Who Killed Gilles Deleuze? (Episode 1)

L’homme et sa femme, André Masson (OliBac CC BY 2.00)

Twentieth century philosophy is fatalistically encumbered by its over—professionalisation. Life at the post-Kantian University is not amenable to risk and perturbance. It fosters a dry, measurable scholarly visage and frowns on Wild Beauty and Supernatural Interference. Of course, there are honorable exceptions to this bland contagion and these surrounds of Rationalist cranks.

First up, Ludwig Wittgenstein. His Tractatus is worthy of comparison to Duchamps in its conceptual Modernism and its sheer sense of philosophical daring. This man gives Analytic and Anglo-American philosophy a good name, as if Pollock had forgone Action Painting for the joys of minute and precious semantics. It took a foreigner to restore the sexiness of Oxbridge ordinary language and the everyday.

Second up, a man from France. Louis Althusser. Befuddled by May ’68 and the incapacity of his obtuse economistic version of late Marx to say anything whatsoever about real life and real transformative revolutions happening outside his front window (as with most Marxists), he instead chose to make his life a Psychiatric Work of Art. Not before having grappled creatively with the whole psychoanalytic legacy, turning and twisting Freud and Lacan into shapes hitherto unrecognisable. Shame about his poor wife, though.

Last but not least, our bould Gilles. A man who handwrote all his books and got his long- suffering wife Fanny (Grandjouan from Limousin) to type them up for Gallimard. She learnt her stylistics concerning hieroglyphic grammatology in Pierre Balmain’s Parisian fashion house, no less. Let me suggest then a theory, unorthodox I grant you.

Shocked by what happened to Mrs. Althusser, and more than aware of the many illicit borrowings from vulgar Marxism and a poor man’s Althusserianism (without the balls) in her husband’s handwritten and oftentimes nearly illegible handscribbled meanderings, my hunch is quite simply that Fanny got in there first. She also felt that Gilles needed to pay handsomely for all the nasty asides about proto-feminism in such infamously overrated texts as Anti-Oedipus. Standing beside her wheezing asthmatic beau at the window of that 7th Floor apartment, she resolved that 7 floors was indeed a perfectly long (a suitably sufficient and just) distance to fall. Was it or was it not a rather putrid coincidence that the Deleuzes’ apartment in the fifteenth arrondissement was just around the corner from the Police Lost and Found and the local Slaughterhouse.

Deleuze himself was most likely wise enough (despite the awful handwriting and cloying misogyny) to see this extraordinary Mariticide as precisely a condition of cultural emergence. He may have looked back at the last moment and decided to become complicit (I do not thereby suggest any prior knowledge on his part, just an instantaneous YES). Let’s be honest. Some of his critics had already circled the wagons to call charge on a certain rather weak-willed voyeurism in his oeuvre. He would often retire to his study, having read these baneful reviews, and demonstrate a mood of hurt and immense fragility. Oh, how misunderstood am I, he would tell his cat, Felix, who appeared always unsurprised and unsympathetic. When you say that I am someone who’s always just tagged along behind, taking it easy, capitalizing upon other people’s experiments, on gays, on drug-users, alcoholics, masochists, lunatics, and so on, vaguely savouring their transports and poisons without ever taking any risks – frankly, I sob sob sob when I read these diatribes contra-moi, he would say to Felix, breaking out into uncontrollable snotty tears. These barbs undoubtedly cut poor Gilles up, even if they made his co-writer Guattari seem exactly the opposite and the real driver of the whole avant-garde endeavour. After all, wasn’t Deleuze really only a fair to middling philosophy lecturer on the faculty at Vincennes, like a whole load of other ideologues (Badiou and Lyotard included, the former who hated Deleuze even more than the critics, often sabotaging his lectures with the help of Molotov cocktails and his Maoist terroristic students?) Guattari, on the contrary, was a man with a political mission, genuinely changing the psychiatric institution in France and beyond, as well as shaking the foundations of its social manifestations. Even the Maoists could see that Guattari was a worthy opponent. 

Murder also (when done well, in an exemplary style) is capable of reaching the creative heights of a shocking poetics (say that of a heroin addicted Leopoldo Maria Panero) and/or a novel that usurps grammar (say that of heterosexual-hating Katy Acker). In this weird zone of historical coincidentia of (seeming) minor accidents, predicted by the late Medieval eunuch De Cusa amongst others, one sees something emerge which is indeed truly bastardised by any conventional standards of decency, but also a kind of boon for the bohemian soul (currently struggling amidst the crass bureaucracy of late-late capitalist cybernetics).

Another final angle, dear reader. Our specific hero Fanny Grandjouan of Limousin’s gesture, that rather dramatic push off the edge (dramatic for Fanny, usually a willing and subordinate typist) may have been precisely a faithful and paradoxical rendering, an ultimate eschatological realization, of her drasted hubby’s Transcendental Materialist project. How so? Well can’t we say that when it comes to EXPRESSION, that a less fashionable concept for late twentieth century European thought would be hard to find. For many years, for many schools of ‘thought’, expression has indeed been deeply anathema. The underlying assumption has been that expressionism can only amount to an uncritical subjectivism. But what if – AU CONTRAIRE – Fanny’s deft hand was exactly the expression of a truly self-governing, reflective individual whose thwarted but superior inner life (all those foolish handscribbles, all those hours misspent in dictation) now emerged in the most aesthetic voluntary congregation of communication with the universe, here now in the moment of her bould Gilles’ stumble, fall and final SPLASH on the ground down below.

Admittedly, there may be other hypotheses admissible. I can think of one at least, involving Durtal (or even J.K Huysmans himself), and a ritual that was performed in secrecy during the closure hours of the Sûreté Générale, the bureau of National Criminal Investigation. Come, come. You surely don’t believe that at this very moment, the Devil is being evoked and the Black Mass celebrated? Just imagine that, a supernatural and Magick crime act instantiated on the very premises of the venerable detectives of the French Government (lying in abeyance for Gilles even in the years before his birth), incubated in the Underworld at this very acute moment of fin-de-siècle decadence.

Durtal knew all this (as in a kind of divine Satanic foreknowledge) the very first time he met the exquisitely evil Mme Chantelouve. She marched straight into his Sûreté Générale office, it was early May, late nineteenth century, and the weather was unusually humid, which drew out the emergent eroticism in a way that was wholly uncomfortable for our civil servant hero. He sat there frankly dumbfounded. What was he to do with the ardent entreaties that only had been communicated in secret letters heretofore? If I love her, he found himself saying aloud in her very presence, what kind of love can this be?

What kind of distorted eros might we describe this to be, when all venerable and dignified agathos has thoroughly left the building, like a balloon that in a flash loses its air and whizzes around the room hauntingly and shrill? There is also, may I say, a rank and frightening esoteric fragrance (a rather romantic and unsuitable word for the phenomenon) now permeating our office environs. I don’t think I speak exaggeratedly when I can call this current state of affairs at the Sûreté Générale as some kind of maleficent possession.

Not forgetting that no less a reader than Valèry had called aesthetic (and literary-political) attention to the very particular and strange intermingling of past and present in the character of Durtal and what he succeeded in operationalizing all around him. In a significant conceptualization, Valèry referred to this textual moment as a ‘parallel demonstration’. If it is clear that this line of thought and flight of fancy is indeed parallel, we might ask however in what precisely constitutes its demonstration? At this point in time (and with a furtive look over our shoulder), we might protest that this paradigmatic question of questions is simply unanswerable. If we want to keep our life, we might say. The piece of evidence we had received in a wholly dissimulative manner (a coded missive worthy of Pynchon’s postal service from Inherent Vice) that there were suggestions that Deleuze had been visited in the middle of the night by a Stranger, while an extraordinary progress in the case, also left us as interminably exposed and vulnerable. As someone known to be possibly ‘in the secret know’, we were now undoubtedly in mortal danger. Remembering in a crucial manner that to stay alive, to self-preserve, is also to stay on the trail, to continue the role of Metaphysical Detective in this curiouser and curiouser mystery.