By Georges Bataille (1928)
Translated by Joachim Neugroschel (1977)
Hopping from the populist genre fiction of Stephen King to a classic of transgressive pornographic literature by Surrealist bad-boy, Georges Bataille… what will Meezly read next?
I’ve been curious about this book since my university days (not because it’s Bjork’s fave book of all time and that everyone should read it. Eeesh.) and it’s exactly the kind of book a liberal arts student would be curious about. Ah, remember that time? when you were young and everything was new and cool and exciting, and you were constantly seeking out works of art and literature that’s shocking and bursts your sheltered middle-class bubble. I don’t actively seek this stuff out anymore, but I was nevertheless pleased to come across a cheap used copy at The Word bookshop.
Originally published in 1928, “The Story of the Eye” is still shockingly obscene today, and still strangely compelling notwithstanding. The no-holds-barred profane attacks against the Catholic Church are definitely the best thing about this book: the money shots, if you will. This short novella is basically about the depraved exploits of two lovers and soul-mates, a boy and a girl, who grow up to be sophisticated libertines.
Their misadventures finally result in death, which force them to flee their native France and seek refuge in Spain, where they hook up with a like-minded older benefactor. The exploits of this bizarre trio finally culminate in a (surprise) Catholic Church where they commit unimaginable atrocities against a very unlucky handsome young Spanish priest. Just when you think the level of depravity has reached its (civilized?) limit, Bataille lays it on even more! The two protagonist-lovers, Simone and the unnamed narrator, make Micky and Mallory look like kindergarten teachers.
I suppose what elevates this work from mere exploitative pap like Natural Born Killers … is the philosophy and passion behind it. You get a very clear idea as to what kind of people they are, and what drives them to commit these inconceivable offenses. Although the narration is stiff at times (could be the translation, and the fact that Batailles is not a great writer), the writing is still laughingly very French:
“I associate the moon with the vaginal blood of mothers, sisters, that is, the menstrua with their sickening stench …”
Mm hmm, right, dude.