Ed. Sarah Wilson. Introduction by Alyce Mahon. Black Dog
Review by Brett Bowles, Iowa State University, for H-France, September 2003.
As Mahon establishes in her lengthy introductory essay, Pierre Klossowski (1905-2001) played a significant role in French art, literature, and philosophy from the 1930s through the 1980s. His writings rehabilitating the Marquis de Sade as a figure of legitimate literary significance and exploring the philosophical dimensions of pornography, as well as his own substantial corpus of erotic novels and drawings, drew attention from influential critics such as Maurice Blanchot, Gilles Deleuze, Jean-François Lyotard, and Jean Baudrillard. Yet today Klossowski’s work remains relatively obscure, even among scholars conversant in contemporary art and theory. This compilation attempts to reestablish Klossowski by presenting three of the artist’s essays--“Decadence of the Nude” (1967), “Description, Argumentation, Narrative” (1975), and “The Indiscernible” (1978)--with Blanchot’s “The Laughter of the Gods” (1965), a knotty meditation on the philosophical value of Klossowski’s literary and graphic creations.Following Blanchot’s lead and Deleuze’s equally admiring characterization of Klossowski as a “theo-pornologer”, Mahon contends that “Klossowski’s fiction combines two sorts of theatricality: that of the Marquis and his ritualised ceremonies of decadence and that of Saint Augustine and his concept of theologis teatrica as a means of moral exegesis, exemplified in the thirteen books of his Confessions. St. Augustine praised God for his good and evil acts, depicting sin as a perverse love which frustrates man’s basic drive toward being and perfection. Like St. Augustine, Klossowski believed that man must find his identity outside himself and that he must choose either to rise above himself or to leave the love of God and sink. Man can turn his back to God, having sinned, and recognize that the full potential of his being lies with God. . . . Roberte’s physical exposure is intended to lead her and the viewer/reader to a spiritual catharsis, in recognition of a greater power” (p. 65).