The Tragic Festival

This article explores the idea of the ‘tragic festival’ advanced by Henri Lefebvre in his 1965 book La Proclamation de la Commune and related texts from the 1960s and 70s. It contextualises his vision of the Commune as a violent revolutionary festival in terms of his explorations of tragedy in his earlier studies of Nietzsche and Pascal, while problematising the link between the festival and everyday life, as well as the festival and revolutionary transition (and its failure). The reconstruction of Lefebvre’s delineation of the Commune’s tragic ‘style’ is complemented by an excursus into the political origins of the Nietzschean theory of tragedy in the German philosopher’s horrified reaction at the incendiary insurgency of the Communards. The article concludes with a dialogue between Lefebvre’s theory of the tragic festival and the Italian mythologist Furio Jesi’s study of the symbology of the revolt, which also homes in on the nexus of tragedy, festivity and politics.

Alberto Toscano
Goldsmiths, University of London
Volume 49.3–4