- Violence and Ethics
There are several ways of relating to the three great books that Derrida published the same year: Of Grammatology, Voice and Phenomenon, and Writing and Difference. The first way is to take measure of their revolutionary force [coup de force]; the second, of their introduction; the third, of their posterity. Hence, one can read them in light of the philosophical moment in which, along with the works of Foucault, Deleuze, Barthes, and a few others, they irrupted—the 1960s—and bring to light their radical originality, the concepts that they imagined to invent a relation to the tradition that would be given the name deconstruction. One can also measure a posteriori the paths that these books opened for the paths [contours] of a writing that Derrida would continue to clear over the course of almost four decades. These paths no doubt had their share of unpredictability. Nothing was programmed in advance. [End Page 1] Nothing, however, prevents finding an echo of the first books in the later works, as if they had been secretly called forth by this triple launch the 50-year anniversary of which the present volume celebrates. The third way to grant these books their due importance, finally, would be to outline, as far as possible, the map of the singular trajectories for which the readings in these books were a starting point.
These three books, however, had still another dimension. They outlined a constellation of works, some of which Derrida ceaselessly confronted. Some of the names invoked in these books would not become the object of an interpellation as decisive as the one in the pages that they dedicated to them (Lévi-Strauss, Saussure, and Rousseau for Of Grammatology, Husserl for Voice and Phenomenon, Jabès, Foucault, and Bataille for Writing and Difference). For other names, on the contrary, the triple launch inaugurated the threads of a dialogue that would never be interrupted. Indeed, what "La parole soufflé" initiated for the reading of Artaud, "Freud and the Scene of Writing" for that of Freud, and "Violence and Metaphysics" for that of Levinas would be ceaselessly resumed in later prolongations. They would be resumed by Derrida himself, but also by all those that would read these works in the same way and could no longer interrogate them with support from their own approach, without soliciting the Derridean interpretations. In truth, a double constellation! The first constellation outlines the Derridean pantheon, the two distinct traits of which are attachment and admiration. Neither paralyzed the confrontation, no more than they removed deconstruction's force, if not even its constitutive violence. They testify above all to a love for the texts invoked, to the pleasure of weaving citations of them into the rhythm of writing, of restoring them to their secret complexity, even if explosive, a love and a pleasure that have few equivalents in philosophical writing. No doubt, Derrida never worked as a historian of philosophy; he did not bend to the rules of this history, no more than he professed a method for taking hold of the corpora precious to him. Yet, precisely because the solicitation of them, the support he sought from them, and the aid that he found in them were never (and never claimed to be) lacking in attachment, the writing that gave reign to his passion is distinguished by the power of its attraction. It magnetizes our own reading today;1 it arouses the desire to take hold of what it cites [End Page 2] without delay, as if around the work that it interpellates (Freud's, Artaud's, and Levinas's, but also very quickly Heidegger's, Blanchot's, Benjamin's, Celan's, Kafka's, and those of many others) it wove a web in which its own readers (those of Shibboleth, Parages, Adieu, Psyche) would find themselves caught. Whence the second constellation! Over the years, multiple readings will come to be grafted on each of these confrontations recalled by the titles that I have just recalled (along with many others). One need only travel a bit on all the continents, from...