The Post Card

Jacques Derrida, The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond
translated by Alan Bass
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987)
First published: 1980

I must note it right here, on the morning of 22 August 1979, 10 A.M., while typing this page for the present publication, the telephone rings. The U.S. operator asks me if I accept a ‘collect call’ from Martin (she says Martini or martini) Heidegger. I heard, as one often does in these situations which are very familiar to me, having to call ‘collect’ myself, voices that I thought I recognized on the other end of the intercontinental line, listening to me and watching my reaction. What will he do with the ghost or Geist of Martin? I cannot summarize here the chemistry of the calculation that very quickly made me refuse (‘It’s a joke, I do not accept’) after having had the name Martini Heidegger repeated several times, hoping that the author of the farce would finally name himself. Who pays, in sum, the addressee or the sender? who is to pay? This is a very difficult question, but this morning I thought I should not pay, at least not otherwise than by adding this note of thanks. I know that I will be suspected of making it all up, since it is too good to be true. But what can I do? It is true, rigorously, from start to finish, the date, the time, the content, etc. Heidegger’s name was already written, after ‘Freud,’ in the letter that I am in the course of transcribing on the typewriter. This is true, and moreover demonstrable, if one wishes to take the trouble of inquiring: there are witnesses and a postal archive of the thing. I call upon these witnesses (these waystations between Heidegger and myself) to make themselves known…

The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond (first published in English in 1987), (French: La carte postale: De Socrate à Freud et au-delà) is a 1980 book by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. The book focuses on envois (sendings). The first part of the book contains a series of love letters addressed by Derrida to an unnamed loved one; the love letters are sent via postcards that also become calling cards or telephone calls that one accepts or does not accept as poetic ethico-political signals. In the second part of the book these sendings are codeswitched into moments of telephonic thought that dial-in Socrates, Plato, Freud, Heidegger and Lacan who are all constantly rerouting missives between each other that often are never picked up or delivered. These gestures of calls and responses function like postcards or post-calls that are both private and public, both intimate and ex-timate texts that slide warmly into one another with ob-scene connections, emissions, admissions, and transmissions. The questions that are constantly bleeping and beeping on-line, within-lines and without-lines are to whom or to what are these sendings ultimately addressed? What addressees are being sought in the re-calls? Each message is sent off in a calculated postal game of chance with the aim of connecting. All participants await a response sometime later. Cards become lost in the mail or the call of the overall text is perpetually caught in the static of a line that never connects.

by Amy Sara Carroll & Ricardo Dominguez