This jeu d’esprit from John & Belle Have a Blog (via Making Light) had me laughing helplessly:

Zizek’s critical writings are the academic equivalent of Nigerian scam spam. (Think about it: the urgency; the dangled carrot of impossible utopian returns; the diddling stick of bold, risky, radical ALL CAPS action to be taken NOW; the exceeding verbal awkwardness due to greedily flailing, failing grasp of English; notable vagueness concerning just those salient points one would think most in need of clear explanation and exposition.)

Imagine a world in which you didn’t have to subscribe to certain top literary studies journals. What if their contents just showed up in your in-box every day? (Spam-guards would give you warnings like: ‘this mail looks like it would be publishable in Critical Inquiry. Delete now?)



I am erratically to be pleasuring you from behind this urgent proposal, affective immediately, irrespective of that I make entirely no argument in person or out, nor determining validity of hereafter to follow hermeneutical proposal.

Self-control and domination converge in the distinction between THREE elements: the author of the spam, the recipient who (has to) obey the spam, AND the spam’s EXECUTION/EXECUTOR – the one who mass-mails the spam and in whom Lacan discerns the contours of the Sadean executioner/torturer. The problem is not the identity of the spam’s author and recipient: they effectively ARE the same, the emailed subject effectively IS autonomous in the sense of obeying his/her OWN spam.

In your already accepting of this unprecedented intervention, this “fundamental fantasy”. Is this not Deleuzian-Lacanian? The exemplary case of this sphincter-loosening is, anti-essentially, you leaping of faith into confidence in the roots of our misapprehension of all your ideological accounts eternally in time.

Kierkegaardian teleological suspension of the ethics of fiduciary-Kantian duties: only impossible returns is worth the risk! No mercy, teaches St. Paul! Together we recover this profit of Lenin’s teachings.

As Frederik Jameson has masterfully demonstrated; as Foucault interrogated, Jesus Christ crucified, Lenin attempted and Heidegger may have had some glimmer: for you to transfer largely, generously, rhizomatically, for to impersonally avoid needlessly hegemonic interpenetrations of irrelevant authorities.

Pleasure to transmit your affects and perceptions impersonally to my account, to follow imminently.

Hoping this finds you a cyborg,

Slavoj Zizek


  1. I’ve always thought his name looked vaguely palindromic, so if he’s got a few other things mixed up as well, that’s ok.
    In Zizek’s defence, I don’t find him quite as dense or as annoying as Homi Bhabha or Jacques Derrida…
    but this is like praising a frog by saying he is not a toad.

  2. A decades-long friendship of mine ended, in some part because I told my friend that after reading Zizek’s book, I still had no idea what his point was supposed to be.
    For the record, when I chose my own pseudonym, I had no idea that Zizek existed. My choice was driven by my enthusiasm for blind heretic generals who revolutionize warfare and thus defeat the Holy Roman Empire over and over again.
    But to avoid confusion, given the choice I would have chosen a different blind heretic general who had revolutionized warfare and defeated the Holy Roman Empire over and over again.

  3. Sorry, but that sounds nothing like Zizek (which, incidentally, is written with a little hat – I can’t remember the technical term right now, dammit – over both zs, as it is pronounced Zhizhek). Slavoj likes italics, quoting Wagner, and talking in rhetorical questions – something like:
    But is not the question of the subject’s desire another form of the radical cogito in which the ineradicable stain that constitutes the anamorphical objet petit a finds itself always-already imbricated? Is not the yearning for the nonexistent Woman yet another lure which conceals the ultimate impossibility of the sexual relation? The irony of it is that, in attempting to elude the dilemma of sexuation, Parsifal finds himself, through his consecutive reidentification with Brunhilde, reenacting precisely that which had been foreclosed by his very demand.
    Nevertheless, I occasionally find interesting bits in the Zizekian corpus (God. Zizekian! Has anybody used the term seriously already, I wonder?) The first books are rather sober compared to the more recent verbal pyrotechnics.

  4. I’m really glad you said that. Not only because it’s funny as hell, but because it removes a lingering doubt I had about the origin of your moniker. I didn’t think you were a Slavojphile, but you never know…
    (In case anybody’s wondering, this is the blind heretic general who had revolutionized warfare and defeated the Holy Roman Empire over and over again to whom M. zizek is referring.)

  5. M. Zizka, if you please.
    Based on my reading, the big villain in postmodernism isn’t Foucault or Derrida but Lacan. I have found quite a bit of Foucault’s stuff interesting, and a little bit of Derrida’s early stuff, but I suspect that most of Lacan’s stuff is pure charlatanry at the Lyndon LaRouche / L. Ron Hubbard level. (If there’s a higher level, don’t tell me about it). Lacan figures heavily in the Sokol hoax stuff I think, quite deservedly IMHO.
    Zizka is a very common Czech and Czech-American name, but I out-Google all of them.

  6. Damn — sorry, I obviously had gospod Zizek on the brain! And my “I’m really glad you said that” was aimed at you; aa snuck in before I posted.
    aa: Well, it’s intended to sound like Zizek reincarnated as a Nigerian spammer; still, thank you for the ur-Zizekian version!

  7. If Lacan’s the bathwater, Kristeva is the ‘erratic affective baby’ we can throw out with him 🙂

  8. commonbeauty says

    Easy on the Nigerians by the way. I’m one.

  9. Although I have not (as yet) read anything by Zizek, I very much liked what he had to say in a recent interview with Doug Henwood. He seemed to be a pretty clear and thoughtful speaker.

  10. Thanks for the link, languagehat. I must respond to aa’s allegation that my production is insufficiently resembling. It is, in fact, substantially plagiarized. I have updated the original post to include the original Zizek text – selected quite at random – on which I worked, madlib fashion.
    But I think aa is actually right that parts of it sort of slip, stylistically. Ah, well. Did my best.

  11. Check out this photo-stopped picture of Slavoj (wearing Stalin bib and not much else) from Slovenia. It pretty much sums the guy up.

  12. I find Zizek very clear and extremely entertaining (and this piece doesn’t sound anything like Zizek, in truth).
    This is how Zizek would write it:
    “Therefore, is it not the case that the true recipient of the spam email is not the user who recieves it in their inbox, but rather the sender, who – recalling Michel Pecheux’s formula of ideological (mis)recognition – receives his own message back in inverted form? It is easy to recognise in this feature a strict correlation to the Lacanian reading of the Purloined Letter – suffice it to recall his final sentence: ‘A letter always arrives at its destination’.”
    We shouldn’t be having a go at authors who write ‘densely’, rather those journalistic authors who are extremely clear but, in truth, have nothing to say.
    Also, Zizek is not a Stalinist (nor, in truth, a Leninist), but a Hegelian Marxist Lacanian (and I speak as a Zizekian Hegelian Marxist Lacanian!!!)

  13. thantos33 says

    It seems no matter how hard anyone has tried they have failed to imitate the style of Zizek. This is quite satisfying somehow.
    I wonder if, in this context, Zizek himself could even produce a convincing representation of his own style? Maybe there is such a thing as content after all…perhaps not.

  14. See now the Infinite Conversation:

    A never-ending conversation between Bavarian director Werner Herzog and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek. When you open this website, you are taken to a random point in the dialogue. Every day a new segment of the conversation is added. New segments can be generated at a faster speed than what it takes to listen to them. In theory, this conversation could continue until the end of time.

    (It’s great, but the one thing that takes you out of it is that the AI can’t pronounce the French and German phrases that turn up.)

  15. Stu Clayton says

    Well kiss my foot, I thought Herzog had been gathered to his fathers.

    It appears that he doesn’t talk with Žižek only, but internationally too:

    # Herzog ist international für sein besonderes Englisch bekannt, das auf der einen Seite einen reichen Wortschatz und die Wahl bedeutungsschwerer Worte aufweist, auf der anderen Seite aber einen harten, deutschen Akzent. Aufgrund dessen hatte er schon eine Vielzahl von Gastauftritten als Synchronsprecher für englischsprachige Produktionen. Den Simpsons lieh er im englischen Original dreimal seine Stimme … #

  16. David Eddyshaw says

    My sole encounters with Žižek have been in pieces of his in the Guardian. Too ignorant* to know that he was a Certified Public Intellectual ©, I was mystified as to why his terminally self-indulgent twaddle had been commissioned in the first place. Now I know.

    * I’m not as well up on Great Lacanian Thinkers of Our Time as I might be. Non omnia possumus omnes.

  17. PlasticPaddy says

    You have to admire his labour-saving approach to film criticism. From a review ot “Matrix Resurrections”:
    ‘Every reader has for sure noticed that, in my description of the movie, I heavily rely on a multitude of reviews which I extensively quote. The reason is now clear: in spite of its occasional brilliance, the film is ultimately not worth seeing – which is why I also wrote this review without seeing it. ”

  18. David Eddyshaw says

    Therein resides the true libidinal enigma of this dispositif: why does the Matrix need human energy? That this is to solve the energy problem is, of course, meaningless: the Matrix could have easily found another, more reliable source of energy which would have not demanded the extremely complex arrangement of a virtual reality coordinated for millions of human units. The only consistent answer is: the Matrix feeds on the human’s jouissance. So we are here back at the fundamental Lacanian thesis that the big Other itself, far from being an anonymous machine, needs the constant influx of jouissance.

    At first blush this looks like self-aware self-parody, but the rest makes it clear that there is no actual self-awareness behind it. In fact, this dovetails neatly with

    It is clear that we are dealing with the compositions of a zizech. It is possible that we always were

  19. John Cowan says

    A minor correction to the original text (I’m surprised Hat missed it): for fantasy read phantasy.

  20. Huh? Not only is “fantasy” in the original text, it is in the philosophico-psychoanalytical cliché the text always-already represents, e.g. (via Google Books):

    I will be arguing that fantasy—or the configuration that often goes by the name “fundamental fantasy”—is actually a particular way in which language and resistances to signification get mixed together, creating a junctive and disjunctive situation for a subject.


    But first, what is a fundamental fantasy and how is it different from a fantasy? Lacan defined fantasy as “an image set to work in the signifying structure” (1961/2006a, p. 637).


    How are we to understand the fundamental fantasy as the locus in which the subject emerges as a consequence of the knotting together of the three orders of the Symbolic, the Imaginary, and the Real?


    As Žižek (1998, p. 5) notes, what is isolated in the fundamental fantasy as such involves “that which cannot ever be ‘subjectivized,’ that which is forever cut off from the subject.”

    I would quote more but I can feel my brain starting to sputter and throw off sparks.

  21. John Cowan says

    I’m surprised: psychoanalysts usually spell it phantasy.

  22. I’m surprised

    Now vee may perhaps to begin.

  23. David Marjanović says

    why does the Matrix need human energy?

    A good question.

  24. David Eddyshaw says

    Rendezvous with Rama is another one where it’s a pity that there were never any sequels.

  25. And we’re lucky that Peter Jackson never had the idea to turn “The Hobbit” into a movie.

  26. J.W. Brewer says

    Perhaps I am missing some oversubtle point David E. is making, but taking his latest comment in a naive literal way, I am informed by the internet that multiple sequels to Rendezvous with Rama were eventually published, although generally not so well-reviewed. I haven’t read any of them myself.

  27. David Eddyshaw says

    The title of the piece linked by DM will explain all, as does the xkcd strip linked therefrom:

  28. I see. I do try to read prior comments to try to find a context for something I’m not immediately grokking, but not necessarily follow all links therein. (My protective software thinks David M.’s link is unsafe for me to click through, although it does have a tendency to err very much on the side of caution.)

    I should also note that it was news to me (and thus, I hypothesized, possibly to others) that RwithR in fact had had sequels. They only turned up a quite substantial number of years after the original, perhaps only (the cynic might speculate) when Clarke was in need of money and bereft of new ideas. In the interim, I had discovered the original, read it multiple times, and then eventually set it aside as my literary habits shifted.

  29. A lot of the snark about the “sequels” to Rendezvous with Rama arises from the fact that, not only were they not terribly good (and undoubtedly far too long for the amount of interesting content they contained), they were not really written by Clarke. They would be perhaps better described not as real sequels, but as Gentry Lee’s author-approved Rendezvous with Rama fan fiction—right down to the insertion of lots of gratuitous sex scenes that did not fit the character of the original story. (Does a Rendezvous with Rama story really need scenes about sex toy selection?)

    I would also add that the abstract problem with writing sequels to Rendezvous with Rama is not really the same as the problem of creating sequels to The Matrix (or The Mote in God’s Eye or Neuromancer). In those cases, what was left was not a mystery for the ages, but the certainty that things would be new and different in an important, if undetermined, way. With Rendezvous with Rama, the characters and the reader are left, in the end, with just a tantalizing, unexplained glimpse of a much bigger and stranger universe than they had ever imagined. (Clarke was good at this; Childhood’s End is similar.) Lee’s attempt to explain the weirdness of the first Rama encounter can destroy the mysterious wonder of the original. That was definitely an effect the sequels had on me, when they “explained” enigmas from the first book in ways that I found extremely dissatisfying.

  30. Christopher Culver says

    Yeah, the Rama sequels are godawful, and combine those un-Clarkean sex scenes with, oddly, an ultimate religious message that also doesn’t jibe with Clarke’s earlier work.

    I wonder how much of classic twentieth-century science-fiction authors opening the door to low-quality collaborations in their dotage is due to pure greed, and how much it stems from a rather low view of their own past work. That is, if they conclude that it wasn’t “real literature” anyway, then there is arguably little harm in letting other writers churn out more.

  31. Rendezvous with Rama was not very interesting to me, same as Childhood’s End. Nothing actually happens. Peter Watts at least makes a point why we are different, and Stanislaw Lem, for example in Solaris makes a point of how we are ultimately incompatible.

  32. I agree with Brett: the “sequels” to RENDEZ-VOUS WITH RAMA did away with the mysterious sense of awe one felt after having read the original novel: the sense that we humans are not really all that important in the grand scheme of things, and that all we can do is catch glimpses of aliens and dimly guess what their motivations might possibly be. And did away with it all without replacing it with anything vaguely interesting.

    RENDEZ-VOUS WITH RAMA is indeed comparable in this way to Stanislaw Lem’s First Contact novels (Solaris, The Invincible, Fiasco, His Master’s voice) and to another fine classic which deserves to be better known, the Strugatsky brothers’ ROADSIDE PICNIC (AKA Пикник на обочине).

    In answer to Christopher Culver: I suspect that in most cases the answer to your question is “all of the above”, in different proportions for different writers, since so many did the same thing (but some waiting longer than others before doing so). It is a RARE author in the sci-fi genre who has produced sequels which were at least in some significant way worthy of the original, and indeed some have produced sequels which were (to my mind) significantly worse than a good deal of fanfiction.

  33. J.W. Brewer says

    Of course, aging pulp-genre authors who outsource much of their sequel-generation to “collaborators” given co-credit may end up using collaborators of varying backgrounds and talents. If wikipedia is to be trusted, Lee had a quite distinguished scientific/engineering career relevant to space exploration before he began collaborating with Clarke but had not previously published any fiction of his own. (One Lee-Clarke collaboration was apparently published before the Rama sequels, but was not particularly well-reviewed.) One can imagine why Clarke might have gotten to know him and found him an interesting fellow to talk to, but if he’d told his agent “go find some competent generator of genre fiction who can flesh out these sequel ideas I’ve got on the cheap” I don’t think Lee is who would have been recommended. Clarke had other late-career collaborations with collaborators better known for fiction-writing ability, which of course doesn’t mean that any given work rises about pulp hackery.

    On a somewhat similar topic, here’s an amusing (perhaps grimly so) sentence from the wiki article on the Chronicles of Amber: “While Zelazny’s will expressly forbade* sequels by other authors, four posthumous prequels authorized by Zelazny’s family were authored by” some other dude. Of course, there are some who think that Zelazny ought to have forbidden himself to write any more Amber books after the first five.

    *I’m skeptical that such a provision is actually legally enforceable, but not 100% confident either way unless and until someone dealing with such a will wants to pay me to dig into the law more thoroughly. Obviously a literary estate which disregards the not-literally-enforceable wishes of the decedent is at risk of paying a commercial price for it, depending on how the fanbase reacts.

  34. As far as I’m concerned, the Amber series ends after Brand tells his story at the beginning of the third book.

  35. J.W. Brewer says

    @Brett: Like Shiites with divergent views as to how many legitimate Imams there may have been (5? 7? 12? Other?), there are no doubt a plethora of Amberite sects with varying theories of how many of the ten books that appeared with Zelazny credited as author are truly canonical.

  36. David Eddyshaw says

    the sense that we humans are not really all that important in the grand scheme of things

    The scene I remember most vividly is where the human explorer first encounters an alien biological creature moving purposefully aboard Rama and prepares for First Contact.

    It ignores him completely.

    (While there are actual reasons for this in-story, it always strikes me as a highly plausible way for First Contact to work out in any case. It seems curiously underrepresented as a possibility in SF …)

    And of course it turns out that the cool starship is actually en route to somewhere else entirely anyway.

    It’s hard to forgive Clarke for spoiling the perfection of it all.

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