The French novelist Cyril Collard was well known for his unapologetic depictions of bisexuality in art and literature. One of my favourite examples – and perhaps his most challenging – is his 1989 novel, Les Nuits Fauves.
I will here refer to English translation of the novel – released as “Savage Nights” in the United Kingdom – as a way of addressing the main arcs and characters of the story. If possible, I would recommend picking up the original French version for any closer textual analyses. It should also be noted that Les Nuits Fauves comes in a long line of successful French novels published on the subject of the AIDS crisis throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s (once popularised by efforts to push and publish “marginal” writers in France and then later canonised as novel-writing under the umbrella genre “sida-roman”).
The psychologist Paul Verhaeghe once described the effects of neoliberal capitalism as having fostered a “relentless pressure to achieve”. I think this is a useful way to begin formulating a critique of our attitudes towards work and responsibility, especially given the recent and ongoing attacks poor and vulnerable non-workers in the United Kingdom.
Writing for the Guardian, Verhaeghe commented that the idea of a meritocracy in today’s economy has led many to “believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual”. In this way, he claims, the individual worker becomes a “perfectible individual” – someone’s whose worth can always be improved upon through hard work and self-discipline. Such an attitude means that many now also feel they “fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed” in their everyday working lives.
On August 14th 2014, less than a month after the choking death of Eric Garner in police custody and just a few days following the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, there was a National Moment of Silence to commemorate the fatal victims of police shootings and police brutality across the United States.
Among the thousands that took part in the event, an organiser named Chanelle Batiste arranged for a vigil to take place in the majority black city of New Orleans at Lafayette Square, where she projected her voice to a crowd of over one hundred people gathered in memory of local names such as Robert Davis and Henry Glover. As she raised both hands in the air, she asked attendees to take part in performing the “Don’t Shoot” pose – a gesture that had become symbolic of Michael Brown’s plea for mercy just moments before he was fatally shot on suspicion of stealing cigarillos.
In putting together and assembling notes for this new blog, I was struck by a passage from Andrew Culp’s recent breakout philosophy book Dark Deleuze. Writing on the creation of new concepts, Culp notes that for Deleuze “[t]rue thought is rare, painful, and usually forced on us by the brutality of an event so terrible that it cannot be resolved without the difficulty of thought”. Not only is Deleuze’s project informed by a similar destructive strain, Culp argues, but it is necessary to think Deleuze in contrast to the “happy means of construction” of today, which are “conflated with capitalist value, the empty promises of democracy, or just plain helpfulness”.
The severing of the old connection allows one to make new connections. This is something we learn after the painful experience of our first break-up. It is something we continue to learn with every subsequent break-up. The connections we make are always ones we intend to keep, but seldom do. We continue to grow, to outlive our worst mistakes.