Georges Bataille’s ghostly library put up for sale

If Bataille benefits from official housing in Carpentras then in Orléans, his only private address since 1945 remains Vézelay», Indicates the bookseller in an introduction to this discovery. And in these places awaited his works, which were never transferred to the home in rue Saint-Sulpice – where he died on July 9, 1962.

Lack of time ? Deliberate will? In the boxes, books galore—French or foreign novels, by new authors or classics, collections of poetry, small reviews, texts on philosophy, spirituality, history, politics. Such diversity, with texts dedicated to the attention of the master.

However, we know that Georges’ daughter, Julie Bataille, entrusted the archives to the manuscripts department. But the author’s library had never surfaced. “One could even doubt that it was kept: regularly short of money, the writer sold part of it on several occasions, and for the sake of discretion he will no doubt have removed the sending pages, because the copies which are dedicated to him do not, so to speak, circulate“, assure the sellers.

And after a contact with Julie Bataille, here they lead to the reconstitution of a corpus, containing 851 volumes, which added to those of Vézelay, represent 1283 titles. The autographed copies already on sale will be missing to get an overall idea. As well as the other half of the library “returned after the death of the writer to his eldest daughter, Laurence Bataille (1930-1986)“.

Be that as it may, the corpus already inventoried is emblematic of Bataille’s intellectual journey. We follow through his readings the evolution of his thought in the interwar period, the discovery of Nietzsche, his fascination for mysticism and all the major themes – the sacred, death, sexuality, war… — which fertilize his anthropological approach at the same time as they feed some of his fads: bullfighting, brothels, parietal art, Gilles de Rais…

We also note in his archives ephemeral documents that as a good chartist he worked to keep, old issues of daily newspapers from historical dates, but also programs of shows or invitations to openings that document his biography.

Thanks to the dedications, we apprehend the man in front of his contemporaries, the surrealists who remain on their guard, just like the existentialists, while affirming unfailing friendships with Michel Leiris, Maurice Blanchot, Albert Camus and René Char.

But of course, it also reflects the activity of director of the review Critique. Thus, only 200 of the 1283 references were published between 1903 and 1945, whereas there were more than sixty per year from 1946, the year in which Bataille founded his prestigious journal. Many of the books preserved were thus chronicled, others barely remained open – despite a reading note. And no bibliophile books. “We can even say that the difficult living conditions of the writer in the post-war period are perceptible even in the modesty of the copies: this is what makes this library particularly moving.“, conclude the sellers.

photo credits: vpagnouf, CC BY SA 4.0

Georges Bataille’s ghostly library put up for sale