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This review is taken from PN Review 61, Volume 14 Number 5, May - June 1988.

Jean Baudrillard Cool Memories 1980-1985 (Gallilee, Paris) 125F

It is of more than semantic importance that the French language accords the title of 'philosophe' to categories of people who, across the Channel or the Rhine, would be no more than writers or teachers. Whereas in English the name has to be earned (and even then, modesty may prevail), the French have associated it, at least since the eighteenth century, with wit, brash opinions, and a certain avant-garde in writing. Baudrillard is prominent even in this respect, for where French thinkers often pass on Anglo-American shores for frivolous and light-weight showmen, more given to ruffling opinions, learned banter and punning than to sober exposition, Baudrillard suffers this fate even in his native land. He is the lightest of the light-weight, but anyone who can write on water or think in mid-air must have something in his favour.

The new book opens beautifully, with Baudrillard reflecting that there comes a time in life when one has seen the most beautiful sights one will ever see, lived the most intense moments one will ever live, and written the best books one will ever be capable of. What to do in the present? Cool Memories is not a recollection of those privileged moments but a recording of thoughts about the present (written in five consecutive Octobers), which start from that exhilarating void of 'the first day of the rest of your life'. Although he often speaks about melancholy, there is no sense of his struggling to make the best ...


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