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The Torture Garden

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Following the twin trails of desire and depravity to a shocking, sadistic paradise - a garden in China where torture is practiced as an art form - a dissolute Frenchman discovers the true depths of degradation beyond his prior bourgeois imaginings. Entranced by a resolute Englishwoman whose capacity for debauchery knows no bounds, he capitulates to her every whim amid an ecstatic yet tormenting incursion of visions, scents, caresses, pleasures, horrors, and fantastic atrocities.

122 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1899

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About the author

Octave Mirbeau

366 books148 followers
Octave Mirbeau was a French journalist, art critic, travel writer, pamphleteer, novelist, and playwright, who achieved celebrity in Europe and great success among the public, while still appealing to the literary and artistic avant-garde. His work has been translated into thirty languages.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 240 reviews
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,465 reviews3,618 followers
April 11, 2021
Civilization… How much good and how much evil can it bring?
Wherever it appears, civilisation shows this face of sterile blood and forever dead ruins.

The Torture Garden is a gloomy and sinister satire about the inhuman brutality of humankind. The novel is aesthetically decadent and whimsically fanciful.
Honesty is inactive and sterile; it does not know how to evaluate appetites and ambitions, the only desires in which something durable is found.

To be honest doesn’t pay and the only way to power in society is the unrestricted malevolence…
The future seemed sadder and more desperate than winter twilight falling over the sick patient’s bedroom. And what new infamy would the wretched minister propose after dinner? How much deeper did he want to plunge me into the mire from which one did not return, causing me to vanish forever?

And from this hopeless point of departure the narrator embarked on his dramatic journey through the cosmic atrocity and meanness.
And the smells rising from the crowd – the smells of toilet and abattoir combined, the stench of carrion and the sweat of living flesh – sank my spirits and chilled me to the bone. I often felt the same lethargic torpor at evening in the Annam forests while the miasmas rose up from the deep humus and death lay in wait behind each flower, each leaf and each blade of grass. My breath almost failed me and I felt I was about to faint.

The civilized world is a place of merciless torture skillfully disguised as a wondrous garden.
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,888 reviews1,415 followers
November 1, 2018
Monsters, monsters! But there are no monsters! What you call monsters are superior forms, or forms beyond your understanding. Aren't the gods monsters? Isn't a man of genius a monster, like a tiger or a spider, like all individuals who live beyond social lies, in the dazzling and divine immortality of things? Why, I too then, am a monster.

Curious about The Torture Garden? You may need a tall absinthe and a dearth of holiday cheer for a proper appreciation. That is not entirely accurate. Unlike the thrust of the decadent lettres, there isn't a default pose of ennui on display.

Passion pulses here. The manifestations of such are irregular, to say the least.
Such desire is maintained, and the novel remains, well, beautiful. The lush descriptions of the garden itself are exaustive and totalizing: a horticultural Eden despite the deaths of a thousand cuts and the carrion being offered to the deliriously starved.

I was impressed by the tone, which isn't sensational, but grounded and appreciative.
Profile Image for Tim Pendry.
1,016 reviews374 followers
May 17, 2013
This is a remarkable book, a brilliant book, a powerful book but two warnings are in order for the general reader.

The first is the more obvious one. The second half contains descriptions of sadistic torture and of erotic responses to cruelty that are remarkably frank and will be disturbing to most people.

Nothing is spared. Do not pick up this book if you cannot draw the essential mental distinction between reality and the imagination.

As for the second, it is also only fair to warn that this is a political and social satire that is firmly set in the decadent and corrupt milieu of the Third French Republic.

The first pages in the book will read a little dully to most people uninterested in the politics of corruption and sleaze.

These two aspects - political satire and sexual 'depravity' - are connected but the modern reader might find it hard to make that connection if he is not a specialist in the period.

These aspects collide to great and troubling effect only once our hero and his new girlfriend arrive in China and Mirbeau cleverly makes a sharp and decisive break between the two halves of the book.

One moment we are in Ceylon where the weak hero gives up all for his girl and the next we are in a Chinese palace with a long back story of bisexual adventure.

We find a passionate and tormented relationship with a lengthy history scarcely referred to before the woman drags the 'hero' off to the torture garden.

Now we see the angry nihilism of a radical anarchist merge with the repressed and torrid sexuality of the apparently misogynistic decadent. This is, after all, 1898.

The modern reader may be repelled more by the apparent misogyny of the book than he or she is by the cruelty but we should consider that the 'bourgeois' sexual mores of the period not only involved exploitation of women by men but equally gross exploitation of men by women.

And, as I will suggest below, we should make a distinction between the opinion of the weak narrator of the tale and what the author, Octave Mirbeau, was trying to convey.

Bourgeois morality seems to have been perfected in late nineteenth century France to ensure that the mass of any population could be held in psychological pens to be shorn by psychopaths. This book merely suggests that an erotic psychopath might as easily be a woman as a man.

We have a very weak, almost contemptible, male telling the story but the heroine is Clara, a monster of the first order but a monster whose engagement with sex and death is told in such poetic terms that we are in danger of becoming enthralled by it.

There is thus not only an essential misogyny in the book insofar as our narrator seems to think that Clara's cruelty is shared by all women but also an ambiguous orientalism in which the western empires are condemned as barbarous just as we see a refinement of cruelty in the prisons of the East.

The tortures of the Chinese are reversed psychologically, not as merely the excesses of some 'yellow peril' (the meme of the era to be presented later as 'Fu Manchu'), but as an authentic form of artistic sensibility which is refined and cultured. Very 1898 and very decadent!

The brutal achievement of the book lies in its ambiguities but the most evident ambiguity is that this monster of a woman also evidently 'suffers' from her experience, trapped into a cycle of depravity.

She achieves an ecstatic state that leaves us with the conclusion that she is truly alive within that cycle whereas her male companion is nothing but an insipid petit-bourgeois without will or use except as observer of her dark pleasures.

Of course, we have to stand back here and remember that this is not a book about a 'real' China but a book about male rage in a France where the scrabble for profit and the deadening hypocrisy of middle class society has created a need for this fantasy of violence and sex.

The writing is, regardless of what it writes about, superb. The description of the journey to the East match anything by Maugham but this is capped with the most exquisite accounts of the prison and the garden. We can more than visualise it. We are there 'in the flesh'.

When both the horrors and the sexual excesses appear, they really do enter into our own minds as parts of our own fantasy world which we can then either choose to reject or engage with.

We are observing these things alongside our cruel voyeuse and her horrified, sickened and fascinated partner. Mirbeau cleverly forces us to mirror their positions - we can either be like him and weak or like her and strong.

But what we are, in reading this book, is a voyeur of cruelty and only better in that we must presume that they are looking at the pain and death of real Chinese people, although, of course, they are not. It is only a story and we are as implicated as they are by that fact.

The final section, set in what must be a very high class tantric brothel and opium den, describes scenes wholly reminiscent of Crowley's account of eroto-comatose lucidity.

This eroticism may be judged rather attractive stuff if we forget that the pleasure appears only because the woman has required the close observation of Sadean levels of cruelty in order to overwhelm her senses. The touch of death has been required for this ecstasy.

She is not unaware of the enormity of what is going on. She takes the vision of observable and real horror as a path to 'ekstasis' beyond good and evil. There is every indication that she knows what she is doing.

He, on the other hand, is the worst sort of inadequate whiner, totally subject to her strange psychology.

This may be no surprise in an era that brought us Sacher-Masoch's Severin but his lapdog-like loyalty should make any 'real' man feel very uncomfortable as he reads the book.

So, the book works at multiple levels - opening up our imaginal realm but under conditions where our observation of events is not allowed to be wholly detached by the sheer horror of what we are perceiving.

Both hero and 'heroine' do little but observe during the book and we observe them observing. If they are 'guilty', then we are guilty. After all, they condemned no one themselves and they took no part in the tortures. They merely watched as we watch them watching.

In this dark dream, the man is led through horrors and erotic experiences as a passive creature who has no real comprehension of his situation. He comes across, bluntly, as not very bright. She comes across as interesting. That is disturbing in itself.

To her, he is one up on her dog, someone to witness her engagement with horror, loved as a tool of pleasure when near but as disposable as all the other creatures who adore her. Her callous remembrance of her dead lesbian lover sets the tone here.

One superficial implication, from the beginning of the book, is that this is what all women are at heart (this is the apparent misogyny that I referred to earlier) but I think that Mirbeau is actually honouring women with a back-handed compliment.

This is not what women are like (he is really saying) but what humanity is really like if you look at it dispassionately. It is simply that women can be as cruel and as erotically exploitative as any man.

We have to go back to 1898 to understand this point. It is too simplistic to say that men are good and women vile - or vice versa as we get from some of the more primitive feminists.

Humanity is a pretty unpleasant species all round (he dwells on one or two nasty Western cases of cruelty with no artistic merit or erotic component).

The attempt to turn middle class women into little saints to be worshipped while treating working class women as sluts is futile and hypocritical. Clara is definitely upper middle class English with decidely angry and radical views on empire herself.

We are, he is saying in 1898, utterly hypocritical in covering up our cruelties and sexual desires and that these cruelties and desires are as strong in women as they are in men.

The hint about Clara is that her cycle of depravity is a salve for the despair that follows a righteous radical anger - a feeling not uncommonly found by many young radicals when their eyes are opened to the nature of humanity in the round.

Whatever Mirbeau meant, the book is well worth reading for the luscious descriptions, even of the barbarities, but I do repeat my warning, do not even open this book if you confuse what is imagined with what is real. You may have nightmares.

In summary, this is a brilliant insight into a nihilistic psyche expressed through a game of extreme imagination. It merges sexual ekstasis and cruelty in a Sadean manner.

But it is angry rather than psychopathic. We might even say that this is what happens when a well-meaning moral man discovers that the world deserves to be seen in nihilistic terms. It is the reaction that Nietzsche had feared only a couple of decades before.

We hear here the scream of a complicated man who has seen too much of the world but who knows what is right and what is wrong. But this man also knows that, thanks to weak men and cruelty within the species, nothing can put the world to rights. Syria today might confirm that.

And so the most immoral of stories, in terms of decadent style and incident, is surreptiously the most moral of stories, pointing out that failure to be more than human as a society means that the solipsistic narcissism of the worst forms of the blond beast becomes possible.
Profile Image for [P].
145 reviews525 followers
October 22, 2016
I am of the opinion that sadistic and masochistic impulses exist within everyone, but that often one or the other is more pronounced. What is interesting about these impulses, however, is that people are generally more comfortable with accepting, or acknowledging, the pleasure they experience as a consequence of their own pain than they are the pleasure gained from the pain of others. This is, you might argue, because the former is more socially acceptable; to enjoy being hurt, even to an extreme degree, does not suggest a kind of moral failing. Sadism, on the other hand, strikes us as sinister; it is linked in our minds to morally [or at least legally] impermissible activities such as murder, and is therefore deemed incompatible with a civilised society. Yet this does not mean, of course, that the pleasure ceases to exist, simply that we – the so-called civilised – endeavour to disguise it, we seek to mask it under the guise of curiosity, science, progress, righteousness, etc.

As someone who finds the suffering of others difficult to stomach I consider myself to have a very weak sadistic impulse, and yet one of my earliest memories is of playing maliciously with a small fly. I was on a bus and it was raining, and this had caused condensation to collect along the bottom edge of the window. When I spotted the fly I, almost absentmindedly, pushed it into the pool of water. Then I waited, allowing it to struggle. After a while I extricated it, only to push it back into the water at the moment at which, I imagined, it believed itself to be saved. I repeated this manoeuver until the fly stopped moving. And at this point I felt ashamed. Did I, however, feel ashamed because I had killed the fly or because I could feel society’s disapproving gaze burning into my back? Was I judging myself or was I scared of the judgement of others? Was my shame not, in truth, the realisation that I had allowed the mask to slip, that I had, in my naivety, allowed the ugly black cat to poke its head out of the bag?

Having read The Torture Garden, there is little doubt as to how Octave Mirbeau would have answered these questions. First published in 1899, his short novel opens with a group of men – who, owing to the private nature of their meeting, feel as though they have the freedom to express themselves without inhibition – discussing our – human beings – preoccupation with violence and death. Murder is, one of the men claims, ‘a vital instinct which is in us all.’ The reason our society has not descended into bloody anarchy is because we indulge this instinct – which is natural – by giving it ‘a legal outlet’, via war, colonial trade, hunting, etc. While this might strike some readers as being a drearily negative or cynical view of humanity, as someone who is drearily negative and cynical myself I was furiously, albeit metaphorically, nodding my head throughout.

However, not everyone indulges this impulse by means of actual physical violence. In some it finds an outlet via what Mirbeau calls ‘counterfeits of death.’ For his characters these ‘parodies of massacre’ are found in places such as the fair, where people shoot with ‘rifles, pistols, or the good old crossbow at targets painted like human faces’ and others hurl balls ‘knocking over marionettes ranged pathetically on wooden bars.’ In the present day one sees analogous behaviour in those who play unpleasant video games which involve butchering computerised civilians. It is, I believe, also the reason that many are so drawn to certain kinds of horror film, the torture porn genre in particular. Indeed, I have often had arguments with a friend of mine about this, a friend who watches and re-watches titles like Saw, The Human Centipede, Martyrs, Hostel, and so on. He is, in my opinion, undoubtedly experiencing pleasure in these staged dismemberments and murders, precisely in these elements of the films, for what else do they have to offer? If he was disgusted – which is what I would consider a healthy reaction – he would avoid them, as I do myself.

“Wherever he goes, whatever he does, he will always see that word: murder—immortally inscribed upon the pediment of that vast slaughterhouse—humanity.”

While the discussion of these ideas is engaging, one does, after a while, reach a point where one yearns for some kind of narrative momentum. Fortunately, Mirbeau appeared to recognise this, and at the right moment introduces the character of the man with the ravaged face, whose story accounts for the rest of the novel. In this way, The Torture Garden’s opening section is a false beginning, is a kind of philosophical prologue that could be skipped, but which, I would argue, enriches what is to follow. The man, who isn’t named, is described as having ‘a bowed back and mournful eyes, whose hair and beard were prematurely grey.’ The ravaged face and prematurely grey hair is significant, because it suggests that something may have happened to age him, some distressing event that has impacted upon his physical appearance.

It is the man with the ravaged face who first brings women into the discussion. To have neglected them is, he claims, ‘really inconceivable in a situation in which they are of primary importance.’ This situation is, remember, our preoccupation with, and tendency towards, violence and murder, sadism and torture. His argument is that women in particular derive from these acts, or from the observation of these acts, not merely pleasure but a sexual pleasure; he, in fact, compares the actions of murder with those of sex, where ‘there are the same gestures of strangling and biting—and often the same words occur during identical spasms.’ One can guess, on the basis on this argument, that it is specifically the man’s experience with a woman that has changed him. Indeed, he confirms this himself a little later: ‘Woman revealed crimes to me that I had not known!—shadows into which I had not yet descended. Look at my dead eyes, my inarticulate lips, my hands which tremble—only from what I have seen!’ The name of this woman is Clara, and she is one of the most extraordinary characters in literature.

She is introduced as an ‘eccentric Englishwoman,’ who ‘talked sometimes at random and sometimes with a lively feeling for things.’ Yet despite the man’s intention to bed her she remains ‘impregnably virtuous.’ At this stage one considers oneself to be in familiar nineteenth century literature territory. There is the caddish gentleman with the ‘awkward past’, and the pure, but, one assumes, eventually willing, object of his desire. However, as already hinted, as The Torture Garden continues Mirbeau confounds your expectations, and makes of the woman the aggressor, the ‘villain’, and the man the love-sick, silly slave. Indeed, at one point Clara is compared to the dum-dum bullet, the notorious expanding ammunition that was designed to cause maximum damage in the intended target by creating a larger entrance wound and no exit wound.

For the man with the ravaged face Clara is a ‘monster’ and it is her behaviour in China, where she attends and revels in various tortures, that justifies this description. I don’t want to linger over the barbaric acts themselves, not least because reading about, and revisiting, them makes me uncomfortable. What is important, in relation to Clara, who is a devout sexual-sadist, is that she finds them beautiful, sensual. To some extent, I can understand this, for torture is a concentration upon the body, it is working upon the body with almost loving, but certainly intense, attention; it requires an understanding of the body, and a theatrical, quasi-artistic, approach to murder. [Take the torture of the bell, which involves placing a man inside a large bell and ringing it until he dies]. In any case, how should one understand Clara? Is she natural, uninhibited humanity? She says of herself that she is not a monster, or at least no more than the tiger or the spider is.

There is much more to The Torture Garden than I have touched upon here, and much more that I would like to discuss, but this review is in danger of becoming monstrous itself. I do, however, want to point out that the novel is not quite as heavy and intense as I have perhaps made it sound. I mean, certainly large parts of it are, but there is humour too. For example, in one passage a man who kills a young boy by fracturing his skull is outraged at being sent to prison: ‘They dragged me before some judges or other, who sentenced me to two months in prison and ten thousand francs fine and damages. For a damned peasant! And they call that civilisation!’ Later the same man is asked why he kills black people: ‘Well—to civilise them—that is to say, to take their stocks of ivory and resins.’ Ok, so it’s a dark humour, but it made me laugh anyway; and they are precious to me, those sniggers and smiles, because, although I agree with Mirbeau almost completely in his opinions and ideas and conclusions, I also believe [or have deceived myself into believing] that life isn’t only baseness and vulgarity and violent, barely restrained, impulses, that it provides less alarming enjoyment also, such as a well-written book and a few pissy jokes.
Profile Image for Fede.
209 reviews
June 4, 2022
One of my fetish books.

The apotheosis of Decadence. 'Emmanuelle meets the Vietnam', as this novel was cleverly summarised by Michel Delon: eroticism and death - or rather, the eroticism of death; desire at the core of death, walking hand in hand with death. Pleasure and pain merging, a pantheistic intercorse between nature and the human body. Such is the pre-edenic garden we explore in this novel of stifling atmospheres, torrid landscapes and intoxicating scents, the ultimate Flower of Evil of Decadentism.

A French hustler leaves Europe after a half-hearted, doomed attempt at a career in politics in the service of a corrupt minister. On his way to Ceylon he meets Clara, an astonishingly beautiful and depraved English girl, a psychpoath living in luxurious debauchery in colonial China who becomes his mistress. Clara is addicted to the sight of pain. One day she takes her lover to a prison's torture garden: it's a journey through heaven and a descent to hell at the same time, among wild flowers, birds, butterflies, streams and lakes, life thriving and decaying under the Asian sunset - a paradise scattered with torture instruments.
Thus we find ourselves following the couple like voyeurs, perversely seduced, blinded by the sun, utterly spellbound and therefore as guilty as the protagonists.  

The novel is much more complex than that anyway.
Mirbeau's point is clear: there is a conceptual, moral and aesthetic abyss between the gaols of civilised Europe and the Chinese Garden of Suffering. It's the Asian attitude toward life and death, a harmony taking the shape of tiny morsels of flesh scattered among the flowers, pecked by exotic birds, dissolving on the fertile earth soaked with blood and nectar and oozing, rotting fruit.
None of that has even been known to the Western world. Our tormented psyche is unable to cope with the beauty permeating the world and encompassing mankind itself. Torture here is indeed a metaphor for the pain our civilisation inflicts to itself, which the Orientals turned into a form of art.
While both the Chinese torturers and their victims seem to be part of one and the same universal cycle, western violence is nothing but management, a means to establish and maintain power, or its desperate reaction against any real or imaginary threat.

Despite my inappropriate reaction to it (which my friends can easily imagine) this novel is neither a catalogue of perversions nor a depraved fantasy.
Mirbeau depicts the uglinesd and violence of his time - antisemitism, militarism, imperialism - and denounces the evil barely hidden by the veil of civilisation, a world blinded by the achievements of Enlightment, Positivism, Laicism. Come and see what a Frenchmen and an English young lady are up to once they realise they no longer need to refrain themselves from taking their pleasure.

These pages are drenched in poetic ferocity and ferocious poetry. It's a passionate intellectual's reaction to a world of prejudice and meanness, dedicated to
"The priests, the soldiers, the judges, the men
Teaching, commanding, governing; 
To them I dedicate 
These pages of murder and blood". 
The spiritual testament of a glorious age that would (predictably) lead to the bloodbath of WW1.

Enjoy it, pervs! :)
Profile Image for Osiris Oliphant.
381 reviews237 followers
July 28, 2023
;Anita Fix review 2002-ish

ART, milady, consists in knowing how to kill...
...Art, milady, consist in knowing how to kill, according to Rituals of Beauty." so recites an executioner far more disturbing and just as profound as Kafka's self-mutilations 'In The Penal Colony'. Octave Mirbeau's fin-de-siecle brutal fairy-tale is divided down the middle forming a novel hermaphrodite. The first side exploratory of the monstrous exterior life and career of our main character, modelled on Octave Mirbeau himself given the intimate revealings of an anarchists' psyche in considering cultural morals. It produced in me several years ago when I decided against indulging in its perversions a definite revulsion & base attraction; the fault is entirely my own. The book is one where each reader must confront not just realistic characters, but materializations in one's own mind; I am now as a man who has just come full circle in the revolutions of a dark planet consisting of many 'dark nights of the soul' spent in the folds of this amorous creature. Mirbeau charts the progresssion of murder, expounding on topics affecting our contemporary society only more so than his own; foremost is Murder being the primary reason all government exists, as well as calling for their continuation, lest we all openly slaughter one another. Here are discussed serial-killers, televised execution, the hero-illusion suffered by video games & carnival freakshow, the glorification of the ideal soldier in his dutiful murderous abilities, here are the worships of public sports as ritual leftovers from war channelled into arenas built as high & mighty as churches, and the extinction of hunting & the chase & the kill spawning inhuman hunters of human prey...murder as well channelled into celebration & Artistic endeavor, and perhaps most profoundly, murder born from love & reaching its ultimate goal in orgasm with sex itself based on murder's very motions, strivings, the same physiological sensations, often made up of the same harsh words & tone of voice coupled with various levels of pleasure & pain... The other section of this divided self takes one into the interior of the Chinese Garden, where rich black soil profits from the innumerable bodies decomposing in its cellular maw. Taking us on this tour is none other than "Clara", a veritable Salome, the Demonic Woman par excellence; yet at the same time not very different from any other woman who's affected her unsuspecting lovers in ways that left them horrified and in awe of her overwhelming sexual nature, so much a part of her that she bleeds ritually from the wound it has made of her middle. Our main character at first begs her understanding forgiveness of his own dirty conscience & the beastiality he feels has made a veritable demon of himself; unsuspecting of her nature until it is she who takes him to her favorite place in the world: the torture garden. Here are encountered sub-limits of barbarous erotica, blooming hothouse flowers that are but sexual organs more refined & pronounced than the appendages of humankind. Our green-eyed red-haired Clara does unthought of wonders with the pollens & poisons of these, the rarest flowers collected from all over the world and tended to with exacting delicacy by traditional Chinese gardeners trained in the fine Arts of Torture & horticulture, now extinct except for this one last garden preserved within the quadrilateral confines of perhaps the largest prison in the world, where upon entering it's as if a whole new self-sifficient sky & atmosphere is found here, heightening one's senses to the pitch of delirium, the reader's as well. It is a place of sublime brutality, where sex & death are mingled to an unprecedented degree unimagined by the world's most glorious murderers and sexual deviants. The story will not be given away by a low aspirant who can only give praises unto such magickal works as encountered there. He promises though only the highest quality of tortures, none of that cheap pulpous stuff found in cheap bestselling fiction, this tale is not made up of fruitless & pointless indulgences in the wasted efforts of the truly useless Arts of "entertainment-only"! Only the most exquisite depths of debauch and the highest grandiose summits are scaled, in a highly refined manner than took centuries to develop. Be assured, if you must, such is a cleansing purification rite upon the organs & instruments of eternal human suffering, so valiently though vainly attempted in the depiction of Chrixt nailed and hung upon his crucifix. Disturbing?-yes, to those who would feign innocence & turn red when caught, possessed of unspeakable thoughts, in the all-seeing eyes of a great work of Literature; even if just fixed for a moment by the eyes of a knowing character in a book that casts no eternal damnation? "It is, of course, an indecent novel, because it assults the very notion of "decency" as a hollow sham!"
Anita Fixed
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,049 reviews4,117 followers
December 15, 2015
One of the seminal texts of the decadent movement, presented here with that fucking abomination of a cover (excuse the swear, only . . . LOOK AT THAT THING), has still not been canonised in a Penguin or Oxford Classic. Their loss. Mirbeau’s novel centres around Clara, a small waif for whom love and death are inseparable, leading our hapless hero around a tour of Chinese torture sites and prisons, unable to convert to the inherent loveliness of starved animals in cages being thrown lumps of meat as their flesh rots. Our hero, cursing his luck on Tinder, vows never to use a dating site again. A classic, rife in virulent descriptions to turn even the most morbid Dorian Gray wannabe the colour of Smurf piss.
Profile Image for Osore Misanthrope.
166 reviews11 followers
April 14, 2023
“And the universe seemed to me like an immense, inexorable torture garden. Everywhere there was blood and where life was most apparent, there were horrible tormentors to flay the flesh, saw up bones and turn the skin inside out with sinister expressions of joy on their faces.”
У погрешним рукама, ова књига је отров. Од будалаштина социјалног дарвинизма до урнебесног (не)укуса људског меса које наводно варира у зависности од националности, неопходно је гнушање на негативне појаве кроз смех, ујед за месо – препознавање сатире на чијем удару су и политичари, колонизатори и мисионари.
“It annoyed me to think that you can’t take a step, from the Equator to the Pole, without bumping into that squinting face, those greedy eyes, those grasping hands, that vile mouth which belches forth an odour of stale gin and dreadful Biblical verses directed against the charming divinities and adorable myths of innocent religions. (…) Catholic missionary also brings civilisation on the end of torches and at the point of sabres and bayonets.”
Садистичке методе захтевају креативност, те је мучење не само вештина и занат, већ и уметност. Лепота је у оку посматрача, изнуђена из контрастно-комплементарних дражи одаслатих од укроћене/цивилизоване природе (врта) спрам подивљалих мучитеља и анимализованих мученика. Побудити блажена естетска осећања и отупити гађење захтева хабитуацију и селекцију (тако ми се колегиница саблазнила кад сам се усхитио лепотом млаза крви у ковитлацу судопере, сред смрада и посмртних трзаја обезглављеног миша). Освета је слатка кад се сервира врућа и непослушник буде кажњен и ућуткан. Октав Мирбо нам показује да у публици жедној свирепих призора смрти може бити и једна домино-дама са својим потчињеним мекушцем. Наслада је управо у домаштавању и преразмишљавању које улепшава окрутност сирових, мрских датости. Љубав је бол који умире, а смрт је лепа, or something to that effect. Нема сигурносне речи.
“On both sides were immense red flowers and purple flowers, peonies the colour of blood, and – in the shadows under enormous parasol-shaped leaves of petasites – anthurium that was like bleeding pleura seemed to greet us as we passed whilst revealing the torture route. There were other flowers, flowers of butchery and massacre, tigridia opening up from mutilated throats, diclytra with their garlands of little red hearts, and also wild labiates with firm, fleshy pulp and veritable human lips – Clara’s lips – that were screaming from the tops of their tender stems:
“Come, dear ones, come more quickly. Where you’re going there is even more pain, more torture, more blood flowing and dripping to the ground, more contorted and torn bodies at their last gasp on iron tables, more cut open flesh swaying from the gallows’ rope, more horror and more hell. Come, my loves, come, with lips together and hand in hand. Look among the leaves and the latticework, look at the infernal diorama as it unfolds and at the diabolical festival of death.” (…)
Here and there, in the indentations of the palisade, appearing like halls of verdure and flower-beds, were wooden benches equipped with chains and bronze necklaces, iron tables shaped like crosses, blocks and racks, gibbets, automatic quartering machines, beds laden with cutting blades, bristling with steel points, fixed chokers, props and wheels, boilers and basins above extinguished hearths, all the implements of sacrifice and torture covered in blood – in some places dried and darkish, in others sticky and red. Puddles of blood filled the hollows in the ground and long tears of congealed blood hung from the dismantled mechanisms. Around these machines the ground had absorbed the blood. But blood still stained the whiteness of the jasmines and flecked the coral-pink of the honeysuckles and the mauve of the passion flowers. And small fragments of human flesh, caught by whips and leather lashes, had flown here and there onto the tops of petals and leaves. Noticing that I was feeling faint and that I flinched at these puddles whose stains had enlarged and reached the middle of the avenue, Clara, in a gentle voice, encouraged me:
“That’s nothing yet, darling … Let’s go on!”
But it was difficult to continue. The plants, the trees, the atmosphere and the ground were full of flies, intoxicated insects, wild and aggressive beetles and glutted mosquitoes. All the fauna of the corpse was hatching out in swarms all around us in the sun. Disgusting larvae swarmed in the red pools and fell in soft clusters from the branches. The sand seemed to be breathing and walking, sustained by the movement, by the swarming of vermicular life. Deafened and blinded, we were halted at each moment by these humming swarms which multiplied and whose mortal stings I dreaded for Clara’s sake. And at times we had the horrible sensation that our feet were sinking into the soaked earth, as though it had been raining blood!”

Profile Image for Kaplumbağa Felsefecisi.
447 reviews68 followers
March 17, 2016
1899'da yazılan ve 19.yy'ın en mide bulandırıcı kitabı olarak nitelenen roman.
Avrupalının ayıbı Doğu ülkelerinin merhametsizlikleriyle örtüştürmek maksatlı yazılmamıştır bu kitap.
Ya da dünya insanları işkenceyi romanda görsün de değildir olay.
Çin'de bir bahçe, o bahçe ki yaşadığımız dünyadan farksız, otlu böcekli, ağaçlı olmayı bırak insan ve kan kaynayan...
Ne diyorduk, Çin'de bir bahçe, İşkence Bahçesi, evet ya Çin işkencesi...
Bir eğlence parkı, stres atıp kahkahalarla yırtınacağınız bir mekan, ürkekliğimizden, korkaklığımızdan cesaretimizden ilham alınıp bize sunulan Çin kölelerinin "işkence" deki anları. Mekan : İşkence Bahçesi.
İşkence edilen vücutların önünde yaşanan bir sevgi. İşkenceye eş zamanda var olan bir aşk.
Aşkı yaşatmak için iki taraf gerekli. Biri aynı zamanda işkence görenlere aşıksa, onu böyle mi kabul etmeli! Etrafımızda işkenceyi eğlence görenlere müsama göstermenin yolu sadece aşık olmaktan geçmiyor demeli.

Octave Mirbeau herkes işkenceye aşık, geri kalanı ise herkese aşık demekle yetinmemiş! Bir gün herkes işkenceye olan aşkından ölecek de demiş!
Profile Image for Mina.
209 reviews76 followers
September 23, 2023
این کتاب انگار پژواکی از مارکی دوساد بود. اکتاو میربو با نثری شاعرانه، قوی و ظریف، جزئیات طغیان‌کننده از انحطاط ریاکارانه‌ی تمدن غرب را به طرزی بروتال نشان می‌دهد.
Profile Image for Ludmilla.
356 reviews182 followers
May 20, 2016
Böyle şeylere sabrım da sinirlerim de midem de yetersiz kalıyor artık. Oda Hizmetçisinin Günlüğü'nü sevince bunu da okuyayım dedim ama ıhh. Ergenken Amerikan Sapığı'nı çok da etkilenmeden okuduğum düşünülürse, bu kitabı okumam gereken vakit de o zamanlarmış. Geçti bizden yeraltı edebiyatı ve bilimum iğrençlikler...
Profile Image for Chris.
91 reviews443 followers
July 8, 2008
Recommended by Amazon.com, and when have they been wrong, aside from the last ten suggestions haphazardly tossed my way……

I picked this up hoping to be disgusted, to be so shocked, startled, and overwhelmed with mind-blowing perversity that I wouldn’t be able to turn my sickened eyes from it while plumbing the depths of depravity. What did I get? A bunch of botany and some pretty pathetic torture sequences. What happened to the ‘detailed descriptions of sexual euphoria and exquisite torture’ that publisher Olympia Press promised? And who the hell is Olympia press, anyway? Have you ever had the bargain-basement beer/swill known as Olympia “It’s the water” Lager? Olympia Press is the publishing equivalent; there are probably somewhere around 200 errors in the editing, printing, and translation throughout; periods in the middle of sentences or following commas, forward-slashes and back-slashes appearing for no particular reason, capitalization where none is needed, individual letters in place of words (notably “j” and “m”, which I’m assuming the typist confused from “I” and “in” respectively, presumably while working off a moth-eaten, handwritten proof) and a whole bunch of misspellings which sometimes add a touch of humor to the story (he put his lips to her 'beast'? sexy). While I am hardly qualified to bitch someone out for their spelling and use of punctuation, the fact that even I noticed these things means that there are for more problems than met my sloppy eye. I’m not blaming the author for these errors; this is entirely the fault of half-assed production by the regrettable Olympia Press, who managed to churn out a truly piss-poor edition of “The Torture Garden”.

With the low quality of the copy in mind, it was up to the generally-unsung and twisted talents of Octave Mirbeau to save the day, and this turned out to be as promising as having a myopic, underdeveloped fifteen year old step to the mound at the bottom of the ninth to save a one-run lead for your preferred baseball team. I was hoping that “The Torture Garden” was completely insane, massively f@cked-up and revolting, and since it was published by some shitty indie press, I figured this was a good sign that no reputable publisher would dare release it under their name. Generally, I’ve come to expect that in circumstances such as this, this isn’t the case; it’s basically that the larger firms know that the book has almost no literary merit, won’t draw readership, and pretty much sucks.

The story begins with a group of affluent, cigar-smoking, brandy-sniffing stuffed shirts sitting around discussing man’s lust for the suffering, violence, and death of others, with several members of the group animatedly recollecting their experiences with the viciousness of mankind. One of the group, a man with a ravaged face, joins the debate with much to contribute regarding the ability of women to perform acts of unspeakable cruelty. When he is rebuked, he immediately whips out a manuscript from his fanny pack and offers to read his magnum opus to the group as support for his statements. The host calls for candles to be lit, fresh cigars, and full snifters to be distributed, and during this reading we can only assume a multitude of booze, wax, and ashes befouled the copy to the point that some poor pud at Olympia press would be unable to read about a quarter of the sacred tale within: “The Torture Garden”.

The story plods along for quite some time before anything resembling torture takes place. The narrator gives a thorough account of his upbringing, in which his father was a shady farmer that used every trick in the book to turn a profit, or ‘roping in’ the witless dunderheads that purchased his goods. Eventually, he sold the army some tainted goods and had his reputation ruined before kicking the bucket, leaving the narrator and his mother poverty-striken. The narrator turns to his friend, Eugene, a rising politician, for aide, and becomes a pawn in Gene’s underhanded dealings. As Eugene climbs higher in social standing, our narrator increasingly resents his success (borne partly of his efforts) and becomes openly hostile towards his chum when he fails to win a post of his own in an election in which Eugene steered his campaign. Ruined, the narrator threatens to turn over his documents concerning his dealings to the press and authorities, leaving Eugene no choice but to put as much distance between the two as possible. As a gesture of goodwill, Eugene sends the narrator off with false credentials as an able scientist in the discipline of embryology, and basically exiles him to Ceylon to go discover the origins of life on Earth.

En route to Ceylon, on the good ship Saghalien, our narrator busies himself with bullshitting a young English noblewoman, Miss Clara, who has been living in China to escape the senseless routine of European customs. While there are some interesting conversations between the passengers on the boat (most notably the formidable and inventive artilleryman) concerning savagery, cannibalism, and crimes during times of war, Mirbeau’s only strength here is to help the reader appreciate and experience the tedium and sluggish pace of nineteenth-century ocean travel. Our narrator, afraid of losing the lovely Miss Clara when he is to disembark, comes clean and informs her that he’s a fraud, he doesn’t know a thing about embryology, he’s not a naturalist, he’s just an unscrupulous scumbag that’s been the hapless tool of a more powerful scumbag. Miss Clara just giggles at him, and offers him to join her in China, where she intends to show him what true debauchery looks and tastes like. The narrator blindly obeys.

Now that the book was more than half completed, I was expecting Mirbeau to pull out all the stops and delve into sensational, stomach-turning horrors. What a fool I am; I’d simply been ‘roped in’ by the shrewd marketing of Olympia Press. Sure, there’s a little torture, but nothing shocking or very interesting. The rest of the book is basically a long discourse on the incredible botany skills of the Chinamen tending to the Garden, and the multitudinous flora of the area. And a shitload of peacocks. That’s really about it; the narrator endlessly contemplates his heightened appreciation of natural beauty after the disquieting events which take place during the couple of hours he spends at the Torture Garden. Seriously, the guy attends this grotesquery once, for all of an afternoon, and then spends the rest of the time in the goddam garden and naming each specimen and lauding its beauty. For a sham naturalist, the guy is surprisingly well-studied in identifying all forms of plant life, and I haven’t read anything so wholly dedicated to endless descriptions of flowers since Huysmans’s “Against Nature”. The only torture going on is inflicted upon the reader’s sense of literary acumen, a much more fitting title would have been “The Torture of Reading About a Garden”.

Overall, “The Torture Garden” was very disappointing, and my experience reading this was almost identical to that of “Story of the Eye” by Bataille, except that I’d have to say Mirbeau’s writing is far better. Both were acclaimed for some sort of underground status and applauded for their ‘disgusting and nauseating’ content, but both were just cheap and flimsy attempts to titillate.

I suppose it was fitting that I read this while attending the 6th wedding my girlfriend has dragged me to. That was torturous alright, and my behavior was probably more shocking and appalling than anything within this poorly-constructed volume.
Profile Image for Lady Selene.
412 reviews26 followers
February 21, 2023
This was Torture to read, but only because it was so very disjointed - easy to tell Mirbeau just put together various bits and pieces of his writings and articles - shabby work, all that remains after the read are the endlessly dull exclamatory implorations

"Clara! Clara! Clara!"

followed by a compendium of plants, this could have easily been cut by 100 pages and no, one is not repelled either by the supposed misogyny or the supposed horror, but really, even though I respect the attempt at Eroticism meets Beauty In Decay theme, one merely need read Baudelaire's Carcass poem (59 years younger) and that's it... that's this book.

As for Clara - clear ripoff of the proper avant-garde character that is Wanda von Dunajew in the Much earlier novellete Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.

Overall lame, even if I start pondering the political implications of this being published at the height of the Dreyfus affair.
162 reviews29 followers
July 24, 2015
This is a very misanthropic book written by one of those probably-insane nineteenth century Frenchmen. I don't know what it is about the French and this kind of thing but there was certainly nothing contemporary in the English world to rival the filthiness and extremity that was coming from this land of wine, cheese and Catholicism. Britain probably would have sealed up the channel, except all the ministers crying and gnashing about "obscenity! Degradation! Blasphemy!" were secretly getting off on this stuff, I bet.

The book is divided into two sections, each with a distinct tone and feel. The first is full of clever but ultimately self-defeating aphorisms and begins in a classic conversation between a bunch of gentlemen, where a mysterious, intense and troubled seeming stranger then begins to relate his tale of woe. The tale in question is of an ineffectual and corrupt civil servant and his disgraceful downfall. once he's at his lowest and being shipped off to Burma to keep him out of the way, he meets a travelling English woman who's fickleness and impetuous nature is like the most deadly trap to him. After lots of tears and hand-wringing, they decide to go off to China together, where she will show him how to really live an exciting life...

...a life that, as revealed in the second section, consists of lots and lots of extreme sex, in all positions and varieties. Clara certainly has many playthings, male and female, but this weak puppydog of a Frenchman is her favourite. She's kept him around longer than most, but it's time to show him her favourite site in China, the infamous Torture Garden. Here among beautiful blossoms and verdant plenty, the criminals of the state are excruciated and executed in an endless variety of ways, both subtle and extreme. We skip right over the sexy details and get right to the pain and misery, which is the real thing that Clara is into. The descriptions of torture and degradation in this second part carry on for pages, and all the while Clara becomes more and more excited, until it's literally a fever that's burning her up. Obviously it's not going to end nice.

I don't know how good the translation is, really, but the juxtaposition of the gorgeous scenery and absolutely grotesque torture is stark and undeniable. This isn't a book that will make you feel good, or even entertained, although the first part lulls you into feeling that you're dealing with a reasonably friendly (if kind of aloof and miserable) piece of 19th century literature. It's quite engaging, such as it is, but it's obvious that Mirbeau considers the second part to be the real, rotten, maggot-infested meat of his text. It's interesting that Mirbeau makes his siren of pain an Englishwoman, since today most people consider Victorian England to be stuffy and repressed, and even if that is at times a rather exaggerated position, I've no doubt that the French often thought of their neighbours in the same way...stuffy and undersexed and thus doubtless harbouring growing seeds of sadomasochism and perversion. For a mad intellectual like Mirbeau, Clara is like the arrow to the heart of all his detractors and those who would quash his work.

The Torture Garden is one of those books you experience, more than anything else. I'm not sure anyone would really enjoy it that much but, as with a film like Cannibal Holocaust or other "dangerous" works of literature (many of them also French!), it's not something you'll ever forget, should you choose to walk the path of peonies. Take care, though.
Profile Image for Alberony Martínez.
483 reviews33 followers
December 21, 2020
EL Jardín de los suplicios es un conjunto razonado de varios artículos entre 1892 y 1898 por Octave Mirbeau y publicados en varios periódicos (Le journal o l'Echo de Paris, y para las necesidades de la novela, el autor ha reelaborado y reestructurado sus textos para ofrecer un conjunto coherente. Una novela que apareció en medio del convulso caso Dreyfus, y que de parte de Mirbeau es un aprovechamiento para denunciar la estupidez de los hombres, utilizando la ironía, subversión y lirismo como arma panfletista para criticar a Francia, y aun más a todo Europa Occidental.

El jardín de los suplicios esta compuesto por tres partes: Frontispicio, que es la discusión de una ecuación filosófica ¿Esta el crimen y el salvajismo arraigado en las profundidades del hombre?, una velada social en la que académicos, escritores, eruditos y otros intelectuales chocan verbalmente sobre los asesinatos y sus motivaciones. Mientras, que las demás partes quiere ser la respuesta a la pregunta antes formulada, donde la obra, 1899, lanza un insulto a los rostros de sacerdotes, soldados, jueces y hombres que educan, gobiernan y dirigen a otros hombres. Sin miramientos ni miedo, Mirbeau lanza punzantes páginas de asesinatos y sangre. Esa segunda parte es un panfleto político y sarcástico donde muestra el pellejo de la alta sociedad de finales del siglo XIX. Expresa la ambigüedad de la actitud de una Europa liberal, pero una Europa sobre todo, antes del colonialismo y de lo que todavía no se llamaba Tercer Mundo.

En Misión, la segunda parte, cuenta como el personaje principal de la primera parte es enviado a Ceilán por su corrupto protector, conoce a Clara, una inglesa de una venenosa belleza, enamorada de China “Y hablas como en Europa, cariño. Y tienes escrúpulos idiotas, como en Europa. En la China la vida es libre, feliz, total, sin convenciones, sin prejuicios, sin leyes… Por lo menos para nosotros… La libertad no tiene más límites que uno mismo… El amor solo lo limita la variedad triunfante del propio deseo… Europa y su civilización hipócrita y bárbara es la mentira. ¿Qué otra cosa hacéis en Europa más que mentir, mentiros a vosotros mismos y a los demás, mentir a todo lo que, en lo más hondo de tu alma, reconocéis como verdadero? Os veis obligados a fingir un respeto exterior hacia personas e instituciones que sabéis absurdas. Seguís cobardemente ligados a unas convenciones morales o sociales que despreciáis y condenáis, que sabéis totalmente faltas de cualquier fundamento. Esta permanente contradicción entre vuestras ideas, vuestros deseos, y todas las formas de vida muertas, todos los vanos simulacros de vuestra civilización, eso es lo que os hace tristes, confusos, desequilibrados… En este conflicto intolerable, perdéis toda la alegría de vivir, toda sensación de personalidad, porque a cada momento os comprimen, os impiden y detienen el libre juego de vuestras fuerzas. Esta es la herida envenenada, mortal, del mundo[…]”

La tercera parte…. Te la dejo a ti…

Es una obra dura y tremendamente inquietante, donde su autor muestra su audacia, exceso y provocación, sin embargo es una pieza pura de inteligencia finamente elaborada, que demuestra que la lucha de Mirbeau no es solo a nivel ideológico, reconciliando su sentido de la estética con el disgusto de sus contemporáneos, sino su condena a la sociedad europea, destacando la hipocresía de sus lideres y haciendo una comparación con las tortura practicada en China. Un texto que goza de un lirismo extraordinario. Hay momentos que podamos perdernos en la descripción de algunas plantas, en los senderos, pero en ese momento donde nos sentimos extraviado, caemos en la inhumanidad de los abusos practicados contra los presos chinos. Sin lugar a duda es un libro que siempre tiene una segunda lectura para ir comprendiendo esta humanidad con moldes repetitivos. Cuanto odio hay en las hipocresías y pretensiones de nuestros lideres, que muy bien podemos trasponerla a nuestros tiempo.
Profile Image for Jim.
2,098 reviews700 followers
April 17, 2014
Love, death, torture, corruption -- mix them up into a grisly stew, and you have Octave Mirbeau's The Torture Garden (1899), a curious pastiche of a work whose major part consists of a stroll through a strange garden in which prisoners are executed -- exquisitely -- to the accompaniment of exotic flora and fauna. One of the tortures consists of listening close up to a giant bell until blood spurts out one's orifices. (The torture also kills the torturers.)

Having failed in France, the narrator goes out to the East. On the voyage, he meets Clara; and they fall in love with each other. Instead of staying in Ceylon on some trumped-up scientific expedition, the narrator accompanies Clara to China, where stresses develop in their relationship. It seems that Clara is more than half in love with death; and the narrator is shocked when she seems to go into a trance in the torture garden. In the end, she is taken by sampan to what appears to be a massive bordello. Typical of their interaction:
"Dear Clara," I objected, "is it really natural for you to seek sensuality in decomposition, and urge your desires to greater heights by horrible spectacles of suffering and death? Isn't that, to the contrary, a perversion of that nature whose cult you invoke, in order to perhaps excuse whatever criminal and monstrous quality your sensuality involves?" "No!" said Clara, quickly, "since love and death are the same thing! And since decomposition is the eternal resurrection of life...."
How does one argue with a woman like that? If one is half in love with death, it's just a hop, skip, and a jump to the thing itself.

The Alvah Bessie translation that I read tries to be poetic, but Mirbeau does have a gift for making you nod along with him until you, as does the narrator, confronts the unspeakable. Also, in the original French, the author makes extensive use of ellipsis marks ("..."), much like Céline in Death on the Installment Plan.

The Torture Garden is a strange fruit, but worth reading. It is as if Mirbeau tried to put Beaudelaire into prose.
Profile Image for Sofia.
35 reviews1 follower
July 23, 2021
Extrêmement difficile et compliqué à lire, tant pour son contenu que pour la façon dont il est écrit. L'hypocrisie est parfaitement dépeinte. Il s'agit d'une exploration du colonialisme européen et de ses conséquences, les plus grotesques et cruelles sous la forme de la torture.

"Il n’y a donc de vrai que le mal!"
Profile Image for Lolotte919.
298 reviews36 followers
July 27, 2020
"Ma foi !... je crois bien que le meurtre est la plus grande préoccupation humaine, et que tous nos actes dérivent de lui...
On s'attendait à une longue théorie, il se tut."

Quel ouvrage déconcertant que Le Jardin des Supplices ! Agencé comme un roman, il est en fait un assemblage de textes décousus écrits par Mirbeau à des époques, en des lieux, et mêmes semble-t-il avec des personnages différents, le tout publié en 1899. Cette discontinuité se ressent véritablement à la lecture, et m'a quelque peu empêché de ressentir la fluidité attendue des textes admirablement écrits.

Car oui, cet ouvrage est rédigé dans un style exquis, grâce auquel je suis tombée en pâmoison devant certains dialogues, cornant frénétiquement des pages sublimes pour le plaisir de les relire plus tard.

Cependant, autant j'ai été intrigué par le Frontispice, puis remplie d'impatience et d'appréhension dans la première partie, je n'ai pas été séduite par la deuxième. Avide d'une initiation progressive,
l’ellipse entre les deux parties m'a semblé un déchirement, comme une impossibilité à pénétrer l'âme et la psychologie des personnages, ces derniers ayant fait des choix inattendus, expérimentés des vies parallèles, rencontré d'autres protagonistes loin des yeux scrutateurs du lecteur affamé.

Après un Frontispice et une première partie qui n'aurait pas à rougir face aux romans de Stendhal, décortiquant intelligentsia et les milieux politiques français de la IIIe République, la dernière partie - qui devait somme toute être la plus personnelle, celle qui vient essayer d'appréhender le plaisir qu'une femme retire de la souffrance, de la torture, de la mort, dans une Chine magnifiée, mais aussi des douleurs qui la frappent en retour - celle-là m'a laissé sur l'autre rive. Je voyais les paysages sublimes qui m'étaient décrits, je ressentais la douloureuse ressemblance entre souffrance et beauté [réminiscences de [book:Le Pavillon d'Or|638003]], entre pulsion d'amour et pulsion de mort [[book:Le Démon|538666] et Le moine], entre volupté et soumission [souvenirs vivaces de Monologues sur le plaisir, la lassitude et la mort : [book:Ecstasy|1718652] ; Melancholia ; Thanatos], mais jamais je n'ai pu réellement être troublée par ce qui m'était décrit, trop loin de moi, comme les derniers vestiges d'un rêve.

J'en suis venu à détester violemment le personnage masculin principal pour sa couardise, pour sa soumission délétère. La soumission et la souffrance sont deux leitmotiv d'une certaine frange des romans asiatiques évoquant l'amour - je pense à Hôtel Iris, mais il y en a plein d'autres - elles y sont magnifiées, la Beauté les transcendant. L'auteur, français, parvient à cette grâce particulière à mon sens, dans la première partie. La soumission consentie du personnage à une femme si belle, si pure à ses yeux, et cependant si dangereuse et pervertie, est sublimée. Dans la deuxième partie, elle n'est plus que le fait d'une indolence lascive exprimée par une mièvrerie insoutenable ; elle n'est plus consentie et adoptée, elle est une concession faite en attente de rétributions, guettant avec cruauté le moment propice où la situation s'inversera.

> Frontispice :

"C'est que nous sommes tous, plus ou moins des assassins... Tous, nous avons éprouvé cérébralement, à des degrés moindres, je veux le croire, des sensations analogues... Le besoin inné du meurtre, on le réfrène, on en atténue la violence physique, en lui donnant des exutoires légaux : l'industrie, le commerce colonial, la guerre, la chasse, l'antisémitisme... parce qu'il est dangereux de s'y livrer sans modération, en dehors des lois, et que les satisfactions morales qu'on en tire ne valent pas, après tout, qu'on s'expose aux ordinaires conséquences de cet acte, l'emprisonnement... les colloques avec les juges, toujours fatigants et sans intérêt scientifique... finalement la guillotine..."

"[...] Et moi-même ?... Ah ! tenez !... J'ai la certitude que je ne suis pas un monstre... je crois être un homme normal, avec des tendresses, des sentiments élevés, une culture supérieure, des raffinements de civilisation et de sociabilité... Eh bien, que de fois j'ai entendu gronder en moi la voix impérieuse du meurtre !... Que de fois j'ai senti monter du fond de mon être à mon cerveau, dans un flux de sang, le désir, l'âpre violent et presque invincible désir de tuer !... Ne croyez pas que ce désir se soit manifesté dans une crise passionnelle, ait accompagné une colère subite et irréfléchie, ou se soit combiné avec un vif intérêt d'argent ?... Nullement... Ce désir naît soudain, puissant, injustifié en moi, pour rien et à propos de rien... dans la rue, par exemple, devant le dos d'un promeneur inconnu... Oui, il y a des dos, dans la rue, qui appellent le couteau... Pourquoi ?"

> Première partie :

" C'était quelque chose de plus douloureux à quoi je n'avais jamais songé et dont il m'était impossible, non pas même de comprendre, mais seulement de concevoir l'impossible réalité : la fin du rêve prodigieux qu'avait été pour moi l'amour de Clara. Pour la première fois, une femme me tenait. J'étais son esclave, je ne désirais qu'elle, je ne voulais qu'elle. Rien n'existait plus en dehors et au-delà d'elle. Au lieu d'éteindre l'incendie de mon amour, la possession, chaque jour, en ravivait les flammes. Chaque fois, je descendais plus avant dans le gouffre embrasé de son désir et, chaque jour, je sentais davantage que toute ma vie s'épuiserait à en chercher, à en toucher le fond !... Comment admettre que, après avoir été conquis - âme, corps et cerveau - par cet irrévocable, indissoluble et suppliciant amour, je dusse le quitter aussitôt ?... Folie !... Cet amour était en moi, comme ma propre chair ; il s'était substitué à mon sang, à mes moelles ; il me possédait tout entier ; il était moi !... Me séparer de lui, c'était me séparer de moi-même ; c'était me tuer... Pis encore !... C'était ce cauchemar extravagant que ma tête fût à Ceylan, mes pieds en Chine, séparés par des abîmes de mer, et que je persistasse à vivre en ces deux tronçons qui ne se rejoindraient plus !... Que le lendemain même, je n'eusse plus à moi ces yeux pâmés, ces lèvres dévoratrices, le miracle, chaque nuit plus imprévu, de ce corps aux formes divines, aux étreintes sauvages et, après les longs spasmes puissants comme le crime, profonds comme la mort, ces balbutiements ingénus, ces petites plaintes, ces petits rires, ces petites larmes, ces petits chants las d'enfant ou d'oiseau, était-ce possible ?... Et je perdrais tout cela qui m'était plus nécessaire pour respirer que mes poumons, pour penser que mon cerveau, pour alimenter de sang chaud mes veines que mon cœur ?... Allons donc !... J'appartenais à Clara comme le charbon appartient au feu qui le dévore et le consume..."

" - Vous êtes un enfant, répéta Clara... Et vous parlez comme en Europe, cher petit cœur... Et vous avez de stupides scrupules, comme en Europe... En Chine, la vie est libre, heureuse, totale, sans conventions, sans préjugés, sans lois... pour nous, du moins... Pas d'autres limites à la liberté que soi-même... à l'amour que la variété triomphante de son désir... L'Europe et sa civilisation hypocrite, barbare, c'est le mensonge... Qu'y faites-vous autre chose que de mentir, de mentir à vous-même et aux autres, de mentir à tout ce que, dans le fond de votre âme, vous reconnaissez être la vérité ?... Vous êtes obligé de feindre un respect extérieur pour des personnes, des institutions que vous trouvez absurdes... Vous demeurez lâchement attaché à des conventions morales ou sociales que vous méprisez, que vous condamnez, que vous savez manquer de tout fondement... C'est cette contradiction permanente entre vos idées, vos désirs et toutes les formes permanentes entre vos idées, vos désirs et toutes les formes mortes, tous les vains simulacres de votre civilisation, qui vous rend tristes, troublés, déséquilibrés... Dans ce conflit intolérable, vous perdez toute joie de vivre, toute sensation de personnalité... parce que, à chaque minute, on comprime, on empêche, on arrête le libre jeu de vos forces... Voilà la plaie empoisonnée, mortelle, du monde civilisé... Chez nous, rien de pareil... vous verrez !..."

"Elle frappa, d'un coup sec, le plancher du navire :
- Vous ne me connaissez pas encore,... dit-elle... vous ne savez pas qui je suis, et déjà vous voulez me quitter !... Est-ce que je vous fais peur ?... Est-ce que vous êtes lâche ?
- Sans toi, je ne puis plus vivre !... sans toi, je ne puis que mourir !...
- Eh bien !... ne tremble plus... ne pleure plus... Et viens avec moi !...
Un éclair traversa le vert de ses prunelles. Elle dit d'une voix plus basse, presque rauque :
- Je t'apprendrai des choses terribles... des choses divines... tu sauras enfin ce que c'est que l'amour !... Je te promets que tu descendras, avec moi, tout au fond du mystère de l'amour... et de la mort !...
Et, souriant d'un sourire rouge qui me fit courir un frisson dans les moelles, elle dit encore !
- Pauvre bébé !... Tu te croyais un grand débauché... un grand révolté... Ah ! tes pauvres remords... te souviens-tu ?... Et voilà que ton âme est plus timide que celle d'un petit enfant !...
C'était vrai !... J'avais beau me vanter d'être une intransigeante canaille, me croire supérieur à tous les préjugés moraux, j'écoutais encore, parfois, la voix du devoir et de l'honneur qui, à de certains moments de dépression nerveuse, montait à des profondeurs troubles de ma conscience... L'honneur de qui ?... le devoir de quoi ?... Quel abîme de folie que l'esprit de l'homme !"

" - Pourquoi donc êtes-vous si gai ? m'avait-elle dit... Je n'aime pas qu'on soit gai ainsi, cher petit cœur... Cela me fait du mal... Quand on est gai, c'est que l'on n'aime pas... L'amour est une chose grave, triste et profonde..."

> Deuxième partie :

" - Est-ce ennuyeux que tu ne comprennes rien !... Comment ne sens-tu pas ?... comment n'as-tu pas encore senti que c'est, je ne dis pas même dans l'amour, mais la luxure qui est la perfection de l'amour, que toutes les facultés cérébrales de l'homme se révèlent et s'aiguisent... que c'est par la luxure, seule, que tu atteins au développement total de la personnalité ?... Voyons... dans l'acte d'amour, n'as-tu jamais songé, par exemple, à commettre un crime ?... C'est-à-dire à élever ton individu au-dessus de tous les préjugés sociaux et de toutes les lois, au-dessus de tout, enfin ?... Et si tu n'y as pas songé, alors, pourquoi fais-tu l'amour ?"

"Parfaits artistes et poètes ingénus, les Chinois ont pieusement conservé l'amour et le culte dévot des fleurs : l'une des très rares, des plus lointaines traditions qui aient survécu à leur décadence. Et, comme il faut bien distinguer les fleurs l'une de l'autre, ils leur ont attribué des analogies gracieuses, des images de rêve, des noms de pureté ou de volupté qui perpétuent et harmonisent dans notre esprit les sensations de charme doux ou de violente ivresse qu'elles nous apportent... C'est ainsi que telles pivoines, leurs fleurs préférées, les Chinois les saluent selon leur forme et leur couleur, de ces noms délicieux, qui sont, chacun, tout un poème et tout un roman : La jeune fille qui offre ses seins ou : L'eau qui dort sous la lune, oui :Le soleil dans la Forêt, ou : Le premier désir de la Vierge couchée, ou : Ma robe n'est plus toute blanche parce qu'en la déchirant le Fils du Ciel y a laissé un peu de sang rose, ou bien encore, celle-ci : J'ai joui de mon ami dans le jardin.

"C'est que l'art ne consiste pas à tuer beaucoup... à égorger, massacrer, exterminer, en bloc, les hommes... C'est trop facile, vraiment... L'art, milady, consiste à savoir tuer, selon des rites de beauté dont nous autres Chinois connaissons seuls le secret divin... Savoir tuer !... Rien n'est plus rare, et tout est là... Savoir tuer !... C'est-à-dire travailler la chair humaine, comme un sculpteur sa glaise ou son morceau d'ivoire... en tirer toute la somme, tous les prodiges de souffrance qu'elle recèle au fond de ses ténèbres et de ses mystères... Voilà !... Il y faut de la science, de la variété, de l'élégance, de l'invention... du génie, enfin... Mais tout se perd aujourd'hui... Le snobisme occidental qui nous envahit, les cuirassés, les canons à tir rapide, les fusils à longue portée, l'électricité, les explosifs... que sais-je ?... tout ce qui rend la mort collective, administrative et bureaucratique... toutes les saletés de votre progrès, enfin... détruisent, peu à peu, nos belles traditions du passé... Il n'y a qu'ici, dans ce jardin, où elles soient encore conservées tant bien que mal... où nous essayons du moins de les maintenir tant bien que mal... Que de difficultés !... que d'entraves !... que de luttes continuelles, si vous saviez !... Hélas ! je sens que ça n'est plus pour longtemps... Nous sommes vaincus par des médiocres... Et c'est l'esprit bourgeois qui triomphe partout..."

" - Si tu es près de moi... quand je mourrai... cher petit cœur... écoute bien !... [...] Et puis... longtemps... longtemps... tu m'embrasseras, cher amour, sur les dents... et dans les cheveux... Et tu me diras des choses... des choses si jolies... et qui bercent et qui brûlent... des choses comme quand tu m'aimes... Pas, tu veux, mon chéri !... Tu me promets ?... Voyons, ne fais pas cette figure d'enterrement... Ce n'est pas de mourir qui est triste... c'est de vivre quand on est pas heureux... Jure ! jure que tu me promets !...

"A travers la mince et soyeuse étoffe qui la recouvre, sa peau a brûlé mes doigts... Et Clara n'a pas frémi à leur contact ; elle ne s'est point pâmée, comme tant de fois, à leur caresse. Je la désire et je la hais... Je voudrais la prendre dans mes bras et l'étreindre jusqu'à l'étouffer, jusqu'à la broyer, jusqu'à boire la mort - sa mort - à ses veines ouvertes."
Profile Image for Ebony Earwig.
107 reviews4 followers
July 9, 2021
This was pretty cold and monstrous, slightly kinky in places (not my kind of kinks but sure it's kinky for fans of Hellraiser) and maybe slightly racist... or at least Colonialist and has a taste of "Yellow Terror" going through it. All in all I think I enjoyed it, though I suspect that this isn't going to be a very memorable book and if you asked me what it was about in 3 months I wouldn't be able to tell you.
Profile Image for Tony.
505 reviews39 followers
November 23, 2017
This is a rather uncomfortable examination of the depths reached by ‘monsters’. Uncomfortable because a) it is sexually charged, and b) it’s massive amount of overkill. To be honest, I could fill that list from a) to z). Did I enjoy it? No.

Was it well written? Yes. Would I recommend it? Not particularly. The final part is ….

Read it, then write my review for me.
Profile Image for maya.
87 reviews25 followers
April 23, 2023
so, so beautifully written!!! i love the drawn out descriptions of flowers and how that overlaps with the description of torture, how humans and flowers are one in the same, how love and torture are one in the same, how life is inseparable from those things and how clara is the embodiment of all of it but is equally “nothing more than [our] soul,” mirbeau’s descriptions are so beautiful, everything was so so clear in my mind as i read, it often made me sick. i guess i feel lucky that i could experience it kind of as if i were really there, as terrible as it is.

“in that atrocious second i understood that desire can attain the darkest human terror and give an actual idea of hell and its horror.”

+ i wonder if anyone who reads this, or at least some women? can see themselves (or at least part of them) in clara. i think i could, a little, though i’m aware her characterisation is very misogynistic
Profile Image for Linda.
331 reviews30 followers
August 31, 2014
The novel, published 1899, examines an attitude to life without right and wrong, good and evil. Beauty and pain are constantly present, mentally or physically. They are melting together and eventually it's difficult to see the difference. Perhaps they were always the same.

The story follows a young man, a corrupt politician, on a journey where he meets his love interest, a sadistic woman. She brings him to a torture garden in China, where pain borders on pleasure and where love and suffering originate from the same source of brutal emotions. The contrast, or perhaps the collaboration, between sadistic expressions of love and sensual expressions of death makes it beautiful and fascinating. The fact that they are codependent, that we can't appreciate the one without the other, is apparent. Neither one is less important and dignified than the other, since the torture garden is beyond good and evil. The infinite amount of passion, the perverted nature of human beings that might be the true nature, not the norm, is interesting. There is a freedom of expression that couldn't be found Europe in the late 19th century.

In the torture garden the beautiful flowers feed on blood from the tortured prisoners to prosper, and people are, in a way, reborn in a limitless cycle of life. In this world, pleasure is pain, love is suffering, torture is a work of art, blood is the wine of love and beauty is murder. At the same time the portrayal is a critique of the European society. The pages of murder and blood are ironically dedicated to people like priests, soldiers and judges, people who kill or restrict others from freedom and beauty. The torture garden might be interpreted as an allegory, an intense, miniature Europe. Mirbeau claimed that "the law of murder" was inconsistent in the late 1800's and wanted to portray the European civilisation as not so civilized. The government allowed murder when it benefited from it, but not when it had a real purpose. According to one of the characters in the book, the accepted view of war and colonialism were necessary because the government was only legitimized by murder. As this might also be the belief of the author, much of the book deals with these forms of hypocrisy. Just as in real life, executioners in the torture garden kill people in the service of death, but not for a meaningless purpose but as a work of art. Since we don't question murder in the service of rulers, politicians and judges, why would we question expressions of freedom and the beauty of art? Wouldn't that prove that we haven't learned anything the last century, and make us the very same hypocrites that Mirbeau indicated we were?
Profile Image for Danger Kallisti.
59 reviews26 followers
February 13, 2008
This book was really one of those once-in-a-lifetime finds. I was randomly surfing through Amazon.com, reading about Artaud and movements in contemporary theater, and that somehow led to weird recommendations for sadomasochistic turn-of-the-century French writing. It was translated and released by a small indie publisher dealing in out-of-print and hard-to-find erotica, mostly from the 60s.

One could easily tell by the very poor editing (which I’m starting to get used to, after this year, but which I like none the better) and strange slips into the German instead of English articles for things (i.e. ‘die’ instead of ‘the’). I could literally see where typos were made because the translator from French had poor handwriting and letters were misinterpreted (upper-case ‘I’ and lower-case ‘l’ were often confused, letters which had run together were mistaken for others, such as ‘in’ being typed as ‘m’)… still, one must not judge the painting by the quality of the print, and I’m lucky to have found any copy at all.

This was a stunningly beautiful, disgusting, shocking book. It’s hard to find a piece of work that actually accomplishes even one of those things, much less all of them. It deftly illustrated the dichotomy of the human condition. Love is death, beauty pain, and torture ecstasy. A great sadomasochistic work of art.

It was interesting, how in the end, Clara’s addiction to the horror and pain of the torture garden was proven. She goes through a period almost akin to a near-death experience, a sort of psychic purge, and afterward, appears to emerge in a state of grace (“very white, and small”). It is as though she can only be made whole by experiencing the extremes of existence (gee… funny thing, that). This is a concept that only the French, light-years ahead of the rest of the western world in terms of emotional maturity, have ever truly mastered.
Profile Image for Andrew.
2,024 reviews728 followers
March 6, 2013
OK, it's probably both borderline racist and borderline misogyny-- let's get that out of the way before we start in.

But it's also supremely fucked up and awesome and lushly descriptive, sadomasochistic but also kind of not really, vaguely political (there's a political message in there somewhere...), simultaneously Nietzschean and anti-Nietzschean, bizarre, unclassifiable, and just generally kickass. Pain is life is sex is death, and we try to impose categories to make sense of it-- whether or not Mirbeau thinks this is a good thing is probably up to the reader.

Also, I live in Bangkok right now, and this entire fucking city is the Torture Garden. That certainly endeared me.
Profile Image for Fernando.
244 reviews2 followers
August 19, 2015
-¡Lo conozco! -dijo Clara-, Es como todos los sacerdotes de todas las religiones. Nos quiere asustar para que le demos algún dinero. Pero no es más que un pobre diablo.
Profile Image for E Harrison Byrne.
17 reviews7 followers
December 24, 2013
The anarchist message running through The Torture Garden seems to achieve its end by taking traditional statist and collectivist forms of political organization—very similar to those described by Aristotle in his Politics—and having us reexamine them in the reflective surface of a warped mirror, the like of which one might find in a carnival funhouse. The narrative begins in the midst of a soirée attended by the crème de la crème of the intelligentsia; esteemed physicians, professors, pedantic members of the Parisian literati, who, it seems, fancy themselves übermenschen, and are accordingly discussing murder, its meaning and merits, each in turn delivering a paean in praise of it.

Murder, as Mirbeau brilliantly satirically characterizes it, is something of a lymphatic glue that holds the body politic together. As a Darwinian scientist tells his peers,

“...murder is the very bedrock of our social institutions, and consequently the most imperious necessity of civilized life. If it no longer existed, there would be no governments of any kind, by virtue of the admirable fact that crime in general and murder in particular are not only their excuse, but their only reason for being. We should then live in complete anarchy, which is inconceivable.”

Compare this thinking with Aristotle's famous “beasts and gods” exception from Politics:

“It is clear, therefore, that the state is also prior by nature to the individual; for if each individual when separate is not self-sufficient, he must be related to the whole state as other parts are to their whole, while a man who is incapable of entering into partnership, or who is so self-sufficient that he has no need to do so, is no part of a state, so that he must be either a beast or a god.” [ὅτι μὲν οὖν ἡ πόλις καὶ φύσει πρότερον ἢ ἕκαστος, δῆλον: εἰ γὰρ μὴ αὐτάρκης ἕκαστος χωρισθείς, ὁμοίως τοῖς ἄλλοις μέρεσιν ἕξει πρὸς τὸ ὅλον, ὁ δὲ μὴ δυνάμενος κοινωνεῖν ἢ μηδὲν δεόμενος δι' αὐτάρκειαν οὐθὲν μέρος πόλεως, ὥστε ἢ θηρίον ἢ θεός.]

Mirbeau seems to view civilization as a human experiment gone horribly wrong, particularly an enemy to the individual. In The Torture Garden, we can begin to see how the “body politic” of the state subsumes the individual and the individual's body, thereby making murder “civilized” and rather akin to the hygienic practice of regular exfoliation. If, “man is a political animal,” as Aristotle famously claimed, then Mirbeau offers an addendum stating that murder is the act that bridges the interstices between self and other; it's the mortar of our civilization.

Toward the end of the book's opening scene, one man who has attended the soirée makes the claim that woman alone embodies the eternal marriage of creation and destruction, of life and death. Met with some dissent, he produces a manuscript of a work he has written but as of yet never shared, which is entitled The Torture Garden.

First relating the story of his travels to the Far East, the narrator meets an explorer from France who rather nonchalantly relates how has eaten human flesh, and an English officer who shares his dreams of developing the perfect bullet which would incinerate bodies without leaving a trace of a corpse. When the story's narrator decides to accompany a beautiful, young, wealthy Englishwoman named Clara to her home in China, these Western men, who seem to take consumption and destruction to their teleological extremes, stand in sharp contrast to the nuanced spectacles of torture that await in the Far East.

The final portion of the story takes place after the narrator has only just returned to Clara. After having fled her in fear and disgust, the narrator feels himself drawn back to her like bad habit. Once there, she insists he accompany her to the bagnio (a type of Chinese prison), where he witnesses the eponymous “torture garden.” There are descriptions of flaying, horrible tortures involving rats, and deaths induced by ringing giant bells over unfortunate victims; we are treated to an inspirational speech by a master torturer lamenting the degeneracy of modern China in its abandoning its old tortures under Western pressure. The master torturer complains,

“The Occidental snobbery which is invading us, the gunboats, rapid-fire guns, long-range rifles, explosives... what else? Everything which makes death collective, administrative and bureaucratic - all the filth of your progress, in fact - is destroying, little by little, our beautiful traditions of the past.”

In Viewing The Torture Garden through the lens Octave Mirbeau's anarchic-libertarian political convictions, I'm inclined to see the gruesome depictions of torture practiced by the professional torturers in the Chinese bagnio as showing, at the very least, that they have some sense of respect, albeit strange, of individual bodies in the East. The symbolism seems to be one of political mereology: in the West we murder en masse, we seek to subsume the individual, we don't condone torture and call it barbaric, dreaming of future weapons that will allow us to evaporate the “other.” In the East, they torture people to death, prolonging suffering, making art of their death; in the torture garden, the blood and gore merges into the beautiful flora and fauna of the surroundings. The blood soaks into the ground and encourages the the flowers to grow bigger and stronger and more colorful than anywhere else on earth as peacocks with beautiful plumage peck the viscera from leaves.

A call for revolutionary destruction of the state—of the collective body politic—which oppresses and stunts the growth of individuals, can be seen in the positive symbolism of torture. Just as individual bodies are torn asunder, limb from limb, in the torture garden, and yield a fertile mulch that produces the most beautiful flowers, it seems that Mirbeau is suggesting that the larger body politic can be composted down for fertilizer to grow the flowers of a better future.

These themes involving the interaction of the body politic and the individual body, as well as the social illnesses that society induces to metastasize from the one body to the other, seem to be echoed in other works by Mirbeau; Calvary (Le Calvaire) immediately coming to mind. I don't think I've ever read a better treatment of the strange manner in which civilization can induce a man to behave contrary to his individual nature, poisoned with a collective insanity, than Mirbeau's scene in Calvary, in which the lead character, Jean Mintie, kills a Prussian soldier.

“...undoubtedly, he was thinking of the things he had left behind; of his home resounding with the laughter of his children, of his wife, who was waiting for him and praying to God while doing so. ... Will he ever see her again? ... I was sure that at this very moment he was recalling the most fugitive details, the most childish habits of his life at home . . . a rose plucked one evening, after dinner, with which he adorned the hair of his wife, the dress which she wore when he was leaving, a blue bow on the hat of his little daughter, a wooden horse, a tree, a river view, a paper knife ! . . . All the memories of his joys came back to him, and with that keenness of vision which exiled persons possess, he encompassed in a single mental glance of despondency all those things by means of which he had been happy until now. . . .

The sun rose higher, rendering the plain larger, extending the distant horizon still farther. ... I felt a compassion for this man and I loved him . . . yes I swear I loved him! . . . Well, then, how did that happen? ... A detonation was suddenly heard, and at that very moment I caught sight of a boot in the air, of a torn piece of a military cloak, of a mane flying about wildly on the road . . . and then nothing, I heard the noise of a blow with a sabre, the heavy fall of a body, furious beats of a gallop . . . then nothing. . . . My rifle was warm, and smoke was coming out of it. ... I let it fall to the ground. . . . Was I the victim of hallucination?”

Mintie did not hallucinate; his hand, seemingly with a mind of its own, shot a man for whom he felt infinite compassion, even love. I think this is one of the most important leitmotifs in all of Mirbeau's writing; this perverse corporality of collectivism. He seems to argue that this supposed order of the overly-ordered body politic leads to social disorder, and ultimately metastasizes these disorders in the individual bodies of which it's composed. Mirbeau's revolutionary rallying cry almost sounds Biblical. It seems to say, whether in the torture garden, with Mintie on the field of battle, or as it pertains to affairs of state and the body politic: if your hand is sinning, cut it off.
Profile Image for Cobertizo.
318 reviews15 followers
March 25, 2020
"El arte no consiste en matar mucho, en degollar, despanzurrar, exterminar en masa a los hombres. Eso es demasiado fácil. El arte, milady, consiste en saber matar según el ritual de belleza, del que únicamente nosotros los chinos conocemos el secreto. ¡Saber matar! Es decir, cincelar la carne humana, como lo hace un escultor con el barro o el marfil; extraer toda la cantidad, todos los prodigios de procedimientos que aquella encierra en el fondo de sus tinieblas y sus misterios. Nada más. Necesitamos ciencia, variedad, elegancia, inventiva, genio, en suma. Pero todo desaparece hoy día. El esnobismo occidental que nos invade, los acorazados, los cañones de tiro rápido, los fusiles de largo alcance, la electricidad, los explosivos...,¡qué sé yo.! Todo lo que hace que la muerte sea colectiva, administrativa y burocrática. Todas las cochinadas de vuestro progreso, en una palabra, destruyen lentamente nuestras hermosas tradiciones del pasado. Sólo en este jardín se conservan más bien que mal aquellos tormentos"
Profile Image for Cody.
531 reviews192 followers
June 29, 2022
French decadence.

Wet water.

Hot fire.


Still far from something one should skip.
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