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Pierre Klossowski

The Pantomime of Spirits


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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Roberte: Exchanging the Unexchangeable


The trilogy of the ‘Roberte’ volumes, Klossowski’s work of fiction, is composed of the narratives Roberte ce soir (1953), La Révocation de l’Édit de Nantes (1959) and Le Souffleur (1960). It was published by Gallimard in 1965 in a single volume entitled Les lois de l’hospitalité.1

Hospitality – The Challenges of a Reading

In the first two narratives, Klossowski’s protagonist is the seventy-year-old Octave, an admirer of Marshall Pétain, a reactionary in every choice he makes, and an anachronistic professor in Canon Law and Scholastic Instruction at the Catholic Faculty in Paris. In The Revocation, Octave also turns out to be the well-informed and passionate collector of a nineteenth century painter, Frédéric Tonnerre (invented by Klossowski), whose (inexistent) canvases will be described in minute detail. In the third text, Le Souffleur, the central character is Théodore Lacase, a writer. Théodore is a double – the veritable Siamese twin – of both Octave and a certain K. who is none other than Pierre Klossowski himself; the author slips into the fiction he weaves. Klossowski was to confide that Le Souffleur is his most autobiographical narrative.

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