Georges Bataille

(1897-1962)French essayist, philosophical theorist, novelist


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Bataille is often called the metaphysician of evil because he was interested in sex, death, degradation, and the power and potentialities of obscene.

He rejected traditional literature and considered that the ultimate aim of all intellectual, artistic, or religious activity should be the annihilation of the rational individual in a violent, transcendental act of communion. Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, and Philippe Sollers have all written enthusiastically about his work.

In the 1920s Bataille was involved with the Surrealist movement, but he called himself the 'enemy from within'. He was officially excommunicated from its inner circles by André Breton, who accused him of splintering the movement. In the same decade Bataille started to write after a liberating period of psychoanalysis. He founded and edited many journals that revealed his interests in sociology, religion, and literature.

Histoire de l'oeil (1928, The Story of the Eye), Le Bleu du ciel (1945, Blue of Noon), and L'abbé C (1950, The Abbot C.) are among Bataille's best-known glorifications of eroticism. He felt that sexual union causes a momentary indistinguishability between otherwise distinct objects. The secret of eroticism opened visions into unknowable continuity of being, the death. Poetry has similar dimensions when it dissolves the reader 'into the strange'. Pornography was for Bataille the vehicle for his own surrealist experiments and memory - this also partly explains complex associations of eggs and eyes.

Friedrich Nietzsche's work influenced Bataille deeply, and such figures as Sade and Gilles de Rais. The latter was a 15th-century serial killer whose victims were young children. Bataille's views about social organization were influenced by anthropologist Marcel Mauss' The Gift. In La part maudite (1949) he dealt with the phenomenon of waste in nature and society. Although Bataille could write clearly he was many times content to present his ideas in a puzzling way.



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