Land 92 a lecturer in Continental Philosophy at Warwick University [Nick, “The thirst for annihilation Georges Bataille and virulent nihilism (an essay in atheistic religion”, Routledge, Print.]
In a letter dated the 13th May 1871 Rimbaud writes to Georges Izambard from the maze of poetic delirium and the loss of self-possession. In a play upon the classic formula of Cartesian subjectivism, poetry is depicted as a shattering derangement of vision and a dislocation of the ego: Now I degrade myself as far as possible. Why? I want to be a poet, and I am working to render myself visionary: you will not understand any of this, and I scarcely know how to explain it to you. It is necessary to arrive at the unknown by a deregulation of all the senses. The sufferings are enormous, but one must be strong, to be born a poet, and I recognize myself as a poet. This is not at all my fault. It is false to say: I think. One should say: one thinks me…I is an other [R 5–7]. As if the confusional cyclone of poetry had already laid waste the resources of articulation, Rimbaud says that he cannot explain himself, just as two years later in A Season in Hell he will write: ‘I understand, and not knowing how to explain myself without pagan words, I would rather be silent’ [R 304]. This is not to say that words come to an end, but only that discourse ceases to dominate them. The motor is not discursive competence, but the vacant eye of the storm. In a further letter, this time to Paul Demeny, dated the 15th of the same month, Rimbaud repeated the phrase ‘a deregulation of all the senses’ [R 10] (only the emphasis is changed), the phrase I am an other, and the rhetoric of the poète maudit from the Izambard letter, stressing the necessity of intoxication, suffering, and exile: The poet makes himself a visionary by a long, immense and rational deregulation of all the senses. All forms of love, of suffering, of madness: he searches himself, he exhausts all poisons in himself, in order to preserve only their quintessences. Unspeakable torture where he has need of all faith, all superhuman strength, where he becomes among everyone the great invalid, the great criminal, the great accursed one—and the supreme scholar!—Because he arrives at the unknown, since he has cultivated his soul, already rich, more than anybody! He arrives at the unknown, and when, bewildered, he ends by losing the intelligence of his visions, he has seen them! Let him die as he leaps through unheard of and unnamable things: other horrible workers will come; they will begin from the horizons where the other collapsed! [R 7–17]. A method or an antimethod, the will to chance, a voyage into loss of control, this impossibility is the desolate core of poetry, a space of slippage. To slip is not to plan, to work, to struggle. ‘I have a horror of all trades. Masters and workers, all peasants, ignoble. The hand at the quill just as the hand at the plough’ [R 301]. Rimbaud confesses that he is ‘lazier than a toad’ [R 301–2], without decency, an alien to the civilization of toil. ‘I have never been of this people; I have never been a Christian; I am of the race who sings under torture; I do not understand the laws, I am a beast: you fool yourselves…’ [R 308]. An explorer of the sacred, traversing wildernesses beyond piety or sense, charred by the flame of the impossible, Rimbaud treads the edge of the maze, scraping away his tight European skin. * * * I am of an inferior race to all eternity [R 304]. Religion. * The mobility peculiar to the labyrinth—real cosmic motion or liquidation—is not confined by the scales, instead it finds a shaft of facilitation passing from one to another, a ‘slippage’ (glissement), the full consequence of which is an illimitable dispersion across the strata: communication through death. A strangely stationary mobility therefore. It is not that journeys are lacking in Bataille’s writings, merely that they radiate from a transition in profundity, from which they derive their futility and abortiveness. These static voyages can be undertaken by invalids in bed; Tropmann in the last two sections of ‘Maternal Feet’ in The Blue of Noon [III 425–39], Henri in Julie [IV 57–114]. ‘The Wait’ in The Abbé C. [III 316–19] describes Charles and Éponine in bed, glued together by the horror of Charles’ apparently impending murder at the hands of the ‘giant of butchery’ (another Henri) who Éponine counts amongst her lovers. The narrator of the first part of The Impossible declares himself: ‘prey to fear in my bed’ [III 113]. Meanderings in extension remain trapped in the maze, unless they cross over into a ‘blind slippage into death’ [III 29], ‘this slippage outside oneself that necessarily produces itself when death comes into play’ [II 246]. A ‘slippage produces itself [V 113], we do not do so, a chasm opens, chaos (=0), something horrific in its depth, a season in Hell that ‘slips immensely into the impossible’ [III 77], ‘the intensity and intimacy of a sensation opened itself onto an abyss where there is nothing which is not lost, just as a profound wound opens itself to death’ [IV 248]. Poetry is this slippage that is broken upon the end of poetry, erased in a desert as ‘beautiful as death’ [IV 18]. There is no quesion of affirmation, achievement, gain, but only a catastrophe without mitigation compared to which everything is poverty and imprisonment. ‘I would love to forget the ungraspable slippage of myself into corruption’ [III 227]. ‘Corruption is the spiritual cancer that reigns in the depths of things’ [IV 261]. my heart is black ink my sex is a dead sun [III 87]. Life decomposes into filth as it explores the vicarious death of the universe. In no case does the heterogeneous belong to any scale, since it is ‘exactly’ the irruption of decomposability. Heterogeneous (base) matter—‘blood, sperm, urine and vomit…’ [I 24]—is characterized negatively in relation to every possible stratum of elemental organization, which is why it resists the discourse on things.