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One Herring in a Shoal

John Sturrock: Raymond Queneau, 8 May 2003

Oeuvres complètes: Tome II: Romans I 
by Raymond Queneau, edited by Henri Godard.
Gallimard, 1760 pp., €68, April 2002, 2 07 011439 2
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... of conspicuous depredation which much appealed to youthful hammers of the bourgeois ethos like Georges Bataille and Queneau when they first read about it in the work of Marcel Mauss, for seeming to collide head on with the practices of an acquisitive society. In the potlatch, Kwakiutl notables in the American North-West competed in the public ...

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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... new attention to Surrealists who 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 ...

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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... diabolical and the exotic; excrement; old age; women; Africans; disease; lesbians; Jews; and for Georges Bataille 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; flowers wither like simpering, overly made-up ...

My Books

Ian Patterson, 4 July 2019

... Kristeva, Barthes, Sollers, Pleynet, Lyotard, Sartre, Fanon, Beauvoir, and the complete works of Georges Bataille. Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Bradley, Collingwood, Scheler, Merleau-Ponty … all gone. No more literary criticism, or literary history, or history, or linguistics. And then there were the sets: Hazlitt’s Works, De Quincey’s (the 14-volume ...

‘Ulysses’ and Its Wake

Tom McCarthy, 19 June 2014

... But this materialism should not be confused with empiricism. On the contrary, it’s what Georges Bataille, in his ‘Critical Dictionary’, calls ‘base materialism’. For Bataille, the positivist materialism of science or the dialectical materialism of Marxism are nothing more than Christianity in ...

Against Passion

James Meek: Passionate Politics, 30 November 2017

The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics 
by Mark Lilla.
Harper, 160 pp., £19, August 2017, 978 0 06 269743 1
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The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction 
by Mark Lilla.
NYRB, 166 pp., £9.99, September 2016, 978 1 59017 902 4
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... to Kojève and his initiates was that they were engaged in ‘passionate thinking’. Lilla quotes Georges Bataille as saying that each encounter with Kojève left him ‘broken, crushed, killed ten times over: suffocated and nailed down’. Bataille felt it necessary to validate an intellectual experience by ...

Eat it

Terry Eagleton: Marcel Mauss, 8 June 2006

Marcel Mauss: A Biography 
by Marcel Fournier, translated by Jane Marie Todd.
Princeton, 442 pp., £22.95, January 2006, 0 691 11777 2
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... of Lévi-Strauss and Maurice Godelier, while the other inspires such dissident writers as Bataille and Baudrillard. If the former thinkers are disciples of Mauss the rationalist, concerned with equilibrium and reciprocity, Bataille seizes on the anti-utilitarian aspects of his essay on the gift, not least on his ...

In Whose Interest?

Thomas Meaney: Truman’s Plan, 6 December 2018

The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months that Changed the World 
by A.J. Baime.
Doubleday, 431 pp., £20, February 2018, 978 0 85752 366 2
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The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War 
by Benn Steil.
Oxford, 606 pp., £25, March 2018, 978 0 19 875791 7
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... at the time by even some of the more severe observers of American activity in Europe. In 1949, Georges Bataille celebrated the Marshall Plan as the greatest example of human generosity since the Native American potlatch. In American policy circles, the words ‘Marshall Plan’ have congealed into a panacea for every problem on earth – and outer ...

She Who Can Do No Wrong

Jenny Turner, 6 August 1992

Curriculum Vitae 
by Muriel Spark.
Constable, 213 pp., £14.95, July 1992, 0 09 469650 0
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... of Catholic kitsch and cruelty which included such apostate writers as Antonin Artaud and Georges Bataille, whose blasphemy would have been pointless had they not had the body of Catholic ritual there to egg them on. Catholicism, unlike Protestantism, is a religious tradition that is rich in irony. It’s hardly surprising then that after she had ...

The Right Kind of Pain

Mark Greif: The Velvet Underground, 22 March 2007

The Velvet Underground 
by Richard Witts.
Equinox, 171 pp., £10.99, September 2006, 9781904768272
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... similar to those to be had from ‘underground’ books in the hip-Gothic tradition of Sade, Georges Bataille, William Burroughs, Hubert Selby Jr and whoever serves as a present-day inheritor (Chuck Palahniuk?). Reed rewrote these books, in essence, as songs. The most famous literal example is ‘Venus in Furs’, a musical setting of a book ...

Report from Sirius B

Jeremy Harding: ‘Phantom Africa’, 22 March 2018

Phantom Africa 
by Michel Leiris, translated by Brent Hayes Edwards.
Seagull, 711 pp., £42, January 2017, 978 0 85742 377 1
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... away and joined the team of Documents, the short-lived dissident Surrealist periodical edited by Georges Bataille. Leiris was both a marginal and a promising figure. Dangerously self-obsessed, fatally inclined to turn his hand to anything that passed for literature – in 1925 he published a volume of verse with illustrations by André Masson – he was ...

The Things We Throw Away

Andrew O’Hagan: The Garbage of England, 24 May 2007

... when it comes to it, looking after the bins. It’s how we used to think. “Sovereignty,” Georges Bataille wrote, “is the freedom to waste.” At festivals, at Christmas, and every day, we waste, we give things away, that is what seemed normal to us.’ The area around the waterway in Bristol has been reinvented. The architects have had a field ...

Fumbling for the Towel

Christopher Prendergast: Maigret’s elevation to the Panthéon, 7 July 2005

Romans: Tome I 
by Georges Simenon.
Gallimard, 1493 pp., €60, May 2004, 2 07 011674 3
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Romans: Tome II 
by Georges Simenon.
Gallimard, 1736 pp., €60, May 2004, 2 07 011675 1
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... from public view. Who would have predicted Maigret’s return – or rather that of his creator, Georges Simenon – in the grand Pléiade collection? To be sure, it is Simenon-lite, a two-volume selection of 21 novels. His total output was a prodigious 192 novels as well as 150 novellas and short stories, a figure that puts even Balzac’s demonic ...

The Force of the Anomaly

Perry Anderson: Carlo Ginzburg, 26 April 2012

Threads and Traces: True False Fictive 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by Anne Tedeschi and John Tedeschi.
California, 328 pp., £20.95, January 2012, 978 0 520 25961 4
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... Sterne’s Tristram Shandy to Bayle’s Dictionnaire historique et critique; and the presence of Georges Bataille in the composition and character of Picasso’s Guernica.2 That said, we may still ask how the cascades relate to the broader waters of intellectual history, as it has developed since the 1960s. Here the problem of polythetic classification ...

Union Sucrée

Perry Anderson: The Normalising of France, 23 September 2004

Le Rappel à l’ordre: Enquête sur les nouveaux réactionnaires 
by Daniel Lindenberg.
Seuil, 94 pp., €10.50, November 2002, 2 02 055816 5
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Esquisse pour une auto-analyse 
by Pierre Bourdieu.
Raisons d'Agir, 142 pp., €12, February 2004, 2 912107 19 9
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La République mondiale des lettres 
by Pascale Casanova.
Seuil, 492 pp., €27.50, March 1999, 2 02 035853 0
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... the wars with a semi-surrealist tint, in the theories of the sacred proposed by Roger Caillois and Georges Bataille at the Collège de Sociologie. In the late 20th century, this intellectual line has seen yet further avatars in the work of two of the most original thinkers of the left, at odds with every surrounding orthodoxy. In the early 1980s, Régis ...

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