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198 Short Takes

INTERVIEW WITH L’ARCHIBRAS*

Tr a n s l a t e d b y G u y D u c o r n e t

What social events or phenomena have been, in your opinion, most


representative of a wish for total emancipation, during the past ten years?
Marcuse: The effective guerrilla resistance to the internal machine of
imperialism; the “Provos”; the political opposition of young intellectuals
in the United States.
On the other hand, which recent events have been the most significant signs
of a reinforcement — or more exactly of a “perfecting” — of the system of
oppression?
Marcuse: The integration of the “lower classes”— the exploited on the one
hand, and the white-collar intelligentsia on the other — into the system
of the “affluent society.”
If we situate the thesis advanced in Eros and Civilization within the debate
opposing Marxist and anarchist traditions as to the legitimacy of all forms
of state authority (even if the latter were presented as containing all
prerequisites to insure the passage to socialism, that is to say its own
disappearance), what new theoretical light can this thesis bring into the
debate?
Marcuse: The anarchist thesis runs up against the fundamental condition of
an evolved industrial society, that is to say the formation, the satisfaction
and the control of all needs by the repressive forces of society. This
condition of instinctive integration, of primary integration, represses
— in the majority of people — all revolutionary spontaneity, all need for
negation, for total emancipation. Consequently, “total emancipation”

two lovers. The question “And when will they leave each other?” (p. 120) is
followed by a one-word sentence in its own line, “Soon.” Herbert Marcuse’s use of
“Soon” in this poem – also as a one-word sentence in its own line – appears to
interlock with Inge Marcuse’s translation. Brecht’s word, like that of Marcuse here,
also caries the connotation of impending inevitability and is doubtless a reference to
the famous last line of Goethe’s classic poem, “Wanderers Nachtlied” (Wonderer’s
Night Song), “Soon you too shall rest” cited also by Herbert Marcuse, The
Aesthetic Dimension (1978) pp. 61, 78.
*
Editor’s note:
This text provides an interview with Marcuse published in the French journal
L’Archibras (October 1967), p. 63, and translated into English by Guy Ducornet in
Cultural Correspondence (Summer 1981), pp. 12–14. It showed how in the 1960s
aesthetic concerns were beginning to merge with his theoretical and political interests.
(DK)
Short Takes 199
depends, more than ever, on a powerful authority, a force — material as
well as intellectual — which is capable of liberating and developing oppo-
sitional needs and libertarian aggression. In a word, counter-intelligence
wins over intelligence, counter-propaganda negates propaganda, counter-
images replace the images of mass communication, counter-language
breaks away from language.
Does the idea that history might not necessarily evolve toward more freedom
seem to you to warrant being examined, and why?
Marcuse: I believe that the idea according to which history evolves more or
less necessarily toward more freedom is very dangerous, because it is
probably false. I think this idea intrudes even into the Marxist dialectic,
in spite of the insistence on consciousness and the conscious action of the
working class. The facts of fascism, of Nazism and of neoimperialism
refute the concept of progress.
Many believe, following Denis de Rougemont, that romantic love originates
in the constraints opposed to Eros. What do you think of this idea? Could a
non-repressive society favor romantic love or other forms of erotic
relationships, and which ones?
Marcuse: The constraints in opposition to Eros have very different values
and functions: some repress and reduce the libido, others intensify and
fortify it — eroticism of the preparatory stages, obstacles in the service of
stimulation, late refinements, etc. However, the affirmative constraints
must be established by the lovers themselves or at least accepted by them
and transformed into intermediary agents of desire. In this way, one can
test the truth of the proposition according to which it is mediation that
constitutes the density of being.
What do you expect from poetry?
Marcuse: I expect it to continue to denounce prose as well as the “poetry”
of bourgeois repression and exploitation; to continue to speak the
counter-language of imagination which today is the only human language
and the true language of politics.
Does the idea of evil strongly attract you, in certain cases? If so, which ones?
Marcuse: I must admit that the idea of evil, in certain cases, exerts a strong
attraction on me: above all, in the case of evil striking the authors of evil
— i.e., the architects of imperialist politics and their hirelings. In this case
I nurture even sadistic dreams, but they remain dreams.
(December 15, 1966)
200 Short Takes
SAMUEL BECKETT’S POEM FOR MARCUSE AND
AN EXCHANGE OF LETTERS

Samuel Beckett: Poem Dedicated to Herbert Marcuse on


his Eightieth Birthday*

Tr a n s l a t e d b y E d i t h F o u r i e r

Pas a pas step by step


Nulle part nowhere
Nul seul not a single one
Ne sait comment knows how
Petits pas tiny steps
Nulle part nowhere
Obstinément stubbornly

*
Editor’s note:
Samuel Beckett surprised Marcuse with a poem for his eightieth birthday that we
publish above with an English translation by Edith Fourier; the poem was first
published in Akzente, vol. 3/June 1978, in a special issue commemorating Marcuse’s
eightieth birthday. (DK)
Short Takes 201
Marcuse–Beckett Exchange of Letters*

December 13, 1978

Dear Samuel Beckett:


I have hesitated endlessly until [I] decided that I must write to you. I am
afraid my letter would just be another fan letter but I can’t help it. The poem
which you published, for my 80th birthday, in Akzente was for me more
than I could describe. I felt the admiration I had for your work had somehow
reached you. I have always felt that in the hopeless suffering of your men
and women, the point of no return has been reached. The world has been
recognized as what it is, called by its true name. Hope is beyond our power
to express it. But only under the Prinzip Hoffnung could a human being
write what you have written.
In great gratitude

*
Editor’s note:
We include an exchange of letters that took place in 1978 and 1979 between Marcuse
and Beckett. Marcuse had cited Beckett as a major writer, noting: “The real face of our
time shows in Samuel Beckett’s novels” (One-Dimensional Man, Boston, Beacon Press,
1964 p. 247), and constantly referred to Beckett’s uncompromisingly radical critique of
the world in his later writings (see in this volume, pp. 211, 224, 230 passim). Marcuse
was obviously delighted that Beckett had written a poem for him. The Marcuse–Beckett
letters were found in the Herbert Marcuse archives by Peter-Erwin Jansen and an
English translation is published for the first time. (DK)
202 Short Takes
Paris
January 3, 1999
Dear Herbert Marcuse
Many thanks for your moving letter. All the honour and pleasure were
for me, to be associated in my small way in that hommage paid to you.
With every good wish, dear Herbert Marcuse,
Herzlichst
Sam. Beckett