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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Badiou on the Event - “Only Nothing is Anonymous”


Besides being a philosopher and a literary and music critic, Alain Badiou is a poet, playwright and novelist. This brief excerpt from his novel, Calme bloc ici-bas - Calm Block Down Here, shows that events are contingent and must be named. Out of this, we become subjects in our fidelity to the event. 

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… Élizabeth Cathely et Céline Isaïa, masquées et puant l’essence, galopent sur le pavé à trois heures du matin. Elles viennent d’incendier une camionette judiciaire dans la cour d’une annexe de la Légation. « Merde, dit Élizabeth, enchantant le mot dans le sombre orage de sa voix, on a oublié de larguer le tract. »  « C’est pas très important, dit Céline, ce genre de truc est signé “robertiste” automatiquement. » Mais Élizabeth se fâche : « Ce qui arrive, tout ce qui arrive vraiment, doit être signé. Il n’y a que rien qui est anonyme. »
—Alain Badiou, Calme bloc ici-bas, p. 383

Alain Badiou. Calme bloc ici-bas: Roman. Paris: P.O.L éditeur, 1997.


… Elizabeth Cathely and Celine Isaïa, masked and smelling of gasoline, are running on the road at three o’clock in the morning. They have just set fire to a police van in the parking lot of a police station. “Shit,” says Elizabeth, savoring the word in the dark thunder of her voice, “we forgot to drop off the pamphlet.”

“It doesn’t matter,” says Celine, “this kind of thing is automatically signed, ‘For Robert’.”

But Elizabeth bristles: “What happens, everything that really happens, should be signed. Only nothing is anonymous.”

—Alain Badiou, Calm Block Down Here (my translation)

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In this short exchange in his novel Calm Block Down Here, Badiou’s view of the event is in full evidence: an event must be named—“Only nothing is anonymous.”

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