In 1979 Pierre Guyotat decided to make a recording of his recently completed but still unpublished text Le Livre. 150 hours of studio time was taken up during the course of that summer to arrive at this final recording. It would be another five years before Gallimard published Le Livre.
Guyotat has stated: “I am aware that what I do in Le Livre cannot be readily understood without my speaking the text, pronouncing it publicly. How much time then must I wait until this work is really read and understood as an object to be read with the eyes? This material I produce is strange even to me, actually, because there are really no criteria to measure it with, especially as it cannot be categorised as literature.”
1975-1977. Under the title E.P.Q. (Encore Plus Que…), with Prostitution echoing in my ears, I work on an entirely vocal series of long sequences about brothels and auctions, a few fragments of which appear here and there.
Summer 1977. Simultaneous to my decision never to publish again and the reinforcement of my refusal to be designated a “writer”, these voices disappear into what I no longer name writing but matter. Their voices being silenced, keeping them in a reduced space of enslavement, the prostituted bodies are scattered in the basements of History, there to contaminate it.
For these bodies, from now on mute and anonymous, I construct quick biographies and genealogies.
From the beginning of this genealogical movement, more or less instantaneously, I have the vision that I just entered not another book, but The Book, to which my entire life, whose brevity I decide at that same moment, will be devoted, and that its trajectory will be that of a going back through Time from the immediate post-war era to the first “prehistoric” prostitutable male.
Here is my great plan, whose premises can be located in most of my previous writings.
Beneath the forward thrust of the greatest possible quantity of bodies, lots of bodies enslaved, deported from one end to the other of familiar lands and Time, to revive the greatest possible quantity of Elements, peoples, fauna, flora, inclement weather, transport, currency, habitats, public roads, food, medicines, clothes, utensils, finery, philtres, tools, instruments for war, slavery and music, sepulchres, trades, functions, profane and sacred hierarchies, laws, entertainments, tortures, lexicons, arts, sciences, liturgies and incarnations of the divine, even the “purest” whole – from the shooting star to the starfish, from baby puree to Christ’s saliva, from the decree on emancipation to the Tables of the Law, from Kepler’s pages to Antigone’s tablets – that whole hopelessly infected in the Great Prostitutional Pandemic.
At the heart of this great plan, a blasphemous necessity: that the main places where those deported bodies are prostituted are adjoining open and closed sites where, in History, the Spirit has blown the strongest, and that the flesh and matters and the material of prostitution connect to exchange with those of the secret science, the censured mystics and the tortured heresy. For example, that the Veil of Veronica used to wipe Christ’s face had been borrowed from a brothel on the Via Dolorosa.
This inverted chronological order demands that the fiction advances by going backwards. The meaning overturns the Meaning. For gradually the genealogical system of going back in Time is regularly replaced by the servile, prostituted fantasy, most often childish, that generates the myth, which pushes back the limits of Time and Space; through utopia – the reversal, to the smallest detail, of the slave order (sequences, sessions of de-prostitutionalisation) – whose destruction scatters the waste not into the future but into the ancestral past.
In the tumult of deportations, all these genealogies intersect, fecundate, mutilate and extinguish one another. The speed of deportation is such that no lots of auctioned bodies, always odd numbered, that feed the genealogical Mouth can be treated in its entirety.
Male or female, the ancestor or the prepubescent or the baby suckling, I exalt him for the time of his biography – ethnic birth, abduction, transaction, sold again in faraway lands for sexual servitude, private or prostitutional – where I make him disappear one time in the biography of his servile escort, another time escape into the loving companionship of some ferocious beast, itself marked with scars, odd numbered also, from its biography, free (inter-tropical migrations following the advance of the desert), servile (capture, put in cages, transhipment, exhibition in ports with the human lots, confrontations in arenas, escapes, escapes) sometimes to die, in dreams mostly, of human death (torture, epidemic, genocide), or non-human (assumption in the ancestral myth of the ethnic group), gravediggers, executioners, animal, human and divine agents of the myth, immediately caught in biographies, each carried away to the initial place and time of its procreation.
On two occasions (the sign: three slanted bars), against my wish to proceed with historical phases spaced at regular intervals, this race towards slavery’s divine infinite is submitted to an irreversible acceleration. First: from a naïve fresco representing, but in a prostitutional theological circulation, The Creation of the World, The Last Judgment, The First Christians, The Great Saints and Dogmas, The Emperors and Martyrs, and, painted as a sacred whorehouse in the Ethiopia of the end of the 19th century, an executioner, his duty accomplished, his instruments put away, stands out, and calmly, outside the Coliseum, outside painting, on the way to his Roman lodging of the middle of the 3rd century AD, disappears among the clientele of a brothel on the Via Tiburtina, Suburra, where, sitting on an original Urbs’ milliary border stone, the naked body of a vandal adolescent prostitute, waiting for him with a firm member, disseminates in the written matter a new blood, the ancient barbarian, re-rooting the genealogy, and, with the power of his ephemeral sexual influence, spreads light, colour, on the quasi-totality of the Roman territory and the farthest limits – Asia, India, Hyperborea – of the mercantile, scientific and religious curiosity of the Empire.
Second: from a lot of seven copies representative of the main phases of the Greek male statuary serving as models for exercises for the pupils of an open-air school of high-class prostitutional deportment, in some sub-desert valley of post-Alexandrian middle Asia, the epic influx reawakens originals and successive models as far as the remote parts of ancient Greece. Here too, the male prostitute, exclusive model of the sculptor and his servile helpers (then, immediate biographical mishap) because his flesh, his spirit and his immortal soul that is enslaved too, circulate, in total or in detail, between the quick hands of the ravisher, the transporter, the dealer, the pimp, and the local divinities of Death, scatters and precipitates the inverted prophetic action.
Summer 1979. The scene unfolds in Zion, 5th century BC, during the night. Nehemiah, the emissary of the occupying Persian king, walks among the ruins of the Walls he is commissioned to restore.
The Book stops here. Lacking the material means to carry on, notes for seven centuries already prepared, I abandon it unfinished, as it is printed here.
God remains owner of man for all eternity. Under this terror, a work of art cannot be improvised. Its laws are those of revolt (a tenacious impropriety: epididymis) and resistance: rhythms calculated down to the syllable, organisation and volume of sound signals.
Box set of three 12” vinyl recordings. Edition of 200, numbered.
Booklet accompanying the vinyl box set.
Signed and numbered lithographic facsimile of one page from the manuscript of Le Livre. Included with edition of 25, signed and numbered.
This is the first time these recordings have been commercially released. This edition is limited to 200. A further 25 with silk screened covers and containing a facsimile of a manuscript page from Le Livre, signed and numbered by the author, has also been published.
Box set of three 12” vinyl recordings. Silk screened cover. Includes a signed and numbered lithographic facsimile of one page from the manuscript of Le Livre. Accompanied by a booklet of texts, translations, and photographic illustrations.
IT DOESN'T AT ALL WORK TO SAY THAT YOU FANTASIZE - THAT WOULD BE taking the fantasy for a representation of scenes. Rather, I believe, your use of fantasy enables you to render intricate, organicize the text. Freud explains that, for an individual, fantasy admits all the combinations. Example: I hit you; I am you hit; ... The verb here doesn't change. Likewise, in your fantastic texts, the verb (the action) is also the main actor and the represented. Fantasy, then, is a structural combination. It is: all possible actions, or the illusion of monotony. Variations and mutations repeat the same verbal structure. Do you agree?
Yes. The organic process I use immediately proposes, then divides the text. Not what is supposedly represented, but the text. When I am writing, the text-body is my body so there's no problem of inadequate fantasy (fantasy versus reality). The movement is strictly economic. There's no eroticism, for eroticism is simply a deviation of the sexual act. Desire creates hierarchies and 'unnatural' has no meaning. All acts are part of the sexual movement as all sexual movements are parts of all other acts. The text is material.
In fact, the text is never sexual. It is only material, nothing else. What destroys idealism deepens the materialism of the text. Then the sexual act disappears, or is lacking, under the mass of processes.
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. This is the order according to which, covered by vomit and come, I contemplate the void of which I am the sexuated atom.
Vauxhall&Company Series Editors Paul Buck & Catherine Petit
First published in France in 1970, immediately greeted by both furore and acclaim, today Eden, Eden, Eden is recognised as one of the major works of the last century.
This edition is a much-revised translation of the out of print English version originally published in 1995. It also includes new translations of the original prefaces by Michel Leiris, Roland Barthes and Philippe Sollers, plus a postface by Paul Buck.
"Brought forth in an egalitarian way, or almost, beings and things are offered here for nothing more than what they are in the strict reality of their physical presence, animated or not: humans, animals, clothes and other utensils thrown in a mêlée in a way close to panic, that evokes the myth of eden because it obviously has for stage a world without morals or hierarchy, where desire is the rule and nothing can be declared precious or repugnant.
An implicit poetry that is sometimes replaced by an explicit poetry: those moments when, above the magma only disturbed by the quest for fulfilment led by each protagonist, human words appear, all the more moving for they seem to emerge – as if by miracle – from a layer of existence in which all words have been abolished."
from the preface by Michel Leiris
"To stretch the powers of one single sentence to the material, divided teeming carried forth through an unrelenting drive. Organic and celestial mechanics, biological, chemical, physical, astronomic. “The natural science will later subsume the human science as the human science will subsume the natural science: There will be one science” (Marx). On the very first page of Eden, Eden, Eden, see that inconceivable theatre: flint, thorns, sweat, oil, barley, wheat, brain, flowers, ears of wheat, blood, saliva, excrement... See the golden space of matters and bodies, endlessly transmutable, rhythmic."
from the preface by Philippe Sollers
Michel Foucault: open letter to Pierre Guyotat
There will be a scandal, but…
… You are aware, I’m sure, that this book will be less readily received than Tomb for 500,000 soldiers. It lacks that drum-din of war that had allowed your first novel to be heard. War has to be a parenthesis, the world interrupted, and it’s on that condition only that we permit all extremes to come together. I wonder if Tomb has not been deemed acceptable under the cover of a false dramatization. They said: it’s Algeria, it’s the occupation, whilst it was the trampling of all armies, and the endless confused din of slaveries. They said: it was the time when we were guilty, we recognized that, so now we are innocent, whilst those blows, those bodies, those wounds in their nakedness, far from being an image of morals, equated the pure sign of politics. Shielded from the big war excuse, what you told us reached us lightened like a remote song. Your triple Eden takes up the same discourse, but within a shorter possible distance, beneath the limits of accommodation. We can no longer see, we can no longer imagine the place you speak from, and from where those sentences and that blood come to us: the fog of the absolute proximity. Despite appearances, Tomb was outside time: trying to give it a date resulted in it being misunderstood. Eden (by definition) is outside place; but I believe some will try to reduce it by finding it a homeland: that will be the body (in yesteryear’s thinking, the body was a “materialistic” elegance to save the subject, the self, the soul). However, it’s here on this side of the body that your text reaches us: surfaces, ruptures, opening-wounds, clothes and skins that are turned inside out and reversed, white and red liquids, “streaming from the eternal outside”.
I have the feeling that you accede here to what we’ve known about sexuality for a very long time, but which we’ve carefully put aside, the better to protect the primacy of the subject, the unity of the individual and the abstraction of “sex”. Sexuality is not at the limit of the body, something like “sex organs”, nor is it a means of communication between one body and another, nor even the fundamental or primitive desire of the individual. The fabric of its processes is considerably anterior to it; and the individual is only sexuality’s precarious expansion, provisory and quickly erased and, at the end of the day, only a pale form that springs up for a few instants from a big, obstinate and repetitive stump. Individuals are pseudo-pods quickly retracted from sexuality. If we wanted to know what we know, we would have to renounce what we imagine of our individuality, our self, our position as subject. In your text, perhaps for the first time the relationship between the individual and sexuality is decidedly and indisputably turned upside down; the characters no longer disappear in favour of the elements, the structures, the personal pronouns, it’s sexuality that passes to the other side of the individual, and ceases to be “subjected”.
By approaching that point you have been forced to strip Tomb of what made it accessible; you had to burst open all the forms and all the bodies, accelerate the whole large machinery of sexuality and let it repeat itself along the straight line of time. You are destined, I’m afraid (I was going to say, I hope, but it’s too easy when it concerns someone else), to encounter much opposition… There will be a scandal, but that’s another matter all together.
A hand-annotated limited edition by Pierre Guyotat is also available, priced at £350 GBP. Further details are available on request from Cabinet Gallery (email@example.com).
Pierre Guyotat: Revolutions & Aberrations
by Stephen Barber
Published by Vauxhall&Company, 2016
Series editors Catherine Petit & Paul Buck
Softback, 74pp, 210 x 165 cm
Edition of 500
From his first books of the 1960s – such as Tomb for Five Hundred Thousand Soldiers and Eden, Eden, Eden – to his recent books such as Coma, 2006, Pierre Guyotat’s seminal work has deeply marked and transformed that of innumerable artists and writers in many countries beyond France itself. With its focus extending from his novels to his work in film, art and performance, this illuminating collection of seven texts – drawn from encounters and conversations with Pierre Guyotat over a period of close to thirty years – explores his driving preoccupations and experimentations, with corporeality and vision, conflict and warfare, sex and the entity of language, activism and revolution, hallucination and aberration.