Endgame for Derrida

Apparently Derrida used to open his lectures for many years with this quotation: “Oh my friends, there is no friend.” It’s supposed to be from Aristotle, but can’t easily be traced back to Aristotle’s works–appropriate enough for the man who declared that there was nothing beyond the text. I met him once in Delhi, when he delivered a lecture at the Delhi School of Economics a few years ago: it was a bizarre experience listening to him, like being mesmerised by words that sounded like absolute brilliance one moment and wet cotton wool in verbal form the next. The corridors were packed, but what I remember most was one student who had begun by scribbling meticulous notes in beautiful, minute handwriting. The scribbling became slower and slower until it almost stopped; at the end of the lecture, I took a peek and read, in large, calligraphic letters, this single sentence occupying an entire page: “I understand everything, I understand nothing.”

Derrida has died, of cancer; I wish I could eavesdrop on his inevitable meeting with the Ultimate Deconstructionist. One imagines that the late French philosopher was the one person who would not be lost for words during that particular encounter.

Obits here and here, though more should come up soon. There’s an early article by the LA Times, circa 1991, here, which makes interesting reading in the light of more contemporary reflections on Derrida. And if you’re mourning the man and missing him already, go genuflect at the shrine of the Postmodernism Generator.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: