Story of the Eye
|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 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 Sir Edmund, a voyeuristic English émigré aristocrat.
The story starts with our narrator and Simone meeting at her villa three days after first being introduced through their families being distantly related. Shortly after, Simone instigates a dare from the narrator to sit in a saucer intended for the cat's milk, which she wins by sitting on the bowl with her vagina in the milk. They both masturbate to completion without any physical contact and, after cupping a feel of her vulva while Simone is resting in her mother's arms, the narrator goes home and masturbates throughout the night. This upsets Simone, and when they meet the next day she makes him promise to never masturbate without her again. They start a sexual relationship, though one absent of conversation or penetration.
Whilst having sex on the edge of a cliff they are approached by their friend Marcelle, who collapses crying into the grass upon the sight of their unorthodox sexual acrobatics. Simone and the narrator proceeds to rape Marcelle, and when it starts raining Simone starts masturbating in a puddle of mud.
About a week or so later the pair encounters Marcelle on the streets. Simone apologizes for what happened on the cliff and promises to never lay a hand on her again. Marcelle agrees to join them, and a few other teenagers, for tea at Simone's villa; though instead of tea they drink large amounts of champagne. Simone, pretending to be dead wasted, makes a bet that she can pee into a tablecloth in front of everyone at the party. One of the boys challenges her bet, and when he loses Simone pulls off his pants. Marcelle begs to leave, but the narrator repeats Simone's promise to not touch her. Simone falls onto the floor and starts spasming while begging the pants-less boy to pee on her. Marcelle announces she wants to take off her dress but after being touched briefly by the narrator she retires to a bridal wardrobe to masturbate. A violent orgy unfolds and Marcelle pisses herself in the wardrobe. Later yet, covered in blood and cuts, the narrator checks up on Marcelle who shrieks in terror upon seeing the blood- and piss-covered scene that had unfolded in the living room. Marcelle's continued screaming brings the parents of the teenagers to the villa, where Marcelle bites off her mother's face in a state of delirium. The police are called and the narrator decides to steal his dad's money and gun, flee his home and escapes into the woods.
The narrator moves in with Simone, bribing the villas servants in exchange for food and information about Marcelle. We learn that Marcelle has been admitted to a psychiatric ward, which upsets Simone. The couple concocts a plan to break Marcelle out of the ward, but their first attempt is ultimately unsuccessful and Simone ends up ill from their escape. While bedridden, Simone discovers a fetish for eggs and their experimentation culminates with Simone putting a soft-boiled inside her vagina while bathing.
On their second attempt they manage to break Marcelle out of the ward, however her sanity is long gone and she is incapable of discerning what is happening around her. When brought back to the villa she immediately recognizes the wardrobe from the orgy and has a psychotic breakdown that ends in Marcelle hanging herself in the closet. Simone spreads her corpse out in the living room and the couple has penetrative sex for the first time next to the corpse, taking Simone's virginity.
To escape the legal consequences of Marcelle's suicide the couple flees to Spain where they meet Sir Edmund, a depraved aristocrat who is happy to accommodate their lifestyle. Edmund tells Simone about the tradition in the aristocracy to eat the testicles of a recently killed bull while watching bull-fighting and Simone demands the raw testicles of a bull be given to her when they are watching the famous matador El Granero. As Granero is impaled by a bull and his right eye is ripped out of its socket, Simone sticks one of the raw testicles up her vagina and has an orgasm at the same moment El Granero dies.
While sightseeing around Spain they wind up visiting the Church of Don Juan, where Simone seduces the priest, Don Amindo, by masturbating while confessing inside of the confessional. After an assortment of sexual debauchery with the priest, 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 pinning the priest down as Simone strangles Don Aminado to death during his final orgasm. Simone demands the priest's right eye, and proceeds to insert the eye into her vagina. The scene ends with the narrator seeing Don Amindo's eye looking right at him out of the vagina. They escape punishment by donning disguises and making their way down to Andalusia, where they buy a yacht staffed by Africans to continue their adventures overseas, 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.
- American rock band Marilyn Manson referenced Story of the Eye in its 2012 music video for "Born Villain".
- 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/flautist/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''.
- The band Eyehategod recorded a song called "Story of the Eye" (later included on the album Southern Discomfort).
- Folk punk band AJJ mentions the book in the song "I Miss You" from the album Ugly Spiral 2: Lost Works 2012-2016
- 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.
- The 1974 Italian/Belgian co-produced Eurocult film Simona, which stars Laura Antonelli and Patrick Magee, is an avant-garde adaptation of Story of the Eye that was written and directed by one-time Belgian filmmaker Patrick Longchamps.
- 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.