‘Giant of Ljubljana’ in town to speak his mind

The hyperactive polymath neo-Marxist – once dubbed as the «giant of Ljubljana» – Slavoj Zizek will be in the capital this evening for a single lecture at the University of Athens. Famous for his ingenious fusion of classic theorists like Marx and Hegel with the obscure jargon of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan – all topped with references to American blockbusters, TV commercials and pop culture in general, Zizek strikes a jarring note in the more humdrum chorus of contemporary leftist philosophers. His innovative and playful lectures have won him an ardent audience both in Europe and the United States. It is no coincidence that, a few years ago, London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts voted the Slovenian philosopher the «most entertaining speaker.» «With his thick Slovenian accent and the wonderfully Freudian speech impediment, he sounds like a turbocharged Eastern European vacuum cleaner, sucking the debris of modern life into his hyperactive brain,» The Independent wrote of him a few years ago. If nothing else, the bushy-bearded Balkan appears to have grown into something of a cultist figure. Indeed, for someone writing speeches for Slovenia’s communist league in the late Seventies (even if out of economic necessity), Zizek was an odd candidate for fame in the post-communist world. Born in 1949 in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, in what was then part of Yugoslavia, Zizek studied philosophy at the local university before moving to Paris where he immersed himself in the writings of his central intellectual influence, the controversial Lacan. Zizek never abandoned his research post at the university in Ljubljana – an institution from which he was barred from teaching during the years of communism as he was labeled a dissident. Politically involved in the movement that sought to overthrow the status quo in Yugoslavia, Zizek also took part – and was nearly elected – in Slovenia’s first free elections in 1990. Zizek has been extremely prolific of late, often producing more than one book each year, while also publishing a large number of articles in various journals. Switching into the English language has allowed his English publishers to catch up with the vast output of the workaholic Zizek. His most famous books include «The Sublime Object of Ideology» (1989), «Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture» (1991), «Enjoy your Symptom! Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out» (1991), «The Plague of Fantasies» (1997) and «The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Center of Political Ontology» (1999). Zizek has been invited to Athens on the occasion of the publication in Greek of «Did Someone Say Totalitarianism?: Five Interventions in the (Mis)use of a Notion» (the Greek edition contains an extra section as compared to the English edition) and of «Welcome to the Desert of the Real: Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates.» Both books have been launched by Scripta publications. Zizek will speak at 7.00 p.m. at the University of Athens. The lecture is titled «Toward a Global Emergency State.» The event is jointly organized by Scripta and the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia, as well as by the Department of Communications and Mass Media of the University of Athens. University of Athens (Ioannis Drakopoulos Amphitheater), 30 Panepistimiou Street.