Are literature and evil inseparable? “Yes!” says Georges Bataille. Otherwise it would be boring. The French theorist discusses his book, La littérature et le Mal, in the only television interview that exists with him, filmed in 1958. His interlocutor is Pierre Dumayet. I find his concept of evil a little naïve, but see what you think. (With a hat tip to Morgan Meis and 3quarksdaily for this one.)
So much to say, so little time to say it. I have been to the Kultura offices in Maissons Laffitte – that’s the émigré publishing house and journal that indefatigably championed Polish literature-in-exile during the Communist years. I have had a long conversation with the Antoine Jaccottet, founder of the remarkable Le Bruit du Temps éditions … well, he’s a little remarkable himself.
But it will have to wait. My last online hour is being spent at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Richelieu (I finally found out the reason for all the reconstruction and commotion – the BNF ‘splains it here). Then, for my offline hours I am joining a few confrères from the American University for my last night in Paris.
Tomorrow, back to springtime and California … and all will be told.
Postscript 2/16 from Elena Danielson:
I love your posts from Paris!
One of my heroes (and there are not too many) is archivist-scholar Georges Bataille who hid Walter Benjamin‘s fragmentary manuscript of the Arcades Project in a restricted collection in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France when Benjamin fled the Nazi invasion and occupation. What better hiding place? Benjamin perished on the border of France and Spain in 1940. The collected manuscript shards were finally published in the original German in 1982, and did not get fully translated into English until 1999. The unfinished nature of the work would not have bothered him since he preferred aura of the scholar’s shoebox of notecards to the finished bound work. As he put it in the 1930s: “Today the book is already, as the present mode of scholarly production demonstrates, an outdated medium between two different filing systems.” I’m not sure whether I entirely agree with him on this point, but the world is going in this direction. He was among the first to see it…I felt that aura of Benjamin’s notes and Bataille’s preservation work in the reading room of the BnF…