Addendum to “Sister Zero”
FROM NOTEBOOK #3
The following text was printed on a page which was attached to the handwritten story of “Sister Zero.” Light googling has confirmed that this is a text named “Rotten Sun,” written by French intellectual Georges Bataille--not by my brother or his friends.
The text attached to the pages of the notebook comes from an official Spanish translation of Bataille’s essays. Instead of translating it myself, I’ve opted to copy-paste an official English translation of the same text. On the printed page, certain words and phrases have been underlined; this has been maintained here.
The sun, from the human point of view (in other words, as it is confused with the notion of noon) is the most elevated conception. It is also the most abstract object, since it is impossible to look at it fixedly at that time of day. If we describe the notion of the sun in the mind of one whose weak eyes compel him to emasculate it, that sun must be said to have the poetic meaning of mathematical serenity and spiritual elevation. If on the other hand, one obstinately focuses on it, a certain madness is implied, and the notion changes because it is no longer production that appears in light, but refuse or combustion, adequately expressed by the horror emanating from a brilliant arc lamp. In practice the scrutinized sun can be identified with a mental ejaculation, foam on the lips, and an epileptic crisis. In the same way that the preceding sun (the one not looked at) is perfectly beautiful, the one that is scrutinized can be considered horribly ugly. In mythology, the scrutinized sun is identified with a man who slays a bull (Mithra), with a vulture that eats the liver (Prometheus); in other words, with the man who looks along with the slain bull or the eaten liver. The Mithraic cult of the sun led to a very widespread religious practice: people stripped in a kind of pit that was covered with a wooden scaffold, on which the priest slashed the throat of a bull; thus they were suddenly doused with hot blood, to the accompaniment of the bull’s boisterous struggle and bellowing--a simple way of reaping the moral benefits of the blinding sun. Of course the bull himself is also an image of the sun, but only with his throat slit. The same goes for the cock, whose horrible and particularly solar cry always approximates the screams of a slaughter. One might add that the sun has also been mythologically expressed by a man slashing his own throat, as well as by an anthropomorphic being deprived of a head. All this leads one to say that the summit of elevation is in practice confused with a sudden fall of unheard-of violence. The myth of Icarus is particularly expressive from this point of view: it clearly splits the sun in two--the one that was shining at the moment of Icarus’s elevation, and the one that melted the wax, causing failure and a screaming fall when Icarus got too close.
This human tendency to distinguish two suns owes its particular importance in this case to the fact that the psychological movements described are not ones that have been diverted, nor their urges attenuated, by secondary elements. But this also indicates that it would be ridiculous a priori to try to determine the precise equivalent of such movements in an activity as complex as painting. It is an elevation--without excess--of the spirit. In contemporary painting, however, the search for that which most ruptures the highest elevation, and for a blinding brilliance, has a share in the elaboration or decomposition of forms, though strictly speaking this is only noticeable in the paintings of Picasso.