Being and Event

Alain Badiou, Author, Oliver Feltham, Translator Continuum $36.95 (526p) ISBN 978-0-8264-5831-5
Two things are new in this much-anticipated translation of Badiou: the language and the preface. Both are instructive. Translator Oliver Feltham stayed ""as close as possible to Badiou's syntax"" but ""at the price of losing fluidity."" The logic behind this sacrifice being that Badiou's syntax does its own philosophical work; the unfortunate result being that many sentences, though elegant in French, are wounded in English. For example, this hop-along on Marxism: ""That the dialectic of its existence is not that of the one of authority to the multiple of the subject."" Thankfully, Badiou addresses such dissonance and his larger philosophical goals in an indispensable new preface-without which the 37 weighty meditations might be lost to the layperson. Even with the new preface, those reading Badiou or Continental philosophy for the first time might experience something intellectually akin to running into the ocean. (Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil is a slimmer, more accessible introduction to this novelist, and playwright and professor at Ecole Normale Superieure.) Otherwise it takes a miracle to understand the four theses of this work, organized as they are into a chevron consisting of Being, Event, Truth, Subject. Badiou is concerned with the potential for profound, transformative innovation in any situation. His approach is part mathematical (Candor's set theory), part rationalist (Anglo-American), part poetic (Continental) and part textual (11 legends of philosophy are confronted ""on singular points""), but his ideas are intensely rarified. Recommended for specialists.
Reviewed on: 04/03/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
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