Post #20 of the Art as Gift project’s reading of Jacques Derrida’s Given Time
A dissemination that destines the text to depart in ashes or go up in smoke (GT, 102)
The place from which Counterfeit Money, as a scene of gift and counterfeit money, departs, is a tobacco shop, a sign of the modernity that Baudelaire wants to apply “another’s procedure” to. Alongside this modernity is the older institution of tobacco itself, which “informs the essential decor of the scene.”
The two protagonists are linked by the possibility of smoking, of expending at a loss, for pure auto-effective pleasure, very close to the voice, this singular natural product that is tobacco. Rather than a limitless enquiry into tobacco, disseminated in smoke, Derrida contains his analysis within three rings: The Time of Woman and The “good hour” of the “Purloined Letter.” The final smoke ring is tobacco itself, asking:
What is tobacco?
Apparently it is the object of a pure and luxurious consumption. It appears that this consumption does not meet any natural need of the organism. It is a pure and luxurious consumption, gratuitous and therefore costly, an expenditure at a loss that produces a pleasure, a pleasure one gives oneself through the ingestive channel that is closest to auto-affection: the voice or orality. A pleasure of which nothing remains, a pleasure even the external signs of which are dissipated without leaving a trace: in smoke. If there is some gift—and especially if one gives oneself something, some affect or some pure pleasure—it may then have an essential relation, at least a symbolic or emblematic one, with the authorization one gives oneself to smoke. That at least is how it appears. But this appearance remains to be analyzed. (107)
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