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CORRESPONDENCE

THE FRENCH LIST


CORRESPONDENCE
Georges Bataille
Michel Leiris
EDITED WITII NOTES BY LOUIS YVERT
AFfERWORD BY BERNARD NOEL
TRANSLATED BY LIZ HERON
CALCUlTA LONDON NEWYORK
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SeagullBoob
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o Editions Gallimard, PAris,2004
English translation 0 Liz Heron 2008
First published in English by Seagull Boob. 2008
ISBN-IS 978 1 905422678
British Library Catalogumg-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available
from the British library
Typeset bySeagull Boob, Calcutta. India
Printed and bound in the United Kingdom by Biddies Ltd, King's Lynn
CONTENTS
Editor's Acknowledgements vii
Abbreviations viii
MICHEL LEIRIS
On Georges Bataille 1
Georges Bataille as Don Giovanni 3
From Bataille the Impossible to the Impossible Documents 6
From the TIme of Lord Auch 22
GEORGES BATAILLE
On Michel Leiris 39
Surrealism from Day to Day 41
The Publication of 'XCorpse' 63
Racism 70
GEORGES BATAILLE and MICHEL LEIRIS
Correspondence 1924-61 77
MICHEL LEIRIS
Georges Bataille, As Tune Goes By 225
ROBERT DESNOS, GEORGES B'ATAILLE and MARCEL GRIAULE
Eye 243
BERNARD NOEL
Afterword: A Way of Looking that is Understood 253
Appendix: A Bio-Bibliographic Chronology
Periodicals to which Bataille and Leins both contributed (1925-62)
Bibliography
Index
261
285
289
293
Editor's Acknowledgements
My warmest thanks to Julie Bataille and JeanJamin, who gladly gave me
authorization to publish the letters and other writings of Georges Bataille
and Michel Leiris collected in this work.
I am also grateful to Denis Hollier; who authorized me to reproduce his
commentaries to the letters that feature in his book Le College de sociologie,
1937-1939, Gallimard, 1995 edition; to Genevieve Firouz-Abadie, Jacques
Fraenkel, Jean-Luc Froissart, Marina Galletti, Evelyne Grossman, Delphine
Herve, Annie Maillis and Catherine Maubon, whose help and advice have
been invaluable; and to the institutions which hold the letters of Bataille
and Leiris and which have given me authorization to publish them: the
Bibliotheque nationale de France (Department of Manuscripts) and the
Bibliotheque litteraire Jacques Doucet.
Louis Yvert
BLJD
N ~ M s s
f. and ff.
LRS
NAF
NRF
OC
Abbreviations
Bibliotheque litteraire ] acques Doucet
Bibliotheque nationale de France, manuscript
department
folio and folios
Leiris (Michel Leiris archive in the BLJD)
Nouvelles acquisitions francaises (new French
acquisitions in the BNF)
The Nouvelle Revuefranfaise
Georges Bataille's Oeuvres completes (Complete
Works), VOLS 1-12, Gallimard, 1970-88
MICHEL LEIRIS
On Georges Bataille
Georges Bataille as Don Giovanni
I've always lilted the fact that Da Ponte and Mozart's Don Giovanni was
called a dramma giocoso. I don't believe that greatness ever has anything to
gain by styling itself as great. Quite the contrary: those who go furthest
and highest are the ones who haven't weighed themselves down with
heavy boots for the walk or the climb. Isn't the reason why Georges
Bataille has frequently invoked Nietzschean 'vitalism' that he knows great-
ness to be incapable of self-advertisement without thereby setting itself a
standard?
That the whole of Georges Bataille's output (or very nearly) falls
under the category of eroticism derives certainly from a penchant, one
moreover justified by a philosophy (there is no better route than eroti-
cism, that opening among openings, for approaching, in as much as is at
all possible, the elusive emptiness of death). But I think too that there is
an underlying bias and that this bias is a matter of method. Isn't taking
carnal pleasure as an axis of reference, and aligning oneself firmly on the
side of libertinage, a wayof ruling out any risk of getting stuck in the kind
of greatness that is too hidebound to be supreme greatness? Isn't tackling
from the very outset the most basic of all prohibitions (the one that regu-
lates and humanizes the animal business of sex), also a way of proclaim-
ing that true morality can only be attained somewhere beyond morality?
And that it is only in breaking boundaries that worthwhile progress can be
3
1
Bataille & Leins
made? And, finally, doesn't the provocation inherent in a body of work
that is so brazen in its orientation point from the start to the crucial
importance of defiance, the means whereby a man irreducibly asserts him-
self in a vein which finds its extreme expression in the heroism of Don
Giovanni as he stubbornly insists on his own evildoing even when faced
with the terrible troth of the Commendatore's statue?
I have long been persuaded that Georges Bataille, albeit pursuing a
path other than that of carefree debauchery, is in his own way a kind of
Don Giovanni. I can see no other writer these days whose words-allow-
ing him to be simultaneously masked and revealed-function to this
degree as instruments of personal seduction. Like Don Giovanni, he stirs
emotions, he uses trickery, frequently shocks and comes out with things of
the sort that make Leporello shudder with fear. But whatever register he
employs, be' it tragic, humorous, blasphemous or the voice of reason, this
seducer, who readily resorts to the pseudonym1 as mode of disguise and
sometimes adopts the Bluebeard persona routinely given to the Don by so
many of his operatic interpreters, is a fascinating writer. No one could
doubt that he ever plays for anything less than high stakes, after the fash-
ion of the man who receives the stone guest.
1.. Up until 1965, three of Bataille's erotic works were published clandestinely under pseu-
donyms: The St!Y"Y of the Eye u!lder the name Lord Auch (three editions, 1928, 1947 and
1951); Madame Edwarda under the name Pierre Angelique (four editions: 1941, 1945, 1956
and 1965) and Le Petit under the name Louis Trente (one edition, 1943). Moreover, these
editions usually came out without the name of the illustrator or the publisher, or else false
names and false dates would be given for publication or printing.
Because he was librarian at the Bibliotheque nationale and, later, the director of two
municipal libraries in the provinces (at Carpentras, then at Orleans), Bataille could scarcelr
let himself be prosecuted for 'affronts to public decency by book publication', according to
the legal statutes of his day. But, as Leiris remarks, Bataille himself had a fondness for
4
Georges Bataille as Don Giovanni
All of human desire, in the forms decreed by traditional morality as
the basest or most noble, courses through the words of this mystic of
debauchery, who is apt to snare his readers and make them his accom-
plices, just as the 'one thousand and three' of the Cataloguer aria had
been for Don Giovanni. What is particularly irresistible about his writing
is the infinite character of this human desire, expressed in a language that
shines with 'the ageless touch, the ageless and cosmopolitan style',3 as
Baudelaire put it, and which, sooner or later, will be strikingly apparent in
this practical joker who teaches us that the only way to truly 'live one's life'
is to live it with fervid purity, in the dizzying manner with which death is
lived, and, at one and the same time, with unbridled exuberance.
disguises, blasphemies and scandals. A case in point is the name Lord Auch, which is cer-
tainly blasphemous, referring to the Lord God of the Scriptures in English and an abbrevi-
ation of 'aux chiottes' ('to the shithouse')-see 'The Publication of I'ACorpse" " p. 63 in this
volume. However; this pseudonym was not exported across the Channel and the English
translation of The Story of tht Eye was published under the name Pierre Angelique (A Tau of
Satisfied Desire, trans. Audiart, Paris: The Olympia Press, 1953).
Michel Surya devoted a chapter of his book Georges Bataille, lamortal'oeusne, Gallimard,
1992 (trans. Krzysztof Fijalkowski and Michael Richardson as Georges Bataille: An Intellectual
Biog;aphy, London: Verso, 2002) to Bataille's use of pseudonyms, a chapter that takes its title
from the work: J ~ c r i s pour effacer mon nom' (I write to erase my own name), Gallimard,
pp. 114-19 (English translation, pp. 88-92).
On the different editions of The Story of the Eyt, see P: 8 , NOTE 7 in this volume.
2. 'Madamina, it catalogo equesto', Leporello's aria in Act I, Scene Five. Don Giovanni's
1,003 conquests are only those in Spain. Along with those in Italy (640), Germany (231) and
other countries, the total catalogue exceeds 2,000.
3. Baudelaire, 'Fusees', XII, Oeuvres compUtes, VOL. 1, Gallimard, Bibliotheque de la Pleiade,
p.661.
5
From Bataille the Impossible
to the Impossible Documents
It was thanks to his colleague at the Bibliotheque nationale, Jacques
Lavaud, another former pupil of the Ecole de chartes in Paris and the
author of a thesis on Philippe Desportes, that I met Georges Bataille. I
had known Lavaud for a long time and he, being a good bit older than
me, had been my guide into modem literature. In the course of 1924,
which happened to be the year when I became a Surrealist, he introduced
us, partly (he told me later) to assume the role of detached observer ,at
whatever odd outcome such a meeting might precipitate.s This took place
one evening in a very quiet and bourgeois location-the cafe Marigny
near the Elysee. I've forgotten what time of year it was, though it was def-
4. Jacques Lavaud (1894-1975) was six years older than Leiris. The date of their first meet-
ing is not known, but was probably around the start of World War It in"Paris, in the' 16th
arrondissement. Leiris mentions it in three of the dossiers 'Souvenirs (1901 ...r published
as an appendix to La Regie dujeu (Gallimard, Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, 2003): dossiers 27
(p. 1097), 30 (p. 1099) and 35 (p. 1104). These three dossiers concern the years 1916-17, a
period when, although already in the army, Jacques Lavaud would mix with the teenage
Leiris and his classmates from school or from the baccalaureat crammer. These teenagers got
up to all kinds of odd tricks, mainly at the x p s ~ of their elder, whom they called 'Pouic-
Pouic', In April 1917, Jacques Lavaud was seriously wounded at the Chemin des Dames (for
the rest of his life he had a shell splinter lodged near his heart). H'e then studied at the Ecole
des chartes (the School of Paleography and Librarianship), from which he graduated in
6
Bataille the Impossible
initely not in-summer since I think Bataille was wearing an overcoat in
black-and-white herringbone tweed of the kind worn in town, together
with a grey felt hat.
I made friends very quickly with Georges Bataille, who was not much
older than me. Not only did I admire the greater breadth and variety of his
cultural knowledge in comparison with mine, but also his nonconformist way
of thinking that was distinguished by what we hadn't yet come to call 'black
humour'. Nor was I insensible to the external qualities of his person: he was
fairly thin and his physical presence conveyed something of the romantic as
well as the twentieth century; he already possessed that elegance (in its
younger, less discreet version, of course) that would never leave him, even
when it became cumbersome and gave him that slight air of a peasant famil-
iar to most of those who knew him; the elegance was entirely his and it was
apparent without any self-important showiness of dress. To match his some-
what deep-set, close-together eyes of a brilliant noorlday blue, he had teeth
curiously like those of some woodland creature; these were frequently dis-
played in the act of laughter that I (perhaps wrongly) considered sarcastic.
Paul Valery, regarded by Bataille as a perfect example of academicism,
was ranked at the top of his list of enemies, precisely because of this
January 1920, and was appointed to the Bibliotheque nationale the following month. He could
have got to know Bataille either at the Ecole des chartes (although they were two years apart
.there) or, more likely, at the Bibliotheque nationale (where Bataille was appointed in July
1922). In 1924, Leiris mentions him in lJisJourna11922-1989 (ed. Jean Jamin, Gallimard,
1992): 'Jacques Lavaud and social pataphysics: the family replaced by the decimal system' (12
October, 68); tan afternoon project withJacques Lavaud: to mystify a certain number of peo-
ple by suggesting the creation of a Jarry museum' (19 November, p. 79). In 1936, Lavaud was
awarded his doctorate with the thesis Un POtte de cour au temps des demiets Valois: Philippe
Desportes (Droz, 1936; ACourt Poet in the Days of;the Last Valois), and in 1937 he was appoint-
ed to a teaching post at the arts faculty of Poitiers University; from 1954 until his retirement in
1964 he was faculty dean there. See Edmond-Rene Labande, Jacques Lavaud (1894-1975)',
Bihliotheque de ['Ecole des dumes, VOL. 134, Bibliotheque, 1976, pp. 458--61.
7
Bataille & Leins
perfection. Nor did the spirit of Dada fmd favour with him; he talked about
the chance there would be to launch a Yes movement, involving a perpetual
acquiescence to everything and being superior to the No that had been Dada
because it would avoid the puerility of provoking through systematic nega-
tion. One project that we toyed with for a while, but to no avail, was the
founding of a review; in this we were like so many young intellectuals who
have just come together and discovered a number of shared outlooks on lit-
erature and everything else. The most noteworthy aspect of this project was
that we had decided that our periodical would, if possible, have as its base a
brothel in the old Saint-Denis quarter, an establishment chanced upon on
one of our late...night wanders, squalid and rundown enough for us to find it
irresistible.f We would have tried, of course, to involve the female staff there
in producing our review. On 24 December, with the idea of' publication in
mind, I had noted down some of the dreams that two of the girls had told
us. From Gaby: 'I had done some embroidery for a slip. I put it to soak in the
sink to get it clean and it was washed away. I threw myself in to catch-hold of
it but instead of the water I fonnd stairs, stairs that went on and on.' Also
from Gaby: f'I buy a revolver to kill my little sister's boyfriend. The more
blood I see, the morel want to keep firing.' From-Marinette: 'I was-going for
a walk with a pack of little black dogs and a small white cat. I had the dogs
on a leash, but not the cat. They turned into a cloud.'6
At this time, Bataille had not yet emerged as a writer, The Story ofthe Eye
7
was still to appear; likewise the article on the Aztecs that he wrote for a very
5. Bataille, gave 'his own account of meeting Leiris and their joint projects with Jacques
Lavaud in from Day to Day', p. 41 in this volume.
6. Leiris,Journal1922-1989, p. 87.
7. Histou de l'oeil, by Lord Auch, with eight original lithographs, Paris, 1928_ No name was
given for either the illustrator (Andre Masson) or the publisher (Rene Bonnel, with maquettes
by Pascal Pia). Still under the name Lord Auch, a new version was published and reprinted:
8
Bataille the Impossible
official exhibition of pre-Columbian art,8 the first instance of the hybrid
J
approach combining passion and objectivity that he .was to develop with
such brilliance. All the same, we could not have known one another for very
long when he spoke to me about a novel in which he fictionalized himself
in 'the guise of the famous murderer Georges Tropmann (his partial name-
sake)? but which later took the form of a first-person narrative. Could this
1) illustrated by Hans Bellmer, with place and date of publication given as 'Seville,
1940'; in reality, Paris: K. editeur, 1947 (see Georges Bataille, Romans et reeds, ed.
Jean-Francois Louette, Gallimard, Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, 2004, p. 1026);
2) no illustrations, place and date given as 'Burgos, 1941'; in reality, Paris, Jean-
Jacques Pauvert, 1951. After Bataille's death, this new version was published under
his name (for the first time with Jean-] ,Pauvert, in 1967).
3) Both these versions appear without any illustrations in DC, VOL. 1. ed. Denis
Hollier, 1970, pp. 9--78 (1928 version) and pp. 569-608 (1947 version).
They also appear in Romans et recits, with the illustrations in reverse order, pp. 1-45 (1947 ver-
sion, illustrated by Bellmer) and pp. 51-106 (1928 version, illustrated by Masson).
The first two editions were reproduced with the illustrations by Andre Masson and Hans
Bellmer in Georges 'Bataille, Histoire de l'oeil, Madame Edwarda, with a study by Magdeleine
Lessana titled 'De Borel aBlanchot, une joyseuse chance: Georges Bataille', Pauvert, 2002,
boxed set of three volumes. Here, the second and fourth editions ofMadame Eduasdaare pub-
lished with the illustrations by Jean Fautrier (1945) and Hans Bellmer (1965).
8. ' l'Amerique disparue', Cahiers dela RJpublique des lettres, des sciences et des arts, NO. 11, 1928,
'l'art precolombien, l'Amerique avant Christophe Colomb', pp. 5-14 (DC, VOL 1, pp. 152-8).
The exhibition, Les arts anciens de l'Amerique, was organized by Alfred Metraux and Georges
Henri Rivierewith the involvement of Bataille and Andre Schaeffner, among others, and took
place at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in May-June 1928.
9. Troppmann (1849-70), spelled with two p's. His first name was Jean-Baptiste, and not
Georges, and the fact that Leiris has emphatically given him Bataille's first name is a strange
lapsus. He was a working man, a mechanic, who killed seven members of;the same family (five
of them children) in September 1 at Pantin, near Paris, and was guillotined in]anuary
1870. See Pierre Drachline, Le Crime de lbntin, l'affaire 1Toppmann, Denoel, 1985.
9
Bataille & Leiris
have been U:C.IO whose manuscript he eventually destroyed? One episode
from this novel survived as the story ofDirty (it would seem that this unclean
title was derived from the name Dorothy), which was first published on its
own,U topped with an epigraph from Hegel and a brief note but with hard-
ly any revisions, then used again as the introduction to-BlueofNoon. 12As far
as I can remember, this story, set at the Savoy in London, was-in the rudi-
mentary state I knew it in-a first chapter (the one that the two of us called
the 'Savoy chapter') followed by a Flemish episode in which the young, rich
and beautiful Englishwoman Dirty was to be seen accompanied by the nar-
rator and indulging in an orgy with the female stallholders in a fishmarket,
at their very place of work. In what followed these two chapters there. was a
certainMylord l'Arsouille'f touch (this was later rut out, when Bataille had
rid himself of all outward romanticism, though not without continuing to
.burn with it beneath his judicious exterior) where everything unfolds
between the extremes of aristocratic luxury and a vulgarity literally in the
, fishwife mode.
I'm not quite sure, but it was perhaps from this early period of our
friendship that Bataille got me to read a work owhich he had the high-
10. 'Ayear before The Story ofthe Eye, I had written a book titled u(C., a short book and a kind
ofcrazyone. J.f'C. was as funereal as The Story oftheEyeisjuvenile. The manuscript ofJ.f'C. got
burnt, and this is hardly regrettable given my sad state at the time: it was a cry of horror [etc.]'
(WC., DC, VOL. 3, p. 59).
11. Dirty was written in 1928 and published by the magazine Fontaine in the LAge d' or series,
NO. 16 (28 pp.). The epigraph taken from Hegel and Bataille's note were reproduced in DC,
VOL. 1, p. 560.
12. Dated May 1935, Le Bleu du ciel was published in 1957 with Jean-Jacques Pauvert and
reprinted in 1971 in DC, VOL. 3, ed. Thadee Klossowski, pp. 377-487. The introduction does
indeed correspond to the text of Dirty, but in a slightly different version.
13. Lord Henry Seymour (1805-59); an English dandy who lived in Paris.
10
Bataille the Impossible
est opinion: Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground, a book in which (as is
well known) the hero and apparent narrator is mesmerizing in his stub-
bornness to be what is commonly called an 'impossible' individual, some-
one who is ridiculous and obnoxious to an intolerable degree. Whatever
the case, Bataille-then an habitue of lowlife dives and the company of
ptostitutes, like so many heroes of Russian literature-set so much store
by Dostoevsky that the story of Dirty includes a reference to the great nov-
elist: 'The scene that came before was, in short, worthy of Dostoevsky,'14
he proclaims while relating in flashback the scene of drunkenness and
degrading eroticism that takes place in the London mansion.
Shortly after I got to know him, I introduced Bataille to the circle that
for the previous two years had been my fount of nourishment in art and
poetry. The rallying point for this small group was the studio of the
painter Andre 'Masson.U at 45 rue Blomet-premises of a very
14. The reference in the introduction to Bleudu cielis: 'everywhere, the scene preceding this
repugnant orgy-after which rats lurked around two bodies spread out on the ground-was
worthy of Dostoevsky' (DC, VOL. 3, p. 560).
15. According to Georges Limbour, Masson's studio,
vast, but fairly squalid, was located at the end of a series of courtyards overgrown with grass
and a fewstunted trees on what resembled waste ground. There were other studios of the same
kind there, including Mir6's, but also a much bigger one next to Masson's, where some lock-
smiths worked. The whole time Masson lived there the background noise of their machines
accompanied his every thol;lght and action with a constant hum that would stop suddenly at 6
p.m. on the dot. An uncanny stillness then settled over the place. The paintings seemed
strangely to awaken, words were heard in a different way' (Georges Limbour; preface to Andre
Masson, EntTetiens avecGeorges Charbonnier, Rene Julliard, 1958, p. 9).
In his text, '45, rue Blomet' (1982), Leiris lists those who frequented the place: Andre Masson,
Joan Mir6, Antonin Artaud, Georges Limbour, Armand Salacrou, the American poet Evan
Shipman and himself. He adds:
It was I who [...Jbrought in Georges Bataille, a numismatist at the time and extremely dissat-
isfied with his discipline, a man whose elegantly bourgeois exterior quite belied the ideas of this
violator of taboos' (Zebrage, Gallimard, 1992, p. 223).
11
Bataille & Leiris
Dostoevskian dilapidation. Masson had already produced some wonderful
drawings in which sexual abandon evoked a return to. the origins of the
world, and he would become Bataille's great illustrator in The St017J of the
Eye and other texts where eroticism converged with lyrical cosmogony and
philosophy of the sacred.
At the time I joined the Surrealist movement, after Masson and a little
before his neighbour Joan Mir6 did, Bataille had kept his distance from it.
His only contribution to In Revolution surrealiste consisted of a selection of
Fatrasies published in Issue 6 with a note by him that was unsigned, not even
initialled.J" It was' thanks to the erudition acquired at the Ecole de chartes
that he knew these little thirteenth-century French poems, rightly deemed
masterpieces of the nonsense genre; he had already talked to me about
them.and it was to me that he submitted them.I?
Bataille was suspicious at first, then resolutely hostile (at the time he
was 'general secretary' of the reviewDocuments, 18 from 1929 to 1930, and
Masson and Mir6 had had their studios at rue Blomet since the winter of 1920 aoan Mir6,
'Souvenir de la rue Blomet', inJoan Mir6, Ecrits et entretiens, selected, introduced and anno-
tated by Margit Rowell, published by Daniel Lelong editeur, 1995, pp. 112-17). The site of
the studios has become the square Blomet, where a sculpture by Mir6 now stands.
16. Bataille had refused permission 'for his name to appear in anything at all [...], because
he mistrusted Surrealism' (Leiris to Bernard-Henri Levyin the latter's book, us Aventures de
La liberu, Grasset, 1991, p. 178). The Fatrasies published in, La Revolution surrealiste were
reprinted in EIredes vents, NOS 3-4, Spring 1981, 'Autour de Michel Leiris', pp. 121-5, where
the introductory note and the translations are attributed to Bataille.
17. It wasLeiriswho had askedfor them, in a letter of 16July 1925(l..etter3, p. 84 in thisvolume).
18. Documents. Doctrines, archaeolog'J1 fine arts, ethnography, then Documents. Archaeologyl fine
arts, ethnography, variety. There were 15 issues of the magazine, the first dated 'April 1929',
the last, -Year2, 1930, No.7', appearing in April or May 1931. Editor: Carl Einstein. General
Secretary: o r g ~ s Bataille. Editorial board: 11 members, including Carl Einstein, Pierre
d'Espezel (Bataille's colleague at the Department of Coins), Dr Paul Rivet, Georges Henri
12
Bataille theImpossible
a focus of dissidence), when refusing the Surrealists' invitation to attend a
large meeting called to debate the 'Trotsky affair'19-he did not beat
about the bush: 'too many bloody boring idealists'. Later on, a mutual
esteem for Breton and for Eluard brought him into alliance with them and
even a collaboration of a literary nature on the review Minotaure
20
and a
political one when he initiated the antifascist movement Contre-
Attaque,21 but for all this he remained no less an outsider to the group.
Riviere (respectively director and deputy director of the Ethnography Museum at the
Trocadero) and Georges Wildenstein (editor of the Gauue des Beaux-arts). This board ceased
be referred to after Issue 5 (October 1929). Documents has been republished in facsimile
(jean-Michel Place, 1991, 2 VOlS) with a preface by Denis Hollier titled 'La valeur d'usage
de l'impossible' (The Use Value of the Impossible), which is reprinted in his collection us
Depossedis (Bataille, Cadlois, Leiris,Malraux, Sartre), published by Minuit, 1993. In his preface,
Denis Hollier points out that the idea for Documents came from Bataille and Pierre d'Espezel,
See also Surya, Georges Bataille, La mort a l'oeuore, pp. 147-57 (English translation, pp.
116-25). Pierre d'Espezel (1893-1959) was a librarian, numismatist and art historian; with
Jean Babelon (1889-1978), he was co-founder and co-editor of Arhhuse, a review of art and
archaeology (1923-31) in which Bataille had published numismatic studies in 192.7. and
1928. D'Espezel also contributed to Beaux-arts and to the Gazette des Beaux-arts, but not to
Documents.
19. This was the meeting on 11 March 1929 at the Chateau Bar, which on 12 February had
been preceded by a letter/questionnaire sent by the Surrealists to more than 70 'intellectuals
with revolutionary sympathies', among them Bataille, Leiris and Andre Masson. See Louis
Aragon and Andre Breton, 'To follow, short contribution to the dossier by certain intellectu-
als with revolutionary sympathies, Paris 1929', Varietes, Brussels, special issue, June 1929, 'Le
surrealisme en 1929', reprinted in Andre Breton, Oeuvres completes, VOL. I, Gallimard,
Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, pp. 951-91 (pp. 953-4 for the letter/questionnaire and P: 962
for the responses of Bataille, Leiris and Masson).
20. Published from June 1933 to May 1939.
21. Contre-Attaque, the Union of Revolutionary Intellectuals in Struggle, whose inaugural
manifesto appeared on7 October 1935, was described by Bataille as 'a small political group-
ing bringing together some former members of [Boris Souvarine's] Communist Circle and,
13
Bataille & Leiris
It was with Documents that Bataille first assumed the role of leader.
Although his power there was far from untrammelled, it seems now as if
the review had been made in his image: it was a]anus-faced publication
with one side turned towards the higher spheres of culture (where Bataille
was, for good or ill, in his sanctioned element, both by profession and
education) and the other towards a savage domain where travellers ven-
tured with neither map nor passport of any kind.
Financed by the art dealer Georges Wildenstein,22 who also published
the Gazette des Beaux-arts, Documents was primarily driven by Georges
Henri Riviere,23 then deputy director of the Museum of Ethnography at
Trocadero, along with Bataille himself and the German poet and cultural
critic Carl Einsteins! who specialized in modern. Western art and was the
in the wake of a clear-cut reconciliation with Andre Breton, the whole of the surrealist group'
(Tragment of an Autobiographical Note', in Laure, Ecrits, fragments, lettres . . . , Societe. nou-
velle des editions Pauvert, 1985, p. 311). Leiris refused to join the movement, approving of
its aims but considering it puerile in its forms of action (interview with Bernard-Henri Levy,
LesAuentures de La liberu, Grasset, 1991, p. 175). As for Bataille himself, see Leiris'sJoumal,
7 January 1936, p. 232 in this volume. The Contre-Attaque manifesto and the various texts
published by the movement can be found in DC, VOL. 1, pp. 379-432.
22. Georges Wildenstein (1892-1963), art dealer, art historian, publisher and benefactor of
the Ethnography Museum at Trocadero.
23. In 1986-87, Leiris was to say: 'I think Riviere got the idea for Documents and he must have
thought that Bataille would make a very good general secretary for it' (interview with Sally
Price and Jean ]amin in Michel Leiris, C'est-a-dire, Jean-Michel Place, 1992, p. 32). In fact,
Riviere was probably only connected with the project at a later stage and at the request of the
Georges Wildenstein, in order to strengthen the 'ethnographic' wing of the publication.
24. Carl Einstein was the titular editor of Documents and Bataille the general secretary. In fact, it
was Bataille who ran the magazine (see 'The Publication of 1\ Corpse" " p. 63 in this volume).
Nonetheless, in her Carl Einstein, 1885-1940: itinerarieS d'unepertsee moderne, Presses de l'univer-
site de Paris-Sorbonne, 2002, pp. 232-45,in the chapter 'Laventure de Documents', Liliane
Meffre deems Einstein to have had a decisive role in the project, judging him to have been 'scan-
dalously and partially' forgotten in the introduction to the reprint of the magazine (Denis
14
Bataille theImpossible
author of the first study on 'Negro art' .25 The contributors came from an
extremely wide range of backgrounds, since writers in the vanguard (most
of them renegades from Surrealismwho had rallied to Bataille) were side by
side with representatives of a host of different disciplines (art history, musi-
cology, archaeology, ethnology, etc.), some of them members of the Institut
de France or occupying high-ranking positions in museums or libraries.
This was an absolutely 'impossible' mixture, more because of the diversity
of the disciplines-and the indisciplines-than for the disparities between
the individuals themselves. Some were really conservative in their thinking,
or, at any rate, inclined (like Einstein) towards little more than art-historical
writing or reviewing, while others (like Bataille, supported by Riviere and I .
as his deputyfor some months in the role of sub-editor; then my successor,
the poet Georges Limbour, with an ethnographer, Marcel Griaule
26
coming
before me) were applying themselves to using the reviewas a war machine
against received ideas.
In the statement issued to launch the review.. there are some para-
graphs that seem especially to bear Bataille's hallmarkc
TIle most provoking works of art, as yet unclassified, and certain assorted
artefacts that have been neglected until now, will be the object' of studies
as rigorous and scientific as those of the archaeologists [...]. What we
Hollier's preface). In fact, in the course of the magazine's two-year run, Einstein published
around a dozen articlesand a number of reports and, to our knowledge, no one has denied the
interest of these.
25. Negerplastik (Leipzig, 1915). Different translations into French had been published, with the
tide La Sculpture negre.
26. Leiris occupied these posts from 3June 1929 fJournal, 2June 1929, p. 188) and shared them
for some time with Griaule from August of that year; when the two men met on the premises of
the magazine, shortly after the ethnologist's return from his first trip to Abyssinia. See Michel
Leiris, Miroirde I'A.friqtu, edsJeanJamin andJacques Mercier; Gallimard, 1995, p. 114, Nan: 15,
and pp. 394-5, NOTE 39.
15
Bataille & Leins
broadly have in mind are things that are really disturbing, 'whose out-
comes are yet to be defined. In these diverse investigations, the sometimes
absurd nature of the results or the methods, instead of being concealed,
as alwayshappens when the rules of propriety are followed, will be delib-
erately emphasised, just as much out of hatred for platitudes as from
humorous intent.
27
We only need to peruse the nul ofDocuments in chronological order and
we shall see that, after cautious beginnings, greater weight was given to
those articles of the programme which at the start had seemed to suggest
only the open spirit in,which the periodical would be produced, while essen-
tially keeping it within the bounds ofwhat is ordinarily expected from an art
journal. Quickly, under Bataille's guiding hand, it was the provoking and
the miscellaneous, if not the, disturbing, that rather than being objects of
study became the inherent characteristics of the publication itself, a strange
amalgam into whose making there entered many a preposterous element,
even if it was by virtue of the juxtaposition with certain texts that continued
to reflect the most austere kind ofleaming, or with reproductions of ancient
or modern works whose value was hardly debatable.
It was with two articles that were seemingly worthy of the official from
the Cabinet of Medals and the Ecole de chartes graduate that.Bataille
made his entrance in Documents: 'The Academic Horse', about Gaulish
coins, arid 'The Apocalypse of Saint-Sever', a description of a medieval
manuscript.sf Yet, themes that Bataille was later to develop were already
evident in these: hirsute forms (here, those of the Celtic depictions of the
27. The.full text of, this brochure appears in Louis Yvert, Bibliographie des lcrits de Michel
Leins, 1924 a 1995, Jean-Michel Place, 1996, pp. 354-5.
28. Articles published in.JNo. 1, April 1929, pp. 27-31, and in No.2, May 1929, pp. 74-84
(DC, V ~ 1, pp.J59-63 and 164--70).
16
Bataille theImpossible
horse) representing 'an answer from the ludicrous and frightft1l night of
J
humanity, to the platitudes and arrogance of the idealists'; the bracing
role of 'filthy or bloody deeds' (such as those that appear in the chansons
degeste or in miniatures like those of Saint-Sever).
In Issue 3, with 'The Language of Flowers' ,29 its title paradoxically
idyllic, Bataille gives a first outline of the aggressively anti-idealist philos-
ophy that was his, in a diversity offorms, up to the point when after lengthy
inspection of the idea of the sacred he begins'to elaborate that mystique of
the 'impossible' (that is, what overtakes the limits of the possible and whose
pursuit is therefore a pure waste of time) and that doctrine-or rather that
anti-doctrine-of 'non-knowledge' with which, having reached his full
maturity, he went beyond the iconoclastic rage of his youthful revolts. He
was then in a position to dispense to those who wished to 'hear it a more
effective kind of teaching, in as much as he was enriched by greater expe-
rience and knowledge while simultaneously having greater control. This,
which might be calledhis inaugural article, gave-him the opportunity to
display some reproductions of incongruous vegetable forms (as if incon-
gruity were not a matter ofjudgement but a given in Nature itself) and to
wind up by referring to the Marquis de Sade's famous gesture of pulling
the petals off roses over a pit of liquid manure. Nonetheless, we have to
wait until Issue 4 to see Bataille-a stubborn peasant, who may ~ quite
harmless but for all that digs his heels in-make up his mind to lay his
cards squarely on the table.
Illustrated with photographs-one was of a most outlandish petit-bour-
geois wedding taken in 1905 while the rest were of theatrical types and
other figures of the turn-of-the-century at the latest, but with clothes, pos-
tures or facial appearance that are antiquated beyond belief-'The Human
29. NO. 3. June 1929, pp. 160-8 (DC, VOL. 1, pp. 173-8).
17
Bataille & Leiris
Figure'30 is a real onslaught by the presenter ofithis farcical gallery of 'madly
improbable' creatures (who are none other than men and women who could
be our fathers and mothers) against the reassuring idea of any human
nature whose continuity would assume 'the permanence of certain distin-
guished qualities' and against the very idea of 'bringing Nature into the
rational order'. Shortlyafter this comes 'The Big Toe',31 with which Bataille
literally puts his foot down: full-page reproductions of friends' big toes and
a commentary establishing that if the foot is the object of taboos and of
fetishization in the sphere of eroticism, it is because it reminds people that
life is only a 'movement back.and forth between filth and ideal and ideal
and filth' since the feet are in the mud and the head is raised to the sky. This
passion for anti-idealism will find its supreme expression in 'base material-
ism and gnosticism',32 a text of Manichean inspiration in the first instance
about gnostic intaglio-work, Wit\! apparent neutrality, he notes: 'God in the
abstract (or merely the idea) andabstract matter: the.chief warder and the
prison walls'; he sees in the monstrous divinities represented on these stones
(among them a headless one, a motif to which he, will later grant great
emblematic significance) 'the figuration of forms in which it possible to
see the image of this base matter, which alone, through its incongruity and
an overwhelming lack of regard, enables the intelligence to escape from the
constraints of idealism' .
Documents did not renege on its remit as an art journal. There was ample
scope for genuine 'documents' (such as those relating to a scandal provoked
by the likes of Courbet and Manet
33
in their day, or a previously unpublished
30. No.4, September 1929, pp. 194-201 (OC, VOL. 1, pp. 181-5).
31. No.6, November 1929, pp. 297-302 (DC, VOLs 1, pp. 200--04).
32. Year 2, NO.1, [February or March] 1930, pp. 1-8 (DC, VOL. 1, pp. 220--6).
33. Two articles by Marie Elbe (the pseudonym of Marie-Louise Bataille, Georges Bataille's
18
Bataille the Impossible
text by the CubistJuan Gris).34 The current output of famous artists or those
,I
already on their way to being well known was envisaged under fresh perspec-
tives in relation to those usually adopted by writers on art, and that inex-
haustible topic, Picasso, had provided the material for a special issue to which
the great sociologist Marcel Mauss had deigned to contribute. What is more,
there is no doubt that Documents must have been the first review, in France at
least, to pay tribute to the genius of Antoine Caron
36--among
several older
artists who were practically ignored at the time-as well as taking up unknown
newcomers then starting out on their careers, such as Alberto Giacometti''?
and Gaston-Louis Roux,38 not to mention Salvador Dah"39 (who, to Bataille's
great displeasure, was soon to join the Surrealists). The fact that very margin-
al things were often brought up as relating in some degree to aesthetics and
pertaining to the domain of folklore or ethnography was never at odds-with
the-line theoretically envisaged, and, as for Bataille's participation as a writer,
whatever were the conclusions he wound up with, in the end he himself
cousin): 'Le scandale Courbet', Year 2, No.4, [1 May] 1930, pp. 227-33. and 'Maner et la cri-
tique de son temps'. Year 2, No.2, [March] 1930. pp. 84-91.
34. Juan Gris: "Texteinedit', introduced by Carl Einstein, Year 2. No.5, (June or July] 1930.
pp. 267-75. Juan Gris had died in May \927.
35. Special issue 'Hommage aPicassQ' , Year 2. No.3. [April] 1930.
36. Michel Leiris, 'Une peinture d'Antoine Caron'. No.7, December 1929, pp. 348-55.
Reprinted in Leiris, pp. 13-20. .
37. Michel Leiris, 'Alberto Giacometti', No.4. September 1929, ,?p. 209--14. One of the very
first articles on Giacometti (who had settled in France in 1925), and which has never been
in any of Leiris's collections.
38. Roger Vitrac, 'Gaston-Louis Roux', No.7, December 1929. pp. 356--63.
39. Reproductions of three paintings by Dalf in No.4, September 1929, pp. 217 and 229,
and an article by Bataille, 'Le "[eu lugubre" '; No.7, December 1929, pp. 297-302 (DC, VOL.
1, pp. 210-16).
19
Bataille & Leins
played the game by making formal or iconographical analysis the starting
point in the majority of his articles. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the
readership of art lovers at whom the magazine was essentiallyaimed was baf-
fled, not just by the tenor of Bataille's texts and of those by his closest collab-
orators, but by what was a shocking break with the expected in an art jownal
of the late 1920s: the livelyinterest in Afro-American, and even Parisian pop-
ular music, in jazz and in talking pictures (still in their babbling infancy), in
beautiful Transatlantic film stars, in the reigning singers of the cafe-concert,
in popular imagery such as the covers of FantOmas or illustrated news mag-
azines and other outlying subjects (monuments of bygone days in our
squares and parks, children's books, carnival masks), together with photo-
graphs included by Bataille, not without some degree of mischief, merely
because of their unusual, not to say grotesque or frightful, content.
Housed on business premises where we stood out as an enclave of
eccentricity, badly organized among ourselves and split into -tendencies
(which derived from the oddly assorted composition of our team and
partly explains the many hued character of a review that was decidedly
more incongruous than eclectic), incapable of coming up with brilliant
page layouts that would have smoothed the magazine's rough edges, we
were finally abandoned by our publisher, a man who was to some extent
entertained by the nonconformism of the magazine he financed (perhaps
flattered by it as much as frightened) but who nonetheless would have pre-
ferred it to bring in more money.
In the [mal issue, Bataille wrote a long article on VanGogh which estab-
lished a link between the episode where he cut off his ear and the theme of
the sun in the painter's work as it appeared both directly and obliquely.w
40. 'La mutilation sacrificielle et l'oreille coupee de Vincent VanGogh', Year 2, No.8 [April
or May 1931], pp. 10-20 (GC, VOL. 1, pp. 258-70).
20
Bataille the Impossible
We know how much the whole of Bataille's work was weighed down by the
theme of the blinding sun associated with that of sacrifice as a projection
outside the self in ecstasy or in death. On certain points he gave way, but
things became non-negotiable when he set out to confront the reader with
an equivocal reality; it was he who made the running in that bizarre game
of loser-takes-all, the story of Documents.
With the majority of its core contributors (Bataille and his acolytes,
whose writings were baroque and almost always impertinent in one way or
another; Einstein too with his laborious and practically untranslatable lan-
guage) seemingly paid to give it an air of 'impossibility', each by their own
lights, the magazine did indeed prove to be impossible in getting no fur-
ther than its 15th issue.
Is this defmition of Georges Bataille's trajectory, during the 30-odd
years of a literary life still in gestation when I met him, reallyjust a play on
words? After having been the impossible man fascinated by the most unac-
ceptable things he could discover, the man who made Documents by un-mak-
ing it, he broadened his horizons (in terms of the old idea ofleaving behind
the foot-stamping No! of the child in a tantrum) and, knowing that_a man
isn't thoroughly a man unless he finds his right measure in such excess, he
made himself the man ofImpossibility, avid to attain the point where high
and low merge in Dyonisiac vertigo and where distance between all and
nothing is abolished.
But in Bataille's case, it is probably absurd to want to define an itiner-
ary as if his thinking had been so meagre and linear to contain a starting
point and a point of arrival. By making impossibility his governing princi-
ple from the start, Bataille created an uncrossable margin around himself,
made particularly impossible for the friend here undersigned to transmit
anything other than a very pale and unclear reflection of the friend who is
no longer with us.
21
From the Time ofLordAuch
Ofall thethings that can be contemplated
under thearcof the heavens, there isnone
that more awakens thehuman spirit, ravishes
thesenses, inspires fright, and provokes greater
dread or admiration than themonsters,
marvels and abominations in which wesee
nature's works overturned, mutilated
and cut down.
~ r r Boaistuau, Histoires prodigieuses, Paris, 1561, quoted by
Georges Bataille, ~ s ecarts de la nature', Documents, Year 2,
No.2, 1930.
41
A beach somewhere with its usual holiday villas for families and its dra-
matic summer storms, a Spain where foreigners make sure to visit the
churches and spend afternoons at the Plaza de toroseThis is the sequence
of settings in which The Story of the Eye unfolds, a fiction which, like .the
most notorious of those imagined by Sade, belongs as much to the crime
genre as to the erotic, and which, swiftly delineated, illustrates a philoso-
phy which is explicit in Sade (who entrusts the exposition of his ideas to a
number of his characters) but remains implicit in this first of Georges
Bataille's books.
41. Pierre Boaistuau (c. 1517-66), Breton storyteller, orator and translator. Bataille's article,
'Les ecarts de la nature' was reprinted in OC, VOL. 1, pp. 228--30.
22
From the Time ofLordAuch
This fiction
1
is written in the first person, which has its precedents in
erotic literature; together with the strangeness of its simultaneously idyllic
and frantic character, it has a peculiarity: the 'I' supposed to be the narra-
tor's is openly doubled by a real 'I' J since the fiction is accompanied by an
autobiographical exegesis that relates events of his youth and childhood
that had made an impression on the author to the point where they sur-
face again, transformed but identifiable after the event, in a narrative
believed to have no relation to them. In the earliest edition, dated 1928,
the second part, indicated as such and following on from the Recit, forms
a companion piece, Coincidences, which, by reattaching the fiction, deliber-
ately and without the logic of a solution, to its psychological underpinning,
manages to give the weight and emotional quality of lived experience to a
story which is nonetheless excessive, at least in so far as the norms of the
genre allow. But in the 'Seville 1940' edition and the 'Burgos 1941'42 edi-
tion, or with the title Reminiscences, this exegesis is no more than an
appendix printed in a smaller typeface; now, set on another level from the
narrative and presented simply as a commentary, it appears to be some-
what shortened and even toned down at certain points, either because the
author wanted to blur some over-personal revelations about the feelings
his father and mother inspired in himwhen he was a very young child and
then a young man, or because he thought he had distorted certain facts
through his perhaps mistaken view of them in terms of the Oedipus com-
plex. Suppressed in this last version-as if Bataille had come to regard the
statement concerned as fallacious or inopportune-one passage points
out that 'this partly imaginary story' was composed in the manner of a
novel in which the author lets his mind freewheel beyond any speculative
42.- These being the 1947 and 1951 editions, which present the new version. See pp. 7-8,
NOTE 7 in this volume.
23
Bataille & Leins
or didactic aim: 'I began to write with no specific purpose, urged above all
by the wish to forget, for the time being at least, what I personally can be
or do. '43 From one version to the next, the chasm that has opened up
between the two parts, and thereby between the real 'I' and the 'I' of the
narrator, shows that there had been a distinct auto-critique in operation:
by now deeply absorbed in strictly philosophical reflection, Bataille
appears to be judging his attempt at exegesis more severely as well as
denying that his undertaking could have had an essentially gratuitous
character, If he thought otherwise, what reason could he have had for not
only shortening the exegesis and reducing the typeface, but also cutting
out the phrase in question and, in terms of his overall objective of produe-
ing a tighter version, for expunging from the fiction certain stylistic or
invented.details that actually underlined (sometimes ironically) its novel-
istic character? With these amendments, the work certainly gained in
rigour, 'while losing nothing of its corrosive force; but for anyone who had
read it first in its original form, it is difficult----even though the overall dif-
ference may, in fact, be tiny-to lose one's liking for the first version, the
one that is more impulsive and, by correlation, more provocative.
Being among those who were bowled over by this first version (illustrat-
ed by Andre Masson, then a Surrealist, in a style more lyrical than natura-
listic, as with his work for Aragon's Le Cond'Irtne, which carne out with the
same publishersj.w I confess that with scarcely any exceptions I would have
preferred-it to have been left without revision. I am sorry, moreover, that in
4g. DC, VOL 1, p. 7g. Leiris notes further on that he will quote only from the first version (1928),
which has no contemporary edition, only the original edition and in the Complete Works
(Oeuvres completes or OC). It is therefore these that will bereferenced below.
44. Aragon's book, Le Cond'Irene, was published shortly before The Sto1!J of the Eye, in 1928,
without the author's name, nor that of the illustrator or publisher.
24
From the Time of LordAuch
the English translation-which was based on the final text and attributed
not to Lord Auch but to Pierre Angelique, the pseudonymous author of
Madame Edwardar--the title, A Tale of Satisfied Desire,45 while having the virtue
of making the mainspring ofthe plot starkly obvious, no longer has the word
ceye' looming over it like some sinister headlight in the dark. Now that I have
made my partiality clear, it goes without saying that from here on I shall
always refer to the early version, which is perhaps not the best (it being cer-
tainly looser) but which for me has something of the charm of revelation.
What banality there is in the two sunlit backdrops, one of them utterly bour-
geois, the other hardly less so, since its picturesque quality doesn't go beyond
the tourist level (tourism in style, you understand, and less run-of-the-mill
than trips to Spain have become since then). One would think both of these
decors had been chosen for their comfortable blandness, to highlight in even
greater contrasting relief the discrepancies, at first merely obscene or scato-
logical, then ultimately bloody, indulged in by the narrator and his girl-
friend, adolescents whose frenzy of sensuality is not without playfulness, nor
their anxious greed without a certain divine insouciance. In addition to this
couple are other characters belonging to the well-heeled classes of society: a
very young girl who is not so much an accomplice as a fascinated victim-a
blonde as gentle as the other girl is violent and in such a state that she will
go mad and hang herself; then, an older Englishman who in the blatantly
sadistic parts ofthe story will act as something ofa master ofceremonies. Two
puppet characters, typically the sort of people who are usually treated with
great respect and who will be cynically held up to ridicule: the heroine's
mother, whom the former takes pleasure in pissing on from her perch in an
45. Pierre Angelique, A Tale of SatisfUd Desire, translated into English by Audiart.
25
Bataille & Leins
attic; then, a Seville priest, who will be compelled to take part in a sacrile-
gious orgy and later killed, his torn-out eye placed by the heroine inside her
female opening, a scene that crowns the story likean apotheosis conjugating
its three modes ofexcess: sexual delirium, wholesale blasphemy and murder-
ous rage. At the heart of all this is a true story ofwhich the human eye is like-
wise the pivot and which Bataille took delight (as he says in the first version
of the exegesis) in incorporating into a narrative which is otherwise essential-
Iyfiction: the death of the much-admired matador Manuel Granero,46 gored
in the eye by a bull's horn on 7 May 1922 in the bullring at Madrid. In the
audience at this all-too-memorable corrida, during a university trip to the
Spanish capital, was the young former pupil of the Ecole de chartes who was
soon to become the author of these pages. These begin almost innocently
with libertine games involving milk-the eat's milk-then eggs, and the
episode of the young madwoman whose suicide will not prevent her from
remaining present to all intents and pmposes (a modern example of the
haunted castle novel, here a sanatorium, that a girl of unstable mind peoples
with her phantoms, and where we see her drying a sheet wet with urine that
assumes a ghostly appearance) to arrive at that accidental enucleation which
shortly precedes the deliberate atrocity whose toy is no longer the shining
oval of an egg with its sticky, yellowcentre, but an eyeball that only minutes
before could see. Achieving this narrative culmination, together with their
English partner; are he and she ofwhom the narrator said near the start: 'We
were in no sense without shame, not at all, but something imperious com-
pelled us to brave it together as shamelessly as possible.'47
46. Manuel Granero (1902-22). A postcard depicting him, sent by Andre Castel to Jean
Paulhan, is reproduced in Andre Castel and Michel Leiris, Correspondance 1938-1958, ed.
Annie Maillis, editions Claire Paulhan, 2002, p. 264.
47. OC, VOL. 1, p. 15.
26
From the Time ofLordAuch
Egg, eye: solids not without a certain formal analogy and which, indi-
,
cated in the plural by words that sound almost the same (muft, yeux), for
Bataille-as for his heroine-are connected to that sun which in 1930, in
the tide of his contribution to a tribute to Picasso (Documents, Year 2, NO.
3), he will describe as 'rotten',48 noting in the body of his text that 'the
horrible crowing sound [of the rooster], which is particularly sun-related,
is always close to the sound of a throat being cut', and pointing out that
the myth of Icarus shows how 'the highest point reached blurs into a sud-
den fall, an unparalleled violence'o? There is another sun in 1931, in the
subscription prospectus for Solar Anus,50 a cosmology laid out in a vein
both prophetic and humorous, which he will describe as 'sickening and
pink like a gland, open and urinating like a meatus', at least for anyone
who looks at it without fear of being blinded by the dazzle, 'at the height
of summer and one's own red face bathed in sweat'A! therefore in the
same conditions as the protagonists of The Story of the Eye in which the
Spanish light, so intense that it seems liquefied, replaces the summer clar-
ity of a bathing resort whose nights are sometimes rent by lightning.
Egg: the candid product of the country henhouse, the luxury of child-
hood Easters, and a highly symbolic object associated with both new life
and the origins of the world. For the 'I' of the exegesis, there is a reminder
of the blind, infirm father making eyes when he urinated. For the narrator
and his girlfriend, something which they will use (eating it) and misuse
48. The title of Bataille's contribution was' Soleil pourri' (DC, VOL. 1, pp. 231-2).
49. DC, VOL. 1, p. 232.
50. L'Anus solaire, illustrated in drypoint by Andre Masson, published by La Galerie Simon,
1931, text reprinted in OC, VOL. 1, pp. 79-86. The Galerie Simon was the name of Daniel-
Henry Kahnweiler's gallery in the inter-War period.
51. DC, YOLo I, p. 612.
27
Bataille & Leiris
with such shamelessness that soon the very sight ofit will make them blush
and, by tacit accord, they will cease to utter its very name.
Eye: a part of the body whose extreme ambiguity Bataille will note in
September 1929 (in the 'Dictionary' article 'Eye', Documents, NO. 14).52
Simultaneously a figure of moral consciousness (the eye of conscience, a
widely employed commonplace) and an image of repression (wasn't there
a long-running crime stories periodical with the title The Eye of thePolice,53
a basically sadistic publication, with an eye as its graphic emblem, and was
this not merely 'the expression of a blind bloodthirstiness'?), for
Westerners this organ is something that both attracts and disturbs, and in
its animal forms is so repugnant as a food that 'we will never eat it'. Yet
others have such a different attitude towards it that Robert Louis
Stevenson, by virtue of his long experience of the life of the South Sea
Islanders, described it as a cannibal delicacy.-s Observing that 'the
extreme of seduction probably verges on horror', Bataille points out that
in this respect 'the eye could be approached with a sharp instrument whose
appearance provokes both acute and contradictory reactions' and he adds
that this was doubtless what was obscurely felt by Luis Bufiuel and
Salvador Dali, the then almost unknown makers of Un Chien Andalou, that
'extraordinary film' which shows in one of its early sequences 'a razor
52. The section ' Dictionnaire critique', then 'Dictionnaire', of which Bataille and Leiris were
the main authors, was included in the 'Chronique' which featured in each issue. We are unable
to grasp what Leiris means by his reference to NO. 14.
53. Aweeklywhich, Bataille tells us, was published from 1907 to 1924. Its cover with the eye
as graphic emblem illustrates the article, p. 217.
54. 'In historic times, when human oblation was made [...] the eyes of the victim were for-
mally offered to the chief: a delicacy to the leading guest' (Robert Louis Stevenson, In the
South Seas, Part I: The Marquesas, Chapter 11, Long Pig-A Cannibal High Place, Penguin,
1988, p. 70).
28
From the Time of LordAuch
slicing right into the sparkling eye of a charming young woman'.
Moreover, he includes a reproduction of the drawing by Grandville illus-
trating a nightmare that the artist had had: the story of a murderer pur-
..
sued into the very depths of the sea by a vengeful eye that assumes the
form of a fish, its successively represented metamorphoses turning the
single image into another 'story of the eye' where, as in Bataille's novel,
the way through the narrative lies with the organ of sight. Finally, he
relates an incident that is macabre and comical in equal measure: just as
he is about to be guillotined, a condemned man, Crampon, tears out one
of his eyes and makes a gift of it to the chaplain who wished to attend
him-a moment of high farce, since the priest was unaware that this was
a glass eye.
55
The theme of the eye was thus so important for Bataille that the arti-
cle on this word in the 'Critical Dictionary' includes two other texts writ-
ten at his instigation: one of them, by Robert Desnos, is a philological
commentary with the title The Image of the Eye, on some current expres-
sions using either the word or the idea of the eye, sometimes with risque
undertones; the other is an ethnographic piece by Marcel Griaule, about
belief in the evil eye, and there's also a concluding note observing that the
locution 'faire de l'oeil' (to give the glad eye) was deemed too colloquial
to be included in the dictionary of the Academic Francaise.t" It was (I
think) also around that time, which could be termed the time of The Story
of the Eye and Documents, that Bataille's concern with oddities of the natu-
ral sciences led to him becoming interested in the pineal gland, a small
mass of tissue deep in the brain whose functions are unclear. According to
55. No trace is to be found of this occurrence, nor of Crampon, as its hero is called.
56. The reader will find these texts below, pp. 243-52.
29
Bataille & Leiris
the Grand Larousse encyclopidique, Descartes regarded this body as 'a cen-
tre receiving and transmitting impressions from outside to the soul'; but
Bataille liked to see it-i-unless the close on 40 years since then are mak-
ing me distort his ideas-as an embryonic eye intended to be directed
upwards, in other words towards the sun, a purpose unfulfilled by evolu-
tion, so that the pineal gland is in effect a failed eye.
57
Egg, eye: added to these two elided elements are the testicles of the
freshly slaughtered bull, resembling pinkish eggs or eyes that the narra-
tor's girlfriend has brought to her terrace on the sol side (the side in the
glare of the sun, which she nonetheless preferred to sombra, considered
better) by her other companion, not so as to eat themwithout further ado,
after the fashion of certain bygone aficionados, and cooked with this in
mind, but to place them under her naked buttocks. 'They are raw balls,
says Sir Edmund to Simone with a slight English accent.t
58
After biting
into one of tlre two globes, Simone puts the other one into her most inti-
mate part, an action that occurs at the very moment when Granero is
gored by- the 'sun monster' with the result that ..his eye spurts out, as if the
two events were interpellating one another through some obscure corre-
lation and as if (one may think) this was the offering that the dark..haired
Simone was waiting for; a new Salome in love with a surrogate cut-off
head, but getting the extravagant toy she so greedily-desires only after the
sordidmurder which is enacted with a church in Seville as its theatre.
Urine, blood: the sun-coloured liquid whose flowSimone compares to
'gunshot seen as a Iight'59and which her young blonde friend cannot-stop
57. See the 'Dossier de l'oeil pineal', DC, VOL. 2, pp. 11-47. and more particularly'l'oeil pineal'.
pp. 14-20. This dossier had not yet been published when Leiris was writing his article.
58. OCt VOL. 1. p. 54.
59. OCt VOL. 1. p. 38.
30
From the Time of LordAuch
herself from producing in copious quantities every time she is convulsed
by pleasure; the darker liquid which will be shed by that Icarus, Granero,
and that pathetic martyr, the priest with his eye torn out. Besides milk (too
white not to be profaned), besides the sperm that the narrator compares
to the Milky Way, 'strange breach of astral sperm and celestial urine across
the cranial vault formed by the circle of the constellations',60 there are no
other possible libations, one being ignoble and the other tragic, their
potency equivocal-derision and unbridled desire-brought to them by a
hero and especially by a heroine whose taste 'for sinister and cruel farce'
(as well as the insolently happy manner in which, without ever achieving
a calmness of mood, she splashes about in the worst excess) is akin to
those Aztec gods, 'sinister nasty jokers, full of malevolent humour'61 to
whom Bataille paid tribute in a text impelled by a large exhibition of pre-
Columbian art in which he was involved as a librarian at the National
Library,62in the very year when he published The Story oftheEye under the
sardonic pseudonym of Lord Auch. 'Mexico,' he observed, after having
described the horror of the cults and the farcical strangeness of certain
Aztec myths, 'was not only the most dripping of human slaughterhouses,
it was also a rich city, a veritable Venice with canals and walkways, decorat-
ed temples and, above all, beautiful gardens in bloom.'63
As much in this city so highly valued by Bataille as in The Story of theEye
and in the article 'Eye' in the Critical Dictionary of Documents (where there
is a coming together of elements supplementing the exegesis on another
60. OC, VOL. 1, p. 44.
61. DC, VOL. 1, p. 156.
62. See p. 9, NOTE 8 in this volume.
63. DC, VOL. 1, p. 157.
31
Bataille & Leins
level) terms that are usually thought of as opposites appear in conjunction:
the terrible and the risible, the radiant and the sickening, the light and the
heavy, the sumptuous and the ill-starred. The coincidence of contraries, one
of the lines of force of Bataille's thinking and what the narrator of The Story
aftke Eye feels himself dizzily impelled towards: 'Death being the only issue
of my erection, with Simone and I killed, the world of our personal vision,
intolerable for us, would necessarily be replaced by pure stars, devoid ofany
relation to outside eyes, and without any human delays or digressions, cold-
ly achieving what seems to me to be the end of my sexual dissipations: a
geometric incandescence (among other things a point ofconvergence of life
and death, being and nothingness) and utterly dazzling.'M But all of this
will only be articulated later, after Bataille has made his own the idea of the
ambiguity of the sacred (or of the sacred as double-sided, left and right,
opposites but complementary), an idea that he found in Marcel Mauss and
which for hitn was to be an active firmament of speculation, just like the
idea, ~ q u y -Maussian in origin, of dilapidation as a means ofsovereignty--
after he has absorbed Nietzsche's teachings, crucially, and at a different level
from the sociological. For now, a philosopher in a savage state, he advances,
not so much towards a tabula rasa ruled by reasons of method but towards
a carefree looting of both moral imperatives and pathways plotted by some
prudent logic, and he -seems to throw wholesale down on paper all sympa-
thetic notions that either support or reflect his obsessions, a stock of themes
later taken up and refined or enriched but all the more moving for their
being onlyjust wrenched out of chaos.
What an extraordinaryjumble it is, this fast-told talevin which all barri-
ers are broken between things base and exalted, enmeshing the most foully
64. DC, VOL. I, pp. 33-4.
32
From the Time ofLordAuch
corporeal (excrement, vomit) and the most majestically cosmic (sea, storm,
volcanoes, sun and moon and starry nights), the most trite (couldn't one say
that Simone has a sense of treating certain objects with a sacred aura-
eggs, bull's testicles, the eye-as if she actually sat on them?) and the most
paradoxically romantic (the young madwoman whose o r ~ s will be
fouled by the heroine, irritated by a feeling of distance from it, and who
later in Seville the hero will see as a vision of'disastrous sadnesst ,65 and of
extreme horror, finding the blue eye weeping and contemplating it, when
the ecclesiastical eye half swallowed by Simone will strike him as seeming
none other than that of the confined Marcelle who asked to be saved from
a mythic cardinal, a 'cure of the gliillotine',66 who was in fact he himself as
she had seen him during a tumultuous party in the course of which her
ravings had been precipitated, and so frightening that she killed herself
when she discovered that he and the cardinal were one and the same).
Both human and nonhuman, the elements involved overlap, less in terms
of some general symbolism than through personal associations presented
.merely as' such by the narrator (in the event, a direct go-between to the
author) and by way of a curious dialectic of Nature, reducing the universe
to a cycleof terms each ofwhich would be only the reverberation ofanoth-
er or its transposition onto another register, a world become a dictionary
where the meaning "ofwords fades away since all of them are defined by
lone another. At the start of Solar-Anus, we will learn that 'the world is purely
parodic, which is to say that each thing we look upon is the parody of
another, or else the same thing in some deceptive form'. 67 And the
65. DC, VOL. 1, p. 69.
66. DC, VOL. 1, p. 43.
67. DC, VOL. 1, p. 81.
33
Bataille & Leiris
staggering Triumph of the Eye, which takes place before an altar with
'twisted, complicated decorations',68 evoking India and inciting to love,
forms the last and the most suffocating of the tableaux vivants (these are
sometimes imagined and sometimes acted out by the protagonists) by which
The Story of the Eye is marked out. Isn't this the making material of a
Surrealist collage or the kind of superimposition made possible by photog-
raphy, an image of flesh and blood where the play of things, specificallythe
plays on parts of the body, would intervene in as troubling a wayas the plays
on words on which poetic puns are based?
That Bataille wrote 'with no specific purpose, urged above all by the
wish to forget ...',69 which is to say in complete freedom (merely surren-
dering himself 'to obscene dreaming'),70 was probably necessary for the
welling up of this fantastic combination, the result of some of the innu-
merable permutations possible in a universe so lacking in hierarchies that
everything in it is interchangeable: firmly sheathed in female flesh, a well-
nigh baroque construction whose luxuriance prompts thoughts of myste-
rious distances and the act of love, the murdered eye, overlaid through
tender reminiscence by that of the girlfriend-suicide, this pale eye in
which something extraneous and physiological-the traces of voluptuous
micturation-mimics tears, and which, in the girlfriend still living, gives
sight to that blind but greedy spot that colloquial metaphor likens to an
eye. 'Lunarvision',"! an allegory of love and death, which appears to the
narrator as the answer to his waiting, wide open for that inexpressible
thing that can only be reached through rupture and tearing: 'I found
68. DC, YOLo 1, p. 59.
69. DC, YOL. 1, p. 73.
70. DC, VOL 1, p. 75.
71. DC, YOLo 1, p. 69.
34
From the Time of LordAud:
myself facing what I imagine I had always waited for in the same way as a
guillotine waits for a neck to slice into.'72 Words which 17years later will
be echoed by those in On Nietzsche: 'My rage for loving looks towards
death as a window looks out on a courtyard. '73
If the Lord Auch of The Story of the Eye, a poem in the form of a novel
whose tenacious power to entrance has a lot to do with the unvarying
osmosis at work in it between the incongruously lyrical 'I' (the brew of
abattoir waste, filth and blue sky) and the coldly autobiographical 'I' (the
attempt to draw on a few known reference points so as to bring a little
order into this apocalypse), if this Auch whose name is an abbreviated way
of sending everything to what in baser language are called latrines and
whose aristocratic prefix gives him the airs of a dandyish nickname, if this
product of black humour is already a cover for the Georges Bataille who
will later formulate an apologist theory of transgression and, breaking
down the wall of received ideas, will strive with all his intellect to prevent
other walls of ideals from closing in on him, one might say that this first
book-which itself is at fault because of being published clandestinely and
doomed to the hell of libraries-s-has no other end but to transgress, jostle
and equalize, as ifina game.
In this festival ofunmliness and insults to idols, where the outrage on
the eminently solar organ of the eye reaches its high point as an outrage
of major proportions, and where it is another 'eye of the police' (since it
is the eye of a man of the church) that is subjected, like the hull's second
testicle, to treatment that turns the female sex organ into the figure of a
cannibal mouth, there is no end to the profound insights that appear,
72. DC, VOL 1, p. 69.
73. DC, VOL. 1, p. 76. Sur Nietzdu. Volante de chance was published by Gallimard in 1945.
35
Bataille & Leins
though only at lightning speed or like brusque gaps in the clouds of a low-
ering sky that hides infinity. This story, a kind of waking dream deriving
from the improbable without the least appeal to the marvellous, carved
out of sundry digressions that are genuinely tragic and which, once its
peak has been reached, turns to the masquerade of opera buffa as if, in
order to be complete, the myth had to be degraded into some kind of
Orpheus in the Underworld ('On the fourth day the Englishman bought a
yacht at Gibraltar and we headed out to sea towards fresh adventures with
a crew of Negroes'),74 has such a curtain fall, soap-opera-like in its appeal
to a facile exoticism and its way of handling what seems to be the possibil-
ity of a sequel, that, without the slightest irony, we could talk about it as of
a creation that is not yet mature but thoroughly adolescent, appropriately
with' its heroes not quite adults, except for one.
Whatever flame eats into them and whatever blackness their actions
finally attain, the fact is that these heroes, who defy everything under the
vault of the sky is as if they were part and parcel of Elizabethan theatre,
remain imprinted with an irreducible childishness, all through impossible
tribulations that belong somewhere other than in school holidays that are
as endless in every respect as tortuous adolescent daydreams may suggest.
A heyday of freedom that is never untrammelled enough, of amusement
in the sense that Bataille will give to this word when, in 1930, he writes
that 'amusement is the most glaring and of course most terrifying need of
human nature' (Documents, Year 2, No.4, in the article 'Nickel-Plated
Feet',75 in which we read that the popular trio whose illicit exploits are
recounted in comic-strip form in the children's paper L'Epatant are a
74. OC. VOL. 1, p. 69.
75. OC, VOL. 1, p. 235.
36
From the Time of LordAuch
little bit like 'figures from the Mexican Valhalla,76simultaneously covered
in blood and splitting their sides with laughter'). A heyday when the time-
honoured taboos are systematically violated by those anxious and boister-
ous young gods, the narrator and Simone, and by their acolyte, all three
of whom try endlessly to furnish their absolute leisure with aberrant
actions summoned by their unquenchable thirst to feel themselves both
outside any laws and outside of themselves.
76. DC, VOL. 1, p. 233.
37
GEORGES BATAIILE
On Michel Leiris*
Editor's Title
Surrealism from Day to Day
To Yves Breton,
to whose friendship lowe the idea and the
possibility ofwritinga book I love
1
Chapter 1
1. My aim
I have only just read the pages in The Rebel that refer to Surrealism.s My
idea of Surrealism does not correspond to the one Albert Camus has. I
myself remain bound to those minor, over-familiar aspects of a debate in
1. A notary in Avignon, Breton was a great bibliophile and Bataille dedicated L'AbbeC. to
him in these terms:
To Yves Breton. Only a stationmaster who is quite mad, but very wise, is worthy enough to
manipulate the sentences and chapters of a book. Awell-made library is a well-ordered derail-
ment, a point in the universe where the universe is so prettily upturned that the upturning
has become a fixed part of it. I believe I could have no better way of expressing my fond
attachment to you, in this admirable library. Georges Bataille.
(Sale catalogue for The Literary Collection of Pierre Leroy: MajorSurrealist and R>st-War Authors,
26 June 2002, Sotheby's France, Galerie Charpentier, NO. 35). According to the sale cata-
l o ~ e for the literary library of Robert Moureau and Micheline de Belle-froid, Part 1, 3-4
e c e ~ e r 2003, Drouot Richelieu, NO. 96 (Albert Camus, La Corde), the sale catalogue for
Surrealisme et poesie coniemporaine, editions originales sur grandpaM manuscrits [etc.], Drouot,
14-17 June 1954 (with the title Bibliotheque d'un amateur also on the cover), relates to Yves
Breton's library, even though his name does not appear. See also p. 69, NOTE 33 in this volume.
2. Written before I was able to take full account of the Camus-Breton controversy, published
in Arts, October-November 1951. [Bataille's note]
41
Bataille & Leins
which my voice, alas, was raised. But we must bring into a single arena the
spreading slough of a life that mires everything and the vital forces that
can deliver us from our bonds. I am very attached to the minor aspects
and am unable to separate my worthwhile moments from the humility
they give me. I am not writing this book in order to publish it. As far as
the present moment is concerned, I write for myself, for those very few
people who might chance upon these papers (I have no wish to interfere,
except on one point: I should not like there to be any copies of these
pages; I rule out their publication, nor could I even allow an extract to be
given to this end).3
Of course I can change my mind and hand over the text to a publisher.
. . . In any event, I would not do this with the aim of harm or denigration. I
do like these petty, stick-in-the-mud antecedents that are almost unmen-
tionable, like manure that feeds an always secret, always hidden truth,
embarrassing to some extent, shame-inducing: it's the only kind I like. I
love purity to the point of loving impurity; without it purity would be a
fraud. I don't know whether this is compromise or rescue, I think I may
be getting lost or going too far: vice of this kind has less hidden meaning
in eroticism. . . .
Its Dadaist. origins lend Surrealism a certain inextricable element.
There is something studied and pretentious that goes hand-in-hand with
crude childishness. The connection is so perfect that it is hard to tell
which of these faults is the more to be detested. But anyone unable to
appreciate the sweetish, soapy nakedness of prostitutes can have no feeling
for what, in a similar way, attaches to the direst failures. I'll speak plainly
3. Written in 1951, 'Surrealism from Day to Day' was published after Bataille's death, in
1970. This is the version in the DC, VOL. 8, ed. Thadee Klossowski, 1976, pp. 168-84, with-
out the variants that appeared in the notes.
42
Surrealism from Day to Day
now: it's their only hope. If not for this, I would find people repugnant
and I would despise their sincerity: it is bound up with these foul habits,
and with the odious verbal ructions where all that is left is hideous, disfig-
ured and holding the promise of a mute denial.
I shall write as the spirit takes me, drawing on my memories, and with
no hesitation in talking about myself, for it's myselfthat I have known the
best and often it wasjust my own behaviour that asked the questions that
matter to me. Most of all, though, I should like to make free with digressions;
making free with digressions strikes me as the only approach conducive to
what I have in mind. And yet my narrative might well be no different from
the one I could have made of my 'literary life'.
2. Michel Leins
I got to know Michel Leiris right at the start. I met him late in 1924: he
was a friend of]acques Lavaud, who, like me, worked as a librarian at the
Nationale. The three of us had a shortlived plan to found a literary move-
ment, about which we had no more than the haziest ideas. I remember
that one evening, when we had been drinking cocktails, we went to the
bar-room of a little brothel in a street near the Porte Saint-Denis, a place
one ofus had heard about. It was a good-natured brothel, friendly, and we
had been drinking; I had drunk recklessly and too much, and I was the
gloomiest of the three. Our discussions, which one of the girls joined in
(not without a degree of lively interest, albeit off-beam), were most cer-
tainly trivial, as I recall, and their extravagance was doubtless likewise. But
in those days, extravagance was cheap at the price for those delighted by
it and they sawit as putting an end to the common-sense world. So much
so that we felt the 'movement' was taking shape: all we had to do was pub-
lish some of our discussions (which I in my drunkenness noted down)....
Apart from some weary affectation, none of this, of course, struck us as
43
Bataille& Leiris
having much importance. Not long after, Leiris got involved with the
Surrealist groups and we never mentioned the subject again; I think that
the breadth and the toughness of the nascent movement gave him a
shock. For a month or two, we didn't see one another. Neither of us was
the type to explain himself: especially Leiris. Myfriend talked readily about
drinks and bars. We sometimes spoke about literature, but with no more
interest than about drinks or bars (and I can say that I was disappointed
about this, but Leiris, who was younger, intimidated me: with him I had a
sense of shame in talking about what absorbed me completely. Not only
did I live with this sense of shame but, of the two of us, it was Leiris who
was the initiate.). Finally, at my insistence, he spoke to me at some length
about the Surrealists, and straightaway it struck me that this could be
absurd but serious, even tedious. I was dissatisfied. It separated Leiris
from-me. I was fond of him and he gave me to understand that our relation-
4. It was probably in November 1924 that Leiris joined the Surrealist group. 'Along with
Masson's friends, who were already in touch with the group assembled around Breton,
Eluard and Aragon (Artaud recently; Limbour on a longer basis, but somewhat remotely),
[Roland] Tual and I myself joined, in the wake of Masson, who also brought Miro into the
new movement' (Leiris, 'Elements pour une biographie [ofAndre Masson]', in the collective
work Andre Masson, Rouen, 1940, pp. 11-12). See p. 208, NOTE 237 in this volume.
Leiris's contribution to La Revolution surrtaliste essentially consisted of the early parts of
Glossaire j'y serre mesgloses and some dreams. Several of his texts from the Surrealist period
remained unpublished until after his death, when Catherine Maubon published them in
E Evasion souterraine (Fata ~ o ~ n 1992). This collection notably includes 'Le Porcat ver-
tigineux', dated 26 November 1925 and edited on the basis of a typescript which gave no
dedicatee. In fact, this text was dedicated 'to Georges Bataille', as would subsequently be
revealed by the manuscript held by Andre Breton ([sale catalogue, 7-17 April 2003, Paris,
Drouot-Richelieu] Andre Breton, 42, rue Fontaine, VOL. Manuscrits, NO. 2089). For some
unknown reason, 'Le Forcat vertigineux' was not published in La Revolution surrealiste, for
which it was very probably intended.
44
SurrealismfromDay to Day
ship was secondary. I was interested only in things that were disconnected
and inconsequential, except for my desire for a life of brilliance . . . I was
right, a man with a second-rate life canjudge nothing: thinking he can be
a judge of life, he judges only his own inadequacy. Moreover, I felt bad. I
sometimes thought Leiris was being taken in, I feared a resounding hoax.
All I could think ofwas some secret, enervated violence at work inside me,
which meant, I believed, that I would stand out and be worthy of interest.
I soon came to think that the heavy atmosphere of Surrealism would
paralyse and stifle me. It would be hard for me to breathe in that atmos-
phere of ostentation. I found myself rejected and, since I experienced by
contagion the shock that had directly struck Leiris, I had the feeling of
being overwhelmed by a strange, fraudulent and hostile force that issued
from a world without secrets, from a platform on which I would never
receive nor accept a place but remain before it mute, worthless and helpless.
What I discovered from Leiris's attitude and the change that had
taken place in him was something I perceived only obscurely at first, but
I must have had a clear sense of it very soon: it was a moral terror that had
its source in the brutal manipulations of a ringleader. Personally, I was
nothing but the receptacle for empty turbulence. I wanted nothing and I
was capable of nothing. There was nothing in me that gave me even the
right to speak in undertones. Suddenly, I was confronted with people who
had assumed the voice of authority, who-perhaps from lassitude or out
of boredom, but without being moved to action-had found within them-
selves this voice that was so categorical and alien to everything else, and
had even willed it.
Even before things went any further, I could feel the coldness that had
taken hold of Leiris. Something had changed him: he was now taciturn,
evasive and even more ill at ease than ever. He was all idleness, with a
nervous edge that made a mystery of everything. At that time he was
45
Bataille & Leins
elegant but in a subtle way, without the studiedness that later on dimin-
ished this elegance. He used to powder his whole face, using a powder as
white as talcum. The nervousness with which he gnawed at his fmgertips
close to the nails put the finishing touch to his moonlike appearance. His
words were perhaps sententious, all the better to irritate himself, it
seemed, and to be true to the type of fantasist who has been tripped up,
the child put in the wrong who takes sudden care to observe the most
punctilious discipline: he observed this discipline with an empty expres-
sion in his eyes that would dart about . . . obliquely avid for actions he
dared not take: flight or disobedience.
3. AndreBreton
It was only later that Leiris introduced me to Breton. He had given me to
understand that Breton was the soul of the movement. He showed no lack
of emotion when he spoke about the Confession dedaigneuse. I asked him
what justified the extreme authority that he had told me Breton enjoyed.
His explanation was this piece of writing that he admired. I had read the
First Manifesto and found it unreadable. I had said so unreservedly to
Leiris. 'That may be,' he had said, 'but Poisson soluble. . . .' Poisson soluble
[Soluble Fish] was published as an appendix to the Manifesto, and Breton
offered it as an example of automatic writing. My shyness, my foolishness
and my mistrust in my own judgement were so great that I resolved to
think' what Leiris said with such insuperable conviction. More honestly, I
strove (for it was my dishonesty that made me like Poisson soluble) to
admire the Confession. But I never succeeded in doing so. If I admired it
at all, grudgingly or vetbally, I did so with some unease and misgivings.
5. A text by Breton that appeared in 1923 in La Vte modeme, and was reprinted in LesPas
perdus, Gallimard, 1924.
46
Surrealism from Dayto Day
With that clever inflection of exasperation that gives his pronouncements
their indulgent tautness, Breton declares: 'I never make plans' (with per-
haps one exception, he says, touching on the complacency with which he
feigns accommodation to the plans of others). I could scarcely believe
what seemed to me from the very first as something better than a plan and
more of a tiresome pretension; but since I myself made plans, these
doubts struck me as petty!
I was inclined to say nothing and I was put sorely to the test, so that I
cunningly took care to debate with only the most debatable of counsels.
Breton's method of reducing literatures to automatic writing was some-
thing I found tedious or, at best, ponderously amusing. I could enjoy an
unsettling game as much as anyone else, but my interest was no more than
idle, in keeping with my humble condescension and my provoking shyness.
What did strike me as admirable about this method was that it withdrew lit-
erature from the search for vainglorious advantages, which I perhaps
renounced, but as a writer does, in two minds: 'automatic writing' alone
had the last word, the last word against a man in two minds.
But it seemed to me that though Breton asked for silence from his lis-
teners, he himself did not keep quiet. Thus, not only did I have to hold
my tongue but I was to hear nothing but the measured, pretentious and
skillfullybombastic voice of Breton. He struck me as conventional, without
the subtlety of doubt and lamentation, and without those dread panics
when nothing remains that is not undone. What I found most disquieting
was not just the lack of rigour, it was the absence of that cruelty towards
oneself that is quite insidious, joyful and half asleep, not setting out to
dominate but to go a long way. In conditions like these, I abandoned my
6. That was what it was about to begin with. Because of a misunderstanding? But the misun-
derstanding took place. [Bataille's note]
47
Bataille & Leins
silence and I entered into the ghastly game where I was sickened by my
own pretension in balking at another man's pretension. I, in turn, had to
inflate my voice, inflate it all the more and the more foolishly so as to rail
against a bombast I outdid. To endure the mixture of silence and vocifer-
ous foolishness to which I then succumbed, what amount of morose ener-
gy did I not have to squander? I strayed into successive blind alleys from
which I cunningly emerged only to keep on frightening or depressing
myself with the commotion of my own voice.
4. Louis Aragon
It took Leiris a while before he introduced me to Breton. But he brought
about my meeting with Aragon, who at the time had a standing matched
by no one. Surrealism's dazzling turbulence derived its glamour and
urgency from Aragon's insolence. Breton was not seductive. One night, at
midnight; Leiris was to meet Aragon with whom he had recently struck up
a friendship. At Zelli's, a nightclub with perhaps more charm than any
other: it was easy to get in, you could talk and drink at the bar (later, the
place changed character and, first as us Nudistes, then as the Paradise,
became a nude review club). I don't know whether Leiris was uncertain
about taking me there. I have no idea what I looked like, but I was fairly
bourgeois in appearance despite a certain extravagance of thought: so I
had an umbrella with a bamboo handle.? Finally, after we had both been
out and about since nine o'clock, we went there at midnight. Aragon was
waiting for Leiris and immediately told him about some initiative of his
that had gone awry that afternoon at the Chamber of Deputies. Those
7. I have already said a fewwords about this umbrella in EExperient;e interieure [DC. VOL. 51
pp. 46-7]. [Bataille's note]
48
Surrealism from Dayto Day
were the days of revolutionary undertakings and serious commitment.
Aragon went on to draw this conclusion from his failure: 'We're too late on
the scene to be playing Lassalle's game.' His comment astonished me and
I found myself in sympathy with its absurdity.
After that I ran into Aragon. I had liked Le Paysan de Paris [Paris
Peasant], which now tells me what persistent fondness I have for an ele-
gance of style that I often rate as the highest thing of all, especially if it is
brilliant ... Aragon disappointed me from the first day. He was no fool,
nor was he intelligent. I have often been afraid that I made this judge-
ment on him because, at the start, his attitude towards me was that of an
admired writer meeting a man of no significance.f But he amused me. I
thought I grasped the failings of his mind. There was a lot of childish
naivete in him and an inborn seductiveness that he needed to contradict.
He had strong and sincere aspirations to seriousness and he overreached
himself. I think he plays at being a great man in the same way as I imag-
ined myself galloping away from the Sioux at the age of 10. Our shared
misfortune was to live in a world that we felt had become empty and, for
want of deep virtues, needing to find satisfaction, for ourselves or for a
small number of friends, by assuming the appearance of what we did not
have the means to be. The Russian revolutionaries wondered whether
they were genuine revolutionaries: they were. The Surrealists knew that
they could not genuinely be Rimbaud, and they were inwardly well aware
that they were as far from revolution as from Rimbaud. Yet Aragon could
give the impression of being a truly accomplished man; he was sought-
8. There was nothing unpleasant about this. He paid me no different attention than to any-
one else met in passing. And, without a doubt, he was a charming man, indisputably kind-
and, moreover; extremely obliging to his friends. He was very much loved, much more than
Breton. [Bataille's note]
49
Bataille & Leiris
after and admired by everyone, but it was his misfortune to know enough
to despise what he had, and he rejected the grapes that hung in ripe clus-
ters in front of him. He had the charm of small-time luck-maybe it was
that luck came easily ... He was not susceptible to the all-too-easy pleas-
ure of satisfied vanity, but he could never forget or deny a brilliant
plumage, always at the mercy of the temptation to surprise, seduce or
deceive expectations. Admittedly, sometimes he would stop performing
and let it be seen what an innocent he really was. I can remember him, at
dawn, on the boulevard de la Madeleine, showing off a very beautiful
moth that he had quiedy caught by the wings.
One evening, when I was sitting writing at a table in the Deux Magots,
he came and sat at the table next to mine and had a long, serious conver-
sation with me. He talked to me about Marx and Hegel, setting out his
own account of the current Surrealist doctrine. I let him speak for a long
time, intervening only to note my own ignorance or sometimes to ask for
some clarification on one point or other. In the end, however, I wanted to
say my piece, 'Yet again, I mow nothing,' I said gently, 'about all these
things of which you have spoken so well. But don't you have the feeling
that you're an illusionist?' I smiled and he smiled.
5. The 'Fatrasies'
Meanwhile, I had got to know Breton. At that time, he held court on the
glass-fronted terrace of the Cyrano, a small cafe on Place Blanche. (This
cafe is probably still there, but at any rate the decor will have changed.)
Leiris, by then an acknowledged Surrealist, had taken me, and I had to
deliver to Breton my translation ofithe Fatrasies, which appeared in the next
issue of La Revolution surrealiste. The Fatrasies are thirteenth-century poems
whose point is to make no sense whatsoever. Paul Eluard reproduced in full
the translation I made in 1925, which was then published in his Premiere
50
Surrealism from Day to Day
Anthologie vivante de La poisie du passe.
9
I remember Breton telling me that
these little poems 'are the best thing of all'. In support of his opinion, I
quote these fewlines by a celebrated thirteenth-century jurist:10
Un grandhareng saur
Avait assiegl Gisors
Depart et d'autre
Us deuxhommes morts
Vinrent agrand-peine11
Portant une porte
Sansune vieille bossue
Qui allacriant: 'A! hOTS'
1.. en d'une caille motte
us aurez prisagrandpeine
Sous un chapeau defeutre.
A large smoked herring
Had laid siege to Gisors
From end to end
And two dead men
Arrived carrying a door
They heaved and strained
Without a woman hunchback
9. Ed. Pierre Seghers, 1951, VOL. 1, pp. 41-4. This translation first appeared without the
translator's name. [Bataille's note]
10. Philippe de Beaumanoir (1247-96), known mainly as the author of the Coutumes de
Beauvaisis, but whose poems were published by the Societe des anciens textes francais, in two
volumes, which I happened to receive as a prize for having come first in an examination at
the Ecole des chartes. This is where I found those fewpages of Fatrasies given in this collec-
tion and the note referring to the poems of the same genre published byJubinal. Of course,
Breton often used the same approach. [Bataille's note]
11. In 1925, I translated this as: avecde grands efforts. It was this hurried translation that
Eluard followed. [Bataille's note]
51
Bataille & Leiris
Old and crying 'To the fore!'
The cry of a dead quail
Would have turned their hearts sore
Under a hat made of felt.
Breton was surrounded by Aragon, Eluard and Gala Eluard (who, later,
after having been Eluard's wife, would be Dalf's), At the time, the
Surrealists had a striking effect: they could not but impress; their certainty
left no doubt that the silence of the world dwelt within them. In their
effortless insouciance, there was something heavy, something anxious and
overweening that merely made people feel ill at ease. But the most oppres-
sively disconcerting was Breton, whose friends of that time seemed to me
to maintain this demeanour so insidiously at odds with other people; it
kept them at a distance and brought on a kind of numbness that put a stop
to speech together with an attitude of petrified intoxication. I very much
liked this unaccommodating style, which I sawas having the value ofia sign.
The majority of the latecomers among the Surrealists gave the impression
of a contrary sign. Even today, I find it difficult to become attached to peo-
ple who never have this indifferent languor, that doolally air ofbeing all at
sea, that wakefulness so absorbed it seems to be sleep. But this is precisely
where the difficulty begins ...
My visit to the Cyrano aroused mixed feelings. I was shy and my need
for self-effacement was too great for me to confront those remote beings,
individuals who conveyed the idea of a majestic life, yet one that was
caprice itself. I knew that I would lack the strength to present myself-to
them--as I was. As much as I liked them (or admired them), to the same
degree they threatened to reduce me to powerlessness, literally to suffocate
me. Breton said very little to me and I honestly could not have imagined
any possible conversation with him. He complimented me on the introduc-
tion I'd written for my translation of the Fatrasies. 'Very nice!' he said good-
52
Surrealism from Day to Day
humouredly. I was shocked: I had expected rigour and I could imagine
nothing more disappointing than being appreciated on quite a different
level from the one maintained by Breton himself, a level which properly
ruled out the vulgarity of compliments.
It is one of my most comical memories, in the sense that I have always
been an unstable character, at the same time clinging and impulsive, incon-
sistent, unceremonious and anxious. I was so weary of my dull life, without
any means or reputation, so envious of the truer life of these recognized
writers and, above all, weary of being envious, so angry at the idea of the
most furtive concession. Breton told me he would like to see me again and
asked me to call him. I made up my mind to do so only after some time: a
woman's voice replied that I should telephone again a few days later, with-
out in the least giving reasons for such a delay. Before I hung up, by way of
excuse I muttered that I had called because Breton had asked me to. I talked
to Leiris about it and he warned me that it was best to leave it at that. I
didn't ask him for any explanation and I discovered from him only much
later on that I had made a very unfavourable impression on Breton. In his
viewI was nothing but an obsessive, at least that was the word used by Leiris.
6. WC.
12
Later (in 1947), Breton was to describe me as 'one of the few men in my
life that it has been worth my while getting to lmow'.13 The only reason for
my copying out these words, at this point in my narrative, is to connect the
small events I am recording to the passing of time, in which nothing
12. WC., preface to Histoire del'oeil', DC,VOL. 3, pp. 57-61.
13. "Ib Georges Bataille, one of the few men ... [etc]', Breton's inscription on the copy of
Arcane 17 that he sent to Bataille (Surya, Georges Bataille, La mortal'oeuure, p. 505. This ref-
erence does not appear in the English translation).
53
Bataille & Leins
endures. In 1925, I gave little thought to Breton's ill will towards me. For
the most part, I was very sure of myself and my awkwardness was less to do
with my doubts than with my excess of certainty. Of course, I did find
Breton's hostility annoying but, given my viewof his influence over Leiris,
his friendship struck me as no less threatening. All I wanted was to remove
those I loved or cared about from the reach of this influence. In any event,
I found it a strain to live in a world where Breton's baleful ascendancy
weighed upon the least submissive of minds and blunted their sensibilities
to anything that failed to touch Andre Breton.
Over time, Leiris valued me. He liked to go out with me. We got on
wonderfully well, that is despite a tenseness that isolated him in a miser..
able solitude. On my wanderings through the bars and cafes I would also
run into Aragon, Roland Tual, Desnos, Boiffard, Tzara, Malkine and others.
I quickly made friends with Masson, who happened to be Leiris's mentor
and oldest friend. I even saw] ouhandeau two or three times, well away
f r o ~ the Surrealist sphere of influence. Soon, a delightful trio appeared on
the scene: three friends, Marcel Duhamel (currently, the editor ofthe 'Serie
noire'), the painter Tanguy and Jacques Prevert, who lived together in a
splendid little house in the rue du Chateau. I often saw Dr Fraenkel, 14
whom I liked a great deal and who had played his part in the good old days
of the Dada movement (and who was writing the 'Letter to the ,Directors of
Insane Asylums' for Issue 3 of La Revolution surrealiste). The reason I got on
14. Bataille's friend and doctor and, for a time, his brother-in-law (see pp. 90-1, Letter 9,
NOTE 15), Theodore Fraenkel 8 9 ~ 1964) was also the friend and doctor of Michel and
Louise Leiris. He had been Bataille's fellow student at the lycee and the medical faculty at
the University of Paris and had published some articles in the magazines of the Dada move-
ment, as well as in Liuerature. His Cornets 1916-1980 was recently published by Marie-Claire
Dumas with a biographical commentary: editions des Cendres, 2002, pp. 131-53.
54
Surrealism fromDay to Day
so well with Fraenkel was that, like me at the time, or even more so, he was
a very quiet night bird; there was a kind of nocturnal sadness, though
ridiculous deep down, that we clung to and that epitomized the two ofus.
I had written a little book with the title u(C., under the name
Troppmann. It was illustrated with some drawings including one that
showed a guillotine whose aperture appeared as an eye, which was also the
setting sun. A road through a deserted landscape led to this promise of
death. Underneath it I had written the title L'Eternel Retour (The Eternal
Return), along with the caption: 'God, howsadis the body's blood in thedepths
ofsound!, From start to finish it was a cryof horror, a cryof horror at myself.
TIlls cry had a kind of gaiety, perhaps a crazy gaiety, but more funereal
than crazy. I understand what horrified Breton about me. Had I not wished
it upon myself? And wasn't I truly an obsessive? What Leiris had probably
told him about my book before he met me must have struck him as sinis-
ter. What is more, I nowimagine that he could have felt a degree of unease
face-to-face with a man he annoyed, who would never breathe freely in
front of him, who lacked innocence and resolve.
Whatever the case, when faced with someone as underhand and mul-
tifaceted as Breton, it is futile to attribute over-simple motives to him, and
the quarrel I later took up with him taught me that there was much to be
lost by following his lead on the score of facile denigrations.
7. AntoninArtaud
Soon, to some extent, I got to know Antonin Artaud. I met him with
Fraenkel in a brasserie on rue Pigalle. He was goodlooking, rawboned and
sombre; he had a fair bit of money, which he earned from his work in the
theatre, but for all that he still looked half-starved; he didn't laugh, he was
never childish and, despite his being a man ofifewwords, there was some-
thing touchingly eloquent in the rather grave and extremely edgy silence
55
Bataille & Leiris
he maintained. He was calm; this dumb eloquence of his was not convul-
sive, but sad, even despondent, deeply tormented. He resembled some
imposing bird of prey, with dusty plumage, captured at the point of taking
flight and fixed in that position. I have depicted him as silent. It has to be
said that Fraenkel and I were at the time the least talkative of individuals: it
might have been contagious; in any case, it did not foster conversation.
Artaud would talk to Fraenkel about his nervous troubles. He used
drugs, was in a bad way, and Fraenkel tried hard to make his life easier. He
and Fraenkel conferred in private. Then there would be no talking at all,
so that Artaud and I got to know one another fairly well without ever hav-
ing spoken.
Ten years later, one evening at dusk, I suddenly ran into him on the
corner of me Madame and rue Vaugirard. He shook my hand vigorously.
It was the period when I was trying hard to be politically active. He said to
me point-blank: 'I mew you'd involved yourself in some good things.
Believe me: we need to create Mexican-style fascism!' He went on his way
without elaborating.
This left me with a disagreeable feeling, though only partly; he fright-
ened.me but at the same time gave me a peculiar impression of us being
in agreement.
Some years later, I heard him give a lecture at the Sorbonne (but I
didn't go up to him at the end). He was talking about art in the theatre and
in my half-asleep state of attention I saw him stand up all of a sudden; I
realized what he was saying: he had decided to make us privy to the state
of mind of Thyestes when he grasped he was eating his own children. In
front of an auditorium filled with bourgeois (there were hardly any
students), he held his belly in both hands and let out the most unearthly
scream that ever issued from the throat of a man. This was as disturbing as
it might have felt had one of our friends abruptly gone raving mad. It was
56
Surrealism fromDay to Day
dreadful (perhaps the more so for having been only acted).
In time, I learned about the outcome of his trip to Ireland, which was
followed by his being locked up. I could have said that I didn't care for him
... and I had the feeling that someone was fighting my shadow or walking
over my grave. I was sad at heart, and then I thought no more of it.
In early October 1943, I received a mysterious and very unclear letter.
This letter reached me at Vezelay, at a point in my life that was simultane-
ously good and unhappy and which today leaves me with a memory ofboth
dread and wonder.P I saw that the signature was Artaud's, and I scarcely
knew him, as you have seen. He had written it at Rodez where he had read
L'Experience intirieure, which had come out at the beginning of the year.
The letter was more than half crazy: it was about Saint Patrick's staff and a
manuscript (on his return from Ireland his madness revolved around Saint
Patrick). This manuscript, which was to have turned the world upside
down, had disappeared. But his reason for writing was that L'Experience
intirieure, which he hadjust read, had showed him that I had to be convert-
ed, to come back to God, and he had to send me word of this ...
I'm sorry that I no longer have this letter. I had given it to someone
who was putting together an edition of Artaud's letters and had asked me
if I had any such documents from him in my possession. I had lent my let-
ter despite the small likelihood of its publication ... I had simply given my
opinion: it was palpably the letter of a madman. But I cannot remember at
all who it was that asked me for it-it was a long time ago-and the only
person I have asked to give it back tells me he never had it. I'm quite sorry
about this. I had been touched to receive it. And I am sad now to have to
let its contents be so vague. I cannot even be definite on the accuracy of
15. We think that L'Alleluiah. (OC, VOL. 5, pp. 393-417) dates from this period. [Note by
Thadee Klossowski]
57
Bataille & Leiris
what I have said about its concern with Saint Patrick. I would be surprised
if I had really got this wrong, but memory, even when it dwells on striking
things, is always a little unstable, a little elusive. The entreaty that I should
become devout, addressed to me in such touching, even fervent terms, has
remained clear in my mind.
8. Anticipating the Shipwreck
I caught sight of Artaud on the terrace of the Deux Magots after he came
back from Rodez.I" He didn't recognize me and I made no attempt to be
recognized by him; he was in a frightening state of decrepitude, I've never
seen a man who looked so old. Some of his writings were published then
and I couldn't read them without a feeling of poignancy. Though I believe
was done at the time just as it should have been, despite all this
I could see something ghastly, ghastly and inevitable. One day, not long
before, Henri Parisot had shown me a long telegram, both indignant and
grandiloquent, frotn Dr Ferdiere, the chief physician at the Rodez asylum,
prohibiting the publication of the letters under the title Letters from Rodez:
Parisot could not find sufficiently damning words tb condemn Ferdiere's
attitude. I found myself in agreement: we had to disregard this, particularly
since the book's publication would bring in some'money and help-the poor
man to' live. But there was a fundamental worry at the thought of publish-
ing 'the Writings 0 a' madman wh<;> might get better; while these writings
would always bear witness to his madness. In the circumstances, one might
have considered Artaud to be above the categories of sanity and madness.
But is anything ever that clear-rut? Wouldn't a lasting cure be conditional
upon forgetting? Whatever the case, I found the abuse heaped on Dr
Ferdiere the most distressing thing. From Antonin Artaud's position, it was
16. Artaud returned to Paris on 26 May 1946.
58
Surrealism from Day to Day
easy to u n e r s ~ n he had been under the care of Ferdiere, who had used
electric shock treatment, and the patient had frequently had reason to dis-
agree with his doctor's decisions. But were Artaud's friends to believe him
about some fixation he had? I knew Ferdiere and I can all too well picture
him exasperating his patients despite himself. He is a very good-hearted
fellow, as secret anarchists often are, drowning in too much arrogant talk,
jabbering awayand getting on one's nerves in the end. He must have done
his best and if he is to blame for any blunders (though no one will ever
know about them, he being the only one who could tell us, and being a per-
son who would not have done anything he regarded as a blunder), it is
indisputable that he greatly improved the state Antonin Artaud was in.
These claustrophobic writings, which are like the final bursts of light from
the sinking wreck of Surrealism-and which continue to bear witness to
this movement's fantastical, eye-popping aspect-would not have seen the
light of day without Ferdiere, in spite of the preposterous telegram to
which I have referred.
What is unique about these writings is their shock, their violent
infringement of customary boundaries, the cruel lyricismthat cuts short its
own effects, intolerant of the very thing to which it gives the surest expres-
sion. Maurice Blanchot quoted from themwith reference to himself (1946):
I started out in literature writing books in order to say that I
could write nothing at all; whenever I did have something to say
or to write, my thinking wasat its most resistant. I never had any
ideas and two short books, each 70 pages long, turned on this
profound, intractable and endemic absence of ideas.l?
17. These two books are L'Ombili( cUs limbe5 and u Pese-nerfs, as identified by Artaud in the
following sentence, left out by Blanchet, Both were published in 1925. the former with
59
Bataille & Leins
Commenting on these fewlines, Maurice Blanchot wrote:
It is hard to see what might aptly be added to these words, for
their candour is so trenchant, and they are more clear-sighted
than anything a writer could have written about himself" show-
ing what a lucid mind it is that has endured the trial of the
Marvellous in order to become free.
This last phrase of Maurice Blanchot's strikes me as an exact epilogue
to the entire Surrealist adventure, something envisioned from the moment
it first gave hesitant utterance to its ambitions. I believe that Maurice
Blanchot is right to implicate in these last words the very principle of a
m6vement that has for the most part avoided the reef and the spectacular
shipwreckwhich Antonin Artaud's final years offer for our contemplation
in the light shed by disaster.lf
What is more, Artaud's turbulence was no less significant at its dawn
thanatwhat I believe was the twilight of the SurrealIst evening. Whatever
the case, to my knowledge it was Antonin Artaud who drafted the substance
of that declaration of 27 January 1925, which was perhaps not the most
outstanding expression of nascent Surrealism but which for me retains the
editions de la NRF (74 pp.), the latter without the name of any publisher (the printer was
Leibovitz, 42 pp.). They were reprinted in BOOK 1, VOL. 1 of Artaud's Oeuvres completes,
Gallimard, 1976.
18. Artaud's comments as quoted by Blanchot are taken from a letter dated 27 July-13
September 1946, addressed by Artaud to Peter Watson for publication in the British maga-
zine Horizon, but in the end not published there. They were quoted by Blanchot in his arti-
cle 'Du merveilleux' (L'Arche, NOS 27-28, May 1947, p. 133), an article never published in
any collection. After Artaud's death his letter was published in its entirety in Critique (NO. 29,
October 1948) with the title 'Une lettre d'Antonin Artaud, introduction ala lecture de son
oeuvre', and with an intn;ollction by Bataille. Artaud's letter to Peter Watson appears in OC,
VOL. f2, Gallimard, 1974, pp. 230-9, with Bataille's introduction (pp. 334-5).
60
SurrealismfromDay to Day
significance of having been the first text passed on to me (by Leiris, on his
return from the Midi, in the circumstances I have already noted) and of
having been the occasion of a sympathy which I imagined to be without
reservation and which in reality derived from a misunderstanding.
Maurice Nadeau reproduces this declaration in The History of
Surrealism, 19 and here I reprint the second paragraph:
Surrealism is not a new, or easier, means of expression, nor even
a metaphysics of poetry.
It is a means of total liberation of the mind and of all that
resembles it.
The ninth paragraph also said:
It [Surrealism] is a cry of the mind turning back on itself, and it
is resolved in desperation to sunder its shackles.
I read this declaration at a cafe table, in the great mental confusion
and the state of lethargy in which I then was managing to survive-with
distress. Still, today, I have the same reaction as the first time and I still
understand it as if I had read: ' ... of the mind turning against itself ...'.
Even forewarned, I make this same mistake, so great remains my hatred of
the 'mind', not just of intelligence and reason but of the entity writ large
that sets its cloudiness against the murky filth. Likewise, I had understood
'liberation of spirit' as if this was about being 'delivered from evil'! Perhaps
I was not really mistaken, or only halfwrong, and this indeed is the reason
why I am right to speak as I do of Artaud, who, writing what came before
in 1925, in 1946 wrote: ' ... and the garlic mayonnaise contemplates you,
mind, and you contemplate your garlic mayonnaise: And fmally shit to
19. Maurice Nadeau, Histoire du surrealisme, VOL. 2, Documents surrtalistes, Le Seuil, 1948 (The
History of Surrealism, trans. Richard Howe, Penguin 1973). The Declaration 0[27January 1925
was drawn up by Artaud and signed by 26 Surrealists, Leiris among them.
61
Bataille & Leins
infinity! ...'.20 But in the end this is quite open, quite empty, quite like the
noise that fades to nothing and at last is heard no more.
20. Letter to Peter Watson, OC, BOOK 12, p. 238.
62
The Publication of 'A Corpse'
(15January 1930)21
In the autumn of 1929 the Second Manifesto appeared in La Revolution
surrealiste. Andre Breton took issue with me in it, primarily accusing me of
rallying the dissidents and outsiders of Surrealism against him. He said:
Perhaps Monsieur Bataille has the wherewithal to group them
together; and if he manages to do so I will find that very inter-
~ s t i n Already setting off on the trip organised by Monsieur
Bataille are Messieurs Desnos, Leiris, Limbour, Masson and
Vitrac; it is hard to explain why Monsieur Ribemont-Dessaignes
has not yet joined them.
22
In short, the Second Manifesto indicted those Surrealists cited in the
'first' who, in Breton's view, had morally lost the right to appeal to the
movement: Artaud, Carrive, Francis Gerard, Limbour, Masson, Soupault,
21. As far as 1recall, 500 copies of ~ Corpse' were printed. But I am sure that I destroyed
around 200 of these in the clear-out before a house move. Some were printed on coloured
paper. [Bataille's note]
22. La Revolution suTTealiste, Year 5, NO. 12, 15 December 1929, p. 16; Breton, Oeuvres com-
pletes, VOL. 1, pp. 824-5. Desnos, Leiris, Limbour and Vitrac had published articles in one or
more of the first seven issues (from April to December 1929) of Documents, which Bataille
edited with the title of 'general secretary' (see p. 12 in this volume). Masson had been the
subject of an article by Carl Einstein in Issue 2 (May). Ribemont-Dessaignes did not con-
tribute to Documents. Since May 1929, he had been editing his own magazine, Bifur (anoth-
er of Breton's bete noires), to which Desnos, Leiris, Limbour and Vitrac also contributed.
63
Bataille & Leins
Vitrac, Jacques Baron, Pierre Naville, Desnos, Ribemont-Dessaignes,
Tristan Tzara.
23
In fact, the dissolution of the group was even more serious
than these first ruptures suggested. Michel Leiris had counted himself out
a long time since
24
and, more or less between the writing of the Second
Manifesto and its appearance, Jacques Prevert, Max Morise and Raymond
Queneau, Breton's brother-in-law at the time,25 had made the break; as if
to give substance to Breton's allegations, they had taken up with me.
To tell the truth, there was never anything amounting to a new, hetero-
dox group that would have matched the first. Personally, at that time, I
never put forward anything other than eroticism or what derived from
erotic subversion. Around that time, I was attempting to set up the publi-
cation of an erotic almanac whose clandestine publisher was to be Pascal
Pia (later in charge of Combat, then editor of Carrefour). Not long before, in
1927, he had pJIblished Aragon's Le Cond' Irene with etchings by Masson,
and, in 1928, he had published The Story of theEye under my pseudonym,
Lord Auch,26 Auch being the abbreviation of 'aux chiottes', used at the
time by my friend Fraenkel, one of the first exponents of Dada, with 'Lord'
23. Jean Carrive (1905-63), a Surrealist from the very first, was subsequently known for his
translations of Kafka. Gerard Rosenthal, known as Francis Gerard (1903-92), also a
Surrealist from the very start, became a lawyer and was one of Trotsky's collaborators. On
Jacques Baron, see pp. 92-5, Letter 10, NOTE 22.
24. Leiris wrote: 119February 1929-My official break with Surrealism' (joumal1922-1989,
p. 159), this i n ~ the date of his (negative) response to the letter-questionnaire on the
'modes of joint action to be continued or resumed' sent out by the Surrealists to more than
70 linteliectu;ls with revolutionary tendencies'. In fact, he had distanced himself from the
k
group early ip 1928, along with Desnos, Limbour and Masson.
25. See pp. 90-1, Letter 9, NOTE 15.
26. The twobooks 'were published in 1928, by Rene Bonnel with Pascal Pia's artwork. For The
Story of theEye, see pp. 8-9, NOTE 7 in this volume.
64
The Publication of 'A Corpse'
having for me the meaning it has in English translations of the Bible (the
illustrations for The Story of the Eye-lithographs-were again by Masson).
Masson then gave me some wonderful illustrations for Justine (and I still
hope to publish the finest of these in a small volume), Leiris gave me a text
that he subsequently developed into L'Age d'homme
27
and Limbour gave me
a delightful story that has probably been mislaid. Maurice Heine, without
it causing him to cut himself off from Breton, gave me a very fine piece of
unpublished-writing by Sade. I myselfwrote a 'Valeur d'usage de D.AF. de
Sade' (Use Value of de Sade), which I have destroyed.
27. Bataille adds in a note: 'This is the explanation for the dedication of a second edition of
this very fine book (Gallimard, 1946); the first edition, published in 1939, has no dedica-
tion', but he does not give us the wording of this 1946 dedication ('To Georges Bataille, who
prompted this book') nor say why it was missing in 1939, an absence that can probably be
accounted for by Leiris's reservations towards Bataille during the period and, more
specifically, at the time when the Contre-Attaque and Acephale groups were formed
(1936-37), as is borne out by Bataille's letter to Louise Leiris inJuly 1936 (p. 115-16, Letter
18). Did Leiris merely send the first edition of L'Aged'hon;trne to Bataille? Perhaps not, if one
considers that the book left the presses on 15 June 1939, only a few days before their dis-
agreement about the College de sociologie, expressed in Letters 20 (pp. 119-22) and 24 (pp.
130--33), of 3 and 6July respectively, and that there is no mention in these letters of the book
being sent.
Nonetheless, Bataille did prompt L'Age d'homme in two respects: because he had com-
missioned from Leiris the erotic text which was the first version of the book; also, because he
had advised his friend to undertake the psychoanalysis which, in large part, lay behind the
definitive version. Both of these reasons were offered by Leiris in a radio interview with Paule
Chavasse that was broadcast inJanuary 1968:
The writing of L'Jge d'homme was prompted by Georges Bataille (...] who was responsible for
editing a collection of erotic books to be published clandestinely. He asked me to give him
something, [...] a kind of autobiography relating to eroticism [..]. So there was a first ver-
sion done with that in mind [..J. Then [...], on Bataille's advice, I had myself psychoanalysed
[...J. It was the psychoanalysis that gave me the idea of going back to this book which had
remained-I won't even say on the stocks, since it was regarded as finished-it had remained in
my desk. drawer; and that gave me the idea of taking up this book and developing it byputting
65
Bataille & Leiris
The economic crisis, which very quickly affected the trade in luxury
books, prevented the project from coming to fruition; no erotic movement
of any kind came into being. In fact, the signatories of the second Corpse,
which appeared on 15 January 1930,28 were never united by anything
in other things rather than merely erotic things. And it became LAge d'homme. The first ver-
sion formed the core of it, very slightly reworked in the sense that when it was to be published
clandestinely I had been quite unconcerned in terms ofvocabulary, whereas for a straightfor-
ward book I was obliged not so much to rot things out, but to trim some of my expressions a
little. There you arel It turned into this book.
Before L'Age d'homme, in 1930, Leiris had dedicated a poem to Bataille: 'Lamoureux des
crachats' (reprinted in Haut mal, followed by Aulres lancers, Gallimard, 'Poesie' collection,
1969, pp. 58-60). Moreover, we have come to know since the Breton sale that Le FOTfat uer-
tigineux, a Surrealist text of November 1925 published shortly after Leiris's death on the
basis of a manuscript that did not include any dedication to Bataille, had been the subject of
another manuscript carrying the mention 'to Georges Bataille' and delivered to Breton
apparently for publication in the first 1927 issue of1ARevolution surrealiste. This did not hap..
pen, though, probably because only one issue of the magazine was published between
December 1926 and March 1928, namely the issue of9-10 October 1927 (see p. 44, NOTE 4
in this volume).
For his part, Bataille dedicated EErotisme to Leiris in 1957, noting in his foreword:
I could not have written this book if I had had to work through the problems it set me unaid-
ed. I would like to make it clear that my efforts have been preceded by Michel Leiris's Miroir
de La tauromadue, which envisages eroticism as an experience bound up with the experience of
life, not as an object of knowledge, but of passion and, more deeply, of poetic contemplation.
It is particularly because of Miroir, which Michel Leiris wrote on the eve of the War, that this
book had to be dedicated to him.
28. Un Cadaore, Imp. sp. [Imprimerie speciale] du Cadavre, no date, pamphlet 37 x 32 em,
4 pp., with a portrait of Andre Breton, depicted with a crown of thorns (he is 33 years old
and has been denied by the 12 Apostles who make up the 12 signatories). The title Un
Cadavre is the same as that for the Surrealists' pamphlet against Anatole France, in October
1924, the name of the print shop likewise being the same. It was republished in Tracts sur-
realistes et declaratums collectives, 1922-1969, VOL. 1, 1922-39, pp. 132-48 and 426--1, and VOL.
2, 1940-69 and supplements to VOL. 1, p. 441.
66
The Publication of Corpse'
other than hostility.29 I am now inclined to believe that the strict demands
made by Breton which led to that widespread split of 1928-29 were funda-
mentally justified: Breton had a desire for communal dedication to the
same overriding truth, a hatred of any concession in the matter of this
truth of which he wished his friends to be the expression, unless they were
no longer to be his friends, things with which I am still in agreement. But
Breton made the mistake of being too narrowly attached to the outward
forms of this fidelity. One consequence of this was an unease made all the
greater for his having a kind of hypnotic prestige-an exceptional instant
authority-which he used without any great reservation or any genuine
prudence. His mood is changeable and he gives way to it more easily than
to any concern for respecting.other people. This is how he was able to mis-
treat Aragon (this must have been in 1928, which was when his fame was at
its peak), to the point where the latter left the studio in rue Fontaine after
a scene one evening, and said to Masson, who was with him: 'To think that
I broke offwith my family to end up with that.' Breton's authority had, in
fact, something of paternal deafness about. it. Moreover, it is my opinion
that, by the same token, a more patient and reflective character would not
have succeeded in forming a community dedicated-to the deep meaning of
the Surrealism that was Andre Breton's dream. Indeed, there is nothing in
this principle that is distinct enough and, above all, authoritarian enough,
29. The 12 signatories were Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, Jacques Prevert, Raymond
Queneau, Roger Vitrac, Michel Leiris, Georges Limbour, Jacques-Andre Boiffard, Robert
Desnos, Max Morise, Georges Bataille, Jacques Baron and Alejo Carpentier. The title of
Bataille's text was 'Le lion chatre' (The Castrated Lion; DC, VOL. 1, Premiersecrits, 1922-1940,
ed. Denis Hollier, pp. 218-19). Leiris's was titled 'Le bouquet sans fleurs', the title ofa text
by Breton that appeared in La Revolution surrealists, No.2, 15 January 1925, pp. 24-5
(Breton, Oeuvres completes, VOL. 1, pp. 895-8) and in which he responded to some of his
detractors who accused him 'of not acting in a way more consistent with his ideas'.
67
Bataille & Leiris
to rut through modern individualism and personal pride. There is a con-
tradiction between the freedom essential to Surrealism and the rigour
without which it becomes tarnished and substitutes the banality of life for
the overriding project to which it lays claim.
Whatever the case, a narrow literary milieu had taken shape, not
around me but around the magazine Documents (which, under the title of
'general secretary', I actually edited, in agreement with Georges Henri
Riviere, who is now the keeper of the Folklore Museum at the Palais de
Chaillot.t? and in opposition to the titular editor, the German poet Carl
Einstein) and the majority ot the signatories to the second Corpse have, in
fact, contributed to Documents-this collaboration was proof of their very
weak! cohesion. It was Desnos who had the idea of responding to the Second
Manifesto by harking back to the form and title of the pamphlet that had
sullied the .. public funeral of Anatole France, but this time with Breton as
the target, the pamphlet and the drastic breakup of the group proclaiming
his demise. I remember that at the time we were in front of the terrace of
the Deux Magots. I talked about it to those around me; the idea struck them
as a very good one and my friend Georges Henri Riviere immediately found
me the 500 francs needed for publication. The next time I sawDesnos, he
told me that it was a bad idea after all, that he had talked about it not quite
in earnest and that on reflection thought that rather than working to dis-
credit Breton it would, instead, work greatly to his advantage. I was not
sure whether he might be right. But I had set things in motion and, despite
his misgivings, I managed to persuade Desnos to, give me a text after all.
Jacques-Andre Boiffard undertook to produce a photomontage based on
the page in La Revolution surrealiste where all the group's participants are
30. The musee des Arts et Traditions populaires.
68
The Publication of 'A Corpse'
represented 'rith their eyes closed, their gaze in one sense turned
inwards.s!
I am sure today that Desnos was right: there are a lot of things in my
life with which I no longer concur, and A Corpse is among them. I hate that
pamphlet as I hate the polemical parts of the Second Manifesto. These
impetuous, precipitate accusations arise from complacency and rash
excitability; how much preferable would silence have been on both sides.
Doesn't Breton himselfwrite in a 'caution':
By allowing the SecO'TUl Manifesto of Surrealism to be republished
today, I persuade myself that time has done the job of blunting
its polemical sharp ends. I hope that it has by itself corrected the
sometimes hastyjudgments I put forward, even if this is to some
extent at my own expense. g2
My only reservation: that I miss the youth where haste could be over-
riding, where it did not seem that passion was ever worthy of mistrust. I
was wrong but inexperience hardly strikes me as a sorry thing; the neces-
sity of experience is the flaw in accomplishment: ifwe were not so moved
by the babble ofchildhood, our deep thoughts would never have the light-
ness which is the measure of their depth.P
31. In the same issue that the Second Manifesto had appeared in.
32. ' Avertissement pour la reedition du Second maniftste du surrealisme', Breton, Oeuvres com-
pUus, VOL. l,p. 835.
33. This text was written by Georges Bataille, around 1954, for the benefit of Monsieur Yves
Breton. On Yves Breton, see p. 41, NOTE 1 in this volume.
69
Racism
The word race necessarily has two meanings: the one being precise, in so
far as it is possible, and answering to the requirements of science; the other
vague, when we make do with appearances as a way of distinguishing two
races. In the first sense, we will say of a people or an individual that they
are of Negro race, whereas in the second we talk about the dark-skinned
races. In practice, the scholarly idea of race does not operate on the social
level (in practice, moreover; it never operates if it is a matter of individu-
als). The racial questions, whose political significance has latterly been so
great, only ever operate through crude distinctions. Science only ever
intervenes "in-this domain in order to affirm the inanity of these popularly
held distinctions. It also robs of its value in particular the distinction that
seems generally the most valuable, that of the colour of the skin. The pig-
ment upon which this colour depends does not in fact have any fundamen-
tal character: a dark-skinned people moving to a different climate could,
in the long term, lose the pigment; conversely, the pigment could have
given colour to peoples who are not of the Negro race. In any case, the
Ethiopians and the Polynesians are not Negroid; some people even see the
Ethiopians as belonging to the Caucasian race, and the Caucasian race
corresponds to the white race of our fathers, as the Negroid to the dark-
skinned race.
When it came to the Jewish race, the distinction was even more inde-
fensible since, in order tojudge a man's race, one officially had to resort to
the difference in religion.
70
Racism
J
At the heart of racist attitudes there is, therefore, an enormous absur-
dity and, since it involves the most shameful cruelties, nothing is more nat-
ural than to see racism as a scourge that must be destroyed. We should add
that this scourge seems both recent and quite avoidable. It was alien to
Antiquity, and the Islamic world of today is indifferent to matters of colour.
And we are tempted to picture it as a doctor might a disease that did not
exist in the past and that can, for example, be wiped out with antibiotics, or
as a fireman might see a fire to be put out by water. Racism has a founda-
tion and this is a bad foundation, so it has no reason to exist ... We must
fight against the error that lies behind racism, an error that the Ancients did
not commit.
It strikes me that this is a simplification, and that if we talk about the
evil of racism we have missed something out if our position is in terms of
whether racial distinctions are precise or not. Of course, racist anti-
Semitism is a more pernicious form of hatred than hatred for those faith-
ful to the Jewish religion but, after all, it is only the old anti-Semitism in a
form applied to irreligious masses. Could we not see in the end that the
word racism is a mistake? This is straightforward for us to,remedy by replac-
ing it with the expression, phobia of others, or by a neologism, heterophobia,
neither of which can immediately signify anything concrete or easily
pinned down. But it is clear that racism is a specific aspect of a deep hetero-
phobia, inherent in humanity and whose general laws we cannot avoid.
Hatreds between village and village, fighting between village and
village are no longer virulent today, but we know what intensity they had
until only recently. They were so fierce in the middle of the nineteenth cen- .
tury that in Paris, stonemasons from Limousin formed distinct clans accord-
ing to their place of origin and fought one another on the building sites. At
the outset, heterophobia is external, but it can persist within a given politi-
cal community (which is the case in point), and there only has to be some
71
Bataille & Leins
sufficiently lasting criterion, which now is plainly that of difference. The
Limousin clans kept going so long as the stonemasons who had left main-
tained a contact with the village and returned to it now and then, but trade
union activity diminished them (it replaced clan antagonism with class
antagonism). Anti-semitism is more solid (I might add that the best means
of mitigating it was the war in which:Jewsand non-jews fought side by side).
In Antiquity, subjugated populations soon fought with their conquerors
against the latters' enemies. The tangible differences between one people
and another were slight and the Jews were the only ones not to undergo
assimilation, isolating themselves and openly maintaining a difference from
the rest: their participation in the armed struggles of the modern world is
recent. The worst case is that of the Blacks, whose glaring difference is
ineradicable. One could describe the antagonism as inevitable, to the
extent that a tangible difference has a property of stability: so it is futile to
argue that" difference is ill-founded according to science. It is not a ques-
tion of science: in racist attitudes, theory had only a secondary influence.
To see racism as an evil idea is to turn away from a problem whose essen-
tials are never located in ideas: nor are they in Nature. They are contingent
and aleatory, they are historic, which is to say human.
Of course, the differences at stake are never irreducible. They are and
they operate, but they remain at the mercy of movement. The Brazilians
resolved the problem without having decided to resolve it: circumstances
sawto it that too fewindividuals managed to keep themselves secure from
the, mixing of 'races'. Indians, blacks of African origin and whites fused
together. Colour prejudice does not exist there. The survival of the pure
white race makes no more sense there than the existence of an aristocracy,
scant in number, preserving its distinction in alliances. But when it happens
that a white proletariat keeps itself secure from mixing colours, as in the
72
Racism
J
United States or in South Africa, while the blacks form a mass that is
oppressed and hard to contain, the crisis reaches an acute point. The more
the mass of whites is numerically weaker in relation to the coloured masses,
the stronger heterophobia becomes. The situation then is irreducible.
The essential aspect of these antagonisms stands out all the more
crudely in this latter situation. The difference in question has always had a
meaning: it marks a political inferiority. The same difference does not
operate everywhere in the same sense. In the Muslim world, superiority
immediately belongs to the black Muslim who had an advantage over the
white Christian. In Muslim countries, colour, therefore, cannot have the
meaning of inferiority; it did not exist as difference. Each time a difference
determines antagonism, in the eyes of those who mark it out, it signifies
the inferiority of the other.
It therefore has enormous scope, to the extent where it is possible to
oppress anyone affected by this difference. Oppression is possible every-
where, but it cannot assume substance in the same way if the oppressed
person is in every detail similar to the oppressor. The oppression of the man
of colour is therefore a privileged form of oppression. It is the easy
oppression of a unanimous mass exercised over a mass that is unequivo-
cally differentiable.
We can describe the oppressor's attitude as being morally base in the
extreme. It implies the stupidity and cowardice of a person who attributes
to some external sign a value that has no meaning other than his own fears,
his guilty conscience and his need to burden others, through hatred, with
the deadweight of horror inherent in our condition. Individuals hate, it
would seem, to the same extent that they are themselves to be hated. It is
beyond doubt, if we picture a white man and a black man, that, in the words
of.Michel Leiris, 'between their physical differences and their different atti-
73
Bataille & Leins
tudes of mind there is no demonstrable relationship of cause and effect'. It
is cultures and different modes of cultural development that are at the ori-
gin of their opposition.
But moral censure is only ever the expression of powerlessness. This
racial antagonism is the form currently assumed in this or that condition
or place by currents of opposition that in any case sweep through human
masses, and whose diminution alas cannot be brought about by showing
that they are not givens in Nature. Human existence is not natural exis-
tence and what these arbitrarily motivated phenomena of antagonism do
is set historic human behaviours against the immutable behaviours of ani-
mal interest.
MICHEL LEIRIS, La Q}testion raciale devant La science moderne. Race et civil-
isation, Paris, Unesco, 1951, octavo, 48 pp.34
Unesco has very felicitously entrusted Michel Leiris, an ethnographer
attached to the musee de l'Homme and, moreover, a writer well-known in
particular for his remarkable book EAge d'homme (see Critique, NO. 11,
April 1947, p. 291),35 with the task of writing a short work summarizing
the most significant known facts relating to the problems produced by
race antagonisms.
In this, Michel Leiris summarizes the position he has based on detailed
study:
34. The title is Race et civilisation, the title of the series being 'La Question raciale devant la
science moderne'. The book was reprinted by Leiris in his collection Cinq etudes d'ethnologie,
Gonthier, Denoel, 1969, reissued by Gallimard, 1988, 'Tel' series.
35. 'Regards d'outre-tombe', an article by Maurice Blanchet on Age d'homme, Aurora and
Nuits sansnuit, reprinted in Maurice Blanchot, La fhrt dufeu, Gallimard, 1949, pp. 247-58.
74
Racism
Racial prejudice is no more a hereditary than a spontaneous
phenomenon; it is a 'prejudice', which is to say a value judgment
without .objective foundation and cultural in origin: far from
being intrinsic to anything or inherent in human nature, it is one
of; those myths which derive from self-interested propaganda
rather than from an age-old tradition. Since it is linked essentially
to antagonisms that rest upon the economic structure of modern
societies, we shall see it disappear insofar as populaces transform
this structure, as with other prejudices which are not causes of
social injustice, but rather its symptoms (p. 46).36
This is based on an analysis of the objective situation, which shows in
!act that racial differences are fundamentally no more than differences of
culture. This is undeniable, and it is equally undeniable that at the same
time as social injustice brings about currents of opposition between indi-
viduals, it incessantly renews these currents. I believe however that there is
a need for some reservations about the reducing of 'racial prejudice' to the
action of propaganda. Of course, there is nothing natural at the basis of
this prejudice. But it arises from wider currents than those channelled by
the action of propaganda in its various forms, which run through the social
structure and interfere with economic currents.
36. 'Tel' series, pp. 79-80.
75
GEORGES BATAILLE AND MICHEL LEIRIS
Correspondence
1924-61
Editor's Nole
Eighty letters and postcards were recorded.
FORlY-SIX FROM BATAILLE:
Forty-one received by Leiris and held in the Jacques Doucet Literary
Library: twenty-seven classified Mss., 43.152 and 43.187 to 43.212;
twelve classified, 43.214 to 43.225, and two not yet classified (NOS 23
and 79).
One (NO. 11) not sent by Bataille or not received or held by Leiris but of
which there is a copy in the manuscript department of the
Bibliotheque Nationale de France, classified NAF 15.853, f.10l,
One (NO. 21) not sent: ibid., classified NAF 15.853, ff 99-100,
One (NO. 18) intended for Louise Leiris and not sent: ibid. classified
NAF 15.853, f. 98,
One (NO. 30) received and destroyed by Leiris and mentioned in his
Journal 1922-1989,
One (NO. 69) addressed to Louise Leiris and held in the Jacques Doucet
Literary Library, classified Ms. 43.213.
THIR1Y-FOUR FROM LEIRlS:
Thirty-two held in the manuscript department of the Bibliotheque
Nationale de France, classified NAF 15.854, if. 24--58,
79
Bataille & Leiris
One (NO. 26) not found but which Bataille received and copied out in
his notes for 1 Coupable,
One (NO. 24) not sent, held in the Jacques Doucet Literary Library and
not yet classified.
A number of these letters have already been published in the following
three works:
Le College desociologie, 1937-1939 [The College of Sociology, 1937-1939],
texts introduced by Denis Hollier, new edition, Gallimard, 1995, Folio
Essais: two letters from Bataille and three from Leiris.
Georges Bataille, Choix de lettres, 1917-1962 [Selected Letters,
1917-1962], standard edition, introduced with notes by Michel Surya,
Gallimard, 1997, Les Cahiers de la NRF: twenty-six letters from
Bataille.
Georges Bataille, EApprenti sorciet; du Cercle communiste democratique a
Acephale [The Sorcerer's Apprentice, from the Democratic Communist
Circle to Acephale], texts, letters and documents (1932-39), compiled,
introduced and with notes by Marina Galletti; prefaces and notes trans-
lated from the Italian by Natalia Vital, editions de la Difference, 1999,
Folio 'Essais): three letters from Bataille.
These previous instances of publication are noted thus: College, Choix and
EApprenti.
Some letters, primarily those concerning the College of Sociology, have
also been published in Gradhiua or other periodicals.
80
1. BATAILLETO LEIRISI
[Paris (?), 1924]
Dear friend,
Are you still bored? I am too alone to take this business of
boredom seriously on my own account. The things that exert an
influence on us in Paris through friendship or from any other rea-
son are idiotic. If what I express is something different from what
I have to say, forgive me: w i ~ i s to say that all this goes on
being as muddled as it is. Nor do I believe that the extreme sim-
plifications that I finish up'with on my own really mean anything,
but it is not very hard to work out how I manage to get myself a
bargain out of all the various prospects we come to believe in here
in Paris. Of course we are not yet at the point of proceedings that
can be brought into the open, but if hypocrisy makes us unwilling
to risk nothing more than the conviction that failure would bring
us to the height of ridicule, I am all the more inclined to play and
lose: I'm used to it. Clearly nothing of greater consequence than
writing this page for example.
In friendship,
Georges Bataille
1. BLJD, Ms.Ms. 43.187. Published in Choix, p. 56.
81
2. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS2
[Paris (?), 1925]
Dear friend,
As usually happens after having met you, I was seriously dis-
couraged last night, but this time with a bad conscience, which is
to say persuaded that I was in a deplorable state of mind and
despising myself. I realized quite clearly that I was only an eclectic
and an opportunist and on the instant it struck me that nothing
could be more despicable. Today I make no bones about protest-
ing to the ~ o n t r r y that my mistake lies in my tendency to put
myself in the wrong and particularly with you, probably because I
lack courage and also out of affection for you. I can even see pre-
cisely in my potential for eclecticism and opportunism, which
after all for me are only weapons in the service of an unreserved
intransigence, the main reason to hope that my current efforts
may come to ,something.
It remains to be seen how far it is possible to go along this
track. Yesterday I recognized that it was possible that I had
already gone too far. Indeed it is possible that I have relied a bit
too much on my personal influence. However, this is only a very
relative disappointment and the only wrong that I'acknowledge in
myself, in this circumstance, is that I started out there, but that

2. BLJD, Ms.Ms. 43.188. Published in Choix, pp. 57-8.


82
Correspondence 1924-1961
was how it happened. I should obviously have preferred to put it
off till later, but, at a certain point, I would have thought I was
retreating had I had the patience to wait and I have not wavered
when faced with what would certainly have struck you as impossi-
ble or dangerous. As for the principles that we have to adopt once
and for all for possibilities of this kind, I consider it necessary to
establish them as quickly as possible: I imagine that you have anx-
ieties in this respect but I ask you forthwith to wait patiently until
I can clearly set out my way of seeing to you.
If my letters, or what I write, have more practical value than
what I say to you, I do not ultimately believe that this is the case
so much because my writing does not sufficiently bring out con-
tradiction as that my natural distaste for everything that is precise
and persuasive prevails when we are together and then I speak
without conviction and without really knowing what I want to say.
Yours in friendship,
Georges Bataille
83
3. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE3
[Paris, Thursday] 16July [1925]
Dear friend,
Could you translate into modern French one or two of the
most noteworthy Fatrasies, and send them, with a brief biblio-
graphic note, to Breton, 42 rue Fontaine, or to me-if possible
within the next week? They would appear in October, in Issue 5 of
the RS.4
I hope you are well and I hope to see you soon, before I
leave.
B-est wishes,
Michel Leiris
Is 9 p.m. on Wednesday at the Select in Montparnasse all right
for you?
3. BNF-Mss., NAF 15.854, f. 45.
4. La Revolution surrtaliste, where they would appear in Issue 6, 1 March 1926, pp. 2-3.
84
4. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE5
[Cap d'Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes), August 1925]
Dear friend,
I'm going to get married,
oar of light
moorings denied.f
Michel Leiris
5. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 57. Postcard showing 'Cap d'Antibes, Villa "Eilenroc", Path
through the rocks'. addressed to Monsieur Georges Bataille, 85 rue de Rennes, Paris.
Postmark illegible.
6. Leiris had left in early August with Daniel-Henry and Lucie Kahnweiler and Louise (Zette)
Godon for a holiday in Antibes, to join Andre and Colette Masson. '[Zette] and I did a lot of
talking' and on August 7, 'we had scarcely arrived on the Cote when we got engaged' (EAge
d/homme, Gallimard, 1939. p. 194). Their marriage took place on 2 February 1926.
85
5. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE'
La Preste [Pyrenees-Orientales], [Thursday] 21 [August 1930]
I'm leaving for Spain soon. Here you find grass snakes even
in the hotel.
Affectionate regards,
Michel
7. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, 56. Postcard showing 'The Pyrenees Orientales, Route de 1a
Preste. Prats-de-Mello and Tour de Mir electric power station (1540 m)', addressed to
Madame and Monsieur" Georges Bataille, 24 avenue de la Reine, Boulogne-sur-Seine
(Seine). Postmark illegible.
86
6. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE8
[Zaragoza, Sunday 31 August 1930]
See you soon, I'm back on the 4th.
Affectionate regards,
Michel
8. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 24. Postcard showing 'Zaragoza, Plaza de Toros', addressed to
Madame and Monsieur Georges Bataille, 24 avenue de la Reine, Boulogne-sur-Seine
(Seine). Postmarked: 5.7.1931.
87
7. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE9
Kayes ([French] Sudan), [Saturday] 4 July [1931]10
Very affectionate regards
Michel
9. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 58. Postcard showing Kayes, addressed to Monsieur and Madame
Georges Bataille, 24 avenue de 1aReine, Boulogne-sur-Seine (Seine), readdressed to La Ciotat
(Bouches-du-Rhone). Postmarked: 5.7.1931.
10. The Dakar-Djibouti field trip headed by Marcel Griaule (1898-1956}-to which Leiris
belonged as secretary-archivist-s-left Bordeaux on 19 May 1931 and stayed in Dakar from 31
May to 12 June. Kayes and Kita (from where Letter 9 would be sent) are on the road that
took the field trip to Sanga, where it stayed from 29 September to 19 November and where
Leiris studied the secret language of the Dogons, the subject of his degree thesis at the Ecole
pratique des hautes etudes, examined in 1938 and published after the War: 1A Languesecrete
des Dogons de Sanga (Soudan franfais), Institut d'ethnologie, 1948. [What was referred to as
'French Sudan' is nowMali-Trans.]
88
8. BATAILLE TO LEIRISII
[Paris, July 1931]
My dear Michel,
My failure to write to you has not been out of neglect but
probably because I have too much friendship for you not to be sen-
sitive to a great many things. In any case I would not have made a
decision to write to you with platitudes or unpleasant things.
I am leaving for the country truly very disgusted with a life
that is unfortunately no different from the one that you led here.
Last night I sawblack dancers at the Exposition.P dancers
brought onto a platform like cows in a cart. But I do not believe
that the impossibility of certain things could have been more
striking for me than it was there for what separates the blacks
from the whites invited by the Trocadero museum.P I cannot see
for a moment what any kind of agitation might mean if it does
not exclude me quite categorically from all these sad existences.
Believe in my wholehearted friendship,
Georges
11. BLJD. Ms.Ms. 43.189. Published in Choix, pp. 62-3.
12. The Exposition coloniale, which was held in Paris, at the bois de Vmcennes, from 5 May
1931. Its exact title was 'La plus grande France, exposition coloniale internationale' (Greater
France, the International Colonial Exhibition).
13. Musee d'Ethnographie du Trocadero.
89
9. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE14
Kita (French Sudan), [Thursday] 22 July [1931]
Dear Georges,
Your letter reached me this morning. The blacks and the
whites have at least one thing in common: they all lead sad exis-
tences. And I don't see what any kind of agitation can mean, out-
side the pleasure of this agitation itself.
I left very disgusted and I remain very disgusted, because
one only really travels quite alone. But everything seemed prefer-
able to me than the life that anyone of us isforced to lead in
France at this time.
Believe in my wholehearted friendship-despite that 'a great
many things' to which you tell me you have been sensitive-and
be assured that there is no other motive for all my actions than a
terrible struggle against ennui. By the simpleton's method, more-
over; as, for example, when I replace a city aesthete's spleen with
the colonial cafard ...
I thank you and Sylvia
15
for having been so,kind to Zette
after my departure; she has written telling me about this. The
affection shown to her is what touches me most at this time.
14. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 49.
15. The actress Sylvia Bataille, nee Makles (1908-93), whom BatailIe had married in 1928 and
from whom he separated in 1934. She had three older sisters: Bianca (1894--1931), wife of
Theodore Fraenkel, Rose (1902-86), second wife of Andre Masson, and Simone (1905--99),
90
Correspondence 1924-61
In twenty years time we shall both probably be quite done
for. Here's hoping you have a happy NewYear!
Michel
wife of Jean Piel. SylviaBataille became the companion ofJacques Lacan in 1939 and married
him in 1953.
Several of the Makles sisters had been fellow students of the Kahn sisters and had remained
their friends: Simone Kahn, wife of Andre Breton and then of Michel Collinet, and Janine
Kahn, wife of Raymond Queneau. They were cousins to Denise Kahn-the Berenice of
Aragon's novel Aurelien-who was married successively to Georges Levy and Pierre Naville.
91
10. LEIRIS TO BATAlLLE16
Gedaref (province of Kassala, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan), [Sunday]
1 May 1932
17
Dear Georges,
It is only as I begin this letter that I realize today is the first
of May. I will leave it up to your perspicacity to meditate upon
this symbolism (if, however, you absolutely wish to find some in
this fact); as for me, I have overmuch phlegm to do so.
What are you up to? What do you have to say? What are you
doing?
I shall probably not surprise you when I say that after my lit-
tle gallop across the ethnographic flower-beds, I am beginning to
come back to feelings that are more human. In other words, I am
thinking about my friends . . .
It will soon be a year since I began myjaunt around this
country. The main thing I can say about it is that one always finds
a fairly large number of things that are exactly the same in
16. N F ~ M s s NAF 15.854, f. 25.
17. Gedaref is 150 km from Gallabat, a frontier town between Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (Sudan
as it is now) and Ethiopia. The field trip's members were obliged to stay in this region from
20 April to 31 May before obtaining authorization to enter Ethiopia. On 1July, the group
arrived at Gondar, where Leiris then studied the cult of the zars genies, the subject of his
book La Possession et ses tlSpects thidtraux chez les Ethiopiens til Gonder [Possession and its
Theatrical Aspects among the Ethiopians of Gondar] (PIon, 1958).
92
Correspondence 1924-61
Europe so as to be sure of total boredom, at least from time to
time.
But it must be admitted that on the other hand the
Bernardin de Saint-Pierre style
18
would likewise be deadly.dull in
the long run, if a European ever managed to get involved in it
(for stories like White Shadows on the South Seas have no reality-
not to say any Iikelihood-other than in the cinema). 19 The great
attraction lies in walking around and making contact with a con-
siderable number of very varied samples of (white or black)
humanity. In other words, breaking the circle.
18. The reference is totheauthorofithe novelPaul et Virginie-Trans.
19. White Shadows on the SouthSeas, a US film begun, then abandoned, by Robert Flaherty,
completed by and credited to WilliamS. Van Dyke(1928). The actors were Monte Blue and
Raquel Torres. Ado Kyrou describes it thus:
Skin colour is the enemy trampled on by the white doctor and the young Tahitian woman in
White Shadows on the SouthSeas. The doctor, the only survivor from a plague ship, lands on a
Polynesian island and is soon laid low by alcohol and tropical diseases. He expects nothing
more from life. The love of the young native woman brings about his radical transformation;
in this 'earthly paradise' which had been only a hell, love erupts as one of the finest visual
poems ever seen. Thejoy of living will banish ideas of 'civilized' and 'native', the sun will shine
more intensely, and the doctor will perish defending his love, having put up armed resistance
to drive away 'his own kind', intruders bent on ~ n s t i n g 'civilization'. It is impossible to
describe the magnetic beauty of this river of love and I must say once again: the cinematic
image achieves this miracle of immersing us in a total experience of the marvellous.
Ado Kyrou, Le SUTTealisfTU au cinema [Surrealism in the Cinema], editions Arcanes, 1953,
p. 132, a book published in a series tided 'Ornbres blanches' (White Shadows) [which hap-
pened to bethe French titleof thefilm in question-1l'ans.].
Ifwe are to believe an advertisement that appeared in Issue 11, 25 November 1933, of the
magazine Masses, VanDyke'sfilmwas screened on 9 December 1933 as part of a film evening
organized by the 'Friends ofMasses', preceded by a talk titled "The Savages and the Civilised',
given by 'our comrade the ethnographer Michel Leiris' and the filmAu pays du scalp ('a doc-
umentary on the most savage peoples of South America').
93
Bataille & Leins
That is surely what I was most in need of. You know with
what bitterness I can reproach my best friends for not being other
than as they are. Not because I really think that they would be
better being other, but out of a simple liking for change. You,
more than others, have experienced it . . .
If I wanted to translate my current state of mind towards my
friends into the noble language of dialectic, I should say that I have
reached the 'negation of negation', in other words [re]conciliation.
20
Having broken the circle, I have nothing more urgent than
to seek to re-form it.
Write to me, I should like that. How are you faring in the
concert of creaks and cracks? What effect is the crisis having:
amusement? irritation? How much ink has been spilt over the
great Aragont! affair? Is poor Giacometti a bastard, or isn't he?
And what about the Baron household?22
I won't tell you that these affairs will entertain me in them-
selves, but they will at least take me closer to my friends.
And what major projects do people have going on right now?
Not many, I surmise; or else well done for having the heart for it
and my wholehearted admiration for men with some stamina left!
20. The brackets are Leiris's,
21. Aragon's indictment for 'inciting servicemen to insubordination' and 'provocation to
murder' in his poem Front Rouge(RedFront) of October 1931. The Surrealists had protested
in a number of publications and the pamphlet 'the Aragon Affair' came out in January 1932.
22. This is probably a reference to the domestic situation of the writer Jacques Baron
(1905-86)-a close friend of Leiris, who had met him in 1924 in the Surrealist group, and
the author most notably of L:An I dusurrealisme [Year 1 of Surrealism] (Denoel, 1969)-and
not his elder brother Francois Baron (1900-80) who, having belonged to a group of writers
and artists in the 1920s, had become a colonial administrator and with whom Leiris had
stayed in Dakar at the start of the Dakar-Djibouti field trip, in June 1931.
94
Correspondence 1924-61
Currently, my own project (entirely theoretical that is) would
be to take a trip to South America, or even Afghanistan or TIbet.
1
But to hell with polar expeditions-you don't meet enough people
on them after all. Still, I'd rather like to eat some pemmican....
Don't think I'm being ironic. Let me tell you something in all
sincerity: the thought of seeing you again in not so many months
time gives me a profound pleasure, but the idea of even once
sitting in Montparnasse or any cafe whatsoever in any other part
of Paris makes me feel sick.
And another thought makes me melancholy: that we shall
probably go and see a film, in the cinema-so human!
My dear Georges, how happy I should be iit were all those I
love who were to come and join me here; instead of the opposite!
All my love to you and Sylvia,
Michel
Once more, in wholehearted friendship!
95
11. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS23
Letter neversent, neverreceived or not kept
24
[Paris (?), September or October 1932]
My dear Michel,
My not writing to you stems not at all from neglect but
because I have already written a letter and it has riled me.
If there is something that must be of significance for you, it
is the fact of hardly having anything in common with your past
preoccupations any longer but, if one is to write to you, it is
impossible to stand aside very much from the preoccupations one
knew to be yours and which, after all, are the only thing one is
aware of about you besides the fact that they bored you to tears.
Youwrote to me (but your letter dates back to the first of
May) that you're always disgusted that people are not other than as
they are. I don't think I am any less disgusted than you. It is all I
can say. But perhaps what is more disheartening is that the rela-
tionships one has with people are always in conformity with con-
ventions of a kind that everything that could be othe is excluded.
I do not imagine that epistolary relationships can easily be an
exception.
I am also puzzled by your ironic tone about 'major' projects
(yet another part of your letter that you must have completely for-
23. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.853, f. 101. Published in Choix, pp. 72-3.
24. It does not appear in the Leiris bequest to the BLJD.
96
Correspondence 1924-61
gotten five months on). I find that in this European society that is
so utterly deadened, we have no option but to form the project of
finding a way out, and not just episodically. If such a project is
foolish, futile, or even major, that is too bad, but for my part I
shall never put up with being incorporated into a senile confrater-
nity of gossips and bores. I say this as naively as I can, and not at
all aggressively since I have no doubt that you do not wish for
such a thing any more than me. I would rather be done for than
become one of their illustrations, even of the tenth order. (But this
is not a reason for behaving like a pretentious idiot on the pretext
that people say one needs to have some status.)
All of these questions must besides be very far away from you,
since they are indeed only asked over here, which is to say in the
place upon which we are ultimately dependent but where you for a
long time have had the luck not to be.
Very affectionate regards,
Georges
97
12. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS25
Paris [second semester of 1933 (?)]26
Nine o'clock
My dear Michel,
Forgive me, but an unforeseen complication prevented me at
the. last moment, first from going to the circle,27 then from being
able to telephone in time. I am sorry after what you've told me. I
hope however that Pie1
28
will be there and that you will not be com-
pletely lost at the wretched circle. I am anxious to see you and I
shan telephone you but it would be tedious to give you this vague
explanation on the telephone.
My very best regards,
Georges
25. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.222. This letter was written on notepaper headed: Cafe de Flore, 172
bd Saint-Germain, Paris. Tel. Littre 55-26.
26. Leiris returned to Paris in February.
27. The Cercle communiste democratique, which was led by Boris Souvarine, and to which
Jean Piel belonged, along with Bataille, Queneau and Leiris. In the words of Edouard
Lienert:
I remember: having seen them [Bataille, Leiris and Queneau] at some of the circle's meetings,
but they did not take part in discussions, if I rightly recall. I even wondered why they both-
ered to come. I got the impression that being militants wasn't their sort of thing (Edouard
Lienert, 'D'un cercle a l'autre', in Boris Souvarine et 'La Critique socials', ed. Anne Roche, La
Decouverte, 1990, p. 53).
28. Jean Piel (1902-96), brother-in-law of Bataille and Andre Masson. He was a friend of
Dubuffet, Limbour and Queneau-his fellow-students at the lycee in Le Havre, and had met
98
Correspondence 1924-61
Masson through Dubuffet at Queneau's around 1927. It was Leiris who introduced him to
Bataille (jean Piel, La Rencontre et ladifference, Fayard, 1982, pp. 123-4). He was one of those
most active in Critique, which was set up in 1946 by Bataille, whom he was to succeed as edi-
tor of the magazine. On Bataille and Queneau, see Jean Piel, 'Georges Bataille and
Raymond Queneau during the 1930s and 40s'. in the catalogue of the exhibition Georges
Bataille et RaymondQueneau 1930-1940, Billom (Puy-de-Dome), 10July-l 0 September 1982,
pp.3-9.
99
13. LEIRIS TO BATAlLLE29
[London, Friday 3 November 1933]
Horse Guards stuffed popes on the throne ofJupiter.
Zette
When Neron [sic] passes by.gO
Michel
[illegible word]
Florence'"
29. BNF-Mss, ~ 15.854, f. 26. Postcard showing 'London, Nelson's Column and National
Gallery', addressed (in Louise Leiris's writing) to Monsieur and Madame G. Bataille, 3 rue
Claude-Matrat, Issy-les-Moulineaux (Seine). Postmark: 3.11.33.
30. This line is in Engluh.-T,.ans.
31. Perhaps Florence Gilliam, an American music critic and Jacques Baron's companion at
the time.
100
14a. BATAlLLEIO LEIRlS32
[Rome, Wednesday 14 A:priI1934]
My dear Michel,
I'm wondering what dire progress'" we're making back at
home. When will things give way? Reading the newspapers from
abroad makes everything seem insignificant and absurd, but my
own life in Paris is that of my friends too. How tired I am. I have
become so incapable of resting that I experience fatigue as a
prison sentence. Sometimes I think that.personally, I am quite at
theend of my tether. What's more, I'm still ill.
34
Best regards,
Georges
32. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.190. Postcard showing 'Roma, Piazza Navona', addressed to Monsieur
Michel Leiris, 12 rue Wilhem, Paris XVIe. Postmark: Roma Ferrovia /8-9/14-IV/34-XII.
Letter published in Choix, P: 100, where it is dated 8--9December 1934. The 14-IV' on the
postmark is barely legible but, on 14 April 1934, Bataille was defmitely in Rome. On the
same day, he wrote to Raymond Queneau: 'I'm writing to you about the fascist exhibition'
(Choix, p. 80).
33. An allusion to recent events: the Stavisky affair, demonstrations by extreme rightwing
groupings on 6 February, the resignation of the government, a general strike (whichBataille
regarded as a failure), the forming of the antifascist intellectuals' Committee of Vigilance
[CVIA], etc.
34. In March, Bataille had had a serious collapse: heavy drinking, bedhopping, too little
sleep and too much time in brothels. The trip to Italy was meant to get himback into shape.
101
14b. BATAILLETO LEIRIss5
[Friday 3 August 1934]
[Heading:] Write to me in Issy [-les-Moulineaux].
My dear Michel,
I'm not joking but I am leaving for Privas to see Dr Adrien
Bore1.
86
Don't breathe a word to anyone about this piece of foolish-
ness for I am on my last legs: all hell is raging in myhead. If I get
out of there I shall still have a nice smile for Laurence'? and a lively
voice for talking to Michel Leiris, but I won't be very thirsty, I assure
you. There is no better thing for cushing than the wheels of a train
but that does not stop me from paying to get on board. What an
absurd curiosity for what it would be better never to find; one ought
not to have been born. For some time now I have been thinking that
you're the one to whom I shall send a little word of friendship if ...
but even that is impossible and there is nothing for it but to go on
pegging out for as long as there are new days dawning.
Georges Bataille
35. BLJD, Ms.Ms for 3.152 (letter attributed in error to Jacques Baron). Addressed to Michel
Leiris, Sa Riera, near Bagur; Province ofGerena, Spain (see next letter). Envelope printed with
the address orCafe de Vaudeville, 29, rue Vivienne, Paris, Postmark: 8.VIII.1934.
36. Dr Adrien Borel 8 8 ~ 1966), who psychoanalysed Bataille, Leiris and Colette Peignot. On
Colette Peignot, see p. 117, Letter 19, NOTE 57.
37. Laurence Bataille(1930-86), the daughter of Georges and Sylvia Bataille.
102
15. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE38
Sa Riera, [Wednesday] 15 August [1934]
My dear Georges,
Your letter finds me at Sa Riera,S9on the holiday of the
Assumption: Simone, Polly, Zette, Max, Gaston
40
and I must be off
soon to the 'fiesta' at La Bisbal.
I don't think you're wrong about seeing Borel: there may not
be a lot to be expected from psychoanalysis, but it can always be
taken just as one would take an aspirin. It is neither stupid nor
intelligent, merely effective or otherwise, as the case may be.
I'm trying to work a little here but without enthusiasm, since
I find it harder and harder to invent myths for myself. In the end
I do what I can, writing being the only durable distraction that I
have found for myself; and it would still be something to have this
game at one's service!
The village is very quiet and very lovely, too quiet and too
lovely, I shall say, for it is alwaysstuck there around you like a decor
where gloom and discord and every kind of impossibility can have a
field day jockeying for the upper hand. i\nyway, this is nearly always
what happens to me when I'm travelling or on holiday.
88. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 48.
89. Sa Riera, in Catalonia.
40. Simone Breton, Zette (Louise) Leiris, Max Morise, Gaston-Louis Roux and Polly, his
American companion.
103
Bataille & Leiris
We sawAndre at Tossa.U He struck me as being very well
and in fighting spirit. He leads a very well-ordered life and paints
good pictures, in a medieval house with a well in the entrance hall
and a patio. I envy his enthusiasm, which always saves him and
allows him to draw nourishment from his torments. In this there
is a kind of alchemy that we have not given up our despair of ever
finding. But, believe me if you like, he is following the only way
that can be followed. The only difficulty is to get there! Alas, to
acquire this mystical exaltation it is not enough to apply Pascal's
assurance that 'it will stupefy you'42 ...
Everything I'm telling you here is quite futile, I realize. Allow
that this is the lively way in which Michel Leiris addresses Georges
Bataille but that to give their discussion weight there must be
added a certain way of looking that is understood. Perhaps we
only live for some of these ways of looking, which may give a kind
of truth to the most absurd words spoken.
We shall see one another again when the summer is over and
there shall again be two of us feeling pegged out, which in my
viewis the only appropriate form of solidarity! As for everything
else, 'mfiy the wind carry it', in the words of Francois Villon,
whom I am re-reading at the moment.
41. Tossa de Mar, the Catalan fishing port where Andre Masson had moved in June with
Rose Makles,
42. Pascal's 'wager' in the Pensees. Let us recall that, when his interlocutor asks him what he
should do to aim for perfection, Pascal explains that his 'powerlessness to believe arises from
[his] passions', he ought therefore to diminish them and imitate people who have made the
wager to believe: 'it is in doing everything as if they believed, in taking holy water, in having
Masses said, etc. Of course even that will make you believe and will stupefy you' (Blaise
Pascal, Oeuvres completes, ed. Louis Lafuna, Le Seuil, 'Llntegrale' series, 1963, p. 551).
104
Correspondence 1924-61
If you see Borel after receiving this letter, give him my
regards and tell him that I am trying hard to be good. By being
very good I shall perhaps in the end have a right to my share of
the cake, a sensational windfall after which there will remain noth..
ing more than for me to bite the dust, so that I'll make my exit in
splendour, leaving no arguments for those nasty pessimists who
deny every kind of glorious finale.
Zette sends her best wishes.
My affectionate regards,
Michel
Excuse the idiocy of this letter, which I am ashamed to re-
read and most of all to send to you after having re-read it. What
you tell me has greatly moved me, at a point when I thought
myself unfeeling. It almost made me weep. If the words were not
so foolish and the comparison so ill chosen, I would tell you that I
love you like a brother.
105
16a. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS43
[Paris, Sunday] 20 January '35
My dear Michel,
Our conversation the day before yesterday could well confirm
in me a way of seeing to which I have long since become accus-
tomed, and this is a painful way of seeing because for me friend-
ship has always mattered. But friendship cannot prevail against
certain simple facts, which, though they may not be so for you, are
abundantly clear to me.
The project
44
that we envisaged in those days makes it plain,
which is slightly comic, or bitter, that on one level there is no more
than the ghost of a friendship between us. Thus, I know where I
want to take this in the most decided way, but our relationship has
long been such that my purpose is not exactly unfamiliar to you-
things are indeed simpler: for you, it is as if the question of their
existence had never been asked. Where there might be some
knowledge in you of what really matters to me, there is a void. And
when I say a void, I also know what covers it up.
43. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.191. Published in Choix, pp. 101-05 (both parts, 20 and 21 January),
and in EApprenti, pp. 119-24 (first part only, 20 January). The drafts appear in the Bataille
archive of the BNF under the classification NAF 15.853, f. 92 (second part) and ff 93--7 (first
part). The draft of the second part carries the mention 'double letter to Leiris towards the
end of '34' in Bataille's handwriting.
44. It is not dear which project wasbeing referred to.
106
Correspondence 1924-61
Don't imagine that there is hostility in my writing this. On the
contrary, if I had any hostility towards you right now-as has hap-
pened-I would not have dreamed of writing to you. Moreover, I
mow that I am also at fault, which does not prevent me from
sometimes feeling extremely sad about all this. I imagine that my
friendship contains something burdensome for those I love most. I
can approach people I love less with more facility-above all, more
humanity. Without the least doubt, the greatest disappointment I
have had is the stagnation and the wearing thin of all friendship in
my life which, in the course of very fewyears, becomes the empti-
est of things, with only the past as itsjustification.
This may not have much importance anywaybut there is
between us a misunderstanding that needs to be resolved. I can-
not see why I should conceal even a part of what I think, However
unapparent the result may be, I have made a great enough effort
in the course of these recent years for me to be able to speak out
without hesitation today. No one else has taken it upon himself to
make any comparable effort. I can see this clearly enough to be
sure that there is an interest-in a defmite sense of course-in
bringing to light a certain number of coherencies, and throwing
into the greatest relief the relatively contradictory movements that
we represent. In doing this, I don't see anything to which there
might be commitment in one sense or the other, the sole primary
necessity being that of emergence from obscurity. A certain num-
ber of people aimed to hold a meeting so as to have a clear
awareness that clarity could not be achieved without such a meet-
ing. Xt the same time, it strikes me as impossible at present to
find any other consistent reason for meetings. To this should be
added, for the sake of averting any ambiguity, that in my viewa
107
Bataille & Leiris
clear awareness of the situation we find ourselves in should set out
the value of a distinct attitude, even a distinct activity, this howev-
er being only a personal hope.
I confess to you that I am shocked in what I feel most deeply
at the idea of a new literary crowd.
45
I do not mean by this any
moral repugnance: if such a crowd existed, I would not even hesi-
tate to use it in as much as I found it in my interest. Admittedly, it
is hard for me to imagine a more ill-chosen circumstance for
bringing out a new Poore de Neuilly,46 given that at least half of
those likely to participate in such a publication would refuse.
Ultimately, I find only reasons to be surprised at seeing you
inclined in.such a direction. In the first place, we were in agree-
ment over the limits of possible collaborations. Besides, I
expressed myself in precise enough terms to you and More
47
(repeating what I had already said successively to Lacarr'" and
45. Bataille does indeed write 'cohue litteraire' and not 'revue litteraire'.
46. The Poore 'de Neu.iUy, a magazine published in 1933 at Neuilly-sur-Seine, Editor: Lise
Deharme. Managing editor: Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, Contributions byArp, Jacques
Baron, Alejo Carpentier, Desnos, Drieu la Rochelle, Fargue, Jouhandeau, Lacan, Queneau,
Ribemont-Dessaignes, Vitrac, etc. Only three issues of the magazine were published (NOS 1,
2 and 3-4).
The project of a new magazine to which Bataille refers is probably that of La Betenoire,
a magazine that was the idea of Leiris and Marcel More, which was edited by Maurice Raynal
and Estratios Teriade and came out from April 1935 to February 1936 (eight issues). It pub-
lished texts by.Antonin Artaud, Jacques Baron, Michel Leiris, Henri 'tdichaux, Raymond
Queneau, Pierre Reverdy, Roger Vitrac, etc., but was condemned by Bataille and Masson, the
latter describing it, in letters to D. H. Kahnweiler and Leiris, as a 'laughable little paper', as
'a louse on the baCk of the Minotaure' and an 'arse-wipe' (Andre Masson, LesAnnees surreal-
isus, correspondance 1916-1962, ed. Francoise LevaiUant, La Manufacture, 1990, pp. 249-61).
Leiris only contributed to the first two issues.
108
Correspondence 1924-1961
47. Marcel More (1887-1969), a polytechnician and stockbroker, literary critic, friend of
Bataille, Leiris, Colette Peignot and her family, the author of books onJules Verne and stud-
ies collected in Accords et dissonances and La Foudre tU Dieu, founder of the journal of religious
research Dieuvivant (1945-55). 'Ashadowfigure (the shadowofChrist. the shadow ofSatan),
he was at once disturbing and touching, frantic, lost and saved' (Claude Mauriac. U Temps
immobile, VOL. 10, OncleMarcel, Grassel, 1988. p. 159). On Marcel More, see 'Le tres curieux
Marcel More', Digraphe, NOS 86-87, Autumn 1998.
48. According to Elisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan took part in the early meetings of Contre-
Attaque (jacques Laam, esquisse dJune vie, histoire d'un ~ de pens/e. Fayard, 1993, p. 188).
109
Bataille & Leiris
Caillois) about the reasons I saw for the prospect of a magazine.
From these reasons it emerges that literary expression could only
find a place in this magazine to the extent that it is spontaneously
at one with a certain kind of inquiry: a disjunction between the
two would rob the strictly intellectual initiatives of meaning, on
the basis that these initiatives would in principle aim to establish
the primacy of a lyrical knowledge (or something of the kind).
The change in your way of seeing since our meeting with
More can be explained in a very naive way by your conversations
with Queneau.s? I told you from the start that I was surprised to
see Queneau take an interest in the project of a collective publica-
tion. Of course, I am less surprised, even amused, to see him
interested-I say this without bitterness, on the contrary-in
order to try unconsciously to land it in a dead-end. I can all the
more readily say of him that what he writes responds quite punc-
tually to the free cohesion without which nothing is possible.
Since, however spontaneous his books, he nonetheless places him-
self at the end-point of the most blatant intellectual initiatives, at
the end-point of German phenomenology for example....
My very best regards,
Georges
49. In his relating to Ls Coupable, Bataille mentions on 21 October 1939 the visit he
has just had from Queneau following their rupture in 1934:
It is strange that, shortly afJ.er a conclusive conversation with WUdberg which led to our falling
out, Queneau should come to, see it is the first time he has come to see me
since hisdesertion (theword unot inexact) in 1934. Queneau was the first to desert me' (DC,VOL.
5, p. 514).
Jean Piel desaibes the relationship between Bataille and Queneau (though without mentioning
the quarrel of 1994) in 'Georges Bataille et Raymond Queneau pendant les annees 30-40', pp.
3-9.
110
16b. BATAILLETO LEIRIS
[Monday 21 January 1935]
I am the better advised for having slept on things and this
morning I can only tell you howweary I am of little nincompoops
and their goings on. I shall not attempt to put my case any fur-
ther with people who cultivate thoughtlessness: Queneau, to the
point of reproaching me for not having sought his collaboration
(only to acknowledge within minutes that he was wrong); you, to
the point of being unaware that, with me, you,were in the pres-
ence of a coherent worked-out plan (which I was able to set out
only in front of More for the good reason that it had long become
impossible for me to have a conversation with you that goes
beyond the daily banalities to which you so resolutely attach
importance).
It pains me that there being perhaps-after all-some griev-
ances against me, these grievances are of such a disturbing kind
that they have impelled you to push for the utterly ridiculous
business of the More grouping.
I shall not dwell on the fact that Queneau and Leiris request
me to step aside for them ... This is so childishly obvious that I am
now giving up, leaving you, with sadness, to your pleasant slumbers.
As for the meetings at Lacan's house, I should be grateful if
you would let Queneau know that it is my intention to leave
immediately should he tum up.
Georges Bataille
111
17. BATAILLETO LEIRISsO
[Paris, April 1935]
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
IN THE FACE OF FASCISM
GIVEN THE INSUFFICIENCY OF COMMUNISM
We aim to hold a meeting so as to consider together the
problems that arise for those who are currently
radically opposed to the fascist aggression,
unreservedly hostile to bourgeois domination,
unable to trust any longer in Communism.
We invite you to participate in this meeting that will take
place on Monday 15 April, at 9 p.m. in the Bel-Air Cafe, 32
avenue du Maine (Metro: Bienvenue)
Georges BATAILLE,Jean D A U T R ~ Pierre KAAN.52
50. BlJD, Ms.Ms 43.221. Typewritten statement followed, below and over the page, by a
handwritten text of Bataille's, published in Choix, pp. 105-06, and in EApprenti, pp. 126-8.
51. Jean Dautry (1910--68), historian and contributor to La Critique sociale and to Masses. See
EApprenti, p. 110.
52. Pierre Kaan (1903-45), militant communist, later oppositional, whom Leiris had known
in the 1920s. He was one of Jean Moulin's right-hand men in the Resistance. He was arrest-
ed on 29 December 1943, deported to Buchenwald, then to Gleina (in Czechoslovakia), and
died of typhus on 18 May 1945, shortly after being liberated by Czech partisans. See
EAPJnenti, pp. 12-15. See also Francoise Boutot and Francois George, 'Pierre Kaan ou la
112
Correspondence 1924-61
[Handwritten text:]
My dear Michel,
I am sending you this little paper even though you already
know it. I should not like there to be any misunderstandings: this
matter could not be simpler, nor more necessary, in the sense that
what is publicly expressed is of more consequence than what is
said in conversations.
I admit that I am often rather surprised by what you tell me on
such subjects. I do not see whywe could not envisage things differ-
ently from everyone else. All of it is simple, very simple. If meetings
could seem worse than useless, it is because no one had anything to
say and not because they were meetings. As for what is possible or
impossible, things today are as ever they were: all it takes is the will,
but it is true that the will is not there until it is forced.
As for the business of individuals, I mean to tum my back on
them deliberately. Being as I am, I am hardly at risk of being 'used'
by anyone else. It is people who know exactly what they want who
use others and not the other way round. Besides, such things are
not the issue right now; all that cormts is to see whether it is possi-
ble to help people become aware ofwhat theyare experiencing and
to stop them, if possible, from sleepwalking through it.
My very best wishes,
Georges
lucidite active' [Pierre Kaan or active lucidity], in Vuages de la Resistance, introduced by
Francois George, Lyons, La Manufacture, 1987 (La Liberti de ['esprit, NO. 16, Autumn 1987),
pp. 169-201.
113
Bataille & Leiris
I have sent a paper of the same kind to Queneau but only to
keep my conscience clear, without seriously thinking that he'll
come and without wishing it.
114
18. BATAILLE TO LOUISE LEIRIS53
Letter not sent
54
[july 1936]
My dear Zette,
Michel does not know the injury he does me. It is a dreadful
thing for me to speak to someone who is quite thoughtless.
Anyone can think and say what Michel said to me and even rightly
so, but because Michel cannot use the words of this 'anyone' whom
I hate, in this there is something that for me could not be worse.
Even if what I am doing is absurd, Michel well knows that I am
crazy enough to stake my life this way. In what way could his atti ...
tude be unbearable for me? I could not care less about the 'any...
ones' who will mistake what I do for something else, but that
53. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.853, f. 98.
54. Noted at top right in Bataille's handwriting is: 'Not sent/July '36'.
This letter probably follows in the wake of; Leiris's refusal to join the secret society
Acephale, founded by Bataille in May-June 1936. In 1989, Leiris confided in Bernard-Henri
Levy that he regarded Bataille's project as 'faintly puerile', 'not exactly a piece of childish-
ness, but not very far off" (Bernard-Henri Levy, us Avenlures de la liberu, Grassel, 1991,
p. 175). After his death, a note by him was found in which the word 'ridiculous' was used:
When made explicit, the half-voiced understanding some have is devalued, because what it is
worth lies precisely in its needing only to be implicit. Seeing things like this, I could not
belong to the secret society Acephale: making manifest among its members what Ijudged best
kept hidden, seemed to me not to seal the almost tacit understanding institutionalized byits
mere existence, but to reduce it to the ridiculous (Gradhiva, NO. Ig, 1993, p. 65).
See also Letter 75, 28 October 1960, pp. 217-18.
115
Bataille & Leins
Michel is wrong and knowingly, that he is one of the fewmen in
the world who knows what lies behind an enterprise as infantile as
those of Masson and myself, that he should ask me to adhere to
reasonings that to me are as alien as classroom lessons, that he
pretends to be unaware that, stupid or not, what he spoke of was
what matters deeply to me, I say as feelingly as I would love a
woman, I suffer from it because I hate the fact that the limitation
of existence today assumes the countenance of Michel. Understand
that I am taking this out on Michel only to the extent that he
tramples on the foundation of our friendship with a determination
I find stupefying, and also I believe that of his friendship with
Andre. He could stand back, but to fmd words that trample even if
it is true that this isjustified by the idiocy of what we have done, is
precisely this kind of 'going too far' that can make everything
impossibly bitter.
Believe in my friendship,
Georges
I shall not see Michel for a long time, out of consideration for
him. But don't ever speak to me about all this, ever again.
55
55. In this same period, Leiris had in mind the founding of a new art review, the project that
bears out his distance from Bataille: the latter did not feature in the list of some 60 contrib-
utors approached, among them Breton, Caillois, Georges Dumezil, Maurice Heine,
Klossowski, Malraux, Queneau, Georges Salles, etc. (Michel Leiris, 'Un projet de revue'
[Proposal for a magazine], a text compiled and introduced by:Jean Jamin, La Revue des
revues, NO. 18, 1994, pp. 6-14). This project never came to anything.
116
19. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS56
[ Saint-Germain-en-Laye] Saturday [September 1938]
I enclose with this letter the card I wrote to you when I was with
Colette.s? She is really better now but she has been in a dreadful
state. It does seem that for the moment she is out of danger and
yet I still had to call the doctor at nine o'clock yesterday evening.
I am sorry not to have written to you sooner. I would then
have given you even worse news.
May I ask you to send us cards telling us what you are up to
and somewhat making light of Colette's illness?
I don't knowwhat to add. What can possibly be said on anoth-
er matter would not be very cheerful either. 58 It is my hope that
you do not read the newspapers (never has this been a more futile
56. BLJD,Ms.Ms 43.192. Published in Cnoix, pp. 144-5.
57. Colette Peignot (1903-38) had been Georges Bataille's companion since 1935 and was a
close friend of Leiris. She died on 7 September in the presence of her family and of Bataille,
Leiris and Marcel More. In spite of the Peignot family's opposition, several of her writings
were published by Bataille and Leiris in two volumes not made available for sale and under
the pseudonym Laure: 1 Sacr [The Sacred] (1939) and Histoire d'unepetite fllle [Story of a
Little Girl] (1943; see pp. 156-60, Letter 35, NOTE 125), texts which are later to be found in
Laure, Ecrits, fragments, lettres [Writings, Fragments and Letters], compiled by Jerome
Peignot and le Collectif Change Uean-Jacques Pauvert editeur), a work which also includes
a 'Vie de Laure' [Life of Laure] by Bataille and 'Georges Bataille et la mort de Laure'
[Georges Bataille and the death of Laure] by Marcel More.
58. The international crisis provoked by the Third Reich's claims on the Czechoslovakian
territory of Sudetenland, which was terminated by the Munich agreement, signed on the
night of 29-30 September.
117
Bataille & Leiris
exercise); the only thoughtful and informed people I have seen
say that all the arguments and interpretations are absurd, that we
cannot know anything at all about what may happen. I wish you a
pleasant worry-free month this bad September.
Affectionately,
Georges
[Card enclosed:]59
My dear friends,
Colette has been really bad. She is doing better now. Her
temperature has come down. I am with her at this moment and
she tells me to send you all her good wishes. Wewould be sad that
you are far away if, as Colette tells me, we were not so happy to
know you are in that sunny place.
All our best wishes to you and Limbourw
Georges
59. Postcard showing 'Saint-Gennain-en-Laye, the roundabout of the Roses and the
Terrasse', with the address: Monsieur and Madame Leiris, Hotel de la Tour, Porto, Corsica.
60. Georges Limbour was on holiday with Leiris and his wife.
118
20. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE61
Paris, [Monday] 3 July 1939
62
My dear Georges,
Working to draft a report of the activityof the College of
Sociology since its foundation in March 1937
63-a
report which, as
you know, I was to read out at tomorrow's session-I found myself
inclined to consider more closelythan I had done so far what the
61. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 28. Typewritten letter, published by Denis Hollier; it College de
sociologie, pp. 819-21. All the texts relating to the College (lectures, discussions, publications,
etc.) were published and commented on in this work. On the disagreement between Bataille
and Leiris expressed in this Letter 20 and the four that follow (21--4), readers should refer
in particular to Bataille's account ofi4 July (pp. 797-816) and to Denis Hollier's 'Epilogue'
(pp. 817-44).
62. When Leiris wrote this letter; he was unaware that on that same day Bataille was writing
to him (Letter 21).
63. The founding of the College by Georges Ambrosino (1912-84), Georges Bataille, Roger
Caillois (1913-78), Pierre KIossowski (1905-2001), Pierre Libra (a figure Denis Hollier has no
knowledge of: p. 28) and Jules Monnerot (1909-95) had been the subject of a 'Note on the
foundation ofa College ofSociology' signed by these six individuals and published inAc/PIude,
NOS 3-4, July 1937 (reprinted in College, pp. 17-28). Its first meeting took place on 20
November and, from the summer of 1938, it was headed by Bataille, Caillois and Leiris,
although Leiris's commitment was appreciably less pronounced than that of the other two:
Leiris never did anything more than lend his name to this enterprise to which his colleagues
gave themselves body and soul. and for which they even for a time gave their souls in the hope
that it would assume bodilysubstance' (CoLUgt
t
pp. 797-8).
Meanwhile (lateJune) Caillois, 'conquered byVictoria Ocampo', had left France for Argentina,
and Bataille and Leiris remained alone in the lists. After using the weekend of 1 and 2July 'to
begin the drafting or his presentation' (College, P: 797), Leiris wrote this letter to Bataille.
119
Bataille & Leiris
College had been doing over the last two years, and I take such a
critical viewof it that I cannot really regard myself as qualified to set
myself up tomorrow as a spokesman for our organization.v'
But 'as soon as he had sent it, Leiris was unhappy. He felt guilty. Realizing the difficulty
his non-participation would leave Bataille in, he decided to give him a verbal explanation. In
any case, could he be sure that the letter would reach him in time? He therefore typed out
another copy and went to take it in person to the addressee, probably at the Bibliotheque
nationale, since it was a working day' (College, p. 821). This second typewritten version, also held
in the Bataille archive (NAF 15.854, f. 27), has the same physical characteristics as the earlier.
one (the typing, the paper, the folds) but the text is slightly different and it ispompously signed
(out of bad. conscience?) 'Michel Leiris, member of the College de sociologie'. It is the second
version which was first published: in 1970 in Bataille's DC, VOL. 2 (pp. 454-5), in 1979 by Denis
Hollier in the first edition of ColUge (pp. 548-9) and in 1987 by Jean-Pierre Le Boulet in an
annex to his edition ofBataille's letters to Caillois (Georges Bataille, Lettres d RogerCaillois, 4 aoUt
1935-4[tuner 1959, editions FolIe Avoine, pp. 147-9), accompanied, in this book, by the vari-
ants on the first version. In addition, the handwritten draft of it was formd among Leiris's
papers by JeanJamin and published in 1993 in Gradhioa, NO. 13, pp. 70-1. The notes drafted
by Leiris with his intervention in mind were also found by JeanJamin and published: 'Notes
de Michel Leiris' (College, pp. 813-16).
On 22June, Leiris had written to Andre Castel (on Castel, see p. 184, Letter 53, NOTE 185):
An account that I was supposed to give at the Col/igtdI sociolop (which my friends Bataille and
Caillois are involved in, as well as lean Paulhan) but was counting on sneaking out of---since I
hate doing lectures-became something I needed to do, since Bataille really wanted me to speak
at this final session, rejecting out of hand every reason I gave him for my non-participation. I
shall therefore have to give up Sunday 2 July to preparing this statement, which I have not yet
done and for which I have only two Sundays left, since the session is to be on Tuesday 4 july.
Andre Castel and Michel Leiris, Co.rrespondance 1938-1958, ed. Anne MailIis, editions Clare
Paulhan, 2002, p. 102.
64. How is this defection to be interpreted? Ever since 'Le sacre dansla vie quotidienne" (The Sacred
in Everyday Life), Leiris's presence at the College had been discreet, not to say mute. At any
rate, more a friendly than a militant one. Mter he began to take on a role in the management
(Monnerot had to be replaced) his name cropped up in letters about the College exchanged by
Caillois, Bataille and Paulhan; he was consulted, but seemed never to take any initiative (ColUgt,
p.817).
120
Correspondence 1924-61
If the idea of a conference that we had aired with Caillois
and a fewothers should assume substance when the summer is
over; I shall develop my objections in the course of these discussion
sessions. It should be enough for me today to bring up the main
points on which my disagreement falls.
1) In the first paragraph of the 'note relating to the founda-
tion of a College of Sociology', which appeared in the review
Acephale and was reproduced in the NRF ofJuly 1938, it is indicat-
ed that the primary aim set out by the College is the study of
'social structures'. Well, it is my reckoning that very serious infrac-
tions of the rules of methodology established by Durkheim-an
intellect that we have unfailingly recommended to ourselves-
have been repeatedly committed at the College: work based on
vague and ill-defined notions, comparisons between instances
taken from societies with profoundly different structures, etc.
2) In the second paragraph, there is the issue of forming
ourselves into a 'moral community' which would represent some-
thing radically distinct from the usual associations of scholars.
Well, I make no bones about saying that if people who have come
from the intellectual background from which we have come wish
to set themselves up as an Order or a Church, they have a strong
chance of simply resuscitating the worst forms of literary chapels.
As for the foundation of an Order, it strikes me as utterly
premature, given that we have not succeeded in defining any doc-
trine. One does not found an Order for the sake of giving rise to
a religion; on the contrary, it is from within religions that Orders
are founded.
3) The third paragraph of the same note talks about the con-
stitution of a 'sacred sociology'. Although I in no way fail to see
121
Bataille & Leiris
the importance of the sacred in social phenomena, I consider that
to underline it this much-almost to the point of making the
sacred the sole interpretative principle-is in clear contradiction
with the gains of modem sociology and, primarily, with the
Maussian notion of 'total phenomenon'.
I have no truck with the idea of aiming to make the College
a learned society where people dedicate themselves to researches
in pure sociology. But in the end, a choice has to be made, and if
we lay claim to sociological knowledge as constituted by men such
as Durkheim, Mauss or Robert Hertz, it is elementary that we
should apply its methodology with rigour. Otherwise, we have to
stop callirtg ourselves 'sociologists', so as to clear up any misun-
derstanding.
To clarify all this, I am relying greatly on these discussion
sessions which should take place when the summer is over, and I
am sending you, and sending likewise to our friends, the assur-
ance of my complete commitment to the preparation for this
conference of ours (a few days ago, I jokingly spoke of it as a
'concilium') whose meeting I judge to be necessary.
Michel Leiris
122
21. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS65
Letter not sent
66
[Saint-Germain-en-Lave (?), Monday] 3-VII-39
My dear Michel,
I am sending you Caillois's text, but it seems to me quite impos-
sible to read it out on Tuesday. It is a very questionable text, for me at
any rate. It would even be hard for the discussion not to take a
polemical turn. In Caillois's absence, then, there is no way I could
talk about it. We therefore have to wait for Caillois to come back
before we pronounce judgement. Another point is that Caillois is
speaking in the name of the College, is even involving the College:
in conformity with the statutes attached to ~ the text therefore must
be discussed among ourselves before being read or published.
Moreover, I don't believe it is possible to read the statutes such
as they are. They seem perfectly fine to me, but there is some adjust-
ment needed. And it is desirable (in any case, it is important for
Caillois) that they should be communicated only after they have been
adopted.
It may be that there are some excellent principles in Caillois's
Examination of Conscience. But there are pointless exaggerations, a cer-
65. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.853, fT. 99-100. Published in Choix, pp. 161-63, and in College, pp.
822-4.
66. With its numerous corrections, this is probably only a draft. It precedes Letter 20, from
Leiris, by a few hours--even a few minutes, but its composition was abandoned by Bataille
after Leiris's visit. It is placed here after Leiris's letter for the sake of conveying a better
understanding of events.
123
Bataille & Leins
tain emphasis upon secrecy and silence. Flagrant contradictions, in
other words. (To say nothing of the attacks against me.) In Caillois's
mind, this is a text linked to the statutes (or at the very least it could
be linked to the statutes). Indeed, the statutes must always be pub-
lished with a text of this order. If Caillois agrees to clarify what is
obscure and seemingly contradictory, to rut out what looks like an
internal polemic and to replace a veritable dance of rigorousness
with the rigorous good sense expressed in any real undertaking, the
Examination of Conscience could function as the basis for such a text:
first because its general movement corresponds to the logic of devel-
opment of an organization such as ours (an extreme reserve in terms
of propaganda, along with sobriety and self-containment); secondly,
because the expression of this reserve and this discretion must be
first and foremost written into any programme of action (on condi-
tion that it tones down its ostentatious character).
Be assured of my wholehearted friendship,
Georges Bataille
Without reading the statutes it may be possible to talk about aiming to
bring about a closed organization in October, with statutes defining the CS
as an organization raising the question of spiritual power.67
67. Attached to the manuscript of the 4 July lecture, a note in Bataille's handwriting brings
up the question of spiritual power (College, p. 824, N0!E 1):
Is it possible to find a reason to i ~ t and die that is different from motherland or class, a rea-
son to fight that would not be based on material interests? Can concern for the greatness of
humanity when assumed by a small number alone constitute sufficient reason? But what do
we mean exactly when we talk about greatness?
Since classes have been at issue, could there be classes without the Church, without the sacred.
without sacrifice?
Could there be a society without spiritual power, radically distinct from temporal power?
124
22. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE68
[Paris] Monday 3 [july 1939], 9 p.m.
Dear Georges,
I acknowledge that I have been in the wrong in waiting until
now to register my disagreement. My weakness is that I am unable
to take up a position-to say yes or no-until my back is to the
wall, and that, I well know, is no ~ of sorting things out.
I am surprised, however, that you have taken this letter as if
you were its personal target; I do not see the College of Sociology
as identified with you and, when I criticise the College of Sociology
it is as a whole, as an organization to which I myself belong.
By bringing you this letter,69I hoped that we would discuss
it, perhaps find a way through it, because I was sorry that my
defection places you in a difficult situation.
I was wrong, I repeat, not to have told you in reasonable time
that I was plainly not up to giving a statement of the kind. I
thought it was a matter of my usual inhibitions and that I would
get over them, as has often happened to me, at the last minute.
I refuse to believe that such a failing, however awkward it
might make things for you momentarily, is of the kind to destroy
our friendship.
My affectionate regards
Michel
68. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 47. Published in Gradhiva, NO. 13, 1993, p. 72, and in College,
p.825.
69. Letter 20, of the same date.
125
23. BATAILLETO LEIRIS70
[Saint-Germain-en-Laye (?), Wednesday] 5-VII-39
My dear Michel,
I have already answered your letter"! in the course of the state-
ment I gave yesterday,72 but in doing so I believed I had to shift the
debate: the reasons I had for acting in this way arise from the state-
ment itself. I now aim to answer the questions you raise directly.
When I used the expression 'sacred sociology' for the first time
(exactlywhen the College of Sociology was founded), I did not
think that the discipline defined by these words could be situated
precisely in the sociological tradition of the French school. To my
mind, the experience of the sacred that each one of us might have,
70. BLJD, in the process of being classified. Published partially in Gradhiua, NO. 13, 1993,
pp. 73-4, and in complete form in Choix, pp. 163-5, and in College, pp. 826--9. The tran-
scription given here is from the College version.
71. Letter 20.
72. 'Le COllege desociologie' (College, pp. 797-816). The statement reads thus:
It is my viewthat the interest aroused by the College desociologi, both internally and outside,
derived from the power it had to call everything into question. [...] This is why it pains me
to see Leiris, who abstains from speaking today because of the doubts he has had about the
sound basis of our activity; it pains me to see Leiris reproaching us for not bearing more of a
resemblance to the academic scholars whose authority we invoke. Leiris-thinks that we are not
following the rules of Durkheim's sociological methodology and that the importance we
attribute to the sacred is not in keeping with Mauss's doctrine of the total phenomenon. He
adds to these considerations the fear of seeing our efforts end only in the creation of the worst
kind of literary chapel C o l l ~ g t pp. 800-01).
126
Correspondence 1924-61
was something containing an essential significance. The very sub-
ject of the statement you made last year
73
shows well enough that
this way of seeing was equally admissible for you and for Caillois.
But if it is true that we bring our personal experience into the
researches that we have pursued, conclusions have to be drawn
from this. The experience of the sacred is of such a kind that it can
leave nothing indifferent: anyone who encounters the sacred can no
longer remain a stranger to it any more than a Christian could
remain a stranger to God. From the outset, I sawthis sacred sociol-
ogy, to which a college could give form and authorization, as there...
fore being situated in a line of descent from Christian theology (it is
in this respect that I gave my answer yesterday to Landsberg'stt
accurate interpretation of my position). The issue was representing
And thus:
The disagreement registered by Leiris is mor.eover far from rulingput the possibility of fur-
ther collaboration, once goals and limits been clearly established, above all once the
modes of freedom necessary to the development of an initiative still at only a tentative stage
have been made plain p. 802).
According to Denis Hollier:
As self-styled sociologists, they [the members of the ColUgt] had come to viewtheirdiscipline
in a manner that could hard.Iy have failed to surprise the masters they had chosen for them-
selves. The latter had entrusted to their youthful ambition the future of the youngest of the
sciences, the most recent offshoot of the tree 6f knowledge. In their hands, a peculiar opera-
tion was to transform it: sociologywould no longer be a science, but something in the order
ofa malady, a strange infection of the social body [...] (ColUgt, pp. 7-8).
73. '1 Sacre dans la vie quotidienne', 8January 1938 (College, pp. 94-119).
74. 'Paul-Louis Landsberg (1901-44), German Jewish philosopher who emigrated to Spain
(in 1933) then to France, close to the Catholicism of Emmanuel Monnier; the author of Essai
sur ['experience de la mort (Essayon the Experience of Death), (Surya, Georges Batadle, la mort
al'oeuore, P: 324, NOTE 2; English translation, p. 537, NOTE 16). He was arrested and deport-
ed, and died of exhaustion during his internment in the prison of Oranienbourg.
127
Bataille & Leiris
society and its mechanisms with this same awareness of the des-
tinies that are involved in it that is typical of the theologian when
he considers God and the Church. This is where rigour could find
a way that would lead to spiritual power; at any rate, the direction
towards activity is inevitable on that basis.
It strikes me, moreover, that a tradition in line with Christian
theology already exists, and it is one represented essentially by
Hegel and by Nietzsche. In truth, we cannot be sure that
Durkheim did not incline in the same direction, but that he was
stopped precisely by those rules of sociological methodology that
exclude lived experience as the basis of analysis. In any case, it
was impassible for him to bring a true depth to the overall con-
siderations he made of living society. Distancing ourselves from
Durkheim-and from Mauss-at the very least when we have in
mind contemporary life, is without doubt an unavoidable necessity
for us. In general terms, the task we face on the basis of the
tradition that I have just outlined may be a difficult one and the
methods proper to it are still to be defined. Should the definition
of these methods have been the starting point? I could certainly
describe the roads I have followed, but I cannot be sorry for hav-
ing followed them before having analysed them in their detours.
It is perhaps a matter of chance that you brought up the question
of method at the right time, precisely when we had advanced far
enough and just when we were bracing ourselves for exceptional
efforts to determine the foundations and directions of our
activity. *
'I do not ~ l i v that you can hold against me the bitter
sadness I felt on Monday, nor what it led me to say. There are
certainly as many'or more absurd mistakes in what is said when
128
Correspondence 1924-61
one is on edge as there are omissions in what is said at times
when one is paralysed by calm. Irrespective of these inextricable
miseries, you know what the friendship that binds us means to
me.
Georges
* It seems to me that this position of principle deals fairly
broadly with your letter as a whole. It does not strike me as
necessary to add more than a fewwords with reference to the
objection you raise that we wish to explain everything by the
sacred; personally, I do not believe in the possibility of any
explanation of a complex reality with recourse to anyone simple
principle. It strikes me that some notion ottotal phenomenon is
implicit in only this position. It ~ be that we have given the
impression of an extreme insistence in one sense. But why
should one necessarily think that one sees only what one speaks
about? I am moreover convinced that Caillois has the same posi-
tion as me and, if further clarification is necessary, I must recall
that, at the College of Sociology, I spoke occasionally about total
phenomenon, and that I even spoke about it as an essential
idea.
129
24. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE75
Letter not sent
[Paris, Thursday 6 July 1939]
My dear Georges,
I have had news indirectly about Tuesday's session and you can
be sure that I was happy to hear that it had beenjudged-by many
at least, it seems-to have been the most significant session of the
College of Sociology. So I no longer regret having kept silent and
think that it was certainly more worthwhile to have acted as I did
(despite the passing difference of opinion it provoked between us)
than trying to get by with a statement of some kind in which my
fundamental reservations would have been outlined to some
degree. For want of dialectical skill, in the existing conditions of
presentation it would have been impossible for me to formulate my
criticisms in an appropriate way, and had I spoken I would there-
fore have had only the feeble recourse of leaving these objections in
the background, or else keeping absolutely quiet about them.
So as to make it quite clear in what spirit I am answering
your letter, I am copying out, just as it is, a fragment of the note-
75. BLJD, in the process of classification. Published in Gradhiva, NO. 13, 1993, pp. 76-7,
where it is dated [Paris, 6 July 1939] and introduced byJean J amin in these words:
two manuscript folios which undoubtedly represent a draft. It does not appear that Michel
Leiris sent a fair copy of this letter, at any rate it has so far never been found among Georges
Bataille's papers.
It was also published in College, pp. 829-32, in the transcription used here.
130
Correspondence 1924-61
book I began keeping over a year ago now, with the idea of a
book about the sacred in mind.i"
The error that consists in confusing 'communication' with
'perfect agreement' (achieved on the spot, outside any debate).
This is, without any doubt, 100% and immediate agreement,
without the least hint of 'communication'; inversely, there can
be communication even within disagreement, communion in
the very midst of debate.
'Communication', in short, implies deep agreement, and not
just formal agreement-s-real agreement, even when, from the
logical point of view, there is disagreement.77
I shall now respond to your arguments.
It goes without saying that the College of Sociology has
never deliberately placed itself within any continuance of the
Durkheimian tradition. All the same, such constant use has been
made by various people of ideas elaborated by the French school
of sociology (sacred right and sacred left, myth as collective repre-
sentation bound to a ritual, the role of periods of intense social
concentration in opposition to those of dispersion, the mecha-
nism of institutions such as sacrifice, potlatch, etc.) that it seemed
76. A notebook with notes drafted by Leiris for his presentation at the College on 8January
1938, 'Le sacre dans 1avie quotidienne', This notebook was probably begun in the autumn
of 1937 and kept up after the presentation (until November or December 1938, or even
later). It has 65 pages and was found among Leiris's papers and published in 1994: Michel
Leiris, EHomme sans honneus; notes pour '1 sacre dans la vie quotidienne' (The Man without
Honour, notes for 'The Sacred in Everyday Life'), authorized edition, presented and with
notes by Jean J amin, Jean-Michel Place, 1994, 'Les Cahiers de Gradhiva' series, reprinted
in La Regie du jeu, Gallimard, Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, pp. 1119-54.
77. Ibid., p. 1151. For this passage, the transcription from Leiris's book has been retained.
131
Bataille & Leins
indispensable-if one did not wish to see these ideas gradually
veer away-not to lose sight either of what they represent exactly
in the spirit of those who elaborated them, or of the roles of
methodology which presided over their elaboration. If ethnogra-
phers, of whom I am one (I don't mean in terms of educational
background, which means nothing, but because in the course of
my travels I experienced what ethnographic observation actually
is), already tend to see classic sociologists as people who falsify
reality by over generalizing, what will they think of those who, on
the basis of these already litigious schematizations, operate a
schematization to the second power, a kind of super-schematization?
I am not defending ethnography here, well knowing that in this
domain scientific objectivity is a trap; I just want to say that if
ethnographic observation is tainted at its root (because the whole
collection ofrituals and beliefs could offer us only a fragmentary
and perhaps reflection of what is actually happening
inside the heads of native people), any schematization operated in
vitro on documents that are by now already suspect, far from recti-
fying the error, will only amplify it, given that it will mark one
additional degree of imposition of our European casts of mind
upon the facts. There is no 'lived experience' here that holds up:
however intensely we imagined living the experience of the native
person,. we cannot enter his skin, and it is always our own experi-
ence that we live, very separated from his or hers, because of our
differences of culture and the factor of exoticism that gives us a
particular view of things, without us disposing of any serious
means of redressing this erroneous vision. In my view, the great
merit of Durkheim's successors lies in their having tried to react
against his apriorism by pushing towards a closer study of events;
132
Correspondence 1924-61
it can be said that overall (I note this in passing) the entire devel-
opment of the French school of sociology has operated in terms of
a contrary movement to what we propose: more and more, there
is a tendency to proceed by statistics, cartography, as stark a
recording as possible of the facts. 1 do not fail to recognize the
extent to which such an approach is limited, defective, wretchedly
inhuman; it remains to be seen whether a different method can
be applicable by someone who, while judging it necessary to go
beyond pure observation and to construct, judges that it is at least
indispensable to work on data established with a minimum of
approximation.
78
78. 'The manuscript breaks off here, without any signature' (Jean Jamin's note to the tran-
scription that appeared in Gradhiva).
This letter concludes the correspondence between Bataille and Leiris on the subject of the
aims and methods of the College of Sociology, which did not resume its activities after War
was declared.
What should have been an assessment then became a crisis, one that Mars did not wish should
be resolved. War prevented the good intentions of the College from being tested against a
reality in line with their ambitions and their fantasies. (...Jturning in on itself, [the College]
undid itself, carried away by the movement of communal discord that, in the role of sorcer-
er's apprentice, it had let loose with such wholehearted passion (ColUge, P: 798).
133
25. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE79
[Colomb...Bechar or-Revoil Beni-Ounif, Saturday] 7 October
1939
80
The lovely streets that are all the luxury, the unheard-of
luxury of days on leave.
Affectionately
Michel
Sergeant Leiris
Ordnance Depot Annex
Revoil Beni-Ounif
Sud-Oranais (Algeria)
79. NAF 15.854, f. 29. Postcard showing 'Colomb-Bechar, a picturesque street',
addressed to Georges Bataille, 59 bis rue de Mareil, Saint-Gennain-en-Laye (Seine-et-Oise).
80. Since 19 September, Leiris had been in Revoil Beni-Ounif, near Colomb-Bechar, in the
southern part of what was then the French department of Oran, on the frontier with
Morocco. Mobilized on 1 September (the date of general mobilization in France), he had
been posted to the 22nd BOA (Battalion of Artillerymen) as an 'ouvrier chimiste d'artillerie'
(chemical technician in the artillery). since he had begun studying chemistry after his bac-
calaureat and done most of his military service (1921-23) at the Pasteur Institute. At Revoil
Beni-Ounif, he part of a group of 50 chemists who had the job of doing experimental
tests on secret chemical weapons in the Sahara Desert. This episode was later described in a
book by Albert Paraz Le Lac des Songes (Bourg-en-Breese, Editions bressanes,
1950); as one of the main characters, Leiris goes by the name Daniel Meurisse.
On 8 September, the eve of his departure from Paris, he had had dinner with Bataille
and, on the 9th, the latter referred to this meeting in a first version ofLe Coupable, which he
had just begun:
134
Correspondence 1924-61
A fewhours earlier, last night, when I was having dinner wit!} [crn.s.sed out] X. (X. has been
called up [crossed out] and leaves today but he is leaving [crossed out]), I had already soaked up
a lot ofwine. I asked X. to read a passage from the book that I was carrying around with me
and he read it out loud (no one I knowreads with more tough simplicity, with more passion..
ate grandeur than him). I w s ~ too drunk and I can n?longer recall the passage exactly. He
himself had drunk as much as me. It would be a mistake to think that such a reading done by
men under the influence of drink is merely a provoking paradox. Everything I can saythat is
most true about X. is that he [crossed 0U!] at the point in my life [crossed out]. I think that we
are joined together in that we are both open without defences-from temptation-to forces
of destruction, not out of boldness, but ~ children who never give up a cowardly naivety. His
face with its pronounced features. marked by a punctilious reserve. at the same time clenched
and feverish, wounded by the o ~ s t n t agony of an impossible inner turmoil, his shaven head
(almost uniform in colour, asif made of wood or stone) perhaps make up something more
contradictory than anything I have ever encountered: an obvious cowardice (more obvious
than mine) but so marked by gravity, so beyond rescue that nothing could be more heart-
breaking to witness; at one and the same time a little boy at fault and a venerable old man, a
naive sailor on a spree and a stupid divinity losing his boulder-thick head in the darkness of
the clouds ... People like [X.] and me can never ever aspire to sanctity. Do I know what we
can aspire to? If we are closer to the saints than to other men, it is to the extent that we are
'little flayed gods'. Why shall I not become a little god if it is true that one may no longer
laugh, get drunk, enjoy naked girls and then know ecstasy without being a god? (DC, VOL. 5,
pp.497-8).
There is no indication in the Complete Works that X. is Leiris, but there can be no doubt about
it (see Catherine Maubon. I Leiris, Bataille et Sartre; poesie et engagement, 1939-1950'
[Leiris, Bataille and Sartre; Poetry and Commitment 1939-1950], Europe, NOS 847-848.
November-December 1999, p. 104. NOTE 7).
135
26. LEIRIS IO BATAILLE81
Colomb-Bechar, [Sunday] 29 October 1939
Dear Georges,
Here we are, coming up to that time of the year when we
shall be able to look back in appalled contemplation at everything
that has happened in the course of it. . ..
There is nothing clear-cut that I want to say to you (any pre-
cision here would be sacrilegious), just that there are certain
memories to which I return automatically when I am feeling low
and that, when all is said and done, they tend to be reasons for
hope rather than despair.
It can only be that whatever binds us to certain others is the
only thing that is humanly worthwhile, capable of surviving no
matter what vicissitudes.
I amsticking to a solemn style of words here-very remote
from my habitual one-and it makes me a little ashamed, for
reasons of embarrassment, or human respect (to make yet another
sacrifice to my obsession with playing things down). I think that
81. This letter does not feature among those that are held in the BNF under the shelf mark
NAF 15.854. Copied out by Bataille into his notes on Colette Peignot for 1-4 Coupable, it is to
be found in ~ VOL. 5, pp. 516-17. It is preceded by these words: '7 November. It is a year
today since Laure died. I am transcribing this letter from Leiris that I received on Sunday
[5 November]. He had never expressed himself in these terms.' Laure had died on 7
November 1938 (see p. 117, Letter 19, NOTE 57). Transcription verified from the OC.
136
Correspondence 1924-61
you will forgive me and that behind my words you will discover
everything that I should like to tell you with the same spontaneity
as a flood of tears or a burst of laughter.
Zette may well have told you that here they call me 'the
Marabout', I see in this nickname that I have chanced to be given
a kind of objective recognition of the idea that you, I and a few
others have of ourselves to some degree. In these difficult times, I
take this as a good omen for us all....
Do not fail to keep me informed about the progress of the
publication.st In so far as will be materially possible for me, I am
completely at your disposal.
Once more, excuse the clumsy stiltedness of this note, and be
assured of my very faithful and more than fraternal affection.
Michel
82. This may perhaps be a reference to the edition of Laure's Histoire dJune petitefill, which
was delayed probably because of the War and the Occupation, and not published until 1943.
See p. 142-5, Letter 31, NOTE 95.
137
27. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS83
Saint-Germain [-en-Laye], [Monday] 13-XI-39
My dear Michel,
I did not write to you only after I got your letter. When I
received it I hadjust begun a very long letter in which I spoke to
you about a variety of things, about what was going on here. I
shall send you that letter any day now.
84
Today I should like to find the words to respond to what you
have written to me. I cannot find them. All I want is for you to
understand that the emotion I felt when I received it is at one
with everything that has mattered to me.
I would very much like to see you.
Your letter even hinders me from finding the words. It is not
words that can make you understand the affection that binds me
to you.
Georges
83. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.193. Letter published in Choix, pp. 145-6.
84. No letter corresponding to this assurance by Bataille appears in the Leiris bequest.
138
28. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE85
[Beni-Ounif, Wednesday] 17January 1940
My dear Georges,
I do not write very much-and even very little! What I
should like to find at the moment is a means of expression that
goes deeper than words.
All being well, you shall shortly receive a parcel, containing
one of those solidified sand rocks that are known as 'sand roses'
or 'desert roses'.86It is a present I would have been very glad to
T
send to Colette. It is therefore to you that I address it.
Be assured of my wholehearted"affection
Michel
85. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 30
86. La Rose du desert' (The Desert Rose): the title of a sequence of 12 poems dated
'Cyclades-Sud-Oranais-Paris (1939-1940)' that Leiris later published in Exercice dusilence,
issue 1942-IV of Jean Lescure's literary reviewMessages, then reprinted in Haul mal. One of
these 12 poems is titled 'La rose des sables' (The Sand Rose).
139
29. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS87
[Saint-Germain-en-Laye (?), Saturday] 17 February '40
My dear Michel,
I write to you with sadness, for if I think about the past I feel
horror-stricken by the fact that it has become so distant, so clearly out
of reach. There are times when sadness rises much more than others
and when one becomes much more aware that it is irreparable. I
should also like to tell you how much I feel close to you but I surmise
that you know this well enough and that there is no need to talk
about it.
I am eager for your return and for us to be able to talk. Here we
live in a state of solitary withdrawal that it would once have been hard
to imagine. I believe that cirrurnstances are such that for most people
the bonds they have loosen or rather they dully break. Only those
that have some meaning can resist or rather they are the only things
that matter and can make no more compromises. I think this is only
true of myself.
I cannot imagine a flower that resembles you more than the 'sand
rose': everything about you that is gritty-and even your bitten nails. I
kept this letter in my pocket for several days before finishing it; I think
that this is to do with a feeling of powerlessness to express myself.
Be assured of my wholehearted affection,
Georges
87. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.194. Letter published in Choix, pp. 175-6, where it is erroneously dated
17January 1940.
140
30. BATAILLETO LEIRIS
[Early February 1941]
Letter destroyed by Leins, who mentions it in an entryof hisJournal,
dated 16 February.
141
31. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE88
[Paris] Tuesday 11 May [1943]
My dear Georges,
For a good while now I have been meaning to write to you,
but you know how these things often happen: we put things off
till tomorrow (which seems like nothing) then, one fme day, we
notice that an incredible amount of time has gone by that way.
First of all, let me tell you that I have re-read your book
89
and that, in printed form, it has made as great an impression on
me as the manuscript. What I like about it most of all is the 'lived'
side, the Journal' aspect. Pages like the musical ecstasy in Italy,
the dream of Etna
90
and the poems, for me are its high points
and without a doubt are among the finest things I have ever
read.
91
88. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 32.
89. E Expmenct interimTe, Gallimard, 1943, 'Les Essais' Series, NO. 13, DC, VOL. 5.
90. On 22 November 1942, Leiris describes in hisJoumal a dream he had had 'one night
recently', a dream which Cis curiously close to a dream reported by Bataille in E Experience
interieure and which [he] heard about only today' (ed. Jean jamin, Gallimard, 1992, P: 369).
91. Andre Castel having written to say that he had just 'read the outstanding work' by
Bataille, Leiris replied to him on 20 May:
Bataille's book is indeed outstanding-and even better than outstanding: pages such as those
that describe musical ecstasy in Italy or the dream of Etna stand, in my view, among the finest
in our literature (Andre Castel and Michel Leins, Cortesptmdance 1938-1958, ed. Anne Mai1lis,
~ t o n s Clare Paulhan, 2002, p. 155).
142
Correspondence 1924-61
Our friend Lagrange
92
must have told you that I have not yet
been able to see to 1. Petit,93 and that I apologize for this. I think
that this week I shall be able to go and check on how it is going.
As for the Histoire ... L[egrand]94has delivered it to me: 5
anciens, 6 Mulberry, 21 plain (out of 22).95 Before distributing them
I should like to be quite clear whether the missing plain copy is the
one that is in your possession (or is it Legrand's copy?) and whether
I should hold back a copy on ancien for you and get it to you.
Through More I discovered that Couturiers" is preparing a
review ofiEExpenence ... for the Catholicmagazine Renamtres.vt
92. Michel Fardoulis-Lagrange, whose reaI name was Michel Fardoulis, and Lagrange his
Resistance name.
93. LePetit was published by Bataille in 1943 under the pseudonym Louis 'Irente, with the
printer's date given as 29 June 1934 and with the name of the publisher (Georges Hugnet)
omitted. The print run was 50 copies: five on pur fil Vidalon (numbered 1-5), five on
Holland (6-10), 40 on Marais cream vellum (11-50), as well as three author's copies on pur
fil Vidalon (A:....C) and 10 for non-commercial purposes on Marais cream vellum (I-X). Le
Petit was reprinted in the DC, VOL. 3, pp. 33-69.
94. The printer of the book by Laure mentioned in the previous sentence.
95. Laure, Histoi'm d'U7U petiu fille. 1943, 33 copies printed for non-commercial purposes: five
on ancien paper. six on Tonkin Mulberry and 22 on Arches, Text edited, introduced and anna.
tated by Bataille and Leiris (see pp. 136-7, Letter 26, NOTE 82).
96. Louis Couturier (1910-88), literary critic, author; under the name Michel Carrouges, of
LesMachirus cllibataiTtls, La Mystique du surhomme, and studies of Breton, Eluard, [the ascetic
and explorer] Pere de Foucauld and Kafka.
97. There was no way of checking whether this article had indeed been published in
Rmcontres, since the BNF:'s holdings of this magazine were inaccessible, but this may very
likely be the article by Michel Carrouges, 'La signification de interieure" ,
[The meaning of'CExperience interieure'], which appears in the collectionJeux etpo/sie.
Pie Duploye, Natadja Lequeux, Maxime Chastaing, etc., Lyons, editions de l'Abeille, 1944,
pp.157-64.
143
Bataille & Leiris
Father Danielou would also like to write an article but has no idea
where to place it.
98
I would be very curious to knowwhat kind of
press you'll get. I think we have to expect a good number of mis-
understandings!
I am waiting for the second proofs of my collection of poetry99
and I am, besides, thoroughly fed up at having to write twenty lines
for the publisher's blurb. 100 This reminds me of the best days of
Documents (the untold anguish I went through before I could deliver
my copy) or the College of Sociology ... What irritates me in the
present instance is being obliged to explain myself in relation to
this retrospective-nay. anachronistic-collection.
In relation to the blurb and the wrapper: I sawthe wrapper
for your book, 'beyond poetry' .101 Coming from you, it was strik-
98. It does not appear that Reverend Father Jean Danielou (1905-74) ever published this
article.
99. Haul mal, Gallimard, 'Metamorphoses' series edited byJean Paulhan, printer's date 10
June 1943.
100. In Biffures (La Regie du jeu, Gallimard, Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, 2003, p. 170). Leiris
wrote 'la priere d'inserer' (the publisher's blurb), as he does here. He used the masculine
form [Ie priere ...] from the 1960s on.
101. On the wrapper of EExperiente inthieure. The text of the blurb (printed, like the wrap-
per, on orange paper) was as follows:
Weare perhaps the wound, the malady of nature.
Were there a case of necessity, it would be up to us-moreover possible, 'easy'-to make the
wound a cause for celebration, a strength of the malady. The poetry in which the most blood
was shed would be the strongest. The saddest dawn? The one that heralds thejoy of the day.
Poetrywould be the sign announcing greater inner agonies. The musculature of the human
bodywould only be whollydeployed, would only attain its highest degree of strength and per-
fect movement of 'decision'-whatever, and however, the human being demands-in the
trance of ecstasy.
144
Correspondence 1924-61
ing; I would have been happy to see that you located yourself on
thebasis of poetry. That is certainly in keeping with your article 'Le
sacre',102 one of those with which I felt myself completely in
agreement. It is certainly not a matter of rejecting poetry; one
must only go beyond it. In other respects your experience is also
located 'beyond' mysticism.
What are you doing for the moment? I hope that Burgundy
is proving congenial. Here, things are more or less the same as
ever-perhaps even a little more dismal from there being fewer
and fewer of us. It all continues to be a ~ s y business!
I look forward to your reply to my questions and also your
news.
Once again, excuse the delay and be' assured of all my
affection.
Michel
Can't we release from its religious antecedents the possibility-still open, however it seems--
of the mystical experience for the unbeliever? Release it from the asceticism of dogma and the
atmosphere of religions? Release it in a word from mysticism-to the point of connecting it
to the nakedness of ignorance?
Beyond all knowledge is non-knowledge and whoever would become absorbed in the thought
that beyond his knowledge he knows nothing, had he in himself Hegel's inexorable lucidity,
would no longer be Hegel but a painful tooth in Hegel's mouth. Would the great philosopher
lack only one diseased tooth?' (DC, VOL. 5, pp. 422-3).
102. 'Le sacre', Cahiers d'art, Year 14, NOS 1--4, 1939, pp. 47-50; DC, VOL. 1, pp. 559-63.
145
32. BATAILLE TO LEIRISI03
[Vezelay, Wednesday] 9 June [1943]
My dear Michel,
I wrote to you by return post when I got your letter and I heard
through Frenaud that you had received nothing.
1M
I fear that, fail-
ing to remember the house number, I must have left it blank and
then posted the envelope with the address incomplete....
In any case, to be precise, I can tell.you that the missing copy
of the Histoire is the one I asked Legrand to keep for himself. Could
you reserve an 'ancien' copy for me and have me sent a plain one?
1\8for Le Petit, it would be very good if you could concentrate
the copies. It's such a long time since we have talked about it that
I no longer have any clear idea of what we agreed. It really both-
ers me to have entangled you in so many things.
Is your collection of poems coming out soon?
Paulhan asked me for something for the NRF, under new
editorship.... I agree in principle because it is Paulhan himself
asking me. Is he still contributing to it? Who is? Carrouges was
the only name mentioned in Paulhan's letter.I
05
103. BLJD, Ms.Ms43.195. Letter published in Chou, pp. 185-6.
104. Andie Frenaud, who, together with Leiris and Queneau, was on the editorial board of
Jean Lescure's magazine Messages in 1943-44. See pp. 149-51, Letter 33, NOTE 109.
105. Pierre Drieu la Rochelle edited the NRF (Nouvelle Revue r a ~ a i s e from 1940 with the
146
Correspondence 1924-61
What a bizarre posthumous existence!
Write to me. The entire past that we share to so great an
extent has become such a smouldering thing now that it is dead.
Affectionate regards,
Georges
There is no point in sending me Le Petit, for I know it, just
the Histoire, because I should like to see how it looks.
Can you get a copy oi.Le Petit to Lagrange?
blessing of the German authorities and without great success. After his resignation in the
spring of 1943, it was planned to give the editorship of the magazine to Jacques
Lemarchand (1908-74), its theatre critic. Paulhan, who had refused to contribute so long as
the magazine was edited by Drieu, urged writers to panicipate in the new version, but. it
seems, did not intend to participate himself.
The episode was reponed in these terms in the clandestine us Leures fraTlfaises, the
organ of the Comite du front national des ecrivains (IDe Committee for the United Front
of Writers, which would soon change its name to the eNE, the Comite national des
ecrivains):
In the spring. we learned once more that DRIEU was talking-about taking his own life, but in
preparation he was going to resign from his functions as editor of the Revue so as not to drag
it with him into the grave ... According to the latest news, DRIEU has not yet killed himself.
But it is a certain LEMARCHAND. in search of a social position, who has now been sum-
moned to the bedside of the dying man. UJ NouvelltRevue fra1l{Qise will no longer have any
political character. Not at all. It will become a free and independent review entirely devoted
to the service of the Mind. Around its resurrection a miracle is proclaimed. Bravely, the search
is embarked upon for former contributors dispersed far and wide. [...JThe COMrrE DU
FRONT NATIONAL DES ECRNAINS has a duty to denounce this camouflage as a crude
trap. [...] If the NRF. under its new mask. does not succeed in grouping genuine writers
around itself-and it depends upon our actions that it should not succeed-there will be noth-
ing left for it but to accept death ... with or without DRIEU LA ROCHELL'E' ('Cagonie de
La Nouvelle Revue [The Death Throes of the Nouvelle Revue an anonymous
article [by Claude Morgan, Edith Thomas and Paul Eluard], in the clandestine Lettrtsfro.1lftJu-
es,No.8, July 1943, pp. 3-4).
147
Bataille & Leiris
When the negotiations over Lemarchand's appointment had come to nothing, the NRF
ceased publication after the June 1943 issue: it refused 'to come out after long, repugnant
death throes' (according to an unnamed author). Drieu killed himself after the Liberation,
on 15 March 1945. It was his third attempt.
The CNE had been founded in 1941 by Jacques Decour and Jean Paulhan, in agree-
ment with Aragon. In 1943 it numbered, in the Occupied Zone, some 20 writers including
Leiris and-to mention only those close to him, Andre Frenaud, Jean Lescure, Sartre and
Queneau (who, along with Leiris, was introduced by Paulhan), Bataille had no part in it.
148
33. LEIRIS TO BATAILLEI06
[Paris] Sunday 20 [june 1943]
My dear Georges,
Here is the plain copy that you asked me for. In addition, I
am putting one aside for you, on ancien paper.
We have had something of an 'event' happen here (we had
been extremely deprived of u ~ things, apart from the category
of events that justifies the existence of the press and the radio).
What I'm referring to is Sartre'sylay,. on the theme of the
Oresteia. It is a pity that you didn't see it, but at any rate you can
read it. Whatever one might think of it, this is a play that matters,
the first by someone of our generation that contains nothing
whatsoever reminiscent of boulevard theatre, however refined. It
also has a sense of sacrilege in it that I fmd first-rate.
My collection of poems will'be distributed shortly. I already
have proof of this in my hands and I find it correctly executed. I
think that you will be able to read it soon.
Youwill probably have readJean Grenier's reviewof EExperience
intirieure
l 07
in Comredia.
IOB
It is an utterly dull article, that of an aca-
demic whose main concern is not to compromise himself:
106. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 31.
107. Jean Grenier; 'Une nouvelle religion' (A New Religion), C011U1!dia, NO. 103, 19june 1943,
p. 2. This article was reprinted, with the first two paragraphs cut, in the Revue d'histoire de la
philosophie et d'histoire ginirale de la civilisation, new series, NO. 38, April-June 1944, pp. 175-7.
108. Comadia, first published between 1907 and 1937, came out again from June 1941 to
149
Bataille & Leiris
As for the new NRF, I don't think it will be any different to
us than the old one. Since I haven't been asked for any contribu-
tion, I have not had to refuse, but Frenaud has perhaps already
told you what the Messages
l 09
editorial board thinks of it: we all
found ourselves in agreement not to alter our first position in any
way.
For the Whitsun holiday, Zette and I went to Limousin, where
we found everyone in very good form and where I had long con-
versations about aesthetics with HeinLIIO We talked a lot about
Schoenberg-you doubtless remember that I had written an arti-
cle on him that Schaeffnert-! insisted should be rejected by
Documents! I have just re-read this article and to be sure it contains
some blunders from the technical point of view, but I still stand by
it
l 12
and I still feel completely in agreement with that period of
our lives when we so gladly would take on certain kinds of philis-
tine at one fell swoop ...
August 1944, on a weekly basis, edited by Rene Delange, with the agreement of and under the
control of the occupying power. Its ambiguity in terms of Franco-Gennan collaboration-
notably in the cultural pages edited by Marcel Arland--enabled it to attract a number of authors
above suspicion of collaboration, primarily Sartre (an article on Melville's Moby Dick, in 1941)
and Paulhan (extracts from us Fleurs d8 Tarbes and articles on Duranty, Fautrier, Feneon and
Braque, between 1942 and 1944). Other contributors were Honegger; Audiberti, Montherlant
and Giraudoux. On Comadia, see Cisele Sapiro, 1A Guerre des emvains, 1940-1953, Fayard,
1999, pp. 42-3 and 5 5 ~
109. Messages, a magazine edited byJean Lescure (born in 1912). After two issues published in
1939, it reappeared as a semi-clandestine publication from 1942. Raymond Queneau con-
tributed to it from the second issue of 1942, Leiris and Bataille (who had been brought in by
Queneau and Leiris) from the fourth issue of 1942. At the time of Leiris's letter, the members
of its (somewhat informal) 'editorial board' were Andre Frenaud, Mounir Hafez, Leiris, Jean
Lescure, Queneau, Jean Tardieu and Raoul Ubac. Messages was one of the most prestigious lit-
150
Correspondence 1924-61
I believe firmly in everything that assumes an air of gaiety--
one of the themes in Nietzsche's teaching that make most
impression on me. I should like to give an increasingly gay twist
to what comes to me when I am writing.
Write back to me.
Very affectionate regards.
Michel
erary reviews of the intellectual Resistance. SeeJean Lescure, PoisU et liberte; histoire de Messages,
1939-1946, editions de l'IMEC, 1998.
110. Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, whose wife, Lucie, was the mother of Louise Leiris. The
Kahnweilershad fled to Saint-Leonard-de-Noblat, near Limoges, inJune 1940 and were in hid-
ing there after the advent of Vichy'santi-semiticlaws.During the Occupation, Leiris and his wife
paid numerous visitsthere. Leiris's 'everyone' includes [lie Lascaux and his wife Berthe, known
as Bero (Lucie Kahnweiler's sister), who had also fled to Saint-Leonard-de-Noblat.
Ill. Andre SchaefTner (1895-1980), musicologist, head of the Department of
Ethnomusicology at the Musee de l'Homme, and a friend of Leiris.
112. Leiris subsequently published it with the title 'Quant a Arnold Schoenberg'
(Concerning Arnold Schoenberg) in the programme of the International Festival of
Chamber Music in Homage to Arnold Schoenberg, in Paris in January 1947, the 'blunders'
probably having been excised with the help of Leibowitz. Leiris reprinted this article in the
new edition of Brisees, Gallimard, 1992, Folio Essais.
151
34. BATAILLE TO LEIRISl13
[Vezelay] Sunday [27 June 1943]
My dear Michel,
In much agreement with your turn to gaiety.
From my part, I should just like to combine it with a concern to
see things through to the end: I have never felt more remote from
things that take refuge in imprecision (for me, this is the same as an
absence of movement or a liking for rest). Of course, that distances
gaiety now and then but it could not care less. I like Aminadab
l 14
more
and more because of its comic and solemn doubleness (of course,
I'm thinking of the end). What is frequendy tiresome about gaiety is
that it goes hand-in-hand with resting.
I have read The Flies. 115 I find it awkward to talk about. You
have seen how Sartre has written articles about Blanchot's books in
the Cahiers du Sud.116 I discovered that he was now doing the same
113. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.196. Published in Choix, pp. 193-.5.
114. Maurice Blanchot, Aminadab, Gallimard, 1942.
115. Sartre's play had been published by Gallimard in APril and had its first performance
on 3 June with Charles Dullin at the Theatre de la Cite (formerly the Theatre Sarah
Bernhardt, renamed under the Occupation because Sarah Bernhardt wasJewish). It had a
subsequent run from October of that year and Leiris wrote a review of it (unsigned), pub-
lished in us Lettres franfaises with the title 'Oreste et la cite' (reprinted in Brisees).
116. "Aminadab" or the fantastic regarded as the language', Cahiers du Sud, April and May
issues, 1943. The article by Sartre to which Bataille alludes in the next sentence is 'Un nou-
veau mystique' [ANew Mystique] (on EExpmence intmeure), which also appeared in Cahiers
152
Correspondence 1924-61
thing with me ... Anyway, I prefer The Flies since I found this out. I
had previously read three pages of it in a magazinelt? and this had
robbed me of any desire to read the rest ... Now I've read it all. For
me, it lacks a certain quality of secrecy that existed to some de-gree or
other in the things we liked together (let us say as in Gerard de
Nerval). It is a fabrication (even with certain weaknesses-the lan-
guage does not hit home, at least when read). Don't you find that
having done with guilt in this way is ultimately superficial? If Sartre
had committed a crime ... I have no liking at all for this opposition
between man in a state of error and man in a state of truth; it strikes
me as abstract and it must have heel). Sartre's way of making up for
this to give his Orestes a vacillating, even troubled aspect.
I am a bit annoyed at having sent something to Paulhan.
Frenaud had spoken vaguely o ~ t Lernarchand and I would cer..
tainly have refused him but Paulhan'wrote to me in his own name.
For all that, my text contains a phrase that would have been quite
out of keeping with the earlier NRF and I have to say that 1 am not
inclined to attribute any extreme importance to these questions.
On the contrary, inclined at this point to publish . . . even after
weighing it all up.
As for guilt (I return to this), it strikes me as empty that one
should put up with it coolly, negatively. In Le Petit, what clinches
things for me is the little poem on p. 42.1
18
How could a guilty
du Sud, in the October and December issues, 1943. Both studies were reprinted by Sartre in
Situations, BOOK 1, Gallimard, 1947.
117. Confluences, April-May 1943.
118. DC, VOL. 3, p. 65:
maftluTe estun ami
aux yeuxdevin fin
153
Bataille & Leins
man, one without gaiety, avoid having some remorse? In flight,
not in lucidity. But a guilty man's gaiety (what I mean is a guilty
man's innocence) remains, it seems to me, the most unreachable
thing in the world.
Be assured of all my affection,
Georges
Thank you very much for the postal order.U? .
On the subject of my article for the NRF, I'm really having a
lot of bother finishing it. I have tried to tell myself that a few
words about heroism-saying that it represented a flight (in rela-
tion to some deep-seated problem) in the sense that it shifts the ill
luck onto the vanquished-would settle things, but this is, as
always, too vague, even if the overall sense has a direction (which
et moncrime estune amie
aux leores de fine
je me bronle til raisin
metorche depomme
(my crack is a friend
a man with eyes of fine wine
and my crime is a friend
a brandy-lipped woman
I wank with grape
and wipe myselfwith apple)
119. This probably refers to one of those instances when the Leiris' helped out Bataille
financially, particularly when he was ill or without work, occasions which seemed to be
acknowledged in the dedication written in their copy of EErotisme (published in October
1957): ITo Zette and MichelJthis book in which they will find/what their friendship/has
helped/so deeply. With/great affection/Georges' (BLJD, LRS.2061/2). See also, 'Georges
Bataille: As TIme Goes By', pp. 225-42 in this volume.
154
Correspondence 1924-61
is scarcely e ~ i d e n t If I could count on some collective position, it
would simplify things a great deal for me. [In the margin: for
example, iftMessages ruled it out, etc.] This would be the only way
for me to withdraw my text (if there is time). If you could tell me
something that is not too vague in this respect, I would try to set-
tle things with Paulhan. I rather have the impression that he has
caught me in a trap. On reflection, I should be surprised if he
contributed something himself even though he has asked me for a
contribution . . . without any reservations...... All in all, I should
have been better informed. I did actually write, but I only got a
reply quite a long time afterwards.
For the guilty man, I myself see no way out except to perse-
vere with the crime, as Sade says of the Republic (in La
Philo[sophie] dans le boud[oir]): gay perseverance. Sartre's freedom
is rational and that is all. Electra desetting Orestes is the void, is
suicide. This is a fabrication: no struggle against the real strangle-
hold of guilt.
Georges
155
35. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE120
[Paris] Tuesday 6 July [1943]
My dear Georges,
I imagine that you won't be mistaken about what I meant
when I talked about 'gaiety'. Obviously, this was neither insou-
ciance nor facility. It is a straightforward question of 'style', like, for
example, the gaiety of Socrates dying. The sinister joke quality
assumed by the revelation at the end ofAminadab (which I am
beginning to prefer to Thomas l'Obscur)121 could also, at a stretch,
be regarded as deriving from this very particular genre of'gaiety' .
I agree with you about the 'secrecy' (in other words, poetry)
that is lacking in The Flies. I have read and re-read the book atten-
tively, I have seen the play staged twice and I am very enthusiastic
about it: it is the only play by one of our contemporaries that
breaks decisivelywith the boulevard or vaudeville spirit. That does
not mean, however, that everything about it is totally satisfactory.
The character of Orestes is, in fact, rather abstract. Much
more at any rate than the character of Electra (of whom we have a
recent example in the person of Violette Nozieres).I
22
But isn't it a
120. BNF-Mss.NAF 15.854, fr. 33-34.
121. Maurice Blanchot, Thomas l'ObsCUT, Gallimard, 1941.
122. Violette Nozieres (1915-66), accused in 1933 of having poisoned her parents. After
being sentenced to death she was reprieved and her sentence was commuted to hard labour
for life and, later, in 1942, reduced to 12 years. She was released in 1945 and rehabilitated
156
Correspondence 1924-61
in 1963. She had been regarded by the Surrealists as a symbol of resistance to parental
authority and had been paid homage to in the booklet Violette Nozieres, with poems and draw-
ings by Breton. Char, Dalf, 'Ianguy, etc. (Brussels, Nicolas Flamel, 1933), reissued as Violette
Nozieres, poemes, dessins, correspondance, documents. with a preface by jose Pierre, Terrain
vague, 1991, 'Le Desordre' series.
157
Bataille & Leiris
mistake to regard Orestes as a 'guilty man'? He does not act out of
passion but kills in order to carry out an act ofjustice and, above
all, to affirm his freedom! This is why he is able to have respect for
the Erinyes, and why he does not sucrumb under the burden of
remorse (without however finding rest; doesn't he say: 'But I can no
longer feel remorse. Nor can I sleep'?) In these conditions, admit-
tedly, it is hard to understand how-without taking upon himself
the guilt of others and becoming a kind of scapegoat-he can deliv-
er others from their remorse. It may be that underneath all that
there is an idea of religion more or less in line with Voltaire's: that it
was invented by deceitful priests; ifwe remove these priests, the
religious anguish will disappear on the instant.
I do not believe, however, that Sartre meant to say anything
so crude as this. Even after they have been delivered, the people
of Argos will not become as carefree as the people of Corinth; is it
not said, in relation to them, towards the end, that 'human life
begins on the other side of despair'?
The hardest thing to accept is, of course, this position of
Orestes in relation to remorse: neither guilty nor innocent, he
measures all the gravity of his action (without being crushed by it)
but this action that he knows to be just will nonetheless prevent
him from being able to sleep. Is one to think that what Sartre
wanted to take on, rather than the feeling of guilt itself, was the
complacency in remorse?
Whatever the case may be, this is a play whose like we have
not: seen for years, and whose subversive character is not to be
scorned.
As for the text that you have given to the NRF, you can say
that the editors of Messages have decided unanimously not to pub-
158
Correspondence 1924-61
lish anything by people who contributed to this magazine, even in
the revised form that it has inclined to since Lemarchand was put
in place. I have just had a conversation with Lescure about this on
the telephone and he is entirely in agreement. So as not to offend
Paulhan, just find a pleasant way of presenting the matter to him.
To return to Sartre, I have read his study on Blanchot which
appeared in the last two issues of Cahiers du Sud. I find it exagger-
atedly severe and I have told him so, moreover. The opposition
he draws between the fantastic in Kafka (authentic, because for
Kafka there is a transcendence) and the fantastic in Blanchot
(bogus, for want of such transcendence) strikes me as artificial: in
Blanchot, there is no God as there is.in Kafka, but there is howev-
er a type of transcendence-that kind of YES-NO which is so
closely akin to what your 'inner experience' takes as its subject.
What differentiates Sartre from us is that he is fundamentally
a rationalist. He is a philosopher and not a poet. For me, a large
part of the question comes down to this.
A litde while ago, I read the, Volonte d'impuissance, for which I
have to write a preface.
123
This is something I set a good deal of
store by, for you know how much I liked Sibastien.
124
But you will
not be surprised when I tell you that I am somewhat embarrassed;
anyone would be, I think, in my place, and you know me well
enough to be aware what proportions such an embarrassment can
123. Michel Fardoulis-Lagrange, Volante d'impuissaru:e, with a preface by Michel Leiris and
plates by Raoul Ubac. This book came out in June 1944 as the third number of Messages for
that year. Leiris's preface appears in Brisees with the tide 'Michel Fardoulis-Lagrange et le
roman poetique' [Michel Fardoulis-Lagrange and the Poetic Novel].
124. Michel Fardoulis-Lagrange, Sebastien, l'enfant et l'orange, Debresse, 1942.
159
Bataille & Leiris
assume with me! No matter: I shall try to apply myselfwith
'gaiety', perhaps with lyricism, another form of gaiety!
I hope soon to be able to send you my book of poems; I am
waiting to get the reviewcopies out any day now.
Did you receive the Histoire d'unepetite fiUe?125 All the copies
planned have now been distributed, except Borel's (but I expect
to go and see him within a very fewdays).
Write to me, if you have the time and inclination, as you have
just done. Your letter gave me great pleasure, with its bait of argu-
ment, which forces me out of my laziness.
Unless something untoward happens, Zette and I are going
to Limousin at the end of this month. We shall be back by 10 or
15 September.
Veryaffectionate regards.
Michel
125. By Laure. See p. 117, Letter 19, NOTE 57.
160
36. BATAILLEIO LEIRIS126
vezelay, [Wednesday] 14 July 1943
My dear Michel,
I wrote to Paulhan to ask him for my,article back. But I have
already received a letter from Blanchot telling me that the maga-
zine
127
would not be coming.out any more ... authorization with-
drawn.
I have just received Haul mal. I think that I already knew
almost all of it, but the collection is-impressive and even heart-
rending for me.
Yet I am now writing a book against 'poetic ambiguity'.128
What it will emphasize, moreover, is the suffering that results from
the unreality of poetry (while the religious attitude consisted in
believing in it, in judging revelations from the poetic state to be
truthful). What I want, is to be what poetry evokes, which is to say
what it creates out of nothing. It really is, as you were saying,
something beyond poetry, quite the opposite of denigration.
Be assured of my affection,
Georges
126. BLJD. Ms.Ms 43.197. Published in Choix, p. 198.
127. The NRF.
128. La Haine de La poesie (Editions de Minuit, 1947), later edition published with the title
Elmpossible (1962), DC. VOL. 3.
161
37. BATAILLETO LEIRIS129
[Late 1943 or early 1944 (?)]130
My dear Michel,
It is a very long time since I have had a letter from you. I
have had news of you from Sylvia,131 who told me on the tele-
phone that I could go to you on my next trip to Paris. I must say
that I am touched by this and it matters a great deal that I shall
see you this way. Likewise, I ask you to thank Zette on my behalf. I
am somewhat worn out at the moment.
Affectionate regards,
Georges
The plan is that I shall be in Paris on the morning of the
16th. Besides, I shall write to you again. My letter is absurd; all in
all, I am tired but I am well.
129. BLJD, Ms.Ms43.225.
130. The date of this letter is extremely uncertain and has only been placed here in the
sequence byvirtue of the resemblances between the handwriting and the paper and those of
other letters around this time.
131. Probably SylviaBataille.
162
38. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS132
[Samois, April 1944]
My dear Michel,
I sold off the house in Saulieu
133
six weeks ago....
I shall go to Paris for the day this Sunday. I shall telephone
you early in the morning; .perhaps we can fix a time to meet.
In relation to this, could.you let Francoise or Rene
134
know
so that they can leave a keywijh the l concierge should they be out
132. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.223. Published in Choix, pp. where it is dated [Samois, April
1944]; the date matched with this note:
From April to October 1944. G. Bataille was to stay in Samois, in Seine-et-Marne, near
Fontainebleau, where he was insufflated with a pneumothorax; here he was also with Diane
Kotchoubey de Beauharnais, whom he met in 1943 at V and for whom he left Denise
Rollin-Le Gentil.
Bataille was to live with Diane Kotchoubey de Beauharnais (1918--89) from 1945 and
he married her in 1951. Samois is a small commune on the edge of the Forest of
Fontainebleau, on the left bank of the Seine.
133. 'Saulieu, in the COte-d'Or, near Vezelay, It has not been possible to identify this house'
(Choix. p. 209, NOTE 2).
134. Francoise and Rene Leibowitz, who were in hiding in the studio that Bataille had lived
in during the winter of 1943-44 and which he had just left to go and live in Samois. This
was the studio of the painter Balthus, at 3, cour de Rohan, not far from the Leiris house, and
Balthus, the brother of Pierre Klossowski, was a friend of Bataille. It was in this studio, while
it was still occupied by Bataille, that, probably in late March, the first of the fiestas took place
that were attended by the Leiris', Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, J anine and
Raymond Queneau in the March and April of 1944. Simone de Beauvoir mentions thesefies-
tasin La Force del'age,Gallimard, 1960, pp. 587-9. On this studio, see Surya, Georges Bataille,
La mort d l'oeuot, p. 425; English translation, p. 347.
163
Bataille & Leiris
(and whether it is possible for Rene to buy at Girard and
Barrere
135
before Sunday a map that was missing the other day)?
I am still writing quite a lot, very withdrawn from the world,
with a piquant sensation of Damocles. They have just installed a
siren on the right bank of the Seine. There are masses of lilacs
here, irises and wisteria. The forest seems like peace itself, but
when the day comes it will bum like a match.
I am sorry about Saulieu; it was a good idea, though you
ought to look for somewhere less high up. There are no more
vines in Saulieu (not even more than here).
There (ire a lot of Germans leaving, from here for instance,
which ought to allow some opportunities.
Until Sunday, I hope.
My affectionate regards to you and Zette,
Georges
135. Girard et Barrere, a publisher in Paris, at 17 rue de l'Ancienne-Comedie, who special-
ized in publishing geographical maps and guides.
164
39. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS136
[Samois, Friday] 14-4-44
My dear Michel,
I received your letter of the 10th this morning.P?
I thought of course that it was ill-advised to come.
It will, I hope, be for another day ... as soon as possible is
an expression loaded with meaning these days.
Yet if you had come yesterday you would have seen a little
show of dive bombing. This bombardment enpi,qui does indeed
resemble the other kind ofpique in the bullring, but it would
make any torero tum pale and it is a lot noisier than sticking
darts in the bull.
I fear that by the time you corne this type of! entertainment
will have ended in these parts.
My best wishes to Zette.
Affectionate regards to you,
Georges
136. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.198. Published in Choix, p. 209.
137. Not found.
165
40. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS138
[Samois, June 1944]
My dear Michel,
I sent you a wire to let you know that there was all the room
you wanted at the weekend. Later on, it will probably be impossible
since the rooms will in theory be rented for the season very shortly.
I hope that you will all make up your minds.
I can put up a single man but I have no sheets. In any case, it
seems that for now there are all the rooms needed, and they are
very clean, up until the fourth.
Don't delay telephoning, however, since someone else might
well book them any day now.
Ifyou give me notice, I shall go to the Fontainebleauroad to wait
for you. Of course, I can book the rooms myselfifyou telegraph me.
Affectionate regards to you and Zette,
Georges
The hotel is called La Petite Jeannette.
I am still preoccupied by the questions that we raised the other
day on the subject of a magazine (more than about a magazine,
strictly speaking). I would give a lot right now if we could talk about
it again with Sartre and Camus.P? I think that the way things are
handled after the War will have real importance.
138. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.201. Published in Choix, p. 211, where it is dated [Samois,June 1944].
139. This was probably the project for the publication of LesTemps modemes, whose editori-
al board at one point was to include Camus, who in the end backed out from lack of time.
166
41. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS140
[Samois, August 1944]
My dear Michel,
Since I have the opportunity I am sending you a sign of life
(after all, I have just discovered that everything within 20 kilome-
tres of Samois is generally agreed to have been destroyed). 141
I am very moved by what I have learned about events in
Paris. Leave with your mind at rest. 142
I am eager to have news, but the post seems to have died on
me. The means I am using to send my letter does not appear to
have any possible reciprocity.
Here, things were wound up in three days of violent fighting,
but on the other bank.
Give my best wishes to Zette.
My affectionate regards to you.
How often I have thought about you in these past days.
Georges
140. BLJD, Ms.Ms43.199. Published in Choix, p. 213.
141. Bataille referred to the Liberation battles in the Samois area in the pages headed
'August 1944. Epilogue' in his :Journal, February-August 1944', the third part of Sur
Nietzsdu (DC, VOL. 6, pp. 171-82). On his side, Leiris penned 'Notes on the liberation of
Paris' (15-26 August); these are included in hisJoumal, pp. 389-416.
142. Weare unable to tell which departure by Leiris is being referred to by Bataille: perhaps
a trip (in September) to Lot-et-Carrone, where Daniel-Henry and Lucie Kahnweiler had
taken refuge in September 1943.
167
Bataille & Leins
Do not forget your promise of a weekend in Samois (where
we are still eating well). Just tum up, you couldn't make me any
more delighted. I imagine that people will be able to leave Paris
freely within a few days, and since this morning peace has reigned
over the land again as if nothing had happened.
168
42. BATAILLETO LEIRIS143
[Paris] Wednesday [November 1944]
My dear Michel,
I am not sure whether I told you that I am thinking of a collec-
tion for Nietzsche's centenary. 144 With this collection in mind I have
prepared a kind of statement that I have to read out to a number of
people (four or five, including Blanchot and maybe Queneau if he is
still here) at home on Friday evening at nine o'clock. I hesitated
about asking you to come, being afraid that it would bore you. Yet I
should like you to come, it would 'give me much pleasure if you came.
On the other hand, I haven't asked More' (or Couturier) because the
only question that arises (for me, at any rate) is whether a non-
Christian spiritual life is possible and what it might be, a question
that cannot arise for a Christian. Of course, I shall explain things to
More and Couturier. Xt any rate, I shall still be here on Saturday and
Sunday and I should be happy to see you.
Affectionate regards
Georges
143. BLJD, Ms.Ms 4 3 ~ 2 Letter published in Choix, pp. 232-3, where it is dated [Paris,
November 1944].
144. Nietzsche was born on 15 October 1844. The collection of writings by Nietzsche,
Memorandum, maxims and writings compiled and introduced by Georges Bataille, appeared
in February 1945, at the same time as Bataille's book (written in February-August 1944), Sur
Nietzsche. Volonte de chance, both books published by Gallimard. On Nietzsche's centenary, see
Bataille's draft for an article 'Nietzsche's Centenary', not published at the time but now to
be found in Choix, pp. 217-24, after a letter to Tristan Tzara dated [September 1944].
169
43. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS145
Vezelay, [Tuesday] 19 February 1946
My dear Michel,
I must now put together a magazine devoted to book
reviews-under the title Critique146 and with an editorial board
consisting of Albert Ollivier,147 Monnerot,148 Eric Weil,149 Pierre
Josserand
150
and maybe Blanchot.P!
I fear that in general you have no particular interest in this
kind of activity;152 however, I am coming to you with a reason that
might strike you as exceptional. I should like there to be an article
on EEnfant polaire
153
in this magazine as soon as possible. I think
that Limbour is a long way from having the place that he is due
and, in so far as what I publish might remedy that, I have to do
what I can. But I don't see anyone other than you able to speak
about him as called for in just a fewpages.
Since circumstances have prevented you from giving me an
article for the volume I published on Spain,154 perhaps this time
at least you could envisage this study on Limbour.
Give my best wishes to Zette.
My best regards to you.
Georges Bataille
145. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.202.
146. The first issue of Critique came out in June. The magazine was subsequently published
by editions du Chene for some months, then by Calmann-Levy (1947-49) and, after a year-
long interruption, by Minuit (beginning in October 1950). On the founding of Critique, see
Surya, Georges Bataille, la mort al'oeuore, pp. 449-58 (English translation, pp. 368-75), and
Sylvie Patron, Critique 1946-1996, Pairs, IMEC, 1999, pp. 29-48.
170
Correspondence 1924-61
I shall be in Paris on the 28th and I'll telephone you to fix a
time for us to meet.
As an author and series editor, Bataille began working for Minuit in 1947, through the inter-
vention of Jean Lescure, On Bataille, Critique and Minuit, see Anne Simonin, us Editions de
Minuit 1942-1955, Iedevoir d'insoumwion (editions de l' IMEC, 1994), pp. 313-20, 339--44
and 361-4.
147. Albert Ollivier (1915-64), historian andjournalist, member of the NRF editorial board
before June 1940, author of La Commune (1871) (published in 1939), Saint-just et la force des
choses (1954) and 9 novembre 1799: le 18 brumaire (1959). He was a militant in the Jeune
France movement, went into the Resistance and, after the Liberation, wrote for Combat. He
was a friend of Camus and Malraux. In February 1946 he was a member of the editorial
board of LesTemps modemes, as he had since its foundation in October 1945; this board
was dissolved in April 1946.
148. Jules Monnerot (1909-95), author of La Poesie modemeet lesacre (1945) and Sociologie
ducommunisme (1949). In 1937, he was a of the 'Note sur la fondation d'un College
de sociologie' (see p. 119-22, Letter 20, NOTE 63), later refusing to take part and denounc-
ing it as a new 'literary coterie'. was an anti-colonialist militant in the 1930s, a member
of the National Council of the Rassemblement du peuple francais from 1948 to 1953, and
he appeared on the list ofijean-Marie Le Pen's Front National in the European elections of
1989.
149. Eric Weil (1904-77) was a German philosopher who became a naturalized French citi-
zen after Hitler's rise to power. He taught at the University of Lille. Author of Logiqu de la
philosophie (1951) and of works on Hegel, Kant and Pico de la Mirandola.
150. Pierre josserand (1898-1972), a colleague of Bataille at the Bibliotheque nationale and
a specialist in Prosper Merimee
151. Maurice Blanchot did in fact sit on the editorial board with the four others mentioned.
152. Leiris did quite a lot of book reviews before the War (notably in Claret, Documents, 1.A
Critique sociale and the NRF) but very little after it. He published only six articles in Critique.
Two of these before Bataille's death: 'Conception et realite chez Raymond Roussel'
[Ideas and Reality in the Work of Raymond Roussel] (October 1954) and 'Le realisme
mythologique de Michel Butor' [Michel Butor's Mythological Realism] (February 1958). The
four after it were: IDe Bataille I'Impossible al'impossible Documents' (August-september
1963) [translated in this volume as 'From Bataille the Impossible to the Impossible
171
Bataille & Leins
Documents], 'Qui est Aime Cesaire?' [Who is Aime CCsaire?] (May 1965), 'Panorama du
Panorama [de Limbour]' [Panorama of Limbour's Panorama] (August-September 1976) and
'Bacon le hors-la-loi' [Bacon the Outlaw] (May 1981). On Leiris and Critique, see Sylvie
Patron, 'Michel Leiris entre Critique and Les Temps modemes', in her book Critique, pp. 73-81.
153. This tale by Limbour, published in 1922 in two small-circulation magazines (Aventure
and Des) was very likely not to be found in 1946. It would only be reissued in 1972 in the
collection Soleils bas (Callimard, 'Poesie' series). According to Catherine Maubon, Leiris
rejected Bataille's suggestion:
Not of course that he should talk about his friend Limbour, but more categorically that he
should contribute to a magazine which it was clear Bataille intended to use as a platform for
his polemic against Sartre and existentialism (Catherine Maubon, 'Leiris, Bataille et Sartre',
Europe, NOS 847-848. November-December 1999, Michel Leiris, p. 103).
Indeed, he did not contribute to Critique until 1954. In Minuit's (1956) 'catalogue
extract' which is reproduced in the work by Anne Simonin, Leiris does not appear on the list
of 'Critique's main contributors', a list that gives some 40 names.
Leiris did publish an article on EEn/antpolaire, but more than 20 years after Bataille's
request and in the review AtoU (No.2, September-November 1968): 'Boule Blanche pour
DEn/ant polaire' '" reprinted in Zebrage.
In Critique, ah article tided 'Lceuvre de Georges Limbour', NOS 30-34. March 1949, pp.
195-205, was written by Andre Dhotel,
154. EEspagne libre, preface by Albert Camus, Calmann-Uvy, 1945, ~ t u l i t e series edited
by Georges Bataille.
172
44. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE155
[Paris] Friday 10 October [1947]
Here are the addresses you have asked me for:
Dr Alfred Metraux.Pf Great Neck, 12 Welwyn Road, New
Yorkl.
Georges Dumezil.I-? 82 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, Paris
(6e). Tel. Danton 69-17.
Affectionately,
and see you soon, I hope
M.L.
155. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 35. Official postcard from the Musee de l' Homme, addressed
to the HOtel Saint-Remain, 7 rue Saint-Roch, Paris (ler). Postmark: 10.10.47.
156. Alfred Metraux (1902-63), Swiss ethnologist, naturalized as an American citizen in
1941, Bataille's fellowstudent at the Ecole des chartes in 1921-22, colleague and friend of
Leiris from 1934. He killed himself in April 1963, nine months after Bataille's death and a
fewweeks after having written an article about him for the issue Critique was preparing on
its founder: 'Rencontre avec les ethnologues' (Critique, NOS 195-196, August-September
1963, Hommage aGeorges Bataille, pp. 677-84). No articles by him appear to have been
published in the magazine during Bataille's lifetime.
157. Georges Dumezil (1898-1986)t historian of religions and specialist in Indo-European
mythologies and languages of the Caucasus. No articles by him seem to have been published
in Critique.
173
45. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE158
Paris, [Friday] 17 October [1947]
Dear Georges,
Youwill shortly receive a letter from Joseph Tubiana,159
suggesting one or more book reviews for Critique.
I think he would be able to make some interesting contribu-
tions, in particular on Islamic matters.
Affectionately
Michel
158. BNF-Mss. NAF 15.854, f. 36. Official postcard from the Musee de l'Homme, addressed
to Vezelay(Vonne). Postmark: 18.10.47.
159. This letter has not been found in the Bataille archive of the BNF.Joseph Tubiana (born
in 1919), an ethnographer and linguist, and a specialist in the peoples ofi Chad and
Ethiopia, withthis wife Marie-jose Tubiana published the Conies zaghasoa, [Zaghawa Tales]
collected in Chad, with a preface by Leiris (Les Quatre J eudis, 1961, reissued by C
Hannattan, 1989). On the suggested book review. see p. 176, Letter 47.
174
46. LEIRJSTO BATAILLEl60
Paris, [Wednesday] 22 October [1947]
Yet another potential contributor to Critique (ethnology and
sociology, psychology, etc.), This is Rene Passeron,161 3 rue des
Orchidees, Paris (13e). He is a painter and writer who is, I believe,
in touch with Bonnefoy.162
I think this is the last name I have to bring to your attention.
Affectionately
Michel
160. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 37. Official postcard from the rnusee de l' Homme, addressed
to Vezelay (Vonne).
161. Rene Passeron (born 1920), an artist, painter and researcher on the philosophy of art,
the author of Encyclopedie du surrealisme (1975) and of works on Salvador Dalf and Rene
Magritte, and co-editor with Adam Biro of the Dictionnaire ginhal dusurrealisme etde ses envi-
rons, PUF, 1982.
162. Yves Bonnefoy, we may presume.
175
47. BATAILLETO LEIRIS16S
[Late 1947 (?)]
My dear Michel,
Here is Tubiana's article. With every apology: it is unfortu-
nately out of the question to publish it now ... 164
Very affectionately,
Georges
163. BLJD,"Ms.Ms 43.224. A card in the form of a visiting card.
164. We don't knowwhich article this was and why it was not retained byBataille. It does not
seem to have been published in any other magazine, if we are to go by the bibliography of
Joseph Tubiana that appears in us orientalistes sont des aventuriers. offerle aJoseph
Tubiana parses eleves et ses amis [Orientalists'are Adventurers. ATribute to Joseph Tubiana by
His Pupils and His Friends], writings compiled byAlain Rouaud, Saint-Maur-des-Fosses, edi-
tions Sepia, 1999.
176
48. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS165
Vezelay, [Wednesday] 9 February 1949
My dear Michel,
It is some weeks now since a third party told me about a
suggestion from Paulhan: that he would like to re-publish Laure's
writings in Metamorphoses. 166 He would have Charles Peignot' s167
agreement.
Ocourse, this is a project for someone other than myself
and I am not sure what to think of it. And, of course, nothing is
possible unless in agreement with you and, at the same time in
agreement with Borel.
168
Paulhan is particularly keen on the Histoire d'une petite fiUe. It
strikes me as being very difficult to publish this text properly dur-
ing the lifetime of Colette's mother.
169
For that matter, I don't
know whether she is still alive (but More
170
must know).
165. BLJD, Ms.Ms43.203. TIlls letter waswritten on paper headed: Critique, general review
of French and foreign publications. Callmarm-Uvy, editeurs, 3 rue Auber, Paris. Tel. OPE.
08-02 - 08-03. Published in Choix, pp. 393-4.
166. Series edited for Gallimard byJean Paulhan.
167. Charles Peignot (1897-1983), Colette's brother and head of the Peignot family.
168. Dr Adrien Borel (see p. 102, Letter I4b, NOTE 36 and pp. 103-05, Letter 15).
169. Suzanne Peignot, nee Chardon in 1876, married to Georges Peignot in 1896. She was
still alive at the time of this letter and died in 1962.
170. Marcel More was a friend of the Beignot family(see pp. 106-10, Letter 16a, NOTE 47).
177
Bataille & Leins
There is no urgency (Paulhan-and this is rather absurd-
had not even asked my friend to talk to me about it, it was the lat-
ter's initiative). All the same, it seemed to me that the question
had been seriously raised and that I ought to be able to respond,
which would be impossible for me without you.
I shall be in Paris on Saturday during the day. It may well be
difficult to meet you, but I shall telephone in any case. I shall
return to Paris between 20 and 24 February.
Affectionate regards to you and Zette,
Georges
If this project came to anything.I"! the fewwritings that have
not yet appeared would of course have to be published. You know
that the manuscripts are at quai des Augustins.
l 72
171. It never did. The Ecrits tULaUR would not be published until 1971t byJ r o Peignot,
Charles's son.withJean-] acques Pauvert.
172. At Leiria's house, on quai des Grands-Augustins.
11.8
49. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS173
Vezelay, [Wednesday] 9 March 1949
My dear Michel,
I haven't written to tell you how happy I was with the evening
that we spent together; Diane
174
was just as happy as me. I haven't
written to you yet because I was caught up in some work that was
late. I should particularly like us to settle right away on a date for
you to come here for the weekend. It is a bit ridiculous, 175 but we
have the problem that we are being asked to commit ourselves in
various quarters and I should like to talk to you first. If you could
call me in the next few days at Vezelay number five (but before 8
p.m.), it would be extraordinary bad luck if you didn't reach me,
especially if you telephone before lOin the morning or between 1
and 4 p.m. Anyway, you can place the call like this: 1want to
book a call to Monsieur Bataille, on Vezelay number five', and if
by some extraordinary chance I'm not there you will know at least
at what time I'll be back.
Forgive me for this absurd letter; but Diane and I will take
the most enormous pleasure in having you here and nothing
173. BLJD.Ms.Ms 43.204. This letter was written on paper headed: Critique, general review
of French and foreign publications. Callmann-Uvy, 3 roe Aubel; Paris. Tel. OPE.
08-02 - 08-03.
174. Diane Kotchoubey de Beauharnais (see pp. 163-4, Letter S8, NOTE 132).
175. Two additional words which are hard to read.
179
Bataille & Leins
would be more annoying than to have waited for this and then to
have to say that 'this or that day is impossible', etc.
So far, the only day when we are expecting someone is
Sunday 13 March.
Veryaffectionate regards to Zette and you.
Georges
180
50. LEIRIS IO BATAILLE176
Paris, [Thursday] 10 March [1949]
My dear Georges,
Zette and I were extremely touched by your letter and we're glad
to know that both you and Diane have such a happy memory of an
evening that likewisedelighted us.
As for the weekend, it is absolutely agreed and we shall have great
pleasure in visiting. Would Sunday 10April suit? Wewould arrive on the
Friday and leave on the Monday. (It is impossible for us to envisage
any closer date since Kahnweiler has to go away on a trip and Zette
must of course wait for his return before she can leave the gallery.)
I duly received La Part 'TTlaudite
177
and send you my warmest
thanks. I plan to telephone Lambrichst'f soon "about sending books to
the Antilles.179
Thanks again for your note and very affectionate regards to you
both.
Michel
176. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 50.
177. Bataille, La Part maudite, essai d'economie generale, Part 1, La Consumation, editions de
Minuit, print run completed on 16 February 1949 rCUsage des richesses' series, edited by
Georges Bataille, No.2) and OC, VOL. 7. Bataille had sent his book with the dedication 'to
Michel Leiria/and to Zette/with great affection/Georges Bataille' (BLJD, LRS.213).
178. Georges Lambrichs (1917-92), who was working at the time at editions de Minuit where
La Part maudiu had been published.
179. On a field trip to the French West Indies and Haiti (july-November 1948), Leiris had
asked several publishers to send him books.
181
51. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS180
Vezelay, [Monday] 21 March 1949
Mydear Michel,
Excuse me fur taking so long to reply.
We are extremely pleased that we can expect you on 8 April.
Tell me which train you will be coming on; we shall send a car to
the station. All being well, you should arrive around 10 p.m. and
we shall, of course, expect you for dinner.
Until then, and myvery affectionate regards to both,
Georges
Diane sends her warmest regards.
180. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.205.
182
52. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE181
[Paris] Sunday 3 April [1949J
My dear Georges,
We confirm our arrival next Friday 8 April on the train that
leaves Paris at 17h 30 and arrives at Sermizelles-Vezelay at 22h 27.
We are extremely pleased!
Affectionate regards to you both
Michel
I duly received La Part maudite and I am reading it with great
interest. 182
The tiger in space=the sex act in time-this is a very nice
equation! 183
181. BNF.Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 55.
j
182. Denis Hollier records that 'whenever he was encouraged to talk about Bataille, Leiris
liked to describe a conversation in which the latter had succumbed, in all seriousness, to cal..
culating his own chances of being awarded the Nobel Prize: the peace prize (for La Part mau.--
dite), of course, not the prize for literature (for Madame Edwarda). He didn't get it' (Denis
Hollier, in Georges Bataille--apres tout [symposium 1993, Orleans], ed. Denis
Hollier, Belin, 1995, p. 271).
183. For higher animals, reproduction is 'for the animal the occasion of a sudden, frenetic
squandering of its energies, all at once carried to the extremes ofipossibility (in time, what
the tiger is in space)' (La Panmaudiu, DC,VOL. 7, p. 41).
183
53. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE184
Paris, [Monday] 25 April [1949]
Dear Georges,
I have been wanting to write to you for some time to tell you
what happy memories Zette and I have of our brief stay in
Vezelay, As usual, with every day that went by I kept putting this
off. But a letter sent to me from Nimes by Andre Castel
185-whom
I told about your imminent move to Carpentras
186-has
given me
an excuse. Here is what he wrote to me about you:
Of course I remember your friend Bataille and the very fine
piece of writing, which I have just read through, about the death
of Granero.
187
(Where else has G. B. written about toros apart
from this?)
184. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 53.
185. Andre Castel (1902--87), a Nimes oenologist and noted bullfight reporter whom Leiris got
to know in September 1938 throughJean Paulhan and whom he introduced to Bataille. During
the Nimes bullfight season, Castel played host to artists and writers who were aficionados:
Bataille, Cendrars, Cocteau, Leiris, Picasso, etc. See Annie Malllis, Picasso etLeirisdans['aTent; Us
ecrivains, les artistes et les toros ... (1937-1957), Pau, editions Cairn, 2002. See also Andre Castel
and Michelle Leiris, CorrespontkLna 1938-1958, a work notable for what Leiris wrote to Castel
about Bataille on 10 February 1939: 'What you tell me about Bataille's articles gives me great
pleasure, Bataille is myclosest friend and we are very much as one in our shared ideas' (p. 88).
186. Bataille was appointed director of the Carpentras municipal library (known as the
Imguimbertine Library) by an order of 17 May 1949, and took up his post on 1 September.
187. 'The eye of Granero', Chapter 10 of The Story of thEye (1928), OC, VOL. 1, pp. 52-6.
Leiris referred to this scene from Bataille's story in 'From the TIme of Lord Auch', pp. 22-38
in this volume.
184
Correspondence 1924-61
'The faithful reader'-I have a good number of books by your
friend and a collect [?]188 of Grit from the first issue. I have been
a subscriber since its 1st or 2nd year. I very much like everything
G. B. writes even though it too often goes way above the plaza
de toros where I usually do my stuff. So I would be delighted to
see him again with you, here on a day when there is a corrida or
even to have him as a guest if he can make it as far as Nimes-
it's very easy from Carpentras. Tell him that that he'll be made
at home in my house. Carpentras is a pleasant town and the
library is an interesting one with a collect[ion] of illuminated
books [?] that is pretty much uniq?e.
The trip to Vezelay did me a lot of good and I got down to
work again during the Easter holiday. I should like to be over and
done with the Fourbis-the,follow-pp to Biffures-and move onto
something elsel .
Once again, let me say how enormously happy we are to have
had those fewdays
and with great affection to you and Diane
Michel
188. Throughout this paragraph, the square brackets and their content are Leiris's.
185
54. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE189
[Paris] Sunday 2 April [1950]
Dear Georges,
You have probably heard from Sonia
190
that Zette and I were
due to visit the Midi for Easter.
Of course, we shall stop in Carpentras.
We shall arrive next Thursday 6 April, on the 20h 55 motor
coach, which' we shall have boarded in Xvignon (having arrived
there by the train leaving Paris at 8.15 in the morning). Would
you be so kind as to reserve a hotel room for us?
On Saturday morning, we shall leave for Nimes, where Castel
is expecting us to lunch and from where we shall leave on the
Sunday for the Easter corrida in Arles.!91
Castel, who has been in Paris over the last few days, is very
insistent that you and Diane should also come to lunch. He has
189. BNF..Mss, NAF 15.854, fI. 51-52. This letter was written on paper headed: 53 bis quai
des Grands-Augustins. VIe. Odeon 18-61.
190. Sonia Orwell, nee Brownel (1918-80), English literary critic whom Leiris had met in
1946 (before her marriage to George Orwell, in 1949). For him, she was 'my most loyal and
attentive woman friend' CChevauchees d'antan' [1987], Zebrage, p. 251). Along with Georges
Limbour, she had visited Bataille in Carpentras (Martine Colin-Picon, Georges Limbour: le
songe autobiographique, Lachenal et Ritter, 1994, p. 215). She remarried in 1958, her second
husband being Michael Pitt-Rivers. In 1964, as Sonia Brownel, she published an English
translation of'... Reusement!', the first chapter of Biffures, as '... ppily' (Art and literature:
An International Review, No.1, March 1964, pp. 132-5).
191.9 April 1950 ('bullfight calendar', in Leiris, La Course de taureau, Fourbis, 1991, P: 88).
186
Correspondence 1924-61
announced a fabulous menu ofwines and, in the afternoon, most
probably a visit to Pierre Pouly's bull herd.l
92
Moreover, he would
like to talk to you about a great project he has for extravagant
expenditure to be carried out on an official basis: the free distri-
bution of the surplus from harvests in the Gard departement to
students and diverse categories of needy people, etc.
Independently of this project, I would like it very much if you and
Diane could come to this lunch, which...will most surely be a great
success!
Youcan therefore rely (failing derailment 'or accidents of the
kind) on our arrival on Thursday evening.
Very affectionate regards to you both,
Michel
192. The fann where bulls were bred by Pierre Pouly, matador, stock breeder, director of the
Arles bullring and a friend of Castel (Annie Maillis, Midtel Leins, l'ecrivain matador,
I.:Harmattan, 1998, p. 52, NOTE 32).
187
55. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS193
Carpentras [Wednesday] 19 April 1950
My dear Michel,
Diane .is still in Carpentras. As a result I can make no plans
to go to Aix.
l 94
But bear in mind that you were supposed to stop
off in Carpentras all being well and perhaps arrange something
with Castel. You'll telephone me, perhaps? In any case Diane and
I shall be very much looking forward to you stopping off here.
The house should now be much more pleasant than when you
were here last. Sonia is back, and there is no need for me to say
that she too would be delighted to see you again.
So I'm counting on seeing you soon, and I entrust you with
giving my warmest regards to Zette.
My affectionate regards to you,
Georges
193. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.206. Typewritten letter.
194. Aix-en-Provence, where Andre and Rose Masson lived.
188
56. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE195
[Aix-en-Provence] Friday 21 April [1950]
Dear Georges,
I was really hoping to see you in Aix, where everybody would
have given you a good welcome.
Unfortunately, it won't be possible for us to stop off in
Carpentras. I got down to work again in Golfe-Juan196 and here,
and this makes me want to prolong my stay as much as possible.
We therefore have to make our departure by plane from Marseille,
which means we can stay on with the Massons until Monday after-
noon.
There is a possibility that we shall be back in this region in
late July, when the music festival is on, so that we can see Don
Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte. Perhaps we shall be able to arrange to
see one another then? Mozart is certainly a match for a corrida!
Tell Sonia that we are extremely sorry not to have been able
to meet her. But I think she's going to stop in Paris for a little
while on her way back to England.
Andre has done some extraordinary pictures, illustrations-
in the full sense-of his theory of 'instants'.
195. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 54.
196. Where Leiris was probably staying with Picasso.
189
Bataille & Leiris
I imagine that you and Diane will have the opportunity to
come to Paris before the end of July, and if so we shall be able to
see one another before too long.
My affectionate regards to you both
Michel
Myvery best to Sonia, whom we also hope to see soon.
190
57. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS197
Carpentras, [Tuesday] 12 September 1950
My dear Michel,
Ii.. book about Don Juan just came out in July. It is actually a
Donjuan de Marana.
l g8
But it strikes me that I could do an article
about Don Juan covering the three books: Pushkin's translation of
DonJuan, 199 Jouve's b o o ~ (whose publication in Switzerland
during the War nonetheless justifies it being talked about now)201
and this life that claims to fit with the legend (this last, if only for
the sake of opposing this claim).
On the other hand, I shall try again to find the English book
on Mozart that I mentioned to you.
Youmow that we are looking forward to your telephone call
and the announcement of your arrival to come en masse and eat
a big couscous for lunch ... This would be perfect from the 15th
onwards (before that, I have the issue of Critique to prepare).
197. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.207. Letter most likely addressed to Leiris at the home of Andre and
Rose Masson in Aix-en-Provence.
198. Esther Van Loo, Le Vrai Don Juan: don Miguel de Marana, with a preface by Andre
Castelot, SFELl: 1950.
199. Pushkin, Le Convive de pierre. followed by La Roussalka, Russian text introduced and
translated by Henri Thomas, Le Seuil, 1947.
200. Pierre Jean jouve, u 'Don Juan' de Mozart, Fribourg, editions de la Librairie de
l'Universite, 1942.
201. No article on these three books has been found in Critique.
191
Bataille & Leiris
You must have seen that Aparicio and Litri will kill six novil-
los by themselves on the 24th.
202
Give my and Diane's very best to Rose and Andre,
Affectionate regards to you and Zette,
Georges
202. Julio Aparicio and Miguel Baez Litri, at Nlmes, on 24 September 1950, a novillada
attended by Leiris (Michel Leiris, La Course de taureaux, p. 89).
192
193
58. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS203
Carpentras, [Monday] 11 December 1950
My dear Michel,
I have received the article from Jean Laude.
2M
Moreover,
Jean Piel
205
tells me that you would contribute, that you had sug-
gested an article for Critique.
I see only one solution. Laude's article gives me the impres-
sion that this is work of outstanding interest.
Myopinion is that Laude's article is more like a note. It
would be better placed, I think, in us Temps modernes. You, on the
other hand, could give Critique a more substantial piece, which
could be the issue's lead article.
Everyonewould win this way, I believe, Weingarten in particular.
us Temps modernes probably can't come up with anything
more significant than Laude's note (some three and a half pages
203. BLJD, Ms.Ms43.208. This letter waswritten on paper headed: Critique, revue generale
des publications francaises et etrangeres. Les Editions de Minuit, 22 boulevard Saint-
Michel--ODE.22-56 and 22-57. Published in Choix, pp. 430-1.
204. Jean Laude (1922-84), author, notably of Arts de l'A.frique noire (1979), La peinture
franfllise, 1905-1914, et l'arl negre (1968, 2 vois) and of a study on the aesthetics of Carl
Einstein, published as an introduction to Carl Einstein's La Sculpture negrt in the review
Mediations (No.3, Autumn 1961).
205. Jean Piel (1902-96), economist, author of La Fortune amiricaine et sondestin (published
in 1948 in the series 'CUsage des richesses' edited by Bataille), of memoirs titled La
Renamtre et La difference (1982) and an introduction to a 1970 edition of Bataille's 1A Part
maudiu. The two men were brothers-in-law when Bataille was married to Sylvia Bataille (see
pp. 90-1, Letter 9. NOTE 15).
Bataille & Leiris
when printed). If what Laude's article leads me to imagine about
Weingarten is true, I think that only Critique, especially with an
article by you, can adequately highlight what is at issue. I would
publish Laude's article because I have no reason to say no to him,
but feel that this.. is a mistake.
206
Excuse my not having written earlier (in particular, I sent a
postal order to Zette with the idea that I would write the next day
and that next day got put off). The fact is that I am almost
swallowedup by work.
All my affection to you and Zette,
Georges
206.Jean Laude's article was subsequently published in Critique, NO. 45, 15 February 1951, pp.
184-7, with the tide 'Romain Weingarten, Le Thidlrede la Chrysalide, with six drawings by the
author, Aubier, 1950'. Leiris published no article in Critique about Weingarten, but, when the
latter put on his play Us Nourrices at the Lutece Theatre in November 1961, he wrote an intro-
duction for the programme, a piece that was not reprinted in either Bristes or Zebrage.
194
59. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS207
Orleans, [Tuesday] 23 February 1954
My dear Michel,
Would you apologize for me to Zette and give her my thanks
for her second letter?208
We are expecting you, all being well then, on the train that
leaves Paris on Saturday at 5h 40, and I am really glad that you're
both coming. Can I ask you for a small favour? Would you
remember me to the good offices of Mademoiselle Oddon
209
and
ask her whether she has the following works:
AM. Hocart, Kingship (Oxford, 1927)
idem Kings and Councilors [sic.] (London, 1936)
Crawley, TheMystic Rose, a study of primitive marriage
(London, 1902).
Could you at the same time ask her for the shelf marks of
these works, which I shall request, assuming Mademoiselle Oddon
has no objection, on inter-library loan?
But if it were possible for you to borrowjust the first of these
books (the one most important to me) on your own account and
207. BLJD, Ms.Ms43.209. This letter waswritten on paper headed: Bibliotheque de la Ville
d'Orleans, 1. rue Dupanloup. Telephone: 31-23. Appointed by an order of 19 July 1951,
Bataille had been the director of this library since 1 September. Letter published in Choix,
pp.449-50.
208. Neither this letter nor the previous one referred to have been found.
209. Yvonne Oddon (1902-82), director of the library at the musee de l'Homme.
195
Bataille & Leins
bring it here, I would make sure to consult it within the two days
of your stay here, and you would be doing me a very great favour.
I happen to be finishing a book for which I ought to have consult-
ed all of these a long time ago, but not one of them is in the
Nationale.
210
Forgive me for bothering you with this; the truth is
that I am somewhat in difficulty. What I am doing is putting the
finishing touches to La Part maudite by adding two parts to it, one
on Eroticism and another on Sovereignty;211 I work in such disor-
der that I have never found a way of consulting these books until
now, at the point when the work is finished, so to speak!
Myvery affectionate regards to you and Zette,
Georges
Youwill have a room at the Hotel des Arcades, on the Loire.
210. The Bibliotheque nationale,
211. While he was alive, of these Bataille published only I.:Erotisme (editions de Minuit,
1957), which was dedicated to Leiris. In magazines, he published only some fragments of
'La Souverainete', which remained incomplete and was published only in 1976-by Thadee
Klossowski-in DC, VOL. 7.
196
60. BATAILLETO LEIRIS212
Orleans, [Saturday] 17 November 1956
My dear Michel,
It's a long time now since we've seen one another. I tele-
phoned and found out thai you were in Nemours.
213
Perhaps the
feeling I had for your mother, so much at odds with the image I
have always wished to give of rpyself, has more significance for
our long friendship than would at first seem. Besides, we are get-
ting closer to death and what seemed most opposed seems more
and more deeply connected. I am in any case certain that the feel-
ing of tenderness that binds me so deeply to you is simultaneously
close to death and close to the bonds that connected you to your
mother. I say this somewhat in that harrowed state where there is
no longer anything that from one day to the next can add to my
being in it. I shall try to telephone as soon as I can. The fact is
that since the summer I have hardly ever stayed in Paris for more
than a few hours.
Give my best to Zette.
Yours with great affection,
Georges
212. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.210. Published in Choix, pp. 465-6.
213. Leiris was in Saint-Pierre-lea-Nemours for the funeral of his mother Marie Leiris
(1865-1956), who had died on 14 November.
197
61. LEIRIS TO Bf\.TAILLE214
Paris, [Tuesday] 20 November 1956
Thank you for your letter, my dear Georges. I think you
couldn't have put it better; for today I am in that state of tender
heartbreak that I experienced for the first time with Colette's
death,215 at which I have a strange sense of being present all over
again.
It is too idiotic that we see so little of one another and you
must telephone me as soon as you are in these parts.
See you soon then,
and a tender thank you again!
Michel
214. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f.38.
215. Colette Peignot, in November 1938.
198
62. LEIRIS TO BATAlLLE216
[Saint-Hilaire, Monday] 17 December 1956
My dear Georges,
We must absolutely see one another. Wouldn't the simplest
thing be that you and Diane come here
217
for lunch next Sunday
the 23rd? Georges Henri
218
will be here.
See you on Sunday then, as early as you can, I hope!
And very affectionate regardst to you both.
Michel
216. BNF-Mss. NAF 15.854, f. 39. This letter was written on paper headed: Le Prieure,
Saint-Hilaire par Chalo-Saint-Mars (S.&O.). Tel. CHALO 57.
217. Le Prieure: a property adjoining the village ofSaint-Hilaire par Chalo-Saint-Mars, near
Etampes (Seine-et-Oise, later Essonne), bought by the Louise Leiris Gallery in early 1953.
From the summer of 1954, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler and the Leiris' spent most of their
weekends and part of their summers there. It was in this house that Leiris died on 30
September 1990.
218. Georges Henri Riviere.
199
63. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS219
Orleans, [Tuesday] 22 January 1957
My dear Michel,
I have been trying to telephone you at Saint-Hilaire and each
time I've rung you haven't come (because in Paris I'm more likely
to miss you). Remember that you were supposed to come to
Orleans with Zette last Sunday, the 20th-at any rate, that was the
initial idea. When are you thinking of coming now? Let us know a
little ahead of time. Youknow how deeply our meetings matter to
me. Increasingly, there is a poetic bond that seems to me the only
thing to hold on to.
While I've been writing to you I have received a letter from
Georges Lisowski, whose name you may have seen on the list of
intellectuals where you appear along with Mascolo, Nadeau and a
fewothers including me.
220
He is a Pole whom I met in Zurich
and whom I like very much. He is the secretary for a magazine
that is doing a special issue on contemporary French literature,
and if you could send him just a fewpages for this, as likewise he
has requested from Mascolo, Nadeau and myself, I think that the
219. BLJD, Ms.Ms43.211.
220. The call for an International Circle of Revolutionary Intellectuals, dated
October-November 1956 and signed by some 20 notable figures including Bataille, Andre
Breton, Aime Cesaire, Leiris, Georges Lisowski, Dionys Mascolo, Maurice Nadeau, Joseph
Tubiana (Tracts surrealists et diclarations collectives 1922-1969, PART 2, pp. 162-4).
200
Correspondence 1924-61
whole thing}Vould work out more or less as we could wish. Of
course, we don't have to send unpublished pages, just something
that can stand on its own. It would be a good thing if you could
do this and I should be really grateful to you. (On my account, I
have sent a fewpages taken from Le Coupable.) I am sorry to both-
er you. I wouldn't were it not that his kindness and everything
else I have found in Lisowski have inspired a true friendship. In
addition, it seems quite obvious to me that it is impossible to be
indifferent to what is currently happening in Poland.
221
Diane and I send our very best to you and Zette.
My affectionate regards to you,
Georges
The address: Georges Lisowski, 'Iuuirczosc (this is the title of
the magazine),222 VI. Wiejslm, Warszawa, Poland.
(Unfortunately, things have to be sent post haste.)
221. The Poznan working-class insurrection in June 1956, the return of WladyslawGomulka
at the head of the Polish United Workers Party, the start of economic reforms, the release
from prison ofCardinal Stephan Wyszynski and the establishment of a modus vivendibetween
Church and State in October of that year.
222. The special issue of Tw6rczosc on French literature (Year 13, No.4, April 1957) includ-
ed a piece by Bataille: 'Na marginesie zycia' CAux limites de la vie', an extract from Le
eoupabk), two poems by Leiris: 'Piekna' and 'Nierozdzielni' ('Belle' and 'Frere et soeur', from
Haul mal, pp. 61-3 and 160), and texts byAragon, Camus, Char, Desnos, etc.
201
64. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE223
[Florence] Thursday 26 September [1957]
What every Holofemes
224
dreams oft
With affection to you both.
Michel
As soon as we get back, we'll pay you a visit in Orleans.
Meanwhile, my love to all three of you.
225
Zette
It was lovely to have you in Saint-Hilaire.
223. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 40. A postcard showing Florence, Uffizi Gallery, Judith,
Botticelli (detail)', addressed to Monsieur Georges Bataille, Bibliotheque de la Ville, rue
Dupanloup, Orleans (Loiret).
224. We should bear in mind the passage in Age d'homme where Leiris describes at length
the painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder which shows Judith holding the head of
Holofernes.
225. The Batailles and their daughter Julie (born in 1948).
202
65. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE226
[Rome, Thursday] 25 September 1958
Rome is most certainly the city that would lend justification-
if any were needed-to every transgression....
Affectionately
Michel
Hello you three
Zette
226. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 41. Postcard showing a sculpture in stucco with the legend
'Roma, M[useo] Nazionale, Casa Romana (Stucchi)' addressed to Monsieur and Madame
Georges Bataille, Bibliotheque, Rue Dupanloup, Orleans (Loiret).
203
66. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS227
Orleans, [Saturday] 6 Dec[ember] 58
My dear Michel
Excuse me for not having given you any news as promised.
But little by little this has been put off. I have also had some
slight trouble with my eyes-but I hope that will soon be sorted
out. Anyway you can see that I'm writing normally. I just have to
wait for the day when my strength deigns to make a comeback.
Slowly, it's on the way. My very best to Zette and from Diane too.
Yours, affectionately, from us both.
Georges
227. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.212.
204
67. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE228
[Venice, Friday] 18 September 1959
Yet again, we are in Venice.
A performance of Monteverdi's Combattimento di Tancredi e
Clorinda, after Tasso, put me in mind of our heyday: in those days,
it would have called for an article in Documents (along the lines of
Antoine Caron's229 Massacres) and that made me think about that
Rapeof Lucrezia
230
that my first trip to Africa made me miss.
With affection to you both
Michel
Zette
228. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 42. Postcard showing detail 'Dalla pianta di Venezia del 1500
di Jacopo de' Barbari' [From Jacopo de' Barbari's map of Venice in 1500] addressed to
Monsieur and Madame Georges Bataille, Bibliotheque de la Ville, Rue Dupanloup, Orleans
(Loiret),
229. Leiris had published an article titled Painting by Antoine Caron' about The Massacres
under the Triumvirate (Documents, No.7, December 1929). This was reprinted in Zebrage.
230. This is very likely the play Le Viol de Lucrece, by Andre Obey, based on the poem by
Shakespeare, which was staged for the first time on 12 March 1931 at the theatre du Vieux-
Colombier by the Compagnie des Quinze, directed by Michel Saint-Denis, and with Marie-
Helene Daste in the role of Lucrece, On 12 March 1931, Leiris was still in Paris but probably
absorbed in his preparations for the Dakar-Djibouti field trip, which was to leave from
Bordeaux on 19 May.
205
68. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE231
Paris, [Tuesday] 5 January 1960
Dear Georges,
I have duly received the Gilles de Rais
2S2
and I have read your
introduction with great interest; I find it persuasive: it gives a
human dimension to the disproportions of a figure who has been
until now as immeasurable as a creature of pure legend.
Youhave probably heard about Camus's tragic demise and that
Michel Gallimard has had to have major surgery.2SS
In this respect too, for some months now things have seemed
disproportionate. Little by little, one feels oneself taken over by an
impression of being survivors, a complicated feeling that's a mixture
of dread and shame, as well as a certain detachment based on the
idea of out-and-out derision....
Let us hope for a 1960 that is less deliberately skewed towards
wholesale death!
231 BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f.43.
232. Le Prods tk Gilles de Rais, the text of the two trials with an introduction and notes by
Bataille, published in 1959with the Club francais du livre (reprinted in DC, VOL. 10). Leiris's
copy has the dedication 'to Zette and Michel./with the very, very old friendship,lever
young,lof Georges' (BLJD; LRS.214 1/2).
233. Albert Camus died on 4January 1960 in a car accident on the Vonne road. The driver
of the car was Michel Gallimard-the nephew of Gaston Gallimard and a friend of Camus-
who died a fewdays later as a result of his injuries.
206
Correspondence 1924-61
We must find a way of seeing one another in Paris, Saint-
Hilaire or Orleans. The easiest would be to plan for a lunch at
Saint-Hilaire on a Sunday or a Monday.
Zette and I send our most affectionateregards to you and Diane.
Michel
207
69. BATAILLE TO LOUISE LEIRIS234
Fontenay-Ie-Comte [Vendee], [Friday] 26 February 1960
235
My dear Zette,
Thank you for what you sent me.
236
This will complete the
photos already taken (on the basis of the Salacrou
Thank you also for the two colour reproductions.
I am working on the book as best I can and I hope to finish
within a month.
Could you ask Michel for the exact reference of the painting
ofJudith andLucrezia reproduced in the second edition of Uge
234. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.213.
235. Bataille was staying with his friend Andre Costa.
236. Photographs and drawings by Andre Masson sent by the Louise Leiris Gallery to illus-
trate Les Larmes d'Ems, which would be published with Jean-Jacques Pauvert in :June 1961.
Louise Leiris is thanked at the end of the book. In 1971, Pauvert also published an edition
augmented by unpublished letters from Bataille to Giuseppe Maria 1.0 Duca along with an
introduction by Lo Duca. On Lo Duca, see p. 222, Letter 78, NOTE 262.
237. This undoubtedly refers to the collective work, Andre Masson, with texts by Jean-Louis
Barrault, Georges Bataille, Andre Breton, Robert Desnos, Michel Leiris, etc., Rouen, printed
by Pierre-Rene WoH: 1940. This was the initiative of Robert Desnos, who also coordinated it,
and it was published (anonymously) by Armand Salacrou. It contained numerous reproduc-
tions of works by Masson. Printing was completed on 15 April 1940 and it remained in
cellars at Rouen throughout the Occupation, only being distributed after the Liberation. A
facsimile of it was published in 1993 (Marseille, Andre Dimanche editeur).
208
Correspondence 1924-61
d'homme] I would in fact like to have it reproduced in my book;
I've forgotten which. museum the painting is in.
2s8
All my very best to Michel and Heini.
239
Yours affectionately,
Georges
238. See pp. 210-11, Letter 70, NOTE 242.
239. Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler.
209
70. BATAILLETO LEIRIS240
[Fontenay-Ie-Comte (?), March 1960]
My dear Michel,
Forgive me for not having written to you.
Forgive me also for not knowing whether I promised the
other day to do such and such a thing, for example to write to
] erome Peignot. My memory has truly become impossible ...
Right now I am trying to finish a book, alas if I write 'come
hell or high water' this is scarcely an exaggeration, since I find it
so hard and especially since I am so late with it.
Can I now ask you a question: Do you remember having
shown me a book of engravings of tortures from the early 17th (or
late 16th) century? 1\5far as I recall, this book belonged to Heini.
It seems to me that there was no text, but this is a memory going
back to '25 or t30? Could it not be the work of someone called
Cloppenburg? At any rate, I am almost certain at least that it was
a Dutch book. If you could remember you would be doing me a
great favour.
241
240. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.218.
241. In the margin, in Leiris's handwriting: :Jan Luyken (1649-1712). Persecutions religieuses
[The Martyrs Mirror].' Two engravings byJan Luyken appear in LesLannesd'Eros, pp. 239-40,
with the note 'coll, Henry Kahnweiler'. The title of the book by Johann Everhardts
Cloppenburch (or Cloppenburg) mentioned by Bataille is Le Miroirde la tyrannie espagnol
r t r ~ awe Indes occidentales [...] mis en lumiere par un eveque, Bartolome de Las Casas
(Amsterdam, 1620). One of the engravings from this book is also reproduced in Us Larmes
d'Eros. p. 238.
210
Correspondence 1924-61
Another thing: Do you remember which museum has
Cranach's double painting, Lucrezia andJudith, the one you fmally
reproduced at the start of urge d'homme?242
Be assured of mywholehearted friendship,
Georges
242. In the margin, in Leiris's handwriting: 'Picture Gallery in Dresden'. Nonetheless,
Bataille did not opt for these two works by Cranach, but five others instead (pp. 84-7).
211
71. BATAILLETO LEIRIS243
[Orleans, Tuesday] 22 March [19]60
My dear Michel,
I've now become really ill after all. First it was hard for me to
work. Then treatment at the Bogomoletz ordered by Fraenkel.
244
which is certainly doing something but for now leaves me in a
state that is hard to tolerate. Compensated however by the
prospect of getting better in the end.
I should have written to you a long time ago if only to explain
about talking to Jardot
245-who
was in agreement-more than a
month ago, about the possibility of going together to Lascaux.
246
In any case could you tell Jardot or let him know that I'm
sony not to have given any sign of life after the conversations we
had together?
Berhaps one day-perhaps after the Easter holiday-this trip
would be feasible for me. For now I can only offer apologies.
What is more, I am even more depressed than I am ill. Diane
is in a terrible state of nerves, She can't-or very nearly can't
endure me.
243. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.214. Published in Choix, pp. 526-7.
244. Theodore Fraenkel: see 'Surrealism from Day to Day', p. 54, NOTE 14 in this volume.
245. Maurice Jardot (1911-2002). inspector of historic monuments, began working at the
Louise Leiris Gallery in 1956, subsequently becoming one of its codirectors,
246. In 1955, Bataille had published Lascaux aula naissance de['aft, with Skim.
212
Correspondence 1924-61
I am trying to do some work-without which I could not
cope at all-but this is becoming well-nigh impossible without the
full effect of my treatment . . .
Forgive me for this long moan, which after all is to do with
what is in theory a temporary condition.. Forgive me yet again for
taking advantage of our friendship.. Under normal circumstances
I ought to go to Paris at the ~ i n n i n g of next week. Perhaps we'll
be able to see one another on Monday or Tuesday.. I shall try to
telephone you. But if I am still in this high-pressure state, it is
likely that I shall have to put off my trip to Paris-or reduce it to a
minimum.
Don't forget that the absurd and intolerable nature of my let-
ter is because of the Bogomoletz, mainly at least.
Give my very best to Zette and don't hold it against me that I
have been incapable of writing in a more sensible vein.
It is all the more inexcusable that I have taken advantage of
this sense of indestructible friendship that binds me to you.
Despite everything I can't send this letter without connecting
it to my hope of getting through this with my fighting spirit, but
what matters first and foremost in this fight is friendship.
Georges
213
72. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE247
[Milan, Monday] 28 March 1960
Dear Georges,
Thank you for the letter. I really hope that you'll get back on
your feet and I'm counting on us seeing one another again soon,
either in Paris or in Orleans.
Affectionate regards to both of you
Michel
[three illegible words] and 1 shall write to you
Zette
247. BNF:Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 46. Postcard of ' Milano, Pinacoteca di Brera Bernardino Luini,
Putto sotto un pergolato [Cherub under a Pergolar, addressed to Monsieur Georges Bataille,
keeper of the Bibliotheque de la Ville, Rue Dupanloup, Orleans (Loiret).
214
73. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS248
Orleans, [Sunday] 3 April 60
My dear Michel,
I found your card from Milan when I got back from Paris on
Friday. I knew that you had arrived, but,You must forgive me for not
having found a way to reach you during the day; the only reason is the
bad day I had with the state of mynerves. Nothing that serious when
you consider that a treatment at the Bogomoleiz has put me in a worse
state, but that however means that it is working and all that's needed
mainly is to wait.
I have just read Us Sequestres d'Altona.
249
It is very good and has
had a powerful emotional effect on me. But as a whole I think that the
world we enter in it is akin at least to the period we are reaching now.
Give my warmest regards to Zette and thank her for having to
write to me ...
Very affectionately
Georges
S. Diane has just got back from Vendee and she will drop in to
see Zette on Tuesday in the daytime: she'll telephone.
248. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.215.
249. Sartre's play [English title Loser Wins, US title The Condemned of Altona] was first per-
formed in September 1959 at the theatre de la Renaissance and was published in that year's
October and November issues of Les Temps modemes, then in volume form by Gallimard in
] anuary 1960.
215
74. BATAILLETO LEIRIS250
Les Sables d'Olonne (Vendee), [Tuesday] 26 July 1960
My dear Michel,
It would be hard for me to tell you where things are with me.
Pinned down by efforts that exhaust me and yet are all too slow in
bearing fruit, I've reached the point of sometimes being sorry that
I am not more ill so that I could rest, at least for a few days.
It appears that I will be able to get to Paris at the start of
August. Perhaps we could meet.
Give my warmest regards to Zette and be assured that my
friendship with you remains just as great as all that it has meant
tome,
Georges
250. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.216.
216
75. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS251
Orleans, [Friday] 28 October 1960
My dear Michel,
I am becoming so clumsy, so vague, so tired that I failed to
make anyattempt to call you on the telephone in time on mylast
visit to Paris. Yet, I should like more than to see you. I
should like to just as much if I did not have this specific reason:
the return from China of one of my friends (perhaps you have heard
mention ofJacques Pimpaneau)252 prompts me at least to contem-
plate the far-reaching consequenllcesof the absurd initiative connect-
ed with Acephale, and you one of those whom I feel obliged to
bring up to date, on the basic points at any rate.
253
I am not think-
ing in the slightest about starting it up again but I cannot fail to
251. BLJD, Ms.Ms43.217. Published in Choix, pp. 549-50, and in EAPJrrenti, pp. 575-7.
252. The sinologistJacques Pimpaneau, who had been the prime mover of the 'Hommage
to Georges Bataille' published in La Cigue, No.1, January 1958. This included Leiris's arti-
cle 'Georges Bataille as Don Juan' (pp. 3-5 in this volume). Jacques Pimpaneau was with
Bataille when he died, on 9July 1962.
253. On 24 October, Bataille had written to Patrick Waldberg:
I feel like a criminal so far only by intent, but I wonder how long I can go on not justifying
certain pursuits: the reconstitution of a group that was dissolved (dissolvedby a hostile fate).
By an irony full of bad faith, that is what I feel I shan soon be guilty of. But is it possible to
live innocently?
[...) I am always, of course, in agreement on the principle ofa reunion with some people.
But when it takes place-if it takes place-I shall propose an enlarged reunion where all those
who have some connection with what we did in the past will be invited, the guest list being
217
Bataille & Leiris
notice that there was something fundamental in this wild enterprise
that has not been able to die, for all the remoteness that I myself
have felt. This great sense of distance remains in my feelings of hor-
ror and dread at the thought of returning to the shabbiness I was
able to accept, but without for a moment contemplating any return
to the past; the question asked by this past seems to me to have
value for others beside myself and I could not ask it without speak-
ing of it to you. It seems to me that my dread and my horror have
this meaning: that nothing could arise-for anyone-from what had
distanced you from me at that time.
Don't imagine that I am raving, but I am far from embarking
on any real initiation, and likewise acknowledge that I am not one
to shirk things.
Anyway, it is only a matter of talking. With a serious view that
this is something to be considered.
I ought to have written to Zette, but I have been taken up for
a long time by a backlog of obligations or meetings (in Paris, par-
ticularly) with my general condition being such that I was not yet
quite up to them. Can I count on you to give her my apologies?
Tell her how embarrassed I am that my neglect is so out of keep-
ing with the feelings of profound gratitude connected to such a
long-standing friendship.
I feel weary, I am getting old, but if I think ofwhat makes us
close, the past, the deep past, has not grown old in me.
Georges
drawn up either at this reunion or in advance by you and me and only confirmed at the
reunion.
I am saying no more about this to you, only to add one principle that in my viewis solid. That
this can only be in response to an inquiry that pre-exists in certain minds (Choix, pp. 544---8).
218
76. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS254
Fontenay-Ie-Comte (Vendee), Sub-Prefecture, [Tuesday] 14-11-61
My dear Michel,
Let me tell you first that right now 1 am going through a very
tough time. I must have written to you lately and 1can only vaguely
recall having done so, and at this moment it is beyond me to recall the
contents of my letter ...
1 must write to you again because 1 am struggling right now to
finish a book on time so as to avoid a delay of several months. I have
been held up by illness and now here 1 am condemned to make an
effort that is halfway intolerable to get through it.
I cannot see who 1can tum to apart from you. Before leaving
Orleans I was unable to find an article from the Bulletin de la Societe
fra'11fllise prehistorique.255 Today I have realized that the text of my book
calls this article into question in a way that strikes me as, at thevery
least, extremely difficult to change. Is this article by Abbe Breuil himself? 1
think not, but it does take issue with Abbe Breuil, as far as I recall, in
as much as Abbe Breuil concerned himselfwith these basic facts, or
else, I think, he confirmed them. This is about two prehistoric draw-
ings in a recently discovered cave (but perhaps the recent discovery was
only of the drawings). There are two naked women apparently drawn
in such a way that there is a strikingly erotic aspect to the drawing.
254. BLJD, Ms.Ms 43.219.
255. Societe prehistorique fra1lfaise
219
Bataille & Leins
Abbe Breuil himself states this. At least this would apply to one of the
women. The article must date from around 1955 (more likely later). I
have a notion that our friend Harper Kelley256 (given the general deteri-
oration of my memory, I am afraid of getting the name wrong) might
know. Can I ask you to give him my very best, to put this letter in front of
him and ask him whether he remembers or whether he thinksany of his
colleagues might remember this article? I can no longer recall whether
there are any photographs with the article. I have a feeling there are only
drawings by way of reproductions. And I think that the caves are located
in Dordogne, more likely in the south of the Dordogne.
I'm sorry for bothering you like this. Alas I'm working in such
mental disarray that whenever I look at my manuscript again, more
often than not I notice irremediable gaps, but the one I have told you
about is apparently the most awkward.
Thank you for your letter of the ninth
257
which I have finally found
after shifting a jumble of papers (I was sure I had brought it). The letter
I can recall only vaguely is the one that yours replied to.
I am writing or I shall write tomorrow at the latest to Jerome
Peignot.
Forgive the incoherence, relative at least, of this letter today.
My wannest regards to Zette.
Yours very affectionately,
Georges
256. Harper Kelley (1896--1962), American prehistorian, student of Abbe Breuil, head of the
Department of Prehistory at the musee de I'Homme after the Second World War. See Henry
Field, 'Harper Kelley (1896-1962)', in Man, A Monthly Record of Anthropological Science,
London, April 1963, p. 55.
257. Not found.
220
77. LEIRIS TO BATAILLE258
[Paris, Saturday] 18.2.61
259
Vergnes, R.-Gravures magdaleniennes de la grotte de la
Magdelaine, pres de Penne. Bull. S. R E, XLI X, 1952, NOS 11-12,
pp. 622-4, 3 figs.
Betirac, B.-Les Venus de la Magdelaine.-Id., LI, 1954, NOS
3-4, pp. 125-6, 2 plates.
Breuil, H.-Bas-reliefs feminins de la Magdelaine (Penne,
Tarn) pres Montauban (Tarn-et-Garonne).-Quaternaria, I, Roma,
1954.
[Handwritten:]
My dear Georges,
Here, from Kelley (who asks me to give you his very best), are
the references for three articles relating to the female figures in
question. It was probably Betirac's that he showed you.
Yours affectionately
Michel
258. BNF-Mss, NAF 15.854, f. 44. Typewritten folio with manuscript attached.
259. The date 18.2.61 was written by Leiris at the bottom of the letter.
221
78. BATAILLETO LEIRIS260
Fontenay-Ie-Comte (Vendee), Sub-Prefecture [Thursday] 23-2-61
My dear Michel,
Thank you for your letter and forgive whatever is doubdess
muddled in mine. I am very tired and I'm trying to finish the
manuscript I'm working on so as to get it in on time.
Unfortunately, this tiredness is truly excessive.
At,any rate please thank Kelley, of whom I have a very posi-
tive memory.
I have written to the editor of the series in which my book
261
is to be published. His name is J. M. Lo Duca.
262
He is a Sicilian.
I think he'll come to the Trocadero.
In any case, I am convinced that the second of the references
that Kelley has so kindly given me is the right one (as he himself
believed).
260. BlJD, Ms.Ms 43.220.
261. Les Latmes d'Eros, Jean-Jacques Pauvert, June 1961, 'Bibliotheque internationale d'ero-
tologie' series. Bataille sent a copy to Leiris with the dedication: Ito Michel, to ZetteJwho I
am sad to see so little, often through/my own fault, with my/deep affection/Georges' (BLJD;
LRS, 2091/2).
262. Giuseppe Maria Lo Duca (1910-2004), Italianjournalist living in France and whose first
names were sometimes Gallicised as Joseph Marie. He was a cineaste and, in 1951, with
Andre Bazin andJacques Doniol-Valcroze,was a founder of Cahiers du Cinema. Between 1960
and 1980, he was the author of various works on eroticism (in particular, with Maurice Bessy,
on eroticism in the cinema).
222
Correspondence 1924-61
I realize that I have not written to Jerome Peignot. And I
shall probably do so.
The letter I am writing you today-I am a little surprised but
I don't think I'm wrong-is in fact logical ...
All my affection,
Georges
223
79. BATAILLE TO LEIRIS263
[Pamplona, 21 June 1961]
A pity that Pamplona is so far away
Affectionately
Georges
Diane
263. BLJD, in the process of classification. Photograph showing three bulls in a street at
Pamplona, sold and used as a postcard. Undated. Postmark: pamplona, 21.Ju=UN.1961
(the year is hard to make out and therefore only surmised).
224
MICHEL LEIRIS
Georges Bataille
As Time Goes By
The writings that follow are all extracts from Michel Leins's Journal
1922-1989, thestandard edition introduced and annotated byJeanJamin
(Gallimard, 1992).
1929
May
Saw Zdenko Reich;' with Daumal and Benichou.s
Reich is doing an article on the burlesque. In an essay of this
kind it appears to be quite hard to avoid the stumbling block of
Manicheanism, and not depict the burlesque as something objec-
tively existing, in opposition to a non-burlesque. This is the stum-
bling block for Bataille in 'Le cheval academiquef but he seems to
accept this position and do nothing to go beyond it. Daumal thinks
that if we see burlesque forms as existing in themselves, this is
because we imagine them from an anthropomorphic point of view.
1. Zdenko Reich, born in Yugoslavia in 1905. He settled in France in the 19205, in 1929 he
joined Le Grand Jeu, a group and magazine with Rene Daumal, Roger Vailland, Josef Sima
and Roger Gilbert-Lecomte. He then contributed to Documents, to Surrealisme au service de La
revolution, to Cahiers del'Etoile and to Europe. In 1940, he was arrested as a conununist mili-
tant, then released. He returned to Belgrade where he held official functions after the War
(see the Dictionnaire general du surtealisme et desesenvirons).
2. Paul Benichou (1908-2001), author of studies on Nerval, Rousseau, Mallarme, the
Romantic visionaries, etc.
3. Documents, No.1, April 1929, pp. 27-31, reprinted in DC, VOL. 1, pp. 159-63.
227
Bataille & Leiris
By this token, what is burlesque is man when deformed and mon-
strous. But why, for example, does a rhinoceros strike us as more
monstrous than a lion?
(p. 141)
I can sum up some of my present friends with a single word:
Limbour too detached: Bataille, too 'aesthetically' materialist;
Baron, too unperceptive a communist; Fraenkel, too sentimental;
Kahnweiler, too much 'human dignity'; Jouhandeau, too prone to
exaggerate. Nothing to be said against Masson.
If I were to develop these critiques they could lead me to
define my own position, to consolidate it as a consequence.
(p. 147)
16 May
Saw Bataille, who gives me confirmation that his materialist
thinking is of a Manichean kind.
It would be interesting to study the relationships between
these three things: the dialectic of contraries, Manicheanism,
ambivalence. This could be dealt with in the article I have in mind
to write about Satanism.! One could consider affective ambivalence
as the unconscious origin of thinking about the conflict of oppos-
ing ideas, their resolution, their similarities. However, this is prob-
ably more than superficial, and much more vivid than real.
Generalizations of this kind are always very tempting but, all in all,
4. This article does not seem to have been written. Unless Leiris has in mind his reviewof
the book by Emilejules Grillot de Givry, Le Musie des sorciers, mo,ges et alchimistes, a review
published in Issue 2 of Documents, dated May 1929, with the title 'Apropos du u s ~ e des
sorciers" [On tlie Museum of Sorcerers].
228
Georges Bataille: As Time Goes By
they remain extremely gratuitous. Yet, there might be a way of pre-
senting this in a 'poetic' manner that would register how this affin-
ity is imposed on the imagination, without there being any question
J
of regarding it as having a serious basis.
(p. 171)
28 May
Spoke about this journal with Bataille who has doubts about
the point of such an enterprise.
(p. 186)
Told Bataille today that, for this notebook, I had in mind a
gallery of all the people I know. I must get on with this project and
make a stab at these portraits. It would be amusing to try and do
something along the lines of La If that were
possible, I would have to complete the gallety with my own portrait.
Alas, I think that if I were to undertake this in a systematic way
I would end up with something very superficial and literary-and
there is already too much verbiage and literariness in everything I
write.
I am obliged to acknowledge that so far this journal is very fee-
ble and teaches me nothing about myself. Worse still, it allows me
the illusion that I am doing better than nothing-which still
remains to be seen.
(p. 187)
2June
Tomorrow I am starting work on Documents. I did everything I
could to get this job but, obviously, now that I've succeeded, it's
229
Bataille & Leiris
really irksome, and I imagine that with less time taken up I could
be writing masses of things ...
(p. 188)
4June
Everything I write, with scarcely any exceptions, is extremely
poor. For instance, how greatly inferior my articles are to Bataille's,
Limbour's or those by Desnos, even the mostjournalistic ones! One
must never be proud of being incapable of writing an article for
payment; it's merely proof of ineffectiveness. People like Edgar
Allan Poe and Gerard de Nerval were literary professionals par
excellence, journalists through and through.
Since I'm working all day at the moment, I, should like it at
least to have the result of taking my mind off these worries. Perhaps
I could thereby find my way to some quite natural kind of poetry.
(p. 188)
3oJune
[Georges Henri] Riviere is the only man I knowwho can give one
the impression that he has truly signed a pact with the devil. [...] It
is quitenormal that such a man should have been a close friend of
] ouhandeau and, currently, of Bataille.
(p. 193)
1 August
I've been out with Bataille two evenings in a row. The Revue
negre
5
and what it symbolizes is always a central feature of our pre-
occupations.
(p. 195)
230
Georges Bataille: As Time Goes By
1934
16July
Meeting with Bataille: conversation about Beauty (I'm the one
to put this term forward). Of course, no agreement!
(p.285)
1935
26 December
Against the totalitarian tendency (or rather: the pretensions) of
Surrealism: the artist should at no price interfere in any of the prob-
lems of the day (which he sees fatally from an aesthetic standpoint,
inserting art everywhere, infesting everything with it, whereas at the
start he saw himself as denying art by knocking down barriers [in
doing so he has only succeeded in freeing the wild beast and making
it more precious]);6nor should he make pure art his objective, lock-
ing himselfup in an ivory tower, putting himself in a cage; merely, he
should set himself all the problems of the day, but should resolve
them in his way, by his own means. The ravages of art to be limited
by keeping it within its barriers. The practical failure of Dada, which,
removing the barriers, led only to the worst confusion, the mixing of
5. The reviewwas Lew Leslie's Blackbirds, at the Moulin-Rouge. Not long before, in this same
Journal (11June, p. 190), Leiris had described it as a 'wonderful show', See the three articles
published in Documents, No.4, September 1929: 'Black Birds' by Bataille, p. 215 (DC, YOLo 1,
p. 186), 'Civilisation' by Leiris, pp. 221-2 iBnsees, pp. 31-7) and 'Les LewLeslie's Blackbirds
au Moulin-Rouge' by Andre Schaeffner, as well as the plate showing the troupe on board the
steamer France, p. 225 (DC, YOLo 1, plates).
6. The square brackets and their content are Leiris's.
231
Bataille & Leiris
aestheticism into everything. It is wonderful that as well as being a great
musician, Satie was at the same time a good communist militant; but for
him these things remained distinct: he did not make music as a
Communist, nor communism as a musician. Returning art to its role as
play, not gratuitous play, but the kind of play where everything that is
human becomes engaged.
Against the present point of view: I reproach Bataille with getting
involved in politics, on the grounds that he is wasting his time with it,
that it is making him ruin his poetic gift; for all that, Blue of Noon is still
an admirable book, superior in literary terms to what is produced by
those like me who lay claim only to literature.
(p.294)
1936
7January
Saw Bataille yesterday, with Dora M.,' who is pretty and nice. Of
course, Bataille iswrong about Contre-Attaque, its value is primarily literary,
etc. but it is precisely this willto go beyond himself, this refusal to let him-
selfbe fenced in by literary boundaries, that is the sign of his poetic value.
Making lIterature while one tells oneself that it isonly literature: a way of
not being a dupe but also another vicious circle. Yetthis will to go beyond
himself does not necessarily have to assume a political form.
(p.298)
7. Theodora Markovic, known as Dora Maar (1907-97), photographer and painter, member of the
'Masses' group. Bataille's mistress 'from late 1933 to early 1934' (Surya, Georges Baiaille, la mort a
l'oeuure, p. 268; English translation, p. 219), she was a signatory, on 7 October 1935, of the Contre-
Attaque manifesto, 'theunionfor thestruggle ofrevolutionary intellectuals', which Leiris had refused to
join because, though agreeing with its aims, he found some of it to be 'not entirely responsible'
(Bernard-Henri Levy, LesAventures delaliberti, p. 175). Also Picasso's companion from the summer
of 1936 until 1943.
232
Georges Bataille: As Time Goes By
1941
16 February
Two Srmdays ago, lunch at B[ataille],s, and Z[ette] and I were
telling him-in the most measured terms-what we thought about his
contributing to a collection edited by Pelorsonf The main argument put
forward by B[ataille] is this (or boils down to this): 'What I have always
regarded as the essence of things comes from my inner life; I have no
cause to concern myself with what is outside myself (sic).
9
At the present
time, it is not a matter of solidarity with those who are stricken down.'
Last Sunday, I received a letter from B[ataille]. He was writing
with some bibliographical references he was to give me, as well as
sending a cheque to Z[ette] in part payment for a small debt, and he
made the most of this opportunity to get on his high horse about our
conversation of the previous Sunday: 'One cannot be saved by passiv-
ity'; what he calls my 'inertia' and-more pleasantly-my 'elegant
purity' make no sense at all. I throw the letter in the wastepaper bas-
ket, with no intention of replying.
8. Georges Pelorson (born in 1909) was a writer and translator, a founder and editor (from
1937 to 1939) of the magazine Volontes, and a contributor to the NRF in the 1930s. After the
fall of France in 1940, he became a Petainiste. On 31 January 1941. Leiris had written in this
sameJournal, p. 335:
Saw Pelorson at the Napolitain. As I had already made up my mind to do so. I rejected his
proposal that I contribute to a literary magazine that he is to edit, and which is presented as
more and less the basis for an 'association which is itself more or less under the patronage of
the Ministry for Youth of the Vichygovernment.
This magazine seems never to have seen the light ofday. On the Liberation, Pelorson was placed
on the list of'undesirablewriters' drawnup by the National Committee of Writers. After that he
was a translator (primarily of Henry Miller) under the pseudonym Georges Belmont.
9. The (sic) is Leiris's.
233
Bataille & Leiris
[...]
Whatever the B[ataille]s might say and any other partisans of a
mystique, poetic or otherwise, but certainly one of quiescence, I am
increasingly resolved to harden myself, even if this hardening should
(as I was told by Audiberti, whom I met on Friday at the NRF) entail an
'intellectual sclerosis'. Inertia, silence, being shrouded in total negativi-
ty' are preferable to talking and acting in conditions such that for me
would represent a repudiation that devalued and robbed of any virtue
those accounts of myself that I have been able to give in the past. I
have been thinking for some weeks now about this real disease of'lit-
erary people' who cannot imagine the possibility of saying nothing
and for whom to cease publishing is equivalent to a kind of annihila-
tion.
Following the conversation with Audiberti (whom I liked a lot in
the past, but who struck me the other day as appallingly verbose and
garrulous), I also thought about the fraudulence-unconscious to
some degree or other-of identifying poetic activity with "Thought',
making poetry the supreme domain of the 'Mind', and declaring that
it is of crucial importance to continue writing poems, because of the
great necessity for the 'Mind' to continue.
The mind exists, and continues, and will always continue (so long
as we haven't turned into ants) quite well without any of your poems
arid wild imaginings, my little friends! Poetic thought is a 'form of
thought-to be precise: a form given to thought-as one of countless
other forms of thought. For me, too, among all these different forms
it is the one I like best, but that does not stop me from ~ i n it for
what it is worth and putting it in its proper place. And, above all, I
shall not have the impudence, as times are now, to dress up a wish to
234
Georges Bataille: As Time Goes By
stand above the fray (worse than that: the nece- ssity whereby one
has to justify to some people the fact of putting oneself in the posi-
tion of having the upper hand) as a defence of spirituality, a spiri-
tuality that is much worse than the Christian kind (which is certain-
ly not mine, but of which B[ataille]-I nowwonder why!-is so con-
temptuous) since it remains bereft even oan illusion of sanctions.
(All of this is written much more against B[ataille] than against
Audiberti who, for his part, is at heart naive and has never claimed
1
to be what he was not.)
[...]
Now that we can no longer see a thing, what they all want
(B[ataille], A[udiberti], and a few others like them) more than ever
is to talk. As if speech, by itself were capable of clearsightedness
and guidance. They will tell us, it is true, that 'speaking' is 'think-
ing'. Or, rather, they won't even realize that for them it's about
nothing more than 'talk'.
(pp.336-9)
1942
15 March
Who do I see? Naville.l'' Collinet;U Piel,12 More,13 now and
then, Couturier-e and, sometimes, Picasso; Bataille, hardly ever;
Paulhan and Queneau, fairly often. There are some people I scarcely
10. Leiris had met Pierre Naville (1904-93) in the heyday of Surrealism but had not got on
with him. It was during the Occupation that they became friends.
11. Michel Collinet (1904-77), qualified as an agrege in mathematics, was a teacher, trade
unionist and author of works on Marxism, syndicalism and Bolshevism. He married Simone
235
Bataille & Leins
had time to get to know and I feel sorry that they're in the other
zone: Rene Char, Pierre Leyrislf [...]. What a great pity to be dis-
persed like this. In these conditions, it's hard not to get into a rut.
There is no shortage of feelings, but how much more fruitful these
feelings would seem if we were sure that we could share them!
(p.355)
27 September
A dream, one of these last few nights: a trip to the mountains
with Z[ette], K[ahnweiler], Jeannine and Simone P[iel]. We are off
to visit a church built in the mountains. From some way away, I
catch sight of this church. Huge human figures, in colours, like
waxwork figures from the musee Grevin, or angels from the high
altar at Santiago de Compostela, or steam-organ figurines on a
merry-go-round, are sculpted on the facade. So big that they make
me feel dizzy and fill me with dread, imagining what this dizziness
will be like when I see them up closer, their size then truly dispro-
Kahn (sister of J anine Queneau and first wife of Andre Breton). In 1933, he was involved in
the 'Masses' study groups, as were Bataille, Leiris and Jacques Soustelle.
12. Jean Piel: see p. 98, Letter 12, NOTE 27, and p. 193, Letter 58, NOTE 205.
13. Marcel More: see p. 109, Letter 16a, NOTE 47.
14. Louls Couturier: see p. 143, Letter 31, NOTE 96. Introduced by Queneau in February
1942, Michel Carrouges contributed to Jean Lescure's magazine Messages from the second
issue that came out under the Occupation (Summer 1942).
15. Pierre Leyris (1907-2001) was an English specialist, translator of Blake, Dickens,'I S. Eliot,
Melville, Shakespeare and others, editor of the 'Domaine anglais' series at Mercure de France
and the 'Poetes etrangers traduits' [Foreign poets in translation] series at Seuil. He was a reg-
ular contributor to the NRF in the 1930s and had reviewed L'Age dhomme for it in 1939.
236
Georges Bataille: As Time Goes By
portionate-a vertigo that will augment that induced by the moun-
tains, for the church is built on quite a steep spot.
This dream is oddly akin to a dream described by Bataille in
L'Exp&ience interieure and which I found out about only yesterday: after
a walk on Mount Etna and a headlong flight from flowing lava, he
enters a cave where he is filled with dread on discovering huge hwnan
statues with frozen expressions of laughter; one of which resembles
him. These statues are marked with the same character of divine
..t
serenity as mine.
In my dream, the church to some degree merges with the rocky
mass of the mountain and is perhaps directly hewn out of it, so that the
statues, carved from the external walls of the church, also have the
appearance of being drawn directly out of the rock face.
(An dId memory: the rocks carved and painted by a country
cure, at Rotheneufi-f near Parame.)
In the dream in question, it was perfectly clear that my vertigo
was not connected merely with the greatness (in the double sense of
the word) of the statues but, equally, to their beauty.
(pp.368-9)
21 October
The other evening, an idea from Paul Eluard about death:
death, a natural thing, something that could bring about joy instead
of that essentially Christian fear. To this, he joins Nietzsche, Bataille
and all those who could be gathered together under the category of
'Dyonisiac' .
(p.370)
16. A coastal resort in the area of Saint-Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine).
237
Bataille & Leiris
1944
29 May
A lapsus by Bataille yesterday, during a discussion in the
course of which he called me an 'idealist' and a 'Kantian': 'the cat-
egorical aperitif'.
(p.388)
1949
16 April 1949 (? Saturday)
What I was saying to Georges Bataille, last weekend in Vezelay:
how it is that when one makes love, ecstasy has no common measure
'\
with climax; one can have a very intense climax while remaining
lucid, since climax is a specifically localized sensation; inversely,
one can dissolve into ecstasy without there being any local climax;
instead of being a sudden, voluptuous rending, climax then seems
like a mere conclusion (one has reached the top of the mountain,
then it's over, almost without one noticing).
(pp.471-2)
1966
22 August
A feeling of perhaps still having 'friends' but no longer any
'comrades' (= fellow-workers or, at the very least, comrades who
give you encouragement with the idea that they are working too).
In this respect, a terrible gap left by Giacometti. Perhaps because
with Bataille gone, he was the last. Limbour ~ Queneau are cer-
238
Georges Bataille: As Time Goes By
tainly friends, and friends whom I admire, but it isn't the same
thing: the fact that they are working merely gives me the great
pleasure-or the great expectation of pleasure-of reading some-
thing by them.
(p. 613)
1969
16 August
In the days of Contre-Attaque, I laughed at Bataille over his
idea of a holiday commemorating the guillotining of Louis XVI.
But wouldn't such a holiday have been a nice happening with a
political basis? All the same, Bataille's error still holds: a holiday of
this kind was inconceivable before the Revolution, even more so in a
time when the Revolution has lost ground (which was the case at the
time, hence the necessity for a 'connter-attack'), I'm talking about
an 'error' here, but I may be too hasty in using that word: wouldn't
such an event have been a 'provocation', in this sense understood
by Rudi Dutschke!? and the German students?
(pp.635-6)
26 August
Exegesis of the title La Regie du jeu:
The magazine Le GrandJeu?18
Georges Bataille's idea of 'chance'?
17. Rudi Dutschke (1940-79), a leading figure in the student protest movement of 1967-68 in
Federal Germany.
18. t GrandJeu, 1928-30.
239
Bataille & Leins
Mallarme's 'throw of the dice' [I'm thinking of it now: a wish
to justify gambling, is a wish to abolish chance];19
in the rue Blomet days, Andre Masson's card players;
the glamour of expressions such as 'to go for broke', 'to stake
one's all', 'to be a good loser', 'fair play', etc.
(p.640)
1979
5 October
Something that was 'in the air' at the start of the 1930s (?)-
the theme of headlessness:
Bataille, 'Base Materialism and Gnosis' (illustrated with human
figures that have animal heads), in Documents;20
Leiris, 'The 'Caput Mortuum' or the Alchemist's Wife' (Sea-
brook's masked woman) in Documentsit)
Max Ernst, La Femme 100 tete [= the woman without a head];22
Desnos, 'Les Sans cou' [those without necks]-poem title;23
19. The square brackets and their content are Leiris's.
20. Documents, Year 2, No.1, 1930, pp. 1-8, reprinted in OC, VOL 1, pp. 220--6.
21. William (or Willie) Buehler Seabrook (1887-1945), traveller, journalist and American
photographer. Leiris's article, published in Documents, Year 2, No.8 [April or May 1931], pp.
21-6, was on the 'photographs reproduced here, which show a woman wearing a leather
mask devised by him [Seabrook] and set up according to his directions in New York'. The
text was reprinted without the photographs in Zibrage, pp. 1.
22. The square brackets and their content are Leiris's.
23. A poem tided 'Les quatre sans cou' [literally, 'the four without a neck', a pun on the expression
'faire lesquatre centcoups'-to run in Desnos's book LesSanscou, with frontispiece
by Andre Masson, ImprimerieJ.AD., 1934. This poem appears in Fortunes, pp. 63-5.
240
Georges Bataille: As Time Goes By
the bodies with suns for heads in Masson's paintings;
the magazine Acephale;24
Cf. also the Minotaur and the magazine of the same name.
25
My interest in possession (losing one's head in a state of
trance) is connected to this. The first piece I wrote in this sense:
'Black Saints', a review of the film Hallelujah (in the Revue du cine-
ma).26 A review of Seabrook's Eile magique (Haitian voodoo) in
Documents. 27
Cf. automatic writing as 'dictation by the unconscious'.
Lacephale is man with his reason decapitated (= amputated).
(pp. 721-2)
6 October
Might one perhaps say of what came about around Bataille-
Documents, the 'College de sociologie', etc.- that it was a case of
rationalizing
28
the Surrealist valuing of the irrational?29
Karl Marx has a fine phrase in one of his youthful writings:
'Criticismshould not be a passion of the head, but the head of passion.'
(p. 722)
24. Acephale, 1936--39.
25. Minotaure, 1933-39.
26. La Revue du cinema, Year 2, NO. II, 1 June 1930, pp. 30-3, on King Vidor's film,
Hallelujah (1929).
27. Documents, No.6, November 1929, pp. 334-5, reviewof Seabrook's book on Haiti and the
voodoo religion, translated from the English by Gabriel Des Hons, with a preface by Paul
Morand (Firmin-Didot et Cie, 1929).
28. Give a more scientific cast. [Leiris's note]
29. These remarks on the College de sociologie and this reference to the time of Documents
were prompted by Leiris's reading of Denis Hollier's work Le College de sociologie, which had
just been published by Gallimard. [Note byJean Jamin]
241
BataiUe & Leins
1982
30 April
'It isn't that I no longer have ideas, but. ideas don't dance for
me any more' (remark by the ageing Georges Bataille to Sonia
Orwell).30
30. Reprinted witli commentary in Acoret aen, Gallimard, 1988, pp. 174-5. [Note byJean
jamin.] On Sonia Otwell. see p. 186, Letter 54, NOTE 190.
242
ROBERT DESNOS, GEORGES BATAILLE
AND MARCEL GRIAULE
Eye
The following texts were published in the 'Critical Dictionary' of
Documents, No.4, September 1929,pp. 215-18. Thef uiere accompomied
with illustrations that could not be reprinted here: The Eyes of Joan
Crawford (aphotograph of theactress), The Eye of the Police (reproduc-
tionof two pages of themagazine), Blood is Sweeter than Honey, 1927
(reproduction of a paintingby Salvador Dal{) and Representation of the
Evil Eye on an Abyssinian Amulet (photograph).
THE EYE. I) The image ofthe eye. Because of its poetic virtues, for
centuries the eye has been employed for lyrical comparisons and
allegories. Those authors who have found an analogy between it
and the stars are too numerous to list. In metallurgy, the eye has
tended to be regarded as a cavity, a hole: the eye of a track-rod, the
eyelet (of a shoe). Then, by extension of this technique to the arts,
one would talk about l'oeil d'une oeuvre, the look of a work, in the
sense of eye as appearance. Hence, the expression you havean eye
for it. Argot, which condemned the poetic language of images, has,
of course, made great use of the organ of sight: Ie quart d'oeil (the
police station) derives from the time-honoured proverb: sleep with
only oneeye, likethegendarme, and, nowwith only a quarter fraction,
takes it a bit further. Coco bel oeil, which has slipped from slang into
bourgeois usage with a little whiff of the military stuffed shirt about
it, refers less to the organ than to one of its functions: theglad eye.
Its fragility has quickly allowed it to become a term of comparison
with something precious: like the apple of my eye, then, again, by
245
Bataille & Leins
extension, like a sensitive spot which cannot be touched without
serious cause, just as in the very wording of lynch law: an eye for an
eye. Nor can we really go into all the numerous obscene meanings
of this word, provoked by analogy with the private parts: mon oeil,
creoer l'oeil (put out the eye) and the famous mettre ledoigt dans l'oeil
(to poke a finger in the eye), which, taken first in the figurative
sense to express a concrete action, was then returned to its literal
sense to express an abstract state (to be mistaken): what an
admirable ideal-material virtue of meanings.
The expression al'oeil (for free) is a paraphrase of a medieval
tale in which a poor beggar tastes the flavour of roast meat in its
smoke and pays with the clink of his money. In this case, hearing
is replaced by sight.
,
Pour vos beaux yeux (literally: for your lovely eyes; idiomatically:
for the sake of your pretty face) was originally an expression used
in chivalry. The virtue of the lovely eyes was rightly judged to war-
rant the risk of hazardous adventures. The degradation of
amorous morality together with changes in social mores means
that today-when 'sober-minded' people regard love as merely a
trifle---cause and effect become confused and dying for the sake of
lovely eyes is considered not an enviable fate.
Ouvrir l'oeil et le bon (keep your good eye open) takes us back
to gendarme vocabulary. It has, however, a scientific basis, since it
is unusual for anyone to have the same sharpness of vision in both
eyes. Nonetheless, it probably refers to the need for a marksman
to close one eye so as to take good aim. So it would probably be
better to say: keep your badeye closed.
246
Eye
Finally, we moved from the part to the whole, and the words
pupils, lashes, eyeballs and eyelids entered current speech and
reinforced a vocabulary of images: to knit one's brows, to cast an
eye, to eyeball, etc., before slipping into common language.
Robert Desnos
2) Cannibal delicacy. We know that civilized man is character-
ized by an acute sense of repugnance that is often hard to explain.
Fear of inseots is probably one of the most singular and more
developed of these revulsions and, among them, it is a surprise to
discover the eye. Indeed, it would seem impossible to use any
other word for the eye but seduction, nothing being more attrac-
tive in the human or animal body. But extreme seduction probably
borders on revulsion.
In this respect, the eye could be brought close to a blade,
whose appearance likewise provokes sharp and contradictory reac-
tions. This is what the makers of un Chien andalou) must have felt
when, in the opening image of the film, they decided to make the
love affair between the two characters a bloody one. A razor cut-
1. We owe this extraordinary film to twoyoung Catalans, the painter Salvador Dall, ofiwhom
we reproduce some characteristic canvases (on pp. 217, 229), and the director Luis Bufiuel.
We refer the reader to the excellent photographs published in Cahiers d'art Guly 1929, p.
230), by Bifur (August 1929, p. 105) and by Variitis Guly 1929, p. 209). This film distinguish-
es itself from the banal avant-garde productions with which one might be tempted to con-
fuse it in that it is the script that predominates. Certain very explicit events followon from
one another, admittedly without any logical sequence, but so deeply penetrating into horror
that the audience is gripped as directly as in an action film. Gripped, and even by the throat
to be precise, and without the least artifice: indeed, does this audience know how far things
will be taken, either by the filmmakers or their like? Given that after shooting the slicing of
247
Bataille & Leiris
ting right through the dazzling eye of a charming young woman is
what was being admired to the point of insanity by a young man
who himself is contemplated by a small cat lying on the ground; he
happened to be holding a coffee spoon in his hand and had a sud-
den desire to scoop up an eye in the spoon. J
This is a peculiar desire on the part of a white man, for whom
the eyes of the beef cattle, lambs and pigs that he eats have always
been out of sight. For the eye, to use Stevenson's exquisite phrase,
a cannibal delicacy, is on our part the object of such anxiety that we
shall never put it in our mouths. The eye even occupies an
extremely high place on the scale of repugnance, since it is, among
other things, theeye of conscience. We know Victor Hugo's poem well
enough: the hypnotic, lugubrious eye, the living ghastly eye
dreamed of by Grandville in a niglitmare shortly before his death.s
The criminal
dreams he has just struck a man in a dark wood . . . Human
blood has been shed and, in an expression that brings to mind
an image of savagery, hehas madean oaksweat. In fact, he is not
a man but a tree trunk ... bleeding ... agitated and arguing
the eye Bufiuel himself was sick for eight days (moreover, he had to film the scene with the
donkey corpses in a foul-smelling atmosphere). we can hardly fail to see the degree to which
horror fascinates-and that it is the only thing brutal enough to smash what stifles us.
[Bataille's note]
2. Victor Hugo, a reader of Le Magasin piuoresque, borrowed from the admirable written
dream, 'Crime and Atonement'. and Grandville's drawing, the likes of which had never been
seen before. both published in 1847, for his story of the pursuit ora criminal by a tenacious
eye: but it is of little use to observe that only an obscure and sinister haunting can explain
this relationship. and not a cold memory. It is the erudition and kindness of Pierre d'Espezel
that has brought to our attention this strange document. probably the finest of Grandville's
extravagant compositions. [Bataille's note]
248
Eye
with itself ... with the murderous weapon above it. The hands
of the victim are raised in supplication, but in vain. The blood
is still flowing.
This is when the enormous eye appears, opening up in a
black sky and pursuing the criminal through space, to the very
depths of the sea, where it devours him after having taken the
form of a fish. Meanwhile, countless eyes proliferate among the
waves.
Grandville writes about this: 'Would these be the thousand
eyes of the crowd drawn to the spectacle of imminent slaughter?'
Yet why would these ridiculous eyes be drawn, like a swarm of flies,
to something so repugnant? And why would the front page of an
illustrated weekly, published in Paris from 1907 to 1924, depict,
with perfect sadism, an eye on a red background above scenes of
bloodshed? Why is L'Oeil de La police, with its similarity to the eye
of human justice in Grandville's nightmare, not, after all, merely
the expression of a blind thirst for blood? Likewise, similar to the
eye of Crampon, a condemned man approached by the chaplain a
moment before the blade would fall; he pushes the chaplain away
but, plucking out his own eye, he makes the chaplain a good
humoured present of it, for this eye wasa glass one.
G[eorges] B[ataille]
3) The EviL Eye. Whether it is strange, unseeing or merely
beautiful, for the civilized man as much as for the primitive, the
eye has always been, and still is, the gateway to evil influences.
Hypnotism is the extreme point of a phenomenon that has lesser
degrees, such as the look of desire, the look of curiosity, or merely
the hazy look focused on nothing.
249
Bataille & Leiris
At each of these degrees, the primitive fears it, and one can
say that for him every eye is evil. He dreads the gaze of numerous
animals, especially those whose eyes are round and staring; but he
is even more frightened by the eye of man.
These ancient beliefs have persisted in our cultures; they have \
found their way into our everyday language. We say 'piercing eyes',
'eyes like gimlets', 'to devour with one's eyes'. It would be easy to
put together a dictionary of expressions relating to the magic of
eyes, a commonplace of the average novel and the superior poem.
To look at an object with desire is to appropriate it, to enjoy
it. To desire is to defile; to desire is to take, and a primitive man
who notices eyes cast upon his possession quickly makes a gift of it,
as if there were danger for him in holding on to it, as if the gaze
had laid upon the object a force ready to enter into play against
any stranger.
This gift, this abandonment, is above all prophylactic: a way of
repelling any cause of misfortune, and this is partly how one should
interpret the majority of presents given by indigenous people.
The power of the eye is so strong that it is dangerous even
when animated by simple curiosity. In Douze annies dans La Haute
Ethiopie
3
(p. 205), Antoine d'Abbadie describes an incident when.
he was stared at by a large number of soldiers and how this
prompted a woman who loved him to throw herself on him and
cover him with her dress, shouting: 'Your cursed eyes will transfix
me before seeing him!' Yet the soldiers' curiosity was benign.
3. Arnauld (and not Antoine) d'Abbadie (1815-94), Douze annees dans la Haute tthiopie
(Abyssinie), L. Hachette, 1868.
250
Eye
If we consider the power of a look without ill will, we can
imagine what force it can carry when expressing an evil wish. It
does not surprise us that it should 'eat the hearts of men and the
insides of cucumbers' (Migne, Sciences occultes, VOL. 2, p. 879),4 that
it should dry up the udders of cows and cause the deaths of small
children.
It is important, therefore, to defend oneself against it, and
numerous techniques are found for this. The most widespread
means wearing an amulet round the neck that represents a single
eye, or two. Magic formulas, written medicine-in magic, the artic-
ulation of a formula is in itself]efficacious-surround the face; they
create a kind of solvent containing the evil, a vaccine made of;the
dead bacillus, and wearing this remedy is tantamount to inoculat-
ing oneselfwith the evil influence and is, therefore, immunization.
Another method is employed in the majority ofAfrican coun-
tries: the bucrane, or ox-skull. This is indeed a symbol of potent
defence, recalling the animal being stopped in its tracks by a wild
beast landing on its head from a branch above.
A bucrane set in a field, on a fruit-laden tree, on a millstone
(our scarecrows were not devised just for the sparrows, who laugh
at them) or placed above a threshold (the idea of turning it into a
decorative motif came later) is the best guard against mysterious
powers. Its whiteness, the work of vermin and sun, will attract at
first glance the eye of the passer-by or the visitor. It will capture
4. 'There were in Italy sorcerers who, with a single look, ate the hearts of men and the insides
of cucumbers ...' (Encyclopedie theologique au senede dictionnaires sur tomes lesparties de la sci-
ence religieuse, published by the Abbe [jacques-Paul] Migne, VOL. 49, Dictionnaire des sciences
occultes, VOL. 2, 1848, p. 879).
251
Bataille & Leins
this look, the first and therefore most dangerous-and here we
should bear in mind all the magic of thefirst time-and will draw it
in through the two holes of its empty eye sockets, leaving the eye,
that lightning that breaks stones (Doutte, Magie et religion dans
l'Afrique du Nord, p. 324),5 like a rundown battery.
One could, I believe, take as an example of the same type a
guard against the eye that I observed on the shores of the Red Sea,
at Port Sudan. It consisted of a fish skeleton, probably an acan-
thopterous, its head impaled on a switch attached to a stockade.
When alive, it has a kind of horn under each eye. Moreover, its
phallic aspect may well have contributed to its having been chosen,
for the phallus does indeed playa considerable part in the prophy-
lactics of the evil eye (Otto Jahn, Bose Blick).6 But this is another
question, one much too lengthy to go into here.
M[arcel] Griaule
4) The eye at the Academie franfaise. Under the presidency of
Monsieur Abel Hermant, the Academie undertook a revision of
the expressions: mauoais oeil (evil eye), oeil de perdrix (soft corn on
the foot), oeil pour oeil (an eye for an eye), tape-a-l'oeil (flashy
goods), etc. It rejected the expressionfaire de l'oeil (to give the glad
eye) as being too colloquial.
5. Edmond Doutte (1867-1926), La Societe musulmane du Maghrib: magie et religion dans
l'Afrique du Nord, A. ] ourdan, 1909.
6. Wewere unable to find any work by OttoJahn with this title. It could refer to DerBose Blick
by Ludwig Schneider (Berlin, 1838) or Derbose Blickund Verwandtes, ein Beitrag zur Geschichte
des Abetglaubens alZer Zeiten und Viilker by Siegfried Seligmann (Berlin. 1910).
252
BERNARD NOEL
Afterword:
A Way ofLookingthat is
Understood
The desire to commit a major indiscretion and to extract commensurate
enjoyment is probably what draws us to correspondence. An intimacy will be
exposed, we think, and simultaneously the secret mechanism of a relation-
ship. We are, in other words, going to be privy to confidences . . . Such a
hope presupposes that the work is incomplete without the life, and that the
life can be added to it with the publication of that portion reserved to the
author: his letters. In short, the life would cease to be inaccessible once it
was dead.
There is always some confusion between the biographical material and
the life. The material in question is made up ofevents and relationships that
can be ascertained, landmarks among which the life escapes, as it likewise
escaped before from the living subject. Each detail gives the illusion that
one will reach the whole, but this is as hopeless a business as attempts to pull
a scrap of the past out of our own memories.
Everything that survives can only survive in the condition of represen-
tation. And, unless it is made through direct presence, every communica-
tion must also pass through this. It is likely that a letter presetves a little of
this directness and includes it in the framework of the representation. This
is why it would hold its attraction for readers other than the correspondents,
The bond of friendship brings with it communication of a specific and
exceptional quality, at least one can hope so when, as in the case of Georges
Bataille and Michel Leiris, it involves two protagonists renowned for their
connection and the value of their work, Moreover, both of them saw
255
Bataille & Leins
communication as the expression of something sacred without the divine.
This approach is clearer in Bataille than in Leiris, but their convergence is
manifest in their common will to collect and publish, under the title Le
Sacre, the writings left by Laure (Colette Peignot), Bataille's lover and
Leiris's very dear friend.
Readers who are well aware of this can hope for something more from
the indiscretion than the sharing of friendly exchanges, for everything leads
them to believe that the relationship between Bataille and Leiris will illumi-
nate the very nature of the bond formed by friendship. They can expect this
all the more given that the editors of this volume have brought together
every available piece of the picture, which is to say new-found letters, writ-
ings by one or the other of the two about their relationship and all those
passages in Leiris's Journal 1922-1989 where Bataille's name appears.
Nonetheless, the same applies to a relationship as to a mystery, which does
not owe its workings to the possession of a key but to assiduous close con-
tact and the orbit of influence.
Thus, one will discover very quickly that the correspondence is very
irregular and full of gaps and that whenever the writings attempt some syn-
thesis of the relationship, they do so clearly from the perspective of memory
and not amid the flow of things. Bataille and Leiris met in the autumn of
1924 in a situation where mutual need prevailed, something apparently
more tangible for Bataille than for Leiris, though it would orient their lives
for nearly 40 years, up until Bataille's death, on 8 July 1962.
Leiris introduced Bataille to Andre Masson shortly after their first
meeting. Afriendship was to develop between Bataille and Masson that had
the same necessities as the one between Masson and Leiris: it leaves only a
fewtraces in this correspondence. The main one, which strikes me as being
of outstanding interest, can be found in a letter from Leiris to Bataille sent
from Spain on 15 August 1934. Here, then, is the significant extract:
256
A Way ofLooking that is Understood
We sawAndre at Tossa. [...] I envy his enthusiasm, which alwayssaves him
and allows him to draw nourishment from his torments. In this there is a
kind ofalchemy that we have not given up our despair ofever finding. But,
believe me ifyou like, he is following the only waythat can be followed. The
only difficulty is to get there! [...J
Everything I'm telling you here is quite pointless, I realize. .Allow that
this is the livelyway in which Michel Leiris addresses Georges Bataille but
that to give their discussion weight there must be added a certain way of
looking that is understood. Perhaps we live only for some of these ways of
looking, whi&t maybe give a kind of truth to the most absurd words spoken.
We shall see one another again when the summer. is over. and there again
will be two ofus feeling pegged out, which in my viewis the only appropri-
ate form of solidarity!
This passage is the clearest expression of an affectionwhich, on Leiris's
side, would never again be so expansive, for it prefers 'a certain wayoflook-
ing that is understood' to any other kind of declaration. Through the
breach opened in his reserve, Leiris goes so far as to append a postscript
that ends: 'If the words were not so foolish and the comparison so ill cho-
sen, I would tell you that I love you like a brother,'
Leiris is alwaysvery tneasured in his sentiments or emotions, and he
explores their expression with mistrust. There is, of course, a contradic-
tion between this 'modesty' and the excesses of Georges Bataille. One
might say that Leiris finds his own excess in the exercise of banality, of
everyday ordinariness and the refusal to elevate debate. The friendly com-
plementarity of the two men is built upon this mutually respected oppo-
sition. Their first serious difference will arise, not from this opposition,
but from the way of dealing with 'communication'. While it is enough for
Leiris to have 'a way of looking that is understood', Bataille will attempt
the creation of a collective ritual.
257
Bataille & Leins
This is what one might call the Acephale question. Behind the magazine"
of this title and on the edges of the College de sociologic, Bataille formed
a secret society. The disagreement with Leiris arose from the latter's violent
refusal to be involved in an undertaking that seemed to him 'puerile' and
even 'derisory'.
Masson drew the acephale figure that served as the emblem of the
magazine although he did not participate in the secret society. This
emblem carried a double power of meaning that spilled beyond its visual
representation to suggest the impulsion of obscure forces and the expres-
sive potency given to the body when the domination of the head no
longer weighs upon it.
When one considers the 'kind of alchemy' of which Leiris speaks in his
letter of August 1934 about Masson's work, and if one pictures the way in
which canvasses prompt an emotion that precedes the reading of their sub-
ject, it is doubtless possible to have some idea of what Bataille was looking
for in those nocturnal ceremonies in the forest of Saint-Germain.
Is it not that Bataille used ritual in a wish to articulate the inexpress-
ible so as to channel the dark flux that blooms in the feeling of communi-
cation? His intelligence refused to make do with what was intelligible, just
as his desire refused to move towards ecstasy without first having trodden
the 'shameful dung'. What is intellectual understanding compared with the
sensitive and soon torrential penetration of instinct? To trigger this move-
ment, there have to be images charged with enough violence to abolish the
fact of representation for the sake of what is murmured by the mouth of
shadow. But this depends upon chance, and chance thwarts any mastery.
The surprising thing is to find Leiris, in a letter dated 17 January
1950, penning this confidence: 'What I should like to find at the moment is
a means of expression that goes deeper than words.' And he sends Bataille
a sand rose, noting that he would have liked to send to Colette (Peignot),
258
A Way ofLooking that is Understood
whom we know died on 7 November 1938. Bataille, struck by this object,
replies: 'I cannot imagine a flower that resembles you more than the "sand
rose": everything about you that is gritty-and even your bitten nails.'
Another difference of opinion arises around Bataille's political commit-
ment in Contre-Attaque. Leiris refuses any involvement while acknowledg-
ing the justness of the goal being pursued (resistance to rising fascism, with
the inadequacy of Communism as a given). Leiris rebukes Bataille for wast-
ing time on politics that he should be devoting to 'poetry', but he sees in
this time wasted a rejection of limits and a 'poetic' action! And he acknowl-
edges that Blue ofNoon, which had recently been written by Bataille, only to
remain more than 20 years unpublished, is a very superior work to what is
being written at the time, precisely because of its political implications . . .
A disagreement of the same order, but this time the other way round, takes
place in early 1941, when Leiris sawBataille as too complacently occupied
with literature. Each time, these differences seem as if they must lead to a
defmitive falling-out, but there is nothing of the sort, so that the backing
away and the favourable outcome give them the appearance of metaphysi-
cal domestic rows.
Another instance of the 'only appropriate form of solidarity' appears
in a letter from Bataille on 17 November 1956, 22 years after Leiris wrote
those words. Bataille is writing to Leiris, who has just returned from his
mother's funeral:
Perhaps the feeling I had for your mother; so much at odds with the image I
have always wished to give of myself: has more significance for our long
friendship than would at first seem. Besides, we are getting closer to death
and what seemed most opposed now seems more and more deeply connect-
ed. I am in any case certain that the feeling of tenderness that binds me so
deeply to you is simultaneously close to death and to the bonds that connect-
ed you to your mother. I say this somewhat in that harrowed state where
259
Bataille & Leiris
there is no longer anything that from one day to the next can add to my
being in it.
Leiris answers, on 20 November: 'I think you could not have put it bet-
ter, for today I am in the state of tender heartbreak that 1 experienced for
the first time with Colette's death.'
With Colette's name, there reappears under the tenderness the conti-
nuity of friendship that is intensified in extreme circumstances with the
avowal of a depth rarely articulated because its best expression remains 'a
way of looking that is understood'. This way of looking, which is touching
in its discretion, is the 'livelyway' ofconveying the inexpressible while keep-
ing it at a distance. This wayof looking had to be named once and to be at
the same time pointed out: 'Perhaps we live only for some of these ways of
looking, which maybe give a kind of truth to the most absurd words spo-
ken....' The space of the sacred is fashioned from this ironic complicity in
the environs of death. Then, the same applies to a correspondence as to a
face, which sometimes allowsa glimpse of the invisiblewhen its features are
illuminated and a smile makes acknowledgement of revelation.
260
Appendix:
A Bio-Bibliographic Chronology
A Bio-Bibliographic Chronology
MISCELLANEOUS
Tristan Tzara:
DadaManifesto 1918.
BATAILLE
10 September 1897
Birth in Billom (Puy-de-
Dome). Father tobacconist.
Studies in Reims, Epemay,
Riom-es-Montagnes.
Baccalaureat (1915).
Death of his father (1915).
Mobilized, then invalided
out (1917).
Serninaire de Saint-Flour
(1917-18). Enters the
Ecole des chartes (1918).
First (?) sexual relationship
(1918).
1918
Summer(?) Notre-Dame de
Rheims, booklet published
at the author's expense.
1920
Breaks with Catholicism.
LEIRIS
20 April 1901
Birth in Paris (XVIe). Father,
stockbroker. Maternal
grandfather, senior civil
servant.
Studies in Paris. From the
age of 11, goes to the
Opera and attends the
plays of Raymond Roussel,
a friend of the family.
Baccalaureat and the start of
chemistry studies (1918).
Nightlife, jazz as a reve-
lation, first aspirations to
writing poetry (1917-19).
First sexual relationship
(1919).
263
Bataille & Leins
1921
Reads Proust.
Autumn. Forms a friendship
with Alfred Metraux at the
Ecole des chartes.
February. Meets MaxJacob,
who gives him lessons on
poetry. Death of his father.
December. Begins military serv-
ice, which he will do in Paris.
Levy-Bruhl: La Mentalite
primitive.
Beginningof theyear:
'the liquidation of Dada as
a movement'
(Breton).
30 October
Fascists march into Rome.
Mussolini assumes power
18 November
Death of Marcel Proust.
1922
Felmulry. Receives diploma as
an archivist-palaeographer.
Thesis: an edition of
EOrdrt de cheoaleti, a
thirteenth-century verse
narrative.

Advanced Hispanic
Studies in Madrid (four-
month stay). Attends his
first bullfight.
July. Appointed librarian at
the Bibliotheque
nationale.
1923
Discovers Freud. Influenced
by Leon Chestov, whom he
continues to visit until 1925.
March. Discovers Freud
Spring. Meets Artaud.
July. Meets Andre Masson,
Tual, Artaud and Limbour;
becomes one of the pillars of
the 'rue Blomet group' .
End oltheyear. Meets D. H.
Kahriweiler and his 'sister-in-
law' (in reality, his stepdaugh-
ter) and collaborator, Louise
Godon.
Summer. Becomes an habitue of
the Kahnweilers' 'Boulogne
Sundays'.
December. Finishes military
service.
1924
Breton: LesPas Perdus. July. Assigned to the
Marcel Mauss: Essai surledon Department of Medals,
(Essay on the Gift). Bibliotheque nationale.
264
Begins reading on ethnography.
Janoory. Ftrst publication: poem
'Desert de mains'.
Felnuary-March. First exhi-
bition by Andre Masson.
June. Death of Kafka.
October. Breton:
Surrealist Manifesto.
December. First issue of La
Revolution surrealiste.
A Bio-Bibliographic Chronology
Spring. Kahnweiler intro-
duces him to Picasso.
Summer. Meets Queneau and
Desnos for the first time.
Autumn. Leiris and Bataille meet through Jacques Lavaud, a
friend of the former and the latter's colleague at the
Bibliotheque nationale; Lavaud introduces them, as Leiris
put it, 'partly to assume the role of detached observer at
whatever odd outcome such a meeting might precipitate'.
Bataille tells Leiris about 'the chance there would be to
launch a movement involving a perpetual acquiescence
to everything 'in the spirit of Zen' and which would have
the advantage over the No movement that Dada had been
of avoiding the puerile nature of a systematically provoca-
tive negation'. They toy with the project of founding a mag-
azine whose office would be located in a brothel.
Leiris introduces Bataille to Andre Masson; both of them
admire Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, and they become friends.
November. Along with
Masson, joins the
Surrealist group.
Adolf Hitier: MeinKampf.
janUlJ,ry. Founding of the
Institute of Ethnology at
the University of Paris,
by Lucien Levy-Bruhl,
Marcel Mauss and Paul
Rivet.
1925
First meetings with
Theodore Fraenkel,
Artaud, Desnos, Tzara.
Decides to begin psycho-
analysis with Dr Adrien
Borel. Assiduously fre-
quents brothels and gam-
bling houses. Begins read-
ing Hegel. Attends
Mauss's lectures.
January. First contribution to
La Revolution surrealiste.
April. Simulacre, illustrated
by Andre Masson (Galerie
Simon).
jul,. Saint-Pol-Roux banquet,
where he is manhandled
by the crowd and the
police.
November. First contribution
to Clarel.
265
Aragon: Le lbysan de Paris.
Paul Eluard: Capitale de La
douleur.
Pierre Naville: 1A Revolution
et lesintellectuels.
February. Founding by Boris
Souvarine of the Marx and
Lenin Communist Circle.
Bataille & Leins
Leiris introduces Aragon to Bataille but the former regards
the latter as a belated Dadaist and the latter deems the for-
mer neither foolish nor intelligent.
Bataille, Leiris and Masson dream of forming a secret society
that would be Orphic and Nietzschean; Leiris proposes to
call it Judas'.
Meanwhile, Bataille experiences Leiris and Masson's adher-
ence to surrealism as an exclusion.
Publication of Leon Chestov's ~ d i e de bien chez Th/stdi et
Nietzsche, translated by Georges Bataille and Tatiana
Beresovski-Chestov (editions du Siecle, 1925). Leiris reviews
it in Clane, 30 November 1925.
1926
Fe1lruary. Marries Louise
Godon.
With Jean Bernier and Victor
Crastre, is one of the
Surrealists who found La
Guerre civile, which is to be
a replacement for Marcel
Fourier's magazine Claru.
But the new magazine is
never published, because
of hostility from the
Conununist leadership.
March. At Breton's request and with Leins as intermediary,
Bataille publishes his translations of some medieval FatrasieJ
in La Revolution surrialiste. This is howhe comes to meet
Breton who. according to Leiris, describes him as an 'obses-
sive'.
266
July. First numismatic study
published in Arethuset jour-
nal of art and archaeology.
Summer. Writes first articles
on painters (Mir6 and
Masson).
A Bin-Bibliographic Chronology
I
End o/the year. In Leiris's wake, Bataille becomes part of
the rue du Chateau group (Duhamel, Preve.rt, Tanguy).
Artaud: Le Pesenerf.
Marcel Proust:
L8 Temps retrouve.
Aragon: 1 Cond'lrene,
illustrated by Andre
Masson.
Breton: Nadja and Le
susrealisme et La peinture.
D. H. Lawrence: Lady
ChaUerley's Lover.
1927
Meets SylviaMakles, sister of
Bianca Fraenkel.
1928
Publishes 'CAmerique dis-
parue' in the Cahiers de La
Republique des lettres, des sci-
ences et des arts, in an issue
on pre-Columbian art.
First meeting with Georges
Henri Riviere.
March. Histoire de l'oeil (The
Story of the Eye) under
the pseudonym Lord
Auch, illustrated by Andre
Masson.
January. Like Breton,
Aragon, Eluard, Peret and
some others, Leiris joins
the Communist Party (for
just a fewmonths).
March or April. Le Point car-
dinal (Sagittaire).
April-Se.ptember. Trip to
Egypt and Greece.
With Queneau and Jacques
Baron, puts in appear-
ances at the Marx and
Lenin Communist Circle.
March. Bataille marries Sylvia Makles, Leiris is his best man.
1929
February. Breaks with the
Surrealist group. First con-
tribution to Cahiers du Sud.
267
24 October. The Wall Street
crash.
5 November. Jacques Rigaut
kills himself.
Bataille & Leins
11 March. On Breton's initiative, a meeting of 'intellectuals
with revolutionary tendencies' is held to discuss plans for
collective action. Bataille has refused to take part (far too
many bloody idealists'), just as have Leiris (described as
'one of the aforementioned idealists') and Masson.
April. FIrst issue of Documents, a magazine with Bataille as its
moving spirit. In June, Leiris will become its editorial sec-
retary for several months.
June. Through Masson,
meets Giacometti for the
first time.
July. First contribution to the
Nouuelle Revuefrancoise
(NRF).
August. Meets Marcel
Griaule.
Attends Mauss's lectures
(1929-30).
Nouember. Depressed, Leiris visitsBataille to ask for his razor,
since he means to castrate himself. On Bataille's advice, he
begins psychoanalysiswith Dr Borel.
December. Second Manifesto of Surrealism, in which Breton
takes issue with the erstwhile Surrealists who are contribut-
ing to Documents: Desnos, Leiris, Limbour, Masson, Vitrac,
1930
January. Un Cadavre (ACorpse), an anti-Breton pamphlet
conceived by Desnos and much influenced by Bataille.
Leiris puts his name to 'Le bouquet sans fleurs' (The
Bouquet of No Flowers) and Bataille his to 'Le lion chatre'
(The Castrated Lion).
Souvarine forms the
Democratic Communist
268
January. Death of his mother.
June. Birth of Laurence, the
December. 'The Eye of the
Ethnographer', his first
A Bio-Bibliographic Chronology
December. At Bataille's request, for an Almanadi erotique,
Leiris writes, 'Lucrece, Judith et Holopherne', a first draft
of L'Aged'homme. The ahnanac was never published.
Circle, which replaces the
Marx and Lenin
Communist Circle.
daughter of Georges and I
Sylvia Bataille.
piece ofwriting on

March. First issue of La
Critique sociale, founded by
Souvarine.
1931
April. Bataille and Leiris respond to the survey
'Connaissance de I'Amerique latine' (Knowledge of Latin
America) sent out by the magazine Imdn.
14 April. Proclamation of
the Spanish Republic.
Celine: Voyage au boutde la
nuit.
Prevert: La Bataille de
Fontenoy.
April or May. Final issue of
Documents.
Summer(?). First meeting
with Souvarine.
October. First contribution to
La Cruiqu socials.
November. I1Anus solaire,
illustrated by Andre
Masson (Galerie Simon).
End of theyear. Joins the
Democratic Communist
Circle.
1932
May. Boards ship at
Bordeaux with the Dakar-
Djibouti field trip.
October-November. At Sangha
(Mali), research into the
secret language of the
Dogons.
July-November. At Gondar
(Ethiopia), research into
the cult of the Zdr genies.
269
Bataille & Leiris
1933
30January. Adolf Hitler
becomes Chancellor of the
German Reich.
13-14July. Death of
Raymond Roussel.
December. Start of Stavisky
affair.
February. Returns to Paris. Is
employed at the musee
d'Ethnographie du
Trocadero (musee de
l'Hornme from 1936).
June. First issue of Minotaure, a magazine edited by Albert
Skira; Bataille and Masson come up with the tide and are
to contribute to Minotaure for some time. This first issue,
edited by Leiris, is on the Dakar-Djibouti field-trip.
Summer(?). Member of the
Democratic Communist
Circle.
September. First contribution
to La Critique sociale.
27 January. Resignation of
the Chautemps cabinet in
the wake of the Stavisky
affair. Daladier is
appointed President.
6 February. Demonstration of
extreme rightwing organi-
zations. Daladier resigns.
1934
Early in theyear. Colette
Peignot visits him.
End of theyear (?). Separation
from Sylvia Bataille.
January. I1Afrique fantlnne
(Gallimard).
First meeting with Alfred
Metraux,
February or March. Louise
and Michel Leiris move to
2 rue Eugene-Poubelle
(XVIe).
12 February. Antifascist general strike. Bataille, Leiris and
Roland Tual take part in the Paris demonstration.
17 February. Founding of the
Committee of Vigilance of April-May. Trip to Italy.
Antifascist Intellectuals
(CVIA) by Alain, Paul
Langevin and Paul Rivet.
March. Final issue of La
Critique sociale.
270
March. Member of the CVIA.
July. Heads the department
of Black Africa at the
musee d'Ethnographie,
A Bio-Bibliographic Chronology
30June. In Germany, the
Night of the Long Knives.
1935
Boris Souvarine: Staline;
aperfU historique du
bolchevisme.
January. First issue of the magazine Mesures Uean Paulhan's
initiative), to which Bataille and Leiris will contribute.
Early in theyear(?). Moves to IFebruary First meeting with
76 bis rue de Rennes. Jacques Lacan.
April. First issue of La Bite noire, conceived by Leiris and
Marcel More. The magazine is condemned by Bataille
and Masson. and Leiris will contribute to only the first two
issues.
Summer (?). Colette Peignot
comes to live with him.
I
April. First studies on
Raymond Roussel.
3 October. Mussolini invades 7 October. Inaugural manifesto of'Contre-Attaque, Union of
Abyssinia. Revolutionary Intellectuals in Struggle'J initiated by
Bataille and Breton. In agreement with its aims, but judg-
ing some of its ideas irresponsible, Leiris refuses to join.
November. Begins an arts
degree which he will finish
in October 1937 (ethnolo-
gy. sociology, history of
religions. diploma in the
Amharic language).
1936
16 February. Victory of the
Popular Front in the Spa-
nish legislative elections.
271
5 May. Victory of Popular
Front in French legislative
elections.
17July. In Spain. start of
rebellion led by General
Franco.
December. Andre Masson
returns to France.
Artaud: D'un Voyag' au pays
des Tarahumaros.
Celine: Bagatelles pourun
'InQ,Sj(l(:1'I.
26 April. Bombing of
Cuernica,
Bataille & Leins
April-Ma,. End ofContte-Attaque. Bataille writes 'La con-
juration sacree' which marks the birth of the Acephale
secret society. Leiris will refuse to takepart, deeming the
enterprise ridiculous and somewhat puerile.
June. First issue ofAcephale, Second semester (?). Plans the
edited by Bataille. publication of an art mag-
azine. Bataille is not
among the 60 or so poten-
tial contributors
Duember. S4crifit:a, illustrat- approached.
ed by Andre Masson
(G.L.M.).
19:47
March. Founding of the College de sociologie, whose first
meeting will take place on 20 November. From the summer
of 1938, it will be headed by Bataille, Caillois and Leiris.
April. Founding of the Society of Collective Psychology by
Dr Rene Allendy, Bataille, Dr Borel, Leiris and Dr Paul
Schiff. The chairman is Pierre Janet.
Sartre: La Nauset.
13 March. Gennanyannexes
Austria.
272
Summer. Trip to Italy with
Colette Peignot.
1938
August. TauTOJlltJclJies. illus-
trated by Andre Masson
(G.LM.).
First meeting with Wtfredo Lam.
January. Presentation at
College de sociologie: 'The
Sacred in Everyday Life'.
A Bio-Bibliographic Chronology
14 March. Bataille, Colette Peignot, Louise and Michel Leiris
visit the spot. near Epemon. where Sade ~ wished to be
buried.
June. Graduates from the
Ecole pratique des hautes
etudes.
July. Leiris publishes Miroir de Ie touromachie (Mirror of
the Bullfight). illustrated by Andre Masson, in the
'Acephale' series edited by Bataille (G.L.M.). After Colette
Peignot's death. the book will bededicated to her.
29-30 September. Munich
agreement (the dismember-
ment of Czechoslovakia).
November. 'Declaration of the College de sociologie on the
International Crisis', signed by Bataille, Caillois and
Leiris.
7 November. Colette Peignot dies in the presence of Bataille
and Leiris. Before her death she had given Bataille some
notes for Leins.
1939
Roger Caillois: Ehomme et le
sacre.
16 March. Germany invades
Czechoslovakia.
20 August. Nazi-Soviet Pact.
1 September. Gennany invades
western Poland.
April. Bataille and Leiris publish Le Sacrl by Colette Peignot
under the pseudonym Laure.
I
June. L'1ge d'homme
(Gallimard).
4Jul,. Appraisal meeting of the College de sociologie.
Refusing to back the enterprise, Leiris is absent.
I
August. Glo.s.sairej', serre
me.s gloses, illustrated by
273
3 September. France and
Britain declare war on
Germany.
18 September. The Soviet
Union invades eastern
Poland.
Bataille & Leiris
Andre Masson (Galerie
Simon).
September. Called up and
sent to the Sud-Oranais
with a group deployed to
experiment with chemical
weapons.
1940
April.AndreMasson, a collective work including writings by
Bataille and Leiris.
June. Final issue of the NRF Lives with Denise Rollin.
edited by Paulhan, who
would be replaced in
August by Drieu la
Rochelle.
14June. The Germans
enter Paris.
22June. France signs the
armistice.
10Jul,. The French parlia-
ment votes to assign full
powers to Marshal Petain,
who installs the French
state.
20 August. The assassination
of Trotsky.
3 October. The first Jewish
laws are passed.
274
April. Returns to France.
Summer. Demobbed. Moves
to the Kahnweilers' house
at Boulogne-sur-Seine,
Begins writing La Regie du
jeu.
November. Refuses to con-
tribute to the NRF under
Drieu's editorship.
A Bio-Bibliographic Chronology
Maurice Blanchot: Thomas
l'obscur.
March. Andre Masson leaves
for USA
22June. Gennany invades
the Soviet Union.
Blanchot: Aminadab.
Camus: EEtranger.
Ponge: Le PaTti prisdeschoses.
1941
First meeting with Blanchot. Febnulry. Arrest of the mem-
Jul,. Madame Edwarda, bers of the musee de
under the name Pierre l'Hornme resistance net-
Angelique (ed. du work,
Solitaire). Jul,. To avoid its confisca-
tion, the Galerie Simon is
bought by Louise Leiris
and takes on her name.
1942
23 February. Boris vnae,
Anatole Lewitsky and five
other members of the
musee de l'Homme net-
work are shot.
March. First issue of the semi-clandestine magazine Messages,
which Leiris and Bataille will join in the wake of Queneau.
16 and 17July. The Paris
police arrest 13,000 Jews
who will be handed over
to the Nazis.
April. Suffering from pul-
monary tuberculosis,
leaves the Bibliotheque
nationale.
April. Moves to 53 bis quai
des Grands-Augustins
(VIe).
October. Meets Sartre for the
first time.
1943
Sartre: L'Etreet leNeant and January.I1EX'JIlrience
usMouches. interieure (Gallimard).
2 February. German capitula- March. Moves to Vezelay,
tion to the Russians at
. Stalingrad.
March. Through Paulhan's
introduction, joins the
National Committee of
Writers.
April. First contribution to
the underground Lettres
franfaises.
275
10July. Allied landings in
Sicily.
5 Man:h. Death of Max
Jacob in the Nazi transit
camp at Draney.
6June. The Allied landings
in Normandy.
15-26 August. The liberation
of Paris.
Bataille & Leiris
April. Publication by Bataille and Leiris of Histoire dunepetite
fille by Laure (Colette Peignot).
June. Le Petit, under the June. First meeting with
name Louis Trente (pub- Camus.
lisher not named [Georges
Hugnet]).
Start of relationship with
Diane Kotchoubey de
Beauharnais.
Odober. Return to Paris.
December. Domaine fra1lfau, a special issue ofMessages pub-
lished in Switzerland, with contributions by some 60 French
writers, including poems by Bataille and a fragment of
Leiris's Biffures.
1944
February. Le Coupable
(Gallimard).
April. L'Archangelique
(Messages). Moves to
Samois (Seine-et-Marne).
October. Returns to Paris.
Sartre: LAge de raison and U
Sursis, the first two vol-
umes of us Chemins de La
lwerle(Roads to Freedom).
4-11 Febmary. The Yalta
conference.
276
1945
Felmul,ry. Sur Nietzsche.
Volonte de chance
(Gallimard).
May. Moves to Vezelay with
Diane Kotchoubey.
December. L'Orestie (editions
des Quatre-vents), reprint-
February-May. Field trip to
Ivory Coast and the Gold
Coast (now Ghana).
October. First issue, Us Temps
modernes. Leiris is a mem-
ber of the editorial board
(up until May 1946).
A Bio-Bibliographic Chronology
8 May. V-E (Victory in
Europe) Day.
18 May a;W 8JU'IU. Deaths of
Pierre Kaan and Robert
Desnos in the Nazi camps.
2 September. Capitulation of
Japan.
October. Andre Masson
returns to France.
Rene Char: Feuillets
d'Hypnos.
ed in 1947 in La Haine de
La poesit. Dirty (Fontaine),
reprinted in 1957 in Le
Bleu du del.
1946
Likely year of his divorce
from Sylvia Bataille.

(Fontaine).
I
Meets Aime Cesaire for the
first time.
23 November. Start of Indo-
China War.
June. First issue of Critique, founded and edited by Bataille.
Prefening to write for Us Temps modemes, Leiris was to
publish only two articles in Critique before Bataille's death.
IJury. Aurora (GalIimard).
November. New edition of .cAge d'homme (preceded by 'On
Literature considered as Bullfighting'). Leiris dedicates
the book 'to Georges Bataille who inspired this book', a
dedication that did not appear in 1939.
Camus: La Peste.
1947
January. L'AUeluiah,
catechisme de Dianus,
illustrated by Jean Fautrier
(librairie Auguste Blaizot),
May. Methode de meditation
(Fontaine).
September. Histoire de rats
(Journal de Dianus), illus-
May. Andre Masson et son
univers, with Georges
Limbour (Geneva, editions
des Trois Collines).
277
4 MaTch. Death of Antonin
Artaud.
1 October. Proclamation of
the People's Republic in
China.
278
Bataille & Leiris
trated by Giacometti
(Minuit).
September. L4 Baine de III
p o ~ s [EOrestie
l
Histoire de
rats and Dianus] (Minuit),
new edition in 1962 with
the title E Impossible.
1948
December. Birth ofJulie,
daughter of Georges
Bataille and Diane de
Kotchoubey.
1949
February. La Part ma"dite.
Essai d'economie ginirale,
VOL. 1 La Consumation
(Minuit).
May. Takes up his appoint-
ment as director of the
Carpentras municipal
library.
November. iponine (Minuit),
reprinted in 1950 in Abbe
c.
Autumn. The Innl. 0/Joan
Mir6 (New York, Curt
Valentin).
January. Trip to Algeria.
February. First meeting with
Claude Levi-Strauss,
June. La Regie dujell. I.
BiffurG (Gallimard).
July-November. FIrStfield trip
to the French West Indies.
September. La Languesecrite
Dogons de Sanga
(Institut d'ethnologie).
August-September. Trip to
Rome, Palermo and
Taormina.
A Bio-Bibliographic Chronology
1950
Bataille's first contribution to Bouegh OSCU1'S. (Rome). Leiria
was to contribute to it in 1958.
11 February. Death of Marcel
Mauss. May. L'Abbe C. (Minuit).
1951
January. Marries Diane
Kotchoubey.
May. Reviews Race et civilisa-
tion in Critique.
Jum. Takes up his appoint-
ment as director of the
Orleans municipal library.
1952
18 November. Paul Eluard dies.
1953
5 March. Death of Stalin.
1954
21July. End of Indo-China
War.
1 November. Start of the
Algerian war.
March. Race et civilisation
(UNESCO).
October. 7bro, illustrated by
Andre Masson (Galerie
Louise Leiris).
MaTch-July. Second field trip
to the French West Indies.
December. Takes part in the
Peace Congress in Vienna.
279
Claude Levi-Strauss: Tristes
Ttopiques.
Bataille & Leins
1955
Serious health problems
(cerebral arteriosclerosis).
April. Lascaux ou la nais-
sance de l'art (Geneva,
Skira).
September. Manet (Geneva,
Skira).
1956
June. La du jeu. II.
Fourbu (Gallimard).
September-November. Trip to
China.
November. Contacts de civili-
sation en Martinique et en
Guadeloupe (UNESCO,
Gallimard).
May. Bagatelles
illustrated by Joan Mir6
(jean Aubier).
4 November. Soviet interven-
tion in Hungary.
June. Leiris receives the prix des Critiques for BifJures and
Fourbis. Bataille is a member of the jury.
280
1957
May-July. Seriously ill, is
hospitalized twice.
July. La et le mal
(Gallimard).
September. Le Bleu du del
(jean-jacques Pauvert).
February. Balzacs en bas de
case et icadorl sans
majuscule, illustrated by
Picasso (Galerie Louise
Leiris).
May. Attempted suicide 'by
the ingestion of a large
quantity of toxic sub-
stances'. Tracheotomy.
September. Convalescence
13 May. Insurrection in
Algiers.
1June. De Gaulle becomes
president of France.
Sartre: Critique de La raison
dialectique.
4January. Death of Camus.
A Bio-Bibliographic Chronology
and course of treatment in
Tuscany with the Massons.
October. Bataille publishes L'Erotisme (Minuit), which is ded-
icated to Leiris.
1958
January. Issue ofLa Ciguifin homage to Bataille with a
piece by Leiris: 'Georges Bataille as Don Giovanni'.
March. La Possession et ses
aspects thedtrawcchez les
Ethiopiens de Gonder
(PIon).
September. Second course of
treatment in Tuscany.
1959
November. Le Procesde Giles
de Rais, editor and with
his introduction (Club
francais du livre).
1960
July. Signs the 'Manifesto of
the 121 on the Right to
Insubordination in the
Algerian War'.
281
Bataille & Leiris
1961
Interviews with Madeleine Chapsal, published in EExpress:
Bataille in March, Leiris in May.
18 March. Evian agreements,
ending the Algerian war.
11 April. Suicide of Alfred
Metraux,
Jum. Les Larmes d'Eros
(jean-jacques Pauvert),
1962
March. Transferred to the
Bibliotheque nationale (in
the event, he will be
unable to take up his
duties), and moves to rue
Saint-Sulpice, in Paris.
8July. Dies in Paris. Leiris
goes to his funeral in
Vezelaywith Maurice
Blanchot and Jean Pie!'
1963
March. J'ivantes cendres,
innommees, illustrated by
Alberto Giacometti aean
Hugues).
fune. Marrons sculptes pour
Mir6, illustrated byJoan
Mir6 (Geneva, Edwin
Engelberts).
282
August-September. Critique publishes a 'Homage to Georges
Bataille' which includes 'From Bataille the Impossible to
the Impossible Documents' by Leiris.
A Bio-Bibliographic Chronology
Sartre: US Mots.
January. Death of Theodore
Fraenkel.
2 August. Start of the US
intervention in Vietnam.
1964
December. 1.Mort, illustrat-
ed by Andre Masson (Au
Vent d'Arles).
March. Grande fuite de neige
(Mercure de France).
JantUlry. Death of
Giacometti.
September. Death ofAndre
Breton.
1966
June. Ma mere (jean-jacques March. Brisees (Mercure de
Pauvert), France).
September. La Regiedu jeu. Ill.
Fibrilles (Gallimard).
1967-90
1974. Theone de la religion
(Gallimard).
1970-88. Oeuvres com-
pletes (Gallimard).
1967. Afrique noire: la creation
plastique, with Jacqueline
Delange (Gallimard).
1969. Cinq etudes d'ethnologie
(Gonthier, Denoel), Mots sans
memoire(Gallimard) and
Fissures, illustrated by Joan
Mir6 (Aime Maeght).
1970. WifredoLam (Milan,
Fratelli Fabbri).
1971. Andre Masson,
'Massacres' et autre dessins
(Hermann).
1974. Francis Bacon ou la
verite criante (Fata Morgana).
1976. La Regie du jeu. Frele
bruit (Gallimard).
283
284
Bataille & Leins
1978. Alberto Giacometti.
with Jacques Dupin (Aime
Maeght).
1980. Au verso des images
(Fata Morgana).
1981. Le Ruban au cou
d'Olympia (Gallimard).
1983. Francis Bacon, face et
profil (Albin Michel).
1985. Langage ta"Kage ou ce
les mots dumt
(Gallimard).
1987. ingmu (Fata
Morgana) and Ondes
(Cognac. Le Temps qu'il
fait).
1988. A cor et acri
(Gallimard) and Apropos
de Georges Bataille
(Fourbis).
24 September 1988. Death of
Louise Leiris.
1989. Images de marque (Le
Temps qu'il fait) and
Bacon le hors-la-loi
(Fourbis).
30 September 1990. Death at
Saint-Hilaire (Essonne).
Periodicals to which Bataille and Leiris
both contributed (1925-1962)
Published in Paris, unless otherwise indicated
Acephak. Religion, sociology,philosophy. Published by Georges Ambrosino, Georges Bataille
and Pierre Klossowski.--G.L.M. Two series chronologically overlapping. 1) 'Periodical
Series': No.1 (24June 1936), No.2 (21January 1937), NO. 3--4 (july 1937), No.5 (june
1939). 2) 'New Series' (a collection, in fact) which consisted of only one issue. Reprint
(Periodical Series only): Jean-Michel Place, 1980.
Bataille wrote for every issue in 'Periodical Series', Leiris for none of them. The only issue
in 'New Series' is Leiris's monograph, Miroir de La tauromachie.
Botteghe oscure. Rome (Via delle Botteghe Oscure). A magazine founded by Marguerite
Caetani, the Princess eli Bassiano. No.1 (1948) to NO. 25 (Spring 1960).
Bataille contributed to it from 1950 to 1958, Leiris in 1958.
Cahiers d'art. Managing editor: Christian Zervos. YOLo 1 (1926) to YOLo 33-34 (1960).
Leiris contributed to it in 1934, 1936, 1937 and 1945, Bataille in 1939 and 1945.
Cigue' (La). Managing editor: Jacques Maho. Two issues published (January and April 1958).
An article by Leiris and one by Bataille, both in the first issue.
Combat. From Resistance to Revolution. 1941-74.
Under the editorship ofAlbert Camus, Bataille published one article in 1944, Leiris two
articles, in 1944 and 1948.
285
Bataille & Leins
critique. General reviewof French and foreign-language publications. Editorship: Georges
Bataille; Editions du Chene, then Calmann-Levy (1947-49) and, after a year-long inter-
ruption, Editions de Minuit (from October 1950). NO. 1 (June 1946), still publishing in
2007.
Bataille published articles in nearly every issue, Leiris published one article in 1954 and
another in 1958.
Critique sociale (fA). Review of books' 'and ideas. Managing editor: Boris Souvarine.
Librairie Marcel Riviere. No.1 (March 1931) to NO. 11 (March 1934). The magazine was
financed by Colette Peignot. Although many of its contributors belonged to the
Democratic Conrmunist Circle (notably Bataille and former Surrealists such as Jacques
Baron, Leiris, Queneau), according to Souvarine, La Critique socials was not the organ of
the Circle. Nonetheless, Leiris wrote: l ...] we belonged [Queneau and I]-like
Bataille-to the Democratic Communist Circle, which published a magazine, La Critique
sociale' ('On Raymond Queneau', in Brisees, p. 272). Reprint: editions de la Difference,
1983.
Bataille contributed from 1931 to 1934, Leiris from 1933 to 1934.
Documents. Ideologies, archaeology, fine arts, ethnography (until No.3, June 1929), then:
Archaeology, fine arts, ethnography, variety (from No.4, September 1929). Illustrated
magazine appearing 10 times a year. Editor: Carl Einstein. General secretary: Georges
Bataille (who was, in fact, responsible for editing the magazine). Editorial secretary:
Georges Limbour, then Leiris, then Marcel Griaule. Year 1, NO. 1 (April 1929) to NO. 7
(December 1929. Year 2, NO. 1-7, 1930. Year 2, No.8 [April or May 1931]. In all, 15
issues published. Reprint: Jean-Michel Place, 1991, dedicated 'to the memory of
Georges Bataille and Michel Leiris'.
Bataille and Leiris contributed to the magazine throughout its ron of publication.
EtemeUe Revue (L'). Founded by Paul Eluard and edited by Louis Parrot. NO.1 (June 1944)
to No.2 Ouly 1944). New series, No.1 (1 December 1944) to NOS 5-6 (1946). The first
two issues were published clandestinely.
Articles by Leiris in 1944 (No.2, clandestinely) and 1945, and by Bataille in 1945.
Fontaine. Monthly review of poetry and French literature. Managing editor: Max-Pol
Fouchet. Algiers, then Paris. NO.1 (November 1938) to NO. 63 (November 1947). Issues
1 and 2 were published with the title Mithra.
Articles by Leiris in 1944 and 1946, by Bataille in 1946 and 1947.
286
Periodicals
[man. Managing editor: Elvira de Alvear. Editorial secretary: Alejo Carpentier. NO. 1 (April
1931), the only one published.
This one-off issue includes texts by Leon-Paul Fargue, Jean Giono, Henri Michaux and
representatives of '/,0, joven literatura ceniralizada en Paris' [literature by young writers
based in Paris], namely Bataille, Leiris, Desnos, Soupault, etc.
Labyrinthe. A monthly journal of arts and letters. Geneva, Skira. Editor: Albert Skira. NO.
1 (15 October 1944) to NOS 22-23 (December 1946). New series. No.1 (February 1950)
to NO. 2 (March-April 1950). Reprint: New York, Arno Press, 1968.
Contributions by Bataille and Leiris in 1946.
i
Leures nouvelles (Les). Managing editor: Maurice Nadeau. Editor (1953-54): Maurice
Saillet. No.1 (March 1953) to 1977, No.1 (February-March 1977).
Leiris contributed quite regularly to the magazine from 1956 to 1968, BataiUe con-
tributed in 1956 and 1959.
Mercure de France.
Bataille: 1949. Leiris: 1948, 1956, 1962 and 1963.
Messages. Two series. 1) Literary editor: Andre Silvaire, Three issues, January-February to
May-June 1938. 2) Managing editor: Jean Lescure. Thirteen issues published: two in
1939, eight between 1942 and 1944 (six of these in France, semi-clandestinely, one in
Belgium and one in Switzerland) and three in 1945 and 1946.
Brought in by Queneau, Leiris contributed regularly to the magazine between 1942 and
1946. Bataille became involved shortly after Leiris and contributed likewiseuntil 1946:
What decided him was that Leiris and Queneau were with us, rather than the polit-
ical aim of the enterprise, and contrariness rather than patriotism Uean Lescure,
Poesie et liberte, histoire de Messages, 1939-1946, editions de l'IMEC, 'CEdition con-
temporaine' series, 1998, p. 179).
The third issue of 1944 is Bataille's monograph, EArchangelique.
Mesures. Managing editor: Henry Church. Editorial committee: Henry Church, Bernard
Groethuysen, Henri Michaux, Jean Paulhan (who was, in fact, the literary editor),
Giuseppe Ungaretti. Year 1, No.1 (15 January 1935) to Year 6, No.2 (15 April 1940).
Special issue, Hommage aHenry Church (15 April 1948).
Texts by Leiris in 1936 and 1938, by Bataille in 1938 and 1940.
287
BataiUe & Leins
Minotaure. Artistic and literary magazine. Managing editor/administrator: Albert Skira. Art
director until No.9 (1936): Estratios Teriade. Editorial committee from NO. 10 (1937):
Andre Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Paul Eluard, Maurice Heine and Pierre Mabille. NO. 1
(Uune] 1933) to NOS 12-13 (May 1939). Reprint: Geneva, editions d'art Albert Skira, 1981.
'It was Bataille and myself who had come up with the title of the magazine' (Andre
Masson, Vagabond du susredlisme, editions Saint-Germain-des-Pres, 1975, p. 136).
Leiris contributed to it in 1933, Bataille in 1936.
Nouvelle Revuefra'nfllise (La).
Contributions by Leiris in 1929, 1933 and from 1935 to 1939. Bataille's only appearance
in it is for the texts put out by the College de sociologie (1938).
After the ~ Leiris refused to be involved and Bataille wrote for it in 1955.
Quatre Vents (Les). Literary journal. Managing editor: Henri Parisot. NO. 1 (june 1945) to
No.9 Qune 1947).
Bataille in 1945, Leiris in 1945 and 1947.
Revolution surredlist (La). Editors: Pierre Naville and Benjamin Peret until No.2 (15
January 1925), Andre Breton from No.3 (15 April 1925). No.1 (1 December 1924) to
NO. 12 (15 December 1929). Reprint: Jean-Michel Place, 1975.
Leiris wrote for it from 1925 to 1927. Bataille published the medieval fatrasies in it in
1926.
Transition. Neuilly-sur-Seine, then Paris. Editor: Eugene Jolas, then Georges Duthuit, NO.
1 (April 1927) to NO. 27 (April-May 1938). New series, NO. 1 Uanuary 1948) to NO. 6
[October 1950].
Texts by Leiris in 1938, by Bataille in 1948.
~ r v Managing editor: Estratios Teriade. No.1 (Winter 1937) to NOS 37-38 (Summer
1960).
Texts by Bataille in 1937 and 1938, by Leiris in 1954.
Voyage en Grece (Le). Tourism periodical. Published by the Neptos company in Paris, in
association with the Greek National Tourist Office [and representing Greek transport
companies]. NO. 1 (Spring-Summer 1934) to NO. 11 (Summer 1939). Special issue (July
1946).
Contributions by Leiris in 1934 and 1946, by Bataille in 1937 and 1946.
288
Bibliography
MICHEL LEIRIS
'Georges Bataille as Don Juan' first appeared as 'Le donjuanisme de Georges Bataille' in
La Cigul, NO. 1, January 1958, , Hommage aGeorges Bataille', pp. 37-8. Republished
in Obliques, Les Pilles, 26110 Nyons, No.5, [fourth trimester] 1974, 'Don juan, analyse
d'un mythe', VOL. 2, pp. 105-07.
'From Bataille the Impossible to the Impossible Documents' first appeared as 'De Bataille
l'Impossible al'impossible Documents', in Critique, Year 15, NOS 195-196,
August-September 1963, pp. 685-93. Republished in Michel Leiris, Bristes, Mercure
de France, 1966, pp. 256-66 (Gallimard edition, 1992, pp. 288.-99).
'From the Tune of Lord Auch', first appeared as 'Du temps de Lord Auch' in EArc, Aix-
en-Provence, NO. 32, [june] 1967, 'Georges Bataille', pp. ~ 5 Republished in the
same magazine, '[Georges Bataille]' NO. 44, [March] 1971, pp. 3-10.
These three articles were collected as Ii propos deGeorges Batadle, Fourbis, 1988.
GEORGES BATAILLE
'Surrealism from Day to Day' first appeared as 'Le surrealisme au jour Ie jour', in Le
Groupe la rupture [Breton, Artaud, Bataille, Aragon, Leiris], Le Seuil, 'Change' series,
1970, No.7, pp. 84-98. Republished in DC, YOLo 8, ed. Thadee Klossowski, Gallimard,
1976, pp. 168-84.
'The Publication of "ACorpse'" first appeared as 'La publication d' "Un Cadavre'" (15
January 1930), in Le PontdetEpee, La Bastide d'Orniol (Card), NO. 41, October 1969,
pp. 141-5. Partially reprinted in DC, YOL. 11, Articles, YOLo 1, 1944-1949, ed. Francis
Marmande, Gallimard, 1988, pp. 571-2.
'Racism' first appeared as 'Le racisme', in Critique, NO. 48, May 1951, pp. 460-3, and was
written on the occasion of the publication of Leiris's book Race et civilisation, Unesco,
289
Bataille & Leiris
'La Question raciale devant la science moderne' series, 1951. Republished in DC, VOL.
12, Articles, VOL. 2, 1950-1961, 00. Francis Marmande, Gallimard, 1988, pp. 98-9.
'Eye', by ROBERT DESNOS, GEORGES BATAILLEand MARCELGRIAULE. first
appeared as 'Oeil', in Documents, No.4. September 1929. pp. 215-18, published as
part of the magazine's 'Critical Dictionary'. Bataille's contribution was republished in
OC, VOL. 1, Premiers Ecrits, 1922-1940, ed. Denis Hollier. Gallimard, 1970, pp. 187-9.
290
Works by Georges Bataille and Michel Leins
in English Translation
GEORGES BATAILLE
J
[With the pseudonym Pierre Angelique], A Tale of Satisfied Desire. Translated by Audiart.
Paris: The Olympia Press, 1953.
[With the pseudonym Pierre Angelique] The Naked Beastat Heaven's Gate. Translated by
Audiart. Paris: The Olympia Press, 1956.
Prehistoric Painting: Lascaux or theBirth of Art. Translated by Austryn Wainhouse.
Lausanne: Skira, 1955; London: Macmillan, 1980.
Eroticism. Translated by Mary Dalwood. London: Calder, 1962.
Blue of Noon. Translated by Harry Mathews, New York: Urizen Books, 1978; London:
Marion Boyars, 1979.
[With the pseudonym Lord Auch] The~ t y of the Eye. Translated by Joachim
Neugroschel, with essays by Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes. New York: Uri zen
Books, 1977; London: Marion Boyars, 1979.
Monet, Translated by Austryn Wainhouse and James Emmons, with an introduction by
Francoise Cachin. Geneva: Skira, 1983; London: Macmillan, 1983.
L'AbbeC. Translated by Philip A. Facey. London: Marion Boyars, 1983.
VISions ofExcess: Selected UTitings, 1927-1939. Edited, and introduced by Allan Stoekl:
translated by Allan Stoekl with Carl R. Lovitts and Donald M. Leslie Jr. Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1985.
Inner Experience. Translated by Leslie Anne Boldt. Albany: State University of New York
Press, 1988:
Theory of Religion.Translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Zone, 1989.
My Mother; Madame Edwarda; The DeadMan. Translated by Austryn Wainhouse, with
essays by Yukio Mishima and Ken Hollings. London: Marion Boyars, 1989.
291
Bataille & Leins
The Tears of Eros. Translated by Peter Connor. San Francisco: City Lights Books. 1989.
TheAccursed Share: An Essay on General Economy. Translated by Robert Hurley. NewYork:
Zone. 1991.
The Impossible: A Story of Bats Followed by Dianusand by The Oresteia. Translated by Robert
Hurley. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1991.
On Nietzsdu, Translated by Bruce Boone, with an introduction by Sylvere Lotringer. New
York: Paragon House, 1992.
The SolarAnus. Translated by Laurel Hirsch. Santa Rosa, California: Scissors & Paste
Bibliographies, 1996.
The Cradle of Humanity: Prehistoric Art and Culture. Edited and introduced by Stuart
Kendall; translated by Michelle Kendall and Stuart Kendall. New York: Zone, 2005.
The Unfinished System of Knowledge [Oeuvres completes-selections]. Edited and introduced
by Stuart Kendall; translated by Michelle Kendall and Stuart Kendall. Minneapolis and
London: University of Minnesota Press, 2001.
MICHEL LEIRIS
Francis Bacon: Full Face and in Profile. No translator named. Oxford: Phaidon, 1983.
Broken Branches. Translated by Lydia Davis. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1989.
Rules of the Game, YOLo 1: Scratches. Translated by Lydia Davis. New York: Paragon House,
1991; Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.
Rules of the Game. YOLo 2: Scraps. Translated by Lydia Davis. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1997.
Aurora.Translated and introduced by Anna Warby. London: Atlas Press, 1990.
Manhood: AJourney fromChildhood into1M Fierce Order of Virility. Translated by Richard
Howard. Chicago and London: University, of Chicago Press, 1992.
Other WOrks Frequently Referenced in this Book
The College of Sociology (1937-39). Texts by Georges Bataille et aI. Edited by Denis
Hollier, translated by Betsy Wing. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
Georges Bataille: An Intellectual Biography. Translated by Krzysztof Fijalkowski and Michael
Richardson. London: Verso, 2002.
(AUquotations in this book arein mytranslation-Liz. Heron)
292
Index
Abbadie, Arnauld d' 250
Ambrosino, Georges 119
Aparicio, Julio 192
Aragon, Louis 13, 24, 44, 48-50, 52, 54,
64,67,91,94,148,201,266,267
Arland, Marcel 150
Arp, Jean 108
Artaud, Antonin 11, 44, 63, 108,
264,265,267,272,278
Audiberti, Jacques 150, 234-5
Babelon, Jean 13
Bacon, Francis 283,284
Balthus 163
Baron, Francois 94
Baron, Jacques 64, 67, 94, 100, 102, 108,
228,267
Barrault, Jean-Louis 208
Bataille, Diane 163, 179, 181, 182, 185,
186,187,188,190,192,199,201,204,
207,212,215,224,276,278,279
Bataille, Julie 202, 278
102,268--9
Bataille, Sylvia (nee Makles) 90-1, 95, 102,
162,193,267,269,170,177
Baudelaire, Charles 5
Beaumanoir, Philippe de 51
Beauvoir, Simone de 163
Bellmer, Hans 9
Benichou, Paul 227
Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Henri 93
Blanchot, Maurice 59--60, 74, 152, 156,
171,275,282
Boaistuau, Pierre 22
Boiffard, Jacques-Andre 54, 67, 68
Bonnefoy, Yves 175
Bonnel, Rene 8, 64
Borel, Adrien 9, 102, 103, 105, 160, 177,
265,268,272
Breton, Simone 103
Breton, Yves 41, 69
Breuil, abbe Henri 219-20, 221
293
Bataille & Leiris
Bufiuel, Luis 28,247
Butor; Michel 171
Caillois, Roger 110, 116, 119-21, 123-4,
127, 129, 272, 273
Camus, Albert 41, 166, 171, 172, 201, 206,
275,276,277,281
Caron, Antoine 19, 205
Carpentier, Alejo 67, 108
Carrive, Jean 63, 64
Carrouges, Michel 143, 146, 236
Castel, Andre 26, 120, 142, 184, 186--7,
188, 191
Cendrars, Blaise 184
Cesaire, Aime 172, 200, 277
Char, Rene 157, 201, 236, 277
Cloppenburch (Cloppenberg), Johann
Everhardts 210
Cocteau, Jean 184
Collinet, Michel 91, 235-6
Collinet, Simone (nee Kahn) 91, 235-6
Colomb, Christophe 9
Courbet, Gustave 18
Couturier, Louis (See Carrouges, Michel)
143,169,235-6
Crampon 29, 249
Cranach l'Ancien, Lucas 202, 211
Crawford, Joan 245
Da Ponte, Lorenzo 3
Dalf Salvador 19, 28, 52, 157, 175, 245,
294
247
Danielou, (Father) It. Rjean 144
Daumal, Rene 227
Dautry, Jean 112
Decour, Jacques 148
Deharme, Lise 108
Descartes, Rene 30
Desnos, Robert 29, 54,63, 64,68-9, 108,
201, 208, 230, 240, 243-7, 265, 268,
277
Desportes, Philippe 6, 7
Dht>tel, Andre 172
Dostoevsky, Fedor Mikhailovich 11, 265
Doutte, Edmond 252
Drieu la Rochelle, Pierre 108, 146--8, 274
Dubuffet, Jean 98-9
Duhamel, Marcel 54, 267
Dullin, Charles 152
Dumezil, Georges 116, 173
Durkheim, Emile 121, 122, 126, 128, 132
Dutschke, Rudi 239
Einstein, Carl 12, 14-15, 19, 21, 63, 68,
193
Elbe, Marie 18-19
Eluard, Gala 52
Eluard, Paul 13, 44, 50-1, 52, 143, 147,
237,266,267,279
Ernst, Max 240
Espezel, Pierre d' 12-13, 248
Index
Fardoulis-Lagrange, Michel 143, 159
Fargue, Leon-Paul 108
Fautrier, Jean 9, 150, 277
Ferdiere, Gaston 58-9
Flaherty, Robert J. 93
Fraenkel, Bianca 90-1, 267
Fraenkel, Theodore 54-6, 64, 90, 212,
228,265,283
France, Anatole 66, 68

Frenaud, Andre 146, 148, 150, 153
Gaby8
Gallimard, Michel 206
Gerard, Francis 63-4
Giacometti, Alberto 19, 94, 238, 268.278,
282,283,284
Gilbert-Lecomte, Roger 227
Gilliam, Florence 100
Grandville, Jean Ignace Isidore Gerard,
dit 29, 248--9
Granevo,ManueI26, 30, 31, 184
Grenier, Jean 149
Griaule, Marcel 15, 29, 88, 243, 249-52,
268
Grillot de Givry, Emile:Jules 228
Gris, Juan 19
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 10, 50,
128, 145, 171, 265
Heine, Maurice 65, 116
Hermant, Abel 252
Hertz, Robert 122
Hugnet, Georges 143, 276 .
Hugo, Victor 248
Jahn, Otto 252
J ardot, Maurice 212
Jarry, Alfred 7
Josserand, Pierre 170, 171
Jouhandeau,MarceI54,108,228,230
Jouve, Pierre Jean 191
Jubinal, Achille 51
Kaan, Pierre 112-13, 277
Kafka, Franz 64, 143, 159, 265
Kahnweiler; Daniel-Henry 27, 85, 108,
151,167,181,199,209,210,228,264,
265,274
Kahnweiler, Lucie 85, 161, 167, 264, 274
Kelley, Harper 220, 221, 222
Klossowski, Pierre 116, 119, 163
Kotchoubey de Beauharnais, Diane (See
Bataille, Diane) 163, 179, 276, 278,
279
La Bruyere, Jean de 229
Lacan, Jacques 91, 108-9, Ill, 271
Lagrange, SeeFardoulis-Lagrange, Michel
Lambrichs, Georges 181
Landsberg, Paul-Louis 127
Lascaux, Berthe 151
Lascaux, tlie 151, 212
295
Bataille & Leiris
Lassalle, Ferdinand 49
Laude,Jean 193-4
Lavaud,Jacques 6-7,8.43, 265
Legrand 143, 146
Leibowitz, Francoise 163
Leibowitz, Rene 151, 163
Leiris, Louise 54, 65. 79. 85. 100. 103,
115-16,151,208-09,270,273,275,
Leiris, Marie 18. 197
Lernarchand,Jacques 147-8, 153, 159
Lescure, Jean 139. 146, 148, 150-1, 159.
171.236
Leyris, Pierre 236
Libra, Pierre 119
Lienert, idouard 98
Limbour, Georges 11. 15,44, 63-5, 67, 98,
118. 170, 172. 186. 228. 230. 238-9,
264,268.277
Lisowski, Georges 200-01
Litri, Miguel Baez 192
Lo Duca, Giuseppe Maria 208, 222
Louis XVI 239
Luyken,Jan 210
Maar, Dora 232
Malkine, Georges 54
Mallarme, Stephane 227.240
Malraux, Andre 116. 171
Maner, Edouard 18-19
Marinette 8
Marx, Karl 50, 235, 241, 266. 267. 269
Mascolo, Dionys 200
296
Masson, Andre 8-9. 11-13.24.27,44,54.
63-5, 67, 85. 90, 98-9, 104, 108, 116,
189,191,208,228,240,241,256,258,
264,265.266,267,268,269,270,271,
272.273-4.275,277,279,280-1,283
Masson, Colette 85
Masson, Rose (nee Makles) 90, 104, 188.
189, 191, 280-1
Mauss. Marcel 19, 32, 122, 126. 128. 264,
265,268.279
Metraux, Alfred 9, 173. 264, 270, 282
Michaux, Henri 108
Migne, Abbe (jacques-Paul) 251
Mir6. Joan 11-12,44, 266, 280, 282. 283
Monnerot,Jules 119,120.170-1
Monteverdi. Claudio 205
More, Marcel 108-10, 111.117,143,169.
177,235-6,271
Morgan, Claude 147
Morise, Max 64, 67. 103
Moulin, Jean 112
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus 3, 189, 191
Mylord l'Arsouille (See Seymour, Henry)
10
Nadeau, Maurice 61. 200-01
Naville, Denise (nee Kahn) 91
Naville, Pierre 64. 91, 235, 266
Nerval, ~ r de 153.227,230
Nietzsche, Friedrich 3, 32, 35, 128. 151,
169,237,265,266,276
Nozieres, Violette 156-7
Index
Obey, Andre 205
Ocampo, Victoria 119
Oddon, Yvonne 195
Ollivier, Albert 170-1
Otwell, George 186
Orwell, Sonia 186, 242
Paraz, Albert 134
Parisot, Henri 58.
Pascal, Blaise 104
Passeron, Rene 175
Patrick (Saint) 57-8
Paulhan, Jean 26, 120, 144, 146-8, 150,
153, 155, 159, 161, 177-8, 184, 235,
271,274,275
Peignot, Charles 177, 178
Peignot, Colette 102, 109, 117, 136, 198,
258,256,270,271,272,273.276,286
Peignot, Jerome 117, 178, 210, 220, 223
Peignot, Suzanne 177
Pelorson, Georges 233
Pia, Pascal 8, 64
Picasso, Pablo ~ 27, 184, 189, 232, 235,
265, 280
Piel, Jean 91, 98-9, 110, 193, 235, 236,
282
Piel, Jeannine 236
Piel, Simone 90, 236
PUnpaneau, Jacques 217
Pitt-Rivers, Michael 186
Poe, Edgar 230
Polly 103
Pushkin, Alexander 191
Pouly, Pierre 187
Prevert, Jacques 54, 64, 67, 267, 269
Queneau, J anine (nee Kahn) 91, 235-6
Queneau, Raymond 64, 67, 91, 98-9, 101,
108, 110, Ill, 114, 116, 146, 148, 150,
163, 169, 235, 236, 238-9, 265, 267,
275
Raynal, Maurice 108
Reich, Zdenko 227
Reverdy, Pierre 108
Ribemont..Dessaignes, Georges 63-4, 67,
108
Rimbaud, Arthur 49
Rivet, Paul 12, 265. 270
Riviere, Georges Henri 9, 12-13, 14, 15,
68,199,230,267
Pollin-Le Gentil, Denise 163
Rosenthal, Gerard (SeeGerard, Francis) 64
Roussel, Raymond 171, 263, 270, 271
Roux, Gaston-Louis 19, 103
Sade, Donatien Alphonse Francois de
Salacrou,AnnandI7,22,65, 155,273
Salles, Georges 116
Sartre, Jean-Paul 148, 149, 150, 152-3,
155, 158-9, 163, 166, 172, 215, 272,
275,276,281,283
297
Bataille & Leins
Satie, Erik 232
Schaeffner, Andre 9, 150, 151, 231
Schoenberg, Arnold 150, 151
Seabrook, William Buehler 240-1
Seymour, Henry dit Mylord l'Arsouille 10
Shipman, Evan 11
Sima, Josef 227
Socrates 156
Soupault, Philippe 63
Soustelle, Jacques 236
Souvarine, Boris 13-14,98,266,268,269,
271
Stevenson, Robert Louis 28, 248
Teriade, Estratios 108
Thomas, Edith 147
Thyeste 56
Troppmann, Jean-Baptiste 9, 55
Trotsky, Leon 15, 64, 274
Tual, Roland 44, 54, 264, 270
Tubiana,Joseph 174,176, 200
298
Tzara, Tristan 54, 64, 169, 263, 265
Vailland, Roger 227
Valery, Paul 7
Van Dyke, William S. 93
Van Gogh, Vincent 20
Vidor, King 241
Villon, Francois 104
108,268
Waldberg, Patrick 110, 217
Watson, Peter 60, 62
Weil, Eric 170, 171
Weingarten, Romain 193-4
WI1denstein, Georges 13, 14
Zette (See Leiris, Louise) 85, 90, 100, 105,
137, 150, 154, 160, 162, 164, 165, 166,
167, 170, 178, 181, 184, 186, 188, 192,
194,195,196,197,200,201,202,203,
204, 205, 206, 207. 208-09, 213, 214,
215,216,218,220,222