Story of the Eye

The librarian John Griogair Bell reviews Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.

Georges Bataille Story of the Eye

Meh. Perhaps I am simply too jaded, a beneficiary of the sea change such books brought about, but I had high hopes for Bataille’s Story of the Eye, with its substantial reputation and with my previous reading of some French pornographic literature. My high hopes were dashed. This is pornography and literature, to be sure, but it is great at neither. Far from that, this seems to be juvenilia, which the author himself admits in the explanatory text that follows the story. There is metaphoric kenning here, but the tepid prose (Could it be the translation?) lacks too much to be obscene, and thus doesn’t quite manage to attack the boundaries of art any longer.

I’m dubious that this has a place in the continuum of literature that pushes boundaries of literature, as seems to be its reputation. In the continuum from Sade to Desclos/Réage and Arsan, this little story seems vestigial, an appendix which could be removed without any further concern.

The high point for me was the obscene mass, which I, of course, immediately compared to the narrative of the Gnostic Mass, but that was likely the most horrible vision in the book back in its day.

Personally, I found the included essay, “The Pornographic Imagination” by Susan Sontag, to be much more interesting, all in all, than the actual story itself. The inclusion of this ancillary essay gains this book one more star than it would have had alone, and if this had been a collection of essays of similar nature instead, that imaginary book might have been worth 5 stars. [via]