To the list of objects inherited from Freud, Lacan notoriously added two new ones, the gaze and the voice. But one quickly took precedence over the other: as Mladen Dolar notes, "it seems that all gazes were fixed on the gaze, both in Lacan's own work and in a host of commentaries, while not all ears were open to the voice, which failed to get a proper hearing."
If, according to Alain Badiou, "there are only bodies and languages", the voice is that which holds bodies and languages together. Yet the voice does not belong to either. It is not part of linguistics: it makes the utterance of meaning possible, but it disappears in it, like the Wittgensteinian ladder to be discarded when we have successfully attained the peak of the signifier. But it is not part of the body either: not only does it detach itself from the body and leaves it behind, it cannot be situated in it, and its point of origin is structurally concealed. It comes from a gaping hole, an undescribable place, so that every emission of the voice is by its essence ventriloquism.
The voice comes from the innermost realm of our being, but at the same time it is something that transcends us, it is in ourselves more than ourselves, and represents a beyond at our most intimate. Its proper location is the Unheimlich, with all the ambiguity that Freud has given this word: the internal externality, the exclusive inclusion, the expropriated intimacy, the extimacy - the word Lacan uses for the uncanny.
The voice shares with all the objects of the drive a topological paradox: they are situated in a realm which exceeds the body, they prolong the body like an excrescence or an appendix, but they are not outside the body either. This is the topology of what Lacan calls objet petit a. The voice stands at the intersection of two circles, the circle of language and the circle of the body, it is the element that ties the two circles together, yet it belongs to neither. "This paradoxical location - the intersection, the void - turns the voice into something precarious and elusive, an entity which cannot be met in the full sonority of an unambiguous presence, but it is not simply a lack either."
The author revisits Derrida's hypothesis of the phonocentric bias, of the primacy of voice over writing throughout the history of metaphysics, and shows that there exists a different metaphysics of the voice, where the overarching goal is to protect the logos from the musical, feminine and joyful intrusion of the voice. The paradoxical topology of the voice, the simultaneous inclusion/exclusion which retains the excluded at its core, is used by Mladen Dolar in various settings: linguistics, metaphysics, ethics, politics and psychoanalysis. Just as it was placed at the intersection of body and language, the voice can be located at the juncture of the subject and the Other, circumscribing a lack in both. The topology of extimacy is also the basic structure of the political, where the letter of the law also calls upon the living voice to perform certain acts in well-defined and crucial situations.
A last word on the book cover. Taken from Dead of Night, a spooky movie where a malevolent dummy takes control of its ventriloquist, it reverses the usual pattern of the voice and the gaze, where the ventriloquist is supposed to concentrate his eyes on his puppet and to hide the movement of his lips. I am sure the author would have had many comments to offer on this image, but he leaves them to the imagination of the reader, who is therefore invited to finish the book through her own means.