Prelude 17, Colette Soler

Desire caught by …

While I was busy with other things, I had the crazy thought that desire “caught by the tail” does not take us very far – apologies to Picasso from whom I have borrowed the phrase. Not much further than the bed, the space of the embrace. For whoever wishes to go further, it must be caught in a different way. Mais comment? [But how?] “Just like that: “mécomment”.[1] This “mécomment” calls up speech and its topology, and entirely refutes any attempt at organo-dynamism, past or present, that of Henri Ey or that of neuroconductivism. Organo-dynamism is precisely what takes man in general by his organism and thus desire in particular by the tail, believing that it is “by the organ that the Eternal feminine lures you upstairs” as Lacan says pricelessly. This organ was sung, even bellowed, in the staffrooms of Lacan’s time. Those were still good times for psychiatrists who, since then, have lost their organ, I mean their voice, and for all I know the staffrooms don’t sing much any more. This is because the new organo-dynamism, even worse than yesterday’s, does not sing nor does it concern itself with desire but rather with what keeps every organ and everyone in good order.

Psychoanalysis is alone in still caring about desire and we are proud of this. Only, to desire is to be in “imminence” of castration. Whence the alternation of phases between the pleasure of the quest that contributes so much to the feeling of life, and the anxiety that brings back the real. Who then will deserve the name of “desiring par excellence”? Not the neurotic in any case.

Translated by Susan Schwartz

[1] L’étourdit, Scilicet 4, p. 27. Translator’s note: “mais comment” and “mécomment” are homophones in French. “Mécomment” is not a word, although the prefix “” denotes the negative. The emphasis here seems to be on the nonsense of what is heard in what is said.

Prelude 16, Susan Schwartz

Of Desire and Death


In 1947 a beautiful young woman, considering herself an unworthy bride for her husband to be, jumped to her death from the 86th floor of the Empire State building. She landed, seemingly unbroken, on the roof of a parked car. A photo was published in Life magazine soon after, and the image was seen to represent “death’s violence and its composure” as she “reposes calmly in the grotesque bier her falling body punched into the top of the car”. The image was reproduced many times in different contexts including by Andy Warhol in “Suicide (Fallen Body)”, 1962.[1] It is in the tradition of the much-reproduced death mask of the beautiful, anonymous woman, L’inconnue de la Seine, who drowned, presumed suicide, in the late nineteenth century. The mask, with its enigmatic smile inspired art and literature; it was an erotic ideal of its time.[2]

In 1846, Edgar Allen Poe wrote, “The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.[3] “Poetical”, because for him, a poem is only a poem to the extent that it excites; in its knotting of beauty, desire and melancholy, the death of a beautiful woman lures, fascinates but also disturbs. Why this effect? Lacan will say in Seminar VI, Desire and its Interpretation, “the object of the fantasy is the alterity, image and pathos, through which an other takes the place of what the subject has been deprived symbolically”: the phallus.[4] This provides the frame for his interpretation of the function of Ophelia in Hamlet, because for Hamlet, she is the conscious object of his fantasy and the “barometer” of his relation to his desire. Lacan speaks of her as “one of the most fascinating creations of the human imagination”,[5] one of the most captivating and most disturbing [les plus troubles].[6] For him she is a creature of flesh and blood whose suicide he terms “ambiguous”.[7] There is no easy relation between beauty, desire and death: the beautiful suicide has something of the uncanny about her, and something of the fetish too.

As phallus-girl, Ophelia is the object of Hamlet’s desire; as exteriorised phallus, signifying symbol of life, he rejects her and she is only reintegrated into the fantasy “at the price of mourning and death”.[8] In the death that produces a real hole she becomes the impossible object that reinstitutes her value as object in desire.[9]

For Lacan, Hamlet is the tragedy of desire and mourning, a mourning that demonstrates the closeness of the links between the registers of the real, the imaginary and the symbolic.[10] The relation of desire and death is paradoxical. Desire attaches the subject to life in its quest for more being, yet death is its condition: the corpsification the subject suffers as a consequence of its dependence on the signifier. “[D]esire is borne by death” says Lacan, and that is the one and only meaning of life.[11]

[3] Edgar Allen Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition”:

[4] Jacques Lacan, Le Séminaire, livre VI, Le désir et son interpretation, Paris, Éditions de la Martinière et Le Champ Freudien Éditeur, juin 2013, p. 370 (Lesson of 15.4.59). Translation in English by Cormac Gallagher can be found at:

[5] Ibid., p. 291 (Lesson of 4.3.59).

[6] Ibid., p. 357 (Lesson of 8.4.59).

[7] Ibid., p. 292 (Lesson of 4.3.59).

[8] Ibid., pp. 380, 382 (Lesson of 15.4.59).

[9] Ibid., pp. 396-97 (Lesson of 22.4.59).

[10] Ibid., p. 399 (Lesson of 22.4.59).

[11] Jacques Lacan, “The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of Its Power”, Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English, trans. B. Fink, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 2006, pp. 536-37/642.

Prelude 15, Beatriz Zuluaga

Ethics of desire

In the dream it was evident that the girl had been many years in front of that infinite window trying to finish the bunch, and that she was in no rush because she knew that death was in the last grape
 Of love and other demons
Gabriel García Márquez


Continuing this sequence of Preludes that precedes our Meeting in July, it is a fact that in reflecting on the theme that will bring us together for the VIII Meeting of the SPFLF, several paths have been opened up, different ruptures in the horizon of desire that are articulated to that “undecidable” which constitutes the very core of psychoanalysis: the analytic act, the end of analysis, jouissance, love, the relation between the sexes, and of course the object cause, just to name a few. The Preludes, like Saint John’s finger, point to a beyond, invite us to push “against”, to avoid the “doxa”, betting on that which seems of no interest to humanity. Regarding this, Freud tries, from his Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1915-17), Part II, “Wish-fulfilment”, about the dream, to transmit to his listeners the novelty of his discovery. But if the nightmare and the anxiety dream exist, where is the wish fulfillment Dr. Freud? Lay critics, Freud tells us, are keen to show him that displeasure is constantly knotted to oneiric activities, rather than the pleasure obtained from a desire denied in wakefulness. But behind the manifest content there is distortion and censorship; this is the novelty, Freud insists. Yet, what Freud showed the world, the novelty of his discovery that pointed to unsatisfied or impossible desire, heir of a mythical and unforgettable satisfaction, is of no interest to humanity. “Human beings, as you know, have an instinctive tendency to defend themselves from intellectual novelty.[1] There is no interest in the new, and even less is there a desire to know about what the real entails, Lacan will say later.

But in spite of this, the “paradoxes of desire have already reached a first elaboration in this sequence of Preludes; they foretell of a desire to say, or rather to half-say something about that real, product of our experience of knowledge. The real stalks our formation; not to take it into account could loosen the ties that allow this experience to be “distinguished from therapeutics, which is not only a distortion of psychoanalysis through relaxing its rigor.[2]

Lacan always warned us, “Knowledge is not made for humanity, for [humanity] does not desire it”.[3] Hence it is expected of the psychoanalyst to subtract himself, to know how to be that remainder of humanity. Concluding then: our true paradox is that of sustaining a desire which is neither articulable, nor nameable, for it only emerges in the paradoxes of the analytic act itself, in that space where we will gather together to make the bond of the School. Let us then hope for “satisfaction at the end” in the possible elaborations that will follow these Preludes, satisfaction that Lacan knots to the end of the experience for this “is no more than to have encountered that limit in which the problematic of desire is raised”.[4] This problematic is linked to our human condition, to a fundamental relation with death, for it confronts us with a tragic freedom, that of Oedipus, the one of having to face the consequences of having “known [sabido] about desire”.

The RV awaits us in Paris. We still have time to develop, to a-pproach, the theme that calls us. A RV that makes a new paradox, for in The Ethics of Psychoanalysis Lacan raises the question:what happens each time that the bell of desire rings for us? Well one does not approach it and for the best reasons”. Let us then go “against”, let us get closer to it, for we count on the desire that up to now has brought us together, despite the paradox implied in sustaining and speaking about the “undecidable”.

Translation by Gabriela Zorzutti


[1] Sigmund Freud, “Wish-Fulfilment”, Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, Lecture XIV, SE XV: 214.

[2] Jacques Lacan, “Proposition of 9 October 1967 on the Psychoanalyst of the School”, trans. R. Grigg, Analysis 6, 1995, 1-13.

[3] Jacques Lacan, “Note italienne”, Autres Écrits, Paris, Seuil, 2001, 308.

[4] Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book VII, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis 1959-60, trans. D. Potter, London, Routledge, 1992, 300.

Prelude 14, Ricardo Rojas

Desire-of-knowledge and Entzweiung of the Subject*

“Such, at least, is the way traced by neurosis for the psychoanalyst so that,
in truth, by its repetition he can bring it to an end(….)
This is something he could not accomplish except by supposing that désêtre (disbeing)
is nothing but the desire-of-knowledge. ”  Jacques Lacan[i]


The syntagma desire-of-knowledge introduces paradoxes. In The Symposium[ii] what is at stake in the desire-of-knowledge is the agalma, which can be read with the clues: being-of-knowledge and being-of-truth.[iii]. If the outcome is an effect of truth, it marks the primacy of the signifier where desire is a desire-of-knowledge, “aroused by a cause connected with the formation of a subject,”[iv] with its unfolding effect – Entzweiung – between being-of knowledge and being-of-truth, between the “I think” and the “I am”. Between knowledge and truth there is a hole, the object “a”, because even though the being-of-truth is the aim, the agalma, this trace that the analyzand follows in his analysis, is impossible to reach. The topology of the subject in his relations with these three terms:


The “First Version of the Proposition of 9 October on the Psychoanalyst of the School”[v] situates the analyst at the level of the “s” of pure signification that can only be determinable by a displacement which is desire, and where there is no other choice than it becoming the desire of the Other in its pure form as desire-of-knowledge. The function of the agalma of the Subjet-supposed-to-knowledge then is the way of centering what is at stake in the choice of knowledge in the moment of the pass, and stressing that the not-knowing is central.

The plus-de-jouir,[vi] is what answers the loss of jouissance whence was engendered an animation that is unfettered when joined to the desire-of-knowledge. “The truth is pure desire-of-knowledge” but the effect of thought comes under suspicion, because thought is not only the question posed regarding the truth of the knowledge – the great Hegelian step. The Freudian advance is to outline it as that which impedes access to knowledge, the point of failure of the “I don’t know” from where the unconscious emerges as a desire of knowledge with its dimension of the unformulable, just like in Freud’s dream “he didn’t know”. The truth that psychoanalysis interrogates in the unconscious as “failure creator of knowledge”, the point of origin of the desire-of-knowledge, of a censored knowledge, is nothing other than correlate of that failure. In the study of the relations between knowledge and truth, from the time he distinguished demand from desire, what Freud points to – Lacan tells us – is the designation of a place of incidence of a particular desire, the point at which sexuality comes into play as fundamental in the domain of the desire-of-knowledge.

The desire-of-knowledge[vii] does not lead to knowledge; rather it is the hysteric’s discourse that leads to knowledge. It is she who animates a man with the desire-of-knowledge. Whereas it is as object “a” that the analyst occupies the position in the discourse, that is to say, he is present as cause of desire for the subject, offering himself as the target of the analytic operation – crazy, we could say, paradoxical – in as much as the subject commits to follow the trace of a desire-of-knowledge that has nothing to do with knowledge.

On the side of the analysand there is more a horror of knowledge”[viii], than desire-of-knowledge which makes it different from the desire of man as desire of the Other. To the desire-of-knowledge is then attributed the desire to invent knowledge.

That is why the passant testifies to being in the service of the desire-of-knowledge even without acknowledging what he brings; the same happens for the  passeur who interrogates. A risk for both[ix] is that this knowledge is constructed from their own harvest. Because in other knowledges, such knowledge would not be given a place, it is rather this that makes one doubt that the knowledge of the passant had emerged. This is why, Lacan tells us, that it is necessary for a passeur to listen to it. That is, if one succumbs to the weight of other knowledges – for example, succumbs to the temptation of making what has been heard into doxa – rather than preserving the weight of the unknown, it ends up in a belief that the knowledge has not been barred. Hence the answer of the Cartel could be that they are not convinced of the end. Perhaps, to avoid this Verleugnung, it might be necessary for the participants in the Cartel of the Pass “to belong”[x] like the passeurs, to that moment of the pass, so that this particular knowledge that is outside the frame of other established knowledges can be listened to. And here we return to the epigraph at the beginning in which désêtre (disbeing) is nothing other than the desire-of-knowledge, (of knowledge) of the hole, hence the parenthesis introduced by Lacan, which we write (a).

Translation by Gabriela Zorzutti


*This Prelude is a reminder of the teachings of Lacan following the traces of this syntagma desire-of-knowedge

[i] Text dated February 3, 1969, Of a Reform in its hole, unpublished, Version of Patrick Valas.

[ii] In Seminar VIII, The Transference, Lacan sets out to decipher Plato’s Symposium, where he deduces the relationship of knowledge to the agalma.

[iii] It is in Seminar XII, Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis, that Lacan provides these clues which will reappear in the summary of his teaching in the same seminar and in Seminar XIII (lesson of 04/20/1966), in which he comments on the summary. .

[iv] See Lacan’s text “On a purpose” (Ecrits, 2006, p. 303) which serves as punctuation, in which he reviews the work on topology that he developed in Seminar XII, Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis, a seminar that along with the following one, makes precisions regarding the subject to which the conceptualization of psychoanalysis refers.

[v] In this text, which appeared in Autres Ecrits(Seuil 2001), Lacan develops the relations between the subject-supposed-to-knowledge and the agalma, with respect to the end of analysis.

[vi] It is in Seminar XVI, From an Other to the other, that he develops the notion of plus-de-jouir. During the entire seminar he tries to clarify what the knowledge, in the analytic experience, concerns.

[vii] Seminar XVII, The Other side of Psychoanalysis, where he examines the relations of knowledge and truth in the discourses.

[viii] It is in Seminar XXI, The-names-of-the Father/The non-dupes err, that he clarifies the relations with the horror of knowledge.

[ix] 1974-05-08 Note that Jacques Lacan addresses personally those who were susceptible to being designated passants, Published in Analyse freudienne presse, 1993, n° 4, p. 42.

[x] A Heideggerian expression developed by Beatriz Maya in one of her elaborations of her experience as passant and passeur, “Lo que pasa en el pase” (What passes in the pass) #1, Publication of the EPFCL-ALN

Translator’s note: The graphic has the word ‘knowledge” on the right and “truth” at the bottom.

Prelude 13, Manel Rebollo

What does speech desire?

What does desire signify? What does this word want to mean?

Put like this, with these words the question itself implies a desire of saying, a “wish to say” which assures that it is there, in the interstices of language where desire lives.

Even the name that Freud assigns it in German, Wunsch, does not arrest it in a signification; with Begehren, he finds another term, which, for all that does not exhaust its meaning. So here we have the secret of its indestructibility. One has to locate something to destroy it; and desire’s delocalization is obvious, taking up its residence, its Dasein, its presence, in the space between two signifiers. There is no place for desire in consciousness, only in the failure [insuccès] of the attempt through which it reveals itself as a not-knowing that knows [insu qui sait][1].

Lacan tried to locate it in various ways:

Through writing: at the level of the fantasy, between the line of enunciation and that of the statement, in his graph of desire; and again, between the “all” on the masculine side and the “not all” on the feminine side in the formulas of sexuation.

Through nomination: in a route, which passes rea-son-ably [rai-son-ablement] through das Ding, design, disbeing [desêtre]; he then tracks through new terms such as object a, surplus jouissance [plus-de-jouir], and the metonymic one, etc., through which he strolls about like a lizard in the hedgerows of the saying, losing his tail in each substantial modality of jouissance.

The product of language and the cause of discourse, every parlêtre tries to make do with it in his symptom. Thus, articulated in speech – but not articulable – in its playful wanderings among what is said it allows itself to be loved by subjects.

How then to catch it? Solely by the detour of interpretation, this saying of the analyst without meaning [sin-sontido][2] that will allow the desire of the subject to “reasonate” [“raisoner”] within a fleeting moment of knowledge in the locus of truth. So that this knowledge stops being the truth. There we have its destiny.

Translated by Esther Faye


[1] The punning of “insu qui sait” in French cannot be reproduced successfully in English.

[2] The neologism “sin-sontido” plays with the equivocation in Spanish between sense – “sentido” – and sound – “sontido”.