Can the Monster Speak?

Paul B. Preciado

Translated by Frank Wynne

French paperback with flaps, 88 pages
Published 2 June 2021

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In November 2019, Paul B. Preciado was invited to speak in front of 3,500 psychoanalysts at the École de la Cause Freudienne’s annual conference in Paris. Standing up in front of the profession for whom he is a ‘mentally ill person’ suffering from ‘gender dysphoria’, Preciado draws inspiration in his lecture from Kafka’s ‘A Report to an Academy’, in which a monkey tells an assembly of scientists that human subjectivity is a cage comparable to one made of metal bars. Demonstrating the discipline’s complicity with the ideology of sex, gender and sexual difference dating back to the colonial era, Preciado was heckled and booed and unable to finish. The lecture, filmed on smartphones, ended up published online, where fragments were transcribed, translated and published with no regard for exactitude. Eighteen months on, Can the Monster Speak? is published in a definitive translation for the first time.

‘Read here the words of a monster, brought to you unedited and without embellishment! Yes, it is true – the monster speaks! But he does not speak the language of castration and penis envy, nor is he fluent in lack and misrecognition. This monster speaks in his own words, and he does not speak as a subject, as an individual but rather as part of a constantly mutating “somatheque”. The monster announces the fall of the father, the end of Oedipus, the solidarity of the monsters. This short book is powerful, dangerous, important. Read it alone but share it with friends. Whisper its secrets and tell everyone its message – the monster of whom you speak, has left his cage.’
— Jack Halberstam, author of Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Guide to Gender Variability

‘Drawing on decades of radical trans theory, Preciado presents not just a searing critique of the psychoanalytic establishment, but also a bold challenge to it. Calling for a paradigm shift that will have an impact way beyond its intended field, Can the Monster Speak? demands its audience to think politically, granting new power to previously marginalized voices.’
— Juliet Jacques, author of Variations

‘The joy of reading Preciado, whether or not one has the theoretical tools to support or refute him, is the single and singular life that pulses in every word, and speaks to the individual within each of us and not – as all too often – to our persona.’
Les Inrockuptibles

‘Written in a mutant language that owes much to Kafka, the master of metamorphoses, this radical text is a welcome insurrection against the psychoanalyst’s couch.’

Can The Monster Speak? is a … beautifully worded short read, challenging both those who are dismissive of trans rights and those who can’t see beyond the binary options in transitioning from one gender role into the other, and presenting instead a radical future that encompasses the diversity of human beings.’
Isabel Thomas, Buzz Magazine

‘Preciado … is a skilled rhetorician and distinctly anti-histrionic in his presentation of the facts of his experience…. The book, which could easily have lapsed into a study of an object, becomes the document in which the object argues to be recognised: that the trans-individual be considered valid as a person, not an illness.’
Joshua Jones, 3am Magazine

‘Preciado, in laying bare the historically constructed epistemological cage of binary gender initially codified by Freud and reified by Lacan and generations of students, gives an archaeology of knowledge that is deft enough to position him as his own cohort’s answer to Foucault. Like Foucault, Preciado employs the historical to show how critical theory can in turn dissect, explode, and become the political.’
— Review 31

Paul B. Preciado is the author of Counter-Sexual Manifesto (Columbia University Press), Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs and Biopolitics (The Feminist Press) and Pornotopia (Zone Books), for which he was awarded the Sade Prize in France. He was Head of Research of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (MACBA) and Director of the Independent Studies Program (PEI) from 2011 to 2014. From 2014 to 2017 he was the Curator of Public Programmes of documenta 14. He is currently Curator of Public Programmes at the Palais de Tokyo and lives in Paris.

Frank Wynne has translated works by authors including Michel Houellebecq, Patrick Modiano, Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, Javier Cercas, Carlos Manuel Álvarez and Virginie Despentes. His work has earned various awards, including the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize; he has twice been awarded both the Scott Moncrieff Prize and the Premio Valle Inclán.