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Dense, difficult, and fantastically rewarding
on 27 November 2001
Do not approach this book as you would, say, a reader or an anthology of Derrida's work. This is a dense collection of essays, and at a glance you are liable to be overwhelmed, as I was, by his references, his language and his style. Alan Bass has done a tremendous job of translating Derrida's notoriously playful text, rendering it as clear as possible without undermining the complexity and intertextuality that is so necessary to its flow. This does not mean, however, that it is by any means easy to read. Be prepared to grapple with it and to be frustrated, to re-read a paragraph or sentence several times and still be confused. This is deliberate, although Derrida is not as sadistically obtuse as many critics have damned him as being. Instead, this difficult prose style is intended to make the reader examine the interplay between himself and what he reads, to question the authority of the text, to realise how much we take for granted when we engage in the act of reading.
If you have already come across Derrida's essay 'Structure, Sign and Play' and are intrigued, then this book offers the next logical step, but be prepared. Unless you are superhumanly familiar with the works of Husserl, Edmond Jabes and Foucault, then many of the references here will leave you running to catch up. Get past this, however, and you will find your conceptions about the world challenged in a way that they never have before.