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TitleG. Bataille - Madame Edwarda
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L'Abbe C (fic tion)

Blue of N oon (fict ion)

Lir eraru re and Evil (cri tic ism)

Sto ry of the Eye (fiction w ith essaysby Susan
Sontag and Rol and Barthes)

Eroticis m (phi losophy)

Aiso by GeorgesBataille
MY MOTHER

MADAME EDW ARDA

THE DEAD MAN

GeorgesBATAILLE
Trans latedby Au stryn Wainho use

with essaysby Yukio Mi shima and Ken Hollings

MA R I ON BOYARS
L O ND ON · N EW Y ORK

""

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/' PREFACE

Oeath is the most terrible of ail things ; andto maintain its works iswhat requires the
greatest of ail strength.

Hegel

The author of this book has himself insisted upon thegravityofwhathe has tosay".Nonetheless, it would seem
advisableto underscorethe seriousnessof it , if only beca use of
the widespreadcustom ofmakinglight of thosewritings that
deal withthesubj ectofsexuallife. Notthat1hope-orintend
to try - to changeanything in customsthat prevail. But 1
invite the readerof this prefaceto turn his thoughtsfor a
moment to the attitude traditionally observed towards
pleasure(which, in sexualplay, attainsa wild intensity, an
insanity) and towards pain (finall y assuagedby death, of
course, but which, before that, dying winds to the highest
pitch). A combinationof conditionsleadsus to entertaina
pictureof.mankindas it oughtto be, andin that pictureman
appearsat no lessgreata removefrom extremepleasureas
from extremepain: the mostordinarysocial restrictionsand

.. Bataillewrote MadameEdwardaunderthe pseudonym,Pierre Angélique.
Seepublisher'snote.

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145

NOTES ON PREFACE

1 regret ha ving to add tha t this definition of being andof excess
cannotrepose upon a philosophical basis, excesssurpassing any
foundationalbasis: excess isno other thanthatwherebythe being
is firsti y and above ail else conveyed beyond ail circumscribing
restrictions. Being is also, doubtless, subject to certain other
limit s: were this not so, we should not be able to speak(1 too
speak, but as 1 speak 1 do not forget that not only will speech
escape me,but that it is escaping me now). Thesemethodically
arrangedsentences are possible(in a largemeasurepossiblesince
excess israther the exception than the mie, since excess is the
marvellous, the miraculous.. .; and excess designates the
attractive, if not the horrible, attraction, if not horror -
designatesevery thingwhich ismorethanwhat is,thanwhatexists),
but their impossibility is also fundamental. Thus: no tie ever
binds me, never am 1enslaved,subjugated ,1 always retain my
sovereignty, a sovercignty only my death - which will
demonstrate my inability to limit myself to being without excess
- separates from me. 1 do not dec1ine, 1 do not challenge
consciousness, lacking which 1 cannotwrite, but this hand that
writ es is dying from the death promised unto it as its own, this
handescapes the limit s it accepts inwriting (Iimits accepted by
the handthatwrites, but refusedby the handthatdies).

2 Here then is the primary theological attitude which would be
propoundedby a manin whorn laughter is illumination andwho
disdainsto imposelimit s, or to acceptthem: he who knows not
whata limit is. 0 mark theday when you read by a pebbleoffire,
you who have waxed paleover the textsof the philosophers!How
may he expresshimselfwho bids these voices be still, unless it be
in a way that is not conceivabl eto them?

3 1could alsopoint out, rnoreover ,that excess is the very principle
andengine ofsexua l reproduction: indeed,divine Prooidencewill ed
that·in its works its secret remain impenetrable! Were it then
possible to spar eman nothing?The samc day when he perceives

�~�A�D�A�~ �E EDW ARDAGEORGESBATAILLE

GeorgesBataille

it? But the unreservedly open spirit - open to death, to
torment, to joy - , the openspirit, openanddying, sufTering
and dying and happy, standsin a certainveiled light: that
light is divine. And the crythat breaksfrom a twisted mouth
may perhapstwist him who uttersit , but what hespeaksis an
immensealleluia, flung into endlesssilence,and lost there.

144

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Anguish only is sovereign absolute. Thesovereign is a king no more : it dwells
low-hiding in big citie s. 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 50 its sorrow
scornfully mocksat ail that co rnesto pass, at ail
there is.

GEORGESBATAILLE

that the groundhestandson hasfallen out from under his feet, he
is told that it has beenprooidentiallyremoved!But would he have
issue of his blasphemy, it is with blasphemy,it is in spitting
defianceupon his own limitations, it is with blasphemyin his
mouth that he makeshimselfGod.

146

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Finally, thecrisissubsided.Hel' convulsionscontinueda little
longer,but with waningfury , she beganta breatheagain, her
features relaxed, ceasedto be hideous. Drained entirely of
strength,1 lay ful1length down on the roadwaybesideher. 1
covered her with my clothing. She was not heavy and 1
decidedto pick her up and carry her.. One of the boulevard
taxi standswasnot far away.Shelay unstirringin my arms.It
took time ta getthere,thrice1hadto pauseandl'est.Shecame
backto life as wemovedalongandwhenwe reachedtheplace
she wanted to be setdown. She took a step and swayed. 1
caughther, heldher, held by me she gotinto thecab.Weakly,
shesaid: ' ... not yet ... tell him to wait.' 1 told thedriver to
wait. Halfdeadfrom weariness, 1climbedin too andslumped
down besideEdwarda.

For a long time we remained without saying anything.
MadameEdwarda,the driver and1, not budgingin ourseats,

entered a similar state of absorption, but 1 did not feel
imprisonedby the changethat occurredin me. The horizon
before which Edwarda'ssicknessplaced me was a fugitive
one,fleeing like the objectanguishseeksta attain.Torn apart,
a certainpowerwel1ed up in me, a powerthatwould be mine
uponcondition1agreetohatemyself. Uglinesswasinvading
all of me. The vertiginoussliding which was tipping me into
ruin hadopenedup aprospectof indifference,of concerns, of
desiresthere was no longer any question:at this point, the
fever's desiccatingecstasywas issuingoutofmy utterinability
to checkmyself.

(Ifyou haveto lay yourselfbare,thenyou cannotplay with
words, trifle with slow-marchingsentences.Should no one
unclothe what 1 have said, 1 shal1 have written in vain.
Edwardais no drearn's airy invention, the real sweatof her
bodysoakedmy handkerchief, so real was shethat, led on by
her, 1 carneto want to do the leadingin my turn. This book
hasits secret,1 may not discloseit. Now morewords.)

157MADAME EDW ARDA

as thoughthe taxi wererolling ahead.At last Edwardaspoke
to me. '1want him to take us to LesHalles.' 1 repeatedher
instructions to the driver, and we startedoff. He took us
through dimly lit streets. Calm and deliberate, Edwarda
loosenedtheties of hercloak, it fell awa y from her.Shegot l'id
of the.rnask too, she removed her bolero and, for her own
hearing, murmured: 'Naked as a beast.' She rappedon the
glass partition, had the cab stop, and got out. She walked
roundto thedriverandwhencloseenoughtotouchhim, said:
'Vou see .. . l 'm bare-assed,Jack. Let's fuck. ' Unmoving,
the .driver looked at that beast. Having backedoff a short
distance, she had raised her left leg, eagerta show him her
crack. Without a word and unhurriedly,the mansteppedout
of the car. He was thickset, solidly built. Edwardatwined
herselfaround him, fastenedher mouth upon his, and with
onehandscoutedaboutin his underwear.1t wasa long heavy
membershedraggedthrough his fly. She easedhis trousers
down ta his ankles.'Comeinto thebackseat,' shetold him. He
satdown next to me. Steppingin after him, shemountedand
straddled him. Carried away by voluptuousness,with her
own handsshestuffed the hardstaveinto her hole. 1satthere,
lifelessandwatching: herslitheringmovementswereslow and
cunningand plainly she gleaneda nerve-snappingpleasure
from them. The driver retaliated, struggling with brute
heavingvigor; bred of their nakedbodies' intimacy, little by
little thatembracestrainedto thefinal pitchofexcessat which
the heartfails . The driver fell back , spentand nearto swoon-
ing. 1 switched on the overheadlight in the taxi. Edwarda
sat boit upright astride the still stiff member, her head
angledsharplyback, her hair strayingloose. Supportingher
nape,1 looked into hereyes: they gleamedwhite. Shepressed
against the hand that was holding her up, the tension
thickenedthe wail in herthroat.Hel' eyesswungto rights and
then she seemed to grow easy. She saw me, from her
stare, then, at that moment, 1 knew she was drifting home
from the 'impossible' andin hernetherdepths1coulddiscern

GEORGESBATAILLE156

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a dizzying fixity, The milky outpouring travelling through
her, thejet spitting from the root, flooding her withjoy, came
spurtingout againin her very tears:burning tearsstreamed
from her wide-openeyes.Love was deadin thoseeyes, they
containeda daybreakaureatechill, a transparencewherein1
read death'sletters. And everythingswamdrownedin that
dreamingstare:a long member,stubby fingers prying open
fragile flesh, my anguish,andthe recollectionofscum-flecked
lips- therewasnothingwhich didn'tcontributeto thatblind
dyingintoextinction.

Edwarda's pleasure- fountainofboiling water, heartbur-
stingfurious tideflow-'- wenton andon, weirdly, unendingly;
thatstreamofluxury, its stridentinflexion, glorified herbeing
unceasingly,madeher nakednessunceasinglymore naked,
her lewdnessevermoreintimate.Her body, her facesweptin
ecstasywere abandonedto the unspeakablecoursing and
ebbing, in her sweetnesstherehovereda crookedsmile: she
saw me to thebottomof my dryness, from the bottomof my
desolation1 sensedher joy's torrent run free. My anguish
resisted the pleasure1 ought to have sought. Edwarda's
pain-wrungpleasurefilled me with an exhaustingimpression
of bearingwitness to a miracle. My own distressand fever
seernedsmall thingsto me.But thatwaswhat1 felt, thoseare
the only greatthings in me which gaveanswerto the rapture
of herwhom in the deepsofan icysilence1called 'my heart'.

Sorne last shudders took slow hold of her, then her
sweatbathedframe relaxed - and there in the' darkness
sprawledthe driver, felled by hisspasm.1 still held Edwarda
up, my hand still behind her head, the staveslipped out, 1
helpedher lie down, wiped her wet body. Her eyesdead,she
offered noresistance. 1hadswitchedoff the light, shewas half
asleep,like a drowsy child. The samesleepinessmust have
bornedownuponthe threeofus,Edwarda,the driverandme.

(Continue?1 meant to. But 1 don't care now. l've lost
interest. 1 put down what oppressesme at the momentof
writing: 'Would it all be absurd?Or might it makesorne kind
ofsense?l've mademyselfsickwonderingaboutit. 1awakein
the morning- just the waymillions do, millions of boysand

159

• 1said 'GOD, if He knew wouId bea swine.' He (He would 1supposebe, at
that particular moment, somewhatin disorder, his perukewould sit ail
askew) would entirely grasp the idea . . . but what would there be of the
humanabouthim? Beyond, beyondeverything...andyet farther,and even
fartherstill . . . HIMSELF, in an ecstasy,abovean emptiness...And now? 1
TREMBLE.

girls , infants and old men, their slumbersdissipatedforever
. . . These millions, those slumbers have no meaning. A
hiddenmeaning?Hidden,yes, 'obviously'! But ifnothing has
any meaning,there'sno point in my doing anything.l'Il beg
off. l'Il useany deceitfulmeansto getout ofit, in the endl'Il
have to let go and sell myself to meaninglessness,nonsense:
that is man's killer, the one who tortures and kills, not a
glimmerof hope left.But ifthere is a meaning?Today1don't
know what it is. Tomorrow?Tomorrow, who can tell? Am 1
going then to find out what it is? No, 1can'tconceiveofany
'meaning'otherthan'my' anguish,andas forthat,1 know al!
about it. And for the time being: nonsense. Monsieur
Nonsenseis writing and understandsthat he is mad. It's
atrocious. But his madness,this meaninglessness- how
'serions' it hasbecomeaIl ofasudden!- might thatindeedbe
'rneaningful'?[No, Hegel has nothing to do with a maniac
girl's 'apotheosis'.] My life only hasa meaninginsofar as 1
lack one: oh, but let me bemad! MakesomethingofaIl this he
who is able to, understandit he who isdying, and there the
living 'self is, knowing not why, its teethchatteringin the
lashingwind: the immensity, the night engulfsit and,aIl on
purpose,that living selfis therejustin 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 aswine.* 0 Thou my Lord [in my distress1
cali out unto my heart],0 deliver me, makethemblind! The
.storv - howshall 1 go onwith it?)

But 1amdone.
From out of theslumberwhich for soshorta spacekept us

in the taxi, 1 awoke,the first toopen his eyes... The restis
irony, long, wearywaiting for death...

MADAME EDWARDAGEORGESBATAILLE158

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