Roger Caillois

“You are, sir, one of the most curious spirits of our time, the most autonomous, and the most recalcitrant as regards his training.” In this way, René Huyghe welcomed Roger Caillois to the Académie Française, on 20 January 1972. An unconventional spirit, Caillois was the author of a polymorphic body of work in which literature, poetry, sociology, anthropology and even mineralogy are combined. By highlighting the mechanisms of the imagination, he revealed the points of intersection and correspondence between disciplines.

While he was a student at the École Normale Supérieure, Caillois met André Breton, and then joined the Surrealist movement. He thus frequently met with Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst and Paul Éluard. But in 1935, he broke away from the high priest of surrealism and became closer to former members such as Aragon. The same year, he collaborated with Georges Bataille at the NRF and founded the College of Sociology with the latter, along with Michel Leiris.

In 1939, the Argentinian woman of letters, Victoria Ocampo, invited him to Buenos Aires. He stayed there during World War II, committing himself to the Free France resistance movement, publishing in the journal Lettres françaises. Fiercely anti-Nazi, he published various essays and gave a series of conferences on the nature of authoritarian regimes.

Upon his return to France, in 1945, Gaston Gallimard suggested he direct a specialised collection in Ibero-American literature. He was to publish, among others, Pablo Neruda and Jorge Luis Borges. A major figure of the literary world, he entered UNESCO’s “think tank” in 1948. A great traveller, curious spirit, aesthete and poet, Roger Caillois published over thirty books, including Man and the Sacred, The Mask of Medusa, or The Writing of Stones.


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