From its foundation in 1957 to its auto-dissolution in 1972, the Paris-based grouping of artists and intellectuals which called itself the internationale situationniste deliberately remained apart from the main political currents of the era. A notable exception however was the case of Algeria, which was the subject of a plethora of articles and tracts, many of which were distributed in Algiers and Oran at the height of the war and in the immediate wake of the peace agreements of 1962. Like many of their contemporaries and in particular the Tel Quel group led by Philippe Sollers, the Situationists isolated language as the key agent of revolutionary change. Unlike Tel Quel, however, the Situationists insisted that 'problem of the colonization of words' was not merely a textual drama but the direct corollary of the lived experience of colonial struggle. In a piece called 'Algeria and writing' they scorned Roland Barthes' contention that the textual transgression could be equivalent to real political revolt. The article was accompanied by a burnt-out car in the streets of Algiers which was covered in FLN graffitti.
In this paper I will read Pierre Guyotat's novel Eden, Eden, Eden alongside the Situationists' theoretical positions on Algeria. Guyotat was not only a contemporary of the Situationists but also, as a novelist and thinker, influenced by Georges Bataille, a key influence on the Situationists. Most importantly Guyotat's writing, which seeks to actively undermine writing as a process and return to experience as the defining point of theory, seems to embody certain key Situationist principles. It follows from this that the first aim of this paper is to consider the Situationists' argument that liberation for the Algerian people meant discarding the out moded language of Hegelian epistemology (a central concern for Bataille). A secondary aim is to place this notion against or alongside Guyotat's work, which was famously championed by Sollers and Barthes as 'abolition de la parole'. From this starting point I will consider the truth of the Situationist contention, as formulated by the Situationist Mustapha Khayati with regard to Algeria, that real change will emerge by 'attacking words but not their meanings.'
Last modified: 7 May 2001