Who Killed Gilles Deleuze? (Episode 3)

Third episode of the ongoing investigation (following Episode 2 in the series).

Salome, Giampietrino

If one abandons the discourse of reason, does one thereby inevitably and irretrievably fall deep down dank into the Black Night of passions, of murder, of the dissolution of all social life? What if, rather, it is the discourse of reason that is the pathology, rationality being the morbid apotheosis par excellence? If we look at the world outside our window, it does seem to be the discourse of reason that is in power everywhere. But seeming and perception can be deceptive, as many from the arch, if comedic, idealist Bishop George Berkeley of Cloyne, East Cork, Ireland, know. Wasn’t Berkeley the direct ancestor of David Lynch and the double worlds of Twin Peaks and of Lost Highway, for example in the exact duality of Renee and Alice as played by Patricia Arquette? This doubling feminine figure should be remembered as also connecting back to the Bible and the ‘Vixen Women’ of Jezebel and Salomé, the latter and her infamous dance for Herod. Arquette, an actress with a very particular esoteric gift, goes as far as to indicate a reference to the ‘Black Dahlia’ and to women who have the ‘capacity to destroy’, which contains an affirmation of the power of female sexuality to metamorphose. Our detective story needs to return not only to the scene of our very specific crime (no doubt clandestinely linked to all these previous historical crimes) but to the conditions which set this infamous but secret homicide in place. Let us park up our dark Arkham hearse in the wake of the events of May ’68, with a certain underground anticipation of what was going to emerge into the public as that hybrid-matrix set of texts (hardly a singular tome whatever else you could say about it) called Anti-Oedipus four full years (and what a four years, eh?) later, in 1972.

One of the earliest reviews of this text, a review which had been banned by no less a Master than Jacques Lacan himself (or at least there was a serious attempt at suppression and silencing as a form of blasphemy against his psychoanalytic authority) was entitled ‘The Drunken Ship Of Schizo Docks at Al Capone’s’. Lacan had been trying to soften Deleuze up as a philosopher whom he actually respected and whose approbation he required to move beyond his avant-garde circles into a more intellectual respectability. Deleuze was obviously having none of this sycophancy. But Lacan was still concerned that such negative pronouncements coming from his side of psychoanalysis might alienate his already fragile reputation even further from the mainstream. This intelligent and covertly knowing (in an occultic sense) paper already posits a scandalous complicity between Deleuze and noir crime. Moreover, it is one of the first writings to link Anti-Oedipus and the ‘class struggle’, connecting to the Marxist legacy in an all-too-surprising manner. This very reviewer, a female (and this is, of course, hardly insignificant in the present juncture, especially as she was simultaneously an acolyte of Lacan and a student of Deleuze at Vincennes) also refers to the text as a ‘beautiful novel’ and counter-claims that the book, far from being the supposed subversion of an Oedipus framework of existence and meaning, is nothing other than a total defence of the same. A direct quotation from this little known (for obvious reasons, do I need to say more?) is instructive for our purposes: D and G play the psychiatric card against psychoanalysis. According to rumour, Deleuze was so taken with the review (unlike Lacan, criticism hardly worried him) that he invited the reviewer for a drink at a bar on the Port Royal, where he joked with her ambiguously (calling her Simone Simon, the actress, who she resembled in his eyes)but she held firm; Professor, I don’t think that psychedelic drugs can be the solution to Philosophy and Existence.

Of course, dear reader, we should note the emergence of the dual nomenclature. We are no longer talking singly of Gilles the individual or lone subjectivity but now, and forever more, he is in the Janus-face with that great avant-garde conspirator and agent provocateur of Italian-French descent, none other than the Autonomist and anti-psychiatrist Felix Guattari. We have already spoken of the cat of the home apartment where the fated eventual event will take place, yes that is indeed Felix also. We can also cite the extant photos, seemingly at some kind of summer vacation ease, in Dhuizon (Guattari’s own abode) taken by an eager photographic soft-focus lens belonging no less than to Felix himself, of Gilles and Fanny Deleuze reposing together on the front grass. Fanny’s eyes are facing downward and she is nervously caressing her own left ankle. Deleuze is facing forward seemingly nonchalant and cross-legged with a blade of grass or a cream cracker in his mouth.

More of this anon but suffice to mention here that Autonomism in the early 1970s was already familiar enough with not just the Police (its myriad repressions of the Far Left) but also with the Prison complex. Imagine the extended incarceration of these intelligent men and women of the Revolution, finally meeting up in the tawdry and putrid cells of the violent Governmental complex, and their mixing now with an underclass of proles, raised on every kind of survivalist misdemeanour, and all the strategies and cunning therein. Imagine the sharing, the co-operation of such accomplices. Suddenly, the hypotheses of the original Anti-Oedipus reviewer appear strangely and uncannily prescient. An intelligent and covert foreknowledge (let us call it Satanic, nothing less) already posits a scandalous complicity between Deleuze and noir crime. We are now indeed far from the Ivory Tower and from the Sorbonne, even if at the very same time we seem to draw closer (in this very particular moment of post-’68 madness) to the very pre-’68 wellsprings of Socialism or Barbarism and its frankly extraordinary connections of the Algerian War with what was coming down the French line. Coming down (à venir, shall we say), with all the vengeful hatred and art of retribution which is always in the end colonialism’s just desserts. Wasn’t this Pierre Guyotat’s one and only monotonous and horrific thesis, amongst elsewhere in the corruscating Tomb for 500,000 Soldiers and its ‘unique elision of brutal warfare and sexual ecstasy’ (completed by the troubled author when he was only twenty-five and just out of solitary confinement due to Army desertion), the riff he made his very own contribution to international literature, if his readership nevertheless couldn’t extend beyond the confines of Vincennes and a few, scattered illicit transsexual bordellos?                       

Vincennes itself was never some kind of innocent University institution in all of this. As the wag has it, this was never going to be another Sorbonne, instead it was some kind of twisted version of the original Situationist contortions of Nanterre (when the latter was at its very best or very worst, between Henri Lefebvre and his rhythmanalysis and the rest, not forgetting Debord, from say 1965 onwards). It isn’t just some kind of filthy slur from the Catholic hermeneuts (Marcel, Ricoeur etc.) that Vincennes became a hotbed of terrorist training in ideology for the immigrant Maoists from the most far flung and most desperate regions of the world (I am not just referring to Northern Ireland and the Irish National Liberation Army here, by the way, although I can assure you of their specific Gaelic attendance as it is noted in the daily roll calls). All of this war-mongering counter-culture being bred and breathed deeply under the smoke cloud, literally, of Deleuze’s incessant and hyper-asthmatic puffs, under the guise of purported lectures and seminars on the intricacies of Spinozism or Bergsonism or (laughing now) Vitalism. Such cross-fertilisations will have their subsequent implications, no matter what. One cannot argue with Fate.

Still, I don’t need to tell you that the standard accounts of Deleuze’s superlative Death-Drive take a rather different Route One. So, the story goes that, more than anything, if the acute cancer of the throat and the throat of the lungs was not really enough, what Gilles could not cope with above all else was that he was less able to work, to write and to discuss. Towards the very end, consequently, this is the image which we receive, that our bould hero had been trying Stoically (reading Epictetus first thing at 6am) against all cosmic odds to focus on more concentrated and more fragmented philosophical musings and writings (of course, here Fanny once again makes an entrance as the erstwhile and always faithful typist of epiphanic insights and adoring spouse). Nonetheless, against all this heroic grandstanding, this Maestro’s cumulative bouts of suffocation were so increasingly violent that they made every intellectual and aesthetic effort impossible and futile. How tragic! And yet, how completely noble!  

There are also, to add insult to anti-humanist injury, the anecdotes from so-called friends (what a concept!). Sometime in September 1995, probably mid to later evening dusk, Deleuze was meant to have called his friend Monsieur Pinhas, originally from Saint-Leonard-de-Noblat. But then all of a sudden, and without any prior warning, he hung up, seemingly gasping. Moments later, Monsieur Pinhas received a return call. ‘I can barely speak’. Scratch that. ‘I can’t speak. Forever and ever. Amen’. If you believe in the veracity of any of this kind of stuff (and much more of it, worse than this, more tragi-comic, can be found on the Dark Web, if you have the necessary energy), you are a better humanist than me.

Let me quote from a more reliable source, to conclude this furtive missive. In the Author’s Preface to the English language edition of Deleuze’s study of Bacon, rather deceptively entitled Francis Bacon, we get the following exposure of the real truth. ‘Francis Bacon’s painting is of a very special violence’. So far, so obvious. But Gilles could never stick with the obvious for very long, which was undoubtedly part of his downfall. Almost immediately this first statement (which appears as a confident first line to take up the position of a kind of super-thesis of the book to come) is totally refuted. We are told ‘to be sure’ that this is indeed the line of enquiry and interpretation which the onlooker of the grotesque canvases most often takes. We should also note the Hiberno-English provenance of this seemingly secondary phrase used by Deleuze; ‘to be sure’. No doubt he has been reading his Beckett short prose all too carefully. For ‘to be sure’ signifies the exact opposite; we couldn’t be more doubtful of anything if we tried our very hardest.

And so it comes to reveal itself, as clear as sunrise, and yet I realise this whole detective story can seem so slow and ponderous as to be more of a languorous sunset. You make your choice, you take your gambles. Whichever side you are on (and there aren’t just two teams in this context), ‘Bacon, to be sure, often traffics in the violence of a depicted scene. But these are overly facile detours that the artist himself judges severely and condemns in his work’. For Bacon, here take Gilles the artist. The popular world of Deleuze and Guattari Studies does indeed all the time traffic in the violence of a supposed scene. But let us look askew and askance again at this world of capitalism. Instead, let us look straight eyes on (also let us prick our all ears) to the sight and to the veritable sound of ‘a scream rent from us by a foreboding of invisible forces’. Bogue notes, for example, that paradigmatically Deleuze’s treatment of painting arises from his conception of the body’s relation to sensation and force. Painting must seek to deterritorialise the ‘face-landscape’ and harness the resultant angry forces of the repressed and the sub-altern. Is it any wonder that no less a Master than Jacques Lacan himself sought the suppression of the aforementioned occultic text ‘The Drunken Ship Of Schizo Docks at Al Capone’s’? The covert knowledge (Satanic foreknowledge worthy of a Crowley or a Huysmans, who also pointed to this no less with the figure of Durtal, let’s call it as it is) already posits a scandalous complicity between Deleuze and noir crime. Moreover, I refer back once more to Monsieur Pinhas, originally from Saint-Leonard-de-Noblat. It was indeed sometime in September 1995 when he took that purported phone call by our Gilles. But then all of a sudden, and without any prior warning…. ‘a scream rent from us by a foreboding of invisible forces’. I rest my case. Deleuze called it Capitalist Schizophrenia and he wasn’t stupid or cowardly, although they continue to maintain that he died by jumping from the 7th Floor. But, if there is some other meaning you can find, better whisper it low then keep it secret.