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Writing in the end times—the Guardian interviews Slavoj Žižek

Alejandro Abraham20 July 2011

Stuart Jeffries has profiled philosopher Slavoj Žižek for the Guardian. In the lengthy interview, Žižek talks about his latest book, Living in the End Times, his recent encounter with Julian Assange and puts to bed the bogus rumours about his friendship with Lady Gaga.  

"What would the Virginia Woolf burger be like?" he asks. "Dried out, topped with parsley, totally overrated. I always preferred Daphne du Maurier." He then launches into a denunciation of the pretensions of James Joyce, arguing that his literary career went downhill after Dubliners, and then into a eulogy to the radical minimalism of Beckett's Not I. Within minutes we're on to German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk's views on the Malaysian economic miracle, the prospects for Žižek's film theory course in Ramallah and Katarina Wagner's production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, in which Hans Sachs is depicted as a Heil Hitler-ing Nazi. One's task as a reader or interviewer of Žižek is rapidly to build a network of mental pontoon bridges to unite his seemingly autonomous intellectual territories.

On the Gaga rumours, about which the Daily Star reported that "pals fear the Lady Gaga's head is being filled with extremist ideas by Slovenia-born Slavoj Žižek " Jeffries rightly notes that "surely he might more plausibly have been corrupted by her extremist ideas?"

On the recent event with Julian Assange: 

His performance with Assange and radical American journalist Amy Goodman at the Troxy theatre in east London proved better - part pomposity-deflating vaudeville turn and part devastating critique of contemporary capitalism. "I have to subvert these events," he tells me afterwards. "The pious questions, the solemn speeches. My God, how can you sit through these things without wanting to make a joke?" About 40 minutes into the event he yielded to temptation and mutated briefly into Frankie Boyle

Žižek's signature method of combining pop culture with philosophical theory - mainly Hegelian phenomenology - proves particularly effective in our convulsive, ever-changing times. Jeffries describes his style as:

Marxist, Hegelian and Lacanian thought juxtaposed with critical analyses of cinema and popular culture in a sometimes appealing sometimes exasperating written equivalent of jazz improvisation.

Žižek ends the interview with an open invitation to imagine a new society by reconsidering the legacy of communism. Echoing the ideas of the book he co-edited with Costas Douzinas, The Idea of Communism, he assesses the possibilities for emancipation and discovers that even in our neo-liberal societies imagining a better world is still possible. "I am utterly pessimistic about the future, about the possibility of an emancipated communist society. But that doesn't mean I don't want to imagine it." 

Visit the Guardian to read the complete article.