Derrida on Rimbaud

by hyphology

[Translator’s Note: The following brief letter was written by Jacques Derrida as a response to an “investigation” made by Roger Munier. It was written sometime between September 1973 and March 1974. The goal of the investigation was to determine the contemporary significance and reception of Arthur Rimbaud’s work. Fifty participants, primarily poets, were asked to reflect on six questions regarding this topic. Other notable respondents were René Char and Martin Heidegger. The questions mainly asked about the notion of silence as it existed in Rimbaud’s work and as a signifier for his departure from poetry. One in particular remarks that Rimbaud seems to be “stretched to the future,” which Derrida indirectly refers to below. Although the goal of the investigation was to tap into the “spirit of an epoch,” this letter gives a great deal of insight into why Rimbaud, a great opponent of dominant Western conceptions of subjectivity, is not directly engaged with throughout Derrida’s corpus.]

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Dear Roger Munier,

Thank you for your gesture and your proposal. I must avow [avouer], very stupidly, that I do not know Rimbaud: reading for me [that is] almost “prehistoric.” I do not doubt the necessity of doing it or of attempting a return. Perhaps it would be shocking. Then, I must avow, most stupidly again, that I do not currently have the strength, availability, etc. Perhaps it is already there to answer you that I am closed to the FUTURE, that I do not have time for the future.

                                                                                                                               my faithful friendship.

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Translated by Jake Nabasny.

Source: Jacques Derrida, Aujourd’hui, Rimbaud…: Enquête de Roger Munier, ed. Roger Munier (Paris: Lettres Modernes, 1976), 42.

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