Gilles Deleuze: The ABC Primer / Recording 3 - N to Z

June 3, 1989

For philosophy, for me, philosophy must be ... addressed as much to non-philosophers as to philosophers without changing it. Philosophy, when it’s addressed to non-philosophers, that doesn’t mean one has to make it simple, no more than in music… One doesn’t make Beethoven simpler for non-specialists. It's the same in philosophy, exactly the same. For me, philosophy has always had this double audition, a non-philosophical audition as much as a philosophical one. And if these two don't exist together, then there is nothing. Without these, philosophy would be worth nothing.

Seminar Introduction

Prior to starting to discuss the first "letter" of his ABC primer, “A as in Animal,” with Claire Parnet, Deleuze discusses his understanding of the working premises of this series of interviews:

"You have selected a format as an ABC primer, you have indicated to me some themes, and in this, I do not know exactly what the questions will be, so that I have only been able to think a bit beforehand about the themes. For me, answering a question without having thought about it a bit is something inconceivable. What saves me in this is the particular condition (la clause): should any of this be at all useful, all of it will be used only after my death. So, you understand, I feel myself being reduced to the state of a pure archive for Pierre-André Boutang, to a sheet of paper [Parnet laughs in the mirror reflection], so that lifts my spirits and comforts me immensely, and nearly in the state of pure spirit (pur esprit), I speak after my death, and we know well that a pure spirit finally can make tables turn. But we know as well that a pure spirit is not someone who gives answers that are either very profound or very intelligent. So anything goes in this, let’s begin, A-B-C, whatever you want."

English Translation

Deleuze Abecedaire
Gilles Deleuze, still from the L'Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze

In the third segment, Deleuze first addresses some particular interests, "N as in Neurology" and "O as in Opera," then reflects at length on his teaching career in "P as in Professor." This leads rather logically to "Q as in Question," then "R as in Resistance", and another lengthy reflection, "S as in Style." Turning a corner toward the final sections, he reflects on a personal interest (but that relates to "style") in "T as in Tennis," then "U as in l'Un (One)," "V as in Voyage," "W as in Wittgenstein" (quite brief), no X ("Unknown") or Y ("Unpronouncable"), and finally, "Z as in Zed."

L'Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze, avec Claire Parnet

Directed by Pierre-André Boutang (1996)

Translation & Notes: Charles J. Stivale


“N as in Neurology” [Third tape begins]

Parnet: So, “N” is neurology and the brain.

Deleuze [pausing]: Yes, it's very difficult, neurology. It's true that neurology has always fascinated me, but why? It's the question, what happens in someone's head when he/she has an idea? I prefer, “when there’s an idea,” because when there are no ideas, it works like a pinball machine. So, what happens? How does it communicate inside the head? Before people start talking about communication, etc., they ought to see how it communicates inside the head. Or in the head of an idiot… I mean, it’s the same thing as well, someone who has an idea or an idiot… In any case, they don't proceed along pre-formed paths and by ready-made associations, and so what happens? If only we knew, it seems to me that we’d understand everything. That interests me greatly, for example…

And the solutions must be extremely varied… What I mean is: two neural extremities in the brain can very well establish contact. That’s even what are called electrical processes in the synapses. And then there are other cases that are much more complex perhaps, where it’s discontinuous and there’s a gap that must be jumped. It seems to me that the brain is full of fissures (fentes), and that jumping occurs, and that this jumping happens in a probabilistic regime, that there are relations of probability between two linkages (enchaînements), that all this is much more uncertain, very, very uncertain, that these communications inside a brain are fundamentally uncertain, regulated by laws of probability. What makes me think about something? Someone might tell me that I’m inventing nothing, that it's the old question of associations of ideas. \ 58

[Change of cassette, “15-A”]

Deleuze: So, one would almost have to wonder… For example, when a concept is given or a work of art is contemplated, looked at, one would almost have to try to sketch a cerebral map, to what that [contemplation] would correspond, what the continuous communications would be, what the discontinuous communications would be, from one point to another. Something has impressed me greatly -- and perhaps this might lead to what you were looking for – what has impressed me greatly is a story that physicists use quite a bit, called the “baker's transformation”: taking a segment of dough to knead it, you stretch it out into a rectangle, you fold it back over, you stretch it out again, etc. etc., you make a number of transformations, and at the limit of x transformations, two completely contiguous points are necessarily located at a great distance from each other. And there are distant points that, as a result of x transformations, are found to be quite contiguous.

I tell myself, when one looks for something in one's head, aren’t there these types of mixing (brassage)? Aren’t there two points that at a particular moment, in a particular state of my idea, I cannot see how to associate them, make them communicate, and as a result of numerous transformations, I discover them side by side? So, I would almost say, between a concept and a work of art, that is, between a mental product and a cerebral mechanism, there are some extremely exciting similarities. So it seems to me that with the questions, how does one think? or what does thinking mean?, the question is that thinking and the brain are absolutely intertwined. I mean, I believe more in the future of molecular biology of the brain than in the future of information science or of any theory of communication. \59

Parnet: You have always given a special place to nineteenth century psychiatry that extensively addressed neurology and the science of the brain in relation to psychoanalysis, and you have given a priority to psychiatry over psychoanalysis precisely for psychiatry's attention to neurology. So, is that still the case?

Deleuze: Yes, yes, yes, completely. As I said earlier, there is also a relationship with the pharmacy, the possible action of drugs on the brain and the cerebral structures that can be located on a molecular level, in cases of schizophrenia. For me, these aspects appear to have a more certain future than mentalist psychiatry (la psychiatrie spiritualiste).

Parnet: That leads to a methodological question because it's no secret that to open yourself to science, you are rather self-taught (autodidacte), when you read a neurobiological or a scientific journal. Also you’re not very good in math, as opposed to some philosophers you’ve studied -- Bergson had a degree in math; Spinoza, strong in math; Leibniz, no need to say, very strong in math -- so, how do you manage to read? When you have an idea and need something that interests you, and when you necessarily don't understand it at all, how do you manage?

Deleuze: Well, already there's something that gives me great comfort: I am firmly persuaded in the possibility of several readings of a same thing, and already in philosophy – this I believe in strongly -- one need not be a philosopher to read philosophy. Not only is philosophy open to two readings, philosophy needs two readings at the same time. A non-philosophical reading of philosophy is absolutely necessary, without which there would be no beauty in philosophy. That is, with non-specialists reading philosophy, this non-philosophical reading of philosophy lacks nothing, it is entirely adequate. It’s simply a reading. Perhaps that might not work for all philosophers. I have trouble seeing the possibility of a non-philosophical reading of Kant, for example. But in Spinoza, I mean, it's not at all impossible that a farmer could read Spinoza, it's not at all impossible that a storekeeper could read Spinoza…

Parnet: Nietzsche…

Deleuze: Nietzsche, that goes even more without saying, all the philosophers that I admire are like that.

So, there is no need to understand, since understanding is a certain level of reading. It’s a little like if you said to me, to appreciate, for example, a painting by Gauguin or a great painting, you must have expertise in painting (il faut s’y connaître). Of course, some knowledge is necessary, but there are also extraordinary emotions, extraordinarily authentic, extraordinarily pure, extraordinarily violent, within a total ignorance of painting. For me, it's entirely obvious that someone can take in a painting like a thunderbolt and not know a thing about the painting itself. Similarly, someone can be overwhelmed with emotion by music or by a particular musical work without knowing a word. For example, I am very moved by [Alban Berg's operas] Lulu or by Wozzeck, without mentioning [Berg’s] concerto, To the Memory of an Angel, that moves me perhaps above everything else in the world.

So, I know it's better to have a competent perception, but I still maintain that everything that counts in the world in the realm of the mind is open to a double reading, provided that the double reading is not something done randomly as a self-taught person (autodidacte). Rather, it's something that one undertakes starting from one's problems taken from elsewhere. I mean that it's on the basis of being a philosopher that I have a non-musical perception of music, which makes music extraordinarily thrilling for me. Similarly, it's on the basis of being a musician, a painter, this or that, that one can undertake a non-philosophical reading of philosophy. If this second reading (which is not second) did not occur, if there weren't these two, simultaneous readings, it's like both wings on a bird, this need for two lectures simultaneously. Moreover, even a philosopher must learn to read a great philosopher non-philosophically. The typical example for me is yet again Spinoza: having Spinoza in paperback, and reading him like that, for me, creates as much emotion as a great musical work. And in a way, understanding is not even remotely the point since in the courses that I used to give, it was so clear that sometimes the students understood, sometimes they did not, and we are all like that with a book, sometimes understanding, sometimes not.

So, to come back to your question on science, I think it’s true, and as a result, to some extent, one is always at the extreme point (pointe) of one's ignorance, which is exactly where one must settle in (s'installer). One must settle in at the extreme point of one's knowledge or one's ignorance, which is the same thing, in order to have something to say. If I wait to know what I am going to write -- literally, if I wait to know what I am talking about --, then I would always have to wait because what I would say would have no interest. If I do not run a risk, if I settle in also and speak with a scholarly air on something I don't know, then this is another example without interest. But I am speaking about this very border between knowing and non-knowing: it's there that one must settle in to have something to say.

In science, for me, it’s the same, and the confirmation I have found is that I’ve always had great relations with scientists. They never took me to be a scientist, they don’t think I understand a whole lot, but they tell me that it works – well, a few anyway tell me that it works… You see, I remain open to echoes, for lack of a better word. If I give an example… I’ll try to give a simple example: a painter that I like greatly is Delaunay, and what – I try to sum this up in a formula – what does Delaunay do? He observed something quite astounding, and as I say this, it takes us back to the start: what is it to have an idea? What is Delaunay's idea? His idea is that light forms figures itself, there are figures of light… It’s quite innovative, although perhaps someone long ago had this particular idea already…

[Change of cassette]

Deleuze: What appears in Delaunay’s thought is this creation of figures that are figures formed by light, light figures. He paints light figures, and not – which is quite different -- aspects that light takes on when it meets an object. This is how Delaunay detaches himself from all objects, with the result of creating paintings no longer with any objects at all. I recall having read some very beautiful things by Delaunay: he says, when he judges cubism severely, Delaunay says that Cézanne succeeded in breaking the object, breaking the fruit bowl (compotier), and that the cubists spent their time hoping to glue it back together. So, regarding the elimination of objects, for rigid and geometric figures, Delaunay substitutes figures of pure light. That's something, a pictorial event, a Delaunay-event.

Now, I don’t know the dates, but that doesn’t matter… There is a way or an aspect of relativity, of the theory of relativity, and I know just enough -- one need not know much, it's only being self-taught (autodidacte) that's dangerous, but one does not need to know a whole lot. I only know something about an aspect of relativity, which is this: instead of having subjected lines of light, lines followed by light (lignes suivies par lumière) to geometric lines, belonging to the experiments of Michelson, there's a total reversal. Now lines of light will condition geometric lines. This is a considerable reversal from a scientific perspective, which will change everything since the line of light no longer has the constancy of the geometric line, and everything is changed. I’m not saying that’s [the theory] in its entirety, it’s this aspect of relativity that best corresponds to Michelson's experiments. I don’t mean to say that Delaunay applies relativity; I would celebrate the encounter between a pictorial undertaking and a scientific undertaking that should normally not be in relation with each other. \60 

I was saying something similar…  I select another example: I know only that Riemannian spaces – it’s really beyond me (ça me dépasse), I don’t know much in detail – I know just enough to know that it's a space constructed piece by piece, and in which the connections between pieces are not pre-determined. But for completely different reasons, I need a spatial concept for the parts in which there aren't perfect connections and that aren't pre-determined. I need this (j’en ai besoin, moi)! I’m not going to spend five years of my life trying to understand Riemann, because at the end of five years, I will not have made any progress with my philosophical concept. And I go to the movies, and I see a strange kind of space that everyone knows as being the use of space in Bresson's films, in which space is rarely global, where space is constructed piece by piece. One sees little pieces of space – for example, a section of a cell, in the Condamné à mort – the cell, in my vague recollection, is never seen in its entirety, but the cell is a tiny space. I am not even talking about the Gare de Lyon in The Pickpocket, where it’s incredible. These are little pieces of space that join up, the links not being pre-determined, and why? It's because they will be manual, hence the importance of hands for Bresson. It’s the hand that moves (c’est la main qui va). Indeed, in The Pickpocket, it's the speed with which the stolen object is passed from one hand to the other that will determine the connections of little spaces. I do not mean either that Bresson is applying Riemannian spaces. I say, well, that an encounter can occur between a philosophical concept, a scientific notion, and an aesthetic percept. So that’s quite perfect. \61

I say that, in science, I believe I know just enough to evaluate encounters. If I knew more, I'd do science, I wouldn’t be doing philosophy, there you are. So, at the limit, I speak well about something I don't know, but I speak of what I don't know as a function of what I know. All of this is a question of tact, no point in kidding about it, no point in adopting a knowledgeable air when one doesn't know. But once again, just as I have had encounters with painters, they were the most beautiful days of my life. I had a certain encounter -- not physical encounters, but in what I write --, I have had encounters with painters. The greatest of them was [the painter] Hantaï. Hantaï told me, “Yes, there is something” – it wasn’t on the level of compliments, Hantaï is not someone who is going to make compliments to someone like me, we don’t even know each other – there is something that “passes” [between us]. What about my encounter with Carmelo Bene [in Superpositions]?  I never did any theater, I have never understood anything about theater, but I have to believe that something important “passed” there as well. There are scientists with whom these things work too. I know some mathematicians who, when they were kind enough to read what I have written, said that, for them, what [I was] doing is absolutely coherent (ça colle absolument).

Now, this is going badly since I seem to be taking on an air of completely despicable self-satisfaction, but it’s in order to answer the question. For me, the question is not whether or not I know a lot of science, nor whether I am capable of learning a lot of it. The important thing is not to make stupid statements (bêtises)… It’s to establish echoes, these phenomena of echoes between a concept, a percept, a function -- since, for me, the sciences do not proceed by concepts, but by functions – a function. From this perspective, I needed Riemannian spaces, yes, I know they exist, I do not know exactly what they are, but that’s enough. \62

[Change of cassette]


"O as in Opera"

Parnet: So, “O” is “Opera,” and as we have just learned, this heading is a bit of a joke since, other than Wozzeck and Lulu by Berg, it's safe to say that opera is not one of your activities or interests. You can speak of the exception of Berg, and in contrast to Foucault or [François] Châtelet who liked Italian opera, you never really listened to music or particularly to opera. What interested you more was the popular song, particularly Edith Piaf… You have a great passion for Edith Piaf. So I’d like you to talk a bit about this.

Deleuze: You are being a bit severe in saying that. First, I listened to music quite a bit at a particular time, a long time ago.  Then, I stopped because I told myself, it’s not possible, it’s not possible, it's an abyss, it takes too much time, one has to have time, I don’t have the time, I have too much to do – I’m not talking about social tasks, but my desire to write things --, I just don't have the time to listen to music, or listen to enough of it.

Parnet: Well, for example, Châtelet worked while listening to opera…

Deleuze: Well, yes, that’s one method. I couldn't do that. He listened to opera, yes, but I’m not so sure that he listened to opera while working, perhaps. When he entertained people at his home, that I understand. That sometimes covered over what people were saying when he'd had enough. But for me, that's not how it works.

So, I would prefer rather to turn the question more in my own favor if you transformed it into: what is it that creates a community between a popular song and a great musical work of art? That's a subject that I find fascinating. The case of Edith Piaf, for example: I consider her to be a great chanteuse, with an extraordinary voice. Moreover, she has this way of singing off-key and then constantly catching the false note and making it right, this kind of system in imbalance that constantly is catching and making itself right.  For me, this seems to be the case in any style. This is something I like a lot, really a lot, because it's the question I pose about everything, on the level of the popular song, something I like a lot: what does it bring that is original (de nouveau)?

[Change of cassette]

Deleuze: It’s especially in the productions above all that the question arises: what does it bring that’s original? If it's been done 10 times, 100, times, maybe even done quite well, indeed I understand then what Robbe-Grillet said: Balzac is obviously a great genius, but what interest is there in creating novels today like Balzac created them? Moreover, that [practice] sullies Balzac's novels, and that's how it is in everything.

What I found particularly moving in Piaf was that she introduced something original in relation to the preceding generation, in relation to Frehel and… and the other great [singer]…

Parnet: Adabia…

Deleuze: … in relation to Adabia. [It’s] what [Piaf] brought that was original, even in the outfit (la tenue) of the chanteuse, and in Piaf’s voice. I was extremely sensitive to Piaf’s voice. \63

In more modern singers, one has to think – to understand what I mean – one has to think about [Charles] Trenet. What was innovative in Trenet’s songs, quite literally, one had never heard anyone sing like him, singing in that manner. So I am insisting strongly on this point: for philosophy, for painting, for everything, for art, whether it's the popular song or the rest, or sports even – we’ll see this when we talk about sports -- the question is exactly the same, what's happening that’s innovative? If one interprets that in the sense of fashion – no, it’s just the opposite. What's innovative is something that's not fashionable, perhaps it will become so, but it's not fashionable since people don't expect it, by definition, people don’t expect it, something that makes people… that stupefies them. When Trenet was singing well, people said he was crazy. Today, that no longer seems crazy to us, but one can comment eternally that he was crazy, and in some ways, he remained so. Piaf appeared grandiose to us all.

Parnet: And Claude François, you admired him a lot too?

Deleuze: Claude François, right or wrong, I don’t know, but Claude François also seemed to bring something innovative because… There are a lot of them, I’m not going to cite them all. It’s really sad because people have sung like that ten times, a hundred times, thousands of times, and furthermore, they don’t have the least bit of voice, and they try to discover nothing. That’s the same thing, to introduce something innovative and to try to discover something. For Piaf, what was she trying to discover, my God?  All that I can say about weak health and strong life, what she saw in life, the force of life, and what broke her, etc., she is the very example, we could very well insert the example of Edith Piaf every time into what we said earlier. [See above, “M as in Maladie” (Illness)]

I was receptive to Claude François because he was trying to discover something, he was looking for an original kind of show (spectacle), a song-show (un spectacle-chanson), he invented this kind of danced song, that obviously implied using playback. So much the better or so much the worse (tant pis ou tant mieux), that also allowed him to begin research into sound. To the very end, François was dissatisfied with one thing, the texts [of his songs] that were stupid, and that still counts in songs. His texts were weak, and he never stopped trying to arrange his texts so he might achieve greater textual qualities, like "Alexandrie, Alexandra," a good song.

So today, I am not very familiar with music, but when I turn on the t.v. – it’s the right of someone who’s retired, to turn on the t.v. when I’m tired -- I can say that the more channels there are, the more they look alike, and the more nil they become, a radical nullity. The regime of competition, competing with each other for everything whatsoever, produces the same, eternal nullity, that’s what competition is, and the effort to know what will make the listener turn here to listen instead of there, it's frightening, frightening, the way they …. What I hear there can't even be called a song (chant), since the voice doesn't even exist, no one has the slightest voice.

But really, let's not complain. What I mean is, what they all want is this kind of domain that would be treated doubly by the popular song and by music. And what is this? It’s in this that, with Félix, I feel like we did some good work because here, well, I could say if necessary, if someone asked me, “what philosophical concept have you produced since you are always talking about creating philosophical concepts?”, we at least created a very important philosophical concept, the concept of the ritornello (ritournelle) [a.k.a. the refrain], and the ritornello is, for me, this point in common [between the popular song and music].

What is it? Let’s say, the ritornello is a little tune, "tra-la-la-la, tra-la-la-la." When do I say "tra-la-la?" I am doing philosophy here, I’m doing philosophy in asking when do I sing “tra-la-la,” when do I sing to myself? I sing to myself on three occasions: I sing to myself when I am moving about in my territory, wiping off my furniture, radio playing in the background, that is, when I am in my home (chez moi). Then, I sing to myself when I am not at home and I am trying to reach home (regagner le chez moi), at nightfall, at the hour of agony, I’m seeking my way, and I give myself courage by singing, “tra-la-la,” I’m going toward my home. And then, I sing to myself when I say "farewell, I am leaving, and I will carry you with me in my heart," it's a popular song, [Deleuze softly sings these words] when I am leaving home to go somewhere else, and to go where? In other words, for me, the ritornello is absolutely linked -- which takes the discussion back to "A - Animal" -- to the problem of the territory and of exiting or entering the territory, that is, to the problem of deterritorialization. I return to my territory or I try, or I deterritorialize myself, that is, I leave, I leave my territory. \64

Fine, but what relation does this have with music? One has to make headway in creating a concept, that's why I invoke the image of the brain: taking my brain at this moment as an example, I suddenly say to myself, "the lied.”  What is a lied? That’s what it has always been: It will always have been the voice as a chant that would rise from its position in relation to the territory. My territory, the territory I no longer have, the territory that I am trying to reach again, that's what a lied is. Whether it's Schumann or Schubert, that's what it is fundamentally. And I believe that's what affect is. When I was saying earlier that music is the history of becomings and the potentials of becomings, it was something of this sort [that I meant]… It could be great or it could mediocre, but… \65

What is truly great music? For me, it appears as an artistic operation of music. They start from ritornellos, and… I don’t know, I am talking even about the most abstract musicians. I believe that each musician has his/her kinds of ritornellos. They start from little tunes, they start from little ritornellos. We must look at Vinteuil and Proust [in A la recherche du temps perdu], three notes then two, there’s a little ritornello at the basis of all Vinteuil, at the basis of the septet. \66  For me, it's a ritornello that one must find in music, under music, it’s something incredible. So what happens? A great musician, on the one hand, it’s not ritornellos that he/she places one after the other, but ritornellos that will melt into an even more profound ritornello. This is all ritornellos of territories, of one particular territory or another particular territory that will become organized in the heart of an immense ritornello, which is a cosmic ritornello, in fact! Everything that Stockhausen says about music and the cosmos, this whole way of returning to themes that were current in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance – I am quite in favor of this kind of idea that music has a relationship with the cosmos… \67

So, here is a musician that I admire greatly and who greatly affects me, Mahler. What is his Song of the Earth? For me, one can’t say it better. This is perpetually like elements in genesis, in which there is perpetually a little ritornello sometimes based on two cow bells.

[Change of cassette]

Deleuze: I find extraordinarily moving in Mahler's works the way that all the little ritornellos, which are already musical works of genius -- tavern ritornellos, shepherd ritornellos, etc. -- the way they achieve a composition in a kind of great ritornello that will become the Song of the Earth. If we needed yet another example, I would say Bartók is an immensely great musician, a very great genius. I admire how he connects and reconnects local ritornellos, ritornellos of national minorities, etc., and collects them in a work that has not yet ceased to be explored. \68

And I think that music is a bit… Yes, to link it to painting, it’s exactly the same thing. When Klee says the painter does “not render the visible, but renders visible,” implied here are forces that are not visible, and for a musician, it’s the same thing: he renders audible forces that are not audible. \69 He doesn’t render the audible, he makes audible something that hasn’t yet been, he makes audible the music of the earth, he makes audible the music in which he invents, almost exactly like the philosopher:  he renders thinkable forces that are not thinkable, that are in nature rather raw, rather brutal. I mean it's this communion of little ritornellos with the great ritornello that, for me, defines music, something I find very simple. It's music's potential, its potential to deliver a truly cosmic level, as if stars began singing a little tune of a cow bell, a little shepherd's tune. Or, it might be the reverse, the cow bells that are suddenly elevated to the state of celestial sounds, or of infernal sounds.

Parnet: Nonetheless, it seems to me still, and I can't explain exactly why, with all you tell me, with all this musical erudition, that what you are looking for in music remains visual, the ritornello still belongs to the visual domain. You seem to be engaging the visual, much more… Ok, I do understand the extent to which the audible is linked to cosmic forces like the visual, but you go to no concerts, it’s something that bothers you, you do not listen to music, you go to art exhibits at least once a week, and you have your habitual practice.

Deleuze: It’s from a lack of possibilities and a lack of time because… I can only give you one answer. One single thing interests me fundamentally in literature, it’s style. Style, for me, is the pure auditory (l’auditif pur), the pure auditory. I wouldn't make the distinction you do between the visual... It is true that I rarely go to concerts because it's more complicated now reserving in advance. These are all practical details of life, whereas when there's an art exhibit, no reservations are needed. But, each time I went to a concert, I found it too long since I have very little receptivity, but I always felt deep emotions. I’m not sure you are completely wrong, but I think you might be mistaken, that it’s not completely true. In any case, I know that music gives me emotions… Simply, talking about music is even more difficult than speaking of painting. It's nearly the highest point (le sommet), speaking about music.

Parnet: Nearly all philosophers…. Well, there are a lot of philosophers who spoke about music.

Deleuze [interrupting]: But style is sonorous, not visual, and I’m only interested in sonority at that level.

Parnet: Music is immediately connected to philosophy, that is, lots of philosophers spoke about music, for example, Jankelevitch…

Deleuze: Yes, yes, that’s true…

Parnet: … but other than Merleau-Ponty, there are few philosophers who spoke about painting.

Deleuze: Only a few? You think so? I don’t know..

Parnet: Well, I admit, I’m not certain… but music, Barthes talked about it, Jankelevitch spoke about it.

Deleuze [reflecting]: Yes, he spoke about it very well.

Parnet: Even Foucault spoke about music.

Deleuze: Who?

Parnet: Foucault.

Deleuze [making a dismissive gesture]: Oh, Foucault didn't talk about music, it was a secret for him.

Parnet: Yes, it was a secret.

Deleuze: His relations with music were completely a secret.

Parnet: Yes, he was very close to certain musicians.

Deleuze [clearly unwilling to discuss this]: Yes, yes, but those are all secrets that Foucault did not discuss.

Parnet: Well, saying Foucault was very close to the musical world, even if a secret –

Deleuze: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes... yes…

Parnet [The voice of the producer is faintly audible, suggesting that she continue with the name of Berg]: And the exception of [Alban] Berg, as Pierre-André was whispering, to which we can pass, why this cry…?

Deleuze: Yes, where does this come from? This is also connected to [the reason] why one is devoted to some [topic]. I don't know why, Berg, I don’t know.  I discovered at the same time [as Berg] some musical pieces for orchestras by... [as he has done on occasion throughout the interviews, Deleuze here has trouble swallowing, stops and says] – Oh, listen… You see what an old man is [motions to his throat], you can't find names... the orchestra pieces by his master…

Parnet : Schoenberg.

Deleuze: … by Schoenberg. I recall that at that moment, not too long ago, putting on these orchestra pieces fifteen times in a row, fifteen times in a row, it was, and I recognized the moments that overwhelmed me. It was then, at the same time as I found Berg, and he was someone to whom I could listen all day long. Why?  I see this also being a question of a relationship to the earth. Mahler, I only came to know much later, it's the music of the earth. Take this up in the works of very old musicians, there it’s fully a relationship of music and earth, but that music might be encompassed in the earth to such an extent, nonetheless, as it is in Berg's and Mahler's works, I found this to be quite overwhelming. Making, truly making sonorous the forces of the earth, that’s what [Berg's] Wozzeck is for me. It’s a great text since it's the music of the earth, a great work.

Parnet: There are two cries in it, you liked very much the cry of Marie and the cry of…

Deleuze: Oh, yes, for me, there is such a relation between the song (chant) and cry that, in fact, this whole school [of music] was able to reintroduce as a problem. But the two cries there, I never get tired of these two cries, the horizontal cry that floats along the earth in Wozzeck, and the completely vertical cry of the countess – countess, or baroness, I don’t recall –

Parnet: Countess…

Deleuze: …of the countess in [Berg's] Lulu -- these are such summits of cries. All of that interests me as well because in philosophy, there are songs and cries. Concepts are veritable songs in philosophy, and then, there are cries of philosophy. Suddenly Aristotle [says]: you have to stop! Or another says, no, I'll never stop! Spinoza: what can a body do? (qu'est-ce que peut un corps?) We don't even know what a body can do! Those are cries. So, the relation cry-song or concept-affect is somewhat the same. It’s valid (bon) for me, it’s something that moves me. \70

[New interview day; Deleuze in open-collared shirt, new glasses]


"P as in Professor"

Parnet: So, “P” is “Professor.” You are 64 years of age, and you have spent nearly 40 as a professor, first in French high schools (lycées), then in the university. And so this year, the first time [1988-1989], you plan your weeks without looking forward to teaching courses. So, first, do you miss your courses since you’ve said that you taught your courses with passion, so I wonder if you miss no longer doing them?

Deleuze: No, not at all, not at all. It’s true that [courses] were my life, a very important part of my life. I really, deeply enjoyed teaching my courses. But when my retirement arrived, I was quite happy since I was less inclined to meet my courses. This question of courses is quite simple: I believe that courses are like -- there are equivalents in other domains --  a course is something requiring an enormous amount of preparation. I mean, it nearly corresponds to a recipe, like in so many activities: if you want five, ten minutes at most, of inspiration, one has to prepare so very much (beaucoup, beaucoup, beaucoup), to have this moment of…. If you don’t, well… So I began to see that the more I continued in this that -- I always did that, I liked doing that a lot, I prepared a lot in order to reach these moments of inspiration – and the more I continued, the longer I had to prepare only to have my inspiration gradually diminished. So it was about time, and it didn't make me happy, not at all, since the courses were something I greatly enjoyed, but they became something I needed less. Now I have my writing which poses other kinds of problems, but I have no regrets, but I did love teaching enormously, yes.

Parnet: And, for example, when you say “prepare a lot,” how much preparation time was it?

Deleuze: It’s like anything, there are rehearsals (des répétitions) for a class, one rehearses. It’s like in theater, in popular songs (chansonnettes), there are rehearsals, and if one hasn't rehearsed enough, there's no inspiration. In a course, it means having moments of inspiration, without which the course means nothing.

Parnet: You don’t mean that you rehearsed in front of your mirror?

Deleuze: Of course not, each activity has its modes of inspiration. But there is no other word than memorizing (se mettre dans la tête)... Memorizing and managing to find that what one's saying is interesting.  It's obvious that if the speaker (le monsieur) doesn't even find what he's saying of interest, -- and that doesn't go without saying, finding that what one is saying is interesting, impassioned. And this isn't a form of vanity, it’s not finding oneself passionate and interesting, it's the subject matter that one is treating and handling that one has to find passionate. And to do so, one sometimes has to drive oneself, truly whip oneself hard (se donner parfois de véritables coups de fouet). The question isn't whether it's interesting, but of getting oneself stimulated (se monter soi-même) to the point that one is able to speak about something with enthusiasm: that's what rehearsing is.

So, I needed that less, undoubtedly. And then courses are something quite special, it’s a cube, a course is: it’s a space-time, and so many things happen in a course. I like lectures much less, I never liked lectures because a lecture is too small a space-time, whereas a course is something that stretches out from one week to the next. It's a space and a very, very special temporality. It has successive steps (une suite). It's not that one can do over or catch up (rattraper) when something didn’t go well, but there's an internal development in a course. And the people change from week to week, and the audience for a course is quite exciting.

Parnet: Here, we are going to start with the beginning which was first as a lycée professor. Do you have good memories of the lycée?

Deleuze: Well, yes, [Deleuze laughs] because that doesn't mean anything since it occurred at a time when the lycée was not at all what the lycée has become. I understand…  I think of young professors today who are beaten down in the lycées. I was a lycée professor shortly after the Liberation, when it was completely different.

Parnet: Where were you?

Deleuze: I was in two provincial cities, one I liked a lot, one I liked less. Amiens was the one I liked because it was a very free city, very open, whereas Orléans was much more severe. This was still a period when a philosophy professor was treated with a lot of generosity, he tended to be forgiven a lot since he was a bit like the madman, the village idiot. And usually he could do whatever he wanted. I taught my students using a musical saw, since I had taken it up at the time, and everyone found it quite normal. Nowadays, I think that would no longer be possible in the lycées.

Parnet [laughing]: What did you use the musical saw to explain to them? How did that function in your course?

Deleuze: I taught them curves, because the saw is a thing that, as you know, one had to curve the saw in order to obtain the sound from the curve, and these were quite moving curves, something that interested them. [Deleuze smiles back at Parnet]

Parnet: Already it was about the infinite variation…

Deleuze [laughing]: Yes, but I didn't only do that, I taught the baccalaureate program, I was a very conscientious professor. [Deleuze laughs]

Parnet: It was there that you met [Jean] Poperen, I think. \71

Deleuze: Yes, I knew Poperen quite well, but he traveled more than me, and stayed very little in Amiens. He had a little suitcase and big alarm clock because he didn't like watches, and each day he went out and took his clock to class. I found him very charming.

Parnet: And who were your friends in the lycée professors’ lounge, because when one is a student …?

Deleuze: The gymnasts, I really liked the gymnastics professors a lot, but I don't recall very much. The professors' lounge in the lycée must have changed a lot today as well, it was quite something.

Parnet: As a student, one imagines the professors' lounge as a very oppressive place, mysterious and oppressive.

Deleuze: No, it’s the time when… there are all sorts of people there, solemn or jokers. But in fact, I didn't go there much.

Parnet: After Amiens and Orleans, you were in Paris at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in the preparatory course [Deleuze says, yes, yes, yes, as Parnet reviews this], so can you recall any students you had that were remarkable or who didn’t amount to much?

Deleuze: Oh, students who didn’t amount to much? Who amounted to something? I don’t really recall any longer… Yes, I do recall them. To my knowledge, they became professors, but none that I know of who became government ministers. Someone became a police officer, [laughing]  but no, really there were none very special, they all went their own way, they were quite fine. [Smiling]

Parnet: Then there were the Sorbonne years of which one gets the impression that they correspond to your history of philosophy years. And then, after [the Sorbonne], Vincennes which was an entirely crucial and determining experience after the Sorbonne. Well, I am jumping here since Lyon came after the Sorbonne. [Deleuze says “oui, oui, oui, oui” at this rectification] First, were you happy to return to being a university professor after being in the lycée?

Deleuze: “Happy, happy” – it isn't really an appropriate word in this case, it was simply a normal career. I had left the lycée; if I had gone back to the lycée, it wouldn't have been dramatic, it just would have been abnormal, a setback, so the way things worked out was normal, normal, no problem, and I have nothing to say about it.

Parnet: Well, for example, the university courses are differently prepared in relation to the lycée courses, I imagine.

Deleuze: Not for me, not at all.

Parnet: For you, it was the same.

Deleuze: Exactly the same, I always did my courses the same way.

Parnet [apparently astonished]: Were your lycée preparations as intense as your university preparations?

Deleuze: Of course, of course, of course. In any case, one has to be absolutely imbued [with the material], one has to love what one is talking about, and that doesn't go all by itself, so one has to rehearse, prepare, go over things mentally, one has to find a gimmick. It's quite amusing that one has to find something like a door that one can’t pass through from just any position.

[Change of cassette]

Parnet [pressing this same point]: So you prepared your courses exactly the same way at the lycée and at the university. It was prepared equally at the lycée as it was later at the university.

Deleuze: There was no difference in nature at all between the two kinds of courses. Yes, the same.

Parnet: Since we are discussing your university work, you can talk about your doctoral thesis. When did you defend it? \72

Deleuze: I had already written several books before [my defense], I believe, in order not to do it, that is, it’s a frequent reaction. I was working enormously hard, and at one point, I realized I had to have the thesis, that I had to do this, that it was quite urgent. So I made a maximum effort, and finally I presented it among one of the very first defenses following May '68.

Parnet: In 1969?

Deleuze: In 1969? Yes, it must have been in 1969, among the very first [candidates].  This created a very privileged situation for me because the committee was obsessed with only one thing, how to arrange the defense in order to avoid the student groups (bandes) roving through the Sorbonne. They were quite afraid, since it was right after the return to school following the May '68 events, so they didn't know what would happen. I recall the chairman telling me, “Ok, there are two possibilities: either we have your defense on the ground floor, where there is one advantage, there are two exits [Deleuze laughs] so we could get out quickly, the committee, but the disadvantage is that, since it’s on the ground floor, that’s where the students are more likely to be roving around. Or we could go to the second floor, with the advantage that students go upstairs less frequently, but the disadvantage of only one entrance and one exit, so if something were to happen, we might not be able to get out.” So [the result was] that, when I defended my thesis, I could never meet the gaze of the committee members since they were all staring at the door [Deleuze laughs] to see if someone was going to come in, to see if the students were coming in.

Parnet: Who was the committee chairman?

Deleuze: Ah, I’m not saying his name, it's a secret.

Parnet: I could make you confess.

Deleuze: No, especially given the chairman's agony at the time, and also he was very charming. Curiously, the chairman was more upset than I was, and it's rare for a committee to be more disturbed about the defense than the candidate in this completely exceptional situation.

Parnet: You were probably better known (célèbre) at that point than three-fourths of the committee members.

Deleuze: Oh, no, I wasn't all that well known.

Parnet: The defense was on Difference and Repetition.

Deleuze: Yes.

Parnet: Well, you were already very well known for your works on Proust and Nietzsche. [Here Deleuze makes a kind of growling noise as his only response, visibly uncomfortable, then shrugs his shoulders at Parnet]

Parnet: So we can move on to Vincennes, unless you have something to say about Lyon after the Sorbonne…

Deleuze: No, no, no, no, no… Vincennes, Vincennes, Vincennes, there was indeed a change, you are right, not in nature of the preparation of my courses, in what I call my preparation, my rehearsals for a course, nor in the style of a course. In fact, from Vincennes onward, I no longer had a student audience. This was what was so splendid about Vincennes and not generalized in all the universities that were getting back to normal. At Vincennes, at least in philosophy -- I don't know if it was true for all of Vincennes --, there was a completely new kind of audience, which was no longer made up of students, which was a mixture of all ages, people with all kinds of professional activities, including psychiatric hospitals, even patients. It was perhaps the most colorful (bigarré) audience and finding a mysterious unity at Vincennes. That is, it was at once the most diverse and the most coherent as a function of, even because of, Vincennes. Vincennes gave to this disparate crowd a kind of unity. And for me, it was an audience… Later, had I been appointed elsewhere -- I subsequently spent my whole teaching career at Vincennes -- but had I been forced later to move to another faculté, I would have completely lost my bearings. When I visited other schools after that, it seemed like I was traveling back in time for me, of landing back in the middle of the nineteenth century.

So at Vincennes, I spoke before a mixed audience, young painters, people undergoing psychiatric treatment, musicians, addicts, young architects, people from very different countries, with waves of visitors that changed each year. I recall suddenly 5 or 6 Australians who arrived I don't know why, and the next year they were gone. The Japanese were constantly there, each year, and there were South Americans, Blacks... It was an invaluable (inappréciable) audience and a fantastic audience.

Parnet: Because, for the first time, you were speaking to non-philosophers, that is, this practice that you mentioned earlier.

Deleuze: It was, I believe, fully philosophy in its own right (de la pleine philosophie) that could, that was addressed equally to philosophers and to non-philosophers, exactly like painting is addressed to painters and non-painters, or music not being limited to music specialists. It's the same music, the same Berg or the same Beethoven addressed equally to people that are not specialists in music and to people who are musicians. For philosophy, for me, philosophy must be strictly the same, it is addressed as much to non-philosophers as to philosophers without changing it. Philosophy, when it’s addressed to non-philosophers, that doesn’t mean one has to make it simple, no more than in music… One doesn’t make Beethoven simpler for non-specialists. It's the same in philosophy, exactly the same. For me, philosophy has always had this double audition, a non-philosophical audition as much as a philosophical one. And if these two don't exist together, then there is nothing. Without these, philosophy would be worth nothing.

Parnet: Now, could you explain a subtle distinction (une finesse) for me? In lectures (conférences), there are non-philosophers, but you hate lectures. \73

Deleuze: Yes, I hate lectures because they're artificial and also because of the before and the after [of lectures]. Finally, as much as I like teaching courses, which is one way of speaking (parler), so I hate speaking equally. Speaking really seems like an activity for… So, lectures -- talking before, talking after, etc., and all that doesn't possess at all the purity of a course. And then, the lecture, there's a circus quality in lectures -- courses also have their circus quality as well, but at least it’s a circus that amuses me and tends to be more involved (profond). In a lecture, there is a phony side, and the people who go to them… [Deleuze dismisses them] Well, I don’t know, but I just don’t like lectures, I don’t like giving talks: they’re too tense, too much like prostitution (trop putain), too stressed, too I don’t know. That doesn’t seem interesting to me at all.

Parnet: We’re going to come back to your venerated audience (cher public) at Vincennes that was so mixed, and in those Vincennes years, with madmen, addicts, as you said, who made wild interventions, took the floor, never, never did any of that ever seem to bother you. All of these interventions, and you are in the middle of your course which remained completely masterful/authoritative (magistral), \74  and no intervention made during the course ever seemed to be of objectionable value. That is, the masterful aspect of the course always remained. [Deleuze makes his embarrassed "oui, oui, oui" as Parnet is completing her statement]

Deleuze: You need to find another word, since this expression -- cours magistral -- is imposed by the university, but we really have to find another word. That is, I see two conceptions of a course: the first is one in which the object of the course is to incite rather immediate reactions from the audience by means of questions and the need for interruptions. This is an entire trend, a particular conception of a course. On the other hand, there is the so-called "magistral" conception, with one formal person (le monsieur) who speaks. It's not that I prefer one or the other, I just had no choice, I only had practice with the second form, the so-called "magistral" conception. So a different word is needed because, almost at the limit, it's more like a kind of musical conception of a course. For me, one doesn't interrupt music, whether good or bad, or one interrupts if it's really bad, but usually one doesn't interrupt music, whereas one can easily interrupt spoken words.

So, what does this musical conception of a course mean? I think it means two things, based on my experience, although I don't mean that this is the best conception, just how I see things. Considering how I know my audiences to be, those that have been my audiences, I tell myself, it occurs frequently that someone doesn't understand at a particular moment, and then there is something like a delayed effect, a bit like in music. At one moment, you don't understand a movement, and then three minutes later, it becomes clear, or ten minutes later: something happened in the meantime. So with these delayed effects in a course, suddenly a guy listening can certainly understand nothing at one point, and ten minutes later, it becomes clear, there's a kind of retroactive effect. So if he had already interrupted -- that's why I find interruptions so stupid, or even certain questions people can ask. You ask a question because you’re in the midst of not understanding… well, you would be better off waiting.

[Change of cassette]

Parnet: So these interruptions, you found them stupid because people just didn’t wait?

Deleuze: Yes, that's a first aspect of it: what someone doesn’t understand, there is the possibility that he’ll understand it afterwards. The best students were those who asked questions the following week. I had insisted, but toward the end, I don’t know who invented it, it was [the students], they would pass me a little note from one week to the next -- a practice I appreciated – saying that I had to go back over a point. So they had waited. “You have to go back over this point” – I didn’t do it, it wasn’t important, [Parnet laughs] but there was this kind of communication.

There is a second important point in my conception of a course: since a course I taught was two and one-half hours in length, no one could listen that long. So, for me, a course was always something that was not destined to be understood in its totality. A course is a kind of matter in movement (matière en mouvement), really matter in movement, which is how it is musical, and in which each person, each group, or each student at the limit takes from it what suits him/her. A bad course is one that quite literally suits no one, but of course, one can't expect everything to suit just anyone. So, people have to wait, because at the limit, it is obvious that some people nearly fall asleep, and then, by some mystery, they wake up at the moments that concern them. There is no law that foresees that this or that is going to concern someone or another. It's not even the subjects that are interesting, but something else. A course entails as much emotion as intelligence, and if there is no emotion, then there is nothing in the course, it has no interest. So, it's not a question of following everything or of listening to everything. It is rather a question of keeping a watch so that you grasp what suits you, what suits you personally. That's why for me a varied audience is so crucially important, because I sense clearly that the centers of interest shift and jump from one person to another, and that creates a kind of splendid fabric, a texture, yes. So there you have it (Voilà, c’est ça).

Parnet: Well, that’s the audience, but for this "concert", you invented the expression "pop philosophy" and "pop philosopher."

Deleuze: Yes, that's what I meant.

Parnet: Yes, but one could say that your appearance (allure), like Foucault's, was something very special, I mean, your hat, your fingernails [extremely long, quite visible in the video], your voice. Were you conscious that there was this kind of mythification by your students around this appearance, like they had mythified Foucault, as they… mythified the voice of [Jean] Wahl. [Deleuze attempts to interrupt Parnet as she develops this question] First, were you conscious of having this appearance and then of having this special voice?

Deleuze: Oh yes, certainly, since the voice in a course – let’s say that if philosophy – as we’ve talked about this already a bit, it seems to me -- mobilizes and treats concepts, then it’s normal that there be a vocalization of concepts in a course, this is normal just like there is a written style of concepts. Philosophers aren't people who write without research into or without elaboration of a style. It's like artists, and they are artists. So, a course implies that one vocalizes, even it implies, yes – I speak German poorly -- a kind of Sprechgesang, clearly, obviously, obviously. So, if on top of that there are mythifications -- did you see his nails?, etc. -- that kind of thing occurs to all professors, already even in grade school. What's more important is the relationship between the voice and the concept. \75

Parnet: To make you happy, your hat was like Piaf's little black dress… There is a very precise allure. [Deleuze’s felt hat is visible over his left shoulder on the sideboard throughout the interviews]

Deleuze: Well, my point of honor resides in never having worn it for that reason, so if it produced that effect, so much the better (tant mieux), very good, very good. There are always phenomena…

Parnet [interrupting]: Is that a part of your role as professor?

Deleuze: Is that a part of my role as professor? No, that isn’t part of my role as professor, it's a supplement to it. What belongs to a professor's role is what I said about prior rehearsal (la répétition préalable) and about inspiration within the moment, that's the professor's role.

Parnet: You never wanted either a "school" [based on your work], or disciples, and that corresponds to something very deep in you, this refusal of disciples…

Deleuze [bursting out laughing, shaking his head]: I don’t refuse at all. Generally it works both ways: no one wants to be my disciple any more than I wanted to have any. A "school" is awful for a very simple reason: a “school” takes a lot of time, one turns into an administrator. Consider philosophers who have their own "school": the Wittgensteinians, it’s a “school.” Ok, it's not much fun (pas la marrade). The Heideggerians, it’s a “school.” First it implies some terrible scores being settled, it implies exclusions, it implies scheduling, it implies an entire administration, a “school” has to be run. I observed the rivalries between French Heideggerians led by [Jean] Beaufret and the Belgian Heideggerians led by [Alphonse] De Waelhens, a real knife fight. [Parnet laughs] It was abominable, at least for me, without any interest.

I think of other reasons. I mean, even on the level of ambition, being the leader of a "school." [Here he sighs] Just look at Lacan, Lacan... Lacan was the leader of a "school" as well. [Deleuze laughs] But it's awful, it creates so many worries. One has to become Machiavellian to lead it all, and then for myself, I despise that. For me, the "school" is the opposite of a movement. A simple example: Surrealism was a "school", with scores settled, trials, exclusions, etc. [André] Breton created a “school” [out of Surrealism]. Dada was a movement. If I had an ideal -- and I don't claim to have succeeded --, it would be to participate in a movement. Yes, fine… To be in a movement, yes, but to be even the leader of a “school” does not seem to me to be an enviable fate. [Deleuze laughs] The ideal is finally the movement. It’s not at all to have guarantees and signed notions or to have disciples repeating them. For me, there are two important things: the relationship that one can have with students means to teach them that they must be happy with their solitude. They keep saying: a little communication without being alone, we're so alone, etc., and that's why they want "schools." But they can do nothing except as a function of their solitude, so it's to teach them the benefit of their solitude, it’s to reconcile them with their solitude. That was my role as a professor.

And then, the second aspect is a bit the same: I wouldn’t want to introduce notions that would constitute a "school," I’d want to introduce notions or concepts that would make it to the everyday arena. I don’t mean these would become something ordinary, but that they would become commonly accepted ideas, namely ideas that one could handle in different ways. That could only occur if I addressed this to other solitary people who will twist these notions in their own way, to use them as they need them. So all of these are notions of movements and not notions of "schools."

Parnet: And do you think that, in today’s university, the era of great professors has passed, since things don't seem to be going very well in the universities?

Deleuze : Well, I don’t have many ideas about that since I no longer have a place there. I left at a time that was terrifying, and I could no longer understand how professors could continue teaching courses. That is, they'd become managers. The university following current political trends is clear: the university will cease being a research site, entirely consonant with the forced entry of disciplines that have nothing to do with university disciplines. My dream would be for universities to remain research sites and that, alongside the universities, technical schools would multiply, where they would teach accounting, information science, etc., but with universities intervening only, even in accounting and information science, on the level of research. And there could be all the agreements one would like between a technical school and the university, with a school sending its students to pursue research courses at the university.

But once they introduced into the university technical school subjects (matières d’école), the university is done for (foutue),  it's no longer a research site, and one gets increasingly eaten up by these management hassles,  the vast number of meetings at the university. That's why I said I could no longer see how professors can prepare a course, so that I assume that they do the same one every year, or they just no longer do any [preparation]. Perhaps I am wrong, perhaps they continue to prepare them, so much the better. But still, the tendency seemed to me to be the disappearance of research at the university, the rise of non-creative disciplines in the university, those that are not research disciplines, and that's what's called the adaptation of the university to the job market. It's not the role of the university to be adapted to the job market. It’s the role of technical schools. \76

[Change of cassette]


"Q as in Question"

Parnet: So, “Q” is “Question.” Philosophy serves to pose questions and problems, and questions are constructed, and as you say, their purpose is not so much to answer them as to leave these questions behind. So, for example, leaving the history of philosophy behind [see above, "H as in History of Philosophy"] meant creating new questions for you. But here, in an interview, one doesn't ask you questions, they really aren’t questions, so how do I leave this behind, how do you leave this behind? What does one do, make a forced choice? First, what is the difference between a question in the mass media and a question in philosophy, to start at the beginning?

Deleuze [pausing]: That’s difficult, because… I’d say… [Deleuze puffs his lips, expels air] That’s difficult, because… In the media, there are conversations most of the time, no questions, no problems, there are interrogations. If I say, “how are you doing?”, it doesn't constitute a problem, even if you aren’t doing well at all. [Parnet laughs] “What time is it?”, it’s not a problem. All of those are interrogations. People interrogate each other (on s’interroge). If one sees the usual level on television, even in supposedly serious broadcasts, it's full of interrogations. Saying "what do you think of this?" does not constitute a problem. It’s an interrogation, it’s “what is your opinion?” That's why t.v. isn't very interesting. People’s opinions, they don't have a very lively interest for me. \77

If someone asks me: “Do you believe in God?” That’s an interrogation. Where is the problem there, where is the question? There is no question, there is no problem. So if one asked questions or problems in a t.v. show, [the number of broadcasts] is vast, sure, but it happens rarely… The political t.v. shows do not encompass, to my knowledge, a single problem. They could do so, they could, for example, ask about people: “How do we pose the Chinese question?” But they don’t ask, they usually invite specialists on China [Deleuze laughs] who say things about contemporary China that one could figure out all by oneself, without knowing anything about China [laughing]. It’s great! So it’s not at all their domain.

I’ll return therefore to my example, because it’s huge: God, what is the problem or question about God? It's not whether one believes in God or not, which doesn't interest many people, but what does it mean when one says the word "God"? Does this mean… I’m going to imagine the questions. That could mean: are you going to be judged after death? So how is this a problem? Because this establishes a problematic relationship between God and the agency (instance) of judgment. Is God a judge? This is a question. Ok then… I suppose someone might say to us, ok, Pascal, right, Pascal wrote a famous text, the one on the bet: does God exist or not? One bets on it, and then one reads Pascal's text, and one realizes that it's absolutely not a matter of that [question]. Why? Because it’s another question that he asks. Pascal’s question is not whether God exists or not, which would not be very interesting, but it's: what is the best mode of existence, the mode of existence of someone who believes that God exists, or the mode of existence of someone who believes that God doesn't exist?  Such that Pascal's question absolutely does not concern the existence of God or the non-existence of God. It concerns the existence of someone who believes in God's existence and the existence of someone who believes that God does not exist. For various reasons that Pascal develops, which are his own, but which can be clearly articulated, he thinks that someone who believes that God exists has a better existence than someone who does not. That’s his business (c’est son affaire), ok, it’s a Pascalian matter (une affaire pascalienne). In this, there's a problem, a question, and it's already no longer the question of God. There is a story underlying the questions, a transformation of questions within one another. \78

This is the same when Nietzsche says “God is dead,” it's not the same thing as God does not exist. I can say… If I say, “God is dead,” what question does that refer to, which is not the same as when I say, “God does not exist”? One realizes if one reads Nietzsche that he could care less about God's death, and that he's posing another question in this way, specifically that if God is dead, there's no reason that man wouldn't be dead as well, one has to find something else than man, etc. What interested Nietzsche was not at all whether God was dead, he was interested in the arrival of something other than man.

That’s what the art of questions and problems is, and I believe that this could certainly occur on t.v. or in the media, but that would create a very strange kind of show, on this underlying story of problems and questions. Whereas in daily conversations as well as in the media, people stay on the level of interrogations. One has only to look at…. I can refer to… sure, all this is posthumous -- "The Hour of Truth." [Deleuze laughs] There aren’t any truths, it’s truly full of interrogations… “Mme Veil, do you believe in Europe?" “Ok, fine”… What does that mean, “believe in Europe”? It would be interesting if one asked, “what is the problem of Europe?” The problem of Europe, well, I’ll tell you what it is because that way, I’ll have for once expressed a forewarning (pressentiment). That's exactly the same as for China right now, they constantly think about preparing Europe, preparing the uniformization of Europe, they interrogate each other about it, on how to make insurance uniform, etc. And then, they find a million people at the Place de la Concorde from everywhere, Holland, Germany, etc., and [the interrogators] don't control it at all, they don’t control it. Fine, so they call on specialists to tell them why there are so many Dutch people at the Place de la Concorde. “It’s because … etc.” They just skirt around the real questions at the very moment when they need to be asked… What I’ve been saying is a bit confused… [Deleuze laughs]

Parnet: No, no, for example, for years you used to read daily newspapers, but it seems to me that you no longer read Le Monde or Libération on a daily basis. Is there something in the level of the press or the media precisely not asking these questions….

Deleuze: Oh, I don’t know… I have a lot less time…

Parnet: … that disgusts you?

Deleuze: Oh, yes! Really, listen… I get the feeling of learning less and less. I’m quite ready, I want to learn things, since I know nothing, but since the newspapers say nothing either, what can one do?

[Change of cassette]

Parnet: And you, for example, each time that you watch the evening news since it’s the only t.v. show you never miss, do you always have a question to formulate each time that is never formulated in the media?

Deleuze: I don’t know about that [Deleuze smiles], I don’t know.

Parnet: You seem to think that questions never get asked.

Deleuze: The questions? Well, I think that, at the limit, the questions can't be asked. If you take the Touvier story, you can’t pose questions – I’m choosing something quite recent. They arrested [Paul] Touvier, ok… \79  So, why now? Ok, so when everyone says, “Why has he been protected?”, and everyone knows quite well that there must have been various machinations. He was an information director, so he must have information on the conduct of distinguished dignitaries in the Church during the period of World War II. Ok, so everyone knows what he knows about, but there’s an agreement not to ask questions, and they won’t get asked. That’s what's known as a consensus, it’s an agreement, the convention according to which simple "How are you doing?" interrogations will be substituted for problems and questions, that is, ah, well… “That convent helped him hide.. Why?” etc. Everyone knows that’s not the real question… Everyone knows…

Parnet: Well, I don’t know…

Deleuze: Everyone knows… Let me take another recent example, regarding the reformers on the Right and the political apparatus on the Right.  Everyone knows what this is about, but the newspapers don't tell us a thing. I don’t know, I am just saying this, but it seems obvious to me that between these reformers de droite, there is very interesting problem. These guys -- it’s not that they are particularly young, but their problem is this: it's an attempt to shake up elements of the Party organizations that are always very centralized around Paris. Specifically, the reformers want regional independence, something very interesting, and yet no one is calling attention to this aspect. The connection to the European question is that they want to create a Europe not of nations, they want a Europe of regions. They want the veritable unity to be regional and inter-regional, rather than a national and international unity. Now this is a problem, one that the Socialists will have to face at some point, between regionalist and internationalist tendencies. But the Party organizations, that is, the provincial federations, still correspond to an old-fashioned approach, specifically, all that goes back to Paris, and the power is extremely centralized.

So, the conservative reformers constitute an anti-Jacobine movement, and the Left will have one as well. So, I say, fine, they have to be made to talk about this, but no one will do so, they even refuse to because, when they do, they will reveal themselves. Hence, they'll only answer interrogations, and interrogations are nothing, it’s just conversation without any interest. Conversations, interrogations, they have no interest at all. Except for rare exceptions, television is condemned to discussions, to interrogations. It’s worthless. It’s not even a question of deliberate lies, it’s just insignificant, without any interest.

Parnet: Well, I’m less of an optimist than you, but it seems to me that there is the journalist Anne Sinclair who, within the consensus, doesn’t realize it’s there and tries to pose good questions, not at all interrogations.

Deleuze: Fine, that's her business, I’m quite sure that she's very happy with herself.. yes, yes, yes, that’s certain, it’s her business.

Parnet: You never accept to go on television. Foucault and Serres did it. Are you retreating from the world like Beckett did (à la Beckett)? Do you hate television? Why won’t you go on television? For all these reasons?

Deleuze: Well, here’s the proof, this interview, I’ll be on t.v.! But my reasons for not accepting relate exactly to what I have already said: I have no desire at all to have conversations and interrogations with people. I cannot stand interrogations, I can’t stand it, that doesn’t interest me. And arguing (discussions) about something, especially when no one knows what problem is being raised. If it’s – I return to my example of God -- is it a matter of the non-existence of God, of the death of God, of the death of man, of the existence of God, of the existence of whoever believes in God, etc.? It's a muddle (bouillie), it’s very tiring. So when everyone has his turn to speak, it's domesticity in its purest state, moreover with some idiot of a host (présentateur à la con) as well... Mercy, mercy (pitié, pitié)…

Parnet: The most important thing is that you are here today answering our little interrogations.

Deleuze: On the condition that it's posthumous (A titre posthume)!


"R as in Resistance"

Parnet: “R” is “Resistance.” As you said in a recent lecture, philosophy creates concepts, and whenever one creates, as you said in this lecture, one resists. Artists, filmmakers, musicians, mathematicians, philosophers all resist, but, what do they resist exactly? First, let’s take this case by case: philosophers create concepts, but does science create concepts?

Deleuze: No. These are rather questions of ends, Claire. Because if we agree to reserve the word "concept" for philosophy, another word is needed then to designate scientific notions. One doesn't say of an artist either that he/she creates concepts. A painter or a musician doesn't create concepts, he/she creates something else. So, for science, one needs to find other words. Let's say, one could say, for example, a scientist is someone who creates functions, let’s say. I’m not saying it’s the best word: he/she creates new functions, but creating functions occurs as much… Creating new functions… Einstein, Galois, the great mathematicians, but not only the mathematicians, there are physicists, biologists, all create functions. [See note 62]

So… how does this constitute resisting? How is creating resisting in all that? It's clearer for the arts, because science is in a more ambiguous position, a bit like cinema: it is caught in so many problems of organization (programmes), funding (capital), etc., that the portion of resistance... [Deleuze doesn't complete the thought] But great scientists also mount considerable resistance, if one thinks of Einstein, of many physicists and biologists today, it's obvious. They resist first against being forced in certain tempting directions (entraînements) and against the trends in popular opinion, that is, against the whole domain of imbecilic interrogation. They demand their… They really have the strength to demand their own rhythm, they can't be forced to release just anything under premature conditions, just as one usually doesn't hurry an artist. No one has the right to hurry an artist.

But I think that… That creating would be resistance is because… I believe…  Let me tell you, there is a writer I recently read who affected me greatly on this topic. I believe that one of the great motifs in art and thought is a certain “shame of being a man” (la honte d’être un homme). I think that Primo Levi is that writer and artist who has expressed this most profoundly. He was able to speak of this “shame of being a man” in an extremely profound book because he wrote it following his return from the Nazi death camps. Levi said, “Yes, when I was freed, the dominant feeling was one of ‘the shame at being a man’”. It’s a statement, I believe, that’s at once quite splendid, very beautiful, and not at all abstract, it’s quite concrete, “the shame of being a man.” But this does not mean certain stupidities that some people might like to have it mean. It does not mean that we are all assassins, that we are all guilty, for example, all guilty of Nazism. Levi says it admirably:  it doesn't mean that the executioners and the victims are all the same… You can’t make us believe that. There are a lot of people who maintain, “Oh yes, we are all guilty”… No, no, no, nothing of the sort… There will not be any confusion between the executioner and the victim. \80

So “the shame of being a man” does not mean that we are all the same, that we are all compromised, etc. It means, I believe, several things. It’s a very complex feeling, not a unified feeling. “The shame of being a man” means at once how could men do that (hommes) -- some men, that is, others than me -- how could they do that? And second, how have I myself nonetheless taken sides? I didn’t become an executioner, but I still took sides to have survived, and there is a certain shame in having survived in the place of certain friends who did not survive. So it’s therefore an extremely composite feeling, “the shame of being a man,” and I believe that at the basis of art, there is this idea or this very strong feeling of shame of being a man that results in art consisting of liberating the life that men have imprisoned. Men never cease imprisoning life, they never cease killing life -- “the shame of being a man.” The artist is the one who liberates a life, a powerful life, a life [that’s] more than personal, it’s not his/her life. \81

[Change of cassette]

Parnet: Ok, so I head you back toward the artist and resistance, that is, the role of the shame of being a man, art freeing life from this prison of shame, but it’s something very different from sublimation. That is, art is not at all this… It’s really a resistance…

Deleuze [interrupting]: No, not at all… It means ripping life forth (arracher la vie), life's liberation, and that’s not at all something abstract. What is a great character in a novel? A great character is not a character borrowed from the real and even inflated: Charlus [in Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu] is not Montesquiou [friend of Proust], not even Montesquiou inflated by Proust's brilliant imagination. \82 These are fantastic powers of action for life (puissances de vie), fantastic powers of action for life, however badly it turns out. A fictional character has integrated into it... It’s a kind of giant, it’s a kind of exaggeration in relation to life, but not an exaggeration in relation to art, since art is the production of these exaggerations, and it is by their mere existence that this is already resistance.

Or, we can connect with the first theme "A [as in Animal]," writing is always writing for animals, that is, not to them, but in their place, doing what animals can't, writing, freeing life, freeing life from prisons that men [have created], and that's what resistance is. I don’t know… That's obviously what artists do, and I mean there is no art that is not also a liberation of a power of action for life, there is no art of death, first of all. \83

Parnet: But sometimes art doesn't suffice. Primo Levi finished by committing suicide much, much later.

Deleuze: He committed suicide personally… Ah yes, ah yes, he could no longer hold on, so he committed suicide to his personal life. But, there are four pages or twelve pages or a hundred pages of Primo Levi that will remain, that will remain eternal resistances, so it happens this way.

And it’s even more… I am talking about “the shame of being a man,” but it’s not even in the grandiose sense of Primo Levi, you understand? Because if one dares to say something of this sort, for each of us in daily life, there are minuscule events that inspire in us this shame of being a man. We witness a scene in which someone has really been too vulgar, we don't make a big thing of it, but we are upset, upset for the other, we are upset for ourselves because we seem nearly to accept this. Here again, we almost make some sort of compromise. But if we protest, saying “what you're saying is base, shameful,” a big drama gets made out of it, and we're caught, and we feel -- it doesn't at all compare with Auschwitz -- but even on this minuscule level, there is a small shame of being a man. If one doesn't feel that shame, there is no reason to create art. It’s … Ok, I can’t say anything else.

Parnet: But when you create, precisely when you are an artist, do you feel these dangers all the time, dangers that are surrounding you, that are everywhere?

Deleuze: Yes, obviously, yes, in philosophy as well. It’s what Nietzsche said, a philosophy that doesn’t damage stupidity -- damage stupidity (nuire à la bêtise), resist stupidity. But if philosophy did not exist – already, people act like “oh, philosophy, after all, it’s good for after-dinner conversations.” But if philosophy did not exist, we cannot guess the level of stupidity. Philosophy prevents stupidity from being as enormous as it would be were there no philosophy. That's [philosophy's] splendor, we have no idea what things would be like. It’s just as if there were no arts, what the vulgarity of people would be... So when we say "to create is to resist," it's effective, positive (effectif), I mean. The world would not be what it is if not for art, people could not hold on any more. It's not that they read philosophy, it's philosophy's mere existence that prevents people from being as stupid and beastly (stupide et bête) as they would be without [philosophy]. \84

Parnet: What do you think when people announce the death of thought, the death of cinema, the death of literature, [Deleuze growls, “yes, yes..” derisively] -- does that seem like a joke to you?

Deleuze: Yes, there are no deaths, there are assassinations, quite simply. Perhaps cinema will be assassinated, quite possibly, but there is no death from natural causes, for a simple reason: as long as there would be nothing to grasp and take on the function of philosophy, philosophy will still have every reason to live on, and if something else takes on the function of philosophy, then I don’t see at all how this “other thing” could be anything but philosophy. If we say, for example, that philosophy consists of creating concepts and, through that, damaging and preventing stupidity, then what could one possible expect to die in philosophy? It could be blocked, it could be censored, it could be assassinated, but it has a function, it is not going to die. The death of philosophy always seemed to me to be an imbecilic idea, it’s an idiotic idea. It's not because I am attached to philosophy that it will not die. I’m very pleased that it won’t die, I just don’t even understand what this means, “the death of philosophy.” It just seems to be a rather feeble idea, kind of simpering (gentillette), just to have something to say, just a way of saying things change, and all the more reason that…

But, what's going to replace philosophy? What’s going to create concepts? So someone might tell me: “You must not create any more concepts,” and so, ok, let stupidity reign -- fine, it's the idiots who want to do philosophy in. Who is going to create concepts? Information science? Advertising agents who have taken over the word “concept”? Fine, we will have advertising “concepts,” which is the “concept” of a brand of noodles. They don't risk having much of a rivalry with philosophy because I don’t think that the word “concept” is being used in the same way. But today it's rather advertising that is presented as philosophy's true rival since they tell us: we advertisers are inventing concepts. But, the “concept” proposed by information science, “concepts” by computers, is quite hilarious, what they call a “concept.” So, we shouldn’t get worried about it.

Parnet: Could we say that you, Félix, and Foucault form networks of concepts like networks (réseaux) of resistance, like a war machine against dominant modes of thought and commonplaces?

Deleuze [embarrassed]: Yes, yes, yes, why not? It would be very nice if it were true, that would be very nice. In any case, the network is certainly the only…  If one doesn't belong to a "school" -- and these "schools" [of thought] don't seem good at all --, if one doesn’t belong to a “school,” there is only the regime of networks, of complicities. And of course, [it’s] something that has existed in every period, for example, what we call Romanticism -- German Romanticism, or Romanticism in general, this was a network. What we call Dadaism, it’s a network. And I’m sure that there must be networks today as well.

Parnet: Are these networks of resistance?

Deleuze: By their very existence (Par là même). The function of the network is to resist, and to create.

Parnet: For example, you find yourself both famous and clandestine, this notion of living in a kind of clandestinity [Deleuze laughs] that you are fond of.

Deleuze: I don't consider myself at all famous, I don’t consider myself clandestine. I would, in fact, like to be imperceptible. But there are a lot of people who would like to be imperceptible. That doesn’t at all mean that I’m not… Being imperceptible is fine because… But that’s a question that’s almost personal. What I want is to do my work, for people not to bother me and not make me waste time, yes, and at the same time, I want to see people, because I need to, like everybody else, I like people, or a small group of people whom I like to see. But, when I see them, I don't want this to create the slightest problem, just to have imperceptible relationships with imperceptible people, that's what is most beautiful in the world. You can say that we are all molecules, a molecular network.

Parnet: Is there a strategy in philosophy, for example, when you wrote your book on Leibniz, was it strategically that you wrote on Leibniz?

Deleuze [laughing]: I suppose that depends on what the word "strategy" means. I assume that one doesn't write without a certain necessity. If there is no necessity to create a book, that is, a strongly felt necessity by the person writing the book, then it would be better not to do it. So when I wrote on Leibniz, it was necessary for me. Why was it necessary? Because a moment arrived for me – it would take too long to explain – to talk, not about Leibniz, but about the fold. And for the fold, it happened that, for me, it was fundamentally linked to Leibniz. But I can say for each book that I wrote what the necessity was at each period. \85

Parnet: But besides the grip of necessity that pushes you to write, I mean, your return to a philosopher as a return to history of philosophy after the cinema books and after books like Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus. Is there …

Deleuze [interrupting]: There was no return to a philosopher, which is why I previously answered your question quite correctly. I did not write a book on Leibniz, I only wrote a book on Leibniz because, for me, the moment had come to study what “a fold” was.

[Change of cassette]

Deleuze: I do history of philosophy when I need to, that is, when I encounter and experience a notion that is itself already connected to a philosopher. When I got passionately involved with the notion of "expression," I wrote a book on Spinoza because Spinoza is a philosopher who raised the notion of "expression" to an extraordinarily high level. When I encountered on my own the notion of “the fold,” it appeared to me to go without saying that it would be through Leibniz. Now it does happen that I encounter notions that are not already dedicated to a philosopher, so then I don't do history of philosophy. But I see no difference between writing a book on history of philosophy and a book on philosophy, so it's in that way that I follow my own path (je vais mon chemin).


"S as in Style"

Parnet: “S” is “Style”

Deleuze: Ah, well, good for us! (nous voilà bien!)

Parnet: What is style? In Dialogues, you say that style is the property precisely of those about whom it is said they have no style. I think that you say this about Balzac, if I recall correctly. So what is style? \86

Deleuze: Well, that's no small question!

Parnet: No, that's why I asked it so quickly!

Deleuze [laughing]: Listen, this is what I can say:  to understand what style is, one is better off not knowing a thing at all about linguistics. Linguistics has done a lot of harm. Why has it done a lot of harm? Because there is an opposition -- Foucault said it well -- there is an opposition, and it's even their complementarity, between linguistics and literature. As opposed to what many say, they do not fit each other at all (ça [ne] s’accorde pas du tout). It’s because, for linguistics, a language (langue) is always a system in balance, therefore of which one can create the science. And the rest, the variations, are placed no longer on the side of language, but on the side of speech (parole). When one writes, we know quite well that language (langue) is, in fact, a system, as physicists would say, a system by its nature far from equilibrium, a system in perpetual imbalance (désequilibre), such that there is no difference of level between language and speech, but language is constituted by all sorts of heterogeneous currents in disequilibrium with one another. \87

So, what is the style of a great author? I think there are two things in a style – you see, I am answering clearly, rapidly and clearly, so I’m ashamed because it's too much of a summary. Style seems to me composed of two things: one submits the language in which one speaks and writes to a certain treatment, not a treatment that’s artificial, voluntary, etc., but a treatment that mobilizes everything, the author's will, but also his/her wishes, desires, needs, necessities. One submits language to a syntactical and original treatment, which could be, let’s say -- here we come back to the theme of "Animal" – that could be making language stutter (begayer), I mean, not stuttering oneself, but making language stutter. Or, and this is not the same thing, to make language stammer (balbutier).

Let’s choose some examples from great stylists: Gherasim Luca, a poet, I’d say, generally, he creates stuttering, not his own speech, but he makes language stutter. [Another example is Charles] Péguy… it’s quite curious because generally for people, Péguy is a certain kind of personality about whom one forgets that above all, like all great artists, he’s totally crazy (un fou complet). Never has anyone written like Péguy, and never will anyone write like Péguy. [His writing] belongs among the great styles of French language; he’s one of the great creators of the French language. What did he do? One can't say that his style is a stuttering; rather, he makes the sentence grow from its middle. It’s fantastic: instead of having sentences follow each other, he repeats the same sentence with an addition in the middle of it which, in its turn, will engender another addition, etc. He makes the sentence proliferate from its middle, by insertions. That's a great style. \88

So, there is the first aspect: make language undergo a treatment, an incredible treatment. That's why a great stylist is not someone who conserves syntax, but is a creator of syntax. I never let go of Proust's lovely formula: masterpieces (chefs d'oeuvre) are always written in a kind of foreign language. \89  A stylist is someone who creates a foreign language in his/her language. It's true of Céline, it’s true of Péguy, it’s true of… That’s what it means to be a great stylist. Then, second, at the same time as this first aspect – specifically, one causes syntax to undergo a deforming, contorting treatment, but a necessary one that constitutes something like a foreign language in the language in which one writes, -- the second point is, through this very process, one then pushes all language all the way to a kind of limit, the border that separates it from music. One produces a kind of music. If one succeeds with these two things, and if there is necessity in doing so, it is a style, that’s what the great stylists are. And it’s true of all of them at once: burrow a foreign language deep within language, and carry all language to a kind of musical limit. This is what it means to have a style, yes.

Parnet: Do you think that you have a style...?

Deleuze [bursting out laughing]: Oh, the treachery! (O! la perfidie!)

Parnet [continuing]: ...because I see a change from your first books, it’s as if it’s more simplified.

Deleuze: The proof of a style is its variability, and generally one goes toward an increasingly sober style. But increasingly sober does not mean less complex. I think of one of the writers I admire greatly from the point of view of style, Kerouac. At the end of his career, Kerouac's writing was like a Japanese line, really, a pure Japanese line drawing, his style, reaching a sobriety, but that really implies then the creation of a foreign language within the language, all the more… Well, yes… I also think of Céline, and it’s odd when people said to Céline, “Oh, you’ve introduced spoken language into written language” [in Voyage au bout de la nuit], which was already a stupid statement (bêtise) because in fact, a completely written treatment is required in language, one must create a foreign language within language in order to obtain through writing the equivalent of the spoken language. So Céline didn't introduce the spoken into language, that's just stupid to say that. But when Céline received a compliment, he knew very well that he was so far away from what he would have wanted [to create]. So that would be in his second novel, in Mort à Crédit, that he is going to get closer. But when it’s published and he is told, “Oh, you’ve changed [your style]”, he knows again that he is very, very far from what he wanted, and so what he wanted, he is going to reach with Guignol's Band where, in fact, language is pushed to such a limit that it is so close to music. It's no longer a treatment of language that creates a foreign language, but an entire language pushed to the musical limit. So, by it's very nature, style changes, it has its variation.

Parnet: With Péguy, one often thinks of the musical style of Steve Reich, with the repetitive aspect.

Deleuze: Yes, except that Péguy is a much greater stylist than Steve Reich.

Parnet: You still haven't responded to my "treachery." Do you think that you have a style?

Deleuze: I would like to, but what do you want me to say? I would like to, but I have the feeling… If one says that already to be a stylist, one must live the problem of style, then I can answer more modestly: the problem of style, for me, I live it (je le vis), yes. I don't write while telling myself, “the problem of style, I'll deal with it afterward.” I am very aware that I will not obtain the movement of concepts that I want if the writing does not pass through style, and I am ready to rewrite the same page ten times.

[Change of cassette]

Parnet: So, style is like a necessity of composition in what you write? That is, composition enters into it in a very primordial way?

Deleuze: Yes, there, I think you are completely correct. It’s something else, what you are saying there. It’s: Is the composition of a book already a matter of style? In this, I think: yes, entirely. The composition of a book cannot be decided beforehand, but at the same time as the book is written. I see that in what I have written, if I dare invoke [these examples], there are two books that seem to be composed. I always attached great importance to the composition itself. I think, for example, of a book called Logic of Sense, which is composed by series, it’s truly a kind of serial composition for me. And then in A Thousand Plateaus, it's a composition by plateaus, plateaus constituted by things. But I see these as nearly two musical compositions. Composition is a fundamental element of style. \90

Parnet: And in your mode of expression, to pick up a statement you made earlier: today are you now closer to what you wanted than twenty years ago, or is it something else entirely?

Deleuze: At this moment (actuellement) in what I am doing, I feel that I’m getting closer… in what I have not yet completed, I have a feeling of getting closer, that I am grasping something that I was looking for and haven’t found before.

Parnet: Your style is not only literary, you are sensitive [to style] in all domains. For example, you live with the elegant Fanny [Deleuze], your friend Jean-Pierre is also quite elegant, and you seem very sensitive to this elegance.

Deleuze: Well, here, I’m a bit lost. I’d like to be elegant, but I know quite well that I am not. For me, elegance is something… Even in perceiving it, I mean, there is already an elegance that consists in perceiving what elegance is. Otherwise, there are people who miss it entirely and for whom what they call elegance is not at all elegant. So a certain grasp of what elegance is belongs to elegance. That impresses me greatly. This is a domain like anything else, that one has to learn about, one has to be somewhat gifted, you have to learn it… Why did you ask me that?

Parnet: For [the question of] style, that is in all domains.

Deleuze: Ah, well, yes, of course, but this aspect is not really part of great art. What one might need to… yes, no, yes, no, I don’t know… It’s just that…  I get the impression that it does not to depend only elegance… There’s something that I admire a lot, but…What's important in the world -- besides elegance that I like greatly -- is all these things that emit signs. So I was going to say, the non-elegance, vulgarity also emit signs, that’s more what I find important: the emissions of signs. So, this is why I have always liked and still like Proust so much, for the society life (mondanité), the social relations (rapports mondains) – these are fantastic emissions of signs. What's known as a "gaffe,” it’s a non-comprehension in a sign, signs that people don't understand. Society life as a milieu of the proliferation of empty signs, absolutely empty, these signs have no interest at all. But it's also the speed of their emission, the nature of their emission. This connects back to animal worlds because animal worlds also are fantastic emissions of signs. Animals and social "animals" (mondains) are the masters of signs.

Parnet: Although you don't go out much, you have always been much more favorably disposed to social gatherings (soirées mondaines) than to convivial conversations.

Deleuze: Of course, because for me, in social milieus, people don’t argue (discuter), that sort of vulgarity is not part of that milieu, and conversation moves absolutely into lightness, that is, into an extraordinarily rapid evocation, into speeds of conversations. Again, these are very interesting emissions of signs.

[Change of cassette]


"T as in Tennis"

Parnet: So, “T” is “Tennis.”

Deleuze: “Tennis”… hmm? [He nods to continue]

Parnet: You have always liked tennis. There is a famous anecdote about you when you were a child, you tried going after the autograph of a great Swedish tennis player who spotted you, and it was instead the king of Sweden from whom you asked for the autograph.

Deleuze: No, I knew who it was, ok? [The king] was already around a hundred (centenaire), and he was well protected, with lots of bodyguards. But I did ask the king of Sweden for an autograph. There is a photo of me in Le Figaro, where there’s a little boy asking the elderly king of Sweden for an autograph. That’s me.

Parnet: And who was the Swedish tennis player whom you were chasing after?

Deleuze: It was [Jean] Borotra. He wasn’t a great Swedish player, it was Borotra [a French tennis champion], who was the king's main bodyguard since he played tennis with the king, gave him lessons. So he tried kicking me a few times to keep me from getting too close to the king, but the king was very nice, and afterwards, Borotra also got nice. That’s not a very flattering moment for Borotra. [Deleuze smiles]

Parnet: There are lots of moments, even less flattering, for Borotra. [Deleuze laughs] Is tennis the only sport you watch on television?

Deleuze: No, I adore soccer, I really like soccer… Yes, so it's that and tennis.

Parnet: Did you play tennis?

Deleuze: Yes, a lot up until the war, so that makes me a war victim!

Parnet: What changes occur in your body when one plays a sport a lot, and when one stops playing it after, are there things that change?

Deleuze: I don't think so, at least not for me. I didn't turn it into a trade (métier). In 1939, I was 14 years old, and stopped playing tennis at 14, so that's not dramatic.

Parnet: Did you have a lot of talent?

Deleuze: Yes, for a 14 year old, I did pretty well.

Parnet: Did you have a ranking?

Deleuze: Oh, no! At 14, I was really too small, and then I did not have the kind of development they have today.

Parnet: And after, you tried other sports, I think, some French boxing?

Deleuze: Well, no, I did a bit, but I got hurt, so I stopped that right away, but I did try some boxing.

Parnet: Do you think tennis has changed a lot since your youth?

Deleuze: Of course, like in all sports, there are milieus of variation, and here we get back to the topic of style. Sports are very interesting for the question of positions (attitudes) of the body. There is a variation of positions of the body over spaces of greater or lesser length. For example, it’s obvious that athletes don’t jump hurdles in the same way now as they did fifty years ago. And one would have to categorize the variables in the history of sports. I see several: variables of tactics. In soccer, tactics have changed enormously since my childhood. There are position variables for the body's posture. There are variables that put into play… There was a moment when I was very interested in the shotput, not to do it myself, but the build of the shot putter evolved at one point with extreme rapidity. It became a question of force: how, with really strong shot putters, to gain back speed, and how, with builds geared for speed, to gain back force? Now this is very, very interesting. It’s almost… The sociologist [Marcel] Mauss introduced all sorts of studies on the positions of bodies in different civilizations, but sports is a domain of the variation of positions, something quite fundamental.

So, in tennis, even before the war – and I still remember the champions from before the war -- it’s obvious that the positions were not the same, not at all. And then, something that interests me greatly, again related to style, is the champions that are true creators. There are two kinds of great champion, that do not have the same value for me, the creators and the non-creators. The non-creators are those who maintain a pre-existing style and unequaled strength, for example Lendl. I don’t consider Lendl to be fundamentally a creator in tennis. But then there are the great creators, even on very simple levels, those who invent new “moves” (coups) and introduce new tactics. And after them, all sorts of followers come flooding in, but the great stylists are inventors, something one certainly finds in all sports.

So, what was the great turning point in tennis?  It was its proletarization, quite relative of course. I mean, it has become a mass sport (sport de masse), masses of the sort young-executive-with-working-class-origins (jeune cadre un peu prolo), but we can call it the proletarization of tennis. And of course, there are deeper approaches to explain how that occurs. But it would not have occurred if there weren't the arrival of a genius at the same time. It was [Björn] Borg who made it possible. Why? Because he brought in a particular style of mass tennis, and he had to create a mass tennis from the ground up. Then, a crowd of very good champions came after him, but not creators, for example, the Vilas type, etc. So Borg appeals to me, his Christ-like head. He had this kind of Christ-like bearing, this extreme dignity, this aspect that made him so respected by all the players, etc.

[Change of tape]

Parnet: When you were younger, did you attend a lot of tennis matches?

Deleuze: Oh yes, I attended some of them… But I want to finish up Borg.  So, Borg was a Christ-like character. He made possible sport for the masses, created mass tennis, and with that, it was a total invention of a new game. Then there are all sorts of worthy champions, but of the Vilas-type who came rushing in and who imposed a generally soporific style onto the game, whereas – and here we always rediscover the law “You are paying me compliments, while I am 100 miles from doing what I wanted to do.” Because Borg changed deliberately: when he was certain of his moves, it no longer interested him, so his style evolved tremendously, whereas the drudges stuck with the same old thing. We have to see McEnroe as the anti-Borg.

Parnet: What was this prolo style that Borg imposed?

Deleuze: Situated at the back of the court, at the farthest retreat possible, and twisting in place (rivetage), and ball placement high over the net. Any prolo could understand that game, any little manager (petit cadre) could understand that game, not that he could succeed. [Deleuze and Parnet laugh]

Parnet: That’s interesting.

Deleuze: So the very principle -- back of court, twisting, ball high -- is the opposite of aristocratic principles. These are popular principles, but what genius it had to take. Borg is exactly like Christ, an aristocrat who goes to the people. Well… I’m probably saying something stupid, but.. It still is quite astonishing, quite astonishing, Borg's stroke (le coup Borg), very, very curious, a great creator in sports.

And there’s McEnroe, it was pure aristocrat, half Egyptian, half Russian, Egyptian service game, Russian soul (âme russe), who invents moves that he knew no one could follow. So he was an aristocrat who couldn't be followed. He invented some amazing moves. He invented a move that consisted of placing the ball, very strange, not even striking it, just placing it. And he developed a service-volley combination that wasn’t… The service-volley combination was well known, but Borg’s and McEnroe’s were completely transformed. All this, of course, to talk about… Oh, another great player, but without the same importance, I believe, is the other American, but I don’t recall his name…

Parnet: Connors.

Deleuze: Connors, with whom you really see the aristocratic principle: ball flat barely over the net, a very odd aristocratic principle, and also striking while unbalanced. Never did he play with such genius as when he was entirely unbalanced. Those were some really odd moves. There is a history of sports, and it has to be explained about every sport: their evolution, their creators, their followers… It’s exactly as in art: there are creators, there are followers, there are changes, there are evolutions, there’s a history, there is a becoming of sports. \91

Parnet: And you had started a sentence with, “I attended…”?

Deleuze: Oh, that’s just another detail. I believe that I attended…  It’s sometimes difficult to be specific about when a move really originated [in a sport], yet I do recall that, before the war, there were some Australians. And here, one would have to ask about questions of national origins, why did Australians introduce the two-handed back swing? At the beginning of the two-handed back swing, there were Australians, at least as I recall it, I think. Anyhow, why did the Australians have… This relation between the two-handed back swing and the Australians, I don’t know, it didn’t go without saying, perhaps there was some reason.

I remember one move that struck me while I was a child because it created no effect (il ne faisait aucun effet). We saw that the opponent missed the ball, but we had to wonder why. It was a rather soft blow, and after considering it closely, we saw that it was the return of service. When the opponent served the ball, the player returned it with a rather soft blow, but that had the result of falling at the tips of the server's feet as he was approaching to volley, so he received it, not even at mid-volley, and he couldn’t return it. So this was a strange return because we couldn’t understand very well why it succeeded so well as a move. In my opinion, the first to have systematized that was a great Australian player, who did not have much of a career on clay courts because he wasn’t interested in it, called [John] Bromwich, right before or after the war, I don't recall exactly.  But he was a very great player, a true inventor of moves. But I do recall that as a child or young man, I was astounded at this move that has now become classic, that everybody does. So, there you are, an invention of a move that, to my knowledge, the generation of Borotra [1920s-1930s] did not know yet in tennis, only simple returns.

Parnet: To finish with tennis and McEnroe, do you think he will continue, when he insults the referee, in fact insulting himself more than he does the referee – is this a matter of style, and that he [McEnroe] is unhappy with this form of expression?

Deleuze: No, it’s a matter of style because it belongs to McEnroe's style. It's a kind of nervous recharging, yes, just like an orator can get angry, while on the contrary, there are orators who remain cold and distant. So it’s fully part of McEnroe's style. It's the soul, as we say in German, the Gemut.


"U as in Un” (One)

Parnet: So, “U” is the “One” (l’Un).

Deleuze: The “One”.

Parnet: The “One,” O-N-E (U-N)… So, philosophy and science concern themselves with "universals." However, you always say that philosophy must always stay in contact with singularities. Isn't there a paradox here?

Deleuze: No, there’s no paradox because philosophy and even science have strictly nothing to do with universals. These are ready-made ideas, ideas derived from general opinion. Opinion about philosophy is that it concerns itself with universals. Opinion about science is that it concerns itself with universal phenomena that can always be reproduced, etc. But even if you take a formula like, “all bodies fall,” what is important is not that all bodies fall. What’s important is the fall and the singularities of the fall. Even were scientific singularities -- for example, mathematical singularities in functions, or physical singularities, or chemical singularities, points of congealing, etc. --, were they all reproducible, well fine, and then what?  These are secondary phenomena, processes of universalization, but what science addresses is not universals, but singularities, points of congealing: when does a body change its state, from the liquid state to the solid state, etc. etc. Philosophy is not concerned with the one, being (l'être). [To suggest] that is just stupid (bêtises). Rather, it is also concerned with singularities. One would almost have to say… In fact, one always finds oneself in multiplicities. Multiplicities are aggregates of singularities. The formula for multiplicities and for an aggregate of singularities is n minus 1, that is, the One is what must always be subtracted.

So there are two errors not to be made: philosophy is not concerned with universals. There are three kinds of universals, yes, that one could indicate: universals of contemplation, Ideas with a capital I. There are universals of reflexion. And there are universals of communication, the last refuge of the philosophy of universals. \92  Habermas likes these universals of communication. [Deleuze laughs]

This means philosophy is defined either as contemplation, or as reflexion, or as communication. In all three cases, it's quite comical, really quite farcical (bouffon). The philosopher that contemplates, ok, he’s a joke. The philosopher who reflects doesn't make us laugh, but is even stupider because no one needs a philosopher in order to reflect. Mathematicians don't need a philosopher in order to reflect on mathematics. An artist does not need to seek out a philosopher in order to reflect on painting or on music. Boulez does not need to go see a philosopher in order to reflect on music. To believe that philosophy is a reflexion on anything is to despise it all, to despise both philosophy and what philosophy is supposed to reflect on since, after all, you don’t need philosophy to reflect… Ok…

As for communication, let’s not even talk about it. The idea of philosophy as being the restoration of a consensus in communication from the basis of universals of communication, that is the most laughable idea (l'idée la plus joyeuse) that we've heard since... For philosophy has strictly nothing to do with communication. What could it possibly have to do…? Communication suffices very well in itself, and all this about consensus and opinions is the art of interrogations. [See above, “Q as in Question”] Euuh! Philosophy has nothing to do with this. Philosophy, again as I have been saying from the start, consists in creating concepts, which does not mean communicating. Art is not communicative, art is not reflexive, art isn't, nor is science, nor is philosophy contemplative or reflexive or communicative. It's creative, that's all. Hence, the formula is n minus 1, suppress the unity, suppress the universal.

[Change of cassette; hand clap: something that the producer says off-camera causes Deleuze to laugh and gesture to his right, off-camera]

Parnet: So you feel that universals have nothing to do with philosophy?

Deleuze [smiles, shaking his head]: No, no, they have nothing to do with it.


"V as in Voyages"

Parnet: Let’s move directly on to “V,” and “V” is “Voyages,” and this is the demonstration of a concept as a paradox because you invented a notion, a concept, one could say, which is “nomadism,” but you hate traveling. We can make this revelation at this point of our conversation, you hate traveling. First of all, why do you hate to travel?

Deleuze: I don’t like traveling [because of] the conditions for a poor intellectual who travels. Maybe if I traveled differently, I would adore traveling, but intellectuals [Deleuze laughs], what does it mean for them to travel? It means going to lectures, at the other end of the world if needs be, and with all that, this includes before and after, talking before with people who greet you quite kindly, and talking after with people who listened to you quite politely, talk talk talk. So, an intellectual's travel is the opposite of traveling. Go to the ends of the earth to talk, to do something that he can do very well at home, and to see people before for talking, and see people after for talking, this is a monstrous voyage.

Having said this, it’s true, I feel no inclination toward traveling, but it's not some sort of principle for me, and I don’t pretend even to be right, thank God. Ok, so I ask myself, what is there, what is there for me in traveling? First, there is always a small bit of false rupture. I’d say it’s the first aspect of: what is it that makes traveling for me quite distasteful (antipathique)! The first reason is: it's a cheap rupture (une rupture à bon marché), and I feel just like Fitzgerald [expressed it]: a trip is not enough to create a real rupture. If you want rupture, then do something other than travel because finally, what does one see? People who travel tend to travel a lot, and after, they are even proud of it. They say it's in order to find a father. [Deleuze laughs] There are great reporters who have written books on this, they did it all, Vietnam, Afghanistan, wherever you like, and they say in their fragments that they all were supposed to be in search of a father. [Deleuze laughs] They shouldn't have bothered... Traveling can really be Oedipian in a sense. [Laughing] Well, ok… I say no, that just won’t do! (Ça ne va pas, ça!)

The second reason: it seems that … I am greatly moved by an admirable phrase, as always, from Beckett who has one of his characters [Camier] say, more or less – I cite poorly, and it's expressed better than this: sure, we’re all dumb, but still, not to the point of traveling for pleasure (on est con, quand même, mais pas au point de voyager pour le plaisir). I find this phrase completely satisfying: I am dumb, but not to the point of traveling for pleasure, no, not that dumb (quand même pas)!

And there is a third aspect of travel.  You said, "nomad”… Well, yes, I’ve always been quite fascinated with nomads, but precisely because nomads are people who don't travel. Those who travel are emigrants, and there can certainly be perfectly respectable people who are forced to travel, exiled people, emigrants. This is a kind of trip that it is not even a question of ridiculing because these are sacred forms of travel, forced travel. Ok, fine… But nomads don't travel. Nomads, to the contrary, quite literally, they stay put completely (ils restent immobiles), all the specialists on nomads say this. It's because nomads don't want to leave, because they seize hold of the earth, their land. Their land becomes deserted and they seize hold of it, they can only nomadize on their land, and it's by dint of wanting to stay on their land that they nomadize. So in a sense, one can say that nothing is more immobile than a nomad, that nothing travels less than a nomad. It's because they don't want to leave that they are nomad. And that's why they are completely persecuted.

And finally, nearly the last aspect of traveling that, for me, doesn’t make it very… There is a phrase from Proust that is quite beautiful that says: after all, what does one always do when one travels?  One always verifies something. One verifies that a particular color one dreamed about is really there. And then he adds something very important. He says: a bad dreamer is someone who doesn't go see if the color he dreamed about is really there, but a good dreamer knows that one has to go verify if the color is really there. I consider this a good conception of travel, but otherwise…

Parnet: This is a fantastic progression. \93

Deleuze: Ok, at the same time, there are trips that are veritable ruptures. For example, the life of [J.M.G.] Le Clézio at the moment seems to be a way in which he certainly operates a kind of rupture.

Parnet: Lawrence…

Deleuze: There’s [T.E.] Lawrence, yes, Lawrence... There are too many great writers that I admire who have a sense of travel. Stevenson is another example, Stevenson's travels aren't negligible. So what I am saying has no generality. I say, for my own account, someone who doesn't like to travel probably has these four reasons.

Parnet: Is this theme of travel connected to your natural slowness?

Deleuze: No, I don't conceive of traveling as slow, but in any case, I feel no need to move. All the intensities that I have are immobile intensities. Intensities distribute themselves in space or in other systems that aren't necessarily in exterior spaces.  I can assure you that when I read a book that I admire, that I find beautiful, or when I hear music that I consider beautiful, I really get the feeling of passing into such states… Never could traveling inspire such emotions. So, why would I go seek these emotions in places that don't suit me very well, whereas I have the most beautiful of them for myself in immobile systems, like music, like philosophy? There is a geo-music, a geo-philosophy, I mean, they are profound countries, and these are more my countries, yes?

Parnet: Your foreign lands.

Deleuze: My very own foreign lands that I don’t find by traveling. 

Parnet: You are the perfect illustration that movement is not located in displacement, but you did travel a little, to Lebanon for a conference, to Canada, to the USA.


Deleuze: Yes, yes, I did that, but I have to say that I was always dragged into it, and I no longer do it because I should never have done all that, I did it too much. At that time, I liked walking, and now I walk less well, so travel is no longer a possibility. But I recall walking all alone through the streets of Beirut from morning to night, not knowing where I was going. I like to see a city on foot, but that's all over. [Deleuze nods his head]


"W as in Wittgenstein"


Parnet: Let's move on to “W”.


Deleuze: There's nothing in “W”.


Parnet: Yes, there's Wittgenstein. I know he's nothing for you, but it's only a word.

Deleuze: I don't like to talk about that... For me, it's a philosophical catastrophe. It's the very example of a "school", it’s a regression of all philosophy, a massive regression. The Wittgenstein matter is quite sad. They imposed (ils ont foutu) a system of terror in which, under the pretext of doing something new, it's poverty instituted in all grandeur (c’est la pauvreté instaurée en grandeur)… There isn't a word to describe this danger, but this danger is one that recurs, it's not the first time that it has happened. It’s serious, especially since the Wittgensteinians are mean (méchants) and destructive (ils cassent tout). So in this, there could be an assassination of philosophy. They are assassins of philosophy.

Parnet: It’s serious, then.

Deleuze: Yes… One must remain very vigilant. [Deleuze laughs]

"X Unknown, Y Unpronounceable" -- "Z as in Zigzag"

Parnet: “X” is unknown, and “Y” is unspeakable (indicible), [Deleuze laughs] so we’ll pass directly to the final letter of the alphabet, it’s "Zed.”

Deleuze: Ah, well, good timing! (Ça tombe bien!)

Parnet: Now, it's not the Zed of Zorro, the Lawman (le Justicier), since we have understood throughout the alphabet, you don't like judgment. It's the Zed of bifurcation, of lightning, it's the letter that one finds in the names of great philosophers: Zen, Zarathustra, Leibniz, Spinoza, Nietzsche, BergZon, [Deleuze laughs] and of course, Deleuze.

Deleuze [laughing]: You are very witty with BergZon and very, very kind toward me. I consider Zed to be a great letter that helps us connect with “A,” the fly, the zed of the fly, the zigging movement of the fly, the Zed, the final word, there is no word after zigzag. It’s good to end on this word. \94

So, what happens, in fact, in Zed? The Zen is the reverse of Nez [nose], which is also a zigzag. [Deleuze gestures the angle of a nose in the air] Z as movement, the fly… What is that about? It’s perhaps the elementary movement, perhaps the movement that presided at the creation of the world. I’m currently reading, like everyone else, I’m reading a book on the Big Bang, on the creation of the universe, an infinite curving, how it occurred, the Big Bang. One must say that, at the origin of things, there's no Big Bang, there's the Zed.

[Change of cassette]

Parnet: So, the Zed of the fly, the Big Bang… the bifurcation…?

Deleuze: We have to replace [the Big Bang] with the Zed, which is, in fact, the Zen, the route of the fly. What does that mean? For me, when I evoke the zigzag, it’s what we said earlier [in “U as in Un [One]”] about no universals, but rather aggregates of singularities. The question is how do we bring disparate singularities into relationship, or bring potentials into relationship, to speak in terms of physics. One can imagine a chaos full of potentials, so how to bring these potentials into relation?  Now I no longer recall in which vaguely scientific discipline there is a term that I like a lot and that I used in my books. Someone explained that between two potentials occurs a phenomenon that was defined by the idea of a "dark precursor." This darak precursor is what places different potentials into relation, and once the journey (trajet) of the darak precursor takes place, the potentials enter into a state of reaction, and between the two, the visible event flashes, the bolt of lightning. \95

So, there is the dark precursor and [Deleuze gestures a huge Z in the air] then a lightning bolt, and that's how the world was born. There is always a dark precursor that no one sees, and then the lightning bolt that illuminates, and there is the world. Or that's also what thought must be, that’s what philosophy must be. That’s the grand Zed, but that’s also the wisdom of the Zen. The sage is the dark precursor and then the blow of the stick comes, since the Zen master passes among his disciples striking them with his stick. The blow of the stick is the lightning that makes things visible... [Pause, then]: And so we have finished…

Parnet: Are you happy to have a Zed in your name?

Deleuze: Delighted! (Ravi!) [Laughter]…  There we are! What happiness it is to have done this. [Then standing up, putting on his glasses, he looks straight at Parnet]: Posthumous! Posthumous! (Posthume! Posthume!).

Parnet: PostZumous!

[The camera tracks Deleuze as he leaves the frame, and then from off camera, Deleuze's voice says]: And so there we are… and thank you for all of your kindness.


[Freeze frame on floor of Deleuze’s apartment, end of Tape 3, credits roll]



58/ On the relationship of philosophy and neurology, see Deleuze, Negotiations 148-149; on the brain and chaos, see Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy? 208-218.

59/ For discussion of the “baker’s transformation” in creating ideas, see Deleuze, Negotiations 123-126. Deleuze refers to this as well in the final Seminar session (12 June 1984), attributing this to Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers in their La Nouvelle Alliance (1986), translated as Order Out of Chaos.

60/ Deleuze and Guattari refer to Michelson’s interferometer in What Is Philosophy? 131, in distinguishing scientific “functives” from philosophical “concepts.”

61/ For a discussion of this spatial effect in The Pickpocket, see Deleuze, The Time-Image 12-13, and on Riemannian spaces, 129, also Deleuze, Negotiations 124, and Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 485-486.

62/ On scientific functions and their constituent “functives,” see Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy? chapter 5.

63/ Deleuze’s admiration for Piaf manifests itself surreptitiously in A Thousand Plateaus: the title of plateau 3, “10,000 B.C.: The Geology of Morals (Who Does The Earth Think It Is?),” contains a line, “Pour qui elle se prend la terre?,” from the Piaf song, “Mon manège à moi est toi.” Thanks to Olga Duhamel for this insight.

64/ On the territory and the ritornello, see Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 311-313.

65/ On the lied and the ritornello, see Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 337-342; on Schumann and the lied, see 307-308.

66/ On “Vinteuil’s little phrase” in Proust, see Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 319 and 347-349, and What Is Philosophy? 188-189; see also Deleuze, Proust and Signs, chapter 4 (“Essences and the Signs of Art”), especially 46-50, and Francis Bacon. Logique de la Sensation 46.

67/ On Stockhausen and music, see Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 342.

68/ On Mahler, see Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 339; on Bartók, see 349-350. See also the relation of the ritornello, territories, and the “song of the earth” in What Is Philosophy? 189-191.

69/ Deleuze discusses Klee’s quote in Francis Bacon. Logique de la Sensation 39; see also Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 342-344.

70/ On cries in Berg’s works, see Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 339; on Berg’s cries in relation to painting, see Deleuze, Francis Bacon. Logique de la Sensation 41.

71/ Francois Dosse confirms that Deleuze was a colleague of Jean Poperen, in Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari - Intersecting Lives.

72/ Although Deleuze was 44 years old at the time of the doctoral soutenance (defense) and had written several of his most important books, this procedure was completely normal in the French university system, that is, to receive one’s doctorat d’État on the basis of a major dissertation (in Deleuze’s case, Difference and Repetition) and a minor dissertation (for Deleuze, his Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza). This degree no longer exists.

73/ The term conférence seems ambiguous here since it refers at once to presentations which Deleuze enjoyed that occur in courses, and to more public, punctual events that Deleuze detested completely, which I translate as “lectures.”

74/ A cours magistral in France is a formal lecture course, which explains Deleuze’s subsequent objection to Parnet’s use of the term.

75/ On Deleuze’s appearance, see his response to Michel Cressole in “Letter to a Harsh Critic,” Negotiations 4-5. On the importance of giving courses and the distinction between courses and lectures, see Negotiations 138-140.

76/ Deleuze’s opinions on the state of universities relate to his conception of “control societies” presented in “Postscript on Control Societies,” Negotiations 181-182.

77/ On television as “the ultimate consensus,” see Deleuze, Negotiations 74-75, and on the question of Europe, Negotiations 152-154.

78/ On Pascal and the question of God, see Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy 36-38, and Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy? 73-75.

79/ Paul Touvier, arrested in 1989 for war crimes against humanity for sending seven Jews to their deaths on June 29, 1944, at Rillieux-la-Pape near Lyon, is the first Frenchman to be found guilty of war crimes and sentenced, on April 20, 1994, to life imprisonment. He died of cancer in July, 1996. Touvier had been sentenced to death in absentia in 1946 and spent much of the next 40 years on the run living in Roman Catholic monasteries.

80/ On Primo Levi, see Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy? 106-107, and Negotiations 172. The authors refer in What Is Philosophy? to Levi’s The Drowned and the Saved.

81/ On shame, resistance, and the artist, see Deleuze, Negotiations 173-174.

82/ In What Is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari say: “M. de Charlus closely resembles Montesquiou, but between Montesquiou and M. de Charlus, there is ultimately roughly the same relationship as between the barking animal-dog and the celestial constellation-Dog,” 172.

83/ See Deleuze, “Literature and Life,” Essays Critical and Clinical 1-6.

84/ On resistance and stupidity, see Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy 105-110.

85/ To a great extent, Deleuze explains this necessity in the 1988 interview with Raymond Bellour and François Ewald, “On Philosophy,” Negotiations 135-138. This interview occurred shortly before or during the first part of the Abécédaire filming, hence the numerous overlaps between Deleuze’s answers in each medium.

86/ Actually, in Dialogues, Deleuze makes no reference to a specific writer; Parnet confuses their discussion with Deleuze’s reference to Balzac in Proust and Signs 146, in the midst of a general reflection on the question of style (142-150). In Dialogues, Deleuze says: “I would like to say what style is. It belongs to people of whom you normally say, ‘They have no style.’ This is not a signifying structure, nor a reflected organization, nor a spontaneous inspiration, nor an orchestration, nor a little piece of music. It is an assemblage, an assemblage of enunciation. A style is managing to stammer in one’s own language,” 4.

87/ On linguistics, see Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, plateau 4 (74-110).

88/ On Luca (and Kafka, Beckett, and Godard) and style, see Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 97-98. On Péguy and on the stammering of style, see Deleuze, “He Stuttered,” Essays Critical and Clinical 107-114.

89/ Deleuze and Parnet provide the reference to this citation in Dialogues 149, from Proust’s By Way of Sainte-Beuve 194-195.

90/ On this compositional aspect of Deleuze’s style, with and without Guattari, see Negotiations 141-142.

91/ Deleuze reflects on “the proletariat in tennis” in Negotiations 131.

92/ Deleuze and Guattari develop this overview in What is Philosophy?, ch. 1; on universals, see 7, 49, and 82.

93/ Deleuze develops this same progression in nearly identical terms in Negotiations 77-78 and 137-138. The one omission in the progression he presents to Parnet is that Deleuze attributes the reference to the immobility of nomads to Arnold Toynbee. Also, the citation from Beckett is transposed from Beckett’s Mercier et Camier. See Negotiations 195, note 14, for an alternate translation.

94/ Deleuze also relates the “zigzag” to the creation of ideas in Negotiations 141.

95/ On the “somber precursor,” see Deleuze, Difference and Repetition 118-119, and Logic of Sense 50-51. See also Deleuze, “How Do We Recognize Structuralism?” for his development of this concept as the “object = x.”


French Transcript


"N comme Neurologie," "O comme Opéra," "P comme Professeur," "Q comme Question," "R comme Résistance", "S comme Style," "T comme Tennis,"  "U comme l'Un," "V comme Voyage," "W comme Wittgenstein," pas de X ("Inconnu") ni Y ("Indicible"), et enfin "Z comme Zed."

L'Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze, avec Claire Parnet

Mise en scène de Pierre-André Boutang (1996)

Génerique (vue à la fin du disque):

           Entretien:                     Claire Parnet

           Mise en scène :             Pierre-André Boutang, Michel Pamart

           Image :                         Alain Thiollet

           Son :                             Jean Maini

           Montage :                     Nedjma Scialon

           Mixage :                       Vianney Aubé, Rémi Stengel

           Images de Vincennes : Marielle Burkhalter


  Transcription en cours                   

  Partie 3 : "N comme Neurologie" – "Z comme Zigzag"



The original translation was prepared for Semiotext(e) in 2001, but without Claire Parnet's permission to publish it, the translation only became available when it was used as the basis for the commercial dvd of the Abécédaire, titled Gilles Deleuze, From A to Z (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Semiotext(e), 2012).

The revised version of the translation was completed in August-September 2002.

Lectures in this Seminar