Story of the Eye
Cover of the French edition
|Original title||L'histoire de l'œil|
|Pages||127 (Penguin Books edition)|
Story of the Eye (French: L'histoire de l'œil) is a 1928 novella written by Georges Bataille, as a psychoanalytical task, that details the increasingly bizarre sexual perversions of a pair of teenage lovers. It is narrated by the young man looking back on his exploits.
Story of the Eye consists of several vignettes, centered around the sexual passion existing between the unnamed late adolescent male narrator and Simone, his primary female partner. Within this episodic narrative two secondary figures emerge: Marcelle, a mentally ill sixteen-year-old girl who comes to a sad end, and Lord Edmund, a voyeuristic English émigré aristocrat.
Simone and the narrator first consummate their lust on a beach near their home, and involve Marcelle within their activity. The couple are exhibitionists, copulating within Simone's house in full view of her mother. During this second episode, Simone derives pleasure from inserting hard and soft-boiled eggs for her vaginal and anal stimulation; she also experiences considerable enjoyment from the viscosity of various liquids after the shells break.
The pair undertake an orgy with other adolescents, which involves some broken glass and involuntary bloodletting, and ends with Marcelle's psychological breakdown. The narrator flees his own parents' home, taking a pistol from the office of his bedridden, senile, and violent father. They view Marcelle within a sanatorium, but fail to break her out. Naked, they flee during night back to Simone's home, and more displays of exhibitionist sex ensue before Simone's widowed mother. Later, they finally break Marcelle out of the institution, but unfortunately, Marcelle is totally insane. Deprived of her therapeutic environment, she hangs herself. The pair have sex next to her corpse.
After Marcelle's suicide, the two flee to Spain, where they meet Sir Edmund. They witness a Madrid bullfight, which involves the prowess of handsome twenty-year-old matador, El Granero. Initially, El Granero kills the first bull that he encounters and the animal is consequently castrated. Simone then pleasures herself by vaginally inserting these taurine testicles. Unfortunately, El Granero is killed by the next bull that he fights, and his face is mutilated. As the corpse of El Granero is removed from the stadium, his right eye has worked loose from its socket, and is hanging, bloody and distended.
Simone, Sir Edmund, and the narrator visit the Catholic Church of San Seville after the day's events. Simone aggressively seduces Don Aminado, a handsome, young, Catholic priest, fellating him while Simone and the narrator have sex. Sir Edmund undertakes a blasphemous parody of the Catholic Eucharist involving desecration of the bread and wine using Don Aminado's urine and semen before Simone strangles Don Aminado to death during his final orgasm. Sir Edmund enucleates one of the dead priests' eyes, and Simone inserts it within her vagina, while she and the narrator have sex. The trio successfully elude apprehension for the murder of Don Aminado, and make their way down Andalusia. Sir Edmund purchases an African-staffed yacht so that they can continue their debaucheries, whereupon the story ends.
In a postscript, Bataille reveals that the character of Marcelle may have been partially inspired by his own mother, who suffered from bipolar disorder, while the narrator's father is also modeled after his own unhappy paternal relationship. In an English language edition, Roland Barthes and Susan Sontag provide critical comment on the events.
Barthes: Metaphors of the eye and liquid
Roland Barthes published the original French version of his essay "Metaphor of the Eye" in Bataille's own journal Critique, shortly after Bataille's death in 1962. Barthes' analysis focuses on the centrality of the eye to this series of vignettes, and notices that it is interchangeable with eggs, bulls' testicles and other ovular objects within the narrative. He also traces a second series of liquid metaphors within the text, which flow through tears, cat's milk, egg yolks, frequent urination scenes, blood and semen.
Furthermore, he argues that he does not believe that Story of the Eye is necessarily a pornographic narrative, given that these structuring chains of metaphors do provide coherent underpinning sequences.
- Singer/songwriter Björk was inspired by this book. See for example the music video to her song "Venus as a Boy". Before The Sugarcubes and her solo material, Björk was the singer/flutist/songwriter in a band called Kukl, their 1984 debut album "The Eye" is also a reference to Story of the Eye.
- The band Of Montreal refers to this book in the lyrics of the song "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal": "I fell in love with the first cute girl that I met, Who could appreciate Georges Bataille, Standing at a Swedish festival discussing Story of the Eye, Discussing Story of the Eye.
- The band Eyehategod recorded a song called "Story of the Eye" (later included on the album Southern Discomfort).
- The progressive rock band Seranati recorded the song "Simone" based on the book.
- Danish punk rock band Iceage references this book in the song "Ecstasy", and vocalist Elias Bender Rønnenfelt cited Story of the Eye as an influence in writing the album You're Nothing.
- Pornographic film star and writer Stoya has referred to the book, writing, "I’d taken this white tunic ... and transcribed the first few chapters of Bataille’s Story of Eye onto it with black fine point Sharpie."
- In David Mitchell's book, Black Swan Green, Mr. Dunwoody, the art teacher at the school of narrator Jason Taylor, is reading this book when Jason comes in to the staff room to retrieve a whistle for Mr. Kempsey. Mr. Dunwoody tells him it is a book on the history of opticians.
- In the movie Before Sunrise, Céline, the female lead character, is reading this book on the train as she meets Jesse, her future romantic interest.
- In the movie Weekend Corrine, the female lead, recounts an orgy she participated in, many of the details of which are derived from the first two chapters of Story of the Eye.
- Georges Bataille's Story of the Eye – 2004 experimental film adaptation of the novel
- ""How it all started...": A biography of Bjork". SWIPnet.se. Archived from the original on 30 April 2008. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
- "The Story of the Eye". City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, CA. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
- "of Montreal – The Past Is a Grotesque Animal". SongMeanings. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
- "Simone - Single by Seranati". iTunes. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
- Pelly, Jenn (10 January 2013). "Iceage". Pitchfork. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
- "Iceage - Ecstasy Lyrics". SongMeanings. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
- "Slow correspondence". Graphicdescriptions.com. Retrieved 14 March 2019.[dead link]
- "Before Sunrise Reading Materials". Yolasite.com. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
- Fairfax, Daniel (17 March 2017). "Weekend (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967)". Senses of Cinema. Retrieved 8 March 2019.