Monday, 6 February 2012

Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille (3/5)

The back says: In 1928 Georges Bataille published under a pseudonym this first novel, a legendary shocker that uncovers the dark side of the erotic by means of forbidden, obsessive fantasies of excess and sexual extremes. A classic of pornographic literature, Story of the Eye finds parallels in Sade and Nietzsche and in the investigations of contemporary psychology; it also forecasts Bataille’s own theories of ecstasy, death and transgression which he developed in later work.

I say: My first reaction when I finished this was “wtf did I just read?”

For serious.

When I ordered this, my book store labeled it as erotica – which is all well and good. However, as soon as I started reading it became clear to me that this was hardcore pornography; gruesome, brutal and, in my opinion, very repulsive.

I was cringing pretty much all the way through.

When we were in Amsterdam last year we went to their sex museum and saw this painting of a vagina with an eye in it, which lead us to wonder where this imagery came from (we’ve seen a reference to this before in art and music).

Well, now I know.

And I wish I didn’t.

There isn’t much to be said about the translation I read by Joachim Neugroschel because I’m not going to read any other translation to compare. The language was crude and vulgar, all in line with the story being told, and not much to comment on. The story itself was ridiculously unbelievable and here’s the crux about this novel: taken at face value it’s very much not my cup of tea, but if you look deeper there a lot of themes to be explored in here.

I liked the fact that there were a few pages after the story where Bataille explains the imagery and where it came from, as that offered a clearer picture of why he wanted to write this novel. He calls them “coincidences”, but clearly they are not.

3/5 because despite the shock of what I read I realize now, a week later, that I’ll never get the image of the eye out of my head it is more than just a lurid pornographic tale, and maybe someday I’ll be able to analyse it further.

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