Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Spivak and Nietzsche and Beckett

While cleaning out my bookshelves the other day I stumbled upon the following quote by Nietzsche that Spivak uses in her wonderful introduction to Derrida’s Of Grammatology. I’m posting it because it relates directly to some of the themes I was discussing in the Deleuze, Bacon, Beckett, and Minnis essay. Spivak writes “If we want to hold onto 'the important main activity' we have to go further then the unconscious, we have to reach the body, the organism. If the 'unconscious' is unknown to us, how much more so the body!” She then quotes Nietzsche: “What indeed does man know about himself?...Does not nature keep secret from him most things, even about his body, e.g., the convolutions of the intestines, the quick flow of the blood-currents, the intricate vibrations of the fibres, so as to banish and lock him up in proud, delusive knowledge? Nature threw away the keys and woe to the fateful curiosity which might be able for a moment to look out and down through the crevice in the chamber of consciousness, and discover that man, indifferent to his own ignorance, is resting on the pitiless, the greedy, the insatiable, the murderous, and as it were, hanging in dreams on the back of a tiger. Whence, in the wide world, with this state of affairs, arises the impulse of truth?”

Beckett’s comedy is linked directly to the ways “the objective, ideal, and purely spiritual” (Nietzsche’s phrase) tries to erase physical fragility, mortality, etc. One of my favorite examples of this is the extended speech on ethics that Vladimir gives as Pozzo repeatedly asks for help beside him in Waiting for Godot.


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