Happy birthday, Jacques Derrida! Here are some quotes from the philosopher .
“We must do the impossible, we must do and think the impossible. If only the possible happened, nothing more would happen. If I only did what I can do, I wouldn’t do anything.”
“The disciple must break the glass, or better the mirror, the reflection, his infinite speculation on the master. And start to speak.”
“A text is not a text unless it hides from the first comer, from the first glance, the law of its composition and the rules of its game. A text remains, moreover, forever imperceptible. Its law and its rules are not, however, harbored in the inaccessibility of a secret; it is simply that they can never be booked, in the present, into anything that could rigorously be called a perception.”
“To live, by definition, is not something one learns. Not from oneself, it is not learned from life, taught by life. Only from the other and by death. In any case from the other at the edge of life. At the internal border or the external border, it is a heterodidactics between life and death.”
“No one gets angry at a mathematician or a physicist whom he or she doesn’t understand at all, or at someone who speaks a foreign language, but rather at someone who tampers with your own language, with this ‘relation,’ precisely, which is yours.”
Interviewer: “Have you read all the books in here?”
Derrida (referring to his personal library): “No, only four of them. But I read those very, very carefully.”
All Nation-States are born and found themselves in violence.”
“The history of metaphysics, like the history of the West, is the history of these metaphors and metonymies. It’s matrix—If you will pardon me for demonstrating so little and for being elliptical in order to come more quickly to my principle theme—is the determination of Being as presence in all sense of this word.”
“The end of man (as a factual anthropological limit) is announced to thought from the vantage of the end of man (as a determined opening or the infinity of a telos). Man is that which is in relation to his end, in the fundamentally equivocal sense of the word. Since always.”
“In writing what he does not speak, what he would never say and, in truth, would probably never even think, the author of the written speech is already entrenched in the posture of the sophist; the man of non-presence and non-truth. Writing is thus already on the scene. The incompatibility between written and the true is clearly announced at the moment Socrates starts to recount the way in which men are carried out themselves by pleasure, become absent from themselves, forget themselves and die in the thrill of song.”
“How can one be late to the end of history? A question for today. It is serious because it obliges one to reflect again, as we have been doing since Hegel, on what happens and deserves the name of event, after history; it obliges one to wonder if the end of history is but the end of a certain concept of history.”
“The time is out of joint. The world is going badly. It is worn but its wear no longer counts. Old age or youth-one no longer counts in that way. The world has more than one age. We lack the measure of the measure. We no longer realize the wear, we no longer take account of it as of a single age in the progress of history. Neither maturation, nor crisis, nor even agony. Something else. What is happening is happening to age itself, it strikes a blow at the teleological order of history. What is coming, in which the untimely appears, is happening to time but it does not happen in time. Contretemps. The time is out of joint. Theatrical speech, Hamlet’s speech before the theater of the world, of history, and of politics. The age is off its hinges. Everything, beginning with time, seems out of kilter, unjust, dis-adjusted. The world is going very badly, it wears as it grows…”
John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.