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Michel Leiris

1901 Paris
1990 Saint-Hilairie

The French author and ethnologist Michel Leiris was born on 20th April 1901 in Paris. After World War One, he gained access to the avant-garde artistic circles of the epoch, and became involved with the Surrealists. Michel Leiris was a friend and companion to many of France’s great artists and intellectuals, including Max Jacob (1876–1944), Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) and the artist and sculptor André Masson (1896–1987), whom Michel Leirus met in 1922.
In 1925 the author published his first work "Simulacre". In 1929, he left the Surrealists in order to gain his own artistic independence, and only kept contact with Masson, with whom maintaining a life-long friendship with him. After Michel Leirus became acquainted with Georges Bataille (1897–1962), he began contributing to Bataille’s journal "Documents". The ethnologist Marcel Griaule (1898–1956) suggested that Leirus participate in his "Dakar – Djibouti" Africa expedition (1931-33) as a secretary.
Upon his return, Michel Leirus wrote a travel journal about his experiences, which he entitled "L’Afrique Fantôme". The book’s publication caused a rift between him and Marcel Griaule. In 1937, together with Batailles, Roger Caillois (1913–78) and Jules Monnerot, he founded a "Collège de Sociologie", which was inspired by religious science. Between 1929 and 1935, during a course of psychoanalytic therapy, Leirus realised that he wanted to compose an intimate autobiography. He subsequently published "L’Age d’Homme" in 1939, a programmatic text about literature as self-revelation. The author continued to explore this theme in "La Règle du jeu", which was published between 1948 and 1976 in four volumes.
Michel Leirus died in Saint-Hilairie on 30th September 1990.

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