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A iso by Georges Bataille
L'Abbe C (fictio n) Blue of N oon (fict io n) Lireraru re and Evil (cri tic ism) Sto ry of the Eye (fictio n w ith essays by Susa n So ntag and Rol and Barthes) Eroticis m (phi losophy)
MADAME EDW ARDA THE DEAD MAN
Trans lated by Au stryn Wai nho use with essays by Yukio Mi shima and Ken Hollings
MA R I ON
L O ND ON · N E W Y ORK
. of course.to change anything in customs that prevail. it would seem adv isable to underscore the seriousness of it. But 1 invite the reader of this preface to turn his thoughts for a moment to the attitude traditionally observed towards pleasure (which . . Pierre Angélique. Notthat 1 hope-orintend to try ./' PREFACE O eath is the most terrible of ail things . an insanity) and towards pain (finall y assuaged by death.mankind as it ought to be. if only beca use of the widespread custom of making light of those writings that deal with the subj ect ofsexuallife. dying winds to the highest pitch). Nonetheless. and to maintain its works is what requires the greatest of ail strength. but which. and in that picture man appears at no less great a remove from extreme pleasure as from extreme pain: the most ordinary social restrictions and T . in sexual play. A combination of conditions leads us to entertaina picture of. Bataille wrote Madame Edwarda under the pseudon ym. Hegel he author of this book has himself insisted upon the gravit y ofwhat he has to say". See publisher's not e. attains a wild intensity. before that.
1 sho uld like to mak e this prefa ce th e occasion o f à pathetic ap pea l (in th e stron gest se nse). in its st ub bornness becom es a ca rica ture ofi ts own truth . with its puissant and wonderful qu alities.clad hyp ocrisy. that j oy is th e sarn e thing as suffering. ma y legitimately re turn . so th e a rg ume n t runs. indeed violen t impulses. would be. th e sa me thing as d ying. aimed so rne agai ns t sexu al life. up on a certain la cer a ting consciousness ofdis tress . wh a t di verts us fro m kn owl ed ge of o ur di str ess. th en let ma n lie. into an iron. as d eath . so rne agains t d eath . . wh ereas pleasure is d eri sory. eroticis m is plainly sh own as o pe ning directly ou t up on a certain vista of a ng u ish. wh a t fet ch es up th e . Not th at 1 think it surprising tha t. 1t is indeed in laughter th at we find th e j us tifica tion for a for m of castigat ion .tend ed to be tak en un seriou sly. al so und ers cores th eir fund am ental kin ship. why . returning to th e good old d a ys of a nimalis rn. But th ere is al so a will . but whi ch a t th e sam e tim e does not strike him as pa rti cularl y g rave. conside red tragi call y. we . Laughter is th e . with eq ua l force. and so ta speak turnin g its ba ck . of horror . 1 wish right away ta mak e clear th e total futility of th ose often-re peated st at ern ents to th e effec t that sex ual prohibition s boil d own to no mor e th an prejudices which it is high tim e we ge t rid of. It is not a prot est agains t th e profound ge ne ra l inclination th at 1 h av e in mind: thi s inclination is a no ther expression of th e hum an d estiny whi ch would mak e man 's rep rodu cti ve organs th e object of lau ghter. But we. of necessary and m and atory d écen cies. the mod esty se nsed in con nec tion w ith th e stro ng se nsatio n of pl easure. whilst th ose tou ching th e circ u rns ta nces wh ich surro und th e co m ing into bein g ofl ife .th e en tirety of ge n ita l ac tivity . The shame. with th e result that eac h ha s co me to comprise a sa nc tified dorn ain ça sa cred area wh ich lies under religiou s jurisdi ct ion . Ifman nee ds lies . mere proofs of backwardness a nd uni nt elligen ce. of d evouring whoever we please a nd wha teve r ord ures . M an ' s rea ction has cea sed to bet oken respect : his lau ghter is th e sign of aversion . to whi ch se nsibility a nd in tel lige nce a re insep arably a ttached . men eno ug h who are proud to d rown th ernselves in th e indifferen ce of the anony mous rnass . wh ich accentuates th e pleasurepa in op pos ition (pain a nd d eath merit respect. is the direct result of poign ant . what is. . Laughter launch es us alo ng th e path th a t leads to th e tr ansform in g of a prohibition 's prin cipl e. Whi ch is th e eq uivalent of forgetting that wh at we cali humanity. Ther e are. And th ere would be no kn owing wh at is h appening if one wer e ta kn ow nothing of th e extre me st pleasure. into a la ck of und erst anding or a n un willin gn ess to und erst and wh at is in volved . Extrerne licen ce wedded with a joking mood is accom pa nied by a refusai to tak e th e und erl yin g truth of ero ticis m se rious ly: by seriously 1 m ean tragicaLIy. Wh at th e h earty laugh .138 G EO RG ES BAT AILLE MADAM E EDW ARDA 139 prohibition s a re. afte r a il. mor e precisely. if o ne kn ew nothing of extrernest pain . se t fire to our h ou se a nd tak e to th e woo ds. Pi erre Angéliq ue is ca re ful to say so: we kn ow nothing. . from kn owin g. in this little book . rnankind. But without wishing in a ny sense ta gainsay the laugh ter th at is roused by th e ide a or s pec tacle of indecency.can at least see wh a t is d eceivi ng us. screens from us. thi s re presen ts a complet e reversai of th e ordi nary situation. d eserving of co n te m p t).to a n. a lte rnately of revulsion a nd a t tra c- tion . No t let us be clear on th is. for . . th e mind sh u ts itself off to this di stress a nd to itseIf. we a re sunk in the d ep th s ofig no ra nce's d arkn ess.pa rt iall y ret u rn . Whi ch is th e eq uiva len t of saying th at we oug h t to undertake a th orou gh hou secl eaning. But this lau ght er . The g reate r diffi culties began whe n th e proh ibition s co nnec ted with th e circ ums ta nces a tte nd ing th e dis appea rance of a per sori's life were alone all owed a se rio us cha racte r. ta see for th rightly a nd fully whatis happening. most often. of obloquy.. a ttitude wh ich ca me to be thrOugh th e operatio n ofla ug h ter. to ope n wid e th e eyes .com prom ise a ttit ude man a dop ts wh en confro n ted by so me th ing whose a p pe a ra nce repels h im . And thus whe n ero ticism is considered with g ravity.
. If we are to follow a il th e way through to its last the ecstasy in whi ch we lose ourselves in love-play .not confined alone to sexual ecs tasy. a nd experienced in this same way. We d o not attain to ecstasy save wh en before th e how ever remote prosp ect ofd eath.'\. danger ca n arouse d esire. to destroy the object that attracts. Wh at.way. The act wh ereby being existe nce . But wh at my sticism co uld not . is the id entity that exists bctwcen the utmost i pleasure and the utmost in pain: the identity between bein and non-being. an a ct no less unbearable than that ofdying .Hn . in those unbearable moments wh en it seems to us that we are dying because th e existe nce in us . th en horror increases th e o bj ect' s power to charm. bein g is taken away from us 'at th e sa me time it is give n us .. wh en the fulln ess of horror and that ofjoy co incide . is what? A public wh ore. the sight ofbl ood. we must not di sappear. th at is th e eno rm ity of thi s insensate . in ecstasy.. It is precisely thi s despite ourselues. but th e unbearable process by which we disappear despite ourselues and eve rything we ca n do . for it is unbearable to its own self . th en we d o not rea ch th e insensate mom ent towards which we strive with ail that is in our power and whi ch at th e same time we exert ail our p ow er to stave off. Our minds' operations as weil never reach their final culm ina tio n save in ex cess . These sensation s va ry in keeping with th e individ ua land with his sp ecifi e wa y of living . at al! costs. . going far beyond scorn ing ridicule of som ething which may perhaps be repugnant.. it is not impossible that this truth itself evo kes a final laugh. Ar e th ere not sorn e p ersons who daim to prefer d eath to tou ching a n eve n co m p letely harmless snake? There seems to exist a domain w he re d eath sig n ifies not on ly decease and di sappearan ce. And sirice . between the knowledge which brings one before thi. dazzling realization and d efinitive. undoes it self.is bestowed upon us is an unbearable surpassing of bein g. enable me to rea ch th e sta te wh ere joy slips into delirium . Man differs from animal in that he is able to experience certain se nsa tions th at wound and melt him to the co re . Danger paralyzes . that which it is unbea rable to see as . what does truth sig nify if we do not see th at which exceeds sight's pos sibilities. this at all costs which distinguish th e moment of «xtrcmc joy and of indescribable but mira culous ecstas y. for a il th at. 1 At th e furth er end of this patheti c m editation . one that above ail Christian mystics expe rienced. g rea ter than we are despite ourseloes. are unbearable. exists throu gh nothing but a susta inin g and ruin ou s excess . in d eath . for example. th e odor of vom it.book : a book which lead s God up on the stage. whi ch a ro use in us the dread of death . concluding darkness. Those sensations associated with th e s up reme giving. That is th e m eaning . if we do not think th at whi ch exce eds th ou ght's possibilities? . unravelling to drown in selfrepudiation . during th ese interludes.a leap that is . eve n though . God in th e plenitude of His a t t rib ute s. some thing which at all costs must not be.. a nd this G od . of tha~ whi ch destroys us. th e final colla pse. on e thar is known also to the m ystics of vari ous reli gions . but . this staggering overshooting of the mark whi ch com mon sense fixes . we have go t constan tly to bear in mind wh at we set as ecs tasy' s immediate limit: horror. but o ur laughter here is absolute.. To be sure. if we do not ackno wledge some th ing grea ter th an ourselves. sornetirnes introduce us into a kind of nauseous state whi ch hurts more crue lly than pain. bawdy j est .. wh en not ove rpoweringly strong.this mad . but disgust for which digs deep under our skin. in n o way different from any other public wh ore. If there is nothing that surpasses our pow ers and our nnderstanding.whi ch . drawing me doser ta th e point wh er e horror will force me to recoil . we must seek for it in the feeling of d ying . with a cry. Not only ca n th e pain 1 or others feel. but when horror is un abl e to qu ell. Pleasure would be a puny a ffa ir were it not to inv olv e this leap . ' M I:"'I':" I JW?\ nl 'tt' . it is unbearable to know pleasure? what. But.we rediscover God . leaving aside th e representation of excess . between th e living and the death-strickci being.
But it requires the scale oflimitless doom for us to discover the triumph ofbeing-whence there has never lacked anything save consent to the impulse which would have been perishable. teach him his secret. and realizing that he seals himself aIl the more inextricably into the impasse. it is the ascetics who are right. surpassing itself. certainly. But they.142 GEORGES BATAILLE MADAME EDW ARDA 143 say (at the moment it began to pronounce its message. in the question of eroticism. the surpassing ofGod: in the sense of common everyday being. capable of annihilating him." ln the course of the indescribable journey upon which this most incongruous of books invites us to embark. renders him similar to God. in the sense of nothing . the victim. stops nowhere. is checked by nothing. driving the blind excess of life to the very edge of death. restrictive limits. admittedly. The ascetic's sweeping condemnation.present them guilefully. it is cruel. And here indeed joy does announce itself within the perspective of death (thus is joy made to wear the rnask of its contrary. is more dreadful th an this faIl. How ludicrous the scenes ofhell above the portals of churches must . he searches within himself for that which. Nothing.. Man is more than a creature limited to its genitals. the effect of being hurling itselfinto horror? ofbeing leaping headlong into the sickening emptiness. it is everything and. perchance. explodes past its defining. death's terrible edge is deflected away from the self and aimed at the partner.and. grief). for violence and for unseemliness which is the hidden root oflove. That which this word is. 1 am by no means predisposed to think that voluptuous pleasure is the essential thing in this world.. if it be death these images present. doing our best to get atjoy by a route that keeps us as far away as possible from horror. but it is squarely in tune with the fear and trembling without which we stray farther and farther away from the truth darkness sequesters. The images which quicken desire or provoke the critical spasm are usually equivocal. The nature of our being invites us of our own accord to join in the terrible dance whose rhythm is the one that ends in collapse. For example. that. contradictorily.. hunting for a way out. as we are.. it is likely that we will be tempted to try to slink in by sorne back way. the word Cod. in its absence. would we withstand and overcome .' if we give way. There is no warrant for ascribing to sexual love a pre-eminence which only the whole oflife actually has. Beauty they cali a trap set by the Devil: and only beauty excuses and reriders bearable the need for disorder. of delight . but.entered its trance). And he who so much as suspects this instantly falls silent. Even in Sade's universe. ifwe were to fail to carry the light to the very point where night falls.. knowing only the horror it is in perfect harmony with. in the sense of dread. seem to us! Hell is the paltry notion God involuntarily gives us ofHimself. again. and which we must accept as it is and for what it is. ofhappiness. they always. and. finally. And so it does appear that. similar to nothing. those inavowable parts of him. If courage deserts us. the offspring. everywhere. is impossible to overtake anywhere. 3 Since intense pleasure depends upon the presence of a deleterious vision before the mind's eye. The object which causes Eros to stir cornes guised as other th an truly it is. This would not be the place to enter into a detailed discussion of transports whose forms are numerous and of which pure love slyly causes us ta experience the most violent. it entered it . louche: if it be horror. directly we do so. at the other . horror and impurity. we may perhaps make a few more discoveries. this word. Or. in every sense. The sphere of eroticism is inescapably plighted to duplicity and ruse. then there is no greater torture. into the very nothingness which al ail costs being has got to avoid . We cannot with irnpuniry incorporate the very word into our speech which surpasses words. eroticism does say: God is nothing if He is not. how should we know ourselves to be. it is craven. And never does the moment of torture fail to arrive: how. is blunt.. Sade shows the other as the most eminently delightful expression of Iife.
th e miraculous . sufTering and dying and happy. These methodically arranged senten ces a re possibl e (in a large measure possible since excess is rather the exception th an the mie. flung into end less silence. . 2 H ere then is the primary th eological attitud e which would be propounded by a man in whorn laughter is illumination and who disdains to impose limits. unless it be in a way that is not con ceivabl e to th em? 3 1 could also point out. Thus : no tie ever binds me .. open and dying. this hand esca pes th e limits it acce p ts in writing (Iimits accepted by th e hand that writes. but what he speaks is an immense alleluia. . stands in a certain veiled light: that light is divine. to joy . that excess is th e very prin cipl e and engine of sexua l reprodu ction : ind eed. divine Prooidence willed that ·in its work s its secret remain impenetrable! Were it th en possible to sp ar e man nothing? The sa mc day when he perceives . And the cry that breaks from a twisted mouth may perhaps twist him who utters it. Georges Bataille NOTES ON PREFACE 1 regret ha ving to add tha t thi s definition of being and of excess cannot repose upon a phil osophical basis. attraction.. but that it is esca ping me now). than what exists).separa tes from me.144 GEORGES BATAILLE ~ADA~ E EDW ARDA 145 it? But the unreservedly open spirit . doubtless. you who hav e waxed pal e over the text s of the philosophers! How may he express himself who bids these voices be still . rnor eover . su bject to certain other limits: wer e thi s not so. 1 do not challenge con sciousness. but their impossibility is also fund am ental. if not horror designates every thing which is more than what is. if not the horrible. Being is also. we should not be able to speak (1 too speak. never am 1 ens lave d .open to death. but a s 1 spea k 1 d o not forget that not only will speech escape me. 1 alw ays retain my sovereignty. to torment. but this hand that writ es is dying from the death promised unto it as its own . lacking which 1 cannot write. and lost there. but refused by th e hand that dies ). since excess is th e ma rvellous. or to accept them : he who knows not what a limit is. excess surpassin g any foundational basis: excess is no other than that wh ereby the being is firsti y and a bove ail else conveyed beyond ail circumscribing restrictions . subjugated . the open spirit . 0 mark th e day when you read by a pebble offire. and excess designates the attractive. a sovercignty only my death which will dem onstrate my inability to limit my self to being without excess . 1 do not dec1ine.
obscuring its sorrow . but meanwhile and even 50 its sorrow scornfull y mo cks at ail that co rnesto pass. he is told that it has been prooidentially removed! But would he hav e issue of his blasphemy. It knits itself up in silence. there it waits. it is with blasphemy in his mouth that he makes himselfGod. . at ail ther e is. Crouching thi ck-wrapped . The sovereign is a king no more : it dwells low-hiding in big citie s.146 GEORGES BATAILLE that the ground he stands on has fallen out from under his feet. it is in spitting defiance upon his own limitations. lies waiting for the advent of him who shall strike a general terror. A nguish only is sovereign absolute. it is with blasphemy.
My way of telling about these things is raw. So 1 picked her.1 had come to a street corner . 1 got back into my pants and headed toward the Mirrors. roving eyes. to raise the bloody roof. or strip naked the whores 1 covet: it's in stale fleshs tepid warmth 1 always suppose l'Il find relief. it must have been bolted . . 1 began to wander among those streets . and then went on and on. Struggling. 1 wanted to be laid as bare as was the night there in those empty streets: 1 slipped off my pants and moved on. My hands were holding Madame Edwarda's buttocks and 1 felt her break in two at the same instant: and in her starting. of smoke. 1 coasted on a wave ofoverpowerinp freedom . at a certain moment. but it was simpler th an that. 1 became un happy and felt painfully forsaken. her hand slid . It was as though 1 were borne aloft in af1ight of headless and unbodied angels shaped from the broad swooping of wings. But this is how it has to be. Madame Edwarda. she surrendered herself: our two mouths met in a sickly kiss . A great urge to heave myself dry always comes over me at such moments. (The beginning is tough . a long-drawn whistled rasp. 1 continue .there a foul dizzying anguish got its na ils into me (perhaps because l'd been staring at a pair offurtive whores sneaking down the stair of a urinal). icebound. But nothing mattered any more . naked. or rather that it was infamous 1 had at ail costs to be. drinking un til . The night was done falling. 1 clutched Edwarda. 1 felt smitten within by a new shock. and that was the wasteland wh ere the game was played. 1 squeezed Edwarda in my arms. immediately. Then 1 remembered my desire for infamy . 1 hardly took the time to reply when the waiter asked what it was to be. and it gets tougher. flooding my clothes. suddenly. Numb. looked bored to death. carrying them draped over my arm. From very high above a kind of stillness swept down upon me andfroze me. And right away 1 was filled with unbearable sadness to think that this very grandeur descendingupon me was withering away the pleasure 1 hoped to have with Edwarda. 1 entered the place and found myself in the light again . but that table wouldn't budge. Amidst a swarm of girls. 1 sensed that l'd got bigger. 1 feel 1 have got to make myself naked . Ravishing. terror. from zinc counter to zinc counter. Edwarda and 1 having exchanged not one ward. . 1 couldn't breathe so much as a hint of the state 1 was in. as one is when in the presence of GOD..:-JADA:vlE EDWARDA 149 here .which run between the Boulevard Poisonnière and the Rue Saint-Denis. But this time 1 soothed my guts with the weaker remedy: 1 asked for a pernod at the co unter. like a pane of glass shattering. It was worse and more of a letdown chan too much to drink.) T Not wanting trouble. Loneliness and the dark strung my drunken excitement tighter and tighter. and in her throat. she was the sort 1 had a taste for. 1 burst. of glare. She came and sat down beside me.. 1 made out laughter filtering through the tumult of voices. The room was packed with . there is no beginning by scuttling in sidewise. 1t would have seemed 'likely' . 1 was assailed by a huge uneasiness . a wintry night had locked round me . 1 told myselfl was being ridiculous. drank the glass in one gulp. men and women. 1 wanted to kick the table and send the glasses flying.the propitious on es . In my hand 1 held my straight-risen sex. Then. detours would have been to my advantage. 1 could have avoided that and still made it sound plausible.
.. like her slender body . . the acrid smell 1 drank in ... no you don ' t...' The second in commandof th e house collected my money.. nev er had 1 seen a prettier girl . raised up unto the very clouds . 1 rose and followed Madame Edwarda whose tranquil nakedness was already traversing the room ..... the mirrors wh erewith the room's wall s were everywhere sh eathed and the ceiling too .. . . ' 1 protested..150 GEORGES BATAILLE MADAME EDWARDA 151 to the floor...... Madame Edwarda went on ahead ofme... In the brothel's boisterous chaos and in the atmosphere of corroding absurdity 1 was breathing (it seemed to me that 1 was choking.. ........ . .' 'l'm going crazy .. hid ..... 1 was sweating) 1 hung strangely suspended ... hairy and pink.. .... Edwarda and l .. . She was a robust and handsome person... .. we stood gazing soberly at each other: Madame Edwarda held me spellbound. Everything swam out of sight.' she said... . . ' in an easy.... 1 was pulled out of my dazed confusion by an only too human voice ... the smooth advance of her long obscene body... cast multiple reflections of an animal coupling. ... . .. respectably got up. 'Why...... At last ... 'l'm GaD. . 1 was flushed... to open her crack yet wider she used fingers to draw the folds of skin apart.... the pungent odor of her flesh and mine commingled flung us both into the same heart's utter exhaustion. 1 looked at her: motionless. Madame Edwarda's thin voice.. you've got to see... she smiled back so sweetly that 1 shook. Her eyes fastened steadily upon me . . were losing ourselves in a wind-freighted night. .. was th ere in what whorehouse nudity terms th e pig-sticker's stab . The delirious joy of being naked poss essed her: once again sh e parted her legs. with a lassitude. fitted with a beard oflace... ..nor one more naked..ritual of'the lady going up' with the man who wants her in tow. fellow! The fun l've had ......' she said . reeling.... ..' 'Do you mean. was .... ' 1 stamrnered in a subdued tone. .' 'Oh.. but. ' She had not shifted from her po sition ..... just as full of life as sorne loathsome squid.. scraping voice mellowed... . ... my children. at each least mov ement.. deep tone .. Her bare thigh caressingly nudged my ear.. Sh e put on a white bolero.. at that mom ent... of that pale body .. The domino's hood cowled her head. beneath a domino cloak she disguised her nak edness. . our bursting hearts wou Id strain wid e-open to welcome ' the emptiness ofh eaven.... look . her leg was still cocked in the air... teeming wound. ... this vulgar .'Well now. was royal consecration and triumphal holiday: death itself was guest at the feast . opened her crack.. she held one leg stuck up in the air.... 1 don't suppose a drunk can ever have to face anything more comical.. .. And her tone was commanding: 'Come here. And so Madame Edwarda's 'old rag and ruin' loured at me.. it is the same sound you hear when you put your ear to a large conch shell. 1 sank down on my knees and feverishly pressed my lips to that running...... was obscene: '1 guess what you want is to see the old rag and ruin. . . listen... ... the smell of a woman in th e throes of joy. a woman's but mannish .... she removed a pair ofwhite silk stockings from a bureau drawer.. On our feet.. .... quite as though at that same point we... 1 heard another voice.. She was seated. a black velvet mask ......... ~ .......... ' she said.. The room 's noisyunheeding of her happiness .. . nothing short of an hallucinating sol ernniry for me: Madame Edwarda's sharp heels clicking on the tiled floor .... Madame Edwarda was gone.. 'why not?' 1 was shaking.' Making that love liberated us at last.. 'in front ofail these people?' 'Sure. ' why are you doing thar? ' 'Y ou can see for yourself.... ... . Hanging on to the tabletop with both hands.. of the measured gravity of her st ep .. 'up you go. with the infinite smile of abandon : 'Oh. sh e sat on the edge of th e bed and drew them on. on the edge of the ocean.. ..... she became almost childlike in order to say....... . 1 thought 1 heard a sound of roaring seasurge. But this so ordinary pas sage between the close-set tables .. 1 twisted around toward her....' Her harsh . .. through the dense press ofclients and girls . ... so was the room.
who lightheartedly had cal!ed me 'fifi' . 1 remained woestruck before the portal and 1 was sinking into the last despair when upon the far side of the avenue 1 spied the domino. and when she had stopped.' she replied gaily .a grief without tears or pain had glided into a vacant silence. an absence. the mask she wore was turning her into an animal. Without having given it a second 's thought . then. l 'kn ew' that a season ofagony was beginning for me. 1 was amazed that 1 could grasp it ail so clearly: when she had run off 1 had known that. planted in front ofthe ranged tables and chairs of a café shut up for the night. in the streets ofthis one.. to go farther . Brought toa hait by the abrupt darknessofthe street. We went down a narrow stairway. terrified. In Madame Edwarda. 1 felt that 1 was free of Her . and indeed that. lost in a lifeless. Edwarda. less . a nasty little wink darting between her flesh and mine. she was mindless: rapt. absent. Though the air wasn't cold . sim ply there. vanish forever . 1 was startled to discover Edwarda rushing away. . above our heads. th e instant before had .unmoving. . then 1 knew that She had not lied. that she had been hung in a sort oftrance. the sight of whom petrified me now. And the transformation had occurred in the way something glides. 'Hurry up .. 1 trembled as 1 accepted that. from her caprice. entranced still . 1 knew . but from imagining it 1 became crazed: 1 leaped to the pil!ar and spun round it. 1 crossed in her direction. a hole. she had had to run . swathed in black. she sprang away from me . In no way did the comic horror of my situation escape me: She . and as she did so. The Porte Saint-Denis loomed before her. 1 desired to suffer. but 1 didn't stop. 1 drew near her : she seemed gone out of her mind. the domino vanished soundlessly. no matter what. destroyed. so naked just a moment ago. 1 moaned underneath the stone roof. Two paces separated me from that monumental gate.' She tossed me my clothes and helped me climb into them. 1 trembled. wasn't joking.something alien. that She was GOD. holding my breath. no matter. but didn't. when 1 passed under the stone overhead . she stopped.. a starry sky. 'you can 't go out undressed. At that hour of the night the street was deserted. Her presence had about it the unintelligible out-and-out simplicity of a stoneright in the middle of the city 1 had the feeling of being in the mountains at nighttime. Suddenly gone wild. most bleak . immobile. eluded me .152 GEORGES BATAILLE MADAME EDWARDA 153 her face. Unspeaking. as distressing as an emptiness. listening. As quickly 1 circled the other pil!ar on the right: she was gone . saying: 'Now let's go. to fall. 1 stopped too. She was entirely black . Edwarda raced on alone. she slipped away. 1 realized she wasn't frolicking. seeing before me what in al! thi s world is most barren . as far as the 'emptiness' itself. 1 shivered. Nonetheless. to dash under the arch. far out of range and beyond the possibility ofany laughter.' 'Go? Do they let you go out?' 1 asked. just faintly visible in the shadow: she was standing upright. 1 couldn't see her any longer: a deathly darkness sank down from the vault. the creature apparently ofanother world and. 1 laughed: 'O r a l! men. hollow solitude. Then ail the drunken exhilaration drained out of me. mute. even were 1 to be stricken . was off. grief . 1 wanted to find out: this woman. 1 paused. as if face to face with black rock.1 was alone. for 1 lusted after her secret and did not for one instant doubt that it was death's kingdom. beneath the garment enfolding her. exactly under the arch. fifi. and kept walking. She ran . encountered nobody but the chambermaid. there now and then passed a sly exchange. the sole to traverse the nothingness of this arch!' 1 trembled at the thought she might fly. anguish warned me to go no farther . 1 thought 1was going to stagger. 1 consented to suffer . 1 wanted that knowing. So arrayed . retreating toward the pillar on the left. mad and void . she waited for me und erneath the arch . But 1 couldn't believe it. sorne foreign existence.
into this black night hour of the being's core no less a desert nor less hostile than the empty skies. This nakedness now had the absence of meaning and at the same time the overabundant meaning of death-shrouds . less than a lingering mist. for anything. A little noise .. horrified . every object. she darted forward. he only will grasp me aright whose heart holds a wound that is an incurable wound . 1 shit on you-' That broken voice ended in a rattle. her whirling arms flailing at vacant air: '1 can't stand any more.' she shrilled. The way her body flopped like a fish. th en she collapsed. in any way. When 1 saw Madame Edwarda writhing on the pavement. She wrenched away from me. Down. ail that subsisted in me seemed to me to be the dross over which man's life tarries.was actually still on my knees . her gaze lost in the fields of stars. she tore and hammered at my face. Her thrashings had left her naked. her outstretched hands groped blindly. further communication was impossible and 1 let myselfbe absorbed into this unutterable barrenness . who never. Edwarda's sufferings dwelt in me iike the quick truth of an arrow: one knows it will pierce the heart. raging. Edwarda's convulsions snatched me away from my own self. but death will ride in with il. shaken by respiratory spasms . were preventing her from giving way to sobs.. And what man. the way one flings a living body to the hangman . 1 saw her flat. 1 bent over her and had to rip the lace from the mask. As if 1 had waked her. for she was chewing and trying to swallow it.. No use laying it ail up to irony when Lsay of Madame Edwarda that she is GOD. she screamed at the sky and. with both hands pulling it tight around her. upon the narrow horizon which is his. swept away by a demented impulse to violence. 1 was still getting to my feet . But GOD figured as a public whore and gone crazy . they cast it there carelessly. viewed through the optic of 'philosophy. She looked up and for a brief moment stood still.that. displayed her behind. pallid belly . in a lifeless voice she inquired: 'Where am I?' Desperate. She shouted in a raveled . wou Id ever be willing to 'die' of any other hurt?) The awareness of my irreparable doom whilst. 1 . the ignoble rage expressed by the ill written on her features cindered the life in me. strangling her. then came back and hurled herself at me . 1 supported her.' makes no sense at ail.was the silence that ensnared Edwarda. Squaredagainst a silence so black. 1 tottered and fel!. to convulse. 1 kneJt next to Edwarda was not less clear and not less imposing than it is now. whirled her cloak high. she writhed . ·A man condemned to die. She fled. her eyes vague behind the mask. it was in an unhealthy way she was clutching the domino. 1 thought she was crying but it was as if th e world and the distress in her. callously. they cast my life into a desert waste 'beyond'. when after long hours ofwaiting he arrives in broad daylight at the exact spot the horror is to be wrought. stopped short.owing to the pain she was in. suddenly lunatic. dried it down to the lees ofrevulsion. his too full heart beats as though to burst. snapped her rump up with a quick jerk of her spine.and most disturbing. A gale of dark savagery blew up inside her.. her hairy crack yawned astart.154 GEORGES BATAILLE MADAME EDWARDA 155 than a phantom. hit with clenched fists. and above her stockings . ifso wounded. 1 pointed to the empty sky curved above us. 'but you. as 1 write . would be cured ofit . She was sufTering. She began to shake. impossible voice. Strangest ofall. something leaped in my heavy despair's midst. you fake priest. her breasts spilled through her bolero . (Let me explain myself. Softly she withdrew before me until in her retreat she touched against a table on the empty terrace . every face is clad in weightiest meaning and helps tighten the vice whence there is no time left hirn to escape. observes the preparations. in that night. 1 don't mind having my sorrow derided if derided it has to be. As 1 waited for annihilation.when she returned . gripped by a shapeless disgust.
it fell a wa y from her. For a long time we remained without saying anything. but 1 did not feel imprisoned by the change that occurred in me. Without a word and unhurriedly. she began ta breathe again. The vertiginous sliding which was tipping me into ruin had opened up a prospect of indifference. her features relaxed. 'C ome into the back seat. then you cannot play with words. not yet . held her. Hel' eyes swung to rights and then she seemed to grow easy. trifle with slow-marching sentences. she said: ' . He took us through dimly lit streets. Supporting her nape. the fever 's desiccating ecstasy was issuingout ofmy utter inability to check myself. Edwarda is no drearn 's airy invention . the crisis subsided. The driver retaliated . Jack. . She was not heavy and 1 decided to pick her up and carry her. so real was she that. 1 covered her with my clothing. and with one hand scouted about in his underwear. 1 looked into her eyes: they gleamed white. 1 lay ful1length down on the roadway beside her. Let's fuck. She came back to life as we moved along and when we reached the place she wanted to be set down . Hel' convulsions continued a little longer. One of the boulevard taxi stands was not far away.) Finally. 1 knew she was drifting home from the 'impossible' and in her nether depths 1 could discern . Drained entirely of strength. little by little that embrace strained to the final pitch ofexcess at which the heart fails . The driver fell ba ck .. 1 shal1 have written in vain.... her head angled sharply back. She saw me . 1 caught her. Torn apart. (Ifyou have to lay yourselfbare. as though the taxi were rolling ahead. This book has its secret. murmured : 'Naked as a beast. Edwarda loosened the ties of her cloak. Carried away by voluptuousness. l 'm bare-assed. 1 switched on the overhead light in the taxi. '1 want him to take us to Les Halles. She took a step and swayed . Half dead from weariness. ' Unmoving. a power that would be mine upon condition 1 agreeto hate myself. her hair straying loose . She eased his trousers down ta his ankles. the driver and 1. Stepping in after him. Now more words. He was thickset.. Edwarda twined herself around him. It took time ta get there. the real sweat of her body soaked my handkerchief.' 1 told the driver to wait. said: 'Vou see . 1 sat there. ' She rapped on the glass partition . and we started off. tell him to wait. fleeing like the object anguish seeks ta attain. The horizon before which Edwarda's sickness placed me was a fugitive one. bred of their naked bodies' intimacy. spent and near to swooning. led on by her. she mounted and straddled him. not budging in our seats. for her own hearing.rnask too . At last Edwarda spoke to me. of desires there was no longer any question: at this point.156 GEORGES BATAILLE MADAME EDW ARDA 157 entered a similar state of absorption. She pressed against the hand that was holding her up . ' she told him. a certain power wel1ed up in me . the man stepped out of the car. she had raised her left leg . then .. struggling with brute heaving vigor. 1t was a long heavy member she dragged through his fly. and got out. Calm and deliberate. Edwarda sat boit upright astride the still stiff member. Madame Edwarda. fastened her mouth upon his. solidly built. She lay unstirring in my arms. ceased to be hideous. Should no one unclothe what 1 have said . Having backed off a short distance. of concerns. the . He sat down next to me. 1 carne to want to do the leading in my turn. Weakly. but with waning fury . held by me she got into the cab. Ugliness was invading all of me. the tension thickened the wail in her throat. lifeless and watching: her slithering movements were slow and cunning and plainly she gleaned a nerve-snapping pleasure from them. at that moment. She got l'id of the . she removed her bolero and .' 1 repeated her instructions to the driver. 1 may not disclose it. had the cab stop. She walked round to the driver and when close enough totouch him. thrice 1 had to pause and l'est. from her stare.d river looked at that beast. eager ta show him her crack . 1 climbed in too and slumped down beside Edwarda. with her own hands she stuffed the hard stave into her hol e.
.GOD. like a drowsy child . . the stave slipped out.158 GEORGES BATAILLE MADAME EDWARDA 159 a dizzying fixity. . 1 can't conceive ofany 'meaning' other than ' my' anguish. in her sweetness there hovered a crooked smile: she saw me to the bottom of my dryness. Hegel has nothing to do with a maniac girl's 'apotheosis' . . a transparence wherein 1 read death's letters. aIl on purpose. unendingly. she offered no resistance. his peruke would sit ail askew) would entirely grasp the idea . Edwarda. not a glimmer of hope left. Edwarda's pleasure . long. millions of boys and girls . above an emptiness . weary waiting for death .. wiped her wet body. l've lost interest. the night engulfs it and. but let me be mad! Make something ofaIl this he who is able to. These millions. my hand still behind her head. the first to open his eyes .storv . yes. heartbursting furious tideflow -'. but what would there be of the human about him? Beyond. . who can tell? Am 1 going then to find out what it is? No. But ifthere is a meaning? Today 1 don't know what it is. somewhat in disorder. Her eyes dead. The milky outpouring travelling through her. Tomorrow? Tomorrow. Monsieur Godfearer? . those slumbers have no meaning. 1 helped her lie down. if He knew. that living selfis therejust in order. weirdly.. its tee th chattering in the lashing wind: the immensity. 0 deliver me. It's atrocious . flooding her withjoy. Sorne last shudders took slow hold of her. made her nakedness unceasingly more naked. and as for that. And for the time being: nonsense.. her face swept in ecstasy were abandoned to the unspeakable coursing and ebbing. A hidden meaning? Hidden. my anguish. this meaninglessness .' He (He would 1 suppose be. the driver and me . 1 know al! about it. make them blind! The . and the recollection of scum-flecked lips. And now? 1 TREMBLE. beyond everything . their slumbers dissipated forever . Edwarda's pain-wrung pleasure filled me with an exhausting impression of bearing witness to a miracle. knowing not why. Love was dead in those eyes. and yet farther. from the bottom of my desolation 1 sensed her joy's torrent run free . 'not to know'. . The same sleepiness must have borne down upon the threeofus. 'obviously'! But ifnothing has any meaning.there was nothing which didn't contribute to that blind dyinginto extinction . And everything swam drowned in that dreaming stare: a long member. 1 awoke.and there in the' darkness sprawled the driver. felled by his spasm.. came spurting out again in her very tears: burning tears streamed from her wide-open eyes. its strident inflexion. those are the only great things in me which gave answer to the rapture of her whom in the deeps of an icy silence 1 called 'my heart'. Her body. they contained a daybreak aureate chill. Monsieur Nonsense is writing and understands that he is mad .just the way millions do.. 1 put down what oppresses me at the moment of writing: 'Would it all be absurd? Or might it make sorne kind ofsense? l've made myselfsick wondering about it. * 0 Thou my Lord [in my distress 1 cali out unto my heart]. (Continue? 1 meant to. and even farther still . glorified her being unceasingly. 1 awake in the morning . in the end l'Il have to let go and sell myself to meaninglessness. 1 had switched off the light.might that indeed be 'rneaningful'? [No. 1 still held Edwarda up.. then her sweatbathed frame relaxed .how 'serions' it has become aIl ofa sudden! . in an ecstasy. there's no point in my doing anything. if He knew wou Id be a swine. HIMSELF.went on and on . the jet spitting from the root. l'Il use any deceitful means to get out ofit.fountain ofboiling water. stubby fingers prying open fragile flesh . that stream ofluxury. understand it he who is dying. at that particular moment. the one who tortures and kills. . My anguish resisted the pleasure 1 ought to have sought. Monsieur Rhetorician? And you. l'Il beg off. But 1 don 't care now . My own distress and fever seerned small things to me. The rest is irony. But that was what 1 felt.. her lewdness ever more intimate. .how shall 1 go on with it?) But 1 am done. and there the living 'self is. she was half asleep. nonsense: that is man's killer. infants and old men. But his madness. But as for GOD? What have you got to say.. From out of the slumber which for so short a space kept us in the taxi . .] My life only has a meaning insofar as 1 lack one : oh. would be a swine. • 1 said ' GOD.
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