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Laurent Milesi - Portraits of H. C. as J. D. and Back - New Literary History 37:1 New Literary History 37.1 (2006) 65-84

Portraits of H. C. as J. D. and Back*

Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory
Cardiff University
"Francesco one day set himself
To take his own portrait, looking at himself for that purpose
In a convex mirror, such as is used by barbers . . .
He accordingly caused a ball of wood to be made
By a turner, and having divided it in half and
Brought it to the size of the mirror, he set himself
With great art to copy all that he saw in the glass,"
Chiefly his reflection, of which the portrait
Is the reflection once removed.
—John Ashbery, "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror"

The words or rather lines I have just read are from John Ashbery's "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror," a poem which projects the Renaissance problem of self-portraiture in Parmigianino's eponymous mannerist painting (see fig. 1) onto the postmodern canvas as the dilemma of poetic self-writing, thus doubling a self-portrait which was already a "reflection once removed."1 What you may not know, unless you see the poem in front of you, is that I started in medias res by quoting Ashbery quoting from sixteenth-century biographer Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists, up to "to copy all that he saw in the glass," at which point Ashbery further "reflects" the "quotation portrait," reflects on the "portrait quotation."

In a comparable, yet more complex gesture, H. C.'s Portrait de Jacques Derrida en Jeune Saint Juif quotes J. D.'s memory of their first-ever encounter in H. C. pour la vie, c'est à dire . . . first given as an inaugural lecture to the Cerisy décade on H. C. From the outset the portraitist makes an almost mannerist point of quoting precisely and insistently saying that she quotes—"I quote him, quoting me," "I quote him exactly"2 —as if to make up for the already uncannily premonitory quasi-absence of the deconstructionist of presence and future subject of the portrait during this avant-première encounter, who, not seeing that he is [End Page 65] seen—not seeing himself in the picture, as the Lacan of Seminar XI would say, or not seeing himself being seen, like the blind King in Poe's "Purloined Letter"—turns his back to the scene of his future portrait unbeknownst (à son insu) and "unbeseen" (à son invu) to himself:

 Parmigianino, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. Reproduced by permission of Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
Click for larger view
Figure 1
Parmigianino, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. Reproduced by permission of Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
"Before that [that is, their "first real" meeting], she has since told me," I quote, "many long years before that, some seven years before, she had seen and heard me—but from behind.

She had seen and heard me, from behind, speaking. Facing an academic jury, as I was giving a presentation on the thought of death."

(Portrait 5; translation modified)

A portrait of an asymmetrical meeting face to back, which both replays and anticipates the famous scene of filiation between S and P played out in ancient Greece and in reverse in The Post Card; here J. D. speaks (rather than writes under dictation), H. C. sees, makes notes behind his back ("Il me donnait le do"3 ), and later draws/paints in pen/brush strokes. Both in Ashbery's and H. C.'s post-portraits, "[t]he quoting had commenced" (Portrait 5).

In such inauspicious conditions, what can a portrait be? Let alone one in which an opaque layering of visual non-presence mediated by a substitution of retrospective borrowed words about a scene in absentia holds at bay the traditional conception of the portrait's face-à-face or vis-à-vis in a back-and-forth movement? After a brief genealogy of H. C. and J. D.'s intertextual crossings, which will take the form of a commented list of dates, events, and publications at whose intersections I will attempt to draw my own portraits of H. C. as J. D. and back, I shall look at some of the privileged moments of this fabulous iterative encounter, in three interrelated tableaux: s(')a-voirse voirsoi voirver à soi(e) (on [End Page 66] sight, knowledge, reason; worms—but also glasses: ver(re)s—and veils); I-as-another-you/Jew (a tacit comparison between H. C.'s "étranjuif" and J. D.'s "dernier des Juifs" which will focus on l'être-juif à la lettre); the mutual gift of a portrait for the other (thus, a pourtrait) but also as a retrait in two hands.

I. Bibliographical Crossings4

End of 1962: Meets Jacques Derrida in Paris. They talk about Joyce.5

—1968: the last section of the post-scriptum to H. C.'s thèse d'état on Joyce, L'exil de Joyce ou l'art du remplacement, entitled "Writing as Poison or Cure," is doubtless the earliest, retrospectively epoch-making acknowledgement of J. D.'s work, especially of "La pharmacie de Platon," which had just appeared in the winter 1967 issue of Tel Quel, "the whole of this essay being nothing more than a reading of Finnegans Wake, as the reader will quickly have realised" (I quote H. C. quoting J. D., a footnote within a footnote6 ). Much later, in Portrait de Jacques Derrida en Jeune Saint Juif, H. C. will recall that, on their first "real" meeting, she and J. D. talked "[o]f exile and Joyce of phantasmic and literary Judaism, . . . and of such very tame follies as being a foreigner-in-my-own-country. . . . Already of the Art of Replacement" (Portrait 5);

—1973: H. C. writes an essay for the special issue of a journal on J. D. featuring the beginning of Glas (1974).7 For a long time textual crossings will mostly take the form of joint appearances in collective volumes, such as their contributions to Pour Nelson Mandela in 1986 or, more recently, for the special issue of Études françaises on "Derrida lecteur" (2002);8

—1990: the event of a coincidence, recalled again recently in H. C. pour la vie, of crossed textual genealogies "[s]ans voir et sans savoir" (without seeing and without knowing), "sans voir ni savoir" (without seeing or knowing):9 the publication of H. C.'s Jours de l'an, featuring a chapter called "Autoportrais d'une aveugle," and J. D.'s Mémoires d'aveugle: Autoportraits et autres ruines. 1990 also records the first association in a conference on Lectures de la différence sexuelle, in which J. D.'s "Fourmis" took as an analytic pretext a word from one of H. C.'s dreams—a "scene" she will redeploy in the section "Le fourmi: Fourre m'y" of Photos de racines (J. D.'s text is excerpted in the first Appendix);10

—July 1992: second décade on J. D. in Cerisy on "Le passage des frontières;" H. C. reads "Quelle heure est-il, ou La porte (celle qu'on ne passe pas)" (J. D.'s address was on "Apories," republished separately in 1996).11 In the same year, one of H. C.'s first collections of "critical" [End Page 67] essays, excerpted from her seminar lectures in the early 1980s, appeared in English, featuring a six-page interlude on J. D.'s Margins of Philosophy;12

—1994: J. D.'s foreword to The Hélène Cixous Reader, an excerpt from "Fourmis" in translation, marks perhaps the beginning of the ever-intensifying textual complicity between our two protagonists on the occasion of this "official" recognition of Cixous's literary-critical status in the Anglo-Saxon world;13

—1997: "Savoir," which J. D. is reading (as it was ready for publication) while he is writing "Un ver à soie," are both published in the recently launched journal Contretemps, then gathered in a separate joint publication: Voiles;14

—June 1998: the décade in Cerisy on H. C., "Croisées d'une oeuvre," is the first in a rapid succession of conferences on either H. C. or J. D. at which both will lecture and take turns in weaving the complex Penelopean fabric of their intertexts. At this first Cerisy event on H. C., J. D. gives the inaugural lecture, "H. C. pour la vie, c'est à dire . . ." (republished in book form in 2002), and H. C. reads "Ma terre," a fragment from the forthcoming Osnabrück (1999)—and later wrote "Vues sur ma terre," a sort of coda to Osnabrück, for inclusion in the conference volume.15

—December 2000: symposium on "Judéités: Questions pour Jacques Derrida," with J. D.'s inaugural reading of "Abraham, l'autre" and H. C.'s reading of a version of what would become her full-length Portrait of J. D. (see next entry), "Ce corps étranjuif" being subsequently written for publication;16

—In 2001 H. C.'s Portrait de Jacques Derrida en Jeune Saint Juif offers a retrospective "portrait reply" to J. D.'s full-length writer's portrait in "H. C. pour la vie, c'est à dire . . ." as well as a "critifiction" about, or circonscription of, his first alleged "autobiographical" text, "Circonfession" (1991);

—July 2002: fourth Cerisy décade on J. D., "La démocratie à venir," with a reading by H. C. entitled "La délittérature" and J. D.'s address, later to be expanded and published as Voyous (2003). Earlier that year, in March, the first Barcelona seminar was organized around their work by Marta Segarra;17

—May 2003: J. D.'s inaugural lecture at the conference on H. C., "Genèses Généalogies Genres," to which J. D. adds génie, a programmatic title anticipated in H. C. pour la vie (125), on the occasion of the accession of H. C.'s written corpus by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France;18

—Ever since the death of J. D. in October 2004, H. C. has multiplied the public lectures on her biobibliocritical complicities with "the man-and-his-works," for example, "Le bouc lié," a text that "should have been [End Page 68] delivered at NYU on 12 October 2004 in the presence of J. D.," "Villes promises" (also 2004), and, for what should have been the first conference jointly dedicated to their works ("L'événement comme écriture: Lire Cixous et Derrida se lisant"), "Le manuscrit volant" (Barcelona, June 2005), part of a longer forthcoming text: Insister. Recently, the Cahier de l'Herne dedicated to J. D. had appeared, featuring H. C.'s "Fichus et caleçons," her response to his Frankfurt address upon receiving the Adorno Prize in 2001, published as Fichus.19

II. S(')a-voir–se voir–soi voir–ver à soi(e)

Myopia was her fault . . .
Strange: she could see that she could not see,
but she could not see clearly.20

This is how H. C.'s "Savoir" begins: on the deprivation of seeing (voir) experienced as a sin ("fault"). H. C. and/or the "other woman" of the narrative is not quite blind, as J. D. somehow was in the "first" meeting, yet she is short-sighted to the point of the veil on the eye casting a more existential one over the faculty of judgment, cognition, and recognition, over the certainty and limits of being (cf. Veils 17: "To be and not to be were never exclusive"). Not to see this or that (ne pas ça voir) contaminates knowledge (savoir) and the lack thereof (ne pas avoir) destabilizes the subject's hold on itself (ne pas s'avoir), who constantly hesitates between "she" and "I" in this récit. "Vues sur ma terre" will further elaborate on this tight-knit relationship between la voir: to see her—the main incident is H. C. mistaking another woman for her mother because of her short-sightedness—or, therefore, l'a-voir, and l'avoir, as in "Je cours ma vie, je cours vers ma [sic] Visage toute ma vie s'est toujours jetée vers l'a-voir. Je ne la voyais pas" (I run my life, I run towards my Face all my life has always thrown itself towards having-seeing it. I could not see it) and "tous les matins je la non-vois. . . . Impossible de l'avoir à voir" (every morning I non-see her. Impossible to have-her-to-see).21 Much earlier, "La venue à l'écriture" (1976) had already articulated how this symbolic nexus was itself indissociable from the Promised Land of writing: "Maybe I have written to see; to have what I never would have had."22

Until, that is, a certain kind of knowledge or scientia made it possible to overcome this lack of vision, through an operation whose result was that now "she could see herself see" (Veils 8) in a sort of replenishing "visual cogito" ("it is I who can see" [9]; voir, therefore savoir), and what was not now was/is (8). Now, says the third-person protagonist, "I can [End Page 69] love my myopia, that gift in reverse" (11), while enjoying the true miracle: "seeing-with-the-naked-eye" (9), the "invention" or coming upon (in-venire) of the unseen. "Voilà [from veiled (voila) to here it is / I am (voilà) and the injunction "see the(re)" (vois la/là), breaking through the veil of myopia (voile à)] ce qui la transportait."23 But "the other woman" soon realizes that what at first sight appeared to be a new beginning to life—clinched in the double entendre "je vis": at once I saw and (therefore) I live or even experience (what J. D. succinctly glossed as "the past of a vision" [H. C. 70]; cf. "je vis des lettres" in Jours de l'an, quoted in H. C., passim)—is gained at the cost of mourning the eye, the birth of the seeing eye/I at the expense of the deuil de l'oeil and the loss of myopia. In breaking through the tight veil or lid, "she" accedes to the knowledge of the painful difference between not-seeing (ne-pas-voir) and not-seeing-oneself-seen (ne-pas-se-voir-vue), the latter being experienced as the loss of virginity, force, and independence.

Through a slight literal myopic readjustment—of the kind this admirably dense text develops throughout—ne-pas-se-voir-vue could be made to reveal a ne-pas-se-voir-nue, as the access to the naked eye (voir-à-l'oeil-nu) also exposes the seeing subject as a naked I. The daughter of Eve's "original sin" of myopia (if one recalls the beginning—and knows that H. C.'s mother is called Eve) discloses the even more originary sin of Eve and the snake in the garden of Eden, driven out of Paradise for having tasted the fruit of seeing/knowing oneself naked (se (sa)voir nue).24

Between vue and vie25 ("je vis"), mère, père, and ver (worm rather than snake), "Vues sur ma terre" focuses on the double (in)vision of this sin (cf. "je n'ai rien vu j'avoue ma faute et mon péché" [I have seen nothing I confess my fault and my sin; Hélène Cixous: Croisées d'une oeuvre, 244]): the "short-sighted" version—running towards a woman whom H. C. recognizes too late is not her mother, hence a feeling of shame as if the natural instinct of family blood had let her down and betrayed her in this substitution of mothers—and the more deeply seated guilt of altered identity it reveals, the pride of the misplaced knowledge of "being Jew" recast as an original sin. "Etant moi-même le ver dans la pomme" (Being myself the worm in the apple [244]), the daughter of Eve is the Algerian Jew who, after the exclusionary laws of 1940–42, was exiled from the local Paradise or "PaRDeS" (Hebrew pardess: fruit grove), the essential Jardin d'essai "adored to the letter [of its being]" ("adoré à la lettre:" Latin esse, French être; cf. "On essayait d'être") now become jardin Décès (Mourning garden), which both H. C. and J. D. (who "are of the same garden" [Rootprints, 80–81]) used to frequent—and whose sudden loss several of their texts bemoan in unison. One such text is H. C.'s "Ce corps étranjuif," especially the section on "Renvoyés" (Judéités, 70–1), from which the previous fragments were [End Page 70] lifted, where she features as a little worm (cf. "ma tête de vermisseau," religion and philosophy's most abject being26 ), and briefly meditates on the self-doubts of being Jew, of being stripped of one's identity and thus being "naked as a worm" (Veils 60): "Suis-je juif?" (cf. the very beginning of Portrait de Jacques Derrida: "Fus-je juif? . . . Aurai-je été juif? [9]), to be or not to be a Jew in any tense, that is the question. Driven out of Pardes, the worm (ver) spells a dream (rêve) in reverse, the hellish nightmare of estrangement: "Il y a une semaine, le dimanche matin, je me suis fait le coup du ver. C'est un rêve à l'envers: j'étais dans un jardin étranger. Soudain je vis le Visage" (A week ago, on Sunday morning, I did the trick of the worm. It is a dream in reverse: I was in a foreign garden. Suddenly I saw the Face ["Vues sur ma terre," Hélène Cixous: Croisées d'une oeuvre, 249])—before mentioning the neighbour who "faisait les vers à toutes les occasions de la communauté" (made verses for all the occasions of the community). The sinful worm is indeed a dream (spelled) backwards: l e v e r ← r ê v e à l'envers, a palindrome for (the daughter of) Eve's "livres contraires" (251).

What can seeing (voir) and the worm (ver) have in common, except the lexical mediation of a pair of glasses (verres)? In the language of the other, Sephardic Jew, vamos a ver. . .

Written, you will recall, while reading H. C.'s "Savoir," J. D.'s "Un ver à soie" ("A Silkworm of One's Own") acknowledges that he did not know/see/remember that H. C. could not see without her own glasses, that in a sense he was blind to her blindness (Veils 34; but also H. C. 55). While weaving in and out of a reading of / writing around "Savoir"—confecting what H. C.'s Portrait calls a "circonfiction"—its veils/sails (masculine and feminine voiles), knowing and willing, "la vérité et le vrai du verdict, la voix, les voies et le voir, le pouvoir et le devoir, la venue ou le 'viens' ou 'me voici' ou 'me voilà'" (Voiles 55 [cf. Veils 56]), the doubly (auto)biographical "tissue of this text" (Veils 58) or yarn spins the yearning to do away with the figure of Truth-as-(un)veil(ing) which in a tropic movement always returns to the self (vers soi)—"the truth as a history of veils" (38)—hence the movement from H. C.'s ocular veil to the special shawl J. D. had received from his grandfather known as a tallith, to the final recollection of breeding silkworms of his own [vers à soi(e)] as an adolescent, from the verdict or veri-dictum (saying the true)—the text starts "Before the verdict, my verdict" (21) and says on page 28: "Finishing with the veil is finishing with self. Is that what you're hoping for from the verdict?"—to the "dropping" of the veil—the second part begins: "Fault or election, a veil is worn as a sign of mourning" (49)—for the alternative "figure" of reason, or véraison (ripening), to be finally "re-vealed." [End Page 71]

Cutting through the various silky veils of J. D.'s reading of "Savoir" for reasons of time, I come to this point—or stitch (the text's subtitle is "Points of view stitched on the other veil")—which takes issue with Freud's view of femininity as not-having the penis (verge) or worm (ver), just before the reference to the German for "naked as a worm" in Freud's text: "A woman would weave like a body secretes for itself its own textile, like a worm, but this time like a worm without worm, a worm primarily concerned to hide in itself its non-being. What the woman would like to veil, according to Freud . . . is that she does not have the worm she perhaps is" (Veils 60). The tallith, "my own tallith," the white shawl bequeathed by the grandfather to J. D., is also only proper to man (84; developed in H. C. 133), is what woman does not have through culture, like circumcision which marks even a double lack of ne pas l'avoir, first by nature (woman does not have the worm) and culture (she therefore cannot be circumcised)—and whose palliative may be found in the role played by myopia in H. C.'s writings. Against Freud (and maybe Nietzsche; cf. Spurs), what "A Silkworm of One's Own" dreams of calling and reinventing as la vérité—feminine truth / truth as feminine but with a difference—could designate therefore the being-worm (l'être-ver) rather than the not-having of the worm (Freud's Penismangel), the peculiar reason which the being-worm is gifted with and which provides another route through the complex braid of voir and se voir, savoir, s'avoir (see also Voiles 38, 44), the ver à soie [silkworm] as another possibility of the vers (à) soi [towards one's self] without property or appropriation, the "to have or not to have" of being. This récit of a "vrai rêve," the dream of another vérité, soon turns into a serigraphy of sorts:

Sericulture was not man's thing [n'était point de l'homme], not a thing belonging to the man raising his silkworms. It was the culture of the silkworm qua silkworm. Secretion of what was neither a veil, nor a web . . . nor a white scarf. . . . With a view to returning to itself, to have for oneself what one is, to have oneself [s'avoir] and to be oneself [s'être] while ripening but also dying at birth. . . .

namely [à savoir] that the silkworm . . . came back to itself in its odyssey, in a sort of absolute knowledge, as if it had to wrap itself in its own shroud, the white shroud of its own skin, in order to remain with itself, the being it had been with a view to re-engendering itself in the spinning of its filiation, sons or daughters [la filature de ses fils ou de ses filles]—beyond any sexual difference or rather any duality of the sexes . . .

(Veils 89–90)

And threading its way through v-genealogies of ver, vers, verre, vert, verge, vérité, vérace, véridique, véraison and verdict, even ver pervers or virus, in a spinning (filature) / filiation of words recalling all the V's of "Savoir" (see 56–57 and 101n2), "A Silkworm of One's Own" finally ushers in the late disclosure of véraison or ripening, that is, the color changing of, or variation (varire) on, vérité, which came to J. D. as the flooding of a childhood memory, the envers d'un rêve or a dream in reverse. [End Page 72]

Thus a ripening J. D. "élève ses vers à soie" [breeds his silkworms] . . . After a recall of the tallith and the breeding of silkworms in J. D.'s text, H. C. writes in "Ce corps étranjuif": "Mère et fils, élève du ver dont il apprend l'oeuvre et l'être pour la mort. Mon maître était un ver sans voile et sans pudeur. C'était avant la vérité" (Judéités 79).[Mother and son, pupil to the worm from whom he learns the work and being for death.]

My master was a worm without a veil and without modesty. It was before truth. The master—which I am / whom I follow (le m'être / maître que je suis); towards the beginning of her Portrait, H. C. writes that she, allegorized as Klein (little), had silenced her stick to let him, Gross (big), do the talking—breeds worms, but is also pupil to the worm. Thus, through a specular reversal of filiation and filature, he will become her own pupil, "pupil" to the worm wearing glasses (ver à verres) that she is—and from whom he will learn much later, so late and too late (sero; see also Veils 33), that she had already written about "her" tallith (H. C. 133), thus making it hers in writing before him and turning H. C. into a "serigraphy" or a writing so late, too late. Gross-Derrida, the one who "me donnait le do" [a variation on "set the tone"] in the avant-première encounter at the beginning of Portrait de Jacques Derrida (13), eventually gets back "notes en C" (H. C. 130; that is, do on the French scale) from Klein-Cixous who, through "the infinite diminution of a musical interval, and what a note . . . what music" (Veils 92), a donné le la (since La is also the title of a novel by H. C., whose reading is encouraged in "A Silkworm of One's Own" [61]). Through yet another slight (literal-phonetic) myopic adjustment, la véraison reveals that she, the worm without the worm, "chassée . . . hors de la raison pure" ("Ce Corps étranjuif,"Judéités, 70) [driven . . . out of pure reason], "elle avait raison: raison contre moi" (H. C. 10).

H. C. and J. D. offer us chromatic variations of crossbred, inverted serigraphies of one's self, or écritures sur soi(e), vers soi, sur le ver à soie, in the "double mirror" effects of this infinite (auto)biographical (self-) portrait in which "you can see me also see you see me" (Veils 62)—and to which I will return after a detour via the motif of "Jewishness in writing" à la lettre.

III. Lettre/l'être-juif: "I That Other Jew/You"

In "Perec et la judéité" Marcel Bénabou had attempted to articulate what "being Jewish" means for a writer whose family had paid the price of their origins during Word War II but who had never thematized his Jewishness "as such."27 I shall use some of his findings as a strategic springboard for the first two parts of the following argument as they [End Page 73] neatly intersect with several themes and motifs in H. C.'s "Ce corps étranjuif" and J. D.'s "Abraham, l'autre," both given on the occasion of the conference on Judéités.


Bénabou posits the distinction between Judaism (judaïsme), or Jewish religion, culture and their attendant set of values, and the fact or feeling of "being Jew" or Jewishness (judéité), which J. D. will also take as a provisional point of departure—to keep away from Judaism in order to keep Jewishness within oneself (cf. "Abraham, l'autre" 16)28 —before eventually refuting it through a problematization of what être-juif "means" (cf. 39). During the course of his "case study" Bénabou resorts to the same texts J. D. will interrogate or allude to: Jean-Paul Sartre's epoch-making Réflexions sur la question juive, on the Jew-as-(Jew-for-an)other and the difference between the authentic and inauthentic Jew, Edmond Jabès's emphasis on the existential non-belonging of the Jew in Du désert au livre (a theme often reiterated by J. D., for example, in Monolingualism of the Other29 ), and even, to a minor extent, Alain Finkielkraut's Le juif imaginaire. He even quotes J. D.'s early words in the essay on "Edmond Jabès and the Question of the Book" in Writing and Difference, related to the latter's confession of having discovered Judaism very late, as a precursor to Perec's own in Ellis Island—with W, ou le souvenir d'enfance the most "Jewish" of his writings—especially: "Quelque part, je suis étranger par rapport à quelque chose de moi-même."30 Here is a fuller quotation from Writing and Difference: "In this noncoincidence of the self with the self, he is more and less Jewish than the Jew. But the Jew's identity with himself perhaps does not exist. 'Jew' would be the other name for this impossibility of being oneself. [Sentence missing in the English text.] The Jew is split, and split first of all between the two dimensions of the letter: allegory and literality."31 Against Sartre's alienated cogito of the Jew—s/he says I am a Jew, ergo Judaeus sum (cf. "Abraham, l'autre," Judéités 27)32 —both "Ce corps étranjuif" and "Abraham, l'autre" will further emphasize this unheimlich (synonymous with "Jewish"; "Abraham, l'autre" 30) noncoincidence of being étrange(r) à soi-même, a foreign body estranjewed to and from itself: (H. C.) "Rien ne lui est étranger, tout lui est étranger" (69), or, quoting J. D.: "Ce corps étranger, je le suis, et je le suis à la trace. Je ne suis rien d'autre qu'un corps étranger" (I am this foreign body and I follow its trail/trace. I am nothing other than a foreign body" [80]).

Yet sharing, beyond their differences (such as gender), the same "letters patent of noblewound" (Portrait 5—lettres de noblessures), H. C. [End Page 74] and J. D. both reinvest the self-as-other-as-Jew/you in a mutual writing which ceaselessly confounds pronouns: first, second and third persons, subject (reflexive) and object, from tu to je-me and back, but also "entre lui et moi la soie" (Portrait 12 [emphases mine]). Exiled from home, unheimlich to him/herself, the Jew bluffs (himself) in an art of endless substitutions. Recall "such very tame follies as being a foreigner-in-my-own-country. . . . Already of the Art of Replacement" in Portrait 5; see 68 in the original: "sous la soie tremblante du moi qui doit quand même dire je, and 81: "le jeu de lui et de moi" (emphases mine), elle and moi (H. C. 52), lui/il and elle (H. C.'s novel Illa; see H. C. 135), tu and je-me, je-me and je t' ("Abraham, l'autre" 22: "tu l'as aussitôt compris, me dis-je"; Portrait 111: "son je étant tu"), also Genet's je m'ec (Portrait 72, already developed in Glas), between reading and writing. Threading or worming her way between "Circonfession" and Stendhal's "Vie de Henry Brulard" (H. B., rather than H. C.)—as she will do ten years later in the colloque on Judéités—H. C. writes, in a talk originally given for the aptly named Le passage des frontières: "The scene comes to pass between (me) these two (he): he-who-writes and he-who-reads. The scene comes to pass in the foreign interior. The foreignness comes to pass between me and me."33 At the end of one of their fictional "crucifictions," H. C. phantasizes J. D. as a jocoserious "Jésuis juif" ("Ce corps étranjuif" 82), one who no doubt could say: "Ceci est mon corps étranjuif," J. D. the Jeune Saint/Singe Juif masquerading as J. C., maybe through yet another slight literal myopic readjustment . . .

Etre l'autre-juif à la lettre

The quasi-exegetical relation to the letter in the proper noun is another crucial element isolated by Bénabou as a feature of Perec's "Jewishness" which is consonant with J. D.'s own. One spectacular instance is the "dispatching" of the lipogrammatic "e," despite it being the most frequent vowel in the French language, in Perec's La disparition—and Bénabou incidentally notes the liponymy of the word "Jew" in Kafka's writings. (More generally, one could sketch an uncannily comparable trajectory, from a "deficiency" (Bénabou's word is "carence") in Jewishness to a positive remotivation, if not replenishment, through writing (Perec), or from a relative absence or lack of foregrounding at the invisible center of H. C.'s and J. D.'s texts, like the empty tabernacle fenced off the gaze of the non-Jew evoked in "A Silkworm of One's Own," to a more insistent represencing, resurfacing behind or through the scriptural veil in more recent writings.) One may recall one of two Jewish characters in Perec's La vie mode d'emploi, Albert Cinoc, ruthless [End Page 75] exterminator of words ("tueur de mots") from Le grand larousse by trade turned penitent compiler of forgotten words once retired, whose name undergoes several phonetic mutations, intersecting at one point with the historical vicissitudes of Perec's own family name, for fear of the concierge making it sound like sinoc/sinoque, French slang for "bonkers."34 This playful figure of the eccentric, irrational Jew chimes with Sartre's well-meaning yet naive attempt at distinguishing between the authentic and inauthentic Jew, the latter being on the side of order and ratio, thus the former on the side of unreason and even madness—an extension of the topos of the untrustworthy Jew in the face of Truth (see "Vues sur ma terre" 252: "Qui sait si c'est vrai, ça c'est juif. Oui. Qui sait si c'est juif, qui sait si c'est vrai qui sait qui est-ce?", and "Ce corps étranjuif" 70: "Suis-je juif? Suis-je menteur?").35

Seen in this context, the Jew's (pro)nominal bluffs in an art of endless substitutions which will eventually yield another ver-ité and véraison also mark the generalized substitution of letters (lettres) for being (l'être), as in H. C.'s and J. D.'s atomizations of their names or their parents', but also of the subject of enunciation (je), place (j'y), to the Jew (juif) him/herself.36 Let us tacitly compare H. C.'s reflections on the letter J for Jew (juif), "a consonant still a little vowelish," with J. D.'s more roguish ironies—and hear both Yids' yodelling in yods in the alliterative glory of their original language:

le J dit ji gît j'y, pour juif dans la langue secrète de ma mère pendant la guerre: c'est un J disait-elle, pour dire sans dire, J le nom du secret, si J n'avait pas été le nom de lettre le plus français possible dans la bouche de ma mere—car en allemand le J ne gît pas, ne jaillit pas . . . c'est un yeu, oui, un Jod, pronouncé yod, J fut toujours pour moi la première et la dernière des lettres.
(Portrait 11)
le "j" et les "oui" de "juif" [see the j'accepte motif in The Post Card], entre le "suis" de "je suis", "je suis juif", le "juste" de "je suis juste en tant que Juif" [that is, not only "I am just as a Jew" but also "I am just about as a Jew", a syntactical circumfession of sorts], ou "je suis juste un Juif," ou "juste un juste," "rien que juste un Juif juste," ou "oui, juste un Juif qui jouit à être juste et plus juste que la justice ou que le droit, oui, je suis juste un Juif par ouï-dire qui s'entend à être juste un Juif juste, plus juste que la justice."
("Abraham, l'autre" 20)

. . . which is lost in translation, as J. D. notes at the outset of "Justices," given on the occasion of a conference in honour of J. Hillis Miller at the University of California, Irvine: "Je me dis d'abord; I say to myself first that my French J will have been lost from the first letter of the first word. I'm not talking here about my first name but about my je, my I and my jeu with je, my play with I. Je (I) will have withdrawn, effaced itself from the first letter of the first word. Je est un autre. I is another one."37 J, oui, jouis, j'ouie, juif, etc.: both J. D. le voyou and H. C. la voyelle recast the drama of [End Page 76] origins, denied identity, or Stephen Dedalus's "what's in a name" as literal dramaturgy, the play of letters (jeu de lettres) anchoring the substitution of identities and beings (je de l'être).

Time and space permitting, I could produce the endless roll-call of names and nouns broken down into their minimal atomistic particles or stoikheia, "a word at once designating the graphic element as well as the mark, the letter, the trait, or the point,"38 according to some Joycean "atomystics of the letter" easily transferable to the art of portraiture, as in those vignettes from "Circonfession" whose literal weavings are stitched together as peripheral glosses by H. C. in her Portrait, or H. C.'s own oeuvre, which for J. D. "is made up of letters (stoikheia, elementa), each of which is greater than the whole, that is, mightier than the element that comprises it" (H. C. 26). Such a detailed catalogue would need to do justice, across two languages at least, not only to J but G, for Georges, the name of H. C.'s father and his fictional substitutes, quasi-anagrammatized as gorge or Gregor—and dissected at length in J. D.'s own Gorgias-like Encomium of Helen: H. C.—his middle letters or (gold) and the whole book Or: Les lettres de mon père, those very letters J. D. had also picked out in several of Mallarmé's writings, especially "Or" and Igitur,39 but also the words j'ai, gé, jet, etc., which they hide in J. D.'s own G-book;40 J. D.'s own "other name" Élie (see "Circonfession" 16, atomized and glossed in Portrait 15), with, among other things, its injunction to read (eh lis!); ça, sa, SA (savoir absolu, signifiant, Saint Augustine) in J. D.'s texts (as noted and quoted in H. C.'s Portrait 79–80, 103); and, about H. C.'s own initials: H / la hache (in Jours de l'an; cf. H. C. 49, 92) and C, si, six (H. C. 16), but also c'est/sait, seen before (H. C., 23: "Là, on sait que le c'est s'accorde au savoir;" see also 33–34, recalling the homophony in Algeria, and 41). In H. C. J. D. first quotes a "formula" from Or: Les lettres de mon père (192), then later comments as follows:

Je t'écris. Oui bien sûr dis-je je suis ta lettre. Je suis moi-même ta lettre à moi dis-je.
(H. C. 66; see also 115)
[I write to you. Yes of course I say, I am/follow your letter. I am/follow myself your letter to me I say.]

Je suis moi-même l'unique substitut d'une lettre . . . d'un héritage qu'à la lettre je suis. (H. C. 114, in relation to her puissance de substitution)

[I myself am the unique substitute of a letter . . . of a heritage that I am/follow to the letter.]

Cixous and Derrida, two unpronounceable names indeed (Portrait 18) "en rapport avec la lettre" ("La venue à l'écriture" 36, which mentions those imbeciles "qui font des sous" with Cixous—that is, six sous), mutually cut into letters as in "je t'adore, je t'adore jeta jet,"41 a ciseau [End Page 77] which incises the difference—or juiferrance (Portrait 30)—between the Jew and non-Jew in the act of textual circumcision: Hélène Ciseau—as "they" also sometimes mispronounce her name in English—and maybe also Hélène Circonciseau, in this uncanny circumfictional recasting of her "first" encounter with J. D. as the scene of his circumcision: "It will all have begun behind his back without his consent without his seeing it [à son invu]."42

Le dernier des Juifs43

What remains (reste, ester) of being-Jew, then, when each of its letters is more than the whole of the name, it being less than the sum of its letters? More Jew and less Jew than a Jew at once (cf. in the above quotation from Writing and Difference: "more and less Jewish than the Jew"), as little and as superlatively Jew as possible ("Abraham, l'autre" 24), such is the "overbid" or peculiar usury of the "last and least of the Jews" (le dernier des Juifs). "[L]e plus que = moins et autre que" ("Abraham, l'autre" 25, and 22: "moins tu te montreras juif, plus et mieux tu le seras" [the less you will show yourself to be a Jew, the more and the better you will be]), an equation and a figure J. D. has associated himself with more and more since "Circonfession" 30—originally from a 1976 notebook ("The Book of Elie") in which he wrote "je joue sans jouer"—especially under the guise of the marrano, the "Juif sans savoir, Juif sans s'avoir, sans s'être" (Portrait 80), turned officially Catholic and who practised his Jewish religion in secret under cover of this conversion: the more you dissimulate (the less you appear to be), the more you are; "feintvrai marrane" ("Ce corps étranjuif," 62: truefeigned Marrano), who may therefore deny belonging—see Portrait, 4: "I at least am not a Jew, either it's better or better it's worse, we shall see," whereby better equals worse—and, after a while, utmost paradox of the secret which has stopped keeping itself, may even forget whether s/he is a Jew or not, being the last one to know that "I" am a Jew ("Abraham, l'autre" 31).44

But the context for this perverse logic that strips the Jew of their belonging, being and knowing is the Sartrian cogito of the Jew-for-another, which turns l'être-juif into l'autre Juif. In the outcome of the equation, the "Jew" becomes estranged within the community as a "half and half," "[a] fellow that's neither fish nor flesh [n]or goood red herring," in the antisemitic mouth of the Citizen in the "Cyclops" episode of Joyce's Ulysses,45 who has Leopold Bloom, "the true-false Jew Bloom" (Portrait 6) and a Marrano of sorts, in his sights. Compare with the following Ulyssean passage in "Ce corps étranjuif:" "C'est ainsi sur l'encolure d'un rêve qu'il se marrane. Juiffeint. Le rêve: se croire [End Page 78] l'enfant d'un peuple nici niça le temps d'un rêve. Nicatholique nijuif mijuif mimême miindien micheval. Car le rêve comme la Michna joue à la force des mots" ("Ce Corps étranjuif," 63; see also 82: "midieu mianimal blessé"). [Thus he marranoes himself on the neck of a dream. Jewfeigns. The dream: to believe oneself to be the child of a people neitherthis northat the time of a dream. Norcatholic norjew halfjew halfsame halfindian halfhorse. For the dream, like the Michna, plays by sheer strength of words.] Never equal to a Jew "as such," s/he is mi-mi, ni ni for the other who, as the French idiom says, ne peut pas le voir en peinture [cannot stand the sight of him—literally, "in painting"]. . .

IV. "Cy est pourtraicte"

I will continue to paint this woman's portrait.46

One paints somebody's portrait, and
It is the portrait of somebody else.47

It's the other who makes my portrait48

In his Esthetics Hegel famously develops his conception of painting, and especially its culmination in the portrait, as the sublation of art par excellence, insofar as it allows the sensible manifestation of the spirit in the beautiful human face. Thus portrait painting would inaugurate the representation of subjectivity-in-itself as it offers a specular, external reflection of the interiority of being through which an existential recognition can take place—or, according to those words of Hegel's on one of his portraits: "Our cognition should become recognition. He who knows me, here will recognize me."49 But how useful can this classical formulation of romantic art and subjectivity be in the case of our two vers à soi(e), true-false liars estranjewed in/through the gaze of the other? Already in Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the ironic drift from an objective, dramatic "he" to a resubjectivized, lyrical "I" in the final diary entries had flown in the face of Stephen Dedalus's neo-Hegelian theory of aesthetics and exposed the ironic disjunction inherent in any portrait, and even—or perhaps especially—in any self-portrait: between an objectified I-as-you, or the subject of the painting, and the painter who enacts a je-me peins. The portrait may well promise the revelation of being "as if"—what Lacoue-Labarthe recalls the portrait is said to do in regional French: it resembles or "retraite" (cf. ritratto, retrato)50 —but precisely this fiction of a comme si, so often resorted to by J. D. and, to a minor extent, by H. C., withdraws being from the [End Page 79] reflection: the portrait de lettres is "essentially" a retrait de l'être, caught in the endless substitution of crossed writings-as-(self-)portraits, (auto)biographies-as-portraits. Thus H. C.'s "Il ne peint pas l'être" (He does not paint being), about J. D. in "Ce corps étranjuif" (81), applies to all portraits, self or other, and the portraitist's art is rather like a sleight of hand—here, with two hands—involving "se regarder disparaître soi-même dans le miroir" [looking at oneself disappearing in the mirror].51 If H. C.'s "portrait . . . as" is a late simulation of the Joycean experiment about a counterfeiting saint/singe juif (a "profil de l'artefacteur en jeune singe"52 ), then the artist J. D. is a fictional recreation of a phantasized self-portrait, of H. C. "as" J. D.—and back from an earlier portrait (hence my title). More generally, their (self-)portraits se répondent trait pour trait, are co-responding portraits in substitution (A pour B: A for B, or tit for tat) as well as impossible mutual gifts for (pour) the other (pourtrait; "pourtraicte" being Medieval French for "portrait"), portraits with-drawing hands, each other's retrait in two hands, somewhat like Escher's "Drawing Hands" (see fig. 2): the hand that draws the hand that paints, and so on, and the other way round in an endless, abyssal movement.

Perhaps a "better," because more deceitful, philosophical "model" could be sought in Descartes's anonymous Discourse on Method. Known for the affirmation of the cogito, the Discourse is a search for truth and its constitution into a certainty, and was presented as a portrait behind which the author was hidden but whose faithfulness was to be revealed through the very method of inquiry. In his brilliant analysis of this "picture," Jean-Luc Nancy notes: "L'auteur de la méthode ne peut se présenter qu'en peinture—et cette peinture est à la fois son propre original, et le masque de l'original qui se dissimule, à deux pas, derrière son portrait."53 (The author of the method can present himself only in painting—and this painting is at once its own original, and the mask of the original which conceals itself behind its portrait two steps away.) For Nancy the painting's spectator sees Descartes just as Descartes sees God, and such would be the function of this portrait as a mask. Thus Descartes' famous image of himself moving forward as a masked spectator in his inquiry—larvatus prodeo—should be parsed as larvatus pro Deo: I am masked in God's place.

Descartes' masked (self-)portrait and its relation to the affirmation of being via the proof of God's existence in the philosophical method of the cogito bears a surprising resemblance to the words of our myopic worm in "Savoir," before her enlightenment by optical surgery: "Truths were unmasked a second before the end" (Veils 7; translation modified). Larvatus: masked—but also someone on whom a (demonic) spell has been cast (compare larvatio: visions, as under a spell, hence delirium)— [End Page 80] comes from larva: a worm of sorts but also, therefore, a specter, ghost (mask)—originally: having the semblance or shape of one of the tutelary or household gods or lares. H. C.'s visual cogito "I see, therefore I know" elevates the now seeing subject into an empowered "god of creation," authorizing herself to produce larvas of portrait books, one always masking another . . .

 M.C. Escher, 'Drawing Hands' 2006 The M.C. Escher Company-Holland. All rights reserved.
Click for larger view
Figure 2
M.C. Escher, "Drawing Hands"© 2006 The M.C. Escher Company-Holland. All rights reserved.

I would like to conclude my last tableau with some crucial observations from our author of portraits (Portrait du soleil, Portrait de Dora, Portrait de Jacques Derrida en Jeune Saint Juif) in "The Last Painting or the Portrait of God" (1983):

I would like to write like a painter. I would like to write like painting.
I write. But I need the painter to give a face to my words. First of all, I write; then you must paint what I've said to you.
I write because I am nearsighted.54

Writing is the painting of the one that cannot see (being also what remains of what one does not write in the writing): "writing blind" or "in blind sight."55

"The book I do not write" (the title of the lecture H. C. gave at the London Symposium in November 2003) is the portrait I do not make, hence the endless blind (re)beginnings (starting with H. C.'s Les commencements and carrying on with J. D.'s self-confessed palinodic rebeginnings in H. C.) and iterations of the avant-première encounter with J. D. face to back, in between seeing (voir), knowing (savoir), having (oneself) ([s']avoir) and being, writing and reading, in a regressus ad infinitum which only death could interrupt . . . [End Page 81]

Laurent Milesi teaches twentieth-century American Literature and Critical Theory at Cardiff University and is a member of the Joyce ITEM-CNRS Research Group in Paris. He has written numerous essays on Joyce and related aspects of modernism, nineteenth- and twentieth-century American poetry, postmodernism, and poststructuralism (especially Derrida). His edited collection, James Joyce and the Difference of Language, was published in 2003, and his translation, together with Stefan Herbrechter, of Jacques Derrida's H. C. pour la vie , c'est à dire . . . was published in 2006.

* A first version of this article was prepared for the conference Secret Passages: Hélène Cixous—On The Frontiers of Literature, hosted by the AHRB Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory, and History (University of Leeds), in conjunction with the AHRB Centre for Asian, and African Literatures (School of Oriental and African Studies), University College London, November 15–16, 2003.


1. John Ashbery, "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror," Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (Manchester: Carcanet, 1981), 68.

2. Hélène Cixous, Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Young Jewish Saint, trans. Beverley Bie Brahic (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 6 (hereafter cited in text as Portrait).

3. Cixous, Portrait de Jacques Derrida en Jeune Saint Juif (Paris: Galilée, 2001), 13.

4. I wish to thank Eric Prenowitz for providing valuable additional material to this section.

5. Cixous and Mireille Calle-Gruber, Rootprints: Memory and Life Writing, trans. Prenowitz (London: Routledge, 1997), 210.

6. Cixous, The Exile of James Joyce, trans. Sally A. J. Purcell (New York: David Lewis, 1972), 744n8.

7. Cixous, "L'essort de Plusje," L'arc, no. 54: "Jacques Derrida," ed. Catherine Clément (1973): 46–52.

8. Jacques Derrida and Mustafa Tlili, ed., Pour Nelson Mandela (Paris: Gallimard, 1986); for H. C.: "La séparation du gâteau," 75–93; for J. D.: "Admiration de Nelson Mandela, ou Les lois de la réflexion," 13–44. Etudes françaises 38, nos. 1–2: "Derrida lecteur," ed. Ginette Michaud and Georges Leroux (2002); for J. D.: "Le parjure, peut-être ('brusques sautes de syntaxe')," 15–57; for H. C.: "Vols d'aveugle autour d'une librerie," 263–75.

9. Derrida, H. C. pour la vie, c'est à dire . . . (Paris: Galilée, 2002), 55 (hereafter cited in text as H. C.). A forthcoming translation (with additional notes) by Laurent Milesi and Stefan Herbrechter will appear as H. C. for Life, That Is to Say . . . , (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006).

10. Cixous, "Contes de la différence sexuelle," and Jacques Derrida, "Fourmis," in Mara Negrón, ed., Lectures de la différence sexuelle. Colloque Paris-VIII, CIPH. Paris, octobre 1990. Actes I (Paris: Des Femmes, 1994), 31–68 and 69–102, respectively (76 mentions the textual coincidence noted above); Rootprints, 62–74 (Appendix, 119–27).

11. Derrida, Le passage des frontières: Autour du travail de Jacques Derrida (Paris: Galilée, 1994), 83–98 and 309–38, respectively.

12. "Jacques Derrida, Margins of Philosophy: The Philosophical Text and Its Other," in Hélène Cixous, Readings: The Poetics of Joyce, Kafka, Kleist, Lispector, and Tsvetayeva, ed. and trans. Verena Andermatt Conley (New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992), 89–95.

13. Susan Sellers, ed. The Hélène Cixous Reader (New York: Routledge, 1994), vii–xiii.

14. See both essays in Contretemps, no. 2–3 (1997): 5–9 ("Savoir") and 11–50 ("Un ver à soie: Points de vue piqués sur l'autre voile"); Cixous and Derrida, Voiles (Paris: Galilée, 1998).

15. Hélène Cixous: Croisées d'une oeuvre, ed. Mireille Calle-Gruber (Paris: Galilée, 2000), 13–140 and 235–54, respectively.

16. Judéités. Questions pour Jacques Derrida, eds. Joseph Cohen and Raphael Zagury-Orly (Paris: Galilée, 2003), 11–42 and 59–83 respectively.

17. Cixous and Derrida, Lengua por venir, langue à venir: Seminario de Barcelona, ed. Marta Segarra (Barcelona: Icaria, 2004).

18. Derrida, Genèses, généalogies, genres et le génie: Les secrets de l'archive (Paris: Galilée, 2003). In his foreword to The Hélène Cixous Reader, he had already remarked that "Hélène has a genius for making the language speak, down to the most familiar idiom, the place where it seems to be crawling with secrets which give way to thought" (vii).

19. Cixous, "Fichus et caleçons," in Cahier de l'Herne, ed. Marie-Louise Mallet and Ginette Michaud (Paris: L'Herne, 2004), 56–61; Jacques Derrida, Fichus (Paris: Galilée, 2002).

20. Cixous and Derrida, Veils, trans. Geoffrey Bennington (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 3.

21. Hélène Cixous: Croisées d'une oeuvre, 239 and 240, respectively.

22. Cixous, "Coming to Writing," in "Coming to Writing" and Other Essays, ed. Deborah Jenson, trans. Sarah Cornell et al. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991), 4. [End Page 82]

23. Voiles, 16 [Veils 9; which does not—and cannot—keep the complex wordplay]. For the play on voile and voilà, see also J. D.'s "Un ver à soie," Voiles, 37 [Veils 34—here the translation keeps "Voilà;" see the translator's note, 93].

24. Yet, in "Ce corps étranjuif," in the vignette on religion, H. C. takes up J. D.'s opposition in "Faith and Knowledge: The Two Sources of 'Religion' at the Limits of Reason Alone" between faith and belief, and states both that "Avoir la foi . . . c'est nu. C'est" and, about J. D. himself, that "il ne croit pas, il a la foi" (Judéités 76).

25. For other instances of this constant proximity in H. C.'s writings, see for example "Coming to Writing," 3.

26. See, for example, Psalm 22:6 and the "Entretien entre d'Alembert et Diderot" (1769). For the loss of the forbidden garden as paradise, see also "Coming to Writing," 13, and 45 for a symbolic view of the fruit/garden as the temptation of writing. J. D.'s PaRDeS is presented in "Circonfession" 47 (Bennington and Derrida, Jacques Derrida [Paris: Seuil, 1991]) and discussed in H. C.'s Portrait, 91–94.

27. Marcel Bénabou, "Perec et la judéité," in Cahiers Georges Perec, Colloque de Cerisy (juillet 1984) (Paris: P.O.L., 1985), 1:15–30.

28. See also, with Catherine Malabou, Counterpath: Travelling with Jacques Derrida, trans. David Wills (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), 81–83 ("Jewishness minus Jewishness" [judaïté]), and also the figure of the juif sans judaïsme in Régine Robin, "Autobiographie et judéité chez Jacques Derrida," Etudes françaises 38, no. 1–2: "Derrida lecteur," eds. Ginette Michaud and Georges Leroux (2002): 207–18.

29. See also "A Silkworm of One's Own" on the impossibility of s'avoir or belonging to oneself enough (Veils 28).

30. Bénabou, "Perec et la judéité," in Cahiers Georges Perec, 22.

31. Derrida, Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (New York: Routledge, 2001), 92; translation modified.

32. The ultimate danger of naming the Jew as an absent third person (see "Abraham, l'autre" 28) has been analysed in the disjunction between the Nazi's and the Jew's phrases at Auschwitz in Jean-François Lyotard, The Differend: Phrases in Dispute, trans. Georges Van Den Abbeele (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988), 86–106.

33. Cixous, "What is it o'clock? or The door (we never enter)," trans. Catherine A. F. MacGillivray, in Stigmata: Escaping Texts (London: Routledge, 1998), 68.

34. Georges Perec, La vie mode d'emploi (Paris: Hachette, 1978), 360–61.

35. Translation: "Who knows whether this is true, that's Jewish. Yes. Who knows whether this is Jewish, who knows whether this is true who knows who is this?"; "Am I Jewish? Am I a liar?" About a paragraph from Margins of Philosophy, H. C. writes that "Everything that happens in the paragraph is something of the order of madness, of the oblique, of something that escapes reason" (Readings: The Poetics of Joyce, Kafka, Kleist, Lispector, and Tsvetayeva, 90).

36. See je-me, je-t': jet: between su-jet and ob-jet of (self-)portrait. See, for example, Genèses, généalogies, genres et le génie, 60–2, 64, and 78: j'ai, jet, je t', G . . . J; and Portrait, 29: G., Geo, Jo.

37. Derrida, "Justices," trans. Peggy Kamuf, Critical Inquiry 31 (Spring 2005): 689. Later on he recalls being confused by the "uncanny règle du jeu, the rule of the game between the French G, which is pronounced like the English J, or the English G, which is pronounced J in French" (706).

38. Derrida, "My Chances / Mes Chances: A Rendezvous with Some Epicurean Stereophonies," in Taking Chances: Derrida, Psychoanalysis, and Literature, ed. Joseph H. Smith and William Kerrigan (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), 8.

39. See my "Entre eux deux: le traductor," forthcoming in the proceedings of the Aiguablava Conference, organized by Marta Segarra in June 2005.

40. See Genèses, généalogies, genres et le génie, 78.

41. Originally from Rêve je te dis (Paris: Galilée, 2003); quoted in Genèses, généalogies, genres et le génie, 63. [End Page 83]

42. Portrait, 67 (translation modified). In "Vols d'aveugle autour d'une librerie," H. C. phantasizes J. D. as blind to his own circumcision and later extrapolates (267): "Lui-même se sachant aveugle et pour rien. On ne voit pas son propre aveuglement. On ne peut qu'attendre le jour d'un(e) autre, un autre jour. Mais nul mieux que lui ne voit les taches aveugles chez l'autre. Il voit l'invu de l'autre. Ce qui a échappé ne lui échappe pas. Il s'intéresse aux écrits d'aveugles." [Knowing himself to be blind and for nothing. One cannot see one's own blinding. One can only wait for the day of another, another day. But nobody better than him can see the blind spots in the other. He sees what is unseen by the other. What escaped the other does not escape him. He is interested in the writings of the blind."]

43. Originally launched in "Circumfession" 36, this double-ended formula was unpacked in, for example, Elisabeth Weber, Questions au judaïsme (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1996), 78. It is also to this problematic statement that Gideon Ofrat dedicates the first section of The Jewish Derrida, translated from the Hebrew by Peretz Kidron (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2001), 9–14.

44. I have analysed the figure of the Marrano in Derrida's writings in "Jacques Derrida in Secret(s)," in Secrets, Mysteries, Silences, ed. Ruth Evans, Terence Hughes, and Georges Letissier (Nantes: Publications CERCI-CRINI, 2005), 113–24.

45. James Joyce, Ulysses: A Critical and Synoptic Edition, ed. Hans Walter Gabler (New York: Garland, 1986), 1051–57.

46. H. C., 43, quoting without quoting H. C.'s "Autoportraits d'une aveugle," in Jours de l'an (Paris: Des Femmes, 1990), 174.

47. Jours de l'an, 154–55.

48. The title of a subsection in "Inter Views," Rootprints, 13.

49. Quoted in translation in Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and François Martin, Retrait de l'artiste, en deux personnes (Lyon: mem / Arte Facts, 1985), 70.

50. Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and François Martin, Retrait de l'artiste, en deux personnes, 33.

51. "Le dernier tableau ou le portrait de Dieu," Entre l'ecriture, 194; H. C. quoting Kokoschka about Rembrandt.

52. Derrida and Safaa Fathy, Tourner les mots: Au bord d'un film (Paris: Galilée/Arte Editions, 2000), 112.

53. Jean-Luc Nancy, "Larvatus Pro Deo," in Ego Sum (Paris: Flammarion, 1979), 68–69.

54. "Coming to Writing" and Other Essays, 104, 108, 109 (for the last quotation, see also the section on "The blind person's version" in Rootprints, especially 89: "My myopia is like my writing: these are fertile congenital disabilities"). Compare with "Why I Am Not a Painter" by Frank O'Hara, another "painterly poet" of the New York School, like John Ashbery with whom I opened this essay (Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology, ed. Paul Hoover [New York: Norton, 1994], 129–30).

55. Cixous, "Writing blind: conversation with the donkey," Stigmata: Escaping Texts, 139–52 (140: "I owe a large part of my writing to my nearsightedness"), and Derrida in discussion with Terry Smith, "In Blind Sight: Writing, Seeing, Touching . . . ," Deconstruction Engaged. The Sydney Seminars, ed. Paul Patton and Terry Smith (Sydney: Power Publications, 2001), 13–29. Similarly much of Derrida's Memoirs of the Blind had already revolved on the idea that a portrait withdraws itself or retreats, and that one is blind in drawing as well as in a self-portrait—the artist "can see himself seen, but not as seeing" (Deconstruction Engaged 25; compare with "she could see herself see" from Veils, quoted above)—but that one can also write without seeing (Memoirs of the Blind. The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins, trans. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993], esp. 3, 56).

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