Letter to Valérie

February 11, 1987


You have asked me for a text on absence, yet I must have access to absence to reply to your request. Experiencing absence and presence is not granted to everyone. Most of the time, we must confess, we rarely live in ourselves: it is in the body of others that we would like to place our body, our life—above all to be far from ourselves.

       All our lives

       We wanted to spend far from ourselves

       It dragged too much inside


       That’s all we can do

       We don’t want a body.

It is perhaps this “absence” of absence and of possible presence that I wish to talk to you about; for before being able to be touched by such things, we must yet emerge from this non-place, from this continual need that we have to live our lives by proxy while never being there, in the moment, in the act’s present; no-where that cannot be found either inside or outside of us. An intermediary life, so to speak, that can be neither emptiness nor fullness.

In this no-where, neither time, nor reality appear to have a hold. The padding is the finest material par excellence, like a recent song says.

It is already asking a lot of someone to be able to feel the absence or presence of of something.

The state of no-where allows us to at least glimpse that absence and presence are both threatening for anyone who wants to live far from themself, outside of time, in a parenthesis.

Absence and presence cause us to live our bodies too much. Both burn when touched. Both lead us to the Moment; to the present of the body and of thought; to the wound of appearance and disappearance. It is horrifying to enter this body of movements; horrifying, in short, to live.

If I tend to not separate absence from presence, it is because both lead to the same revelation: one can never rejoin one’s life.

Absent or manifest: where is our dwelling? On what can we lean? It is not nature that abhors a vacuum, but us. We who only know our impossibility to say where the true place of each thing is. Absence and presence are too real, are too there for us to accept them.

It is however in this throbbing, between appearance and disappearance, that life occurs. But do we really want to live? Seeking absence and presence is to seek what beckons within us; to seek what burns, what carries us into the distance created by our own steps: flight that continually gives us the dimension of the open.

All this is so opposed to our will to house everything: beings, things, animals… All that can be put into words, while we are, through absence and presence, the path of our own steps.

My kindest regards.


from Tout est Suspect Automne ’87, L’Absence II, pp 29-30