Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille

Notorious as the apogee of the twentieth centuries’ pornographic novel, this is an extract from the Georges Bataille‘s novelette that gives an incomparable description of a bullfight in Madrid before the protagonists leave for Sevilla
The focus of this excerpt are the bullfighters eye and the previous bulls testicles
There’s no need to delve further if you just want to experience Bataille‘s brutal account of a sport steeped in Spanish folklore, history and tradition that has become deeply unpopular

introduction by Tim Harris


Flying Bull During a Bullfight , Spain


excerpts from Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille, English translation by Joachim Neugroschal (this edition 1977 by Penguin Books) original Histoire de l’Oeil (1928)

She was on tenterhooks from start to finish at the bullfight, in terror (which of course  mainly expressed a violent desire) at the thought of seeing the toreador hurled up by one of the monstrous lunges of the horns when the bull made its endless, blindly raging dashes at the void of colored cloths. And there is something else I ought to say: when the bull makes it quick, brutal thrusts over and over again into the matador’s cape, barely grazing the erect line of the body, any spectator has that feeling of total and repeated lunging typical of the game of coitus. The utter nearness of death is also felt in the same way. But these series of prodigious passes are rare. Thus, each time they occur, they unleash a veritable delirium in the arena… 


Apropos bullfights, Sir Edmund once told Simone that until quite recently, certain virile Spaniards, mostly occasional amateurs toreadors, used to ask the caretaker of the arena to bring them the fresh roasted balls of one of the first bulls to be killed. they received them at their seats, in the front row of the arena, and ate them while watching the killing of the next few bulls. Simone took a keen interest in this tale, and since we were attending the first major bullfight of the year that Sunday, she begged Sir Edmund to get her the balls of the first bull, but added one condition: they had to be raw.
“I say,” objected Sir Edmund, “whatever do you want with raw balls? You certainly don’t intend to eat raw balls now, do you?”
“I want to have them before me on a plate,” concluded Simone.

The Bullfight: The Death of the Bullfighter by Pablo Picasso3

On May 7, 1922, the toreadors La Rosa, Lalanda and Granero were to fight in the same arena of Madrid: the last two were renowned as the best matadors in Spain, and Granero was generally considered superior to Lalanda. He had only just turned twenty, yet he was already extremely popular, being handsome, tall and still of a childlike simplicity. Simone had been deeply interested in his story, and exceptionally, had shown a genuine pleasure when Sir Edmund announced that the celebrated bull-killer had agreed to dine with us the evening of the fight.


Granero stood out from the rest of the matadors because there was nothing of the butcher about him: he looked more like a very manly Prince Charming with a perfectly elegant figure. In this respect, the matador’s costume is quite expressive, for its safeguards the straight line shooting up so rigid and erect every time the lunging bull grazes the body and because the pants so tightly sheathe the behind. a bright red cloth and a brilliant sword (before the dying bull whose hide steams with sweat and blood) completes the metamorphosis, bringing out the most captivating features of the game. One must also bear in mind the typical torrid Spanish sky, which never has the colour or harshness one imagines: it is just perfectly sunny with a dazzling but mellow sheen, hot, turbid, at times even unreal when the combined intensities of light and heat suggest the freedom of the senses.


Now this extreme unreality of the solar blaze was so closely attached to everything that was happening around me during the bullfight on May 7, that the only objects I have ever carefully preserved are a round paper fan, half yellow, half blue, that Simone had that day, and a small illustrated brochure with a description of all the circumstances, and a few photographs. Later on, during an embarkment, the small valise containing these two souvenirs tumbled into the sea, and was fished out by an Arab with a long pole, which is why the objects are in such a bad state. But I need them to fix that event to the earthly soil, to a geographic point and a precise date, an event that in my imagination compulsively pictures as a simple vision of solar deliquescence.


The first bull, the one who’s balls Simone looked forward to serving raw on a plate, was a kind of black monster, who shot out of the pen so quickly that despite all efforts and all shouts, he disembowelled three horses in a row before an orderly fight could take place; one horse and rider were hurled aloft together, loudly crashing down behind the horns. But when Granero faced the bull, the combat was launched with brio, proceeding amid a frenzy of cheers. The young man sent the furious beast chasing around him in his pink cape; each time, his body was lifted by a sort of spiraling jet, and he just barely eluded a frightful impact. In the end, the death of the solar monster was performed cleanly, with the beast blinded by the scrap of red cloth, the sword deep in the blood-smeared body. An incredible ovation resounded as the bull staggered to its knees with the uncertainty of a drunkard, collapsed with its legs sticking up, and died.

Simone, who had sat between Sir Edmund and myself, witnessed the killing with an exhilaration at least equal to mine, and she refused to sit down again when the interminable acclamation for the young man was over.

images as they appear
Story of the Eye, Matt Edwards
Flying Bull during a Bullfight Spain by Felipe Rodriguez
Cover illustration from Ögate Historia by Georges Bataille
The Bullfight: The Death of the Bullfighter by Pablo Picasso
A Bullfight in Lima by Gustaf Tenggren (1919)
An example of painting by numbers
Spanish bullfighter Cayetano Rivera performs during a bullfight at the Plaza Valencia, Spain – a sport which has been protected from budget cuts in Guijo de Galisteo, in the austere province of Extremadura by Getty Images
Juan Jose Padilla by AP
Illustration from More English Fairytales collected and edited by Joseph Jacobs and illustrated by John D Batten, published by D Nutt (London, 1894)
This entry was published on June 1, 2017 at 6:30 pm. It’s filed under Bullfighting, Literature, Spain and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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