The Torture Garden

The Torture Garden

by Octave Mirbeau

Following the twin trails of desire and depravity to a shocking, sadistic paradise - a garden in China where torture is practiced as an art form - a dissolute Frenchman discovers the true depths of degradation beyond his prior bourgeois imaginings. Entranced by a resolute Englishwoman whose capacity for debauchery knows no bounds, he capitulates to her every whim amid an ecstatic yet tormenting incursion of visions, scents, caresses, pleasures, horrors, and fantastic atrocities.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.78
  • Pages: 122
  • Publish Date: August 28th 2005 by Olympia Press
  • Isbn10: 1596540672
  • Isbn13: 9781596540675

What People Think about "The Torture Garden"

Aren't the gods monsters? Isn't a man of genius a monster, like a tiger or a spider, like all individuals who live beyond social lies, in the dazzling and divine immortality of things? I was impressed by the tone, which isn't sensational, but grounded and appreciative.

Well, 'enjoy' is probably not the right word, because it is certainly not tons of fun to read. I wait too long without saying anything about the horrors in my brain until one day I explode in one way or another, be it hurtful words or even more hurtful actions. I'm not saying this is always the case, of course; it can also go the other way, and it's me who is all starry-eyed and really trying to force it to work, to make it fit like Cinderella's stepsisters and that one shoe. Well, Mirbeau doesn't exactly claim that there really is one, but then again he's working at mushing extremes here, presenting them as symbiotic. These are possibilities presented by Mirbeau, not me. "Why are we so self-defeating, and how can we be so ugly to each other sometimes?" is a lot of what is asked here, and the behavior of these characters and their interactions with one another--a sadistic woman revealing the truth of herself to her horrified and stupefied lover--is presented as a case study exploring these difficult questions.

Wherever it appears, civilisation shows this face of sterile blood and forever dead ruins. My breath almost failed me and I felt I was about to faint.

The second half contains descriptions of sadistic torture and of erotic responses to cruelty that are remarkably frank and will be disturbing to most people. The modern reader may be repelled more by the apparent misogyny of the book than he or she is by the cruelty but we should consider that the 'bourgeois' sexual mores of the period not only involved exploitation of women by men but equally gross exploitation of men by women. This book merely suggests that an erotic psychopath might as easily be a woman as a man. We have a very weak, almost contemptible, male telling the story but the heroine is Clara, a monster of the first order but a monster whose engagement with sex and death is told in such poetic terms that we are in danger of becoming enthralled by it. There is thus not only an essential misogyny in the book insofar as our narrator seems to think that Clara's cruelty is shared by all women but also an ambiguous orientalism in which the western empires are condemned as barbarous just as we see a refinement of cruelty in the prisons of the East. The tortures of the Chinese are reversed psychologically, not as merely the excesses of some 'yellow peril' (the meme of the era to be presented later as 'Fu Manchu'), but as an authentic form of artistic sensibility which is refined and cultured. But what we are, in reading this book, is a voyeur of cruelty and only better in that we must presume that they are looking at the pain and death of real Chinese people, although, of course, they are not. This eroticism may be judged rather attractive stuff if we forget that the pleasure appears only because the woman has required the close observation of Sadean levels of cruelty in order to overwhelm her senses. This may be no surprise in an era that brought us Sacher-Masoch's Severin but his lapdog-like loyalty should make any 'real' man feel very uncomfortable as he reads the book. So, the book works at multiple levels - opening up our imaginal realm but under conditions where our observation of events is not allowed to be wholly detached by the sheer horror of what we are perceiving. In this dark dream, the man is led through horrors and erotic experiences as a passive creature who has no real comprehension of his situation. One superficial implication, from the beginning of the book, is that this is what all women are at heart (this is the apparent misogyny that I referred to earlier) but I think that Mirbeau is actually honouring women with a back-handed compliment. Whatever Mirbeau meant, the book is well worth reading for the luscious descriptions, even of the barbarities, but I do repeat my warning, do not even open this book if you confuse what is imagined with what is real. But this man also knows that, thanks to weak men and cruelty within the species, nothing can put the world to rights.

Sadism, on the other hand, strikes us as sinister; it is linked in our minds to morally or at least legally impermissible activities such as murder, and is therefore deemed incompatible with a civilised society. As someone who finds the suffering of others difficult to stomach I consider myself to have a very weak sadistic impulse, and yet one of my earliest memories is of playing maliciously with a small fly. Having read The Torture Garden, there is little doubt as to how Octave Mirbeau would have answered these questions. First published in 1899, his short novel opens with a group of men who, owing to the private nature of their meeting, feel as though they have the freedom to express themselves without inhibition discussing our human beings preoccupation with violence and death. For his characters these parodies of massacre are found in places such as the fair, where people shoot with rifles, pistols, or the good old crossbow at targets painted like human faces and others hurl balls knocking over marionettes ranged pathetically on wooden bars. Fortunately, Mirbeau appeared to recognise this, and at the right moment introduces the character of the man with the ravaged face, whose story accounts for the rest of the novel. It is the man with the ravaged face who first brings women into the discussion. This situation is, remember, our preoccupation with, and tendency towards, violence and murder, sadism and torture. However, as already hinted, as The Torture Garden continues Mirbeau confounds your expectations, and makes of the woman the aggressor, the villain, and the man the love-sick, silly slave. For the man with the ravaged face Clara is a monster and it is her behaviour in China, where she attends and revels in various tortures, that justifies this description. Take the torture of the bell, which involves placing a man inside a large bell and ringing it until he dies. Later the same man is asked why he kills black people: Wellto civilise themthat is to say, to take their stocks of ivory and resins.

Mekan : kence Bahçesi. Bir gün herkes ikenceye olan akndan ölecek de demi!

LOOK AT THAT THING), has still not been canonised in a Penguin or Oxford Classic.

Pleasure and pain merging to the point of blossoming in a pantheistic sexual act between human body and wild nature. Such is the delightful garden we explore in this novel of stifling hot atmospheres, feverish colours and intoxicating scents, the ultimate Flower of Evil of Decadentism. One day she takes her lover to the torture garden in the back of a prison, among the heavenly beauty of the nature - wild flowers, birds, butterflies, streams and lakes, the fiery Asian sunset - and the hellish horror of the torture instruments. Mirbeau's point is clear: there is an abyss between the jails of civilised Europe and the Chinese Garden of Unspeakable Suffering; it's the deep sense of harmony of the Asian attitude toward life and death. Harmony between human bodies and nature taking the shape of tiny morsels of flesh scattered among the flowers, pecked by exotic birds, on the bare ground soaked with blood and nectar and rotting fruit. Despite my inappropriate reaction to it (which my friends can easily imagine) this novel is neither a catalogue of perversions nor an obscene decadent fantasy, something quite fashionable in 1899, when the novel was published.

;Anita Fix review 2002-ish ART, milady, consists in knowing how to kill... ...Art, milady, consist in knowing how to kill, according to Rituals of Beauty." so recites an executioner far more disturbing and just as profound as Kafka's self-mutilations 'In The Penal Colony'. Taking us on this tour is none other than "Clara", a veritable Salome, the Demonic Woman par excellence; yet at the same time not very different from any other woman who's affected her unsuspecting lovers in ways that left them horrified and in awe of her overwhelming sexual nature, so much a part of her that she bleeds ritually from the wound it has made of her middle. Our main character at first begs her understanding forgiveness of his own dirty conscience & the beastiality he feels has made a veritable demon of himself; unsuspecting of her nature until it is she who takes him to her favorite place in the world: the torture garden.