Much has been written about Bartleby, literary character created by Herman Melville; the most popular interpretations of his famous phrase ‘I would prefer not to’ tend to present it as a form of political or pre-political resistance. The origin of this profusion of commentaries on Bartleby is Gilles Deleuze’s essay Bartleby, or the Formula, which, however, foregrounds not resistance, but becoming-other: the process of departure from the dominant, majoritarian standard of the masculine, European, capitalist and Oedipal identity. But it is only the majoritarian subject mentioned above that can undergo this process. The other, thanks to whom becoming is possible, plays only ancillary or instrumental role. In case of Melville’s story, the real protagonist is therefore the nameless narrator, and not Bartleby. Becoming is thus the adventure reserved for the majoritarian subject. Deleuze seems not to be aware of this limitation of his concept. Coetzee’s novel is, in this context, able to demonstrate (on the example of necessary failure of the relationship between the protagonist and the doctor intent of ‘understanding’ him) the asymmetry of two terms of becoming, as well as to deconstruct the hierarchy implicit in the concept of becoming.
Keywords: becoming; Deleuze and Guattari; Bartleby; Coetzee