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Georges Bataille - January 1962 Manuscript preface to the Impossible

Georges Bataille - January 1962 Manuscript preface to the Impossible

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Published by Rowan G Tepper
My translation of the original January 1962 manuscript of Bataille's draft of the preface to The Impossible (the last of his writings to be published prior to his death). This version is orders of magnitude longer than the version completed and published (published April 12th 1962). This version also includes a translation of his working notes for this project.
My translation of the original January 1962 manuscript of Bataille's draft of the preface to The Impossible (the last of his writings to be published prior to his death). This version is orders of magnitude longer than the version completed and published (published April 12th 1962). This version also includes a translation of his working notes for this project.

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Published by: Rowan G Tepper on May 10, 2010
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06/07/2014

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The Impossible Preface – January 1962 Manuscript Version
[511]
1
Chapter I.
The meaning of this preface is dependent on the fact that this second edition begins with thenovel-like parts of the book, parts overtly bound to the impossible and to death (
Story of rats, Dianus
)The first part,
The Oresteia
, removed to the end, itself reaches for this truth of the impossibleand of death. Less directly.[But I am far from having the certainty today of making myself heard better than fifteen yearsago.Introducing at first these two passages, which bind my thought to a romantic form, in the enddeferring to the parts where I have given way to a poetic disorder, in spite of all being, it seems moreclear to me.Without doubt I am also more clear by placing in advance the sexual disorder, which marks thefirst two parts of this edition. However, I have no intention here of singing the praise of the disorder.On the contrary. Sexual disorder is accursed, in my sense. In this respect, in spite of appearances, I amopposed to the tendency, which it seems to carry today. I am not of those who sees an escape inforgetting sexual prohibitions. I even think that human possibility is dependent on these
[512]
interdictions: this possibility we can not imagine without these prohibitions (it would at least, in fact, beimpossible for us to imagine). I don't think otherwise that the book could enjoy the sense of anunlivable sexual liberty. On the contrary: that which sexual madness has is unbreathable in the last place.]
Chapter II.
How to situate the category of the impossible (written Friday afternoon)The category of 
the impossible
is far from having been the object of sufficient attention. At theoutset it serves as pretext for the emphasis,
the possible
is the only object constantly sought out.Finally, wisdom [
 sagesse
] and reflection turn away from
the impossible
,After all, the living is the essential; and
the impossible,
has concerns which lie with death. It isto avow a tragic destiny when man goes so far as to chose
the impossible
. His
choice
is made in aninevitable disorder and, willed or not, for a part, his choice is blind.In opposition, the
 possible
is the object of an inevitable choice. The essential is of the living.
The impossible
, on the contrary, is death, to which it is true that man is promised.Everyday, clear reflection has the
 possible
for its object.
The Impossible
, on the contrary, is adisorder, an aberration. It is a disorder which only brings about despair and passion... An excessivedisorder to which one is only condemned by madness.Those who assume a tragic destiny are only hungry for the
impossible
.
[513]
The
impossible
, surely, cannot be defined.I can thus define the possible, so that the impossible can only be... [can only be being..]
II
The impossible
! The texts which now assume the new title, they respond to it better than they
1Boldface numbers in square brackets refer to the corresponding original page of Georges Bataille,
Oeuvres Complètes,tome III 
(Paris: Gallimard, 1973). Translation by Rowan G. Tepper, M.A. – Completed 11/19/2008.
 
had not responded to at first.I have wanted, after fifteen years, to speak of 
The Hatred of poetry.
The first title was not clear.I dreamed of the aversion which had been inspired in me to “beautiful poetry”. Always the poetry of Baudelaire – or that of Rimbaud – had only inspired in me this hatred. But I don't at all like theinsipidity of lyricism...[It is for this reason that poetry did not excite my pleasure, that it rarely accedes to violence,that I have wanted to say of 
The Hatred of poetry
. Without a doubt, the only means that I have of expressing myself is extreme slowness. I know not whether the equivocation which today rules over theword delirium endures as much as the prior. I would like to give voice to the resolution of the here andnow. Perhaps after having admitted to my first aberration, certain rare readers will permit it a secondchance. I scarcely hate less than poetry produces delirium. Delirium always has the advantage over  poetry of being involuntary. And how could I be successful at laying the ground without passing by thedouble detour of the
hatred of poetry
and the hatred of delirium.I have not willed these detours but – I am quite sure – I could not have (but otherwise I couldnot there be successful, or else only rarely)I could not duly set forth my object, the
impossible
, of the failure which is beautiful poetry – finally setting forth the impoverishment of delirium – in order to conduct a reader/reading of that coldviolence which does not support confusion (which demands lucidity).]The possible views only the real, but human reality is double.To begin, the former is the reality of common sense. It is that which, today, science describes – and that otherwise wishes to describe religions. But in the spirit of religions, suppression is possible. Itis why death could be seen in two manners. But if religion discerns the possible, it can once againattain the
impossible
. A path that science cannot follow.But if science discerns the possible – it ought to discern exactly. It remains silent at the veryinstant where reflection is engaged in the impossible. Science sees death but, if it speaks of death, it is amatter of its real consequences. If it takes account of the sentiments which oppress the survivors, it is inthe region where the manifestations which cleanse some inflamed being are precisely calculable. If Itake into view the lacerations – the terror and the horror – which follow death, they are not objects of science that reduces to the
objective
analysis of relations.I do not wish to have recourse to the descriptions of the phenomenologists: they are notobjective but by a slippage.
[514]
Phenomenology takes in view the effect of suppressions, onlyliterature attains the effect ofsuppressions. Literature is not a void but it is not any more objectiveknowledge. My sorrow, in my consciousness, has a sense, but I can not thus make this sense into anobject. The sorrow of death that phenomenology describes is never an object.The domain of death pertains to the subject. If, beyond the aspects that medicine objectivelydescribes I speak of death, it is within the scope where the subjectivity of consciousness is in play.It goes the same way if I would put into play the objective truth of love. As for evidence, likethat of death, it has sees nothing of these sentiments which are describable by literature. It is a luxury, but it is once again a weakness. Having this weakness, I thus apparently expose myself, give to myself a deceptive luxury. But closing myself up vainly in deception, I lose – in gaining the dissatisfaction of asticky heaviness (that of phrases which are nothing but “plumes of a peacock”) - the integrity of adespair to which I have rights.The despair is not always of sobbing and tears. My despair, if I will, is reducible to the ironicsobriety of silence. But without the shadow of pretension.In truth, we can not say anything of death objectively. We can say nothing more of love on thelevel of science. Neither of laughter or of tears. Or of poetry. Nothing could be said, where I did not have the objectivity of biology. It doesnot touch upon my
 
 being if I love, if I laugh, if I cry.Straight from the beginning, it is true without wanting to cut off, I have the same doubtregarding the possibility of a philosophy, in the sense where knowledge deceives me.At the end, it decays, when the impossible and not the possible reveals itself.Sinking into the night of poetry, the sobs, the tears expose to my eyes the
impossible
.Philosophy, concealment and love or laughter succeed in taking advantage of me.These brief indications can not, without a doubt, decide conviction. We decay during finallysatisfying the conditions of ensnarement into which, of many ways, the ensemble of humans is fallen.We have searched on all sides. But there where the
impossible
rages (where to clarity – but at the limitof reason – convulsive emotion succeeds), the explication unveils itself; there where the impossiblerages all explication unveils itself.The book is, in other words, entirely in opposition to explication.[Since very distant times, laughter enjoyed its own mockery, sobs, songs and love complete thediversion of the human being.Since very distant times, laughter enjoyed its own mockery, certain times tears have completedthe diversion itself which gives way to tearsdelirium exhausts, fascinates melaughter tearslove
[515]
and philosophy poetryif I do not abuse the others who abuse me.But the explications that one day I don't avoid to sketch, I imagine at least, denounced beforemy eyes the mendacity that I have never ceased to be.The book at first betrayed me. It engaged itself in the maze where at least I will have known atfirst that I'll loose myself.But if I write as before, I have known that I deceive but I am the first victim of the lie.Literature lies and its entire alacrity is made from the certainty of deception.]Shadowy, within philosophy, I aim to say in these possible terms that which only has the power of expression in poetry, which is the language of the
impossible
.The misery of life adheres to the mis-recognition of the misery which in secret is blazing gloryof which the explosion lies secret.It could be that philosophy may be possible. That it could itself. But the impossible alone ismade of its secret.Decipherable and indecipherable, while I come to the necessity of hiding that which I unveil. Iwould like to come to the evidence of tears.Only death is rather madness for giving me the appearance of the horror and simplicity of asong more idiotic than silence.I would want, if I do not miss [in] the tears of death: of tears of final death, mad and bloody,also that one mad-laugh deceiving the heart. It is sure that before all I would like to deceive myresolution. I would like to reduce myself to tears, to exhaustion, to shame, but to finish with the inertiaof regrets, found at the end of a silent death – but a hiccup betrays me.But a dissimulation, it is missing at death, the smile in the corner of the mouth of a theatricalcadaver. As if I let it end with life – naiveté – all with the ink.In returning to my discussionso to say, to the truth.

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