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Pierre Klossowski

The Pantomime of Spirits

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Hervé Castanet

This book examines the many facets of the work of Pierre Klossowski (1905–2001). Klossowski first established himself as a writer and was known and admired by peers such as Bataille, Blanchot, Gide, Foucault, Deleuze and Lacan. But in 1972 he gave up writing to devote himself to his ‘mutism’: painting made up of large coloured drawings. In time he became as famous a painter as he had been a writer and theorist. Klossowski now has two separate groups of commentators: those concerned with his writings and those with his painting, with little overlap between the two.
Here, this separation is explicitly removed. Klossowski’s entire œuvre revolved around the concept of the gaze. Rarely has the gaze been so radically interpreted – as an active, mobile, evanescent object that breaks down the connections between representation and the visible. How is one to see the invisible divinity? This question plagued Klossowski, and he displaced it onto pornographic rituals. The pantomime of spirits is the scene, fixed in silence, where bodies meet – a knotting of desiring body and dogmatic theology. A creator of simulacra, Klossowski attempted to exorcise the ‘obsessive constraint of the phantasm’ that subjugated him in all these scenes.
Translated from the French by Adrian Price in collaboration with Pamela King.
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Nietzsche: The Same, The Stimmung

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There is a long-standing and insistent presence of ‘Nietzsche’s thought’1 in Pierre Klossowski’s work. His first published articles on the philosopher date from the mid-1950s.2 His principal text is Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle. Dated 1969 (Klossowski was sixty-four), it is dedicated to Gilles Deleuze who in 1962 had published Nietzsche and Philosophy.3 In this book Deleuze examines not the philosophy of Nietzsche per se but in what way the philosophical oeuvre constitutes a rupture in the sphere of thought: what kind of philosophy is still possible after Nietzsche?

Klossowski comes back to this rupture, but in no way does he question it in relation to the history or the main stakes of philosophy. In what way was the analysis of the Nietzschean rupture to allow him to make a pause in his own work and think about it differently? Klossowski was to ← 77 | 78 → say that his was a ‘false study’4 showing an ‘unusual ignorance’5 of other works, notably academic ones. Only the German edition6 of the 1880–8 posthumous fragments7 would underlie his reading. In Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle, he comments on these fragments and their points of articulation, using long quotations in each chapter. The text to which this gives rise is repetitive, taking up Nietzsche’s sentences directly. Some passages verge on the unreadable.8 The reader soon wonders whether he is reading a book on Nietzsche or a narrative by Klossowski whose main character is Nietzsche.

Klossowski does not comment...

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