The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

dialogue in solitude

Once again, why Spinoza?

When I was talking to Dime T. from Ohrid, Macedonia, one afternoon about parapsychology, he asked me: ‘Why do you think you are writing about Spinoza?’ Had it been a conversation with a philosopher, I would have said something like: ‘Because of his unique philosophy, because of his divergence from Descartes’ doctrine about God’s free will, and the body-soul dichotomy.’ Had I talked to a literary theoretician, I would have answered her: ‘I have long wanted to try a new narrative approach – to write a novel as a conversation taking place between the reader and a character.’ But I knew I was talking to someone who knew the truth even before I said anything. So I chose not to say anything (I later learned that he knew the truth even when I had forgotten it). I felt I had to answer his question honestly, but I did not know the answer. ‘You’ve been so lonely, Goce. Why?’ Dime T. said, answering the query, and carried me back to the time I seemed to have forgotten, where there still existed ‘the subdued sickness of pain’ (Kristeva).

‘A writer,’ says Vladimir Nabokov, ‘is born in solitude.’ He is not only born in solitude – he also exists in solitude. Writing itself is an act of solitude. Or perhaps a need to overcome solitude. A need for conversations. Hence this Conversation with Spinoza.

Hence Spinoza.

—Goce Smilevski, Conversation with Spinoza, pp. 135f.

It was a book I enjoyed, partially because it engaged absorbingly with Spinoza’s philosophy (which I should perhaps mention that I have never read and know nothing about), but also because it asks the questions historians and literary critics are always asking about individuals in the past, without presuming that the most seductive answer is any more true than another. For me, the lapses (lapsus) were situational – i.e. those moments (some three or four) when the author placed the composition of the novel (not of the life of Spinoza) in a historical context.


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