Words, words, words ...

Fierce Language

A Column
by Jason DeBoer

Jason DeBoer

Jason DeBoer currently resides in Chicago, Illinois, where he is creating a new literary and philosophical publishing house called Trembling Sun Press. He is the managing editor of Eighteenth–Century Studies, an academic journal based at Northwestern University. His fiction has recently appeared or will appear soon in numerous journals, including
The Barcelona Review, Libido,
The Wisconsin Review, The Iowa Review, The Clackamas Literary ReviewExquisite Corpse, Suspect Thoughts, CrossConnect, and Linnaean Street. At the moment he is working on Stupor, his debut novel.

E-mail: tremblingsun@yahoo.com

 

Previous columns:

Edgar Saltus: Forgotten Genius of American Letters?

Sublime Hatred: 
Nietzsche’s 
Anti-Christianity

Eschatology 
and Orgasm

The Fatal 
“Theory-Fiction”
 of Jean Baudrillard

Masochism
and Regicide

Bataille 
versus Theory

Introduction

Fierce Language

Laure: The “True Whore” as Muse

Although she wrote little and published almost nothing, Colette Peignot, a.k.a. Laure, is one of the more fascinating and intense women writers of the past century. Georges Bataille and Michel Leiris described her as “one of the most vehement existences [that] ever lived, one of the most conflicted.” They summarized her volatile personality as “[e]ager for affection and for disaster, oscillating between extreme audacity and the most dreadful anguish, as inconceivable on a scale of real beings as a mythical being, she tore herself on the thorns with which she surrounded herself until becoming nothing but a wound, never allowing herself to be confined by anything or anyone.” In other words, Laure was the epitome of what Bataille would dub the “sovereign” individual.

Laure was an extremely beautiful woman drawn to revolutionary ideas. In 1930 she visited the Soviet Union, impetuously demanding to live with the poorest peasants, but soon fell victim to tuberculosis and had to return to France. She joined many radical political groups in her day, and later became the only female member of Acéphale, the secret society founded by Bataille to directly explore eroticism and sacrifice.

Laure began her affair with Bataille in 1934, and it proved to become one of the more tormented love stories of modern letters. Their correspondence reveals a mutually influential sharing of transgressive ideas: she was the woman of action, and he was the man versed in scholarly knowledge. Her uncompromising, anguished lifestyle proved very inspirational to Bataille, especially Laure’s own infatuation with the sacred and communication, two important ideas in Bataille’s later work. Her crude poems and fragments contained the bare essentials of these subjects, which would later be expanded upon by Bataille into complex if somewhat nebulous concepts. In a phrase that could serve to encapsulate all of her own writing, Laure said: “The poetic work is sacred in that it is the creation of a topical event, ‘communication’ experienced as nakedness.––It is self-violation, baring, communication to others of a reason for living . . .” This nakedness, this full disclosure regardless of consequence, is the most remarkable feature of her work.

But living in the moment was far more important to Laure than the written word, and she reveled in the extreme. Of her own love of excess and immorality, Laure wrote: “I hate ‘goodness’ and ‘kindness,’ which have only led me to humiliation. . . . How I prefer a true whore.” In fact, she expressed a desire to transgress societal norms no matter what the cost, “[t]o be perverse enough, libertine enough so that nothing matters.” Her relationship with Bataille and their descent together into debauchery yielded a certain creative fruitfulness, but its reliance on excess also seemed to prevent Laure from feeling much emotional security. By all accounts, Bataille was systematically unfaithful to her, as if treachery and deceit were a necessary component of their uniquely transgressive way of life. In a letter to him, she speaks of being liberated by his callousness, as if his cruelty has made her stronger:

“I believe in our life together . . . I believe in it the way I believe in everything that brought us together: in the most profound depths of your darkness and of mine. I revealed everything about myself to you. Now that it gives you pleasure to laugh at it, to soil it––this leaves me as far away from anger as it is possible to be. Scatter, spoil, destroy, throw to the dogs all that you want: you will never affect me again. I will never be where you think you find me, where you think you’ve finally caught me in a chokehold that makes you come. . . . As for me I am beyond words, I have seen too much, known too much, experienced too much for appearance to take on form. You can do anything you want, I will not be hurt.”

Bataille chronicled this period of time into a novel Le Bleu du ciel (Blue of Noon) in 1935, in which a female character named Dirty appeared. Many of this book’s events were based on his turbulent affair with Laure. Troppmann, the novel’s narrator, speaks of Dirty: “She gave me a feeling of purity . . . Even in her debauchery, there was such candor in her that I sometimes wanted to grovel at her feet. I was afraid of her.” Purity, debauchery, candor, fear: these were indeed some of the bonds that held Bataille and Laure to each other. Their incendiary relationship continued until her premature death. In the end, Laure succumbed to her illness at the age of thirty-five. Devastated, Bataille would later write in an autobiographical note: “In 1938 a woman’s death tore [me] apart.” For Laure’s funeral, her mother wanted a priest, but Bataille refused and threatened to shoot him at the altar. It is a marvelously fitting addendum to the strangeness of their transgressive and sovereign love.

Works Cited

Laure: The Collected Writings, trans. Jeanine Herman (San Francisco: City Lights, 1995).

Georges Bataille, Blue of Noon, trans. Harry Mathews (London: Marion Boyars, 1986).

  

©2001 Jason DeBoer

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