New Orleans Review: Speech Begins after Death

In this small, short, and entirely arresting book, the reader gets a brief yet curiously sustained peek into the daring and relentless thought processes of the philosopher Michel Foucault.

foucault_speech coverHere is a book that is titled after speech, yet discusses writing. And discusses is really the right word here, for it’s an interview, a “conversation” (conducted in 1968) between Foucault and Claude Bonnefoy. So the book takes place as a kind of transcript of speech, and throughout the conversation Bonnefoy pursues Foucault’s relationship to writing, and specifically how Foucault arrived at writing in the first place.

This pursuit becomes almost a game that doubles back on itself at every turn, and writing and speech take on the form of a weird chiasmus. Of course this might not sound all that strange in our after-theory moment (cf. Jacques Derrida et al.), but nevertheless there is something so sincere and striking about Foucault’s formulations and reflections, such as this one:

We write so that the life around us, alongside us, outside, far from the sheet of paper, this life that’s not very funny but tiresome and filled with worry, exposed to others, is absorbed in that small rectangle of paper before our eyes. (66)

This inner-subjective probing is simply gripping, and it’s also a pleasure to read.

Read the full article.

Published in: New Orleans Review
By: Christopher Schaberg