Georges Bataille’s erotic novella L’histoire de l’oeil (Story of the Eye) was originally published in 1928, but it was not until the early 1940s that clandestine copies began to appear more widely; it was censored until the 1950s and appeared in English translation only in 1953. Narrated by an unnamed young man looking back on his sexual exploits, L’histoire de l’oeil describes the perversions of a pair of teenage lovers. Simone is his primary female partner, but the narrative includes two important secondary figures, Marcelle, a mentally ill sixteen-year-old girl who comes to a sad end, and Lord Edmund, a voyeuristic English émigré aristocrat. Though often portrayed as pure pornography, interpretation of the story has gradually matured to reveal considerable philosophical and emotional depth, its imagery built upon a series of metaphors which in turn refer to philosophical constructs developed in Bataille’s wider work on the erotic, including the eye, the vagina, the anus, the testicle, the egg, the sun and the earth – conventionally uncomfortable connections which clearly resonated with Marcos Carrasquer when he was commissioned to illustrate the story.
As with all Carrasquer’s work, his detailed illustrations for L’histoire de l’oeil can be read at many levels, both as part of the narrative and in a wider socio-sexual context.
The captions for the ten illustrations are:
1 L’assiette (The basin)
2 Je la baisai à coté du cadaver (I fucked her next to the corpse)
3 Le placard normand (The Norman wardrobe)
4 Tirer! (Fire!)
5 Corrida à Madrid (Bullfight in Madrid)
6 Manuel Granero (Manuel Granero)
7 Le prêtre crache son foutre dans le ciboire (The priest aims his cum at the ciborium)
8 Simone abat le prêtre (Simone fellates the priest)
9 Simone inonda les yeux (Simone flooded her eyes)
10 L’oeil de Marcelle (Marcelle’s eye)
Manuel Granero i Valls (1902–22) was a famous Spanish bullfighter who after 117 fights lost his life in the ring to a bull named Pocapena.
We are very grateful to Hans-Jürgen Döpp for these images; Hans-Jürgen, the compiler of many books on erotic art, curates the Venusberg online gallery and bookshop which you can find here.