Friday, July 09, 2010

Brown, Helen. "Slavoj Zizek: the World’s Hippest Philosopher." DAILY TELEGRAPH July 5, 2010.

The 61-year-old Slovenian who is headlining this year’s London Literature Festival is a Tasmanian Devil of a talker. Spluttering, lisping and pawing frantically at his face, he can spin you from Heidegger to Hershey bars (by way of Hitchcock and Hizbollah) in synapse-shortcircuiting seconds. He is, by turns, a brilliant and buffoonish critic of global capitalism. Once he winds himself into an intellectual whirlwind you just have to sit back and wait while he sucks up and spits out 21st century culture.

In the hour we talk topics include his “growing admiration for the works of Agatha Christie — she worked through every formula!” and his condemnation of the 3D blockbuster Avatar as “racist”. He locates “a wandering Jew” at the centre of Wagner’s work and hears a beautiful, minimalist communism in the music of Eric Satie. He points out that the “close doors” button in a lift doesn’t speed the closing of the doors, it is just there to give the user the illusion of action. Voting in a modern Western democracy, he feels, is much the same. He pauses to pant, sigh and throw up his palms. But he is not pausing now. A provocateur whose work inhabits the place where Lacanian psychoanalysis meets Marxist philosophy is going to have something to say about sex. . . .

Such passion, in a man whose work forms a shaky, cartoon rope-bridge between the minutiae of popular culture and the big abstract problems of existence, is invigorating, entertaining and expanding enquiring minds around the world. Žižek (pronounced Gee-gek, with two soft g’s, as in “regime”) has now written more than 50 books and seen his work translated into 20 languages. His lectures rack up hundreds of thousands of YouTube views.

A master of counterintuitive thinking and a man in thrall to paradox, he has been attacked for being a crypto-Stalinist defending terror and for spreading bourgeois lies about communism, for being both anti-Semitic and spreading Zionist lies. He is both a serious revolutionary and an absurdist prankster. An atheist who has made a spirited case for Christianity. His work has been published in serious Leftist journals and in a catalogue for US fashion retailers Abercrombie & Fitch.

Although he tells me “I hate students. They want to ask a question? ---- off!”, he holds two academic posts – as president of the Society for Theoretical Analysis of Ljubljana and as international director of the Birkbeck Institute of Humanities in London – and has starred in two documentaries: Žižek! (2005) and The Pervert’s Guide to the Cinema (2006). . . .

Read the rest here:

No comments:

Post a Comment