This is the first full-length study in English of Michel Leiris's work. Frequently cited as a central figure in contemporary French culture, Leiris was an outstanding writer whose double career as ethnographer and creative writer places him at important points of intersection within French cultural history. Sean Hand explores Leiris's active participation in some of the most striking intellectual and artistic movements of the twentieth century: surrealism in the twenties, ethnography in the thirties and existentialism in the forties. Hand locates his writing in these different contexts in relation to the major artistic, political and philosophical concepts of the period. He goes on to argue that Leiris's multi-volume autobiography La Regle du jeu stands as the model form of self-enquiry in the twentieth century. More broadly, Hand explores Leiris's continuing obsession with the notion of 'presence'. Informed by recent critical theories, Hand offers a multi disciplinary approach to this intriguing writer.