Gilles Deleuze

Desert Islands

Gilles Deleuze

“Geographers say there are two kinds of islands. This is valuable information for the imagination because it confirms what the imagination already knew. Nor is it the only case where science makes mythology more concrete, and mythology makes science more vivid. Continental islands are accidental, derived islands. They are separated from a continent, born of disarticulation, erosion, fracture; they survive the absorption of what once contained them. Oceanic islands are originary, essential islands. Some are formed from coral reefs and display a genuine organism. Others emerge from underwater eruptions, bringing to the light of day a movement from the lowest depths. Some rise slowly, some disappear and then return, leaving us no time to annex them. These two kinds of islands, continental and originally, reveal a profound opposition between ocean and land.” (p. 9)

“Islands are either from before or for after humankind” (p.9)

“We have to get back to the movement of the imagination that makes the deserted island a model, a prototype of the collective soul. First, it is true that from the deserted island it is not creation, but re-creation, not the beginning, but a re-beginning that takes place. The deserted island is the necessary minimum for this re-beginning, the material that survives the first origin, the radiating seed or egg that must be sufficient to re-produce everything. Clearly, this presupposes that the formation of the world happens in two stages, in two periods of time, birth and re-birth, and that the second is just as necessary and essential as the first, and thus the first is necessarily compromised, born for renewal and already renounced in a catastrophe. It is not that there is a second birth because there has been a catastrophe, but the reverse, there is a catastrophe after the origin because there must be, from the beginning, a second birth. Within ourselves we can locate the source of such a theme: it is not the production of life that we look for when we judge it to be life, but its reproduction. The animal whose mode of reproduction remains unknown to us has not yet taken its place among living beings. It is not enough that everything begin, everything must begin again once the cycle of possible combinations has come to completion. the second moment does not succeed the first: it is the reappearance of the first when the cycle of the other moments has been completed. The second origin is thus more essential than the first, since it gives us the law of repetition, the law of the series, whose first origin gave us only moments.” (p.13)

“The idea of a second origin gives the deserted island its whole meaning, the survival of a sacred place in a world that is slow to re-begin. In the ideal of a beginning anew there is something that precedes the beginning itself, that takes it up to deepen it and delay it in the passage of time. the desert island is the material of this something immemorial, this something most profound.” (p.14)

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About Michael Johnson

One comment

  1. Pingback: Gilles Deleuze – Constructive Undoing

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