Manhood: A Journey, L’Age d’homme, is Leiris’s autobiographical exposé of trying to make sense of his emerging Manhood.

Among his revelations is that he got his first erection at a family picnic in a Paris park. He was six or seven years old, and  at the time, he recalls, he “established no direct relation between the modification in my penis and the spectacle before me; I simply remarked on the strange coincidence.”  It’s unclear if any humor was intended here.

“We sat in a clearing to eat our picnic lunch,” Leiris writes, “and quite unexpectedly, this place became the site of my first erection. The event which caused my excitement was the sight of a group of children-boys and girls about my age-climbing trees barefoot. I was overcome with pity I thought, an emotion I had been taught to feel toward poor children.”

Leiris was the subject of unflattering portraits by Picasso, Francis Bacon, and Alberto Giacometti. Susan Sontag thought that Manhood was disgusting.

*Leiris was an anthropologist, poet, surrealist writer, and art artic. 

See Leiris’s “Prologue” (1946) from Manhood: A Journey from Childhood into the Fierce Order of Virility. Translated by Richard Howard. Chicago, 1992; Susan Sontag. “Odd Man Out,” The New York Review of Books, 1964