Jack’s Naughty Bits: George Bataille, The Story of the Eye

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Jack's Naughty Bits

Since the 18th century, French philosophy entered a decadent phase; clarity of presentation came to be less of a concern and precision of meaning lost out to drama and hyperbole. Philosophy became more like literature — not a bad thing, especially when seen against the bloodless Anglo-American model — and literature started to become a bit more like philosophy. Nowhere is this more evident than in the French pornographic tradition. Sade, Nin, Bataille, Réage — their achievements have few rivals in American erotica. What elevates each author above other pornographic writers is their preoccupation with philosophy, their potent impulse to tease deep meanings from the grammar of what is called perversion.


The intersection of philosophy and pornography led, in French literature, to a great preoccupation with the nexus of sex and death. The import of sex moved beyond procreation, beyond recreation, becoming, in effect, the vehicle through which death infuses and inscribes itself within life (especially through orgasm, long referred to as “le petit mort” — the little death). Excrement plays a similar role, both in philosophy and eroticism: shit and piss are the death passed from the self. As such, they appeal to the ruminations of both philosophers and the most nihilistic of libertines.


French literary pornography interweaves all these threads, and
Georges Bataille’s first novel, The Story of the Eye, is the supreme meditation. First published in France in the 1920s, it scandalized readers with the debauched misadventures of its teenaged protagonists who pee, fuck, frig and murder their way through France and Spain. As the novel progresses, they become increasingly obsessed with the symbolic, isomorphic overlap among eggs, eyes and testicles. Simone, the principal female, sits on eggs, pisses on eyes, and, discovering at a bullfight that the balls of a just-slain toro are also white and egg-shaped, veers toward madness. The scene below enacts the philosophical layering that fascinates Bataille; it is spectacularly graphic, outlandish, unforgettable — and quintessentially French.

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From The Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille

It really was totally out of the question for Simone to lift her dress and place her bare behind in the dish of raw balls. All she could do was hold the dish in her lap. I told her I would like to fuck her again before Granero returned to fight the fourth bull, but she refused, and she sat there, keenly involved, despite everything, in the disembowlments of horses, followed, as she childishly put it, by “loss and noise,” namely the cataract of bowels.


Little by little, the sun’s radiance sucked us into an unreality that fitted our malaise — the wordless and powerless desire to explode and kick up our asses. We grimaced, because our eyes were blinded and because we were thirsty, our senses ruffled, and there was no possibility of quenching our desires. We three had managed to share in the morose dissolution that leaves no harmony between the various spasms of the body. We were so far gone that even Granero’s return could not pull us out of that stupefying absorption. Besides, the bull opposite him was distrustful and seemed unresponsive; the combat went on just as drearily as before.


The events that followed were without transition or connection, not because they weren’t actually related, but because my attention was so absent as to remain absolutely dissociated. In just a few seconds: first, Simone bit into one of the raw balls, to my dismay; then Granero advanced towards the bull, waving his scarlet cloth; finally, almost at once, Simone, with a blood-red face and a suffocating lewdness, uncovered her long white thighs up to her moist vulva, into which she slowly and surely fitted the second pale globule — Granero was thrown back by the bull and wedged against the balustrade; the horns struck the balustrade three times at full speed; at the third blow, one horn plunged into the right eye and through the head. A shriek of unmeasured horror coincided with a brief orgasm for Simone, who was lifted up from the stone seat only to be flung back with a bleeding nose, under a blinding sun; men instantly rushed over to haul away Granero’s body, the right eye dangling from the head.

© Georges Bataille