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Marginalia to Geschlecht III
Derrida on Heidegger on Trakl
David Farrell Krell
DePaul University, Chicago

Not long ago I published a brief account of Derrida's entire Geschlecht series, desiring to focus there on the third and missing generation of that series, that is, the Geschlecht that deals with Heidegger's reading of Georg Trakl.1 Yet the published generations of Derrida's series, namely, the first, second, and fourth, were so rich that by the time I arrived at my proper subject I found that I had left myself too little room. The result was a mere four pages of commentary on Geschlecht III, which I still regard—however rich the other three in the series may be—as the most thought-provoking of the Geschlechter. Why the most thought-provoking? Because that particular Geschlecht, an unpublished transcription of the opening sessions of Derrida's seminar on Heidegger and Trakl, is the seminar that focused on Heidegger's 1953 essay, "Language in the Poem: A Placement of Georg Trakl's Poem." This essay of Heidegger's is in fact what prompted the entire Geschlecht series, as Derrida himself often reiterated. [End Page 175]

In the present essay, I want to report on my exchange with Derrida concerning the 33-page typescript of Geschlecht III, an exchange that was very important for my own work on Heidegger and Trakl. It is not false humility but a reality check when I say that our exchange was certainly much more important for me than it was for Derrida, even though he was, as always, very generous in his remarks to me in later years about the exchange. As I look over my marginal notes to the 33-page typescript, it seems obvious to me that the bulk of them were no news to him. That is to say, most of my remarks merely corroborated and encouraged the direction of his thinking. Every now and then I urged caution or ventured a doubt or an objection.2

Certainly, there seems to be no great interest in the Anglo-American world in either Heidegger's Trakl interpretation or Derrida's reading of it. While many philosophers continue to brave Heidegger's Hölderlin interpretations, very few take the risk of engaging with Trakl. Why? I am not sure. Perhaps because of the unsavory atmosphere that suffuses the Trakl world: cocaine, incest, war, suicide—conservative Heideggerians have to wonder why Heidegger was drawn to any of this, and why Derrida would want to make Heidegger's reading of Trakl one of the principal foyers of his reading of Heidegger. Never mind the fact that students of German literature have long said that Trakl rescued the lyre of poetry as it slipped from Hölderlin's hands. Nevermind that Trakl brings Heidegger to reflect on matters that are not addressed anywhere else in his thought—principally the matters of human sexuality, of brother and sister, and of lovers. Specifically, in the Trakl article, Heidegger elaborates the idea of a twofold "blow" or "stroke" of sexuality, namely, the strokes of (1) sexual duality and (2) sexual dissension or discord. It may be that the new waves of scandal lapping against the shores of Heidegger's life make it less likely than ever that students will want to take up Heidegger's and Derrida's readings of Trakl, especially in the United States, where Puritanism continues to reign in the academy, in our political life, and in our military detention camps. Yet there may be some who will not be deterred by accusations of unsavoriness or scandal, and so I will proceed. I do have to apologize for the excessive use of the pronoun "I" in what follows, and can only hope that one or another stray philosopher or poet will find these marginalia of interest. There is no doubt [End Page 176] in my mind that the texts by Derrida and Heidegger on Trakl are themselves immensely important, and that Trakl's poetry remains the most haunting and desperate testimony to a desperate and destitute time. Will anyone say that we have left such times behind us?

A word about the chronology and the context of Derrida's typescript and my own response to it: he brought the typescript with him to the Loyola University conference organized by John Sallis in March of 1985; it was an extension of his Geschlecht II, entitled "Heidegger and the Hand of Man."3 Derrida himself distributed both texts to the participants in the conference for purposes of discussion. For my own work, both the typescript of Geschlecht III and the conference as a whole were highly stimulating. I had been working on Trakl's poetry for some time—since at least the mid-1970s—and was also being drawn toward the issues of "life" and "animality" in the fundamental ontology of Dasein and in Heidegger's later thought, issues that were later to receive their most telling form in Derrida's Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question (De l'esprit: Heidegger et la question [1987]).4 The Essex Conference, "Reading Heidegger," held at Wivenhoe House May 16–18, 1986, was an important stage in Derrida's and in my own work.5 If I am not mistaken, my marginalia to the March 1985 typescript must have been made immediately after the Loyola conference, and certainly before May 1986.6

Derrida's typescript begins by announcing that the rhythm of the seminar on Heidegger's "Language in the Poem" will be irregular and above all slow. Heidegger himself often reflects on the importance of rhythm in and for the poetic word—in Hölderlin's Andenken, specifically, and in Stefan George's and Georg Trakl's poetry in general. My first references (familiar to every reader of Heidegger, and that certainly included Derrida) are to these sources.7 When Derrida speaks of "following" Heidegger closely in the latter's elucidation and placement of Trakl's poetry, I note that such following repeats the gesture of Heidegger himself: in "Die Sprache im Gedicht," Heidegger attempts to follow the stranger, the brother, and even the sister. Throughout his seminar, Derrida is concerned with Heidegger's manner, his manière, his way of handling the texts of Trakl's poetry. Questions of method dominate this third generation of Geschlecht—at least in [End Page 177] the incomplete transcript we have of it. Here it is largely a question of the tension between thinking and poetizing. More specifically, what troubles Derrida is the tension within thinking between an elucidation of or commentary on Trakl's poems, Erläuterung, and a placing or situating, Erörterung, of Trakl's singular poem. Derrida also invokes here, as he did in Geschlecht I, the two "poles" of Heidegger's invocation of Geschlecht, the 1928 lecture course, Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Logik im Ausgang von Leibniz, on the "transcendence" of a sexually "neutral" Dasein, and the 1953 Trakl piece on which the Geschlecht III seminar focused. At the outset, Derrida notes that the primary problem will be the two strokes that constitute a sexually marked Geschlecht, especially the second stroke, the one that induces not only dispersion but also unchained individuation and dissension into the duality of the sexes (2).

For about six pages of text (3–8), Derrida concentrates on the problem of the type of reading Heidegger is attempting, type understood in the sense developed by Lacoue-Labarthe's Typographies (1986).8 The type of reading involves, to repeat, the ostensibly reciprocal relationship in Heidegger's method between Erläuterung and Erörterung (that is, between traditional commentary on, or elucidation of, particular poems—but chosen how? in what order? and upon what basis?) and the more demanding placement (that is, the situating) of Trakl's unique poem in its rightful and essential place. Are these two types, strokes, or blows of reading truly reciprocal? Is there here an order of method, if not of implication? In a marginal note, I referred to Heidegger's "Conversation with a Japanese," in which the "questioner" speaks of the process by which "elucidation can make the transition to placement" (1959, 121).9 Heidegger refers explicitly to the Trakl essay as exemplary in this regard, and he establishes the hierarchy of elucidation and placement: Erörterung is the more fundamental and founding of the two thoughtful approaches to the poem. It is therefore not entirely correct to speak of their reciprocal relation. Their Wechselbezug is not without an unexpressed confidence in an undiscussed hermeneutics of placement and situation.

Derrida is clearly suspicious of Heidegger's appeal to the Ortschaft, or site, of Trakl's unique poem, wary of the thinker's claims concerning a poem's having a single identifiable place, or even its having taken place [End Page 178] [d'avoir eu lieu] once and for all. The gathering, Versammlung, of such places and placements—a consistent gesture with Heidegger—troubles Derrida. At this point in his typescript, I entered a series of marginal notes on Heidegger's "Logos" article, especially its account of die lesende Lege, "the laying that gathers," by presuming "to say the same as" (oJmologei`n) the logos in question. Here too Heidegger invokes the Ort that is assigned to everything that presences and absences, the site, locale, or place that unifies as the sole unifying power, [das Einzig-Eine als das Einende] (1954, 221–22). In "Language," Heidegger writes of the placement of language as such—better, of our placement in the gathering of language—in terms of the place of language's essencing [der Ort ihres Wesens], which process he calls a gathering into propriation [Versammlung in das Ereignis] (1959, 12). I also cited the lecture course on which the "Logos" article is based, published now as volume 55 of the Gesamtausgabe: there Heidegger speaks of gathering as an original keeping that resists all distraction and dispersion.10 The sam- of Sammlung, Heidegger never tires of telling us, is the same whether we are in a group [gemein-sam] or in solitude [ein-sam]. Citing Novalis's Monolog, Heidegger notes that the "peculiarity" of language is that it speaks always to itself alone, and in so doing gathers us to beings and to being (1959, 241, 265–66). In "The Way to Language," Heidegger notes that the suffix -sam is the Gothic sama, the Greek a{ma. This is of course the selfsame a{ma, "simultaneity," that stands at the center of Derrida's "Ousia and Grammé," Schibboleth, and other texts.11

In the context of placement, Heidegger often writes of die Gegend, the region, or regioning, of beings. Derrida comments on the "toward" of such regioning, implied in the preposition gegen. Yet each time he translates the "toward" as vers, quite correctly, I had trouble resisting the meaning of the word as verse, or line of poetry. These accidents of translation, however capricious or whimsical, always fascinated Derrida: in the present case, the region most appropriate to the placement of Trakl's singular poem (expressed in the "toward") would appear to revert—both in German and in French, inasmuch as vers is two words in French—to the actual lines of the poems themselves, so that in the end, Erläuterung would retain a certain priority over Erörterung. [End Page 179]

With regard to the Ort implied in Erörterung, Derrida cites Heidegger on the "original" meaning of the word as "the point of a lance" [die Spitze des Speers]. There, at the peak, tip, or point, all is gathered. Gathering, [Versammlung] is always a privileged signifier for Heidegger, as the phallus is for Lacan. (One thinks too of the élytre, stiletto, and stylus of Derrida's Éperons [1978].) Derrida is sensitive to a certain irony here: Heidegger permits himself to write freely about the point of the spear either because, when it comes to psychoanalysis and all the other sciences of man, he is "above that sort of thing," or because, like Nietzsche, he is a little bit lost there—because, in the end, he is somewhat "inexperienced" in matters of sexuality and sexual difference (9–10). At this point I jotted into the margin a reminder concerning Heidegger's use of the word Spitze in his 1929–30 lectures: there Heidegger describes profound boredom as "the expansion of the horizon of time and the diminution of the point of a moment" [das Entschwinden der Spitze eines Augenblicks] (1983, 228–30).12 Thus the phallic lance is a figure for proper, originary time; its point is the glance of an eye, that which gathers all thinking and acting in opened resolve. Yet this punctuating time is bound to become increasingly problematic for Heidegger as a thinker of the earth: in the margin I noted that for Luther the plural of "places," Örter, means the four corners of a table—or the four corners of the earth. It is strange that Heidegger, who loves quaternities, does not cite this sense of place, a less pointed yet more earthbound sense.

Heidegger insists that Trakl's solitary poem, into which all his individual poems are gathered, as though running down the shaft of a lance to its point, remains unspoken. What one must do—altering the metaphor, and radically so—is follow the wave [die Woge, la vague] of the rhythm in his poetry toward its source (11–12). Yet how do the rhythms of particular poems relate to the macrorhythm that Heidegger claims he is following rather than himself arbitrarily setting? What precisely is the conversation between thinking and poetizing to which Heidegger constantly appeals? For Derrida, the appeal to some sort of Zwiegespräch, a conversation between two, is itself a maneuver, a sleight of hand. Or, perhaps, a sleighting of the two hands. Heidegger's is a gesture of modesty and imperiousness at one and the same time: modest insofar as it submits thinking always and [End Page 180] everywhere to the poetry of the poet, and imperious insofar as not even the poet will have much to tell the thinker about the essential place of the unspoken poem (13–16). According to Heidegger, who multiplies the twosomes in his conversation with the poet (Zwie-falt, Zwie-spalt, Zwie-tracht, Zwie-sprache, Zwie-gespräch, Ent-zwei-ung, Zwist), the Grundton or tonic of Trakl's unspoken and singular poem will be determined by the emphatic Ein of E i n Geschlecht. That "one" will prove to have been the place of the placement, and the selection of the poems for commentary will have been guided by it (17). The selection will proceed so smoothly that Heidegger's placement will seem merely to stumble quite innocently upon these items of evidence—these particular lines by Trakl—which seem to be there just when Heidegger needs them. Yet what is actually happening throughout, as Derrida later argues (23–25), is that Heidegger is proceeding by the method of "metonymic transition," that is, by preselecting a series of passwords (such as blue, soul, downgoing) for his Erläuterung of Trakl's poems; those passwords allow him to glide from one poem to the next—all in the name of the "unspoken" poem that the Erörterung is claiming to situate. For the moment, the reference to rhythm is equally troubling: just as Heidegger insists that Hölderlin's "Der Ister" appears to flow back to its source, from the Black Sea to Donau-Eschingen, and that the river is both at home in Schwabenland and heading into the foreign East at once, he will also insist that rhythm is always and everywhere Gepräge, or "coinage," the effect of an imprinting τύπος . The ambiguity of undulation will always submit to a typology of the singular-unifying-one that gathers. For Derrida, by contrast, the poem will neither gather at a single point nor flow forward and backward at once. It will space itself across multiple undecidable differences: the spear or sword [épée] of poetic language is not only the penetrating spar and spur [éperon] but also the apotropaic sail and veil—that is, the warp and woof, text and texture, of the Greek ἳστος, which has fascinated Derrida since the time of "Plato's Pharmacy."13

Commentary, or elucidation [Erläuterung], in Derrida's view, thus has its difficulties. Heidegger comments on the interesting words Erläuterung and lauter, which relate commentary to elucidation, or clarification by a beam of light. Yet das Lautere is at least morphologically, if not etymologically, related [End Page 181] to das Lauten, sounding. One of Heidegger's favorite phrases is das Ge-läut der Stille, "ringing stillness." Surely, the rhythm of a poem has something to do with its sounding. One of my marginalia observes that the Greek Κλύςω suggests purification and clarification, while Κλύω is the hearing of sound. Φαίυω and ϕαίυεσαι, to make manifest and to become visible, may also be related to ϕωυή, at least for the history of metaphysics and the epoch of speech and writing. Even if we live in the period of the closure (or at least the radical transition) of both histories, the problematic relation of commentary on the sounding of particular poems to placement of a resoundingly singular and unspoken poem remains. How should Heidegger's (or anyone's) situating of a poem arise from, be grounded in, or provide the ground for a sound commentary? Heidegger's gesture here, as in the cases of his assurances concerning the nontechnological essence of technology or the nonscientific essence of science, is often peremptory. Our access to the unspoken essence of the singular poem remains as burning a question as that of the access of Heidegger's existential hermeneutic to the original essence of Dasein as a whole.

One of the most telling marginal notes, in retrospect, comes on page 15 of Derrida's typescript. I argue there that in order to do justice to Heidegger's "placement," however problematic its hermeneutical presuppositions may be, one has to consider what Heidegger calls the transition [Übergang] from pure saying to Singen. The voice of the poet does not enunciate in speech, but sings. The transition from saying to singing occurs, according to Heidegger, in and as pain [Schmerz] (1959, 26–27, 61–65, 235). Reminiscent of the suffering that Hölderlin says offers us our most intimate experience of time, pain is, in Heidegger's view, of the utmost importance to poetizing.14 Heidegger's carmen is bound up with the language of rapture, seizure, enchantment, and ecstasy, the very temporality of the spiriting year. The gathering of saying in the spiriting year (1959, 229) is song [μέλος]. Such enchantment, however, breaking into song, arises always and everywhere out of agony. Schmerz does not become a theme of Derrida's typescript—whether it does so in the five untranscribed sessions of the seminar is for me one of the most important questions.15 Song is not dreamily at home in the idealizing throat of the thinker-philosopher; it is not the phonocentric autoaffection of hearing [End Page 182] and understanding oneself while speaking. Rather, singing arises from the pain associated with the dead brother who haunts the forest rim at evening, the brother who is both far and foreign [fern and fremd].

By this time in his analysis, Derrida has reached the end of Heidegger's untitled prelude or introduction to "Language in the Poem." The remainder of Derrida's typescript moves through the first part of Heidegger's tripartite essay—all in all, a mere 15 of Heidegger's 45 pages. What is still missing is Derrida's discussion of those 35 remaining pages of Heidegger's text, pages that have everything to do with the second stroke—the stroke that introduces unchained individuation, dissension, and even savagery [Wildheit] into the lives of brothers, sisters, and lovers. These two strokes, as well as the pain that accompanies the singing of them, are, it seems to me, the heart of the matter. They are what has "magnetized" Derrida from the outset of the Geschlecht series. When Derrida writes that everything "has already been decided" in these opening pages of Heidegger's "Language in the Poem," I therefore insert the caution: almost decided, inasmuch as one should never underestimate the strangeness of the brother-sister theme and of Geschlecht as such in Heidegger, which retains its astonishing character to the end.

After noting the importance for Heidegger of the line "Es ist die Seele ein Fremdes auf Erden, [It is something strange, the soul upon earth]" from "Springtime of the Soul," Derrida decides to "precipitate" matters, to move more quickly, even though he realizes that this is, in a sense, to emulate Heidegger's own gesture. Heidegger designates the proper "place" of Trakl's unspoken poem, its singular lieu or Ort, which will be hospitable to the emphatic oneness of the "o n e Geschlecht," by the name Abgeschiedenheit [apartness].16

Heidegger follows the stranger—der Fremdling, though not really the sister, die Fremdlingin, one must add, thereby contradicting what was said above—into the situation of apartness, so that the question of the foreign and strange, das Fremde, ein Fremdes, now arises (18–22). Derrida complains that Heidegger plumbs the foreign precisely by never venturing into it; indeed, he insists that in Heidegger's view, everything foreign can be appreciated only in unserer Sprache. Heidegger, in his own language, is in search of [End Page 183] a determination of and destination for the West, to wit, the reversal and overcoming of, or coming to terms with, Platonism. In Derrida's view, both the Western Platonic tradition(s) and the problem of foreignness are more complex than Heidegger is willing to admit. Indeed, by insisting on the word fremd for the strangeness of the stranger, Heidegger never escapes from his own idiom. In a marginal note I suggest that if Heidegger ever does confront this problem it is in his interpretation of Stefan George's "Das Wort." For here Heidegger does speak of a failure, the failure to transport or translate something "from afar" across the frontier of one's own country [meines landes saum]. Yet Heidegger does not confront the problems of multiple idioms or of translation here (1959, 225). He instead repeats the gesture that Derrida finds so troubling in his series of seminars on philosophical nationality and nationalisms: the mein land of George, says Heidegger, is uttered or sung at a far remove from all banal questions of national appurtenance. Mein land, says Heidegger, is "the poetically preserved property of the land of the poet," the poet who has only thinkers for neighbors. Yet all these thinkers, as it turns out, have to speak Old High German when they think.

Before abandoning the issue of foreignness, one should note that because Trakl often uses the neutral form—the soul is a foreign thing [ein Fremdes] on earth—the issue of neutrality ought to be rejoined here on both gender and grammatical grounds, for both sexual and syntactical reasons. Nor was I able to withhold from Derrida a marginal note on the fact that the Trakl children in Salzburg spoke almost exclusively French amongst themselves, due to the influence of their Alsatian governess, Marie Boring, their "Mademoiselle." How strange to be reading—in Derrida's wonderful French—of Heidegger's insistence on unserer Sprache, especially when the Trakl kinder, rapt to their more tranquil childhood, would have replied dans notre langue, which is of course la langue de l'autre. Even Heidegger's favorite poetic formula—Trakl's use of the Es ist . . . in "Psalm" and "De Profundis"was something Trakl learned from the il y a of Rimbaud's Illuminations, as Heidegger himself well knew. For more than one reason, therefore, one might well suppose that even during their more gentle childhood, that is, presumably, before the second stroke advened, Georg and Grete Trakl ventured farther into the foreign than Heidegger ever did. [End Page 184]

The sense of the reversal of Platonism, or of our coming to terms with it, which is the reversal mentioned a moment ago, becomes clear when Heidegger insists that Trakl's blaues Wild [blue game] has "nothing bestial" about it—as though the bestial were but the shadow side of a Platonism that has not yet been overcome in metaphysical philosophy. Some pages later in Derrida's typescript (26) I added a long marginal note on Volume 29/30 of the Heidegger Gesamtausgabe, which treats the "sexual drive" in animals, but also the way—for me, the absolutely decisive way—in which death invades the ring of animality. (I will reproduce this note below.) No amount of terminological distinguishing among sterben, ableben, and verenden—that is, between the death of Dasein and the perishing or demise of animals—can obscure the common destiny of humans and other mortals. These matters, and the 1929–30 lecture course in general, assume central importance for Derrida's Of Spirit and Aporias (1992), and they were the principal motivation for my own book, Daimon Life.17

A central motif of Heidegger's reading of Trakl is the call of the stranger—and of all who follow him—into downgoing [in den Untergang hinab]. Derrida objects that "nothing can explain" such a call, or Heidegger's privileging of it. Here perhaps is the main source of contention (if that is the right word) between Derrida's and my own readings of Trakl and Heidegger. The call into downgoing does not seem to me to be so precipitous or inexplicable an interpretation. In a marginal note I ask Derrida whether it is not the case that this Untergang is a refrain one hears constantly in Trakl's poetry. Derrida resists the discourse of finitude for reasons that have to do with all the multifarious "ends" of man. And yet Trakl's poetry does seem to me to issue a downward call, a summons to the earth and the underworld. I agree with Derrida that such a call cannot leave intact the language of propriation and of a masterful leap of the eye, Blicksprung, which ostensibly espies the essential place of Trakl's poem. Yet to follow such a resounding call seems to me to be consistent with what Derrida elsewhere calls thanatography and ob-sequence; it is at least related to the theme of mourning that dominates so much of Derrida's work. Here Derrida and Heidegger have more in common than the former—at least in this typescript—is willing to admit. To be sure, this invocation of decline has everything to do with the pain [End Page 185] associated with the poet's singing. When Heidegger invokes the repose of the dead—what sort of repose? in die des Toten—he seems to be pointing to those matters that Derrida himself discusses in "The Logic of the Living Woman," which is a part of his Otobiographies (1984, 33–69)18 In the present case such repose involves the imbricated deaths of father and brother—in Trakl's world, the death of his father (O, wie stille war das Haus, als der Vater ins Dunkel hinging) and of the boy Elis (O, wie lange bist, Elis, du verstorben). The blue of the sky is a nocturnal blue, the midnight blue of the night sky, and the spiriting year is less about the coherence of an interpretation than it is about an exquisite, searing pain. Once again my marginal notes insist—perhaps too stridently, and certainly too repetitively—on the importance of Schmerz throughout Heidegger's On the Way to Language. For pain is ecstatic and irruptive, periodic, rhythmic.

It is at this point in the texts of both Heidegger and Derrida that the discussion of Wesen and Verwesung begins—that is, discussion of the possibility of a new destination for our Geschlecht and a return to what Heidegger calls "a more tranquil childhood" and "the gentleness of a confluent twofold" (27). Here the constellation of brother and sister in Trakl's poetry rises to dominate the night sky. Here one is held spellbound by the lunar voice of the sister (28).

At this juncture, however, I want to reproduce my most detailed marginal note to Derrida, inasmuch as it shows an early stage of those questions concerning animality that led to Derrida's Of Spirit and my own Daimon Life. I will put the note into English but otherwise resist the temptation to edit it very much. The context, to repeat, is Nietzsche's attempted overturning of Platonism through the insight that the human being is the "as yet undetermined animal, [das noch nicht festgestellte Tier]." What is animality? The publication in 1983 of Heidegger's 1929–30 lecture course gave us the chance to flesh out, as it were, Heidegger's preoccupation with and allergic reaction to animal life. Here is my note to Derrida:

I've already written you, Jacques, about the 1929–30 course at Freiburg, taught one year after the 1928 course ("Metaphysical Foundations of Logic") that you write about in Geschlecht I. The 1929–30 course has two [End Page 186] principal divisions, the first investigating the "profound boredom" that serves as the founding mode and mood of Dasein, the second—quite astonishingly—offering a very detailed discussion of the problem of the organism, the problem of life viewed as a "biological" determination. One could perhaps say that what Heidegger is researching here is what will have prevailed prior to the bestrewal [die Streuung] that is Dasein. Heidegger takes up the analyses of the animal's world and environment [Welt/Umwelt] as elaborated by Uexküll and Buytendijk. All of it is fascinating, and I cannot really summarize it here. Yet the most astonishing aspect is that Heidegger broaches something new about the problem of death [Todesproblem]. Here are some extracts.

First, on the sex drive [Geschlechtstrieb], pp. 363–64: "One of the most striking examples of this peculiar eliminative character in all behavior [of animals] is the behavior of insects within that circle of drives that we call the sexual. It is well known that many females gobble up the male after copulation. After copulation the sexual character vanishes, and the male takes on the character of prey and is eliminated. . . . Animal behavior as such and in itself is always an eliminating." (Compare Hegel, in his Philosophy of Nature.19 )

On death, pp. 387–88: "The touchstone [Prüfstein] for determining the suitability and originality of every inquiry into the essence of life and vice-versa [that is, presumably, the life of essence or of the creature] is whether the inquiry has sufficiently grasped the problem of death, and whether it is able to bring that problem in the correct way into the question concerning the essence of life. . . . Because benumbment belongs to the essence of the animal, the animal cannot die, but only perish, inasmuch as we attribute dying to human beings."

At the same time, however, Heidegger recognizes (p. 396) that there is "an essential shattering in the essence of the animal" [emphasis Heidegger's], and that we cannot understand this shattering "as long as we do not take into account the fundamental phenomenon of the life process, and with it the fundamental phenomenon of death (des Todes)." [End Page 187]

Thus the very project of the course founders, just as it did in the Grundprobleme of 1927 (MHG, 24: 387): "It is not possible at this point to enter into the problem of the finitude of time, because it is closely connected with the difficult problem of death. This is not the place to analyze such a connection." And just as it did in the Leibniz logic course of 1928 (MHG, 26, §12), where the closing words are nihil originarium, "impotence of Dasein," and "the inversion [Umschlag] of fundamental ontology."

1928. There we have it.

And 1953?

The decomposing Geschlecht is always already the unity of brother and sister . . . in love, in death [dans l'amour/la mort]. Animality, in Heidegger's view, remains not yet determined. But it is understood as a question. . . . Yet may one ask whether the future essence of humanity implies an abandonment of the corpse, the end of corruption? Is that supposed to be an anti-Platonism?! Why this displacement of corruption or dis-essencing [Ver-wesung] in the Heideggerian text? Why this displacement—which is not at all a placement [Erörterung]of the animal?

Derrida's typescript now advances from the theme of corruption and disessencing of the heretofore prevalent Geschlecht of humankind to that new Geschlecht, summoned by the lunar voice of the sister into "the more tranquil childhood." This is ostensibly the childhood of a brother and sister not yet struck by the second blow, the deleterious blow of dissension and discord. My marginal notes, referring to Unterwegs zur Sprache (55, 66–67), are by now something of a plea. I can sense that Derrida's typescript is about to end, and these are questions that I need to have answered. After Derrida's allusion to the Selenic voice and to the more tranquil childhood, I inserted the following into the margins:

With regard to 1959, 55 [Krell had US, 55 here, referring to Unterwegs zur Sprache], at the top: Does one not have to interrogate quite closely this stillere Kindheit that promises something like a simplicity without a fold [simplicité/pli]? [End Page 188] What is this Einfalt? (Einfältig in German means simpleminded, stupid!) Brother and sister during the period of latency? Without a mark or a remarking of sexual difference? My suspicion—you will have to refine it—is that Heidegger replaces the "horizontal" axis of the Geschlecht of lovers with the "vertical" axis of the Geschlecht that bears out [austragen] the destiny of Western history—and with the pure verticality of the generations cited at SZ, 334–35, those troubling lines [that invoke authentic community, nationhood, and a generation on the march]. Heidegger re-assembles man, das menschliche Wesen, but not the sister, not woman. Jacques, I am waiting for you to read, with all your eyes, the following lines (at 1959, 66–67 [also originally U.S.]):

"Thus apartness [Abgeschiedenheit] presences as pristine spirit. . . . Apartness, in the manner of its conflagration, is itself spirit, and as such it is that which gathers. The gathering fetches the essence of mortals back into their more tranquil childhood, hiding that essence away as the lineage [Schlag] that has not yet been borne out, the lineage that will coin the coming Geschlecht. The gathering of apartness protects the unborn, rescuing it from what has gone into demise [das Abgelebte]; it protects the unborn by way of a coming resurrection of the human lineage from the dawn. As the spirit of tranquility, the gathering soothes [stillt] at the same time the spirit of evil. The insurrection of evil waxes to utmost malignancy whenever it rages beyond the discord of the Geschlechter and penetrates the relations of siblings.

"Yet the twofold of the siblings in the human Geschlecht lies concealed in this more tranquil childhood. In apartness, the spirit of evil is neither annihilated and denied nor liberated and affirmed. Evil is transformed. In order to survive such a transformation, the soul must turn toward the greatness of its essence. The magnitude of its greatness is defined by the spirit of apartness. Apartness is the gathering through which the human essence is brought to safe harbor in its more tranquil childhood, a childhood protected in the dawn of another beginning. As gathering, apartness has the essence of place." [End Page 189]

These two paragraphs, I believe, contain the most problematic issues of the entire Trakl article. One would have to take up again what you say (at 9–10) on psychoanalytic discourse, which Heidegger wants to ignore. For how are we to think here, in relation to Heidegger, the stroke of evil, the second stroke, which inaugurates the dream of a wholesome origin? The dream of a more tranquil childhood, in which brother and sister are not yet seized by discord—is it the dream of interiority, of a gathering against dispersion?

Derrida's Of Spirit, written and presented some two years after our exchange concerning Geschlecht III, reads these two paragraphs of "Language in the Poem" with multiple eyes—reads them, indeed, with the most sharp-sighted and relentless of eyes. As far as Geschlecht III itself is concerned, however, Derrida has scarcely mentioned this constellation of problems and that lunar voice of the sister when his typescript begins to draw to a close. Not, to be sure, before it has posed the crucial question of the second coup or frappé. The second Schlag, which Heidegger calls a curse [plhvgh], introduces discord into the relation of the sexes, Zwietracht der Geschlechter, and even into the fraternal/sororal relationship. When, asks Derrida, does the curse of this second stroke advene? With Eve and Adam? With Platonism? With Christianity? Derrida's answer to the question as to when the second stroke advenes? Réponse: plus tard ["Response: later"].

The first sense of the "response" is that Derrida is promising to answer the question later in the seminar—and that is doubtless his intention, inasmuch as he pledges to move through Heidegger's 1953 Trakl text quite thoroughly, and there is much work remaining to be done. Yet the second sense of the response is perhaps the more telling one: any response to the when? question will always have to come later, inasmuch as a fatal anachrony is at work in the two strokes—just as there is in the logic of any supplement. For example, bad or merely derivative writing always comes first, whereas good writing, primal writing, comes but lately, after the fact, in old age perhaps. So too the supplement of the second stroke, the accursed supplement, is impossible to locate in time, in some sort of sequence, and in any kind of historical narrative. [End Page 190]

What sense are we to make of Heidegger's insistence that there is a more tranquil childhood to which a new Geschlecht, a Geschlecht that is one, will be able to revert? Can we understand that reversion as anything other than a regression to the period of latency? If the second Schlag drives the concordant twofold of brother and sister into unchained individuation and isolation, as Heidegger's text suggests, Derrida asks how we are to understand that individuation—precisely that Vereinzelung, which otherwise is always praised and sought after in Heidegger's texts—as a curse. Derrida cannot avoid referring to the sense of Vereinzelung, the French démariage, as an isolating, in eugenics and agriculture, of unwanted plants and populations (31). Even if that reference seems capricious, it remains true that individuation, isolation, solitude, and existential solipsism are quite positive effects of the Grundstimmungen that prevail in Heidegger's thinking in and around Being and Time. Individuation is proper to Dasein. The 1929–30 lectures also speak positively of Vereinzelung. When and how does it become a mark of evil? This, I suggest in a marginal note, would be another way to measure the distance between 1928 and 1953.

The final page of Geschlecht III (page 32 spilling over onto page 33 with the single word remarquer) fragments into very brief paragraphs, all of them pointing toward the utter strangeness of that simplicity of the sexes which ostensibly prevails prior to the curse. It is as though Derrida wants us to remember the promise, made in Geschlecht I, of a predual, predifferential sexuality, positive in its intention and mighty in its essence. Yet Heidegger appears to leave us instead with the more gentle childhood of a harmonious twofold—strange, foreign, unheard-of, no doubt; yet perhaps also idyllic, bucolic, oneiric, and ultimately domestic and even domesticated.

E i n Geschlecht? The place of Abgeschiedenheit, a place that harbors a not-so-gentle death and decease, perhaps even a perishing, cannot be named, says Derrida, but can only be pointed to; he ends by promising a "second step" in his exposition that will make all this clearer, a "second step" à . . . remarquer. Every mark, according to deconstruction, already involves a re-marking. Only if the remaining pages of the seminar's transcription turn up will we know how that re-marking in fact occurred, although, in one sense, Of [End Page 191] Spirit may be considered as a remarkable re-marking all its own. After all, Of Spirit follows hard on the heels of those seminars transcribed—in part—as Geschlecht III. Allow me then to adduce here a few remarks on Of Spirit, before coming to a close.

After the past 20 years, it is necessary for us to read and study Derrida's Of Spirit once again—if only to rediscover what an extraordinary book it is. The whole of it is magnetized (to repeat that word, which Geschlecht I used so strategically) by the Heidegger-Trakl dialogue, which is taken up in the ninth, the penultimate, chapter. In chapter 7 of Of Spirit, there are some anticipations. Derrida writes:

When Heidegger names the demonic (Einführung, p. 35 [46]), he specifies, in a brief parenthesis: in the sense of destructive malignity (im Sinne des zerstörerisch Bösartigen). Spiritual essence of evil. Some of Heidegger's formulations here are literally Schellingian. We shall meet them again in the text on Trakl which includes at its center a thinking of evil as torment of spirit. The "spiritual night," or the "spiritual (geistliche) twilight" (expressions of Trakl's that Heidegger will want to remove from the metaphysics of Geistigkeit as well as from the Christian value of Geistlichkeit—a word which will itself thus find itself doubled) are not without their profound relationship with what is said twenty years earlier of the darkening of world and spirit. Just as the Entmachtung of spirit is not without relationship, in the Introduction to Metaphysics, with the decomposition of man, or rather—we shall come to this—with the "verwesenden Geschlecht," the O des Menschen verweste Gestalt of Trakl as Heidegger will interpret it in Unterwegs zur Sprache.

(1987, 102; 1989, 63)

It is fair to say that the negative thesis of Derrida's Of Spirit—to the effect that Heidegger cannot banish the Platonic-Christian spirit of either his or Trakl's oeuvre as decisively as he claims he can—is perfectly summarized in the passage only now cited. In chapter 8 we find a second anticipation of the Trakl chapter to follow. Here Derrida elaborates Heidegger's desire to remove Trakl from the "pneumatological" meaning of spirit in order to place him in the vicinity of flame. Here once again Schelling is the mediator: [End Page 192] "What he [i.e., Heidegger] names then in das Wehen (a word which means breath but is never far from suffering or sighing, from the breathless or breathless-making 'spiration' of spirit) is only the breath [Hauch] or spiration of what properly unites in the most originary fashion: love" (1987, 123; 1989, 77). Derrida does not comment on the meaning of Weh, which is hurt or pain, and which indeed is never far from suffering, never far from both Leid and Schmerz. Similarly, when Derrida translates Schelling's Sehnsucht as mere "nostalgia" (1987, 124–27; 1989, 78–80), he fails to see the radicality of its pain and suffering—its languishing, which is the proper subject of my own most recent work.20 Derrida does note the proper etymology of the Sucht in Sehnsucht, which has to do with sickness and epidemic rather than with suchen [to search]. Yet he says little about the pain and malignancy of spirit in the sense of Sehnsucht. What in my view rescues Heidegger's thinking of spirit as flame, and flame as both gentle ardor and consuming malignancy, from the history of metaphysics and morals—if one may speak of "rescue" here—is that permeating sense of pain [Schmerz] toward which I was always "sending" Derrida. In the margins of the Trakl chapter in Of Spirit, a chapter that invokes the notion of promise—the promise of a more matutinal dawn and of a more gentle confluence of the twofold—I observe now a whole second set of marginal notes. I scribbled them into the margins wherever and whenever Derrida "promises" to take up, once again and elsewhere, "with greater patience" (thereby "rendering greater justice") Heidegger's Trakl interpretation (1987, 137, 178; 1989, 86–87, 108). Those marginalia of mine, reminders to myself about Derrida's promise, invariably refer to the sister or to "the femininity of the soul" in both Trakl's poetry and Heidegger's placement of it (1987, 172; 1989, 105).

I recall keeping these reminders alive at Cérisy-la-Salle in 1992, at the conference on Derrida's work entitled "Passage of Frontiers." It was there that I presented "The Lunar Voice of the Sister," which became the fourth chapter of my Lunar Voices: Of Tragedy, Poetry, Fiction, and Thought.21 Whatever its excesses and failures (and they are many), that chapter does several things that I believe still have some future to them: (1) it challenges Heidegger's notions of the gentleness of childhood and the apparent clarity of the distinction boy-girl as envisaged by Trakl (see "Upon the Being and [End Page 193] Breast of a Girl"); (2) it challenges Heidegger's attribution to Trakl of the notion that a futural and matutinal generation of the unborn will be the culmination of Western history—that is to say, it challenges what here too I have called Heidegger's "verticalization" of the horizon(t)al relation of brothers, sisters, and lovers in Trakl's poetry (see "The Generation of the Unborn"); (3) it invites us to think about Heidegger's tacit acceptance of the incest prohibition in his interpretation of evil (see "Evil Most Furious: Dissension between Brother and Sister"); (4) it challenges Heidegger's bland suggestion that one can fraternize with the sister by becoming a brother to the stranger (see "How to Gain a Sister?");22 (5) it notes that the sister in Trakl's poetry appears, as the title of the subsection says, "In (the) Place of God," a fact that has an enormous impact on both Heidegger's effort to de-Christianize Trakl and Derrida's doubts about such an effort; and finally, (6) it notes Heidegger's failure to recognize that the one of E i n Geschlecht is predicated not of brother and sister prior to the second stroke, nor even after the second stroke, but of the lovers, die Liebenden. None of these six points has become clearer to me over the intervening years; each has become in its own way more pressing and oppressive. No matter how scandalous and unsavory the Derrida-Heidegger-Trakl encounter may seem, therefore, it may well be that the encounter has—as Merleau-Ponty said of the artwork—most of its life still ahead of it.

One last point concerning Of Spirit. In order to stress the importance of this work for Heidegger interpretation today, and the importance of Trakl for that interpretation, I want to point to that long footnote in the Trakl chapter of Of Spirit that is dedicated to Françoise Dastur. There Derrida develops, more forcefully than anywhere else, the positive thesis of the book: prior to the language of all questioning, he suggests, there is the memory of a language of affirmation—a language of address [Zuspruch], assent [Zusage], and the yes (1987, 147–54; 1989, 129–36). That affirmative thought too, it seems to me, has a long and rich life ahead of it.

But now to conclude—with a final apologia. These marginalia of mine from 1985 are probably of little interest to anyone other than me. And yet after Derrida's death, my final marginal note to the typescript of Geschlecht III takes on an unexpected, particularly somber hue. For what Derrida calls [End Page 194] la chute of his text, that is, its peroration and conclusion, I found myself repeating a word of sympathy and support for Heidegger's reading of Untergang in Trakl's poetry. Whither are we called, by thrush and stranger, sister and brother? Whither does the resurrection of the lovers call us? Wohin? In den Untergang hinab. The pain of our mortal calling, after Derrida's death, is more intense in me than ever, mollified only by memories of the unflagging generosity of his life.

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