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Bon Viveur in Cuban Heels

Julian Bell: Picasso, 3 January 2008

A Life of Picasso. Vol. III: The Triumphant Years 1917-32 
by John Richardson.
Cape, 592 pp., £30, November 2007, 978 0 224 03121 9
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... return to the Paris whorehouses, and four years later we find him roaming the late-night city with Michel Leiris, the brightest and most desperate of his Surrealist friends – ‘Picasso usually made out. Leiris usually failed.’ (‘He was only five foot three/but girls could not resist his stare/ Pablo Picasso/never ...

White Hat/Black Hat

Frances Richard: 20th-Century Art, 6 April 2006

Art since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism 
by Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois and Benjamin H.D. Buchloh.
Thames and Hudson, 704 pp., £45, March 2005, 0 500 23818 9
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... rebelled against their controlling impresario, André Breton: Georges Bataille, Roger Caillois, Michel Leiris. It has pondered the theory of the sign, foregrounded photography and helped to install Peter Bürger’s 1974 essay ‘Theory of the Avant-Garde’ (translated into English in 1984) as a founding text of alternative cultural ...


Edward Said: My Encounter with Sartre, 1 June 2000

... and Ecole Normale classmate Maurice Merleau-Ponty (who left the journal a few years later), and Michel Leiris, ethnographer, Africanist and bullfight theoretician. There wasn’t a major issue that Sartre and his circle didn’t take on, including the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which resulted in a monumentally large edition of Les Temps modernes – in ...

Champion of Words

John Sturrock, 15 October 1987

Death and the Labyrinth: The World of Raymond Roussel 
by Michel Foucault, translated by Charles Ruas.
Athlone, 186 pp., £29.50, April 1987, 0 485 11336 8
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Raymond Roussel: Life, Death and Works. Essays and stories by various hands 
Atlas, 157 pp., £5.50, September 1987, 0 947757 14 7Show More
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... Michel Foucault, for once and for now, may stand aside: who is the Raymond Roussel about whom he wrote this, his one real essay into literature? Roussel was a writer, of sorts, of the early 20th century; a man both glamorously rich and mentally odd. His money he spent to the hilt in the furtherance of his oddness, for Roussel laboured to write the most uncommercial works and then paid to have them published ...

Mon Pays

Michael Rogin: Josephine Baker, 22 February 2001

The Josephine Baker Story 
by Ean Wood.
Sanctuary, 327 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 1 86074 286 6
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Negrophilia: Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s 
by Petrine Archer-Straw.
Thames and Hudson, 200 pp., £14.95, September 2000, 0 500 28135 1
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... or playing with them? Pan-Africanists, like the negrophiliac Surrealists and sousréalistes (Michel Leiris, Georges Bataille and the Documents group), deployed Africa against the imperial metropole, but Baker was being put to the opposite use. She was picked as queen of the 1931 Colonial Exhibition, whose display of native peoples made Paris the ...

Is there hope for U?

Christopher Tayler: Tom McCarthy, 21 May 2015

Satin Island 
by Tom McCarthy.
Cape, 192 pp., £16.99, March 2015, 978 0 224 09019 3
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... back down, and his range of reference is unselfconsciously blokey if Warhol, Beckett, Burroughs, Michel Leiris and Friedrich Kittler qualify as blokes. ‘What worries​ me,’ Beckett wrote in a letter after reading Robbe-Grillet’s La Jalousie, ‘is all his own theorising, but the result belies it.’ I can’t help feeling similarly that ...

‘Ulysses’ and Its Wake

Tom McCarthy, 19 June 2014

... Y lags behind, cramming a chunk of bread into his mouth. Even the novel’s letters eat and crap. Michel Leiris, another contributor to the ‘Critical Dictionary’, describes in Scratches eating alphabetti spaghetti as a child; eating too much, and being sick; watching the dented letters fall back from him: far from being a tool for refining the world ...

A Small, Sharp Stone

Ange Mlinko: Lydia Davis’s Lists, 2 December 2021

Essays One 
by Lydia Davis.
Hamish Hamilton, 512 pp., £20, November 2019, 978 0 241 37147 3
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Essays Two 
by Lydia Davis.
Hamish Hamilton, 571 pp., £20, December, 978 0 241 55465 4
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... but for short short stories; and whose reputation as a translator (Swann’s Way, Madame Bovary, Michel Leiris) rivals her reputation as an author – should have produced 1100 pages of craft talk? Or is the capacity for craft talk a symptom of scruples functioning as creative constraint? ‘This was the sort of question I typically spent some time ...

In the Anti-World

Nicholas Jenkins: Raymond Roussel, 6 September 2001

Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams 
by Mark Ford.
Faber, 312 pp., £25, November 2000, 0 571 17409 4
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... that assertion with plentiful details of the engagement with Roussel’s work of Cocteau, Desnos, Leiris, Soupault, Picabia, Duchamp, Breton, Aragon, Queneau, Perec, Robbe-Grillet, Foucault, Calvino and Ashbery (who contributes a foreword to Ford’s book). ‘I abandoned myself, out of my depth, in the Gulf Steam of your fantasy,’ André Gide wrote to ...

Sorry to be so vague

Hugh Haughton: Eugene Jolas and Samuel Beckett, 29 July 1999

Man from Babel 
by Eugene Jolas.
Yale, 352 pp., £20, January 1999, 0 300 07536 7
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No Author Better Served: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider 
edited by Maurice Harmon.
Harvard, 486 pp., £21.95, October 1998, 0 674 62522 6
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... Beckett, Breton, Kafka (the first English translation of ‘Metamorphosis’, again by Jolas), Michel Leiris, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, Herbert Read, Soupault and Jolas himself. Glancing through its faded and disintegrating back issues or reading Dougald McMillan’s transition: The History of a Literary Era 1927-38 (1975), one finds an astonishing ...

The earth had need of me

Joanna Biggs: A nice girl like Simone, 16 April 2020

Becoming Beauvoir: A Life 
by Kate Kirkpatrick.
Bloomsbury, 476 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 1 350 04717 4
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Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir and Me, a Memoir 
by Deirdre Bair.
Atlantic, 347 pp., £18.99, February 2020, 978 1 78649 265 4
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Diary of a Philosophy Student, Vol. II: 1928-29 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Barbara Klaw.
Illinois, 374 pp., £40, June 2019, 978 0 252 04254 6
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... love. Beauvoir and Sartre set up a journal, Les Temps modernes (named for the Chaplin movie), with Michel Leiris, Merleau-Ponty and Raymond Aron on the editorial committee, and she went to the Ministry of Information to beg for a quota of paper. The Blood of Others came out, the first issues of Les Temps modernes were published, her play, Les Bouches ...

Infisal! Infisal! Infisal!

Jonathan Littell: A Journey in South Sudan, 30 June 2011

... by a legion of administrator-anthropologists and foreign travellers like Marcel Griaule and Michel Leiris, who flesh out the myth – which is then taken to a new level, as erotic as political, by photography, Leni Riefenstahl among the Nuba and the increasing popularity of National Geographic. In the postcolonial era, and especially with the ...

Genius in Its Pure State

Mark Ford, 22 May 1997

... his own literary papers, depositing various manuscripts with his financial adviser, Eugène Leiris – father of Michel – not all of which have come to light. By the time of his departure for Sicily, however, Roussel seems to have lost interest in his literary career. Though he tidied up many personal affairs, and ...

The Adulteress Wife

Toril Moi: Beauvoir Misrepresented, 11 February 2010

The Second Sex 
by Simone de Beauvoir and Constance Borde, translated by Sheila Malovany-Chevallier.
Cape, 822 pp., £30, November 2009, 978 0 224 07859 7
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... to prove; she could write about anything. She decided to write about herself. She was inspired by Michel Leiris’s Manhood, which had just been reissued in Paris with a new introduction comparing writing to bullfighting (the torero and the writer need the same kind of courage). She would write a confession. Thinking about the project, she realised she ...

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