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Madame Edwarda
article [ Books ]
“If you are scared of everything, do read this book...”(Georges Bataille)

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by [cam ]

2007-05-25  |     | 

"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 in a way that is not conceivable to them?" (Georges Bataille)


“You are sitting within the wakefulness page, tired, invaded by writing, you are sitting and waiting. It’s darkness, here about is a street, a day. You have to write, to break yourself; to rend yourself into little pieces, letter by letter, line by line... That’s it. Doesn’t matter if your name is or is not predestined to literature. You must write, maybe by pride, maybe to prove that it is possible. In fact, this is about an immense fright of time, of the instant, which will pass by print less. It is a matter of calendar. It is a fight with the angel, with the daily angel. He must see he has to feel, to know.” (Mircea Mihăieş – Awake in the Mirror)


Even a master of letter would meet with difficulties if he would decide to write about this equally sublime and monstrous book of Georges Bataille, “Madame Edwarda. The Dead Man. The Story of the Eye”, published in Romania in 2004. We have to assure the translator, this obedient writer, which always stays behind the author, here Emanoil Marcu, by our whole gratitude. His role wasn’t easy, not at all. The stammer from amongst the quotations that will follow belongs to one of those who are fighting with the daily angel, afraid, at his turn, of the moment, which is passing by print less.

Here is one of the eternal bewilderment of the human being: where begins and where ends normality? Is really a borderline without discontinuities between good and harm? Normality’s definition itself, like this one: “what usually occurs”, is definitely unsatisfactory. I think that normality can be seen as a status of acceptance and obedience, but completely lack of creativity, often adopted by fear. This short remark doesn’t want to be one that reveals some hidden mystery, rather a remark that should be considered as an alibi.

“Madame Edwarda” is a story about the eroticism is plainly shown “as opening directly out upon a certain vista of anguish, upon a certain lacerating consciousness of distress”. It is a “pathetic appeal (in the strongest sense)”, of a man which performs acrobatics’ on the edge with the entire his being naked; one of those few persons who “accepts” – says he -, who are able – I think –, to not limit things that have no limits. It is a confession about things that cannot be said, beyond of “how they must be” or “how they must usually occur”. About the apogee of eroticism and the awareness of tearing, where that one who arrives will find “the Nought or God Itself” (Emanoil Marcu), speaks here the “harm’s metaphysician” in “the most obscene of all the books”.

Convinced that, most often, “the mind shuts itself off to the distress and to itself, and so to speak turning its back, in its stubbornness it becomes a caricature of its own truth”, Bataille asserts: “If man needs lies ... why, then let man lie”. Tortured by truth, he goads us, recurrently, to understand this book beyond the disgust and the horror of the deeds themselves. They are only a manner, not at all simple, chosen for describing the paroxysm of sensations and sentiments, for describing a way leading unto this acme, which is the most violent of all deliriums: where the “blind excess of life” meets the threshold of death. “Here is the meaning, here is the enormity of this insensate – this mad – book: a book that leads God upon the stage; God in the plenitude of His attributes;” That one who cannot perceive at least a bit from this assertion, will catch a doze of sick that will saturate him for long time. I urge, at my own risk, those ones who did not try yet, at this slalom between the obstacles of a corrupt eroticism, which reveals thoughts of a consciousness about the truths of being. It can be a favorite book, or one that will be thrown in the name of the horse sense inherited from parents. The communication of these – at least partial – truths, risks the excommunication of the author from a “normal” society.

“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.”

If it is true that the only way of healing from the being’s abyss is to dip within it, then, this story is finding his fate.

Prostitution appears like a congenital marsh fire. Its followers are trying, at least for few moments, isolated but revealing, the tyro’s abolition. Prostitution is a ritual. Maybe the ritual of the excess of life, which, being lived until the emptying of its own content, faces the death with intermittent and wintry twinkles of eyesight: the excitement of senses opens moments of clearness in thinking.

“Madame Edwarda went on ahead of me, rose up unto the very clouds … The room’s noisy unheeding of her happiness, of the measured gravity of her step, and 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 alternation between lunacy and lucidity applies to the reader a continuous shock. The whorehouse is a passage, covered by mirrors, guiding unto the gallery of sufferance. “...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’. “
Beyond, God is waiting, patiently.

The excited ones are witnesses at self-destruction, with self-assurance. They regenerate in other spiritual structures, open unto new revelations. Any possible revolt is suppressed from that Unknown, which lures and let Itself in great demand. “The essence of the eroticism is the defilement”, concerning love it is impossible to avoid “the profanation of the beloved face, its beauty”, asserts Bataille. From a devilish frame of mind, the body gets maximal grades of liberty, the being lives the voluptuousness saturated by pain. It suffers multiple metamorphoses; the conflictual moods touch the paroxysm. The man is an animal. He exhibit his sexual organ, alike a “bloody wound”, always opened, through which is pouring everything, grotesquely and sublimely. To the delirious emotion follows an absolute blankness of being.

“I trembled, seeing before me what in this entire 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’ … [...] then all the drunken exhilaration drained out of me, and then I knew that She had not lied, that She was God.”

Batailles’ characters live within agony; they accept the sufferance, creeping as worms, breathing convulsively, they want, at all hazards, to go ahead, inside of a “black beyond”. The author knows that only those who wear into their soul an incurable wound can understand him; he knows the poorness of words and the slowness of phrases. “Should no one unclothe what I have said, I shall have written in vain. (This book has its secret I may not disclose it.)”

A book like this one is usually contested, or, in the happiest case, secretively accepted. The characters’ whim of outrunning the human condition’s sphere, experimenting what is unexperimentable, places them forth of the horizon of admissibility, arousing to the reader a continuous irritation; because the reader more easily adjusts himself to the lie hidden within the root of moral and ethical being. This lie is the spiritual harm, which generates fright, hate, and alienation. Nevertheless, the untruth haunts the consciousness of the man “a little intelligent and invaded by that moral anxiety, which is the source of any creation” (Jacques Monod). For allaying his existential anguish, the human being needs explanations. Their lack generates a profound restlessness. Anguish is the obscure panic that compels humankind to seek for the sense of existence. It has created the myths, the religions, it is “the creative unrest of all philosophies and of science itself” (Jacques Monod). Bataille experiments everything in full speed, depriving the reader of convenient explanations.

The emotional contrast has its origin within the physiological variations of the human body, within a level that is inferior to the intellectual one. The nervous system’s energy is limited. If an action exhausts it in one direction, the human body requires a new and different excitation. In accordance with Théodule Ribot’s theory concerning the emotional life, it exists only reciprocally disturbing, mutually excluding, and destroying feelings. The emotional life unfolds between pain and pleasure; it is determined by the contrast between relish and ordeal. However, this contrast is only a category of understanding, a shape of thinking assessed to things and actions, for putting them in order, for making them intelligible.

“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 transparency 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. [...]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’.”

“The beginning is tough”, states Bataille, immediately adding “I’ll continue..., and it gets tougher”. And he kept his promise!

This dramatic appeal, this immense wonder of the human being, which is here “knowing not why, its teeth chattering in the lashing wind”, lapped in an abyssal night, ends with a sketchily survey of some “personal tearing” that can justify, finally, the macabre side of this book. Because generally saying, we ingest instantly the sublime, without searching to it any logical justification.

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