Just in time for the Olympics! – Deleuze on Writing and Athleticism

Here is Deleuze in rare form, in the gold medal worthy (but terribly titled) essay “Literature and Life”, from Essays Clinical and Critical (Minnesota, 1997):

“All writing involves an athleticism, but far from reconciling literature with sports or turning writing into an Olympic event, this athleticism is excercised in flight and in the break-down of the organic body – an athlete in bed, as Michaux put it.”

And then a little later on:

“There is no literature without fabulation, but as Bergson was able to see, fabulation – the fabulating function – does not consist in imagining or projecting an ego. Rather, it attains these visions, it raises itself to these becomings and powers.

“We do not write with out neuroses. Neuroses or psychoses are not passages of life, but states into which we fall when the process is interrupted, blocked, or plugged up. …The world is a set of symptoms whose illness merges with man. Literature then appears as an enterprise of health: not that the writer would necessarily be in good health (there would be the same ambiguity here as with athleticism) but he possesses an irresistible and delicate health that stems from what he has seen and heard of things too big for him, too strong for him, suffocating things whose passage exhausts him, while nonetheless giving him the becomings that a dominant and substantial health would render impossible…

“Health as literature, as writing, consists in inventing a people who are missing.¬† It is the task of the fabulating function to invent a people.¬† ….This is the becoming of the writer. Kafka (for central Europe) and Melville (for America) present literature as the collective enunciation of a minor people, or of all minor peoples, who find their expression only in and through the writer. ….Literature is a delirium, but delirium is not a father-mother affair: there is no delirium that does not pass through peoples, races, and tribes, and does not haunt universal history. ….Delirium is a disease , the disease par excellence, whenever it rects a race it claims is pure and dominant. But it is the measure of health when it invokes this oppressed bastard race that ceaselessly stirs beneath dominations, resisting everything that crushes and imprisons, a race that is outlined in relief in literature as process. Here again, there is always the risk that a diseased state will interrupt the process or becoming: health and athleticism both confront the same ambiguity, the constant risk that a delirium of domination will be mixed with a bastard delirium, pushing literature toward a larval fascism, the disease against which it fights – even if this means diagnosing the fascism within itself and fighting against itself. The ultimate aim of literature is to set free, in the delirium, this creation of a health or this invention of a people, that is, a possibility of life. To write for this people who are missing…(‘for’ means less ‘in the place of’ than ‘for the benefit of’).”

So, I would just add:

cf: Hemingway’s writing/sports comparisons (in his letters)

cf: Ulysses and delirium…

Eye-brow raise: does the last sentence, esp. “for the benefit of” potentially contradict Deleuze’s enlightening¬†essay (in the same book) on Bartelby the Scrivener? What I mean is, perhaps he should’ve clarified it to say that the writer is also among the missing persons(?), otherwise the writer becomes the lawyer in Bartelby, no?

One response to “Just in time for the Olympics! – Deleuze on Writing and Athleticism

  1. Great post, it was very informative. I think its a must read.

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