Correspondence with Jacques Lacan (1963 - 1969)

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No Subject

Althusser, Louis. Writings On Psychoanalysis : Freud and Lacan. Ed. Corpet, Olivier.; Matheron, Franðcois. European Perspectives. New York, N.Y. Columbia University Press, 1999.


This exchange of letters begins at a crucial moment in the life of Jacques Lacan: he had just been stricken from the list of training analysts of the Société Française de Psychanalyse (SFP) on October 13, 1963, after two years of negotiations with representatives of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA). Stripped of the right to train students, Lacan was then obliged to break with the official institution,[1] which plunged him into great turmoil, evidence of which can be seen in his first letters.

For his part, Louis Althusser published that same year in the Revue de l'enseignement philosophique (13, no. 5 [July 1963]) an article, "Philosophie et sciences humaines," in which he praised Lacan. The two men had not yet met—and that would not occur, in fact, until the beginning of December 1963, as these letters and Althusser's diary, conserved in his archives, indicate; quite plausibly they met in the course of a dinner on December 3.

Finally, to situate this epistolary exchange, it should be noted that Lacan delivered his last lecture at Sainte-Anne on "les noms du père" [the names of the father] on the very day on which he would write, at night, his first letter to Louis Althusser and that it was through Althusser's intervention that he would make his entry at the Ecole Normale Supérieure on January 15, 1964, with a first lecture on "excommunication."[2]

These letters of Lacan and Althusser were discovered in the archives of Louis Althusser. Those of Lacan, eight in number, are all handwritten and composed on stationery measuring 13.5 cm by 20.5 cm, with a heading on the right mentioning the address of 5 rue de Lille and a telephone number, with the exception of a postcard (no. 8) sent from Greece and the last letter (no. 12) written on a blank sheet of standard size. Since it was impossible to have access to the originals of Althusser's letters and thus to possible handwritten marginal additions, the text of his letters has been established following typed duplicates that Althusser kept in a folder marked "Lacan," along with the latter's letters.

It has seemed useful to us to add to this exchange the text of a long letter (no. 5) that Althusser had also typed but finally chose not to send—as he himself confirms in the letter to Franca of January 21, 1964, cited in the introduction to this volume. It will be noted in this regard that the Althusser archives contain numerous unsent letters to numerous correspondents and that they turn out in almost every case to be extremely interesting. The one we are publishing in this volume will thus arrive at its destination, but posthumously…

O. C.


Jacques Lacan to Louis Althusser

This Wednesday, no, Thursday 21-XI-63

Our relations are old, Althusser. You surely remember that lecture I gave at Normale after the war,[3] a crude rudiment for a dark time (one of the actors in my present drama found his path there, nevertheless); for the rest, your somewhat impressionistic judgment was "reported" to me some time after.

The one that now comes to me from the (June-July) Bulletin de l'enseignement philosophique,[4] I would be ungracious to decline the honor, and I thank you for allowing this testimony to be heard at a juncture in which, to be sure, I have no reason to doubt my enterprise, but in which, all the same, a stupid wind is raging over my very fragile skiff.

I have put an end to this seminar in which I tried for ten years to trace the paths of a dialectic whose invention was for me a marvelous task.

I had to. It grieves me.

And then I think of all those gravitating in your vicinity and of whom I am told that they held in esteem what I did—which was not for them, nonetheless.

I am thinking this evening or, rather, early this morning, of those friendly faces … Something should be said to them. I would like you to come visit me, Althusser.

J. Lacan

Louis Althusser to Jacques Lacan

[Paris] 26.XI.63

Dear Lacan,

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your word, your thought, and your sympathy touch me deeply.

You are not alone. I am speaking not only of the analysts who owe you everything: their number is great, and they are often the best. I am speaking also of those who, in contesting you, nevertheless follow you willingly or not, constrained by the truth you have brought to light. I am speaking also of those who, from the outside, have discovered and recognized you.

I have already spoken (and have had others speak) about you in this house for six years.[5] I know you came here a very long time ago. I was at the time a prisoner returning from Germany, a convalescent kept far from the Ecole, and concerning your lecture all I heard was the stir it made and the repercussions it had. This year the discourse I am conducting about you is at the heart of a collective labor to whose rigor I subject (with their agreement) all those whom the subject affects. We have had a very good beginning.[6]

I regard you as being, in the field one is provisionally obliged to call the "human sciences," the first thinker who has assumed the theoretical responsibility of giving to Freud veritable concepts worthy of him—and to that extent the first to have accorded that "domain" the path of access, the only one, that might be expected of Freud: a forbidden path. That interdiction, insofar as it is forbidden, is the path of access itself. I have been thinking this for several years. I am now in a position, at least I believe so, to give proof of it with reasons precise and rigorous enough for me to run the risk of publishing them.

I have been pursuing obscure works on Marx for some fifteen years. I have finally, slowly, laboriously, emerged from the night. Things are clear to me now. That austere inquiry, that long and harsh gestation, was needed.

When I managed to see clearly in Marx, at the time I found myself able to give Marx's wild dialectic (wild not because he didn't "have the time," as fools say, to tame it and to enclose it in his theory but because, like Freud later on, he was subject to the condition of having to produce his thought within the matter of a work that was nonphilosophical in its object, because that philosophical thought "in its practical state" in that work was precisely reduced to a "wild" state by the historical constraint of concepts imposed by his time, Hegelian ones, the only ones then available and handy)—at the time, then, when I found myself able to give to Marx's thought (I am speaking emphatically of his "philosophy, and not of his work: Capital) its theoretical form, it was then that I saw myself on the threshold of understanding you.

Previously I had certainly felt and then grasped the interest of your theoretical investigations, but I had grasped it only in its relation to Freud. I can say now that it has bearing (in a paradoxical form: that of interdiction, or absolute discontinuity) well beyond Freud. I will reveal it one day soon, hoping not to betray you, when I will show, precisely, that beyond. I will then explain in what and why your attempt implies (in the paradoxical form of absolute discontinuity) the theoretical absolute of the enabling conditions of Marx. That is what I wanted to communicate, in advance, in abbreviated form, by speaking of Marx's revolution (rejection of homo economicus, rejection of any philosophical "subject") and of Freud's revolution, which you have restored, if not given, to us (rejection of any homo psychologicus). When I was able to utter that simple word, everything was clear. I believe I understand that this line has fulfilled its purpose if it is true that it has allowed you to judge whether I had, on an essential point, encountered your intention.

To be sure, I work in a domain apparently quite removed from your own. Let us abandon those appearances. I am doing my best in my "domain" to combat the very adversaries who would like to reduce you to silence, to their silence. I speak of your theoretical work and of the beyond on which it touches. You will have allies, have no fear, and I can see a large number of them already among the people who still don't know you, whom you no doubt didn't think you were addressing so directly; all those will shove down the throat of the pseudo-"psychologists" and other philosophers of the "human person" and "intersubjectivity," as well as the technocrats of "structuralism," their pretensions, their sermons, and their amateurism: in sum, their theoretical imposture.

I have no merit in running the risk of this prophecy; henceforth we have a right to it, since we possess the means for it, in this country at last become ours.

You can imagine what pleasure I will have in meeting you. But I am presently in the (temporary) situation of having to bear a large part of the weight of the Ecole. We have a marvelous director,[7] but he has been here for only two months; we no longer have an assistant director.[8] I help the former in part of his work, and I take over the functions of the latter, and then my own in addition—I mean work of general administration. In addition, I am in charge (I am more attached to this than anything else) of studies in philosophy (philosophers are proliferating at an astonishing pace in the house), and I must, of course, maintain my role in teaching and research.

Let us allow some time to pass, time enough for this situation to be transformed. We will see each other then, and I will be able to tell you of the state of the work and research of which you are the center.

I am sending you under the same cover a text written last spring. It speaks of concepts and characters entirely foreign, to all appearances, to your problems. You will see, however, where I was, as though in a mirror, and you will be able perhaps to infer where I am presently, assuming that I have advanced a bit in the meanwhile. I don't need to tell you that the text appeared in La Pensée[9] and that I had to start with the rudiments.

I extend to you my best wishes for your work. You will know that our expectations of you are still infinite.

I communicate to you the very high esteem in which I hold you.

[Louis Althusser]

Jacques Lacan to Louis Althusser

This Saturday, December 1, 1963

Very dear friend,

What precious testimony your letter constitutes for me.

That at the distance at which you are what I address to one close by, often opaque, manages to make itself understood is justification for the faith I seem to accord (to the point of disconcerting some) to the pure act of saying—to the sole fact of having said (they are the ones who express themselves like that).

Your article[10] —I am reading it. It fascinates me, and I discover my questions in it.

But the urgency remains that makes it imperative for me to ask you for the hour I requested of you the other day.

So, at your convenience. I will call Monday.

J. L.

Louis Althusser to Jacques Lacan

Dear Lacan,

Paris, December 4, '63

I thought a good deal about our conversation since yesterday.[11] I had many other things to tell you, but we will no doubt have the time and the opportunity. A bit of leisure is needed to broach them. But you are caught up, and it's quite understandable, not in the urgency of the impossible situation that has been inflicted on you but in its subjective as well as objective effects. An outside witness, above all from outside the world that has been the object of your efforts, can only give you his sympathy and his understanding. I fear that those sentiments will hardly help you and that you will be alone in the face of your bitterness.

All that I can offer you: a few reflections spoken out loud, precisely in the name of the exteriority that constitutes the witness that I am.

My question: what did they understand of your discourse—a question that others (and first of all Delay) must have had to repeat. That question has a very profound meaning for me. I will tell you why: it calls into question the issue of the access to theory (that of any discipline whatever: I am treating a very general question) of those who are plunged into the horizon of a practice, either because they pursue it or because they are, dare I say, its material. A very, very particular practice, because before you that theory did not exist. How can one accede, from the very heart of a practice pursued or experienced, blindly pursued or experienced, to its concept? A problem of pedagogy, it will be said, but in the last analysis it is not a problem of pedagogy. It's an entirely different problem that concerns the transition from what I would call a "practical truth" (which is practiced or experienced) to the theory of that truth or to its concept. Now this problem is, at bottom, a specific—and crucial—theoretical problem. You have admirably shown that problems of analytic technique cannot be resolved at the level of technique, that a leap was needed—the recourse to theory—and that in the final analysis only theory decides and determines problems of technique; what does that mean? Does it mean that there is, on the one hand, pure and simple technique, which would be only technique, practiced by people without any idea of theory and to whom that theory must be taught so that they can then reform their technique? That is not the way things go. The conflict is not between a pure technique without theory and pure theory. There is no pure technique, and that too you have shown. Any technique that wants to be pure technique is, in fact, an ideology of technique, that is, a false theory. Moreover, that is indeed what your effort implies: you are not one who teaches people who are only technicians that they are simply blind, or ignorant, quite simply by teaching them of the existence and the necessity of a theory; you are one who teaches allegedly pure "technicians" the truth of their practice on the absolute condition of destroying something other than an ignorance or blindness—by which I mean an ideology, the false theory that is the obligatory mate of their false innocence as pure technicians. Every pedagogy thus cannot consist in teaching a truth to one who is ignorant, thus filling a void with a plenum—every pedagogy consists of substituting an explicit and true theory for an implicit and false theory, replacing a spontaneous ideology (in the Leninist sense, in the sense in which man, whether a union member or an analyst, is by nature an ideological animal—that expression is not Lenin's) with a scientific theory. Now what distinguishes an explicit and conscious scientific theory from the implicit and spontaneous ideology it must replace is a radical discontinuity. In a precise sense, it can be said that pedagogy has nothing of a phenomenology, even a disguised one: there is no internal transition from ideology to science. Every pedagogy is necessarily a break, and to be something other than a compromise or an illusion, it must be pursued within the conscious forms of that break. (I take the term phenomenology, you will understand me, in its Hegelian sense, in the sense of the immanent development of consciousness, from its elementary-originary forms, which negate themselves as elementary-originary in and from the outset of their first position-pretension, until its higher forms, which for Hegel are already "in germ" in the first.) Traditional pedagogy registers that theoretical imperative in its forms of practical existence, if only in the institutional distance separating teachers from students, etc. I won't insist. Those forms may be aberrant in their metamorphoses; they are, as the very existence of the break in essence between ideology and knowledge, essential to the truth of the essence of all pedagogy. That those forms remained at a practical level, without being the object of reflection, is the defining characteristic of the pedagogy of most, if not all, dissemination of knowledge at present. That the nonreflection of those forms of break, which grounds every pedagogy of a science in the inevitable element of ideology, that the nonconcept of those forms of rupture or break—in other words, the lack of an explicit and theoretical thematization of those essential forms of break—can, in certain cases, seriously harm the science that is precisely the object of the pedagogy in question is clarity itself. In certain precise cases the theory of pedagogy, and thus the theory of the break (or of the absolute discontinuity existing between science and ideology), must be theoretically developed and spelled out, since it is organically part of the science that is, precisely, to be taught. I know from experience of a case in which that theorization of the pedagogy of a science as an integral, indispensable part of the very science it is a question of teaching is absolutely indispensable to the theoretical practice of that science: it is philosophy (note that this thematization is, in my opinion, indispensable to every theoretical pedagogy—but that imperative is not acknowledged, except in philosophy, or at least by certain philosophers). The history of philosophy shows that the problem has long (and since Plato himself) been consciously raised by the great philosophers—raised, if not resolved, since all their solutions are mythical, but at least they raised the problem. The mythical solution par excellence, which denies what allows the very positing of the problem—in other words, the theory of the positing of the problem in the very form that excludes not only its solution but its own positing—is Hegel's phenomenology. I skip ahead here; this point—which is, moreover, exciting—is too easy to develop.

You know the other example: psychoanalysis. Everything you have told me about your current research concerning the desire of the analyst goes in this direction. It is the encounter, in specific forms and structures, with this problem, by the psychoanalyst, in his own self-image, but generally not as an object of reflection. You are in the process of reflecting on that encounter (and many other things!) in your current research. I consequently suspect that you will understand what I am getting at.

I was extremely struck by your response: "What I say to them says something to them, codifies, transforms their attitude, their recognition of reality, their way of approaching analytic reality." You were saying it at once about the analysts who listened to you and the analysands (in analysis) who listened to you. They threw back at you that, in sum, this was an analyst's intervention about his patients, that the public and apparently impersonal—and thus objective—forms of the intervention (which was entirely theoretical, all theory) might serve as an alibi or a mask, etc., for an intervention experienced as real by members of your audience then in analysis. I am collecting phenomena even from the odious arguments with which you are countered, without those phenomena ever being able, in my eyes, to serve as an argument against you. From all this I retain the following (which at first sight seems to be rather disparate): that it is you who uttered the words, the master words of the situation. Those who listened to you, from the very depth of their "experience"—whether analysts, practitioners, or analysands, the "practitioned," each in his place as subject-object of practice, of a common experienced but unthought practice, since the thoughts of the analyst practitioners were in fact as little thoughts as those of the analyzed—all those auditors of the concept you were giving them, of the concept of the practice they lived, all those auditors had no right to the concept of break implied in your enterprise.

If I am saying something scandalous here, you will correct me. I shall explain. Their general theoretical ignorance, that is, their ignorance of the existence and the imperative of theory überhaupt (without any consideration of content) was such, that is, their lack of theoretical training in general was such (and the culprit must be, if not current university teaching, then the empiricist pedagogy of medicine, etc.), that the enterprise of having them make a transition from their "living experience" to its own theory was a quasi-hopeless enterprise, pedagogically speaking (according to the essence of all pedagogy), that the undertaking of taking them by the hand from their own experience and their own practical situation, of showing them the outline of the very theory of that practice, was an objectively quasi-hopeless undertaking. One does not pass without a break from a practice to its concept, from experience to its concept. This illusion has been thematized by well-known philosophies, such as Hegel's formerly and more recently Husserl's and Merleau's. I say thematized, that is, accepted and expressed in concepts, in the very concepts produced by that illusion, thus in illusory concepts. That, fundamentally, was Merleau's path. That is why it never crossed your own, in theory, I mean. That is why Merleau, who needed (and no doubt for vital reasons, which appear well in Sartre's admirable article on him in Les Temps modernes, where you were alone [seul][12] in treating that great deceased figure in a manner worthy of him, that is, by speaking of him as though he were still alive)[13] that security of continuity, never succeeded in achieving that beginning of understanding what is at stake in psychoanalysis; his theory of it is aberrant and aberrantly disarming in its theoretical infantilism (I take the term in its almost technical sense: there was at the bottom of it all a certain unresolved relation with his mother). Merleau thought that from "experience" to its concept there was a path traced, emerging from experience itself, like Ruth's tree from the entrails of Boaz or like the child from his mother's womb (the image of Boaz: it's something else—the placenta, the cord, it's something else). This myth of a path that in the very night is inscribed by essence to lead to the daylight, which is already the outline and the imminence of the day, its promise, its ripening future, this myth of deaf and tender spring keeping vigil and growing in the dead of winter until May comes, this myth of the sun keeping watch in the night itself, simply hidden by the other side of the earth, its other opaque with its very presence, and appearing at dawn as what it was in the shadows, those shadows that are only light (Feuerbach, who had taken the idea I don't know where—do you?—said that opaque bodies are only light, but in the form of infinitesimal light, that finally, essence never has an opposite, since its opposite is only itself in alienated form)—so here I am no doubt far from Merleau but very close to the illusion of those who, not reflecting on the break they should be able to know, or of those who don't reflect on it because they are not yet at the point of suspecting it, that spontaneous myth in which men commonly represent their relation to their knowledge in the form of their nonrelation to its real conditions, that myth that represents to them their wish for a future without history, without break, without the imaginary of a past that has led them to where they are and that is not cut off from them, that imaginary myth in which men, every day, embody their umbilical theoretical security (philosophers and their mothers, a good subject for a thesis, the idealist philosophers, I mean), that myth defines the real condition of most of those who teach a body of knowledge to those who listen to them.

That both groups might be analysts to boot no doubt adds something essential to the mix.

I return to your audience. That condition: everything in your teaching, and, what is more, in its very form, is its denunciation. To be sure, you brought to those who came to receive them from you the results of a fishing expedition in which each could recognize, from a distance at first, then closer up, his own favorite rockfish and all the dark captives of the deep. They were still alive in the net of words. They were yours, but also theirs: multiple fish, and all communed in the public evidence of that proliferation. Yes, they saw that it was their own reserves that you were bringing back to the surface, in those mute and sprightly beings, without perceiving that one can catch anything in a net except the sea. Concerning the sea, you wanted to tell them in a desperate effort that it was there, in its products, and more than the sea, the sky that dominated them, that oppressive layer of air without weight, so light to human respiration that men move in it as in the very liquid of their stare, their voice, without problem, that is, without ever making contact with its problem: that absence of contact, more than the sea or the earth beneath them, supporting their paces and their bodies, and their very contentment, thus, to their very heart. You warned them with numerous great cries, denouncing the illusion of their peace, all the illusions bearing the names of our enemies: bitter cries suspecting that they were often for your audience no more than a mania that one had to allow you, the cost of your freedom, not necessarily the condition of their freedom. Your very language, those turns that they reproached you for, that way of saying in which some who wish you well see the reminder of primordial articulation, in the strangeness of a snapshot in which they suddenly see themselves stared at by a truth that does not return their gaze, in which their very gaze encounters in your words its own void (the stare of their dead eye, which they thought alive), their garrulous ear, its own radical deafness—your very language was a warning, a desperate warning. Those who wish you well hear in that disconcerting silence what they understand as the language of the Other, thus rendered almost present, offstage, among them. They don't see me, but I am among them. They don't hear me, and yet I speak to them. There too their own experience sought and found itself in an ordeal in which it was a question of something entirely else: a theoretical break, and not an allegory of silence.

In brief, that is how I see your public. It is not from within but from without that one can announce that a break has come, that the break is consummated, and that one must, to understand the very interiority one is living, begin by it. This idea, or rather this concept of an absolute (theoretical) exteriority as the enabling condition of a theoretical understanding of interiority itself, is something they had at bottom no desire to receive from you. They have remained in their inside. They think they've got enough for ten years; they never go too far in search of the pleasure of returning home, or rather, when one has traveled a bit, one is happy to take a stroll in the forest at Compiègne, since after all, barely has one left the city and there are the same trees, and the country, and the air, the air! the same air everywhere. They never go too close by in search of the pleasure of returning home. They never go too close by in search of the pleasure (the security) of staying at home.

Could you do more? They would undoubtedly have chased you sooner. And those very warnings through which, talking to them about Hegel and Plato, and philosophy, you hoped to indicate to them that there is a place for theory, that it has its topos, that it has its home, which was not theirs, those very warnings were perhaps also taken for one of your manias, which you had to be forgiven, since it was you, while waiting for it to pass; those references also flattered their need for security, their need not to be alone but to have witnesses on the outside, great witnesses to reassure that anxious ground of their soul which asks only for security and not knowledge. That Ricoeur so moved them[14] I see as a sign that they were above all looking not for the knowledge you wanted to impose on them but for simple recognition, which can, to be sure, take the moving form (but what relation?) of an honest man telling of his relations with psychoanalysis, that is, with his own ignorance. Merleau, Ricoeur, perhaps others soon, gratifications, with the advantage of a certified university label, what the hell, philosophy, which has its officials just as psychiatry has its Delays—with generosity into the bargain, and sincerity, even when one is at the Collège [de France], or one allows oneself to be carried there one day. You were speaking to them about the existence of theory while speaking to them about Hegel and Plato. They understood that for all eternity they were not alone and that, as a result, they could together enjoy the security of the testimony of their existence. You know: that old proof of the existence of God through universal consent, which one sees in certain humanists of the fifteenth century take the form—worthy of their intellectual aristocracy—of proof by the consent of Great Authors.

Could you do more? You were, whatever you did, for them, someone from the inside. At the limit bearing witness about an outside, about the outside. Agreed. But they had in advance delegated to you the portfolio of External Relations without themselves going to take a look. You were their guarantor. They acknowledged that portfolio and that function in you, but on the tacit (radical) condition that you leave them the hell alone by leaving them at home. They let you arrange things, that is, the inside, their inside, their interiority, their "interior," yes, and then, when they felt that the situation was adequate like that, that you were becoming an annoyance, that they had heard enough, that it looked good, a look that classified them, they proceeded in such manner that one day the door would be slammed in your face. That is in order. Not the order of reasons, that is, of Reason, but of proprieties. One has to think of the future, that is, of the present.

All this to give some meaning to what, at the end of our conversation, when we were walking through the streets before the tobacco stands closed, I was saying to you precisely about the outside. Yes, there is an outside, thank God. And one day, willingly or unwillingly (unwillingly, but they will manage one day to put a good face on it), they will have to recognize directly, without an intermediary charged with that impossible mission, without being able to depend on someone who was protecting them from the outside that he was announcing, that such an outside exists.

Outside. You are henceforth outside. In your true place: that of your reasons, of Reason.

There, you are not alone.

It is enough to begin working—you who have not stopped working—it is enough to begin working with those who are working within that outside.

A simple question of organization of work. It can be arranged. There are precedents.

Yours, [Louis Althusser]

Louis Althusser to Jacques Lacan

Paris, Tuesday, December 10 [1963], 6 P.M.[15]

Dear Lacan,

Your silence has a great value for me. I expected it.

You could have answered me, or rather someone very different from you could have answered me, while avoiding the question of the text.[16] You, no. You have all the art and talent needed to settle a question with a word, to chase off flies, bores, or gossips. But you are not a man to throw words as fodder at things, even if only to get rid of them. You know that a word or a silence, when it is the pertinent word or silence, literally the last word—which can be silence—is the same thing. Yes, the last word on a thing is the thing itself. And when the thing is at its last word, that is, at the point at which the only word that one can confer on it is one that confirms its extremity, that of its bare evidence, of its very existence, then one rediscovers the origin at the point of its birth: its own abyss at the moment it denies it in order to be.

Your silence is priceless.

You will understand that I am addressing the author of your writings, the thought that inhabits them and that can indeed laugh at the affectations and the baseness that historical stupidity, the ideological stupidity of the time, sly exercises in vengeance, rancor, the desperate revenge of little men that it has marked (yes, as you say so well, that desire is marked)—that the historically inevitable ideological stupidity of the present conjuncture has organized against you. Your thought will live, will grow, and these dwarfs will return to their proper measure: boxwood hedges cut back that have for eternity been ordered to protect the flowerbeds of the walkways of Saint-Anne from no one at all. Everyone ignores them, no one sees them, not even the gardener who shaves their head four times a year. And yet individuals who walk and occasionally have thoughts pass down those paths every day. Protect me from images of indignation, since they are not appropriate; they lower the debate, which I refuse to reduce to the ludicrous conditions of those who opened it.

I shall speak another language to you, that of your work. For it is you, to be sure, a man too well known for me to know him—and whom, moreover, I do not know (as one says "to know" when speaking of an "acquaintance": he is or isn't an "acquaintance" of "mine")—who was speaking to me the other evening. I heard you, and I believe I have given you (without my ever having to "lend" you my attention, as one says, since it was returned in advance, and you don't suspect how much) signs; I heard you, as one sometimes hears harmonics of strings repeat on another stave the melody one is playing. I heard you in two keys.

In the key of your present personal tragedy, a tragedy since the children of your voice have cut your throat, and you know that they're its children and have committed this crime; since you have refused, alone, bloodied, to accept the only act they abandoned to you: to abandon to you that abandonment called despair, which is death in life itself, a public death without an identifiable murder, which would have given them all the profit of the crime without the risks of sanction (there are others aside from the legal kind). You remained alone, and I, who do not "know" you, I could be nothing other than the witness of that solitude, of your courage and of your pride.

Had I heard you only in that key, I would merely have been one more in a long list of impotent witnesses to historical tragedies, which, at times, bear names other than those of Madrid and Barcelona. Those witnesses occasionally recount their memories later on, a helpless film or narrative, as tragic as what they saw, with the distance that renders their intolerable testimony tolerable to nonwitnesses—to nonwitnesses and to the witnesses themselves. It is no doubt not by chance—Nietzsche had sensed it in a miraculous moment before falling into the abyss of cries of suffering—that witnesses of the tragic can bear their memory, that is, their suffering, only on the condition of making of it a work to see. What they saw they want others to see as well, in images, so that they might no longer be alone, so that the solitude that is the tragic itself might finally end for them in its public sharing, so that a public spectacle (since a book is something read alone) might be imposed on men, beneath the fiction and the lure of art, might, then, be shared, and destroyed in that sharing, the unspeakable and intolerable solitude that has marked them forever. Outside that sharing there is no recourse for them other than the public venting of their suffering, so that, at the least (one never knows), others might hear them; they will no longer be alone in howling their loneliness, like those wounded dogs that wander over the long plains at night and that howl only at night, since by day they would be able to see that no one hears them. The howl of that suffering is a book: Nietzsche himself, who was haunted by the crowds communing publicly in the works of Wagner but who knew, with a prodigious awareness, that is, an unconsciousness, that certain howls need the protection of the night (a book: not seeing who reads it, one doesn't see, one will not see, and until the end one will live in that desperate hope that it isn't read; one will live out of the belief that it is perhaps read, truly read, understood by one or two who have acquired it). The author of The Birth of Tragedy, the man who had understood in a flash that he was forever the witness of the tragic and forever marked by its seal, that of solitude, also knew that he was forever forbidden from delivering himself of the frightening spectacle of the tragic whose witness he had been, in a spectacle, since he had been its witness not in the flesh but in reason, having experienced the tragedy of understanding what the tragic was; what remained to him was only the night of a book, of books, in which to howl to all men that solitude, which is suffering itself, the abyss of living in the night, in order to keep the hope that another would hear him. The voice, when it says the tragic and says it in the night, is but a howl, a long howl that no longer stops in order to give until the end, until the final instant, a chance to its hope, that is, to its despair, of ever being heard.

Thank God I am writing to you; so you have remained silent. I also heard you in a different key—you were thus also speaking in a different key. Your silence: it was that in you a discourse other than the howl of indignation and bitterness continued, alive, giving to the man you are the reason and the courage of that silence. (Oedipus kept his silence; that is, he spoke, and he spoke about the flowers and brooks he no longer saw, he spoke of something else; in him there spoke a reason, a true one, perhaps the first in the world, the one that Nietzsche, deafened by his own suffering, did not hear, that he, for his part, forever confused with the reasoning cowardice of Socrates, not having been able to hear—you know why—that reason to which his prehistory as a man had made him deaf, that reason through which, in the very spectacle of tragedy, a man named Sophocles indicated to all men, and to us, for the first time in the world, that art can be something other than a refuge, and the spectacle of tragedy can be something entirely other than a sharing of suffering: the very birth of reason.)

Yes, I heard in you another discourse. It is not by chance, I repeat, that you spoke to me about your work on the analyst's desire. I would have doubted—God forbid! but after all, a tragedy can truly over-whelm, for a time at least, the most courageous of men—that you would have given me, in a dazzling flash, proof that not only was nothing in you breached but that you were already at the very point at which the battle (which some think or perhaps regret they have won so quickly) is joined, the point at which no one, except for you, and perhaps me, is aware that the battle will be played out. You had two words that were also two flashes (and when those flashes traverse the night, there is no more night—in truth, there is no night for you; you have no need of it as the accomplice of a despair you have rejected from the beginning). A work on the marriage of the analyst, of a specific analyst, and his affairs and political obsessions. That was enough. Then a word on the desire of the analyst. That time, no doubt, was any longer possible.

You've got the adversary by the throat; you've got the very ones who wanted to deprive you of a voice, and naturally, they don't suspect it. That is in order. Their weakness will have to betray them. Weakness is always paid for, when one knows how to strike it at its weak point, in that ultimate point where it is nothing but weakness. Armor (which can also be covered with heraldry and emblems, armor, which is not only armorial bearings): on the last day, it covers only bare flesh, belly and throat. Ever since they have been fighting, men have known this, and they have related their great fear in tales of combat in which the great themselves no longer have anything left with which to counter the entrails of death except the last rampart of all the protections in the world: a bit of metal to which an artisan, in the noisy sunlight of a forge, gave the awkward form of a man, that ludicrous death of steel in order to preserve the despair of a body, which was alive because naked. That weak point, their weakness itself, the public armor of those undressed pseudo-kings whom you have discovered. They are already defeated and are dying. You have continued on your path, toward other battles, life, in sum.

Here is how I would make the reason that speaks in you speak: rather, I let it speak, being only its voice, doing no more than scan, as you have said on other occasions, the discourse that it has already uttered, and for a long time, since it is never anything but a single discourse that you have been conducting for twenty years.

The analyst's desire. You sought it in The Symposium.[17] In fact, you were searching in The Symposium for the illusion of the analyst's desire about itself, Plato having given voice, in the form of a formally irreproachable discourse (if one insists on it, and one can legitimately insist on it), solely to those illusions he wanted to make men recognize as the opposite of illusion. I don't know what you derived from The Symposium; I would have to reread it to come up with your possible discourse. I'll go to what's essential, The Symposium serving you, like all the philosophical objects you have used in your work, only as a transcendental guide (I mean transcendental not in the sense of the illusion about itself that every transcendental philosophy develops when it describes itself as such but in the sense in which it happens that it misconstrues what it is when it acknowledges that it needs a guide—the Newtonian physical object, or the Husserlian "percept," or the Heideggerian Umwelt of Sein und Zeit—when it happens, in the specific form of philosophical misperception, the ideological, that it misconstrues what it is actually in the process of doing, to the extent that it takes its philosophical imaginary for the philosophical symbolic itself, and in that recognition-miscognition it masks its own condition to itself, which is to be structured by entirely other structures than the ones it tranquilly develops, as though it were a matter of those of a transcendental subject—a subject!! You know these confusions from experience, and concerning another object, you have elaborated, in a stage whisper, their theory.) I will thus go to the essential. And in two words.

The desire of the analyst. It sends us to the desire of the analyzed. Desire of a desire. Dual structure of fascination, whence so many interminable-unterminated analyses.

Dual structure of fascination, which, like all dual structures of fascination, produces the imaginary it needs to support that fate, that is, not to emerge from it—fear is always a precious adviser, isn't it? That imaginary can itself be treated like a signifier. And one can also make a discourse out of it, which will have the formal structure of a discourse instead of being a simple rehash of phantasms—a discourse, with the small difference that it will be, in La Psychanalyse d'aujourd'hui [Contemporary Psychoanalysis] in two volumes at the Presses Universitaires de France, a discourse of the imaginary and not a discourse on the imaginary (that too is conducted at the press, the admirable house! but, note well, in a different collection). You know, you have said it so well: there are, in this order, discourses that are only rehashes and discourses that offer themselves as such, on the condition of fabricating for themselves (an operation that is not at all imaginary but quite an object of reflection, of conscious reflection, the imaginary having total and entire right to the category consciousness, which is the philosophical category no. 1 of the philosophical imaginary, an imaginary that is perfectly conscious, by which I mean deliberate), in a purely artificial manner (a very objective technique, not at all imaginary, any more than the fabrication technique of the imaginary of Paris Match, since it is purely and cynically a deliberate production of the imaginary, is imaginary), on the condition then of fabricating for themselves, in a purely (and consciously) artificial manner, the small technical supplements necessary for a discourse to hold up, the small extensions necessary for it not to be too short: a few concepts, such as object relations, concerning which you have said for all time what needs to be said, that is, very little. But one had to know a devilish lot to say that little, which is unfortunately more dangerous in real life and analytic practice than one might be allowed to hope if one is unaware of the ravages of the ideological nil, socially indispensable to its authors, from the objective observation that one was dealing with a void: theoretical nothingness, I mean. But nature has less horror of a vacuum than does ideology, which is no more than the fullness of that void, that fullness overflowing to the point of today submerging our world, no more overflowing than in former times; between those times and today, however, there is this difference, which is that we are, as witnesses and contemporaries of that overflow, the only ones to be committed (or requested or begged) (that is, who are not committed or requested or begged, history not having among its official employments either theoretical censors, auctioneers, or public criers [the cry!] [the public cry!] to commit, request, or beg us)— thus by the very necessity that is our law, by virtue of that condition of human historical postmaturation that we can never be our own grandfathers and of the human historical nonprematuration that unfortunately forbids us from being our own grandsons, we are then the only ones obliged, if the fancy takes us, yes, to have to" make of our bodies a dike for that overflow.

And even then one still has to know what is overflowing.

That dual structure of fascination has the result that the desire of desire (analyst-analyzed) can play interminably in a whirligig (before Sartre, who plainly loves carousel horses, or the entrances of the Musée de l'Homme—I won't make him say so, if I may say so—we would have said in this circle), in sum, in that "philosophical" circle of intersubjectivity, in which Ricoeur (carousel horses are not the only things in the world for giving an idea of vertigo) finds the wherewithal to satisfy (satisfy: a category of the imaginary; is my terminology precise?) his legitimate demands (philosophically legitimate) (I cannot touch on his own personal imaginary, having no credentials for doing so and not having, on condition of not reading him too closely, the means). But you have taught us that the imaginary is also nothing but a mimicry of the symbolic, that it bears its mark, but that never is a mark on metal—above all in the world of historical deception of a class economy, which is epitomized in the thing that is a coin—worth a title. The mark comes from elsewhere, from that elsewhere which is the Other, which is the name of the Elsewhere, the name of the absolute Outside, the absolute condition of possibility of any inside, even if, as with the nickel of our five centimes, it is false. The absolute condition of possibility of that falsity's existence, of its quality as false, and of its very structure, which allows it to be given and treated as true, if need be by believing it to be true (which is not absolutely necessary when one emerges from the analytic object) (one can be conscious and cynical: history is consciousness and cynicism—I mean moral conscience, which is but the good conscience of the cynicism of some and of deception consented to by the others).

The desire of the analyst is marked, like every desire, as is marked (sealed) the dual relation of Imaginary fascination (I propose a capital I), which renders the circle desire-of-desire specific to the analytic relation, in which the analyst lives the very truth of his analyst's desire.

I do not speak, any more than you do, then, of that other dual relation in which the fate of analytic practice is played out; that other dual relation is the dual relation that the patient's desire, marked by the imaginary, attempts to establish between himself and the analyst, a dual relation into which the analyst, precisely, who "isn't playing the game," refuses to enter, because that's why he's an analyst, that is, in order to get his neurotic to move from the imaginary to the symbolic through the vicissitudes of a this time well-scanned Oedipus complex. I am speaking of another dual relation, of the one established by the analyst's desire, of the one that is established by the desire of the analyst: an entirely different situation, one quite strange to the analyst in the street, who, working all week but never on Sunday (pardon), is and always remains more or less in this respect a Sunday analyst. That situation establishes another Imaginary (capital I) at the heart of which the analysis of the patient's imaginary (small i) is developed, that is, most of the time, an analysis that fails, that is interrupted, that one starts afresh with a third party, who in turn starts afresh with the business of the imaginary, and things continue like that until one is fed up or says, "that's enough like that," as of a certain age, or one has been sufficiently "improved [amelioré]" (the word reeks of chicory [chicorée]!) to be able to say hello to daddy mommy or to get married according to the rules, since, after all, gotta make them happy and make children for France! In brief—I say brief because it's not brief, it's very long, it's even interminable, can it even end? analysis terminable-interminable—don't you think that the difficulty of translating Freud's words has to do with something completely different from a pure matter of signifiers, I mean of the signifiers officially registered as such and inventoried in that admirable system with neither jolts, self-regulator, nor revolutions for which a Genevan (what daring for a Swiss! but a love of social stability can supply illumination concerning the stability of a system in general) one day elaborated the theory, I mean in a dictionary. (And the translators' dictionaries, and the etymological ones that give so many peasant joys to Heidegger, who never would have taken the Holzwege for paths if he had only been a woodcutter—and he is a philologist a bit in the way he is a woodcutter, treating himself to the sylvan joys of a city-dweller, that is, of a Sunday woodcutter, just as he treats himself to the philological joys of a philosopher, that is, of a Sunday philologist.) (Prévert, who abounds in slyness, rightly says that "Sunday it's the only thing that's true," that is, false). In brief (once again, I repeat my offense), things continue like that for a long time, and at bottom there's no reason for them to stop. A Sunday analyst never truly finishes his analysis. His analysis. Of course! The one he's conducting: that of the patient … no; his analysis, his own, even while officially, social-securitily, Delay-psychiatracademically "finishing" his analysis, that of his patient (patience), even when he "finishes the analysis of his patient.

For concerning that dual relation that he establishes, he himself, through the Imaginary of his analyst's desire, I am not sure that it is ever involved in the analysis of the other imaginary, the one that the desire of the analyzed attempts in vain to establish. And for good reason, since to my knowledge (but it could nevertheless happen, for a priori there is no radical obstacle) the patient in analysis is not charged by the society—I mean the Société Psychanalytique de Paris, France, or the International of London—to lead to the threshold of the symbolic the imaginary within which the analyst's desire lives the objective imaginary of the dual situation that is quite simply his professional condition, since one cannot decently ask an analyst who occasionally has enough trouble dealing with the imaginary of the patient to self-analyze himself as an analyst (all the same, did not Freud do something that, at a distance, resembled that?), that is, to deal with his own Imaginary, well, things continue.

I am saying that you are at the very point where everything will be played out. At the point where the desire of the analyst (ah! those damned countertransferences …) will reveal to us through your theoretical work what mark is carried, beneath the legal stamp of every mark überhaupt, which is the mark of the symbolic in general, by the Imaginary of the analyst.

There are good reasons to bet that this mark bears some famous names, among which Paris, London, the provinces, and a few wives will be involved. For as you say, it happens that analysts are married. And as you know in your flesh, they have businesses at good addresses, arms longer than their sleeves, an official place under the sun of our bourgeois society, their books sell, and—does one ever know?—one has to think of the future.

The future: they can certainly think about it. They're right. There will be revolutions that will be more bitter and cruel to them than the one inspired by their fear of losing their social position, their income, and the rest. One can always escape the financial and social effects of a social revolution. And it's not worth it (God save them!), crossing the sea … it's enough to give a deposit, a guarantee, in short, to know how to conduct oneself. In that respect, they have only to continue. They have, dare I say, what it takes. No, I am speaking of a different revolution, the one you are preparing without them knowing it, the one from which no sea in the world will ever be able to protect them, and no respectability, whether capitalist or socialist, the one that will strip them of the security of their Imaginary and that will one day give them the possibility (they will then be able to freely choose their destiny, without needing social or political guarantees) of delivering their human desire, which has no name, not the name of man, and without doubt not the name of desire (man being, as poor Feuerbach used to say quite unconsciously, the name of all names, just as God was formerly the name of all names, which makes him strictly speaking superfluous, except for those who need that label to sell under it an entirely different—and unconfessable—product) (desire being the name [nom] of every no [non], that is, of every yes, which renders it strictly speaking superfluous when an analysis is finished—but when is it these days?—which will render it strictly speaking superfluous when the analysis of analysts will be possible, finished, and their analyses—that of their patient patients—finished …), that revolution which will one day give them the possibility of delivering their "man's" "desire" from the Imaginary of the social, religious, moral, matrimonial, etc. condition of the analytic profession in which it lies literally bewitched.

They do well to be afraid of that revolution. Just as a neurotic may be afraid of knocking at the door of an analyst, however duly certified. Afraid of the revolution that can make them men like others. Afraid? The best—even the good ones, who are legion—don't merit that fear.

when an analysis is finished—but when is it these days?—which will render it strictly speaking superfluous when the analysis of analysts will be possible, finished, and their analyses—that of their patient patients—finished …), that revolution which will one day give them the possibility of delivering their "man's" "desire" from the Imaginary of the social, religious, moral, matrimonial, etc. condition of the analytic profession in which it lies literally bewitched.

They do well to be afraid of that revolution. Just as a neurotic may be afraid of knocking at the door of an analyst, however duly certified. Afraid of the revolution that can make them men like others. Afraid? The best—even the good ones, who are legion—don't merit that fear.

For like all true revolutions, it does nothing but utter a different word that must still be uttered (as we utter the word desire) and that a man wrote, in an unfortunate time, on walls and in notebooks, but whose object it is to render the very use of that word superfluous: freedom.


[Louis Althusser]

Jacques Lacan to Louis Althusser

This Monday, 1-6-64

Dear Althusser,

I preferred not to run the risks of the Italian mail—and during these holidays—and toward a rather remote spot, I believe—for my wishes to reach you.

I myself am leaving today for six days in Rome (Enrico Castelli[18] Colloquium; do you know that extraordinary individual[?] German theologian + Ricoeur + Waelhens + etc. around: technique, casuistry, and eschatology [sic].) Well, it's madness, but I hope to relax there.

Here is my card.

With the same hand, I am sending an invitation for M. Flacelière,[19] but there is a secretary, I believe. Would you tell my wife her name—in order to invite her as well?

Believe me your Lacan

Jacques Lacan to Louis Althusser

This Wednesday, 1-22-64

Rather good, your fellow.[20]



Jacques Lacan to Louis Althusser

[Thessalonica] This 31-III-64[21]

Dear Althusser,

This photo comes from Pater Photios—the most hospitable of men—after you. To be sure.

The cell he occupies is in Kariès, the principal town of this peninsula, where monks feel at home and which is called the Holy Mountain.

There are things to be said about it, and the excursion tears you away from the present.

Believe me your J. Lacan

Jacques Lacan to Louis Althusser

This Monday, 6-VII-64

Dear Althusser,

The other evening I telephoned you for this bit of information—in reaction to my astonishment that one might have an answer for which I thought I had addressed the most reliable (or informed) sources.

I decided not to satisfy myself with the telephone to tell you how grateful I am for your article.[22] Profound and relevant: adding the dimension of your own meditation on the subject.

I am quite honored by such an effort and comforted by its utter success.

Believe me your very faithful

J. Lacan

Jacques Lacan to Louis Althusser

This 19-X-65

My dear Althusser,

I am in the process of reading the volume you were good enough to send to me, with delectation.[23]

You may have gotten wind of the visit I paid to the director of the Ecole. An annual visit I had not been able to make at the end of the school year.

I did not have time that day to knock on your door.

I would like to be sure that someday, doing so, I would not be disturbing you.


Louis Althusser to Jacques Lacan

[Paris], 11-7-66[24]

Dear Lacan,

On the question that concerns you, and that concerns us, you will find a few very rudimentary and poorly elaborated elements, which are at most indicative of the problem, at least of its existence, in

(1) Lire "Le Capital" [Reading "Capital"] volume 1, preface.

I don't dare suggest that you read the entire preface. I attempted there to indicate the necessity of a theory of reading on the basis of the very particular reading Marx does of the texts of his predecessors (the classical economists), which I have called, precisely, a "symptomal reading," proposing a frightful neologism (I hesitated for a long time before that grammatical barbarism, which seemed theoretically necessary to me). See pp. 1–40.

This theory of symptomal reading indicates its conditions of possibility in the nature of the discourse underpinning its act of reading: a theoretical discourse, whether it be palpably ideological (the economists) or already scientific (Marx). (This science-ideology distinction is to be handled with the greatest caution, but provisionally, while waiting for a more serious analysis, on which I am presently working, it performs some objective services, whose effects, to be sure, will need to be rectified.) The nature of this discourse seems to me able to be fixed by the theoretical problematic sustaining it. Behind that theoretical problematic a reality that is its determined condition is outlined: the existing theoretical conjuncture and its (articulated) relations with the historical conjuncture in the broad sense. The concept of conjuncture refers in turn to the concept of history.

On the concept of conjuncture and the concept of history, see Lire "Le Capital," preface (in truth, the entire end of the preface constantly alludes to it), and also volume 2 (L'Objet du "Capital": 4, 5, 6, 9).

See as well the text by Balibar in volume 2: it is (in its entirety) of the very first importance. It is there that one can already see clearly enough in what ways the Marxist concept of structure can be distinguished without any possible confusion from the Lévi-Straussian concept of structure (and all the more from all the idealist aberrations of the "structuralists"), precisely because the Lévi-Straussian concept of structure is theoretically ambiguous. (It oscillates between a subjectivist conception and a Platonic conception of structure, between structure as intention and structure as eidos. The locus of that ambiguity can be assigned in his case with precision: it is his completely aberrant conception of the unconscious.) One should not make a mistake about the term subjectivist temptation (intention) in the Lévi-Straussian conception of structure: it is a matter of social subjectivity, social "intention." I am alluding to the fact that the unconscious of the structure for Lévi-Strauss is an "unconscious social intention (that is, an "unintentional" one, as Godelier says with marvelous naïveté), one that expresses the society's will to live. I am using words that are so many metaphors, but you will understand me. Ultimately structure is unconscious in Lévi-Strauss, and it is a structure "so that it (society) can live." It's in that "so that" of the telos (to live) of society that the temptation of conceiving of structure as intention and subjectivity is concealed (that is, revealed).

To be sure, one can criticize Lévi-Strauss on other scores, but it is there, at that precise point, from my point of view, that one cannot not take one's distance from him. And it is, I believe, very important for analysis as well to be well aware that one cannot, properly speaking, speak of a social unconscious; otherwise, all confusions are permitted (including those that may haunt, if not the texts of Freud you alluded to last night—since I don't know them, I can't speak of them—at least their reading).

It is at bottom for that reason of principle that I said to you that, seen from the outside, and, I admit, from a certain distance, your theoretical relations with Lévi-Strauss may today, to a certain extent, be a problem for us if they are not clarified. Everyone (you know who) has an interest in confusing you, under the term of structuralism, with Lévi-Strauss. Not us. And I believe that neither do you have any interest in letting that confusion occur, even independently of yourself, even at a great distance from yourself (and you are aware that it occurs as well in individuals who have declared themselves to be very close to you).

I am sending you under the same cover a very schematic and very crude talk that I gave two weeks ago at the Ecole.[25] Should you read it, consider it as no more than a "symptom," but a symptom that is … insofar as is possible, conscious! (in which case it would no longer be only a symptom …)

I was happy to see you again. I offer you my fond best wishes for your vacation and for your work. For us, it is very important that you exist, that you are the theoretician that you are, and that you pursue your vanguard work. You are not alone. The front is vast, and there are, or there are beginning to be, many other combatants, even if they are not all fighting on the same line, at the same point, or under the same "flag" and even if you have reason to believe certain of them (I don't say all) at present far from you.

I convey to you my intense and lucid friendship,
[Louis Althusser]

Jacques Lacan to Louis Althusser


Friday, before leaving for the hospital, consequently, in a hurry

Dear Althusser,

I don't want to bother you on the telephone. But be apprised that there is no need for you to trouble yourself with finding me a new shelter. (I was with Nassif, as I ought to have been, but don't take that into account).

I shall not go anywhere else, moreover—and here I shall vacate the premises promptly.[26]

The letter I have received happily brings into relief the incidence of the "reform." Informing the students of it as well as of my actual position in the university will perhaps leave a slightly durable trace in their heads. They tell me (it's a way of speaking) that I am the only (!) lecture course that is absolutely not being contested: this intervention and its sequels will thus assume its value.

For more details, I'll see you on Thursday. But by then the question will already be quashed. The end of the trimester is quite favorable to it.

J. L.


  1. Cf. Elisabeth Roudinesco, La Bataille de cent ans: Histoire de la psychanalyse en France, 2 vols. (Paris: Seuil, 1986), vol. 2 (English translation by Jeffrey Mehlman, Jacques Lacan & Co. [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990]).
  2. Cf. Jacques Lacan, Séminaire XI: Les Quatre Concepts fondamentaux de la psychanalyse (Paris: Seuil, 1973).
  3. Lecture delivered in 1945, which Althusser undoubtedly did not attend. Cf. Yann Moulier-Boutang, Louis Althusser: Une Biographie (Paris: Grasset, 1992), 303.
  4. Reference is to the article "Philosophie et sciences humaines," Revue de l'enseignement philosophique 5 (June–July, 1963), in which Althusser specifies in a note that Lacan "has seen and understood Freud's liberating break" and that as a result, "one owes him the essential." See on this subject Althusser's reminder of that brief mention at the beginning of his article "Freud and Lacan."
  5. See the introduction to this volume.
  6. Louis Althusser is referring to his seminar on psychoanalysis of 1963–64. See the introduction to this volume.
  7. Robert Flacelière had just been named director of the Ecole Normale Supérieure.
  8. Jean Prigent.
  9. Reference is to the article "Sur la dialectique matérialiste," La Pensée 110 (August 1963): 5–46.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Jacques Lacan and Louis Althusser had met for the first time the previous evening and had dined together.
  12. Althusser had originally typed "the only ones" (les seuls) and then eliminated the plural.
  13. Cf. Temps modernes (1961): 184–85, a special issue devoted to Maurice Merleau-Ponty, with articles by Jean Hyppolite, Jacques Lacan, Claude Lefort, Jean-Bertrand Pontalis, Jean-Paul Sartre, Alphonse de Waelhens, and Jean Wahl.
  14. In all probability the reference is to the colloquium "The Unconscious" held at Bonneval from October 30 to November 2, 1960, in the course of which Paul Ricoeur intervened. Concerning the episode, see E. Roudinesco, La Bataille de cent ans, 2:317–28.
  15. This letter was not sent; see our introduction to the correspondence. Note the existence of an anonymous, incomplete, and often erroneous transcription of a recording by Louis Althusser on December 8, 1963, on "the end of analysis," that was found in his archives.
  16. Louis Althusser is probably referring to his preceding letter of December 4.
  17. Cf. Jacques Lacan, Séminaire VIII: Le Transfert (Paris: Seuil, 1991).
  18. Enrico Castelli, an Italian theologian, was the organizer of a colloquium held in Rome from January 7 to January 12, 1964, on the subject "technique and casuistry." A summary of Lacan's interventions at that colloquium appeared under the title "Du Trieb de Freud et du désir du psychanalyste," in Ecrits (Paris: Seuil, 1966), 851–54. On the encounter between Paul Ricoeur and Lacan on the occasion of that colloquium, see E. Roudinesco, La Bataille de cent ans, 2:398–405.
  19. Reference is to the director of the Ecole Normale Supérieure.
  20. Reference is to Jacques-Alain Miller, Lacan's future son-in-law and at the time one of Althusser's students. In a letter sent to us, Jacques-Alain Miller indicates that on that day he had just "spoken for the first time in Lacan's seminar and asked him a question about the adjective 'ontological' that he used somewhere to characterize 'lack.' Whence a brief discussion." He specifies, "That very afternoon, I passed by at Althusser's to tell him of the exploit—and he surprised me by showing the note that Lacan had sent him. Here, a spark fixed something for me."
  21. Text written on a black-and-white postcard, sent from Thessalonica (Greece), the reproduction of a portion of a fresco in the monastery representing the archangel Gabriel.
  22. Reference is to the article "Freud and Lacan," which Louis Althusser had sent him in a typed version.
  23. Reference is to Pour Marx, which had just been published by Maspero. Instead of treating it as he had Lacan's other letters, Althusser had placed this one in a folder containing letters from eminent figures or friends, most of them admiring (among whom were Jean-Toussaint Desanti, Jean-François Revel, Georges Canguilhem, François Châtelet, Gilles Deleuze, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, and Jean-Pierre Vernant), after the book's publication.
  24. In all probability this should read July 13, since, according to his date book, Louis Althusser had an appointment "at Lacan's place, 5 rue de Lille," on Tuesday, July 12, and this letter was clearly written after they had seen each other again, as is said at the end of it.
  25. Reference is to the text "Conjoncture philosophique et recherche théorique marxiste,' which appeared posthumously in Ecrits philosophiques et politiques (Paris: Stock, 1994).
  26. Jacques Lacan would put an end to his seminar "D'un Autre à l'autre" (Séminaire XVI, unpublished) at the Ecole Normale Supérieure after the session of June 25, 1969.