Study Guide

Georges Bataille - Acéphale, "Guys Without Heads"

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Acéphale, "Guys Without Heads"

This is the actual name of a publication created by Bataille and his buddies, who met to discuss human sacrifice and all the most unpleasant things nobody else wanted to talk about. "Guys Without Heads" (not to be confused with the 80's band "Men Without Hats") refers to their logo, which was drawn by the Surrealist painter André Masson. Several of the members volunteered to be sacrificed in front of the group; however, no executioner would step forward to perform this ritual. Imagine the awkward silence during that meeting.

Roger Caillois

Roger was in charge of game night during these meetings. Often, several robust and drunken rounds of "Pin the Head on the Human Body" were played. There was also the equally hilarious and rousing game of "Tear the Head From the Human Body," which involved the mock execution of a candy-filled, papier-mâché giant with a broomstick. The point was to laugh until you vomited or passed out. Roger's theories on laughter and the joy of childish, non-serious behavior were applied with great gusto.

André Masson

This guy was a Cubist extraordinaire, and when the meetings really got revved up, his automatic drawing went ballistic. Soon all the members were feverishly laughing, vomiting, writing and drawing... all while imagining themselves to be headless creatures moved simply by stray electrical impulses. Sort of like Leonardo's Vitruvian man, whom Masson unceremoniously beheaded for the cover of the club's journal.


Many in this group wanted to remain anonymous, so the meetings were held in various strange and secret locations throughout Paris. It's hard to tell who these people were and what they all did together. What is clear is that they read Nietzsche and the Marquis de Sade together; they also talked about what it might be like to be headless. Hey, after all, without a head, there's not a lot worry about, right?

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