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Mirror of Tauromachy

Michel Leiris

Eclectics & Heteroclites 7

Illustrated by André Masson. Translated by Paul Hammond.
ISBN 978-1-900565-40-0
80pp 21.6 x 12cm
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Leiris’s book on the bullfight, with illustrations by André Masson drawn especially for it.

Michel Leiris (1901-1990) was a poet, novelist, and ethnographer. After leaving the Surrealist group, he was associated with Jean-Paul Sartre and Georges Bataille. It was with the latter, and with the artists André Masson and Pablo Picasso, that Leiris acquired his enthusiasm for the bullfight. Mirror of Tauromachy is his summation of this life-long passion.

He considers the bullfight in all its mythological and sociological significances, as a form of sacrifice and sacred ceremony, as a means of directly immersing oneself in a world of tragedy, and as an initiation in which the bullfight is the erotic mirror that reveals “certain dark parts of ourselves".

He describes the geometry of the bullfight, its choreography, and the notions of beauty and magic that underpin its ritual. For Leiris it is a real mortal confrontation because, unlike religion’s doomed attempts to banish death, the bullfight incorporates death into life, and it is this brush with tangency that may put us in contact with our innermost drives. Far from being a celebration of death, the bullfight is an affirmation of what it means to be most alive.


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