For Bataille, the absence of myth had itself become the myth of the modern age. In a world that had lost the secret of its cohesion, Bataille saw surrealism as both a symptom and a beginning of an attempt to address this loss. His writings on this theme are the result of a profound reflection in the wake of World War Two.
The Absence of Myth is the most incisive study yet made of surrealism, insisting on its importance as a cultural and social phenomenon with far-reaching consequences. Clarifying Bataille's links with the surrealist movement, and throwing revealing light on his complex and greatly misunderstood relationship with Andre Breton, The Absence of Myth shows Bataille to be a much more radical figure than his postmodernist devotees would have us believe: a man who continually tried to extend Marxist social theory; a pessimistic thinker, but one as far removed from nihilism as can be.
Ian James is full of praise for Michel Surya's Georges Bataille: An Intellectual Biography in the Times Literary Supplement. Focusing on Bataille's political and philosophical thought, James writes that"Bataille's thinking elaborates an all-embracing cosmological vision of material and human life inscribed within a general economy of excess, expenditure, ruination and death".
James notes that Bataille's sensational life and work can in no way be fitted into a singular narrative. Nevertheless, there are threads running throughout Bataille's work (both fiction and theory) and his life, notably his lifelong committment to materialism:
Surya, perhaps more than any other commentator, does justice to the intimacy of the relation that subsisted between Bataille's life and his writing, and to the complexity of their interrelation. Despite their resolutely paradoxical, enigmatic or incomplete qualities, Bataille's life and writing are, Surya shows, united by a sustained concern to affirm and elaborate an uncompromising anti-idealism. If he was fascinated by the debauched the filthy, and the work of death, it was because he held ideality of any kind to whatsoever to be a dangerous repression of the base materiality of life ...