A few slices of

Derrida's "Pas"

from Parages (Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1986)

translated by Clive Madder

[p. 90]

- You always return to the water [eau], without my ever knowing what you are talking about, what you utter or denote (o sign of nothing, the letter, the cry, the syllable, the words, the names, the thing); and as for the thing, is it the water [eau] from the "drink", from the "beverage", the luck of a fate [lot], the water [eau] from the "glass of water [eau]" which often comes up again in Celui qui..., the water [eau] from the sea [la mer], or some other thing which would signify, rebus, a morsel or a moment of mot mo, for example, or ot, or mor, mors, mort, or the first proper name affecting or biting closer, accompanying him without stopping, but like a stranger, the one who...

- Yes, yes, I always return (see what he says about returning and about the "always returns" in Le Pas au-delà), and I would like to quote more often, for these récits demand it, even the one which I ought not quote, save ever bending it from its unique route.
The water [eau], which I denote by way of rebus, is not a theme, a sense, or a signifier, by reason of all the resources which you have just recalled. One must say this, for the same reason, about the orality of rat, of pas, sans [without] or sauf [safe, save, except], and from then on all that they emphasise and which is advanced or distanced in these récits. Which are récits in this, by that, and no longer discourses or stories, narrations or poems.
If I write, for example: the water without water, what has happened? Or again, a reply without reply? The same word and the same thing seem removed from themselves, taken away from their reference and their identity, while continuing to be left to traverse, in their old body, towards an entirely other, dissimulated in them. But not [pas] more than in "pas"; this operation does not consist simply in depriving or denying, it is necessary in itself. It forms the trace or the pas of the entirely other about which it is concerned, the re-tracing [re-trait, also withdrawal] of the pas, and of the pas without pas. In its syntax, it plays, between two apparently identical words: "it describes without describing", "this death without death", "survival which is not one of them", La Littérature et le droit à la mort; "death without death", "death but without death", "the origin of what is without origin", "air without air", "thought without thought", Thomas l'Obscur; "speech without speech", "resemblance... without resemblance", Celui qui ne m'accompagnait pas; "being without being", "anew without newness", "place without place", "distance without distance", L'Entretien infini; "approach without approach", "waiting and without waiting", "spaced out without space", "respite without respite", L'Attente l'oubli; "secret (without secret)", L'Amitié; "the other, in his attraction without attraction", "the name without name", "other unhappiness, of an unhappiness without unhappiness", "the end (without end) of books", Le Pas au-delà; "myself without myself", "destroys without destruction", Discours sur la patience; "To live without living, as to die without death: to write returns us to these enigmatic propositions", a primal scene; "the aletheia, such that one thinks it without thinking it" (L'Šcriture du désastre). Without plays like a strange resilience, neither an energy nor a functioning. X without X no longer appears to function. But if it does, it is not as one thinks. Without doubt this no longer functions, this no longer walks, this means nothing and rejoins a o degree of the thesis, of the discourse and the sense. This means o and yet there is not o. It remains a remainder without remaining from this passage (there is-not [pas]-anything, a text, a récit, already). This is why none of these "words" (without word in turn), of these old words of natural language, separated from themselves, can be replaced by a conventional X. A certain formalisation of it is impossible, or in any case always limited. The without will have walked. Not without. Step of without [Pas de sans]. And he will have invested the paleonym of a completely other, archi-ancient, more than ancient, sheltered by the paleonym but without relation to one. Without-trace of pas.


John Leavey's authorized English translation of "Pas", by Jacques Derrida, is going to be published in its entirety in the near future. These lines, translated by Clive Madder, are but appetizers!

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