Simple Existence

Clément Rosset

Clément Rosset

This morning I’ve rummaged around the internet for information about philosopher Clément Rosset, whose philosophy seems to share certain characteristics of the Epicureans, Pierre Bourdieu and Gilles Deleuze. It seems that Joyful Cruelty: toward a philosophy of the real, the book I’d like to read is not in print in English translation. A passage from that book has a Deleuzean flavour to it (not that I am deeply read in Deleuze. Yet).

As evidence for his claim that “simple existence is in itself a source of rejoicing,” Rosset points to the importance people assign to recounting accurately the past events of their lives: “The smaller one’s investment in what was happening in the past when one was participating in the events, the more one now refuses to hear that artichokes were served that day when in fact one remembers excellent asparagus. . . . This fastidious character of remembrance can only be interpreted as the mark of recognition. . . . with respect to existence as such, of the inherent interest of all existence whatever it may be. . . .”

This reminds me of a passage I scribbled in my notebook (I’ll try and find the interview for tweeting and linking here in another post) from a 1988 interview with Deleuze:

Signs imply ways of living, possibilities of existence, they are the symptoms of an overflowing [jaillissante] or exhausted [épuisée] life. But an artist cannot be content with an exhausted life, nor with a personal life. One does not write with one’s ego, one’s memory, and one’s illnesses. In the act of writing there’s an attempt to make life something more than personal, to liberate life from what imprisons it. . . . There is a profound link between signs, the event, life, and vitalism. It is the power of nonorganic life, that which can be found in a line of a drawing, a line of writing, a line of music. It is organisms that die, not life. There is no work of art that does not indicate an opening for life, a path between the cracks. Everything I have written has been vitalistic, at least I hope so, and constitutes a theory of signs and the event.

If you are able to enlighten me in any way about Clément Rosset’s work I’d be appreciative.

4 thoughts on “Simple Existence

  1. Although I’ve run across many quotes and citations over the years, so few of Clément Rosset’s publications are readily available in English translation that I can’t know for sure whether I disagree with him. 🙂 A lot of the quotes regarding language, love, joy, desire, the “real,” etc., include sweeping statements that provoke a “Whoa…dude. Where are you getting this?” response from me. But of course, if I were to read the full works, I might better understand how he carved the way to his conclusions. That said, since I’m not exactly in the market for additional perspectives, I probably won’t be reading any of Rosset’s books in English. Nevertheless, I’m very interested in your take, so I hope you’ll let us know how Joyful Cruelty strikes you.

    As for the passage scribbled in your notebook, it’s from Ronald Bogue’s 2004 collection of essays, Deleuze’s Wake: Tributes and Tributaries, and it’s probably Bogue’s own translation of Deleuze’s conversation (with Raymond Bellour and Francois Ewald, originally published in Le Magazine Littéraire in September, 1988.) You can download the first chapter of Deleuze’s Wake here, which includes your quoted passage:

    The (as it were) canonical English-language version of that 09/88 interview with Deleuze is entitled “On Philosophy” in the book Negotiations: 1972-1990, available from It’s Martin Joughin’s 1995 translation of Deleuze’s 1990 Pourparlers.

    Hope the above isn’t TMI and that the links are functional. I’m typing this between replies to work emails….

    • Thank you, DZ, for that first chapter of Deleuze’s Wake. That is precisely the chapter I enjoyed. Thanks also for the link to Negotiations.

      I’ll let you know what I make of Clement’s Joyful Cruelty.

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