The Unsacrificeable Author(s): Jean-Luc Nancy and Richard Livingston Reviewed work(s): Source: Yale French Studies

, No. 79, Literature and the Ethical Question (1991), pp. 20-38 Published by: Yale University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2930245 . Accessed: 10/02/2013 08:13
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JEAN-LUC NANCY

The Unsacrificeable*

on sacrifice reflection cannotnot be hauntedbythethought Contemporary this will be speaking ofBataille.Of I lateron; for thought itself, themoment, I will merelyremark traitsthatgiveit an exemplary upon threedistinctive character: does not ariseby chance orby individual 1) Bataille's thought certainly whim. It links up emphaticallywith a whole context-sociological, ethon the one hand,philosophical,theological, nological,and anthropological and psychoanalytic on theother-that determined it in thefirst halfofthis one could refer, century. (Among many otherpossible confirmations for instance,to the workofGeorgesGusdorf, humaine du sacriL'Experience in captivity."1 fice,publishedin 1948 after havingbeen "undertaken While fromBataille's (whom Gusdorf Gusdorf'sperspectiveis entirelydifferent knew personallyand cites in his text),the networkof refernevertheless attributed to theobject,and itsreaching for the theidea of ences, importance of sacrifice to a largecommunity a necessary"overcoming" ofcontestify value of the two aucern at the time,above and beyondthe symptomatic thors(Gusdorf, 267). is well-known to be not onlymarkedbya particular 2) Bataille'sthought but obsessed and fascinated in sacrifice, "The allureof interest bysacrifice. sacrifice"is said to respondto nothingless than the following:"what we ofthe order we are suffocatour childhoodon, is thisupsetting await,from
*Thanksto Allan Stoekl.[Translator's note] 1. George Gusdorf, L'Experiencehumainedu sacrifice PUF,1948), viii.Hence(Paris: forth citedin thetext. ed. ClaireNouvet, ? 1991byYale and theEthicalQuestion, YFS 79, Literature University. 20

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as light."2 ingin ... thenegationofthislimitofdeath,fascinating Equally but to think well knownis thatBataille soughtnot onlyto thinksacrifice, in theact; at least,he never He willed sacrifice to sacrifice. according itself, his thought to himself as a necessary sacrifice ofthought. ceased presenting is the slow thelongdrift3) No less well known,however, displacement, ofsacrifice and consequently ing,thatled Batailleto denouncethetheatre to renounceits successfulaccomplishment. to Bataille alone, the questions thatI want to Withoutlimitingmyself what his experienceofthought forus. pose hereproceedfrom exemplifies ofsacrifice? Wheredoes it come from? What Whatis therein thefascination does it engage,what does it engage in? What, in fact,is our relationto in some sense,determined made of?Isn't all oftheWest, sacrifice byit?And doesn't this relationkeep us rivetedto the closure of the consequently, to take action: boththe end ofreal sacrifice and West?Isn't it time,finally, fantasm? the closure ofits I More precisely: Whatis thenatureoftheWest'sinitialrelationto sacrifice? accordingto what relation to the rest of humanity'ssacrifices(or to the does the Westelaborate,so to speak, its of those sacrifices) representation own "sacrifice"? that this relationis decisive and foundaSocrates and Christ signify In case a relation at once distancedand repetitive each is involved. tional. ofontotheology-deviatedecidedBothofthesefigures-the double figure fromsacrifice; in doingso, theyproposea metaly,and quite deliberately, of or a sacrifice. What is involved,therefore, morphosis transfiguration is above all a mimesis: the ancient sacrificeis reproduced-up to a certain point-in its formor its scheme; but it is reproducedso as to reveal an a truth hitherto hiddenor misunderstood, new content, ifnot perentirely verted.By this factalone, the old sacrificeis represented as having constitutedno more than a preliminary imitation,a crudeimage ofwhat has a transfigured since come to effect sacrifice.On the otherhand, the new sacrifice does not resultfromits rusticprecursors by way of simple transto inaugurate itselfit requirespreciselythe mission or naturalgeneration: gestureof this "mimeticrupture." oftheWest'ssacrifice The mimeticrupture (ofWestern-style sacrifice, if you will) proposes a new sacrifice, distinguished by a certainnumberof This does not mean thatthese characteristics characteristics. were always
2. Georges Oeuvrescompletes Bataille, vol. 11,484. HenceGallimard, (Paris: 1988), citedin thetext. forth

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purelyand simplyabsent fromthe older sacrifices-insofar, that is, as it thetruth mightstillbe possible to retrace ofthese "older"sacrifices (thisis, in one sense, the whole problem, and we will return to it).But fourcharacteristics are clearlyrequiredand presented bytheontotheology ofsacrifice. Socratesand Christare both condemned,both of 1) It is self-sacrifice. them by an iniquitous condemnationwhich,as such, neitherthe victims as a sacrifice. nor the executionersrepresent But the carrying-out of this as a desired sacrifice, condemnationis, in turn,represented willed and soughtafter bytheentire being,bythelifeand thethought ormessageofthe victims. It is, in the fullestsense of the words,and in both senses of the of the subject. the sacrifice genitive, The Phaedo proposesnothing but an appropriative reversal ofthe situation by the subject Socrates: he is in prison,he is goingto die, and so he lifeas a prison,from designatesall of earthly which it is fitting to liberate death.Philosophythusappears,not onlyas theknowledge oneselfthrough but as its actual enactment:"Andthosewho havepurified ofthisliberation, themselvessufficiently by philosophylive thereafter altogether without after bodies etc."3And so, shortly havingpronounced thesewords,thephilosopherhimselfwill not hesitateto drinkand drainthe cup ofhemlock, to the gods thathis "removalfromthisworldto the othermay be praying prosperous"(Phaedo, 117c). ofkenosis is well known,thegesture As forChrist,the Pauline doctrine ofGod . .. humbledhimself"4 becombywhich Christ"beingin the form inflicts ingman evenunto death.God, lordoverthe deathofhis creatures, own life and his own his thisdeathon himself; love,distributed throughout to himselfand to his own glory. creation,are thus returned Forboth Socratesand Christ,the eventofsacrifice properly speaking(if theputting-to-death, comes onlyto puncwe can stillput it in theseterms), ofa lifethatis itselfwhollya tuate and to unfoldthe processand the truth Forthe West,the issue no longerinvolvesa lifethatwould undersacrifice. stand sacrifice;nor even, accordingto a good Christianphrase,a "life of sacrifice"alone. What is involvedis a life that would be in and of itself, wholly a sacrifice. is unique, and it is accomplishedforall. Or,still more 2) This sacrifice and consecrated. Let us cite Saint in it all are assembled,offered, precisely, and offering Paul: "And every oftentimes prieststandethdailyministering which can nevertake awaysins. But thisman, after he the same sacrifices, one sacrificeforsins forever . .. by one offering he hath perhad offered And Saint Augustinewill say: fectedforeverthem that are sanctified."5
3. Plato,Phaedo,114c.Henceforth citedin thetext. 4. Philippians 2:6-8. 5. Hebrews10:11-14.

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to "The whole city of the redeemed,all the assemblyof saints,is offered He himGod, in one unique and universalsacrifice bythe supremepontiff. for us in his passion in theform ofthe slave,so that himself selfhas offered we may become the bodyofsuch an augusthead.6 The uniqueness of the sacrificeis thus displaced or made dialectical, and counts as such (whereSocrates froma uniqueness that is exemplary and foremost; and we could add: in general, isn't thesacrifice ranksfirst the to a the life ofexamples?) and the substance most exemplary uniqueness of is sacrificed. At theend ofthisprocess, in which or to which all singularity thereis, ofcourse,Hegel: "thesubstanceoftheState[is]thepowerbywhich in theexterofindividualsand theirabsorption theparticular independence nal existenceofpossession and in naturallifeis convictedofits own nothof the universal ingness,and the powerwhich mediates the conservation thesacrifice-operatingthrough theinternal substancethrough disposition it implies-of thisnaturaland particular being."7 is inseparablefromits being the unveiledtruthof all 3) This sacrifice in general. Itis thusnotonlyunique; itsuniqueness or of sacrifice sacrifices, lies in its elevationinto the principalor the essence ofsacrifice itself. thatthe Phaedo should be framed It is remarkable to by two references At the beginning, we learn that, what I have termedthe "older" sacrifice. Socrates'deathhad to be postponedbecause executhejudgment, following tions were forbidden duringthe annual voyage to Delos that celebrated Theseus's victoryover the Minotaur: the end, that is, of the sacrificeto which the Minotaur had compelled the Athenians (58b). At the end, by contrast,as is well known, Socrates,at the point of death, alreadyhalfparalyzedby thepoison,utterstheselast words: "Crito,we oughtto offer a cock to Asclepius. See to it and don't forget" (118). Interpretation here is doomed-by the text itself-to a significant ambiguity:eitherSocrates, thehealthofthe soul bysacrificing his body, is thanking recovering thegod ofhealing;or else he is leavingbehindhim,withdistanceand perhapswith itself a sacrifice vainin theeyesofone who,at thatvery irony, moment, is in himselfaccomplishinga philosophical purification. But eitherway,the ofsacrifice is brought truth to lightin its mimesis: the "old" sacrifice is an
du Christ Le Corpsmystique CityofGod, citedin E. Mersch, 6. SaintAugustine, vol. 2, 114. (Decl6e, 1951), 7. Hegel,Encyclopedie, trans.B. Bourgeois (Paris:Vrin,1988),vol. 3, 325 (? 546). "Country thispassageas follows: ofMind,translates in Hegel'sPhilosophy A. V. Miller, ofindiindependence thenappearas thepowerbywhichtheparticular and fatherland lifeis ofpossession andin natural existence in theexternal absorption vidualsand their ofthegeneral themaintenance which procures ofitsownnullity-as thepower convicted on the partof the individuals of thisnaturaland sacrifice substanceby the patriotic the nugatoriness it" (276). that confronts existence-so makingnugatory particular from Millermodified] [Translation

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exterior figure-vain in itself-of thattruth in which the subjectsacrifices itself, in spirit, to spirit[esprit]. And in thisspirit, it is to thetruth itself that thetruesacrifice is offered; it is in truth and as truth thatit is accomplished. In themiddleofthedialogue,consecrated to thetruth oftheimmortality of thesoul, Socrateswill have declared:"As for you,ifyouwill takemyadvice, you will thinkverylittleofSocrates,and much moreofthe truth" (91 b-c). In thewake ofSaintPaul,Augustine, and theentire tradition, Pascal will write: "Circumcisionoftheheart,truefast, truesacrifice, truetemple:the prophetshave indicatedthatall of this is spiritual.Not the fleshthatperishes, but the one thatdoes not perish."8 4) So the truthof the sacrifice sublates,along with "the fleshthatpermomentofsacrifice ishes,"the sacrificial itself. And thatis thereasonwhy the finalcharacteristic ofWestern sacrifice is to be itselfthe transcendence of sacrifice, its infinite and dialectical transcendence. Western sacrifice is in being self-sacrifice, in beinguniversal,and in revealing alreadyinfinite the spiritualtruthof all sacrifice.But it is-and must be-infinite also insofar as itreabsorbs thefinite momentofsacrifice itself and thusinsofar as it must,logically, sacrifice itselfas sacrifice in orderto accede to its truth. This is themeaningofthe Catholic Eucharist which,consumedthrough the finitudeof sensible tokens,passes into the interior worshipof the reformed spirit.And this is its speculativetruth: ofthefinite can also onlycome aboutin finite The negativity fashion. Herewe havecometo whatis generally calledsacrifice. The immediate ofsacrifice ofan immediate content is thesurrender inthesense finitude, ofmytestifying thatthisfinitude nottobe myownpossession and ought thatI do notwantto keepit for ofmind myself.... Becausethedepths and heartare not yetpresent, cannothererevealitself in an negativity inner process... thesubject... is onlyto surrender an immediate posIn thissensesacrifice sessionand a natural existence. is no longer to be andwhatis there found in a spiritual calledsacrifice can onlybe religion, sense.9 so in a figurative
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will be sacrifice Mimesis, then:spiritualsacrifice sense. onlyin a figurative it is "the reconciliationofabsolute essence with itself."l1 Truly, Mimesis, but repetition:the reconciliationof essence nevertheless requirespassage
8. BlaisePascal,Pensees{Paris:Gallimard, 569; Brunschvig, 683. 1954), trans. 9. Hegel,Philosophie de la religion, Gibelin(Paris: Vrin, vol. 1,223-24; 1971), ed.Peter Lectures on thePhilosophy ofReligion, Hodgson (Berkeley: University ofCalifor384 n. nia Press,1984),

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and death. "Sacrifice" means appropriation of absolute negativity through And ifthe sacrificial the Selfin its own negativity. gesturehas been abansacrificial doned to a finiteworld,it is onlyso thatthe infinite structure of of the Subjectmay emergemore clearly. The appropriathis appropriation ofthefinite, ofthe infinite tion,by means ofthe transgression truth ofthe In a sense thereis no longer finite, mightbe termed"trans-appropriation." sacrifice:there is a process. In anothersense, this process only matters its negativemoment,in which thefinite mustbe annihilated;and through ofthelaw,thelaw ofselfthismomentremainsnonethelessa transgression in occurs even ForHegel, presence.This transgression suffering, in horror. forinstance,it is the somber, itself. bloody, yet ineluctableface ofhistory sacrifice is sublatedin itsfinite Such is theresultofthemimeticrupture: Yet a fascinatedgaze remains fixedon the functionsand its exteriority. as such. "Flesh thatdoes not perish"remains momentofsacrificial cruelty and the secretofthishorror continuesto fleshcut out ofan adorablebody, the centerofthe sublation,from theheartofthe cast an obscurelightfrom it is this secret that makes this dialectic. Truly,Hegel notwithstanding, it is the dialectical gestureitself heartbeat. Or else, even more seriously, thissecret.Western invented thatinstituted spiritualization/dialectization of transgression and its cruelty. the secret of the infiniteefficacity After Hegel and Nietzsche comes an eye fixedon this secret,with a clear conscience,necessaryand unbearable:forinstance,the eye ofBataille. Butwhat,exactly, does thiseyesee? It sees its own sacrifice. It sees thatit cannotsee excepton the conditionofan unbearable, intolerable vision-a Or else, it sees thatit sees nothing. vision of sacrificial cruelty. If it is always, indeed, a question of the old sacrificeat the heart of it must be acknowledgedthat the mimeticrupture modem sacrifice, has ofsacrifice. Just made us lose theoldertruth as thespecialistsofourownday tell us that "sacrifice"is an artificialnotion, so the spiritualizingconsciousness ofsacrifice maynothave alwayshad a clearawarenessofits own functions ofsacrifice. assumptionofthe,after all, heterogeneous Itwouldbe usefulto followthecomplicated-and doubtlesspoorly unified-destinyof ofgrace,and the acquisitionofglory theremissionofsins, thepreservation ofsacrifice thatSaintThomas Aquinas (tomentiononlythethreefunctions the theologicalliterature; the threemodes ofsacrithrough acknowledged) worksofjusticeand worship-no doubtfollow fice-martyrdom, austerity, a parallelcourse.11In reality, is clear:theinteriorisation, onlyone thing the and the dialecticizationof sacrifice. spiritualization,
10. Hegel,Phenomenologie de 1'esprit, Jean trans. Hippolyte Aubier, (Paris: 1951)vol. is to Christ. 2, 280: thereference 11. ThomasAquinas,SummaTheologica Ila qu.,22,2C; IIaIIae,qu. 85 3 ad.2.

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But this clarityis itselfobscure.Indeed,what appears,in the lightof as the "old" sacrifice is a pure economyofbarter between spiritualization, is reduced to the formulaof the man and the divine powers.Everything this brahmanicritual(orat least, to the onlywaywe have ofunderstanding Whereare the gifts?" (Cited in Gusdorf; 45). formula):"Here is the butter? Condemnation of this sacrificial"economism" runs throughPlato and has no doubtleftus, from Christianity, Hegel and Bataille. Spiritualization theproper ofthe old sacrifice the outset,incapable ofgrasping significance in its own context.When someone says to his gods: "Here is the butter. it maybe thatwe do not knowwhathe is saying, Whereare thegifts?" since in which he lives ofthecommunity withhis gods.Similarwe knownothing ly,to answerthe otherchargethatis leveledat the old sacrifice-that it is nothingbut a simulacrum,as long as it has not attainedthe level of selfsacrifice-we do not know what mimesis is in this context.At most we in guessingthatit maybe methexis, could followLevy-Bruhl participation: means, if not, forus, a but we do not know what such "participation" Freuddid not knowwhat "identification" confusionofidentity. (Similarly, meant; and likewise,we could ask whetherGirardknows what the conwe do notknowwhat "beingway, tagionofmimeticviolencemeans.Either ofsacrifice-withits cruelty. in-common"means,ifnot the "being-one" 12) thedialecDenunciationsofeconomismand simulationrunthroughout of sacrifice, tical understanding up to and includingBataille. Indeed-and cannotbe contested-a fascination with sacrihereBataille's contribution
In general, therelations PUF,1949). de LucienLevy-Bruhl(Paris: 12. Cf.,Les Carnets herebut undertake which I cannot an examination andsacrifice require mimesis between oftheother thealternation through is theappropriation Ifmimesis elsewhere. willpursue to thatofsacrifice? (Cf., nothomologous is its structure oftheproper, orthesuppression ofDianalysis Lacoue-Labarthe's in Philippe no one-or everyone," "being for example, 35. As for therelation Galilee,1986), des Modernes (Paris: in L'Imitation Paradox, derot's inLa dePlaton" "La Pharmacie as wellJacques Derrida, andmimesis, sacrifice cf., between on sacrifice befounded for 152-53).So should example, Seuil,1972), Dissemination (Paris: anproblematic at the priceof a rather terms, now in Girardian mimesis,understood inMimesis:desarticulations theseproblems has discussed (Lacoue-Labarthe thropology? in his "Le Sacrifice du Christ," S6minaire 1975),as has Y. J.Harder (Paris:Flammarion, be 1989).Or shouldmimesisnotrather GRTST,Strasbourg, philosophie/psychanalyse, of question thatis,on thebasisofthegeneral methexis, on thebasisofsacrificial thought thinkandcommunication e.g.,BatailleOC 7 369-71)?Thiswouldrequire (cf., contagion and the model as "communion" sacrificial of the Western ing both the construction offinitude, whichI will getto at theendof ofthismodelin thethought deconstruction communication. Shouldn't we ask thatis, of a non-communal this piece, a thought, on denouncing insists thesimulacrum whenWestern thought whether, finally, ourselves, as the "true"mimesis(or the new sacrifice and on presenting of the "old" sacrifice, an incapacity, ora refusal, totouch onmethexis: itdoesnotbetray oftheother, sublation) an "incomofcontagion on a danger and,paradoxically, simultaneously thatis, perhaps, on princito whichontotheology orofparticipation, objects ofcommunication munion" ofappropriation bya Subject)? ple (initsprinciple

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fice does not preventone fromremarking on a generalized"economism" and "mimeticism"in its dialectic.Sacrifice as self-sacrifice, universalsacrifice,truth, and sublationofsacrifice, is itselftheinstitution ofthe absolute economyofabsolute subjectivity, which can onlymimic (in the pejorative sense) a passage through from negativity, which,symmetrically, it cannot but reappropriate or trans-appropriate itselfinfinitely. occursas ifthe spiritualization/dialectization Everything finally ofsacrifice could not operatewithouta formidable disavowalofitself. It disavows itself ofan "old" sacrifice, beneaththefigure whichit pretends to knowand whichin reality itfabricates for its ownpurposes. Andit approves ofitself in the formof an infinite which it coverswith the "saprocess ofnegativity, cred"name of"sacrifice." This double operation to thecenter, brings simulthe infinite taneouslyand in a painfulambiguity, of dialectical efficacity and the bloodyheartof sacrifice. negativity To cast doubt upon this disavowal-this manipulation,rather-is to and to be forced questionthissimultaneity, to ask whether dialecticalnegaon the contrary, tivityexpungesblood or whether, blood must ineluctably continueto spurt.In his desireto put an end to dialecticalprocessas comedy,Bataille wantedblood to spurt.He wantedto weighin the balance the laceratedbody and the look-distraught or ecstatic?-of a young horribly Chinese beingtortured, a famousphotograph. But in so doing,Bataille was reallyworking out the deep logic ofthe sublationofsacrifice, whichwould rescue it fromits repetitive and mimetic character:because sublation is ultimatelyincapable ofknowingwhat is truly involvedin repetition and this same logic,which claims to be mimesis,and so in sacrifice.In return, bothrupture with and mimeticrepetition ofsacrifice, wants,bythis same to be boththesublationand thetruth movement, ofsacrifice. So we have to thinkthatthevictimoftorture sublatesintoecstasythehorror thatrenders him distraught. But how to thinkso in truth, ifthe eye thatsees-and not theone thatis herelookedat-does notknowwhatitis seeing,orevenifitis seeing? How to think it, without the subject of this gaze having already in himself,the dialectic of the distraught appropriated, and the ecstatic? How to think it, that is, without having fascinationconstituteitselfas masteryand dialectical knowledgeof sacrifice? Bataillewoundup declaring:"As for nostalgiafor thesacred,it is timeto admit that it necessarilycomes to nothing, thatit misleads: what today's worldlacks is theproposing oftemptations. Or theproposing ofsuchhateful ones thattheymatteronlyon the conditionthattheydeceivethosewhom theytempt,"(Bataille,OC 11: 55). Undoubtedly, ambiguity does not disapfrom pearentirely thesephrases;theirsyntax is constructed so as to sustain it. On the one hand,today'sworld"lacks" truly sacred"temptations," ones thatare givenimmediately and withoutrecourseto nostalgia;on the other

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hand, the world "lacks"-in the sense, now,ofbeinglacking-because its temptations are illusory.So sacrifice-or somethingabout sacrifice-still cannot help be lacking. III Even there,Bataille must have thought-only up to a certainpoint-to or art in general.(At the same time, palliate this lack through literature, Heidegger,speaking of art and the putting-to-work [mise-en-oeuvre] of named "theessentialsacrifice as one ofthemodes ofthisputting-totruth, in art;elsewherein thesame text, workthatis concentrated he had already to count "gifts and sacrifice" itnecessary at theheartoftheexistent thought I cannotcommentfurther which is open to the clearingofbeing.13 on this reference here.) and art,especiallyliterature, One link betweensacrifice incontestably runs through,or doubles, the Westernprocess of the spiritualizationof sacrifice.Book V of Saint Augustine's Confessions,forexample,begins: "Accept the sacrificeof my confessions,presentedby the hand of my and exhorted to confessyourname"-and tongue,which you have formed thatwill spring from"confession" thusopens thewayforeverything in our a veritable limitbetween"confession"and But is there, literatures. finally, literature and art?Or at least,isn't one dominantrepresentation ofartthat ofthe transgressive himexpositionofa subject,who thereby appropriates The Kantiansublimeis producedin a selfand lets himselfbe appropriated? which "plungesintotheabyssofitself ofthe imagination, "sacrifice" and is The whole program ofpoetry thusplungedinto a movingsatisfaction."14 is "Dissolution of the givenin Novalis's note to Heinrich von Ofterdingen: poet in his song-he will be sacrificed amongsavagepeoples."15and,movto Bataille,who writes: "poetry. .. is . . . sacrifice ing quickly,we return where the words are victims.... We cannot ... dispense with the relationsthatwordsintroduce betweenmen and things. But we efficacious from these relations"(Bataille,OC 5: 156). wrestthemdeliriously to relayor to sublate,the imartcomes to supplement, More precisely, This impasse is linkedto thefollowing:"Ifthe subjectis passe ofsacrifice. is still equivocal. And ifit is destroyed, not trulydestroyed, the everything is obliterated" equivocal is resolved,but in the void where everything (Bataille,OC 12: 485). So the choice is betweenthe simulacrumand nothin Cheminsqui ne menent de 1'oeuvre nullepart, d'art," 13. Heidegger, "L'Origine NRF, 1962), 48 and40. (Paris: des generale sur1'exposition 14. Kant,Critiquede la facult6de juger,"Remarque and ? 26. jugements esthetiques refl1chissants," R. Rovni(Paris:10/18.1967), vonOfterdingen, trans. 269. 15. Novalis,Heinrich

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ofthe "old" sacrifice ingness;thatis also to say,betweentherepresentation "But"-Bataille continues-"out of and the postulation of self-sacrifice. us on thisdoubleimpassearisesa sense ofthemomentofart, which,putting the trackofutterextinction-leaving us suspendedtherefora time-prowithoutrepose." "Ravishingwithoutrepose" is poses to man a ravishing inasmuchas artpreserves us still a dialectical formula.There is ravishing which is one way of recognizing a "suspended" on the edge of extinction, new formof the simulacrumhere. But it is "withoutrepose,"because it brings along the intenseagitationofan emotionthataccedes to extinction. This emotiondoes not properly belongto art:it can onlyexistin access to the bloody heart of extinction.Farther on, Bataille writes: "the infinite ofworksofartis thereto tell us thata triumph. . . is promisedto festivity of the instant.This is why one anyone who leaps into the irresolution the manifold intoxicationthat traverses too interested the cannot be by bolts ofapparent whereseductionis world'sopacitywithlightning cruelty, Artitselfthus displacesthe gaze to horror." linked to massacre,to torture, is a singularly It is limited once again: "apparent"cruelty ambiguouseffect. the cruelty, to the simulacral,and at the same timeit matters onlythrough thatit brings thehorror out,and which (so to speak)means something-in any case, onlyhas force-if it is not simulated.Bataille's articleis entitled: it involves, whatever thedetours, "Art, exercisein cruelty": acceding-even exerciseofan effective at least in its ifonlya little-to the effective cruelty, if it still Art thus matters sends us back to the sacrifice emotion. it only cannot sacrifice sacrifice still to sacrifice. supplants.It exceptby sacrificing turnsaway: "This is not an Bataille sees the difficulty-andpromptly facts is the for horrible of factsof sacrificeevoked apology [he speaking earlierin the text].This is not a call fortheirreturn." Yet he cannot help once again,to slip intohis refusal shifting (I will notsay,at thispoint,thatit "But . . . these moments . . . have, in is a disavowal)a certainrestriction: ofthe emotionin themselves." all the truth the momentofravishing, And on: "the movement[of art]places him without difficulty further at the the paintingofthe horror heightof the worstand, reciprocally, revealsthe ofthepossible."In thisreciprocity-hownot openingtowardsthe entirety to see this?-something of the mimesis is annulled; or rather, mimesis reveals (and Bataille speaks of revelation)effective methexis: art lets us thatis still effective, with horror. commune,by means of a transgression That is to say,with the enjoymentof an instantaneousappropriation of death. By settingaside the horror-troublesomeand reputedly ineffective-of blood spilled,and byproposing a horror but "at the heightofthe ravishing worst,"one shows that,on the one hand, one no longerhas access to real butalso, on theotherhand,thatthought sacrifice, continuesto be measured

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"trans-appropriation." Yet it is still, bythelogic and thedesireofan infinite forBataille (and perhaps-even doubtless-obscurely,forthe whole Western tradition)only a question of access without access to a moment of does not leave off But sacrificial reappropriating, thought disappropriation. thisaccess. Eventhechasmofhorror, its "opening to the trans-appropriating as soon as it is placedunderthesign ofthepossible,"is appropriated entirety of sacrifice.Which it is, because the sign of sacrificeis the sign of the ofaccess to thatobscureplace thatboth and mimeticpossibility repetitive But what ifthatplace and mimesis are supposedto come from. repetition therewerenothingthatcould be were nothingat all, and if,consequently, to reachit? sacrificed death that To put it anotherway,one mightsay: it is by appropriating And for sacrificeescapes the truthof the moment of dis-appropriation. in final what is the at stake in is not sacrifice reckoning, Bataille himself, the passage from the sphereofinteldeath: "The awakeningofsensibility, this is the destrucligible-and usable-objects to an excessiveintensity, called tion of the object as such. Of course, it is not what is ordinarily In the eyes of a butchera death . . . it is, in one sense, quite the contrary. horseis alreadydead (meat,an object)"(Bataille,OC 4: 103).Bythisreckonis morereadily ofartforsacrifice Butit should grasped. ingthesubstitution ofsacrifice. Anditis in thissame passage be at thepriceofa truesuppression that Bataille insertsone of his strongest-make no mistake-condemnacalled death (and sacrifice, tions of sacrifice:"it is not what is ordinarily a shockerfunpave de l'ours]).To the extentthatart afterall, is definitely maintains the sacrificialmoment,by its emotion "at the height of the Or rather, sacrifice shouldnotbe the "shocker"is notmissingeither. worst," of involvedin any way,and the horror death-on a real altar or a painted one-gives access only to itselfand not to any "suprememoment."One is NOTHING," (Bataille,OC 8: 300) as Bataille moretime: if "sovereignty is therenothing-that is, some thing-that wore himselfout thinking, forit? could be sacrificed IV we have to take one this questionto the testmoreprecisely, Before putting in his We have to follow him reflection on theNazi morestepwithBataille. ofhis mostdeveloped texton thesubject camps.I will followthemovement on theExecutioner and the (aboutwhich he wroteverylittle):"Reflections 16 de notremort. Victim,"about David Rousset'sbook, Les Jours
Forlack of space I will omit discussionof the article 16. Bataille,OC 11, 262ff. withwouldconverge: The conclusions 266 ff). andthecamps(Ibid, on theJews "Sartre,"

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Nor do other, Not once does this textpronouncethe word "sacrifice." it lays out the elementsofa sacriparallel textsofBataille's. Nevertheless, to whatis at stakebywayof ficiallogic.Firstofall, thecamps giveexposure each one had the sacrifice:"in a worldofsuffering, stench,and degradation, leisure to measurethe abyssand the absence oflimitsofthe abyssand this truth." Butto knowthese "depthsofhorror," "the obsessiveand fascinating price has to be paid." This price-if I understandBataille-is double: it in thegivenconditionsfor a "senseless experience"-that is, consists,first, the veryexistenceofthe camp-and then,ofa will thatdoes not refuseto as a human possibility. This will must be the victim's(and facethishorror in Rousset).To Bataillefindsit in the "exaltation"and the "humor"he finds less degrading thanthat it would be "a negationofhumanity scarcely refuse An appeal is made, ifnot to self-sacrifice, thento the posiofthe torturer." tion, afterall, of a subject. To be sure, Bataille specifies: "the horroris it is onlyan infinite not thetruth: possibility, havingno limitbut evidently truth, however, requiresthat,"by some death."Access to the "fascinating" in fullto man." These means means" "abjectionand pain revealthemselves theymade it clearthat"thedepthof werefoundin the camps. In particular, ofthosewho demandit."It is theresolution ofthe horror is in theresolution reasonof executioners which would "ruinthe redoubtthatis thefounding at Auschwitz"incarcivilizedorder" (Elsewhere BataillewrotethattheJews no morethana "reis precisely nated reason.").Civilized reason,however, doubt,"fragileand limited.What is pittedagainstit, namely "the rage to a thanhumanity, notevenfrom torture," does not comefrom anyplace other have nothing special partofhumanity ("partiesorraceswhich,we imagine, as is "ours."Knowingthispossibility human about them").This possibility such makes reasoncapable ofits own "putting-into questionwithoutreservictory but the highesthuman posvations,"which assures no definitive sibilitythat is "the awakening.""Only,what would awakeningbe if it ilof possibilities? ifit did not awakenfirst luminatedonlya worldofabstract all to thepossibility ofAuschwitz,to thepossibility ofstenchand irrepara" Thereis a necessity, therefore, in therealizationofthispossibility. ble fury? For Bataille, this necessity evidentlystems fromthe existenceof the

toconsider theJews as victims Bataille tends ofa sacrificial immolaso directly, outsaying tion of "reason."Another text:7:376-79. On the character-sacrificial or not?of the it (Seminaire 11 [Paris: camps, cf., Lacan,whoaffirms Seuil,19771, 247);Lacoue-Labarthe, who deniesit butdiscusses an objection du politique[Paris: Bourgeois, 1987] (La Fiction 80-81); Derrida, who seems to suggest theaffirmative Schibboleth [Paris:Galike, (cf., 82-83, and "II fautbien manger" in Confrontations, n. 20, "Apres le sujet qui 19861, vient," 113,in themidst ofa development on sacrifice as orality andon philosophies that "do notsacrifice sacrifice."

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camps and fromthe will to face,withoutfacilemoralism,what theyreNot foran instant would I want vealed.It is notposed as a necessitya priori. idea of complicity, evenunconscious,on Bataille's to suggestthe slightest should be considered:the logic folpart.I believe only that the following ofa clearlogic ofsacrifice lowed hereis quite exactlythe somberreverse (at This logic declares: only least if it is possible to isolate such a "clarity"). would say: the extremehorror keeps reason awake. The logic of sacrifice to where the moment of truth only awakening is an awakening horror, The two utterancesare farfrom But the secbeingconfounded. transpires. IfBataille does not draw this ond can always harborthe truthof the first. for him,is it not,in conclusion,and ifthe camps remainoutsideofsacrifice fact,because the horrorof sacrificeis silentlytopplingdown here? Even himselfto say so, thuspreserving perhaps,in thoughBataille cannotbring as a spite ofall, a possibilitythat,at the end ofthe text,indicates"poetry" ofsacrifice is "poetry" of "awakening"(butnow we knowwhat return form dedicatedto). that is also its Sacrificewould topple here,in silence, into a contrary with no access, no appropriation, accomplishment:a revelationof horror or rather, indefinite. itself, infinite, onlywith the revelation ofthe camps is thusno doubtpossible,even A sacrificial interpretation but only on the paradoxicalconditionofreversing itselfinto its necessary, leads nowhere, it givesno Holocaust to Shoah): thissacrifice contrary (from since access. Still,in one sense,it could be said to be a modelofself-sacrifice, the reason that is the victim of the camps is likewise on the side of the as theanalysisofthe stateand technicalmechanismsofexterexecutioner, underlined. Bataillesaid,elsewhere:"theunleashminationhas constantly ing of passions that seethed at Buchenwaldand at Auschwitzwas an unifa certain It would not be at all surprising byreason."17 leashinggoverned if self-sacrifice-whose in culminated equivalence self-sacrifice, rationality we can now understand-renders theaccountofa sacrifice to all ofWestern to itself theabyssofitsownsubjeccertain processofReason.It appropriates titude(to speak like Heidegger). Butat thesame time-and withoutcontradiction-thecampsrepresent because theyput into play an unheard-of tension the absence of sacrifice, It is not irrelevant that itselfand the absence ofsacrifice. betweensacrifice the descriptionof the privilegesof the Aryanrace in Mein Kampfculminates in the possession of the absolute meaningof sacrifice:"The Aryan
ofthe hastaken placeonthesubject a similar discussion OC 7: Notethat 17. Bataille, D'une Revault d'Allones, cf.,Myriam regicide: oftherevolutionary character sacrificial Iwant differences. considerable 59.There are,obviously, Seuil,1989), mort 1'autre (Paris: to haslongsincebegun sacrifice ofWestern sacrifice, thereign under that, onlyto suggest itself. discompose

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in themselves; does notattainhis fullgrandeur he byhis spiritual properties attainsit by the measure ofhis readinessto put all ofhis capacitiesto the The instinctofpreservation has attainedin him serviceofthe community. subordinates his own selfto the collecforhe voluntarily its noblestform, as to sacrifice it."18Or tivity and,whenthehourdemandsit,he will go so far men who have onlyservedtheirown interests, and again: "posterity forgets celebratesheroeswho have renouncedtheirown happiness"(Mein Kampf, himselfto the com329). So theAryanis essentiallythe one who sacrifices to therace; thatis, theone who giveshis blood for munity, AryanBlood. He he is, in essence,sacrifice, is thusnot only"theone who sacrifices himself," the sacrifice. is thedescription As is onlyfair, whatfollowsimmediately oftheracein is dominant."Among the Jewish which the instinctof self-preservation does not go beyondthepureand simpleinstinct people,thewill to sacrifice of the individual" (Mein Kampf,330). There is thus a of the preservation on the one double reason thatthe Jewnot be and should not be sacrificed: on thecontrary, ofhim shouldbe appropriated; hand,nothing one shouldrid andhygenic as a defensive measure.On theother oneselfofhis vermin hand, investedand accomplishedin the Aryancomis entirely sacrifice present, we havea dutytowards as such. "Wehavethemoralright, ourpeople munity . . this who would annihilate us . we to annihilate can say thatwe people of dutiesforthe love of our people.... have carriedout the most difficult or a thousand-corpses You should knowwhat a hundred-or fivehundred laid nextto one anotherare. To have held out,and at the same time . . . to have remainedhonestmen,thisis whathas hardened us. It is a glorious page of our historythat has neverbeen writtenand which will neverbe writto his Gruppenfiihrer ten."19 Thus Himmlerin 1943 presented the sacrifice and whichgoes so faras to sacrifice ofdutythatdefieshuman strength, the Thus he declares,simultaneously, memorialofthisglorioussacrifice. that and thaton theside oftheexecutioners, theside ofthevictimsis intolerable form ofsacrifice. thereis the most silent,most interior Himmler does not use the word "sacrifice":it would, in effect, be too the victims,and he would claim,forthe executioners, honorific toward too which must be withheldfromthem. It much of the glorious narrative, would be possible,it seems to me, to say thatat this point sacrifice disappearsin itself.It is the SS or theAryan, who absorbs then,who withdraws, all thepowerand thefruit intohimself ofsacrifice, its secret:he is including in his own being,thesacrificial secret. alreadyhimself, Before himhe leaves
MeinKampf 18. Adolph Hitler, 183/184e, Munich, 1936,326. Henceforth citedinthe text. 19. Himmler's speechof4 October1943,in Raul Hillberg, La Destruction des Juifs trans. M. F. de Palomera d'Europe, andA. Charpentier Fayard, 1985), 870-71. (Paris:

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a parodyof immolation and smoke mountingto the only naked horror, heavens,a parodythatno longerevenhas theright to thename of "parody." is thevery Whatdisappearsalongwithsacrifice possibility ofconsidering, in The Aryanexposesdevastation, whatever sense,the simulacrum. nightand also formthe disastroussecretof his own fog: "nightand fog,"however, the regeneration ofhis Blood. No longerWestern appropriation, sacrifice, it A ofsacrifice. secondrupture is the "westerning" takesplace, and thistime of sacrifice itself.Or rather, it is the rupture its brutalinterruption: in the thereis no moreimmolation. verysite ofimmolationitself, V
".... immolation,murder. . . ": theycan no longerbe distinguished. Immolationitselfis put to death."Not divine,""illusory," sacrifice has lost all rightsand all its dignity.Transgressiontrans-appropriates nothing. Or rather, it appropriates nothingbut this: the victimas corpse,the charnelhouse heap, and the other(forwhom the name of executioner is scarcely of the productionof the charnel-house fitting) as pure instrument heap. ofsacrifice notonlyavowsitself Thus, thedecomposition as possiblethanks to the technicalmeans, but it deliversitselfas an exemplary figure-hideously exemplary-of techniqueitself.20 This does not imply a condemnationof the said "technique."On the thatis, so to speak,exemplarily Forwhat is hideously exemplary, contrary. as theoperation ofa sortof hideous,is that"technique"shouldbe presented even while it worksto decompose as the last secretof sacrifice, sacrifice, thefollowing: The questionthatarisesis rather shouldnottheage sacrifice. as theage oftheendofsacrifice? That is to say, oftechniquebe understood as in or other the end of as the the age of trans-appropriation; words, age of no longerofsacrificial anothermode ofappropriation entirely: trans-appropriation,but of what Heideggertriedto name with the wordEreignis.To withoutbeingable to analyzeorto justify force thisinterpretation, it here,I that is, the eventappropriating would say: "technique" is Ereignis, finite existenceas such. In this sense, ratherthan appealingto an "essence" of to considertechniqueitself, in that,turntechnique,it maybe morefitting back on itselfand its own "oneing everypossible mode of appropriation if you will, it exposes at one strokeboth the question of dimensionality," as finiteexistence such and the questionofits equallyfinite appropriation. oftechnique,but it The techniqueofthe camps is doubtlessone possibility is also its sacrificial possibility.

and thework in Nazism and/or Heidegger's thought, 20. On technique, techn6, art, La Fictiondu politique, see Lacoue-Labarthe, passim.

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is the appropriation of the Subject who Sacrificialtrans-appropriation that sustains itselfthere,that survivesits own depenetratesnegativity, and thatreturns to itselfas sovereign. struction, could (Andthisnegativity well play the same role,in a subtlefashion,when it is what Bataille calls withoutuse.") Fascination for thesacrifice "negativity formulates thedesire of this transfiguration. Perhapsit is also what Lacan meant by saying(a in theobjectofourdesires, proposofthecamps)that"sacrifice signifies that, evidenceofthepresenceofthedesireofthatOtherwhomI we try to discover Let another's will herecall "theobscureGod."'21 desire, obscure,consecrate I in absolute Self-possession, as his my own desire,and am constituted in Whatis thusrequired is sacrifice, unlimitedself-presence. theproduction of the object as reject,even if this object were its own subject,which here, itself. precisely, trans-appropriates ifthe "obscureGod" is onlytheobscurity is nothing, Butifsovereignty of ifexistence desireecstaticin thefaceofitself, itself its arranges onlytowards thenwe must thinkapartfromsacrifice. own finitude, On the one hand, what is at stake since the beginning of the Western shoulddefinitively be acknowledged: sublationofsacrifice strictly speaking we know nothingdecisive about the old sacrifice. We need to admit that what we consideras a mercenary exchange("Here is the butter. . . ") sustainedand gave meaningto billionsofindividualand collectiveexistences, and we do not know how to thinkabout what foundsthisgesture.(Wecan in itselfgoes beyondbarter.) thatthisbarter onlyguess,confusedly, On the we know that,forus, it is absolutelyimpossibleto declare: "here contrary, " (all theothers:ourother arethelives,wherearetheothers? lives,thelifeof a greatOther,the otheroflifeand the otherlifein general). Consequently, on theother hand,it shouldbe definitively acknowledged that the Westerneconomy of sacrifice has come to a close, and that it is closed by the decompositionofthe sacrificial apparatusitself, thatbloody transgression by which the "momentof the finite"would be transcended and appropriated infinitely. But finitudeis not a "moment" in a process or an economy.A finite existencedoes nothave to let its meaningspring forth a destructive through Not only does it not have to do so; in a sense it explosion of its finitude. cannot even do so: thoughtrigorously, thoughtaccordingto its Ereignis, "finitude" thatexistencecannotbe sacrificed. signifies It cannotbe sacrificed it is already, not sacrificed, because, in itself, but offered to theworld.Thereis a resemblance, andthetwocan be mistakenfor one another;and yet,thereis nothingmoredissimilar.
21. Lacan,Seminaire 11 (Paris:Seuil, 1973),247. HereLacan expressly derives this definition from theexistence ofthecamps.

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One could say: existenceis in essence sacrificed. To saythiswould be to in one ofits forms, reproduce, the fundamental utterance ofWestern sacrifice.And we would have to add thismajorform, whichnecessarily follows: thatexistenceis, in its essence, sacrifice. is no doubtto use a wordfrom To say thatexistenceis offered the sacrificial vocabulary(and ifwe were in the Germanlanguage,it would be the Butit is an attempt to markthat, ifwe have same word:Opfer, Aufopferung). it is not in any case sacrificed to say thatexistenceis sacrificed, by anyone, "Existenceis offered" to anything. noris it sacrificed means thefinitude of cut out of being and granting existence.Finitudeis not negativity access, of being or to sovereignty. throughthis cutting,to the restoredintegrity Finitudeutterswhat Bataille uttersin sayingthat sovereignty is nothing. to the formula of Finitudesimply corresponds generative the thoughtof ofthefinitude ofbeing,orthethought whichis thethought ofthe existence, meaning of being as the finitudeof meaning. This formulastates: "the Ifitsessence (inquotationmarks) "essence" ofDasein lies in its existence.22 has no essence.It cannotbe returned it is thattheexistent is in its existence, ofan essence. But it is offered, to the trans-appropriation thatis to say,it is presentedto the existencethatit is. ofall essence, The existenceexposesbeingin its essence disappropriated and thusofall "being:" thebeingthatis not. Such negativity, does however, be a transnot come dialecticallyto say thatit shall be, thatit shall finally thisnegation affirms theinappropriate Self.On thecontrary, as appropriated ofappropriation, and in truth form as theunique mode its most appropriate mode ofthisutterance: ofall appropriation. Also, thenegative "beingis not" This is what is does not implya negationbut an ontologicalaffirmation. meant by Ereignis. takes place, and thisis nothing but a being-thrown The existentarrives, it is offered. But it is offered intotheworld.In thisbeing-thrown, byno one, ifnothing-no being,no subject-preto no one. Nor is it self-sacrificed, it is not even offered In truth, or sacrificedto a cedes its being-thrown. Nothing,to a Nothingnessor an Otherin whose abyss it would come to enjoyits own impossibilityof beingimpossibly.It is exactlyat this point must be relentlessly corrected. thatbothBataille and Heidegger Corrected, fromthe slightesttendencytowardssacrifice. that is: withdrawn Forthis or through is always linked to a fastendencytowardssacrifice, sacrifice, cination with an ecstasyturnedtowardsan Other or towardsan absolute thebetter to be restored. Outside,intowhichthesubjectis diverted/spilled
& Edward 22. Heidegger, Macquarrie Robinson Beingand Time,Trans.John (New York:Harper, 1962),? 9.

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is hauntedby an Outside offinitude, Western sacrifice as obscureand bottomless as this "outside" may be. But thereis no "outside."The eventof existence,the "thereis," means thatthereis nothingelse. Thereis no "obscureGod." Thereis no obscurity thatwouldbe God. In thissense,and sincethere is no longer anycleardivine I mightsaythatwhattechniquepresents us withcould simplybe: epiphany, withoutGod. The clarity, ofan openspacein whichan open clarity however, Fascinationis alreadyproof eye can no longerbe fascinated. thatsomething has been accordedto obscurity and its bloodyheart.But thereis nothing to accord,nothingbut "nothing.""Nothing"is not an abyssopen to the outside. "Nothing" affirms and this "nothing"at once returns finitude, existence to itselfand to nothingelse. It de-subjectivizes all posit, removing itselfthroughanything sibilityof trans-appropriating but its own event, advent.Existence,in this sense,its proper sense, is unsacrificeable. Thus there is room to givemeaningto theinfinite absence ofappropriable meaning. Once again, "technique"could well constitutesuch an horizon. That is once more to say,theremust be no retreat: the closure of an immanence.But this immanencewould not have lost or be lackingtranitwould notbe sacrifice scendence.In otherwords, in anysense oftheword. "transcendence" Whatwe used to call would signify rather thatappropriation is immanent,but that "immanence" is not some indistinctcoagulation: it is made only fromits horizon. The horizon holds existenceat a in thegaporthe "between"thatconstitutes distancefrom it: between itself, birthand death, between one and the others.One does not enterthe between,which is also the space oftheplayofmimesis and ofmethexis.Not oran impenetrable because it would be an abyss,an altar, butbecause heart, it would be nothingotherthanthe limitoffinitude; and lest we confuseit thislimitis a limitthatdoes notsoarabove with,say,Hegelian "finiteness," Existencealone breaksawayfrom nothingness. evenitself. Does this mean rejoicingin a mediocreand limitedlife?Surelysuch a a mediocreand limitedlife.And it is suspicioncould itselfcome onlyfrom this same lifethatcould suddenlybe exalted,fascinated, by sacrifice. Neitherpain nor death are to be denied. Still less, ifpossible,are these to be in view ofsome trans-appropriation. At issue, rather, soughtafter is a pain that no longersacrifices, and which one no longersacrifices.True pain, doubtless,and perhaps even the truestof all. It does not effacejoy (nor and yet,it is not the latter'sdialecticalor sublimating threshenjoyment), hold either. Thereis no threshhold, no sublimeand bloodygesture, thatwill cross it. After sacrifice all, Western has almostalwaysknown,and almostalways been readyto say,that it sacrificed to nothing.That is why it has always

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tendedto say thattruesacrifice was no longersacrifice. Yet henceforth it is incumbentupon us to say-after Bataille,withhim and beyondhim-that thereis no "true"sacrifice, thatveritableexistenceis unsacrificeable, and thatfinallythe truthofexistenceis thatit cannotbe sacrificed. Translatedby RichardLivingston