- Birthday, Books, Philosophy, Politics, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Gilles Deleuze on Writing, Creation, Philosophy, and More

Happy birthday, Gilles Deleuze! Here are some quotes from the writer:

 

“Bring something incomprehensible into the world!”

 

“It’s a real pleasure to confound people. Not that we just want to play at being mad, but we’ll go mad in our own way and in our own time; we won’t be pushed into it.”

 

“[T]o write is to struggle and resist; to write is to become; to write is to draw a map: ‘I am a cartographer.'”

 

“Your writing has to be liquid or gaseous simply because normal perception and opinion are solid, geometric…You have to open up words, break things open, to free earth’s vectors.”

 

“A great writer is always like a foreigner in the language which he expresses himself, even if this is his native tongue. At the limit, he draws his strength from a mute and unknown minority that belongs only to him. He is a foreigner in his own language: he does not mix another language with his own language, he carves out a nonpreexistent foreign language within his own language. He makes the language itself scream, stutter, stammer, or murmur.”

 

“There must be a necessity…for if not, there is nothing at all. A creator is not a being who works for pleasure. A creator does only what he or she absolutely needs to do.”

 

“How else can one write but of those things which one doesn’t know, or knows badly? It is precisely there that we imagine having something to say. We write only at the frontiers of our knowledge, at the border which separates our knowledge from our ignorance and transforms the one into the other. Only in this matter are we resolved to write. To satisfy ignorance is to put off writing until tomorrow—or rather, to make it impossible.”

 

“Perhaps writing has a relation to silence altogether more threatening that that which it is supposed to entertain with death.”

 

“Great philosophers are great stylists too. Style in philosophy is the movement of concepts. This movement is only present, of course, in the sentences, but the sole point of the sentences is to give it life, a life of its own. Style is a set of variations in language, a modulation, and a straining of one’s whole language toward something outside it. Philosophy is like a novel: you have to ask ‘What’s going to happen?,’ ‘What’s happened?’ Except the characters are concepts, and the settings, the scenes, are space-times. One’s always writing to bring things to life, to free life from where it’s trapped, to trace lines of flight. The language for doing that cannot be a homogeneous system, it’s something unstable, always heterogeneous, in which style carves differences of potential between which things can pass, come to pass, a spark can flash and break out of language itself, to make us see and think what was lying in the shadow around the words, things we were hardly aware existed. Two things work against style: homogeneous language or, conversely, a heterogeneity so great that it becomes indifferent, gratuitous, and nothing definite passes between its poles. Between a main and a subordinate clause there should be a tension, a kind of zigzagging, even—particularly—when the sentence seems quite straightforward. There’s style when the words produce sparks leaping between them, even over great distances.”

 

“Creation takes place in bottlenecks…A creator who isn’t grabbed around the throat by a set of impossibilities is no creator. A creator’s someone who creates their own impossibilities, and thereby creates possibilities…it’s by banging your head on the wall that you find a way through. You have to work on the wall, because without a set of impossibilities, you won’t have the line of flight, the exit that is creation, the power of falsity that is truth. Your writing has to be liquid or gaseous simply because normal perception and opinion are solid, geometric…You have to open up words, break things open, to free earth’s vectors.”

 

“We have to see creation as tracing a path between impossibilities.”

 

“Let us create extraordinary words, on condition that they be put to the most ordinary use and that the entity they designate be made to exist in the same way as the most common object.”

 

“Art does not wait for human beings to begin.”

 

“Art is not chaos but a composition of chaos that yields the vision or sensation, so that it constitutes […] a chaosmos, a composed chaos—neither foreseen nor preconceived. Art transforms chaotic variability into chaoid variety.”

 

“A book is a small cog in a much more complex, external machinery. Writing is a flow among others; it enjoys no special privilege and enters into relationships of current and counter-current, of back-wash with other flows—the flows of shit, sperm, speech, action, eroticism, money, politics, etc. Like Bloom, writing on the sand with one hand and masturbating with the other—two flows in what relationship?”

 

“What we look for in a book is the way it transmits something that resists coding: flows, revolutionary active lines of flight, lines of absolute decoding rather than any intellectual culture.”

 

“There are, you see, two ways of reading a book: you either see it as a box with something inside and start looking for what it signifies, and then if you’re even more perverse or depraved you set off after signifiers. And you treat the next book like a box contained in the first or containing it. And you annotate and interpret and question, and write a book about the book, and so on and on. Or there’s the other way: you see the book as a little non-signifying machine, and the only question is ‘Does it work, and how does it work?’ How does it work for you? If it doesn’t work, if nothing comes through, you try another book. This second way of reading’s intensive: something comes through or it doesn’t. There’s nothing to explain, nothing to understand, nothing to interpret.”

 

“It is literature that produces an active solidarity in spite of skepticism; and if the writer is in the margins or completely outside his or her fragile community, this situation allows the writer all the more the possibility to express another possible community and to forge the means for another consciousness and another sensibility.”

 

“In order for music to free itself, it will have to pass over to the other side—there where territories tremble, where the structures collapse, where the ethoses get mixed up, where a powerful song of the earth is unleashed, the great ritornelles that transmutes all the airs it carries away and makes return.”

 

“To become imperceptible oneself, to have dismantled love in order to become capable of loving. To have dismantled one’s self in order finally to be alone and meet the true double at the other end of the line. A clandestine passenger on a motionless voyage. To become like everybody else; but this, precisely, is a becoming only for one who knows how to be nobody, to no longer be anybody. To paint oneself gray on gray.”

 

“The self is only a threshold, a door, a becoming between two multiplicities.”

 

“The shadow escapes from the body like an animal we had been sheltering.”

 

“Finally, one opens the circle a crack, opens it all the way, lets some one in, calls someone, or else goes out oneself, launches forth. One opens the circle not on the side where the old forces of chaos press against it but in another region, one created by the circle itself. As though the circle tended on its own to open onto a future, as a function of the working forces it shelters. This time, it is in order to join with the forces of the future, cosmic forces. One launches forth, hazards an improvisation. But to improvise is to join with the World, or meld with it.”

 

“Courage consists, however, in agreeing to flee rather than live tranquilly and hypocritically in false refuges. Values, morals, homelands, religions, and these private certitudes that our vanity and our complacency bestow generously on us, have many deceptive sojourns as the world arranges for those who think they are standing straight and at ease, among stable things.”

 

“There are no individual statements, there never are. Every statement is the product of a machinic assemblage, in other words, of collective agents of enunciation (take ‘collective agents’ to mean not peoples or societies but multiplicities). The proper name (nom propre) does not designate an individual: it is on the contrary when the individual opens up to the multiplicities pervading him or her, at the outcome of the most severe operation of depersonalization, that he or she acquires his or her true proper name. The proper name is the instantaneous apprehension of a multiplicity.”

 

“History is made only by those who oppose history (not by those who insert themselves into it, or even reshape it).”

 

“[T]he canvas is never empty.”

 

“Something in the world forces us to think. This something is an object not of recognition but of a fundamental encounter. What is encountered may be Socrates, a temple, or a demon. It may be grasped in a range of affective tones: wonder, love, hatred, suffering. In whichever tone, its primary characteristic is that it can only be sensed. In this sense, it is opposed to recognition.”

 

“Paradox is the pathos or the passion of philosophy.”

 

“So it’s not a problem of getting people to express themselves but of providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people expressing themselves but rather force them to express themselves; What a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, and ever rarer, thing that might be worth saying.”

 

“Philosophy does not serve the State or the Church, who have other concerns. It serves no established power. The use of philosophy is to sadden. A philosophy that saddens no one, that annoys no one, is not a philosophy. It is useful for harming stupidity, for turning stupidity into something shameful.”

 

“This is how it should be done: lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers, find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continuums of intensities segment by segment, have a small plot of new land at all times.”

 

“Is it not first through the voice that one becomes animal?”

 

“A leftist government doesn’t exist because being on the left has nothing to do with governments.”

 

“There’s no democratic state that’s not compromised to the very core by its part in generating human misery.”

 

“It is always from the depths of its impotence that each power center draws its power, hence their extreme maliciousness, and vanity.”

 

“Philosophy, art, and science are not the mental objects of an objectified brain but the three aspects under which the brain becomes subject.”

 

“For me, philosophy is an art of creation, much like music or painting. Philosophy creates concepts, which are neither generalities nor truths. They are more along the lines of the Singular, the Important, the New. Concepts are inseparable from affects, i.e., from the powerful effects they exert on our life, and percepts, i.e., the new ways of seeing or perceiving they provoke in us.”

 

“This is, precisely, the task of all art and, from colors and sounds, both music and painting similarly extract new harmonies, new plastic or melodic landscapes, and new rhythmic characters that raise them to the height of the earth’s song and the cry of humanity: that which constitutes tone, health, becoming, a visual and sonorous bloc. A monument does not commemorate or celebrate something that happened but confides to the ear of the future the persistent sensations that embody the event: the constantly renewed suffering of men and women, their re-created protestations, their constantly resumed struggle.”

 

“Art is not communicative, art is not reflexive. Art, science, philosophy are neither contemplative, neither reflexive, nor communicative. They are creative, that’s all.”

 

“It is not the slumber of reason that engenders monsters, but vigilant and insomniac rationality.”

 

“We do not lack communication; on the contrary, we have too much of it. We lack creation. We lack resistance to the present.”

 

“The problem of education is not an ideological problem, but a problem of the organization of power: it is the specificity of educational power that makes it appear to be an ideology, but it’s pure illusion. Power in the primary schools, that means something, it affects all children. Second example: Christianity. The church is perfectly pleased to be treated as an ideology. This can be argued; it feeds ecumenism. But Christianity has never been an ideology.”

 

“The technocrat is the natural friend of the dictator—computers and dictatorship; but the revolutionary lives in the gap which separates technical progress from social totality, and inscribed there his dream of permanent revolution. This dream, therefore, is itself action, reality, and an effective menace to all established order; it renders possible what it dreams about.”

 

“Instead of gambling on the eternal impossibility of the revolution and on the fascist return of a war-machine in general, why not think that a new type of revolution is in the course of becoming possible, and that all kinds of mutating, living machines conduct wars, are combined and trace out a plane of consistence which undermines the plane of organization of the World and the States?”

 

“A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window.”

 

“Writing has nothing to do with meaning. It has to do with landsurveying and cartography, including the mapping of countries yet to come.”

 

“The fundamental problem of political philosophy is still precisely the one that Spinoza saw so clearly (and that Wilhelm Reich rediscovered): Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?”

 

“Courage consists, however, in agreeing to flee rather than live tranquilly and hypocritically in false refuges. Values, morals, homelands, religions, and these private certitudes that our vanity and our complacency bestow generously on us, have many deceptive sojourns as the world arranges for those who think they are standing straight and at ease, among stable things.”

 

“There’s no democratic state that’s not compromised to the very core by its part in generating human misery.”

 

“Lose your face: become capable of loving without remembering, without phantasm and without interpretation, without taking stock. Let there just be fluxes, which sometimes dry up, freeze or overflow, which sometimes combine or diverge.”

 

“A tyrant institutionalises stupidity, but he is the first servant of his own system and the first to be installed within it.”

 

“Slaves are always commanded by another slave.”

 

“Making love is not just becoming as one, or even two, but becoming as a hundred thousand.”

 

“We’re looking for allies. We need allies. And we think these allies are already out there, that they’ve gone ahead without us, that there are lots of people who’ve had enough and are thinking, feeling, and working in similar directions: it’s not a question of fashion but of a deeper ‘spirit of the age’ informing converging projects in a wide range of fields.”

 

“Opening is an essential feature of univocity. The nomadic distributions or crowned anarchies in the univocal stand opposed to the sedentary distribution of analogy. Only there does the cry resound: ‘Everything is equal!’ and ‘Everything returns!’. However, this ‘Everything is equal!’ and ‘Everything returns!’ can be said only at the point in which the extremity of difference is reached. A single and same voice for the whole thousand-voiced multiple, a single and same Ocean for all the drops, a single clamour of Being for all beings: on the condition that each being, each drop, and each voice has reached the state of excess—in other words, the difference which displaces and disguises them and, in turning upon the mobile cusp, causes them to return.”

 

“Signs imply ways of living, possibilities of existence, they are the symptoms of an overflowing (jaillissante) or exhausted (épuisée) life. But an artist cannot be content with an exhausted life, nor with a personal life. One does not write with one’s ego, one’s memory, and one’s illnesses. In the act of writing there’s an attempt to make life something more personal, to liberate life from what imprisons it…There is a profound link between signs, the event, life, and vitalism. It is the power of nonorganic life, that which can be found in a line of a drawing, a line of writing, a line of music. It is organisms that die, not life. There is no work of art that does not indicate an opening for life, a path between the cracks. Everything I have written has been vitalistic, at least I hope so, and constitutes a theory of signs and the event.”

 

“Identity and resemblance would then be no more than inevitable illusions—in other words, concepts of reflection that would account for our inveterate habit of thinking difference on the basis of the categories of representation.”

 

“We are taught that corporations have a soul, which is the most terrifying news in the world.”

 

“A theorising intellectual, for us, is no longer a subject, a representing or representative consciousness. Those who act and struggle are no longer represented, either by a group or a union that appropriates the right to stand as their conscience. Who speaks and acts? It is always a multiplicity, even within the person who speaks and acts. All of us are ‘groupuscules.’ Representation no longer exists; there’s only action—theoretical action and practical action, which serve as relays and form networks.”

 

“Modes of life inspire ways of thinking; modes of thinking create ways of living. Life activates thought, and thought in turn affirms life. Of this pre-Socratic unity we no longer have even the slightest idea. We now have only instances where thought bridles and mutilates life, making it sensible, and where life takes revenge and drives thought mad, losing itself along the way. Now we only have the choice between mediocre lives and mad thinkers. Lives that are too docile for thinkers, thoughts too mad for the living: Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Hölderlin. But the fine unity in which madness would cease to be such is yet to be rediscovered—a unity that turns an anecdote of life into an aphorism of thought, and an evaluation of thought into a new perspective on life. In a way, this secret of the pre-Socratics was already lost from the start. We must think of philosophy as a force.”

 

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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.

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