Vale Jean Baudrillard
Early reports suggest that Jean Baudrillard died overnight in Paris, aged 77.
It would be a cliche to say that JB changed my life—and not at all accurate. But I was greatly influenced by some of his early work when I first read it as an undergraduate. In particular, “Simulacra and Simulations”, anthologised by Mark Poster in Selected Writings, hit me like a brick to the face and suggested not only a new way to see the world, but maybe a new world itself!
Ultimately Baudrillard’s writing on hyperreality and simulation informed much of my Honours dissertation on Postmodern Science Fiction, and his particular take on semiotics, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, was important to my Master’s thesis on (in part) the electronic, hypertext novel.
By then of course, like lovers who are too passionate, too early, we started drifting apart, and his later work (especially the controversial stuff on September 11) seemed to typify the worst excesses of postmodernist theory. But in a world of “sound-bite politics” and so-called global terror, concepts like the “precession of simulacra” and the “desert of the real” are all the more important.
I haven’t read anything by Baudrillard since about 1999, but I shall miss him: he was a fun person to share the world with for a while.