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Reviewed by:
  • Book of Addresses
  • Martin McQuillan
Peggy Kamuf . Book of Addresses. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005. Pp. xii + 365.

This then will not have been a book, as Derrida once put it. This is a collection of texts presented by Peggy Kamuf as addresses to conferences, seminars and other solicitations to speak. The result is a wonderfully rich volume of essays which cover a range of topics from Hélène Cixous, love and sexual difference to Freud, Monica Lewinsky, Stephen Greenblatt, Raymond Williams, Marcel Proust and Sarah Kofman. As an address book it contains an A to Z of the interests of deconstruction, providing an extensive commentary on the work of Derrida. These readings are delivered with Kamuf's usual aplomb, that is to say with the care and patience of one who has lived between the meaning of words and turned each one over to reveal its trembling significance. However, the book sets up a compelling paradox. On the one hand, the Book of Addresses lays out an index of Kamuf's own journey, the places she has visited, the people she has known, her friends and associates, those whose numbers she has kept and whom she will call on again. In this sense the book is a volume of autobiography, and Kamuf's Derrida is a very personal one. The understanding of deconstruction which emerges from the iteration of addresses, the calling cards which are left after each visit, emphasise a literary, politically-engaged Derrida, close to Cixous, too institutionally American to be entirely French, too well understood in its idiom to be entirely American. This is to say, autobiographically speaking, that Kamuf's Derrida is Kamuf, all the more suggestive and forceful for being so, and I find myself close to Kamuf-Derrida. On the other hand, given that this book of addresses records Kamuf's engagements as [End Page 119] solicitations to speak, it equally represents the insidious substitution by her hosts of Kamuf for Derrida, asking her to speak in place of Derrida, as Derrida's translator, in the name of Derrida, as a translation of Derrida, as if she were Derrida. Such a burden now, or at any time, is unbearable. The substitution cannot be effected in an uncomplicated way; the translation must always fail. What remains is not Kamuf's translation of Derrida or Kamuf's translation as Derrida, but her own monolinguisim, Kamuf, Kamuf-Derrida, in which she herself is lost (having only one language which is not her own), leaving only a forwarding address, home address unknown. When lost in translation, one requires a book of addresses. Those of us uprooted by the force of Derrida's writing are fortunate to have Kamuf's book to guide us.

Martin McQuillan
University of Leeds


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