Chapter Four: Reading in Reverse


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The Train

The Expressionist shot of von Waldheim—he becomes a kind of work of art. He calls out to Labiche (Burt Lancaster) from behind the way the curator called out to von Waldheim from behind; Labiche guns down von Waldheim just as the Nazis gunned down the civilians. In both cases, machine gun guns were used.

Is the z shape a cartographic shape—depending on perspective a Z that looks like a S of the SS.

End of The Train—corpses without coffins and crates without bodies—names of the painter stand for the contents.

Waldheim occupies this same peripheral or I would say paratextual and parergonal space.

Now we return to the backside of the frame.

You may have already been thinking about Schlegel’s fragment “

The historian is a prophet turned backwards” or Benjamin’s “angel of history” Benjamin’s famous gloss on a painting by Paul Klee, in Philosophy Theses of History

'There is a picture by Klee called Angelus Novus. It shows an angel about to move away from something he stares at. His eyes are wide, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how the angel of history must look. His face is turned towards the past.6

Derrida’s differential contamination interiorized and exteriorized in ways that lead to keeping tally, settling score, cashing it and gambling it away by choice

Making more—more money and more Jews—the joke temporarily defuses the bomb of anti-Semitism, the charge made by the Nazis that Jews are all about tricks and deception. Their identity is a non-identity.

This differential contamination—the Nazis identify the Jews as Jews not through the bodies but through the tattoos—German inscription allows Jews to read other Jews as Jews. So to make more Jews is to continue to produce the Jew as a reproduction, a fake, a mimetic of the real, a contamination of the real by the fake. Doubling your bets. Rien va plus.

Also a game—he scores—first the really hot woman is not a whore (whore not spoken) and also the woman who stays to have sex with him twice because he is an artist.

Question of sovereignty among the Jews—who decides who will live and who will not.

He takes the train to Sachsenhausen. Gets a double berth, with another Russian, also an artist.

Shit, shit, shit, bad paper dollar, followed by shitty life confrontation scene.

(Connect up paper and forgery not only to art forgery but also Schmitt’s critique of Jewish trickery and Spinoza and also money and passport analogy.)

In addition to the reversal is that we see parergon in one case and not in the other. In Raphael, the frame diappears. In The Train the crates have paratext—but none in the museum. Exreissionist shot makes von Wladheim into a modernist—he does’t think the art is degenenrate

The Train is better than Mr Klein becase now the Jewish body is entirely missing. Butthis means that resistance fighter and Nazi are in a faux pause, a kind of Z, a loop that goesback and forth between SNCF, tetrain that deported the French Jews, and SS.

Deconstruct this second opposition, however, because Mr Klein rings into view the way money itself is a problematic form of exchange in addition to paintings that has two sides—front and back, and that is linked with Christianity, the halo, and ant-semitism. See Marc Shell book. Coins, script, medallions.


End with return to Derrida on Heidegger and Shapiro. Turn to Derrida’s failure to analyze his dream. Derrida as Holy jew. Holy Jew cannot be wholly Jew. There are holes in the Jew.

In an interview with Ferrais, Derrida tells the following story:

When I was very young—and until quite recently—I used to project a film in my mind of someone who, by midnight, plants bombs on the railway: blowing up the enemy structure, planting the delayed-action device and then watching the explosion or least hearing it at a distance. I see very well that this image, which translates a deep phantasmatic compulsion, could be illustrated by deconstructive operations, which consist in planting discreetly, with a delayed-action mechanism, devices that all of a sudden put a transit out of commission, making the enemy’s movements more hazardous. But the friend, too, will have to live and think differently, know where he’s going, tread lightly.

Taste of the Secret Polity, 2001, 51-52

Derrida’s life as a film metaphor here leads to an account of a dream, a dream of deconstruction. But it’s something of a bad dream.

Ferrais then quotes from Levinas, who views Derrida’s deconstruction in a negative light. Levinas says that

“This is, beyond the philosophical scope of propositions, a purely literary effect, the new frisson, the poetry of Derrida. When I read him, I always recall the exodus of 1940. A retreating military unit arrives in an as yet unsuspecting locality, where cafes are open, where the ladies visit the ‘ladies fashion store’, where the hairdressers dress hair and bakers bake; where viscounts meet other viscounts and tell each other stories of viscounts, and where, an hour later, everything is deconstructed and devastated, Emmanuel Levinas, Proper Names, Wholly Otherwise, trans Simon Critchlety, p. 4

Derrida responds to Ferrais on Levinas:

A few weeks ago a friend of mine . . [said]: “Doesn’t it bother you? Look at what they’re accusing you of now. You’re like the enemy army!” At that point I reread Levinas’s text. . . he says, . . . that I passed through it was as if the German army had hit town, there was nothing left . . . It makes you wonder. It’s bizarre, I’d never looked at the text from that angle.. What is the unconscious of that image? And then the Nazi invader . . . it’s sort of like the Resistance dream we spoke of, but turned upside down.


Derrida is stunned by his own devastation, his experience of the deconstruction of his dream as a devastation. He pauses, can’t analysis or read Levinas.

Weber in fact exaggerates what Levinas “is saying” (Levinas makes no mention of Germans or Nazis). Weber is a good or a bad analyst, a good or bad reader of Levinas, but in any case his reading proceeds by way of trnslation from what Levinas says to what he is saying.

A strange kind of dialogue here, where only people like themselves talk to each other, as if stuck in mirror stages. That is the idea of peace here. The real is purely external to this mirroring. / , which is then given a response that Derrida terms an unconscious image that turns his dream upside down, reversing the binary. How do the train and film figure in this dream dialogue, this dream of dialogue, or bad dream of dialogue, or dialogue as a bad dream, dreamt by the Other.?

A totally different case here from Circumfession—here the circaanalysis breaks down into a faux pause. Train not on or off, not forward, backwards or stopped, not just a detour, or return but not a step, a false step, or misstep which is also nota step, not a standing in place but a pause.

I never write or produce anything other than this destinearrancy of desire, the unassignable trajectories and the unfindable subjects, but also the only sign of love, the one gaged on this bet (rather AIDS than lose you) and you try to calculate the itinerary of texts which do not explode immediately, being basically nothing but fuse, intermittently you see the flame running without knowing where or when the explosion will come, when the trance, anguish, and desire of the reader, quick let’s be done with it Circumfession,” in Jacques Derrida, Geoff Bennington and Jacques Derrida, . 199-200.

We come back to final destination interminable disterinerrance.

Two points.

  1. About cash and paintings

Frarom tattoo to failed pieta—to full house

Four aces, folds.

holy men and saints with halos painted in the margins. (1995, 38)7

That opposition is further interiorized and doubled I the film Die Falscher, the Counterfeiters where the Jews having arrived in a camp have their death sentence suspended if they will forge bank notes for the Nazis—so resistance becomes not forging, slowing the process down, as in The Train, but again we have the two sided piece of paper, the collusion of Nazi and Jew around forgery and art—forger as artist—as in Orson Welles’ last film F for Fake—Clifford Irving wryly observes that the crucial distinction is not between a forgery and the real thing but between a good forgery and a bad forgery. So that the camp itself is not a final destination—forgery is a means of escaping the camp outside, or of finding unbelievable life, a life both more than life and less than life, suspended while in the camp—still in transit as it were.

It’s an outside inside the inside job. It's a sort of bunker inside the camp.

It’s about work stalling rather than work stoppage. Or gelatin—letting it jell.

Marc Shell links the dematerialization of monetary inscription to what he regards as a parallel dematerialization of visual aesthetics:

The trend toward dematerialization as been a telling hallmark of twentieth-century economics as well as visual aesthetics. . . the relation between face value (or intellectual / metaphysical currency) and substantial value (material / physical currency) . . .The difference between inscription and thing grew greater with the introduction of paper money. Paper, the material substance the engravings were printed on, was supposed to make no difference to exchange . . . With the advent of electronic fund transfers the link between inscription and substance was broken. The matter of electronic money does not matter. (1995, 107-08)

The link between the halo and coins has a long history. As Marc Shell writes in Art and Money:

Just as aureole, or corona, means “halo,” so aurum, or corona, indicates “coin,” generally a coin of Byzantium or Spain. In this philological context, the visual resemblance between certain coins and nimbi … makes sense. Moreover, the colors of halo and coin are the same, the shapes (circles, triangles, and squares) are alike, and the various methods of denomination are similar. Further, halos appearing on coins frequently draw attention to themselves as numismatic objects. . . . some coinlike medals represent halos or partial coins. Many manuscripts include coinlike medals depicting holy men and saints with halos painted in the margins. (1995, 38)8

Any future is a future you will in one way or another have to back on.

A life beyond life involves an internal and external calculation of what is life and what is bare life. Accounts, accounting, settling up, settling scores, are inescapable. Reveral reveals that we are not so much between two deaths, as in Lacan and Zizek, but between two lifes or between life and bare life.

No end of extermination—except in the terminal itself—in the interval, maybe not even much hope, but still a drifting away from destination you are also hurtling toward, looking in a rearview mirror or backwards sitting on a train.

In Dutch painting, we are talking about “still lifes”

  1. Reversal is not just about the mirror and the backside, the hidden and the revealed, the inverted, the perfected versus the perverted. It’s also abut the frame.

And the backside, the going invisible of the frame and its non return—in the restitution exhibit as well as the lack of paratext in the Train, packing them in their frames. Inside the coffins, they are already inside. The possibility of deception—The Danish painter’s trompe l’oeil as a deception. It’ the only that actually deceives. Thereverse side.

The frame or paregon becomes invisible for Kant, according to Derrida, an aesthetic supplement outside reason but without which reason cannot be reasonable, separate from the aesthetic, the imagination, and so on. We may returns to Cornelius the trompe –framed painting—title—paratext here is the frame, the paregon. Or is always invisible as it frames, Heidegger’s neologism Ge-Stell in, a kind of pre-framing that never appears as such but which discloses a field of being.. This unframing is forgotten in the German restitution exhibition. This invisible remainder of loss goes unnoticed. Not a failure, an impossibility of avoiding the unavoidable. Restitution is not a matter of reversal, or reversal is a returning far more complicated than a backside and mirror inversion ora negative and print would suggest.

Valesquez painting—the mirror and the back of the painting—impossible perspective of the mirror, and the man in the doorway as well. So frame, unframed, doorway (blocked by a man who is leaving but who is looking back at us). If The truth in Painting is not in a painting, not in a singular painting; the truth and the false are both in and out of painting as a universal.

So there is something embarrassing here—the backside has to be left behind, forgotten—memory here works like Christian fundamentalist future.

As I said at the beginning, there is a relation to Freud and the hand, but perhaps now it’s left and right than off hand and on hand, not hands up and hands down, or hands on and hands off (all controlled or controlling), orders. I hope you can better understand why I just can’t grip on myself. Or me. Or I.

As well as the steps he takes and does not take in Beyond the Pleasure, what Derrida calls paralysis in Freud’s Legacy in The Post-Card , p. 337.Principle,

So we returnto the future, the promise, and the incalculable—the uncanny as s the suspension of settlement and resettlement now and in the future.

Also question about deniability and its limits Finkelstein versus Harvard Dershowitz, Deborah Libschitz, and Elie Wiesel. Any criticism is not only anti-Semitic but Holocaust denial-whereas for Finekselstein, insistence on singularity of Holocaust is the means by which Jews can cash in on the suffering of other Jews like his own parents , both of whom were in camps.

No question of "immoral equivalencies" or moral equivalences or singularity of the Holocaust—because it is already heterogeneous-the Jew Jew / non-Jew non-Jew.

Gijsbrechts, Cornelius: The Reverse Side of a Painting (1670)

Cornelius Gijsbrechts is little known and seems to have worked mainly in trompe l'oeil. (His 'Still-Life with Self-Portrait' is seen left). Dutch; second half of the 17th-century: that's about it. He worked for two successive Danish kings, who had a taste for pictorial tricks. He does his best but when you see them, they don't really deceive you. Only one does the business flawlessly...


Oil on canvas, 66,6 x 86,5 cm

Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

The scrap of paper with the number 36 on it gives the impression that this deceptive illusionist painting is actually meant for sale. It is therefore likely that the painting was originally put up at a sales exhibition as a practical joke.

Image displayed at its actual size of 26.2 by 34.1 in.:

“It’s always a strange, rather suspicious feeling when one thinks such and such is going to happen. And yet it is really quite as strange that we should ever be able to know that such and such is as it is—which no one ever notices because it always happens.”

Friedrich Schlegel, Athanaeum Fragments, 218

Freud letter to Fliess about his disvocery of the concept of repression.

Faux Pa(u)s(e)9

And in Mr Klein a Dutch painting (Renaissance) of a man looking at the viewer holding up a book, open, with a magnifying glass over a page.

This painting is sold by a Jew to an art dealer who becomes a Jew, and the painting first appears in reverse when sold. It again alter appears in reverse,

Then Klein will not let it be confiscated,

And when it finally shows up it is gain seen in reverse and finally in close up when we can see the magnifying glass clearly.
The Kleins family, according to the father, who is sitting in a wheelchair, go back to Louis XIV and are Catholics. But he says that there was a Holland branch of the Kleins and his expression suggests he may be lying when he says they weren’t Jewish.
There I plaque of gold medallions to the Kleins in the father’s room.
The medallions are like the currency—francs or not—used to sell and buy paintings in the film.

Fake passport, and so on.

Lots of repetitions—the close up of the girlfriend near the beginning of her mouth in a mirror as she puts on lipstick—recalls the earlier scene of the doctor examining a woman.

She is also seen in mirrors, and Klein’s exchange with the selling the Araiedne van Ostden painting is all off screen.

So female body versus Jewish body

Returns in the anti-Semitic Caberet scene with the transvestites singing (sound seems diegetic—no evidence of lip-synching, as castrato).

Some repetitions become odd clues, like gfriend mentioning Moby Dick in their apartment, and then Klein finding a copy of Moby Dick in the other Klein’s apartment, and filching an add or receipt for photos at a Photo shop.

Also the single white boot at the apartment and the white boots worn by women chorus girls in the cabaret.

Or repetitions of shots of Klein in mirrors, like in the bar where he sees the other Klein when it is really his own image.

But other repetitions are bizarre—like J Moreau ripping up the letter she pulls out of Klein’s hand and then puts it in the fire.

Later Francoise tears up the photo Klein had developed but he doesn’t mind because “I have the negative.”

The negative is reproduced when a guy on a motorcycle, meets Jeanne Moreau at night outside and Klein watches, his face reflecting in the window.

The negative itself is an image of doubleness and reversal—the print is the opposite of the negative.

Question of recognizing Klein, also of his other, and also of recognizing the Jew.

Stars worn by some, including the guy who sold Klein the painting as they are rounded up to be deported.

The voice-over at the end repeats and inverts the voice over at the beginning of the film.

Also repetition of moment when Klein asks seller of the painting if he’s not going to count the money and then he asks his lawyer Pierre if Pierre will ask to count the money and he doesn’t (“I don’t want to give you that pleasure”)

I conclude—the uncanny is not one thing—even the uncanny of the uncanny proliferates—so form incredulity—never one, but two in Spectral Evidence

Or we might add, along with incredulity, the incomprehensible—the perfect is in Christianity what cannot be comprehended by sight—faith in things unseen

And in Schlegel, two kinds of incomprehension, which quickly and from the start is a serious joke about irony impaired judgment.

And so we come to Faith and Knowledge

Araiedne van Ostden

After the frightful labor pains of the last few weeks, I gave birth to a new piece of knowledge. Not entirely new, to tell the truth; it had repeatedly shown itself and withdrawn again; but this time it stayed and looked upon the light of day. Strangely enough, I had a presentiment of such events a good while beforehand. For instance, I wrote to you once in the summer that I was going to find the source of normal sexual repression (morality, shame, and so forth) and then for a longtime failed to find it. Before the vacation trip I told you that the most important patient for me was myself; and then, after I came back from vacation, my self-analysis, of which there was at the time so sign, suddenly started. A few weeks ago came my wish that repression might be replaced by my new knowledge of the essential thing lying behind it; and that is what I cam concerned with now

“Letter to Fliess,” November 14; 1897; 278-79.

Derrida says restitutions is a ghost story—but the ghost is not the former person, he owner. The ghost is the missing frame, the detachment of front and back.

You see the Markat front of the back and the Makart front of the front. But you don’t see the back of the back or the back of the front, which would be indistinguishable as such, in any case.

So the revenant doesn’t quite return, or a ghostly remainder is all that’s left of the ghost that might otherwise haunt—turns haunting into haunting otherwise hauntology—hauntology of the missing body—work of art and owner. As well as painter.

1 Agamben at his best and worst in the “Biopolitics and the Rights of Man of Man chapter of Homo Sacer.

Bringing to light the difference between birth and nation, the refugee causes the secret presuppositions of the political domain—bare life—to appear for an instant within that domain.

Eschatological time, the future to come, the messianic, the time that does not remain, death as irreducible to “organic” death.

Biopolitics and thanatopolitics (142). Agamben’s default for bios is organic versus inorganic, but the essence of the human is technological. Media may be spectral, however.

Figuren, the term for dead victims used by the Nazis) means puppets, dolls, marionettes (the words corpses and “victims”). See Lanzmann film, part one.

Bare life is dead man walking, for us it is de (man walking.

He begins with the refugee (via Arendt) as a paradox that he then uses to deconstruct the ancien regime (the subject, in which both makes no difference to the subject’s subjugation to the sovereign) and the Rights of Man (in which birth opens a circle that the nation closes, transferring the rights of man to the citizen of the nation and in the process dividing the citizen’s into passive and active rights: the citizen to men who belong to the nation state citizens have passive rights, but only some citizens (not women, children, the insane or foreigners) have active rights (like voting in elections; naming law, etc). Agamben maintains that modernity, or biolitics, begins with the Declaration of he Rights of Man.
The refugee is a paradox: “The paradox from which Arendt departs is that the very figure of should have embodied the rights of man par excellence—the refugee—signals instead the concept’s radical crisis” (126)

“It is not possible to understand the ‘national’ and biopolitical developments and vocation of he modern state in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries if one forgets that what lies at the basis is not man as free and conscious political subject but, above all, man’s bare life, the simple birth as such is, in the passage from subject to citizen, invested with sovereignty” (128)

When the hidden difference [scarto] between birth and nation entered into a lasting crisis following the devastation of Europe’s geopolitical order after the First World War, what appeared was Nazism and fascism, that is, two properly biopolitical movements that made of natural life the exemplary place of sovereign decision. (129)

Fascism and Nazism are, above all, redefinitions of the relations between man and citizen, and become fully intelligible only when situated –no matter how paradoxical it may seem—in the biopolitical context inaugurated by national sovereignty and declaration of rights. (130)

Refugees . . . put the originary fiction of modern sovereignty in crisis. (131)

A kind of Catholic rhetoric recurs

“the hidden difference” (12(

“must never come to light” (128)

“fully intelligible” (128)

“we are only beginning to discern” (128)

1 More Nazi news: the Downfall youtube meme is disappearing b/c of copyright:,40314/

Also, I don't know if you've seen the new FX show Justified (modern day cowboy show: kind of like an R-rated Rockford files.  Really fun.) but last night's episode was a Postman Always Rings Twice-style murder mystery about a couple of art collectors who specialize in Hitler originals.  Kind of by-the-numbers for most of the episode, but with a really smart twist that I think is worth footnoting somewhere someday.  I'll keep the twist to myself so as not to spoil it, as I definitely recommend tracking it down online at or hulu or on DVD in a year or two or wahtever, but I can just summarize it for you if you'd like.  The ep's called "The Collection."

The above is form Jimmy Newlin.

"Hilberg died in 2007, and among the private papers he left to the

University of Vermont library is a box stuffed with materials about

his scholarly antagonists. Folders filled with Arendt clippings occupy

half of the tightly jammed container. There is also a brown accordion

folder holding two crisp copies of each of the five issues of The New

Yorker in which Arendt's study of Eichmann was serialized. Hilberg was

obsessed with Arendt's dispatches because two years before their

appearance, with the Eichmann trial under way, he had published his

own magnum opus, The Destruction of the European Jews, a multivolume

work that is still widely considered in scholarly circles to be the

first great history of the Holocaust and the cornerstone of Holocaust

studies. "No other book will ever be, by my hand, annotated to such a

degree," Claude Lanzmann remarked in 1993, eight years after the

release of his epic film Shoah. "A beacon of a book, a breakwater of a

book, a ship of history anchored in time and in a sense beyond time,

undying, unforgettable, to which nothing in the course of ordinary

historical production can be compared." (Hilberg is the only historian

to appear in Shoah, which documents victims' and perpetrators' direct

experiences of the Holocaust.)"


2 and Holbein’s Jesus in a Box; Marcel Duchamp’s Boite-en-Valise as Traveling Museum, Joseph Cornell’s “Duchamp Dossier” as the hinge linking the infra, see though surfaces, piled up on each other, and the box as resistance, back box takes us to the uncanny theology of attachments in paintings and books the reverse sides of medieval Renaissance paintings and books going up through Duchamp and Cornell—frame as question of secular and sacred, uncanny theological, attachment problem that extends from the missing Jewish body in the Train and these two films as well as the problem of Jesus in a box, of displaying the Christian body, the scourging in Man of Sorrows and the stigmata after the crucifixion, of having to detach Jesus in order to store him or transfer his image as revealed and resurrected impression.

3 Agamben The Open notes

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