Henri-Paul Fruchaud, Foucault’s nephew, said that a third manuscript, a typed version of the handwritten text in the archive, was already in Gallimard’s possession, but it was incomplete and contained errors. “With all three versions in my hands, I realized that it was possible to have a proper final edition,” Mr. Fruchaud said.
Anyone hoping that the new work will slot neatly into contemporary debates about sexuality may be surprised by what they find.
“Foucault essentially says you can’t look for solutions to the present in the past. It’s not like we can read off these classical texts some kind of code by which we should now live. I think that some people want that in Foucault,” said Stuart Elden, a Foucault scholar at the University of Warwick in Britain and the author of “Foucault’s Last Decade,” in a telephone interview.
Dr. Elden’s skepticism was shared by Chloë Taylor, who wrote “The Routledge Guidebook to Foucault’s ‘The History of Sexuality.’” She said she has not yet read the new book, but is suspicious of the idea that “Confessions of the Flesh” will strongly resonate with contemporary discussions of sexual misconduct and consent.
“If Foucault were to have said something relevant to issues of feminist political movements and contemporary debates around consent in particular, I think he would have done so either in Volume 1 of ‘The History of Sexuality,’ which deals with the modern period, or in his interviews and statements from the same period around contemporary sex crime legislation in France,” Dr. Taylor, a scholar at the University of Alberta, Canada, said by email.
Both authors emphasized the importance of the book and its publication. They made it clear this is a significant event for scholars and others who care about Foucault’s work.
In “The Lives of Michel Foucault,” the biographer David Macey says the philosopher died without a proper will. What he left behind instead was a letter that prohibited the publication of any of his writing after his death. This letter also made it clear that he intended to bequeath his apartment and everything within it, including the material related to his unfinished book, to Mr. Defert.
In an interview in the journal Revue Recto/Verso in 2010, Mr. Defert said he abides by the idea that access to the work should not be restricted to academics: “What is this privilege given to Ph.D students? I have adopted this principle: It is either everybody or nobody.”