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  • Alain Badiou

It is as good a division of the world as any other to observe that there are and have been societies with theatre and others without theatre. And that in societies that know this strange public place, where fiction is consumed as a repeatable event, this has always met with reticence, anathema, major or minor excommunications, as well as enthusiasm. More specifically, next to the spiritual suspicion that befalls theatre, there is always the vigilant concern of the State, to the point where all theatre has been one of the affairs of the State and remains so to this day!

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Endnotes [Bosteels]

1. A film directed by Louis Malle (1974).

2. Il Portiere di notte (1974), a film by Italian director Liliana Cavani.

3. ‘Event’ [l'événement] is one of Badiou's central terms, and is used here as an adjective [événementiel in French, now commonly translated as “evental” in English], designating a mass that creates a true political event in Badiou's sense, that is not a simple occurrence, but a significant, revolutionary change that leaves traces and effects.

4. Badiou is playing on Lacan's own pun to define the real as ce qui ne cesse pas de ne pas s'écrire, literally “that which does not cease not to write itself,” and ne cesse pas de s'écrire, or “does not cease to inscribe itself,” which in turn is a play on le nécessaire, “the necessary.”

5. Badiou's usage of the term “dialectic” to refer to a movement that diagonally cuts across and at the same time activates a static list of elements, here called “analytic,” is not uncommon in his philosophical work. For instance, he similarly opposes “dialectic” and “combinatory” in Théorie de la contradiction (Paris: Maspero, 1975) and “dialectical” and “structural” in Théorie du sujet (Paris: Seuil, 1982). Here, in interpreting the diagram (Figure 1), the reader might want to consider how the effects of the theatre-event that is the always-singular performance of the spectacle pick up on the constitutive elements of the “analytic” so as to produce the higher concepts of the “dialectic”: the three terms in the right-hand column thus can be said to traverse the seven elements from the left-hand column, even though this movement itself is almost by definition not visualized in the diagram.

6. French director, who headed the National Theater of Chaillot and later the Comédie-Française, and who sought to create a popular theatre without condescending populism, an “elite theatre for all.”

7. A popular dramatist and TV writer, he was also director of the Théâtre du Palais-Royal (1942–54).

8. Originally a novel by Théophile Gaultier, this adventure tale, full of sword fights and romantic drama, has been adapted to film and theatre repeatedly.

9. A liberal weekly newsmagazine.

10. A small, provincial town in the south of France and Robert Abirached's place of origin.

11. With the “batrachian” aspect of this episode as with the “frogs” in the following paragraph, Badiou is referring to Jean de La Fontaine's fable “The Frogs Asking a King,” in which the frogs' demand, “We want a king!,” is answered by God's sending a crane that gulps them down at pleasure.

12. Saint-Gaudens is a small town outside of Toulouse, in the South of France. Anecdotally, it is where Badiou often retreats to read and write in the country house passed down by his father, who was Mayor of Toulouse from 1944 to 1958. For a “phenomenological” description of the effects of another noise, that of a motorbike, for the “world” of Saint-Gaudens outside this country house, see Badiou's Logiques des Mondes (Paris: Seuil, 2006), book II.

13. Claude Bréart de Boisanger, director of the Comédie-Française at the time of Malraux's proposed reforms in 1959.

14. Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail (French Democratic Confederation of Labour), one of five major French trade unions.

15. An era of civil war in France lasting from 1648 to 1653.

16. Georges Ernest Jean-Marie Boulanger (1837–91), a French general and reactionary politician. Georges Pompidou, president of the Republic during 1969–74.

17. Nicholas Boileau (1636–1711): French poet and critic known for his insistence on classical standards.

18. Here, in the original French, Badiou is playing on the homonymy between ingénu (“ingenuous” or “wide-eyed”) and in-jeu-nu (literally, “un-bare-play”).

19. The Satin Slipper (Le Soulier de Satin, 1925), a sprawling work of epic proportions by Paul Claudel, which is often considered his masterpiece.

20. A French anthropologist whose political theories Badiou, Alain engages in Metapolitics (Barker, Jason, trans., London and New York: Verso, 2005) and other writings.

21. A novel by the French writer Pierre Guyotat (Paris: Gallimard, 1967).

22. Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627–1704) was a French bishop and theologian famous for his sermons. Louis Bourdaloue (1632–1704) was a famous Jesuit preacher.

23. An administrative area of the Loire.

24. Badiou is parodying and inverting Hegel's famous dictum according to which everything that is born one day deserves to perish.

25. Jules Ferry, French politician, established free education in 1881, the so-called Jules Ferry Law.

26. Since published: Ahmed le Subtil: Farce en trois actes (Arles: Actes Sud, 1994).

27. Badiou is referring to the title of Martin Heidegger's work, Sein und Zeit (Being and Time; 1927).

28. The present translator's interpolations herein are shown in square brackets.

* Translated by Bruno Bosteels

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Theatre Survey
  • ISSN: 0040-5574
  • EISSN: 1475-4533
  • URL: /core/journals/theatre-survey
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