Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Metaphysics of Evil

Born in Billon, Puy-de-Dôme, in central France. Had a terrible childhood. His mother attempted suicide several times, but none of her desperate acts succeeded. He loved his father, who became blind and suffered from general paralysis due to syphilis, and died in 1915. On the eve of World War I, he converted to Catholicism. In 1916-17 he served in the army, but was discharged because of tuberculosis. Ill health troubled all his life, and he suffered from periods of depression.

In 1917 he joined the seminary at Saint-Fleur with the intention of becoming a priest. He spent a period with the Benedictine congregation at Quarr, on the Isle of Wright. A few years later experienced a loss of faith.

In the 1920 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 he started to write after a liberating period of psychoanalysis. He founded and edited many journals that revealed his interests in sociology, religion, and literature. He was the first to publish such thinkers as Barthes, Foucault and Derrida.

Between the years 1922 and 1944, he was a librarian and a deputy keeper at Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. In the evenings he changed his role and became known as a regular visitor of bordellos. This habit caused him troubles at work. He resigned in 1944 because of tuberculosis, two years earlier he had moved to Vézelay, where he was eventually to be buried.

The Tears of Eros (1961) was his final book, an excursion in the history of eroticism and violence from the Aurignacian era to modern times. He started to write it in 1959, but his declining physical strength, lapses in memory, and the arrest of his eldest daughter for her political activities for Algeria slowed down the work. In its foreword he confessed: "In the violence of overcoming, in the disorder of my laughter and my sobbing, in the excess of raptures that shatter me, I seize on the similarity between a horror and a voluptuousness that goes beyond me, between an ultimate pain and an unbearable joy!" In the last chapter he wrote about the Chinese torture and presented photographs of an ecstatic man who is cut to hundred pieces. The strange, exalted facial expression of the man fascinated him: "I have never stopped being obsessed by the image of this pain," he said.

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 him the vehicle for his own surrealist experiments and memory - this also partly explains complex associations of eggs and eyes.
Friedrich Nietzsche's work influenced him deeply, and such figures as Sade and Gilles de Rais. The latter was a 15th-century serial killer whose victims were young children.

“The stirrings within us have their own fearful excesses; the excesses show which way these stirrings would take us. They are simply a sign to remind us constantly that death, the rupture of discontinuous individualities to which we cleave in terror, stands there before us more real than life itself.”


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