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CR: The New Centennial Review 2.3 (2002) 57-85
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(Strictly) Between Us
"Take another little piece of my heart, baby . . ."
Translated by Theresa Murphy
. . . and, properly speaking, there is nothing to understand: no mystery, not even a question.
—Jean-Luc Nancy, L'Intrus
I do not know how you are going to take this.
"Take." Are you going to take it? And what are you going to take? And learn or understand? Take my words. Take this "take." How can a word be taken, and with what? You need, first, to find the hand, or the tool, with which you can take and weigh my words. On the condition that they are mine.
Take, for example, this word, intrus, "intruder." This same word that I read on the cover of his book:
L'INTRUS [End Page 57]
Naturally, no one should assume that one is the other: "Jean-Luc Nancy," "l'intrus." But to some extent it seems that we cannot simply rule out any connection between the two—between us, also. And then, "l'intrus" may very well be other: other than any of us, a stranger like L'Intrus by Jean-Luc Nancy. A third person, and yet not merely someone else—perhaps even no one, nobody: "L'Intrus" as such, like "Nobody," irrupting into the cave of the Cyclops, or (like the robber) intruding into our home.
"L'intrus," could it be this text, L'INTRUS?
I am here to discuss between myself and myself, thus between us: Who is the intruder? Is it him, "Jean-Luc Nancy"? And who is this "Jean-Luc Nancy": a person, or a (proper) name, that of the author of L'Intrus, among other offspring? Or is it the text in which the "intrus" has been introduced or into which he or it intruded? Or is it "me"? But then, who is "me"? Me who reads L'Intrus? Another intruder who prides himself on his wanting to enter the holy of holies?
"Intrus": I love the word, and curiously do not find it at all intrusive. Neither strange, nor disturbing. Perhaps I have always felt myself to be an intruder—particularly where philosophy is concerned. And strict philosophers certainly let me know it. I am not one of the initiated. I am not "of the family." I do not know why, when after all, I read all the same texts, from Plato to Heidegger. . . . But no. This is not enough. It is as though I were a woman. Yes, in the end, they all treat me like a woman. Even Jean-Luc. Explicitly. But then, it may be his "other" heart that is speaking. His woman's heart.
Me-the-intruder: the layman, the uninitiated, the neophyte, not sharing the secrets of the powers that be and yet, having penetrated therein, always in a violent manner, breaking in, secretly. "Et la secrète tu connais?" he wrote me, as if I were asking him to keep a secret (when he knew nothing of it, and could not even have made a guess). "It is an obscure part of the Catholic mass," he explained. But I should not quote private sources—all intruders in the public-philosophical arena.
"Je pense comme une fille enlève sa robe" (I think the way a girl takes off her dress), we can read as the epigraph in La Pensée dérobée. Georges Bataille's words. The words of another big intrus on the philosophical scene. Translating "secret" for dérobée obviously misses the connection between [End Page 58] "dérober" (meaning "to strip away") and "robe" (dress). However, "la pensée dérobée" is not the stolen thought, but the thought as naked, exposed to everyone, and yet remaining, in a certain way, secret, impenetrable, without access. Nancy always presents his style of thinking as exoteric, when there is nothing more esoteric. But then, this is totally his way: to say that the...