Pierre Guyotat  

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"As a teenager, Pierre Guyotat became a soldier in the Algerian colonial war, and was arrested for inciting his fellow soldiers to desert and kept imprisoned for three months in a hole in the ground. His first celebrated book, Tomb for 500,000 Soldiers, is a hallucinatory account of the terror and ecstasy provoked by that war, the memory of which was long suppressed in France. Eden, Eden, Eden was written in an intense six month period in a concrete highrise in the desolate suburbs of southern Paris." --Stephen Barber

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Pierre Guyotat (9 January 1940 – 7 February 2020) was a French writer, best-known for his controversial book Eden, Eden, Eden (1971).



Born in Bourg-Argental, Loire, Guyotat wrote his first novel, Sur un cheval, in 1960. He was called to Algeria in the same year. In 1962 he was found guilty of desertion and publishing forbidden material. After three months in jail he was transferred to a disciplinary centre. Back in Paris, he got involved in journalism, writing first for France Observateur, then for Nouvel Observateur. In 1964, Guyotat published his second novel Ashby.

In 1967, he published Tombeau pour cinq cent mille soldats (later released in English as Tomb for 500,000 Soldiers). Based on Guyotat's ordeal as a soldier in the Algerian War, the book earned a cult reputation and became the subject of various controversies, mostly because of its omnipresent sexual obsessions and homoeroticism.

In 1968, Guyotat became a member of the French Communist Party, which he left in 1971.

Eden, Eden, Eden came out in 1970 with a preface by Michel Leiris, Roland Barthes and Philippe Sollers (Michel Foucault's text was received late and therefore didn't appear as a preface). This book was banned from being publicized or sold to minors.

Between 1964 and 1975, Pierre Guyotat travelled extensively in the Sahara. In July 1967, he was invited to Cuba, along with other writers, where he travelled to the Sierra Maestra with Fidel Castro.

In 1973, Guyotat's play Bond en avant ("Leap Forward") was performed. During the 1970s Guyotat was involved in various diverse protests: for soldiers, immigrants, and prostitutes. One of those cases was of great importance for him: he personally helped Mohamed Laïd Moussa, a 24 years old Algerian ex-teacher who was accused and then found guilty of unintentional murder in Marseilles. One week after he came out of jail, Mohamed Laïd Moussa was murdered by a masked man; the event had a profound impact on Pierre Guyotat.

In 1975 his novel Prostitution came out (which incorporated Bond en avant as the final monologue). From this point on, Guyotat's novels deal with a new kind of illegibility and obscenity. The fictions still explore the unthinkable possibility of worlds structured by sexual slavery and transgression of fundamental taboos. But the French language is now unrecognizable, estranged by an extreme grammatical, syntactic and lexical creativity. Ellipses of letters or words, neologisms and phonetic transcriptions of Arabic speaking utterances make it difficult to understand. In the 1987 re-edition of Prostitution, a 120 pages appendix - résumé, glossary, "grammar" and translations - is added to the actual fiction to help the disoriented reader.

In 1977, while working on Le Livre (1984) and Histoire de Samora Machel (yet unpublished), he suffered a psychiatric illness. The depression and the deterioration of his physical and mental state culminated, in December 1981, in a coma.

Following the election of Francois Mitterrand, France’s first socialist president, in 1981, the ban on Eden, Eden, Eden was lifted.

From 1984 to 1986, Guyotat gave a series of readings and performances of his work all over Europe.

In January 2000 he was involved in the reopening of the Centre Georges Pompidou at Beaubourg, contributing a reading of the first pages of Progénitures. The book was published shortly after, in 2000 (Gallimard), and Explications (éditions Leo Scheer). In 2005, Sur un cheval was reedited and in April 2005 it was read on Radio France under Alain Ollivier's direction. The Carnets de bord (vol. 1, 1962-1969) were published the same year, as well as Pierre Guyotat's first biography by Catherine Brun, Pierre Guyotat, essai biographique (éd. Léo Scheer)

Between 2005 and 2010, Pierre Guyotat wrote and published three autobiographical books: Coma (prix Décembre 2006), Formation (2007) and Arrière-fond (2010). In 2011, Pierre Guyotat wrote Independence about his experience of the war, published for the centenary of the Nouvelle Revue Française. The classes he gave at the University of Paris 8, between 2001 and 2004, were published in 2011 under the title Leçons sur la langue française (éd. Léo Scheer).

In 2014 he published Joyeux animaux de la misère (Gallimard). An excerpt of the book was read at the Ircam by actor and director Stanislas Nordey who brought the text to the stage in 2016. The second part of the book was published in the spring of 2016.

In 2004, Pierre Guyotat donated his manuscripts to the Bibliothèque nationale de France (French National Library).


English translations

  • "Body of the Text," transl. by Catherine Duncan, published in Polysexuality (Los Angeles, Semiotext(e), 1981).
  • Eden, Eden, Eden, transl. by Graham Fox (London, Creation Books, 1995).
  • Prostitution: An Excerpt, transl. by Bruce Benderson (New York, Red Dust, 1995).
  • Tomb for 500,000 soldiers, transl. by Romain Slocombe (London, Creation Books, 2003).
  • "Art is what remains of History," transl. by Paul Buck and Catherine Petit, published in Frozen Tears II (Birmingham, ARTicle Press, 2004).
  • Coma, transl. by Noura Wedell (Los Angeles, Semiotext(e), 2010).
  • Independence, transl. by Noura Wedell (Los Angeles, Semiotext(e), 2011).
  • In the deep, transl. by Noura Wedell (Los Angeles, Semiotext(e), 2014).


  • 1961 Sur un cheval (Seuil, Paris).
  • 1964 Ashby (Seuil, Paris).
  • 1967 Tombeau pour cinq cent mille soldats (Gallimard, Paris).
  • 1970 Eden, Eden, Eden (Gallimard, Paris).
  • 1975 Prostitution (Gallimard, Paris).
  • 1984 Le Livre (Gallimard, Paris).
  • 1995 Wanted Female, with Sam Francis (Lapis Press, Los Angeles).
  • 2000 Progénitures (Gallimard, Paris).
  • 2014 Joyeux animaux de la misère (Gallimard, Paris).


  • 1972 Littérature interdite (Gallimard, Paris).
  • 1984 Vivre (Denoël, Paris).
  • 2000 Explications (Léo Scheer, Paris).
  • 2005 Carnets de bord, volume 1 1962-1969 (Ligne-Manifeste).
  • 2006 Coma (Mercure de France, Paris).
  • 2007 Formation (Gallimard, Paris).
  • 2010 Arrière-fond (Gallimard, Paris).
  • 2011 Leçons Sur la Langue Française (Léo Scheer, Paris).
  • 2013 Pierre Guyotat : les grands entretiens d'Artpress (IMEC/Artpress, Paris).



  • 2005 Pierre Guyotat: Essai biographique by Catherine Brun (Editions Leo Scheer).

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