The private life isn’t simply what we do when we’re at home, but owes more to the fact of not being at home … This is the wisdom of Freud, and of Blanchot. For the latter, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is about the passion for the invisible; Orpheus’s impossible desire to see Eurydice not when she is visible and worldly, but when she is invisible and obscure. This, for Cohen, is the private life. It’s that which can’t be brought to light because that’s precisely where it hides; that which can’t be paraded on TV or kept discretely behind closed curtains. ‘This isn’t a secret lurking in the dark. It’s right there on the face across the breakfast table, in the mirror.’ Arendt’s logic finds an unexpected corollary in tabloid snooping; both imagine that the private life can be reduced to secrecy; they simply differ on what is to be done with it. Both rub balm on a more unsettling fact: the less we hide, the more we’re hidden; even from ourselves. Aren’t your closest friends, your family, your lover, so much stranger to you than the person you pass on the street? Like that difficult book you held so close to your face that its long words blurred and became incomprehensible, the closer we draw people towards us, the more they confound us. The less you conceal the stranger you become.
Will Rees reviews Josh Cohen‘s The Private Life: Why We Remain in the Dark.