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Sade et Lautreamont (sans Blanchot): Starting Points for
Surrealist Practice and Praxis in the Dialectics of Cruelty
and Humour Noir


I. Questions

Sade est surrealiste dans le sadisme.

- Breton

I too am waiting for Blanchot.1 II n'existe pas? Blanchot writes

of Sade and Lautreamont - pages and pages. But what does he have to say
about the praxis of their writing? What in their praxis brings them together
in the "surrealist pantheon"? (A pompous phrase, but note how it projects
us to Chant VI and the pantheon dome - where Maldoror's last crime is
reported: Is the image related to the celeste anus that is to be buggered?)
Is what brings them together merely the buggery? the child-slaughter? the
"cunnilingus, tribadism, foot-fetishism, flagellation, coprophagy,
cut-the-cord, necrophilia, setting the pudendum ablaze (like plum
pudding) ... incest, patricide, matricide"?2 Is it the attack on altruism, on
God? Is it the Satanism, the sadism? I pour through my Sade as I wait,
rummage through my Lautreamont:

Cruelty is instinctive in animals, in whom the laws of
Nature are far more obvious than in us, and in savages
who are nearer to Nature than civilized people; it would
therefore be absurd to claim that it is a result of
depravity.... Cruelty is in Nature; we are all born with
a portion of cruelty that only education modifies; but
education is not natural: it contravenes Nature as much
as cultivation does trees .... Cruelty is then nothing else
but man's energy, uncorrupted by civilization.

Moi, je fais servir mon genie a peindre les delices de la

cruaut6. Delices non passageres, artificielles; mais, qui
ont commence avec I'homme finiront avec lui. Le genie
ne peut-il pas s'allier avec la cruaut6 dans les resolutions
secretes de la Providence? ou parce qu'on est cruel, ne
peut-on pas avoir du g6nie? On en verra la preuve dans
mes paroles.3
The last phrase is true for them both: the plunge toward genius
through cruelty, the release and transcendence through cruelty, on page
after page. Cruelty: What is meant by the term? A psychological trait - of
the author, his characters; a literary technique: the writers create images of
cruelty. A connection: Treated cruelly, Sade created cruel fantasies.
Cruelty, then, is not in Nature, but in the recoil from a cruel social world.
Sade's fantasies give him vicarious revenge over his oppressors and the
possibility of actual revenge on his readers. How terrible when his
manuscripts are lost or burned. How exquisite the cruel, masochistic pain
that would propel him to his next sadistic act, his next creation: "One
never longs more fervently for a prick up one's ass than when it has just
been tickled by the lash ... .One never craves a whipping so much as after
a sound fucking."4 Does this splendid metaphor explain our pleasure in
reading Sade? And isn't seeing Sade as a metaphor-monger a way of
draining his blood? And Lautreamont? In his shocked rage against the
cruelty of the Creator, in his abhorrence of servile man, he dedicates
himself to the cruel animal-vampire-hero he creates - who inflicts cruelty
on others, and whose cruel acts inflict cruelty on us. Epater le bourgeois,
but much more: cruelty is a praxis.
But what does this praxis mean? How does it work and to what
does it lead? And what relation does it have to the surrealism that will
later emerge? For there is little extreme cruelty in Breton (unless we count
the rigid non-intervention in Nadja), and cruelty is only sustained in the
pseudo-liberations of Artaud and Dali. Is the relation to be found in terms
of another relation? The relation between cruelty and humour noir? We
may laugh grimly at bestiality and crime - and our laughter is a
recognition of a sudden lightness, or a defense against threat. But when the
writer aims at producing that defense, he is perhaps evading the issue of

cruelty - or facing it more subtly. The issue is dense. Is it cruelty to face
the cruelty and laugh (is black humour beyond cruelty)? Or is it cruelty to
be beyond the laughter of the grimmest joke? Is the ultimate cruel victory
that of rendering cruelty impotent? Is the ultimate joke the failure of
laughter? At any rate there is a relationship here: a mutual cancellation or
intensification? A dialectic?
Many have evoked the term. The only surrealists who made any
real theoretical use of it were Artaud - and he was booted out of the
movement for his anti-communism - and Dali - and he was written off
(old Avida Dollars) for his commercialism and fascism. . . . So I start with
questions, many of them. But perhaps we've had too many answers and not
enough questions. ... Of course, what are the right questions? Shall I
stand on my ignorance? Fall back on Blanchot? And by the time I have
framed my questions properly, I will discover that Blanchot has no
answers - though his pages and words frame the space which we seek to
fill, the space between Sade and Lautreamont, between them and surrealism,
between surrealism and what (as structure, as praxis) lies beyond it.

II. Cruelty: Provisional Answers, Further Questions

Both [Artaud and Freud] assume men created neurosis

when they suppressed their sex and aggression to live
together in society. Artaud is less stoical than Freud
about the sacrifice of these basic freedoms, and less
inclined to accept such substitute gratifications as
civilization and art . .Artaud
. himself never advocates
perversion, sadism or violence in daily life.. . Cruelty
will evacuate those feelings which are usually expressed
in more destructive ways.... Artaud wishes to cut
through these lies and deceptions, for impelling men to
see themselves as they are, it causes the mask to fall,
reveals the lie, the slackness, baseness, and hypocricy of
the world . .Thus,
. Artaud would purge the spectator
of those bloody impulses he usually turns on others in
the name of patriotism, religion or love.... Like the
messianic Nietzsche, the messianic Artaud is concerned
with the discovery of man, and seeks his metaphysical
remains under the rubble of 2,000 years of

So, by this fashionable and probably reactionary view, cruelty

will be the method for releasing the "whole man," releasing him from
repression and returning him to himself (I will refrain from entering into
the question of "man's nature" for now). The process is similar to the
normative views of Freudian therapy. It often involves shock, surprise,

confrontation with our "deepest desires," our "concealed fantasies." The
aim is to explode complacency, to destroy the given emotional and mental
patterns. It is a reciprocal gesture as we have described it, one stemming
from the original and repeated cruel act of repression; therefore, in the
West, cruelty is Satanism, Promethean rebellion, the onslaught upon
Authority, the "Return of the Repressed." Cruelty is Maldoror the
vampire attempting to steal the good son away from the secure hearth. But
as reciprocal gesture, cruelty as praxis is suspect: Prometheus may well be
an impotent Narcissus.6
The ultimate goal of cruelty, like psychoanalysis, is to project a
cure - a reconciliation with existing society. (This is the role of ancient
ritual tragedy and even of Nietzsche in his Wagnerian period - though
indeed the theatrical praxis is to remake the collectivity.) Or the cure may
be an opening to a new world, leading to the raisonnn6 dereglement des
sens of which surrealism-speaks. How raisonn6 the dereglement, how likely
the emergence of a wonderland - these are the issues growing out of the
initial fact that in its purest state, cruelty attacks humans at the most
irrational level, without attempting or without being able to redirect
fundamentally the total consciousness.
In spite of all the claims that have been made for cruelty (the
razor blade slashing the eyeball, etc.) a difficulty with this proposed praxis
of liberation arises from one of its basic attributes. That is, if a man
enjoys, seeks pain (perhaps to the degree it is denied him), then he may
seek out cruelty if only to enjoy it. He may not get beyond the cruel act
or confrontation, because that act has become its own reward. He will seek
pain repeatedly, ever with the necessary illusion that he is trying to get
beyond it. Each time he seeks to get beyond, he affirms his inability to do
so; he affirms the power of the forces of oppression in the identity he
refuses to abandon. So in Sade, in Lautreamont: You will see a million
attacks on authority, a million violent murders and orgasms; but the
images come up again - there is no end to the process. Juliette, satiated
with the normal perversions, must keep seeking acts of greater and greater
cruelty. Maldoror must repeat the same relationships, reenact the same
struggles, time after time. Rimbaud articulated the paradox: "Peut-on
s'extasier dans la destruction, se rajeunir par la cruaute?"7 Do ecstasy and
rejuvenation imply a new world or the repeated cycle of the old?
The fact may well be that men have come to enjoy their trap.
They may even demand it, and their necessary attempts at escape are only
to enforce an illusion.8 This reactionary aspect of cruelty is implicit in the
Artaudian formulation of cruelty as cure - that is, cruelty as neutralizer,
coopter of the deviant. "Enjoyment becomes the object of manipulation,
until, ultimately, it is entirely extinguished in fixed entertainments."9 We
are before the process of repressive desublimation, of the "phony
collective euphoria" produced by Fascist spectacles (DE, 106). Thus
Artaud tells us that

cruelty is above all lucid, a kind of rigid control, and
submission to necessity. . . . [It] signifies rigor, implac-
able intention and decision, irreversible and absolute
determination. .... When the hidden god creates, he
obeys the cruel necessity of creation which has been
imposed on himself by himself, and he cannot not
create.... It is cruelty which cements the world together,
cruelty that molds the features of the created world.1

Individually, collectively, cruelty may well be the cathartic

release that facilitates submission to the given - a reactionary praxis. So in
her essay on Juliette, Jacqueline Tunberg, after attempting to establish
Sade as a revolutionary, says of the continued Sadean blasphemy against
the Church: "These blasphemies, nevertheless show that Sade (and Genet
a century and a half later) requires for effect the very existence of the
Church he is trying to destroy."'1 And Adorno and Horkheimer tell us:

Juliette . . . keeps to the Ancien Regime, and defies sin.

Her libertinage is as marked by Catholicism as the nun's
ecstasy is by paganism. Nietzsche recognized the still
mythic quality of all pleasure. By paying tribute to
nature, enjoyment relinquishes the possible, just as
compassion renounces the transformation of the whole.
Both feature an aspect of resignation. Nietzsche detects
it in every nook and cranny - as self-enjoyment in
loneliness, as masochism in the depressions of the
self-tormentor: "Down with all those who merely
enjoy." (DE, 106)

Paradoxically, the danger of irrational repetition compulsion, of

praxis-negating enjoyment, may suggest why, by the time of Genealogy of
Morals, Nietzsche might see the need for infusing the "Dionysiac drama"
with comedy. Artaud tried to temper or mediate his concept of
"metaphysical danger" with the comedy of the "objective unforseen." But
he could not seem (did he ultimately wish?) to escape the fact that the
expression of cruelty in an artistic projection satisfies a programmed
sado-masochistic hunger and allows business (and malaise) to go on as
usual. Or it may well be that projected cruelty leads not to passivity, but
(what amounts to much the same) to an increased aggressive drive directed
not toward but against any new value world.
These processes may help to explain the failure of expressionism,
surrealism, and other modernisms in their ecstatic and cruel images - even
when attempting to project a revolutionary content. We turn to Adorno
once again:

The tension in surrealism ...discharges itself in

shock.... The subject, grown absolute, legislating freely
for itself, and liberated from any concern for the
empirical world, reveals itself in the face of complete
depersonalization as inanimate and virtually dead, which
throws it completely back upon itself and its
protest. .... [We have] a dialectic of subjective freedom
in a situation of objective unfreedom.12

Lautreamont, this reconstructed gothic count reliving an old war

(supposedly won) against a repressive order, projects his rebellion just
when bourgeois freedom's unfreedom emerges in the course of its own
implementation. Thus Adorno is able to locate that part of surrealism
which can make of Lautreamont this bridge from Sade to the present:

A sentence from [Hegel's Phenomenology], which must

be thought of together with the ... one about history as
progress in the awareness of freedom, defines the
content of surrealism: "The sole outcome and result of
ordinary freedom is death - a death, furthermore, which
has no inner scope and fulfillment." [In] Hegel's
sentence the Enlightenment eliminates itself through its
own realization .... Surrealism has made [Hegel's]
critique its own; this explains its political impulses
against anarchy which were in contradiction to that
content.1 3

That is, surrealism reveals itself as the negative fulfillment of the

Enlightenment's own potentials of praxis through cruelty, or whatever. It
is inscribed within the same problematic which has dominated the West
and the progressive oppositions to established political orders since the
first stirrings of the bourgeoisie and the first modern (bourgeois)
expression of a split between mind and body in Descartes. The split is one
between fantasy and reality, concept and thing, thought of praxis and
actual praxis.1 4 In this context, surrealist praxis is like the other proposed
praxes of opposition which fail to transcend the field in which they enter.
Minimally, it is a praxis made a non-praxis; maximally, it is so situated as
to merely open the door to a negative destruction and darkness which
reaffirm and prolong the bourgeois order. Thus the logic lurking behind
two final thoughts of Adorno on surrealism: "What is considered to be
merely a dream ... leaves reality itself undamaged, however much it may
damage the picture of reality.... Surrealism [is] a paralyzed
awakening."15 Is there any way to restore or give a potential praxis to
surrealism? One way might be through countering the incantational
(Wagner/Strindberg) effect leading to catharsis - by combining Artaudian
threat with Brechtian alienation - as in the hybrid Marat/Sade. Another

related method may reside in a heightening of the surrealists' own
approach to distancing (though this seems too ideological), as in Sade's
constant philosophizing, Lautreamont's constant observation of his own
processes - and again in tying cruelty to humour noir. We must look more
closely at the interior dynamics of the historical antecedents of surrealism
to find a possible space for praxis.

III. Sade

The dilemma [is] . . . the indefatiguable

self-destructiveness of enlightenment. Social freedom
is inseparable from enlightened thought. Nevertheless
. notion of this very way of thinking, no less
than the actual historic forms. . with which it is
interwoven, already contains the seed of the reversal
universally apparent today. If enlightenment does not
accommodate reflection on this recidivist element, then
it seals its own fate .... Sade ... mercilessly elicited the
implications of the Enlightenment.... [But] . ..the
submission of everything natural to the autocratic
subject finally culminates in the mastery of the blindly
objective and natural. This tendency evens out all the
antinomies of bourgeois thought - even that of moral
rigor and absolute amorality. (DE, xi, xiii, xvi)

Almost every orgy in Sade is accompanied by a philosophical

debate; every scene involves some progression of increasing brutality and
cruelty. The function of such cruelty, the affirmation of it by virtually all
Sadean characters, the complete absence of any sexual tenderness or
compassion that is not merely the prelude for further violence - all these
indications point to an image of humanity as destructive, power-bent,
living in a world in which the powerful and ruthless crush all until one day,
they are crushed by still stronger brutes. This is the world Sade affirms - a
world that uses Enlightenment form and style to counter and expose
Enlightenment notions of rationality and progress. We wonder how,
brutalized himself, Sade would seek to affirm this world; how, crushed by
infamy, he would strike against even those who would destroy that
infamy, that is (since he is of as well as against the Enlightenment), how he
would strike against himself.
Is there some irony in Sade's affirmation? Well, yes and no. It
seems clear that the fantasies of Sade wreak revenge on his oppressors. If
the Church has given him trouble, let him expose the Church in a thousand
excruciating orgies, culminating properly with Juliette's copulation with
the Pope. If the nobility has castigated him for vice, let him reveal the
brutality of the nobles, as they carry property rights to their inevitable

sexual conclusions. If Mother-in-law has got you down (locked you in
prison for years!), let a syphilitic underling screw and sodomize her; let her
daughter and friends sew her vagina and rear stitch by agonizing stitch, so
that the diseased semen will not flow out; let them in the process tear
piece upon piece of flesh from her body - all the time philosophizing, like
so many contributors to the Encyclopedia (devastating the act by
philosophy, philosophy by the act - not demonstrating but crushing by
absurdly portraying any unity between Enlightenment theory and
praxis).16 These images assert not only cruelty and (since the style is so
bizarre and elegant, in relation to the assumption of verisimilitude in
Sade), a most extreme black humour; they also tell us that the writer is
attacking institutions and interests - and even those who or which oppose
Yes, Sade is attacking. But his attack is too complete, too
multiple. The hypocrisy he blasts on the one hand, he justifies on the
other. He attacks exploitation but revels in it. Then there are his women -
how celebrated he is for these ruthless figures. How correct the view that
these women are always the Marquis! With Justine, we see the innocent
Sade persecuted, brutalized; with Juliette, we see Sade the brutalizer -
outdoing his enemies in violence, just as he had outdone them in
innocence. Ultimately we see Sade's desire to be a lesbian, to possess one
- really, to be everything: male/female, agressive/passive, exploiter/
exploited. Significantly, it is the "liberal" novelist, Gore Vidal, who
fulfilled an apocalyptic vision that could have been Sade's, if the
latter had taken the trajectory of his own charming logic to its conclusion
- by having Juliette and Olympia bugger the Pope with a dildo.17 Again
we see the pattern of reciprocal gesture. Sade lives in, needs the existing
extremes of a developing capitalist world, which he would again attack (a
la Lautrdamont) and need once it were firmly in place. Thus, in spite of
appearances, his onslaught does not go beyond bourgeois limits, but rather
reveals their extension. Thus too, Apollinaire is wrong to acclaim Juliette
as the woman of tomorrow. Sadistic female has replaced sadistic male.
Historical progression is reduced to the circle of compulsion-repetition.
The fact is I can find no coherent system of thought in Sade.
Simone de Beauvoir, Lely, and Blanchot have praised Sade for using
himself, his identity, asthe starting point for his world view.1 8 If this is so,
we have a reductio which requires questioning. For Sade is so split that a
coherent construction based on his identity would have to be in a constant
state of preparedness for reconceptualization. It would be too easy to label
this identity as "dialectical," because in effect it is a dialectic without
center - or rather with a center which decenters and disorders all that is
made out of it. The split between clear eighteenth-century prose and the
human reality portrayed is symptomatic of a deeper schism or malaise - the
veritable chaos of clear ideas toward which the Enlightenment tends when
robbed of its Deist God and confronted with the Terror of the Revolution.

Lautreamont poses the problem: "Comment concilier la froideur de vos
syllogismes avec la passion qui s'en degage?"
Geoffrey Gorer, who writes convincingly on the ideas in Sade,
clears up some of the confusion by pointing to the development of his
thought from a Rousseauistic view of man and nature, in the Prete et un
Moribond, to a deepening recognition of nature as a source of "destruction
and corruption," in Juliette and many other works. And Sade has the
advantage over most of the men of his age by looking forward to a future
time, rather than back to a golden age.19 While he has his own developed
ideas about a liberated political state (Gorer calls him the "first reasoning
socialist"20 - but surely he is in error), his emphasis on man's will to
power suggests that he will be in an eternal struggle with forces that
move toward greater and greater organization and (inevitably repressive)
channeling of his various impulses.21 In fact, Sade's politics of freedom
negates itself; the freedom of all to kill will end in the enslavement of the
majority by the few. This freedom then is a fantasy, locked inside the
printed page, as in a prison, in an elusive and contradictory system of
signs, which are so arranged and so extended from page to page, book to
interminable book, as to never quite find their way to the real.
But if this is so, what of Sade the revolutionary - the Sade whose
writings and actions combine, converge, are at one with the Revolution?
We will not speak here of his actions, so clearly in contradiction with each
other (and thus conformative to Sade's need for chaos). In fact, Sade's
actions are outside the symbolic field of his written praxis. The rupture
which occurs in 1789 and is enough for an entire nation is not enough for
such a rupture in Sade's production; his revolutionary tracts are just so
many other fictions. As always, the physical is to be the weapon releasing
thought in Sade. Thought and the action of writing cannot lead to an
action beyond fiction. There are never enough lashes for an orgasm that
bursts into the world. As Blanchot himself points out, for all the
excrement and blood in Sade, the sheets, the rooms remain clean.22 This
Sade of Blanchot we must at last confront.23
Blanchot gives us two images of the praxis of Sade's writings
vis-a-vis the Revolution:

1. It is said that when Robespierre . . . Couthon,

Saint-Just, and Collot ... were tired of murders and
convictions, when some small remorse penetrated their
hearts of steel, and when, at the sight of the numerous
judgments they had to sign, the pen fell from their
fingers, they went and read a few pages of Justine and
came back to sign. (LR, 59)

2. With Sade . . . we have the first example . . .of the

way in which writing, the freedom to write, may

coincide with the action of true freedom, when such
freedom is in a state of crisis and provokes a break from
history. And Sade's motives were not those which set
the revolutionary power in motion. They even
contradicted them. And yet, without them, without the
mad excess represented by Sade's name, life, and truth,
the Revolution would have been deprived of part of its
Reason. (LR, 52-53)

The first image, from a text by Villers in 1797, is clearly

apocryphal; the inner truth Blanchot claims to find in it - in spite of "all
its foolishness" - is doubtful. The second is mainly rhetoric, as is much of
Blanchot. The question is, What lies behind Blanchot? Can we use
Blanchot to expose himself and enable us to grasp the Sade that lies
beyond his grasp?
All the actions of Blanchot's Sade were to set him apart from his
society, so that "the day his society stopped opposing his madness, he
would stop" (LR, 50). For this Sade, then, everything is to be written, and
the writing is not to end (LR, 50, 55). Obviously, to say all is to say
nothing, to negate the revolutionary tendency of any particular utterance;
and the negation opens the field for the next revolutionary pro-
nouncement. Thus Blanchot's Sade has reason to identify his actions
with his person. All life is activity, is energy: to stop is to die. Hence, the
society opposing him, which he must fight, must not stop. Yet revolution
or rather insurrection is to be the permanent state of the republic.
"Whoever is already in history is also already in crime, and will
not emerge from it without going it one better," says Blanchot (LR, 54).
But this permanency requires the oppressive opposite - each sustains the
other. Thus Blanchot asks if we will ever emerge from the violence of
revolution or its opposite, and,sees possibility in Sade's transvaluation of
language (through his writing all). But Sade's writing, the logic of his cruel
necessity, negates itself. Nothing is affirmed, since "excess, energy,
disintegration" are the keys to the true action of existence (LR, 54).
Is it any surprise then that the true revolutionary moment is an
instant suspended between abrogation of old law and realization of the
new? Revolution is permanent so long as Sade can prolong this extension
of anarchy. But anarchy is the utopia in which society does not oppose his
madness (a madness of writing, of filling in blank spaces in the interstices
of events) - it is the moment or regime of death. Blanchot eulogizes this
interval of

suspended history . . . that time of between times

during which, between the former laws and the new
laws, reigns the silence of the absence of laws, that
interval which corresponds precisely to I'entre-dire, or

between-saying, where everything ceases and everything
stops, including the eternal speaking propulsion, because
at that point there is no longer any interdit, or
prohibition. (LR, 58)

The moment of Sade's "revolutionary regime" is the rupture that goes

from the social to the realm of pure nature -

a moment.. . during which (a few year later, Hegel was

to say it) being is no longer than the movement of
infinity which does away with itself and is unceasingly
born as it disappears, "an orgy of truth in which no one
would be able to stay sober." That moment of silent
frenzy is also the one when man, during a suspension in
which he asserts himself, attains his true sovereignty,
since he is no longer only himself, since he is no longer
only nature - the natural man - but something that
nature never is: the consciousness of the infinite power
of destruction - that is, negation - by which nature
unceasingly makes itself and unmakes itself. (LR, 58)

Here we are before the ultimate negation in Sade, in which Sadean man
expresses his true sovereignty over a world he has deadened and denied.
"This is the extreme point of Sade's thinking," Blanchot admits - a core
of chaos or anarchy, itself circulating irregularly around a still more central
nothing which decenters, displaces, or de-systematizes all else; a still point
in those thousands of pages, that life, that prison of the writer whose
madness is to say all, to project an "infinite, interminable, incessant,
continuous movement" (LR, 63), whose ultimate goal is disintegration.
What more can we say of this center? Blanchot even tells us what
it is - the one point consistent in all of Sade's writings: "the certainty of
nothingness" - "It has never terrified me and I consider it as nothing but
consoling and simple; all the others [systems] are the work of pride; this
one alone is the work of reason" (LR, 62). Here we have it all. The
Revolution is the apocalypse of Death and Negation. No valid affirmations
can issue from this Revolution, only false ones which must in turn be
But does not Blanchot's Sade know (I think he knows all too well
- he longs for the prison; his revolutionary schemes, his contradictory
actions are to hurry his return) what really negates the negation of
revolution? Lacking any genuine arms to struggle against a new tyranny,
the Sadean world view requires, even thrives on tyranny's installation and
the reciprocal installation in Charenton it leads to. "The philosophy which
put the fear of death into infamy in the eighteenth century, despite all the
book-burnings and piles of corpses, chose to serve that very infamy under

Napoleon" (DE, xii). And the philosophy which supposedly counters that
philosophy, cooperates with its perversion by stepping aside for the
Napoleon who enters to fill the void.
Perhaps by the fact that Sade, while positing an essence for man,
sees that essence as basically irreconcilable, as constantly shifting in polar-
ities (an "ungrateful biped," Dostoyevsky's underground man says of our
species), he may seem so significant to so many would-be petit-bourgeois
artist-revolutionaries today. By remaining "cruelly unreconciled" himself
(refusing, again like Dostoyevsky's anti-hero, to "settle for a cheap,
deceitful happiness"), Sade is said to represent the anarchic, the irrational
force in all - that is, bourgeois - men. He seems to live on - in a
kind of tension of violent extremes: master-slave, freeman-prisoner,
sadist-masochist, Justine-Juliette, left-right. Or perhaps he is, like most of
us, under capitalism, a slightly scandalous orgy of repressive desublimation
which changes nothing. In fact, some years before Barthes' Degre zbro
described the decline of Classicism and "the triumph and breakup of
bourgeois writing,"24 Sartre could write: "Sade does his best to win us
over, but we hardly find him scandalous. He is no longer anything but a
soul eaten by a beautiful disease, a pearl oyster."25
Long after the Revolution of 1848 (Baudelaire), the Commune of
1871 (Rimbaud), and only a few years before Paris, 1968 (Genet26),
Blanchot exalts Sade the anarchist-writer of all. But the romantic-anarchist
revolt exalts the world over the action of changing the world. The
anarchist impulse is the enemy of real revolution; it is a fundamental,
petit-bourgeois weakness in the Western revolutionary tradition, exalted
by all our poets, all our avant-gardes - all our alienated pseudo-rebellions
against capitalist alienation. Thus we must not yield to fantasy with
respect to Sade; no matter how we may respond to his beautiful disease,
we must realize that there is no liberating praxis in Sade, because, beyond
sexual and political titillation, there is no praxis. We must cease glorifying
Sade and his negation (even Adorno and Marcuse sometimes fall into the
trap); we must negate his negation. And thus we must continue - sans

IV. Lautreamont

Cruelty is an expression of the death impulse; it is the

translation into physical terms of the emotion of hate. It
acquires a sexual element as the result of a
misidentification by the individual of the nature of
sexuality. ... What might happen to the subject
passively is done actively to others - "identification
with the aggressor." In terms of this concept, sadism is a
fixation at or regression to the anal state. . ... a result of
moral shock and a traumatization of the libido.27

Just as in such psychologizing, we have no clear social dimension
in Lautreamont. What we do have is an exploration of a compulsive,
expansive imaginaire, projecting a haunted inner life. The comparison that
may be made to Jarry (Lely makes it, among others) is perhaps fruitful in
explaining some of the fabulous child images of Lautreamont. But what
we have here, on almost every page of Les Chants de Maldoror, is a far cry
from Ubu's shitstick and an adolescent's playful genius. No, this is a view
of existence which veers closer to Kafka28 before the ironic reversal - a
vision more extreme and richer than Jarry's in its dialectic of seriousness
and play. It is more extreme and richer than any surrealist text because of
the higher sense of implacable cruelty and (yes, the point begins to emerge
now: because of the cruelty) a more intense humour noir. Lautreamont
tries (or pretends to try) to rationalize his image, but luckily he is less
successful than Breton: a world of monsters, of extenuated cravings,
intervenes before the restraints can do their necessary work.
Images of the child ... We know next to nothing of Sade's
childhood. But from the facts that can be gleaned from Aline et Valcour,
Guy Endore attempts to conceive a traumatic event (not unlike the one
Sartre describes in his account of Genet's childhood) to provide a basis for
the coupling of pain and sensuality which was his life. Sade, loved and
pampered by his mother, made child attendant to the Prince, one day
exerts his will over the royal child, makes him cry - and is shocked to be
beaten by his beloved mother. So this fictional Sade tells us:

And thus, suddenly, before my very eyes, my whole

universe crumbled into nothingness. Gone the palace in
which I had lived. Gone the servants who had spoiled
me. Gone my mother and all her sweetness. Nothing
whatsoever remained of that world which I had once
thought created entirely for me. I was suddenly a guilty
monster of unbelievable crimes. An assassin who must be
sent off to exile and to prison. For to me, at that time,
any separation from my mother was the most terrible
my mind could have conceived.29

Terrible nothingness, terrible separation, the ultimate love object

now the betrayer -.and the transformation into a monster. These and
other strands tie this spurious but somehow believable passage to the
young Lautreamont. Forever alone, Sade would attempt to plunge into
another body - even fantasizing the creation of new openings, the
handiwork of knives. No matter how deep and violent the penetration, he
would always be alone, cut off. No wonder his hatred for his objects, and
yet his joy in submitting to a punishment he could never fulfill.
From a young aristocrat in the twilight of the Ancien Regime, to
a bourgeois child in the mid-day of a Capitalist world that dies ever so

slowly: We know next to nothing about Lautreamont, but his work reveals
the terrible psychic wound and a cruel, protective hardening. The
bourgeois child betrayed - the family-rape as the central mediation of
bourgeois man with reality: Raped, blasted, Lautreamont decides to
become, vicariously, the great oppressor. He will transcend his problems.
So the great obsessions of the book: the child bruised, vamped; Maldoror
the killer is clearly also the child who struggles with the force bigger than
himself. He is the amphibian Maldoror kills (Chant 2), the boy he loves
and ruins. In an instant he is murderer, homosexual, narcissist, and suicide
- a universe unto himself. But how could the impulses not coalesce? The
vampire who victimizes is inevitably a victim.
The central story, then, is the mind rape of the child and the
attempt to protect himself by becoming a monster. In another sense, it is
the story of the one who rejects father and mother and who, because of
his (imagined) incest with his mother (the requin) can never make his
peace with the world. (As in all bourgeois myths, the Freudian Oedipal
mother arises out of the rejection of the authoritarian, performance
oriented father.) The story then is of one who is innocent (who cannot
hear) and his fall. The picture is from Dante: a daring journey up the steep
path - and strangely, high above, he sees the image of the Creator.
Somehow there is a terrible, inexplicable shock in the passage: the
emphasis on excrement and cannibalism is somehow complicated by the
idea of sexual devouring and, though no woman is present, the idea of
menstrual blood in which the monster stands and to which the child (a
future hater of women) reacts with atavistic revulsion. The amphibians in
the unclean juice project to us an image of fish - and the breakthrough
(birth) into hearing. Maldoror identifies the blood as a disgusting sea,
recognizes his voice as human, and realizing the hypocrisy of men, decides
to stand in opposition to Creation. Or rather, he seeks to follow a kind of
ultimate logic. He reconciles himself to the brutality. As he tells us, in his
search only a female shark is commensurate; it is the only female with
which he can couple.
In Chant IV, some strophes after the symbolic incest with the
shark (in a sea full of mangled bodies, blood, etc.), Maldoror is given more
human dimensions. In a typical Narcissus encounter, Maldoror meets an
amphibian (the one murdered in the shark story?) who tells how he fled
his parents to live in the sea. The repeated flights from the family, the
rejection of the land and man himself (illustrated by the metamorphoses)
- all these things surface in even the most superficial reading of the work.
The rejection of man as weak, as lying and unworthy of survival involves
the assumption of Satanic, Nietzschean values in an attempt to overcome
the overwhelming human immiseration (even for the bourgeoisie!) created
by capitalism in the nineteenth century. Like Sade before him, the bour-
geois artist's praxis against alienation is alienated. Transcendence out of the
human realm is accomplished only on the level of images: "ll est entendu,

sinon ne me lisez pas, que je ne mets en scene que le timide personnalit6 de
mon opinion."30
The narrator and Maldoror weave in and out; often they seem
inseparable. Again and again, the victims of Maldoror are images of the
narrator. What the Creator reveals to him, he does. So caught in his trap,
Lautreamont projects image after image - culminating in the final strophe
of Chant V, where the large and ancient spider (really two boy victims of
Maldoror now joined) releases him from his ten-year curse. The time has
come for a change, a heightened stress on parody, now the parody of the
end of adolescent rebellion, the bourgeois child's turn toward normalcy
and reality. If there is a continuum of emphasis between cruelty and black
humour, the sixth Chant swings toward the latter.

V. Cruelty and Humour Noir

Myth is already enlightenment; and enlightenment

reverts to mythology. . . . The Enlightenment must
consider itself, if men are not to be wholly betrayed.
The task to be accomplished is not the conservation of
the past, but the redemption of the hopes of the past.
(DE, xvi, xv)

If I present a spectacle of heads being lopped off, I have a

spectacle of cruelty. One of the heads looks up at you and says, with some
concern, I suppose, "Don't worry" - I have humour noir. If this head were
now to tell you the story of its life, win your sympathy, etc. - and
suddenly a giant machine should crush and splatter it, I would again have
cruelty, now in a more intense form. The platform is swept clear, and all
at once, faintly, from the heap of rubbish, blood, bone, and flesh, you
hear, "Really, don't worry ... " - you have a humor and a cruelty that
have achieved a highly corrosive effect. All this to provide an allegory of
Western history since the Enlightenment and to point out the difference
between cruelty and humour noir - to show their interdependence and
their value. Basically humour noir releases the dread of the cruel act. It
may even seem to trivialize the cruelty. In this sense, humour noir reduces
the import of acts, of praxes, to a game - which is acceptable if we see this
reduction as a phase in a larger activating act of supreme cruelty, or if we
accept the humour noir as humour - and thereby do not allow it to
completely undermine the reality where the cruelty is aimed.
But let us go more carefully. The goal of projecting cruelty may
be, from the artist's point of view, an effort to get beyond cruelty into
health (though what version of health - bourgeois, anti-bourgeois
bourgeois? We still seek the space of praxis). The process will be imitated
by the reader, so the implicit theory goes, to the degree, as is likely, that at
some psychic level he has the same problem, so that he too will be

projected. The process frequently involves facing, perhaps over and over,
ultimate destruction (as in story after story by Kafka, as in strophe after
strophe by Lautreamont), until finally one transcends it. One awakens out
of the traumatic nightmare into light.31 When the cruel, destructive
element is in the ascent, the humor is cruel, heightens by its callousness
the serious and painful experience being presented. Often serious mental
patients treat themselves with broad irony, lightly, as if their disease didn't
matter, as if nothing which happened to them could matter. A sense of
humor is a sign of health, but it is sometimes the cruelest and most
dangerous part of the illness, makes the illness endurable - or makes us
endure the illness all the longer. When the continuum moves more and
more toward health (this is of course often the biggest illusion of those
who are getting sicker!) there is more humor, and this humor is now of a
lighter sort - not glimmering up like Lautreamont's "delicious sauce" in
the midst of a ghastly nightmare.
We are looking into the inner dynamic action of Maldoror, where
we move from a miasma with a deadly, sickly laughter, to a possibly
lighter reality - from the darkness of the first chants to the playful
evasions in Chant III, to a series of confrontations and a kind of release at
the end of Chant V. All this sets up the seeming fun and integration of VI,
a comic recapitulation and parody of the earlier images and events, e.g.,
the vampire-boy story now paralleled by the one of Maldoror and Merwyn.
The lighter tone is marked by a shift in narrative texture, from psychic
fantasy to mock-novel. There is more intellectualization, rational
structuring, almost mechanized playfulness. The irrational sea imagery is
replaced by a far greater realization of the Paris world. We seem to have
returned fully to the land: we walk down streets with names. But - and
this is the unsettling twist - we are in the bourgeois city; we have
awakened, been reconciled not to health, but to the triviality, ugliness, and
sickness of one of history's great dehumanizing nightmares.32
How to grasp the ultimate intention of these signs is no easy
matter, for here the masochistic psyche may be forging its cruelest game -
to better pay for some crime seen as eternal. But even though this is a
possibility, I believe it can be shown that, at times, humour noir may
project us beyond cruelty into a more palatable world. Lautreamont
presents and mocks the possibility of cure in bourgeois Paris - this is the
most progressive praxis of his irony. Since the surrealists do not accept the
notion of Thanatos implicit in some views of cruelty (including the
Marcusean), they seek to undo the complete surrender to a recoil from
repressive cruelty which would simply maintain us in a status quo, acting
out and affirming those aberrations produced in us by the systems of
control dominating a fallen world.
But the danger expressed in these pages in regard to cruelty - to
say nothing of the danger of actual greater and greater destructiveness -
should not lessen the value of cruelty as part of a total synthesis. Cruelty

may reconcile us to the given order of things by exhausting our negative
emotions, but black humor can undercut the effect, obliterate the force of
any cruel action by reducing it to the game, the construct (the perfect
examples may well be the plays of Genet). On the other hand, humour
noir, as we have now conceptualized it, can hardly exist at all except as a
response to some projected or implicit cruelty. And this cruelty (which
must be part of a neo-surrealism, now tailored, modulated for its function)
can act as a positive force in battling the tendency of humour noir to
revert to a non-corrosive traditional humor, the tendency of humour noir
to undermine the creative effectiveness, the praxis potential in every
We put forward this view as hypothesis, a possible mode for
understanding Maldoror and the crisis of literary praxis that extends and
intensifies, as capitalism does, from 1789 to the present. The
Enlightenment failure was that in accepting the mind/body split, it
embodied a praxis based on "instrumental reason" that was readily
cooptable by repressive counter-revolutionary forces (DE, xii). The failure
of the radical intelligensia and avant-garde, especially those currents and
movements leading through and beyond surrealism, is that their often
extreme refusal of a logic of domination within their representative forms
has led them to being neutralized, if not coopted in their effect. Obviously
Brecht attempted to foster a "modernism" which internalized weapons
suitable to the struggle (and he was thus accused by the Frankfurt School
and others of being "non-dialectical" and "simplistic"33). In this brief
glance at Sade, Lautr6amont, and beyond, we have been seeking the
as-yet-unfulfilled and generally stultified potential that may be found in
the dialectical relations between cruelty and humour noir - relations that
can transcend the circular repetition compulsion common to bourgeois
psychic organization, and become at least part of a larger, totalizing
dynamic that constitutes a praxis.34
Not every revolver is or should be symbolic. In fact, when Breton
tells us that the surrealist work is to be a gun fired into a crowd, we may
immediately conjure up the image of petit-bourgeois would-be aristocrat
artists firing at faceless proletarians. Even assuming the best of intentions
on Breton's part, one of the problems in reading his or any surrealist text
is establishing the criteria for judgment. For instance, if Breton says not to
fire a gun - is that also not to be taken seriously? The effort to reduce
Sade and Lautreamont to humour noir or cruelty would deprive their
work of all seriousness and possibility, free them from reprimand and
value. We have enough bourgeois games in which bourgeois revolutionaries
confront bourgeois reactionaries - and nothing is real. In this sense we
may recall the fact that one who masturbates may not be ready when the
real thing comes along. Sade could not carry out the extreme verdicts of
the Terror when they supposedly actualized his cruelties - a fact which
pleases Alqui&35 and would probably please us all, if only we had some

idea when there would be an end to books. So, I am reminded, with Gorer,
of those lines from Hamlet:

Let me be cruel, not unnatural:

I will speak daggers to her but use none.

We know the therapeutic value of writing and how Sade may have
saved himself by words - but: When and how do we make our tie to life?
When do we see the praxis of the image tied to an adequate overall
revolutionary praxis by a viable revolutionary group that can make
image-making not a petit-bourgeois escape, but a genuinely revolutionary
material force? The ambivalence expressed here should provide a close that
leaves all doors open.36

1 Maurice Blanchot's Lautr6amont et Sade (Paris: iditions de Minuit, 1963) is
generally seen as the definitive text on the relation of the two writers. This
paper is indebted to Blanchot's book, is in part an implicit critique of it, but is
also a construction emerging from an absence in Blanchot. As to this first
sentence (and the "too"), see Steven Ungar, "Waiting for Blanchot," a review
of Roger Laporte and Bernard Noel, Deux lectures de Maurice Blanchot
(Montpellier: Fata Morgana, 1973) in Diacritics, 5 (Summer 1975), 32-36. The
sentence (minus the "too") was chosen long before the Ungar article appeared
- and of course the play on Beckett's play has probably occurred to many.
(My initial problem was no more than trying to locate a copy of Blanchot's
book prior to re-doing my essay.) But the deeper tie between the Ungar article
and mine is his concern with Blanchot and the "possibility of writing" and my
concern (in part coming out of the Beckett problematique: "Nothing to be
done") with the "crisis in literary praxis." Ultimately the convergence of these
concerns takes us to the theses of the Frankfurt School about the traditions in
the West making possible an oppositional aesthetic in the midst of advanced
capitalism, about the value in the past and now of "non-political art" - the
praxis of non-praxis, during the distinct stages in the hegemony of a capitalist
logic of domination and the "counters" to this logic that it all but programs
and determines.

2 Jacqueline Tunberg, "Preface" to Sade, Justine (San Diego: Greenleaf, 1968),

pp. 13-14.

3 Sade, Philosophy in the Bedroom, in The Complete Marquis de Sade, II (Los

Angeles: Holloway House, 1966), 210; Lautr6amont, Les Chants de Maldoror
(Paris: J. Corti, 1965), pp. 38-39.

4 Sade, in Tunberg, "Preface" to The Story of Juliette (San Diego: Greenleaf,

1968), p. 25.

5 Robert Brustein, Theatre of Revolt (Boston: Little, Brown, 1964), pp. 369-71.

6 Compare Herbert Marcuse, "Orpheus and Narcissus versus Prometheus" and
elsewhere in Eros and Civilization (Boston: Beacon Press, 1955). Of all the
Frankfurt School members, Marcuse has the greatest faith in the surrealist
enterprise. But we find his image of Narcissus too feeble against the coopted
force of Prometheus under current world conditions. The logic in this paper
may be grasped if the reader recalls that in his most pessimistic book, The
One-Dimensional Man (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964) - see especially, pp. 66-71
- Marcuse implicitly sees the need of combining surrealism with the more
directly instrumental-political art of Brecht. As he waxes optimistic in the wake
of Paris, '68, surrealism once more comes to the fore. But then see also his
Counterrevolution and Revolt (Boston: Beacon Press, 1972), where the
question of Brecht once more occupies him.
7 Arthur Rimbaud, "Conte," Illuminations. The prince in this poem "s'amuse
6gorger les b6tes de luxe' II fit flamber les palais' 11se ruait sur les gens et les
taillait en pikces."

8 Compare Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground, especially the final


9 Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans.

John Cumming (New York: Herder and Herder, 1972), p. 106. Subsequent
references in text, abbreviated DE.

10 Antonin Artaud, The Theatre and its Double, trans. Mary Caroline Richards
(New York: Grove Press, 1958), pp. 101-04. For a commentary on this passage,
in the context of theatrical manifestations of cruelty in the 1960's, see Martin
Esslin, Reflections (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1969), especially the
article "Violence in Modern Drama," pp. 159-74.

11 "Preface" to Juliette, p. 26.

12 Theodor W. Adorno, "Looking Back on Surrealism," trans. S. P. Dunn and

Ethel Dunn, in Literary Modernism, ed. Irving Howe (Greenwich, Connecticut:
Fawcett, 1967), pp. 222-23.

13 "Surrealism," pp. 222-23.

14 See Lucien Goldmann, "La philosophie des lumibres," in his Structures

mentales et cr6ation culturelle (Paris: Editions Anthropos, 1970), pp. 23-130.
Goldmann points to the separation of thought and action in the Enlightenment
(p. 27). In addition he says, "L'absence d'activit6 rend ce savior inadbquat,
et ce qu'il contient implicitement d'authentique.., - dans la mesure ou les
Lumieres, tout en 6tant a-historiques, ont agi et fait I'histoire - ne peut etre
apprehend6 que dans une perspective qui le d~passe" (p. 30). Clearly the
perspective to which Goldmann refers is his own genetic structural Marxism.
Although this study draws more specifically on Frankfurt School orientations,
the debt to Goldmann is quite strong - especially in terms of our emphasis on
praxis. Significantly, in the final section of his long essay, "Les lumieres et les
problemes de la societ6 moderne," Goldmann asserts that Sade's extreme
critique of rationalism is more directly related to fascism than its opposite (p.
121). The coopted Enlightenment tradition (positivism, liberalism, etc.) has
frequently elicited reactionary responses from artistic and intellectual
petit-bourgeois defenders of humanism; surrealism is, in part, heir to this

tradition - this is its dangerous, negating side, which this study attempts to
counter, in favor of the affirmative aspect which it also clearly has.

15 "Surrealism," pp. 221 and 223.

16 The scene referred to is the climax of Philosophy in the Bedroom.

17 The reference here is to Gore Vidal's Myra Breckinridge (Boston: Little,

Brown, 1968), pp. 184-86. Myra uses a dildo to rape a virile young actor.

18 See Simone de Beauvoir, "Must We Burn de Sade?" in The Marquis de Sade

(New York: Grove Press, 1955); Gilbert Lely, The Marquis de Sade, trans. Alec
Brown (New York: Grove Press, 1970), pp. 401-02. Lly quotes Blanchot and
Pierre Klossowski.

19 Geoffrey Gorer, The Life and Ideas of the Marquis de Sade (New York:
Norton, 1963), pp. 117-20.

20 Life and Ideas, p. 175.

21 Herbert Marcuse surprised students (including me) by agreeing with my

elaboration of this position in the course he and Michel Benamou taught on
surrealism, at the University of California, San Diego, 1970. Gorer (pp.
191-214) and Pierre Favre, Sade Utopiste (Paris: Presses universitaires de
France, 1967), grasp the sexual-political dynamic.

22 Lautrdamont et Sade, p. 224. "Sade's eroticism is an eroticism of dream."

23 For the sake of brevity, we focus here not on Blanchot's book, but on an
excerpt from his "L'incovenance majeure," preface to de Sade's Frangais,
encore un effort ... (Paris: Editions J.-J. Pauvert, 1965), trans. as "The Main
Impropriety," in Literature and Revolution, ed. Jacques Ehrmann (Boston:
Beacon Press, 1970), pp. 50-63. Subsequent abbreviations in text, abbreviated

24 See Roland Barthes, "Writing and Revolution," an excerpt from Le degr6 zero
de I'6criture, in Ehrmann, Literature and Revolution, pp. 77-84.

25 Jean-Paul Sartre, What is Literature? trans. Bernard Frechtman (New York:

Harper& Row, 1965), p. 25.

26 See Goldmann's comments on Genet in Structures mentales, pp. 261-66.

27 This piece of typical psychological mystification is from John S. Yankowski,

"Introduction," The Complete Marquis de Sade, I, 20-22.

28 For distinct but I believe reconcilable approaches to this question, see Gaston
Bachelard, Lautr6amont (Paris: J. Corti, 1939), pp. 14-22; and Wallace Fowlie,
Age of Surrealism (Bloomington, Indiana: University of Indiana Press, 1966),
p. 36. The tie is of course rather obvious; the difference is perhaps more
important. But here we would stress metamorphoses without transcendence as
the central frame for the study of similarity and difference. Fowlie identifies
the shift from an inquiry about action ("What should I do?") to an inquiry
about being ("Who am I?") as the most important fact "in all aspects of
modernism, whether it be surrealism or existentialism" (p. 115). I am far from

agreeing with Fowlie's overly simplistic distinction - existentialism moved
toward Marxism as it became a philosophy not of being but of doing
(engagement). Nevertheless, it is true that Sartre still has difficulty in
transcending the cogito, and that the preoccupation with being, now
transformed into "structure," dominates modern bourgeois thought and
accentuates the crisis of history and praxis.

29 Guy Endore, Satan's Saint (New York: Crown, 1967), pp. 11-12. Compare too
Rousseau's childhood, Les Confessions: the longue dur6e of the repressive
family during different stages of capitalist development.

30 Lautrbamont, Chants, p. 229. See also Blanchot, Lautr6amont, p. 220.

31 The therapeutic process is hardly different here from that initiated in

seventeenth-century madhouses, and very much connected with the
development of Enlightenment ideology from Descartes on - see Michel
Foucault, Histoire de la folie (Paris: Plon, 1961); and Marat/Sade.

32 See Walter Benjamin, "Paris - Capital of the Nineteenth Century," New Left
Review, No. 48 (March-April 1968), p. 88.

33 See Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination (Boston: Little, Brown, 1973), pp.
201-03; and Theodor W. Adorno, "Commitment," New Left Review, No.
87-88 (September-December 1974), pp. 81-87. See note 1 above.

34 While Adorno provides a critique of the failure of Enlightenment, surrealist,

and Brechtian radicalisms, he, Horkheimer, and Marcuse (but to a lesser extent
- see note 6) may be likewise criticized - see Douglas Kellner, "The Frankfurt
School Revisited: A Critique of Martin Jay's Dialectical Imagination," in New
German Critique, 2, No. 4 (Winter 1975), 147:

Despair and pessimism about the very possibility of constructing

a free society contributed to the abandonment of . . . Marxist
radicalism [by members of the Frankfurt School in the 1940's -
the period of Dialectic of Enlightenment]. Hence their theory
became further and further removed from any praxis and seemed
to contain and imply passivity and resignation rather than
revolutionary hope and radical praxis. Schopenhauer replaced
Marx as Horkheimer's philosophical saint and Adorno's negative
dialectic became ever more negative and removed from the goal
of changing the world. Marx's eleventh Feuerbach thesis was
forgotten and pessimism concerning the very possibility of praxis

The task in the 1970's is to take up the search for potential praxis, to which
the Frankfurt School had dedicated itself, but which it could not complete.
The search is sans Blanchot.

35 See Ferdinand Alqui6, The Philosophy of Surrealism, trans. Bernard Waldrop

(Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1969). For Alqui6 on
Sade and Lautrdamont, see pp. 51-55. On the divergence between fantasy and
act in Sade, see Ldly, The Marquis de Sade, p. 71. He says that Sade's work is a
vast museum of sado-masochistic impulses, sees Sade as a scientist of the
imagination - one who, on the basis of his own limited range of impulses, was

able to project to the massive numbers which make up The 120 Days of
Sodom, etc.

36 My own contribution to the further study of surrealism and modernism as

praxis (based on my recent presentation at the Fiftieth Anniversary Surrealism
Conference, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) will focus on surrealist politics
and commodity status. A bibliography of recent Tel Quel articles on surrealism
and neo-surrealism appears in Robert Hefner, "The TEL QUEL Ideology:
Material Practice upon Material Practice," Sub-Stance, No. 8 (Winter 1974), p.