Mireille Calle-Gruber is director of the Centre de Recherches en Etudes Féminines et de Genres (CREF & G) and professor at the University of Paris III – Sorbonne Nouvelle, and has written a lot about the literature of amongst others Hélène Cixous, Marguerite Duras and Claude Simon. She also has written literature herself, some of her novels are: Tombeau d’Akhnaton (La Différence, 2006) and Consolation (La Différence, 2010). She was considered as one of Derrida’s personal friends. In the Honours Class Reading Derrida, she spoke about his work on literature and there subsequent discussions she had with him on the topic.
In 1988 she was in Heidelberg, working for the French Institute. ‘During that time there was a big scandal about a book of Victor Farias about Heideggers Nazism. The book was to simple, he had written a lot of things that were already known, to be written by a philosopher the book was just not proper enough. So when I found out that Hans-Georg Gadamer, the German philosopher of the hermeneutic, although emirate, came to Heidelberg for a seminar, I thought it would be interesting to make a discussion about this book of Farias, more over to let Gadamer and Derrida meet again. They had finished any relationship between them, they did not talk to one and other. Beyond expectation they both agreed. I did not know Derrida and I wrote and phoned him, it all went really quick. I had been rather intimidated by Derrida, because I was not an philosopher and not even near his statue, so it was a real surprise that he accepted my invitation.’
There was a huge turn out, a crowd had gathered, because the topic hit a nerve. At that time France was in a predicament, there were extreme rights, they were called the négationnistes, led by Robert Faurrisson, who where denying the Holocaust. ‘I learned the day after the debate, that Faurrisson had been there. He was handing out flyers at the entrance. Lucky, there were no major problems that day.’ The discussion about Heideggers past had instantly become very political. ‘I just hadn’t realized so much people wanted to attend this discussion. I remember that when we arrived in the corridor, I saw that Derrida was very tense, because he was always very accurate and what he did, he always did it with all his hart. For him it was a very important and difficult moment. We arrived and saw in through door that the hall was filled, it was a wall of people. I was next to him and I saw that he was scared. I liked it, I thought: he is not only a big famous philosopher, he is also human.’ That wasn’t the end of her meeting with Derrida, it was the beginning: ‘After that we had a special relationship, the moment had been so tense for all of us, that it had felt like an adventure, we had really lifted through it together.’
The event had united to creative thinkers, who’s passion for literature would fire up the discussions in the years to come. ‘For me there are not many philosophers like Derrida. Prior to meeting him I had read his work a lot, but obviously later he began to write more between philosophy and literature, a lot of his interest in literature was developing. He liked how I interpreted texts that I wrote about. I took a lot of those texts which specifically had as subject the relationship between art and philosophy. He would ask that I be invited when there was an international conference about his work. That was a chance to really work with him, because at those conferences we were in discussion for days at the time. We would talk endlessly about literature and philosophy. We can’t make literature without making philosophy, on the contrary, philosophy is literature, that is my conviction.’
As an author Calle-Gruber was even empowered by Derrida’s thinking: ‘Derrida gives me the right to decide, to invent, to create. Writing is very dynamic with him. It is the way his work takes the language, the way it gives you the tools to do the same yourself. He makes you really conscious of the text as language. Almost always can Derrida show you a new way of interpretation of a text. He gives you tools for interpretation and he lets you see that interpretation is literature, philosophy and art. The interpretation is already present in the writing process. It really changes your view when you become aware of that. In that sense his relationship with the language is very constitutive of the person who is writing. For myself, it has had a tremendous impact in my way of thinking, writing and of sharing with others like my students for example. I spoke today about literature. I wanted to show how Derrida can make you look differently towards literature. It is not literature, it is first language. Language is forming our relationship with literature and philosophy’, and it is not just what forms that relationship, it forms all our relationships. Seeing language as the lubricant or the divide between the subject and any object, is therefore the key to understanding Derrida’s work. ‘All of his contributions are coming down to the same thing; when you bring a question to Derrida, he begins questioning the question. Asking that question is always the gesture, that we do without thinking about it. That is for me the most important thing. He always says: you show me that, I’m not only looking at that, but also at the finger that is pointing me towards that. That is so important. That is what we have to do for ourselves, we don’t do that enough, we don’t ask ourselves enough what are we doing while we are writing or reading, not why but what. We always have this blindness, because we are so concentrated on doing it, that we forget to think about the event of doing it at the same time. It all becomes what it is in language.’
Calle-Gruber is very inspired by Derrida and his work, you can hear it when she speaks. The influence Derrida has had on Calle-Grubers thinking does not mean she always fully agrees with him: ‘I don’t consider myself as a follower of his, it is just that he gives me the possibility to be free and go my own way in his domain. Neither am I a critic of Derrida. I try to understand and to find something else. When I wrote about him, he was caught by surprise and a little bit offended, because I had written something against his thinking.’ This is just one of the many instances he shows his personal side, his weakness and all. ‘The more he has written, the closer he gets to the end, the more he became sensible to the little tiniest things that philosophy has long considered as not important; that you cry, that you are afraid to begin. I remember one of his last texts, “Comment ne pas trembler” (how not to tremble). These are weaknesses that are also force to take into consideration. How having that force makes you stronger. We are all trembling.’
Even though she takes Derrida for what he is, human, that is not what she wants her students to learn: ‘I didn’t want you to learn about the person per se, but Derrida is always not only an author, but he is all together. I wanted to bring you things that you can use yourself, the same tools that he gave me.’
 Victor Farias: Heidegger et le nazisme (1987)
 Jacques Derrida, la distance généreuse – 2009, Différence. See also Calle-Grubers contribution to Enduring Resistance: Cultural Theory after Derrida, La Résistance persevere: la théorie de la culture (d’)après Derrida, Sjef Houppermans, Rico Sneller & Peter van Zilfhout, Rodopi, Amsterdam, 2010
 Subject of discussions in July 2004 during a stay in Italy with Valerio Adami and others.