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Foucault, Michel (Translated by Charles Ruas). DEATH AND THE LABYRINTH: THE WORLD OF RAYMOND ROUSSEL. New York City, NY: Doubleday, 1986. Hardcover. First Edition/First Printing. 196 pages. Fine/Fine.

The author's first and only work of literary criticism. One of the greatest books of the 20th century. The first appearance of the title in English and in the United States. Precedes and should not be confused with all other subsequent editions. Presented with a brilliant Introduction by the great American poet John Ashbery, who was deeply influenced by the work of Raymond Roussel, and a landmark Interview with the author by the translator, Charles Ruas, who wrote the contemporary classic, "Conversations With American Writers". "Death And The Labyrinth" uses the work of Raymond Roussel, "an evasive figure in the pantheon of modernist strategies", in order to "brew so suggestively, so luminously over the wider and wilder question of why we read and why we write" (Richard Howard). Now regarded as the greatest openly gay philosopher in the Western tradition, Foucault, the philosopher of the "episteme", argued that human history takes place in discontinuous, radical, and transformative breaks (as opposed to continuous, evolutionary, and incremental changes) that have absolutely nothing to do with one another. Thus, a Renaissance artist will not understand anything that comes after him whereas his Modern counterpart understands him only in Modernist terms, a conceptual understanding that has little to do with what really happened in history, and how it transformed the human being. Yet Foucault's own work has a retrospective continuity and overarching concerns; it is dedicated to uncovering (what he called an "archaeology" rather than history proper) and demonstrating how social structures have turned the overwhelming majority of human beings, especially minorities, who include women (while they have outnumbered men, they are treated as a minority by a patriarchal social order), the poor, the mad, the criminal, the sick, and the homosexual (Roussel was homosexual), into virtual slaves of seemingly immutable structures invented by each new epoch to keep the rich and powerful in control. Foucault deployed his genius as a philosopher, phenomenologist, and political thinker to help make people re-think and seek new answers to the question, "What does it mean to be human?", the only philosophical question worth asking. He single-handedly exposed Western Enlightenment as a lie, and by extension, all of its modern versions, whether it be European, British or American "analytical thinking". The most important French thinker of his time, he was alienated as a Frenchman, and wished that his country would collapse, making him more, not less, wildly popular with his fellow Frenchmen. His seminal influence on every aspect of Western thought and art has been "destructive" in the most positive sense of the word: "He has given received wisdom a mighty blow from which it will never recover" (Christopher Lasch). A "must-have" title for Michel Foucault collectors. This title has been out-of-print as a hardcover for a very long time and is now collectible. This is one of very few copies of the First English-language Edition still available online and is in unusually fine condition: Clean, crisp, and bright, a beauty. A rare copy thus. The greatest French philosopher of the 20th century. A fine collectible copy. (SEE ALSO OTHER MICHEL FOUCAULT TITLES IN OUR CATALOG). ISBN 0385278543. $150.00

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