BADIOU’S CROSSINGS: poetry and politics

Continuing my summary of the first class of Badiou’s “last seminar“, which took place on Monday October 19.

Badiou begins his exploration of the crossings of truth procedures with a crossing that he has already explored on several occasions: the crossing of poetry and politics, more specifically of epic poetry and communism. This is a phenomenological exploration, taking place in a specific world during a specific historical sequence, yet having universal value.

The context is a period when the conflict between the capitalist vision and the communist vision was at its height (between 1920 and 1980), when poetry and artistic creation were undergoing a crisis and an effervescence of new orientations. The crossing of these two contexts was at its most intense during the Spanish Civil War, intricating

poetry and politics, on this occasion, in an exceptional figure of crossing, which has few equivalents.

Badiou gives us a list of great poets who declared their communism:

in France, Éluard and Aragon ; in Turkey, Nazim Hikmet ; in Chili, Pablo Neruda ; in Spain : Rafael Alberti ; in Italy : Eduardo Sanguinetti ; in Greece : Yannis Ritsos ; in China : Ai Qing ; in Palestine : Mahmoud Darwich ; in Peru : Cesar Vallejo ; and in Germany: Bertold Brecht.

What animated all these poets, according to Badiou, is the shared conviction of an essential bond between poetry, in a new and transformed sense, and communism, conceived as the care for what is common to all and as the struggle to “disappropriate” the common from its privatised appropriation. Badiou remarks that there is no poetry of privatisation, whereas the poetry of communism really exists.

Badiou’s explanation of this link between poetry and communism is in terms of language. Poets are communist because their domain is language, the mother tongue that is freely given to all, common to all, and thus the support for equality. The poem is a gift to language, and as such a gift to everyone. So poets recognised in communism something similar to their own creative process and project: that the world, like language, is a gift common to all. This similarity of projects is at the source of the real and effective crossing of poetry and communist politics during that period.

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