Skip to content

1001 Book Review: The Story of the Eye George Bataille


The Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille
First Published in: 1928
Reviewed by: Book Worm & Jen
Find/Buy it here: Nope, not this time. You REALLY don’t want to read this or if you do, this blog is probably not the best fit for your reading tastes. If you really must, the PDF is available for free online.

Synopsis from Amazon: A masterpiece of transgressive, surrealist erotica, George Bataille’s Story of the Eye was the Fifty Shades of Grey of its era. This Penguin Modern Classics edition is translated by Joachim Neugroschal, and published with essays by Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes.

Bataille’s first novel, published under the pseudonym ‘Lord Auch’, is still his most notorious work. In this explicit pornographic fantasy, the young male narrator and his lovers Simone and Marcelle embark on a sexual quest involving sadism, torture, orgies, madness and defilement, culminating in a final act of transgression. Shocking and sacrilegious, Story of the Eye is the fullest expression of Bataille’s obsession with the closeness of sex, violence and death. Yet it is also hallucinogenic in its power, and is one of the erotic classics of the twentieth century.

Book Worm’s Review

Yet again the 1001 editors have managed to select a book that no sane person could enjoy. They appear to be obsessed with perversion and the more disgusting the descriptions of sex, the better. There is no need for anyone to read this before they die. In fact, it should be on the “don’t read this even if you have only days to live” list. Choosing books like this is not clever, and forcing us competitive souls to read it (Jen and I both read this as part of a challenge) is just plain wrong.

The short story is basically about 2 people who are obsessed by sex, eyes and eggs.

Almost every other word is a swear word to describe sexual organs and the entire extent of the action involves urinating and sexual pleasure. Lets throw in the odd murder and what could be better?? Anything is better. I mean seriously save yourselves — don’t bother reading this.

If you have read Crash or The Piano Teacher then you already know what is going to happen, so don’t bother with this book. That said if you haven’t read Crash or The Piano Teacher, this is the shortest book so use it to get it out of the way.

Jen’s Review:
Rating: 0.5 stars

Book Worm’s review made laugh, which is an improvement over the anger and disgust I experienced after reading this terrible work. I wish I could take a moment to reflect on the underlying themes and possible social commentary –transgression, juxtaposition of violence, sex, and death, the “violent and ecstatic breaking of taboos” (as so eloquently stated by NY Times reviewer, Dave Kehr), and blah, blah, blah (insert all other pretentious dissections of this work) —  but my disgust is too overpowering to provide a more thoughtful review.

Let’s just say that I hated this more than Crash. At least Ballard’s writing is beautiful and compelling which is more than I can say for the writing in this book (although to be fair I read the English translation). Amazingly, this book gets an average rating of 3.75 on Good Reads. So, Book Worm -there are lots of people who like it!

As Book Worm mentioned above, the book is pornographic but not at all in a titillating way — more in like an “Will I ever be able to erase this imagery from my brain” kind of way. The kind of way that makes you have to fight back the vomit while you are reading.

Thinking that I didn’t give much information about plot? That’s because there’s not much of one. Lots of gross sex, urination, defecation, auto-erotic asphyxiation, insertion of objects into places they should never go, a dash of sacrilegious sex followed by murder, and a sprinkling of suicide. Writing style? Vulgar & shocking for the sake of being outrageous, and not at all compelling.

The only upside to this novel is that it is short and can be read in under an hour. I give it 1/2 a star only because I think that it takes effort to write a book and everyone deserves some credit for writing.

Want to read a humorous and a less negative review of the book? Check out this article from the Paris Review.

Have you read it? What did you think?

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. imabookwormy #

    I wonder if this gets higher ratings from other people because they feel they should appreciate it?

    Seriously if I had to chose between this “great work of literature” and 50 Shades for a erotic story its 50 Shades all the way and I wouldn’t even let the fact that there is no plot to speak of put me off lol


    April 17, 2015
  2. Elliot #

    I do think it takes a certain type of person to really enjoy Story of the Eye, and you definitely need to read the philosophical works that surround Bataille in order to get the most out of it. This is made difficult because none of the works are explicitly referenced in the novel. I have read it through a few times now, and I plan on doing it again. If you look closely, and really allow it to soak you, you will find in that closeness Hegel, Nietzsche, Freud, and more. I don’t really think it’s appropriate to read Story of the Eye once and treat the ‘finished’ book as a ‘closed’ book; reading Story of the Eye once is far from finishing it.


    March 18, 2021

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Worst Books We Read in 2015 | The Reader's Room

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: