An additional note on Departure

I removed this note from Paths of the Sea as it seemed to wander too far into my own research rather than directly addressing Gilles’s work—but it indicates for me some important convergences or syntheses to be made.


In relation to a gnosis which, without seeking to wield it and bring it to bear in a dialectical struggle, silently bears witness to a dissidence inaccessible from the inside of language and society, another figure of the post-’68 diaspora who deserves mention here is the French anti-psychiatrist and filmmaker Fernand Deligny, whose respect for solitude and incommunication was extraordinary.

Deligny’s sustained radical experiment in (de)subjectivation through his decades-long deeply humane work with ‘unmanageable’ non-speaking children in rudimentary encampments in the mountainous Cevennes region of France distanced his practice from any simplistic conception of resistance as nomadology or escape. However he continued to see in these children the hope and the resource of a silent, unilateral refusal of the world that had busied itself trying to ‘cure’ them.

Living with these children described as ‘outside-language’, in what he described as his ‘raft’ in the mountains (an alternative to the overly-administrated prison-ship of the asylum where they would otherwise be ‘psychiatrised’), Deligny’s practice was characterised by a refusal to try and assimilate, educate, or integrate; instead, his life and that of his volunteer colleagues changed modes, becoming anchored to the reference points (repères) around which the children spontaneously organised their lives and the wander lines (lignes d’erre) of their erratic daily walks (distinguished from any ‘line of flight’ by their close relation to territorial circumscription and reiteration). ‘Through the presence there of kids who have / no history / we unceasingly / recommence / history / from zero’ (Ce gamin là): do Deligny’s silent non-companions belong to the ‘“amnesic humanity”, a humanity without historical memory’ that Lardreau thinks will be left behind after the absolute revolt that ‘splits the world in two’ 1? Across the chasm Deligny and his companions patiently watched, without attempting to narrow the disparity or reach a reconciliation, ever attentive to possible crossing points or fords between the human ‘customary’ and the wander lines that might afford access to a real shared with the hors-langages, or allow it to touch them—something like the human-nothing-but-human real of which Laruelle and Grelet speak? ‘[T]he human is there / perhaps / quite simply / without there being any “someone” there as a point of reference’ (Cahiers de l’Immuable I [1975]); ‘By dint of tracing / the wander lines / […] we managed to see a little / of that which is / regardless of us […] / that which the blind gaze of the speaking / has great difficulty in seeing […] we / to tell the truth / quite distraught / but tenacious / they would surely end up perceiving / that we were / there / […] made of flesh and blood and / of something other than language’ (Ce gamin là).

Tracing out the errant lines of his silent companions whose mode of being, he insists, bears the trace of something anterior to the socialised human, Deligny found that the wander lines continually returned to…running water.

None of this is to assimilate Grelet’s solitary endeavour to (a now overmedicalised) autism, but it may suggest that the understanding and advocacy of ‘neurodivergence’ as something other than pathology is one contemporary avatar of the radical refusal of the world.

  1. Hallward, ‘Reason and Revolt’, 19, quoting Lardreau’s 1973 Le Singe d’or