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The Future Lasts Forever: A Memoir

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On November 16, 1980, Louis Althusser, while massaging his wife's neck, discovered that he had strangled her. The world-renowned French philosopher was immediately confined to an insane asylum where he authored this memoir--a profound yet subtle exercise in documenting madness from the inside. On November 16, 1980, Louis Althusser, while massaging his wife's neck, discovered that he had strangled her. The world-renowned French philosopher was immediately confined to an insane asylum where he authored this memoir--a profound yet subtle exercise in documenting madness from the inside.


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On November 16, 1980, Louis Althusser, while massaging his wife's neck, discovered that he had strangled her. The world-renowned French philosopher was immediately confined to an insane asylum where he authored this memoir--a profound yet subtle exercise in documenting madness from the inside. On November 16, 1980, Louis Althusser, while massaging his wife's neck, discovered that he had strangled her. The world-renowned French philosopher was immediately confined to an insane asylum where he authored this memoir--a profound yet subtle exercise in documenting madness from the inside.

30 review for The Future Lasts Forever: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alex Kurtagic

    Honesty is the best policy, it is said, but when you style yourself an intellectual who writes in earnest, and you are not only a fraud, but also have severe mental health problems, there is an argument for keeping silent. This autobiography, which reminds one of Rousseau's Confessions (albeit without the charm), is perhaps Althusser's finest piece of writing—although less because of its literary qualities or the insights it offers into his contemporaries than because it will completely prevent Honesty is the best policy, it is said, but when you style yourself an intellectual who writes in earnest, and you are not only a fraud, but also have severe mental health problems, there is an argument for keeping silent. This autobiography, which reminds one of Rousseau's Confessions (albeit without the charm), is perhaps Althusser's finest piece of writing—although less because of its literary qualities or the insights it offers into his contemporaries than because it will completely prevent anyone who reads it from ever taking him seriously again. Althusser documents his troubled relationship with his father; his creepy relationship with his mother; his deep insecurity; his recurrent struggles with depression; his broken marriage (the wife was also disturbed); and his struggles with mental illness, thanks to which he spent much of his adult life in and out of psychiatric hospitals and eventually resulted in his murdering his wife during a psychotic episode. A committed, dues-paying communist, his writing was ideological and primarily concerned with the politics and divisions within the Communist Party. To the horror of his admirers, he openly admits to having been poorly read, an academic fraud, and a coward. His life was grim—grey, miserable, joyless, humourless, and spent in bad company. A very instructive volume, but I was glad when it was over.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ade Bailey

    In 1980 the philosopher strangled his wife. After a lifetime of mental illness, he was found unfit to plead and sent once more to an asylum. This autobiography gives his side of things. I am 200 or so pages in, and promise you it's a fascinating read. By this stage of his book he is discussing his philosophy. Many of the details I have to ignore - such as many references to names and publications around the 1968 Paris events - but the general thrust of his relationship with Marxism and theory is In 1980 the philosopher strangled his wife. After a lifetime of mental illness, he was found unfit to plead and sent once more to an asylum. This autobiography gives his side of things. I am 200 or so pages in, and promise you it's a fascinating read. By this stage of his book he is discussing his philosophy. Many of the details I have to ignore - such as many references to names and publications around the 1968 Paris events - but the general thrust of his relationship with Marxism and theory is accessible. Even if you read this only for the quality of its writing, the author's beautiful and profound contemplation of his self as a psychological entity, with its heavy freudian/Lacanian envelope, you will love it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    gogo2go

    This book although quite good really lasts forever

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    The class on Althusser was being offered my first semester of graduate school. I did not know who he was and I could not parse the course description. The course turned out to be quite controversial--I guess cause LA was also controversial. So twenty years later, after reading Marx and LA's students- Foucault and Ranciere (I did not realize was one of LA's students until I read it in the memoir) I got around to reading the theorist and wife killer. I think that my experience with psychiatry and i The class on Althusser was being offered my first semester of graduate school. I did not know who he was and I could not parse the course description. The course turned out to be quite controversial--I guess cause LA was also controversial. So twenty years later, after reading Marx and LA's students- Foucault and Ranciere (I did not realize was one of LA's students until I read it in the memoir) I got around to reading the theorist and wife killer. I think that my experience with psychiatry and institutions made my reading of LA's memoir more rich. Althusser's narrative of himself is authentic. The way he wrote about his wife and what she meant to him was some what beautiful. He always knows that he killed her, but he tells a story that tries he uses to try to explain why he did it. But the narrative is also trying to help him understand his fears and anguish. LA clearly suffers and many times met the criteria for involuntary treatment, though he always says he wanted to go. He was voluntary and he voluntarily submitted to ECT. He says he found it helpful. Because LA wrote a memoir in 1975 that is also included with the one he wrote after he murdered his wife, both narratives can be compared. Both narratives have a consistent psychoanalytic interpretation that revolves around his mother and feeling like he really does not exist. Both narrative emphasize his lack of sexual experience until his late 20' or early 30's. Both narrative pay tribute to the role his wife Helene played in his life. This is why though all narratives of self are ultimately self serving, LA post murder narrative is not so different in content. I think the post murder narrative is more fluid and coherent. The post murder, LA describes the problems associated with being found incompetent to stand trial and long term institutionalization. He gives a good analysis of the communist party in France and what is has to offer future community organizers. Both narratives describe the people LA knew at the l'Ecole.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    I would like to think I’ve heard of this guy before, but it rings no bells. This is a great memoir. Even if you skip around, it is a good read. Althusser is a French philosopher who wrote about Marx (yawn, now I know why I never heard of him…). He was ready to go to college right when the war began, and ended up spending five years as a p.o.w., then starting his academic career. He went to college and never left, staying as a teacher and professional until the awful end. He is a provocative, color I would like to think I’ve heard of this guy before, but it rings no bells. This is a great memoir. Even if you skip around, it is a good read. Althusser is a French philosopher who wrote about Marx (yawn, now I know why I never heard of him…). He was ready to go to college right when the war began, and ended up spending five years as a p.o.w., then starting his academic career. He went to college and never left, staying as a teacher and professional until the awful end. He is a provocative, colorful person who has bouts of depression and at times a contentious relationship with his eventual victim, his wife. In 1980, he strangled her and “got away it” with it because he always was a bit crazy. And, some say, the French government is soft on intellectuals. Most of this book is what he wrote the couple of years he was in a mental hospital after the murder. He was eventually released and lived a few more years more. If I had married that Philosophy professor (prince of all boyfriends) I might have knowledge of what phrases such as “dialectic of nature” and “notion of praxus” mean. But never mind, there is some good stuff and there is always a minute or two when my mind gets something…And LA does explain things pretty well at points. In addition to absorbing accounts of his various depressive episodes, he spins long paragraphs describing the bad side of his relationship with his wife. Many of his friends blamed her for being such a wretch, but he takes full responsibility for his horrible behavior. In the end, just another miserable match, but he loved her and needed her. Until he killed her, which he doesn't deny. He tells a good story, and even if some of the stories cannot be fully believed, all the better. He’d been a great novelist, I think. Better than Sartre, anyway.

  6. 4 out of 5

    William West

    This volume actually contains two autobiographical writings by Althusser written several years apart, between which the philosopher strangled his wife to death in a bout of madness. The two pieces, which predictably recount many of the same events from the author's life, are haunting to read next to each other. They seem to confirm Woody Allen's pronouncement that any tale can be either a comedy or a tragedy based on the tone with which it is told. "The Facts", the earlier work, reads like a cha This volume actually contains two autobiographical writings by Althusser written several years apart, between which the philosopher strangled his wife to death in a bout of madness. The two pieces, which predictably recount many of the same events from the author's life, are haunting to read next to each other. They seem to confirm Woody Allen's pronouncement that any tale can be either a comedy or a tragedy based on the tone with which it is told. "The Facts", the earlier work, reads like a charmingly comic and self-deprecating novella, in which Althusser nonetheless confronts his madness by describing his most grandiose delusions- he at one point believed he had robbed a bank, stolen a jet, and advised the Pope- as legitimate facts of his life. As he writes in the latter work, "hallucinations are facts" for those who experience them. The later, longer text from which the volume takes its title is an excruciating self-interrogation with nary a humorous line. At times, it is hard to take. Some of Althusser's complaints about his parents and upbringing just seem like so much ugly self-pity. The tale becomes vastly more compelling after Althusser meets his wife Helene, who becomes a wonderfully intriguing, terribly trying character, somewhat reminiscent, I thought, of Nicole from "Tender is the Night". All of the agony is broken by a few chapters, roughly in the middle of "Future", where Althusser discusses his philosophy in a wonderfully lucid, accessible way. One senses the succor of intellectual labor for the author. It is like the reader adopts Althusser's depression, and when the light of philosophy comes, it is beautiful and uplifting. The last section of "Future" comes to the conclusion that Helene's death cannot be understood as the result of any one fact, be it objective or psychological, but was rather the overdetermined result of a web of contingent factors. In that, this book seems like a classically Althusserian meditation.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mr.

    Althusser became one of the most respected and interesting philosophers of Marxism in France during the 1950's and 60's, which is no small accomplishment considering the fact that practically every intellectual was writing about Marx at the same time. In all honesty, I find his work to be of rather mixed value. I have found his structuralist interpretations of Capital to be extremely insightful, as well as his work on Marx's 'epistemological break,' though his Freudian and Lacanian readings of M Althusser became one of the most respected and interesting philosophers of Marxism in France during the 1950's and 60's, which is no small accomplishment considering the fact that practically every intellectual was writing about Marx at the same time. In all honesty, I find his work to be of rather mixed value. I have found his structuralist interpretations of Capital to be extremely insightful, as well as his work on Marx's 'epistemological break,' though his Freudian and Lacanian readings of Marx suffer from the kind of overwrought intellectualizing that was fashionable at the time. However, this memoir is an extraordinary read. We are given painful descriptions of his struggle with bipolar disorder, culminating infamously with the murder of his wife during an hallucinatory episode. Althusser does not apologize for this terrible action, but he does attempt to explain it. He maintains that the killing of his wife was the manifestation of a kind of "suicide via a third party," if you will. For those who worry about the apparent morbidity of this material, the memoir also includes excellent commentary on his political involvements such as his work with the French Communist Party as well as reflections on the May uprising of 68. We are also provided wonderful reflections on private conversations with intellectual giants like Foucault. An excellent read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chris Radjenovich

    "So, despite its dramas, life can still be beautiful. I am sixty-seven, and though it will soon all be over, I feel younger now than I have ever done, never having had any youth since no one love me for myself. Yes, the future lasts a long time." How is it possible to evoke emotions of awe and disgust at the same time? Written four years after the murder of his wife, Althusser goes on to reflect on the factors that led to him doing it, though he encourage readers to "judge the results for themsel "So, despite its dramas, life can still be beautiful. I am sixty-seven, and though it will soon all be over, I feel younger now than I have ever done, never having had any youth since no one love me for myself. Yes, the future lasts a long time." How is it possible to evoke emotions of awe and disgust at the same time? Written four years after the murder of his wife, Althusser goes on to reflect on the factors that led to him doing it, though he encourage readers to "judge the results for themselves" since he writes the book for his own use, since he realized he was damned either way (as a criminal or a paranoid schizophrenic). Moreover, he reflected on his life vis-a-vis The Communist Party of France, May 68', and his philosophical life. It's bound to offend some as a "justification" for what he's done, but Althusser himself knew this.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Even knowing that this book was about Althusser's madness, I found it hard to anticipate just how batshit crazy it would be. Althusser says, for instance, that the happiest time of his life were the five years he spent interred in a German prisoner of war camp during World War II. He also spent time in mental hospitals; one was extremely noisy, so he mashed bread up into tiny, hard balls and shoved them in his ears to drown out the noise, because, sure, any adult would think that's a great idea; Even knowing that this book was about Althusser's madness, I found it hard to anticipate just how batshit crazy it would be. Althusser says, for instance, that the happiest time of his life were the five years he spent interred in a German prisoner of war camp during World War II. He also spent time in mental hospitals; one was extremely noisy, so he mashed bread up into tiny, hard balls and shoved them in his ears to drown out the noise, because, sure, any adult would think that's a great idea; we've all been there, right? Then the bread started to rot, which caused horrible ear infections. So he told the doctors that the rotting bread in his ears was giving him unbearable headaches without adequately explaining the logic that led him to put bread in his ears, and the doctors thought, "This is more insanity; the guy does not have rotting bread in his ears," but eventually he had to have surgery, because he was the sort of person who thought it was a good idea to put tiny hard balls of bread in his ears but couldn't convey that to anyone else, despite supposedly being an intellectual genius whose ideas about how the world works the rest of us should learn from. The stuff about the murder of his wife, Helene Rytmann.... Althusser claimed that murdering her was an act of love, because hey, that's how men show women they love them, right? It's so revoltingly misogynist (as is the entire book), anti-semitic, and self-justifying. I can't describe it. Words fail.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kiriluu

    This is a sordid, disturbing, occasionally hesitant & occasionally patronising, heavy and suspicious first-hand account of the life of the notorious Louis Althusser. It undoubtedly tells a very tragic story, and perhaps it is cruel to approach him so mercilessly; but it would not be fair to do otherwise. The writing is transparent & generous, and it is in style of Althusser to "lay his cards on the table" as soon as possible. In this sense, not one page is spent with page-filler anecdotes and ma This is a sordid, disturbing, occasionally hesitant & occasionally patronising, heavy and suspicious first-hand account of the life of the notorious Louis Althusser. It undoubtedly tells a very tragic story, and perhaps it is cruel to approach him so mercilessly; but it would not be fair to do otherwise. The writing is transparent & generous, and it is in style of Althusser to "lay his cards on the table" as soon as possible. In this sense, not one page is spent with page-filler anecdotes and marketable gossip: it is 300+ pages of dense, analytic apologia, likes of which can rarely be found in the corpus of this genre. It is up to the reader to form their own opinions about the ultimate object of this book, the murder of Helene Rytmann. If one thing is certain, that is the impossibility of approaching The Future Lasts Forever with a tragic sympathy: that Althusser dissipates at every turn. NOTE: The last chapter of the first book should be read as Althusser's "formal" self-defence. It is an almost pathetic attempt to yield a mystery. He should have known much better that left alone, that mystery would have made itself known to the reader one way or the other.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alejandro Casares

    Althusser, después de haber asesinado a su esposa, fue declarado "loco", con lo que le quitaron la opción de explicarse ante el jurado. Estas memorias buscan, desde la infancia y hasta la vejez, las razones para el asesinato. La lucidez de Althusser y el profundo análisis de sus traumas no son de ningún loquito. Es un tipo brillante con una capacidad analítica increíble, una pizca de humor negro y el talento para transmitir la esencia de sus traumas. Disfruté mucho con la lectura. Althusser, después de haber asesinado a su esposa, fue declarado "loco", con lo que le quitaron la opción de explicarse ante el jurado. Estas memorias buscan, desde la infancia y hasta la vejez, las razones para el asesinato. La lucidez de Althusser y el profundo análisis de sus traumas no son de ningún loquito. Es un tipo brillante con una capacidad analítica increíble, una pizca de humor negro y el talento para transmitir la esencia de sus traumas. Disfruté mucho con la lectura.

  12. 4 out of 5

    jose coimbra

    "[...] Por que, afinal, Cézanne pintou a montanha Sainte-Victoire a cada instante? É porque a luz de cada instante é um presente. "Então, a vinda ainda pode, apesar de seus dramas, ser bela. Tenho sessenta e sete anos, mas finalmente sinto-me, eu que não tive juventude, pois não fui amado por mim mesmo, sinto-me jovem como nunca, ainda que a história deva acabar brevemente. "Sim, o futuro então dura muito tempo". "[...] Por que, afinal, Cézanne pintou a montanha Sainte-Victoire a cada instante? É porque a luz de cada instante é um presente. "Então, a vinda ainda pode, apesar de seus dramas, ser bela. Tenho sessenta e sete anos, mas finalmente sinto-me, eu que não tive juventude, pois não fui amado por mim mesmo, sinto-me jovem como nunca, ainda que a história deva acabar brevemente. "Sim, o futuro então dura muito tempo".

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katarzyna

    First book ever recommended to me by my husband. Reading it since 2014.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Will Patterson

    Exhibit A of psychoanalysis not working

  15. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    A self involved neurotic attempts objectivity. Strange sexual anxiety recounted with an intellectual rigor that betrays its own weaknesses. A mind trying and failing to wrap around itself.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Moos

    "I also experienced extreme anguish and repulsion at the idea that someone wanted to 'get their hands on me'. What I feared above all was scheming women....As a precaution I even resorted on occasion to insane remarks and ripostes. For example, I once replied to a young woman who wrote declaring her love, which I had been aware of for some time: 'I detest being loved!' which was completely untrue but which signified; I detest anyone taking the initiative in this respect....I am referring to myse "I also experienced extreme anguish and repulsion at the idea that someone wanted to 'get their hands on me'. What I feared above all was scheming women....As a precaution I even resorted on occasion to insane remarks and ripostes. For example, I once replied to a young woman who wrote declaring her love, which I had been aware of for some time: 'I detest being loved!' which was completely untrue but which signified; I detest anyone taking the initiative in this respect....I am referring to myself personally as an individual and not as a philosopher- in relation to my mad desire to love, of which I felt, knew even i was incapable.' "Seduction and provocation; the two naturally went together....I was immediately and irresistibly seductive and successful...Of course I compensated for these rash and crazy advances and the anxiety they caused by going over the top, investing emotionally in the situation and convincing myself i was really and madly in love. Thus, I created an image of the woman I had met that was powerful enough to sustain my excessive passion....It was my own personal way, albeit a rather strange one of feeling I was in control of the situation or rather in supreme control of a situation that was in fact beyond my con

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    A transformational book, which reveals much about Althusser’s personal life and views.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    If you’d like to learn something meaningful about this famous, Algerian-born, Leftist philosopher, this book probably won’t help you very much with that. On the other hand, the book is highly readable. It is essentially a book about how the psychologically disturbed philosopher killed his wife and largely “got away” with it. But Burroughs did the same and had no real psychological history to warrant escape from Mexican incarceration and subsequent move to Morocco.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leland Pitts-Gonzalez

    One need not be an Althusserian or even a traditional Marxist to appreciate this terrifying, sad, and wonderful book. I've read it several times. I cannot turn away from his story. It's not pity. His memoir is the essence of despair and guilt--and simply masterful storytelling. One need not be an Althusserian or even a traditional Marxist to appreciate this terrifying, sad, and wonderful book. I've read it several times. I cannot turn away from his story. It's not pity. His memoir is the essence of despair and guilt--and simply masterful storytelling.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elisabetta Michielin

    "Si può fare tutta la letteratura e la filosofia che si vuole sulla morte: la morte che circola in ogni dove nella realtà sociale in cui è "investita", proprio come il denaro, non è sempre presente nelle stesse forme nella realtà e nelle fantasie." "Si può fare tutta la letteratura e la filosofia che si vuole sulla morte: la morte che circola in ogni dove nella realtà sociale in cui è "investita", proprio come il denaro, non è sempre presente nelle stesse forme nella realtà e nelle fantasie."

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Mayer

    “anche le allucinazioni sono fatti”

  22. 5 out of 5

    Neil

  23. 5 out of 5

    骆驼

  24. 4 out of 5

    Frank Dimarco

  25. 5 out of 5

    Katrinka

  26. 4 out of 5

    José Mª Navarro

  27. 4 out of 5

    Savas

  28. 5 out of 5

    Genjiro

  29. 5 out of 5

    Savaş

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jin

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