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406 Jean-Luc Nancy Interview of June 23, 2000 What were your Heideggerian “moorings?” My moorings are straightforward enough. I knew nothing about Heidegger until, perhaps, 1961. I’d never heard of him before; I was a khâgne student in Toulouse, then at Louis-le-Grand, and Lakanal. None of the teachers mentioned him. The year at Lakanal I met François Warin, since he lived in Sceaux. That was when you and François Warin translated Heidegger’s text on physis in Aristotle? Yes. We translated the text in its entirety, which was then published in two issues of Aletheia, a journal run by students associated with Axelos. Warin suggested the project to me because I was fluent in German. We became friends and he introduced me to Heidegger, whereas at the time it was Hegel who was my passion. Warin and I remained friends, my oldest friend among philosophers. He had been a student of Beaufret’s and had become associated with Fédier, and Vezin. I can’t remember if he spoke to me about these people because he had already been cut off from their circle. He was, however, very much a Heideggerian and was mostly in contact with Axelos. Very much captivated and fascinated by Beaufret, he was under the ethico-political expectation of the Catholic milieu: his father was in the resistance, had been deported, and died in a camp; Warin lived with his mother and his two brothers. He also took me to a church that Ricoeur would go to sometimes. He was an uncompromising leftist. That is perhaps why there had been an initial discord with Beaufret and his followers. But Warin had introduced me to Axelos and had taken me to see him. So it was in those years, 1963–64, that you began to read Heidegger? Jean-Luc Nancy | 407 In any case, my first contact with Heidegger wasn’t very promising. Warin had me read the “Letter on Humanism” and I laughed out loud. I told him, this guy, with his whole peasant-pastoral motif, was ridiculous. I would put little notes in his mailbox with somewhat crass jokes about “the shepherd of being.” The following year I played a trick on him, I wrote a pseudo-Heideggerian text on Auguste Comte, and I was delighted because Warin took the bait and showed the text to a few of Beaufret’s followers. I had fun parodying Heidegger. I used to say that you had to hear a more originary resonance behind his spoken word, etc. That just goes to show you that I wasn’t very favorably inclined toward this material. This phase passed very quickly, however, once I realized that there was something else there besides what struck me as ridiculous. In a word: I understood the thinking of finitude. Warin was also very important to my education, as was Birault ; but despite all that, I didn’t become what one might call a Heideggerian. My contact with the Heideggerians was a bit disconnected. Warin left for Germany, then Tunisia, and he stayed abroad for a long time. Also, I never encountered Heidegger’s work during the course of my studies. Then there was a leap of sorts: in 1964 I discovered Jacques Derrida’s first writings: not his introduction to The Origin of Geometry at first, but the opening sections of Of Grammatology. Which had been published in Critique, as well as other texts later gathered in Writing and Difference? Yes. For me, that was another revelation. The difference between Heidegger and Derrida is that Derrida appeared more contemporary to me. I didn’t know that there were people like him, right in the middle of contemporary philosophical work. I didn’t have the clear feeling that Heidegger was still alive, that he was still present. To that extent? Didn’t you, given your fluency in German, have direct access to some of the Heidegger texts, but also to Nietzsche? No. My philosophical interest at the time was Hegel, I had hardly any direct knowledge of Nietzsche, none of Husserl—and yet I had been a student of Ricoeur. He became the director of my MA thesis, which was on Hegel’s philosophy of religion. My interest in religion was quite strong; I wanted to work on the question of religion. I’m returning to it now. Hegel has always been my favorite author. The first book that I wrote alone was The Speculative Remark in...


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