‘At the risk of bedazzlement’ by Anne Dufourmantelle (translated by Jeremy Fernando)

[dedicated to — and with much respect and love for — my dear dear friends in Hong Kong
who are risking all for the possibilities called freedom]


Jeremy Fernando, shadow writing, 2019


Seeing, it is also — and above all — being able to cease to see. Closing the eyelids. No longer letting the world enter into one, closing the eyes, the curtain. Sudden quietude, twilight. Then reopening them and it is the bedazzlement. Very quickly, the mélange of light and darkness is created and the contours reappear, the world is put in place, it is the affair of a second — only an instant. The brighter the light, the more the bedazzlement is certain. But then, what happens in us, during that fraction of a second where we do not see, more by the excess of seeing? Are there moments where the psyche receives thoughts that are very vivid — that she puts aside for an instant, for once again some fraction of a second too late — to thus be delighted? Is that what one calls: delirium, hallucination, is it the moment where thought confronted with too much truth cedes and returns to the twilight, for not comprehending what in reality she knows about it? Thoughts without a thinker are looking out for the thinker, said the genius English clinician Wilfred Bion. What obsesses us is the remainder of a combat which does not lets itself be pacified.

Delirium speaks the too much of the real. Being able to see, it is again and also being able to not see. Closing the eyes in time, before total bedazzlement, blindness. The darkness reclosed. Delirium speaks the spilled milk, of palms of the infant grabbling a pebble, a cry, a terror without echo, two guitars in tune, a revenant phantom between deaths, forgettings, ignorings, without tombs nor names; delirium speaks the approach of a white hurricane, jaguars and wolves conversing on a divan. Exultation. Jubilation. Bedazzlement. Yes, it is necessary to be able to half-open sweetly one’s eyelids, let filter in the day, and letting the too much light pour in. Making alliance with terror and fear, containing the movement of escape and approaching its source. For, with terror comes also deliverance. The maledictions create deliriums and no one dares to ask: but what does delirium say?


She was drawing roses, roses entwined with long clear thorns which streaked across the drawing like a cry. And only roses. I looked at her drawing, and I remembered that a nun had once said to me that life is not a garden of roses.

« Evidently … I said, learning on the drawing, a garden of roses, that is special … »

The small girl raised her head: — have you seen one of those?
— Yes, in Morocco, a rose garden and not far from here too. But there, the roses had a scent, a heady perfume which remained with me.
— Ah! said the little girl, adding a little black at the edge of the thorn, you see there, it is poisoned.
— Really?
— Are you going to ask me why?
— I do not believe too much in why, I said, that is surely my problem.

The small girl smiles, indulgently. Her hand moves, the felt pen with it. A sun appears, a moon next to it. Just side by side.
— The sun, it is a star, the moon, it is a planet, says the adult.
— Yes, I know, says the little girl
— Really! You know that, you? I wanted to impress you; you see, it failed.
— Yes, it failed but I very much like how intently you are looking, so I am going to tell you: the poison, it is I who placed it there, to protect the rose, because she doesn’t know how to do so herself.
— One never really knows how to defend oneself no?

The little girl is alarmed all of a sudden; she is shaking:
— Yes, especially not against the birds, the birds which take them away into their nests and eat them before they have finished their time as roses …
— So, too bad for the bird if it is poisoned?, I said, a little alarmed
— The bird, responds the little girl, a little seriously, it is in my head, and in yours too, you knew that too?
— No, that I did not know, I will watch out for it.
— You promise?
— Yes, I promise.

The psychologist who had addressed the little girl announced to me that she had a psychotic state with occasional deliriums. The little girl was unbearable with others, a true demon. She had been un-schooled. Someone had posed a diagnosis of autism — but that did not stick. Too precocious, not mutism — au contraire, an impressive vocabulary. Parents, caregivers, did not know what to do. Delirium has no age. But, it is necessary sometimes that it is able to hatch in childhood, that it splashes a little everywhere its raw, violent, truth, that it comes in nightmares, drawings, stories, without which delirium returns to haunt the so-called adult life, entangling itself to one’s old nightmares. And as no one asks where it comes from, everything would very quickly end within four white walls of a hospital. Almost without echo.


Risking bedazzlement, it is sometimes coming to meet the unnameable, knowing that one will come out alive anyway. What becomes of trust in speech when she has been undressed, betrayed? Twisted, constrained, perverted? Speech comes like a dazzlement, exposing the bare life of terrors and dreams. It is the first combat, an exhibition against the terror of the world, opening the possibility of a sweetness without combat. Risking speech, it is sometimes the only act possible, when you have been abandoned, without help, when you doubt all love; the reliability of speech pronounced is then the last shelter. Much like when one murmurs in the ear of a frightened animal, very little remains of the words to unveil the space of recognition, which remains. It is then necessary to reinvent a language, a possibility of resonance, a first imprint.

Taking the risk to speak, in analysis, it is to hope that someone hears you … Despite the bedazzlement which one day grabs you, for having closed your eyes too quickly, too soon — faced with the unsustainable — and also for having reopened them. Seeing, rather than dying psychically, is a form of resistance. Looking for the shadows is only a medication of little fortune. Sorrow, say the English, is a mélange of sadness and disenchantment.

Risking bedazzlement, it is having accepted glimpsing the truth, a second, at the risk of losing sight, because it is the only place possible where one can remain in life. Also the only possible place against perversion and every lie. Too much light affects creation and love, which are of the same essence, their secret entrance. Whoever cannot be dazzled, and remains blinded, an instant, in front of too much or sudden light, a brusque plunge in the dark, cannot have access to delirium. By « access », I hear that sort of second truth (verité seconde) of which only delirium shares. Risking bedazzlement is dangerous because in that too much light or truth, there is the possibility of definitive, total, blindness; of life in a twilight besieged by phantoms. But there, is also the appearance of joy.



Anne Dufourmantelle, ‘Au risqué de l’éblouissement’ dans Éloge du risque. Paris: Éditions Payout & Rivages, 2014: 197-201.


Anne Dufourmantelle (1964–2017) was a French philosopher and psychoanalyst. She posits that risk is an essential part of life, an integral part of living, of being alive: for, « being completely alive is a task, it’s not at all a given thing. It’s not just about being present to the world, it’s being present to yourself, reaching an intensity that is in itself a way of being reborn ». On July 21, 2017, Anne died whilst attempting to rescue two children caught in dangerously turbulent waters off Pampelonne beach in Ramatuelle. Lifeguards eventually reached the children, who survived; but she could not be resuscitated.

Jeremy Fernando reads, and writes; and is the Jean Baudrillard Fellow at The European Graduate School. He works in the intersections of literature, philosophy, and the media; is the general editor of both Delere Press and the thematic magazine One Imperative; and is a Lecturer & Fellow of Tembusu College at The National University of Singapore.

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