Excerpt: 'The Missing Pieces' by Henri Lefebvre


Hugo Ball performing at Cabaret Voltaire in 1916

…• In 1970, Robert Filliou offers Bengt Adlers the drawing Meditation Bound, representing three men with closed eyes; after Filliou’s death, the central figure mysteriously disappears from the drawing • In British author J.G. Ballard’s office a fake Delvaux painted by an unknown artist and based on a destroyed work by the Belgian surrealist occupies a place of honor • Rather than studying law, Petrarch reads Cicero and Virgil and his father burns up his books; Petrarch leaves some six hundred letters to posterity and destroys the rest in greater proportion; his work De Viris is incomplete • According to his will, still in force, the name of Frédéric Mistral is not inscribed on his tomb • A single fragment of Heinrich Heine’s Memoirs was published in 1884; the other parts of this work are lost • A French museum loses, or destroys, the film for an installation by Alain Fleischer: the face of a young woman projected onto the blades of a fan; for want of anything better, the museum replaces this lost image with that of the curator’s secretary • Incomplete, the last novel of Brigitte Reimann (GDR) who dies suddenly in 1973 at the age of forty • During World War II, twenty-nine works by Alexander Calder, Michel Seuphor … disappear forever from the collections of the Museum of Lodz, the first European museum of modern art • In 1969, David Hockney develops a passion for the tales of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, reads three hundred and fifty of them, plans to illustrate twelve of them, but only illustrates six • On December 30, 1999, a painting by Picasso is stolen from the office of the director of L’Humanité; Still Life with Charlotte [Nature morte à la charlotte], 1924, disappears in 2004 from a storeroom of the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris • At twenty-nine, Sigmund Freud burns all of his manuscripts • In 1944, the Berlin studios produce Life Goes On, the last Nazi propaganda film, never recovered • The man Peter Handke • It is not known what became of Saint Charles Borromeo Giving Communion to the Plague-Stricken, a work painted by Pierre Mignard for the high altar of San Carlo ai Catenari; in 1677, he decorated the small gallery of Versailles, which was destroyed in 1736; his St. Luke Painting the Virgin of 1695 remains unfinished • Phidias’ Statue of Zeus at Olympia is lost; nothing but fragments remain of the decorations he executed on the pediments and on the outer and inner friezes of the Parthenon • The Messenger, the first film of Sergei Bodrov, Jr., disappeared with its director and film crew in an avalanche in a valley in Caucasia • Except for two receipts, no handwritten text by Molière has reached posterity • A bas-relief by Giacometti represented four legs arranged in a cross; the work was destroyed when his attention was drawn to the pattern’s close resemblance to the Nazi swastika • At the fourth chapter, Pierre Michon abandons writing his novel The Eleven [Les onze]; later, he burns his pornographic texts • Whether in life or in the novel (we no longer know), Nina Bouraoui (Nina B.) takes some photographs of Diane (D.), then tears them up “in a rage” • In the eighties, sculptor Jacques Lélut was commissioned by the French National Agency for the Recovery and Disposal of Waste to create four statues representing Earth, Air, Water and Fire; Earth and Air ended up in a dump, Fire was stolen, while Water, placed near the elevators on the third floor of the Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development, had its tuba stolen • In Zürich, the Cabaret Voltaire, birthplace of the Dada movement • Three mansions built by the Bauhaus at Dessau remain standing; the others, including the one by Walter Gropius, were destroyed during the war • The tomb erected near Shanghai, in which the mother of the American architect, Ieoh Ming Pei, was buried, was bulldozed during the Cultural Revolution • Jim Palette met Serge Gainsbourg, an admirer of Schoenberg, for an unrealized project of Lettrist songs • After two years of work, Julio Cortázar abandons writing a biography of John Keats •…

Excerpted from a translation from the French by David L. Sweet. The Missing Pieces was first published 2004 by Éditions Virgile. This translation Copyright Semiotext(e) 2014. Published with permission of Semitext(e).

 About the Author:

Henri Lefebvre was born in 1959 in Salon-de-Provence. He lives and works in Paris, where he founded and directs Les Cahiers de la Seine.