"Dear Sherlock Holmes of the Rocky Mountains": Nicolas Bataille, Bruce Morrissette and the Rimbaud scandal

Bataille, Nicolas, French comedian and director (1926-2008). Autograph letter signed and typed letter with autograph note signed "Nicolas". The typed letter with an additional signed note by Akakia-Viala.

N. p. and [Panama?], 9 April 1956 and 2 March 1957.

8vo and 4to. Together 3 pp. With an autograph envelope. In French.


Two humorous letters to the American professor of French literature and film, Bruce Morrissette. In the letter from 1956, Bataille praises Morrissette's book "La Bataille Rimbaud : l'affaire de la Chasse spirituelle", an investigation of the literary scandal surrounding Nicolas Bataille's and Akakia-Viala's forgery of the prose poem "La Chasse spirituelle" attributed to Rimbaud. The poem was originally mentioned by Paul Verlaine, who claimed to have forgotten its manuscript in Paris when leaving the capital for Brussels to reunite with Rimbaud in 1873. It is disputed among scholars whether "La Chasse spirituelle" ever existed, but it soon gained legendary status as Rimbaud's lost masterpiece. On 19 May 1949, the journalist and forger Pascal Pia published excerpts of the supposed text of "La Chasse spirituelle". André Breton exposed the forgery in July 1949, naming Bataille and Akakia as its probable authors, who admitted to having concocted a pastiche. In this charming letter, Bataille jokingly offers forgeries of "Claudel, Faulkner, or perhaps a faux Dostoyevsky" for Morrissette's future academic work and inquires when he will return to Montmartre: "FORMIDABLE ! Merci, cher Bruce c'est vraiment un très beau livre et quel travail ! Maintenant que voulez-vous ? Un faux Claudel, Faulkner, ou peut-être un faux Dostoievski ? Quand revenez-vous à Montmartre que nous puissions comploter quelque chose d'amusant. En attendant, je vais aller voir Nizet - s'il ne veut pas éditer 'the great Bruce Forgery' [...]".

In the typed letter that was supposedly written from Panama, Bataille announces a trip to Arizona together with Akakia, for research on the Apache tribe. He asks Morrissette for literature on the Apaches and their reservations, as it is easier in Paris and the American libraries to obtain a book "on the fabrication of Lucky Strikes than on the method of scalping Mr Pascal Pia!". This is another referece to the Rimbaud scandal; while Bataille probably did research on Apache customs and crafts for a project, asking Morrissette specifically for books "with many photos or illustrated plates because we also need such documents for decorations and costumes", it is unlikely that he actually went to Arizona.