Nine Steps on the Ladder of Writhing


by Jeremy Fernando

[dedicated to, and in loving memory of, my dear teachers, my dear dear friends, Anne Dufourmantelle and Werner Hamacher]


One is photographable, ‘photogenic’, and this is perhaps
the catastrophe, that one can be photographable, that one can be captured and caught in time …
 — Hubertus von Amelunxen

… this is perhaps the tragedy of the photographic object, the object that is photographed: that in order to preserve its writing — the writing of light — the object has to be consigned into the shadows of time.

Perhaps then, the only hope for the one being captured is to be photographed without being photographable: not so much that one is not in the photograph (that would be too simple), nor that one is the photographer (too banal), nor even that one attempts to resist being objectified (for, this would be impossible); but that one remains within the photograph … as light.



The connection to the other is a reading — not an interpretation, assimilation, or even a hermeneutic understanding, but a reading.
— Avital Ronell

Keeping in mind that connections are not always first decided upon by the ones connected, that connections quite possibly come to one, to both ones, to the ones who are put in touch, who are touched at the point in which they connect.

Much like teachers.

And ones we love.

For, it is not everyone who teaches us whom we regard, who we call — feel connected to as — our teacher.



I wake up in the morning and I wonder
Why everything is the same as it was
I can’t understand, no, I can’t understand
How life goes on the way it does
— Skeeter Davis



how do I mourn thee?

Not you, for that would remind me too much of a you — one in relation with all others, every other.  But thee, a personal one, one who is just one as one — singular.

But since you are gone, the one that I am attempting to mourn is always already in my memory, remembered. Which brings with it the question: which fragment of you have I resurrected; which brings along with it its compendium, its partner, partnering question: is it even possible to speak of thee as such any longer? Or perhaps, it is this fragmented, fragmentary, nature of the remembrance that ensures every memory is singular. Not that I am necessarily able to tell the difference between them. For, each recollection of thee, you, is haunted by the possibility of forgetting. And since there is no object to forgetting, no referentiality when one forgets — all I can possibly articulate is the fact that I might have forgotten — there is no possibility of knowing what is being forgotten. Thus, there is no possibility of knowing if each time one remembers, each moment of memory, might bring with it forgetting. In other words, forgetting is not antonymous to memory; they are always already a part of each other, even as they may quite possibly remain apart.

So, not only I can not know if my resurrection of thee is accurate, it might not even have anything to do with thee. It might be a you — not just in relation with all others, every other, but a you that is completely other.

Perhaps then, all that I can mourn is the possibility of thee.

Perhaps, all that allows me to mourn in the first place is the possibility that I have forgotten, am always forgetting, thee.

Perhaps then, all I can mourn is you.



The whole art is to know how to disappear
 before dying
and instead of dying.
— Jean Baudrillard

The one who called for a disappearance even before he disappeared.

Perhaps the one who disappeared when he was with us; and now that he is gone, has played the final trick — has had the last laugh — not by returning, resurrecting, but by completely disappearing.

Thus ensuring that he will always haunt us.

And here, we should perhaps tune our registers to the spectres that haunt haunting itself: for, a haunt is both familiar, a place of comfort, a place we go to hang out with our friends, and foreign, unknown, potentially frightening. And what is more familiar, and unknowable, than death itself: it is both always already in us, and always also to come. For, the moment we are named, the moment our names come to us, is also the moment when we are anointed with the utterance that is left behind after us. And since names only come into being when they are uttered, each time our name is called is also a preparation for the moment when there is nothing to call but our name.

This is the peril of friendship

For, as Jacques Derrida never lets us forget, « to have a friend, to look at him, to follow him with your eyes, to admire him in friendship, is to know in a more intense way, already injured, always insistent, and more and more unforgettable, that one of the two of your will inevitably see the other die ».



I love you: I work at understanding you to the point of not understanding you, and there, standing in a wind, I don’t understand you. Not understanding in a way of holding myself in front and of letting come. Transverbal, transintellectual relationship, this loving the other in submission to the mystery. (It’s accepting, not knowing, forefeeling, feeling with the heart.) I’m speaking in favour of non-recognition, not of mistaken cognition. I’m speaking of closeness, without any familiarity
— Hélène Cixous

Keeping in mind Mariela Yeregui’s reminder that « the affirmation of the body contains the seeds of its own destruction: the movement of the body is a one-way path towards the non-body. In this movement to its negative dimension, the body articulates language. Without body, without corpus, all that remains is the gravitation of the absence/presence dichotomy. By the way, there are corpses ».

And, as Antonin Artaud would say, « no one can say why the plague strikes the coward who flees it and spares the degenerate who gratifies himself on the corpses ». Except perhaps — one might posit — that fleeing is precisely the moment of the abject: for, in the attempt to throw (jacere) one away (ab) from the very scene, one is actively attempting to forget; which is not only an impossibility, but does nothing other than inscribe the scene onto, into, oneself.

Writing itself onto one — where the one who attempts to respond, perhaps myself in this case — is the very site of the disaster.

… writing — écriture — writhing — screaming — crying — cri



Is being in life just being born?

Probably not.

To me, risking your life is not dying yet: it’s integrating that you could be dying in your own life. Being completely alive is a task, it’s not at all a given thing. It’s not just about being present to the world, it’s being present to yourself, reaching an intensity that is in itself a way of being reborn.
— Anne Dufourmantelle

Some people, quite a number probably, may have tried to save her, certainly at least two did — in reading her, thinking of her, in continuing to be with her thoughts, words, work, we all did.

But perhaps, when she caught a glimpse of Death,
might have even spoken with Her, she saw something we did not see,
cannot see, until perhaps our own rendezvous.
And unlike the soldier from Samarkand, she smiled.

For, to conquer death, you only have to die




Reading can no longer be constituted in the classical tradition of hermeneutics, as an act of deciphering meaning according to a determined set of rules, laws: this would be reading as an act where the reader comes into a convergence at best with the text. In fact, reading can no longer be understood as an act, since an act by necessity be governed by the rules of reading. Reading must be thought as the event of an encounter with an other — an other who is not the other as identified by the reader, but rather an other that remains beyond the cognition of the self. Hence, reading is a pre-relational relationality: an encounter with the other without any claims to knowing who or what this other is in the first place; an unconditional relation, and a relation to no fixed object of relation. As such, it is the ethical moment par excellence.
— Werner Hamacher

Bearing in mind — for, this is always a load on one, should weigh on one, might even be a burden that one can never rid oneself of, especially if one is attempting to conceive, bring forth, the possibility that reading and ethics are potentially inseparable — bearing in mind, trying never to forget, that in citing another, one is always already pulling, ripping, wrenching, the passage, the thought, out of context. Re-contextualising — if one wants to be generous, be kind to oneself, but really de-contextualising — by putting it into one’s text: so, not just a change in context, but a theft, a kidnapping.

Where one steals (voler) by causing the text of another to fly away (voler);

one might even say, calling out to the text by way of attempting to seduce the text, to lure the text to one self.

taking the life of the text;
sucking the life from the inscriptions
making it one’s own
for one’s self



Where perhaps, all I can say of my teachers, my dear friends, is: they have written what they have written, while they have written.

And of me: quod scripsi, scripsi.

And that: as long as I can still read, until I can no longer read, I will be reading, I will be reading them.

And with each reading, each writing, be offering my heartfelt appreciation, along with my eternal gratitude …

adieu Anne, adieu Werner
avec tout mon coeur




About the Author:

Jeremy Fernando is the Jean Baudrillard Fellow at the European Graduate School, where he is also a Reader in Contemporary Literature & Thought. He works in the intersections of literature, philosophy, and the media; and has written nineteen books — including Reading Blindly, Living with Art, Writing Death, and in fidelity. His work has been featured in magazines and journals such as Qui Parle, Berfrois, CTheory, Full Bleed, TimeOut, and VICE, amongst others; and he has been translated into Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, and Serbian. Exploring other media has led him to film, music, and the visual arts; and his work has been exhibited in Seoul, Vienna, Hong Kong, and Singapore. He is the general editor of both Delere Press and the thematic magazine One Imperative; and is a Fellow of Tembusu College at the National University of Singapore.