Story of the Eye

Story of the Eye

"Story of the Eye" (French: "Histoire de l'oeil") is a novella written by Georges Bataille and published in 1928 that details the increasingly bizarre sexual perversions of two teenage lovers. It is narrated by the young man looking back on his exploits.

It takes its title from an eye which the narrator extracts from the socket of one of his victims, and which is then used as a sexual fetish.

Plot summary

"Story of the Eye" consists of several vignettes, centered around the sexual passion existing between the unnamed late adolescent male narrator and Simone, his primary female partner. Within this episodic narrative two secondary figures emerge: Marcelle is a mentally ill sixteen year old girl who comes to a sad end, and Lord Edmund, a voyeuristic, English emigre aristocrat.

Simone and the narrator first consummate their lust on a beach near their home, and involve Marcelle within their activity. The couple are exhibitionists, copulating within Simone's house in full view of her mother. During this second episode, Simone derives pleasure from inserting hard and soft boiled eggs for her vaginal and anal stimulation, she also experiences considerable enjoyment from the viscosity of various liquids.

The pair undertake an orgy with other adolescents, which involves some broken glass and involuntary bloodletting, and ends with Marcelle's psychological breakdown. The narrator flees his own parents' home taking a pistol from the office of his bedridden, senile, and violent father. They view Marcelle within a sanatorium, but fail to break her out. Naked, they flee during night back to Simone's home, and more displays of exhibitionist sex ensue before Simone's widowed mother. Later, they finally break Marcelle out of the institution, but unfortunately, Marcelle is totally insane. Deprived of her therapeutic environment, she hangs herself. The pair have sex next to her corpse.

After Marcelle's suicide, the two flee to Spain, where they meet Sir Edmund. They witness a Madrid bullfight, which involves the prowess of handsome twenty year old matador, El Granero. Initially, El Granero kills the first bull that he encounters and the animal is consequently castrated. Simone then pleasures herself by vaginally inserting these taurine testicles. Unfortunately, El Granero is killed by the next bull that he fights, and his face is mutilated. As the corpse of El Granero is removed from the stadium, his right eye has worked loose from its socket, and is hanging, bloody and distended.

Simone, Sir Edmund, and the narrator visit the Catholic church of San Seville after the day's events. Simone aggressively seduces Don Aminado, a handsome, young, Catholic priest, fellating him while Simone and the narrator have sex. Sir Edmund undertakes a blasphemous parody of the Catholic Eucharist involving desecration of the bread and wine using Don Aminado's urine and semen before Simone strangles Don Aminado to death during his final orgasm. Sir Edmund eviscerates one of the dead priests' eyes, and Simone inserts it within her vagina, while she and the narrator have sex. The trio successfully elude apprehension for the murder of Don Aminado, and make their way down Andalusia. Sir Edmund purchases an African-staffed yacht so that they can continue their debaucheries, whereupon the story ends.

In a postscript, Bataille reveals that the character of Marcelle is based on his own mother, who suffered from bipolar disorder, while the narrator's father is also a transcription of his own unhappy paternal relationship. In an English language edition, Roland Barthes and Susan Sontag provide critical comment on the events.

ontag: Bataille and De Sade

Susan Sontag first published her essay "The Pornographic Imagination" for her collection of literary reviews, "Styles of Radical Will" (1969). She argued that as a genre, pornography should be judged on the basis of its own narrative structure. She counters Theodor Adorno's argument that pornographic narratives consist of nothing more than a series of episodic vignettes centered on description of human sexual activities. Georges Bataille is particularly significant for her case, given the transgressive literary merit of his work through its juxtaposition of "eros" and "thanatos" (sex and death). She claims that "Story of the Eye" was a therapeutic and autobiographical text for Bataille, and that Bataille owed much to the Marquis De Sade, another transgressive libertine French author who dealt with similar subject matter.

Barthes: Metaphors of the Eye and Liquid

Roland Barthes published the original French version of his essay, "Metaphor of the Eye", within Bataille's own journal "Critique", albeit shortly after Bataille's death in 1962. Barthes' analysis centers on the centrality of the eye to this series of vignettes, and notices that it is interchangeable with eggs, bulls' testicles and other ovular objects within the narrative. However, he also traces a second series of liquid metaphors within the text, which flow through tears, cat's milk, egg yolks, frequent urination scenes, blood and semen.

Furthermore, he argues that he does not believe that "Story of the Eye" is necessarily a pornographic narrative, given that these structuring chains of metaphors do provide coherent underpinning sequences.

Cultural references

*Of Montreal's song "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal" references both author Georges Bataille and the book.
*The song "Bluestocking" by Momus also references the author and the book.
*Icelandic singer/songwriter Björk was inspired by this book. [cite web|url=| title=A biography of Bjork with a reference to The Story of the Eye ] [cite web|url=|title=City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, CA]
* Jean-Luc Godard’s "Week End" begins with a scene recalling the book


Georges Bataille: "Story of the Eye": New York : Urizen Books: 1977: ISBN 0916354903 Susan Sontag: "The Pornographic Imagination" in "Styles of Radical Will": London: Secker and Warburg: 1969: ISBN 0-436-47801-3


External links

* [ PDF version of the story]

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