Scratches is the first volume in Michel Leiris's monumental four-volume autobiography, Rules of the Game. In this volume, the celebrated French writer examines his inventory of memories, explores the language of his childhood, weaves anecdotes from his private life with his old and recent ideas. In the end, he so mercilessly scrutinizes what was familiar that its familiarity drops away and it blossoms into something exotic. As Leiris recollects his childhood, his father's recording machine becomes a miraculous object and the letters of the alphabet - from A (or the double ladder of a house painter) to I (a soldier standing at attention) to X (the cross one makes on something whose secret one will never penetrate) - come magically to life. Also here are evocations of Paris under the occupation, his journey to Africa, and meditations on his fear of death, which he tried to exorcise through his autobiographical writings.
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Eminent anthropologist, poet, essayist, art critic, and curator of the Musee de l'Homme in Paris, Leiris (1901-1990) is among this century's most versatile French intellectuals. His monumental four ... Read full review