Louis XXX presents the first ever English translation (by Stewart Kendall) of Georges Bataille’s two late texts, “Le Petit” (“The Little One”) and “La Tombe de Louis XXX” (“The Tomb of Louis XXX”), united by the mysterious pseudonym of Louis XXX under which Bataille chose to publish them.
However, there is more that is shared by “The Little One” with “The Tomb”: both are texts with a complex history of creation and publication, both profoundly heterogeneous, hybrid constructions, including elements of diary and autobiography, poetry, a letter, a lecture, long quotations from other authors, as well as more recognizably philosophical and theological fragments. A proliferation of genres for which Kendall’s excellent postscript suggests the intriguing reason of financial need: “The writer looks for something, anything that will sell, ideally to as many audiences as possible.” Still, shows Kendall, their heterogeneity also ties in with some of Bataille’s fundamental artistic/poetic concepts, e.g. the assemblage (“not just a pile of scraps, but rather a self-consciousness”), the dialectics of form (“a dialectical development of facts as concrete as visible forms”), the “disappearance of the discursive real,” etc.
Bataille observes in “The Little One” that “to write is to research chance” — and to read these two texts is to experience just how imaginative, intellectually daring, formally innovative and unorthodox was the mind who undertook this research.
from “LE PETIT”
I am delighted by my past debaucheries. I recollect them at length in scabrous detail. I am most often pleased. The savour of an arse, a mouth, breasts, especially the sensation of nudity: one girl infinitely more naked than another, miraculously naked, sometimes in her stockings, her belt, a jacket, another time completely bare, naked feet. But always the crack of her arse open to my eyes, to my hands… — sometimes to other eyes… At that point the girl’s mouth is deep, deeper than the night, than the sky, by reason of her naked arse. An intimate caress in the crack and the mouth is afraid, becomes acrid, divine… Other insipid girls, with a stomach, an arse, hardly as naked as an apple… But real nudity, acrid, maternal, silently white and faecal as a barn, this bacchant truth, glands in the legs and lips, is the ultimate truth of the earth, at once pithiatic and wanting to remain in shadow, accepting condemnation as the gods always do, only ever opening dying eyes.
No truth more secret, or more suspiciously chaste: it must be for it to be mistaken under the mask of vice (vulgar, interested).
The erotic sky opened: coincidence of festival music (lost frenzy) and the silence of death.
The pure erotic:
the impossible, it rises in the throat, has the scent of blood.
Debauchery: divine impossible under a resolutely vulgar mask. God alone is masked here, not the impossible. At church, God alone is a completed mask of the impossible. The good God, sugary cowardice, deicide, masks not only the impossible but God.
The refinement of God in vice: to give himself, under a suave mask, to the devotee, to die beribboned by the embarrassments of a sexagenarian virgin.
As at the brothel.
God has the “choice.”
God: “human” possibility without the circumstantial limitations in which man fails.
On the edge of a field of beets, at twilight, under a black cloud sprawling from the magisterial stratums in a “white of the eyes” sky, the “little one” crouching, bare-arsed, makes the divine limits recoil. His thought looking for itself in the mazes of the sky, he is lost and like a dog — his tail made subtle by the devil — would search for it (his tail: the knowledge that he has of the world), he turns — comically, sadly, what you will — around himself, without escape, catching nothing.
God does not endure an instant of thought; this is why he cannot exist.
Who will divine God?
Who will know knowing nothing?
Who will lose his way?
Who interrogating death will know himself when dead?
I am speaking of this in order to translate a state of terror.
In place of God…
and not God.
from “THE TOMB OF LOUIS XXX”
… When I first began to meditate, I habitually entered a state of torpor, wherein I suddenly felt myself become an erect penis. The intensity of my conviction rendered it difficult to deny. The previous day I had had the same kind of violent feeling, the feeling that I was a tree and, without being able to oppose the idea, in the darkness, my arms extended themselves as branches. The idea of being — my body, my head — a large hardening penis was so crazy that I felt like laughing. The comical idea even came to me that so hard an erection — the entire body tensed as a hard tail — had no other point than orgasm! Besides, it was impossible to laugh at such a moment: like the torture victim I have a picture of, my eyes were, I think, turned around in their orbits, my head turned around, lips open. In that unexpected state, the memory of this photograph came to my mind without provoking the habitual depression: a rush of horror, of light, brought me from the depths to the heights. Nothing exceeds the feeling inspired in me by torture more.
Since then I avoided these sorts of awful changes (the scandalous element in me is involuntary: it always overtakes me). But one year later, in the grip of sexual excitation (that I should have resisted), I ended up naked in my room. I saw myself standing in the most libertine scenes. I entered into a difficult state to describe, near to a nightmare and painful: torpor and exasperation combined. Naked, I went down into the vast, empty house and sat down on the bathroom throne. I hoped that defecation would set me free. I twisted myself red and could have cried: I found myself in my room and greedy for women no less than before. In the end, my body stretched itself, like the preceding year, again the image of torture shattered me. I fell to the earth…
Time passed without suffering seems vain or, if one prefers, awkward, compared to time that ordains unhappiness. Not that profound suffering carries us to some goal and owes some result to this detour! Authentic suffering tells us: “Neither goal nor result justifies my cruelty; in no way were you able to hold onto the weakest hope: I bring only myself, I want you entirely, no conditions.” Still one must confess:
“If suffering wasn’t what it is, contrary to desire, it would respond to the desire that we have to escape limits. This is why, in its power, everything that is not suffering seems vain.”