Slavoj Zizek

Philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Zizek, 64, has been described as “the Elvis of cultural theory”. He is senior researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, and professor of philosophy and psychoanalysis at the European Graduate School.

What was your earliest ambition?

To stage a Wagner opera – it’s still my dream.

Public school or state school? University or right to work?

I grew up in communist Yugoslavia, where there were only state schools. Elementary school, high school and university – all state.

Who was or still is your mentor?

Unfortunately the answer is no one. I mostly considered my professors idiots.

How physically fit are you?

"Parsifal" an opera by Richard Wagner
Earliest ambition: to stage a Wagner opera

I have no physical fitness whatsoever. I don’t like sport. In my country skiing is popular. I find it nonsense. You climb a mountain and you slide down. Why not stay at the bottom and read a good book?

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Sheer luck is at least as important.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

I’m absolutely paranoid about IQ tests as I have a deep distrust of myself and I fear that if I took one I’d find out I’m an idiot.

How politically committed are you?

I’m a committed communist. I never vote.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?


Do you have more than one home?

I’ve never felt anywhere was my home. In Ljubljana I have a small studio but my books are in another apartment, so the place where I really belong is not where I live. My home is where my books are.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

A vulgar, consumerist response: an apartment in London or New York.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Another bourgeois surprise from a communist: I like to go to a really expensive hotel and stay in a suite.

In what place are you happiest?

Sometimes if a flight is cancelled I find myself alone in an airport hotel for a day or two. This is paradise. I’m isolated, no one knows I’m there, I listen to music, watch movies, read.

Tall stack of books
Home: wherever my books are

What ambitions do you still have?

To write another big, fat, substantial book on philosophy.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

My last big, fat book, Less Than Nothing.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

I cannot accept myself. I find myself intolerable. I cannot look at myself on screen.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?

I had an extremely low opinion of myself when I was 20. He wouldn’t recognise himself in me now.

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

If you mean material possessions, I wouldn’t care. If I were to lose my family and friends it would be horrible but I would survive. If I were to lose my interest in philosophy I would kill myself.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

Yes. It should be made legal and covered by health insurance.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

The German dissident Wolf Biermann said that the idealist question is “Is there life after death?” but the true question is “Is there life before death?” Are we truly alive? I sometimes doubt it.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

Considering my work, my books, 10. For my personal life, zero.


The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, directed and produced by Sophie Fiennes and featuring Slavoj Zizek, is on release. Available to own on DVD from October 14

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