Read Torture Garden by Octave Mirbeau Online


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 eFollowing 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....

Title : Torture Garden
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 8667664
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 156 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Torture Garden Reviews

  • Vit Babenco
    2018-11-28 08:22

    Wherever it appears, civilisation shows this face of sterile blood and forever dead ruins.The Torture Garden is a gloomy and sinister satire about the inhuman brutality of humankind. The novel is aesthetically decadent and whimsically fanciful.Honesty is inactive and sterile; it does not know how to evaluate appetites and ambitions, the only desires in which something durable is found.To be honest doesn’t pay and the only way to power in society is the unrestricted malevolence…The future seemed sadder and more desperate than winter twilight falling over the sick patient’s bedroom. And what new infamy would the wretched minister propose after dinner? How much deeper did he want to plunge me into the mire from which one did not return, causing me to vanish forever?And from this hopeless point of departure the narrator embarked on his dramatic journey through the cosmic atrocity and meanness.And the smells rising from the crowd – the smells of toilet and abattoir combined, the stench of carrion and the sweat of living flesh – sank my spirits and chilled me to the bone. I often felt the same lethargic torpor at evening in the Annam forests while the miasmas rose up from the deep humus and death lay in wait behind each flower, each leaf and each blade of grass. My breath almost failed me and I felt I was about to faint.The civilized world is a place of merciless torture skillfully disguised as a wondrous garden.

  • Paquita Maria Sanchez
    2018-12-09 15:47

    This one is defeating me as far as creating a formal review is concerned, so let me just instead tell you why I stuck with it, and why I may have been in a prime position to enjoy it as much as I did. Well, 'enjoy' is probably not the right word, because it is certainly not tons of fun to read. It's sexually-charged violence which explores the fork-tongued, heads-in-the-sand nature of the West in relation to its methods of maintaining order, punishing crime, and Civilizing the Natives the world over. Yes, it is certainly that. At the same time, it is also an exploration of the razor-wire between lust and violence, and our addiction, as human beings entangled with one another in various attempts at real embraces, to desiring what we can't have while rejecting what we can or do; the feelings of repulsion that sometimes go with affection, the malaise that sets in. I have historically had trouble finding a middle gray between the romantic polarities. What starts out for me as excitement and intoxication often quickly devolves into shoe-fly irritation, depression, and a crippling desire for isolation. My suppression and denial of these urges and inclinations has repeatedly led to pain for myself and others. 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. Every single time I have actually been optimistic and really given it my all, I have been the one crushed under the boot. What to do? Is it possible to stare my demons in the face and scare them away completely, surrounding myself with a circle of magical glitter dust that makes me impervious to...myself? Do I conform my shape to what I have been given as a result of my life and myriad experiences, both wonderful and horrible, and just run with the hyenas shamelessly until one of them completely extracts my still-beating heart and eats it while I watch in horror? Should I just hide in a room forever because you people/myself all terrify me? Jesus, where's the middle-ground?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. It's all masquerading cruelty. We crave punishment because of its erotic nature resulting from the simultaneous births of both bloodshed and sexuality. We so often desire what we cannot have because that desire is self-feeding, virulent and primal, while comfortable, chaos-free intimacy can be numbing specifically due to its lack of friction and self-laceration. These are possibilities presented by Mirbeau, not me. Aren't they awful? Well, I'm still tossing the complexities of intimacy around, and this book aided me in doing that. Uncomfortably. That is why I can say I am glad I read it rather than that I enjoyed reading it, despite the fact that it was beautifully written even in translation. It shined a flashlight inside of my open chest and straight to my icky little ticker, grabbed me by the hair, and forced me to look while screaming a spit-ridden "TELL ME WHAT YOU SEE!" The juxtaposition of passion and destruction just resonated with me, as did the extremes of beauty and internal suffering. "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. The novel made me really look at myself and the people I've known and cared for, scary and queasiness-inducing as it may have been. I mean, it depressed the shit out of me, but that's not something I make a point of avoiding in literature. Speaking of which, check out this 'pot of gold at the end of the rainbow' metaphor for romantic love:Come, my dears, come quickly. Where you are going there is still more pain, more torture, more blood flowing and dripping on the earth, more contorted and torn bodies breathing their last on iron tables...more ragged flesh swaying on the gallows-rope, more horror and more hell. Come, my loves, lip to lip and hand in hand. And look between the foliage and the lattice-work, look at the infernal diorama unfolding, and the diabolical festival of death!The power of positive thinking, right? Ope, looks like a storm is coming...

  • Jonfaith
    2018-11-22 11:48

    Monsters, monsters! But there are no monsters! What you call monsters are superior forms, or forms beyond your understanding. 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? Why, I too then, am a monster.Curious about The Torture Garden? You may need a tall absinthe and a dearth of holiday cheer for a proper appreciation. That is not entirely accurate. Unlike the thrust of the decadent lettres, there isn't a default pose of ennui on display. Passion pulses here. The manifestatsions of such are irregular, to say the least. Such desire is maintained, and the novel remains, well, beautiful. The lush descriptions of the garden itself are exaustive and totalizing: a horticultural Eden despite the deaths of a thousand cuts and the carrion being offered to the deliriously starved. I was impressed by the tone, which isn't sensational, but grounded and appreciative.

  • [P]
    2018-11-28 13:33

    I am of the opinion that sadistic and masochistic impulses exist within everyone, but that often one or the other is more pronounced. What is interesting about these impulses, however, is that people are generally more comfortable with accepting, or acknowledging, the pleasure they experience as a consequence of their own pain than they are the pleasure gained from the pain of others. This is, you might argue, because the former is more socially acceptable; to enjoy being hurt, even to an extreme degree, does not suggest a kind of moral failing. 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. Yet this does not mean, of course, that the pleasure ceases to exist, simply that we – the so-called civilised – endeavour to disguise it, we seek to mask it under the guise of curiosity, science, progress, righteousness, etc.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. I was on a bus and it was raining, and this had caused condensation to collect along the bottom edge of the window. When I spotted the fly I, almost absentmindedly, pushed it into the pool of water. Then I waited, allowing it to struggle. After a while I extricated it, only to push it back into the water at the moment at which, I imagined, it believed itself to be saved. I repeated this manoeuver until the fly stopped moving. And at this point I felt ashamed. Did I, however, feel ashamed because I had killed the fly or because I could feel society’s disapproving gaze burning into my back? Was I judging myself or was I scared of the judgement of others? Was my shame not, in truth, the realisation that I had allowed the mask to slip, that I had, in my naivety, allowed the ugly black cat to poke its head out of the bag?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. Murder is, one of the men claims, ‘a vital instinct which is in us all.’ The reason our society has not descended into bloody anarchy is because we indulge this instinct – which is natural – by giving it ‘a legal outlet’, via war, colonial trade, hunting, etc. While this might strike some readers as being a drearily negative or cynical view of humanity, as someone who is drearily negative and cynical myself I was furiously, albeit metaphorically, nodding my head throughout.However, not everyone indulges this impulse by means of actual physical violence. In some it finds an outlet via what Mirbeau calls ‘counterfeits of 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.’ In the present day one sees analogous behaviour in those who play unpleasant video games which involve butchering computerised civilians. It is, I believe, also the reason that many are so drawn to certain kinds of horror film, the torture porn genre in particular. Indeed, I have often had arguments with a friend of mine about this, a friend who watches and re-watches titles like Saw, The Human Centipede, Martyrs, Hostel, and so on. He is, in my opinion, undoubtedly experiencing pleasure in these staged dismemberments and murders, precisely in these elements of the films, for what else do they have to offer? If he was disgusted – which is what I would consider a healthy reaction – he would avoid them, as I do myself.“Wherever he goes, whatever he does, he will always see that word: murder—immortally inscribed upon the pediment of that vast slaughterhouse—humanity.”While the discussion of these ideas is engaging, one does, after a while, reach a point where one yearns for some kind of narrative momentum. 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. In this way, The Torture Garden’s opening section is a false beginning, is a kind of philosophical prologue that could be skipped, but which, I would argue, enriches what is to follow. The man, who isn’t named, is described as having ‘a bowed back and mournful eyes, whose hair and beard were prematurely grey.’ The ravaged face and prematurely grey hair is significant, because it suggests that something may have happened to age him, some distressing event that has impacted upon his physical appearance.It is the man with the ravaged face who first brings women into the discussion. To have neglected them is, he claims, ‘really inconceivable in a situation in which they are of primary importance.’ This situation is, remember, our preoccupation with, and tendency towards, violence and murder, sadism and torture. His argument is that women in particular derive from these acts, or from the observation of these acts, not merely pleasure but a sexual pleasure; he, in fact, compares the actions of murder with those of sex, where ‘there are the same gestures of strangling and biting—and often the same words occur during identical spasms.’ One can guess, on the basis on this argument, that it is specifically the man’s experience with a woman that has changed him. Indeed, he confirms this himself a little later: ‘Woman revealed crimes to me that I had not known!—shadows into which I had not yet descended. Look at my dead eyes, my inarticulate lips, my hands which tremble—only from what I have seen!’ The name of this woman is Clara, and she is one of the most extraordinary characters in literature.She is introduced as an ‘eccentric Englishwoman,’ who ‘talked sometimes at random and sometimes with a lively feeling for things.’ Yet despite the man’s intention to bed her she remains ‘impregnably virtuous.’ At this stage one considers oneself to be in familiar nineteenth century literature territory. There is the caddish gentleman with the ‘awkward past’, and the pure, but, one assumes, eventually willing, object of his desire. 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. Indeed, at one point Clara is compared to the dum-dum bullet, the notorious expanding ammunition that was designed to cause maximum damage in the intended target by creating a larger entrance wound and no exit wound.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. I don’t want to linger over the barbaric acts themselves, not least because reading about, and revisiting, them makes me uncomfortable. What is important, in relation to Clara, who is a devout sexual-sadist, is that she finds them beautiful, sensual. To some extent, I can understand this, for torture is a concentration upon the body, it is working upon the body with almost loving, but certainly intense, attention; it requires an understanding of the body, and a theatrical, quasi-artistic, approach to murder. [Take the torture of the bell, which involves placing a man inside a large bell and ringing it until he dies]. In any case, how should one understand Clara? Is she natural, uninhibited humanity? She says of herself that she is not a monster, or at least no more than the tiger or the spider is.There is much more to The Torture Garden than I have touched upon here, and much more that I would like to discuss, but this review is in danger of becoming monstrous itself. I do, however, want to point out that the novel is not quite as heavy and intense as I have perhaps made it sound. I mean, certainly large parts of it are, but there is humour too. For example, in one passage a man who kills a young boy by fracturing his skull is outraged at being sent to prison: ‘They dragged me before some judges or other, who sentenced me to two months in prison and ten thousand francs fine and damages. For a damned peasant! And they call that civilisation!’ Later the same man is asked why he kills black people: ‘Well—to civilise them—that is to say, to take their stocks of ivory and resins.’ Ok, so it’s a dark humour, but it made me laugh anyway; and they are precious to me, those sniggers and smiles, because, although I agree with Mirbeau almost completely in his opinions and ideas and conclusions, I also believe [or have deceived myself into believing] that life isn’t only baseness and vulgarity and violent, barely restrained, impulses, that it provides less alarming enjoyment also, such as a well-written book and a few pissy jokes.

  • Tim Pendry
    2018-11-20 10:41

    This is a remarkable book, a brilliant book, a powerful book but two warnings are in order for the general reader.The first is the more obvious one. 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. Nothing is spared. Do not pick up this book if you cannot draw the essential mental distinction between reality and the imagination.As for the second, it is also only fair to warn that this is a political and social satire that is firmly set in the decadent and corrupt milieu of the Third French Republic. The first pages in the book will read a little dully to most people uninterested in the politics of corruption and sleaze. These two aspects - political satire and sexual 'depravity' - are connected but the modern reader might find it hard to make that connection if he is not a specialist in the period.These aspects collide to great and troubling effect only once our hero and his new girlfriend arrive in China and Mirbeau cleverly makes a sharp and decisive break between the two halves of the book. One moment we are in Ceylon where the weak hero gives up all for his girl and the next we are in a Chinese palace with a long back story of bisexual adventure.We find a passionate and tormented relationship with a lengthy history scarcely referred to before the woman drags the 'hero' off to the torture garden.Now we see the angry nihilism of a radical anarchist merge with the repressed and torrid sexuality of the apparently misogynistic decadent. This is, after all, 1898.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.And, as I will suggest below, we should make a distinction between the opinion of the weak narrator of the tale and what the author, Octave Mirbeau, was trying to convey.Bourgeois morality seems to have been perfected in late nineteenth century France to ensure that the mass of any population could be held in psychological pens to be shorn by psychopaths. 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. Very 1898 and very decadent!The brutal achievement of the book lies in its ambiguities but the most evident ambiguity is that this monster of a woman also evidently 'suffers' from her experience, trapped into a cycle of depravity.She achieves an ecstatic state that leaves us with the conclusion that she is truly alive within that cycle whereas her male companion is nothing but an insipid petit-bourgeois without will or use except as observer of her dark pleasures.Of course, we have to stand back here and remember that this is not a book about a 'real' China but a book about male rage in a France where the scrabble for profit and the deadening hypocrisy of middle class society has created a need for this fantasy of violence and sex.The writing is, regardless of what it writes about, superb. The description of the journey to the East match anything by Maugham but this is capped with the most exquisite accounts of the prison and the garden. We can more than visualise it. We are there 'in the flesh'.When both the horrors and the sexual excesses appear, they really do enter into our own minds as parts of our own fantasy world which we can then either choose to reject or engage with. We are observing these things alongside our cruel voyeuse and her horrified, sickened and fascinated partner. Mirbeau cleverly forces us to mirror their positions - we can either be like him and weak or like her and strong. 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. It is only a story and we are as implicated as they are by that fact. The final section, set in what must be a very high class tantric brothel and opium den, describes scenes wholly reminiscent of Crowley's account of eroto-comatose lucidity. 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. The touch of death has been required for this ecstasy.She is not unaware of the enormity of what is going on. She takes the vision of observable and real horror as a path to 'ekstasis' beyond good and evil. There is every indication that she knows what she is doing.He, on the other hand, is the worst sort of inadequate whiner, totally subject to her strange psychology. 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. Both hero and 'heroine' do little but observe during the book and we observe them observing. If they are 'guilty', then we are guilty. After all, they condemned no one themselves and they took no part in the tortures. They merely watched as we watch them watching.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. He comes across, bluntly, as not very bright. She comes across as interesting. That is disturbing in itself.To her, he is one up on her dog, someone to witness her engagement with horror, loved as a tool of pleasure when near but as disposable as all the other creatures who adore her. Her callous remembrance of her dead lesbian lover sets the tone here.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.This is not what women are like (he is really saying) but what humanity is really like if you look at it dispassionately. It is simply that women can be as cruel and as erotically exploitative as any man.We have to go back to 1898 to understand this point. It is too simplistic to say that men are good and women vile - or vice versa as we get from some of the more primitive feminists.Humanity is a pretty unpleasant species all round (he dwells on one or two nasty Western cases of cruelty with no artistic merit or erotic component). The attempt to turn middle class women into little saints to be worshipped while treating working class women as sluts is futile and hypocritical. Clara is definitely upper middle class English with decidely angry and radical views on empire herself.We are, he is saying in 1898, utterly hypocritical in covering up our cruelties and sexual desires and that these cruelties and desires are as strong in women as they are in men. The hint about Clara is that her cycle of depravity is a salve for the despair that follows a righteous radical anger - a feeling not uncommonly found by many young radicals when their eyes are opened to the nature of humanity in the round.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. You may have nightmares. In summary, this is a brilliant insight into a nihilistic psyche expressed through a game of extreme imagination. It merges sexual ekstasis and cruelty in a Sadean manner.But it is angry rather than psychopathic. We might even say that this is what happens when a well-meaning moral man discovers that the world deserves to be seen in nihilistic terms. It is the reaction that Nietzsche had feared only a couple of decades before.We hear here the scream of a complicated man who has seen too much of the world but who knows what is right and what is wrong. But this man also knows that, thanks to weak men and cruelty within the species, nothing can put the world to rights. Syria today might confirm that.And so the most immoral of stories, in terms of decadent style and incident, is surreptiously the most moral of stories, pointing out that failure to be more than human as a society means that the solipsistic narcissism of the worst forms of the blond beast becomes possible.

  • Yasemin Şahin
    2018-11-29 09:24

    1899'da yazılan ve 19.yy'ın en mide bulandırıcı kitabı olarak nitelenen roman. Avrupalının ayıbı Doğu ülkelerinin merhametsizlikleriyle örtüştürmek maksatlı yazılmamıştır bu kitap.Ya da dünya insanları işkenceyi romanda görsün de değildir olay.Çin'de bir bahçe, o bahçe ki yaşadığımız dünyadan farksız, otlu böcekli, ağaçlı olmayı bırak insan ve kan kaynayan...Ne diyorduk, Çin'de bir bahçe, İşkence Bahçesi, evet ya Çin işkencesi...Bir eğlence parkı, stres atıp kahkahalarla yırtınacağınız bir mekan, ürkekliğimizden, korkaklığımızdan cesaretimizden ilham alınıp bize sunulan Çin kölelerinin "işkence" deki anları. Mekan : İşkence Bahçesi.İşkence edilen vücutların önünde yaşanan bir sevgi. İşkenceye eş zamanda var olan bir aşk. Aşkı yaşatmak için iki taraf gerekli. Biri aynı zamanda işkence görenlere aşıksa, onu böyle mi kabul etmeli! Etrafımızda işkenceyi eğlence görenlere müsama göstermenin yolu sadece aşık olmaktan geçmiyor demeli. Octave Mirbeau herkes işkenceye aşık, geri kalanı ise herkese aşık demekle yetinmemiş! Bir gün herkes işkenceye olan aşkından ölecek de demiş!

  • MJ Nicholls
    2018-12-11 10:30

    One of the seminal texts of the decadent movement, presented here with that fucking abomination of a cover (excuse the swear, only . . . LOOK AT THAT THING), has still not been canonised in a Penguin or Oxford Classic. Their loss. Mirbeau’s novel centres around Clara, a small waif for whom love and death are inseparable, leading our hapless hero around a tour of Chinese torture sites and prisons, unable to convert to the inherent loveliness of starved animals in cages being thrown lumps of meat as their flesh rots. Our hero, cursing his luck on Tinder, vows never to use a dating site again. A classic, rife in virulent descriptions to turn even the most morbid Dorian Gray wannabe the colour of Smurf piss.

  • Ludmilla
    2018-12-06 08:39

    Böyle şeylere sabrım da sinirlerim de midem de yetersiz kalıyor artık. Oda Hizmetçisinin Günlüğü'nü sevince bunu da okuyayım dedim ama ıhh. Ergenken Amerikan Sapığı'nı çok da etkilenmeden okuduğum düşünülürse, bu kitabı okumam gereken vakit de o zamanlarmış. Geçti bizden yeraltı edebiyatı ve bilimum iğrençlikler...

  • Jim
    2018-11-29 14:41

    Love, death, torture, corruption -- mix them up into a grisly stew, and you have Octave Mirbeau's The Torture Garden (1899), a curious pastiche of a work whose major part consists of a stroll through a strange garden in which prisoners are executed -- exquisitely -- to the accompaniment of exotic flora and fauna. One of the tortures consists of listening close up to a giant bell until blood spurts out one's orifices. (The torture also kills the torturers.)Having failed in France, the narrator goes out to the East. On the voyage, he meets Clara; and they fall in love with each other. Instead of staying in Ceylon on some trumped-up scientific expedition, the narrator accompanies Clara to China, where stresses develop in their relationship. It seems that Clara is more than half in love with death; and the narrator is shocked when she seems to go into a trance in the torture garden. In the end, she is taken by sampan to what appears to be a massive bordello. Typical of their interaction:"Dear Clara," I objected, "is it really natural for you to seek sensuality in decomposition, and urge your desires to greater heights by horrible spectacles of suffering and death? Isn't that, to the contrary, a perversion of that nature whose cult you invoke, in order to perhaps excuse whatever criminal and monstrous quality your sensuality involves?" "No!" said Clara, quickly, "since love and death are the same thing! And since decomposition is the eternal resurrection of life...."How does one argue with a woman like that? If one is half in love with death, it's just a hop, skip, and a jump to the thing itself.The Alvah Bessie translation that I read tries to be poetic, but Mirbeau does have a gift for making you nod along with him until you, as does the narrator, confronts the unspeakable. Also, in the original French, the author makes extensive use of ellipsis marks ("..."), much like Céline in Death on the Installment Plan. The Torture Garden is a strange fruit, but worth reading. It is as if Mirbeau tried to put Beaudelaire into prose.

  • Osiris Oliphant
    2018-11-30 10:41

    ;Anita Fix review 2002-ishART, 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'. Octave Mirbeau's fin-de-siecle brutal fairy-tale is divided down the middle forming a novel hermaphrodite. The first side exploratory of the monstrous exterior life and career of our main character, modelled on Octave Mirbeau himself given the intimate revealings of an anarchists' psyche in considering cultural morals. It produced in me several years ago when I decided against indulging in its perversions a definite revulsion & base attraction; the fault is entirely my own. The book is one where each reader must confront not just realistic characters, but materializations in one's own mind; I am now as a man who has just come full circle in the revolutions of a dark planet consisting of many 'dark nights of the soul' spent in the folds of this amorous creature. Mirbeau charts the progresssion of murder, expounding on topics affecting our contemporary society only more so than his own; foremost is Murder being the primary reason all government exists, as well as calling for their continuation, lest we all openly slaughter one another. Here are discussed serial-killers, televised execution, the hero-illusion suffered by video games & carnival freakshow, the glorification of the ideal soldier in his dutiful murderous abilities, here are the worships of public sports as ritual leftovers from war channelled into arenas built as high & mighty as churches, and the extinction of hunting & the chase & the kill spawning inhuman hunters of human prey...murder as well channelled into celebration & Artistic endeavor, and perhaps most profoundly, murder born from love & reaching its ultimate goal in orgasm with sex itself based on murder's very motions, strivings, the same physiological sensations, often made up of the same harsh words & tone of voice coupled with various levels of pleasure & pain... The other section of this divided self takes one into the interior of the Chinese Garden, where rich black soil profits from the innumerable bodies decomposing in its cellular maw. 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. Here are encountered sub-limits of barbarous erotica, blooming hothouse flowers that are but sexual organs more refined & pronounced than the appendages of humankind. Our green-eyed red-haired Clara does unthought of wonders with the pollens & poisons of these, the rarest flowers collected from all over the world and tended to with exacting delicacy by traditional Chinese gardeners trained in the fine Arts of Torture & horticulture, now extinct except for this one last garden preserved within the quadrilateral confines of perhaps the largest prison in the world, where upon entering it's as if a whole new self-sifficient sky & atmosphere is found here, heightening one's senses to the pitch of delirium, the reader's as well. It is a place of sublime brutality, where sex & death are mingled to an unprecedented degree unimagined by the world's most glorious murderers and sexual deviants. The story will not be given away by a low aspirant who can only give praises unto such magickal works as encountered there. He promises though only the highest quality of tortures, none of that cheap pulpous stuff found in cheap bestselling fiction, this tale is not made up of fruitless & pointless indulgences in the wasted efforts of the truly useless Arts of "entertainment-only"! Only the most exquisite depths of debauch and the highest grandiose summits are scaled, in a highly refined manner than took centuries to develop. Be assured, if you must, such is a cleansing purification rite upon the organs & instruments of eternal human suffering, so valiently though vainly attempted in the depiction of Chrixt nailed and hung upon his crucifix. Disturbing?-yes, to those who would feign innocence & turn red when caught, possessed of unspeakable thoughts, in the all-seeing eyes of a great work of Literature; even if just fixed for a moment by the eyes of a knowing character in a book that casts no eternal damnation? "It is, of course, an indecent novel, because it assults the very notion of "decency" as a hollow sham!"Anita Fixed

  • Jean-marcel
    2018-11-13 12:33

    This is a very misanthropic book written by one of those probably-insane nineteenth century Frenchmen. I don't know what it is about the French and this kind of thing but there was certainly nothing contemporary in the English world to rival the filthiness and extremity that was coming from this land of wine, cheese and Catholicism. Britain probably would have sealed up the channel, except all the ministers crying and gnashing about "obscenity! Degradation! Blasphemy!" were secretly getting off on this stuff, I bet.The book is divided into two sections, each with a distinct tone and feel. The first is full of clever but ultimately self-defeating aphorisms and begins in a classic conversation between a bunch of gentlemen, where a mysterious, intense and troubled seeming stranger then begins to relate his tale of woe. The tale in question is of an ineffectual and corrupt civil servant and his disgraceful downfall. once he's at his lowest and being shipped off to Burma to keep him out of the way, he meets a travelling English woman who's fickleness and impetuous nature is like the most deadly trap to him. After lots of tears and hand-wringing, they decide to go off to China together, where she will show him how to really live an exciting life......a life that, as revealed in the second section, consists of lots and lots of extreme sex, in all positions and varieties. Clara certainly has many playthings, male and female, but this weak puppydog of a Frenchman is her favourite. She's kept him around longer than most, but it's time to show him her favourite site in China, the infamous Torture Garden. Here among beautiful blossoms and verdant plenty, the criminals of the state are excruciated and executed in an endless variety of ways, both subtle and extreme. We skip right over the sexy details and get right to the pain and misery, which is the real thing that Clara is into. The descriptions of torture and degradation in this second part carry on for pages, and all the while Clara becomes more and more excited, until it's literally a fever that's burning her up. Obviously it's not going to end nice.I don't know how good the translation is, really, but the juxtaposition of the gorgeous scenery and absolutely grotesque torture is stark and undeniable. This isn't a book that will make you feel good, or even entertained, although the first part lulls you into feeling that you're dealing with a reasonably friendly (if kind of aloof and miserable) piece of 19th century literature. It's quite engaging, such as it is, but it's obvious that Mirbeau considers the second part to be the real, rotten, maggot-infested meat of his text. It's interesting that Mirbeau makes his siren of pain an Englishwoman, since today most people consider Victorian England to be stuffy and repressed, and even if that is at times a rather exaggerated position, I've no doubt that the French often thought of their neighbours in the same way...stuffy and undersexed and thus doubtless harbouring growing seeds of sadomasochism and perversion. For a mad intellectual like Mirbeau, Clara is like the arrow to the heart of all his detractors and those who would quash his work.The Torture Garden is one of those books you experience, more than anything else. I'm not sure anyone would really enjoy it that much but, as with a film like Cannibal Holocaust or other "dangerous" works of literature (many of them also French!), it's not something you'll ever forget, should you choose to walk the path of peonies. Take care, though.

  • Danger Kallisti
    2018-12-12 07:45

    This book was really one of those once-in-a-lifetime finds. I was randomly surfing through, reading about Artaud and movements in contemporary theater, and that somehow led to weird recommendations for sadomasochistic turn-of-the-century French writing. It was translated and released by a small indie publisher dealing in out-of-print and hard-to-find erotica, mostly from the 60s. One could easily tell by the very poor editing (which I’m starting to get used to, after this year, but which I like none the better) and strange slips into the German instead of English articles for things (i.e. ‘die’ instead of ‘the’). I could literally see where typos were made because the translator from French had poor handwriting and letters were misinterpreted (upper-case ‘I’ and lower-case ‘l’ were often confused, letters which had run together were mistaken for others, such as ‘in’ being typed as ‘m’)… still, one must not judge the painting by the quality of the print, and I’m lucky to have found any copy at all.This was a stunningly beautiful, disgusting, shocking book. It’s hard to find a piece of work that actually accomplishes even one of those things, much less all of them. It deftly illustrated the dichotomy of the human condition. Love is death, beauty pain, and torture ecstasy. A great sadomasochistic work of art.It was interesting, how in the end, Clara’s addiction to the horror and pain of the torture garden was proven. She goes through a period almost akin to a near-death experience, a sort of psychic purge, and afterward, appears to emerge in a state of grace (“very white, and small”). It is as though she can only be made whole by experiencing the extremes of existence (gee… funny thing, that). This is a concept that only the French, light-years ahead of the rest of the western world in terms of emotional maturity, have ever truly mastered.

  • Lolololita
    2018-11-17 13:35

    Mirbeau wrote The Torture Garden as a literary response to the Dreyfus affair: a political scandal - based on a miscarriage of justice within the military - that divided French society in the late 1800's. The Torture Garden dissects the dichotomy between the reflected human obsessions of depravity and desire. Mirbeau carves sensuality into the brutal actions of his characters with a poet's attention to language. The novel is disturbing, not just because of the explicit violence depicted, but in the tangible reality of the violence seen in the current news media. The novel also features one of the strongest, proactive, and sexually confident woman I have ever read. Undeniably a monster, she is a creature of electric sexuality and wit - a demon to be admired. I love books that challenge both my comfortable emotional and intellectual states. This novel did both.

  • Andrew
    2018-12-09 12:19

    OK, it's probably both borderline racist and borderline misogyny-- let's get that out of the way before we start in.But it's also supremely fucked up and awesome and lushly descriptive, sadomasochistic but also kind of not really, vaguely political (there's a political message in there somewhere...), simultaneously Nietzschean and anti-Nietzschean, bizarre, unclassifiable, and just generally kickass. Pain is life is sex is death, and we try to impose categories to make sense of it-- whether or not Mirbeau thinks this is a good thing is probably up to the reader.Also, I live in Bangkok right now, and this entire fucking city is the Torture Garden. That certainly endeared me.

  • Chris
    2018-11-27 11:28

    Recommended by, and when have they been wrong, aside from the last ten suggestions haphazardly tossed my way…… I picked this up hoping to be disgusted, to be so shocked, startled, and overwhelmed with mind-blowing perversity that I wouldn’t be able to turn my sickened eyes from it while plumbing the depths of depravity. What did I get? A bunch of botany and some pretty pathetic torture sequences. What happened to the ‘detailed descriptions of sexual euphoria and exquisite torture’ that publisher Olympia Press promised? And who the hell is Olympia press, anyway? Have you ever had the bargain-basement beer/swill known as Olympia “It’s the water” Lager? Olympia Press is the publishing equivalent; there are probably somewhere around 200 errors in the editing, printing, and translation throughout; periods in the middle of sentences or following commas, forward-slashes and back-slashes appearing for no particular reason, capitalization where none is needed, individual letters in place of words (notably “j” and “m”, which I’m assuming the typist confused from “I” and “in” respectively, presumably while working off a moth-eaten, handwritten proof) and a whole bunch of misspellings which sometimes add a touch of humor to the story (he put his lips to her 'beast'? sexy). While I am hardly qualified to bitch someone out for their spelling and use of punctuation, the fact that even I noticed these things means that there are for more problems than met my sloppy eye. I’m not blaming the author for these errors; this is entirely the fault of half-assed production by the regrettable Olympia Press, who managed to churn out a truly piss-poor edition of “The Torture Garden”. With the low quality of the copy in mind, it was up to the generally-unsung and twisted talents of Octave Mirbeau to save the day, and this turned out to be as promising as having a myopic, underdeveloped fifteen year old step to the mound at the bottom of the ninth to save a one-run lead for your preferred baseball team. I was hoping that “The Torture Garden” was completely insane, massively f@cked-up and revolting, and since it was published by some shitty indie press, I figured this was a good sign that no reputable publisher would dare release it under their name. Generally, I’ve come to expect that in circumstances such as this, this isn’t the case; it’s basically that the larger firms know that the book has almost no literary merit, won’t draw readership, and pretty much sucks. The story begins with a group of affluent, cigar-smoking, brandy-sniffing stuffed shirts sitting around discussing man’s lust for the suffering, violence, and death of others, with several members of the group animatedly recollecting their experiences with the viciousness of mankind. One of the group, a man with a ravaged face, joins the debate with much to contribute regarding the ability of women to perform acts of unspeakable cruelty. When he is rebuked, he immediately whips out a manuscript from his fanny pack and offers to read his magnum opus to the group as support for his statements. The host calls for candles to be lit, fresh cigars, and full snifters to be distributed, and during this reading we can only assume a multitude of booze, wax, and ashes befouled the copy to the point that some poor pud at Olympia press would be unable to read about a quarter of the sacred tale within: “The Torture Garden”. The story plods along for quite some time before anything resembling torture takes place. The narrator gives a thorough account of his upbringing, in which his father was a shady farmer that used every trick in the book to turn a profit, or ‘roping in’ the witless dunderheads that purchased his goods. Eventually, he sold the army some tainted goods and had his reputation ruined before kicking the bucket, leaving the narrator and his mother poverty-striken. The narrator turns to his friend, Eugene, a rising politician, for aide, and becomes a pawn in Gene’s underhanded dealings. As Eugene climbs higher in social standing, our narrator increasingly resents his success (borne partly of his efforts) and becomes openly hostile towards his chum when he fails to win a post of his own in an election in which Eugene steered his campaign. Ruined, the narrator threatens to turn over his documents concerning his dealings to the press and authorities, leaving Eugene no choice but to put as much distance between the two as possible. As a gesture of goodwill, Eugene sends the narrator off with false credentials as an able scientist in the discipline of embryology, and basically exiles him to Ceylon to go discover the origins of life on Earth. En route to Ceylon, on the good ship Saghalien, our narrator busies himself with bullshitting a young English noblewoman, Miss Clara, who has been living in China to escape the senseless routine of European customs. While there are some interesting conversations between the passengers on the boat (most notably the formidable and inventive artilleryman) concerning savagery, cannibalism, and crimes during times of war, Mirbeau’s only strength here is to help the reader appreciate and experience the tedium and sluggish pace of nineteenth-century ocean travel. Our narrator, afraid of losing the lovely Miss Clara when he is to disembark, comes clean and informs her that he’s a fraud, he doesn’t know a thing about embryology, he’s not a naturalist, he’s just an unscrupulous scumbag that’s been the hapless tool of a more powerful scumbag. Miss Clara just giggles at him, and offers him to join her in China, where she intends to show him what true debauchery looks and tastes like. The narrator blindly obeys. Now that the book was more than half completed, I was expecting Mirbeau to pull out all the stops and delve into sensational, stomach-turning horrors. What a fool I am; I’d simply been ‘roped in’ by the shrewd marketing of Olympia Press. Sure, there’s a little torture, but nothing shocking or very interesting. The rest of the book is basically a long discourse on the incredible botany skills of the Chinamen tending to the Garden, and the multitudinous flora of the area. And a shitload of peacocks. That’s really about it; the narrator endlessly contemplates his heightened appreciation of natural beauty after the disquieting events which take place during the couple of hours he spends at the Torture Garden. Seriously, the guy attends this grotesquery once, for all of an afternoon, and then spends the rest of the time in the goddam garden and naming each specimen and lauding its beauty. For a sham naturalist, the guy is surprisingly well-studied in identifying all forms of plant life, and I haven’t read anything so wholly dedicated to endless descriptions of flowers since Huysmans’s “Against Nature”. The only torture going on is inflicted upon the reader’s sense of literary acumen, a much more fitting title would have been “The Torture of Reading About a Garden”. Overall, “The Torture Garden” was very disappointing, and my experience reading this was almost identical to that of “Story of the Eye” by Bataille, except that I’d have to say Mirbeau’s writing is far better. Both were acclaimed for some sort of underground status and applauded for their ‘disgusting and nauseating’ content, but both were just cheap and flimsy attempts to titillate. I suppose it was fitting that I read this while attending the 6th wedding my girlfriend has dragged me to. That was torturous alright, and my behavior was probably more shocking and appalling than anything within this poorly-constructed volume.

  • Tony
    2018-12-08 15:30

    This is a rather uncomfortable examination of the depths reached by ‘monsters’. Uncomfortable because a) it is sexually charged, and b) it’s massive amount of overkill. To be honest, I could fill that list from a) to z). Did I enjoy it? No.Was it well written? Yes. Would I recommend it? Not particularly. The final part is …. Read it, then write my review for me.

  • Wyatt
    2018-12-07 10:41 I thought this would be a good time to review The Torture Garden since I just finished watching Diary of the Dead and don't want to sleep at the moment. If there's a common thread between some of what I've been reading and viewing lately, it's that we're all gluttons for the horrific--so long as the horror is one stepped removed from us. The Torture Garden involves a relationship between a man and his mistress who loves to call him an "insignificant little woman." Despite the title, it's not without humor. Though it was written over 100 years ago, the well-done sarcasm and cynicism could just as well be contemporary.Our protagonist is given the gift of banishment and given the title of government-sponsored fake scientist so that his politician friend can be free of his poisonous friendship. He ten woos a woman on his ship that seems very typically Victorian, though we catch a hint of the sick sense of humor that she carries around with her, which she lets out of her purse during some of the pricelessly nauseating dinner table discussions--chalk full the author's criticisms of colonialism and mankind. The anti-hero breaks down and confesses with a snot-running nose about what a dog he is but she soon shows him that he's actually only half the worm she is. You'll have to read the lengthy descriptions of the torture garden yourself, but thhe scene were she tortures her ex-lover/poet by reading him his own poetry while he remains shackled and animalistic is...memorable.Okay, that brings me back to Diary of the Dead. Once again, the horror in the story is just a vehicle through which to remind us of the horrors that we condone in real life. I particularly liked the Katrina references: "It's called looting." "No, it's called doing what you have to do."Since I'm really just writing this for myself, two other thoughts: Teeth, the previous horror movie I saw, also shared this social-criticism quality. It's about feminism and it runs ripe with critique of the Christian conservative's idealistic views of purity--well that's what I chose to see in it anyway. It's allegories are surely more varied and complex than that but I don't really want to boil each character down to a statement...or deviate...As I type this sub-par blog entry, I'm recognizing how I liked the real time quality of Diary of the Dead and how their disaster became (for a moment in time) an independent media "revolution." When that moment passed, it wasn't cutting edge journalism anymore, but merely an obsession--a kid trying to hold onto media in a life where media no longer mattered, probably because that's all he knew. I feel like I could make some connection here to the recently completed Painter of Battles, because Josh's relationship with his camera in D of the D (which he chooses over his girlfriend) definitely had some side effects in common with those between war photographers and their subjects. He becomes a martyr for film because he won't go hide in the shelter. It's too cozy. There's nothing there to film. He can only watch the surveilence cameras which would make him a watcher, not a shooter. He needs to be the shooter. I've definitely become a watcher these days.I don't think it gets my rocks off in the same way that Josh's camera does it for him, or the torture garden does for Clara, but...ya, who am I to say I'm an exception?Anyone know any bright and happy books for my next read?

  • Linda
    2018-11-13 08:21

    The novel, published 1899, examines an attitude to life without right and wrong, good and evil. Beauty and pain are constantly present, mentally or physically. They are melting together and eventually it's difficult to see the difference. Perhaps they were always the same.The story follows a young man, a corrupt politician, on a journey where he meets his love interest, a sadistic woman. She brings him to a torture garden in China, where pain borders on pleasure and where love and suffering originate from the same source of brutal emotions. The contrast, or perhaps the collaboration, between sadistic expressions of love and sensual expressions of death makes it beautiful and fascinating. The fact that they are codependent, that we can't appreciate the one without the other, is apparent. Neither one is less important and dignified than the other, since the torture garden is beyond good and evil. The infinite amount of passion, the perverted nature of human beings that might be the true nature, not the norm, is interesting. There is a freedom of expression that couldn't be found Europe in the late 19th century.In the torture garden the beautiful flowers feed on blood from the tortured prisoners to prosper, and people are, in a way, reborn in a limitless cycle of life. In this world, pleasure is pain, love is suffering, torture is a work of art, blood is the wine of love and beauty is murder. At the same time the portrayal is a critique of the European society. The pages of murder and blood are ironically dedicated to people like priests, soldiers and judges, people who kill or restrict others from freedom and beauty. The torture garden might be interpreted as an allegory, an intense, miniature Europe. Mirbeau claimed that "the law of murder" was inconsistent in the late 1800's and wanted to portray the European civilisation as not so civilized. The government allowed murder when it benefited from it, but not when it had a real purpose. According to one of the characters in the book, the accepted view of war and colonialism were necessary because the government was only legitimized by murder. As this might also be the belief of the author, much of the book deals with these forms of hypocrisy. Just as in real life, executioners in the torture garden kill people in the service of death, but not for a meaningless purpose but as a work of art. Since we don't question murder in the service of rulers, politicians and judges, why would we question expressions of freedom and the beauty of art? Wouldn't that prove that we haven't learned anything the last century, and make us the very same hypocrites that Mirbeau indicated we were?

  • Timothy Mayer
    2018-11-14 14:44

    "Fin-de-siecle decadence at its best. At one time one of those 'suppressed' books and now chiefly remembered as one of Frank Frazetta's better paperback covers"-Karl Edward Wagner, 1983"In a broader sense the expression fin de siècle is used to characterize anything that has an ominous mixture of opulence and/or decadence, combined with a shared prospect of unavoidable radical change or some approaching 'end.'"- WikipediaFirst published in 1899, Torture Garden still leaves a taste of decadence in your mouth. Written by a French journalist disgusted with the pomposity of his own society, he shows us a foreign one equally beautiful, equally deadly. Mirabeau was famous for writing about forbidden subjects and shoving them in the reader's face. In this book, he decided to examine the connection of sex and death by way of art and beauty.Torture Garden begins with a discussion about law and society among a gathering of cultured guests. As it turns to punishment, a quiet guest begins to tell his tale of a trip he recently took to China.But first he gives us his back story:After being raised in by a ruthless businessman of a father, our hero suddenly found himself penniless while still a young man (dad's shady business deals having caught up with the family). So he becomes a patron of the only man more twisted than his father: a government minister he went to college with. His political friend, named Eugene, becomes worried the narrator will become a lead weight on his career, so he manages to send him on a government paid scientific mission to Asia. It doesn't matter that the hero of the book doesn't know a thing about his subject- embryology- the important issue is getting him out of France.While traveling to China he meets an Englishwoman, the beautiful and sensuous Clara. Unfortunately for him, Clara has an unhealthy obsession with death. Once they reach China, she takes him to a the Torture Garden of the book's title: A massive garden outside a penitentiary. Those convicted by a Chinese judge are executed by bizarre and unusual means. After visiting and describing the gardens, he leaves with Clara. But Clara is so lost in her ecstasy she soon faints. A Chinese ferry woman, who has wittnessed Clara's swoons before, takes them both to the only place Clara can recover: a floating sex club. End of book.There isn't a lot of plot or character deveopment in Torture Garden. Mirabeau was obsessed with hammering home his belief about French society being one big execution chamber. There is an interesting scene where the narrator and Clara encounter an executioner who fancies himself an artist and deplores the crude mass killings of gunpowder. I'm not sure if the description of the prision or the torture garden has any basis in relaity; I'll leave that one for late-period Manchu Dynasty scholars.A fascinating example of "Decandent 90's" writing from the same decade which gave us The King In Yellow.

  • Lisa
    2018-12-05 14:29

    As a well-meaning reviewer, I'd say: Don't read this book. It's disgusting. Just it is also considered so very diverting. But see if it's for you---Contains SPOILERSScene One: Our Parisian friend and hero of the book tries to get elected in a remote rural area of France, after a short tutorial on the beetroot crop (and how to improve it) from a friend. But alas: Obviously the peasants can smell ignorance when it comes to beetroot.Scene Two: Having failed in politics, he takes up travel and falls for the English belle Miss Clara, a pliable individual (both in the physical, and, as we shall learn, moral sense), who relishes in the description of state-of-the art killing methods by high-ranking British officers. Unfortunately at first his passion is unrequited, but as soon as he unveils what a rotten individual he is, Miss Clara totally gives up her reserve.Scene Three: The happy couple have taken up 'dating' (as the Americans so coyly put it), and hang out at Miss Clara's Chinese estate while they fornicate. But what's a lady to do if boredom gets to her, and she is as highly decadent as our dear Miss Clara? Why, she gets herself some rotten meat, puts it in a dainty basket and then throws it at the half-crazed starving prisoners in the local detention centre, that's what she does. This is even more delightful if one of the prisoners happens to be a poet and former lover, so you can recite one of his own (decadent) poems to him, while he no longer recognizes you and fights for the rotten meat with other prisoners.[This scene is featured in some books on black romanticism, so watch out, key scene]Scene Four: Somehow our French friend never thought it would get as hard (and hot) as that. After the prison episode, Miss Clara drags him on under the tropical sun, out, to the 'torture garden'. You guess right, more of the same, torture namely, and unless you want to learn what is circumscribed by 'death by caress', you really don't have to keep reading... etc. etc....

  • Sara
    2018-11-29 09:25

    Splendid and terrible.. It is not easy to describe the sort of emotions i felt whilst reading this magnificent book. It creates incredible sensations which as i assume, is why it's labeled erotic, you are supposed to feel it. It's not sexual, it's not dirty, it's majestically sensual.And the love.. The love.. It's full of love.Quite descriptive and very graphic, so violent and tender that "It's impossible for me to express in words its infinite sweetness and ineffable idyllic poetry".. Haha .. I tremble by this corruptness that in my mind tasted somehow delicious, and I then wonder, could I have in me the rottenness of Clara's soul, or does my mind just stumble and pant sinfully in the mention of infernal divinities..I would not recklessly recommend it, because it's not a read for fun, nor for knowledge. It is a read to understand deeper, and to experience.

  • Nate D
    2018-11-23 13:38

    Blood from blossoms, blossoms from blood, les fleurs du mal, terrible and exquisite sensations. Vicious, grotesque, fleetingly beautiful, then again utterly abject. Necessary and unnecessary. I'm startled, both by the fountaining bile of the book, and that any can claim this has been dulled by time into quaintness.Murder is the very bed-rock of our social institutions, and consequently the most imperious necessity of civilized life. If it no longer existed, there would be no governments of any kind, by virtue of the admirable fact that crime in general and murder in particular are not only their excuse, but their only reason for being. We should then live in complete anarchy, which is inconceivable. So instead of seeking to eliminate murder, it is imperative that it be cultivated with intelligence and perseverance.

  • Clint
    2018-11-23 14:33

    A simple story about a jaded guy who meets this crazy-ass woman in China who takes him to this amusement park of torture. Absolutely spectacular imagination! And the ending is so strange...

  • Sara
    2018-12-13 07:45

    Un vrai manifeste de l'esthétique de l'horreur !

  • Eric Byrnes
    2018-12-05 15:41

    The anarchist message running through The Torture Garden seems to achieve its end by taking traditional statist and collectivist forms of political organization—very similar to those described by Aristotle in his Politics—and having us reexamine them in the reflective surface of a warped mirror, the like of which one might find in a carnival funhouse. The narrative begins in the midst of a soirée attended by the crème de la crème of the intelligentsia; esteemed physicians, professors, pedantic members of the Parisian literati, who, it seems, fancy themselves übermenschen, and are accordingly discussing murder, its meaning and merits, each in turn delivering a paean in praise of it. Murder, as Mirbeau brilliantly satirically characterizes it, is something of a lymphatic glue that holds the body politic together. As a Darwinian scientist tells his peers, “...murder is the very bedrock of our social institutions, and consequently the most imperious necessity of civilized life. If it no longer existed, there would be no governments of any kind, by virtue of the admirable fact that crime in general and murder in particular are not only their excuse, but their only reason for being. We should then live in complete anarchy, which is inconceivable.” Compare this thinking with Aristotle's famous “beasts and gods” exception from Politics: “It is clear, therefore, that the state is also prior by nature to the individual; for if each individual when separate is not self-sufficient, he must be related to the whole state as other parts are to their whole, while a man who is incapable of entering into partnership, or who is so self-sufficient that he has no need to do so, is no part of a state, so that he must be either a beast or a god.” [ὅτι μὲν οὖν ἡ πόλις καὶ φύσει πρότερον ἢ ἕκαστος, δῆλον: εἰ γὰρ μὴ αὐτάρκης ἕκαστος χωρισθείς, ὁμοίως τοῖς ἄλλοις μέρεσιν ἕξει πρὸς τὸ ὅλον, ὁ δὲ μὴ δυνάμενος κοινωνεῖν ἢ μηδὲν δεόμενος δι' αὐτάρκειαν οὐθὲν μέρος πόλεως, ὥστε ἢ θηρίον ἢ θεός.] Mirbeau seems to view civilization as a human experiment gone horribly wrong, particularly an enemy to the individual. In The Torture Garden, we can begin to see how the “body politic” of the state subsumes the individual and the individual's body, thereby making murder “civilized” and rather akin to the hygienic practice of regular exfoliation. If, “man is a political animal,” as Aristotle famously claimed, then Mirbeau offers an addendum stating that murder is the act that bridges the interstices between self and other; it's the mortar of our civilization. Toward the end of the book's opening scene, one man who has attended the soirée makes the claim that woman alone embodies the eternal marriage of creation and destruction, of life and death. Met with some dissent, he produces a manuscript of a work he has written but as of yet never shared, which is entitled The Torture Garden.First relating the story of his travels to the Far East, the narrator meets an explorer from France who rather nonchalantly relates how has eaten human flesh, and an English officer who shares his dreams of developing the perfect bullet which would incinerate bodies without leaving a trace of a corpse. When the story's narrator decides to accompany a beautiful, young, wealthy Englishwoman named Clara to her home in China, these Western men, who seem to take consumption and destruction to their teleological extremes, stand in sharp contrast to the nuanced spectacles of torture that await in the Far East.The final portion of the story takes place after the narrator has only just returned to Clara. After having fled her in fear and disgust, the narrator feels himself drawn back to her like bad habit. Once there, she insists he accompany her to the bagnio (a type of Chinese prison), where he witnesses the eponymous “torture garden.” There are descriptions of flaying, horrible tortures involving rats, and deaths induced by ringing giant bells over unfortunate victims; we are treated to an inspirational speech by a master torturer lamenting the degeneracy of modern China in its abandoning its old tortures under Western pressure. The master torturer complains, “The Occidental snobbery which is invading us, the gunboats, rapid-fire guns, long-range rifles, explosives... what else? Everything which makes death collective, administrative and bureaucratic - all the filth of your progress, in fact - is destroying, little by little, our beautiful traditions of the past.”In Viewing The Torture Garden through the lens Octave Mirbeau's anarchic-libertarian political convictions, I'm inclined to see the gruesome depictions of torture practiced by the professional torturers in the Chinese bagnio as showing, at the very least, that they have some sense of respect, albeit strange, of individual bodies in the East. The symbolism seems to be one of political mereology: in the West we murder en masse, we seek to subsume the individual, we don't condone torture and call it barbaric, dreaming of future weapons that will allow us to evaporate the “other.” In the East, they torture people to death, prolonging suffering, making art of their death; in the torture garden, the blood and gore merges into the beautiful flora and fauna of the surroundings. The blood soaks into the ground and encourages the the flowers to grow bigger and stronger and more colorful than anywhere else on earth as peacocks with beautiful plumage peck the viscera from leaves. A call for revolutionary destruction of the state—of the collective body politic—which oppresses and stunts the growth of individuals, can be seen in the positive symbolism of torture. Just as individual bodies are torn asunder, limb from limb, in the torture garden, and yield a fertile mulch that produces the most beautiful flowers, it seems that Mirbeau is suggesting that the larger body politic can be composted down for fertilizer to grow the flowers of a better future.These themes involving the interaction of the body politic and the individual body, as well as the social illnesses that society induces to metastasize from the one body to the other, seem to be echoed in other works by Mirbeau; Calvary (Le Calvaire) immediately coming to mind. I don't think I've ever read a better treatment of the strange manner in which civilization can induce a man to behave contrary to his individual nature, poisoned with a collective insanity, than Mirbeau's scene in Calvary, in which the lead character, Jean Mintie, kills a Prussian soldier.“...undoubtedly, he was thinking of the things he had left behind; of his home resounding with the laughter of his children, of his wife, who was waiting for him and praying to God while doing so. ... Will he ever see her again? ... I was sure that at this very moment he was recalling the most fugitive details, the most childish habits of his life at home . . . a rose plucked one evening, after dinner, with which he adorned the hair of his wife, the dress which she wore when he was leaving, a blue bow on the hat of his little daughter, a wooden horse, a tree, a river view, a paper knife ! . . . All the memories of his joys came back to him, and with that keenness of vision which exiled persons possess, he encompassed in a single mental glance of despondency all those things by means of which he had been happy until now. . . .The sun rose higher, rendering the plain larger, extending the distant horizon still farther. ... I felt a compassion for this man and I loved him . . . yes I swear I loved him! . . . Well, then, how did that happen? ... A detonation was suddenly heard, and at that very moment I caught sight of a boot in the air, of a torn piece of a military cloak, of a mane flying about wildly on the road . . . and then nothing, I heard the noise of a blow with a sabre, the heavy fall of a body, furious beats of a gallop . . . then nothing. . . . My rifle was warm, and smoke was coming out of it. ... I let it fall to the ground. . . . Was I the victim of hallucination?”Mintie did not hallucinate; his hand, seemingly with a mind of its own, shot a man for whom he felt infinite compassion, even love. I think this is one of the most important leitmotifs in all of Mirbeau's writing; this perverse corporality of collectivism. He seems to argue that this supposed order of the overly-ordered body politic leads to social disorder, and ultimately metastasizes these disorders in the individual bodies of which it's composed. Mirbeau's revolutionary rallying cry almost sounds Biblical. It seems to say, whether in the torture garden, with Mintie on the field of battle, or as it pertains to affairs of state and the body politic: if your hand is sinning, cut it off.

  • Fede
    2018-11-19 09:25

    L'apothéose de la Décadence. 'Entre Emmanuelle et le Viet-Nâm', comme ce roman à été justement défini par M. Delon: érotisme et mort -non, érotisme de la mort, dans la mort, à côté de la mort. Douleur et plaisir qui se mêlent et se fondent jusqu'à devenir un acte sexuel panthéistique entre les corps et la nature. Voilà le jardin des délices où Mirbeau nous amène dans ce roman aux atmosphères torrides, dont les couleurs fiévreux et les parfums enivrants nous étourdissent jusqu'à la dernière page. Un français laisse l'Europe après l'échec d'une équivoque carrière en politique, ou plutôt au service d'un ministre qui personnifie tous les horreurs et l'abjection morale des gouvernements de la Belle Époque. Il rencontre Clara, une jeune anglaise à la beauté féroce et angélique à la fois, une créature charmante et terrifiante qui vit parmi les délices et les monstruosités de la Chine: elle devient sa maîtresse et sa perdition, la femme qui lui montre ce qu'est la Femme dans sa vraie nature. Et c'est l'abandon aux sens. Clara à découvert la jouissance qui nous donne le spectacle de la douleur. Elle conduit son amant parmi au jardin des tortures d'un bagne pénal, parmi les beautés paradisiaques des fleurs et des animaux et les horreurs infernales des instruments de torture. Le lecteur se découvre impudiquement voyeur et perversement séduit, ébloui par le soleil, étourdi par cet attaque totale aux sens. Mais nous percevons qu'il y a quelque chose de fort différent entre la saleté des geôles de toute Europe et le cri des torturés chinois: c'est l'harmonie. Le sens d'une harmonie entre le corps humain et la nature, qui se concrétise dans l'image des morceau de chair sur les pétales parfumées, bequetés par les oiseau, ou du sang dont s'abreuve la terre noire et fertile. C'est précisément ce que l'ouest à perdu, ou n'as peut-être jamais connu: le sens d'une beauté qui transcende l'art et l'ouvrage des homme, qui nous entoure et nous contient. La torture n'est q'une métaphore pour indiquer la souffrance humaine; il ne s'agit pas ici d'un catalogue de perversions ou d'une fantaisie érotique fin-de-siècle. Mirbeau observe lucidement la violence et la laideur de son temps (antisémitisme, scandales, militarisme) et les dénonce férocement dans ces pages terribles et magnifiques, où la poésie devient brutale et la brutalité devient poétique. C'est la réponse d'un intellectuel passionné qui refuse l'idée d'une supériorité morale des européens sur les orientales, notion tenue pour acquise qui cachait siècles de violence et prévarication exercées par les puissants. C'est précisément à eux que l'auteur s'adresse dans le frontispice: 'Aux Prêtres, aux Soldats, aux Juges, aux Hommes,qui éduquent, dirigent, gouvernent les hommes,je dédiéces pages de Meurtre et de Sang.'Le testament d'une époque qui allait aboutir dans le carnage de 1914.

  • Juan
    2018-12-13 09:43

    Voy a comentar este libro en español porque nadie lo ha hecho y porque fue el idioma en que lo leí. Llegué a “El jardín de los suplicios (Le jardin des supplices)” de manera casi casual. A los catorce o quince años de edad encontré en la biblioteca de la secundaria a la que asistía un libro con un título y tema similar, en ese entonces, siendo más joven, el libro me impresionó profundamente y aún la considero una de esas lecturas que aparecen una vez en la vida y dejan su marca. Años después comencé a buscar información de dicho libro y ahí surgió “El jardín de los suplicios”. Por las reseñas supe que no era el libro que yo había leído, y que nunca he encontrado, y pasaron otros diez años antes de que me decidiera a leerlo.En una reunión de amigos, en el París de finales del siglo XIX asoma el tema del homicidio. Tras mucho deliberar uno de los asistentes, que hasta entonces se había mantenido callado, decide mostrar al resto un borrador autobiográfico. El narrador, que se mantiene anónimo a lo largo del texto, relata como inmerso en la corrupción de la clase política parisiense es desterrado en una misión a Ceilán. Durante el viaje conoce a una mujer inglesa, joven, bella y liberal llamada Clara. Enamorado de ella decide acceder a su petición de marcharse con ella a China, donde ella tiene residencia. Después de un período de abandono –que no se narra en el libro, solo se hace una breve alusión- él decide volver a ella en China. El resto del libro transcurre en un solo día, la visita a un presidio con bellos jardínes, donde se ejecuta mediante tortura a los ahí recluidos: el jardín de los suplicios.El libro no fue fácil de conseguir en español, y de hecho jámas lo encontré fisicamente. Terminé leyendo una versión electrónica escaneada de una edición de Casa Editorial Maucci (España) donada a la University of Toronto en 1937. Usualmente no recurriría a la piratería pero al menos tengo la excusa de no haber encontrado una edición impresa y de que los derechos de autor ya están vencidos.Originalmente pensaba calificar con cuatro estrellas a esta obra, si finalmente me decidí por cinco estrellas fue por la consideración de la época en que fue publicada por vez primera, 1899. No puedo imaginar el impacto que debe haber producido en la época un libro en el cual el personaje principal es una mujer de la alta sociedad, apenas salida de su adolescencia, liberal y libertina, y que además describe graficamente las torturas a las que son sometidos los reos en el jardín de los suplicios –y más importante, la reacción que esas torturas provocan en Clara.La novela está dedicada “a los sacerdotes, los soldados, los jueces y los hombres encargados de instruir y gobernar a los hombres”, y es, evidentemente una crítica a la hipocresía de la clase dominante que pretendía escandalizarse ante un asesinato pero sin reparo en apoyar el asesinato y la virtual esclavitud de masas con tal de mantener el poder.El libro está muy bien escrito –considerando las técnicas literarias de la época- y es una de las cosas más originales con las que me topado en la literatura. Con respeto a la violencia, lo considero el segundo libro más violento que he leído –siendo el primero al que me refería al inicio de este comentario-. No es el libro en el que más sangre hay, ni en el que más muertes. Hace poco leí “Meridiano de sangre” de Cormac McCarthy. El libro que narra el mayor número de asesinatos con que me encontrado, sin contar La Biblia –en broma pero cierto-. Pero en “Meridiano de sangre” y otros libros contemporáneos se asiste a esa muerte que nada significa, ya transformada en algo vulgar por la sociedad norteamericana. “El jardin de los suplicios”, sin embargo, la muerte tiene la capacidad de impresionar por el contexto en que esta se encuentra.La novela trata también con los temas de hasta donde el hombre debe limitarse a si mismo en la busqueda de nuevas experiencias y hasta donde debe dar libertad a las sensaciones que en él producen esas experiencias -como apunta la reseña de una de las ediciones en inglés-. Y creo que por eso mismo tardé tanto tiempo en decidirme a leerlo. No estaba seguro de querer encontrar lo que sabía que en él encontraria.

  • Andrew
    2018-11-20 09:28

    First things first ...the front cover shown on Amazon to accompany the book gives rise to that adage 'don't judge a book by it's cover' as it gives the look of some pulp throw away wheras a better book actually lies behind the cover(replicated in virtual 'glory' by the Kindle).The book itself is one I had heard of but had never got around to reading...however at 75p on I thought maybe it was time to give it a go I am glad I did.It's been a solid decent read starting as in the way of a political satire moving towards obsession fairly swiftly and ultimately leading to scenes of gore not truly imagined('cept on certain of my Death Metal vinyl covers) in many form.The later part of the book contrasts beauty with gore within the 'torture garden' from where the book takes it's name and is sometimes an uncomfortable read but the sterling writing and imaginative quality transcend any concerns I may have had that this was a purely salacious read(much as the cover suggested!!)It's a strong book with questions on the nature of society and whether the elevation of torture as an art form is any more perverse than such private criminality,whether the celebration of death is maybe more healthy than subjected this stuff to darker forbidden areas.At times uncomfortable but ultimately never forgetable..I think this book is oneI am unlikely to return to often as it will remain clear in synopsis and plot

  • SmallToothedSmile
    2018-11-25 13:24

    "Because love and death are the same thing! and because decay is the eternal resurrection of life..."For me, the themes of life, death and beauty in this work remind frequently (though via much more vulgar means) of Camus' portrait of the mad emperor, Caligula. Much like Caligula, the pleasures of actual life have become infuriatingly unsatisfactory for Clara -- she is only able to find joy in witnessing torture. Mirbeau juxtaposes scenes of great brutality and pain against descriptions of the beauty of flowers to suggest they are akin. Also, there are many suggestions made Clara and others (i.e. fatty) that accredit proper torture techniques with the art-making. Though this read was very uncomfortable for me at times, I admire Clara's insanity -- she is a purist devoted to the pursuit of beauty. Clara - (164)"...Dying is not sad -- it's living when you're not happy that's sad."Caligula - (pg?) - «Les hommes meurent et ils ne sont pas heureux» / "Men die and they are not happy.

  • Andrew W.m.
    2018-11-23 10:46

    I'll be honest, this is pretty much my favourite book of all time.A swingeing satire painted in lurid brushstrokes broad enough to appear crass to some. The depiction of fin de siecle French politics is perfect and the decadent ruminations on the nature of man could hardly be more attuned to my taste. Erudite, incorrigible and fresh enough to still be shocking, if this book became flesh there'd be a queue to join his gentleman's club.