“Pierre Guyotat: The Matter of Writing“; by Stephen Barber

  PIERRE GUYOTAT: THE MATTER OF WRITING In 1969, the French literary journal Tel Quel published an extract from Pierre Guyotat’s work in progress, Eden, Eden, Eden, under the title Bordels of Butchery. After the book’s publication in 1970, it was subjected to governmental censorship in France, was reviled by large sections of the Parisian literary establishment, and became one of the great divisive scandals of postwar French writing. The participants of Tel Quel, in collaboration with supporters and associates of Guyotat, mounted a defence of the book. Michel Foucault wrote: ‘Guyotat has written a book in a language of…

Alain Badiou; Pierre Guyotat, Prince of Prose

I say that Pierre Guyotat is the prince of prose. What does ‘prince’ mean? It signals first of all Guyotat’s nobility, the extraordinary nobility of his prose: a nobility without precedent since the speeches and sermons of Bossuet; and one that is all the more striking in that it organizes, or ennobles, materials drawn from the base layers of our existence, from the atoms of exposed flesh. Sex and cruelty, visible and solar, hook up with being qua excremental being: the word putains, ‘whores’, designates in prose the subsoil of the sublime order established by the retreat of the gods….

Pierre Guyotat; by John Taylor

  «A new book by Pierre Guyotat (b. 1940) is always an “event,” little matter whether one reads it. When Progénitures appeared in France, to the sort of consternated fanfare that has frequently greeted this writer’s output, one well-placed critic declared that neither he nor anyone else could, or would, read all eight hundred, bizarrely spelled, meticulously versified pages of this “novel” that is probably more akin to an extended Old Testament chronicle. This accusation of “unreadablenes,” attached to Guyotat’s strange and provocative work ever since (at least) the lexical and orthographic experiments of Prostitution (1975), is nonetheless qualified by…

PIERRE GUYOTAT; BODY OF THE TEXT

BODY OF THE TEXT THIS IS NOT WRITTEN. BUT DICTATED. IMPROVISED. NOTEBOOKS IN HAND— NOT FOR A STOCKTAKING OF PAST OR PRESENT JOTTINGS ON WHAT I AM ABOUT TO DESCRIBE: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MASTURBATION AND WRITING— BUT IN ORDER TO SPEAK TEXT IN HAND AND EXPOSED TO VIEW—; NO USE EXPECTING THEN. A TEXT THAT MIGHT BE DESCRIBED AS “SCHOLARLY” OR “MARGINAL” (NECESSARY TERMS AT AN EPOCH DETERMINED BY POLITICAL ENGAGEMENTS OF AN ADMINISTRATIVE KIND. OR BY A HESITATION TO EXPRESS THE MOST VOCAL SOUNDINGS OF THE MASTURBATORY TEXT). NONETHELESS, THE NEED TO MAKE MY FIRST DECLARATIONS ON THE RELATIONSHIP…

Pierre Guyotat; Self-portrait

  “This self-portrait is dated March 1962. I had returned from a mission as radioman in the interior, in the Djurdjura, having received a warning from my comrades in the radio station. I already knew when I got out of the jeep that I was in for a bad quarter of an hour, a quarter of an hour that could last a whole lifetime. I came back, and saw a secret service or military police jeep. I immediately disappeared into our room. My buddies had already hidden my notes and a few of my things – soldier solidarity. I only had…

Pierre Guyotat; The Prison

  “This text was written at the end of 1962, after my return from Algeria. It stands under the immediate impression of Dostoyevsky’s The House of the Dead, and is the result of a paraphrase of a very bleak text fragment from Johann Sebastian Bach’s St John ­Passion, which I sung as a child. For me the text is the matrix for Tombeau pour cinq cent mille soldats.” P.G. Our prison was encircled by marshland where birds and sick dogs came to die. At night we could hear their cries and death rattles. We could see nothing of the town…

Pierre Guyotat, Donatien Grau. To lay a hand on the shoulder of future victims …

Donatien Grau: I have a sense that, in your recent work, the question of humanity has become more and more explicit. There has been a series of titles—Humains par hasard [Humans by chance, 2016], Joyeux animaux de la misère [Joyous Animals of Misery, 2014], Par la main dans les Enfers [By the Hand into the Hades, 2016]—that echo one another and call our humanity into question. Where do you stand these days on this question? Pierre Guyotat: I’ve always dealt with that question. It’s nothing new, and it necessarily lies at the core of every work of art. To begin…