More than fifteen years ago, Jacques Derrida writes in the prologue to this remarkable and uniquely revealing book, a phrase came to me, as though in spite of me. . . . It imposed itself upon me with the authority, so discreet and simple it was, of a judgment: cinders there are ("il y a la cendre"). . . . I had to explain myself to it, respond to it or for it.
In "Cinders" Derrida ranges across his work from the previous twenty years and discerns a recurrent cluster of arguments and images, all involving in one way or another ashes and cinders. For Derrida, cinders or ashes at once fragile and resilient are the better paradigm for what I call the trace something that erases itself totally, radically, while presenting itself.
In a style that is both highly condensed and elliptical, "Cinders" offers probing reflections on the relation of language to truth, writing, the voice, and the complex connections between the living and the dead. It also contains some of his most essential elaborations of his thinking on the feminine and on the legacy of the Holocaust (both a word from the Greek "holos," whole, and "kaustos," burnt and a historical event that invokes ashes) in contemporary poetry and philosophy. In turning from the texts of other philosophers to his own, "Cinders" enables readers to follow the trajectory from Derrida s early work on the trace, the gramma, and the voice to his later writings on life, death, time, and the spectral.
Among the most accessible of this renowned philosopher s many writings, "Cinders" is an evocative and haunting work of poetic self-analysis that deepens our understanding of Derrida s critical and philosophical vision.