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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

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Blog entries on '21 September 2005'

Wednesday 21 September 2005

Michel Leiris

Michel Leiris, who I recall Lars wrote about back in May, has been on my mind today:

Michel Leiris was born in 1901. He grew up in comfortable Parisian bourgeois surroundings. The earnest student of chemistry was soon seduced by the exciting world of cafes and cabarets, and particularly by the heady stimulus of Dadaism and Surrealism. Introduced to surrealist circles by his lifelong friend Andre Masson, Leiris by the late 1920's had become one of the earliest defectors from the movement. Subsequently, he co-founded, with George Bataille, Maurice Blanchot, Pierre Klossowski and Roger Caillois the College de Sociologie. His continuing ethnographic fascination with the cultures of Africa, the Caribbean, and Central America, as well as his extensive fieldwork in Sudan and Ethiopia, have produced such literary fruits as his unique travel account L'Afrique Fantome (1933). He is also the author of a four volume autobiography, La Regle du Jeu, of which the first volume was published in English as Manhood. Leiris lived in Paris with his wife, owner of the Galerie Louise Leiris, a major art institution in the post-war period. Leiris has written extensively on major modern artists - among them Miro, Giacometti, Duchamp, Lam, and Bacon.

Writing about Giacometti Leiris said:

I love Giacometti's sculpture because everything he makes is like the petrification of one of these crises, the intensity of a chance event swiftly caught and immediately frozen, the stone stele telling its tale. And there's nothing deathlike about this sculpture; on the contrary, like the real fetishes we idolize (real fetishes, meaning those that resemble us and are objectivized forms of our desire) everything here is prodigiously alive—graciously living and strongly shaded with humor, nicely expressing that affective ambivalence, that tender sphinx we nourish, more or less secretly, at our core.

The only full-length study in English of Leiris's work that I know of is Sean Hand's Michel Leiris: Writing the Self.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 21 September 2005

Hensher on War and Peace

Philip Hensher explains why he thinks Tolstoy misunderstood his own masterpiece:

In War and Peace the immense mechanism is the history of Napoleon's Russian campaign; for the reader, there is no escape from that. He knows how it ends, and sees, as the characters can't, the whole immovable narrative from the start. If he doesn't know what will happen to the Bolkonskys, the Kuragins, the Rostovs, he does know that their lives will be played out against a vast sequence which can't be altered now. Tolstoy projected backwards, and thought that none of this could never have been altered by personal decision; I think he was wrong, but his peculiar theory provides this greatest of all novels with an august frame [...] Tolstoy certainly wasn't the first, or the last novelist who misunderstood his own work. The most devastating rebuttal of his own theories comes in the great first epilogue.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

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Omens, after Alexander Pushkin

I rode to meet you: dreams
like living beings swarmed around me
and the moon on my right side
followed me, burning.

I rode back: everything changed.
My soul in love was sad
and the moon on my left side
trailed me without hope.

To such endless impressions
we poets give ourselves absolutely,
making, in silence, omen of mere event,
until the world reflects the deepest needs of the soul.

-- Louise Gluck
Averno (Carcanet Press)

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The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or two

Pre-order Anu Garg's new book: The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-So-Common Words (ISBN 9780452288614), published by Penguin more …

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The New Spirit of Capitalism The New Spirit of Capitalism
Luc Boltanski; Eve Chiapello
Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM
Steve Lake, Paul Griffiths

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