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Story of the Eye (1st City Lights ed) Paperback – January 1, 2001
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The author's note that appears at the end of the City Lights Books edition, translated by Joachim Neugroschel (based on the original 1928 version of the book, by the way; in later editions, Bataille revised the text so that it "differs so thoroughly in all details that one can justifiably speak of two distinct books" per Neugroschel), states the psychological sources of the material in a fairly straightforward way. Bataille's father was blind and had "huge, ever gaping" eyes. He was also paralyzed and would frequently relieve himself in front of Georges, sometimes accidentally. As if that wasn't tragic enough, he also went mad towards the end of his life, shouting out obscenities that shocked the strictly-raised Bataille. Shortly after this, Bataille's mother had a temporary mental breakdown, as well. The incident at the "haunted castle" actually happened, in part, and so on.
But although knowing the source material is informative, it's not necessary to enjoy the book, and Bataille extrapolates far beyond his experiences, strongly emphasizing the surrealist aspects (you can even interpret a fair amount of the book as a novelization of a handful of Dali paintings, imagined by a psychopath), and delivering the result in a beautifully terse prose--often bridging over to poetry--that owes as much to Steinbeck and Hemingway as it does to a more shocking Kafka.Read more ›
This is strange, heady stuff--fortunately the book is barely 100 pages long. This is underground literature at its finest, mocking the pretensions of culture, of decency, morality, and healthy sexuality. Bataille's style can be obtuse but can also illuminate dark, forbidden corners of humanity. If you're into de Sade, Wm. Burroughs, Surrealism, Clive Barker, the psychology of fetishism, or just want something to read that is light years from the crappy bestseller lists, read "The Story of the Eye" and introduce yourself to the unholy world of Georges Bataille.
1. It is one of the most intensely perverse pornographic books ever written, one in which normal sexuality takes a decidedly back seat to urolagnia, necrophilia, and other conditions with Greek names. Its main distinctions are that it is highly compact, unusually well-written, tightly structured in its use of recurring imagery, and so quickly moves from titillation to excess that it distances itself from the rest of the genre.
2. It is a seminal work by a major figure in 20th-century French culture, with significant ties to surrealism, deconstructionism, and psycholanalysis. Seen in this light, its cultural ties are significant and far-reaching. Indeed, one of the most interesting parts of the book is the postlude in which Bataille comments on the connections between this early novella and traumatic incidents in his own childhood, connections that he says he was unaware of at the time of writing. In effect, therefore, he is performing psychoanalysis on himself.
The trouble is that it takes somebody with considerable knowledge of mid-twentieth-century French thought to see #2 in #1. I imagine that the notes and essays in the Penguin Classics edition would be helpful in this respect; the City Lights Press edition, while attractively produced, just gives you the text (though usefully in the first edition, which most accurately shows the book's place at the start of Bataille's career). As a cultural artifact, this probably merits 5 stars, but I just don't think that most readers will see it as that kind of masterpiece.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Translation was odd, making one-dimensional characters more awkward. The sexuality was graphic and immature. A very odd book.Published 25 days ago by Amazon Customer
This book isn't for everyone. I'm pretty open to most things and nothing phases me, but this book got me once or twice. Quite the read.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
As soon as I opened the envelope containing my used copy of Bataille's Story of the Eye, the odor of stale semen that wafted from the bubble-lined envelope in which the book was... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Zach Trebino
A very quick read that will leave a long lasting impression. It is erotic, but very disturbing. Personally I loved it, but it is not for the faint of heart.Published 6 months ago by Danielle Swain
This story was great. I read it in one day. I just couldn't put it down.Published 8 months ago by Cody
It is boringly sexual, and not erotic just kind of twisted, for when it was written I guess it would have been beyond blacklist, but for now it is kind of childish.Published 10 months ago by Charles Burgett