Prelude 3, Andréa Brunetto

The problematic of desire

Lacan insists that the problematic of desire is its “ex-centricity in relation to satisfaction”.[1] According to The Formations of the Unconscious, desire is ex-centric because it is always sliding, wanting at all costs an object that is never That.

The unconscious is an other place, foreign, which is manifested only through the blunder, the slit, as Lacan puts forward in his Seminar XI: a “larval zone”, “limbo”, “centre of the unknown”.[2] The erratic condition is unique to the human being immersed in language, grounded by signifying traits. This is his radical alterity. Lacan maintains that the subject is only a subject of discourse, wrenched from his immanence, condemned to live in a sort of mirage that does not only make him speak about all that he lives, but makes him live in the game between the two poles.[3]

The subject is established in one of his poles with signifiers, with his Wunsch and, in the other pole, where truth escapes, where it flees from the bottomless pit of a jouissance that continues. It is in this way that I understood “the game between two poles”. From this perspective, wouldn’t the paradox of desire be that of only being a semblant?

In Portuguese, we have a saying that is used in difficult moments: “if we stay there, the beast will take us, if we run, the beast will eat us”.[4] “To take” (pegar) does not signify “to beat” as in Spanish, but “to restrain”. The beast either catches us or eats us. Zeca Baleiro, the renowned Brazilian composer and singer who has a rather Lacanian style in the way in which he plays with words, is going to complete this saying by making a word game with the English tongue: “o bicho [oh beast] come. Come, back, again.” It is a version that is a little different from “your money or your life”, for the sexual meaning is more marked.[5] “To take someone” is an expression used for the sexual encounter, as it also means “to fuck”.

In connection with the verb “to take” (pegar), there is a hit by another Brazilian singer, Seu Jorge, whose song is currently played continually on the radio. The words tell the story of a man who is attracted to a friend of his wife. To complicate things, this woman is very beautiful, and feminine beauty touches his heart. Thus he lives a dilemma: “do I sin or don’t I sin?” He tells his story around this dilemma in the face of desire and questions himself on his position confronted with sin.[6] In singing, he plays with the equivoque between “to sin” (pecar) and “to take” (pegar). In the words of this song, the word “to sin” (pecar) is present from beginning to end but sometimes Seu Jorge sings “pego ou nãgo pego”, that is to say “do I take or don’t I take?” (Perhaps it is me hearing this equivoque that doesn’t exist? My Brazilian colleagues will be able to answer my question… or not?)

In the “sin” (pecado), harmatia in Greek, there is “lack”, as Lacan reminds us[7]—in the taking [pegada] (trait)[8], are we in the semblant of That?

Translation from Portuguese into French: Maria Vitoria Bittencourt

Translation from French into English: Susan Schwartz    

[1] J. Lacan, The Séminaire, Livre V, Les formations de l’inconscient, Paris, Seuil, 1998, p. 338. “The Formations of the Unconscious”, unpublished manuscript, trans. C. Gallagher, session of April 23, 1958.

[2] J. Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XI, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Ed. J-A Miller, trans. A. Sheridan, New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1998, p. 23. Translation modified.

[3] See J. Lacan, Seminar IX, “Identification”, unpublished manuscript, trans. C. Gallagher, session of December 13,1961.

[4] Translator’s note (MVB): In Portuguese: “Se ficar o bicho pega, se corer o bicho come”. The verb “pegar” means “to catch”, “to take hold of”, “to grip”.

[5] Translator’s note (MVB): In Portuguese, the verb “comer” is also used for the sexual act.

[6] Translator’s note (MVB): In Portuguese, “to sin and to take” [“pécher” and “prendre” in French] have almost the same sound: pecar and pegar. You could translate the equivoque with pécher and pêcher [“to sin” and “to fish”] in the sense of being hooked.

[7] J. Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book VII, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis. Ed. J-A Miller, trans. Dennis Porter, London, Routledge, 1992, p. 258.

[8] Translator’s note (SS): The translation of “pegar” into English via French is difficult here. In this text the French translation of the Portuguese is “prise”, which means taking or catching in the sense of a “trait”, that is a line or feature. The literal translation of “pegada” in English is “footprint”. I think that the link between the three languages is in the notion of the imprinting, or the taking, of a trait.