This study explores concepts of love and jealousy insofar as they interconnect in the structures of subjectivity and singularity through the figure of the Other. The methodological approach to these issues is based primarily on works by Jacques Derrida and Jean-Luc Nancy. The movie “The End of the Affair”, directed by Neil Jordan, is employed as material illustrating the theoretical assumptions of the thesis.
The present text “Thinking as translating; Writing as a labor of pharmakon” is the part of the M. Phil Thesis “Hieroglyphs of Jealousy”, submitted at the Central European University, Budapest, 2001.
THINKING AS TRANSLATING; WRITING AS A LABOUR OF PHARMAKON
The movie “The End of the Affair” starts with writing, with writing a diary. Maurice Bendrix, writer, is typing:
“This is diary of a hate… or perhaps, I wouldn’t be writing this if I had known whom I hated… Was it Henry? Was it his wife Sara? Or was it some other who was yet to be revealed to me?”
Since this story is told through writing, at the very beginning of our analysis I would like to recall Derrida’s notion of the pharmakon (1), or to recall the labour of the pharmakon, and thus the labour of jealousy.
My intention here is to introduce Derrida’s concept of the pharmakon (‘remedy’, ‘recipe’, ‘poison’, ‘drug’, ‘philtre’, etc.) or, to be more precise, I will introduce Derrida’s description of the labour of the pharmakon which could also (perhaps) be interpreted as a way of thinking, but a way of thinking that concerns another logic than the ‘logical’ logic, or to put it differently, a ‘mad’ logic different from the logic of reason. In that sense, this story is not only a story of or against jealousy but also the story that is told, again with jealousy as a strategy. This story is slowly unfolding itself through writing. And writing, as a work of the pharmakon, is the poison and remedy at the same time. We have, then, the constant play of presence and absence, of life and death. In writing, what is present is absent and what is absent is present. This is the way pharmakon, or writing, seduces: by leaving (only) traces. And whenever there is the labour of the pharmakon at stake – one knows for sure that there is the other - the other as the reader, the other as the lover, the other as the other sex, the other as absence, the other as death, the other as the other’s other. It is in this sense that in this story, told through writing, there is the other. There is the other in his/her otherness. Or, that is to say, there is the other in his/her alterity. The other can here only be considered through the work of translating, because translation communicates the otherness of the other.
In writing there is always already the other in his/her otherness possessed neither by the writer nor by the writing itself. The other who is by itself at the “distance of the most proximal, and step (not) across.” And what I would like to stress here is how writing, or how such a thinking that rather includes than excludes all possible otherness, becomes a question of translating or becomes translation as such, “from the cup to the lips, from the Tarpeian Rock to the Capitol, from Charybdis to Scylla, from one border to the other, from one wall to the other, from one lip to the other, from you to me, from one time to the other”(2).
Translating from one to the other in the sense of constant coming and going from one to the other, means, perhaps that the other is never translated, but rather that it is a question of translatability of the other who is, or which is “distance of the most proximal, and step (not) across” precisely of this difference. The other is never translated, but in order to be an other in his/her otherness, in his/her singularity and in its uniqueness, one is always translating the other in the sense of coming and going from one to the other.
This brings us back to the analysis of the story in “The End of the Affair
”. The most important moment in the movie for our purposes here is a scene where the lovers separate, when they have to give up their love in order to love each other. This is the moment that produces a kind of a silence,
or to put it in Derrida’s words – the moment of differa
nce - in the sense of being differing
, and/or at the same time of being deferring
from itself. Consequently, the concept (if one can still use that word here) of differa
writing itself. There is a kind of nonstability
of writing. And this is precisely the place where a labour of pharmakon
, or as I would like to claim, the labour of jealousy as a labour of pharmakon
The pharmakon, as I mentioned earlier is something that could have as its cause either cure or illness. It is drug that is at the same time poison and remedy. Thus, the pharmakon as such is the undecidable place, the passage from nonknowable to what is knowable, which is always already violated and the result of the repression of the ambiguity of its meanings. Nevertheless, it enters the dialectic; it enters the story and his/story. It enters reasoning and knowledge, but in the way that interrupts it by confusing it, by paralysing its circular, dialectical and thus logical structure.
What I would like to point out in this work is that jealousy
as such, despite being a problem
, and thus a rational
category, or a category of the ratio,
could also be seen as strategy, or as work - together with pharmakon,
pharmakon – of undecidability
. Thus, the place of the aporia, of the aporetic
experience. However, is there any kind of an experience that is not always already aporetic? Or an aporia? And if so, then the labour of the pharmakon is also a kind of strategy, although a different one than the strategy of thinking that is understood as ‘logical’ which means a "rational thought." The labour of the pharmakon
is the ‘logic’ that is not based on contradiction but rather on ambivalence. The pharmakon**
is that which is the poison and/or
the remedy at the same time, and through the same but an ambivalent double gesture. If there is such a thing that one can call the logic of the pharmakon,
it is the logic of the and/or
as a logic that could reveal its own strategy only on that basis: as the aporia. Where there is the other
there is the possibility for the labour of the pharmakon
. Since being a poison
at the same time, the labour of the pharmakon
is unavoidably the labour that implies at every instance the question of death
. Where there is death, where there is seduction, there is a possibility for the work of the pharmakon,
insofar as the pharmakon
opens up the space of the otherness. The pharmakon
operates through seduction. Where there is the other
, there is a possibility of love
. And of jealousy
. For, what else could possibly seduce and force the jealous lover to the point of dying, to move and to act if not the cryptic depths that are resisting and refusing to be analysed and interpreted in their ambivalence?
What else than these hieroglyphs of other/ness, and thus of jealousy? And one is once again brought to the question of translating one singularity into the other. How can one singularity translate the other in its otherness? If it is possible for a singular being to translate the hieroglyphs of otherness, is then the singular being singular at all? Or the question of translating from one to the other is always already the question of becoming the other, coming and going from one to the other? Is there any room for jealousy in considering these questions?
In Peggy Kamuf’s Introduction to Derrida’s Reader: Between the Blinds she is asking the following question: “what if, in other words, jealousy were indeed at stake in everything Derrida talks about?”
Not just a word, of course, not just its referent or the “thing” called jealousy, but a web of relations that all pass through jealousy.
What if, to be “faithful” to the (self-) betrayal of Derrida’s writing, one must pay attention to what it has to say about jealousy? And not only to what it has to say about it – jealousy as a theme, a topic, or a subject – but to a certain movement through jealousy, in the sense of both of and against: the movement of jealousy, as that trough which movement is given or provoked; and the movement against jealousy, as that through which movement passes and which offers a resistance. What if, in other words, jealousy were indeed “at stake” in everything Derrida talks about? (3, xxi).
So, what if jealousy as a double figure, as a strategy, as a web of relations, as a labour of the pharmakon – is at stake all the time? What if jealousy is another name (if it is necessary to name it) for the ‘mad logic’ that I was talking about previously? What if jealousy, or “a certain movement through jealousy” is revealing a particular strategy of thinking, of thinking that is and/or nonthinking at the same time? What if “a certain movement through jealousy” is nothing other but the labour of jealousy itself?
In order to address these questions properly, I would like to turn back to “The End of the Affair” At first sight, this is an ordinary story about marriage, about a love triangle and thus about jealousy and forbidden passionate love. A year, or two years ago, Maurice and Sara had very passionate relationship (from the moment that one can follow the story.) But something happened. Let us just briefly recall the characters and the plot. Sarah Miles (Julianne Moore) who is in a passionless marriage with her husband Henry Miles (Stephen Rea) - a public servant, who, as his wife Sara claims, “prefers habit to happiness". The third main character in the story is the already mentioned Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Finess), a novelist and a jealous man, who was, as one can understand from his diary, and still is, passionately loving Sara, while also being madly jealous about her. As he claims: “I measured love by the extent of my jealousy… and as my jealousy was infinite, my love should be infinite, too. Anyone who loves is jealous”. These words are spoken out actually not by Maurice but by his spectre, by his double. This is the character who ‘appeared’ as the mirror image talking to Maurice himself. In these words is somehow inscribed a kind of warning for Maurice: “My love should be infinite too…” This warning is a result of, perhaps, a kind of guilt: “ I measured love by the extent of my jealousy… and as my jealousy was infinite, my love should be infinite, too. It is a kind of guilt because of measuring and thus calculating between his love and jealousy, but also because of not being good enough in the sense of not being responsible enough. This is the point Derrida raises in a long passage in Gift of Death:
On what condition does the goodness exist beyond all calculation? On the condition that goodness forget itself, that the movement be a movement of the gift that renounces itself, hence the movement of infinite love. Only infinite love can renounce itself and, in order to become finite, become incarnated in order to love the other, to love the other as the finite other. This gift of infinite love comes from someone and it is addressed to someone; responsibility demands irreplaceably singularity. Yet only death or rather the apprehension of death can give this irreplaceability, and it is only on the basis of it that one can speak of a responsible subject, of the soul as conscience of self, of myself, etc. We have thus deduced the possibility of a mortal’s accession to responsibility through the experience of his irreplaceability, that which an approaching death or the approach of death gives him. But the mortal thus deduced is someone whose very responsibility requires that he concern himself not only with an objective Good but with a gift of infinite love, a goodness that is forgetful of itself. There is thus a structural disproportion or dissymetry between the finite and responsible mortal on the one hand, and the goodness of the infinite gift on the other hand. One can conceive of this disproportion without assigning to it a revealed cause or without tracing it back to the event of the original sin, but it inevitably transforms the experience of the responsibility into one of guilt: I have never been and never will be up to the level of this infinite goodness nor up to the immensity that must in general define (in-define) a gift as such. This guilt is originary, like original sin. Before any fault is determined, I am guilty inasmuch as I am responsible.
Guilt is inherent in responsibility because responsibility is always unequal to itself: one is never responsible enough. One is never responsible enough because one is finite, but also because responsibility requires two contradictory movements. It requires one to respond as oneself and as irreplaceable singularity, to answer for what one does, says, gives; but it also requires that, being good and through goodness, one forget or efface the origin of what one gives (4, 51).
On what condition does the goodness exist beyond all calculation? - asks Derrida.
At this point I would like to recall Derrida’s remark - that was mentioned previously in the chapter where I was analysing the love story from film “Eyes wide shut” - that one should avoid good consciousness at all coasts. At that point I tried to stress the question - if love is necessarily connected not only with good consciousness but with good at all as it is usually believed and understood. Following Derrida, one could answer: yes, but only on the condition that this goodness is forgetful of itself. Further, this movement of goodness that forgets itself, that does not know itself as goodness is the movement of a gift that does not know itself as a gift, or that renounces itself as a gift. Only in that sense it is a gift, or it is a gift of infinite love, since only the infinite love can renounce itself and be forgetful of itself as love. Or, to say it differently - and thus to underline the difference from what was also previously stated about love that in order to love, one should know his/her love - love is possible only on the condition that does not know itself as love. Love is a gift; love is an infinite love; or love is love. But this is not the end of complication. Infinite love, in order to become the love for the other as the finite, mortal other, has to become itself finite too. Since, “this gift of infinite love comes from someone and it is addressed to someone; responsibility demands irreplaceably singularity.” “Yet”, Derrida continues, “only death, or rather the apprehension of death can give this irreplaceability, and it is only on the basis of it that one can speak of a responsible subject, of the soul as conscience of self, of myself, etc.” And here, as I already said, things are becoming even more complicated. In order to be love for the other, as for the finite and mortal other, infinite love has to renounce itself and thus become a finite (love). Thus, considering the question of responsibility, as Derrida is claiming in this passage, there is a kind of “structural disproportion or dissymetry between the finite and responsible mortal on the one hand, and the goodness of the infinite gift on the other hand.” Therefore, to conclude my reading of this passage “before any fault is determined, I am guilty inasmuch as I am responsible.” Responsibility is thus unavoidably related to guilt. “One is never responsible enough…”(4, 51), claims Derrida. Yet, to come back to our analysis of the film “The End of the Affair”, it seems that Maurice Bendrix’s jealousy precisely originates from his being aware of that fact. He is not sure; he does not know. He is forgetful of his love and responsibility towards Sara, precisely because he is always already guilty, being aware that one is never responsible enough. He does not consider himself a good man, a faithful man, a responsible man. At the beginning of the movie, let me remind you once again that he is writing:
“This is diary of a hate… or perhaps, I wouldn’t be writing this if I had known whom I hated… Was it Henry? Was it his wife Sara? Or was it some other who was yet to be revealed to me?”
He does not write “this is a diary of love”. “Hate” is a word that haunts him. He is not even sure whom to hate because of the fact that he is finite and thus the only thing that he could actually give to Sara was a ‘gift of death’(4). He is sure of his infinite jealousy, but although loving Sara he could not be sure about the infinity of his love. This is why his jealousy could be infinite. In that sense, the origin of his love became jealousy.
Let me underline this one more time: although addressing his love to Sara and only to her, he was questioning the infinity of his love considering the fact that in his singularity, and thus irreplaceability, he is nothing other than a finite being apprehending death as the very place of his irreplaceability. And since being finite he was infinitely jealous. In that sense, his goodness forgets itself. His gift renounces itself, “hence the movement of infinite love”, to put it in Derrida’s words.
Let us continue with the story. Later on, one can hear the sound of the old typewriter. Maurice is typing “I a m a j e a l o u s m a n.” But his jealousy is much more obvious in one of his dialogues with Sara:
Maurice: I am sorry, but you have to realise, I am jealous of everything. That means – I am jealous of the rain.
Sara: How can you be jealous of the rain?
Maurice: I am jealous of these stockings..
Maurice: Cause it touches what I can’t… Kisses your whole leg.
I am jealous of this button…
Sara: Why an innocent button?
Maurice: It’s not innocent at all. It’s all day with you, I am not…
Sara: I suppose you are jealous of my shoes?
Maurice: Because they’ll take you away from me.
This dialogue reveals not only the extent of Maurice’s jealousy, but it opens up another question that I would like to pay some attention to. The fact that he is jealous of things. This introduces something that was not discussed in this work until now and is related to the problem of jealousy. Can one be jealous of things, and if this could be the case, what does it mean? The most important term that I would like to stress here is the term touch/ing.
Maurice: I am jealous of these stockings.
Maurice: Cause it touches what I can‘t….
It is not that he is jealous of the things, in this case of her stockings, because they can touch what he cannot touch, but because of the fact that the stockings, or that the things are touching her all the time.
Maurice: I am jealous of this button…
Sara: Why an innocent button?
Maurice: It’s not innocent at all. It’s all day with you, I am not…
Again, as one can also see in this fragment of their dialogue Maurice’s jealousy of things is connected with the question of time (“It’s not innocent at all. It’s all day with you, I am not…”) but as I will try to show, this notion of time is very much connected with the notion of touching and ex-posing oneself to be touched all the time.
Through the concept of touching I would like to show that his jealousy of things is not in any sense a naive way of expressing jealousy. However, before I continue my analysis of the notion of ‘touching
’, I would also like to point out some other aspects that are present in this dialogue. The fact that Maurice is jealous about things also expresses his awareness of the ex-position
of someone, of anyone to be touched. And not only that it is touched but that it is being touched all the time
. In this sense, he is aware of the ex-position and of the openness of their relationship. To be touched. By things, by others, by death. Again, the notion of the other
necessarily appears. Their relationship is not in any sense approved
by any kind of a law, in this case, for example, by moral law. They are betrayers
; they are foreigners;
they are on the margins
of the law. Their love ex-posed them in the sense of being the other/ness to the law. Even more, they have abandoned the law by being passionately in love. Their love is neither protected
, since its not approved and assured by a human law
of any kind. By the law of knowledge, by the law of the (proper) name, by the law of logos.
Thus, according to logos, according to the law they are some/ones
. The anonymous
ones. That is why it would be important to stress that they are some/ones
and thus anonymous
ones, that is to say, ones expelled from the logos
that gives (proper) names, ones which thus could be ‘outside’ of the (human) law.
Or to be more precise, they are the margin,
, the border
as such thus being ‘inside‘ and ‘outside‘ of the concept of being ‘human.’***
Moreover they know (but this time knowledge, if one can still use this word, comes from being ex-posed) that things can
touch, and that that very touch is
also touched by one who is touched. Anonymous ones know that they are touched all the time and that they are touching all the time. Things, death, world, others (not necessarily humans), other/ness as such.
Another question that I would like to pose here is: does it mean that the touch, which is not exclusively the ‘human touch’, the touch that knows itself as a touch, again, by the way of possessing and accordingly by the way of re-appropriating itself as a touch, makes any distinction between masculine and feminine touch? Does it mean that such a touch abolishes the sexual difference? Or perhaps does not abolish it, but rather sexual difference becomes in-different of its difference? Or perhaps, undecidable in its opposition and difference? Is it then the case with all possible differences?
Perhaps it is not a contradiction that is at stake here but rather an ambiguity. The labour of the pharmakon, or the labour of jealousy therefore could make such in/difference of the difference. What is this difference made of – the difference of the exclusively ‘human touch’ and of a ‘touch’ as the result of being in state of openness and of being ex-posed?
The stone is without world. The stone is lying on the path, for example. We can say that the stone is exerting a certain pressure upon the surface of the earth. It is “touching” the earth. But what we call “touching” here is not a form of touching at all in the stronger sense of the word. It is not at all like that relationship which the lizard has to the stone on which it lies basking in the sun. And the touching implied in both cases is above all not the same as that touch which we experience when we rest our hand upon the head of another human being…. Because in its being a stone it has no possible access to anything else around it, anything that it might attain or possess as such (5, 196-197).
As far as one can understand this quotation, the most important difference between ‘human touch’ and a touch as such is the fact that the ‘human touch’ is always connected with the idea of possession. The human being, or to put it differently, the subject, is touching the other, the thing, the world or the other human in the mode of possessing and thus appropriating it. Which means, in order to re-appropriate itself and thus to become a human and to have a name, a proper name, the subject has to know. The subject has to be the one who knows, and in this particular case, the one who knows that he is touching before touching or being touched.
But what about those who do not know that there is touching before touching? What about ones without their proper names? What about an anonymous ones? At this point I would like again to return to the film “The End of the Affair” in order to try to find possible answers for these questions.
While watching Sara’s husband sitting alone in the park during the night Maurice realises: “Strange how much dignity there could be in a hat… without it, he seemed one of the anonymous, the dispossessed…” As was previously said in Nancy’s argument “every one is just as singular as every other one. In a sense, they are indefinitely substitutable, each for all the others, in-different and anonymous”(6, 71-72).
Without a hat, Henry Miles is an anonymous being. A dispossessed being. In order to have a name and thus not to be anonymous and dispossessed, he needs his hat. The hat (as something that is his proper possession) gives him his name and his dignity as a human being. The hat gives him his humanity, his subjectivity. In this sense, the hat comes before him. There is no Henry Miles, public servant, without his hat. What does it mean? Perhaps, it concerns the impossibility of being a human being without something that comes from the outside, from the world and from the other/ness. Or, to put this in other way, it would concern the impossibility of a position in the world without being always already previously ex-posed to it. Just as the hat or having the hat comes before Henry Miles, the declaration and knowledge of love comes before love. The same goes for touching. One can conclude here that a human does not touch. Rather, the human knows his touch. But in order for touch to be a touch, there is not any knowledge that could possibly come before it. One is always already touched by being ex-posed to the ‘outside‘ of oneself, or by being ex-posed to the otherness of the other. Not knowing means not possessing that touch but being constantly ex-posed to the touching and being touched from the exteriority: from the outside, from the world, from the things, from the other. All this perhaps might explain the very complicated relation that any “I” has with the outside world, with the exteriority, with the other. The “I” always believes that he knows the outside, the exteriority, and that he knows the other. But this is precisely the place where the other or the otherness always appears as the absence of what the “I” considers as the most present. Or, let us return to the notion of death. Death is the structure of every presence, the structure of life. Death is inscribed in presence and thus in life as its structure, which means that the exteriority, the outside and the other for the “I”, is always already the uncanny play of presence and absence. What is present is precisely that which is absent, and vice versa. One does not possesses and appropriates the other (the world or the exteriority) but rather, one is always already altered by/into the other/ness, and thus cannot completely and fully appropriate the other and re-appropriate itself.
Maurice Bendrix, a novelist, a man who is telling a story, and a jealous lover
, does not give up trying to possess and thus appropriate Sara. He is jealous; he is simply going mad about the fact that she is not his property. He even, in the name of her husband, hires a private detective in order to find out whom she is seeing. He is trying to find out everything about her, to know everything about her, and thus to possess her. He is trying to find out all about her secrets****
Detective: There is nothing discreditory about jealousy. I always salute it as a mark of true love…
Maurice: He thinks that she is deceiving him. He thinks that she has secrets.
Detective: Ah secrets, yeah…
The fact that Sara perhaps has secrets means for Maurice that she is deceiving her husband, but actually he believes that she is deceiving him. He is the jealous one. But is Sara the one who deceives? Does she indeed have secrets? It is difficult here to give an unambiguous answer. Her situation is paradoxical. On the one side, she is trying to convince Maurice, by repeating to him all the time, “ I’ll never be with any other man”, that he does not have any reason to be jealous, that she is faithful to him, and that she is not deceiving him. She constantly speaks of it. On the other side, she is thus making him at every instant more and more jealous. Why is that? Isn’t she thus proving to him that she does not have any secrets? Wasn’t that precisely what he wanted from her in order not to be jealous anymore? There is something that remains secret for him, no matter what she says. Nevertheless, when one is speaking, when one enters the language s/he is not saying anything about his/hers secret. Because she herself is a secret. In her irreplaceability and in her singularity. What remains the secret for Maurice and thus makes him more and more jealous, is the fact that Sara herself is a secret in her singularity. While one is speaking, when one enters the language, one is not saying anything about his/her secret. On the contrary, one is thus becoming a secret oneself, because one says nothing about one‘s secret. Because in one’s secrecy one is alone and silent. And according to the logic of secrecy, her secrets are the most kept precisely by being ex-posed. Consequently, if Maurice believes that she is deceiving her husband and therefore him, because she has secrets, it means that she is deceiving him by keeping her secrets exposed, or by being ex-posed, by being what she is in her singularity. Is, then, Maurice jealous precisely because of her ex-position? Because of her singularity?
There is another scene in the movie, which is, I believe, very much connected with the issue above. Maurice and Sara are passionately making love while there are bombs exploding all around (the story is placed in London during the Second World War.) Up to this moment, there is only one story: the story that Maurice Bendrix, a novelist, is telling. But precisely this scene in the movie is the moment when the story splits into two separate (singular) stories, irreducible to each other, irreplaceable for each other, altered to each other. While they are making love passionately their house is bombed. There is a silent moment, with an artificial light and then the cut. From this moment nothing is the same anymore. Everything changed. Something has happened. But something that one cannot talk about. Something nonthinkable: the arrival of the arrivant, the happenstance, the event. By “event” I mean what Derrida does when he says that “ The event, in sum, is what urges the “I” to ask himself: “What is happening to me?” “What has just happened?” and “What is an event?” What does to happen [arriver] mean? Can one create an event? Can one make history, make a story…..(7, 120).
There was an event. Something had happened, and the story was interrupted. The ‘logic’ of the story is interrupted; the construction of ‘his/story‘ is interrupted. The circular structure of knowledge is interrupted, and from then on there is a rupture, a gap: two stories, two stories of love, two truths, two meanings, two histories, two loves, two histories of love, two lives and two deaths. And in their doubling, each pair is – irreducible to the other. One is faced, with the singular being/s. What one can see in the scene that follows is Maurice lying on the stairs. From the first moment, one sees him lying there, one wonder if he is alive or not. Suddenly, like coming from another ‘world’ he is slowly opening his eyes, standing up, and climbing the stairs, looking for Sara. He sees her lying on the bed and praying. Confused, even angry, he is asking her what is she doing and why she did not come to see what happened with him. But at the moment when he pronounced her name, while standing behind her back; saying “Sara?! What are you doing?” – one could see that she is staring at him like seeing a dead person being alive again, a kind of miracle. And this is something that she could not calculate, noncalculability as such, something that surprised her since it was impossible in any sense to be foreseen. “Praying…” – she answered. She was praying for his life. She was praying for his life by giving a promise that she will give up him and her love for him by not seeing him ever again, if God leaves him to live.
“You don’t understand! You were gone!”, she is telling him and thus trying to explain why she is dressing and leaving him. “Love doesn’t end because we don’t see each other…” she continues. At that moment Maurice is becoming mad, angry, and jealous because of the fact that she is leaving, but even more because of her words:
That’s not my kind of love.
Sara: Maybe there is not any other kind?!
It seems from this dialogue that Maurice and Sara understand love differently. On the one hand, the fact that Sara is claiming that love does not end because of not seeing each other is reinforcing Maurice’s jealousy. He almost madly asks: Doesn’t? But for him this is not a question. By asking he is actually answering that that is not his kind of love. If she can love him without seeing him, or perhaps without approving her love for him there is no love then; or at least, even if there is such a love, this is not Maurice’s kind of love. On the one hand, if she can love him in his absence, although maybe there is love, and although maybe she loves him, this is definitely not his kind of love. For him, there is only one kind of love, his kind of love. In that sense, one might conclude that he is more interested in being assured that he is the one who is loved then about Sara’s love for him. On the other hand, there is Sara who does not seem as sure as Maurice about her kind of love since she already had faced the paradox of love. Since being aware of her paradoxical situation, she is asking question: “Maybe there is not any other kind (of love)?” But her question is not the question only for Maurice but for her herself as well. She has experienced an aporia. In order to love Maurice she has to leave him, since she gave the promise to God. She is sacrificing her love for his life. Thus, she can love him only in his absence. In order to keep the promise that she gave in the name of loving him, she can love him only by not seeing him, only by not declaring her love for him. And she is asking - Maybe there is not any other kind of love?
If the only possibility for her to love him is to keep the promise of not seeing him, in a way, by asking this question she is declaring her love to Maurice.
Let us at this point look at Nancy’s comments on the words of love in order to understand further what is at stake here:
But the words of love, as is well known, sparsely, miserably repeat their own declaration, which is always the same, always already suspected of lacking love because it declares it. But this reticence might signify that all, of love, is possible and necessary, that all the loves possible are in fact the possibilities of love, its voices or its characteristics, which are impossible to confuse and yet ineluctably entangled: charity and pleasure, emotion and pornography, the neighbour and the infant, the love of lovers and the love of God, fraternal love and the love of art, the kiss, passion, friendship…. To think love, would thus demand a boundless generosity toward all these possibilities, and it is this generosity that would command reticence: the generosity not to choose between loves, not to privilege, to hierarchize, not to exclude. Because love is not their substance or their common concept, is not something one can extricate and contemplate at the distance. Love in its singularity, when it is grasped absolutely, is itself perhaps nothing but the indefinite abundance of all possible loves, and an abandonment to their disseminations, indeed to the disorder of these explosions.” (8, 83).
Again, we are faced here with all the difficulties of declaring love, but there is also something else here to stress. The idea, to put it simply, is that there is only one love in all its possibilities. Again, to understand this issue let me return to Nancy: “But this reticence might signify that all, of love, is possible and necessary, that all the loves possible are in fact the possibilities of love, its voices or its characteristics, which are impossible to confuse and yet ineluctably entangled: charity and pleasure, emotion and pornography, the neighbour and the infant, the love of lovers and the love of God, fraternal love and the love of art, the kiss, passion, friendship…. To think love, would thus demand a boundless generosity toward all these possibilities, and it is this generosity that would command reticence: the generosity not to choose between loves, not to privilege, not to hierarchize, not to exclude”(8, 68-71). Nancy makes clear here, that it is not only the question of declaring or not words of love between lovers in their singularity and uniqueness, but that it is possible to talk about love itself in its singularity and in its uniqueness. In this sense, we cannot choose between loves (there is only one love in its singularity and uniqueness), we cannot hierarchize between loves (there is only one love in its singularity and uniqueness), and we cannot neither privilege nor exclude between loves (since, there is only one love in its singularity and uniqueness).
Sara seemed to discover that there is only one love in all its various possibilities, and then, that in all its various possibilities love is what it is in all of its singularity and uniqueness. By giving a promise in the name of her love for him, in the name of trying to give up what she loves most – him, in order to keep him alive, she gave a promise to God, to someone else, to someone outside of their love, and thus she included a third party. And by including a third party, she included every/one, every/other, the world, God, death. Moreover, she had to make a sacrifice; in order to sacrifice one should sacrifice the one s/he loves. There is no sacrifice except for the sacrifice of what one loves. One cannot talk about the sacrificial act towards ones one does not love. Once again, one is faced here with the difference between the concept of the ethical, or with the concept of general responsibility and with the concept of absolute responsibility. That is to say, one is faced again with the aporia of responsibility. Again, about the aporia of responsibility, Derrida writes:
Duty or responsibility binds me to the other, to the other as other, and ties me in my absolute singularity to the other as other. God is the name of the absolute other as other and as unique (the God of Abraham defined as the one an unique). As soon as I enter the relationship with the absolute other, my absolute singularity enters into relation with his on the level of obligation and duty. I am responsible to the other as other, I answer to him and I answer for what I do before him. But of course, what binds me thus in my singularity to the absolute singularity of the other, immediately propels me into the space or risk of absolute sacrifice. There are also others, an infinite number of them, the innumerable generality of others to whom I should be bound by the same responsibility (what Kierkegaard calls the ethical order). I cannot respond to the call, the request, the obligation, or even the love of another without sacrificing the other other, the other others. Every other (one) is every (bit) other [tout autre est tout autre], every one else is completely and wholly other. The simple concept of alterity and of singularity constitute the concept of duty as much as that of responsibility. As a result, the concepts of responsibility, of decision, or of duty, are condemned a priori to paradox, scandal and aporia.
As soon as I enter into a relation with the other, with the gaze, look, request, love, command, or call of the other, I know that I can respond only by sacrificing ethics, that is, by sacrificing whatever obliges me to also respond, in the same way, in the same instant, to all the others. I offer a gift of death, I betray...
I can respond only to the one (or to the One), that is, to the other, by sacrificing the other to that one. I am responsible to any one (that is to say to any other) only by failing in my responsibilities to all the others, to the ethical or political generality. And I can never justify that sacrifice, I must always hold my peace about it. Whether I want to or not, I can never justify the fact that I prefer or sacrifice any one (any other) to the other. I will always be secretive, held to secrecy in respect to this, for I have nothing to say about it. What binds me to singularities, to this one or that one, male or female, rather than that one or this one, remains finally (this is Abraham’s hyper-ethical sacrifice), as unjustifiable as the infinite sacrifice I make at each moment. These singularities represent others, a wholly other form of alterity: one other or some other persons, but also places, animals, language (4, 68).
I have chosen this quite long quotation in order to try to read Sara’s situation with the help of Derrida’s remarks on responsibility, since Sara is, as I believe, facing the aporia of responsibility. In order to keep her promise and thus to respond and to be responsible towards God, she has to sacrifice her love. In order to respond in her absolute singularity to the other in his/her absolute singularity she immediately took an absolute risk of sacrificing her love. What one could read in Derrida’s observation, one can also apply to Sara’s situation: “Duty or responsibility binds me to the other, to the other as other, and ties me in my absolute singularity to the other as other. God is the name of the absolute other as other and as unique (the God of Abraham defined as the one an unique). As soon as I enter the relationship with the absolute other, my absolute singularity enters into relation with his on the level of obligation and duty. I am responsible to the other as other, I answer to him and I answer for what I do before him. But of course, what binds me thus in my singularity to the absolute singularity of the other, immediately propels me into the space or risk of absolute sacrifice.”
In order to respond and to be responsible towards God as the absolute other in his singularity, Sara has not to respond and thus to be irresponsible toward Maurice in his absolute singularity; she had to betray him; she could not respond to Maurice’s (kind of) love; by keeping her promise and thus responding and being responsible towards God as an absolute other, she has sacrificed the other other, but also the other others. In that sense, she could be the one saying Derrida’s words: “I cannot respond to the call, the request, the obligation, or even the love of another without sacrificing the other other, the other others. Every other (one) is every (bit) other [tout autre est tout autre], every one else is completely and wholly other.”
And then, one can easily imagine her continuing: “As soon as I enter into a relation with the other, with the gaze, look, request, love, command, or call of the other, I know that I can respond only by sacrificing ethics, that is, by sacrificing whatever obliges me to also respond, in the same way, in the same instant, to all the others. I offer a gift of death, I betray...
I can respond only to the one (or to the One), that is, to the other, by sacrificing the other to that one. I am responsible to any one (that is to say to any other) only by failing in my responsibilities to all the others…”
She sacrifices, silently and unjustifiably the one she loves: Maurice. “And I can never justify that sacrifice, I must always hold my peace about it. Whether I want to or not, I can never justify the fact that I prefer or sacrifice any one (any other) to the other. I will always be secretive, held to secrecy in respect to this, for I have nothing to say about it.”
But her sacrifice is not without a complication. She sacrificed her love for Maurice, because of her love for him. Only because of that one can claim that it was really the act of sacrifice. She became irresponsible toward Maurice precisely because of her responsibility. She had to respond to God – to the other, the other that she gave her promise. By desperately trying to be responsible, by desperately trying to make a decision (whom to respond to), by trying to respect what she considered as her duty (to keep the promise that she gave) she has found herself at the very place of the “paradox, scandal and aporia.” As one can see, by way of trying to be responsible she found herself in the middle of the aporia of the responsibility. By the very act of responsibility she gave up responsibility. She herself became responsible to the point of irresponsibility. By the very act of love she gave up love. By the very act of promising, she gave up the promise she made. In the name of love she had to sacrifice her love. She could not keep that promise. Or, perhaps one can say, yes she could keep it but in a paradoxical way; in the way that has faced her with an aporia of the responding to the absolute other and of the responsibility towards the absolute other; with an aporia of the promise of love; with an aporia of the promise as such. However, what is a promise? What is the promise actually promising? Returning to Nancy:
But “I love you” (which is the unique utterance of love and which is, at bottom, its name: love’s name is not “love”, which would be a substance or a faculty, but it is this sentence, the “ I love you”, just as one says “the cogito”) – the “I love you” is something else. It is a promise. The promise, by constitution, is an utterance that draws itself back before the law that it lets appear. The promise neither describes nor prescribes nor performs. It does nothing and thus is always vain. But it lets a law appear, the law of the given word: that this must be. “I love you” says nothing (except the limit of speech), but it allows to emerge the fact that love must arrive and that nothing, absolutely nothing, can relax, divert, or suspend the rigor of this law. The promise does not anticipate or assure the future: it is possible that one day I will no longer love you, and this possibility cannot be taken away from love – it belongs to it. It is against this possibility, but also with it, that the promise is made, the word given. Love is its own promised eternity, its own eternity unveiled as law.
Of course, the promise must be kept. But if it is not, that does not mean that there was no love, nor even that there was not love. Love is faithful only to itself. The promise must be kept, and nonetheless love is not the promise plus the keeping of the promise( 8, 100).
Let us, one more time, recall the moment from the story in the film “The End of the Affair” in which Sara, in a way, declares her love for Maurice, although in the form of question; in her question “Maybe there is not any other kind of love?!” – there is a kind of declaration of love; she is thus, declaring her love for Maurice by saying, although in different word “I love you.”
“But “ I love you” (which is the unique utterance of love and which is, at bottom, its name: love’s name is not “love”, which would be a substance or a faculty, but it is this sentence, the “ I love you”, just as one says “the cogito”) – the “I love you” is something else. It is a promise.”
So, she gave a promise of love, by she also gave a promise in the name of love, thus subscribing herself to the law; to the law of love; to the law of promise; to the law as such.
“I love you” says nothing (except for the limit of speech), but it allows to emerge the fact that love must arrive and that nothing, absolutely nothing, can relax, divert, or suspend the rigor of this law.”
Sara subscribed herself to the human law of any promise that the promise should be kept. And for a while she was faithful to it. She was faithful to the law of the promise, which is the law of keeping the promise. But what is the law that she subscribed herself to? The law of the promise that promises is the promise itself. Or as Sara’s explains, “I can’t be held on that promise, but something told me I would be. I tempted fate, and fate that excepted… So I was in a desert now… without him.” And, then, she continues: “I said, I felt nothing… There was a stone where my heart should be.” Although she gave a promise (of love) she could not keep that promise (and thus she could not fulfil her duty according to the law of keeping a promise), because that promise took her love from her. The promise that she made according to ethics, and according to human law (made in the name of love), took her love away from her. Instead of love, she herself became a law: a law of keeping the promise in the name of love but not the love itself.
"Of course, the promise must be kept. But if it is not, that does not mean that there was no love, nor even that there was not love. Love is faithful only to itself. The promise must be kept, and nonetheless love is not the promise plus the keeping of the promise”.
Since she gave a promise, and since she decided to keep that promise, as I already said – she, herself became a law. But, as Nancy is underlining “Love is faithful only to itself”; thus, she could not exchange law of keeping the promise for her love. So, she says: “They say a promise is forever, but I don’t know if I can keep this one. He killed me with jealousy, you‘re killing me with love…I can’t be held on that promise, but something told me I would be. I tempted fate, and fate that excepted. So I was in a desert now. Without him.”
As she is claiming - at the place of her heart, at the place that is ‘beating‘ in its presence and openness, at the place of being alive and thus loving, there is a stone. Or, to put it differently, there is a law. The law of keeping the promise. The law of keeping the promise that she cannot keep. In this sense, one can say, following the story – that her heart is broken. Which, in accordance with what was previously stated in this work means that she has a heart. She tried to be responsible; she tried to keep her promise; she tried to survive being the very place of law instead of loving Maurice, but she couldn’t. To put it in Nancy’s words - From then on, her “I” is constituted as broken. Let us read the whole argument that Nancy offers:
Love brings an end to the opposition between gift and property without surmounting and without sublating it: if I return to myself within love, I do not return to myself from love (the dialectic, on the contrary, feeds on the equivocation). I do not return from it, and consequently, something of I is definitively lost or dissociated in its act of loving. That is undoubtedly why I return (if at least it is the image of a return that is appropriate here), but I return broken: I come back to myself, or I come out of it, broken. The “return” does not annul the break; it neither repairs, it nor sublates it, for the return in fact takes place only across the break itself, keeping it open. Love re-presents I to itself broken (and this is not a representation). It presents this to it: he, this subject, was touched, broken into, in his subjectivity, and he is from then on, for the time of love, opened by this slice, broken or fractured, even if only slightly. He is, which is to say that the break or the wound is not an accident, and neither is it a property that the subject could relate to himself. For the break is the break in his self-possession as the subject; it is essentially, an interruption of the process of relating oneself to oneself outside of oneself. From then on, I is constituted broken. As soon as there is love, the slightest act of love, the slightest spark, there is this ontological fissure that cuts across and that disconnects the elements of the subject-proper – the fibers of its heart. One hour of love is enough, one kiss alone, provided that it is out of love – and can there, in truth, be any other kind? Can one do it without love, without being broken into, even if only slightly? (8,96).
Since there is love, since there is a slightest act of love, there is a heart, but a broken heart, which is the love that does not allow anymore the “I” to live out of that break. “From then on, I is constituted broken”. Consequently, love breaks the constitution of the ‘I”, or the concept of the subject/ivity as such, since “as soon as there is love, the slightest act of love, the slightest spark, there is this ontological fissure that cuts across and that disconnects the elements of the subject-proper – the fibres of its heart. One hour of love is enough, one kiss alone, provided that it is out of love – and can there, in truth, be any other kind? Can one do it without love, without being broken into, even if only slightly?”
Following the story, Sara tries to save the life of her beloved by keeping the promise of love. However, by the way of trying to save and to protect his life, and thus her love, she betrayed her love. She lost her heart; she experienced the break of her heart. Here ‘I’ become constituted only and insofar as it has been broken. But considering the fact that she is the one who is dying at the end of the story, is it because she failed in her effort to give her love and thus her life to the one that she loved the most? Is it possible to give our life for the life of the other? To give it in exchange to the life of beloved one? Allow me to pause for a moment on this point, which seems to me an important and to try to answer some of these questions. As I already have said, Sara tried to give her love and thus her life for the one, for the other that she loved; but, she failed: The bitterness of her words expresses that failure and thus her pain: “But if he was alive, now I was dead. And I knew that nothing in this world would make sense to me again.”
She could hardly bear her senseless life without Maurice and their love, although giving up her love for him was for Sara what kept him alive. But she could not fill a void of the absence of her love, of the absence of her beloved, of the fact that she herself was the one to leave; she could not bear the pain, which in a way, was the affirmation of this void. In that sense, if he was alive, she was dead. She was dead before she actually died; she was dead in the sense of being loveless and lifeless. But not in the sense that she succeeds in dying instead of him. In that sense she did not succeed, although she tried by sacrificing her love to die for him in the sense of trying to die in his place. And she failed. At this point, I would like to introduce Nancy’s argument that concerns this issue of possibility of “dying in someone’s place”:
I can give my whole life for another, I can offer my death to the other, but in doing this I will only be replacing or saving something partial in a particular situation (there will be a nonexhaustive exchange or sacrifice, an economy of sacrifice). I know on absolute grounds and in the absolutely certain manner that I will never deliver the other from his death, from the death that affects his whole being.
That is very much what is involved when to give one’s life “for” the other the other means to give to death.
If something radically impossible is to be conceived of – and everything derives its sense from this impossibility – it is indeed dying for the other in the sense of dying in place of the other. I can give the other everything except immortality, except this dying for her to the extend of dying in place of her and so freeing her from her own death.
I can give her my heart in literal or figurative sense in order to assure her of a certain longevity. But I cannot die in her place, I cannot give her my life in exchange for her death. Only a mortal can give, as we said earlier (8, 43).
According to Derrida’s explanation only a mortal can give. Giving and taking become possible only on the condition of apprehending one’s own death, as well as the others death; thus, apprehension of one’s but also others death is what makes one’s irreplaceability, since dying as such is the only thing that cannot be either given or taken. In that sense, the only thing that mortal can give to the other, to the others is a ‘gift of death’; but the gift that gives equally to the one and to the other.
“The End of the Affair” ends with Sara’s death. Her sacrifice was her life. Her sacrifice was, as being a mortal being, the giving of the “gift of death” to the one she loved, and thus to the others, all the others, and the other others. Thus, she gave the only thing that she could: a ‘gift of death; she did not give ‘something’ but what she gave was the very act of giving, and therefore the act of infinite love; she could give only what a mortal can give - gift of death; which, paradoxically could be given only as an act of infinite love.
“Derrida situates this problem in the “violent difficulty of the transference of a nonphilosopheme into a philosopheme”. That is, the philosophical determination of writing as pharmakon
cannot be made to function as an unambiguous term available to dialectic reasoning (a philosopheme).
Instead, it enters the dialectic (reasoning) from both sides at once (remedy-poison, good-bad, positive-negative) and threatens the philosophical process from within.” Peggy Kamuf, A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds, ed. By Peggy Kamuf (Columbia University Press, New York, 1991) p. 112
, this “medicine”, this philter which acts as both remedy and poison, already introduces itself into the body of the discourse with all its ambivalence. This charm, this spellbinding virtue, this power of fascination, can be – alternately or simultaneously – beneficent or maleficent. The pharmakon
would be a substance
– with all that that word can connote in terms of matter with occult virtues, cryptic depths refusing to submit their ambivalence to analysis, already paving the way for alchemy – if we didn’t have eventually to come to recognize it as antisubstance itself: that which resist any philosopheme, indefinitely exceeding its bounds as nonindetity, nonessence, nonsubstance; granting philosophy by that very fact the inexhaustible adversity of what funds it and the infinite absence of what founds it.