cover image An Event, Perhaps: A Biography of Jacques Derrida

An Event, Perhaps: A Biography of Jacques Derrida

Peter Salmon. Verso, $29.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-78873-280-2

Novelist Salmon (A Coffee Story) traces the life and thought of Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) in this precise intellectual biography. Presenting Derrida as a philosopher who introduced “a new way of doing philosophy, a new language” with his theory of deconstruction, Salmon examines the personal undercurrents of Derrida’s thought, including his upbringing as a “child at the margins” growing up in a Sephardic Jewish family in French colonial Algiers and the “fundamental ethic” of friendship informing his relationships with colleagues including Louis Althusser, Hélène Cixous, and Paul de Man. Salmon also considers the unusual level of fame Derrida attained, beginning with his emergence as the “new superstar of French philosophy” in the late 1960s, through the ’80s, as deconstruction became globally ascendant. Emphasizing Derrida’s “meticulous consistency of thought and method,” Salmon offers a confident reading of the most innovative of Derrida’s numerous works, including Speech and Phenomena and Of Grammatology, and his thinking’s major turns, showing how he drew on and questioned axioms of philosophy, from Plato to Sartre. Salmon’s ability to render the man and the mind behind Derrida’s “notoriously difficult” style accessible make this volume a rich resource for both newcomers to, and fans of, “one of the great philosophers of this or any age.” (Oct.)