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Posts Tagged ‘Octavio Paz’

The Phantoms of the Fifteenth Arrondissement

August 11, 2015 | by

In an unremarkable section of Paris, Roger Caillois saw hiding places for “floating beings.”

RCailloisRMinnaertca1975

Caillois ca. 1975. Photo: R. Minnaert

Pity the Fifteenth! Paris’s most populous arrondissement is also one of its least celebrated. Stretching from the Front de Seine high-rises in the northwest to the Tour de Montparnasse in the southeast, the Fifteenth is sleepy, residential, and architecturally undistinguished. Home to minor government agencies and the headquarters of various corporations, its streets and thoroughfares are named for military officers, former colonial possessions, inventors, and Émile Zola, France’s dullest great novelist. Rue des Entrepreneurs intersects Rue de Commerce, where it branches off into Rue de l’Église and Rue Mademoiselle, which gives a good indication of what was on the minds of the men who incorporated the small suburban villages of Grenelle, Javel, and Vaugirard into the metropolis in the early years of the Second Empire. To make matters worse, the Fifteenth is tantalizingly adjacent to some of Paris’s genuine landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower, located just across the Avenue de Suffren in the Seventh, the Cimetière Montparnasse, on the other side of the neighborhood’s eponymous and much-reviled skyscraper, or the tony apartment buildings on right bank of the Pont de Bir-Hakeim.

Yet this is Paris, and even the most unremarkable stretches of Zone 1 have their devoted mythographers. Born in 1913 in Reims, the jack-of-all-genres Roger Caillois knew something about being fame-adjacent. If you were to look at the faded group photographs of some of the most important avant-garde literary movements of the twentieth century, you would see him, in the background, with his thick eyebrows and chubby cheeks, manuscript in hand, ready to launch into a lecture about his latest intellectual obsession: mimicry, ludology, the sacred, gemstones, secret societies, science fiction, the City of Light. As a student at the prestigious École pratique des hautes études, Caillois became acquainted with the works of pioneering philosophers and anthropologists like Alexandre Kojève and Marcel Mauss. He was a member of the surrealists until a disagreement with André Breton over the nature of a Mexican jumping bean got him kicked out of the movement. He went on to found a discussion group, the Collège de Sociologie, with fellow excommunicant George Bataille, contributing articles to Bataille’s journal Acéphale while skipping the meetings of his secret society, one of which notoriously involved a serious discussion about a ritual sacrifice of one of the members. Walter Benjamin loathed him, but nevertheless included several citations from his writings on Paris in The Arcades Project. In Buenos Aires, where Caillois, a militant antifascist, spent the war years, he met Victoria Ocampo, the editor of the journal Sur. Ocampo was responsible for publishing some of the leading lights of what would become known as the Latin American Boom. Upon his return to France, Caillois took up a position at UNESCO, using his influence there to introduce the French reading public to his new friends Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz, Pablo Neruda, and Silvina Ocampo. Read More »

Watch: Issue 201 in Action!

June 25, 2012 | by

To celebrate the release of The Paris Review’s Summer issue, we put together a little video that takes you inside the pages of 201.

In case you’ve forgotten, the issue features Tony Kushner and Wallace Shawn on the art of theater; new fiction from Sam Lipsyte and Ann Beattie; nonfiction by Davy Rothbart, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, Rich Cohen, and J.D. Daniels; a portfolio curated by Waris Ahluwalia; and poetry by Sophie Cabot Black, Roberto Bolaño, Raúl Zurita, John Ashbery, Octavio Paz, Lucie Brock-Broido, and David Ferry.

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Introducing Our Summer Issue!

June 6, 2012 | by

Unlike some magazines, we don’t do “theme” issues. And yet, as we collected the material that makes up 201, we couldn’t help notice that the issue had a decidedly ... dramatic bent. Not just interviews with Tony Kushner and Wallace Shawn, but Ann Beattie’s story, “The Astonished Woodchopper,” featuring just that; a Sam Lipsyte story about a modern-day duel; Roberto Bolaño poems about sex and betrayal; Rich Cohen on pirates; Waris Ahluwalia on animal attraction; Davy Rothbart telling the true story of the best night of his life; plus, J.D. Daniels directing you to eat your parents.

Tony Kushner:

In some ways the Internet is definitely an enemy. This morning I was going to work on a Lincoln rewrite before I came to meet you. A couple of days ago I biked all over Provincetown looking for a needle threader—you know, one of those old-fashioned little tin discs with a cameo on it and a thin wire loop sticking out. I found one and bought it. I’m trying to teach myself how to needlepoint. I even considered bringing my needlepointing here, needlepointing during the interview, but then what would you think? Anyway, I bought this needle threader, but it was crap–two uses into it, the thing broke. So, this morning before working on Lincoln, I decided I would go online and find a really good needle threader. And who knew that on Amazon alone, there are dozens of needle threaders? So I started thinking, Why does this needle threader have five starts and this one four and a half? And this one only has two, isn’t that interesting? Can you imagine who got this needle threader and was really disappointed? And then, it’s like, Oh my God, it’s ten o’clock! I didn’t do any work.

Wallace Shawn:

I wish there were more plays about a life that is exactly like mine. I would love that! If the program says, ‘An apartment in Manhattan today,’ I’m thrilled! And if it says, ‘An apartment in Chelsea, in Manhattan, today,’ where I live, I’d be even more thrilled. I’m amazed if I can see an actor imitate someone with a French accent—that’s fantastic—and I’m even more excited if an actor can illuminate the psychological state of a person similar to me and the people I know. So I do like naturalistic theater. But I like many kinds of theater.

Plus, poetry from John Ashbery, Sophie Cabot Black, Raúl Zurita, Octavio Paz, Lucie Brock-Broido, and David Ferry; nonfiction by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya; and a new translation of Virgil.

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