Two types of luck

(This post is part of the Art as Gift Project)

Tukhhē and Automaton (133)
When speaking of fortune Derrida calls upon the Aristotelian concept of tukhē over the linked concept of automaton. The former is a chance, read into the event in terms of its outcome, of its end, which Derrida calls “finalized chance.” Whereas automaton has within it the idea that unforeseen things happen but without any intentionality.

The event of the gift as told in Counterfeit Money is prepared for in advance of its end, the friend prepares his change so that the counterfeit coin is at hand for when the right opportunity offers itself, as he knows it will.

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On Nature and Production

(This post is part of the Art as Gift Project)

Derrida (128) discusses the unity of fortune and nature, “fortune is nature” (126), expressed as the luck of the draw and what gives generously at birth, to the nascent being. Saying the alliance between these two dominates the narrator’s discourse in Counterfeit Money.

The primary concept of nature that Derrida calls upon is phusis [from which we get the word physic, as in physics and metaphysics etc]. Saying that nature can be either the great, generous and genial donor, which everything, law, art etc, comes back to. On the other hand nature can be the “order of natural necessities,” laws of nature in opposition to law, art etc. Here nature’s relationship to the gift is as what is given.

Similarly the concept of production can be opposed to the natural and to the gift. What is produced is not given and producing seems to exclude donation. Yet, Derrida asks, is not the “pheuin of phusis” i.e. what nature gives, the “donation of what gives birth, the originary productivity…that brings to light and flowering.” “Is it not what gives form and, by bringing things into the phenomenality of the light, unveils or develops the truth of that which it gives.”

Here we have a donating production in which fortune and necessity [the event and the machine?] are allied. It is worth noting that production translates the Greek poesis which means both to make but also has a relation to bringing forth of the beautiful, the poetic.

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The Fortunes of Counterfeit Money

(This post is part of the Art as Gift Project)

A scene conditioned by fate and social advantage (125-127)
The discourse of Counterfeit Money as a whole is marked by the aleatory, by chance, by fortune (tukhē). According to the narrator of the story the unforgivable action of his friend, in giving the counterfeit coin to the beggar, could only be excusable if his friend’s action was driven by a desire to create an unforeseeable event out of a single stroke of luck in the life of the beggar. (125)

In his analysis Derrida plays with the word “fortune,” the root of which is fors: “chance, luck, fate.” The seeming random gift of the counterfeit coin to the beggar is only possible because of the two friends’ fortunate encounter with the beggar. Derrida calls this poor man, who the friends come across by chance, the “fortune of the story.” Nothing would have happened, no gift, no unforgiveness without the “good fortune that puts the beggar in the path of the friends.” In addition the friends have the fortune to be in possession of a fortune, which means they have at their disposal the change from a purchase.

Derrida claims that the scene of Counterfeit Money is presided over by fate, there before the chance encounter and the gift of the counterfeit coin to the poor man. In addition to the fortunate conditions within which the story of Counterfeit Money operates there is a further condition that needs to be taken into account. That is the social condition of the two “idlers,” who have the fortune, whether by fate or by luck, to be blessed with a fortune that enables them to consider donating some of the surplus of their resources to the beggar.

Baudelaire does not comment on the origins of the social and economic condition of the two friends, making their condition appear as natural “as if nature had decided this belonging to social class.” This leads Derrida to say “fortune is nature,” it gives freely to those who have the “grace” to receive, it gives them a gift that gives them the wherewithal to give.

The narrator expresses a further gift of nature to him, the faculty of “looking for noon at two o’clock,” Derrida calls this looking for what does not naturally occur in its place a “counter-natural gift.” It is a gift that is labouriously exercised, yet this work of labour does not lead to insight. Instead the narrator’s idea, that the reason for his friend’s gift of a counterfeit coin to the poor man was driven by a desire to create an event in his life, comes to him unexpectedly, in an unforeseeable manner, “there suddenly came the idea…” This insight is given to him freely and fortuitously “as if by a chance encounter.”

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The Luck of the Gift

(This post is part of the Art as Gift Project)

The Unconditionality of the Gift and the Event (123)

The event…the unique, the one-off, happening now and never to be repeated.

Both the gift and the event must be unforeseeable and must be structured by the aleatory the “chancy,” apprehended in a “perception that is absolutely surprised by the encounter with what it perceives.” A gift or an event that was foreseeable would not be “lived” as either a gift or an event.

The condition common to both the gift and the event is a certain “unconditionality.” The event as gift and the gift as event must be irruptive, unmotivated, disinterested. They must tear the fabric, interrupt the continuum of the narrative that they call for. The effect of the gift and event must be in the instant, bringing into relation luck and the freedom of the throw of the dice. The gift and the event obey nothing, except perhaps principles of disorder.

Yet effects of pure chance will never constitute a gift if its meaning includes the desire to give a gift. Derrida asks “what would a gift be if I gave without wanting to give?” This is the paradox of the gift, which is explored from the beginning of Given Time. There is no gift without the intention of giving, the gift can only have a meaning that is intentional in both senses of the word. Intention as wanting to give and intentionality as being directed towards the gift and the act of giving. Yet this intentional meaning also threatens the gift with being taken for and kept as a gift, annulling it as a gift. This expresses the enigma of the gift event, which must encompass both chance and intentional freedom, “these two conditions must – miraculously, graciously – agree with each other.”

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The Narrative Structure of Counterfeit Money 2

(This post is part of the Art as Gift Project)

What happens in the story happens to the narration (122)
Derrida says that the effect of Counterfeit Money is that of an event that has taken place. This event is not the content of the story, that which the narrative is generally thought to report. What happens happens to the narration, to the elements of the narration itself. Derrida characterises the standard understanding of the narrative discourse in terms of its spatiality and temporality, saying we generally think that the events that it reports “have taken place outside of it and before it.” This is not the case in Counterfeit Money, where what happens happens to the narrator and to the narration, it provokes the narration and the narrator, who says of his friend “I will never forgive him.”

In Counterfeit Money the components of the narration are that without which the event would not take place. It is as if the narrative condition were the cause of the recounted thing, as if the narrative produced the event it is supposed to report. There has to be the condition of narrative for the events to take place. The narrative is the cause and the condition of the thing, that is, the event of gift and forgiveness and the possibility of the impossibility of gift and unforgiveness.

The possibility of narration is the condition of the story, where a story is history, what has happened, narrative condition emerges from the desire to know, which leads to the recounting of events, the story. The time of the narrative, the given time, is that the desire for narrative is in advance of the event. Its spatiality what Derrida calls its spacing, is in the distance that the friends take from each other in their steps on leaving the tobacconist’s. Each step is in the time of the event, proceeding “from given moment to given moment.” The step of the friends “scans the time of the story.”

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The Narrative Structure of Counterfeit Money 1

(This post is part of the Art as Gift Project)

The economic cycle of confession and unforgiveness (121)
There is a structure of narrative relation between the friend and the narrator in Counterfeit Money. This is expressed in what the friend recounts to the narrator, “it was the counterfeit coin,” boasting and confessing, what in truth happened. This telling of the truth by the friend produces an effect on the narrator, creating an event on the side of the narrator, the narrator is provoked by his friend’s confession.

Derrida characterises this act of confession as the heart of the economic circle of the narrative, of the friend giving the counterfeit coin, then confessing his actions “without repentance and without mercy.” In doing this he gives himself to view, he gives himself over to judgment. The narrator takes no account of this gift and does not respond to it with forgiveness.

Derrida now asks “if the friend sought to provoke the narrator, what did he want to push him to do? And how?” Speculating that the relation of the narrative is there in what it withholds from seeing.

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What is unforgiven in Counterfeit Money?

(This post is part of the Art as Gift Project)

Betrayal and the Failure to Give (GT, 116-120)

Baudelaire’s Counterfeit Money, overview
The story is a first person account, in which the narrator and his friend encounter a beggar, to whom the friend gives a two-franc coin, before confessing, to the narrator, that the coin was counterfeit. Surmising that his aim was to “pick up the certificate of a charitable man” on the cheap, the narrator refuses to forgive his friend. While it is never excusable to be mean, “the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity.”

Derrida proposes that rather than his deceit of the beggar, it is the friend’s betrayal of the narrator that is refused forgiveness by the narrator. Following which Derrida then asks: “But in what, then, does the betrayal consist?” The answer to this question is obscure. To determine the reasoning that results in non-forgiveness for a non-gift is tricky, elliptical. (116)

Derrida’s own reasoning is based on what he terms the “libidinal drama and the apparently homosexual duel” that is played out in the story and in the narrative of Counterfeit Money. [N.B. the story and the narrative are different] He justifies this in terms of the eyes of the silent beggar, which ask for alms, in response to which the friend, in giving a counterfeit coin, feigns an answer. (117)

This narrative structure is repeated, with some differences, in another of Baudelaire’s stories The Eyes of the Poor. In which the two protagonists, a male narrator and his female companion – seated in a café, are confronted by silent poverty in the form of a father and his two children, all weak with hunger. Their six eyes interrogate the seated couple; in response to which the male feels empathy and shame, while his companion asks that they be sent away. This leads to the narrator’s sceptical conclusion on the incommunicability of thought “even between people who love each other!” (119)

Derrida now returns to Counterfeit Money, where he distinguishes between the story and the narrative. The narrative, expressed in the first person account of the narrator, is what happens to the narrator, in the form of a meditation on the event “a meditation that is not exempt from reasoning and speculation – ad infinitum.” The narrator speculates on a speculation, the money, the coin, the product of speculation given, which might lead to other speculative events, creating “an event in this poor fellow’s life.” Yet the event that has been created happens to the narrator and his relation of friendship, through which he is unable to forgive his friend. This is described, by Derrida, as a “movement of transference, the event is “created in the life of the narrator himself.”

This is expressed in the act of narration, the narrator’s comments about himself, rather than the story or the narrative it creates, it appears to say that the friend “by not really giving to this poor man, he has not given to me.” But what has the friend failed to give to the narrator? The answer to this question is delayed, momentarily. (120)

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Why Counterfeit Money is a story of tobacco

(This post is part of the Art as Gift Project)

A risky promenade (GT, 114-115)

Derrida characterises his approach to Counterfeit Money, and his numerous digressions leading up to the final chapter, as a “risky promenade,” one which reflects the journey of the two friends in Baudelaire’s story.(114)

He then seeks to justify his reading of Counterfeit Money as a story of tobacco, citing Baudelaire’s repeated references to tobacco in Counterfeit Money and elsewhere. But his main justification is internal to the story, central to which is the agonistic relationship between the narrator and his friend, described by Derrida as both an alliance and a duel. This is expressed in the double annulment of the gift and of forgiveness, the gift “that seems to give nothing” and a forgiveness that is withheld. Tobacco is there from the beginning, “before the first act, before speech, there is, there was, there will have been tobacco.” Tobacco is “the point of departure,” “the first partition or sharing,” from which everything that follows comes out of. It is the origin that is departed from and left behind in the distance. as the tobacco shop is left behind by the two friends, expressed at the opening of the story: “As we were leaving the tobacconist’s…” (115)

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The Economics of Poetry

(This post is part of the Art as Gift Project)

Economic registers of the poetics of tobacco (GT 109-112)

As a sumptuary product, i.e. luxurious – essentially wasteful, one could be tempted to think tobacco outside the economic cycle, resistance to this idea is possible in terms of several “registers” of the economic.
The psycho-analytic
The reason for smoking can correspond to an aim, which accomplishes real or symbolic functions, essential to the “economic balance of certain psychic organizations.”
There is a clear economics of tobacco and its state exploitation for tax purposes, which appears as beyond the poetics of tobacco. Yet there are examples of both coming together. Derrida cites a poetry magazine, Poésie 1, which produced an anthology of texts on the subject of tobacco: La Poésie ne part pas en fumée (Poetry does not go up in smoke). Subtitled Poets and Tobacco, the edition, sponsored by the French national tobacco company Seita, contained an ad for a brand of cigarettes, Gitanes Internationales, on its back page. Derrida draws attention to the publishers, who title themselves Editions du Cherche-Midi “as if they wanted to pay tribute with this title to the smoker-narrator of Counterfeit Money who is forever occupied “à chercher midi à quatorze heures,” looking for noon at two o’clock.” (111)
Tobacco can be thought in terms of an economics of “natural need,” expressed in terms of contract, gift/countergift and alliance, [eg potlatch] a reappropriation of an excess in the system of natural need and the labour that corresponds to it. This excess over natural need, appears to take on a symbolic function, expressed in terms of the symbolon, that which is split in two, and the alliance between two parties who share the two segments, obligating themselves, one to the other.

Tobacco symbolizes the symbolic: It seems to consist at once in a consumption (ingestion) and a purely sumptuary expenditure of which nothing natural remains. (112)

The fact that nothing remains does not mean that nothing symbolic remains: “the annihilation of the remainder, as ashes can sometimes testify, recalls a pact [of the symbolon] and performs the role of memory.” [This recalls the idea of death in relation to the gift, touched on earlier.]

Page 112, para 2, Derrida introduces the central theme for what follows, expressed through the question: “Is there an essential relation between the seduction that attracts one into an alliance, desire as desire for tobacco, and a certain work of mourning linked to the incineration of the remainder?”

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What is Tobacco?

(This post is part of the Art as Gift Project)

a dissemination that destines the text to depart in ashes or go up in smoke (GT, 102)
The place from which Counterfeit Money, as a scene of gift and counterfeit money, departs, is a tobacco shop, a sign of the modernity that Baudelaire wants to apply “another’s procedure” to. Alongside this modernity is the older institution of tobacco itself, which “informs the essential decor of the scene.”

The two protagonists are linked by the possibility of smoking, of expending at a loss, for pure auto-effective pleasure, very close to the voice, this singular natural product that is tobacco. Rather than a limitless enquiry into tobacco, disseminated in smoke, Derrida contains his analysis within three rings: The Time of Woman and The “good hour” of the “Purloined Letter.” The final smoke ring is tobacco itself, asking:

“What is tobacco?”
Apparently it is the object of a pure and luxurious consumption. It appears that this consumption does not meet any natural need of the organism. It is a pure and luxurious consumption, gratuitous and therefore costly, an expenditure at a loss that produces a pleasure, a pleasure one gives oneself through the ingestive channel that is closest to auto-affection: the voice or orality. A pleasure of which nothing remains, a pleasure even the external signs of which are dissipated without leaving a trace: in smoke. If there is some gift—and especially if one gives oneself something, some affect or some pure pleasure—it may then have an essential relation, at least a symbolic or emblematic one, with the authorization one gives oneself to smoke. That at least is how it appears. But this appearance remains to be analyzed. (107)

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What is Given in Baudelaire’s Counterfeit Money?

(This post is part of the Art as Gift Project)

Derrida’s concepts of “text” and “trace” (GT, 99-102)

Towards the conclusion of chapter 3 of Given Time, Derrida, after many detours, approaches the text of Counterfeit Money, asking “how is the question of the gift and the dative posed in Counterfeit Money?” Introducing the idea of the death of the donor as that which negates the return of the gift.

The text is finite, a “bit of corpus” it appears as a thing, which is a given in terms of our receptivity towards it, it was also given from the moment Baudelaire wrote and dedicated (gave) it. Yet it is a giving without return, whatever return Baudelaire might have counted on, the structure of trace and legacy of this text transcends the “phantasm of return” [the hau of the gift?] in the death of the signatory that accredits the text.

The problematic of the gift is only on the basis of the problematic of the trace and the text. This means not on the basis of the metaphysics of the present, that which is here now in the present. We do not get to the things themselves by avoiding “texts” by avoiding commentary or quotation, all writing is “on credit” subject to the authority of a commentary. It is only a problematic of the trace and dissemination [the giving of the text] that can pose a question of the gift and forgiveness, along with the “excessive forgetting or the forgetful excess that is radically implicated in the gift.” (102)

The second paragraph of page 102 focuses on Counterfeit Money as a text which tells the story of a gift. The text is envisaged as a body, a corpus, that is destined, it is a given, without known signatory and known addressee, framed by its capacity to exceed and which exceeds its frame, it is the story within the story (abyme) which destines the text.

The Trace
“Experience as the experience of the present is never a simple experience of something present over and against me, right before my eyes as in an intuition; there is always another agency there. Repeatability contains what has passed away and is no longer present and what is about to come and is not yet present. The present therefore is always complicated by non-presence. Derrida calls this minimal repeatability found in every experience “the trace.” Indeed, the trace is a kind of proto-linguisticality (Derrida also calls it “arche-writing”), since language in its most minimal determination consists in repeatable forms.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Jacques Derrida entry)

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Reading Counterfeit Money: 5. The Text Machine

(This post is part of the Art as Gift Project)

This text, then, is also the piece, perhaps a piece of counterfeit money, that is, a machine for provoking events Given Time, 96

An incorruptible taste for refinement, paradox, and aporia

Jacques Derrida’s Given Time is a work which explores its central theme of the gift in terms of the impossible thinking of the aporia and the paradox, through a relentlessly uncompromising process of deconstructivist refinement.

In his final interview, with Le Monde in 2004, Derrida characterised the approach of his generation of French philosophers, as being governed by “an intransigent, even incorruptible, ethos of writing and thinking…without concession even to philosophy, and not letting public opinion, the media, or the phantasm of an intimidating readership frighten or force us into simplifying or repressing. Hence the strict taste for refinement, paradox, and aporia.”

Machine and Event
This taste for paradox and aporia is founded on what Derrida claimed was the biggest challenge for him and his contemporaries, the bringing together of the oppositional concepts of the machine and the event.

The machine is that which is capable of endless, automatic repetition, characterised, by Derrida, as an “indifferent automaton.” The event, on the other hand, is the unique, the one-off, happening now and never to be repeated. It is associated with the organic, in which experience is inscribed into the living body. It is aesthetic in opposition to the machine, which is anaesthetic. For Derrida the very future of philosophy depends on the ability to think both the event and the machine as two indissociable concepts, but in a way in which neither one nor the other dominates:

“to give up neither the event nor the machine, to subordinate neither one to the other, neither to reduce one to the other: this is perhaps a concern of thinking that has kept a certain number of ‘us’ working for the last few decades.”

Derrida’s analysis
Logically the machine and the event appear as antinomic (opposites) and therefore incapable of being resolved. It is in Given Time that the “impossible thinking” of the machine and the event is enabled, in Derrida’s description of the text of Counterfeit Money as a “machine for provoking events.” This is a definition, which brings these oppositional terms together, while maintaining their paradoxical and aporistic qualities, one which Derrida justifies in his subsequent extended analysis.

The text is itself an event, that opens itself to reading in the here and now, but it also has a past, it has taken place, it has a present, it is present, and we anticipate that it will continue to take place in the future, i.e. it is machine-like in its repeatability. This repeatability places the event within the “order of the aleatory” (random) as such it is “pregnant with other events,” all of which have the capacity for the “staging of a trap or a deception.” Derrida describes this trap as the “affair of reason,” where the idea of “reason” is captured in the French idiom: “de la raison qu’on donne,” lit. to “give reason,” but which means to concede to the other. As idiomatic its meaning is difficult to translate from the original, with more than one possible interpretation and is therefore unstable.

Neither the text or its title, as subject or as a guarantee of the text are stable. The text seems to plays with its title: “it is as if the body of the titled text became the title of the title that then becomes the true body, the false-true body…of the text, its false-true corpus, its body as ghost of a fiduciary sign, a body to be taken on credit.” (97) This leads to a destabilisation of the authority invested in texts. Our engagement with them comes down to an act of faith, expressed as both economic and spiritual, a “phenomenon of credit.” The term credit meaning both belief and authority, the institution of a corpus, a body of texts and belief, leading to the phenomenon of canonization, which is both the spiritual and a textual authority given by a body.

“Authority is constituted by accreditation both in the sense of legitimation as effect of belief or credulity, and of bank credit, of capitalized interest. This recalls a very fine saying of Montaigne’s, who knew all this in advance: “Our soul moves only on credit or faith [credit], being bound and constrained to the whim of others’ fancies, a slave and a captive under the authority of their teaching.” (GT, 97)

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Reading Counterfeit Money: 4. Crossing the Border

(This post is part of the Art as Gift Project)

Part and Whole (GT, 94-95)

In Derrida’s analysis of Counterfeit Money, as a short story within the collection Le Spleen de Paris, the larger is constantly overrun by the smaller. The borders that frame the story, the title and the dedication, exceed the borders, which, by convention, they create. The dedication encompasses the whole of Le Spleen de Paris, in the image of a segmented serpent, which can be sliced at will. The title of Counterfeit Money is characterised as if it were the text, and the narrated story but a long note on the title. (86)

[Derrida describes this process of the part encompassing the whole as metonymic – the smaller is “metonymically” larger than the larger. A metonym is a figure of speech which Nietzsche defines as “the substitution of cause and effect” in which the part stands for the whole, for example “tongue” for “language.” The study of figures of speech was central to rhetoric, in works such as Aristotle’s Rhetoric, and Nietzsche’s 1872 Lectures on Rhetoric and Language.]

These framing devices within a book, the title and the dedication, are by convention irremovable, and as such they are thought to provide a stable structure for what is within. [This reference to “structure” draws attention to structuralism]. Rather than a “structure” this relationship between whole and part is described by Derrida as a “movement.” A movement that also “overruns and de-borders the coded language of rhetoric,” in this case that of metonymy as a figure of speech.

Rhetorical figures rely on a stable relationship between the part and the whole. Yet in Derrida’s analysis there is never stability, only stabilization in process. Pointing to “older” more complicated and unstable structures. In what could be called a post-structuralist move, Derrida says they can be called structures as they are “not necessarily chaotic, their relative “anteriority” or their “greater complexity does not signify pure disorder.”

Reading Counterfeit Money: 5. The Text Machine

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Reading Counterfeit Money: 3. The Dedication

(This post is part of the Art as Gift Project)

A topological analysis (GT, pp. 87-88)

Baudelaire’s Counterfeit Money was published as part of Le Spleen de Paris in 1855. Derrida uses the book’s spatiality, its topos to analyse the book’s dedication, one of the borders that, along with the title, one must cross before arriving at the short story, Counterfeit Money.

The written dedication, in which Baudelaire offers Le Spleen de Paris to Arsène Houssaye, is inserted in the book between the name of the author and the book’s title; as such it is a feature that appears to situate the destination of the book. [i.e. this is the place where Baudelaire “gives” the book to Houssaye] But the name of the dedicatee is not proof of the book’s effective dedication: “the destination of this dative [what is given] is not reducible to the explicit dedication…there is nothing in a text that is not dedicated.”

Putting the question of the destination of the text to one side, Derrida returns to his topological analysis of the dedication, attempting to situate it within Le Spleen de Paris. It appears not to be part of the fiction, in the same way as Counterfeit Money, yet can we be so sure? Derrida asks: “how is one to take the dedication? Is it still fiction…by what title must one receive it?” What is its place within Le Spleen de Paris, as fiction or as real?

The question of the dedication is the same as the question of its title [whether it is to be taken as true or counterfeit money], and of the whole and the part. [This echoes Levi-Strauss’s claim that one cannot construct the whole from parts. (76) For Derrida, in contradiction, the part exceeds the whole:

It is as if the title were the very text whose narrative would finally be but the gloss or a long note on the counterfeit money of the title, at the bottom of the page.” (86)]

This question of the whole and the part is seen within the figure of the snake that Derrida draws our attention to; Baudelaire’s image of Le Spleen de Paris as a segmented whole, a serpent which can be cut into parts, which is given by Baudelaire to Houssaye in the dedication. Derrida leaves further questioning of this gift of a serpent, whether whole or segmented, up in the air.

Reading Counterfeit Money: 4. Crossing the Border

More on the border

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Reading Counterfeit Money: 2. The Title

A view of part of Jacques Derrida’s library in his home in Ris Orangis. © Andrew Bush, 2001

(This post is part of the Art as Gift Project)

Derrida’s analysis of the title of Baudelaire’s Counterfeit Money (pp. 84-87)

The title says: “since I say so many things at once, since I appear to title this even as I title that at the same time, since I feign reference and since, insofar as it is fictive, my reference is not an authentic, legitimate reference, well then I, as title…am counterfeit money.” (86-87)

Derrida considers the short story’s title in terms of money, true and counterfeit. The title Counterfeit Money is that which guarantees that which it titles, the narrative, is entitled to be taken as what it gives itself to be, a story of counterfeit money.

Within this terminology there is always uncertainty, expressed as endless bifurcations. Derrida first makes the point that the title of Counterfeit Money does not belong to its narrative discourse. The fictive narrator of Counterfeit Money is not the author of its title, that author is Baudelaire. who is taken as real, yet the title is not foreign to the fiction. Chosen by the author, it is as fictive as the tale told in Counterfeit Money.

The title Counterfeit Money can be understood naively as a story about counterfeit money. Yet at the moment of this reading, the title is divided. It has two referents: counterfeit money itself and the text as a story about counterfeit money. Both of these referents title or titrate the title, they guarantee it. This first division of the title, “engenders many other dehiscences, virtually to infinity.” (85) The division of the title is a “dehiscence” a splitting apart. If we look at the two referents, namely, the story of counterfeit money and counterfeit money itself, we can see this division at work.

The narrative is immediately two things, it is a fiction and a fiction of fiction. It is a fiction written by Baudelaire, but it is a fiction that puts the narrative not in Baudelaire’s hand, as the writer, but in the mouth of a fictive narrator, who is not Baudelaire. This structure then folds back on itself, the fictive narrative is put forward as non-fictive by a fictive narrator, that is one who claims not to be fictive, in the fiction signed by Baudelaire.

This narrative recounts the story of a further twofold fiction, of counterfeit money, which is not a thing like any other, it is divided, it is both a sign and an incorrectly titled sign, a sign without value. The title Counterfeit Money again folds back, it is the title of the fictive text, which no longer only says: here is a story of counterfeit money, but the story as literature is itself counterfeit money. Everything that will be said, in the story, of counterfeit money can be said of the story, of the fictive text bearing this title. This text is also the coin, a piece of counterfeit money provoking an event and lending itself to this whole scene of deception, gift, forgiveness, or non-forgiveness. It is as if the title were the very text whose narrative would finally be but the gloss or a long note on the counterfeit money of the title, at the bottom of the page.

Counterfeit money is never, as such, counterfeit money. As soon as it is what it is, recognised as such, it ceases to act as and to be worth counterfeit money. (87) Derrida calls this an irreducible modality, which obligates you to “wonder what money is: true money, false money, the falsely true and the truly false and non-money which is neither true or false.” (87)

Reading Counterfeit Money: 3. The Dedication

More on the border

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