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Fichu’s Fritz

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Abstract

On September 22, 2001, Jacques Derrida remembers’ september Eleven,’ the birthday of Adorno, by quoting, before a German audience, a sentence from Walter Benjamin, who is dreaming in French. Derrida has just arrived from China. He had written his “Frankfurt Address” in August; “the references to September 11 were added on the day of the ceremony,”01 which had to be postponed due to his trip. “By an odd coincidence, it happens that Adorno was born on a September 11 [1903]. Everyone who was in the audience knew that.”02 By further coincidence it also happens that a sentence, dreamt of in French by a German, becomes a European response to an Arab-American encounter by detour through China.

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References

  1. 1.
    Jacques Derrida, “Fichus,” in: Paper Machine, translated by Rachel Bowlby, Stanford CA: Stanford California Press, 2005, 164.Google Scholar
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    “So we are not experts in strategy, in diplomacy or in the techno-science known as nuclear science, we are oriented rather toward what is called not humanity, but the humanities, history, literature, languages, philology, the social sciences in short all that which in the Kantian university was situated in the interior class of the philosophy school, foreign to any exercise of power. We are specialists in discourse and in texts, all sorts of texts. Now I shall venture to say that in spite of all appearances this specialty is what entitles us, and doubly so, to concern ourselves seriously with the nuclear issue. [...] For we are more than just suspicious; we are certain that, in this area in particular, there is a multiplicity of dissociated, heterogeneous competencies. Such knowledge is neither coherent nor totalizable. Moreover, between those whose competence is techno-scientific [...] and those whose competence is politico-military, those who are empowered to make the decisions, the deputies of performance or of the performative, the frontier is more undecidable than ever [...]. In our techno-scientifico-militaro-diplomatic incompetence we may consider ourselves however as competent as others to deal with a phenomenon whose essential feature is that of being fabulously textual, through and through. Nuclear weaponry depends, more than any weaponry in the past, it seems, upon structures of information and communication, structures of language, including non-vocalizable language, structures of codes and graphic decoding. But the phenomenon is fabulously textual also to the extent that, for the moment, a nuclear war has not taken place: one can only talk and write about it” (Jacques Derrida, “No Apocalypse, Not Now (full speed ahead seven missiles, seven missives),” in: diacritics [summer 1984], 23).Google Scholar
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    Momme Brodersen, Walter Benjamin: A Biography, translated by Malcolm R. Green and Ingrida Ligers, edited by Martina Dervis, London / New York: Verso, 1996, 246. — “There were no lights, no beds, not a single table or chair in the castle—not even a nail on which we could hang our things. We lay down on the floor exhausted and slept immediately” (Sahl, “Walter Benjamin in the Internment Camp,” 348).Google Scholar
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    “I had such a beautiful dream while lying on my cot last night that I am unable to resist my desire to tell you all about it” (Walter Benjamin to Gretel Adorno, October 12, 1939, in: Correspondence 1910–1940, 614).Google Scholar
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    “I did not delay and have already sent you the only thing I wrote. It was the story of the dream that filled me with happiness. It would be unfortunate, if my letter had not reached you. I am almost inclined to think it did not, however, because you make no mention of the dream. It often happens that, in my thoughts, I am still in the camp” (Walter Benjamin to Gretel Adorno, Paris, December 14, 1939, in: Correspondence 1910–1940, 619–620).Google Scholar
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    Benjamin was luckily exempt from having to clean up the emptied tenements of Nevers or to pave an airfield (cf. Kambas, “Bulletin de Vernuches,” 17).Google Scholar
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  35. 35.
    Given the importance of the dream, it is not surprising that Benjamin seems not entirely confident at the end of the letter: “Please forgive any mistakes you may find in this letter” (Walter Benjamin to Gretel Adorno, Nevers, October 12, 1939, in: Correspondence 1910–1940, 614).Google Scholar
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    “Today I want to return to my ‘beloved German.’ If, however, my letter from Pontigny left you with a true desire for French, you would do me a favor by opening up in good time a copy of the Flowers of Evil and looking at it through my eyes” (Walter Benjamin to Gretel Adorno, Paris, June 26, 1939, in: Correspondence 1910–1940, 609).Google Scholar
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    “It often happens that, in my thoughts, I am still in the camp. We do not know how things will turn out for those who are still there; even those who were released from the camp cannot be sure of anything” (Walter Benjamin to Gretel Adorno, December 14, 1939, in: Correspondence 1910–1940, 620). For many inmates the French internment camp was a first step towards Auschwitz.Google Scholar
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    “[H]ow to cultivate the poeticity of idiom in general, your home, your oikos; how to save linguistic difference, whether regional or national; how to resist both the international hegemony of a language of communication (and for Adorno this was already Anglo-American); how to oppose the instrumental utilitarianism of a purely functional language of communication but without however yielding to nationalism [...]; without giving those rusty old weapons to the revival of identities and to all the old ideology—pro-sovereignty, separatist, and differentialist?” (Derrida, “Fichus,” 170).Google Scholar
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    “It’s too bad that you can’t speak English, I am absolutely thrilled by the famous children’s book Alice’s adventures in Wonderland” (Gretel Karplus to Walter Benjamin, Berlin, January 9, 1936, in: Gretel Adorno / Walter Benjamin, Briefwechsel 1930–1940, edited by Christoph Gödde and Henri Lonitz, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2005, 257, my translation).Google Scholar
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    “My dear Detlef: to-day I shall try to write you some lines in English, and I hope you will understand me although I do not yet know to explain things very well in this language. In any case I have to learn it during the next year” (Gretel Adorno to Walter Benjamin, New York, September 9, 1939, in: Gretel Adorno/ Walter Benjamin, Briefwechsel 1930–1940, 386).Google Scholar
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    “My very dear Detlef, I know for sure that you are also not able to make use of letters that are addressed to two people, because you are enclosing your letters to me in an extra envelope too” (Gretel Karplus to Walter Benjamin, Berlin, April 2, 1935, in: Walter Benjamin, Briefwechsel 1930–1940 ibid., 209, my translation).Google Scholar
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  91. 94.
  92. 95.
    “I love this history [our (Habermas’s and Derrida’s) unusual shared history], I am learning to love it. [...] A year after my first visit to Frankfurt, Habermas published Der Philosophische Diskurs der Moderne. I read the book with the greatest interest; and was not alone in finding the two chapters that were largely intended for me, shall we say, unjust or overhasty. In 1989 (Memoires for Paul de Man) and in 1988 (Limited Inc.), I responded to these chapters in two lengthy comments on behalf of the ‘ethics of discussion’—as far as possible with arguments, but admittedly a little polemical. After this, although we both kept silent, ‘parties’ came into being in many countries. They conducted a kind of ‘war,’ in which we ourselves never took part, either personally or directly. This typically academic war probably made people think, as I hope. However, I can testify to the fact that it also harmed the students who had to form alliances and were then sometimes handicapped in making progress” (Jacques Derrida, “Honesty of Thought,” in: Lasse Thomassen [ed.], The Derrida-Habermas Reader, Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press, 2006, 301–302; originally published on the occasion of Jürgen Habermas’s 75th birthday, in: Frankfurter Rundschau [18 June 2004]).Google Scholar
  93. 96.
    Jürgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures, translated by Frederick G. Lawrence, Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1990, ix.Google Scholar
  94. 97.
    Ibid., 106.Google Scholar
  95. 98.
    Ibid., 193.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of African StudiesUniversity of CologneGermany

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