When Michel Foucault the French post-structural philosopher, died in Paris on 25th June of an alleged septicaemia – a deadly form of body poisoning caused by lethal organisms and eventual infection of the blood – it was said in Le Monde that the Anglo-Saxon world had lost one of its most stimulating minds. The assertion is as mysterious as Foucault’s last illness. It requires a gloss.
On 27th June Le Monde carried a vast spread, with front-page headlines: ‘Foucault dead’. The columns were written by academic colleagues and other French intellectuals, all of whom professed their shock. ‘Foucault dead at 57?’ asked one: ‘impossible’. Others were as incredulous but no less dramatic and sentimental; they expressed