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translated by saul anton 9 Jean-Luc Nancy Addressee: Avital I address you, Avital. I address myself to you, the living, the vivacious, the vital. But I’m also addressing Abital, wife of David, mother of Shephatiah, whose name is also written as Avital, which is a man’s name and which means “father of the dew.” I address myself to the dew, which in Latin is also the drop, and thus also to the father, because what is a father if not a drop? What is a father if not the morning dewdrop clinging to a leaf or a flower that will exhale at sunrise?1 I address myself to life, which is itself nothing other than address, because life says nothing but this, nothing other than “to life!”—as a dispatch, a call, an offering, a dedication. Life dedicates itself to life, and, of course, as a result, to the death that lives in and through it. Life addresses life to the death [à la vie à la mort] according to the formula of the most sacred sermons. Life addresses itself: that is what it does, and what it lives on. Life is neither produced nor reproduced, it is neither formative nor conservative; it aims at itself [s’adresse], and with this, it addresses [adresse] the living: it calls them, sends them, exposes, and ships them off to death for life [à la mort à la vie]. I am addressing myself to you first of all because it would be difficult for me to write “about you” here because my inadequate English prevents me from reading you in the way that would be necessary in order to respond to you properly. But also because the objects that you work—ghosts, telephones , addictive substances, tests, finitudes, and other stupidities—are i-viii_1-256_Davi.indd 9 4/10/09 3:14:14 PM 10 jean-luc nancy transformed and appropriated by you to such an extent that they are rendered unrecognizable and thus impossible for me to consider approaching by their more common concepts. I am addressing myself to you, finally, and above all, because before and beyond all these books of which you are the author, you are the actress, and thus an incessant address: a call, an invitation, a challenge, a provocation, an invocation. It is rare that you speak without also making a call, that is, without making your interlocutor show themselves in person, whether it is in the guise of a witness or a guilty party, a friend or an enemy, a suspect or a confidant. All your sentences silently say “to you”: this is for you [pour toi], I am sending it to you, catch—catch this as best you can—and then, it’s up to you [à toi], it’s your turn, I’m awaiting your words, your answer, your refusal or your assent, but above all your humor and the tone of your voice right now. I am addressing to you, therefore, a few pages on the subject of the address , of this vital address without which between us—between all of us, you and me, but everyone else as well—nothing would ever happen anywhere. And I begin by that which differentiates my language, French, from some of yours, English or German (because you certainly speak others, among them French): the two homonyms of—or in—the address: To you [à toi], therefore, Avital, it’s your turn. I. There are two addresses in the French language. The first comes from adrecer, to set up [dresser], to raise, which led to the reflexive s’adrecer, to go toward, and adrecer in the sense of to direct. In 1177, an adresse is a direct road; in 1820, it is direction, the right way. In the fifteenth century, it becomes the action of calling upon someone for help. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, one begins to see two words for adresse. The first still means a direction, but also “directions,” that to which something leads: the place where someone is to be found. The second word is contaminated by adroit, which in 1559 means “able.” Adroit comes from dexter, which means in Latin “to the right,” “on the right side,” but also “able.” Dexter is opposed to sinister, the left side: the side of dexterity against the side of the sinister, the mortal, of missing (one’s goal) and of unhappiness (happiness also means ability, address). This contamination results in address as ability. But the contamination of meanings...


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