Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Love, Infidelity, and Postcards: Derrida and Joyce

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Love, Infidelity, and Postcards: Derrida and Joyce

Article excerpt

I love very much everything that I deconstruct in my own manner; the texts I want to read from the deconstructive point of view are texts I love, with that impulse of identification which is indispensable for reading. They are texts whose future, I think, will not be exhausted for a long time. [...] My relation to these texts is characterized by loving jealousy.

--Jacques Derrida, The Ear of the Other

Exordium ("I have nothing to say about love")

"There is no destination, my sweet destiny" (Derrida, Post 29), and when I write to you, je t'aime, "I love you," in my own manner, this is my first and greatest, most comprehensive and irretrievable disaster: that I love you, and that my love letters, perfidious postcards, cannot reach you. This is how I begin, writing: "I write for, I write from, I start writing from: Love. I write out of love. Writing, loving: inseparable. Writing is a gesture of love" (Cixous 42). I write to you, and I write you, because "at every moment the order to write you is given, no matter what, but to write you, and I love, and this is how I recognise that I love" (Post 10). The words do not fit neatly on a postcard--they overflow its edges. I recognize that I love, that I love you, that I only know love because I will have dared loved you ...--and everything follows from this first principle. This is a portrait, a structural portrait, of you, which offers the reader a discursive site: the site of someone speaking within himself, facing the other, you, absent, silent, who do not speak. "So it is a lover," your lover, "who speaks," who writes to you and speaks to you, writing and loving, "and who says" (Barthes, Lover's 9):

--I have nothing to say about love. I am exhausted. We will have "loved according to every genre" (Post 109), and by the end I will have exhausted all the words and thoughts and modes and genres of love for you, exhausted all the possible forms of fidelity for you, and there will have been nothing left. Well, almost nothing. "The almost, love's dreadful regime" (Camera 66, emph. Barthes's), this sign of inexorable failure, so near, far. The video quality is poor as I watch and hear the philosopher utter these words--"I have nothing to say about love"--in a short segment of the 2002 documentary film Derrida, excerpted and uploaded to YouTube. I smile as he then goes on briefly to talk about love. Speaking in his native French tongue, feigning homophonic confusion between l'amour (that is, love) and la mort (death), he professes an incapacity to speak in generalities about something so absolutely singular and irreplaceable as love, states his refusal to recite cliches, suggests it all comes down to the question of the difference between the who and the what, concluding that fidelity is threatened by this difference. I see that "love is not neutral," "that he or she who loves is not just anyone, no matter who; it is he who loves, she who loves," and that each loves according to her or his own idiom ("less something one has or knows than something one does"), unrepeatable, irreplaceable (30, emph. Kamuf's). Love, I realize, is never too far from death. We approach "the irreducibility of the other," as Derrida would say, "the impossibility for an identity to be closed on itself, on the inside of its proper interiority" (Positions 94), the impossibility of separating love from its other. And then he would go on to speak about the distance separating-without-separating self from other, the impossibility of "you" and "I" remaining distinctly apart. He calls this espacement, translated into this poorer English tongue as spacing, "the harsh law of spacing" (Grammatology 200), a law that is a terrible act of violence, but also an intimate, loving, tender striving to close or cross the abyssal distance separating you and I. But we remain at a distance, fail to mend this gaping wound, for "love is not a matter of position, whether of subject or object, and therefore of opposition, but of an address that does not originate from any home" (Kamuf 30), and so we endure apart, our love all-consuming but unconsummated. …

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