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