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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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... In​ L’Age d’homme, his early excursion into autobiography, MichelLeiris recalls his mother warning him to beware of ‘bad people’ in the Bois de Boulogne. He imagined the predators in the woods to be ‘satyrs’, and later, cannibals: he had been struck by an exotic ...

At Turner Contemporary

Eleanor Birne: ‘Curiosity’

18 July 2013
... 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 Georges Bataille and MichelLeiris, 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 abandoned gloves or ...


Iain Bamforth: Bodyworlds

19 October 2000
... meaningfully includes it – which turns on doing an animal to death – is the bullfight. There the danger of exposure to the ‘bull’s keen horn’ is a mortal risk, as that restrained masochist MichelLeiris notes in L’Age d’homme, thereby saving the torero from an art of vain affectation. Again the argument turns on authenticity and performance: the same strategists of liberation who had ...

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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... expressing the wish ‘that her testimony not remain uncommunicated ... as only that which exists for others can have meaning’. The task of bringing these texts to light fell to Bataille and MichelLeiris, another intimate of Laure’s. That was in 1938, when family censorship kept most of them from being published. The first comprehensive volume of Laure’s work appeared, thanks to the ...

At Tate Modern

Jeremy Harding: Giacometti

16 August 2017
... 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 – Georges Bataille, MichelLeiris, 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 David Sylvester – ...

In the Butcher’s Shop

Peter de Bolla: Deleuze on Bacon

23 September 2004
Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation 
by Gilles Deleuze, translated by Daniel Smith.
Continuum, 209 pp., £9.99, March 2004, 0 8264 7318 0
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... likely to meet with the same response from English speakers as previous translations of Deleuze’s extraordinary oeuvre: bewilderment. This response would certainly have surprised Deleuze’s friend Michel Foucault, who wrote in 1970: ‘Perhaps one day, this century will be known as Deleuzian.’ Of all the thinkers who emerged in postwar France and are now loosely – and unhelpfully – coralled ...

Francis and Vanessa

Peter Campbell

15 March 1984
Francis Bacon 
by Michel Leiris, translated by John Weightman.
Phaidon, 271 pp., £50, September 1983, 0 7148 2218 3
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Vanessa Bell 
by Frances Spalding.
Weidenfeld, 399 pp., £12.95, August 1983, 0 297 78162 6
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The Omega Workshops 
by Judith Collins.
Secker, 310 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 436 10562 4
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The Omega Workshops 1913-1919: Decorative Arts of Bloomsbury 
Crafts Council, 96 pp., £6.95, March 1984, 0 903798 72 7Show More
The Omega Workshops: Alliance and Enmity in English Art 1911-1920 
Anthony d’Offay Gallery, 80 pp., £4.95, February 1984, 0 947564 00 4Show More
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... open the valves of sensation’. Neither his critics nor his friends are willing to leave Bacon’s defences unprobed. In the essay which prefaces Phaidon’s handsome volume of colour plates, MichelLeiris writes: ‘As an authentic expression of Western man in our time Francis Bacon’s work conveys, in the admirably Nietzschean formula he himself has coined to explain the sort of man and ...

Get out

Julian Bell: Francis Bacon

19 October 2000
Looking back at Francis Bacon 
by David Sylvester.
Thames and Hudson, 272 pp., £29.95, June 2000, 0 500 01994 0
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... really a poet.’ If so, it’s fitting that his canvases brought out the poet in so many others. Abidingly Eurocentric, he was vastly gratified to have captured the imagination of literary Paris: MichelLeiris, Philippe Sollers, Gilles Deleuze and Milan Kundera all produced high-flown testimonies to the stature of his work as a comment on the human predicament. Nearer home, the existential fervour ...

High-Step with a Bull

T.J. Clark: Picasso, The Vollard Suite

2 August 2012
Picasso Prints: The Vollard Suite 
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... a curtain comes down on the performance as a gentle shower of rain. The model still has on her Bacchic garland, and the sculptor is dreaming of his days as a wild thing. (Picasso was 51 in 1933. MichelLeiris in his diary records a group of friends at the time gossiping about the decline in their hero’s sexual powers. The gossip sounds dreary, but Picasso was asking for it.) Plate 56 of the ...

Don’t think about it

Jenny Diski: The Trouble with Sonia Orwell

25 April 2002
The Girl from the Fiction Department: A Portrait of Sonia Orwell 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 208 pp., £9.99, May 2002, 0 241 14165 6
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... tirades to a drive-by shooting. But even then, Spurling says, ‘beneath the trappings of the hardened old warhorse you could still see traces of the impetuous young thoroughbred, who had enchanted Leiris and others a quarter of a century before.’ Well, yes. Most of us were easier to take when young, especially if we were beautiful, energetic, bright and eagerly ambitious, as Sonia Orwell clearly ...

Earthworm on Zither

Paul Grimstad: Raymond Roussel

26 April 2012
Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Polizzotti.
Dalkey, 280 pp., £10.99, June 2011, 978 1 56478 624 1
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New Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Ford.
Princeton, 264 pp., £16.95, April 2011, 978 0 691 14459 7
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... it mostly had to do with Roussel’s freakish gift for preventing the actual world from touching the world he carried inside him. Most of the knowledge we have of Roussel’s temperament comes from MichelLeiris (his father, Eugène, was the Roussel family accountant), who wrote: ‘In all the countries he visited, he saw only what he had put there in advance.’ More recently Nicholas Jenkins put it ...

Not His Type

Frank Kermode

5 September 1996
About Modern Art: Critical Essays 1948-96 
by David Sylvester.
Chatto, 448 pp., £25, June 1996, 0 7011 6268 6
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... examples of the species in Soho clubs. Being at home with painters and intellectuals considerably his seniors seems to have come naturally to him, and soon we find him in Paris on familiar terms with Michel and Louise Leiris, Jacques Lacan, Sylvia Bataille, André Masson and Alberto Giacometti, the last of whom was to be enduringly important to his career. For almost half a century he has practised not ...

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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... her own menagerie, 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 (MichelLeiris, 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 ...

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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... re-examination of the historical avant-garde, the journal has brought new attention to Surrealists who rebelled against their controlling impresario, André Breton: Georges Bataille, Roger Caillois, MichelLeiris. 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 ...

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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... Picasso’s marriage to Olga fails to settle. The pregnancy that brings them Paulo in 1921 sees him return to the Paris whorehouses, and four years later we find him roaming the late-night city with MichelLeiris, 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 ...

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