What is love?
baby please hurt me
Art, like love, is an eruption. An impassioned explosion of an agonizing inner force ejected outwards in a desperate bid to make itself sensible. A violent incarnation which when effective, cannot fail to impress itself upon those who encounter it and leave them changed. When it bursts forth, or is perceived, it either lays waste to everything in its path or churns it to its own use. The Story of the Eye is a ferocious piece of art, a true tale of love. One which captures contradictory condition we find ourselves in when subjected to it, perhaps better stated as infected by it, but also the trajectory of relationships, and their place in the world in general. In Bataille's own words "...Surrealism... within my books... Coming from a position of transcendent objects that confer an empty superiority on themselves in order to destroy..." From the beginning it has been know that creation begets destruction, and so death and sex are connected at the invisible ends. One of the few pairs that are inseparable, a 3ing of the 2 as a 1.
Communication appears as an impossibility as it must cross the infinite void which separates individuals. We should not shy away from the fact that death, loss, is the only way of making this connection. Bataille writes extensively about the nature of human sacrifice. In cultures where human sacrifice was practiced it was utilized as a way into mystical experience, and arrival a continuity with other beings. As they observed the torture and death of the victims they recognized themselves in them and were reminded of their shared fate. Entrance into the void at the end of life. Thus death exists as a way of forming continuity between individuals and communication rides on the back on violation. Violence as the positive empty form of loss capable of being carried across the void. Death brings us into continuity, and violence brings us toward death. Violence forces a death of the self, a change in what I was and the birth of something new. Wanting to be communicated with is a desire for violence and violation. Violence is key that brings us toward death which is why its depictions are linked with sexual arousal. Eroticism, unlike animalistic sexuality, is a fascination, an obsession. Mysticism and eroticism both seek after continuity. Violence in sex, Art, and communication pierce the barriers of self providing a rupture and allowing a connection, continuity. A fusion which is the death of the two previous organisms. Mutual violation is essential to communication and eroticism. Annihilation of what was there for the creation of a new set of beings. What remains of interest then is the application of these aspects in the story as well as ideals, obsession, and fascinations as they apply to the erotic.
Bataille counted the Sun among one of his many obsessions. A glorious point in the sky so brilliantly incandescent that the price of gazing upon it is a temporary blindness that can be upgraded to a permanent affliction depending on the length of ones indulgence Galileo. In his essay The Rotten Sun Bataille discovers in the Sun a set of symbolic of ideals for what he calls "the most abstract object as it cannot even be looked upon". He represents it's duel aspect in the legend of Icarus with two suns. The first yellow beautiful which warms and invigorates Icarus prompting him to elevations, and the second rotten ugly sun which melts his wings and ignites his flesh transforming him into a screaming clump of carbon falling from the heavens. Desire and risk are present in all ideals. The desire to peruse them which births all action, and the risk that such pursuit will destroy us. At some point Bataille's obsession drove him to prophesize that the pineal gland was on an evolutionary journey to become a solar eye which would emerge from top of the head and be able to look at the sun. An eye that could remain fixated upon his perceived ultimate ideal without losing its vision. A romantic fantasy if I've ever heard one. Though for Bataille the sun is more than just the ultimate abstraction with which to represent our interaction with ideals; it is also blistering point of intense energy expulsion at the immediate center of our solar system from which light arrives allowing us to see. In fact Bataille uses the sun as the core of his theory of general economy. The Sun expels its excess energy which fuels all action on earth, plants weather, everything. All of which individually and similarly acquires an excess that it expends when it no longer has room for growth. Fruit on plants, fight and play in animals, thunder, lightning, and rain from the clouds. Everything for him is oriented around systems acquiring for a non utilitarian expenditure: waste of resources on non production as strength, as sovereignty, as life. That is acquiring only with the potential and intention to risk and increase the ability lose. A tradition best exemplified in the Northwest Native American Tribes tradition of potlatch where wealth and gifts were lavished upon rivals as a sacrifice to dishonor their status and place them in a state of debt they could not repay.
The themes of death, of these two suns, waste, excess and expenditure factor heavily in our love story.
One of the least forgettable aspects of the novella is the cornucopia of eggs and piss nestled within its pages. The non consumption of the eggs is pegged easily enough as being waste; symbolizing Simone's unutilized fertility (even without its pairing it immediately with piss literal waste). Through the fascinated, and perversely obsessed eyes of the narrator, arrives the message to the minds eye of the reader. Through visualization we are able to scrape pleasure from the surface of these descriptions of obscenities. The excess here being pulled from the waste through the eyes which derive something from it, an element beyond its practical function. An excess acquired from even something that is functionless. The sexual excess of the egg as abstract ideal, occulted goal of animalistic sexual activity, is distributed across the system; from the egg to the piss, just as the sun distributes energy across the solar system.
The death of the beautiful young biker who met her at the front fender of the narrators car is a way for the first real connection, beyond their initial attraction, between the narrator and Simone to be symbolized. Bataille literally spells this out, saying "The horror and despair at seeing so much blood and flesh... was fairly equivalent to our usual impression upon seeing one another". It marks the real beginning of their relationship with the death of an alluring stranger. Shorty after this murder the character Marcelle is introduced, and then promptly raped through the joint efforts of the Simone and the narrator. "She was jerking off with the earth... her face in wallowing in the puddle, where she was brutally churning Marcelle's cunt..." Marcell exists in this story as an avatar representing Simone's "innocence", her outer world facing persona subject to and under rule of social norms (proper etiquette, polite society, etc.). This is displayed through various juxtapositions between the two, and epitomized in her capture and rescue from the sanitarium where the innocent Marcelle is being held captive to keep her safe from sexual temptation.
*"...Simone ran her hand down her belly to her beaver. Marcelle imitated her... she was wearing a white belt with white stockings, whereas black haired Simone, whose cunt was in my hand, was wearing a black belt with black stockings....as the two girls were jerking off... in the howling night... Some invisible monstrosity seemed to be pulling Marcelle away from the bars [of the window of her cell] though her left hand clutched with all her might. We saw her tumble back into her delirium."*
*"She was scarcely aware of Simone's existence... at times mistook her for a wolf because of her black hair"*
Thus Marcelle is needed, more specifically violation of her is needed, for Simone and the narrator to engage in anything sexual. "I'm not interested here in a bed like a housewife or a mother! I'll only do it with Marcelle." Further evidence for this lies in that before Marcell's death the two of them are only engaging in oral sex or deliriously demented acts of mutual masturbation. For the two of them to fuck the first time they need a corpse, "Marcelle... we childishly imagined her hanging herself". Ultimately Marcelle does hang herself after witnessing the same piece of furniture which she had locked herself in side to hide while she masturbated during the orgy which Simone and the narrator had orchestrated. An event which traumatized poor Marcelle, making her fear the narrator as the blood soaked Cardinal (although she failed to recognize him again in the narrator for some time). A man who she was convinced meant to execute her. "...she asked me to protect her when the Cardinal returned." And so arrives the corpse, beside which their union is consummated. The death/violation between them brings them close to one another and changes them into something else. The corpse representing full nakedness, penetration and connection established by the narrator and Simone as both the masks they wear for others in society as well as the ideals they hold of each other are finally put away and they touch trough the impossible having taken on the limit of vulnerability, let go of the logical inhibition which tends towards preservation, and given themselves up towards risk and the potential for disaster. This has some unforeseen consequences however. "we were so calm, all three of us, and that was the most hopeless part of it." The thrill of the unknown is gone, Marcelle has been violated into oblivion. The fear of the Cardinal has vanished. The ideals have been shattered even though a new closeness has arisen, a boredom with the relation sets in. "Now we can get married, cant we?" Marcelle asks shortly after rescue. An arrival of a rotten sun. This drives them to heightened levels of crimes and violations to maintain the energy to carry the erotic aspects relationship. Adultery, public sex, further fascination with violence.
In the final scene consists of a brutal murder of a priest. Beaten, invited to drink his own piss from a chalice, and strangled mid orgasm. Simone places his amputated eye inside her vagina. The implications of which are made more sensible by an aspect of another of Bataille's stories, Madam Edwarda. Here the narrator is forced to look on as Edwards gapes her snatch and proclaims "I AM GOD". The implication being that the entire purpose of life is fucking, or a more abstract pursuit of desire. The chance of relief defined by suffering and embodied in love. The priest's eye, is then the surrogate eye of god, The eye of judgement and control removed from its skull and placed into her vagina. Mortal hands placing the divine in the proper slot for what controls our lives, desire, pleasure, and the chance to pursue it. In the novella it is described by the narrator as "Marcelles blue eye covered in piss soaked tears." The eye of the desired lost ideal to be violated together with his beloved. The dead priest himself was controlled by his commitment to renunciation of his desire, an act which places it in an even higher value. And so when he eventually fell to his lust his violation was not only on the order of social unacceptability but the destruction of his sacred vows to the oppressive divinity he wished to serve. An exquisite torment which places his control by desire back in the fore rather than allowing it to be obscured through renunciation.
"I LOATHE monks. For me, the turning away from the world, from chance, from the truth of bodies is shameful. No greater sin exists" Bataille On Nietzche
Love arrives as an alien force. A complete and involuntary agony that drags us into a realm inaccessible by reason. A labyrinth of emotion which we are forced to blindly navigate, relentlessly driven by a whipped frenzy with no regard for preservation of self. No. The shape of the pleasure, the release that the agony prescribes is utter annihilation within a connection with the beloved. An overwhelming desire to inflict upon them to fullest extent possible the torments to which they have made us subject to. The vicious impulses which they arouse within us. To force these upon them until they are completely absorbed in the violation and we have completely exhausted what once we were in enacting it. The ultimate release of meeting in the void of what once we were, devouree and devourer. two wills in tandem. Flesh as symphony. A mutual death wish granted, birth giving and unsurvivable. At its end both fall out as something new and must adjust if their love is to continue. Love is a constant murder just the way we like it. The death of the one we thought could not be ours, the death of the one we thought they were, and the constant pursuit of death and depravity together which keeps our connection alive ever after.
just you wait!
Something you skipped out on here is the whole character of Sir Edmond, whom I think is worth a mention. He is is introduced in the chapter after Marcelles death as the necessary price they have to pay to utility and work to continue their lives together after marriage. They make a journey to find him across a body of water in a boat and then burn it upon departure, evoking the idea that there is no going back to how things were between them. Simone then leaves to seek sir Edmond in the city returning at nightfall with him, numerous luxury goods and transportation. Edmond is English, and thus from the birthplace of modern capitalism, and the origin of the change away from feudal society. This is a significant transition for Bataille who connects the change with the protestant reformation, handing the role of economic shift more to the Calvinists than to the Lutherans (though they do play a role). The important aspects of the change can be seen to consist of both a reorganization of production which spawned an alteration in the primary value of money itself. In the feudal system loans that were given did not generally have interest levied upon them, as usury was forbidden. Unnaturally compelled production tithe and taxes was done as a way to maintain the priest class and the military. Both of which were done for the satisfaction of god. In a society like this God controls time, so interest accruement over time was forbidden because cost was recognized as "labour value" and interest then is functionally a theft from god (how much of economy is based on debt today?). Summarily this means there is no emphasis on the increase of productive forces which meant that the value of wealth was seen in its ability to satisfy people, where as in a capitalist society wealth is primarily used as a means of reinvestment for the purpose of an increase in productive forces. In denying the ethicality of indulgences Luther, as consequence, initiates this separation by depriving wealth of its meaning except as productive value. Calvin, though is the force that really brings this change to the fore. Glory to god through faith and labor with work ethic as a sign of salvation all washed down with the renunciation of personal splendor and you have the recipe for an industrial capitalist society.
"What reason is there that income from business should not be larger than from landowning? Whence does the merchants profits come except from his own diligence and industry?" P.122 the Accursed Share
And so it goes; down through the puritans: who over time separate production from religious and moral control until we arrive at the ilk of Benjamin Franklin who heartily laughs at the fool who would spend a dollar, likening the act to killing a cow and robbing yourself of its offspring. Through this transition people are moved from their status of children of god into the current position, that of a thing. A thing whose value can be weighed in dollars, skills and productivity. The search for intimacy itself externalized as the process of protestant's willful withering of any divinity unrelated to wealth and works. Edmond then as the Bourgeois English cost that facilitates the luxury and travel of the Narrator and Simone through their adventure in Spain, as a marker of the end of the world they once inhabited exclusively "We had abandoned the real world, the one made up solely of dressed people, and the time elapsing since then was already so remote as to seem almost beyond reach." and as a way of showing what that cost is meant to turn money into. Irrational expenditure in love and on vices. Momentary freedom from utilitarian control. What is worked for is is luxury and pleasure. Time spent with the ones we love, doing what what we love.