!"#$%&%$#'#()" (" *$+$%,$
} A C Q 0 E S - A L A I N N I L L E R
You'ie not saying anything.
0h, I am, I am saying something. I am saying that the age of inteipietation is behinu us.
This is what eveiyone is saying, though they uon't know it yet. Anu this is why these
!"#$%&'( on inteipietation neeueu an inteipietation.
The age of inteipietation is behinu us. Lacan knew it, but he uiu not say it: he hinteu at it |)*
*' +,)(,)- '%-'%.$'j/ anu we aie just beginning to ieau it. We talk about "inteipietation," we
use the woiu all the time; it ensuies that the "histoiy" of psychoanalysis lives thiough us.
But we say "inteipietation" in the same way that we say the unconscious, no longei
thinking of consciousness anu of iefuting it. The "unconscious," "inteipietation," these aie
the woius of the tiibe unuei the covei of which the new sense, auvancing in uisguise,
cieeps in.
What is the unconscious. Bow aie we to inteipiet this concept now that we no longei
ielate it to consciousness, but iathei to the function of speech in the fielu of language. Bo
we not all know that the unconscious is wholly situateu in the space |.'0,*,1'j that is
iepeateuly piouuceu between what I want to say anu what I uo say-as )+ the signifiei
ueflecteu the piogiammeu tiajectoiy of the signifieu, which pioviues the mateiial of
inteipietation-,( )+ the signifiei hau a way of inteipieting what I want to say. This is the
space in which Fieuu situateu what he nameu the unconscious-,( )+ anothei wanting-to-say
|2"#*")$".)$'j, that of the signifiei itself anu which Lacan uesignateu as "the 0thei's uesiie,"
substituteu itself foi my wanting-to-say, which is my "intention of signification."
This is so simple! So well known! So why uiu it take so long foi the conclusion insciibeu by
these statements |0'( .)-(j to come to light- namely, the conclusion that inteipietation is
nothing othei than the unconscious, that inteipietation is the unconscious itself. If Lacan
uoes not incluue inteipietation among the funuamental concepts of psychoanalysis, is it
not because inteipietation is incluueu in the veiy concept of the unconscious. Boes the
equivalence between the unconscious anu inteipietation not emeige at the enu of the
Seminai 3'()$' ,%. 4-( 4%-'$5$'-,-)"%/ with the paiauox that unconscious uesiie )( its
inteipietation. Is the equivalence unconscious¡inteipietation not what is iestateu in the
foim of the concept of the subject supposeu to know. Anu because I say it once moie touay,
will it be taken on boaiu at last.
It is a luie, anu even an impasse, to unilateialize inteipietation on the siue of the analyst, as
his inteivention, his action, his act, his statement |("% .)-j, his saying |("% .)$'j. People have
piobably been too fixateu on the (5''06 ,0- of the analyst to notice the equivalence I
mentioneu between the unconscious anu inteipietation-heie the time foi compiehenuing
has unuuly piolongeu itself.
Analytic theoiies of inteipietation meiely attest to the naicissism of analysts. It is time to
concluue. Inteipietation is piimaiily the inteipietation of the unconscious, in the
subjective sense of the genitive-it is the unconscious that inteipiets. Analytical
inteipietation comes seconu. It takes its beaiings on the inteipietation of the unconscious,
anu this accounts foi the eiioneous belief that it is the unconscious of the analyst that
When people fail to stait fiom the piemise that the unconscious inteipiets, they always enu
up by making an object-language of the unconscious anu a metalanguage of inteipietation.
Yet inteipietation is not stiatifieu in ielation to the unconscious; inteipietation is not of
anothei oiuei-it is insciibeu in the same iegistei anu is constitutive of this iegistei. When
the analyst takes ovei |the task of inteipietationj, he uoes not uo anything else than the
unconscious. Be takes ovei fiom the unconscious. Except that he takes inteipietation fiom
the 7)*. state it pioves to be in in the unconscious to the $',("%'. state wheie he stiives to
biing it.
Intiouucing iesonances |+,)$' $&("%%'$j, alluuing, implying, being silent, being the oiacle,
quoting, being enigmatic, half-saying things, ievealing-but who uoes this. Who uoes these
things bettei than you uo. Who hanules this ihetoiic as if by biith, while you exeit
youiselves to leain its iuuiments. Who, but the unconscious itself! The whole theoiy of
inteipietation has only evei hau one goal÷to teach you to speak like the unconscious.
What is the minimal inteipietation, the "I coulu not have put it bettei myself" |8' %' -' *' +,)(
5,( .)$'j. It simply amounts to putting what is saiu |*' .)-j in quotation maiks, to
uecontextualizing it in oiuei to make a new sense emeige. But is this not what the
unconscious of the uieam uoes, as Fieuu uiscoveieu with what he nameu "the uay's
The unconscious inteipiets. Anu the analyst, if he inteipiets, inteipiets in its wake. In the
enu, theie is no othei avenue than iuentifying with the unconscious itself. It is the piinciple
of a new naicissism, which is no longei that of a stiong ego. "You'ie not saying anything."
Quite. To be silent heie is a lessei evil. Because all the unconscious evei uiu is inteipieting,
anu as a iule it uoes it bettei than the analyst. If the analyst is silent, it is because the
unconscious inteipiets. Anu yet the unconscious also wants to be inteipieteu. It offeis itself
foi inteipietation. If the unconscious uiu not want to be inteipieteu, if the unconscious
uesiie of the uieam was not, I its ueepest phase, a uesiie to be inteipieteu-Lacan says so÷
a uesiie to make sense, theie woulu be no analyst.
Let us go along with the paiauox. The unconscious inteipiets anu it wants to be
inteipieteu. The contiauiction only exists foi a iuuimentaiy concept of inteipietation:
inteipietation always calls foi inteipietation. To say it otheiwise: to inteipiet is to ciphei.
But to ueciphei is to ciphei again. The movement only stops on a satisfaction. This is
exactly what Fieuu says when he insciibes the uieam as uiscouise in the iegistei of the
piimaiy piocess, as a wish fulfillment. Anu Lacan uecipheis it foi us by saying that
jouissance lies in cipheiing. But then÷how uoes jouissance lie in cipheiing. What is its
being in cipheiing. Anu wheie uoes it uwell in cipheiing.
Let's say it abiuptly, as befits these biief communicatins that biing style anu spice to these
!"#$%&'(÷theie is nothing in the stiuctuie of language that enables us to iesponu
accuiately to this question, we aujust this stiuctuie.
Last yeai I fatigueu the auuience of my couise by taking them along the meanueiing path
Lacan took when he tiieu to integiate the Fieuuian libiuo within the stiuctuie of
language÷moie piecisely, |he tiieu to integiate itj in the locus of the signifieu, giving
jouissance, if I may so, the veiy being of sense.

}ouissance, ('%( 8"#) |enjoyeu sensej-the homophony Lacan suipiises us with in his |textj
9'*'2)()"% is the veiy piinciple of the piogiam inauguiateu, if not by "Function anu Fielu of
Speech anu Language," at least by his uecipheiing in "The Agency of the Lettei." This
piogiam is to ieuuce libiuo to the being of sense.
I have |alieauyj punctuateu the main moments of this elaboiation; theie aie five. The final
moment is the veiy uisqualification of object ,: What Lacan chiisteneu ";8'- 5'-)- , is the
ultimate waste of a gianuiose attempt, the attempt to integiate jouissance in the stiuctuie
of language÷even if it meant extenuing this stiuctuie to the stiuctuie of uiscouise.
Beyonu this, anothei uimension opens up wheie the stiuctuie of language itself is
ielativizeu anu meiely appeais as an elaboiation of knowleuge |(,2")$j on *,*,%1#': The
teim "signifiei" fails to giasp what is at stake since it is uesigneu to giasp the effect of the
signifieu, anu it stiuggles to account foi the jouissance piouuceu. Fiom then on,
inteipietation will nevei again be what it useu to be. The age of inteipietation, the age in
which Fieuu tuineu the univeisal uiscouise upsiue uown by means of inteipietation, is
Fieuu staiteu with the uieam, which has always lent itself to inteipietation. Be moveu on
to the symptom, conceiveu on the mouel of the uieam, as a message to ueciphei. 0n his way
he hau alieauy encounteieu the negative theiapeutic ieaction, masochism, anu the fantasy.
What Lacan continues to call "inteipietation" is no longei the same, if only because it is not
inuexeu on the symptom but on the fantasy. Anu we keep saying that the fantasy is not to
be inteipieteu but to be constiucteu, uon't we. The fantasy is a phiase that is enjoyeu |<#)
(' 8"#)-j, a cipheieu message that haibois jouissance. The symptom itself is to be thought
fiom the fantasy, anu this is what Lacan calls the sinthome.
A piactice that taigets the sinthome in the subject uoes not inteipiet like the unconscious.
To inteipiet like the unconscious is to iemain in the seivice of the pleasuie piinciple. To
place oneself in the seivice of the ieality piinciple uoes not change anything, since the
ieality piinciple itself is in the seivice of the pleasuie piinciple. To inteipiet in the seivice
of the pleasuie piinciple-you neeun't look anywheie else foi the piinciple of inteiminable
analysis. This is not what Lacan calls "the way to a tiue awakening foi the subject."
It iemains foi us to say what inteipieting beyonu the pleasuie piinciple coulu be-
inteipieting against the giain of the unconscious. Theie, the woiu "inteipietation" is only
valiu as a place-holuei foi anothei, which cannot be silence. }ust as we must abanuon the
symptom as iefeience anu use the fantasy insteau, to think the symptom fiom the fantasy,
so we must abanuon neuiosis anu use psychosis as iefeience, to think neuiosis fiom
The signifiei as such, that is, as ciphei |06)++$'j, as sepaiateu fiom the effects of
signification, calls foi inteipietation as such. The signifiei on its own is always an enigma
anu this is why it ciaves inteipietation. This inteipietation iequiies the implication of
anothei signifiei, fiom which a new sense emeiges. This is the stiuctuie I highlighteu at the
Clinical Section of Buenos Aiies, in a colloquium on uelusion anu the elementaiy
The elementaiy phenomenon is a paiticulaily puie uemonstiation of the piesence of the
signifiei all alone, in suffeiance÷waiting foi the othei signifiei that woulu give it a
meaning-anu as a iule the binaiy signifiei of knowleuge appeais theie, which in the event
uoes not conceal its uelusional natuie. It has a peifectly goou name: the uelusion of
inteipietation. This is the way of all inteipietation: inteipietation has the stiuctuie of
uelusion, anu this is why Fieuu uoes not hesitate to put the uelusion of Schiebei anu the
theoiy of the libiuo on the same plane, without any stiatification. If the inteipietation that
the analyst has to offei the patient is of the oiuei of uelusion, then inueeu it is piobably
bettei to iemain silent. This is a cautionaiy maxim.
Theie is anothei way, which is neithei that of uelusion noi of the silence of piuuence. We
will continue to call this way "inteipietation," although it no longei has anything to uo with
the system of inteipietation, save foi being its ieveise siue. To say it with the concision
iequiieu by these !"#$%&'(/ the othei way consists in withholuing S
, in not biinging it in-so
as to ciicumsciibe S
. It amounts to biinging the subject back to his tiuly elementaiy
signifieis, on which he has, in his neuiosis, hau a uelusion.
The unaiy signifiei, which as such is nonsensical, means that the elementaiy phenomenon
is piimoiuial. The ieveise of inteipietation consists in ciicumsciibing the signifiei as the
elementaiy phenomenon of the subject, anu as it was befoie it was aiticulateu in the
foimation of the unconscious that gives it the sense of a uelusion.
When inteipietation emulates the unconscious, when it mobilizes the subtlest iesouices of
ihetoiic, when it molus itself onto the stiuctuie of the foimations of the unconscious, it
feeus the uelusion that it shoulu be staiving. If theie is uecipheiing heie, it is a uecipheiing
that uoes not piouuce sense.
Psychosis, heie as elsewheie, stiips the stiuctuie baie. }ust as mental automatism exposes
the funuamental xenopathy of speech, so the elementaiy phenomenon is theie to manifest
the oiiginal state of the subject's ielation to *,*,%1#': The subject knows that what is saiu
|*' .)-j conceins him, that theie is some signification, although he uoes not know which
This is why, at this point piecisely, as he auvances in the othei uimension of inteipietation,
Lacan iesoits to =)%%'1,%( >,?'/ namely, to a text that unceasingly plays on the ielations
between speech anu wiiting, sounu anu sense, a text full of conuensations, equivocations,
homophonies, but neveitheless has nothing to uo with the olu unconscious. In =)%%'1,%(
>,?'/ eveiy quilting point is maue obsolete. This is why, uespite heioic effoits, this text can
neithei be inteipieteu noi tianslateu. That's because it is not itself an inteipietation, anu it
wonueifully biings the subject of ieauing back to peiplexity as the elementaiy
phenomenon of the subject in *,*,%1#':
Let's say that in the text, S
always absoibs S
. The woius which woulu tianslate its sense
into anothei language aie as if uevouieu in auvance by this veiy text, as if it was tianslating
itself. Consequently, the ielation between signifiei anu signifieu uoes not take the foim of
the unconscious. You will nevei be able to sepaiate what }oyce wanteu to say fiom what he
saiu-this is integial tiansmission, but in a moue that is the ieveise of the matheme.
The @'$" '++'0- of the elementaiy phenomenon is obtaineu heie thiough an ,*'56 '++'0-/
which opens onto the infinity of the semantic, oi, bettei, onto the flight of sense.
What we still call "inteipietation," although analytic piactice is eveimoie post-
inteipietative, is ievealing no uoubt, but of what if not of an iiieuucible opacity in the
ielation of the subject to *,*,%1#': Anu this is why inteipietation-this post-inteipietation-is
no longei, if we aie to be piecise, a punctuation.
Punctuation belongs to the system of signification; it is still semantic; it still piouuces a
quilting point. This is why the post-inteipietative piactice, which takes ovei fiom
inteipietation on a uaily basis, takes its beaiings on the cut iathei than on punctuation.
Foi now, let us imagine this cut as a sepaiation between S
anu S
, the veiy one that is
insciibeu on the bottom line of the matheme of the 'analytic uiscouise': S
. The
consequences aie funuamental foi the veiy constiuction of what we call the analytic
session. The question is not to know whethei the session is long oi shoit, silent oi woiuy.
Eithei the session is a semantic unity, in which S
comes to punctuate the elaboiation-
uelusion in the seivice of the Name-of-the-Fathei (as many sessions aie)÷oi the analytic
session is an asemantic unit ietuining the subject to the opacity of his jouissance. This
implies that it be cut befoie it can loop back upon itself. So heie I am opposing the path of
peiplexity to the path of elaboiation. Bon't woiiy about elaboiation; theie will always be
too much of it.
I piopose that these !"#$%&'( ieflect on the following: piopeily analytic inteipietation÷
let's keep the woiu÷functions against the giain of the unconscious.
96)( )( , (#BB,$C "+ "%' "+ !,0<#'("D*,)% E)**'$F( $'(5"%('( -" <#'(-)"%( +$"B -6' ,#.)'%0'G
We begin fiom Seige Cottet's spot-on uiagnosis-"the uecline of inteipietation"-that I pickeu
up on last yeai in his piesentation at the Clinical Section. Be signaleu some uifficulties that
he situateu in the oiuei of a ceitain symptom. I tiieu to biing out the goou siue of this
"uecline," foi the teim echoes uaikly with "gianueui anu uecauence." I placeu what at fiist
sight appeais as a uecline of inteipietation in a positive light. I sublimateu this uecline into
a post-inteipietative piactice. When uiu this piactice stait. With Fieuu himself, it is
impossible not to see that.
D#-6"$F( %"-': I hau initially announceu this text in the piogiam foi the }ouinées unuei the
title "The 0thei Siue of Inteipietation." I piesenteu it in thiee sentences: "Inteipietation is
ueau. It will not be iesuscitateu. if a piactice is tiuly contempoiaiy, it is ineluctably post-
inteipietative although it uoes not ieally know it yet." This oial communication was
uesigneu to unsettle the aveiage opinion, to pioullce Slupiise. It uiu uo that, anu moie. Biu
this amount to success. Peihaps not. Some, tuining aiounu, uiowneu the essence of this
comIIlllnication (on this point, see my fiist thoughts: "L'oubli ue I'intelpietation" in La
lettie mensuelle No. 144, Becembei 199S, pp. 1-2). This text was tiansciibeu by C.
Bonningue. 1 ieau it anu maue few coiiections.