Le Ménage à Trois (A Threesome of French Filth): Story of the Eye, Irene’s Cunt and The She Devils

How do you know when a Frenchman’s been in your back yard?
Well, your garbage cans are empty and your dog is pregnant.
– from The Body (1982) by Stephen King

There’s no aliens or demons this week, just 3 books by some dirty Frenchmen. These texts may be a little different to the stuff I usually review, but Bataille’s book’s weirdness and elements of body horror are enough to warrant its inclusion here. That book goes hand in hand with the book by Aragon, and the title of Louÿs’ book makes it at least sound like my usual fare. There’s countless other dirty French books that I could have chosen for this post, but these 3 were published within a couple of years of each other, and all three are critically acclaimed. I also read all of them recently, so it works out.

StoryOTheEye - batailleStory of the Eye – George Bataille
City Lights Publishers – 2001 (First published 1928)

Story of the Eye is about a teenage couple doing some very disgusting things. It’s certainly a dirty book, but I don’t really see it as erotica or porn. I’m not really sure what the difference between erotica and porn is, but this book is not sexy by any stretch. Maybe piss fetishists might get a bit aroused by the parts where the characters piss on eachother, but their excitement will probably dissipate when these same characters start shoving eggs up their bums or raping a priest.

The story here is fairly easy to follow, but the events described are so strange that it’s hard to imagine them taking place outside of a dream. I’ve seen this book described as horror before, and I think that’s a fair assessment. It’s like reading a repulsive sexual nightmare. I first read Story of the Eye years ago, but I reread it recently after reading George Bataille’s book on Gilles de Rais. I’m considering reading more of his stuff, but I’m afraid that some of it will be too philosophical for me.

irene's cunt louis aragonIrene’s Cunt – Louis Aragon
Creation Books – 1996 (First published 1928)

This book had been on my to-read list for several years, but when I actually read it, Irene’s Cunt was a little too deep for me. It’s quite an arty book, and either there’s not much of a story or the story is horribly obfuscated by changing narrative perspective. When these narrative shifts occurred, I wasn’t sure if I was dealing with a new narrator or an older version of the previous narrator.

At one point in the text, the narrator rails against bourgeois fascination with plot, and one would be hard pushed to give a concise plot summary of this peculiar work. Both George Bataille and Albert Camus sang its praises, but most of it went over my head.

There’s some fairly graphic depictions of sex, but again, this book isn’t very sexy. You’d have a hard time wanking over it anyways. It was published in the same year as Story of the Eye, and both books originally contained illustrations from the same artist, André Masson, so if you read one, you should probably check out the other. Stylistically, Irene’s Cunt is more obtuse than Story of the Eye, and I found it far less interesting. Truth be told, it’s not even that cunty.

 

the she devils pierre louysThe She Devils – Pierre Louÿs
Creation Books – 1995 (First published 1926)

I bought this book because of its title. I knew it was going to be dirty, but I was hoping that the plot would be somehow related to the Devil. It’s not. This is just a book of filthy pornography.

The She Devils was published 2 years before the other books in this post, and its author had died a year prior, so it might have been written quite a bit earlier. While Bataille and Aragon were linked with the surrealist movement, Pierre Louÿs was more of a symbolist. Honestly, even after reading the wikipedia entry, I’m not really sure what symbolism is, but judging by this text, it’s a little bit less absurd than absurdism.

The She Devils has a very simple plot. At all moments during the narrative, it’s pretty clear what’s going on. A woman and her three daughters move into the apartment beside a young man, and this cheeky chappy sodomises his new neighbours whenever they come to visit him. That’s pretty much it. Seriously, this book contains a lot of bumming.

Maybe the sheer unbelievability of the plot gives it a dream-like quality that might be engaging to some, but I didn’t find much of interest in here. Things get dirtier and dirtier as the story plods on – it turns out that one of the daughters was conceived when her elder sister shat cum into her mom’s vagina. I read this a few months ago, so I can’t be sure, but I also recall a bit of poo-eating. Yuck. This book is repetitive, boring and distasteful.

I’m not trying to appear pious or anything – I’ve reviewed porn here before and I’ll do it again – but this book was actually pretty horrible to read. It wasn’t interesting or thought provoking. It was just some dirty French bastard’s wank fantasies. Honestly, I regret reading this.

french flag

Why are these Frenchmen’s sexual fantasies so weird? Was it something in the water? Je ne sais pas! Don’t get me wrong; I know there’s perves everywhere, but these books aren’t supposed to be just porn. I think they’re supposed to make grand statements about the nature of sex and sexual relations. Personally, I wasn’t able to make out what these grand statements were. All of that stuff went over my head because I was too busy laughing at the parts about pooing and willies.

Vive la France!

Gilles De Rais, the Perverted Son

trial of gilles de rais george batailleThe Trial of Gilles De Rais – George Bataille
Amok Books – 1991 (Originally published 1965)

Gilles de rais is the kind of person that makes the belief in Heaven and Hell extremely appealing. There is no satisfaction to be derived from the fact that he was executed for his crimes. Those crimes were so hideous that their perpetrator deserves an eternity of agonizing torment – a quick execution is no payback for the brutal torture, rape and murder of countless children.

Gilles was an extremely powerful and ludicrously wealthy nobleman in 15th century France. For roughly 10 years, the Baron De Rais had his servants abduct poor children to satiate his hideous desires. He would slowly torture and murder them, usually stabbing them in the neck, sometimes severing their heads completely. As they perished, he would sit on their stomachs, peer into their dying faces and laugh. These victims would be raped at various stages during this process. After decapitating them, the Baron would kiss the children’s severed heads.

Oh, and while these horrendous acts were doubtlessly the result of de Rais’ depraved sexual impulses, he performed them in the name of the Devil. He employed several black magicians to help him communicate with demons. These sorcerers took De Rais for a fool. They would attempt to raise demons in front of him and after a while of nothing happening, they’d send him out of the room and lock the door. Then they’d start screaming in terror, and when Gilles would come back they’d tell him that the Devil told them to ask for some more money. Gilles would grant this request immediately. At other times, they would ask the Baron to provide them with the limbs and organs of dead children. These same sickos would also be present when Gilles was torturing kids. It seems that they were part of an abhorrently disgusting necro-paedophile ring. These scum were worst of the worst.

Gilles De Rais was eventually brought to trial for kidnapping a priest, and when the authorities started investigating the Baron, they heard the terrible rumours that had spread about him.

During a relatively painless trial (no torture on record), Gilles de Rais confessed his guilt and repented. He was excommunicated, but he was soon thereafter re-communicated by the Catholic Church because he had willingly confessed. The Church took the allegations of kidnapping a priest and being an alchemist more seriously than the rape and murder of countless children. Gilles was executed quickly, and the locals in his area were given a 3 day holiday to grieve for their master.

I don’t know guys. This is remarkably unsatisfying. I wanted to read about this lad dying slowly in unspeakable agony. His crimes are so gruesome that my initial response (and the response of many others) was to assume that the charges against him were false – they’re just a bit too extreme to imagine them really happening. That being said, the best evidence that is available to us, the court documents of his trial, provide a very cohesive and damning account.

It is these documents that make up most of the text of George Bataille’s The Trial of Gilles De Rais.

This is a very repetitive book. The first section is comprised of Bataille’s philosophical ramblings on the case. The second part is a very, very detailed timeline of Gilles De Rais’ life, much of which was already covered in the previous section. The last section is made up of the court documents of the trial. There is very little information in these documents that has not been discussed previously in the book. Also, court documents are fairly repetitive by their nature, so this book ends up delivering the same story about 5 times. I do appreciate the comprehensive nature of this book, but I think it would have been more effective to put the timeline first and Bataille’s thoughts after it.

The content of this book makes its repetitive nature remarkably depressing. You get to read about poor parents searching for their murdered children over and over again. This is fucking harrowing stuff. Bataille was a bit of a weirdo though, and I guess this was intentional. I read his Story of the Eye years ago, but I remember very little of it.

I’ve already mentioned that some people think that Gilles De Rais was the innocent victim of a conspiracy. He was a wealthy politician with plenty of enemies, and it is likely that many other people would profit from his downfall. My old friend Aleister Crowley was one of the individuals to proclaim the innocence of the Baron de Rais.

In an infamous lecture that was never delivered, Crowley argues that it was very likely that De Rais was framed. He argues that the claims against de Rais are too ridiculous to be taken seriously – they sound too similar to rumours spread to villainise the Jews throughout history. Crowley seems to have read a very different account of the trial of De Rais to the one presented in Bataille’s book though. Aleister claims that De Rais only confessed to his crimes when tortured, but the court documents presented by Bataille show that De Rais actually managed to avoid being tortured by confessing. Also, while the number of victims in Bataille’s text ranged from 35-140, Crowley gives the number of victims as 800 on the authority of Montague Summers. Summers, as we all know, was either very gullible individual or just prone to sensational exaggerations, and Crowley, an acquaintance of Summers, had to have known this. The swarmy, sarcastic and provocative tone that Crowley uses throughout the lecture make it seem all the less convincing.

I’ve encoutered De Rais a couple of times in fiction. The protagonist in Huysman’s Là-bas spends his time researching the evil Baron, and Gilles himself comes back from the dead to appear in Philip José Farmer’s Image of the Beast. And Ough! – he’s obviously a heavy metal hero too. I have a tshirt with a picture of him on it. I don’t wear it to work.

gilles de rais macabre shirt.jpgIt’s for this rather silly but historically detailed song.

I’d like to believe that De Rais was innocent, but the testimonies collected in Bataille’s book are very cohesive. It would be far more comfortable to believe that Gilles De Rais died an innocent man than to accept the horrendous deaths his victims suffered at his hands. This guy seems to have been a real piece of shit.