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Zones of Darkness Author(s): Louis Althusser and Richard Veasey Source: Grand Street, No. 47 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 36-56 Published by: Jean Stein Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25007697 Accessed: 15/10/2010 15:16
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37 . I shall describe what happened-between two zones of darkness. down to the last detail. also in a dressing gown. The through window was framed by a pair of very old red Empire curtains which had hung there a long time. The gray light of aNovember was almost nine o'clock on Sunday the 16th-filtered morning-it the tallwindow to the left. one to the left. a professional footballer who was an expert at all sorts of things. Iwould often silently massage the nape of her neck and her back. slowly moved them both. ismy precise memory of those events. But on this occasion I was massaging the front of her neck. My recollection of themurder is as follows. her legs dangled on the carpet. leaning across her body. I pressed my thumbs into the hollow at the top of her breastbone and then. the un known one from which Iwas emerging and the one Iwas about to enter. lay before me on her back. I had learned the technique as a prisoner-of-war from little Clerc. tattered with age and burnt by the sun.Zones of Darkness W * hat follows. onto the end of the bed. Iwas massaging her neck. forever engraved on my mind through all my suffering. Her pelvis was resting on the edge of the bed. Suddenly Iwas up and inmy dressing gown at the foot of the bed inmy flat at the Ecole Normale. still pressing. Kneeling beside her. Helene.
her eyes were open and staring at the ceiling. they always did when Iwas mas saging. strange and still. and all at once the two of us were standing over Helene. Yet I knew she had been strangled. The muscles inmy forearms began to feel very tired. he looked bewildered. the police station." We hurried back down. but never inmy life had I looked into the face of someone who had been strangled. where I knew Iwould find Dr. He opened it at last. who knows? Iwaited. and the Ecole was half empty and the people still asleep. She had the same staring eyes and the tip of her tongue between her lips and her teeth. Etienne. also wearing a dressing gown. He was found dead one day in 38 . other wise Iwould burn down the Ecole.right. recalled seeing our friend Jacques Martin in his tiny bedroom in the Sixteenth District. I continued massaging her in a V-shape. Helene's face was calm and motionless. insisting he come and see her. I had seen dead bodies before. Later. The long. It's too late. who lived on the first floor. Etienne felt her heart and pulse and said. "Can't she be revived?" "No." At that point Etienne asked me to excuse him for a moment and leftme alone. I rushed out of the flat and ran full tilt down the narrow staircase with its iron handrail into the front courtyard enclosed by tall iron gates. the hospital. I kept on screaming that I had strangled Helene. of course. I realized he must have been making a phone call-to the director. Imet no one. "I've strangled Helene!" In a state of total panic. I climbed the stairs four at a time. up hard. worn-out curtains hung in tatters on either side of one on the right brushing against the bottom the window-the I of the bed. Etienne did not believe me: "It's impossible. As it was a Sunday. and I pulled him by the collar of his dressing gown. shaking incessantly. "There's nothing to be done. But how? I stood up and screamed." I said. Her eyes stared interminably. "I've strangled Helene!" I knocked violently on the doctor's door. I kept running toward the infirmary. still screaming. Suddenly Iwas terror-stricken. and I noticed the tip of her tongue was showing between her teeth and lips.
I took a ribbon of curtain and. Itwas a silent message from beyond the grave to the two of us. Etienne returned. I "woke up" in Sainte-Anne's Hospital. which Iwent over with them in private. less brusque. placed it diagonally across Helene's chest. I sank into darkness. some of which were totally unforeseen and unforeseeable. I am not sure when. who had been his friends for twenty years. At the end of 1979 Ibegan to suffer severe pains inmy esopha gus and more often than not brought up what I had swallowed. and 39 . had produced results thatwere plain for everyone to see. She was infinitely more patient. and better able to control her reactions when she was at work. and from that point everything grows con fused. Dr. on my own and without going into the hospital. who was of course a general practitioner but was a gastroenterologist by training. Things were also getting better so far as Iwas concerned. I ad mit Iwas finding itmore and more difficult to give my lectures I slaved away at them with without really understanding why-and out much success. separated always by long periods of calm and deep understanding between us. On his chest lay the long stem of a scarlet rose. A t the turn of the year 1979-80. That was certainly true inHelene's case. making a few limited interventions on points relating to the history of philosophy. where someone (I do not know who) was removing books I had borrowed from the Ecole library. Rene Diatkine. Then things began to go wrong for us.August 1964 and had been stretched out on his bed for several days. and I fol lowed him back through my office. He gave me an injection. I confined my activities to correcting essays and presentations done by my students. things had looked promis ing. things were getting appreciably better. from her right shoulder to her left breast. Her sessions with my analyst. As a direct result. made me have an endoscopy. From October toDecember I successfully resisted the early stages of depression. with out tearing it. Etienne. Despite our perpetual rows. I seem to remember. Etienne spoke about the hospital. she had acquired new friends who admired and genuinely liked her.
Technically speaking. constantly seeking her support. I had to have an operation. This anesthetic and my initial state of anguish gradually caused me to sink into a new depression. she was alone. All these phone calls were made to find out how Iwas. You have to try to understand the sort of state Helene was in. she no longer really existed. about her own unhappy mental state. Once Iwas in the hospital. and each time I had a pro found sense of foreboding (I told everyone that the "anesthetic would upset everything") and so postponed it. I finally gave in. I know of no one who would have 40 . For years on end. As far as all these friends were concerned. 1980. I again went into a clinic. and the only thing she had to look forward to was visiting me practically every day and then returning home alone to an empty house in a state of anxiety. My analyst realized how serious it was and told me later: "For the first time. disturbing revealed a hiatus hernia. she had borne the full burden of my states of anxiety. On two occasions a date was fixed for the operation. however. never how she was." I continued to get worse. the operation was a success. Helene found herself endlessly repeating the same phrases and suffered greatly because no one ever asked how she was.X-rayed. otherwise Iwould in time suffer ulcers in the esophagus. before deciding I had to go into the hospital.Because the doctors were insistent. to my knowledge. you presented all the symptoms of classic and acute melancholia. the endless months (or weeks) when I was in a state of growing tension as I struggled along. and what ismore it appeared serious and alarming. which for the first time was nei ther dubious nor neurotic in origin but was a classic acute case of melancholia. and hypomania. But Iwoke up from the anesthetic in an uncontrollable state of anguish (whereas some years earlier I had twice had anesthesia for an in guinal hernia and for appendicitis and had suffered no ill effects). and not just my depressions but what was far worse. But what she found most difficult and in the end unbearable was the succession of telephone calls from my numerous friends and countless acquaintances who were constantly wanting to know how Iwas and asking for detailed reports on my state. the prognosis of which isoften extremely serious. depression. and on June 1. before Easter 1980.
intermittently. without any side effects. with a few rare exceptions. She had no one to share her suffering. that is to say I acted in accordance with the themes and the When logic of my dreams. I lapsed into semiconsciousness and was at times wholly un conscious and in a confused mental state. and especially during one of my hypomanic states when Iwas truly unbearable. Indeed. I will not go into the technical details. In addition. it had alwaysworked wonders for me and. I was prescribed Niamide (an MAO inhibitor). My constantly aggressive and provocative behavior wounded her deeply. but I rapidly fell into a seriously confused mental state. she was waiting for it even during the periods when things were going better. suffering hallucinosis and "suicidal" persecution. thoughtlessness. had done so very quickly. which are frequently seen in cases of acute melancholia. Iwas. a drug that was rarely administered because of the dangers associated with it (especially the well-known cheese effect) and the spectacular side effects. and-whether from indifference. I could no longer see clearly and lost control of my bladder. a "feigned" or "neurotic" depression. and be ing admitted to the hospital did not have the immediate calming effect I had experienced previously on every occasion. but always following the same pattern. Iwas no longer able to control the movements of my body. a fortiori. was constantly falling down and vomiting all the time. 41 . antidepressants can have these sorts of effects. the reverse was true this time. I "lived"my dreams inmy waking state. of course. As she knew Iwas likely to have relapses. To the complete surprise of my doctors. Not only did the rapid effect fail tomaterialize. and the things I saidwere nothing but ravings. She saw in it a lack of un derstanding and an injustice toward her that was intolerable. This time Iwas not "putting on" an atypical or doubtful depression. My speech was confused.put up long period-and been going on for nearly thirty years. I suffered terrible nightmares that lingered on for a long time when Iwas awake. or for some other reason-none of my friends. most unusually. Previously. taking the illusion of dreams for reality. to the extent that I often used one word when Imeant another. unable towrite. as were my percep tions. was either seemingly or genuinely aware of it. which I could no longer follow or connect.
Condemned to death and threatened with execution. which they gave me intravenously. I thought the Red Brigades had con demned me to death and would burst intomy room during the day or at night. I was absolutely preparing have been convinced to kill me. extremely concerned about me. and as usual. and prescribed Anafranil. and returned to the Ecole. I know. by getting rid of Helene herself. which they be lieved responsible for the disturbing side effects. I found only one course open: to anticipate the death thatwas inflicted on me by killing myself in advance. we went off to 42 . and "if possible. who reported it to me in these terms." while I was at it. However. by burning down the Ecole as well. which except for a few flashes have been completely blotted out by amnesia.While Iwas in that state I endlessly elaborated themes reflecting my suicidal persecution to everyone who visited me. by destroying every one of my books. That at least is what I confided on one occasion to a friend. I believed men armed with rifles with telescopic sights were taking aim from the windows of the buildings opposite and would shoot me. I did. from the doctors who looked after me. I have got them from the numerous friends who came to visit me. Helene and Iwere together again. all my notes. and after a little while they thought Iwas well enough to leave the clinic. Finally. This whole "pathological" pattern was accompanied by ex treme suicidal tendencies. The new treatment seemed to prove successful.Iwas awake Iwas unable to distinguish between my hallucinations and simple reality. I even thought a tribunal was taking place in the room next to condemn death. They decided to takeme off theMAO inhibitors. and by carefully cross-checking and matching the information I gathered from the accounts they gave me and the remarks theymade. (I have only his testimony in relation to the last point. all my friends agree that I left the clinic in very bad shape. a member to mine that certain men wanted with me dead and were who must in particular a man of the staff I caught that was going a beard sight of when me to he was on duty at the hospital.) The doctors were. Moreover. I imag ined all sorts of possible ways of dying and in addition wanted not only to destroy myself physically but also to destroy all traces of my existence: in particular. I do not remember all the details of these hallucina tions.
She told me there was no way out. that Iwas truly capable of the most terrible things). If she happened to stay at home. however.which I knew too well to doubt her intentions. in a tone suggesting she reallymeant it. I do not know what exactly I put Helene through (I do know. to ease my anguish with this thought. in vain.theMidi for peace and quiet and sea air. What followed was the worst period Helene and I ever suf fered. especially by her. given the "monster" Iwas and the inhuman suffering I inflicted upon her. and the intervening periods of respite gave us hope. Then Helene began to develop another theme. And she assured me. she totally ignored me in our own flat. but only intermittently. She got up before me and disappeared for the whole day. I always experienced intense anguish at being abandoned. Had not our friend Nikos Poulantzas recently committed suicide by throwing himself from the twenty-second floor of the Montparnasse tower. slammed the doors and forbade me to enter. Itwas hell for two in a state of deliberately contrived solitude. She refused to eat inmy company. I was consumed with anguish. which had been in the background for severalmonths but now assumed a terrifying form. She quite openly collected the drugs she needed to commit suicide and left them on display. and I tried. in an acute state of persecution mania? She also talked of the possibility of throwing herself under a truck or a train. 43 . as if she were leav ing the choice to me. more violent ways. but she told me with a determination that terrified me that she could no longer livewith me. Things had begun to go wrong the previous spring.We stayed only eight or ten days and then returned home. She then made practical arrangements that I found unbearable. at home." and that she wanted to leave me for good. She took refuge either in her bedroom or in the kitchen. that in her eyes Iwas a "monster. she refused to talk tome and even to come face to face with me. but she also talked of other. but this abandon ment inmy presence. Deep down I knew she could not actually leaveme. my condition had worsened. other than to kill herself. though Iwas not entirely convinced of it. She began quite openly to look for a flat but did not find one immediately. Now they took a definite turn for the worse and continued without a break until the end. was the most unbearable thing of all.
as had happened after so many acute crises in the past. to come to her senses and accept what she really wanted deep down: not to abandon me.we saw practi cally no one else (the Ecole had not really started up again). not only of abandoning me. Iwould have to allow sufficient time to elapse for her to calm down. to cap it all. It seems I even put up some sort of handwritten notice outside my office for all to see saying: "Temporarily absent. which was unthinkable and unbearably awful.that these were not vain threats but an irreversible decision." Even if they had tried. Then one day. obviously without warning me. and the very idea. made me tremble convulsively for a long time. whom she and I both saw. but to continue living with me and loving me as she always had. Two or three days went by and nothing happened. They con sidered him fundamentally responsible for not having intervened. since Iwas no longer opening it to anyone. they could only have done it by breaking it down. there was only one option open to me. This whole period of hell was lived out behind closed doors. The two of us were shut up in our own private hell. I later discovered thatHelene sawmy analyst on either Thursday the 13th or Friday the 14th and begged him to delay my admission to the hospital for three days." Friends who tried to call us and read this notice on thewall toldme much later that they reproached themselves for never having tried to "force my door. Imust have seen him for the last time on November 15 [sic]. It stillmakes me shudder. not to kill herself. November 17. I discovered in my mail at the Ecole an express let 44 . but also of taking her own life? All in all. She would simply choose the method and the time. don't keep knocking. My analyst doubtless gave way to her en treaties. inwhat our friends later referred to as an "impasse. and he told me that things could not continue as they were and that I had to agree to go into the hospital. Was she trying to suggest in some way that she was incapable." if one includes my analyst aswell as the two of us. and itwas agreed that unless something else happened I would go into the Vesinet on Monday." "a hell for three. At a much later date. Time went bywith us shut up together in this terrible isolation. she simply asked me to kill her myself. Yet my analyst had intervened. We no longer an swered either the telephone or the doorbell. Apart from my analyst.
Bousquet. * * S nce he had given me an injection and made a few phone calls. At nine o'clock on Sunday. Friday asking Helene "extremely urgently" to call him back. none of them. naked. before being questioned for the first time and examined by a police psychiatrist who decides whether he should be admitted to Sainte-Anne's next door. whose behavior was beyond reproach during this whole affair. All of them were deeply distressed. and until they received the results of the autopsy (which concluded that her death had been caused by "strangulation"). It was doubtless an editor with the French Press Agency who informed my friends of Helene's death. the Minister of Justice. I recall my analyst was unable to call either me or Helene on the phone: we were not answering it anymore. Etienne quickly drove me to Sainte-Anne's Hospital. postmarked 14th. and they then passed the news around and quickly informed my analyst. Dr. at any rate. November 16. though I do not know why. without knowing why. I surfaced after an unfathomable night and found myself standing at the foot of my bed with Helene stretched out before me. Exceptions can be made only in cases of extreme urgency and seriousness. It is "standard practice" for someone suffering from a "psychological disturbance" to be taken first to the police station (an annex of Sainte-Anne's) for the usual formalities. was ex tremely angry and telephoned the director. The defendant is usually kept there for twenty-four hours. could believe 45 . I found out later that. replied that Iwas under his jurisdiction. Alain Peyrefitte.My fate was sealed. to chew him out. especially my analyst.Jean Bousquet. that I was very sick. a former student at the Ecole. where I was admitted as an urgent case. The letter reached the Ecole on the 17th. Then I realized. other than from her motionless eyes and the pitiful tip of her tongue showing between her teeth and lips. it arrived after the tragic event. that she was dead.Diatkine. in a padded cell with just a mattress on the ground. I rushed screaming from our flat. when he discovered I had been taken straight to Sainte-Anne's without going via the police station.
Althusser was let off thanks to the "protection in high places" that he enjoyed: the university establishment and intellectuals of all persuasions had automatically closed ranks to keep things quiet and to protect one of their own from the rigors of the "rules." of course." Naturally. but certain papers really had a field day. a philoso pher. 5) itwas a scandal that a criminal should have been openly protected by the "establishment"-think what would have happened to an ordinary Algerian in the same situation.Ihad killed Helene but imagined that because Iwas suffering from hallucinations. nor for a good 46 . a Marxist and a communist. not only with me personally. they delighted in their political revenge. Iwas very well known as an ex-student of the Ecole. 4) had been mad for a long time. and philosophy. you can imagine how distraught my friends were. but also by all the philo sophers. I knew nothing of all this at the time. The authors elaborated five themes with obvious relish and self-satisfaction. following themes: 1) Marxism = it was a scandal that amadman. guiding "our children". one "centrist" paper dared to say. communism. not only by all the tutors at the Ecole. In short. first because it took some time for the results of the autopsy to come through and then because of the declaration that there were no grounds for a trial. 2) communism = crime. Iwas protected by the teach ing union of which Iwas a member. articles appeared on the = crime. who 3) philosophy madness. married to a woman who was less well known but apparently remarkable. When you realize how long these press comments went on. the French (and the international) press behaved quite properly. The news was quite a scoop: itmade headlines in both French and foreign newspapers and rapidly gave rise to all sorts of "analyses" and commentaries. could have spent over thirty years at the Ecole Normale teaching generations of philosophers who were now in lycees everywhere. not tomention the Ecole Normale. as you can imagine. since the "crime" gave them the chance to settle old scores once and for all. On the whole. given the "witch hunt" atmosphere theywere caught up in. Iwas "defended. In France and abroad. who according to one journalist "were united behind Althusser. I accused myself wrongly of causing a death that was accidental." perhaps even from the law. but with Marxism.
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and publish a scandalous article in the press. On the other hand. and most of which carried strong threats or even sexual overtones. The doctor who looked after me at Sainte-Anne's. and the out side world. little by little and with a great deal of caution. He rightly feared Iwould be trau matized by it and thatmy condition would get worse. This prolonged sleep was pleasant. take some photos. They stirred up past memories and reminded me of the outside world (I believed myself finished for good. after the shock treatment and its beneficial effect on me. I remember only swal lowing enormous doses of chloral. At last. curtainless windows) that I had the greatest difficulty in waking up each morning.while afterward. It also explains why he made the decision to forbid me any visitors. mostly by people I did not know who showered me with insults (communist criminal!). with an attention and kindness that touched me deeply. not knowing who might turn up and what theymight say tome. as is anything that enables you to escape the return of your feelings of anguish. then five but no more. That explains why he "blocked" the huge amount of correspondence addressed to me. then three. he was afraid ajournalist might manage to slip into the hospital." For tunately. Above all. The weekly intended to publish this document under the title: "The mad philosopher Louis Althusser continues to give his lectures on Marxism-Leninism to his co-detainees. I have since discovered that a journalist from one of the major French weeklies managed to get hold of a photograph of me (doubtless by bribing a nurse) in which Iwas seen sitting on my bed in front of the three people who shared the room. the lawyermy friends consulted (to find out what form the legal proceedings would take) intervened. Iwas aware of receiving a dozen shock treatments. which I thought Iwould never see again. I do not know if Iwas given other antidepressants at Sainte Anne's (other than the MAO inhibitor). which suggests Imust have been very depressed. and the photo with its caption never appeared. and only those friends that he was com pletely certain could be trusted. that I should be allowed to have visitors: initially two. I did not always find these visits restful. took care that no news got through tome. This was not an imaginary fear. caused me 48 . an old and very effective drug that to my great satisfaction made me sleep so well (despite the very long. pick up vague bits of information. my doctor agreed.
to visit me in the intensive care unit and to talk to the special ist looking after me. and Iwas sent to Soisy-sur-Seine. I endlessly went over with him the deep-seated reasons for the murder I had committed. when I had been admitted to Sainte Anne's. as medical lawwas on their side. which are often much worse than prisons. the doctor might 49 . but they needed simple courage to invoke it) to defend me. on Sunday morning. It was the only time he had doubts about my survival. I discovered later from my doc tor that my analyst saw him from time to time and gave him his support. My friends breathed easily again. my analyst had managed. yet without ever feeling guilty.being anguish). Itwas springtime and the grass had been mown. he never doubted that Iwould be psychologically "cured.Without him. "to settle the Althusser affair once and for all. You usually rot your whole life away there. On one occasion. My analyst came to visit me once a week. I remember putting forward the following hypothesis (I had al ready suggested it to him at Sainte-Anne's): Helene's murder was "a suicide by another hand. * * * I arrived at Soisy inJune 1981. I was admitted to ward seven."Now ev eryone knows how rare it is for someone to get out of one of these secure hospitals. saying Iwas neither dangerous nor violent (which was perfectly obvious). Thank God my doctors at Sainte-Anne's had the courage (that is the right word." When my doctor was very worried about what might hap pen (as he often was). after incredible negotiations. But so long as I survived. my analyst supported him in the belief that I would recover-he never faltered. The doctors at Sainte-Anne's had come under "very sustained" pressure on the part of certain "administrative authorities at the highest level" to have me locked up in a "secure hospital" in the provinces. which was to be my home until July 1983. in the almost totally deserted ward (with only one emergency-duty nurse)." He listened to me. The huge green park was dotted with white wards between tall trees. He believed that it was the end and that I would not recover physically from what I had gone through. neither agreeing nor disagreeing with what I said.
provided a refuge against the anxiety of some impossible contact with the outside world. I looked on being in the hospital as I had always done on pre vious occasions: as an almost complete refuge from the anxieties of the outside world. who certainly noticed it. How would I ever get out? My doctor was fully aware of this. and visiting friends is com municated. anguished in turn. and I remember on both occasions we discussed everything 50 . however. thereby intensifying its effects. afraid that Iwouldjump on them and strangle them-as if they had sensed my horrifying desire. cloaked in feelings of anguish. as were all the nurses to whom I constantly conveyed my feelings of anguish. he played along with me. to the extent thatmy doctor's position be came critical. and thus became af fected by it. certain secondary effects.The anxiety of the patient. But I found out later that the women nurses were afraid to come intomy room alone in the evenings. However. and it communicated itself totally inmy case. Foucault himself came to see me twice. thinking of one specific occasion when I had looked in terror at the base of a fe male friend's neck and asked myself with anguish: What if Iwere to strangle a woman all over again? My doctor reassured me-of course you won't!-but without giving me any further explana tion.perhaps have resigned himself to the idea of my becoming another "chronic case. inwhich he isboth actively and passively caught up? It is an extraordinarily difficult situation that can be resolved only by making compromises. Iwill give one example." like those whose lifelong wretchedness I observed all around me. at least with regard tomy friends.How can the doctor escape this interplay of multiple anxieties." both objective effects precisely. with my anguish. I believe I can locate the principal source of these secondary with the "nature. if not in relation to the nurses. confined to solitude by my own impenetrable anguish. I even remember one day putting the terrible question to my doctor. There were. which my doctor did. Confinement unavoidably gives rise to this contagion. It was as if Iwere in a fortress. the nurses. but was brought tome each day by my friends who came from that outside world and returned to it again. the outside world was not solely a product of my own fantasies. the doctor. and since he understood. which iswhy Imention it. connected as it is of the "fortress" that afforded me protection and and fantasized.
thatwas happening in the intellectual world." wholly in touch with everything. As a baby. he could not avoid drawing a parallel between the Church's aversion to friendship and their aversion to homo sexuality. Naturally. an extraordinary exchange of ideas and experiences that I will never forget. he was taken in by the local priest. it had always profoundly mistrusted friendship. the self was ignored in favor of something higher: "Your thinking was done for you in accor dance with the rule. which classical philosophers and especially Epicurus placed at the heart of their ethical practices. your own personal thoughts were considered a sin of pride. and because someone else thought for you. "man was a very recent discovery" in the monasteries. In his obedience. a latent form of homosexuality. Father Breton was with me. their books. and Iwould sometimes even get in a dig at Foucault. as a homosexual. thisman realized that he had a livelymind and sent him to the seminary at Agen. involving strict observances. In this sense. he alluded to a certain predisposition to homosexuality (again ambivalent) on the part of the Church and those living the monastic life. their projects. under my aegis as umpire. Breton had not had a single friend in his life: friendship was al ways considered suspect because itdegenerated into special friend ship.without knowing who his parents were. my ideas started to come back tome.while theChurch had always valued love highly. There then took place between them. but not much. that the uniqueness of the individual began to be respected a little more. picking up a comment made by Foucault. In other words. I was quite "normal. who went away convinced Iwas getting a lot better." Itwas only later. selfless existence (since Christ was not a but an person impersonal being subsumed in theWord). and their conflicts. A repressed attraction to 51 . as well as the political situation.when practices had evolved. When he came on another occasion. Foucault spoke of his research into fourth-century Christian "values" and made the important observation that. not to make theological points but to share his personal experience. At this point Father Breton inter vened quite astoundingly. Breton suggested. as a consequence of what was referred to as Christian personalism. At fifteen he became a novice and led the extremely austere life of a young monk-an impersonal. as I did with virtually all my friends: the characters who were part of it. where he completed part of his secondary education.
for exam ple. appar homosexuality certainly ent in the exclusion of women. and what Foucault said was quite understandable. when expressed both to one's neighbor and to others at large. There was. and since woman is a dirty creature. taking part in a conversation that had nothing to do with the fortress hospital.Church. There Iwas between the two of them. one saintly priest who faithfully saidMass and carried out all the observances. It is a well-known fact that sick people suffering from an acute and therefore transitory crisis. The superiors were obsessed with special friendships. which they feared as a widespread evil. saintly priests at that. It was on this basis that he built up his picture of my confinement in the fortress hospital. in the broadest sense of the term. Love was a way of freeing oneself from friendship. Iwould venture to sayhe was much more fixated and anguished than Iwas bymy obsession with being confined and my fear of the outside world. Then there were somany priests. opened his fly. which explained their instinctive pu rity. I only told him about my anxieties. who are automatically and routinely confined in a psychiatric hospital. Obviously my doctor knew relatively little about this aspect of my life. and cut off a few pubic hairs to place in a sort of reliquary (the box containing the host). The same thing happened with all my friends. which Iwill explain. thus enabling me to escape the famous prison "security" in both mind and conversation and to experience the outside world. listening to Foucault and Father Breton. Friendship in such cases was always suspect. having detected signs of the anguish I felt. not somuch on account of my fear of the outside world as for deeper reasons. Iwould like to emphasize the damage done by the very exis tence of psychiatric institutions. There would never have been such an insistence on the danger of special friendships had homosexu ality not been a constant danger and temptation. and I did not tell him about it. who detested women. I recently had a long talkwith him about these past issues. many priests believed they were turning their backs on impurity by having nothing to do with women and "enjoying boys" instead. 52 . he projected his own anguish in amuch more radical form onto me. far from my anxiety about being shut in and protected. and who one day took his charming little server into the sacristy after Mass. It is true I thought Iwas completely done for. and I realized that.
my heart. It was a way of expressing a wholly different. Helene. It was as if. unconscious loss. I lost everything because I had lost the Everything that mattered to me. This business of endlessly losing everything was a psychological working out of my grief." trulymentally ill and incapable of ever leaving the hospital grounds. I lost simultaneously all capacity to attribute value to specific objective-objects. Iwas actually losing my body under the effects of some 53 . a wholly different "dialectic" was developing within me: that of "mourning. it is striking that the best intentioned doctor in the world-and the one best equipped to "listen" to his patients-projected onto me his own anxiety about the absolute "fortress" and. there. and goodness knows what else. I suffered in every part of my body: my eyes. on the way they see their patients and their anxieties. drugs cases. in losing the unconscious source of all this. But what is less known is the effect of psychiatric confine ment on the doctors themselves. At the same time. For a long time-it seemed interminable-I lost everything: my dressing gown. Itwas not somuch the external world that caused my anxiety as the intense fear of finding myself alone. of being powerless to solve any difficulty whatsoever. my address book. that of my mother. In my own case. my esophagus. my socks. my intestines. the loss of the person I loved. everywhere. which reawakened another. subjective-object was transformed unconsciously into an indefinitely repeated me chanical act: the loss of specific objective-objects. which related to objective-objects. my feet.my glasses. I see now the unconscious significance of this strange behavior. in losing the subjective-object that determined everything towhich I attached emotional importance. as a consequence of this projection and confusion. the working out of that loss and of the loss of that earlier subjective-object. my ears. which was always equally disconcerting.While my doctor's attention was fixed on a specific anxiety. The initial loss of the inner. the loss of a subjective-object. my pencil. abandoned. was partly mistaken about what was really happening inside my head. confinement.can. and I was mourning that loss. earlier loss. my shoes." Several friends have reported the same experience. which he passed tome rather than ob served inme. my legs. the key tomy cupboard. power less quite simply to be or to exist. my pullovers.
neurological. which resembled a succession of trials of strength from which I unfailingly emerged victorious? In the destruction of another's existence. I spent awhole afternoon going over the different ways of killing myself. that I was therefore already dead. chemical. do you exist?" At the same time. in the relentless rejection of all forms of help. and reason that people tried to offer me."My friends were unable to say anything and finally fell silent. What was the purpose of these arguments of mine. of coming back to life. I spent my time proving tomy friends the absolute futility of any help. on the contrary. "What about you. above all my closest and dearest friends. which thus brought me by a different guise back tomy desire to kill myself. another aspect of my behavior was equally strange and significant. their arbitrary and in the end totally futile nature. Indeed. But that self-destruction was symbolically achieved through the destruction of others. Iwas quite clearly seek ing proof. All the friends who sawme then have confirmed it in a most striking way. but only to admit among themselves that there was nothing to be done. whether physiological. Iwas doomed. Resorting to philosophical arguments. proof that I was well and truly dead so far as any hope of being saved. it seems that my reasoning was implacable. in this proof and counterproof I sought to demonstrate tomyself the radical impossibility of my being saved. the proof of my nonexistence. at least inmy "case. They would then telephone one another. With one. that was it." However. I talked endlessly to them about suicide. or psychoanalytic-especially psychoanalytic. to destroy myself. Iwas never short of arguments. and theywent away bewildered and in de spair. I demon strated the fundamental limitations of all forms of intervention.universal illness that was depriving me of the capacity to use it. support. 54 . I asked him insistently. I was constantly destroying-the word is important any prospect of getting out of thewretched state inwhich I found myself. the counterproof of my own objective destruction. starting with the oldest examples from antiquity and ending with an earnest request that he bring me a revolver. I thus lapsed back into a state inwhich my body was "fragmented. including the woman I loved the most. psychiatric. was concerned. even those who were most experienced in the "dialectic" of philosophical debate (and Iwas often confronted by extremely talented philosophers).
working it out from the beginning. A to tal incapacity to be equals total omnipotence. My doctor never knew any thing about this intervention. having destroyed those closest tome. that itwas totally inauthentic. the supreme evidence. regressive depres sions of mine. which in fact did me some good. my books. the equivalent of which is found inmedieval Christian mysticism: totum= nihil. which is of no interest to anyone? I un derstand now where the changes Iwas undergoing were leading me: theywere all part of the process of my (re)taking in hand my own experience. which were not genuine attacks of melancholia but a contradictory way of being dead to the world by behaving with the same omnipotence as I did in my hypomanic phases.On the basis of a friend's perceptive remark. The next occasion was when I asked my doctor to prescribe me a new drug. Why was I so bent on destroying myself? Deep down. with nothing true or real about it. just as my generalized hypochondria revealed itself as a desire to lose and destroy ev erything: Helene. and finally myself. I left Soisy inJuly 1983 and spent an uncomfortable 55 . Ihad desperately sought to destroy all evidence of my existence-not just Helene. unconsciously (andmy unconscious desires endlessly found expression in reasoned arguments). This began with an initiative of mine to have my "lawyer" come and free a trade unionist from what I considered to be political imprisonment (the CP). Indeed. and it is doubtless the same grief I have experienced in those strange. We are constantly faced with the same terrible ambivalence. all those on whom I could rely for help and support? Itwas then I began to think thatmy life consisted of nothing but endless artifice and deceit. I had never stopped mourning for myself. I understood that my mourning for Helene did not date from her death (from when she was killed). but secondary evidence such as my work. And what better proof of my nonexistence could there be than to draw from it the conclusion that I should destroy myself. my analyst. for my own death. In fact I had always been in mourning for myself. the Ecole.now for thinking that everything hung to good the loss of the gether: subjective-object was translated into the loss of countless real objective-objects. Iwanted at all costs to destroy myself because I had never existed. I had been living it. my analyst. As tangible proof that I did not exist. May I skip the rest. my reasons for living. and myself. Upsene.
So. and my doctor took a (considerable) risk in this respect. I am sixty seven. My friends organized the equivalent of day-and-night supervision for me in my flat. in awholly unassuming way. learned what it is to love: to be capable. it is a question of freedom. not of "exaggerated" initiatives.period vacationing country mine in eastern France. To sum up. I think. I have deliberately treated my analyst as just an analyst and refrained from asking him to be a psychiatrist or a doctor. and being capable. Since then. Since then I have also gradually assumed responsibility for my affairs. and my attachments. but Iwas still feeling under the weather. despite its dramas. Thanks to them I got used to my new abode in the end and was no longer frightened by it. respecting their desires and their rhythms. of always going one better. I succeeded in not being readmitted to the hospital on my return in September 1983. Why did Cezanne paint the Montagne Saint-Victoire at every available moment? Because the light of each moment is a gift. Translated by Richard Veasey 56 . I now feel younger than I ever have. since no one loved me for myself. of giving and of surprising the other person. but of being thoughtful in relation to others. but having had no childhood. without the least coercion. never demand ing things but learning to receive and to accept every gift as a surprise. even though itwill all be over soon. my friendships. I have also. life can still be beautiful.
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