Roger Caillois  

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The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli
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The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli

Roger Caillois (March 3, 1913December 21, 1978), was a French intellectual whose idiosyncratic work brought together literary criticism, sociology, and philosophy by focusing on subjects as diverse as pictorial stones and the sacred. He was also instrumental in introducing Latin American literature to the French public.

His definition of the fantastique in Au cœur du fantastique as "always a break in the acknowl­edged order, an irruption of the inadmissible within the changeless everyday legality" (tr. Richard Howard) is often-cited.

Contents

Biography

Caillois was born in Reims but moved to Paris as a child. There he studied at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, an elite school where students took courses after graduating from secondary school in order to prepare for entry examinations for France's most prestigious university, the École Normale Supérieure. Caillois's efforts paid off and he graduated as a normalien in 1933. After this he studied at the École Pratique des Hautes Études where he came into contact with thinkers such as Georges Dumézil, Alexandre Kojève, and Marcel Mauss.

The years before the war were marked by Caillois's increasingly leftist political commitment, particularly in his fight against fascism. He was also engaged in Paris's avant-garde intellectual life. With Georges Bataille he founded the College of Sociology, a group of intellectuals who lectured regularly to one another. Formed partly as a reaction to the Surrealist movement that was dominant in the 1920s, the College sought to move away from surrealism's focus on the fantasy life of an individual's unconscious and focus instead more on the power of ritual and other aspects of communal life. Caillois's background in anthropology and sociology, and particularly his interest in the sacred, exemplified this approach. He participated in Bataille's review, Acéphale (1936-39).

Caillois left France in 1939 for Argentina, where he stayed until the end of WWII. During the war he was active in fighting the spread of Nazism in Latin America as an editor and author of anti-Nazi periodicals. In 1948, after the war, he worked with UNESCO and traveled widely. In 1971 he was elected to the Académie Française.

Today Caillois is remembered for founding and editing Diogenes, an interdisciplinary journal funded by UNESCO, and La Croix du Sud (Southern Cross), a collection of books translated from contemporary Latin American authors published by Gallimard that is responsible for introducing authors such as Jorge Luis Borges or Alejo Carpentier to the French-speaking public. He is also considered to be a major contributor to the field of ludology, to which he devoted his book Les Jeux et les Hommes.

Bibliography

The Saragossa Manuscript by Jan Potocki. Edited and with preface by Roger Caillois. Translated from the French by Elisabeth Abbott. New York, Orion Press, 1960.

Man and the Sacred,trans. by Meyer Barash.New York, Free Press of Glencoe, 1960.

Man,_Play_and_Games,trans. by Barash. New York, Free Press of Glencoe, 1961.

The Dream Adventure, 1963 edited by Caillois. New York, Orion Press, 1963.

The Mask of Medusa, 1964, New York, C.N. Potter, 1964.

The Dream and Human Societies, edited by Caillois and G. E. Von Grunebaum. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1966.

The Mystery Novel. trans. by Roberto Yahni and A.W. Sadler. New York, Laughing Buddha Press, 1984.

The Edge of Surrealism: A Roger Caillois Reader.Edited and with an introduction by Claudine Frank ; trans. by Frank and Camille Naish. Durham, Duke University Press, 2003.

Œuvres

  • 1938 : Le Mythe et l'Homme
  • 1939 : L'Homme et le Sacré
  • 1942 : Puissances du roman
  • 1944 : La Communion des forts : études sociologiques
  • 1945 : Les Impostures de la poésie
  • 1946 :
    • Le Rocher de Sisyphe
    • Vocabulaire esthétique
  • 1948 : Babel, orgueil, confusion et ruine de la littérature
  • 1951 : Quatre Essais de sociologie contemporaine
  • 1956 : L'Incertitude qui vient des rêves
  • 1957 : Les Jeux et les Hommes
  • 1958 :
    • Art poétique. Commentaires. Préface aux poésies. L'Énigme et l'Image ; suivi de traductions de la Vajasameyi Samhita (XXIII, 45-62) par Louis Renou, du Heidreksmal et de Sonatorrek, par Pierre Renauld
    • Les Jeux et les hommes : le masque et le vertige
  • 1960 : Méduse et Cie
  • 1961 : Ponce Pilate, récit
  • 1962 : Esthétique généralisée
  • 1963 :
    • Bellone ou la pente de la guerre
    • Le Mimétisme animal
  • 1964 : Instincts et société, essais de sociologie contemporaine
  • 1965 : Au cœur du fantastique
  • 1966 : Pierres
  • 1970 : L'Écriture des pierres
  • 1973 :
    • La Dissymétrie
    • La Pieuvre : essai sur la logique de l'imaginaire
  • 1977 : Mise au net, traduction de poèmes d'Octavio Paz (Pasado en claro, 1975) ; avec la collab. de l'auteur et d'Yvette Cottier
  • 1978 :
    • Babel
    • Approches de la poésie : les impostures de la poésie, aventure de la poésie moderne, art poétique, reconnaissance à Saint-John Perse, résumé sur la poésie, ouverture
    • Le Champ des signes : récurrences dérobées, aperçu sur l'unité et la continuité du monde physique, intellectuel et imaginaire, ou premiers éléments d'une poétique généralisée
    • Le Fleuve Alphée, prix Marcel-Proust, prix européen de l'essai Charles Veillon
  • 1979 : Approches de l'imaginaire
  • 1991 : Les Démons de midi (tiré d'un mémoire d'études de 1936<ref>Ce texte, d'abord publié dans la Revue de l'histoire des religions (CXVI, 2-3, 1937), a paru pour la première fois en volume en 1988 dans sa version italienne à l'initiative de Carlo Ossola (I demoni meridiani, trad. it. d'Alberto Pellissero, Turin, Bollati Boringhieri , 1988), précédant de peu la publication française, par les éditions Fata Morgana, en 1991.</ref>)
  • 1997 : Correspondance Victoria Ocampo-Roger Caillois, lettres rassemblées et présentées par Odile Felgine, avec la collaboration de Laura Ayerza de Castilho, Stock, Paris
  • 2007 : Images du labyrinthe
  • 2009 : Jorge Luis Borges

Éditions illustrées

See also




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