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In 1980, the French surrealist and ethnographer Michel Leiris (1901-1990) refused to accept the National Grand Prize of Letters, commenting that he did not want to be a topic for the media. In his obituary, The New York Times noted that Leiris compared the process of writing to a bullfight and likened the writer to a matador.

“He admitted that he had an obsessive desire to make literature ‘into an act, a drama by which I insist on incurring, positively, a risk - as if this risk were the necessary condition for my self-realization as a man.’”

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In a 1975 interview, Leiris spoke about his early career. “The first writer that I knew personally was Max Jacob. He’s a man whom I’ve always considered to be a truly great poet and a great writer, and who,” Leiris recalled, “in a tattered, fragmented life full of contradictions had something quite exemplary. He was a poet in the true sense of the word…. It is through him that I came to know the painter André Masson, the one I refer to as my mentor in L’Age d’Homme; and, it is shortly thereafter, following an exhibition of Masson’s work, that I made contact with Breton, and that our whole little group of friends became surrealists.”

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired several early, limited editions by Leiris and the Surrealist circle, including:
Michel Leiris. Miroir de la tauromachie. [Paris]: Éditions G.L.M., 1938]
André Breton. Trajectoire du rêve. [Paris]: Éditions G.L.M., 1938
Michel Leiris. Le point cardinal. Paris: Éditions du sagittaire chez Simon Kra, 1927
Michel Leiris. Tauromachies. Illustrations by André Masson. Paris: Éditions G.L.M., 1937
Robert Guiette. Mort du fantôme: avec un dessin de Fernand Léger. Paris: Éditions G.L.M., impr. G. Lévis Mano, 1937