Actually, I retract that.
Other than the bit where a priest is raped by a woman and two men whilst being choked to death, I didn’t feel as much as a ripple of arousal whilst reading this sex novel*. But I did, and this is key, FUCKING LOVE IT.
Story of the Eye is an “erotic novel”, a “pornographic novel”, a “dirty book”, a “sex novel”, whatever. (I mean, it’s not really any of these but, you know, it’s-)
Story of the Eye is a picaresque novel about a young, heterosexual couple who take things too far. They do a lot of sex, they force their peers into unwanted sex (one is committed after her reaction to an orgy, they bust her out, she kills herself), they piss on each other all the time, they use eggs as erotic toys, they piss on the corpse of their suicided friend, they run away to Spain where they befriend a horny old Englishman who follows them around wanking, they go to a bullfight in Madrid and Simone (the girl) orders the raw balls of the first killed bull, they go to Seville then into a church and Simone seduces a priest who the three of them then force to ejaculate over the host, make him piss into a eucharist chalice and drink it, then strangle him to death during coitus. Then they pull out one of his eyes and Simone stuffs it, pupil facing outward, into her vagina. FUCKING INSPIRED.**
Then the three protagonists run away to find a yacht in Gibraltar and live happily ever after.
BUT THEN (and this is what makes this a great novel and not just a great sexed-up adventure) there is a short essay where the novelist, Georges Bataille, describes the reasons for all of the piece’s content. He writes about his father, syphilitic, paralysed, blind, regularly pissing in front of him as a small boy. He writes of finding his mother after a suicide attempt very similar to the suicide contained within the novel, he writes about urine and suicide and eyes like eggs being part of his conscious from a young age, and writes about the strange connections made by his mind as he wrote the story, and how he only became aware of them once it was done, once the writing was over. This reflective, extra, chapter is what for me elevates the book. Though it was fun (despite not being arousingly erotic), it was rather weird and silly and a bit over the top, a clear (but enjoyable) dive into the sexual subconsciousness of a thirtyish Frenchman in the late 1920s. But to then examine himself, to then question why he created and developed these ideas, that shows him to be more than a “mere” pornographer.
The story is fun, but ‘Part 2: Coincidences’ makes the novel as a whole very superior to similar things I have read.
Included in this volume was a wanky essay by Roland Barthes, and a (long but informative) piece by Susan Sontag, called ‘The Pornographic Imagination’. This questions the social significance of pornography and, more so, the confusion that results from a society refusing to accept pornographic works as art.
The Sontag essay was interesting and relevant, though I couldn’t help but feel it was a weak, justificatory move by a publishing house overly ashamed of themselves for publishing a book with so many orgasms and golden showers in it.***
A great read. I’d recommend it. YEAH!!!
* And to be honest, that one ripple more made me ask (and answer) uncomfortable questions about myself rather than relax my mind into the mood for peaceful masturbation. (Though I was on a train at the time.)
** I’ll be honest, I had nowhere near this amount of fun when I went to Seville last year.
*** There are probably more orgasms in this book than there have been in my life. Harrumph!!!