This Book, This Desire, This History

December 29, 2015

For psychoanalysis the book is a maternal symbol. Which gives ac­tivities such as reading and writing, and obsessions such as bibliophi­lia, etc., overdetermined, unconscious values. A book is never just a book any more than reading is just reading. According to Melanie Klein, “reading has the unconscious significance of taking knowledge out of the mother’s body.”  By metaphor, therefore, the place of knowledge is displaced from the mother’s body into the pages of a book. This transposition constitutes the entire task consigned to edu­cation by society. Not only does this transposition displace the locus of knowledge, but by displacement it distances knowledge from de­sire; it separates knowledge from the desire it transposes. Through education the desire for knowledge must be split up into desire, on the one hand, and knowledge, on the other. What the child wants to know is what does the mother’s desire consist of? But science is only developed by actively forgetting this origin, or, what amounts to the same thing, by constructing a metaphor of this origin.

Psychoanalysis works, in a way, on deconstructing this metaphor, with the result that its position in the field of sciences is unusual. This aim to deconstruct is particularly noticeable in Freud’s first great work, The Interpretation of Dreams, where it is somehow the hidden thread.168 This book reveals the omnipotence of desire in psychic phenomena, but at the same time reveals that this desire is necessarily unconscious and only capable of being revealed through transgres­sion. To propose a sort of science of desire as the key for interpreting dreams is thus, in itself, a double transgression: science (only active on the basis of desire’s repression, only as the repression and trans­ position of desire) is perverted and desire, from whom science wrests its secret, is transgressed. There are a number of elements drawn from the circumstances surrounding the composition of The Inter­pretation of Dreams (moreover, the book itself contains some of these elements) that confirm Freud’s eagerness to accomplish this trans­gression. Freud began to write The Interpretation of Dreams during a period when he was obsessed by the problems of conception, and of conceiving of conception: how is immortality best achieved? by writing a book or by having children? (He was about to write his first

book, his wife was about to give birth to his sixth child.) While writing this book upon which he placed all his hopes, all his desire for im­mortality, Freud was told of a dream in which a friend of his had seen the unfinished book lying on a table. The friend’s story became the day’s residue that, the following night, picked up the material of Freud’s “dream of the botanical monograph.” His interpretation of this dream sent him back to a childhood memory: his tearing a book given him by his father. Tearing a book, opening the maternal body; writing a book, wresting away desire’s secret. These are actions dis­turbing to bookish metaphor, actions that challenge the economy of science whose primary function is the active forgetting of the mater­ nal body. Nonetheless, every desire for eternity, as the desire to es­cape desire (everyone knows that, as Auguste Comte said, angels are sexless because they are immortal), can only restore the book to its place.

Metaphors stifle desire. Tearing out a book’s pages, and even open­ing them to read, awakens it. The book is sealed with the name of the father. According to the rules it should bear the author’s patronym on its cover. It is, in fact, the father’s name that cuts short any desire for knowledge, separating the two terms and making them alterna­ tives: desire or knowledge. Thus the book is born; thus the concept is born: metaphors cut off from their origin by the name of the father. The name of the father vouches for the book and kills the desire for knowledge. The birth of the concept is deadly for desire.

Kojeve writes about Hegel’s concept of the end of history-the fi­nal stone in the Hegelian edifice, the summit of the system’s pyramid : “The end of history is the death of man, strictly speaking. After this death there remain: 1) living bodies with human form but deprived of spirit, that is, of time or of creative power; and 2) a spirit that exists empirically, but in the form of an inorganic reality that is not alive : as a book that, because it is not even animal existence, no longer has anything to do with time.” 169

Bataille, quoting these words, speaks of “strange texts in which speech itself seems stricken by death.”

The book 1) puts an end to history, 2) kills man (who wrote it), 3) escapes time (the death of death), 4) is only spirit reduced to a pure, objective, inorganic, inert reality (see the exposition in the Phenome­nology on the subject of the skull: “the spirit’s being is a bone.” 170 Poor Yorick!)

Nonetheless, let us open the tomb.

— from Against Architecture: The Writings of Georges Bataille (1989) by Denis Hollier
from the Desk of the Unconscious

Aesthetics Childhood Dialectic of Conscious and Unconscious Freud Philosophy Reading Writing