Blue of Noon (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 1 Mar 2001
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The story is interesting enough, though one can't really speak of a plot. We follow one Mr. Troppman, never sober and always sick, through European countries that slowly begin to fall under the insane shadow of German and Italian fascism. This advent of insanity is clearly reflected in his own life - his morbid fascination for corpses (one of the novel's peaks is a sexual encounter above a graveyard), a young woman named Dirty, the Marxist Jew Lazare, the young Xenie, and his wife Edith.
Repulsion seems to be the keyword of the book. Troppman seems to drift through a decadent world worthy of a powerful cleansing, a horrifying apparatus preparing to do just that, and the innocent victims of both. Through his haze of alcohol he tries to find a cause to devote himself to, loathing and lethargy irresistibly following his peaks of devotion. What is quite remarkable is Bataille's ability to inspire physical revolt in the reader in following Troppman's adventures.
"Blue of Noon" is one of the few books that actually made me feel physically unwell reading it. One is constantly swept with Troppman's enthusiasm and disillusion. The successive rapidity of his drinking, crying, vomiting, and lechery; his violent mood swings leaves one feeling as if experiencing a turbulent plain flight. The inability of choosing between the elusive dilemma's Troppman faces finds expression in Bataille's scrambling of the boundaries between beauty and scatology, and the absence of any conclusion to the book leaves the invoked tension lingering after the book is finished.
This is a book the demands re-reading and re-evaluation. That it is partly autobiographical adds a dimension to the understanding of the complicated person Bataille. Furthermore I can only echo Will Self's Introduction: "If you commit yourself to reading Blue of Noon there is no necessity for you to worry about where it's all heading - because your very assent to the journey means that you're incapable of reading a map."
The book is well balanced, although in the style of Bataille, it does occasionally jump around a bit, but is thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. In truth, one could probably list this as a positive aspect of the book, leading to a slightly chaotic or disassociated effect which is encapsulating, as i'm sure was Bataille's intention.
I think that the highlight of the book, for me, was the Second Chapter ('Motherly Feet'), which contains the truly most stunningly beautiful depiction of sorrow, melancholy, and utter desparitude, which I have yet read; it was captivating entirely, and seemed to last for much more than the 36 pages which it did, wonderfully.
Philosophically and Psychologically, the book's crescendo scene in the cemetery in an overwhelming confrontation of the age-old relationship between Eros and Thanatos; love and war, life and death. In relation to Bataille's theories on the relationship between literature and evil, and the equal abilities of both to potentially overwhelm our humanity (put very briefly), this is a tour de force of his theory; a most poignant confrontation of the extremes of human experience by the very man who spent his life outlining them. Hence, his delivery in this context is as good as anyone's ever could be.
Again, Blue of Noon has been a book by Bataille which I naturally read in one sitting, as soon as it left it's envelope; such is the nature of his writing, and the extent of it's powers of captivation.
Conclusively, I would happily recommend it as literature, as eroticism and even as psychology or philosophy; for any reflective mind, there is something here.
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