(Back in New York at last, just in time for one of the biggest snowstorms in the city’s history. The Hudson’s slate-gray water vanishes into a whiteout horizon. Been on the road: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Happy new year, my dears!)
She signed her letters Colette, and her articles on Russian literature Claude Araxe. Crows were her favorite animal. She had a youthful affair with the writer Jean Bernier. It ended very badly, and she tried to shoot herself in the heart in a hotel room. Strike towards that which pains you, she wrote. The bullet ricocheted off one of her ribs. I will simply laugh louder than he.
A masochist of sorts, she spent a winter with Eduard Trautner in Berlin, where he kept her in dog collars and black silk dresses, shivering in the bleak morning on a park bench in the snow. I had invented Hell. She burned her journals and moved to Paris to study Russian. She read Nietzsche, Rimbaud, and Pravda. She kept a decaying apartment in Moscow, and spent a long winter in the Soviet hinterland, as though seeking to exacerbate the tuberculosis that was already at work inside her. In Paris, she funded and wrote for the leftist journal Le Critique sociale, where she met the brilliant, vital Simone Weil, who became her close friend, and philosopher/librarian/professional creep Georges Bataille, the love of her life. When I get weary, I will lie down on the ground, I will press my ear to the ground, and I will hear the footstep of the man I love. (But it was to Weil’s apartment she went when she had her nervous breakdown, panicking on the couch, speaking of herself as a guillotine and a head in a basket.)
She began writing about a condition she called the Sacred, moments of extremity when something permanent and universal, the eternal share, is revealed through the frail mortality of living things. She traveled to Spain during the Civil War, to lend support to the anarchists. She was fascinated by the bullfights. One night, she linked arms with a group of neighborhood women to prevent firemen from extinguishing a burning church.
She and Bataille went to Italy and climbed Mt. Etna, a vision of the fundamental instability of things. “She was seized by such anguish that she started running madly straight ahead.” She had seen an elemental chaos, something she had been searching for all her life. I would like to tell you about it, I cannot think about it without distress, and I connect all my actions since to this vision. So it easier to clench my teeth … so hard – until I break my jaw.
Her description of Etna in flames inspired a painting by Andre Masson, which hung in Bataille’s bedroom. What color does the notion of the sacred have for me? She inspired and helped to found a secret society, L’Acephale, the Headless One, for which Masson drew the symbol. They would meet on certain nights in a pelting rain at the charred trunk of an enormous oak tree, struck by lighting, whose tangled roots went deep into the earth.
She and Bataille walked in the woods of Lyons at night, and he looked at her as she looked away. He wrote, “I saw my destiny move forward in the darkness next to me.” He was unfaithful, though, manipulative, deceitful and self-involved. One day he will place an ad in the paper: “Seeking lost dog.”
The Marquis de Sade had asked to be buried with acorns. In December she went with Bataille to visit Sade’s grave. They passed between trees with branches black in the high wind and became lost in the snowy woods.
In March she attended a showing of the movie One-Way Ticket. Afterwards she collapsed with a high fever. Her tubercular condition worsened. She was removed in August to Bataille’s house in the forest of St.-Germain-en-Laye. On the way, she got out of the car to touch a tree trunk struck by lightning. She heard crows as she lay in Bataille’s bedroom near the painting of Mt. Etna. She wrote, in a red notebook, about death and the sacred, describing the scene around her bed as a flowery corrida where she, bull and bullfighter at once, prepares for the event.
In her last days, she became delirious. Bataille, standing distracted in the dilapidated garden, found “one of the loveliest flowers I have ever seen,” a late-blooming rose. On receiving it, she briefly regained consciousness: It’s ravishing.
Her last words, said “in an absent and painful voice”: The rose! She died on November 7th 1938. She was thirty-five.
“Tu prends le dernier bateau
Celui qui n’aborde nulle part au monde.”
“You take the last boat
The one that reaches no land in the world.”
Bataille spent part of the war in hiding in the house, during which time he slept in her deathbed. He kept a notebook called Le Coupable – Guilty. In the midst of crossed-out sentences, this is left as is: “If I could just be a field in the morning fog. And I picture a crow cawing in it.”
What better music for a day like today than brutal doom-drone metal? Sunn O)))’s Kannon 3 is a song for Fenrisúlfr to devour the sun, scored the creaking and hissing of ice-choked rivers and the howling wind. \m/(´Д｀)\m/
Medusan jellyfish produce beautiful vortex rings to propel themselves! And there’s a volcanic ridge 40,000 miles long running in the abyssal dark of the ocean’s depths, complete with a thriving and utterly strange biology.
(Thanks for reading, as ever.)
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