From “Bataille and Mysticism: A “Dazzling Dissolution”, by Amy Hollywood, in Diacritics (summer 1996)



After evoking the radical nothingness and unthinkableness of my death, Bataille writes that “[t]o write is to go elsewhere. The bird who sings and the man who writes deliver themselves.” They deliver themselves to death in the going elsewhere and yet also attempt to escape death through the act of writing, the inscription of an always already absent presence. The one who will receive this writing is no longer a man who can be imagined (pissing and shitting);

 I do not write for this world (surviving-intentionally-that world from which war has emerged), I write for a different world, a world without respect. I don’t desire to impose myself on it, I imagine myself being silent there, as if absent. The necessity of effacement to the point of transparency. I do not oppose real strengths or necessary connections: idealism alone (hypocrisy, lies) has the virtue to condemn the real world-to ignore its physical truth.

Bataille is caught here in his own paradox: how to reject idealism, which refuses the real world and its physical truth, while speaking to a world different from that one full of idealism, lies, and hypocrisy in which world war is inevitable (according to Bataille’s political analysis throughout the 1930s). Bataille’s strategy, like that of the mystics, is not to avoid the paradox, nor to attempt to resolve it, but to embrace it and force the reader to think it in all its contradiction. Only in this way, the text suggests, can the physical world be that other world to which Bataille speaks silence.


I am inhabited by a mania to speak, and a mania for exactitude. I imagine myself to be precise, capable, ambitious. I should have been silent and I spoke. I laugh at the fear of death: it keeps me awake! Battling against it (against fear and death). //
I write, I do not want to die.
For me, the words “I will be dead” aren’t breathable. My absence is the wind from outside. It is comical: pain is comical. I am, for my protection, in my room. But the tomb? already so near, the thought of it envelops me from head to toe. // “

From “Bataille and Mysticism: A “Dazzling Dissolution”, by Amy Hollywood, in Diacritics (summer 1996)

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