MY MOTHER/MADAME EDWARDA/and THE DEAD MAN by Georges Bataille

MY MOTHER/MADAME EDWARDA/and THE DEAD MAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Bataille (1897-1962), an erotic (even pornographic) novelist and critic, explored the philosophical/religious implications of sexual depravity (Blue of Noon, 1979; L 'Abbe C, 1983). These three novellas, bundled with two essays (one by Yukio Mishima) and an autobiographical note, are hardly shocking today, and the overwrought confessional style is dated; but two still offer an acute study of a depraved spiritual journey. Mishima accurately describes Bataille as creating ""a vivid, harsh, shocking and immediate connection between metaphysics and the human flesh."" In the long ""My Mother,"" the narrator is told by his idealized mother, following his hated father's death, that ""I don't want your love, unless you know I'm repulsive. . .It is only in depravity that I feel most lucid."" She then attempts to corrupt him, lamenting that she would prefer to be ""with some buck who would have abused me."" She arranges various sorts of initiations for her overwrought son, but the whole thing goes dull before her climactic suicide. In the overwritten ""Madame Edwarda,"" the narrator follows the title character, a prostitute, into a taxi, where she has frenzied intercourse with the driver (""felled by his spasm,"" his ""stave slipped out"") while the narrator, aware of his ""irreparable doom,"" experiences an anti-epiphany, a vision of a ""blind dying into extinction."" ""The Dead Man,"" written in short blocked sections, appeared posthumously: a slight pornographic fable (very vivid, often laughable) about a woman who finds depravity in a tavern (with a count and a dwarf, among others) after her lover dies in ecstasy. Bataille's search for the sacred in the erotic may interest students of French Existentialism. Otherwise, some powerful passages, grounded in a serious philosophical/religious quest, and lots of chaff.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Marion Boyers--dist. by Rizzoli