- Intersecting Lives
When I first heard rumors that the distinguished intellectual historian François Dosse was working on a biography of Gilles Deleuze, I was intrigued: unlike his two colleagues at the pinnacle of post-1960 French philosophy—Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida—Deleuze was very guarded about the details of his private life. A biography of Deleuze, I hoped, would provide details about his childhood, tell us something about his relationship with his wife and children (by all accounts, Deleuze's family life was thoroughly bourgeois, which seemed so odd given the radicality of his thought), perhaps explain why he refrained from attending conferences, and finally provide some details about his many illnesses and the causes and details of his mysterious suicide. And when the book first appeared in French, and I learned that Dosse had written a biography not only of Deleuze, but of Félix Guattari as well, and of their collaborative relationship, my eagerness to read the work only increased. Unfortunately, however, while there is much information in this massive volume, the flaws in this text, compounded by a seriously flawed translation and a horrendous copy editing job, make the experience of reading this English translation exceedingly frustrating to anyone who will read the volume carefully (as, unfortunately, no copy editor, and I suspect few of its reviewers and evaluators, ever did!).
The organization of the text is straightforward: part one covers Deleuze and Guattari's respective biographies up to the events of May 1968 and their meeting the following year. Here, we learn a great deal about Guattari's early life, his political activism, and his activities at the clinic at La Borde. Less information is provided about Deleuze's early life, though Dosse appropriately highlights the death of Deleuze's older brother George during the war and the effect it had on Gilles and his relationship to his parents. In addition, Dosse recounts Deleuze's education and early career, discussing and interpreting Deleuze's works prior to his collaborations with Guattari. [End Page 341]
Part two focuses on their "Intersecting Lives," providing details of their meeting, their relationship, and the first three books they wrote together: Anti-Oedipus (1972), Kafka (1986), and A Thousand Plateaus (1980). Equally interesting here are the chapters that address aspects of their lives from 1968-1980 that did not involve their collaborations: Guattari's work with the CERFI (Centre d'Études, de Recherches et de Formation Institutionnelles) and his political activism in Italy, Germany, and France; Deleuze's relationship with Foucault and his teaching activities at Vincennes.
Part three, curiously titled "Surplices," covers the years from 1980-2007, discussing Guattari's work on ecology and aesthetics, Deleuze's work on cinema and art, their respective deaths in 1992 and 1995, and the reception and continuing influence of their work around the world. We learn, in this part, that their final collaboration, What is Philosophy? (1994), was "manifestly written by Deleuze alone," who gave Guattari coauthor credit "as a tribute to their exceptionally intense friendship" (456). Other interesting facts are also mentioned, for example, that in response to the question "why a thousand plateaus?" Deleuze answered with reference to "the plateau at Millevaches [a thousand cows]," near his family property in Limousin (481, cf. 249). It must be said, however, that the final chapters on reception and extension of their work is seriously marred by two factors: first, the number of flat-out mistakes (some present in Dosse's original text, others the result of translator/copy editor sloppiness) is so great that they cast doubt on the veracity of the other information mentioned (examples include wrong names ["David" rather than "Nick" Land (472); "Jan"-Pierre rather than "Jean"-Pierre Faye (385); Paul Patton becoming Paul Patterson (510)]; wrong affiliations [Andrew Cutrofello at the University of Chicago rather than Loyola University of Chicago (474)]; wrong dates [Anti-Oedipus published in 1973 rather than 1972 (511)], etc.). Second, and perhaps more important, readers from the English-speaking Deleuze scholarly community may find that the Deleuzo-Guattarian scholars and scholarship discussed might more accurately reflect those individuals Dosse was able to interview rather than the significant figures and...