‘The Incident at Antioch: A Tragedy in Three Acts’ by Alain Badiou

Published by Columbia University Press in 2013. Download link updated on 6th August 2021.

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The Incident at Antioch is a key play marking Alain Badiou’s transition from classical Marxism to a “politics of subtraction” far removed from party and state. Written with striking eloquence and extraordinary poetic richness, and shifting from highly serious emotional and intellectual drama to surreal comic interlude, the work features statesmen, workers, and revolutionaries struggling to reconcile the nature and practice of politics.

This bilingual edition presents L’Incident d’Antioche in its original French and, on facing pages, an expertly executed English translation. Badiou adds a special preface, and an introduction by the scholar Kenneth Reinhard connects the play to Paul Claudel’s The City, Saint Paul and the early history of the Church, and the innovative mathematical thinking of Paul Cohen. The translation includes Susan Spitzer’s extensive notes clarifying allusions and quotations and hinting at Badiou’s intentions. An interview with Badiou encompasses the play’s settings, themes, and events, as well as his ongoing literary and conceptual experimentation on stage and off.


Alain Badiou is a French Marxist philosopher, novelist and playwright. Born in Rabat, Morocco, Badiou completed high school in Toulouse before moving to Paris for undergraduate studies at the prestigious École Normale Supérieure (ENS), where he worked closely with Louis Althusser, but was never one of the select group of disciples who came to be known as Althusserians. After completing his obligatory military service, Badiou taught in Reims, first at a lycée, then at the university. In 1968 he was invited by Michel Foucault to join the department of philosophy at Vincennes (University of Paris VIII), where his colleagues included Hélène Cixous, Gilles Deleuze, and Jean-François Lyotard. After spending 30 years at Vincennes, Badiou left in 1998 to return to his alma mater ENS. The primary philosophical system developed by Alain Badiou is constructed in Being and Event, Logics of Worlds: Being and Event II, and the forthcoming Immanence of Truths: Being and Event III. Badiou’s model of praxis is usually described as subtractive because it operates on the premise that political action can only work if it subtracts itself from the power and processes of the state. Throughout his career, Badiou has been actively involved in politics. During the events of May ’68 he was a member of highly vocal Maoist groups. In more recent times he has been involved with L’Organisation Politique, a politicized group he helped found. Because of its powerfully political texture, Badiou’s philosophy is increasingly widely read today, a measure both of the volatility of the times and the lucidity of his thought.

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