POTLUCK! come at 7, bring food (preferably dairy and gluten and nut free), and chat with a diverse, cantankerous, opinionated, experienced, and very funny group of anarchists.
and here is the link to the reading for this week (it’s to a download)
or you can read it here…
A Liberation of Desire
An Interview by George Stambolian
GEORGE STAMBOLIAN – In 1970 the authorities forbade the sale to minors
of Pierre Guyotat’s novel Eden. Eden. Eden. More recently they outlawed
and seized the special issue of the review Recherches (“Encyclopedie des
homosexualites”) to which you had made important contributions. You
were even taken to court on the matter. How would you explain these
reactions by the French government.
FELIX GVATTARI – They were rather old-fashioned reactions. I do not
think that the present government would behave the same way because
there is, on the surface at least, a certain nonchalance regarding the
literary and cinematographic expression of sexuality. But I don’t have to
tell you that this is an even more subtle, cunning, and repressive policy.
During the trial the judges were completely ill at ease with what they were
being asked to do.
GS – Wasn’t it because this issue of Recherches treated homosexuality,
and not just sexuality?
FG – I’m not sure, because among the things that most shocked the
judges was one of the most original parts of this work – a discussion of
masturbation. I think that a work devoted to homosexuality in a more or
less traditional manner would have had no difficulty. What shocked
perhaps was the expression of sexuality going in all directions. And then
there were the illustrations – they were what set it off.
GS – In your opinion, what is the best way to arrive at a true sexual
liberation, and what dangers confront this liberation?
FG – The problem as I see it is not a sexual liberation but a liberation of
desire. Once desire is specified as sexuality, it enters into forms of
particularized power, into the stratification of castes, of styles, of sexual
classes. The sexual liberation – for example, of homosexuals, or transvestites,
or sadomasochists – belongs to a series of other liberation problems
among which there is an a priori and evident solidarity, the need to
participate in a necessary fight. But I don’t consider that to be a liberation
as such of desire, since in each of these groups and movements one
finds repressive systems.
A Liberation 0/ Desire 205
GS – What do you mean by “desire”?
FG – For Gilles Deleuze and me desire is everything that exists be/ore the
opposition between subject and object, before representation and production.
It’s everything whereby the world and affects constitute us outside
of ourselves, in spite of ourselves. It’s everything that overflows from us.
That’s why we define it as flow (flux]. Within this context we were led to
forge a new notion in order to specify in what way this kind of desire is
not some sort of undifferentiated magma, and thereby dangerous, suspicious,
or incestuous. So we speak of machines, of “desiring machines”,
in order to indicate that there is as yet no question here of
“structure”, that is, of any subjective position, objective redundancy, or
coordinates of reference. Machines arrange and connect flows. They do
not recognize distinctions between persons, organs, material flows, and
GS – Your remarks on sexuality reveal a similar rejection of established
distinctions. You have said, for example, that all forms of sexuality are
minority forms and reveal themselves as being irreducible to homo-hetero
oppositions. You have also said that these forms are nevertheless
closer to homosexuality and to what you call a “feminine becoming” [un
devenir femininJ. Would you develop this idea, in particular by defming
what you mean by “feminine”?
FG – Yes, that was a very ambiguous formulation. What I mean is that
the relation to the body, what I call the semiotics of the body, is something
specifically repressed by the capitalist- socialist-bureaucratic system.
So I would say that each time the body is emphasized in a situation
– by dancers, by homosexuals, etc. – something breaks with the dominant
semiotics that crush these semiotics of the body. In heterosexual relations
as well, when a man becomes body, he becomes feminine. In a
certain way, a successful heterosexual relation becomes homosexual and
feminine. This does not at all mean that I am speaking of women as such;
that’s where the ambiguity lies, because the feminine relation itself can
lose the semiotics of the body and become phallocentric. So it is only by
provocation that I say feminine, because I would say first that there is
only one sexuality, it is homosexual; there is only one sexuality, it is
feminine. But I would add finally: there is only one sexuality, it is neither
masculine, nor feminine, nor infantile; it is something that is ultimately
flow, body. It seems to me that in true love there is always a moment
when the man is no longer a man. This does not mean that he becomes
a woman. But because of her alienation woman is relatively closer to the
situation of desire. And in a sense, perhaps from the point of view of
representation, to accede to desire implies for a man first a position of
homosexuality as such, and second a feminine becoming. But I would
add as well a becoming as animal, or a becoming as plant, a becoming as
cosmos, etc. That’s why this formulation is very tentative and ambiguous.
GS – Isn’t your formulation based in part on the fact that our civilization
has associated body and woman?
FG – No, it’s because woman has preserved the surfaces of the body, a
bodily jouissance and pleasure much greater than that of man. He has
concentrated his libido on – one can’t even say his penis – on domination,
on the rupture of ejaculation: “I possessed you”, “I had you” Look
at all the expressions like these used by men: “1 screwed you”, “I made
her” It’s no longer the totality of the body’s surface that counts, it’s just
this sign of power: “I dominated you”, “I marked you” This obsession
with power is such that man ultimately denies himself all sexuality. On
the other hand, in order to exist as body he is obliged to beg his sexual
partners to transform him a bit into a woman or a homosexual. I don’t
know if homosexuals can easily accept what I’m saying, because I don’t
mean to say that homosexuals are women. That would be a misunderstanding.
But I think that in a certain way there is a kind of interaction
between the situation of male homosexuals, of transvestites, and
of women. There is a kind of common struggle in their relation to the
GS – “Interaction”, “transformation”, “becoming”, “flow” – these words
suggest a recognition of our sexual or psychic multiplicity and fluidity
which, as I understand it, is an essential aspect of what you call schizoanalysis.
What then is the basic difference between schizoanalysis and
psychoanalysis which, I believe, you have completely abandoned.
FG – I was Lacan’s student, I was analyzed by Lacan, and I practiced
psychoanalysis for twelve years; and now I’ve broken with that practice.
Psychoanalysis transforms and deforms the unconscious by forci�g it to
pass through the grid of its system of inscription and representation. For
psychoanalysis the unconscious is always already there, genetically programmed,
structured, and finalized on objectives of conformity to social
norms. For schizoanalysis it’s a question of constructing an unconscious,
not only with phrases but with all possible semiotic means, and not only
with individuals or relations between individuals, but also with groups,
with physiological and perceptual systems, with machines, struggles, and
arrangements of every nature. There’s no question here of transference,
interpretation, or delegation of power to a specialist.
GS – Do you believe that psychoanalysis has deformed not only the
unconscious but the interpretation of life in general and perhaps of
literature as well?
FG – Yes, but even beyond what one imagines, in the sense that it’s not
simply a question of psychoanalysts or even of psychoanalytical ideas as
they are propagated in the commercial press or in the unive-rsities, but of
A Liberation of Desire 207
interpret�tive and representational attitudes toward desire that one finds
in persons who don’t know psychoanalysis, but who put themselves in
the position of interpreters, of gurus, and who generalize the technique
GS – With Deleuze, you have just finished a schizoanalysis of Kafka’s
work. Why this method to analyze and to comprehend literature?
FG – It’s not a ql.\,estion of method or of doctrine. It’s simply that I’ve
been living with Kafka for a very long time. I therefore tried, together
with Deleuze, to put into our work the part of me that was, in a way, a
becoming of Kafka. In a sense the book is a schizoanalysis of our relation
to Kafka’s work, but also of the period of Vienna in 1920 and of a certain
bureaucratic eros which crystallized in that period, and which fascinated
GS – In a long note you speak of Kafka’s joy, and you suggest that
psychoanalysis has found only Kafka’s sadness or his tragic aspect.
FG – In his Dian·es Kafka gives us a glimpse of the diabolic pleasure he
found in his writing. He says that it was a kind of demonic world he
entered at night to work. I think that everything that produces the
violence, richness, and incredible humor of Kafka’s work belongs to this
world of his.
GS – Aren’t you really proposing that creation is something joyful, and
that this joy can’t be reduced to a psychosis?
FG – Absolutely – or to a lack.
GS – In the sam�-�book on Kafka you say that a “minor literature”, which
is produced by a minority in a major language, always “deterritorializes”
that language, connects the individual to politics, and gives everything a
collective value. These are for you, in fact, the revolutionary qualities of
any literature within the established one. Does homosexuality necessarily
produce a literature having these three qualities?
FG Unfortunately, no. There are certainly homosexual writers who
conduct thcir writing in the form of an oedipal homosexuality. Even very
great writers – I think of Gide. Apart from a few works, Gide always
transcribed his homosexuality and in a sense betrayed it.
GS – Despitc the fact that he tried to prove the value of homosexuality
in works such as Corydon?
FG – Yes, but I wonder if he did it in just one part of his work, and if the
rest of his writing isn’t different.
GS – In the Anti-Oedipe you and Deleuze note that Proust described two
types of homosexuality – one that is Oedipal and therefore exclusive,
global, and neurotic, and one that is a-Oedipal or inclusive, partial, and
localized. In fact, the latter is for you an expression of what you call
“transsexuality” So if there are two Gides, aren’t there also two Prousts,
or at least the possibility of two different readings of his work?
FG – I can’t answer for Proust the man, but it seems to me that his work
does present the two aspects, and one can justify the two readings
because both things in effect exist.
GS – You spoke of the demonic in Kafka. Well, Gide, Proust, and Genet
have been accused of being fascinated by the demonic aspect of homosexuality.
Would you agree?
FG – To a point. I wonder sometimes, not specifically concerning the
three names you mention, if it isn’t a matter of persons who were more
fascinated by the demonic than by homosexuality. Isn’t homosexuality a
means of access to the demonic? That is, they are the heirs of Goethe in
a certain way, and what Goethe called the demonic was in itself a
dimension of mystery.
GS – But the fact remains that in our civilization homosexuality is often
associated with the demonic.
FG – Yes, but so is crime. There’s a whole genre of crime literature that
contains a similar demonic aspect. The demonic or the mysterious is
really a residue of desire in the social world. There are so few places for
mystery that one looks for it everywhere, in anything that escapes or
becomes marginal. For example, there’s something demonic in the life of
a movie star. That’s why it’s used by the sensational press.
GS – Doesn’t that tell us that we are hungry for the demonic; that we are
hungry for things that aren’t “natural”; that we have exploited movie
stars and homosexuals to satisfy our need for the demonic?
FG – I’m not against that because I’m not at all for nature. Therefore
artifice, the artificially demonic, is something that rather charms me.
Only it is one thing to live it in a relationship of immediate desire, and
another thing to transform it into a repressive machine.
GS – Let’s go back to the homosexual writers. I’d like to quote here a
remark of yours that struck me. It’s the last paragraph of you interview
published in the August 1975 issue of La Quinzaine litteraire. You say:
“Everything that breaks something, everything that breaks with the established
order, has something to do with homosexuality, or with a
becoming as animal, a becoming as woman, etc. Any break in semioticization
implies a break in sexuality. It is therefore not necessary, in my
opinion, to raise the question of homosexual writers, but rather to look
for what is homosexual, in any case, in a great writer, even if he is in other
respects heterosexual” Doesn’t this idea contain a new way to approach
or perhaps to go beyond a question that has obsessed certain Freudian
critics and psychoanalysts – namely, the connection between homosexuality,
or all sexuality, and creativity?
FG – Yes, of course. For me, a literary machine starts itself, or can start
itself, when writing connects with other machines of desire. I’d like to
talk about Virginia Woolf in her relation to a becoming as man which is
A Liberation of Desire 209
itself a becoming as woman, because the paradox is complete. I’m
thinking about a book I like very much, Orlando. You have this character
who follows the course of the story as a man, and in the second part of
the novel he becomes a woman. Well, Virginia Woolf herself was a
woman, but one sees that in order to become a woman writer, she had to
follow a certain trajectory of a becoming as woman, and for that she had
to begin by being a man. One could certainly find in George Sand things
perhaps more remarkable than this. So my question is whether writing as
such, the signifier as such, relates to nothing, only to itself, or to power.
Writing begins to function in something else, as for example for the Beat
Generation in the relation with drugs; for Kerouac in the relation with
travel, or with mountains, with yoga. Then something begins to vibrate,
begins to function. Rhythms appear, a need, a desire to speak. Where is
it possible for a writer to start this literary machine if it isn’t precisely
outside of writing and of the field of literature. A break in sexuality –
therefore homosexuality, a becoming as woman, as addict, as missionary,
who knows? It’s a factory, the means of transmitting energy to a writing
GS – Can a break in semiotization precede a break in sexuality?
FG – It’s not a break in semiotization, but a semiotic connection. I’ll give
you a more f�miliar example. Take what are called mad people from a
poor backgro�nd from the point of view of intellectual formation
peasants who-have never read anything, who have gone only to grade
school. Well, when they have an attack of dissociation, a psychotic
attack, it happens sometimes that they begin to write, to paint, to express
extraordinary things, extraordinarily beautiful and poetic! And when they
arc “cured”, they return to the fields, to the sugar-beets and asparagus,
and they don’t write any more at all. You have something of a psychotic
attack like that in Rimbaud. When he became normal, he went into
commerce; all that stopped. It’s always a question of a connection.
Something that was a little scholastic writing machine, really without any
quality, connects with fabulously perceptive semiotics that start in psychosis,
or in drugs, or in war, and that can animate this little writing
machine and produce extraordinary things. You have a group of disconnected
machines, and at a given moment there is a transmission among
them, and everything begins not only to function but to produce an
acceleration of operations. So you see, I’m not talking about sexuality.
Sexuality is already specified as sex, caste, forms of sexual practice,
sexual ritual. But creativity and desire are for me the same thing, the
GS – I’d still like to ask you the following question. Could you begin the
search for what is homosexual in a heterosexual writer with a great writer
like, for example, Beckett, whose work offers us a “homosexuality” which
seems at times to be the product of extraordinary semiotic connections,
and which, in any case, confounds all previous representations and goes
FG – I think of those characters who travel by twos and who have no
sexual practice because they live completely outside of sexuality, but who
nevertheless represent a kind of collective set-up of enunciation, a collective
way of perceiving everything that happens. And so many things are
happening that it’s necessary to select, to narrow down, in order to
receive and distill each element, as if one were using a microscope to
capture each of the intensities. Indeed, there is perhaps in Beckett a
movement outside of the sexes, but then there is the absolutely fabulous
relation to objects, a sexual relation to objects. I’m thinking of the
sucking stones in Molloy.
GS Then how does one explain the elements of homosexuality, of
sadomasochism, in his work?
FG – But that’s theater, because if there’s a constant in Beckett’s work,
it’s that even when he writes novels, he creates theater, in the sense of a
mise en scene, a mise en acte, of giving something to be seen. So then
inevitably, he gathers up representations, but he aniculates them to
create literature. What’s more, Beckett is someone, I think, who was very
interested in the insane, in psychopathology, and therefore he picked up
a lot of representations. The use he makes of them is essentially literary,
of course, but what he uses them for is not a translation, it’s a college, it’s
like a dance. He plays with these representations, or rather, he makes
GS – You said in your anicle on the cinemal that any representation
expresses a certain position with respect to power. But I wonder if
Beckett hasn’t succeeded in writing a politically “innocent” text.
FG – I t:lo more believe in innocence than I do in nature. One thing
should be made clear – if one finds innocence, there’s reason to worry,
there’s reason to look not for guilt, of course, because that’s the same
thing as innocence, it’s symmetry, but for what is politically in germination,
for a politics en pointilte. Take Kafka again. Although his text isn’t
innocent, the supremely innocent character is K., and yet he is neither
innocent nor guilty. He’s waiting to enter a political scene. That’s not
fiction; it’s not Borges, because he did enter a political scene in Prague,
where one of the biggest political dramas was played around Kafka’s
work. So, innocence is always the anticipation of a political problem.
GS – Everything that’s written is therefore linked in one way or another
to a political position?
FG Yes, with two fundamental axes: everything that’s written in
refusing the connection with the referent, with reality, implies a politics
of individuation of the subject and of the object, of a turning of �riting
A Liberation of Desire 2 1 1
on itself, and by that puts itself in the service of all hierarchies, of all
centralized systems of power, and of what Deleuze and I call “arborescences”,
the regime of unifiable multiplicities. The second axis, in opposition
to arborescence, is that of the “rhizome”, the regime of pure
multiplicities. It’s what even innocent texts, even gratuitous games like
those of the Dadaists, even collages, cut-ups, perhaps especially these
things, will make possible one day to reveal – the pattern of similar breaks
in reality, in the social field, and in the field of economic, cosmic, and
GS – So sexual liberation is not going to rid us of political connections.
FG – Sexual liberation is a mystification. I believe in, and will fight for,
the taking of power by other castes and sexual systems, but I believe that
liberation will occur when sexuality becomes desire, and that desire is the
freedom to be sexual, that is, to be something else at the same time.
GS How does one escape from this dilemma in which one caste
FG – What these liberation movements will reveal by their failures and
difficulties is that there really aren’t any castes. There’s the possibility
that society will reform itself through other types of subjective arrangements
that are not based on individuals. in constellation or on relations of
power that co;ttmunication institutes between speaker and listener.
There will be arrangements, I don’t know what, based neither on
families, nor on communes, nor on groups, where the goals of life,
politics, and work will always be conjugated with the analysis of unconscious
relations, of relations of micro-power, of micro-fascism. On the
day when these movements fix as their goals not only the liberation of
homosexuals, women, and children, but also the struggle against themselves
in their constant power relations, in their relation of alienation, of
repression against their bodies, their thoughts, their ways of speaking,
then indeed, we will see another kind of struggle appear, another kind of
possibility. The micro-fascist elements in all our relations with others
must be found, because when we fight on the molecular level, we’ll have
a much better chance of preventing a truly fascist, a macro-fascist formation
on the molar level.
GS – You and Delcuze often speak of Artaud, who wanted to rid us of
masterpieces and perhaps even of written texts. Can one say that the
written text already contains a form of micro-fascism?
FG – No, because a written text can be lengthened. Graffiti in the street
can be erased or added to. A written text can be contradictory, can be
made into a palimpsest. It can be something extremely alive. What is
much less alive is a work, une oeuvre (and Artaud himself did not write a
work) or a book. But then one never writes a book. One picks up on
books that have been written; one places oneself in a phylum. To write a
2 1 2 QueerlSubjecrivities
book that wants to be an eternal and universal manual, yes, you’re right;
but to write after one thing and before another, that means participating
in a chain, in a chain of love as well.
GS – I’d like to return for a moment to what you said about desire and
the problem of liberation. I think of people who might profit from that
kind of formulation in order to circumvent the question of homosexuality
and the specificity of this struggle, by saying that all that is just sexuality
and that sexuality alone matters.
FG – I’m very sympathetic to what you say. It’s a bit like what they say
to us regarding the struggle of the working class. I understand that, but
I’d still like to give the same answer: it’s up to the homosexuals. I’m not
a worker or a homosexual. I’m a homosexual in my own way, but I’m not
a homosexual in the world of reality or of the group.
GS – Yes, but the theories one proposes on homosexuality are always
important, and they are never innocent. Before writing Corydon, Gide
read theories. Before writing La recherche, Proust was totally aware of the
psychological thought of his time. Even Genet was influenced after· the
fact by the theories ofSartre. Obviously, it’s often writers themselves who
are the first to see things that others transform into theories. I’m thinking
of Dostoevsky, Proust, and of course, Kafka. You’ve already begun to use
your own theories to study the literatUre of the past, and they are related
perhaps to what may someday be called a ‘literature of desire’ Writers,
critics, and homosexuals have the choice of accepting or rejecting these
theories, or of playing with them. But they can neither forget them nor
ignore the words of moralists, psychoanalysts , and philosophers, certainly
not today and certainly not in France.
FG – Right, I completely agree. It’s truly a pollution. But in any case,
what do you think of the few theoretical propositions I’ve advanced here?
It’s my turn to question you .
GS – Judging your position by what you’ve said here and by what you’ve
written, I think that you and Dcleuze have seriously questioned Freud’s
system. You have turned our attention away from the individual and
toward the group, and you have shown to what extent the whole Oedipal
structure reflects our society’s paranoia and has become an instrument
for interiorizing social and political oppression. Also, I’d like to quote the
following passage from the Anti-Oedipe: “We are heterosexuals statistically
or in molar terms, but homosexuals personally, whether we know it
or not, and finally transsexuals elementarily, molecularly” I can’t claim
to understand fully this or other aspects of your theory, but you do show
that the time has come to address ourselves to the question of sexuality
in another way, and that’s a kind of liberation.
FG – Well, I want to say to those people who say ‘all that is sexuality’ that
they must go farther and try to see what in fact is the sexuality not only
A Liberation of Desire 213
of the homosexual, but also of the sadomasochist, the transvestite, the
prostitute, even the murderer, anyone for that matter, in order not to go
in the direction of reassurance. They must see what a terrible world of
repression they will enter.
GS – Despite the passage from your work I just quoted, when you speak
you often cite groups that are always outside the dominant field of
FG – For me desire is always ‘outside’; it always belongs to a minority.
For me there is no heterosexual sexuality. Once there’s heterosexuality,
in fact, once there’s marriage, there’s no more desire, no more sexuality.
In all my twenty-five years of work in the field I’ve never seen a heterosexual
married couple that functioned along the line of desire. Never.
They don’t exist. So don’t say that I’m marginalizing sexuality with
homosexuals, etc., because for me there is no heterosexuality possible.
GS – Following the same logic there is no homosexuality possible.
FG – In a sense yes, because in a sense homosexuality is counterdependent
on heterosexuality. Part of the problem is the reduction of the body.
It’s the impossibility of becoming a totally sexed body. The sexed body
is something that includes all perceptions, everything that occurs in the
mind. The problem is how to sexualize the body, how to make bodies
desire, vibrate – all aspects of the body.
GS – There are still the fantasies each of us brings. That’s often what’s
interesting in some homosexual writing – this expression of fantasies that
are very specialized, very specific.
FG – I don’t think it’s in terms of fantasies that things are played but in
terms of representations. There are fantasies of representations. In desire
what functions are semiotic flows of a totally different nature, including
verbal flows. It’s not fantasies; it’s something that functions, words that
function, speech, rhythms, poetry. A phantasmal representation in
poetry is never the essential thing, no more than is the content. Phantasy
is always related to content. What counts is expression, the way expression
connects with the body. For example, poetry is a rhythm that transmits
itself to the body, to perception. A phantasy when it operates does
not do so as a phantasy that represents a content, but as something that
puts into play, that brings out something that carries us away, that draws
us, that locks us onto something.
GS – Aren’t there phantasies of form as well?
FG – Phantasies of form, phantasies of expression, become in effect
micro-fascistic crystallizations. This implies, for example, in scenes of
power of a sadomasochistic character: ‘Put yourself in exactly this position.
Follow this scenario so that it will produce in me such an effect’.
That becomes a kind of phantasy of form, but what counts there is not
the application of the phantasy, it’s the relation to the other person, it’s
2 14 QueerlSubjectivilies
complicity! Desire escapes from formal redundancies, escapes from
power formations. Desire is not informed, informing; it’s not information
or content. Desire is not something that deforms, but that disconnects,
changes, modifies, organizes other forms, and then abandons them.
GS – So, a literary text escapes all categorization as well as any sexuality
that can be called one thing or another?
FG – Take any literary work you love very much. Well, you will see that
you love it because it is for you a panicular form of sexuality or desire, I
leave the term to you. The first time I made love with Joyce while reading
Ulysses was absolutely unforgettable! It was extraordinary! I made love
with Kafka, and I think one can say that, truly.
GS – Proust said it: ‘To love Balzac; to love Baudelaire’ And he was
speaking of a love that could not be reduced to any one definition.
FG – Absolutely. And one doesn’t make love in the same way with Joyce
as with Kafka. If one began to make love in the same way, there would be
reason to worry – one might be becoming a professor of literature!
GS – Perhaps! Then literature can be a liberation of desire, and the text
is a way of mUltiplying the sexes.
FG – Cettain texts, texts that function. Nothing can be done about those
that don’t function. But those that do function mUltiply our functioning.
They turn us into madmen; they make us vibrate.
This interview appeared in G. Stambolian and Elaine Marks (eds.), HomosexuaJirks and
French I..iterature: Cultural Contexts/Critical Texts, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979, pp.
56-69. An earlier discussion of queer issues may be found in Guauari, ‘Une sexualisation
en rupture’ [Interview by C. Deschamps], La Quinzaine liueraire 215 (aout 1975): 14·-15.
1 See Guanari, ‘Le divan du pauvre’, Communications 23 (1975): 96-103.
Translated by George Srambolian