I originally wrote this entry on October 11, 2004, and published it on blogs.sun.com.
Following Jacques Derrida's death last week, Derek Attridge and Thomas Baldwin write this introduction to his work and life in the Guardian. I know very little about Derrida and, in general, about French philosophy after Rousseau (except for a bit of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, I found forays into Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes completely ungainful) but I've heard a great deal of praise for Derrida's work. The Guardian article certainly provides a nice introduction to the significance of what he was trying to do. The greatest surprise for me was Derrida's connection to Algeria and soccer:
Jackie Derrida - he later adopted a more "correct" French version of his first name - was born in El-Biar, near Algiers, into an indigenous Jewish family. He attended local primary schools and, in 1941, entered the nearby lycee, already subject to anti-semitic Vichy laws. The following year, he was expelled as a Jew, and was not able to recommence regular schooling until 1944. Even then, he did not settle down; he dreamed of being a professional footballer and failed the baccalaureat in 1947. These were years of intense reading, however, including Rousseau, Nietzsche and Paul Valery.
Mark C. Taylor's
The U of Chicago book:
Philosophy in the Time of Terror.