BADIOU READS RENÉ CHAR (1): self-refusal and de-legitimating suffering

“René Char headed a maquis of the resistance in Provence…He is truly the type of the combatant poet (that Rimbaud would have wanted to be). We have here the intersection or the cumulation of two truth procedures: the political procedure and poetry. Or one procedure put to the test of the other, the poetic balance sheet of a political experience.

First, two extracts from Seuls demeurent (1938-1944).

“Recognize two sorts of possibles : the diurnal possible and the prohibited possible. Take, if it can be done, the first, the equal of the second. Put them on the royal path of the fascinating impossible, highest degree of the comprehensible” (fragment 47).

There is the diurnal possible, the ordinary possibilities that the world proposes to us and there is the possible declared forbidden by the world. What Char says, is that a work of truth necessarily approaches a diurnal possibility and a forbidden possibility.

This is even a criterium: if the world forbids you nothing, it is probable that you are not a dangerous exception. The point of the real is the impossible, for what is possible from the point of a truth in immanent exception is declared impossible by the world. But as the impossible is the victory of a truth in the world, of something that will be universally understood, it is precisely that which is the most comprehensible.

“Certain epochs of the human condition are subjected to the icy assault of an evil which supports itself on the most dishonored points of human nature. At the centre of this cyclone the poet the poet will complete the sense of his message by his refusal of self, then will join the party of those who, having removed from suffering its mask of legitimacy ensure the eternal return of the stubborn porter, passer of justice” (fragment 51).

The first sentence is a description of our world: the icy assault  resonates (perhaps unconsciously) with Marx’s the icy waters of egoistic calculation (and, in fact, finance is totally cold) and the evil [with which it is associated] supports itself on the most dishonored points of human nature, as in heroic, violent evil there could still be something, a sinister greatness, which valorises humanity (for example in the Crusades), but this is not at all the case here (since it is only a matter of the strict figure of personal interest).

The second sentence is an ethical injunction concerning the immanent exception. One must practice a sort of refusal of self (analogous to Rimbaud’s struggle against the infinite egoism of l’adolescence) to be able to be in a minimum of distanciation in relation to the desperate quest of the most dishonored points of one’s self. Then one must remove the propaganda made around suffering : suffering has no legitimacy in any way. Finally, the objective is that justice can pass”.

From Badiou’s seminar THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS, first class October 24th 2012, my translation.

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