This week's archive article in the Times Literary Supplement is Georges Bataille's review of Jean-Paul Sartre's Saint Genet, his 1952 study of the life and work of Jean Genet.
Among the consequential works of M. Sartre the most recent to appear is certainly the most singular. Nominally it is no more than a preface, the preface to a "Complete Works" in themselves highly singular, written by a living author condemned by common law who is by no means satisfied by filling them with a combative account of a uniquely profligate life: he uses them to make a boast of that life, which he regards as supremely important, and he uses it as an apology of Evil, which is both its excuse and the rule by which it has been led. But this preface is not only abnormal for its length (it contains 600 pages), it is a philosophic work of exceptional interest, and to that extent an unquestionable masterpiece.
All philosophy, all thought, all human endeavour is the forlorn attempt to close the gap between the invisible and the infinite on the one hand and the hard reality of real existing conditions on the other. It cannot succeed, however, because the ground of the real is constantly shifting and our limited grasp of it is constantly trying to catch up and make up (in both senses of the word) the distance and the difference. But it is the very impossibility of success that makes the gap so creatively powerful. This gap is what all of the ‘masters of suspicion' in human history have been wrestling with. Indeed, I would argue that the fight with the gap is precisely what human history consists of. If the subsets of human existence are made up of stone, bronze, iron, plutonium and information ages, then the overarching set is that of the conscious age.
Think of it in terms of the expanding universe: How do we know that the universe is expanding? Precisely because we cannot see 98 per cent of it. The light from the stars which are rushing headlong and ever faster into dark matter, thereby becoming part of and helping to creating dark matter, cannot reach us because the universe is expanding at too great a rate. But the very proof and therefore truth of the expanding universe lies in the fact that most of it is not observable. If the universe were not expanding then all the light from all the stars in the universe would have already arrived here and it would never get dark at night. We would be living in a wonderfully bright but terribly static snow globe of a universe - and of course that universe would contain no life, bombarded as it would be with relentless light and radiation with no escape. It is the very darkness of our universe which is proof of constant dynamic movement and change and thus the proof of life and process.
The New Left Project's Maeve McKeown interviews Clare Solomon, editor of Springtime: The New Student Rebellions, about the rebirth of the student movement, her role in the book, and the global impact of student activism.
What was the purpose of the book?
Anybody that saw any of the media portrayal of the student protests last year may take away from that a certain vision either of what the protests were about or how they were carried out. Therefore I think it's important that we record history in our own voices in an attempt to cut through the media bias. So the purpose of the book was to try to bring as many different perspectives and topics together ensuring that all political persuasions were covered, different ages and a gender balance to highlight and to celebrate how magnificent the protests were.
In a recent feature for Mute, David Morris puts artist Alfredo Jaar, with whom Verso collaborated for his Marx Lounge at the Liverpool Biennial and the cover of The Emancipated Spectator, and author of Infinitely Demanding, Simon Critchley in dialogue. They discuss art, philosophy, and their responses to the recent spectacles of violence, destruction and hope, in particular the revolts of the Arab world and the naturo-nuclear disaster in Japan. The conversation will be on-going.