Selections from Le nouvel esprit technologique (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2020), p.103-136.
The bind-of-the-book [le rez-du-livre]
Barely honoured by philosophy, will the book have the chance to be thrown off the shelves that stock and sell it, thrown out from catalogues which brand and order it, thrown out of the schools that comment on it, thrown out of the salons that gossip [causent] about it, and the literature that writes it? Have we ever thought the book which would be nothing but the book, which would therefore not only, not exclusively be this written, manufactured, sold and read thing, properties with which it is one with but without which it is nevertheless confounded with entirely? Between the literature that reckons with it, interrogates and orders it to its ends – as if it went without saying that the book was commissioned to the exclusive ward of writing, the text, when the book is not the expression of fantasies and which was endowed with the ancillary virtue of being both omnipresent and effaced – and philosophy which will have perhaps at most detached its ideality, distinguishing it from its empirical examples, inexpensively sparing it commercial circuits – what makes up the true singularity and the true universality of the book is perhaps lost or has never been exhausted nor examined as such.
The destiny of the book is not yet very visible and perhaps it will be less so when we attempt, like here, to divine it. The least we can do is describe it through philosophically coherent and probable statements, even if it means suspecting – further and finally – the point of view according to which the essence of the book would be exhausted in a destiny, at least within a history. This inapparentness [inapparence], since it first of all concerns this, wants this destiny to be sketched out two times outside of literary and philosophical representation. Let us locate some singular points and trace two lines of facts, two diverging curves through which this destiny exits little from literature as much as from philosophy and enters into what is still another forgetting, an effacement that is more secret than the one we want to draw from here first. On the one hand, the commodity-book, progressively commonplace [quelconque], with a decreasing use-value, close to invalidity, but with a growing market value. This constraint is of the essence and capable of forcing political games. It is not that the book ceases being defined by cultural criteria, but rather that the cultural criteria enter back in their turn into the circulation of one unique system with multiple entry-ways: economic, political, cultural, media-friendly, all of which order the modern statistical forms of power and the unpower of writing and reading, and which redistribute otherwise, in a more indifferenciated and more uniformly distributed way, the old cultural and elitist privileges of the book. It is as though the book was leaving little by little, but irreversibly, the order of literature to come to swell a more general order of society and to lose its body and goods in a sort of general economy that holds together the dignity of the techniques of writing (reputed to be “literary” to varying degrees, sometimes to a very elevated degree) and the complementary indignity of the modern techniques of circulation [diffusion].
However, we must cease speaking of the book in general. The book in general is the statistical book, and there are at least two paths of the book. Another curb – the a priori structures of the experience of the book – another destiny which takes it away, but just as implacably, outside of the traditionally coded field of literature and its apparatuses of writing, publication, distribution, critique and consumption. However, it only takes it away to put it back with them into a more complex relationship, where the reciprocal encompassing of the book and these practices unceasingly change nature because the book is finally recognized as such and that it then escapes from the modern forms of criticism and philosophy (semantic or formal, hermeneutical or signifying). This co-belonging of the book as such and the apparatuses which give the materiality of the book is what contemporary philosophy identifies as chiasmus or reversibility. The co-belonging is both a continuity of these techniques and the book, which is henceforth not separable as ideality, of its examples and their avatars – and nevertheless their distinction, but which is held henceforth in another relation to their continuity. Beyond its properties as a written, manufactured and read object, etc. – “beyond,” that is, among them, instituting both no longer these coded relationships of identity or exclusion but relationships of reversibility and inclusion – there is The book, the Book as there is, like the binding-of-the-book or the plane-of-givenness for writing, manufacturing, distribution, and reading. The book, the Book is no longer as the so-called pure and unaffected ideality, but as a principle or plane of immanence, as the a priori structure which adjoins the writer, the publisher, and the reader, that renders compossible all of these nevertheless incompossible, definitively incomplete techniques, having broken the beautiful unity of “the” Literature – but they are no longer exclusive. Writers invent the book as a plane of immanence everyday – but criticism does not know this – literature and writing in general are the Universal Objective Appearance. Such a great regularity that disorganizes their life to remake all these techniques (writing or others which are always very coded and constraining) the consistency of a great risk. A writer reaches their plane or principle of immanence, The book, which is more and less than what we thus call it, when they submit all of their activity to this rule of reversibility: any signifier represents a signified for another signifier; any written text represents the criticism of another work, etc. The law of this reversibility is therefore the break and continuity, what we call the being-in-the-middle-of…The book is both a type and a place, a typos and a topos for literature and its techniques where nevertheless it is not absolutely separable from, a sort of body that receives the infinite dimensions through which it ceases from exclusively emerging from literary activity – one of its sub-systems or its principal means – and reverses (re-verses) its relationship with it. It is the infinite body of the book, haunted by larval, rabid and risky subjects whose passion, insofar at least as it is unique and it throws-them-into-the-book, that it is the affect of being-in-the-book or being-in-the-middle-of-the-book, is no longer to “make” literature or books, but to implant the literature, the writing onto the body of the book, that is, “in-the-middle-of” the book. One such larval subject of the being-in-the-book exceeds the writer or reader. More universal than the writer and reader who presuppose it, the larval subject of the being-in-the-book experiments with the universal a priori structures of experience or affect of the book.
Like any destiny, this one is old and new with some proportions to evaluate in each case. But each time that The book happens as a plane or principle of immanence of writing, it exits from literature such that a certain number of metaphysical, economic and cultural codes would define it. Without entirely breaking the binds with them and their techniques, The book ties with them relationships of chiasmus or reversibility.
This second way of exceeding literary representation is merits being called the “Jabès-book.” Jabès is not the only writer that the fantasy of the book “as such,” of being-in-the-middle-of the book, will have dazzled and stripped (Mallarmé, Blanchot, others…), but he is the one who constructs a work on the purgation of this fantasy, a work on the care of the book “as such.” More exactly, Jabès’ work is situated at the intersection of this Greco-Western exhaustion of the book as the plane of immanence of literature, and the Jewish interpretation of the transcendence of the book, of its nothingness, its unreadability. At the intersection – at the chiasmus perhaps – of care for the book as Being of the being-in-the-book, and the Jewish passion for the book and its height.
It is an uncomfortable position but it reveals with precision one of the moments, one of the a priori functions of the book as Being or plane, and which distinguishes the plane of immanence, the being-in-the-middle of the book, from any totality of the signifier or meaning: The book can only be constituted as a principle of immanence of literature if, first, it is announced by its unicity, by the implacable refusal of literature. Writing is not only the prohibition of the book, which refuses what we understand by “book,” the book is just as much the prohibition of writing and literature. This is the possibility and the extent of this prohibition that we must carefully evaluate. Jabès tends to extract The book, this precarious moment where the extreme determination is united with extreme universality. He renders sensible the righteousness of this obsession, the book that we no longer leaf through distractedly or laboriously; the book has become rather the unlimited straight line that directly affects the writer even before the writer gets to work and the book crucifies the writer more cruelly than any fantasy. This is what makes Jabès touch us: the writer is first not the access to the book through the mediation of themes, objects, signifiers, figures or images; the writer is immediately affected by this force that he experiments with without delay, without distance, without leeway, without precaution, and who, through this very hastiness, will put even more leeway and delay in the efficacy of the signified and the signifier.
The book – what we must still and already thus call – is already there, besieging it from within and without. It first concerns as an infinite break which repulses the semantic, formal, rhetorical and discursive determinations under which literature presents itself. Criticisms often attempt to organize the encounter of literature and economy, the relations of production, under the aegis, for example, of the “class struggle.” But more profoundly than this exterior, comical and banal encounter, there is, immanent and proper to literary practice (that is, what happens to it interiorly and exteriorly) the very exact equivalent of economic and political “class struggle.” The power of writing is crossed over all its entire length by a division or internal struggle, by this great break of the book as un?readable and un?scribable, the book of the most high, the most far, most ideal to be written, manufactured and read. The book is in struggle with itself in the book, and the writer, before being defined by ordinary institutional criteria, is this being-in-the-middle-of-the-book who continuously suffers and tolerates this ordeal, who passes through this parade. For the same reasons that one defines a class struggle “before” classes, capable of determining them as classes rather than as a professional group for example, or for the same reasons that one says that an event can only become “historical” or enter into the historico-systematic configuration of the Revolution if it is a priori structured by this constraint, we first define the book as the internal division of power (itself heterogeneous) of writing and reading, the constituent scission by which one such power is at once torn from its solely objective and institutional determinations, suspended near oneself and all the better prepared to serve for a space, flesh, and element of “literature” and its techniques. The book is henceforth inseparable from this separation which assures its height, its abstraction, something like its holiness, its constitutional indisposition – what the writers experiment with much more sharply than criticism – with regard to all categories, classifications and techniques without exception (work, text, writing, genre, signifier, literary “practice,” rhetoric, philosophical criteria) which rather assume an abstract and transcendent ideality of the book, interpreting in their falsifying way this height and this abstraction, this face of rigour that the book turns and re-turns against them. The writer’s great passion would be unintelligible if it was not first for this immediate object this absence of the book which is itself prohibited “from” writing, a bit like one says of a censured book which is “forbidden from reading.” But we then distinguish the juridical and political unreadability (“censure”) which we must entirely rigorously call a transcendental “auto-”censure of the book, the “foundation” of the first which gives it a transcendent version.
In what most writers would necessarily experiment with, but what they subjectively and/or institutionally would interpret as a passion or a cross – this dehiscence of the book is refused – Jabès knows to distinguish an objective structure of the power-to-write, namely one of the two sides of the relation-to-the-book, of being-thrown-in-the-middle-of-the-book. It is the “true” gesture which renders possible as its differenciations, its articulations, and local condensations, the multiple activities that are a bit artificially and exteriorly regrouped under the dominant name “literature” whose generality – differently from this true universal of being-in-the-middle-of-the-book – would violently unify (and not without innumerable remainder) a diversity of phenomena and effects that should not delay being dispersed under the names of the signifier, text, writing, etc. It is an attempt to autonomize in as many lines of development or “ideological” regularities, that is, abstracted by the very measure of the forgetting of their origin: this differenciation that the book, that we must call the “book in itself,” incessantly reprojects as an internal and constituent division of the unpower of writing into the power of writing. The book therefore “contains” what it also contains or rather exceeds, namely its own deconstruction. It is not useless – but it is not the only possible deconstruction – to interrogate its literary and philosophical representation otherwise than on its terrain: on the terrain of the “text,” “writing,” “style,” “rhetoric,” procedures and publication. But this deconstruction is articulated within the structural, a priori experience that being-in-the-book disgusted all books, the nausea of books and what writers have been responsible with inventing each time by giving flesh to the invisible: this bibliomisy which is not a subjective hatred but the hatred of the book “in itself” for books, or such that it speaks within them and passes through them.
God refused the image and language in order to be Himself the point. He is image in the absence of images, language in the absence of language, point in the absence of points. (El, or the Last Book, p.19)
This is the task, the problem which makes the writer as the “there” or “being-there” of the book: how does one invent the book through this primitive absence of the book, in this a priori disgust that they include as the non?bibliophilic essence in which the book is at once affecting itself and is affected, through which the book becomes the absent from all libraries?
The absent from all libraries and the occupant of the universal library
The book thus exits from libraries as it exits from this institution that is called literature by borrowing two opposite paths: as the commodity-book and the Jabès-book. These are the two lines of development, two apparently contrary though quite unequal directions through their effects and value, their destructive and creative power, which defines the new space of the book to come. The new space does not even co-belong to their apparently common effect of making the book in some way more powerful than literature, capable of inhibiting it, paralyzing its former forms, of “extending” and dispersing them, making them into other ensembles distributed otherwise.
The first (the commodity-book) indeed, only destroying the classical and romantic institution of literature and the writer, their images and techniques, their mythologies and their procedures by dissolving them on the spot, continues or extends them by being content with wrapping them so to speak over themselves through an internal process of division that is this time exclusive, and to put-into-equivalency or correlative identification in all senses of the morsels thus liberated: the commodity-book, but also literature-commodity, the writer as the manufacturer and producer, as the worker-of-the-book.
As for the second (the Jabès-book), it does not form with the previous one any economy of equivalency. Far from entering under the general law of exchange, the book is rather constituted, and writing with it, under the regime of debt, of one debt as it happens, and in any case, an infinite debt, even if otherwise it is also a finite debt. If it makes a system with the previous one, it is an incomplete system whose two edges are no longer superposed. The Jabès-book is even less foreign to literature which it nevertheless prohibits. It is what it re-unifies or gathers literature and its components otherwise, without being content with dividing through exclusion the power-to-write to simply redouble it, to reflect it over itself and on the spot by uniformly blending it with all likewise divided and exactly identified other institutions with each other. Undoubtedly under the most transcendent Jewish form, Jabès discovers within the repression of literature in general, in the closed and sewn, full skin-bound book, absent from books and libraries, a curative and regenerative function of the forgetting of the book which is the condition so that it can return as the plane of immanence, as the reversibility of literature. On reversibility, namely capable of reprising, extending, and continuing any technique of literary power, any “techno-literary” practice in and through another which is nevertheless distinct from it, which is no longer confounded with it under the law and rules of an institution, which only extends it through a proximal dehiscence, through a proximal incompossibility. The plane of immanence of the Book is the universal a priori through which there is something like writing, its apparatuses and procedures of production, distribution, conservation and consumption – its libraries for example – a whole diversity which co-exists through and with this surface haunted and interminably pollinated by “subjects” that it assembles and articulates, differenciates and individuates as the “writing-written” being of the writer. The plane of immanence assures the reversibility of the writing and the written, dividing one by the other, grafting one “in-the-middle-of” the other.
How do we evaluate the possibility, proportions, the functioning of the withdrawal and gift which are not the two moments but the duplicitous and reversible moments of the book par excellence, the book which absolutely transcends beyond [par-delà] books? Literature organizes and consumes the interminable games of this retreat and return, drawing its effects of the between-writing of any writing without thinking it through itself more than philosophy. Therefore, it is the task of thought that places itself in-the-middle-of-the-book and to experience the law of reversibility. As a rule of the internal constitution of the Book par excellence, it signifies that the books are breaks upon continuums of the graphical substance: sheets, signifier, signified, genre, shelves, libraries, etc. There’s already a shelf in the library, as long as it is lived in an affect which gives it as an a priori under which one experiences the world, and it is a strange encounter of the universal and the proper determination of the universal, a powerful synthetic or associative machine of books, themes, “contents” [matières] or alphabetical orders. Shelves and catalogues are slab [tranchés] flows (bibliothematics), but continuous or rather indivisible (bibliothetics): stopped, reversed, and also extended by books. Reduced to its essence of reversion or chiasm, a book also has the syntax of the and…and…and…, which is no longer an empirical articulation (for example spatial, alphabetical, format, etc.) but a “transcendental” articulation because it associates a break or a withdrawal and a relation of synthesis within the same book. Beyond its bibliographic, signifying identity, etc., there is a sameness or a reversibility of the book which is both an interruption, a bibliothematic dehiscence over a bibliothetic flow, and a continuous production of this flow. The essence of the book is the and…and…etc. that makes the “bibliothetic” continuum an interminable process. From this perspective, the so-called “universal libraries” are imposters, they are only general libraries. The unique universal library is a transcendental library, and the concept of the unique library or the library of all libraries ceases from being a theoretical fantasy to become an a priori structure of empirical libraries when it is conceived as the uni-que, absolute, infinitely finite substance whose shelves are the attributes in their genre that are themselves infinite.
An ordinary [quelconque] book is not only an “object” otherwise for an objectivating writing, reading or conservation. It is a mode-attribute, a book-dimension. A book gives its face, its infinite appearance, its outfit and its cohesion on a shelf, just as on a shelf in a library. Any reader, to solely be able to read, to complete these simple gestures of withdrawing or putting a book back on a shelf, must let themselves be affected by a specific emotion that they experience as soon as they form a complex, a chiasmus, a unique flesh or a unique desire with their library. They then immediately know that one book is also one dimension that they deploy and leaf interminably through to insert another book, all other books in the middle of the book. To obtain the universal book (or library) – this is an infinite process – it is enough to extend the pages (the shelves of the library, the columns of the catalogue) and to bring it to the absolute, under the absolute conditions, which are the conditions of reversibility and the hieratic transcendence of the book, the effects of break and continuity that open the space of the page (the line or the letter, the shelf, etc., the same structure is a priori valuable for all levels of bibliophilic experience). Any book is ordered [agencé] on a break/association syntax and forms a dimension, a bibliophilic horizon that the power-to-write, with its unpower or its own bibliomisy, “wants” or not, orders or not on the mode of a positively interminable process. The bibliophilic power, the power and unpower “of” the book (what does a book want, what can a book do, what kind of book? What does a book want, what can a book do through what writing and reading wants and can do?) has for its object no longer an extended book, a general library, but a book divided or de-multiplied by the middle, in such a way that everywhere in this book is the middle, which divides it, continuing it as well in and through others. An intense library: only a Spinozan or Nietzschean librarian can enter into The book as if in an infinite library and work towards the production of the book as the universal plane of immanence.
Traditionally, a book is not quite a catalogue and reciprocally. But inserted within this universal becoming-book, the book and the catalogue are “the same”: they become the same without being however identical. From the point of view of syntax or reversibility, it is so that the infinite book (the infinite attribute of the absolute shelf or absolute library, or even itself the book that absolutely transcends) realizes the essence of the catalogue or is engaged in a becoming-catalogue through which it serves as the deploying and deployed dimension for other books which are grafted through its middle. The science and philosophy of catalogues are in limbo, they didn’t want anyway what the catalogues can support of an ordinary scientific discourse, of those which are adapted either to closed essences (is there an essence of the catalogue? This is an unbearable and devastating question for a classical use of essences), or to objects determined by laws as objects of knowledge are (what are the transcendental conditions of possibility of the catalogue? This is a question just as vain and impossible for a classical use of the transcendental), or even to objects of style of that which phenomenology had known how to perceive, describe and inscribe within horizons which had begun to introduce reversibility between objects, but which remain bound to the stability of the perceived or lived world and are not yet free as infinite dimensions or attributes. But the reciprocal capture of the book and the catalogue makes them abandon within this identification-in-becoming a part of their exclusive determinations or properties to better to be mutually included “through the middle.” Mutually: following a series of identifications with many other objects (for example, like here, with a morsel of Spinozist philosophy…), reversibility being realized only under the form of an infinite reciprocity, of an infinite negotiation between the book and the catalogue. Hence a “reciprocal” dis-appropriation of books and catalogues, bibliophilic power in general thus crossed all along a withdrawal or bibliomisy which renders them all the more necessary to be adjoined in a sort of “contiguity” through which one extends the other without simply being confounded or superposed without an edge or remainder with it. One such dis-appropriation explains that catalogues cease being simply quasi-books, monstrous, useless and proliferating books, and that it is just as much for the books to come – those which are symptoms or differenciations, articulations of the book – which are engaged in a becoming-catalogue, books more and more monstrous, regulated as such condemned to proliferate, determined to push through the middle to always add a new a-signifying, a-signified, a-textual edge, irreducible to the determinations of the text that are sometimes formal, sometimes semantic.
The book to come – the becoming-book – which is no longer a book, no longer a simple ideal form or a generality, which is a path, a curb that locally borrows some books, is one of these Alexandrine and universal objects that modern art and modern industry produce among works and commodities of classical manufacturing, as articulations that unite one another. The becoming-book conjugates the disorganization of institutions that make the book, but do not disorganize them without transforming this disorganization into a new rule and without it thus recognizing a new, certain positivity. The book to come is no longer ruled by contiguity that it placed with figures of rhetoric nor even through a generalized rhetoric, but through a reversibility that excludes the surveying position, position-taking in general. The signifier and its figures are insufficient to exhaust the becoming-catalogue of the book and the becoming-book of the catalogue, their becoming-dimension for all objects of the world, their becoming-encyclopedia. This withdrawal of the universal book or the universal library in relation to their “real” or “empirical” effectuation liberates them or “absents” them from the world and constitutes them in these planes of immanence on which writers implement many other things than their fantasies. The closed and withdrawn body of the book par excellence is no longer a library for the signifier not more than the universal library contains books. The fantasies are rather in-the-book, in-the-middle-of-the-book, as books are in-the-library [à-la-bibliothèque] rather than at-the-library [en elle], a proliferating library which ceaselessly adjoins again, lateraly with the old, new shelves, a crazy substance for new attributes. It is as impossible to separate real books and a “book” ideality than it is to pose that only one ideal book is the real book. They are these new dimensions, these new affects that the reader or writer experiment with to become a reader or writer and that they learn to vary: the book that is written writing represents a shelf or a library for another book, the library represents a book for another library, etc.
Even if we distinguish the absolutely universal character of the matrix of the chiasmus and the use that Jabès makes of it which is universal on the mode that Judaism is capable of (before simply opposing the Jewish particularity with the Greco-Western universal, it suits to examine the specific universality that this particularity and the complex relations that it maintains with “our” universal is capable of, of dividing one by the other and grafting one onto the other, through the middle, the Jewish particularity and the Greco-Western universality) – one will notice that Jabès profoundly modifies the classical relations of the World and the book, the metaphor of the World as a book which would imply a relative adequation or superposition of two terms. In Jabès, and outside of him partially, the relation of the world to the book becomes complex and duplicated. We little by little abandon “resemblances” or “signatures” that inscribe the world in the book and the book in the world, we break their relations of similitude without breaking their reciprocal inscription. For if the world is a book, more than ever a “message” and a phenomenon of information, the metaphor is reversible [réversible], namely one that can turn back [renversable] and interminable: the book is a “world” and even a being-in-the-world, namely a “dimension” which bores a hole through the closed, nevertheless infinite horizon of the world, but as an essence can be. The book was often, and in distinct cultures, the immediate manifestation of the infinite, but Jabès discovers the infinite as the relation of tension which separates and unites each letter of the alphabet and each word of language. Jabès knows that the book is the only full body sewn together [le seul corps plein et couturé], with the desert (here again we must place the book and the desert in a chiasmus), what the Jews have tolerated. Jabès for his own account repeats the reversibility (rather than simple circularity) of the book as the process of interminable difference and repetition. In the footsteps of Nietzsche who didn’t know man but the pre-human, the inhuman, the super-human, and all-too-human, Jabès does not know the book which would be nothing but the “book,” but what is before and after the book, within the book, outside of the book – the infinite book which, through its very infinity, is the difference that bears “words.” Not the norm, the model, the Idea, the metaphor of the book, but this apparent tautology of the book par excellence which, in another non-identifying way, is nothing but the book. In the sense where there is a languaging language [une langue langagière], a speaking speech [parole parlante], a viewing vision [vision voyante], the book that is nothing but the book is this straddling that the writer must necessary borrow and carry out whose discretion and insecurity are felt as foreign within books and “literature” itself.
Thus, the book henceforth follows two divergent paths that overlap or cross over each other on each point of the world, history, thought, and the book. On the one hand, the book as intra-worldly, intra-historical, intra-logocentric, etc.; and on the other hand, the super-worldly, super-historical, super-logocentric book, etc., to which new leaves constantly grow from the edges, from the slab, and which is also written by the slab.
The techno-literary a priori
Philosophy is not a scientific discipline. However, it is an objective discipline. If it is not scientific, it is because it exits from transcendence, but there is an objectivity of transcendence. It has its regularities, constraints, laws of essence and criteria. Contemporary philosophy, since Nietzsche and Heidegger in particular, gives itself a quasi-scientific object and rigour: the research of the formal and really universal essence, of the transcendental cause of phenomena – of their really universal a priori. Undoubtedly, rationalist philosophy has always reclaimed the universal, but this was only a universal of generalities, of empirically determined, regionally localized essences that it reached, even when it knew that it had to distinguish between the formal or the a priori and the general. The genuine universal is undoubtedly the formal, not the general, but the formal is only reached for itself, outside of its blends with the empirical (the exclusive) when it is also, paradoxically, subtracted from the “simply” formal, namely from the sort of ideality that is one with empirical or exclusive determinations, when it becomes both formal and informal. To do so, it must be determined no longer empirically or ontically (logical and mathematical essences, physical laws, signifying formality, or semantic contents) but through the “difference” alone? What do the moderns call “difference”? Difference no longer has – tendentially at least – empirical content in the sense of the self-identical and therefore exclusive, it is defined – tendentially as well consequently – through a syntactical trait: a relation (divisible) which is at the same time a non-relation (indivisible). This relation which is at the same time, simultaneously, a non-relation, this finite transcendence which is at the same time absolute, is what we call “difference,” namely, the “same.” The “same” is absolutely distinguished from being-present, essences and facts: it is the most radical universal a priori that philosophy has elaborated.
It is also capable of giving an objective definition of literature: literature is the unlimited ensemble of techniques (among which the techniques of the signifier) which have the production, reproduction and consumption of the book for the object as the universal a priori, as the universal “difference” of existing books, techniques of reading and writing, etc. The universal book is not the book in general, the ideality “book.” The universal book is the transcendental book, rather than the transcendent book. Obviously, “transcendental” no longer designates here a de jure condition, only logical and having reality as the reality ideality, but as a real universal and absolute condition. The book as universal a priori, that is, “difference,” undoubtedly enjoys an infinite continuity or an ideality, it is “valid” for all possible empirical examples. But to the extent where this continuity is also indivisible, where the Book is therefore an absolute and ecstatic transcendence – not only an Idea but the One itself – it crosses the points of the signifier and signified, the referent and the referred which make up existing books, without exhausting itself, stopping itself or fixing itself within them. The book is rather a continuum, but a special one: it is produced on the ruins of signified, signifying, referent continuities, etc., produced also on the ruins of continuities of procedure proper to reading, writing, criticism, publication, etc., because it is constituted by a new continuity that is deployed as the border of ideality (divisible) and the One (indivisible).
Universal, depreciated by the generalities of the signifier, style, expression, language, psychology, the philosophy of the book begins to become so when, by the exploitation of the expressive, stylistic, signifying properties alone, it passes through reversibility – precisely through “difference” – both continuously without claiming to abandon these properties and no longer induce it within their simple extension – in the book as the reversibility of these properties, in the book and done through the book. Two tasks are combined within a philosophy of the book: 1) produce reversible and continuous relations of the following kind: any signifier represents a signified for another signifier, and reciprocally; any referred represents a referent for another referred, etc.; and 2) to produce irreversible relations of the following type: any signified, signifier, and referent fragment of the book represents the book itself, the book as absolute, indivisible, hieratic, for any other fragment. It reaches these two tasks when it thus substitutes for the preoccupation of the signifier, style, rhetoric, the blends of the book and its determinations, with the care of the book itself, of its meaning (the first rule), of its truth (the second rule: the relation of relations of the signified and the signifier, for example, to the without-relation that is the universal book, the One…or the absolute).
As for literature, it is essence as being the activity that effectuates the book or works “within,” that is, in-the-middle-of…the book thus defined. It is its essence to suspend the exclusive authority of the signified, the signifier, and style, with variable degrees of distinct rigour and techniques according to authors. Modern literature and its philosophy have substituted for the book such that metaphysics, stylistics, critique and publication define it, with a fetishism of the signifier or rhetoric, namely scattered members of the book, without perceiving what the genuine destruction of this book defined by classical and romantic codes and by the necessities of publication and news reporting, would imply the “return” to the book no longer as the conservative return to what should in any case be destroyed, but as the reversion or reversibility of literary practices in-the-middle-of the book.
Literature is not a contingent ensemble of techniques. It is a genuine techno-logical formation in the literal sense of the word: its techniques do not only maintain a relation of objectivation with their object, the book – a signifier for example – they are, in their turn, inscribed within the book which is as much their a priori the non-relation which deploys or dispenses with the space of their exercise, the supreme transcendental articulation of their play. From literary techniques to the book, there is precisely a relation and a non-relation of “difference” or “sameness” rather than a relation of identification or exclusion. Insofar as they are thrown-into-the-book, that the book is the infinite, unlimited “plane” that opens itself through the middle to graft onto itself, that they take root and efficacy from this in-the-middle-of the book where they are included – techniques and literature form a complex, a techno-literary chiasmus. Philosophy defines the essence of literature by the book as techno-literary element.
The time is now close to where criticism believed to have made a big step by substituting the labour of the signifier, more or less “logicized” and “materialized,” with the expression of fantasies. We would substitute the constraints of the symbolic and the formal structures of language for the constraints of the imaginary. In this order of references, always inadequate as soon as it is not placed in the movement and logic of reversibility, there is just as much pertinence to set the work of writers in the vicinity of the work of physicists and chemists, than in the vicinity of linguists. Writers are perhaps not more, but are as much, inventers of new entities and still ignored particles, synthesizers of incredible bodies, than the artists of linguistics. As one says that they isolate the still unknown cause of an illness, Jabès, for example, isolates on an obviously transcendental, rather than objective, mode, the cause of literature, the book as the pure cause of writing and reading. He could only obtain this result by abandoning, as a writer, the complementary logics of the signified and the signifier to come to be placed “in-the-middle-of” the book, partially abandoning Judaism as a reference or referent to constitute the book itself as referential and implant the totality of his relations as a Jewish writer on this plane of immanence. The book is un?scribable, un?publishable, un?readable because it is also pure scribability, pure publicability, pure readability. Jabès invented, on a distinct mode from Blanchot’s, the book-form which is susceptible to the contemporary logic of the Same, that is, the contemporary logic of Difference and Turning, Difference and Reversion, Difference and Repetition. He knew to reduce, suspend, and limit Judaic lived experiences and contents and as also the barely soft matter of fantasies. Writers often practice a continuous experimentation: it is what Jabès did when he interminably experimented with sentences, aphorisms, dialogues from rabbis and that he extracted from these infinite variations the absolute transcendence of the book itself as the ultimate invariant of “literature” which is, however, one with its variations immediately. To him, Jabès practices writing as a form of the auto-deconstruction of the book. Then it becomes necessary to conceive writing as an infinite experimentation and variation, variations which are not more variations of writing than variations of the “imagination” (Jabès’ famous dialogues of rabbis are not “imaginary” even if he creates them from scratch…). Writing is in what the moderns replace the imaginary, but the essence of the writer is completed when it is rather ordered to the essence of the book from which the writer deploys their own acting and their relations to books on the semantic, signifier, rhetorical, psychological modes, etc. These relations modalized by books must be carefully distinguished from the relation to the book insofar as it is the book which subtends, differs or dis-ports these relations. The book is the relation without-relation, the signifier and the signified have become absolute, ecstatic and hieratic – therefore partially ceasing from being a relation of the signifier and the signified, immediately brought into relation with this vertical, unavoidable essence of the book.
It is this book, in its essence and truth at least, as the absolutely universal horizon of techno-literary practices, as the body of implantation or grafting of the signifier, fantasies and the lived experience, etc., which were as forgotten, and for the same reasons, as “Being.” It too, like the power and unpower of literature, the signifier, etc., like bibliophilia and bibliomisy, was obscured by the unbound power of the signifier which, on the basis of forgetting of its techno-literary essence, would be posed as an autonomous instance. There is a complementarity of the classical mastery of the book over writing and the modern mastery of the signifier over the classical book. Perhaps we must define literature, such at least that it is not “reverted” back to its techno-literary essence where it is abolished, not as such but in its forms that have become exclusive, constituted and sedimented – as the busiest forgetting of the book. The technical positivity of literature is an attempt to refuse the bibliomisic withdrawal that assures it a literary body, presence, and staging. Rather than endowing both – the signifier and the book – with an exclusive dignity that proceeds their idealization, we must, on the one hand, distinguish as most crucially as possible the book from all of its blends or mixtures that it forms with writing, psychology, the unconscious, rhetoric, to disengage its formal and universal essence – exercising the rigour of our bibliomisy. And, simultaneously, the book will be given back to us with all techniques that work within it, as the grace or gift that feeds our bibliophilia.
Bibliomisy is the absolute condition to access the meaning and truth of the book. In particular, to access the univocity of meaning through which it is attributed to all significations attached to books, that it browses and assembles without confusedly blending them since it is content with only articulating and tending them to an “entre-deux.” The maturity of the philosophy of the book – of literature too insofar as it is “reverted” back to its techno-literary essence – begins with this recoil, this retreat that is carried off through psycho-signifying relations of objectivation that it carries away. Thus, when they cease from being exclusively determined in accordance with existing books, and when they are pulled together as this suspension of the authority of the rhetorical, stylistic or psycho-logical “codes” of “literature,” they access the question of the book as such, as the unicity of the meaning of the book which is said by more or less exclusive multiple significations where they risk going astray. For the book is also said in several significations: as written, read, manufactured, sold, as to-write, to-read, to-manufacture, etc., as commodity, as metaphor of the world, as metaphor of the book. To what extent is the point not concern a book identical with its ideality – soon divided, deciphered, dismembered, untenable, relation or held “untenable” – but of the “same” book as the original articulation, the continuous differenciation of its significations and procedures? It is this question precisely that, as an objective discipline which has its ruled forms of knowing, philosophy can claim to re-activate by re-affirming the absolute transcendence of the book as the indivisible articulation under the form of a becoming-book, of a being-thrown in-the-middle-of the book, the writer taking root in this entre-deux, becoming co-extensive with the interminable body of the book, crossed, recrossed, and grafted onto the writer.
This programme for a technology of the book is probable enough. Even if it is not given within the programmes of publishers, distributers, writers and readers, it is at least produced with them, simultaneously with these restrained and exclusive programmes where it has the power to limit power, re-insert it, re-inscribe it, re-including it within and as their entre-deux which it is.
The writer, the reader, and the publisher engage each other in their becoming when they are installed within the jointure of the becoming-commodity of the book and the Jabès-book, which is both its relative (displaced) and absolute (un-displaceable, the absolute transcendence of the bind-of-the-book) limit. The history of the book finds its space of play, both narrow and uncircumscribed, within the articulation where biblio-engineering intersects, which is urgent to predict its rise in power, with both the relative and absolute resistance that opposes it with the bibliomisic withdrawal. For whosoever accepts thinking and working uniquely from this lens and within this bearing and conflictive distance, a new economy of responsibilities, a distribution of tasks – far from simplifying them, it renders them essentially complex – becomes inevitable. This return and reversion to the essence of the book must first allow intellectuals and writers, supposing that this distribution also must not be displaced and otherwise re-affirmed – to disengage themselves from an objectivating conception of intellectual labour and the “practices” of writing, and organizing them around the axis of this difference (the bibliomisy) from biblio-engineering to biblio-philia. Their passion is exalted and sobered by labouring “for” [à] the essence of the book for this articulation which distinguishes it from a simple abstract ideality, even though it would not be foreign to them since it is the bearing and deploying articulation, as the plane of immanence, from empirical examples of the book to this ideality. As for the publisher, seized within their essence or their becoming-publisher, they also have a space of play, the bearing and consistent surface, not the ordinary book submitted to the laws of the market and generalized exchange, nor like the philosopher to the universal essence of the book insofar as it is the articulation and limit of its own relation to books and empirical techniques, but this articulation insofar as the experiment with it, not in an inverse sense of the writer’s articulation (for example from the empirical or material constraints of the book in opposition to its so-called ideality) but in a “contiguous” way to the writer, from or within the lens of these constraints. The writer and the publisher have no identical task, but they have the same task, assuring the passage, effectuating the transition from the essence-book to the commodity-book, implanting the second in the entre-deux of the first, with the critical effects that this operation does not lack producing. Both occupy the same of the pure tendencies of the becoming of the book, the “distributer” occupying and dominating the other pure tendency (“commodity-book”). In the face of the distributer who institutes and reproduces another logic, another economy of the book, the writer and publisher work contiguously on the same line of development. The publisher does not have to choose between the writer and the distributor precisely because the publisher is by essence rather on the side of the writer, on the tendency defined by the universal book and that, thereby, they are capable of thinking their relation-of-difference with the distributer and the specific essence of distribution, while distribution can only attempt to crush the writer and publisher under the logic of equivalency – output and biblio-engineering. However, inversely, rather than situated on the same line of becoming as the writer and having the same task as them, the publisher cannot have the same functions, because they represent near the writer the perspective of distribution on the production line, as if their activity would also schematize the insertion of the tendency of the universal book in the tendency of the book “in general” or the ordinary [quelconque] book.
Diaspora before the book
However, there’s one last enigma: how is this “sameness” of the book, which is not identity, possible? Already, identity finds its condition of possibility in the “same” or “difference,” the empirical and ideal book finds its condition of possibility in the book as this “entre-deux” or this “and.” But the “entre-book” too – even to suppose that the infinite-book is grounded as infinity, as the becoming-infinity of the book – anyway needs a principle of indivision or undecidability which is the only positive content of its nature as the “entre-deux.” The ideality of the book, its divisibility which means that there is also some book, is one with the indivisibility of what is called The book which refuses crumbling and tearing. But this “sameness” precisely of divisibility and indivisibility is content with requiring nothing more, or to use, indivisibility, without which it makes of it the express experience as the experience of the essence of the One. The ideality of the book insofar as it is infinitely divisible tends to efface the One which lies within the heart of the Same, as inversely insofar as it is the ideal indifference of the Same, it tends to efface the divisibility of the book. The Same is a principle less indifferent than identity, better suiting than it to fulfill the essence of the book, but it only moves the all the more crucial problem of the relation and non-relation back, the non-relation of this relation which is the book as infinite, ecstatic or hieratic.
We seek the principle that is both unifying and dispersing of the multiple significations in which the book is said, and we find it in the Same or Difference, in the chiasmus as syntax of the being-in-the-middle-of the book. But at a second time, we seek the internal principle, the essence of this both and this non-empirical and which is the only real content of the chiasmus or the in-the-middle-of…The contemporary philosophy of the book is content with seeking the essence and possibility of the chiasmus in the chiasmus itself as a machine which consumes ad infinitum, which “works” ad infinitum towards history, time and unlimited becoming. The labyrinths always have their condition of possibility in a principle that they require and deny, what they use without more, otherwise refusing, in the same blow, thinking its essence. This always functionally required principle, always approached and swept principle, to which we have never asked for anything other than an inter-vention, precisely the assurance of an entre-deux, of the indivisibility of a dis-cord or dis-port (Aus-trag) – is the One. The One as reinforcement, buttress or counterweight for the infinite divisibility of the Idea which, thereby, is always threatened with dispersion. The essence of the One was never brought within philosophy and experimented by it but as a precaution, a rampart against the risk of dispersion, as the chance of an immobilization, an eternalization, a status quo, and a compensation limiting the risks of an absolute loss of the Idea or presence. The One as the superior economy and absolute limit of the an-economic loss of representation…
It is this game that contemporary thought, the thought of Being and the thought of the book, that is called the Same or Difference. And in this game, the One was never required otherwise than within the ancillary functions of a limit alone, and only a relative-absolute limit, of the process of the division of presence or ideality. It is just as, in its turn, division was always put to the service of the last instance that it would nevertheless affect. The Same and Difference are rather modes of the unitivity of the One and division, but in the indifferent element of ideality or presence. This still indifferent unitivity is resolved within a phenomenon of syntax which is the minimum or essence of any possible syntax in general: the and as chiasmus, the and as essence, still representative, of representation, as the irreducible kernel or invariant essence of what we call “representation.” The book represents the alterity of the non-book for itself: this is the last axiom to which the contemporary philosophy of the book has overcome.
Therefore, we must nuance, duplicate what we call the forgetting of the essence of the book. On the one hand, literature is the forgetting of the book, of its universal essence, of its difference. Literature is the open ensemble of techniques that exploit its manifestation, the forgetting of the essence of the book within the book. Have these very powerful apparatuses which are called philosophy and literature ever really assured the protection of the book which has protected them, content with enclosing the book within the complementarity of the ideality-book and support-book? And even – on the other hand – when new even more powerful apparatuses which mutually inscribe literature within philosophy and philosophy within literature, include the value of the “book” in the economy of the values of the “text” and “writing” having become dominant, “the” book is rather destroyed in its traditional ideality, the closure of its Idea – but it is the price to pay for its indifferenciation, its neutralization, its critique having become dominant, its insertion within a general economy where the rectoral value of universality returns on another mode undoubtedly, on the mode of its (unthought) unity with the One, and carrying it away once by being content with carrying on rationalist “generalities” without really annihilating them. This is so that The book, its contemporary investigation “as such” in its singularity, unicity, and diasporicity, is immediately the dissolution of these within a universal of a new style, within a textual economy that is more powerful than The book. More exactly: the universal of Difference crushes or obscures the immanent essence of the unicity or the One that it requisitions. In a sense, thought can do nothing – assuming that it gets here… – against these games, this returning, this ruse of Difference which is immediately the universal par excellence, which annuls the generality of the book only to inscribe it within a more powerful universality – this is contemporary thought itself. The ambiguity is lodged within the expression The book, which is as much 1) the finite generality, the apparently and decisively terminated ideality of the book; 2) the infinite universality, the continuum of the book, divisible and indivisible; 3) the unicity or unarity which is the pre-universal, non-continuous essence of the book itself. An infinite continuum of the book does not exclude but presupposes difference. Therefore, it is enough to seek The book in its difference to annul its singularity through it. The book is immediately its effacement, the singularity of its book only being an identity which would cover and constrain a multiplicity of values, dissolved in the economy of a continuum which is really universal because it is the correlate of a difference. Here again, at the point of its effort to reach the book within its difference, thought superbly fails to protect it, re-verse it within a universal gam where we must undoubtedly say that it no longer has over itself a mastery of the classical, signifying or hermeneutical type (save for a now partially pierced and displaced appearance) but that we must also say that it has retrieved from itself a sort of super-power, the power proper to the unpower and power of the One when the One is only functionally required without being experimented on within its essence distinct from the essence of Being.
One will difficultly admit that Difference, and even Différance, would be a way of auto-effacement, a superior apologos which restores the rights of the universal – the universal form of the universal…But it is one regularly experimented thesis of this essay that Difference, regardless of its practice, expressly “textual” or not (“thinking,” “desiring,” etc. …) only destroys the general-and-empirical forms, the empirical forms of ideality, and re-invents the great Platonizing passion, an infinite unlimited desire of the infinite, unlimited Idea. Poets as well repeat this adventure of the book that they only protect to efface it, as if the universality of the book which becomes not only the Idea also becomes the World, which also becomes History, which is lengthened in some way infinitely as the border of the Idea and the One, burying its own singularity and reabsorbing its difference itself.
What would be a protection of the book which would interrupt the games of this interminable effacement? A book whose essence would be radically diasporic, beyond these super-universals which are still Difference, its multiplicity and dissemination? The last task for a philosophy of the book is identically the task of a philosophy of the immanent essence of the One: no longer as simply required, as a Limit without more, nor as ontological Unity, but as an immanent experience of an indivisible multiplicity. It is an immanence or indivisibility that would be utterly real and anterior to the “and” itself. It is an immanence in some way as ante-synthetic or ante-coordinating and which would be the essence of the multiplicity itself – the essence of the diaspora as the utterly absolutely autonomous principle.
In conclusion, the technological hypothesis is, pretty much, the same as philosophy by virtue of a certain affinity of philosophy and technology, for a long time suggested by Heidegger and demonstrated by Nietzsche’s example. The interpretation of the book in technological terms is always by definition possible. We can always glance at it under the lens of either a machine, or “technical networks” responsible for driving knowledge. From this perspective, we will insist on its insertion within networks and continuities that are both bibliological and other than bibliological; insisting on the new types of identification that one can make of it as an arrangement [agencement] or machine. Its said “substantial” identities (its thematic, generic, spatial, alphabetical belongings, its massive functions that distribute it: writing, production, distribution, consumption, etc.), all of this has the tendency to disappear to the benefit of identities of a purely relational type. Under the technological lens, the space of the book is rather of a relational and topological type, as is, in its own way which we must clarify, any technological arrangement. The book is no longer defined as much by its belongings as its vicinities, its arrangements of heterogeneous but connected functions; with the book’s or the book’s and its connections’ places but such that these places become more and more undecidable.
The space of the properties of the book can thus be described under the technological attribute, but, precisely, it is a possibility. This means two things: it is dominant, no doubt, but among others; and it is but one possibility: it has its own way of being real, but one supports the thesis that the technological interpretation of the book, like its philosophical interpretation and for the same reason, dissolves its specific reality to the benefit of technological reality and thus consumes its genuine forgetting. This thesis calls for another: only one science of the book – a bibliology – could “save” its reality. However, on one hand, not just any science, not a coalition of existing disciplines (paper and ink chemistry, computer composition, the aesthetics of fonts, the economy of paging, bibliographical techniques, etc.). And, on the other hand, one will doubt, it is not a question of saving the book against its becoming-technological, but rather to save it against the very philosophical illusion that its becoming-technological (namely its end or decline) exhausts its whole reality. There is rather an essence of the book that is not alienated in an end or a decline, which are rather “real” but are secondary phenomena. It is to know that a radical alienation of the book is not possible comes back to save it from its forgetting, namely the philosophical belief that it can be forgotten.
 Edmond Jabès, The Book of Questions vol. II, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1991), p.353. – Trans.
 As has been suggested from the comments made earlier, the “in-the-middle-of” has been following Heidegger’s own idiom being-in-the-world. There, the in is à in French, and in this context, it is contrasted with the at of en for lack of better framing outside of Heidegger’s idiom. – Trans.
translated by Jeremy R.Smith
taken from here
Foto: Sylvia John