October 2006

Arts & Letters

‘The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book XVII: The Other Side of Psychoanalysis’ By Jacques Lacan, trans. Russell Grigg

By Justin Clemens
‘Being and Event’ By Alain Badiou, trans. Oliver Feltham

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the philosophical waters, two large French warships turn up off our coastline, aided and abetted by Australian translators. Seminar XVII is the transcript of a series of presentations delivered in 1969-70. Lacan, one of the most important psychoanalytic thinkers after Freud, was never considered an easy listen. Nor is he an easy read, but persisting with this book will be worthwhile for anyone interested in postwar European thought. Calling on examples from the Bible to thermodynamics, Lacan examines the effects that psychoanalytic insights have had on the status of knowledge. As he says of human enjoyment, "once you have started, you never know where it will end. It begins with a tickle and ends in a blaze of petrol." Endlessly controversial but deeply conservative, Lacan can be savage: rebuking unruly students after the May '68 riots, he predicts, "You are looking for a master. Very well, you shall have one."

Badiou is a kind of monstrous descendent of Lacan. Perhaps France's most important living philosopher, he doesn't much care for false modesty, praising his own Being and Event as "a ‘great' book". He's right. The tome spans the history of philosophy from Plato to the present, weaving in stunning reinterpretations of writers such as Friedrich Hölderlin and mathematicians such as Georg Cantor and Paul Cohen. Twentieth-century philosophy divided bitterly into the so-called Analytic and Continental schools, the former obsessing over science, logic and mathematics, and the latter over art and literature. Badiou circumvents the sterility of this non-debate by being at once more mathematical than his Analytic predecessors and more poetic than his Continental bedfellows. It's a difficult book, sure, but brilliant.

Justin Clemens

Justin Clemens writes about contemporary Australian art and poetry. He teaches at the University of Melbourne.

Cover: October 2006

October 2006

From the front page

Former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull with a screenshot of Turnbull’s confirmation of signing the petition

The Corp’s bride

Despite a widely supported petition, the government is too scared to take on the Murdoch empire

‘The Time of Our Lives’ by Robert Dessaix

The memoirist’s latest, surprisingly unsettling instalment

683 deaths

The Morrison government is not taking the aged-care crisis seriously

Humphrey McQueen (Image © Karen Donnelly) and A New Britannia

‘A New Britannia’ turns 50

Humphrey McQueen’s influential book questioned the nation-building myths of the time


In This Issue

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Thomas Blamey & Douglas MacArthur

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Port Vila For Sale

‘Fast, Loose Beginnings: A Memoir of Intoxications’ By John Kinsella

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Hopper’s Crossing


More in Arts & Letters

Listening to Roberta Flack

‘First Take’, released 50 years ago, still echoes through the present

Body politic: ‘Boys State’

American democracy is documented in all its gangly, acne-mottled glory

In our nature: ‘Vesper Flights’

Helen Macdonald explores how the study of animals reveals unknown aspects of ourselves

Image of OneFour rapper J Emz

The trenches of Mount Druitt: OneFour

Australia’s most infamous hip-hop act is an all-Pasifika group born of Western Sydney’s violent postcode wars


More in Noted

‘The Time of Our Lives’ by Robert Dessaix

The memoirist’s latest, surprisingly unsettling instalment

‘The Lying Life of Adults’ by Elena Ferrante

The Neapolitan author returns to characters driven by compulsions and tensions of class

Cover of ‘What Are You Going Through’

‘What Are You Going Through’ by Sigrid Nunez

The late-life author of ‘The Friend’ delivers a chastening and discursive novel of mourning

Cover of ‘Little Eyes’

‘Little Eyes’ by Samanta Schweblin (trans. Megan McDowell)

Intimacy and privacy blur as people adopt cybernetic pets inhabited remotely by others, in this disturbing speculative fiction


Read on

Former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull with a screenshot of Turnbull’s confirmation of signing the petition

The Corp’s bride

Despite a widely supported petition, the government is too scared to take on the Murdoch empire

Image of Yanis Varoufakis’s ‘Another Now’

Now, then: Yanis Varoufakis’s ‘Another Now’

The economist and author’s alternative future asks clarifying questions about the present

Humphrey McQueen (Image © Karen Donnelly) and A New Britannia

‘A New Britannia’ turns 50

Humphrey McQueen’s influential book questioned the nation-building myths of the time

Image of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire

The personal is political

A closer inspection of Gladys Berejiklian’s relationship with Daryl Maguire and why it matters


×
×