M.'s Reviews > My Mother/Madame Edwarda/The Dead Man

My Mother/Madame Edwarda/The Dead Man by Georges Bataille
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Sep 15, 14

bookshelves: 2006-or-before, fiction, bataille, with-me-in-ca, 2014, favorite-favorites
Read in January, 2014

Re-reading this in its entirety, perhaps for the first time since I got it in August of 2004? I've re-read Madame Edwarda and The Dead Man--and at some point last year I re-read the Ken Hollings essay, but I don't think I'd read My Mother or Mishima's essay since then.


For all its acclaim, this might be the singular example of Bataille's fiction that, in a way, feels bloated to me. Surely an odd thing to say as it only barely breaks 100 pages in the Marion Boyars typesetting, but in a way it feels unnecessary. Of course, because this is Bataille, there's an inherent quandry in me saying that: the bloatedness, the nature of the text and it's derivé into Pierre's relationship with Hansi, is what leads to the virtually absent ending of the work to be so powerful. The ending compresses everything that Bataille wanted to say in throughout the text--but could it be said in such a fashion if the 100 odd pages hadn't existed before it? Examples show that Bataille certainly doesn't need a novel length work to perfectly articulate his idea (as Madame Edwarda is perfect, explosive, exemplary, and only about 12 pages not including the preface).

BUT, for the specific incident of My Mothers conclusion, the weightiness (though thankfully still devoid of such tropes as "character development") brings the conclusion like an orgasm, and I think it's safe to assume that the text is structured as such--sexual and intellectual foreplay to a collapse into the impossible: what else could be said?

Regardless, as an experiment I think it's a failure in comparison to other texts by Bataille, but as failure is part of Bataille's operating force, I'm not sure if that's inherently a criticism as much as it is an appeal to my own subjective response. Regardless, I'm glad I revisited it after all these years.

The incident finding Pierre going through his fathers office and discovering the pornographic photos in a dizzying spell of touching the abyss, however, is something of its own contained masterpiece, though once again dependent upon the structure the text as a whole foists upon it.

MADAME EDWARDA 5/Infinite Stars

The perfect récit, wandering into infinitude, no quest no goal only an intense first person sense of movement. A finite perfection, abandoned space to the impossibility of language, fiction, story. Everything is in here. The insistence of God in/as/through a woman, I would insist (still), is more via Bataille's state as heterosexual--which is not to say that "Madame Edwarda" exists only to be a vessel (an object), but rather as one of the sovereign behaviors is "erotic effusion," Bataille-as-author-as-character-as-first-person-pronoun (that is, the text) is of course privileging a heterosexual desire, and despite this I think it's inaccurate to insist on the gender of the other, but rather to realize that Bataille is instead exploring a depiction of this erotic effusion.

A capacity to interact with Duras' The Malady of Death--it should be noted that in Duras' text, once again, god is in/though the body/idea of a woman, but from a female heterosexual stance rather than a male one, I think leveraging the insistence... but really it is to discover the other, a displacement of gender is required.

Regardless of this, I think there's a purity in Bataille's text here, a capacity to be both entirely erotic and to sort of 'narrate' the quest of inner experience, the sovereignty of man & accessing the impossible, and this congruence is what leads to this being, to my mind, an entirely essential text.


The contextualizing remark from Austryn Wainhouse, in his preface, I think is more important than is often paid attention to:

He once showed me the manuscript [...] With wide margins to the left and right, and with considerable blank space above and below, the writing, accumulated in the center of the page, seemed to hide there, to shrink: Bataille's small, spidery, yet neat handwriting, traced with a wire-fine pen.

The space of the page become important--the violence of the white page (to borrow language from Jabès), also demonstrably present in the poetry, in Le Petit, in Tomb of Louis XXX, a more well-known example that often goes without being remarked, as most readers are taught to read for content... this enigmatic insistence shapes the narrative here, with all it's breaks, it's scenes, it's moments that are not predicated by hitting the end of the page, but as instants, instances the accumlate the impossible, an expenditure: the entire story is pure excess.
3 likes · Likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read My Mother/Madame Edwarda/The Dead Man.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

01/09/2014 marked as: currently-reading
01/13/2014 marked as: read

No comments have been added yet.