Story of the Eye – Georges Bataille

books-and-authors-i-love-3-revisedGeorges Bataille’s Story of the Eye was one of the earliest novels I devoured when I decided to read erotica ‘seriously’ and first drew up my list of books I thought I should read. Well, you can forget about breaking me in gently!

One the classic pieces of erotic writing of the Twentieth Century, this short novel follows the young male narrator and his lover, from their first erotic encounters with each other, through their sadistic tortuous sex play with Marcelle, their young and impressionable lover-come-victim, to increasingly transgressive and sacriligious acts, dragging others along for the ride as they go. I won’t spoil it for you, but the sex play, and the search for the next erotic thrill (or orgy, defilement, or violence) carries the reader on an almost surreal journey to the their final act, one which breaks a whole of societal codes.

Written and published under the pseudonym ‘Lord Auch’ in 1928, it has remained Bataille’s most notorious work, although he wrote various other fiction and non-fiction works (Eroticism and Literature and Evil I particularly recommend as his non-fiction contributions). This book has been described in its own blurb as ‘exlicit pornographic fantasy’, yet Bataille admits to its resemblance of various real life coincidences. I was once told that all the best fiction contains an element of truth, and I endeavour to stick by that when I’m writing. But quite where the lines blur in this tale of eroticism, fetishism and extreme thrill-seeking, I don’t know. And I wonder if I would really want to.

I may be wrong in saying that I love this book; each time I read it, I’m not exactly sure what to make of it. But it is an utterly fascinating piece of literature. I said at the beginning that this was an early erotic read for me. I remember sitting on the train and being extraordinarily turned on that I was reading this book (a physical paperback copy) while other people sat in such close proximity to me. This has happened so many times to me on public transport as people have tried to hide their e-reader copy of Fifty Shades of Grey from public eyes. That was like reading the Beano by camparison. If only they’d known what I was reading…

In re-reading it before writing this blog post, I was struck by something else, too – by my lack of horror at the increasing level of atrocity performed as the the narrator and his lover, Simone, journey through an increasingly macabre narrative, in their search for bigger thrills and stronger erotic stimulus. What that says about me I’m not quite sure, and it certainly left me questioning myself. I have to admit to being a complete mystery fiction obsessive, so maybe. on a personal level, my mind is attuned to reading about various levels of atrocity. But to combine it with the erotic? Where does that leave any form of moral code we live by? is it OK to break it here, because it’s fiction? Is it that, like the characters in the book, once the experience has past then reliving the same one lessens its impact, so that more is needed to create the feeling of excitement (however abhorrent the act itself may be)? I felt that I knew myself less – and more – after reading this book.

If you never explore Georges Bataille’s work further, I would urge you to read Story of the Eye and make up your own mind over the questions it raises.