thus: ‘what, after all, of the remain(s), today, for us,
here, now, of a Hegel?’ This ‘of the remain(s)’ [du reste, also meaning
‘besides’] is clearly undecidable in its syntax. What does that mean:
‘what of the remain(s)’? ‘what after all’? and at the opposite angle, at the
bottom of the text, in the Genet column, there is again an overlapping
‘of the remain(s)’ whose syntax is equally undecidable. Facing the
‘what, after all, of the remain(s), today, for us, here, now, of a Hegel?’,
there is the beginning of the text by Genet entitled ‘What remained
of a Rembrandt torn into small, very regular squares and rammed down the
shithole’. This text is divided in two and, as Marco Siscar earlier recalled,
this sentence describes Glas’s structure in advance as the remainder.
Two lines lower: ‘As the remain(s)’ will divide in two. . . There
will thus endlessly be an interpretation of these two interpretations of
the remainder. The word ‘already’ intervenes on the fourth line of the
Hegel column. For us, the words ‘here, now’ are already and always
quotations. We learned them from him. They refer to the beginning
of The Phenomenology of Mind where Hegel discusses the meaning of
these terms.
‘Who, him?’ The first column devoted to Hegel emphasizes the
fact that he doesn’t sign, that a philosopher doesn’t sign, that the name
of a philosopher isn’t essential to his discourse. After some reflections
on Hegel’s name, here are the passages. The word ‘siglum’ [sigle]
appears immediately: ‘Sa from now on will be the siglum of savoir
absolu [absolute knowledge]’ (1). Sigle is a word that simultaneously
designates the initials of a proper name and allows the sound, the
syllable gl to echo from the first page. ‘Whether he lets himself be
32 Paragraph
taught [enseigner], signed, ensigned is not yet known. Perhaps there
is an incompatibility (rather than a dialectical contradiction) between
the teaching and the signature, a schoolmaster and a signer. Perhaps, in
any case, even when they let themselves be thought and signed, these
two operations cannot overlap each other.’ A ‘remainder’—the word
overlap reappears across the page—is necessary. ‘Of the remain(s),
after all, there are, always, overlapping each other, two functions.’
The word in the Hegel column that plays with countersignature
is ‘counterproof’. It is in a spyhole: ‘it (¸ca) does not accentuate itself
here now but will already have been put to the test [´epreuve] on the
other side. Sense must conform, more or less, to the calculi of what
the engraver terms a counterproof.’ It thus already defines, on both
sides, the law organizing the relation between the two columns, and
that continues in the two following pages. Genet column:
Perhaps the case (Fall) [thus the fall, case also means fall] of the seing.
If Fall marks the case, the fall, decadence, failure or fissure, Falle equals trap,
snare, springe, the machine that grabs you by the neck.
The seing falls (to the tomb(stone)). (2)
In the Hegel column on the next page, there’s a mention of the
‘colossal’ statue of the Egyptian Memnon, ‘kolossale Klangstatue’—in
a way the entire book develops as a reflection on the word Klang,
on the birth of sound vibration before the voice, nur Klang und nicht
Sprache. . . Just opposite, the following announces that the book will
focus on the question of the signature:
Between the words, between the word itself as it divides itself in two [the word
in question is reste that can divide in two as noun or verb, but also the word
tombe] (noun and verb, cadence or erection, hole and stone), (to) insinuate the
delicate, barely visible stem, an almost imperceptible cold lever, scalpel, or stylus
[the word style recurs constantly in this form, this syntax of the stylus], so as to
enervate, then dilapidate, enormous discourses that always end, though more or
less denying it, in attributing an author’s rights: ‘that (¸ca) comes (back) to me,’ the
seing belongs to me.
The stake of the signature—does the signature take place? where? how? why?
for whom? (. . .) perhaps the seing represents the case, the place for (topically and
tropically) overlapping the intrinsic and the extrinsic.
Initialling the margin, the incessant operation: signing in the margin, exchanging
the name against a revenue, paring down, trying to reduce the
margin (. . .)
Case and scrap. What remains of a signature? (3-4)
Countersignature 33
All this refers to the first centre of focus, concerning the signature
and countersignature at work in the book and engaging both Jean
Genet’s proper name—first name and surname, constantly worked
on by their homonyms, their associations to flowers, horses, the John
of the Gospels and of the Apocalypse—and my own proper name,
whose occurrences can be read in the text, if one wishes to, in the
adverb d´ej`a [already], composed of my initials, or in an expression like
derri`ere le rideau [behind the curtain] when I say that I already see my
father’s name, the letters of his name in gold on his tomb. My proper
name is thus like a countersignature constantly at work in my reading
of Genet.
The second centre of focus would be the place of the mother, the
holy mother and/or the prostitute, the Immaculate Conception, IC,
the Virgin Mary, Saint Mary of the Sea. . . For example, one scene
evokes Saint Mary of the Sea, taking place between Hegel and Genet,
between Genet’s Mary, the Virgin Mary, and Hegel’s Mary, between
his wife and sister. This mother is the one who signs and the one
who survives. In other words, the ‘remainder’ in my interpretation,
the signing remainder, is always of the mother who survives her son
and follows his obsequies. That is why I call her the ‘obsequent’. It’s
in a spyhole in the Genet column:
I am (following) the mother. [‘I’, so I, me, ‘I am’ the mother or I am ‘her’, she
who follows her son’s obsequies like an obsequent and survives him]. (. . .) The
mother is behind [my name is there: derri`ere]—all that I follow, am, do, seem—the
mother follows. As she follows absolutely, she always survives—a future that
will never have been presentable—what she will have engendered, attending,
impassive, fascinating and provoking [in other words, this remaining that I said
escaped ontology’s authority is also the situation of the mother. She remains. Like
a remainder which has never been present. Which thus never presents itself and
consequently can never be a being in the present under ontology’s authority];
she survives the interring of the one whose death she has foreseen. Logic of
obsequence. [The entire book follows this situation of the mother who survives
or is experienced as surviving:] Such is the great genetic scene: the mother secutrix
denounces, then lets the son die—whom she transforms because of that into a
daughter—leaves her, because of that makes her die and simulates, the divine
whore, a suicide [I shall come back later, at the end, to the question of suicide
in Genet].
See, farther on, that calculus of the mother.
(. . .) What can a mother do better?
But to the extent that she is there, to represent herself and detach herself from
herself, you can always sign yourself to death, she transforms your act into a sin
34 Paragraph
in all tongues, your text into ersatz, your paraph into a fake. She takes you by
the hand and you always countersign. [In other words, the protosignature is the
mother’s and even when you countersign, you are letting yourself be signed by
the mother.]
Subject of denunciation: I call myself my mother who calls herself (in) me. To
give, to accuse. Dative, accusative. I bear my mother’s name, I am (following)
my mother’s name, I call my mother to myself, I call my mother for myself, I call
my mother in myself, recall myself to my mother. I decline the same subjugation
in all cases.
The calculus of the mother—that I am (following): Ah! if my mother could
assist me at my interment. (117)
In Our Lady of the Flowers, during the trial, in a writing anal in
style, Divine testifies for Our Lady: ‘I think he’s very na¨ıve, very
childlike. (. . .) He could be my son.’10
All of this is organized around the names of flowers, Genet’s name.
If, for example, you were to make the conjunction between the
rose, the ‘mystical rose’ everywhere in Miracle of the Rose and the
word ‘Rose’ that opens The Screens without our knowing if it’s a
proper name or if it describes the colour of the sky, this ‘rose’ that
chimes with the proper name Warda (Rose in Arabic) and the nuptial
acquiescence in Our Lady of the Flowers evoked above, the ‘yes yes’ of
countersignature (remember the spouse in Ponge), then you would
develop, as a photographic negative is developed, the scene of a lover
giving a nuptial flower day after day, under Our Lady’s hospitable
protection. ‘Yes yes yes’ under the double sign of the rose and Our
Lady of the Flowers: that is all expressed and implemented in Glas
and beyond.
That is why the word ‘mother’ and the determination of maternity
bother me here. Because with the syllable gl, it’s a matter of going
beyond the mother or womb, towards what in other texts I termed
Khˆora, trying to save the interpretation of Khˆora in Plato’s Timeus
from interpretations that precisely made a womb, a mother, of it.
Khˆora, the receptacle, the space that receives the impressions of the
copies of paradigms, has often, and by Plato himself, been compared
metaphorically to a womb. I tried to show how Khˆora isn’t one, how
it doesn’t even correspond to a maternal figure. Well, I would say
that the gl that organizes Glas escapes the primordiality, the so-called
primordiality of the mother or womb.
Concerning this mother-son couple, as I interpret it in Glas in
relation to the question of the signature, if you leap across the twelve
Countersignature 35
years separating its publication and that of Prisoner Of Love, you can
read on the last page:
The Palestinian revolution lives and will live only of itself. A Palestinian family,
made up essentially of mother and son, were among the first people I met in
Irbid. But it was somewhere else that I really found them. Perhaps inside myself.
The pair made up by mother and son is to be found in France and everywhere
else. Was it a light of my own that I threw on them, so that instead of being
strangers whom I was observing they became a couple of my own creation? An
image of my own that my penchant for day-dreaming had projected on to two
Palestinians, mother and son, adrift in the midst of a battle in Jordan?
All I’ve said and written happened. But why is it that this couple is the only
really profound memory I have of the Palestinian revolution? (430)
What remains for Genet, then, of the Palestinian revolution, is the
couple, this couple mother-son/son-mother. Logic of obsequence.
The third centre of focus is that of jealousy. The mother’s jealousy.
It has often been noted that the theme of jealousy recurs in many
of my texts. In this one, it’s also a matter of my jealousy of Genet’s
mother, explicitly thematized for example in the column facing the
one on Hegel concerning the umbilical cord and the question of
the child:
‘When talking about the Colony I sometimes refer to it as ‘‘The Old Lady,’’ or
‘‘The Motherfucker.’’ These two expressions would probably not have sufficed
to make me confuse it with a woman, but, in addition to the fact that they already
usually designate mothers, they occurred to me in connection with the Colony,
since I was tired of my solitude as a lost child and my soul called for a mother.’
The breast [sein] of this mother steals away from all names, but it also hides
them, steals them; it is before all names,
[then, in a spyhole:] as death, the mother fascinates from the absolute of an
already. Fascination produces an excess of zeal [zeal means jealousy in Greek]. In
other words, jealousy. Jealousy is always excessive. . . (133-4)
Interpretation of a jealousy that, beyond all the pretexts it can take,
concerns the absolute past, what has never been present and what I
can therefore never overcome. Jealousy is always jealousy of the past
and so
can never be presented nor allow any hope for presentation, the presently
presenting. One is never jealous in front of a present scene—even the worst
imaginable—nor a future one, at least insofar as it would be big with a possible
theater. Zeal is only unchained at the whip of the absolute past. Madame Edwarda
36 Paragraph
would be a bit of foolishness, running herself dry, producing her apotrope in the
spectacle, as far as she were open to a present experience. (134)
In other words, the worst deception or betrayal of the other, were
it to present itself, could never elicit as terrible a suffering as a past
deception or betrayal. Jealousy is exasperated by a past that there
is no question of either effacing or making present: ‘It [jealousy]
has a chance to be terrible only by thrusting within itself a past, an
absolute already: in giving itself to be read, not seen’ (134; translation
modified). One is thus jealous only of what one reads and not of
what one sees, ‘of the mother or death, never of a man or woman
as such,’ only ‘of a seing or, what comes down here to the same, of
an already’. Jealousy is always exasperated by a past signature. ‘This is
why metaphysics, which is jealous, will never be able to account, in
its language, the language of presence, for jealousy’ (134).
The thesis here is that metaphysics, as a metaphysics of the present,
is jealous but cannot account for its own law, that of jealousy: ‘This
is why the mother (whatever forename or pronoun she may be
given) stands beyond the sexual opposition. This above all is not a
woman. She only lets herself, detached, be represented by the sex.’
Femininity is only a representation of maternity. ‘That is why the
thief distinguishes between the maternal and the feminine’ (134). This
motif of jealousy at the centre of Glas is also at the centre of many
other of my texts.
I come now to the fourth centre of focus. The first three concerned
the signature or seing, the last the countersignature itself, this time
named as such in Glas. The countersignature that is both free and
captive, thus subject to the other. Free as all countersignatures must
be. When I say ‘yes’, I must say it freely, but this ‘yes’ to the other is
naturally captive to the other:
What I wanted to write is the text’s GALLOWS [POTENCE] [potence in the
right column rhymes with what is said about potens in the analysis of Hegel and
Schelling on the left].
I expose myself to it, I tend toward it very much [beaucoup], I stretch much
on it.
Anyhow, the scene will finish badly. He is going to be furious with me [m’en
vouloir `a mort; that’s my fear of Genet’s reading], I know from experience the law
of this process [we know a writer can’t tolerate any reading whatsoever]. He will
be furious with me for all sorts of reasons I will not undertake to enumerate.
And at all events and cases. If I support or valorize his text [he’ll be furious
either way, whether I say good or bad of it makes no difference], he will see in
Countersignature 37
this a sort of approbation, verily of magisterial, university, paternal or maternal
appropriation. It is as if I were stealing his erection from him. His death: ‘And
the picture showing the capital execution of a convict in Cayenne made me say:
‘‘He has stolen my death’’’ (Miracle of the Rose). And if, furthermore, I expose
as a professor the Great(er) Logic of this operation, I do nothing but aggravate
the case. If I was not valorizing, not ‘magnifying’ his glas (but what have I done
on the whole?), the ringer would fuck me again. Anyhow the signer recalled to
Roger Blin a lost letter in which he had confided to Blin that his own books
and plays were written against himself [There! Against himself ! He signs against
himself !]. But he added: ‘And if I do not succeed through the text itself to expose
myself, then you have to help me. Against myself. . . ’ Elsewhere, that his actors
had to show him, he himself, naked. So, anyhow, I am judged and condemned,
that is what he always sought to do: if I write for his text, I write against him, if I
write for him, I write against his text. This friendship is irreconcilable. [There is
the theme of irreconcilable friendship from L’Ennemi d´eclar´e, how can a friendship
be irreconcilable?]
Anyhow, he will vomit [the theme of vomiting is constant in Glas: it’s the gl]
all that (¸ca) for me, he will not read, will not be able to read.
Do I write for him? What would I like to do to him? do to his ‘work’? Ruin it
by erecting it, perhaps.
So that one reads it no more? So that one only reads it starting from here, from
the moment I myself consign and countersign it? (199-200)
In other words, is what I wanted that one only read him after, starting
from, my countersignature?
There follows a quotation from Warda, and a repeat of ‘there are
always, after all, of the remain(s), two functions overlapping each
other’, and two mournings that, each time transforming it, repeat a
theme that appeared earlier and will reappear some fifty pages further,
the ‘canopy of the upturned eye [dais de l’oeil r´evuls´e]’ (260) or the
‘milk of mourning [lait de deuil]. His tomb, he loves only that’ (201).
On the same page, the opposite or facing column on Hegel deals with
an asexual brother-sister relation, and then a word that can mean the
contrary. The theme of contrariety, and of the Christian mother can
also be found in Hegel. . . In other words, reading the two columns,
one can see the play of signatures, countersignatures, proximity and
contradiction, enacted in permanence.
To conclude in a few words, thanking you for your patience, I shall
at least outwardly move away from Genet’s texts and those of mine
that countersign them, but without really leaving Genet’s path and
the ways it crossed mine, despite innumerable and massive differences.
It would be impossible to imagine two more different existences than
38 Paragraph
Genet’s and mine. How could these paths cross? I call Genet’s path
a certain trajectory, an irresistible movement making its way, the
way of a single signature, through journeys, return trips [allers-retours],
counterpaths [contre-all´ees], wanderings, in a fierce race towards death.
Genet runs to/on death [marche `a la mort]. Somewhere, I wrote that
about myself: I run to/on death. In other words, I run towards death,
but also I run on death like a fuel, as an engine runs on petrol. I run
on death, death is what makes me run.
In this fierce race, ‘he runs on death’ implies a suicidal signature,
if such a thing is possible, a signed suicide, a consigned suicide, a
signature destined to sign only to bring about its own effacement [arriver `a
s’effacer]. That is, to attain, to arrive at its own effacement, but also to
come about, to happen, as its own effacement. Simultaneously event
and effacement. There lies the betrayal as self-betrayal, as if the only
possible, or impossible, event were a suicide worthy of the name. This
suicide can happen in a moment or last, or accompany, or inspire an
entire lifetime. It can be decided in a second, but it involves decision.
Thinking the signature is inseparable from thinking the decision and
the moment of decision.
This decision, as I tried to show elsewhere, is another’s decision.
My suicide is always a murder come from the other, a heterocide, a
non-suicide or a homicide. What does that mean? What do I want
to suggest by this dream of an impossible suicide? And why did I
always feel close to Genet, right against him, despite all the differences?
perhaps because of this obsession, this theatre of the possible
and impossible suicide. The possible-impossible suicide haunts every
signature as signature and as countersignature. Today and elsewhere
I have stressed the ‘yes’, the double ‘yes’ etched by the countersignature,
the affirmative, performative force it implies. Nonetheless, at
this moment I also believe that the affirmative and performative force
at work in a countersignature is doomed to failure and suicide. It
is doomed to fail any way, in at least two ways I shall indicate in
conclusion.
It is doomed to fail, to commit suicide, firstly, because it is
impossible that the ‘counter’ of the vis-`a-vis, proximity, iterability
or affirmation should not be encroached on by the ‘counter’ of
destructive opposition. There is complicity, contagion, contamination
between these two ‘counters’. At work even in my signature
as countersignature-confirmed-and-authenticated by itself is
a self-destruction that must accept the survival of the signature
after the signatory’s death thus countersigned or countersigning.
Countersignature 39
The signatory, the signature is swept away and suicidal amnesia
unites with the memory of the ‘yes yes’ unable to avoid the
deathly rigidity of mimetic or mechanical repetition. This is the
first reason.
The second is that the defeat of the ‘yes’’s performative force is
as inevitable as the catastrophe whereby a performative necessarily
disappears in the face of what happens. This is a theme I have been
trying to develop for some time, suggesting, in sum, that where there
is an event, the performative must fail. It’s the performative’s limit. It
is often rightly said that a performative produces an event, produces
the event it speaks of. That is the definition of the performative. It
does what it says, makes what it says happen. I say ‘yes’—marriage,
‘yes’—thus I produce the event I speak of. I sign, countersign,
and that in effect produces the event at the side of the work or
at the level of the work. But, insofar as every performative, every
performative power is authorized by an ‘I may’, ‘I can’, is authorized
by conventions and, by its decision, remains the master of the
event thus produced, the subject of a performative act by definition
masters the event it produces, it is supposed to produce. Well,
that very mastery neutralizes the event it produces. Where there is
mastery, there cannot be event. Nothing happens. An event must
happen or touch me unexpectedly, unanticipatably, that is, without
horizon, with no horizon of waiting, like the other’s coming. When
the other comes, there is no performative. The other’s coming
outstrips any performative force or power. In this sense, the event,
the other’s unexpected coming, never signs or countersigns. Thus the
word countersignature can assume another meaning, neither that of
authenticating confirmation, the performative ‘yes yes’ to a signature,
mine or another’s; nor merely (or more) the dialectical opposition
to the signature; but the very event that designates, countersigns in
another sense the countersignature itself, that ‘suicides’ the signature,
so to speak, carries it away, undoes it, exceeds it, effaces it, derides it. It
is suicide itself. In this sense, if the marrying, the ‘becoming conjoined’
I spoke of, especially in relation to Ponge’s text, is to be an event
worthy of the name, it must exceed the performative legitimization of
the conventional ‘yes yes’, that is of the signature or countersignature.
It must take place, if it takes place, unexpectedly, invisibly, secretly,
wordlessly, without a patronymic or matronymic name. Beyond the
father’s or mother’s name. A decision that reckons unconditionally
with the undecidable only by trusting to a ‘perhaps’ or an ‘as if’, where
performative mastery fails. It is perhaps as if I had married or as if I
40 Paragraph
was committing suicide. Waiting for death—a waiting that moreover
waits for nothing, expects nothing—is the experience of something
like an event exceeding every performative, and thus every signature
and every countersignature. That is why I cannot sign my death, even
if I sign my death sentence, even if I believe I am killing myself. This
waiting without waiting, this waiting with no horizon of waiting,
makes the excess of death both lighter and graver.
To finish, I would like to quote Genet again from L’Ennemi d´eclar´e,
in the interview, one of the funniest ever, with Bertrand Delpech:
B.P.-D.: The Screens present death as something not very dreadful or important
after all. Is that your opinion?
J.G.: It’s Mallarm´e’s opinion also: ‘This shallow stream. . . ’, you know the rest.
[This has also an autobiographical resonance for me: when my friend Paul De
Man, suffering like Genet from cancer and knowing he was going to die, wrote
me a letter, he too quoted ‘this shallow stream. . .. ’] Death. . . at least the passage
from life to non-life to me seems not very sad, not very dangerous for one if
the vocabulary is changed: the passage from life to non-life instead of life to
demise is suddenly nearly consoling, isn’t it? The change of vocabulary is what’s
important. Dedramatizing. The word is frequently used these days—‘dedramatize
the situation.’ I dedramatize the situation that will make a dead man of me by
using other words.
B.P.-D.: A dramatic author who dedramatizes?
J.G.: Precisely. If I tried to develop a sort of dramaturgy, it was to settle a score
with society. Now, I’m indifferent, the score has been settled.
B.P.-D.: You’re not angry, you’ve no scene to make?
J.G.: Oh! I affirm it so peremptorily, so sharply that I wonder if truly I am not
angry, have no scene to make. There you may be onto something. I believe I
will die still with anger against you.
B.P.-D.: And hatred?
J.G.: No, I hope not, you’re not worth it.
B.P.-D.: Who is worth your hatred?
J.G.: The few people I love deeply, and who touch me. (ED, 232-3)
And again, in the interview with Nigel Williams at the close of
L’Ennemi d´eclar´e:
N.G.: And what do you do with your days there?
J.G.: Ah yes, you want to address the problem of time? Well, I’ll answer like
Saint Augustine in relation to time: ‘I’m waiting for death.’ (306)
My thesis, my hypothesis, is that the thought of suicide was
impossible for Genet who, besides, as he says himself, wrote Prisoner
Countersignature 41
of Love at a moment when his cancer had already manifested itself. He
truly wrote it between the first operation for cancer and his death. My
thesis, my hypothesis, is that this thought of the impossible suicide is
nevertheless readable everywhere in his writings. As proof, and these
are my last quotations, it is enough to read this passage in Fragments. . .:
The thought—not the summons—but the thought of suicide, appeared to me
clearly around my fortieth year, brought, it seems to me, by the boredom of
living, by an inner void that nothing, except an absolute decline, seemed able
to abolish.11
There are many other passages I could quote as evidence of this
thought of suicide, but I shall stop with this one:
Before knowing him, I had wanted to commit suicide. But his presence, and
then his image in me, then his possible fate, coming not from him but from that
image, overwhelmed me. He refused to exist according to this image. (30)

JACQUES DERRIDA
Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales
(Translated by Mair´ead Hanrahan)

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NOTES

 O there you go, this was not  just read it was 'pronounced' which means in our English that it was spoken. Good god, what a bunch of falderall!
1 Text pronounced on the occasion of the conference Po´etiques de Jean Genet:
La Travers´ee des Genres, held at the Centre Culturel International de Cerisyla-
Salle, 14-21 August 2000. The original French version is due to appear
shortly in the Acts of this conference, edited by Albert Dichy and Patrice
Bougon (Paris, IMEC, 2005).



2 Jacques Derrida, Glas, translated by J. Leavey and R. Rand (Lincoln and
London, University of Nebraska Press, 1986), 41-2.

3 Prisoner of Love, translated by Barbara Bray with an introduction by Ahdaf
Soueif (New York, New York Review Books, 2003), 32.

4 ‘Entretien avec Antoine Bourseiller’ in Jean Genet, L’Ennemi d´eclar´e, edited
by Albert Dichy (Paris, Gallimard, 1991; henceforward ED), 225-6.

5 That Strange Word. . . in Fragments of the Artwork, translated by Charlotte
Mandell (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2003), 111-2.

6 Geoffrey Bennington and Jacques Derrida, Jacques Derrida, translated by
Geoffrey Bennington (Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press,
1993), 268; translation modified.

7 La Contre-all´ee, avec Catherine Malabou (Paris, La Quinzaine litt´eraire-Louis
Vuitton, 1999), 57-8.
42 Paragraph

8 I do not include in this series the Cerisy conference devoted in 1998 toH´el`ene
Cixous, another admired and respected friend. For luckily she is alive.

9 Jacques Derrida, Sign´epongeDSignsponge, translated by Richard Rand (New
York, Columbia University Press, 1984), 124-8.

10 Our Lady of the Flowers, translated by Bernard Frechtman (London, Panther,
1966), 261.

11 Jean Genet, Fragments of the Artwork, translated by Charlotte Mandell (Stanford,
Stanford University Press, 2003), 23.
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