Slavoj Žižek doesn’t know the door number of his own apartment in Ljubljana. “Doesn’t matter,” he tells the photographer, who wants to pop outside. “Come back in through the main door, and then just think in terms of politically radical right; you turn from left to right, then at the end, right again.” But what’s the number, in case he gets lost? “I think it’s 20,” Žižek suggests. “But who knows? Let’s double check.” So off he pads down the hallway, opens his door and has a look.
Waving the photographer off, he points in the distance across the Slovenian capital. “Over there, that’s a kind of counter-culture establishment – they hate me, I hate them. This is the type of leftists that I hate. Radical leftists whose fathers are all very rich.” Most of the other buildings, he adds, are government ministries. “I hate it.” Now he’s back in the living room, a clinically tidy little sliver of functional space lacking any discernible aesthetic, the only concessions being a poster for the video game Call Of Duty: Black Ops, and a print of Joseph Stalin. Žižek pours Coke Zero into plastic McDonald’s cups decorated in Disney merchandising, but when he opens a kitchen cupboard I see that it’s full of clothes.
“I live as a madman!” he exclaims, and leads me on a tour of the apartment to demonstrate why his kitchen cabinets contain only clothing. “You see, there’s no room anywhere else!” And indeed, every other room is lined, floor to ceiling, with DVDs and books; volumes of his own 75 works, translated into innumerable languages, fill one room alone.
If you have read all of Žižek’s work, you are doing better than me. Born in 1949, the Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic grew up under Tito in the former Yugoslavia, where suspicions of dissidence consigned him to academic backwaters. He came to western attention in 1989 with his first book written in English, The Sublime Object of Ideology, a re-reading of Žižek’s great hero Hegel through the perspective of another hero, the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. Since then there have been titles such as Living in the End Times, along with films – The Pervert’s Guide To Cinema – and more articles than I can count.
[Extract. Appeared in The Guardian on June 10th 2012.]