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Theory of the Great Game cover image Theory of the Great Game

René Daumal, Roger Gilbert-Lecomte and other hands

Atlas Anti-Classics 21

ISBN 978-1-900565-67-7
192pp 19.7x17.6cm
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Hardback with decorated endpapers.

Between 1928 and 1930 the Paris magazine Le Grand Jeu (The Great Game) ran to three issues before collapsing because of its editors’ infighting, their over-indulgence in chemical stimulants, and vehemently unreasonable aspirations for both art and life. The group is often associated with Surrealism (they were invited to join the group), but the ideas of the Grand Jeu were far more extreme. The magazine was the public face of a tightly bound group of artists and writers who since adolescence had systematically attacked their perceptions of reality by means of narcotics, anaesthesia and near-death experiences.

Their writings describe an uncompromising politico-mystical outlook which combined a critique of the apathy of contemporary Western society with a quest to take leave of the individual ego and reconnect with a collective Universal Mind. The group’s esoteric programme united drug use, occult and parapsychological practices with asceticism, revolutionary politics (the Russian Revolution was barely a decade old) and a prophetic mode of poetry which they identified in antecedents such as Rimbaud and Mallarmé. Such a wildly over-ripe synthesis was no doubt inevitably doomed, but in its failure the Grand Jeu left an indelible mark on the history of those movements which have refused point-blank to accept the world as it is.

The ideas of the Grand Jeu group are presented here in their own words, as they appeared in their magazine. This is the first and definitive collection of these writers to appear in English.


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