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Torture Garden

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,905 ratings  ·  154 reviews
"A century after its first publication, this book is still capable of shocking. The opening satire is probably meaningful only to scholars of French political history, but the subsequent journey into the Far East accentuates connections between love and death, sex and depravity, fastidiousness and pleasure. And the petty, parochial corruptions of the narrator are put into ...more
Paperback, 206 pages
Published August 31st 2019 by Dedalus (first published 1899)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  1,905 ratings  ·  154 reviews

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Paquita Maria Sanchez
This one is defeating me as far as creating a formal review is concerned, so let me just instead tell you why I stuck with it, and why I may have been in a prime position to enjoy it as much as I did. Well, 'enjoy' is probably not the right word, because it is certainly not tons of fun to read. It's sexually-charged violence which explores the fork-tongued, heads-in-the-sand nature of the West in relation to its methods of maintaining order, punishing crime, and Civilizing the Natives the world ...more
Dec 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jonfaith by: Paquita Maria Sanchez
Monsters, monsters! But there are no monsters! What you call monsters are superior forms, or forms beyond your understanding. Aren't the gods monsters? Isn't a man of genius a monster, like a tiger or a spider, like all individuals who live beyond social lies, in the dazzling and divine immortality of things? Why, I too then, am a monster.

Curious about The Torture Garden? You may need a tall absinthe and a dearth of holiday cheer for a proper appreciation. That is not entirely accurate. Unlike
Vit Babenco
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wherever it appears, civilisation shows this face of sterile blood and forever dead ruins.

The Torture Garden is a gloomy and sinister satire about the inhuman brutality of humankind. The novel is aesthetically decadent and whimsically fanciful.
Honesty is inactive and sterile; it does not know how to evaluate appetites and ambitions, the only desires in which something durable is found.

To be honest doesn’t pay and the only way to power in society is the unrestricted malevolence…
The future seemed
Tim Pendry
This is a remarkable book, a brilliant book, a powerful book but two warnings are in order for the general reader.

The first is the more obvious one. The second half contains descriptions of sadistic torture and of erotic responses to cruelty that are remarkably frank and will be disturbing to most people.

Nothing is spared. Do not pick up this book if you cannot draw the essential mental distinction between reality and the imagination.

As for the second, it is also only fair to warn that this is
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bitchin
I am of the opinion that sadistic and masochistic impulses exist within everyone, but that often one or the other is more pronounced. What is interesting about these impulses, however, is that people are generally more comfortable with accepting, or acknowledging, the pleasure they experience as a consequence of their own pain than they are the pleasure gained from the pain of others. This is, you might argue, because the former is more socially acceptable; to enjoy being hurt, even to an ...more
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Torture Garden".
One of my fetish books.

The apotheosis of Decadence.
'Emmanuelle meets the Vietnam', as this novel has been cleverly summarised by Michel Delon: eroticism and death - or rather, the eroticism of death; desire at the core of death, walking hand in hand with death. Pleasure and pain merging to the point of blossoming in a pantheistic sexual act between human body and wild nature. Such is the delightful garden we explore in this novel of stifling hot atmospheres, feverish
MJ Nicholls
One of the seminal texts of the decadent movement, presented here with that fucking abomination of a cover (excuse the swear, only . . . LOOK AT THAT THING), has still not been canonised in a Penguin or Oxford Classic. Their loss. Mirbeau’s novel centres around Clara, a small waif for whom love and death are inseparable, leading our hapless hero around a tour of Chinese torture sites and prisons, unable to convert to the inherent loveliness of starved animals in cages being thrown lumps of meat ...more
Osiris Oliphant
;Anita Fix review 2002-ish

ART, milady, consists in knowing how to kill...
...Art, milady, consist in knowing how to kill, according to Rituals of Beauty." so recites an executioner far more disturbing and just as profound as Kafka's self-mutilations 'In The Penal Colony'. Octave Mirbeau's fin-de-siecle brutal fairy-tale is divided down the middle forming a novel hermaphrodite. The first side exploratory of the monstrous exterior life and career of our main character, modelled on Octave Mirbeau
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love, death, torture, corruption -- mix them up into a grisly stew, and you have Octave Mirbeau's The Torture Garden (1899), a curious pastiche of a work whose major part consists of a stroll through a strange garden in which prisoners are executed -- exquisitely -- to the accompaniment of exotic flora and fauna. One of the tortures consists of listening close up to a giant bell until blood spurts out one's orifices. (The torture also kills the torturers.)

Having failed in France, the narrator
This is a very misanthropic book written by one of those probably-insane nineteenth century Frenchmen. I don't know what it is about the French and this kind of thing but there was certainly nothing contemporary in the English world to rival the filthiness and extremity that was coming from this land of wine, cheese and Catholicism. Britain probably would have sealed up the channel, except all the ministers crying and gnashing about "obscenity! Degradation! Blasphemy!" were secretly getting off ...more
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a rather uncomfortable examination of the depths reached by ‘monsters’. Uncomfortable because a) it is sexually charged, and b) it’s massive amount of overkill. To be honest, I could fill that list from a) to z). Did I enjoy it? No.

Was it well written? Yes. Would I recommend it? Not particularly. The final part is ….

Read it, then write my review for me.
Jul 07, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes to boast they've read some shocking, underground fare
Recommended to Chris by: the nincompoops at
Recommended by, and when have they been wrong, aside from the last ten suggestions haphazardly tossed my way……

I picked this up hoping to be disgusted, to be so shocked, startled, and overwhelmed with mind-blowing perversity that I wouldn’t be able to turn my sickened eyes from it while plumbing the depths of depravity. What did I get? A bunch of botany and some pretty pathetic torture sequences. What happened to the ‘detailed descriptions of sexual euphoria and exquisite torture’
The novel, published 1899, examines an attitude to life without right and wrong, good and evil. Beauty and pain are constantly present, mentally or physically. They are melting together and eventually it's difficult to see the difference. Perhaps they were always the same.

The story follows a young man, a corrupt politician, on a journey where he meets his love interest, a sadistic woman. She brings him to a torture garden in China, where pain borders on pleasure and where love and suffering
Danger Kallisti
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dissolute Francophile philosophers
This book was really one of those once-in-a-lifetime finds. I was randomly surfing through, reading about Artaud and movements in contemporary theater, and that somehow led to weird recommendations for sadomasochistic turn-of-the-century French writing. It was translated and released by a small indie publisher dealing in out-of-print and hard-to-find erotica, mostly from the 60s.

One could easily tell by the very poor editing (which I’m starting to get used to, after this year, but
May 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition I thought this would be a good time to review The Torture Garden since I just finished watching Diary of the Dead and don't want to sleep at the moment. If there's a common thread between some of what I've been reading and viewing lately, it's that we're all gluttons for the horrific--so long as the horror is one stepped removed from us.

The Torture Garden involves a relationship between a man and his mistress who loves to call him an "insignificant little woman." Despite the title, it's
Nate D
Aug 17, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nate D by: Mike E, via goodreads.
Blood from blossoms, blossoms from blood, les fleurs du mal, terrible and exquisite sensations. Vicious, grotesque, fleetingly beautiful, then again utterly abject. Necessary and unnecessary. I'm startled, both by the fountaining bile of the book, and that any can claim this has been dulled by time into quaintness.

Murder is the very bed-rock of our social institutions, and consequently the most imperious necessity of civilized life. If it no longer existed, there would be no governments of any
OK, it's probably both borderline racist and borderline misogyny-- let's get that out of the way before we start in.

But it's also supremely fucked up and awesome and lushly descriptive, sadomasochistic but also kind of not really, vaguely political (there's a political message in there somewhere...), simultaneously Nietzschean and anti-Nietzschean, bizarre, unclassifiable, and just generally kickass. Pain is life is sex is death, and we try to impose categories to make sense of it-- whether or
Eric Byrnes
The anarchist message running through The Torture Garden seems to achieve its end by taking traditional statist and collectivist forms of political organization—very similar to those described by Aristotle in his Politics—and having us reexamine them in the reflective surface of a warped mirror, the like of which one might find in a carnival funhouse. The narrative begins in the midst of a soirée attended by the crème de la crème of the intelligentsia; esteemed physicians, professors, pedantic ...more
Lee Foust
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Well, here's a hard book to read for anyone with the slightest trace of empathy. Still, along with Pasolini's film version of the Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom, Salo', Torture Garden makes the rather profound point that the more an institution--governments mainly--praises order and attempts to impose it on a community through the law (read: punishment), the more viciously bloodthirsty, barbaric, and chaotic the world becomes. (Also this is more than doubled down upon and even more obvious ...more
Timothy Mayer
"Fin-de-siecle decadence at its best. At one time one of those 'suppressed' books and now chiefly remembered as one of Frank Frazetta's better paperback covers"
-Karl Edward Wagner, 1983

"In a broader sense the expression fin de siècle is used to characterize anything that has an ominous mixture of opulence and/or decadence, combined with a shared prospect of unavoidable radical change or some approaching 'end.'"- Wikipedia

First published in 1899, Torture Garden still leaves a taste of decadence
Jun 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: schwarzeromantik
As a well-meaning reviewer, I'd say: Don't read this book. It's disgusting. Just it is also considered so very diverting. But see if it's for you---Contains SPOILERS

Scene One: Our Parisian friend and hero of the book tries to get elected in a remote rural area of France, after a short tutorial on the beetroot crop (and how to improve it) from a friend. But alas: Obviously the peasants can smell ignorance when it comes to beetroot.

Scene Two: Having failed in politics, he takes up travel and falls
Mar 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favs
Splendid and terrible.. It is not easy to describe the sort of emotions i felt whilst reading this magnificent book. It creates incredible sensations which as i assume, is why it's labeled erotic, you are supposed to feel it. It's not sexual, it's not dirty, it's majestically sensual.
And the love.. The love.. It's full of love.
Quite descriptive and very graphic, so violent and tender that "It's impossible for me to express in words its infinite sweetness and ineffable idyllic poetry".. Haha .. I
Aug 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A simple story about a jaded guy who meets this crazy-ass woman in China who takes him to this amusement park of torture. Absolutely spectacular imagination! And the ending is so strange...
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kiss me. Caress me… It’s horrible! It’s too horrible!

Much is revealed by that one line: Clara, the beautiful thirty-year-old lover of the narrator, is in the throes of erotic fantasy having seen a tortured man taken away on stretchers. But wait, don’t discard this review or the book! Yet. The story itself is not a study in flaying techniques, nor is it that explicit.

“Oh, the little cloud!” exclaimed Clara, suddenly joyful again. “Look how pretty it is, all pink against the azure!”

Another telling
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: darker-the-berry
I’ve been making my way through De Sade’s work and decided to take a bit of a detour. Strangely, I found the story to be at its best before we even get to the aforementioned Torture Garden. Once we were taken there my interest quickly waned. I forced myself to read the last few pages out of a sense of commitment. My economics teacher might call it a symptom of the sunk cost fallacy. The build up, and the slight dread we feel from Clara, is worth the price of the book by itself. I suppose that ...more
"You’re obliged to pretend respect for people and institutions you think absurd. You live attached in a cowardly fashion to moral and social conventions you despise, condemn, and know lack all foundation. It is that permanent contradiction between your ideas and desires and all the dead formalities and vain pretences of your civilization which makes you sad, troubled and unbalanced. In that intolerable conflict you lose all joy of life and all feeling of personality, because at every moment they ...more
Nico Lee
I've just joined this site and have been marking some of my favourite novels, (of which this isn't one), so I've been thinking about the goodreads star system. 'Did not like it'. 'It was ok'. 'Liked it'... Dang, I've had trouble marking books. For instance you don't want to give Nabakov's Mary five stars, because it's far from The Gift, Pale Fire, Lolita, or Ada. Heck, it's not as good as his four out of fivers either. However if you compare it with most writer's work it's head and shoulders ...more
Dec 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
First things first ...the front cover shown on Amazon to accompany the book gives rise to that adage 'don't judge a book by it's cover' as it gives the look of some pulp throw away wheras a better book actually lies behind the cover(replicated in virtual 'glory' by the Kindle).
The book itself is one I had heard of but had never got around to reading...however at 75p on I thought maybe it was time to give it a go I am glad I did.
It's been a solid decent read starting as in the way of
"Because love and death are the same thing! and because decay is the eternal resurrection of life..."

For me, the themes of life, death and beauty in this work remind frequently (though via much more vulgar means) of Camus' portrait of the mad emperor, Caligula. Much like Caligula, the pleasures of actual life have become infuriatingly unsatisfactory for Clara -- she is only able to find joy in witnessing torture. Mirbeau juxtaposes scenes of great brutality and pain against descriptions of the
Andrew W.m.
Nov 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll be honest, this is pretty much my favourite book of all time.

A swingeing satire painted in lurid brushstrokes broad enough to appear crass to some. The depiction of fin de siecle French politics is perfect and the decadent ruminations on the nature of man could hardly be more attuned to my taste. Erudite, incorrigible and fresh enough to still be shocking, if this book became flesh there'd be a queue to join his gentleman's club.
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Octave Mirbeau (16 February 1848 – 16 February 1917) was a French journalist, art critic, travel writer, pamphleteer, novelist, and playwright, who achieved celebrity in Europe and great success among the public, while still appealing to the literary and artistic avant-garde. His work has been translated into thirty languages.
“Come now, don't make such a funeral face. It isn't dying that's sad; it's living when you're not happy.” 56 likes
“Monsters, monsters! But there are no monsters! What you call monsters are superior forms, or forms beyond your understanding. Aren't the gods monsters? Isn't a man of genius a monster, like a tiger or a spider, like all individuals who live beyond social lies, in the dazzling and divine immortality of things? Why, I too then-am a monster!” 19 likes
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