L'Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze, avec Claire Parnet
<Gilles Deleuze's ABC Primer, with Claire Parnet>
Directed by Pierre-André Boutang (1996)

Overview prepared by Charles J. Stivale, Romance Languages & Literatures,
Wayne State University

 Part II, G - M

 Part III, N - Z

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Revised version: May 3, 2000 [extra special thanks to John Morton!] -- Last Update, July 28, 2011


Part I - A through F

A as in Animal, B as in 'Boire' <Drink>, C as in Culture, D as in Desire, E as in 'Enfance' <Childhood>, F as in Fidelity)

<The following is the first part of a three-part overview of the eight-hour series of interviews between Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet that were filmed by Pierre-André Boutang in 1988-1989. Destined to be broadcast only after Deleuze's death, these interviews were shown with his permission on the Arte channel between November 1994 and spring 1995, i.e. during the year prior to his death.

Rather than provide a transcription and translation into English, I try to provide the main points of the questions posed by Parnet and Deleuze's responses, and all infelicities and omissions are entirely my responsibility.

A short description of the interview "set": Deleuze is seated in front of a fireplace over which there is a mirror, and opposite him is Parnet. The camera is located behind Parnet's left shoulder so that, depending on the camera focus, she is partially visible from behind and, with a wider focus, visible in the mirror as well. The production quality is quite good, and in the three-cassette collection now commercially available, Boutang has chosen not to remove by editing the jumps between reel changes; rather, Deleuze cooperates quite patiently with the small breaks in the movement of the production.>

Prior to starting to discuss the first "letter" of his ABC primer, Deleuze mentions the premises of this series of interviews: that Parnet and Boutang have selected the ABC primer format and had indicated to Deleuze what the themes would be, but not specific questions. He states that answering questions without having thought about them beforehand is something inconceivable for him, but that he takes solace in the precondition that the tapes would be used only after his death. So, this somehow makes him feel great relief, as if he were a sheet of paper, even some state of pure spirit. But he also wonders about the value of all this since everyone knows that a pure spirit is not someone that gives very profound or intelligent answers to questions posed.


Parnet starts by reading a quote from W.C. Fields that she applies to Deleuze: "A man who doesn't like animals or children can't be all bad." She leaves the children aside to ask about Deleuze's relationship to animals. She knows that he does not care for domestic animals, but she notes that he has quite a bestiary, rather repugnant, in fact -- of ticks, of fleas -- in his writings, and that he and Guattari have developed the animal in their concept of "animal-becomings." So she wonders what his relationship to animals is.

Deleuze is rather slow to respond to this, stating that it's not so much about cats and dogs, or animals as such. He indicates that he is sensitive to something in animals, but what bothers him are familial and familiar, domestic animals. He recalls the "fatal moment" when a child brings a stray cat home with the result that there was always an animal in his house. What he finds displeasing is that he doesn't like "things that rub" (les frotteurs); and he particularly reproaches dogs for barking, what he calls the very stupidest cry, the shame of the animal kingdom. He says he can better stand (although not for too long) the wolf howling at the moon than barking.

Moreover, he notes that people who really like cats and dogs do not have with them a human relationship, for example, children who have a infantile relationship with animals. What is essential, claims Deleuze, is to have an animal relationship with animals. Deleuze draws his conclusions from watching people walking their dogs down his isolated street, observing them talking to their dogs in a way that he considers "frightening" [effarant]. He reproaches psychoanalysis for turning animal images into mere symbols of family members, as in dream interpretation. Deleuze concludes by asking what relation one should or could have with an animal and speculates that it would be better to have an animal relation (not a human one) with an animal. Even hunters have this kind of relation with their prey.

About his bestiary, Deleuze admits his fascination with spiders, ticks and fleas, indicating that even his hatred for certain animals is nourished by his fascination. The first thing that fascinates him, and distinguishes what makes an "animal", is that every animal has an extraordinary, limited world, reacting to very few stimuli (he discusses the restricted world of ticks in some detail), and Deleuze is fascinated by the power of these worlds. Then a second thing that distinguishes an animal is that it also has a territory (Deleuze indicates that with Guattari, he developed a nearly philosophical concept about territory). Constituting a territory is nearly the birth of art: in making a territory, it is not merely a matter of defecatory and urinary markings, but also a series of postures (standing/sitting for an animal), a series of colors (that an animal takes on), a song [un chant]. These are the three determinants of art: colors, lines, song --, says Deleuze, art in its pure state.

Moreover, one must consider behavior in the territory as the domain of property and ownership, territory as "my properties" in the manner of Beckett or Michaux. Deleuze here digresses slightly to discuss the occasional need in philosophy to create "mots barbares", barbaric words, even if the word might exist in other languages, some terms that he and Guattari created together. In order to reflect on territory, he and Guattari created "deterritorialization" (Deleuze says that he has found an English equivalent of "the deterritorialized" in Melville, with "outlandish"). In philosophy, he says, the invention of a barbaric word is sometimes necessary to take account of a new notion: so there would be no territorialization without a vector of leaving the territory, deterritorialization, and there's no leaving the territory, no deterritorialization, without a vector of reterritorialization elsewhere. In animals, these territories are expressed and delimited by an endless emission of signs, reacting to signs (e.g. a spider and its web) and producing signs (e.g. a wolf track or something else), recognized by hunters and trackers in a kind of animal relationship.

Here Parnet wonders if there is a connection between this emission of signs, territory, and writing. Deleuze says that they are connected by living an existence "aux aguets", "être aux aguets," always being on the lookout, like an animal, like a writer, a philosopher, never tranquil, always looking back over one's shoulder. One writes for readers, "for" meaning "à l'attention de," toward them, to their attention. But also, one writes for non-readers, that is, "for" meaning "in the place of," as did Artaud in saying he wrote for the illiterate, for idiots, in their place. Deleuze argues that thinking that writing is some tiny little private affair is shameful; rather, writing means throwing oneself into a universal affair, be it a novel or philosophy. Parnet refers parenthetically to Deleuze and Guattari's discussion of Lord Chandos by Hoffmanstahl in A Thousand Plateaus. Deleuze says that writing means pushing the language, the syntax, all the way to a particular limit, a limit that can be a language of silence, or a language of music, or a language that's, for example, a painful wailing (cf. Kafka's Metamorphosis). Deleuze argues that it's not men, but animals, who know how to die, and he returns to cats, how a cat seeks a corner to die in, a territory for death. Thus, the writer pushes language to the limit of the cry, of the chant, and a writer is responsible for writing "for", in the place of, animals who die, even by doing philosophy. Here, he says, one is on the border that separates thought from the non-thought.

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"B as in _Boire/Boisson_ [Drink]"

Parnet asks what it meant for Deleuze to drink when he used to drink. Deleuze muses that he used to drink a lot, but had to stop for health reasons. Drinking, he says, is a question of quantity. People make fun of addicts and alcoholics who pretend to be able to stop. But what they want, says Deleuze, is to reach the last drink/glass. An alcoholic never ceases to stop drinking, never ceases reaching the last drink. The last here means that he cannot stand to drink one more glass that particular day. It's the last in his power, versus the last beyond his power which would cause him to collapse. So the search is for the penultimate drink, the final drink... before starting the next day.

Parnet asks how one stops drinking, and Deleuze states that Michaux has said everything on that topic. Drinking is connected to working; drink and drugs can represent an absolute danger that prevents one from working. Drink and drugs are not required in order to work, but their only justification would be if they did help one to work, even at the risk of one's health. Deleuze refers to American writers, cites Thomas Wolfe, Fitzgerald, as a "série d'alcoolique" (alcoholic series). Drinking helped them to perceive that something which is too strong in life. Deleuze says he used to think that drinking helped him create philosophical concepts, but then he realized it didn't help him at all. To Parnet's remark about French alcoholic writers, Deleuze responds of course, there are many, but that there is a difference of vision in French writers than in American writers. He ends by referring to Verlaine who used to walk up Deleuze's street on the way to his glass of absinthe, "one of the greatest French poets."

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"C as in Culture"

[As Parnet reads this title, Deleuze answers laconically, "oui, pourquoi pas?" (Sure, why not?)]

Parnet asks what it means for Deleuze to "être cultivé" (be cultivated, cultured). She reminds him that he has said that he is not "cultivé", that he usually reads, sees movies, observes things only as a function of a particular ongoing project. Yet she points out that he always has made a visible effort to go out, to movies, to art exhibitions, as if there is some kind of practice in this effort of culture, as if he had some kind of systematic cultural practice. So she wonders what he understands by this paradox, and by "culture" more generally.

Deleuze says that he does not live as an "intellectual" or sees himself as "cultivé" because when he sees someone "cultivé," he quite simply is "effaré," terrified, and not necessarily with admiration. He sees "cultured people" (gens de culture) as possessing a "savoir effarant", a frightening body of knowledge, knowing everything, able to talk about everything. So, in saying that he's neither an intellectual, nor "cultivé," Deleuze understands this in that he claims to have no "reserve knowledge" (aucun savoir de réserve), no provisional knowledge. Everything that he learns, he does so for a particular task, and once that task is completed, then he forgets everything and has to start again from zero, except in certain rare cases (e.g. Spinoza, who is in his heart and mind).

So why, he asks, doesn't he admire this "frightening knowledge"? Parnet asks if he thinks that this kind of knowledge is erudition, or just an opinion, and Deleuze says, no, not erudition. He says he can name someone like this since he is full of admiration for him: Umberto Eco, who is astonishing, it's like pushing on a button, he can talk about anything, and he even knows he does this. Deleuze says this frightens him, and he does not envy it at all.

He continues by musing about something he has realized since retiring, since no longer teaching. Talking is a bit dirty, he says, while writing is cleaner. Talking is to be charming (faire du charme), and Deleuze links this to attending conferences, something he never could stand. He no longer travels for health reasons, but to him, intellectuals traveling is nonsense, their displacements to go talk, even during meals, they talk with the local intellectuals. "I can't stand talk, talk, talk," and it's in this sense, seeing culture linked to the spoken word, that makes him hate culture [Deleuze uses the very strong French verb "hair" to express this].

Parent adds parenthetically that this very separation between writing and spoken word will return under the letter "P", when they talk about seduction of the word in Deleuze's teaching. Then she returns to the effort, discipline even, that Deleuze imposes on himself, nonetheless, to go out, to see exhibitions or films. She asks what this practice corresponds to for him, this effort, whether it's a form of pleasure for him.

Deleuze indicates yes, certainly pleasure, although not always. He says that he sees this as part of his investment in being "on the lookout" (être aux aguets; cf. "A comme Animal"). He adds that he doesn't believe in culture, rather he believes in encounters (rencontres), but these encounters don't occur with people. People think that it's with other people that encounters take place, like among intellectuals at colloquia. Encounters occur, rather, with things, with a painting, a piece of music. With people, however, these meetings are not at all encounters; these kind of encounters are usually so disappointing, catastrophic. On Saturday or Sunday, when he goes out, he isn't certain to have an encounter; he just goes out, on the lookout for encounters, to see if there might be encounter material, in a film, in a painting.

He insists that whenever one does something, it is also a question of moving on from it, getting out of or beyond it (d'en sortir). When one does philosophy, for instance, remaining "in" philosophy is also to get out of philosophy. This doesn't mean to do something else, but to get out while remaining within, not necessarily by writing a novel. Deleuze says he'd be unable to, in any event, but even if he could, it would be completely useless. Deleuze says that he gets out of or beyond philosophy by means of philosophy. Parnet asks what he means, so Deleuze says that since this will be heard after his death, he can speak without modesty. He refers to his (then) recent book on Leibniz, in which he insisted on the notion of "the fold", a philosophy book on this bizarre little notion of the fold. As a result, he received a lot of letters, some from intellectuals, and two other letters that were quite distinct. One was from an association of paper folders who said
they agreed completely; what Deleuze was doing, they were doing it too! Then he received another letter in which the writer said something exactly the same: the fold is us!

Deleuze found this marvelous, all the more so since it reminded him of a story in Plato, since for Deleuze, great philosophers are not writing abstractions, but are great writers of very concrete things. So, Deleuze suggests that Plato will suggest a definition, e.g. what is a politician? A politician is the pastor of men (pasteur des hommes). And with that definition, lots of people arrive to say: we are politicians! The shepherd, who provides clothes for humankind; the butcher, who feeds humankind. So these rivals arrive, and Deleuze feels like he's been through this a bit: here come the paper folders who say, we are the fold! And the others who wrote were surfers, we understand, we agree completely. We never stop inserting ourselves in the folds of nature. For them, nature is a kind of mobile fold, and they see their task as living in the folds of waves.

So with such encounters, one can get beyond philosophy through philosophy, and Deleuze has had these encounters with paper folders, with surfers without needing to go see them: literally, with these encounters with the surf, the paper folders, he got out of philosophy by means of philosophy. So when Deleuze goes out to an exhibition, he is on the lookout for a painting that might touch him, affect him. Theater does not present such an opportunity for encounters, he says, since he has trouble remaining seated so long, with certain exceptions (like Bob Wilson, Carmelo Bene). Parnet asks if going to the movies is always work, if there is no cinema for distraction. Deleuze says it's not culture, and Parnet asks if everything he does is inscribed within his work. Deleuze says it's not work, that he is simply being alert, on the lookout for something that "passes", something troubling, amusing. [Here Parnet says Deleuze only watches Benny Hill, and Deleuze agrees, saying that there are reasons why Benny Hill interests him.]

What Deleuze looks for in going out is to see if there is an idea that he can draw out of his encounters, in movies, for example. He refers to Minelli, to Joseph Losey, and indicates that he discovers what there is in their works that affects him: that these artists are overwhelmed by an idea, that's what Deleuze considers to be an encounter. Parnet interrupts Deleuze, saying that he is already encroaching on the letter "I", so he should stop. Deleuze says he only wanted to indicate what an encounter is for him, and not encounters with intellectuals. He says that even when he has an encounter with an intellectual, it's with the charm of a person, with the work he is doing, that he has an encounter, but not with people in themselves. "Je n'ai rien à foutre avec les gens, rien du tout" <I don't have anything to do with people, not at all>. Parnet says that they perhaps rub against him like cats, and Deleuze laughs, agrees that it might be their rubbing or their barking!

Parnet asks about Deleuze having lived through culturally rich and culturally poor periods, and asks about now, is it rich or poor? Deleuze starts laughing; at his age, he says, after all he has lived through, it's not the first time he has seen a poor period. The Liberation and after was among the richest one could imagine, when he and others were discovering things all the time, Kafka, the Americans, Sartre, in painting, all kinds of polemics that might appear infantile today, but it was a very stimulating, creative atmosphere. And the period before and after May '68 as well, very rich. And then there are impoverished periods, but it's not the poverty that Deleuze finds disturbing, but rather the insolence and arrogance of people who occupy the impoverished periods. The stupider they are, he says, the happier they are, like saying that literature is now a tiny little private affair.

However, he turns to something he considers more serious in this regard. He recently saw a Russian film, Le Commissaire, that he found admirable, perfect. But it reminded him of a film like the ones the Russians used to make before the war, in the time of Eisenstein, as if nothing had happened since the war, as if the director were someone who had been so isolated in his work that he created a film that way, like films were made 20 years ago, since he had grown up in a desert. What is awful, Deleuze says, is being born in this desert, and growing up in it, especially for 18-year olds now.

Moreover, when something disappears, no one notices because nobody misses it when it disappears. For example, under Stalin, Russian literature in the nineteenth century style just disappeared, and no one noticed. Today, there are ingenious people, new Becketts perhaps, but if they don't get published, nothing would seem to be missing, such new creation would be missed by no one. Deleuze says the most impudent declaration he ever heard was: Today we no longer risk making mistakes like Gallimard did when he refused initially to publish Proust since we have the means today to locate and recognize new Prousts and Becketts. Deleuze says that's like saying they have some sort of Geiger counter that helps them identify a new Beckett through some kind of sound or emiting some kind of glow!

Deleuze says he attributes the current crisis, the period of the desert, to three things: 1) that journalists have conquered the book form, that journalist now find it quite normal to write a book that would hardly require a newspaper article. 2) A general idea has spread that anyone can write since writing has become the tiny little affair of the individual, family archives, archives in one's head. People have all kinds of personal experiences, so they decide to write a novel. 3) The real customers have changed: the television customers are not the viewers, but rather the announcers, the advertisers; in publishing, the customers are not the potential readers, but rather the distributors. The result is the rapid turnover, the regime of the best seller. All literature a la Beckett, creative literature, is crushed by it. That's what defines a drought period, one of Bernard Pivot [former host of the literary chat show, Apostrophes, now of Bouillon de culture (Cultural Boiling Pot), nullity, the disappearance of all literary criticism outside commercial promotion.

However, Deleuze concludes that it's not all that serious, since there will always be either a parallel circuit for expression, or a black market of some sort. The Russians lost their literature, but managed to reconquer it somehow. Parnet states that for a number of years, it seems that nothing really new has developed, so she asks how that something new emerges, and if Deleuze has lived through that. Deleuze responds, yes, like he already said, the period between the Liberation and the "New Wave", the early 1960s, was extremely rich. It's a little like Nietzsche said, Deleuze concludes, an arrow is shot forth in space, so a period or a collectivity shoots an arrow, and eventually it falls, so literary creation passes through its periods of desert.

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"D as in Desire"

Parnet begins by citing the biographical entry on Deleuze in the Petit Larousse dictionary (1988 edition), that refers to his work with Guattari on (among other topics) desire, citing Anti-Oedipus (1972). Since Deleuze is considered to be, says Parnet, a philosopher of desire, so what is it?

Deleuze starts by saying that "it's not what peole thought it was, even then. It was a big ambiguity and a big misunderstanding, or rather a little one." However, he then addresses the question in great, and often moving detail. First, like most people in writing a book, they thought that they would say something new, specifically that people who wrote before them didn't understand what desire meant. So as philosophers, Deleuze with Guattari saw their task as that of proposing a new concept of desire. And concepts, despite what some people think, refer to things that are extremely simple and concrete.

What they meant to express was the simplest thing in the word: until now, you speak abstractly about desire because you extract an object supposed to be the object of desire. Deleuze emphasizes that one never desires something or someone, but rather always desires an aggregate (ensemble). So they asked what was the nature of relations between elements in order for there to be desire, for these elements to become desirable. Deleuze refers to Proust when he says that desire for a woman is not so much desire for the woman as for a paysage, a landscape, that is enveloped in this woman. Or in desiring an object, a dress for example, the desire is not for the object, but for the whole context, the aggregate, "I desire in an aggregate." Deleuze refers back to the letter "B", on drinking, alcohol, and the desire not just for drink, but for whatever aggregate into which one situates the desire for drinking (with people, in a café, etc.).

So, there is no desire, says Deleuze, that does not flow into an assemblage, and for him, desire has always been a constructivism, constructing an assemblage (agencement), an aggregate: the aggregate of the skirt, of a sun ray, of a street, of a woman, of a vista, of a color... constructing an assemblage, constructing a region, assembling. Deleuze emphasizes that desire is constructivism. Parent asks if it's because desire is an assemblage that Deleuze needed to be two, with Guattari, in order to create. Deleuze agrees that with Felix, they created an assemblage, but that there can be assemblages all alone as well as with two, or something passing between two. All of this, he continues, concerns physical phenomena, and for an event to occur, some differences of potential must arise, like a flash or a stream, so that the domain of desire is constructed. So every time someone says, I desire this or that, that person is in the process of constructing an assemblage, nothing else, desire is nothing else.

Parnet links this to Anti-Oedipus in asking that it's the first book in which he discussed desire, so the first he wrote with another. Deleuze agrees; they had to enter into what was a new assemblage for them, writing à deux, so that something might "pass". And this something was a fundamental hostility toward dominant conceptions of delirium (délire), particularly against psychoanalysis. Since Guattari had been through psychoanalysis and Deleuze was interested in it, they found common ground to develop a constructivist conception of desire. So Parnet asks him to define better how he sees the difference between this constructivism and analytical interpretation. Deleuze sees it as quite simple, with psychoanalysts speaking of desire just like priests, under the guise of the great wailing about castration, which for Deleuze is a kind of enormous and frightening curse on desire.

In Anti-Oedipus, they tried to oppose psychoanalysis on three main points, none of which he would change at all:

1) Opposing the psychoanalytical concept of the unconscious as a theater, with its constant representation of Hamlet and Oedipus, they see the unconscious as a factory, as production. The unconscious produces, like a factory, exactly the opposite of the psychoanalytical vision.

2) Delirium, linked to desire, is the contrary of delirium linked solely to the father or mother; rather we "délire" about everything, the whole world, history, geography, tribes, deserts, peoples, races, climates, what Rimbaud referred to (in "Mauvais Sang," Une Saison en enfer) as "I am an animal, a Negro": where are my tribes, how are my tribes arranged, surviving in the desert? Delirium, says Deleuze, is geographical-political, whereas psychoanalysis links it always to
familial determinants. Psychoanalysis never understood anything at all, says Deleuze, about phenomena of delirium. We "délire" the world and not one's little family. And all this intersects, he continues: when he referred to literature not being someone's little private affair, it's not a delirium focused on the father and mother.

3) Desire is established and constructs in an assemblage always putting several factors into play, whereas psychoanalysis reduces desire to a single factor (father, mother, phallus), completely ignorant of the multiple, of constructivism, of assemblages. Deleuze refers to the animal, the image of the father, and then to the Little Hans example he and Guattari used, but also to a second example, how the animal (horse, in Little Hans) can never be the image of the father, since animals proceed usually in a pack. Deleuze refers to Freud's reduction of a dream that Jung told him, Freud insisting on "the bone", singular, that he believes he heard Jung say, when Jung actually said he dreamed of an ossuary, a multiplicity of bones. So desire constructs in the collective, the multiple, the pack, and one asks what is one's position in relation to the pack, outside, alongside, inside, at the center? All phenomena of desire.

Parnet sums up by asking if Anti-Oedipus as a post-May '68 text was a reflection of the collective assemblages of that period. Exactly, Deleuze responds, the attack against psychoanalysis and the concept of delirium of races, of tribes, of peoples, of history, of geography -- all conformed to '68, trying to create an "air sain", a healthy region, inside all that was blocked off and fetid. A delirium that was cosmic, delirium on the end of the world and on particles and on electrons.
Parnet continues with a reference to these "collective assemblages" by asking if Deleuze could recount some of the amusing or not so amusing anecdotes about misunderstandings that occurred, for example at Vincennes, around putting these concepts into practice. She recalls that when they undertook their schizoanalysis against psychoanalysis, lots of students thought it meant that it was cool to be crazy. Rather than recount funny stories, Deleuze links the misunderstandings generally to two points, which were more or less the same: some people thought that desire was a form of spontaneity, others thought it was an occasion for partying (la fête). For D&G, it was neither, but it mattered little since assemblages got created, even those that Parnet (and Deleuze) refer to as "the crazies" (les fous) who had their own discourse and constructed their own assemblages.

So, Deleuze continues, on the level of theory, these misunderstandings -- spontaneity or la fête -- were not the so-called philosophy of desire, which was rather: don't go get psychoanalyzed, stop interpreting, go construct and experience/ experiment with assemblages, search out the assemblages that suit you. What is an assemblage, he asks? It's not what they thought it was, but for Deleuze, an assemblage has four components or dimensions:

1) Assemblages referred to "states of things", so that each of us might find the "state of things" that suit us (he gives the example of drinking, even just drinking coffee, and that we find that "coffee drinking" that suits us as a "state of thing").

2) "Les énoncés", little statements, as kinds of style, each of us finding a kind of style of enunciation (he refers again to the Russian revolution's aftermath, with again finding a style of cinema; or new types or styles of enunciation following of May '68).

3) An assemblage implicates territories, each of us chooses or creates a territory, even just walking into a room.

4) An assemblage also implicates processes of deterritorialization, movements of deterritorialization.

It's within these components that desire flows, says Deleuze.

Parnet wonders if Deleuze feels at all responsible for people who took drugs, who might have read Anti-Oedipus a bit too literally, as if he might have incited youths to commit stupid acts (conneries), and Deleuze's response is quite moving. He says that they always felt quite responsible for anyone for whom things went badly, and he personally always tried to do what he could for things to go well. He said he never played around with things like that; his only point of honor being never having told anyone to go on, it's ok, go get stoned, but always trying to help people make it through. He continues, saying that he is too sensitive to the smallest detail that might cause someone suddenly to slide over into complete blankness (état de blanc). He never cast blame on anyone, said anyone was doing anything wrong, but he felt the enormous weight of the directions some lives could take, people and especially young people who would take drugs to the point of collapse, or drinking to the point of falling into some "wild" state (état sauvage). He wasn't there to prevent anyone from doing anything, was not serving as a cop or a parent, but tried nonetheless to keep them from being reduced to pulp (état de loque). The moment there was a risk of someone cracking up, "je ne le supporte pas," I can't stand it. An old man who cracks up, Deleuze says, who commits suicide, he at least has already lived his life, but a young person who cracks up, Deleuze says it is insupportable. He was always divided, he concludes, between the impossibility of casting blame on anyone and the absolute refusal that anyone might be reduced to pulp. He admits that it is difficult to figure out what principles apply, one just deals with each case, and the least one can do is to prevent them from veering toward being reduced to pulp.

Parnet pushes this direction by asking about the effects of Anti-Oedipus, and Deleuze continues saying that Anti-Oedipus was meant to keep people from turning into this pulp state, the clinically schizo state. Parnet points out that the book's enemies criticized it for seeming to be an apology for permissivity. Deleuze says that if one reads it closely, one will see that it always marked out an extreme prudence. The book's lesson: don't become a tattered rag; to oppose processes of schizophrenization of the repressive hospital type. For D&G, he says, their terror was in producing a "hospital creature". The value of what the anti-psychiatrists called the "trip" of the schizophrenic process was precisely to avoid conjuring the production of "loques d'hôpital", pulp-like hospital creatures.

Parnet asks if Anti-Oedipus still has effects today, and Deleuze says yes, it's a beautiful book, the only book in which that concept of the unconscious was posed, with the three points of multiplicities of the unconscious and of delirium, the world/cosmic delirium and not the family delirium, and the unconscious as a machine/factory, not a theater. He says he has nothing to change in these points, and he hopes that it's a book still to be discovered.

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"E as in 'Enfance' (Childhood)"

Parnet recalls that Deleuze spent his entire life in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, so asks him if he grew up in a bourgeois family with politically conservative (de droite) tendencies.

Deleuze speaks with a certain amusement of his early life, saying that his life in the 17th has been something of a "chute," a fall from the rather chic _quartier_ near the Arc de Triomphe where he was born, to various apartments during the war, to the rue d'Aubigny for a number of years with his mother, and then, as an adult, to his _quartier_ rue de Bizerte, a 17th artisanal, "prolo". Deleuze says he's not sure at this rate where he'll end up in a few years.

As for his family, yes, they were bourgeois "de droite," on the right, but he says he has few memories from his childhood (he points out that it seems that his earliest memories disappear, and that's he's not an archive). He does recall certain crises, lack of money that saved him from going to study "chez les Jesuites" (with the Jesuit priests), since he had to go the public high school rather than to the private, Catholic one due to the family money difficulties; also, the period before the war and the terror in the conservative bourgeoisie of the [Socialist] Popular Front, which for them represented the arrival of total chaos. They were anti-Semite, and particularly against Leon Blum [Socialist and Jewish, leader of the Popular Front government] who was for them worse than the devil. Deleuze insists that one cannot understand how Pétain could seize power without understanding the pre-war hatred of Blum's government.

So he recalls coming from a completely uncultivated bourgeois family "de droite", with a father (Deleuze recalls him fondly, also recalling the atmosphere of crisis and his father's violent feelings against the left, as a veteran of WWI). He was engineer, inventor whose first business failed just before the war, then worked in a factory making dirigibles, taken over by the Germans to make rubber rafts.

Deleuze recalls that when the Germans arrived, invading from Belgium, he was in Deauville (in Normandy, where his family spent summers), so he was put in high school for a year there. He recalls how an image from Deauville illustrates the immense social change of the Popular Front. With the introduction of paid vacations, people who never traveled could go to the beach and see the sea for the first time. Deleuze recalls the vision of a young girl from the Limousin standing for five hours in rapt attention before the extraordinary spectacle of the sea. And this had been a private beach, for the bourgeois property owners. He also recalls the class hatred translated by a sentence pronounced by his mother -- "hélas" (alas), says Deleuze -- about the impossibility of frequenting beaches where people "like that" would be coming. For the bourgeois like his parents, giving vacations to the workers was the loss of privilege as well as the loss of territory, even worse than the Germans occupying the beaches with their tanks.

Deleuze says that it was there in Deauville, without his parents and his younger brother, where he was completely nil in his studies, until something happened, such that Deleuze ceased being an idiot. Until Deauville, and the year in the lycee there that he spent during the "funny war," he had been null in class, but at Deauville, he met a young teacher, Pierre Halwachs (son of a famous sociologist), with fragile health, only one eye, so deferred from military duty. For Deleuze, this encounter was an awakening, and he became something of a disciple to this young "maître". Halwachs would take him out to the beach in winter, on the dunes, and introduced him, for example, to Gide's _Les Nourritures terrestres_, to Anatole France, Baudelaire, other works by Gide, and Deleuze was completely transformed. But since they spent so much time together, people began to talk, and the lady in whose pension Deleuze and his brother were staying warned Deleuze about Halwachs, then wrote to his parents about it. The brothers were to return to Paris, but then the Germans invaded, and so they took off on their bicycles to meet their parents in Rochefort... and en route, they ran into Halwachs with his father! Later in life, Deleuze met Halwachs, without the same admiration, but at age 14, Deleuze feels he was completely right.

Parnet asks about his return to Paris, attending lycée Carnot. Deleuze was placed in a class with a philosophy professor named Vialle, while he could have been in one taught by Merleau-Ponty. Deleuze says that he doesn't recall exactly why, but Halwachs had helped him feel something important in literature; yet from his very first classes in philosophy, he knew this was something important, that he would do this for the rest of his life. (Deleuze recalls that this was right when the German massacre of the French village of Oradour was announced, and that there quite a politicized atmosphere). He recalls Merleau-Ponty as being rather melancholic, whereas Vialle, who was at the end of his career, was someone that Deleuze liked enormously. Learning about philosophical concepts struck him with the same force as, for some people, encountering striking literary characters, Vautrin or Eugenie Grandet, that philosophy was entirely as animated as any literary work. Henceforth, he no longer had any scholastic problems, did quite well as a student. Parnet asks about the political atmosphere, and Deleuze says that there were people of all political stripes, but it was not the same political awareness or activity as in peacetime. His class members had a certain political consciousness due to the presence of the classmate Guy Moquet, a student participating in the Resistance and killed by the Germans a year later. But Deleuze recalls that politics were something rather secretive during the Occupation since there were classmates of all political stripes, from the Resistance to Vichy sympathizers.

Parnet says that it seems that, for Deleuze, his childhood really has little importance. Deleuze responds, yes, necessarily so. He considers the writing activity to have nothing to do with an individual affair, not something personal or a small private affair. Writing is becoming, he says, becoming-animal, becoming child, and one writes for life, to become something, whatever one wants except becoming a writer and except an archive. Although he does respect the archive, but it has importance for doing something else. He insists that speaking of his own personal life has no interest, nor does being a personal archive. Deleuze takes a book he has at hand by a great Russian poet Ossip Mandelstam, and reads a passage in which the author speaks about how little importance memory has and especially for writing. Deleuze agrees fully, and takes from Mandelstam the idea that one learns not to speak, but to stutter <Deleuze cites Mandelstam in his essay "Begaya-t-il" in Critique et clinique; cf. Deleuze and the Theater of Philosophy and Essays Critical and Clinical). That's what writing is, says Deleuze, stuttering in language, pushing language to the limit, stuttering, becoming an animal, becoming a child, not from one's own childhood, but rather "the childhood of the world." A writer does not appeal directly to his private life -- what Deleuze calls totally disgusting, truly shit (une dégoutation, la vraie merde) -- does not dig through family archives, but rather remains a child of the world. A writer becomes, but not a writer, nor his own memorialist.

Parnet plays the devil's advocate role (a "very dangerous role," Deleuze chides her) by asking if Nathalie Sarraute's Enfance constitutes an exception, if her work indicates some sort of weakness in her concept of childhood, and Deleuze disagrees. He says that Enfance is not at all about her childhood, but that she invents a child of the world, drawing from set formulae and expressions to invent a world language. [Deleuze's reference here is also to Sarraute's essay "Ich strebe" in L'Usage de la parole -- thanks to Veronique Flambard-Weisbart for these references]. Parnet asks him if he had to undergo some kind of strict exercise to limit this interest in childhood, that somehow it must burst forth, and Deleuze suggests that this kind of thing happens all by itself. He goes on to ask what is there of interest in childhood? Perhaps relations with one parents, siblings, but that's of only personal interest, to the individual, but not to writing. Rather what's interesting is to find the emotion of a child, not the child that one once was, but also the sense of being a child, any child whatsoever ("un enfant quelconque"). Deleuze refers to someone recounting seeing a horse die in the street before the age of the automobile, and he translates this into the task of becoming a writer: Deleuze cites Dostoyevski, the dancer Nijinksi, Nietzsche, all of whom witnessed a horse dying in the street. Parnet says, and Deleuze agrees, that for him it was the Popular Front demonstrations, and watching his father struggle between his honesty and his anti-Semitism. But Deleuze insists, "I was a child," and the importance of this indefinite article is the multiplicity of a child. "Un enfant: l'article indefini est d'une richesse extreme", he concludes: The indefinite article has an extreme richness.

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"F as in Fidelity"

It is clear from Parnet's introduction that since the letter `A' was taken up with "animal," she could not use it for "amitié"/friendship, so she chose "fidelity" for friendship. She evokes a number of Deleuze's close friends with whom he shared many years of "fidelity" in his friendships. Parnet asks if fidelity and friendship are necessarily linked, and Deleuze says immediately that it's not a question of fidelity. Rather, friendship for him is a matter of perception. What does it mean to have something in common with someone? Not ideas in common, but to have a language and even a pre-language in common. There are people that one can never understand or speak to even on the simplest matters, and others with whom one might disagree completely, but can understand deeply and profoundly even in the most abstract things, based on this indeterminate basis that is so mysterious.

Deleuze's hypothesis is that each of us is apt to seize a certain type of charm, a perception of charm, i.e. in a gesture, a thought, even before the thought is signifying, a modesty, a charm that goes to the roots of perception, to the vital roots, and this constitutes a friendship. He gives the example of a phrase one might hear from someone, a vulgar, disgusting phrase that leaves an indelible impression about that person, no matter what he/she can ever do. The same is for charm, only opposite, the indelible effect of charm as a question of perception, perceiving someone who suits us, who teaches us something, opens us, awakens us, emits signs, and we become sensitive to that emission of signs, one receives them or not, but one can become open to them. And then one can spend time with someone else saying things that are absolutely unimportant.

Deleuze laughs as he says that he finds friendship extremely comical, and Parnet reminds him of how he sees friendship in terms of couples. Deleuze discusses one very close friend, Jean-Pierre, with whom he has had a long friendship, and they constitute one kind of couple that he likens to the characters in Beckett's Mercier and Camier, whereas with Guattari, it's more a couple of the Bouvard and Pecuchet sort, trying to create their huge encyclopedia that touches on all fields of knowledge. It's not a question, he says, of imitating these grand couples, but friendship is made of these kinds of relations, even when one disagrees.

But Deleuze says then that in the question of friendship, there is a mystery that is connected directly to philosophy. He here turns to the concept of the friend as developed by the Greeks. The philosopher is a friend of wisdom, a concept that the Greeks invented: as someone tending toward wisdom without being wise, with a number of pretendents functioning in a rivalry of free men in all domains, with eloquence, trials that they pursue (the pretendent is what he calls "the Greek phenomenon par excellence"). Philosophy is a rivalry toward something, and in looking at the history of philosophy, one sees that for some writers, philosophy is precisely this connection to friendship, and for others, a connection to fiançailles (engagement), e.g. Kierkegaard (fiançailles rompues, broken engagement). Parnet cites Blanchot and his concept of friendship, and Deleuze says both Blanchot and Mascolo are the two current writers who give the greatest importance to friendship as the very category or condition of the exercise of thought. Not an actual friend, but friendship as a category or condition for thinking [cf. Qu'est-ce que la philosophie?/What Is Philosophy? for their development of this concept].

Deleuze concludes that he adores distrusting the friend. Deleuze refers to a German poet, between dog and wolf, there is an hour at which one must distrust the friend, and he says that he distrusts his friend Jean-Pierre, but he does so with such gaiety, that it does no harm. There is a great community of friendship so that it works out. But Deleuze insists that these are not all events, not tiny little private matters; when one says "friend" or "lost engagement," one has to know under what conditions thought can occur (s'exercer). Proust said that friendship is zero, personally and for thought, no thought in friendship, but rather in jealous love, as the condition of thought for Proust.

Parnet asks a final question about his friendship with Foucault which was not a friendship of the couple, was deep but distant. Deleuze says that Foucault was someone of the greatest mystery for him, perhaps because they knew each other too late in life. Deleuze says he feels a great regret toward Foucault, while having respected him enormously. He says that Foucault was the rare case of a man who entered a room and everything changed. Foucault, like all of us, was not simply a person, but rather it was like another gust of air or something atmospheric occurred, an emanation. Foucault corresponds, says Deleuze, to what he mentioned earlier, about not needing to speak to appreciate and understand each other. Deleuze's memory is particularly of Foucault's gestures, dry, strange, fascinating, like gestures of metal and wood.

Finally, Deleuze says that all people only have charm through their madness (folie). What is charming is the side of someone that shows that they're a bit unhinged (où ils perdent un peu les pédales). If you can't grasp the small trace of madness in someone, you can't be their friend. But if you grasp that small point of insanity, "démence," of someone, the point where they are afraid or even happy, that point of madness is the very source of his/her charm.

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End Part I (of III) -- Go to: Part II - G to M -- Go to: Part III - N to Z