georges bataille

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georges bataille

Δημοσίευσηαπό dianathenes » Παρ Δεκ 16, 2005 8:02 pm

Madame Edwarda*

*Bataille wrote Madame Edwarda under the pseudonym, Pierre Angélique.


Death is the most terrible of all things; and to maintain its works is what requires the greatest of all strength. Hegel

The author of this book has himself insisted upon the gravity of what he has to say. Nonetheless, it would seem advisable to underscore the seriousness of it, if only because of the widespread custom of making light of those writings that deal with the subject of sexual life. Not that I hope - or intend to try - to change anything in customs that prevail. But I invite the reader of this preface to turn his thoughts for a moment to the attitude traditionally observed towards pleasure (which, in sexual play, attains a wild intensity, an insanity) and towards pain (finally assuaged by death, of course, but which, before that, dying winds to the highest pitch). A combination of conditions leads us to entertain a picture of mankind as it ought to be, 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 prohibitions are, with equal force, aimed some against sexual life, some against death, with the result that each has come to comprise a sanctified domain, a sacred area which lies under religious jurisdiction. The greater difficulties began when the prohibitions connected with the circumstances attending the disappearance of a person’s life were alone allowed a serious character, whilst those touching the circumstances which surround the coming into being of life – the entirety of genital activity – tended to be taken unseriously. It is not a protest against the profound general inclination that I have in mind: this inclination is another expression of the human destiny which would make man’s reproductive organs the object of laughter. But this laughter, which accentuates the pleasure-pain opposition (pain and death merit respect, whereas pleasure is derisory, deserving of contempt), also underscores their fundamental kinship. Man’s reaction has ceased to betoken respect: his laughter is the sign of aversion, of horror. Laughter is the compromise attitude man adopts when confronted by something whose appearance repels him, but which at the same time does not strike him as particularly grave. And thus when eroticism is considered with gravity, considered tragically, this represents a complete reversal of the ordinary situation.
I wish right away to make clear the total futility of those often-repeated statements to the effect that sexual prohibitions boil down to no more than prejudices which it is high time we get rid of. The shame, the modesty sensed in connection with the strong sensation of pleasure, would be, so the argument runs, mere proofs of backwardness and unintelligence. Which is the equivalent of saying that we ought to undertake a thorough housecleaning, set fire to our house and take to the woods, returning to the good old days of animalism, of devouring whoever we please and whatever ordures. Which is the equivalent of forgetting that what we call humanity, mankind, is the direct result of poignant, indeed violent impulses, alternately of revulsion and attraction, to which sensibility and intelligence are inseparably attached. But without wishing in any sense to gainsay the laughter that is roused by the idea or spectacle of indecency, we may legitimately return – partially return – to an attitude which came to be through the operation of laughter.
It is indeed in laughter that we find the Justification for a form of castigation, of obloquy. Laughter launches us along the path that leads to the transforming of a prohibition’s principle, of necessary and mandatory decencies, into an iron-clad hypocrisy, into a lack of understanding or an unwillingness to understand what is involved. Extreme licence wedded with a joking mood is accompanied by a refusal to take the underlying truth of eroticism seriously: by seriously I mean tragically.
I should like to make this preface the occasion of a pathetic appeal (in the strongest sense); for, in this little book, eroticism is plainly shown as opening directly out upon a certain vista of anguish, upon a certain lacerating consciousness of distress. Not that I think it surprising that, most often, the mind shuts itself off to this distress and to itself, and so to speak turning its back, in its stubbornness becomes a caricature of its own truth. If man needs lies ... why, then let man lie. There are, after all, men enough who are proud to drown themselves in the indifference of the anonymous mass ... But there is also a will, with its puissant and wonderful qualities, to open wide the eyes, to see forthrightly and fully what is happening, what is. And there would be no knowing what is happening if one were to know nothing of the extremest pleasure, if one knew nothing of extremest pain.
Not let us be clear on this. Pierre AngéIique is careful to say so: we know nothing, we are sunk in the depths of ignorance’s darkness. But we can at least see what is deceiving us, what diverts us from knowledge of our distress, from knowing, more precisely, that joy is the same thing as suffering, the same thing as dying, as death.
What the hearty laugh screens from us, what fetches up the bawdy jest, is the identity that exists between the utmost in pleasure and the utmost in pain: the identity between being and non-being, between the living and the death-stricken being, between the knowledge which brings one before this dazzling realization and definitive, concluding darkness. To be sure, it is not impossible that this truth itself evokes a final laugh; but our laughter here is absolute, going far beyond scorning ridicule of something which may perhaps be repugnant, but disgust for which digs deep under our skin.
If we are to follow all the way through to its last the ecstasy in which we lose ourselves in love-play, we have got constantly to bear in mind what we set as ecstasy’s immediate limit: horror. Not only can the pain I or others feel, drawing me closer to the point where horror will force me to recoil, enable me to reach the state where joy slips into delirium; but when horror is unable to quell, to destroy the object that attracts, then horror increases the object’s power to charm. Danger paralyses; but, when not overpoweringly strong, danger can arouse desire. We do not attain to ecstasy save when before the however remote prospect of death, of that which destroys us.
Man differs from animal in that he is able to experience certain sensations that wound and melt him to the core. These sensations vary in keeping with the individual and with his specific way of living. But, for example, the sight of blood, the odour of vomit, which arouse in us the dread of death, sometimes introduce us into a kind of nauseous state which hurts more cruelly than pain. Those sensations associated with the supreme giving-way, the final collapse, are unbearable. Are there not some persons who claim to prefer death to touching an even completely harmless snake? There seems to exist a domain where death signifies not only decease and disappearance, but the unbearable process by which we disappear despite ourselves and everything we can do, even though, at all costs, we must not disappear. It is precisely this despite ourselves, this at all costs which distinguish the moment of extreme joy and of indescribable but miraculous ecstasy. If there is nothing that surpasses our powers and our understanding, if we do not acknowledge something greater than ourselves, greater than we are despite ourselves, something which at all costs must not be, then we do not reach the insensate moment towards which we strive with all that is in our power and which at the same time we exert all our power to stave off.
Pleasure would be a puny affair were it not to involve this leap, this staggering overshooting of the mark which common sense fixes – a leap that is not confined alone to sexual ecstasy, one that is known also to the mystics of various religions, one that above all Christian mystics experienced, and experienced in this same way. The act whereby being existence – is bestowed upon us is an unbearable surpassing of being, an act no less unbearable than that of dying. And since, in death, being is taken away from us at the same time it is given us, we must seek for it in the feeling of dying, in those unbearable moments when it seems to us that we are dying because the existence in us, during these interludes, exists through nothing but a sustaining and ruinous excess, when the fullness of horror and that of joy coincide.
Our minds’ operations as well never reach their final culmination save in excess. What, leaving aside the representation of excess, what does truth signify if we do not see that which exceeds sight’s possibilities, that which it is unbearable to see as, in ecstasy, it is unbearable to know pleasure? What, if we do not think that which exceeds thought’s possibilities?. . .1
At the further end of this pathetic meditation – which, with a cry, undoes itself, unravelling to drown in self-repudiation, for it is unbearable to its own self – we rediscover God. That is the meaning, that is the enormity of this insensate – this mad – book: a book which leads God upon the stage; God in the plenitude of His attributes; and this God, for all that, is what? A public whore, in no way different from any other public whore. But what mysticism could not say (at the moment it began to pronounce its message, it entered it – entered its trance), eroticism does say: God is nothing if He is not, in every sense, the surpassing of God: in the sense of common everyday being, in the sense of dread, horror and impurity, and, finally, in the sense of nothing ... We cannot with impunity incorporate the very word into our speech which surpasses words, the word God; directly we do so, this word, surpassing itself, explodes past its defining, restrictive limits. That which this word is, stops nowhere, is checked by nothing, it is everything and, everywhere, is impossible to overtake anywhere. And he who so much as suspects this instantly falls silent. Or, hunting for a way out, and realizing that he seals himself all the more inextricably into the impasse, he searches within himself for that which, capable of annihilating him, renders him similar to God, similar to nothing. 2
In the course of the indescribable journey upon which this most incongruous of books invites us to embark, we may perhaps make a few more discoveries.
For example, that, perchance, of happiness, of delight ...
And here indeed joy does announce itself' within the perspective of death (thus is joy made to wear the mask of its contrary, grief).
I am by no means predisposed to think that voluptuous pleasure is the essential thing in this world. Man is more than a creature limited to its genitals. But they, those inavowable parts of him, teach him his secret. 3 Since intense pleasure depends upon the presence of a deleterious vision before the mind’s eye, it is likely that we will be tempted to try to slink in by some back way, doing our best to get at joy by a route that keeps us as far away as possible from horror. The images which quicken desire or provoke the critical spasm are usually equivocal, louche: if it be horror, if it be death these, images present, they always present them guilefully. Even in Sade’s universe, death’s terrible edge is deflected away from the self and aimed at the partner, the victim, at the other – and, contradictorily, Sade shows the other as the most eminently delightful expression of life. The sphere of eroticism is inescapably plighted to duplicity and ruse. The object which causes Eros to stir comes guised as other than truly it is. And so it does appear that, in the question of eroticism, it is the ascetics who are right. Beauty they call a trap set by the Devil: and only beauty excuses and renders bearable the need for disorder, for violence and for unseemliness which is the hidden root of love. 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 to experience the most violent, driving the blind excess of life to the very edge of death. The ascetic’s sweeping condemnation, admittedly, is blunt, it is craven, it is cruel, but it is squarely in tune with the fear and trembling without which we stray farther and farther away from the truth darkness sequesters. There is no warrant for ascribing to sexual love a pre-eminence which only the whole of life actually has, but, again, if we were to fail to carry the light to the very point where night falls, how should we know ourselves to be, as we are, the offspring, the effect of being hurling itself into horror? of being leaping headlong into the sickening emptiness, into the very nothingness which at all costs being has got to avoid…
Nothing, certainly, is more dreadful than this fall. How ludicrous the scenes of hell above the portals of churches must seem to us! Hell is the paltry notion God involuntarily gives us of Himself. But it requires the scale of limitless doom for us to discover the triumph of being – whence there has never lacked anything save consent to the impulse which would have been perishable. 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, and which we must accept as it is and for what it is, knowing only the horror it is in perfect harmony with. If courage deserts us, if we give way, then there is no greater torture. And never does the moment of torture fail to arrive: how, in its absence, would we withstand and overcome it? But the unreservedly open spirit - open to death, to torment, to joy – the open spirit, open and dying, suffering and dying and happy, stands in a certain veiled light: that light is divine. And the cry that breaks from a twisted mouth may perhaps twist him who utters it, but what he speaks is an immense alleluia, flung into endless silence, and lost there.

Georges Bataille


1 I regret having to add that this definition of being and of excess cannot repose, upon a philosophical basis, excess surpassing any foundational basis: excess is no other than that whereby the being is firstly and above all else conveyed beyond all circumscribing restrictions. Being is also, doubtless, subject to certain other limits: were this not so, we should not be able to speak (I too speak, but as I speak I do not forget that not only will speech escape me, but that it is escaping me now). These methodically arranged sentences are possible (in a large measure possible since excess is rather the exception than the rule, since excess is the marvellous, the miraculous…; and excess designates the attractive, if not the horrible, attraction, if not horror –designates everything which is more than what is, than what exists), but their impossibility is also fundamental. Thus: no tie ever binds me, never am I enslaved, subjugated, I always retain my sovereignty, a sovereignty only my death – which will demonstrate my inability to limit myself to being without excess – separates from me. I do not decline, I do not challenge consciousness, lacking which I cannot write, but this hand that writes is dying from the death promised unto it as its own, this hand escapes the limits it accepts in writing (limits accepted by the hand that writes, but refused by the hand that dies).
2 Here then is the primary theological attitude which would be propounded by a man for whom laughter is illumination and who disdains to impose limits, or to accept them: he who knows not what a limit is. Oh mark the day when on read by a pebble of fire, you who have waxed pale over the texts of philosophers! How may he express himself who bids these voices be still, unless it be in a way that is not conceivable to them?
3 I could also point out, moreover, that excess is the very principle and engine of sexual reproduction: indeed, divine Providence willed that in its works its secret impenetrable! Were it then possible to spare man nothing? The same day when he, perceives that the ground he stands on has fallen out from under his feet, he is told that it has been providentially removed! But would he have issue of his blasphemy, it is with blasphemy, it is in spitting defiance upon his own limitations, it is with blasphemy in his mouth that he makes himself God.

Anguish only is sovereign absolute. The sovereign is a king no more: it dwells low-hiding in big cities. It knits itself up in silence, obscuring its sorrow. Crouching thick-wrapped, there it waits, lies waiting for the advent of him who shall strike a general terror; but meanwhile and even so its sorrow scornfully mocks at all that comes to pass, at all there is.

There – I had come to a street corner – there a foul dizzying anguish got its nails into me (perhaps because I’d been staring at a pair of furtive whores sneaking down the stair of a urinal). A great urge to heave myself dry always comes over me at such moments. I feel I have got to make myself naked, or strip naked the whores I covet: it’s in stale flesh’s tepid warmth I always suppose I'll find relief. But this time I soothed my guts with the weaker remedy: I asked for a pernod at the counter, drank the glass in one gulp, and then went on and on, from zinc counter to zinc counter, drinking until ... The night was done falling.
I began to wander among those streets – the propitious ones – which run between the Boulevard Poisonniére and the Rue Saint-Denis. Loneliness and the dark strung my drunken excitement tighter and tighter. I wanted to be laid as bare as was the night there in those empty streets: I slipped off my pants and moved on, carrying them draped over my arm. Numb, I coasted on a wave of overpowering freedom, I sensed that I’d got bigger. In my hand I held my straight-risen sex.
(The beginning is tough. My way of telling about these things is raw. I could have avoided that and still made it sound plausible. It would have seemed 'likely', detours would have been to my advantage. But this is how it has to be, there is no beginning by scuttling in sidewise. I continue ... and it gets tougher.)
Not wanting trouble, I got back into my pants and headed toward the Mirrors. I entered the place and found myself in the light again. Amidst a swarm of girls, Madame Edwarda, naked, looked bored to death. Ravishing, she was the sort I had a taste for. So I picked her. She came and sat down beside me. I hardly took the time to reply when the waiter asked what it was to be, I clutched Edwarda, she surrendered herself: our two mouths met in a sickly kiss. The room was packed with men and women, and that was the wasteland where the game was played. Then, at a certain moment, her hand slid, I burst, suddenly, like a pane of glass shattering, flooding my clothes. My hands were holding Madame Edwarda’s buttocks and I felt her break in two at the same instant: and in her starting, roving eyes, terror, and in her throat, a long-drawn whistled rasp.
Then I remembered my desire for infamy, or rather that it was infamous I had at all costs to be. I made out laughter filtering through the tumult of voices, of glare, of smoke. But nothing mattered any more. I squeezed Edwarda in my arms; immediately, icebound, I felt smitten within by a new shock. From very high above a kind of stillness swept down upon me and froze me. It was as though I were borne aloft in a flight of headless and unbodied angels shaped from the broad swooping of wings, but it was simpler than that. I became unhappy and felt painfully forsaken, as one is when in the presence of GOD. It was worse and more of a letdown than too much to drink. And right away I was filled with unbearable sadness to think that this very grandeur descending upon me was withering away the pleasure I hoped to have with Edwarda.
I told myself I was being ridiculous. Edwarda and I having exchanged not one word, I was assailed by a huge uneasiness. I couldn’t breath so much as a hint of the state I was in, a wintry night had locked round me. Struggling, I wanted to kick the table and send the glasses flying, to raise the bloody roof, but that table wouldn’t budge, it must have been bolted to the floor. I don’t suppose a drunk can ever have to face anything more comical. Everything swam out of sight. Madame Edwarda was gone, so was the room.

I was pulled out of my dazed confusion by an only too human voice. Madame Edwarda’s thin voice, like her slender body, was obscene: ‘I guess what you want is to see the old rag and ruin,’ she said. Hanging on to the tabletop with both hands, I twisted around toward her. She was seated, she held one leg stuck up in the air, to open her crack yet wider she used fingers to draw the folds of skin apart. And so Madame Edwarda’s ‘old rag and ruin’ loured at me, hairy and pink, just as full of life as some loathsome squid. ‘Why,’ I stammered in a subdued tone, ‘why are you doing that?’ ‘You can see for yourself,’ she said, ‘I’m GOD.’ ‘I’m going crazy –’ ‘Oh, no you don’t, you’ve got to see, look. . .’ Her harsh, scraping voice mellowed, she became almost childlike in order to say, with a lassitude, with the infinite smile of abandon: ‘Oh, listen, fellow! The fun I’ve had . . . ’
She had not shifted from her position, her leg was still cocked in the air. And her tone was commanding: ‘Come here.’ ‘Do you mean,’ I protested, ‘in front of all these people?’ ‘Sure,’ she said, ‘why not?’ I was shaking, I looked at her: motionless, she smiled back so sweetly that I shook. At last, reeling, I sank down on my knees and feverishly pressed my lips to that running, teeming wound. Her bare thigh caressingly nudged my ear, I thought I heard a sound of roaring sea surge, it is the same sound you hear when you put your ear to a large conch shell. In the brothel’s boisterous chaos and in the atmosphere of corroding absurdity I was breathing (it seemed to me that I was choking, I was flushed, I was sweating) I hung strangely suspended, quite as though at that same point we, Edwarda and I, were losing ourselves in a wind-freighted night, on the edge of the ocean.
I heard another voice, a woman’s but mannish. She was a robust and handsome person, respectably got up. ‘Well now, my children,’ in an easy, deep tone, ‘up you go.’ The second in command of the house collected my money. I rose and followed Madame Edwarda whose tranquil nakedness was already traversing the room. But this so ordinary passage between the close-set tables, through the dense press of clients and girls, this vulgar ritual of ‘the lady going up’ with the man who wants her in tow, was, at that moment, nothing short of an hallucinating solemnity for me: Madame Edwarda’s sharp heels clicking on the tiled floor, the smooth advance of her long obscene body, the acrid smell I drank in, the smell of a woman in the throes of joy, of that pale body … Madame Edwarda went on ahead of me, raised up unto the very clouds … The room’s noisy unheeding of her happiness, of the measured gravity of her step, was royal consecration and triumphal holiday: death itself was guest at the feast, was there in what whorehouse nudity terms the pig-sticker’s stab ......................................................................................................................................….…………………………………………………………………………………………................................................................................................….. the mirrors wherewith the room’s walls were everywhere sheathed and the ceiling too, cast multiple reflections of an animal coupling, but, at each least movement, our bursting hearts would strain wide open to welcome ‘the emptiness of heaven.’
Making that love liberated us at last. On our feet, we stood gazing soberly at each other: Madame Edwarda held me spellbound, never had I seen a prettier girl – nor one more naked. Her eyes fastened steadily upon me, she removed a pair of white silk stockings from a bureau drawer, she sat on the edge of the bed and drew them on. The delirious Joy of being naked possessed her: once again she parted her legs, opened her crack, the pungent odour of her flesh and mine commingled flung us both into the same heart’s utter exhaustion. She put on a white bolero, beneath a domino cloak she disguised her nakedness. The domino’s hood cowled her head, a black velvet mask, fitted with a beard of lace, hid her face. So arrayed, she sprang away from me, saying: ‘Now let’s go.’
‘Go? Do they let you go out?’ I asked. ‘Hurry up, fifi,’ she replied gaily, ‘you can’t go out undressed.’ She tossed me my clothes and helped me climb into them, and as she did so, from her caprice, there now and then passed a sly exchange, a nasty little wink darting between her flesh and mine. We went down a narrow stairway, encountered nobody but the chambermaid. Brought to a halt by the abrupt darkness of the street, I was startled to discover Edwarda rushing away, swathed in black. She ran, eluded me, was off, the mask she wore was turning her into an animal. Though the air wasn’t cold, I shivered. Edwarda, something alien; above our heads, a starry sky, mad and void. I thought I was going to stagger, to fall, but didn’t, and kept walking.

At that hour of the night the street was deserted. Suddenly gone wild, mute, Edwarda raced on alone. The Porte Saint-Denis loomed before her, she stopped. I stopped too, she waited for me underneath the arch – unmoving, exactly under the arch. She was entirely black, simply there, as distressing as an emptiness, a hole. I realized she wasn’t frolicking, wasn’t joking, and indeed that, beneath the garment enfolding her, she was mindless: rapt, absent. Then all the drunken exhilaration drained out of me, then I knew that She had not lied, that She was GOD. Her presence had about it the unintelligible out-and-out simplicity of a stone right in the middle of the city I had the feeling of being in the mountains at night time, lost in a lifeless, hollow solitude.
I felt that I was free of Her – I was alone, as if face to face with black rock. I trembled, seeing before me what in all this world is most barren, most bleak. In no way did the comic horror of my situation escape me: She, the sight of whom petrified me now, the instant before had … And the transformation had occurred in the way something glides. In Madame Edwarda, grief – a grief without tears or pain had glided into a vacant silence. Nonetheless, I wanted to find out: this woman, so naked just a moment ago, who light-heartedly had called me ‘fifi’ … I crossed in her direction, anguish warned me to go no farther, but I didn’t stop.
Unspeaking, she slipped away, retreating toward the pillar on the left. Two paces separated me from that monumental gate, when I passed under the stone overhead, the domino vanished soundlessly. I paused, listening, holding my breath. I was amazed that I could grasp it all so clearly: when she had run off I had known that, no matter what, she had had to run, to dash under the arch, and when she had stopped, that she had been hung in a sort of trance, an absence, far out of range and beyond the possibility of any laughter. I couldn’t see her any longer: a deathly darkness sank down from the vault. Without having given it a second’s thought, I ‘knew’ that a season of agony was beginning for me. I consented to suffer, I desired to suffer, to go farther, as far as the ‘emptiness’ itself, even were I to be stricken, destroyed, no matter. I knew, I wanted that knowing, for I lusted after her secret and did not for one instant doubt that it was death’s kingdom.
I moaned underneath the stone roof, then, terrified, I laughed: ‘Of all men, the sole to traverse the nothingness of this arch!’ I trembled at the thought she might fly, vanish forever. I trembled as I accepted that, but from imagining it I became crazed: I leaped to the pillar and spun round it. As quickly I circled the other pillar on the right: she was gone. But I couldn’t believe it. I remained woestruck before the portal and I was sinking into the last despair when upon the far side of the avenue I spied the domino, immobile, just faintly visible in the shadow: she was standing upright, entranced still, planted in front of the ranged tables and chairs of a café shut up for the night. I drew near her: she seemed gone out of her mind, some foreign existence, the creature apparently of another world and, in the streets of this one, less than a phantom, less than a lingering mist. Softly she withdrew before me until in her retreat she touched against a table on the empty terrace. A little noise. As if I had waked her, in a lifeless voice she inquired: ‘Where am I?’

Desperate, I pointed to the empty sky curved above us. She looked up and for a brief moment stood still, her eyes vague behind the mask, her gaze lost in the fields of' stars. I supported her, it was in an unhealthy way she was clutching the domino, with both hands pulling it tight around her. She began to shake, to convulse. She was suffering. I thought she was crying but it was as if the world and the distress in her, strangling her, were preventing her from giving way to sobs. She wrenched away from me, gripped by a shapeless disgust; suddenly lunatic, she darted forward, stopped short, whirled her cloak high, displayed her behind, snapped her rump up with a quick jerk of her spine, then came back and hurled herself at me. A gale of dark savagery blew up inside her, raging, she tore and hammered at my face, hit with clenched fists, swept away by a demented impulse to violence. I tottered and fell. She fled.
I was still getting to my feet – was actually still on my knees – when she returned. She shouted in a ravelled, impossible voice, she screamed at the sky and, horrified, her whirling arms flailing at vacant air: ‘I can’t stand any more,’ she shrilled, ‘but you, you fake priest. I shit on you – ’ That broken voice ended in a rattle, her outstretched hands groped blindly, then she collapsed.
Down, she writhed, shaken by respiratory spasms. I bent over her and had to rip the lace from the mask, for she was chewing and trying to swallow it. Her thrashings had left her naked, her breasts spilled through her bolero ... I saw her flat, pallid belly, and above her stockings, tier hairy crack yawned astart. This nakedness now had the absence of meaning and at the same time the overabundant meaning of death-shrouds. Strangest of all – and most disturbing – was the silence that ensnared Edwarda – owing to the pain she was in, further communication was impossible and I let myself be absorbed into this unutterable barrenness – into this black night hour of the being’s core no less a desert nor less hostile than the empty skies. The way her body flopped like a fish, the ignoble rage expressed by the ill written on her features cindered the life in me, dried it down to the lees of revulsion.
(Let me explain myself. No use laying it all up to irony when I say of Madame Edwarda that she is GOD. But GOD figured as a public whore and gone crazy – that, viewed through the optic of ‘philosophy’, makes no sense at all. I don’t mind having my sorrow derided if derided it has to be, he only will grasp me aright whose heart holds a wound that is an incurable wound, who never, for anything, in any way, would be cured of it ... And what man, if so wounded, would ever be willing to ‘die’ of any other hurt?)
The awareness of my irreparable doom whilst, in that night, I knelt next to Edwarda was not less clear and not less imposing than it is now, as I write. Edwarda’s sufferings dwelt in me like the quick truth of an arrow: one knows it will pierce the heart, but death will ride in with it. As I waited for annihilation, all that subsisted in me seemed to me to be the dross over which man’s life tarries. Squared against a silence so black, something leaped in my heavy despair’s midst. Edwarda’s convulsions snatched me away from my own self, they cast my life into a desert waste ‘beyond’, they cast it there carelessly, callously, the way one flings a living body to the hangman.
A man condemned to die, when after long hours of waiting he arrives in broad daylight at the exact spot the horror is to be wrought, observes the preparations, his too full heart beats as though to burst; upon the narrow horizon which is his, every object, every face is clad in weightiest meaning and helps tighten the vice whence there is no time left him to escape. When I saw Madame Edwarda writhing on the pavement, I entered a similar state of absorption, but I did not feel imprisoned by the change that occurred in me. The horizon before which Edwarda’s sickness placed me was a fugitive one, fleeing like the object anguish seeks to attain. Torn apart, a certain power welled up in me, a power that would be mine upon condition I agree to hate myself. Ugliness was invading all of me. The vertiginous sliding which was tipping me into ruin had opened up a prospect of indifference, of concerns, of desires there was no longer any question: at this point, the fever’s desiccating ecstasy was issuing out of my utter inability to check myself.
(If You have to lay yourself bare, then you cannot play with words, trifle with slow-marching sentences. Should no one unclothe what I have said, I shall have written in vain. Edwarda is no dream’s airy invention, the real sweat of her body soaked my handkerchief, so real was she that, led on by her, I came to want to do the leading in my turn. This book has its secret, I may not disclose it. Now more words.)

Finally, the crisis subsided. Her convulsions continued a little longer, but with waning fury, she began to breathe again, her features relaxed, ceased to be hideous. Drained entirely of strength, I lay full length down on the roadway beside her. I covered her with my clothing. She was not heavy and I decided to pick her up and carry her. One of the boulevard taxi stands was not far away. She lay unstirring in my arms. It took time to get there, thrice I had to pause and rest. She came back to life as we moved along and when we reached the place she wanted to be set down. She took a step and swayed. I caught her, held her, held by me she got into the cab. Weakly, she said: not yet ... tell him to wait.’ I told the driver to wait. Half dead from weariness, I climbed in too and slumped down beside Edwarda.
For a long time we remained without saying anything. Madame Edwarda, the driver and I, not budging in our seats, as though the taxi were rolling ahead. At last Edwarda spoke to me. ‘I want him to take us to Les Halles.’ I repeated her instructions to the driver, and we started off. He took us through dimly lit streets. Calm and deliberate, Edwarda loosened the ties of her cloak, it fell away from her. She got rid of the mask too, she removed her bolero and, for her own hearing, murmured: ‘Naked as a beast’. She rapped on the glass partition, had the cab stop, and got out. She walked round to the driver and when close enough to touch him, said: ‘You see ... I’m bare-assed, jack. Let’s fuck.’ Unmoving, the driver looked at that beast. Having backed off a short distance, she had raised her left leg, eager to show him her crack. Without a word and unhurriedly, the man stepped out of the car. He was thickset, solidly built. Edwarda twined herself around him, fastened her mouth upon his, and with one hand scouted about in his underwear. It was a long heavy member she dragged through his fly. She eased his trousers down to his ankles. ‘Come into the back seat,’ she told him. He sat down next to me. Stepping in after him, she mounted and straddled him. Carried away by voluptuousness, with her own hands she stuffed the hard stave into her hole. I sat there, lifeless and watching: her slithering movements were slow and cunning and plainly she gleaned a nerve-snapping pleasure from them. The driver retaliated, struggling with brute heaving vigour; bred of their naked bodies’ intimacy, little by little that embrace strained to the final pitch of excess at which the heart falls. The driver fell back, spent and near to swooning. I switched on the overhead light in the taxi. Edwarda sat bolt upright astride the still stiff member, her head angled sharply back, her hair straying loose. Supporting her nape, I looked into her eyes: they gleamed white. She pressed against the hand that was holding her up, the tension thickened the wall in her throat. Her eyes swung to rights and then she seemed to grow easy. She saw me, from her stare, then, at that moment, I knew she was drifting home from the ‘impossible’ and in her nether depths I could discern a dizzying fixity. The milky outpouring travelling through her, the jet spitting from the root, flooding her with joy, came spurting out again in her very tears: burning tears streamed from her wide-open eyes. Love was dead in those eyes, they contained a daybreak aureate chill, a transparence wherein I read death’s letters. And everything swam drowned in that dreaming stare: a long member, stubby fingers prying open fragile flesh, my anguish, and the recollection of scum-flecked lips – there was nothing which didn’t contribute to that blind dying into extinction.
Edwarda’s pleasure – fountain of boiling water, heartbursting furious tideflow – went on and on, weirdly, unendingly; that stream of luxury, its strident inflexion, glorified her being unceasingly, made her nakedness unceasingly more naked, her lewdness ever more intimate. Her body, her face swept in ecstasy were abandoned to the unspeakable coursing and ebbing, in her sweetness there hovered a crooked smile: she saw me to the bottom of my dryness, from the bottom of my desolation I sensed her joy’s torrent run free. My anguish resisted the pleasure I ought to have sought. Edwarda’s pain-wrung pleasure filled me with an exhausting impression of bearing witness to a miracle. My own distress and fever seemed small things to me. But that was what I felt, those are the only great things in me which gave answer to the rapture of her whom in the deeps of an icy silence I called ‘my heart’.
Some last shudders took slow hold of her, then her sweatbathed frame relaxed – and there in the darkness sprawled the driver, felled by his spasm. I still held Edwarda up, my hand still behind her head, the stave slipped out, I helped her lie down, wiped her wet body. Her eyes dead, she offered no resistance. I had switched off the light, she was half asleep, like a drowsy child. The same sleepiness must have borne down upon the three of us, Edwarda, the driver and me.
(Continue? I meant to. But I don’t care now. I’ve lost interest. I put down what oppresses me at the moment of writing: ‘Would it all be absurd? Or might it make some kind of sense?’ I’ve made myself sick wondering about it. I awake in the morning – just the way millions do, millions of boys and girls, infants and old men, their slumbers dissipated forever … These millions, those slumbers have no meaning. A hidden meaning? Hidden, yes, ‘obviously’! But if nothing has any meaning, there’s no point in my doing anything. I’ll beg off. I’ll use any deceitful means to get out of it, in the end I’ll have to let go and sell myself to meaninglessness, nonsense: that is man’s killer, the one who tortures and kills, not a glimmer of hope left. But if there is a meaning? Today I don’t know what it is. Tomorrow? Tomorrow, who can tell? Am I going then to find out what it is? No, I can’t conceive of any ‘meaning’ other than ‘my’ anguish, and as for that, I know all about it. And for the time being: nonsense. Monsieur Nonsense is writing and understands that he is mad. It’s atrocious. But his madness, this meaninglessness – how ‘serious’ it has become all of a sudden! – might that indeed be ‘meaningful’? [No, Hegel has nothing to do with a maniac girl’s ‘apotheosis’.] My life only has a meaning insofar as I lack one: oh, but let me be mad! Make something of all this he who is able to, understand it he who is dying, and there the living self is, knowing not why, its teeth chattering in the lashing wind: the immensity, the night engulfs it and, all on purpose, that living self is there just in order… ‘not to know’. But as for GOD? What have you got to say, Monsieur Rhetorician? And you, Monsieur Godfearer? – GOD, if He knew, would be a swine.* O Thou my Lord [in my distress I call out unto my heart], O deliver me, make them blind! The story – how shall I go on with it?)
But I am done.
From out of the slumber which for so short a space kept us in the taxi, I awoke, the first to open his eyes … The rest is irony, long, weary waiting for death …

* I said ‘GOD, if He knew would be a swine.’ He (He would I suppose be, at that particular moment, somewhat in disorder, his peruke would sit all askew) would entirely grasp the idea … but what would there be of the human about him? Beyond, beyond everything … and yet farther, and even farther still … HIMSELF, in an ecstasy, above an emptiness … And now? I TREMBLE.
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Εγγραφή: Τρί Απρ 08, 2003 10:08 pm

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