One last thing I want to mention concerns the book you implored me to read around this time last year, Quentin Meillassoux’s The Number and the Siren.
As you know, this is an extremely close and fairly bizarre reading of Stéphane Mallarmé’s seminal 1897 poem ‘Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard’. Meillassoux’s analysis, which is more police procedural than literary criticism, unpacks Mallarmé’s intentions via a highly specific (and contentious) numerology. Note that numerology means ‘any study of the purported divine, mystical or other special relationship between a number and some coinciding observed (or perceived) events.’

I don’t want to go into the book in detail here, only remind you of the closing pages in which Meillassoux reflects on the case he’s just finished making. He basically acknowledges that it must be difficult to gauge how serious or ridiculous his thesis is – even how much Meillassoux himself is convinced of his fairly wild reasoning. To ask this question, he says, is precisely to miss the point; what matters is not that an idea is plausible, only that it has ample energy – an energy that is in this case ideally manifest as a piece of work, as art.

Otherwise put, Meillassoux, like Mallarmé before him, is possibly taking the piss, possibly not, but it doesn’t matter either way. There’s footage online of him delivering an abbreviated version of the book at Miguel Abreu’s gallery and he remains fantastically inscrutable throughout.7 Even when the audience is laughing at some of the more dubious leaps and bounds in his theory, his delivery remains totally deadpan, always almost smiling the half-smile of someone who knows he’s onto something: a work-in-progress.

— SB's PhD