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The book, "Inner Experience", was compiled post-humously from notes Bataille kept with the intention of putting into book form. Nonetheless, "Inner Experience" is very comprehensive and essential to understanding Bataille's philosophies of base materialism, expenditure, the sacred and the need to transgress the limits of experience.
Recommended reading by Bataille: "Story of the Eye", "Documents", and "Visions of Excess" a collection of essays (edited by Allan Stoeckl). Also, to learn more about Bataille, look up "Against Architecture: The Writings of Georges Bataille", by Dennis Hollier
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To start my review, I would like to say that the previous reviewer appears to have understood the broad strokes of Bataille's writing, but failed to see the finer points of it. Their descriptions are accurate, but the conclusions they draw seem to be results of their own moralizing and do not necessarily reflect the basic themes of the stories.
For example, while "My Mother" is a study of the mother's search for destruction and the influence of this on her son (as mygotta has pointed out) it is not a moralistic fable revealing the inevitable pitfalls of a profligate life. This kind of puritanical idea in regards to human sexuality is completely antithetical to the philosphy Bataille espoused in this and other texts. In the case of "My Mother," the libertine lifestyle and sexual openness of the characters is not the result of a slow, fatalistic slumping towards the gutter, but rather is a quest for transcendence through intense experience, especially sexual experience. This attitude is revealed, for example, when the mother writes to her son, telling him that, "I have absolutely no interest in this world where they scratch about, patiently waiting for death to enlighten them. As for me, it is the wind of death that sustains the life in me," or when the son realizes that, "Again and again during those interminable days of my solitude and of my sinfulness I would stiffen as though from an electric shock when the thought thrilled through me that my mother's crime elevated her into God, in the very way in which terror and the vertiginous idea of God became identified. And, wanting to find God, I wanted to burrow down and cover myself with mud, so as not to be more unworthy of Him than my mother." The juxtaposing of base sensuality with divinity, and the constant invocation of taboos in this story are interwoven with what seems to be an ultimate moral ambiguity. And these themes are continued in the other two stories as well.
Bataille's writing is terrific stuff if you can handle its pornographic imagery and blasphemous intonations. His stories and essays question not only the foundations of religion, morality and social norms, but also the fabric of reality itself. This stuff is not just well-written erotica: it is profound and provocative philosophy .
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In the most literal sense, Bataille's writings are personal: the narrations (pornography, poems), philosophical discourses (Inner Experience, On Nietzsche) and interpretations (book review, art criticism) he put forward are originated from his intense desire to appropriate life's meaning/mystery. Interspersed over the pages in present Reader are principal leitmotivs of Bataille: laughter, death, chance, gift, transgressions etc. In these texts we shall never encounter the stiff coldness common to certain analytical philosophers. Bataille uplifts us from solid ground and force us to head for the furthest in our intellectual reserch. Sometimes, if not always, reading Bataille could be an unbearbale experience. Passages from "Madame Edwarda" in this Reader can be served as a test for your tolerance. To me it is the most important theological investigation ever written by Bataille - the prostitute as incarnation of divinity. After reading this text may be you would agree with Sartre in calling Bataille a "New Mystic". This Bataille Reader is indeed an ideal 'book of initiation' to Bataille - the most inspiring French thinker born a hundred and three years ago.
Afterall, I'm happy to place this excellent compendium next to the 12 yellow bricks (the French Gallimard edition of Oeuvres completes looks like bricks) already lying on my shelf.
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