Study Guide

Georges Bataille Biography

Basic Information

Name

Georges Bataille

Nickname

Lord Auch, The Scary Librarian, Bad Boy Bataille

Sex

Male

Home town

I was born in 1897 in Billom, France, to a syphilitic father and a mother who was very unsuccessfully suicidal. TMI, you say? Mais non: if you understand how life began for me, it may help you understand my thinking. We moved to Reims when I was fourteen to get away from my abusive dad. I converted to Catholicism there, entered the seminary for a time, and worked to support my mother. Yep, things got very weird very early in my life.

Work & Education

Occupation

Basically, I've been a librarian my whole life. All right, get it over with—make your jokes out loud so we can move on. I know I'm strange, and I'm okay with that. For the better part of 20 years, I worked at the National Library in Paris and started a couple of literary and philosophical journals. Sounds boring on the surface, but so much quiet time spent in dark corners reading gave me time to think some wild and woolly thoughts—and to write them all down.

Education

I went to high school in Reims and then briefly entered the seminary. I served in the French Army for a year—not fun. After that, the religious thing just didn't make sense, so I enrolled in the École des Chartes in Paris and studied the philosophy of currency (weird, I know) and medieval poetry. Continue with the jokes. I'm used to it.

I went to Spain for a year (very fun) on a Hispanic Studies fellowship, then I came home to France to live life in the library basement among books and ideas and maybe a few prostitutes, not to mention some weird surrealists and the odd street person or two, or three, or, well... actually, I hung out with more weirdos than I can count.

Beliefs

Political views

I'm a Marxist. That's a big bad term, I know, but it helps keep things simple. I think wealth needs some kind of control, and Marx's ideas worked for me. I was particularly interested in Russia, and I wanted to know why Joseph Stalin was able to come to power and do the messed up things that he did. Some people think I'm a Stalin apologist, but really I'm just an explainer of Stalin.

The tsars were so cruel, and they screwed up Russian society so badly that I believe Stalin had to be equally ruthless to get the collective labor of the Russian people under control in order to get Russia up to speed with the Industrial Revolution. Otherwise, the whole country would have fallen apart. I'm an ends-justify-the-means kind of guy.

I'm probably not making a very good impression so far, am I? Hold on, though: I do have some cool ideas you might like.

Religious views

I was deeply religious and very Catholic when I was a young man. But then, you know, Mom was trying to commit suicide on a monthly basis, war engulfed the world, and my domineering father became paralyzed from advanced syphilis in his brain. These rather unpleasant occurrences contributed to me dumping the whole religion thing. I think God is a brute, actually.

Still not making a good impression, huh? Hang on—I did have a bunch of cool buddies, and they might help improve my image.

Activities & Interests

Likes

Monsters
Whatever the Devil likes
Inappropriate jokes at inappropriate times
Laughter
Childishness
William Blake
Heaven and Hell
Friedrich Nietzsche
Psychoanalysis
Pablo Picasso

Dislikes

Being reasonable or moral
Insanity
Surrealists who don't like depictions of excrement (André Breton)
Communists who turn into fascists
Rich people who save their money
Moral sexuality
Choosing Heaven or Hell

Interests

Surrealism
Pablo Picasso's art
Psychoanalysis
Occultism

Groups

The P&P (Poop and Pee) Surrealists
The Headless Discourse-men
The Literary Transgressors
The Up-All-Night Club
Automatic Writers for the Ethical Treatment of Degenerates
Anything You Can Do, We Can Do Grosser
The Sacrificial Lambs of Literature
Acéphale (The Headless)

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