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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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Introduction to the English-language Edition


: Why a book about Pierre Klossowski in 2013? A Brief Biography

Pierre Klossowski was born in Paris in 1905 and died in 2001. He was a writer, translator, essayist, actor and painter. He had never been at the forefront of the social scene nor celebrated by the larger, popular media. He had no experience with television studios. He lived quietly in Paris, yet he was not unknown and reclusive. On the contrary, he was a major twentieth-century writer, translator, essayist and painter and was recognised as such by his peers; he was the favourite interlocutor with many of them. He is what one would call a great figure in French culture. Numerous texts and theses have been published about his work, and his books have been translated into many languages. All the same, Pierre Klossowski continues to be considered a difficult and unclassifiable author.

Of Polish origin, he was the eldest son of the painter and art historian Erich Klossowski, author of a monograph on Honoré Daumier. His mother, Baladine, was a student of Bonnard. When she died in 1969 the writer and critic Jean Cassou said of her, ‘Baladine was the most adorable, playful and spontaneous woman in the world – ingenuous in her own way’. Pierre Klossowski’s parents were married in 1903 and separated in 1917. His younger brother was Balthus, an artist loved by the media and, at the end of his life, considered by celebrity magazines to be one of the greatest, most...

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