The Solar Anus

The Sun-Andre Masson 1938
The Sun-Andre Masson 1938

This strange and disturbing Surrealist text, with its frenzied sexual connotations and violent imagery was written by Georges Bataille in 1927 and published in 1931 with illustrations by longtime collaborator Andre Masson (alas I have been unable to find the drawings so I have chosen a colour lithograph by the same artist instead).

L’Anus solaire is a riot of analogy and allusion, and as it mentions both a sewing machine and an umbrella would seem to be clearly indebted to the Black Bible of Surrealism, Les Chants de Maldoror by the mysterious Uruguayan Comte de Lautréamont. Other touchstones are the Marquis De Sade, William Blake and Friedrich Nietzsche.

A quick word about the Jesuve mentioned in the text. Bataille elsewhere notes that “The Jésuve is not only Jesus, which in France is both a saviour and a sausage, but also sève, the sap of Dionysos; the Jesuve is both the volcano, Vésuve, and the goddess, Vénus; it is the je suis of Descartes …”

L’Anus solaire

It is clear that the world is purely parodic, in other words, that each thing seen is the parody of another, or is the same thing in a deceptive form.

Ever since sentences started to circulate in brains devoted to reflection, an effort at total identification has been made, because with the aid of a copula each sentence ties one thing to another; all things would be visibly connected if one could discover at a single glance and in its totality the tracings of Ariadne’s thread leading thought into its own labyrinth.

But the copula of terms is no less irritating than the copulation of bodies. And when I scream I AM THE SUN an integral erection results, because the verb to be is the vehicle of amorous frenzy.

Everyone is aware that life is parodic and that it lacks an interpretation. Thus lead is the parody of gold. Air is the parody of water. The brain is the parody of the equator. Coitus is the parody of crime.

Gold, water, the equator, or crime can each be put forward as the principle of things.

And if the origin of things is not like the ground of the planet that seems to be the base, but like the circular movement that the planet describes around a mobile center, then a car, a clock, or a sewing machine could equally be accepted as the generative principle.

The two primary motions are rotation and sexual movement, whose combination is expressed by the locomotive’s wheels and pistons.

These two motions are reciprocally transformed, the one into the other.

Thus one notes that the earth, by turning, makes animals and men have coitus, and (because the result is as much the cause as that which provokes it) that animals and men make the earth turn by having coitus.

It is the mechanical combination or transformation of these movements that the alchemists sought as the philosopher’s stone.

It is through the use of this magically valued combination that one can determine the present position of men in the midst of the elements.

An abandoned shoe, a rotten tooth, a snub nose, the cook spitting in the soup of his masters are to love what a battle flag is to nationality.

An umbrella, a sexagenarian, a seminarian, the smell of rotten eggs, the hollow eyes of judges are the roots that nourish love.

A dog devouring the stomach of a goose, a drunken vomiting woman, a slobbering accountant, a jar of mustard represent the confusion that serves as the vehicle of love.

A man who finds himself among others is irritated because he does not know why he is not one of the others.

In bed next to a girl he loves, he forgets that he does not know why he is himself instead of the body he touches.

Without knowing it, he suffers from the mental darkness that keeps him from screaming that he himself is the girl who forgets his presence while shuddering in his arms.

Love or infantile rage, or a provincial dowager’s vanity, or clerical pornography, or the diamond of a soprano bewilder individuals forgotten in dusty apartments.

They can very well try to find each other; they will never find anything but parodic images, and they will fall asleep as empty as mirrors.

The absent and inert girl hanging dreamless from my arms is no more foreign to me than the door or window through which I can look or pass.

I rediscover indifference (allowing her to leave me) when I fall asleep, through an inability to love what happens.

It is impossible for her to know whom she will discover when I hold her, because she obstinately attains a complete forgetting.

The planetary systems that turn in space like rapid disks, and whose centers also move, describing an infinitely larger circle, only move away continuously from their own position in order to return it, completing their rotation.

Movement is a figure of love, incapable of stopping at a particular being, and rapidly passing from one to another.

But the forgetting that determines it in this way is only a subterfuge of memory.

A man gets up as brusquely as a specter in a coffin and falls in the same way.

He gets up a few hours later and then he falls again, and the same thing happens every day; this great coitus with the celestial atmosphere is regulated by the terrestrial rotation around the sun.

Thus even though terrestrial life moves to the rhythm of this rotation, the image of this movement is not turning earth, but the male shaft penetrating the female and almost entirely emerging, in order to reenter.

Love and life appear to be separate only because everything on earth is broken apart by vibrations of various amplitudes and durations.

However, there are no vibrations that are not conjugated with a continuous circular movement; in the same way, a locomotive rolling on the surface of the earth is the image of continuous metamorphosis.

Beings only die to be born, in the manner of phalluses that leave bodies in order to enter them.

Plants rise in the direction of the sun and then collapse in the direction of the ground.

Trees bristle the ground with a vast quantity of flowered shafts raised up to the sun.

The trees that forcefully soar end up burned by lightning, chopped down, or uprooted. Returned to the ground, they come back up in another form.

But their polymorphous coitus is a function of uniform terrestrial rotation.

The simplest image of organic life united with rotation is the tide. From the movement of the sea, uniform coitus of the earth with the moon, comes the polymorphous and organic coitus of the earth with the sun.

But the first form of solar love is a cloud raised up over the liquid element. The erotic cloud sometimes becomes a storm and falls back to earth in the form of rain, while lightning staves in the layers of the atmosphere.

The rain is soon raised up again in the form of an immobile plant.

Animal life comes entirely from the movement of the seas and, inside bodies, life continues to come from salt water.

The sea, then, has played the role of the female organ that liquefies under the excitation of the penis.

The sea continuously jerks off.

Solid elements, contained and brewed in water animated by erotic movement, shoot out in the form of flying fish.

The erection and the sun scandalize, in the same way as the cadaver and the darkness of cellars.

Vegetation is uniformly directed towards the sun; human beings, on the other hand, even though phalloid like trees, in opposition to other animals, necessarily avert their eyes.

Human eyes tolerate neither sun, coitus, cadavers, nor obscurity, but with different reactions.

When my face is flushed with blood, it becomes red and obscene.

It betrays at the same time, through morbid reflexes, a bloody erection and a demanding thirst for indecency and criminal debauchery.

For that reason I am not afraid to affirm that my face is a scandal and that my passions are expressed only by the JESUVE.

The terrestrial globe is covered with volcanoes, which serve as its anus.

Although this globe eats nothing, it often violently ejects the contents of its entrails.

Those contents shoot out with a racket and fall back, streaming down the sides of the Jesuve, spreading death and terror everywhere.

In fact, the erotic movements of the ground are not fertile like those of the water, but they are far more rapid.

The earth sometimes jerks off in a frenzy, and everything collapses on its surface.

The Jesuve is thus the image of an erotic movement that burglarizes the ideas contained in the mind, giving them the force a scandalous eruption.

This eruptive force accumulates in those who are necessarily situated below.

Communist workers appear to the bourgeois to be as ugly and dirty as hairy sexual organs, or lower parts; sooner or later there will be a scandalous eruption in the course of which the asexual noble heads of the bourgeois will be chopped off.

Disasters, revolutions, and volcanoes do not make love with the stars.

The erotic revolutionary and volcanic deflagrations antagonize the heavens.

As in the case of violent love, they take place beyond the constraints of fecundity.

In opposition to celestial fertility there are terrestrial disasters, the image of terrestrial love without condition, erection without escape and without rule, scandal, and terror.

Love then screams in my own throat; I am the Jesuve, the filthy parody of the torrid and blinding sun.

I want to have my throat slashed while violating the girl to whom I will have been able to say: you are the night.

The Sun exclusively loves the Night and directs its luminous violence, its ignoble shaft, toward the earth, but finds itself incapable of reaching the gaze or the night, even though the nocturnal terrestrial expanses head continuously toward the indecency of the solar ray.

The solar annulus is the intact anus of her body at eighteen years to which nothing sufficiently blinding can be compared except the sun, even though the anus is night.

Georges Bataille 1927

Acéphale

Cover of Acéphale-Andre Masson 1936
Cover of Acéphale-Andre Masson 1937

By 1935 Georges Bataille and Andre Breton, after both being disillusioned by their dispiriting experiences within various leftist organisations and dismayed by the rise of Fascism across Europe, decided to bury the hatchet and they found common cause in the founding of Contre-Attaque, an anti-fascist movement outside of Stalinist control. Although Contra-Attaque only lasted eighteen months, Bataille and Breton would remain on good terms, even collaborating together on the Encyclopaedia Da Costa after WWII.

Bataille’s other projects around this period included the College of Sociology, which featured fortnightly lectures by members and invited guests between 1937-1939 and was attended by leading intellectuals of the day including Jean Paulhan, Walter Benjamin, Jean-Paul Sartre, Claude Levi-Strauss and Theodor Adorno (co-author of Dialectics of Enlightenment, a book that has gotten under the skin of the New Optimist High Priest, Steven Pinker). However the College of Sociology was the exoteric manifestation of the secret society Acéphale. Little is known of the goings on within Acéphale as the strict vow of secrecy was mainly adhered to by its members, yet it appears to have been preoccupied with the concept of sacrifice.

Acéphale was also the name of a review published between 1936-1939. The term Acéphale comes from the Greek and translates as ‘having no head or chief’. The figure of the Acéphal is headless; not only man escaping his thoughts, logic and reason, but also a headless organisation, one that foregoes hierarchy. Bataille asked Andre Masson to design the cover and Andre Masson produced the above drawing on the spot. Commenting on the Acéphal, Masson said, “I saw him immediately as headless, as becomes him, but what to do with this cumbersome and doubting head?-Irresistibly it finds itself displaced to the sex, which it masks with a ‘death’s head.’ Now, the arms? Automatically one hand (the left) flourishes a dagger, while the other kneads a blazing heart ( a heart that does not belong to the Crucified, but to our master Dionysus). The pectorals starred according to whim. Well, fine so far, but what to make of the stomach? That empty container will be the receptacle for the Labyrinth that elsewhere has become our rallying sign.”

Bataille was delighted with the drawing as it neatly summarises his negative mysticism, a mysticism based on the body and the earth as opposed to the head and the stars. Bataille inverts the classic dictum of Western Esotericism, “As above, so below to as below, so above. This would form the basis of his theory of expenditure, excess and waste outlined in his most important philosophic work, The Accursed Share.

 

 

 

Mishima: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters-Kyoto 's House-Paul Schrader 1985
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters-Kyoto ‘s House-Paul Schrader 1985

While watching Paul Schrader’s excellent, and underrated biopic of the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters,  I was struck by how contemporary and up to date a figure Mishima seems, in fact far more relevant today than when the movie was first released.  Of course certain individuals tend to be ahead of their time, however, as Mishima was a narcissistic nihilist who espoused a highly individualistic form of extreme right-wing nationalism for the most dubious of reasons, this is more of a reflection on the perilous state of current affairs than an inspirational story of a heroic touch bearer from the past lighting the path to a better world for present and future generations. Regardless of this disturbing fact, Mishima remains one of the better of the twentieth century’s right-wing writers (not exactly a crowded field, but still) with a lucid self awareness, fanatical determination and fatalistic steeliness that warrants a closer look through the glass, however darkly.

A sickly and isolated child who wasn’t permitted by his grandmother to play with other boys or even go outside in the sunlight, Mishima became aware of his sado-masochistic and homosexual tendencies at an early age while leafing through a book and discovering a reproduction of a Renaissance painting of St Sebastian. In his first, breakthrough novel Confessions of a Mask, Mishima describes the occasion for his first orgasm in decadent prose,’The arrows have eaten into the tense, fragrant, youthful flesh, and are about to consume his body from within with flames of supreme agony and ecstasy,’ and he would later pose as St Sebastian for a photograph, one of a series of aggressively stylised portraits published in the book Torture By Roses.

This strain of theatrical narcissism and exhibitionism that Mishima displayed time and time again shows a profound lack of a core identity. He would pose as St Sebastian, a yakuza gangster, a bodybuilder, a samurai and as a soldier. Particularly as a soldier. Along with this addiction to his own image adopting various roles, he obsessively cultivated a cult of the body. One of the requirements placed for his arranged marriage was that his wife couldn’t encroach on the time he spent either writing or body-building.

Along with the inherent masochism required to achieve the perfect body, body-building enabled Mishima to indulge his fixations on virility, health and purity, but also conversely on their opposites, sterility, decay and perversion. In a particularly convoluted example of self-loathing (a speciality of his, and one that he undoubtedly derived a perverse pleasure from) Mishima adopted a fierce anti-intellectualism but which was defended purely on intellectual grounds.

Given Mishima’s inveterate ability to aestheticize every facet or experience in his life, not only experiences that are typically aestheticised like art and the body, but also action, violence and death itself, perhaps it is no surprise that Mishima adopted fascism* as his ideology. After all, as Walter Benjamin shrewdly noted, one of the hallmarks of fascism is that it is the aestheticization of politics. It’s theatricality, militarism and not so coded homo-eroticism and rituals of dominance and submission seem tailor-made for Mishima, with the added bonuses that its nihilistic emphasis on ‘blood, fire and the night’ gave him the opportunity to write the perfect ending to his life, achieving his desired aim of writing a line of poetry with a splash of blood.

During the last years of his life Mishima became increasingly pre-occupied with politics. He published essays about fascism, wrote a play called My Friend Hitler and founded a private militia called Takenokai (English: Shield Society-or the SS-as Mishima was fluent in both English and German the coincidence doesn’t seem so coincidental) comprised entirely of handsome university students, with the express purpose of defending the abstract ideal of the Emperor’s dignity. Mishima increasingly desired to be seen as a man of action, noting that both Lord Byron and the Italian decadent writer and one of acknowledged originators of Fascism, Gabriele D’Annunzio had both commanded their own private armies.

Mishima is most famous for his spectacular suicide in 1970 by seppuku after the failed coup d’etat,, which Schrader rightly centres his movie around. This act was the culmination of Mishima’s solipsistic vision; a fusion of life, art and action and a expression of fascistic aesthetics: Mishima’s Gesamtkunstwerk.

When this movie was first released, fascism seemed spent as a living force, rightly confided to the trash heap of history. Subsequent events have proved how wrong this assumption is with virulent nationalist movements sweeping across the world. Although Mishima nationalism was a somewhat idiosyncratic affair, it does highlight certain aspects of fascist aesthetics and  the appeal it may possibly possess beyond the merely economic factors that are always tepidly cited as its chief cause of its spread.

Fascism is a purely reactionary force, and is best viewed in the light of everything it opposes and seeks to cure; namely modernity. Tradition is seen as a bastion of lost greatness, with gender roles set in stone, rigid conformity and static hierarchy. With its cult of the strongman who personifies the state, its staged presentation of might and the quasi-mystical emphasis on symbolic talismans (the flag, uniforms, anthem, rallies and parades) fascism is in itself a decadent response to decadence and in a certain respect the very essence of the modernity that it rejects so vehemently.

*  I use the term fascism with caution. Please note that in the above article I am not labelling Mishima a fascist in the lazy pejorative sense, of say, a leftist from the 80’s towards anyone who was slightly centre-right, or indeed present day hard right apologists who indulge in verbal gymnastics by claiming  that it is, in fact the liberals who are the actual fascists; but in the sense that fascism is understood as a term in classical political philosophy.