Posts Tagged ‘French fiction’

Georges Bataille

November 20, 2015


Georges Bataille (10 September 1897 – 9 July 1962) was a French intellectual and writer working in literature, philosophy, and the history of art. His writings included novels, essays and poetry. His subjects included eroticism, mysticism and transgression.

His fiction includes:

Story of the Eye:

Story of the Eye (L’histoire de l’oeil) is a 1928 short novel that details the increasingly bizarre sexual perversions of a pair of teenage lovers. It is narrated by an unnamed young man looking back on his exploits.



L’Abbé C:

L’Abbé C (1950) is a work of dark eroticism, centred on the relationship between two twentieth century brothers in a small French village, one of whom is a Catholic parish priest, while the other is a libertine. The novel explores issues of split subjectivity, existential angst and bad faith.



Blue of Noon:

Blue of Noon (Le Bleu du Ciel) is a blackly compelling account of depravity and violence. It is an erotic novella in which the narrator travels from city to city in a surreal nightmare, experiencing squalor, sadism and drunken encounters that culminate in incest and necrophilia. Bataille completed the work in 1935, but it was not published until 1957.


My Mother, Madame Edwarda, The Dead Man:

My Mother is a frank and intense depiction of a young man’s sexual initiation and corruption by his mother, where the profane becomes sacred, and intense experience is shown as the only way to transcend the boundaries of society and morality. Madame Edwarda is the story of a prostitute who calls herself God, and The Dead Man, published in 1964 after Bataille’s death, is a startling short tale of cruelty and desire.


His non-fiction includes:


Eroticism is a collection of essays on taboo and sacrifice, transgression and language, death and sensuality. Bataille examines these themes with an original, often startling perspective. He challenges any single discourse on the erotic. The scope of his inquiry ranges from Emily Bronte to Sade, from St. Therese to Claude Levi-Strauss and Dr. Kinsey; and his subjects include prostitution, mythical ecstasy, cruelty, desire and sexuality.


Literature and Evil:

Literature and Evil is an extraordinary 1957 collection of essays, which begins with Bataille’s assertion that ‘Literature is not innocent.’ Bataille argues that only by acknowledging literature’s complicity with the knowledge of evil can literature communicate fully and intensely. The literary profiles of eight authors and their work, including Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal and the writings of Sade, Kafka and Sartre, explore subjects such as violence, eroticism, childhood, myth and transgression.


Georges Bataille’s books are available at:

Details of R J Dent’s work is available at:







In R J Dent’s Library – Philippe Djian’s 37°2 le matin (Betty Blue)

October 3, 2013

A look in R J Dent’s library at the novel 37°2  le matin (the basis of the film, Betty Blue) by Philippe Djian.



In R J Dent’s Library – Philippe Djian’s 37°2  le matin


Text (c) R J Dent (2013)

Film (c) R J Dent (2013)

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Betty Blue and 37°2 le matin

December 8, 2008



There are four Betty Blues that I love – one is the novel 37°2 le matin by Philippe Djian; one is the film that was based on that novel, Betty Blue, directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix and starring Beatrice Dalle and Jean-Hughes Anglade; one is the Cesar Award-winning film poster; and the other is the Betty Blue film soundtrack by Gabriel Yared.

The novel:


The novel, 37°2 le matin, originally written in French and translated into American English by Howard Buten, is a beautifully written book, full of enigmatic and haunting writing.

It tells the story of Betty and Zorg, lovers who live in a shack on the beach. He works as a handyman who does odd jobs to pay the bills. As the story begins, they have only been going out for a week and are in a very passionate stage of their relationship.

Zorg narrates the story of their relationship. In the film he provides the voice-over. He describes Betty as being “like a flower with translucent antennae and a violet Naugahyde core.” She longs for a better life and has had to quit her last job as a waitress because she was being sexually harassed by her boss.

Zorg’s boss asks him to paint the five hundred shacks that populate the beach — a fact that he keeps from Betty who thinks they only have to do one. She attacks the project with enthusiasm that quickly turns to anger once she learns the actual number. In response, Betty covers the boss’ car with pink paint.

During an argument, Betty accidentally discovers a series of notebooks that contain a novel Zorg wrote years ago. She reads it and falls in love with him even more. She then makes it her mission in life to type every hand-written page and get it published.

They move to Paris and Betty’s mental health declines, with her becoming more aggressive, violent, withdrawn and uncommunicative. Finally, she becomes self-destructive, with tragic consequences. Despite the bleakness of the plot, the tone of the book is very warm.

The film:


The film stays faithful to the novel and has become something of a French film classic. It should really be watched by everyone who wants to have an insight into human nature and the extremes of passion.


Although I’ve now seen Betty Blue at least twenty times, I first watched Betty Blue when I was in my twenties, which is probably the best time to watch it, because it has stayed with me and etched itself into my psyche from that initial viewing.

There are a number of reasons for this: the wonderful use of colour in the film, the locations, the acting, the sex, and so on, but another very good reason is the beautiful, haunting soundtrack by Gabriel Yared.

The soundtrack:


Below is a sample of Gabriel Yared’s haunting score for Betty Blue, to give an idea of just how moving the music is.


The poster:


Take a look at the Cesar Award-winning film poster, designed by Christian Blondel, and see how easily the ethereal (and sky-framed) Betty, staring into the distance, super-imposed onto and above an evening/dusk image of the beach-house in Gruissan, became such an iconic poster image.

So, look at the Cesar Award-winning film poster, read the powerful novel, watch the lushly-photographed film, and listen to the haunting soundtrack. It’s unusual for one piece of fiction to extend into so many other areas so successfully, but Betty Blue has done just that. It is a truly wonderful experience looking at it, reading it, watching it and listening to it.

Betty Blue and 37°2 le matin

© R J Dent (2009 & 2015)

Revised 2015