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Volume 34, Number 2 (2013)

Normand Chaurette's Fragments d'une Lettre d'Adieu Lus Par des Geologues and the Žižekian Death Drive

February 20, 2014


Quebecois playwright Normand Chaurette’s Fragments d’une lettre d’adieu lus par des géologues is, like much of Chaurette’s theatre, preoccupied with the mystery of death. Five geologists are called before a commission to account for the failure of their expedition in Cambodia and the unexpected death of their leader Toni van Saikin. The causes of Van Saikin’s death (a suicide?) will ultimately remain beyond the limits of knowledge, since the incessant rain that plagued the mission destroyed all but a few enigmatic fragments of his writing and reduced his corpse to mere bones. In this article I seek to supplement existing analyses of Chaurette’s play by drawing on Slavoj Žižek's surprising reconfiguration of the “death drive.” I argue that Žižek's conception, a reworking of Freud through the lens of Jacques Lacan’s later writings, can bring to light what most distinguishes Chaurette’s engagement with human finitude, enabling us to reconceive the very relationship between symbolization and death in Fragments. Ultimately, this approach will locate a radical dimension of Chaurette’s theatre in its capacity to stage the undead supplements of a contemporary reality increasingly deprived (like the Geologists’ mission) of solid ground and stable structures.