Georges Bataille: Beyond the Empire of Words


I cannot consider someone free if they do not have the desire to sever the bonds of language within themselves.
…..– Bataille, On the subject of Slumbers

Georges Bataille would affirm that the “absence of myth is also a myth: the coldest, the purest, the only true myth.”1 An enemy of surrealism as he would say “from within” he would define it conclusively:

It is genuinely virile opposition – nothing conciliatory, nothing divine – to all accepted limits, a rigorous will to insubordination. (p. 49)

He would sum up Andre Breton with a scalpel precision saying of his timbre and voice that it was “measured, pretentious, and swollen with learning” (p. 38). In fact as he’d relate what “caused me the greatest discomfort was not only the lack of rigour, but the absence of this completely insidious, joyous, and telltale cruelty towards the self, which tries not to dominate but go a long way” (p. 38).

Of Louis Aragorn …”from the first Aragon disappointed me. He was not a fool, but he was not intelligent either. … What we shared was a common feeling of misfortune at living in a world that we felt had become empty – of having, for want of profound virtues, a need for ourselves, or for a small number of friends, to assume the appearance of being what we did not have the means of being” (p. 39).

Of Antonin Artaud … “He looked like a caged bird of prey with dusty plumage which had been apprehended at the very moment it was about to take flight, and had remained fixed in this posture” (p. 43). He would quote a passage that Maurice Blanchot had kept from Artaud: “I began in literature by writing books in order to say that I could write nothing at all; it was when I had something to say or write that my thought most refused me. I never had ideas, and two very short books, each of seventy pages, turned on this profound (ingrained and endemic) absence of ideas. (p. 45)”

For Bataille the failure of surrealism was that it suspended everything in a “rigorous solitude”. It ceased to be “connected to the affirmation of a hope of breaking the solitude (p. 51).”

  1. Georges Bataille. The Absence of Myth. (Verso, 2006)

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