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  • Reading Bataille: The Invention of the Foot
  • Lucette Finas (bio)
    Translated by Nelly Furman (bio)

§ 1. Certainly, I wrote Le mort before the spring of 1944. This text must have been composed probably in 1943, not before. I do not know where I wrote it, in Normandy (end of 1942), in Paris in December 1942, or during the first three months of 1943; at Vézelay, from March to October 1943? Or in Paris from November ‘43 to the spring of ‘44? Perhaps even at Samois from April to June. Or even perhaps in Paris on Cour de Rohan during the winter of ‘43–‘44. I can no longer remember. I am certain only of having recopied Le mort so as to sell a small number of manuscripts before June 1944 (as I am certain that I wrote this text after the spring of 1942, a time at which I fell ill; and even at the earliest during my stay in Normandy from September to November ‘42).

§ 2. In any case, there is the closest relationship between Le mort and the stay in Normandy of the tubercular patient that I was; in Normandy, not far from the village of Tilly (which I name Quilly in Le mort). The inn of Quilly is in fact the inn of Tilly; 1 the woman innkeeper, the one from Tilly. I invented the other details, with the exception of the rain that wouldn’t stop in October or November ‘42. With the exception also of the very dark night when Julie knocked at the door of the inn? I can no longer even remember if I slept in this inn? It seems to me that yes. I believe furthermore that in the room there were two or three farmhands in gummed rubber boots and even a player piano. Whatever it was, it was sinister, and beyond measure. Finally, it is certain that the atmosphere of Tilly’s inn suggested to me the one of the inn of Le mort. I am also almost certain—in the end—that I slept—alone—in this place that terrified me.

§ 3. The rest is linked to the frenzied sexual arousal in which I was during November’s extravagance; in my almost total solitude, I lived then not far from Tilly, but we lived apart, a kilometer from one another, a beautiful girl, my mistress, and I; I was ill, in an obscure state of depression, of horror, and of arousal. It is difficult to imagine the mud of the rough small roads where I traveled, without the right footwear, on a bicycle. Then, I ate most of my meals, but alone, with farmers.

§ 4. I remember in particular having heard one day a plane whose engine sputtered [avait des ratés]. The noise of the engine was followed by a violent shock. I took my bicycle. I ended up finding the place where this German plane had fallen. It was burning in the middle of an immense orchard (apple trees); several trees were calcinated, and three or four dead, thrown around the plane, were spread out on the grass. At some distance, in the valley of the Seine, an Englishman had probably just shot down this enemy plane that could only crash at some distance. The foot of one of the Germans was bared [dénudé], the sole of the shoe having been torn away. The heads of the dead, it seems to me, were shapeless. The flames must have touched them; this foot alone was intact. It was [End Page 97] the only human thing belonging to a body, and its nakedness, having become earthen, was inhuman: the heat of the blaze had transfigured it; this thing was neither baked nor calcinated: in the upper [l’empeigne] with no sole of the shoe, it was diabolical: but no, it was unreal, stripped naked [dénudée], indecent to the highest degree. I remained motionless for a long time that day, for this naked foot was looking at me.

§ 5. [The truth, I believe, has only one face: that of a violent denial. Truth has nothing in common with allegorical figures, with figures of naked women: but...