Context: One of four books I finished in a day in bed in Stockton. Not feeling great.
This is a disturbing book. Of that, there is no doubt. Quite what it contributes to humanity I’m not sure. What Bataille was attempting to do, I’m not sure either. Was it worth reading? I didn’t think so. For a book that disturbs so deeply, it’s incredibly short. My version was barely 70 pages long. But in those few pages, Bataille draws the reader into arenas of sex and violence that are shocking in their brutality and pointlessness.
A pair of protagonists indulge themselves at will – no that the wrong phrase. To say “at will” would be to assume that they decide to do something. But the animal gratification of their desires seems far more base than to be subscribed to “will.” On the other hand though, if will isn’t employed, there seems no accountability for their actions. And accountability is what they are fleeing from by the end of the novella.
Death and sex are intertwined in disturbing ways. Seeing as one of the products of sex is life, this seems a sad perversion. Again, I didn’t understand what Bataille was trying to communicate by associating death and sex so strongly. My version contained almost as many pages of commentary as pages of novel. And, having read that, I still didn’t get it.
So, it seems to me that Bataille must have been trying to communicate something about sex and violence themselves. Otherwise, he would have employed some other vehicle than these. By describing such animal and offensive sexual acts, Bataille has to have some purpose. Whatever it is, it’s lost on me.
And because it’s lost on me, the offense of his descriptions don’t seem justified to me at all. It seems to me that if you are going to deal up such an unpalatable offering to your audience, you need to give them a clear enough reason for attempting to digest it. Bataille does not and, from the large amounts of commentary included by the publishers, it’s apparent that I’m not the only one who feels that he has failed. An author should not need his contemporaries and modern authorities to justify his work to the world. It should speak for itself.
I grew up very much alone, and as far back as I can recall, I was frightened of anything sexual.
On the fourth day, at Gibraltar, the Eglishman purchased a yacht, and we set sail towards new adventures with a crew of Negroes.
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