Pierre Klossowski


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Frenchphilosopher, novelist, and artist, born in Paris. Klossowski's parents—both of whom were artists, as was his younger brother Balthus Klossowski, who rose to considerable fame as a painter (Bono sang at his funeral)—were originally from Poland and probably of Jewish descent. He travelled a lot with his family in his youth. From the start of World War I in 1914 until 1923 he lived in Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. When he returned to Paris in 1923, his mother's lover the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke arranged a job for him as private secretary to the French author André Gide who was then working on his masterpiece Les Faux-monnayeurs (1925), translated as The Counterfeiters (1931). At the same time he commenced his university studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études. However, he did not pursue a conventional academic career. Instead he made a precarious living as a freelance critic and translator. This brought him into contact with a number of the leading thinkers of the 1920s and 1930s—George Bataille and Walter Benjamin (whose works he translated into French) numbered among his close friends. During World War II, Klossowski spent his time in a seminary training to be a Catholic priest, but he did not complete his training and lost his vocation, which inspired his first novel La Vocation suspendue (Suspended Vocation, 1950). It is for his work on Sade, Sade, mon prochain (1947), translated as Sade My Neighbour (1991), and Nietzsche, Nietzsche et le cercle vicieux (1969), translated as Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle (1998), that Klossowski is best known. The former influenced Roland Barthes, Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Blanchot, and Michel Foucault, each of whom would add their own contributions to the growing catalogue of works devoted to Sade (a measure of his lasting influence may be seen in Pier Paolo Pasolini's acknowledgement of him in the credits to his 1975 film Salo), while the latter would prove especially significant to Gilles Deleuze, with whom Klossowski would also become friends, and Jean-François Lyotard. After 1970 Klossowski stopped writing and concentrated on drawing.

Further Reading:

A. Arnaud Pierre Klossowski (1990).I. James Pierre Klossowski: The Persistence of a Name (2000).

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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