Image for PART 1

Hélène Cixous writes that reading is ‘an act that suppresses the world. We annihilate the world with a book.’ Someone, you or me, steps into a book. I open the book: I step into a space that is no space. I enter a reading state of mind… Whose mind? Yours, mine. Self to self. You or me, forgetting ourselves. I am host to character, to pronouns, visions, syntax, grammar. By taking in words (taking in where, exactly?) I have emotions, I have ideas. I behold abstractions that do not exist. As I am reading I am thinking a time that is elsewhere, but within the time lived. I become more alive, less alive, I play dead. ‘I am dead’, someone says in a story, and I repeat him. Yes, I am, I am. I am dead too. I become you, we become none. But reading of course releases a world too, I secrete worlds with my excessive reading, the words overflow my being. I come to the page and come to my senses: same sense, different world. I give it sense. I am more than text and text is always more than me, we breathe into each other, inflating, deflating. Yes, to read is to breathe. The text is alive. It is alive! And I am, I am alive, more and less. Do you agree?

‘Someone, you or me, comes forward and says: I would like to learn to live finally.’ This is the opening sentence of the Exordium to Specters of Marx, by Jacques Derrida. I would like to learn to live. To live: by the book? From the author? I came to read Derrida with a considerable delay, he was therefore always late to me: ‘the late Derrida’. I do not know where I was the day he died, I never learned of his death like that. It seems almost too much in place that in my reading of him, he was ‘always already dead’ in his words—but really, actually. No longer just in theory. Actually. I hesitate to write the word without quotation marks. Actually does not exist in theory. But we all know what it means in case of a dead body, when funeral arrangements have to be made, when there is no time to waste, because a body is wasting away—be quick, don’t hesitate: burial, cremation, pick a song, what song? Pick clothes—not yours, that’ll come later. There is no time for this or that. Decisions have to be made and they are made unambiguously and forever. Only when it is all over, when condolences have been given and received, when the last people have left and the formal clothes are hung back in the wardrobe, only then is one allowed the time to realize that, really, actually—yes of course—someone, not just some body, is gone, has died, is dead, forever dead. Someone whose passing leaves relatives and friends bereaved. In Derrida’s case, obituaries were written. The French newspaper Le Monde editorialized his death in a ten-page (!) supplement, which included photos of his writing desk and his collection of pipes. That person, owner of these pipes, is gone. Ceci ne sont pas de pipes de Jacques.

I would like to learn to live. I have always been intrigued by that deceivingly simple sentence. How? The phrase always arrives on time. I read, and with these words, something sparks to life, or at least to mind, by expressing a desire. I would like. I would like to release into this world, a learning that is at the same time lived. Not hypothetically, in theory, as if. Not a rehearsal. Every time I step into the book, I get caught up by that first sentence (or in that first sentence?) drifting away from the page straight back into my life.

I never finished Specters of Marx: I never read it from front to back, beginning to end—nor have I ever stopped reading from it. It has become the kind of book that therefore also reads my mind; the traces, memories of my reading. The quiet insinuations from a life lived off the page, settling in between the lines. Will it ever be able to suppress my world? I am not so sure. I’m learning, always learning but never finally. And this book—this book of ghosts—is still learning to live with me as well: I too am haunting this text with my coming and going, flipping through the book’s pages, skipping fragments or entire chapters, reading backwards, adding notes, changing my mind, spilling tea and bread crumbs, underlining a sentence here or there. I come forward, I open the book, this year, last year, for the first time, a long time ago, in five years. I would like.

I remember reading out loud to a friend, long ago on a New York rooftop, the opening of the first chapter of Specters of Marx, in English translation by Peggy Kamuf: ‘Maintaining now the specters of Marx.’ Maintaining, what? Where? We lay on deck chairs in the boiling summer heat. ‘That’s not a proper sentence’, my friend had remarked. ‘That’s not how you begin a book.’ And it’s true that there can be no beginning when there is still no end.

Part 2


Moosje M Goosen lives and works in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Reader, writer, and so on.