In 1944 Sartre wrote his famous play “No Exit”[1], where it was shown that “Hell is other people”. The Second World War had not yet come to an end and Paris had not yet been liberated. Sartre posed the problem of confinement and the others. The play depicted a single scene countering any possibility of thinking of a different place. In fact, Lacan argued with Sartre[2] – proposing the exact opposite – since for him there is no way out for the subject without the Other. Indeed, the great challenge – after the Great War – was that of a new society where differences could coexist, each one inventing their own world. In fact, in the midst of an era where the illusion of maximum liberties prevailed, Lacan also announced the return of xenophobia and racism. The greater the “universalization of science”[3] – what was later called globalization – the greater was the rejection of different groups. That world of differences in which many believed and defended until recently – and which we will of course continue to defend – increasingly becomes a single scene. That virtual world that seemed to open up a thousand and one possibilities to meet anyone, by any medium – Tinder, Instagram, etc. – begins to close. All “behind closed doors”. It does not matter if they are democratic paradises or authoritarian hells. Locked up with our closest ones to escape that stranger the other has become. However, the virus can also enter into that intimate confinement. Those intimates, with whom we habitually and paradoxically share less than with strangers, also become distant. A large part of the networks are today taken up with thinking and laughing about how to pass the time without our closest ones becoming hell. The virus of the unknown penetrates from all sides.

Each one of us could be incubating the unknown without knowing it. One begins to distrust what is happening to you. The heightened awareness of what is happening to you means that ultimately you become a foreigner to yourself. Finally, one attempts to isolate the body. It is the encounter between bodies that is put in question. Paraphrasing that political saying to emphasize what it is about: it is the body, stupid!!!! It is the body that has become a foreigner!!!

Science has led us to believe that we could dominate our bodies more and more, live longer with younger bodies. The virus does not differentiate social classes, races, gender identities, etc. It attacks – in its most lethal form – especially those who have the mark of the real of time in their bodies.

But as Lacan also pointed out and J.-A. Miller has emphasized: The body is that other stranger to oneself. “LOM has a body and no more than One”[4]. In effect, we will see what consequences follow from this event of the body in the social – where the pandemic reminds us at every moment that we have one. We will see, and not without the Other, if we can untangle ourselves from this irruption of the real body. If we can find a way out, beyond a vaccine, that does not lead us to new modes of segregation (“The Chinese virus”, Trump dixit). A way that does not imply segregation towards others and towards the most real and extimate that the parlêtre has: the body.


Translated by Roger Litten


[1] Sartre, J.-P., No Exit and Three Other Plays. NY: Vintage International, 1976.

[2] Lacan, J., “Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty”, Écrits, transl. B. Fink, New York, Norton & Co., 2006, pp. 161-175.

[3] Lacan, J., “Proposition of 9 October 1967 on the Psychoanalyst of the School”, Available on-line.

[4] Lacan, J., Joyce, The Symptom, transl. by A. Price, in The Lacanian Review, Issue 5, July 2018, pp. 13-18.