The Number and the Siren
312 pp., 5 x 7 in,
- Published: April 6, 2012
- Publisher: Urbanomic/Sequence Press
A philosophical interrogation of the concepts of chance, contingency, and eternity through a concentrated study of Mallarmé's poem “Un Coup de Dés.”
A meticulous literary study, a detective story à la Edgar Allan Poe, a treasure-hunt worthy of an adventure novel—such is the register in which can be deciphered the hidden secrets of a poem like no other. Quentin Meillassoux, author of After Finitude, continues his philosophical interrogation of the concepts of chance, contingency, infinity, and eternity through a concentrated study of Mallarmé's poem “Un Coup de Dés,” patiently deciphering its enigmatic meaning on the basis of a dazzlingly simple and lucid insight with regard to Mallarmé's “unique Number.”
The decisive point of the investigation proposed by Meillassoux comes with a discovery, unsettling and yet as simple as a child's game. The Number that “can be no other” can only be revealed to us via a secret code, hidden in the “Coup de dés” like a key that finally unlocks every one of its poetic devices. Thus is also unveiled the meaning of that siren, emerging for a lightning-flash amongst the debris of the shipwreck: as the living heart of a drama that is still unfolding.
With this bold new interpretation of Mallarmé's work, Meillassoux offers brilliant insights into modernity, poetics, secularism, and religion, and opens a new chapter in his philosophy of radical contingency.
The volume contains the entire text of the “Coup de dés” and three other poems, with new English translations.
A page-turner … I haven't read a critical book with such eagerness to find out what happens next for a long time. Beautifully produced and translated, a book every poetry lover will want to have in his pocket to read on bus, train, and plane.
TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
Meillassoux has added a crucial dimension nobody ever noticed despite innumerable “close readings.”