Derrida: A Biography

673 Pages · 2012 · 9.24 MB · English

  • Derrida: A Biography

    Derrida Derrida

    A Biography

    Benoît Peeters

    Translated by

    Andrew Brown

    polity First published in French as Derrida © Flammarion, 2010

    This English edition © Polity Press, 2013

    Polity Press

    65 Bridge Street

    Cambridge CB2 1UR, UK

    Polity Press

    350 Main Street

    Malden, MA 02148, USA

    All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purpose

    of criticism and review, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored

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    permission of the publisher.

    ISBN-13: 978-0-7456-5615-1

    A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

    Typeset in 10.5 on 11.5 pt Times New Roman MT

    by Servis Filmsetting Ltd, Stockport, Cheshire

    Printed and bound in Great Britain by MPG Books Group Limited, Bodmin,


    The publisher has used its best endeavours to ensure that the URLs for

    external websites referred to in this book are correct and active at the time of

    going to press. However, the publisher has no responsibility for the websites

    and can make no guarantee that a site will remain live or that the content is or

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    Every eff ort has been made to trace all copyright holders, but if any have

    been inadvertently overlooked the publisher will be pleased to include any

    necessary credits in any subsequent reprint or edition.

    For further information on Polity, visit our website: www.politybooks.com Contents

    Acknowledgements vii

    Introduction 1

    PART I JACKIE 1930–1962

    1 The Negus 1930–1942 9

    2 Under the Sun of Algiers 1942–1949 19

    3 The Walls of Louis-le-Grand 1949–1952 35

    4 The École Normale Supérieure 1952–1956 59

    5 A Year in America 1956–1957 80

    6 The Soldier of Koléa 1957–1959 92

    7 Melancholia in Le Mans 1959–1960 108

    8 Towards Independence 1960–1962 113

    PART II DERRIDA 1963–1983

    1 From Husserl to Artaud 1963–1964 127

    2 In the Shadow of Althusser 1963–1966 144

    3 Writing Itself 1965–1966 155

    4 A Lucky Year 1967 170

    5 A Period of Withdrawal 1968 186

    6 Uncomfortable Positions 1969–1971 207

    7 Severed Ties 1972–1973 230

    8 Glas 1973–1975 256

    9 In Support of Philosophy 1973–1976 267

    10 Another Life 1976–1977 288

    11 F rom the Nouveaux Philosophes to the Estates General

    1977–1979 298

    12 Postcards and Proofs 1979–1981 308

    13 Night in Prague 1981–1982 332

    14 A New Hand of Cards 1982–1983 342 vi Contents


    1 The Territories of Deconstruction 1984–1986 355

    2 From the Heidegger Aff air to the de Man Aff air

    1987–1988 379

    3 Living Memory 1988–1990 402

    4 Portrait of the Philosopher at Sixty 417

    5 At the Frontiers of the Institution 1991–1992 440

    6 Of Deconstruction in America 451

    7 Specters of Marx 1993–1995 462

    8 The Derrida International 1996–1999 478

    9 The Time of Dialogue 2000–2002 495

    10 In Life and in Death 2003–2004 518

    Notes 543

    Sources 593

    Bibliography 596

    Index 605 Acknowledgements

    I can never thank Marguerite Derrida enough for placing her con-

    fi dence in me, without which the present work would have been

    unimaginable. She gave me free access to the archives and answered

    my countless questions with patience and precision. I am also

    extremely grateful to Pierre and Jean, the sons of Marguerite and

    Jacques Derrida, as well as to René and Évelyne Derrida, Janine

    and Pierrot Meskel, Martine Meskel, and Micheline Lévy.

    Many of Derrida’s archives are kept at IMEC, the Institut

    Mémoires de l’Édition Contemporaine, at the Abbaye d’Ardenne. It

    was a particular pleasure to work there. Thanks are due to the whole

    of the team, in particular to Olivier Corpet, the general director, to

    Nathalie Léger, deputy director, to Albert Dichy, literary director,

    and to José Ruiz-Funes and Mélina Reynaud, who are in charge

    of the Derrida collection and his correspondence. Their friendly

    assistance and their competence have been of the greatest value to

    me. I must also thank Claire Paulhan, who s uggested more than one

    fruitful path for me to follow.

    The other part of Jacques Derrida’s public archives is preserved

    in the ‘Special Collections’ of the University of California, Irvine.

    Thanks to Jackie Dooley, Steve McLeod, and their whole team for

    their great effi ciency.

    Particular thanks must also go to Patricia de Man, Jacqueline

    Laporte, Dominne and Hélène Milliex, Christophe Bident, Éric

    Hoppenot, Michael Levinas, Avital Ronell, Ginette Michaud,

    Michel Monory, Jean-Luc Nancy and Jean Philippe, as well as to

    Marianne Cayatte (archives of the Lycée Louis-le-Grand), André

    Vivet (Association des Anciens Élèves du Lycée Montesquieu

    in Le Mans), Françoise Fournié (archives of Gérard Granel),

    Myriam Watthee-Delmotte (Henry Bauchau collection in Louvain-

    la-Neuve), Catherine Goldenstein (Paul Ricoeur collection in Paris),

    Bruno Roy (archives of Roger Laporte), Claire Nancy (archives of

    Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe), and to all those who have enabled me

    to fi nd rare letters or documents. viii Acknowledgements

    A huge thank you to those who have helped me, with their advice,

    their remarks, or their encouragements: to Valérie Lévy-Soussan,

    fi rst and foremost, for lending me her ear, her advice, and her

    support every day, but also to Marie-Françoise Plissart, Sandrine

    Willems, Marc Avelot, Jan Baetens, Jean-Christophe Cambier,

    Luc Dellisse, Archibald and Vladimir Peeters, Hadrien and Gabriel

    Pelissier. Thanks also to Sophie Dufour, who transcribed several

    quotations, with both care and enthusiasm. And particular thanks

    to Christian Rullier: he knows why.

    To Sophie Berlin, director of the Human Sciences department at

    Flammarion, I am immensely indebted. Without her, I would never

    have had the idea of embarking on this project, nor the energy to

    bring it to completion.

    Translator's Acknowledgements

    Thanks to Benoît Peeters for replying so readily to my questions

    and generously providing me with original source materials. Thanks

    also to Jean-Pacal Pouzet, Chloé Szebrat, and Jane Horton for help

    and advice. And thanks, most of all, to Justin Dyer for his scrupu-

    lous copy-editing and ability to track down the most recalcitrant

    translations of Derrida and company into English. All mistakes are

    my own (toutes les erreurs me sont propres). A few further refl ections

    on Derrida and biography can be found at http://benequildatuit.


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