Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)


Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)


Article excerpt

This essay explores the occurrence and significance of the term salut (salvation, health, safety, but also greeting and hailing) in some of Derrida's later work, while highlighting the textual relationship--the constant salutation--between Derrida and Nancy.



I doff my cap, I take my hat off to you.

How else to remember and commemorate a great thinker, who touched us so, a thinker whom we knew, without knowing, as a living force, a thinker whom we observed from a distance mourn and watch over the work of friends and colleagues? How else than to pay our respects, to salute him, or raise our hat to him? For, one must begin by paying one's respects, by saluting the other, by addressing a greeting to the other, as there is a salut at each moment of encounter or leave-taking, at every meeting or parting, at every beginning and end. Salut!

It is necessary to seize this occasion not only to memorialize, to remember, to pay homage or tribute to Jacques Derrida, not simply to express one's admiration, but also to hail an extraordinary philosopher, to salute him. This act of saluting, what in French is "donner un coup de chapeau" or "tirer son chapeau a quelqu'un," would be a mark of one's respect. Yet this salutation would not dare to confer, as every salut usually does, health or eternal life on its recipient. For the would-be recipient of this particular salut did everything he could in his last writings to disabuse us of any hope for immunity, safety, and salvation.

I began by citing, quoting from a portion of a text itself discussing another chief, "capital text on the hat [un texte capital sur le chapeau]" ("Corona" 144, trans. mine) There, the word "chapeau" is cited without an exclamation mark, depriving it of any connotation of praising, congratulating, or saying bravo. Jacques Derrida refers to a hat and a crown in his essay on Gerard Granel, "Corona vitae (fragments)," published alongside texts on other friends and colleagues in Chaque fois unique, la fin du monde. Written in the form of a letter to Jean-Luc Nancy, the co-editor of a collection dedicated to Granel, who was Nancy's teacher, Derrida cites an article written by Granel entitled "Ludwig Wittgenstein ou le refus de la couronne." There, in a discussion of the relation between religion and logic, Granel notes that Wittgenstein's ultimate attitude toward all things religious remained that of "tirer son chapeau," that of "taking his hat off," as a mark of respect. This is neither recourse to religion nor to a religiosity without positive religion, but, Granel explains with another hat-related expression, that of "mettre son chapeau sur la tete" ("putting one's hat on one's own head") which each person can only do for oneself (32). In other words, for each person, it is a matter of thinking in the manner that only he has the ability to do, in the manner best suited to him. Granel is alluding to a fragment in a collection of Wittgenstein's notes, translated by Granel himself into French, in which Wittgenstein claims that no one is able to think for another. The fragment reads: "No one can think a thought for me in the way no one can don my hat for me" (Culture 2-2e). (1) Granel renders this in French as: "Personne ne peut former une idee a ma place, de meme que personne ne peut mettre mon chapeau sur la tete" (Remarques). To each his own hat or head, then.

Cut to a scene at Jacques Derrida's birthday celebration at the chateau in Cerisy-la-Salle. On a beautiful summer day, scholars from across the world are gathered round a birthday cake in the courtyard celebrating the 72nd birthday of a man of enormous vitality, whom they have been witnessing over a number of days bound up and down the stairs of the chateau with a spring in every step, attend every session and comment on every paper. Derrida has been in great spirits all day, laughing and joking. While standing next to Derrida, who is smoking, Jean-Luc Nancy teasingly raises his arm and feigns to put his hat, the fedora (chapeau mou) that he has been known to wear quite often, on Derrida's head. …

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