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Like water in water

Susan Rubin Suleiman

12 July 1990
Theory of Religion 
by Georges Bataille, translated by Robert Hurley.
Zone, 126 pp., £16.25, April 1989, 0 942299 08 6
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My Mother, Madame Edwarda, The Dead Man 
by Georges Bataille, translated by Austryn Wainhouse.
Boyars, 222 pp., £13.95, October 1989, 0 7145 2886 2
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... have been allowed to reach the bookstores without an obscenity trial. But written by a single author they most certainly were – and therein lies their charm (if that’s the right word), as well as GeorgesBataille’s importance as a writer. One could have heard just such an argument from the French avant-garde writers and philosophers of the Sixties and Seventies – Barthes, Derrida, Foucault ...

Dirty’s Story

Mark Polizzotti

28 November 1996
The Collected Writings 
by Laure, translated by Jeanine Herman.
City Lights, 314 pp., $13.95, August 1995, 0 87286 293 3
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... most people, if they know of Laure at all, know her not so much for what she committed to paper as for her tortured, inspired relationships with several prominent French intellectuals, most notably GeorgesBataille. And although this edition of her collected writings seeks to correct that impression, its ultimate effect is only to reinforce it. By the time one emerges from this compilation of ...

At Tate Modern

Jeremy Harding: Giacometti

16 August 2017
... long before I looked at his art in its own right and I still see it darkly at the far end of a corridor of brilliant commentary. There are many entries here for the writers who took up with him – GeorgesBataille, Michel Leiris, Sartre and Beauvoir, Jean Genet and others – though none under B for Beckett, and none for John Berger, who was cool at first, then much warmer, coming under fire from ...

At the Ikon Gallery

Brian Dillon: Jean Painlevé

31 May 2017
... and playwright Ivan Goll on the first and only issue of the journal Surréalisme, which appeared in October 1924. Painlevé had taken a personal dislike to André Breton, and had more in common with GeorgesBataille, who reproduced photographs from Painlevé’s film of crabs and shrimps in his journal Documents. A text by Jacques Baron makes the expected connection with Nerval’s pet lobster (‘a ...

Cards on the Table

Mary Ann Caws: Robert Desnos and Surrealism for the masses

3 June 2004
Robert Desnos, Surrealism, and the Marvellous in Everyday Life 
by Katharine Conley.
Nebraska, 270 pp., £37.95, March 2004, 0 8032 1523 1
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... clearly elucidating them and the stories behind Rose Selavy, the experiments in collective writing at the rue du Château, the split between the rather prudish Breton and the definitely not prudish GeorgesBataille (‘Bataillean Surrealism’ insists on the carnal and the low: see Rosalind Krauss’s brilliant studies in The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, with the big toe ...

Short Cuts

Joanna Biggs: Marguerite Duras

5 October 2016
... to go that season. But she was in the habit of leaving the door of her apartment on the Left Bank open from dawn until dusk. Home, she thought, ought to be open to the outside: to her friends GeorgesBataille and Maurice Blanchot, to Alain Resnais and Delphine Seyrig, to those who simply rang the bell on the rue Saint-Benoît, like the Italian journalist Leopoldina Pallotta della Torre. (It ...

At Turner Contemporary

Eleanor Birne: ‘Curiosity’

18 July 2013
... models of sea creatures, made by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka between the 1850s and 1890s, to a collection of agates, alabaster, quartz and jasper put together by Roger Caillois, a collaborator of GeorgesBataille and Michel Leiris, to a vitrine displaying tiny artworks made from split lengths of human hair, collected by the artist Susan Hiller, to Richard Wentworth’s snapshots of traffic cones or ...

Something that Wasn’t There

Lili Owen Rowlands: Daddy Lacan

20 June 2019
A Father: Puzzle 
by Sibylle Lacan, translated by Adrian Nathan West.
MIT, 92 pp., £20, July, 978 0 262 03931 4
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... she had a half-sister, Judith (the little girl from the car), who was somehow only eight months younger than her. In 1938, when Malou was pregnant with Thibaut, Lacan met with the actress Sylvia Bataille at the Café de Flore. Attractive and bohemian, and having recently separated from her husband, GeorgesBataille, Sylvia soon became Lacan’s lover. Although Malou knew of her husband’s ...

Sedan Chairs and Turtles

Leland de la Durantaye: Benjamin’s Baudelaire

21 November 2013
Charles Baudelaire: Un poeta lirico nell’età del capitalismo avanzato 
by Walter Benjamin, edited by Giorgio Agamben, Barbara Chitussi and Clemens-Carl Härle.
Neri Pozza, 927 pp., €23, December 2012, 978 88 545 0623 7
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... gathered together the thousands of pages comprising his work of the last decade and carried them to his favourite place in Paris, the Bibliothèque nationale. When he got there he gave them to GeorgesBataille, a head librarian there, for safekeeping. Hours before the German army entered Paris with an order to arrest him, Benjamin left the city with ‘nothing but a gas mask and my toiletries ...


Gary Indiana: Nymphomania, antic incest and metaphysical torment

14 December 2006
Lust for Life: On the Writings of Kathy Acker 
edited by Amy Scholder, Carla Harryman and Avital Ronell.
Verso, 120 pp., £10.99, May 2006, 9781844670666
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... in her novels, discussing her appropriations of other writers’ voices in terms of Acker’s fascination with schizophrenia. Avital Ronell stresses Acker’s long preoccupation with the writings of GeorgesBataille and – a surprise to me – the baleful Derrida. Carla Harryman, one of Acker’s longest-standing friends and associates, comes closest to suggesting that there was often a considerable ...
8 February 1990
A New History of French Literature 
edited by Denis Hollier.
Harvard, 1280 pp., £39.95, October 1989, 0 674 61565 4
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... on their wedding-night. (In a properly frosty chapter on the Surrealist cult of Sade in the 1930s, Carolyn Dean comes within three italic characters of making the volume’s one joke, when she has GeorgesBataille dismissing Sade’s new-found admirers as ‘con artists’). Of the women writers for whom admission to the canon is demanded, one, George Sand, has surely never been dropped from it, but ...

The Last Hundred Days

Peter Wollen: Kassel’s Mega-Exhibition

3 October 2002
Documenta 11 
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... Kulturbahnhof in 1995, its waiting rooms miraculously transformed into gallery spaces. Finally, a particularly eccentric outpost, Thomas Hirschhorn’s plywood and packing tape temple in honour of GeorgesBataille, was erected in the middle of a low-income housing project. Documenta, whose original mission had been to celebrate Germany’s new postwar identity and the transnational role of Kassel as a ...
18 June 2014
... earth, beneath removable stones, in hives and mounds, of microbes, germs, bacteria, bacilli, spermatozoa’. But this materialism should not be confused with empiricism. On the contrary, it’s what GeorgesBataille, in his ‘Critical Dictionary’, calls ‘base materialism’. For Bataille, the positivist materialism of science or the dialectical materialism of Marxism are nothing more than ...

Not a Pretty Sight

Jenny Diski: Who Are You Calling Ugly?

24 January 2008
On Ugliness 
edited by Umberto Eco.
Harvill Secker, 455 pp., £30, October 2007, 978 1 84655 122 2
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... degradation, heterogeneity. Its exemplars are the varying social anathemas of the West: the diabolical and the exotic; excrement; old age; women; Africans; disease; lesbians; Jews; and for GeorgesBataille the big toe and the putrefaction of flowers, which he manages to bind to age and misogyny: ‘flowers don’t age honestly like leaves, which lose none of their beauty even after they are dead ...

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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... when she walked the streets of Paris with a cheetah, was she playing to white fantasies or playing with them? Pan-Africanists, like the negrophiliac Surrealists and sousréalistes (Michel Leiris, GeorgesBataille 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 ...

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