Critical Essays, 1944–1948
In the aftermath of the Second World War, French thinker and writer Georges Bataille forged a singular path through the moral and political impasses of his age. In 1946, animated by ‘a need to live events in an increasingly conscious way,’ and to reject any compartmentalization of intellectual life, Bataille founded the journal Critique. Adopting the format of the review essay, he surveyed the post-war cultural landscape while advancing his reflections on excess, non-knowledge, and the general economy. Focusing on literature as a mode of sovereign uselessness, he tackled prominent and divisive figures such as Henry Miller and Albert Camus.
In keeping with Critique’s mission to explore the totality of human knowledge, Bataille’s articles did not just focus on the literary but featured important reflections on the science of sexuality, the Chinese Revolution, and historical accounts of drunkenness, among other matters. Throughout, he was attuned to how humanity would deal with the excessive forces of production and destruction it had unleashed, his aim being a way of thinking and living that would inhabit that excess.
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