- In the Name of Friendship: Deguy, Derrida and 'Saluf' ed. by Christopher Elson and Garry Sherbert
This lengthy, sophisticated, and complex book by Christopher Elson and Garry Sherbert includes previously untranslated essays by Jacques Derrida ('How to Name') and Michel Deguy ('Of Contemporaneity'); it is a celebration of the long friendship between these two thinker-poets, and their dialogue on a number of topics including (their) friendship. As rather less critical attention has been addressed to Deguy than he might merit, this volume is useful for those interested in his work. It is, however, firmly within a certain tradition of philosophical deconstruction, and if phrases such as 'the de-negation in ineffacement begins by using negative effacement, the "joint acquiescence of disjunction", to empty a thing, such as friendship' (p. 4) do not appeal, then this is not a book for you. The 'insider' nature of this work relates partly to the vexed question of the translation of subtle and polysemic writing in French: the translator's desire to render in English the multiplicity of meanings which haunt the French original can lead to clunkiness and infelicities if not lack of clarity. I speak from within the glass house—we are all guilty. Nevertheless I found myself longing for the French original, not only of the Derrida and Deguy essays but also of the many quotations. The translator (Elson) lays his cards on the table when he gives as a key example of his translation practice his clever choice of 'the comely name' for 'le nom qui convient' (for example, pp. xxii–xxiii). Another translation strategy, which in some ways suits those who speak French, of course, but further weighs down the writing, is the turning of a common French term into a special philosophical concept (or quasi-concept) by not translating it; the most obvious case here is 'salut', where Elson and Sherbert lay emphasis on 'salvation' but wish to keep the sense of 'greeting' or 'salutation' (but not, on the whole, the everyday 'hi'). To my surprise, there is very little reference to Derrida's Politiques de l'amitié (perhaps five pages out of five hundred)—here the focus is firmly on philosophical and theological poetics rather than politics. There were moments when I wanted perversely to re-introduce the political: for instance, following Derrida in questioning the way in which fraternity operates in both thinking about, and practising, friendship and community to exclude women. The work does mention Derrida's close friend Hélène Cixous once, but a brief glance at the won-derfully detailed scholarly index or extensive bibliography reveals the homosocial nature of friendship here between four men, with Alain Badiou the chosen fifth, and a large supporting cast of (nearly all) male characters. Moving away from the sublime: the presentation is sometimes slightly odd. For example, it is difficult to tell which of the footnotes to [End Page 319] 'How to Name' are original and which are translator's notes. Enough nitpicking already: this is a substantial contribution, and will be helpful for those working in the field to consult—whether or not they agree with the rather theological (without theology) Derrida excavated by the authors' painstaking analysis.