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Derrida: A Biography

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  78 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
This biography of Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) tells the story of a Jewish boy from Algiers, excluded from school at the age of twelve, who went on to become the most widely translated French philosopher in the world - a vulnerable, tormented man who, throughout his life, continued to see himself as unwelcome in the French university system. We are plunged into the differen ...more
Hardcover, 629 pages
Published November 9th 2012 by Polity (first published October 6th 2010)
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Jul 31, 2015 Jonfaith rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, theory
A text remains, moreover, forever imperceptible. Its laws and rules are not, however, harbored in the inaccessibility of a secret; it is simply that they can never be booked, in the present, into anything that could rigorously be called a perception. one of my favorite Derrida quotes.

One holiday season in another lifetime I bought a biography of Henry Miller for my best friend Joel. Being weedy undergrads we had dashed through the Tropics and were prone to crass public pontifications on the Su
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Jan 26, 2013 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis marked it as i-want-money
Shelves: auto-bio-graphy
Reviewed by Marc Farrant in review31, "'Someone like me - an old prof.'":

An excerpt:

btw, the Derrida film is of rather questionable value. But since it's a film, it goes down easy.

The Eagleton review:
"Even so, the Cambridge backwoodsmen were wrong. Derrida, who died of cancer in 2004 urging his friends to affirm life, was no nihilist. Nor did he want to blow up weste
Jun 24, 2014 Tim rated it it was amazing
I am tempted to recommend this to everyone.

But failing that, I certainly recommend it to anyone with any interest in Derrida. It transforms and enriches one's view of him.

I can hardly be bothered to acknowledge that it is itself a type of book that in his work he can sometimes seem to, as his gang say "put into question". Fine. So what?

In any case, one of the innumerable merits of this book is to make it apparent (I nearly said "clear") just how little Derrida the man resembles Derrida the imag
Scott Kleinpeter
It was like reading a novel. Of course, this is perhaps Derrida's greatest contribution, at least to my own reading strategies, to the degree that I've tried to come to terms with theory, even if Derrida didn't have a direct influence on this: the capacity to read (and perhaps interpret) one genre as another. Though, and this is what hurt, similar to DFW's biography: philosophers and writers are not saints; though, alternately and more optimistically: but saints may be philosophers and writers.
Behind the impregnable texts we find the man, whose life was equally enigmatic, secretive, significant, and at the same time very real, rich, and not-so-relaxing: not necessarily the suave playboy Sam Weber mistook him for at the airport.
… From the streets and cinemas of El Biar, to the insights of professors’ reactions to his essays in school, his “publicational” friendships, the recountings of his sons, the correspondences, the surroundings and goings-on around, behind, and before his more ex
Aug 05, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it
A surprisingly engrossing read, I thought. It had gotten good reviews, and Derrida is a significant figure, he was all the rage when I was in grad school, etc., so I got it then put it to the side for ages. Anyway, he knew or met or was friends or enemies with EVERYONE, it seems, in Europe and/or in the literary theory game. The shifting alliances were part of the appeal, as was Derrida himself: he comes across as unexpectedly likeable, despite the affairs, the weirdness surrounding his child wi ...more
Steven Peterson
Feb 24, 2013 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing
Born Jackie Derrida in Algeria, he changed his name to Jacques after beginning his academic career. The book traces his early years, including facing challenges as a Jew in French Algeria during World War II. The challenge of any book on Derrida is to provide a sense of both the person and his ideas. And Derrida's ideas are not always easy to grasp. Indeed, Michel Foucault once referred to Derrida as "obscurante terroriste." That is, Derrida's work was obscurely written--and when one missed what ...more
Jan 07, 2013 Grady rated it it was amazing
Blending Biography with Philosophy: A Daunting Task

Benoît Peeters has taken on a challenge in deciding to write a biography of Jacques Derrida (1930 - 2004), a French philosopher, born in French Algeria. He developed a form of semiotic analysis known as deconstruction. His work was labeled as post-structuralism and associated with postmodern philosophy.

As writer/critic Andy Martin as said, `Benoît Peeters has cut through a lot of the myth and mystique surrounding Derrida. There is probably more
Emahunn Campbell
Jun 08, 2013 Emahunn Campbell rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-fun
I weeped after I read what is called a biography. One - being I - hold somewhat fastidiously to literary genres that are fixed but shake as a result of their tight rigidity. Benoit Peeters gives more than a biography of the most important (professional) philosophy of the second part of the twentieth century - the term, the genre cannot be sloppily applied to such a tour de force of literary and, dare I say?, life excellence. The works sheer, unadulterated brilliance illuminates in magnificent, r ...more
Christine Cordula Dantas
Aug 25, 2014 Christine Cordula Dantas rated it it was amazing
I could never read Derrida. Even after studying a few introductory books. Then, I found this biography by B. Peeters. It was time to learn about the man, his life. I was not expecting to learn about deconstruction et al., though, and I didn't. I might not be able to understand Derrida the same way, now that I have closed this excellent book. But now I know why. And it does not matter. I am certain that I will be able to read him differently now. It took me more than a year to finish his biograph ...more
Alex Obrigewitsch
Jul 13, 2014 Alex Obrigewitsch rated it it was amazing
A great biography. Biography itself is such a slippery thing when speaking of a philosopher and Derrida knew this. in many ways it has no matter at all for the work of the thought and yet it is also of prime import to know the man who speaks the thoughts, who writes the attempts at teasing out the unsaid.
A man the world will sorely miss for years to come.
Robert Nisbet
Jan 30, 2014 Robert Nisbet added it
Recommends it for: Thinkers & Influencers
A complex but authoritative account of Derrida's works & life. Background & archive research at it's very best.
Perhaps layout of book could have been improved with text boxes providing 'summaries/key points' when relaying information about Derrida's books, articles etc. Defining clearly his contribution to contemporary thinking & to whom such was addressed to.

An illustrated 'time line' of his life, including family, dates of publications, lecture tours would have assisted the reader
Nov 12, 2015 Lorraine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is very informative if you know virtually nothing about Derrida's life story (my position when I picked it up). But of course as with all biographies, attention should be paid to the narration and the form, and genre too.
Ben Kearvell
May 23, 2013 Ben Kearvell rated it really liked it
Not really familiar with Derrida's philosophy. Figured this would be a good place to start. Doesn't really go into the nuts and bolts of his work, which is probably for the best: the text would only deconstruct itself. Derrida interests me first of all from an aesthetic point of view. I enjoy his 'style', if that makes sense. Certainly keen to learn more.
Johannes Bertus
Sep 03, 2013 Johannes Bertus rated it it was ok
Somewhat distasteful how this writer underplays what de Man actually wrote in Le Soir.
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“The plane that had taken off from Baltimore was caught in bad weather, which meant the Derridas missed their connection at Boston. Derrida found this delay and the whole chaotic journey a real trial. On the flight the following day, he spent the whole time tense and hunched up, clenching his fists tightly. And when Marguerite coaxed him to relax, he replied, furiously: ‘Don’t you realize that I’m keeping the plane in the air by the sole force of my will?’ He was traumatized for a long time, and for several years he refused to get back into a plane.” 1 likes
“Avital Ronell – a committed vegetarian – relates that one day, at a dinner with Chantal and René Major, she let one dish go by without taking a helping, which caused a certain embarrassment. When she said she had perfectly decent philosophical reasons for not eating meat, Derrida turned to ask her what they were. So Avital told him what it meant to her to incorporate the body of the other. Shortly afterwards, Derrida, who was extraordinarily receptive to this kind of thing, started to speak of carnophallogocentrism rather than phallogocentrism. Later on, with me and in front of me, he said he was a vegetarian. But one day, someone told me he had eaten a steak tartare, as carnivorous a kind of food as you can get. For me, it was as if he had betrayed me. When I spoke to him about it, he initially said I was behaving like a cop. Then he said, neatly: ‘I’m a vegetarian who sometimes eats meat.” 1 likes
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