Sacred genitalia: the metaphysical inflections of Bataille’s surrealist voice
(Madame Edwarda, 1941; Story of the Eye, 1928)
Man is more than a creature limited to its genitals. But they, those inavowable parts of him, teach him his secret.
This essay will attempt to identify a specific (if arguably minor) aspect of surrealism, and trace its aesthetic and intellectual resonances in Bataille’s major works. The desire to come in contact with the sacred informed not only Bataille but Artaud, who envisaged in the theatre a potential for realizing it, and (despite ‘ideological’ admonitions and the struggle ‘against those who would maintain surrealism at a purely speculative level and treasonably transfer it onto an artistic and literary plane’, a struggle which, among other things, frequently cast Bataille and Artaud in the role of renegade surrealists) this selfsame yearning for the sacred can be deduced from Breton’s quasi-metaphysical pronouncements throughout the vital period of surrealist activity in France. As early as 1922 Breton was defining surrealism in terms of ‘the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of association’, and twenty years later he still felt obliged to deny the charge of ‘mysticism’. While the sacred remains at best only a sub-stratum of metaphysics (‘most generally’ defined as ‘the philosophical investigation of the nature, constitution, and structure of reality’), it is not difficult nonetheless to recognise a quasi-religious strain running through the surrealist project from its very inception. In Breton’s demand for a ‘monotonous metaphysic’ that ‘never speaks except of the one being, in which God, the soul, and the world come together, of the one which is the deepest essence of all multiplicity’, there is a clear potential for a form of art—a poetics, dramatics or even erotics of the sacred—whose aim it would be to develop new conceptions of the Ultimate and the Absolute, and ways of experiencing their presence. This potential was taken up by both Bataille and Artaud (the latter choosing a dramatics, the former an erotics of the sacred) and leaves its definitive mark in their concern with the negative, the horrifying, the terrible and the obscene (which constitutes an awareness of mortality that we do not encounter with the same intensity in the work of Breton, whose fundamental priority was the marvellous). Artaud himself alludes to the route chosen by Bataille in quest of the same destination when he says that ‘bringing together two impassioned revelations on stage [...] is just as complete, as true, even as decisive as bringing together two bodies in short-lived debauchery’. His Theatre of Cruelty works ‘like the plague, by intoxication, by infection, by analogy, by magic’; it works like war, in the public ‘ferment of great, agitated crowds hurled against one another’; it is a form of ‘soul therapy’ inflicting on an audience the ‘laceration’ and ‘cruelty’ of the sacred, whose essential function is to teach us that ‘[we] are not free and the sky can still fall on our heads’; and its foremost subjects are ‘love, crime, war and madness’. For Bataille, by contrast, it is the very private anguish of ‘little death’ that tells us our secret: that ‘[nudity] is only death, and the most tender kisses have the after-taste of the rat’; the function of philosophy and literature is to forge the age-old link between eroticism and death; and only at the supreme point of convergence where, correspondingly, pleasure and pain resolve their perpetual dialectic in a terrifying excess, do we catch a glimpse of our spiritual predicament. In either case there is a stress on emptiness and negation that somewhat transcends the surrealist imperative of unlimited ‘marvellous subversion’, and explains Breton’s distaste with Bataille’s particular strand of madness, ‘that he reasons like someone with a fly on his nose (i.e. a corpse)’. But Bataille’s literary endeavours remain profoundly surrealist, and the following will undertake to show this in two stages: first, by exploring Bataille’s metaphysics of the sacred (which finds its clearest, most compressed expression in Madame Edwarda); and second, by looking at his aesthetics of eroticism, the kind of pornographic imagination—in Susan Sontag’s words—that aims ‘at disorientation, at psychic dislocation’ (triumphantly exemplified in Story of the Eye).
‘God, if he knew…’
Bataille’s conception of an ultimate reality resembles Taoism in that ‘this reality must not be subject to the limitations of any of the individual entities within it’; whereas the modes of our being are invariably described by concepts (or, as the Tao te ching would have it, ‘names’) the non-being of the Ultimate is both nameless and immutable; ‘strictly speaking, nothing can be said about the Tao at all’. It must therefore be described in negative terms, and designates—first and foremost—a form of emptiness. This emptiness is further identified with ‘the lowly’ (arguably including the obscene) and ‘the female’ (i.e. the lover/vagina, the mother/womb, and the earth itself); it is equivalent for Bataille to the God of Western theism. (Interestingly, Artaud too attempted to apply Taoist principles—fullness/emptiness, male/female/neuter—to actors’ exercises.) ‘Being is also, doubtless,’ Bataille says in the preface to Madame Edwarda, ‘subject to certain other limits: were this not so, we should not be able to speak (I too speak [of non-being, i.e. of the ultimate reality, the sacred], but as I speak I do not forget that not only will speech escape me, but that it is escaping me now).’ The sexual act ‘whereby being—existence—is bestowed upon us is an unbearable surpassing of being, an act no less unbearable than dying’; and only in those two modes of being can we experience non-being; truth itself will signify nothing if we do not, through debauchery and death, ‘see that which exceeds sight’s possibilities, [think] that which exceeds thought’s possibilities’. Thus eroticism, like death, comes to open ‘directly upon a certain vista of anguish’ where ‘joy is the same thing as suffering, the same thing as dying, as death’; and this anguish alone is ‘sovereign absolute’, because it contains the resolution of the two extremes of consciousness, which are also the only two ways of experiencing God (a word that we ‘cannot without impunity incorporate into our speech’, since it ‘surpasses words’), and the two limits of all knowledge (or, as Bataille preferred—again in agreement with Taoism—non-knowledge or non-savior). This conception of the Ultimate, incidentally, was shared by Henry Miller, although the latter did not identify it with God. ‘What is unmentionable,’ he wrote, ‘is pure fuck and pure cunt [...] What holds the world together [is] sexual intercourse. But fuck, the real thing, cunt, the real thing, seems to contain some unidentified element which is far more dangerous than nitroglycerine.’
Madame Edwarda (the story of a prostitute who, after exposing her well-worn vagina and declaring herself to be God, gradually reveals her divinity to the narrator) is itself a concrete depiction of this abstract line of thought. Here God is presented symbolically as a form of vaginal emptiness, the narrator feeling in Edwarda’s presence ‘unhappy and [...] painfully forsaken, as one is when in the presence of GOD.’ With her, he apprehends ‘the vulgar ritual of “the lady going up” with the man who wants her in tow [as] nothing short of an hallucinating solemnity’; and before she dresses in a black domino and slips out of the whorehouse and he follows, their lovemaking is described in terms of a straining wide open ‘to welcome “the emptiness of heaven”’. The narrator feels Edwarda possessed by ‘the delirious joy of being naked’; and soon afterwards, under an ark in the night darkness, she is ‘entirely black, simply there, as distressing as a hole’. Only when he sees that she is ‘mindless: rapt, absent’, does he know ‘that She had not lied, that She was GOD.’ Consistently, the narrative itself subsides into ‘madness’ and ‘meaninglessness’ as the sacred, that which surpasses words, takes over (when Edwarda, having finally overcome an unearthly spasmodic fit, ‘mount[s] and straddl[es]’ the taxi driver). The narrator lapses back into the abstract, telling us that ‘living self is there just in order [...] “not to know”’, and that ‘God, if he knew [meaning, presumably, if he were to be known or described in the vocabulary of being] would be a swine’. The rest, we are told, is ‘irony, long, weary, waiting for death’. In this way Edwarda comes to embody the tragic truth not only about God but also epistemology and metaphysics; and Bataille, in a few pages, offers us the distillation of his ‘religious (but anti-Christian, essentially Nietzschean)’ quest. Hence Yukio Mishima’s description of the novella as a demonstration of ‘the manifestation of God to man, [which is] at the same time a work that is extreme in its obscenity’, and a paradoxical ‘verbalization of a great silence called God’. (It would be beyond the scope of this essay to discuss My Mother, but it is worth noting here that it can be seen as a Bildungsroman version of Madame Edwarda, less intense and more ‘psychological’, in which the womb rather than the vagina comes to embody the ultimate reality.)
Although it gave rise to Sartre’s criticism of Bataille as a ‘new mystic’ and ‘a seeker after God’, this desire to understand the sacred can also be seen as an attempt at healing the split ‘between savoir [the hermeneutic] and jouissance [the erotic/pornographic] by pursuing simultaneously the knowledge of eroticism and the eroticisation of knowledge’, largely parallel to the general surrealist project of uniting the conscious with the unconscious—man with God, flesh with spirit—and faithful in essence to the surrealist rejection of all ‘Greco/Roman, Christian/bourgeois, Cartesian/positivist heritage.’ On the literary level, Madame Edwarda is surrealist in that it draws ‘a vivid, harsh, shocking and immediate connection between metaphysics and the human flesh’, and sustains ‘an anti-psychological delineation, anti-realism [and] a perception of the universe hidden behind all of these’, much like what Artaud envisaged in his ‘total theatre’, that superior communion of cruelty whose features include ‘an awful lyricism’. Bataille’s ultimate goal is precisely the ‘point of the mind at which life and death, the real and the imaginary, the communicable and the incommunicable [...] cease to be perceived as contradictions.’ His writing, however, unlike much surrealism, has given rise to two important criticisms, which can be seen in the wider contexts of the feminist and literary critiques of pornography. First, Bataille’s ‘conflation of sex and death’ is thought to be a mere extension of male—‘phalocratic’—supremacy, the fundamental conditions of which are hatred and violence. ‘Some classy men,’ writes Andrea Dworkin, ‘mean to suggest that [...] man fucks with a certain, tragic knowledge of death’ and ‘[Bataille], a classy guy, likens what he calls “eroticism” to dissolution and death’. It is implicit in her claim that men, deprived of the capacity to give birth and thus regenerate, can only realise themselves in the desperation and despair of death, of which the violence and hatred inflicted on women by patriarchy are but one example. Second, George Steiner’s suggestion that ‘the de-humanization of the individual in pornography [resembles] the making naked and anonymous of the individual in [the concentration camp]’, seems particularly relevant to Bataille’s fictional world, since in Bataille ‘the knowledge of physical mortality and frailty [...] places us in a state of complete vulnerability which also exists prior to humiliation, torture and sacrifice’. While the first question remains open to debate, the second brings us to the last point I want to make in connection with Bataille’s ‘religion’, namely that, notwithstanding its totalitarian potential (which Mishima’s admiration perhaps testifies to), it would be misleading to view this metaphysics of the sacred in isolation from the rest of Bataille’s intellectual pursuits.
Unlike Artaud, Bataille for the most part never abandoned communism, and his desire to understand the sacred did not interrupt his historical militancy. ‘Communist workers,’ he wrote, ‘are in bourgeois eyes just as gross and filthy as the bare and hairy sexual organs: sooner or later this will result in a scandalous eruption in which the noble a-sexual heads of the bourgeoisie will be sliced off.’ It is hardly surprising, nonetheless, that two of the main charges levelled at Bataille by French intellectuals—Stalinism and fascism—take their cue from the totalitarian potential of his thought. Contre-Attaque (Bataille’s revolutionary communist group of 1935 and its journal of the same name) proposed to use fascist weapons against fascism; in the face of an increasingly powerful and widespread fascist threat in the inter-war period, Bataille suggested surfascism (a word ‘intended to bear the same relation to fascism as surrealism bore to realism’) with the inevitable consequences of misunderstanding that perpetuated the final break with Breton. ‘There is no doubt,’ he would write much later, ‘that the bourgeois world as it exists constitutes a provocation to violence and that, in that world, the exterior forms of violence hold a fascination.’ But after Contre-Attaque, it becomes clear ‘that this fascination can lead to the worst’. In the end Bataille ‘dissolved Contre-Attaque precisely because he was aware of the misunderstanding which this ambition to defeat Fascism on its own terms could give rise.’ Moreover, as ‘emotive intellectual’ (in a spirit of defiance against Sartre’s call for ‘responsible’ historical ‘engagement’) Bataille wanted to ‘wrest Nietzsche from the grip of the Nazis’; he was taken by ‘the possibilities of a world without God [...] The appeal to danger, to adventure, to war—the joy of chaos—worked for him as a stimulant, and an entire aesthetics of pathos seems to have arisen from it.’ Here too these qualities of mind (particularly in combination with Bataille’s emphasis on the role of ‘non-productive expenditure’ in political economy) seem to embody a philosophically articulated version of the general surrealist attempt to unite Marx with Freud. When ‘in Bataille, Nietzsche meets Hegel’, a unique thesis-antithesis-synthesis arises out of his Nietzschean jouissance (the will to expend), which in its partial agreement with the Marquis de Sade’s philosophy is re-enacted directly in the realm of the flesh: ‘sexual behaviour is opposed to everyday behaviour as expenditure is to saving’; ‘our only true happiness is to spend vainly, and we always want to be sure of the uselessness of our expenditure’; but since ‘affection cannot change the fundamental role played by death’, we can only sadistically deny ‘the value of others’ and must therefore extinguish both ourselves and our victims in the excessive happiness-expenditure that is eroticism. This particular brand of sacrifice, moreover, ‘is distinguished from others [including Sade’s] in that he who executes the rite is affected by the sacrifice himself; he succumbs to it and loses himself along with his victim.’ The unifying theme and objective of these apparently widely seperated intellectual strands is the idea of a ‘sovereign existence’, a state in which humanity would not be subject to ideological limitations (the Revolution, comparable—at the individual level—to sexual revolt, and also associated with the experience of God, since it constitutes a liberation from the limitations and predeterminations of the human predicament): ‘I do not distinguish between freedom and sexual freedom,’ Bataille writes, ‘because depraved sexuality is the only kind produced independently of conscious ideological determinations, the only one that results from a free play of bodies and images, impossible to justify rationally’. Since a full discussion of Bataille’s philosophy would be beyond the scope of this essay, at this stage I will rest content with suggesting that to dismiss Bataille as simply a totalitarian pornographer, or to accuse him of intellectual inconsistency, would be as unjust and presumptuous as Georg Lukacs’s contention that Nietzsche was a mere ‘forerunner of Nazism’.
The internal revolution
An alternative cue for interpreting Bataille is available in Sontag’s suggestion that pornography (in the sense of something other than ‘a psychological phenomenon’ and/or ‘an item in social history’) provides Bataille with a ‘modality or convention’ in which to function as artist and thinker. First, ‘Sade’s system’, (which Bataille thought ‘simply the most consistent and extravagant form of sexual activity’) ensures that Bataille’s narratives ‘qualify as pornographic texts insofar as their theme is an all-engrossing sexual quest that annihilates every consideration of persons extraneous to their roles in the sexual dramaturgy’; it also necessitates that these narratives (as complexes dealing with ‘that specific and sharpest inflection of the theme of lust, “the obscene”’) dramaturgically resolve themselves in death, whether or not the books are littered with corpses. The limitations imposed on a narrative by just such a ‘system’ (e.g. that it is inevitably episodic, that it ‘lacks the beginning-middle-and-end form’, that it does not deal with human relations) are arguably a challenge to the author—if he or she is to make something interesting out of them. Second, Roland Barthes’s structuralist analysis reveals that in Story of the Eye Bataille does not so much write a novel (‘something that might happen, all things considered’) as exercise his poetic imagination (‘something that could never happen [except] in the shadowy or burning realm of fantasy’). The elements of the narrative are neither real nor probable, but virtual; and the book, in effect, tells the story of an object passing ‘from image to image [...] the cycle of avatars that it passes through, far removed from its original being, down the path of a particular imagination that distorts but never drops it.’ Another challenge, then, is to advance and interchange the terms of two central series of images: the Eye/the Sun (which is ‘the matrix of a run of objects’, e.g. eggs, balls etc.) and liquid/light (which constitutes ‘a second chain’, e.g. tears, milk etc.) Out of the interaction of the two challenges—both of which Bataille meets with admirable literary power—the narrative reduces to ‘a form, the restrictive character of which is as stimulating as the old rules of meter and tragedy’. Since ‘the terms of the image can be taken only from two finite series’, the Eye and liquid, it is up to Bataille to displace that image in as many ways as the erotic episodes and the ideas underlying them require. On the one hand Bataille must relate absolutely everything in the text to his two overriding philosophical concerns (sex and death). On the other hand, he must subordinate human relations and language to a predefined poetic locus of images. Both tasks must be accomplished simultaneously and, particularly in Story of the Eye, with extreme economy of means—the rules Bataille has to observe, on reflection, are pretty stringent indeed, but the aesthetic discipline pays off.
In a pornographic text where the episodes lack structure, where everything must be subordinated to the mindless pursuit of sexual pleasure (and pain), the poetic limitation not only provides unity but also gives the obscene a particular tone. The text becomes ‘revolting in both senses of the word’: besides the obscenity that qualifies it as pornographic, there is also ‘the law of the Surrealist image’, ‘the more remote and right the relations between the two realities, the more powerful will be the image’. The metaphysical dimension, moreover, invests ‘each action with a weight, a disturbing gravity, that feels authentically “mortal”’, and the otherwise unrelated episodes acquire a particularly unsettling momentum. Alternatively one could say that the erotic/obscene aspect of the work adds ‘a savage lyricism’ (comparable to Artaud’s ‘awful lyricism’ above), ‘a capacity to shock’, a ‘continual oscillation between extremes’, to an already formulated surrealist composition, where the arbitrary dislocation of objects maintains a solid forward movement by virtue of its unified theme. In either case, the twofold technical restriction results in incredible inventiveness (a far cry from Steiner’s treadmill, and a masturbatory dance indeed), thus allowing Bataille, in effect, to set up ‘the parameters within which the project of surrealist pornography may be validated.’ The Eye-as-protagonist achieves precisely what Breton called ‘a breath of fresh air’: it denies the existence of the outer world and undertakes ‘a [radical enough] revision of moral values’, it throws ‘disorder into this order of words’, murders ‘the obvious aspect of things’, and ‘searches for the new beauty, “the beauty envisaged exclusively for passionate ends”.’ Against the stifling ‘capitalism of the sexual’, Bataille’s ‘play of metaphor and metonymy’ thus achieves ‘a counter-division of objects, usages, meanings, spaces, and properties that is eroticism itself’; through ‘psychic dislocation’—beauty that is compulsive or not at all—Bataille transgresses the sexual, ‘which is not, of course, the same thing as sublimating it’. When, in his tribute to Luis Bunuel, Carlos Feuntes invokes ‘Lautreamont’s famous juxtaposition of an umbrella and a sewing machine on an operating table’, his words apply with startling exactness to Story of the Eye. Objects in Bunuel’s cinema, he says, ‘cease to behave normally and instead reveal their true beauty in an unsuspected encounter; they cease to be invisible and interchangeable and become, instead, the dazzling trophies of the masochist, the fetishist, the sadist.’
This notion of objects misbehaving is central to the objectified transmigration of images that forms the poetic substance of Story of the Eye. From the beginning of the narrative, it is the central poetic image that holds the key to the logic with which events unfold. The Eye is displaced from the saucer of milk (the cat’s eye) which triggers off virtual tears (milk, semen, urine and, from the second chapter on, egg-yolk), to Marcelle’s—horrified, sobbing and then dead—eyes, to the eggs for which Simone develops a mania, to Granero’s eye and the bull’s testicle, to the priest’s eye which, placed ‘in Simone’s hairy vagina’ becomes ‘the wan blue eye of Marcelle, gazing at me through tears of urine’, the ‘cycle of avatars’ finally coming full circle. It is this that explains the arbitrary, mysterious (pornographically fantastical) development of relations and actions in the course of the narrative. The narrator and Simone, for example, refrain from copulating in the absence of Marcelle; no satisfying rationale is offered for their behaviour. But the irrationality is justified when we realise that Simone’s loss of virginity marks a further development in the Eye’s story: the object must be transferred from Marcelle’s living eyes (through Simone’s illness, during which many of the central associations are made explicit for the first time, linking the whole book with Bunuel’s Chien Andalou, e.g., ‘Upon my asking what the word urinate reminded her of, she replied: terminate, the eyes, with a razor, something red, the sun. An egg? A calf’s eye’, etc.) to the open eyes of the dead woman. The antique (significantly, bridal) wardrobe establishes the connection between the Eye of horror (Marcelle alive) and the Eye of death (Marcelle having hanged herself), and the ‘strange swish of water’ that alerts the narrator to Marcelle’s pissing in the wardrobe is similarly metamorphosed (through Simone’s pissing on the eyes of the dead woman) into a ‘urinary liquification of the sky’ that marks the penultimate stop on the Eye’s relentless journey (the bull’s testicle, with which Simone masturbates, reaching orgasm at the same moment as the bullfighter’s eye is displaced from its socket). The Eye’s story, moreover (aside from the ‘arbitrary but surrealistically logical associations’ it sustains), is governed, through the pornographic convention, by Bataille’s philosophy: Simone’s loss of virginity in the presence of the corpse establishes the connection between eroticism and mortality; similarly, Sir Edmund’s ‘mass’ (while at the same time revealing the extent of Bataille’s revolt against traditional Christian theism) extends the same connection to the sacred (the eucharistic hosts becoming Christ’s sperm, the wine Christ’s urine, etc.).
As with Madame Edwarda, there are hints throughout the text that symbolically reveal its underlying preoccupations, breaks through the autonomous operation of the words which penetrate the poetic substance of a modernist composition, revealing Bataille’s consciousness directly. After Marcelle’s suicide, Simone becomes sombre with the absolute knowledge she has attained (the ‘knowledge of eroticism’ we have spoken of in connection with Madame Edwarda above); she too looks ‘as if she belonged to something other than the terrestrial world’; ‘or, if she was still attached to this world, it was purely by way of orgasms, which were rare but incomparably more violent’. Similarly, the narrator remarks (in the course of his own metaphysical ‘education’) that ‘death was the sole outcome of my erection, and if Simone and I were killed, then the universe of our unbearable personal vision was certain to be replaced by the stars, [to exist] in a cold state, without human delays or detours’. Even the Milky Way appears to him as a ‘strange breach of astral sperm and heavenly urine [across] the open crack [of] the sky’. ‘The universe seems decent,’ he tells us, only ‘because decent people have gelded eyes. That is why they fear lewdness.’ In this way the issue is revealed to be ‘a struggle between two ways of seeing’, one of which is ‘only achieved by splitting eyeballs, desiring the impossible [e.g. to know God], desiring all that for moral, political or economic reasons has been [...] deprived of time, place, name or reflection in our societies.’ Like Bunuel in Un Chien Andalou (which was produced, incidentally, in the same year as Story of the Eye was published), Bataille picks on the organ of (rationalist) perception, slitting not only the priest’s eye in Seville but also the Eye/Sun of the Enlightenment, the Eye of Cartesian positivism/rationalism and the Eye of bourgeois Christianity. And like Bunuel, he ‘never [doubts] that the internal revolution, the profound liberator of poetic energy in every individual, is inseparable from an objective [communist] transformation of reality’.
We are now in a position to summarize the main lines of argument concerning Bataille’s erotics of the sacred, considered as a special application of surrealism. The notion of an art form that seeks to present and embody the experience of God is not exclusive to Bataille among the surrealists (Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty is another such art form); interestingly, it is also present (albeit in a latent form) in Breton’s intellectual decrees, especially in what he says about the metaphysical (i.e., his thoughts concerning the bearing that conceptions of what reality means might have upon surrealist creativity). Bataille’s pursuit of the sacred should also be seen in the wider context of his intellectual achievement (including his fascination with ‘the weapons of fascism’, but not with fascism itself, his consistent revolutionary commitment, Nietschean jouissance , Sadean dialectics, and epistemology of non-savoir). Viewed in this light, Bataille’s pursuit of the sacred reveals itself to be surrealist in essence, constituting a profound but idiosyncratic attempt at ‘marvellous subversion’. He is also, nonetheless, deeply (even obsessively) aware of mortality and death. Transferred to the realm of the aesthetic, his erotics becomes a startlingly effective instrument, producing (in combination with other surrealist devices, as well as the more general ‘pornographic conventions’) such powerful and enduring works as Story of the Eye. His life’s work is the best answer to Susan Sontag’s call for an erotics, rather than a hermeneutics, of art (an art and a criticism that would perceive reality—activity and creativity—directly through the senses, rather than through a system of textual interpretation), and thus what he has to say to us is immediately relevant—he speaks directly in answer to the central questions about art and literature, often inviting a radical revision of the way we define these very terms. Bataille certainly presents us with a vision of darkness, but unlike the dehumanizing (commercialist or totalitarian) darkness envisaged by George Steiner in his attack on pornography, Bataille’s darkness ‘is neither static nor immutable: it is the fiercest expression of conflict’ within ourselves. Perhaps we are best referred to Bataille himself for a final recapitulation of the subjects discussed in this essay:
If thought and its expression have become his main area of activity, this has not been without repeated attempts, within the limits of his means, at experiences lacking in apparent coherence, but whose very incoherence signifies an effort to comprehend the totality of possibility, or, to put it more precisely, to reject, untiringly, any possibility exclusive of others. Bataille’s inspiration is that of a sovereign existence, free of all limitations of interest.