Georges Bataille: An Intellectual Biography

Overview

Georges Bataille was a philosopher, writer, librarian, pornographer and a founder of the influential journals Critique and Acéphale. He has had an enormous impact on contemporary thought, influencing such writers as Barthes, Baudrillard, Derrida, Foucault and Sontag. Many of his books, including the notorious Story of the Eye and the fascinating The Accursed Share, are modern classics.

In this acclaimed intellectual biography, Michel Surya gives a detailed and insightful account...

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Overview

Georges Bataille was a philosopher, writer, librarian, pornographer and a founder of the influential journals Critique and Acéphale. He has had an enormous impact on contemporary thought, influencing such writers as Barthes, Baudrillard, Derrida, Foucault and Sontag. Many of his books, including the notorious Story of the Eye and the fascinating The Accursed Share, are modern classics.

In this acclaimed intellectual biography, Michel Surya gives a detailed and insightful account of Bataille’s work against the backdrop of his life – his troubled childhood, his difficult relationship with André Breton and the surrealists and his curious position as a thinker of excess, ‘potlatch’, sexual extremes and religious sacrifice, one who nonetheless remains at the heart of twentieth century French thought—all of it drawn here in rich and allusive prose. While exploring the source of the violent eroticism that laces Bataille’s novels, the book is also an acute guide to the development of Bataille’s philosophical thought. Enriched by testimonies from Bataille’s closest acquaintances and revealing the context in which he worked, Surya sheds light on a figure Foucault described as ‘one of the most important writers of the century’.

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Editorial Reviews

The Guardian
“Serious and respectful.”
New Statesman
“Penetrating and insightful.”
The Independent
“Such is Surya’s intimacy with this material that each of his short, thoughtful chapters could serve as an introductory essay on Bataille… This is also a book that presents an astonishingly detailed panorama of French intellectual life in the first half of the last century.”
From the Publisher
“Such is Surya’s intimacy with this material that each of his short, thoughtful chapters could serve as an introductory essay on Bataille.”—The Independent
Booknews
French philosopher Bataille (1867-1962) founded the literary review and influenced Foucault, Derrida, and Baudrillard. Fellow philosopher Surya examined his life and work in l'oeuvre/>, published by Editions Gallimard in 1992. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859841532
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 3/15/2010
  • Pages: 608
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Michel Surya is a writer, philosopher, editor and director of the journal Lignes. The French edition of his book Georges Bataille was awarded the Prix Goncourt for biography.
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Table of Contents

Foreword ix

I

In the beginning was death 3

'Turn the world upside down, turn the world, quite ineluctably, upside down' 14

'The thunderbolt pilots all things' 16

Ave Caesar 22

'Laid out like a corpse' 25

The school of the flesh 27

'Hard brow and clear eyes' 31

Tumult and withdrawal 34

The depths of worlds 36

La emoción 39

Letters to an unknown woman 45

'When you have to embark on the seas, you emigrants' 51

The joyful cynic 55

'Tristi est anima mea usque ad mortem' 57

II

Torpid Maurras and decrepit Moscow 67

Magnetic field 71

The mortuary chasm of debauchery 82

The philosopher and the rake 85

'I write in order to erase my name' 88

The torture of a Hundred Pieces 93

The priest of Torcy 96

Triunfo de la muerte 100

The eye at work 107

Don't waste my time with idealism! 112

The donkey's kick 116

'Excrement philosopher' 126

The castrated lion 131

'Surrealism's secret affectations' 135

The angel and the beast, part 1 140

'A man is what he lacks' 143

'An obscene and horribly desirable trick' 153

III

'Someone able to see clearly' 159

The Democratic Communist Circle 167

The state: heartbreak and misfortune 171

'A world of appearances and of old men with their teeth falling out' 176

'With a single blow, like an ox in the abattoir' 183

History and its ends; the end of history 187

The animal-headed journal: Minotaure 191

'The saint of the abyss' 196

Thunderbolts and forebodings 205

The sky turned upside down 209

'Revolutionary offensive or death' 218

The angel and the beast, part 2 228

From Contre-Attaque to Acéphale: André Masson 231

'Everything calls for the death which ravages us' 235

Florid bullfight 254

Sacred sociology 261

Vivan le femmine, viva il buon vino, sostegno e gloria d'umanita 271

IV

Good fortune 281

'I am myself war' 283

'I love ignorance touching on the future' 289

The excretions of the war: exodus, evacuation 297

Nobodaddy 300

Edwarda: the divine tatters 305

'I call myself the abomination of God' 309

The community of friends 311

From the community of the impossible to the impossible community 316

The annunciation made to Marie 318

Sickening poetic sentimentality 322

Philosophy's 'easy virtue' 329

'System is needed and so is excess' 337

Philosophy in the old folk's home 344

The catechism of fortune 352

V

A potential for stench and irremediable fury 357

Fascism's last sanctuary 363

Bataille's politics 368

Il salto mortale 376

The curse of history 380

The empire of the double 387

From Vézelay to Carpentras 395

Communal demands 403

The angel and the beast, part 3 407

Continuity discontinued 415

Non serviam 420

A hypermorality: for the love of anguish alone 425

Moral evil 427

The sovereign individual 437

The catechism of 'saints' 441

The servitude of utility 446

The accursed body 450

What lies behind misfortune 454

Felix culpa 458

Universal history 462

The bit between the teeth 465

To die of laughing and to laugh of dying 474

To think everything to a point that makes people tremble 479

'God: a Feydeau-style situation comedy' 482

'One day this living world will pullulate in my dead mouth' 487

And finally, incompletion 490

Afterword 493

Notes 495

Bibliography 581

Index 585

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