Ex-surrealist and maverick anthropologist Michel Leiris (1901–1990) crafted his multivolume autobiography over the course of thirty-five years, profoundly influencing generations of French writers, from Sartre and Beauvoir to Modiano and Ernaux. In this fourth and final volume, Richard Sieburth completes the project of bringing Leiris’s monumental experiment in self-portraiture into English.
With wit and playfulness, Leiris assembled a scrapbook of fragments—journal extracts, travel notes, transcriptions of dreams, poems—to document the vagaries of a life committed to the difficult marriage of poetry and revolutionary politics, which he witnessed firsthand in Mao’s China, Castro’s Cuba, and on the Paris streets in May ’68.
Frail Riffs is a fugue-like record of the twilight of a life, at once a painstaking self-examination and a chronicle of a century. As Leiris wrote, it is “neither a private diary nor a formal work, neither an autobiographical narrative nor a work of the imagination, neither prose nor poetry, but all this at the same time. . . . A perpetual work in progress.”