Acéphale (1936–1939) by Georges Bataille et. al.


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Contagion Press, 2021. Introduction by Some Anarchists. Images by André Mason. 163 pages. Fully (re)translated and compiled in English for the first time. G. Bataille. R. Callois. A. Masson. J. Rollin. P. Klossowski. J. Wahl. J. Monnerot. 

'In 1936, at the height of the anti-fascist struggle, French Surrealist Georges Bataille and his closest friends took leave of the revolutionary milieu to form a fanatically religious secret society under the symbol of the acéphale – a headless figure clutching a fiery heart and a sacrificial knife. Their conspiracy was to achieve headlessness at every level: the headless society, the human being freed from reason, the defeat of the three-headed monster of Fascism-Christianity-Socialism, the ecstatic rupture of the Dionsyian frenzy, and the literal beheading of Bataille himself. This is their journal, fully (re)translated and compiled in English for the first time.

Acéphale is the Nietzschean religion.. Bataille dedicates the most laborious texts in the series to redeeming him from the fascist abuse just then reaching its peak. Nietzsche's doctrine cannot be enslaved, Bataille writes, it can only be followed. The secret society is a fanatical attempt to do just that. But how is it possible? A Nietzschean religion, a religion under the name of the great atheist who preached the death of god? A century of musty scholarship has obscured the matter. The journal writings on Nietzsche uncover a long trail of overlooked writings, a labyrinthine path not deist so much as deifying and undeifying. It is nothing less than a resurrection of the truly ancient philosophy. That the earliest Greek philosophers all admitted to have learned their art in Egypt at the feet of the philosopher-priests for whom philosophy was a divine art.' 

The cover was illustrated by André Masson with a drawing openly inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's famous drawing of Vitruvian Man, who embodies classical reason. Masson's figure, however, is headless, his groin covered by a skull, and holds in his right hand a burning heart, while in his left he wields a dagger.

'An ecstatic fire will destroy the fatherlands

When the human heart becomes fire
and iron
human beings will escape their heads like prisoners their prison.'