The Worst Book I Ever Read

In 2005, I was shocked by a French movie called Ma Mère. I was going through a Louis Garrel kick and ordered it online only to be thankful that my roommate wasn’t home to catch me watching a movie where some guy has sex with his mother. I was completely caught off guard. Rich women prostituting themselves for fun, “Agnus Dei” on a loop, and a close up of a nipple for five minutes while someone gives a speech. It’s one of those movies that has no purpose, no theme, no real ending. It was bloated and smug. Like a Sofia Cappola film without a shred of talent.

It’s not as though I don’t like French film. Elevator to the Gallows is my jam. Ma Mère was just so beyond abstract French film to the point where it didn’t have to exist at all.

I wondered how it was ever green lit by a studio. Maybe it was the director. His name is Christophe Honore and he’s known for trying to push his actors to do things most wouldn’t do, it’s his shtick. I figured they were just trying to keep up with the new French trend of trying to shock audiences with an absurd amount of sex and violence in one film. I also wanted to know who this horrible screenwriter was. Then I found out that it was based on a novel by George Bataille and it all made sense to me. Unlike any of his writing.

I’ve read Breaking Dawn and Midnight in Austenland so I’ve gone through some bad books before and committed myself to finishing them. But nothing, throughout the thousands of books I have read, has been more sufferable, more nauseating, more worthless than the worst book I have ever read… George Bataille’s, Story of the Eye (1928).


Yes, I said this was worse than Breaking Dawn.


I’m not sure why I bought it. I was working at a Barnes & Noble and it came up as a clearance title and it looked like one of those 1920’s “discovered classics” that were coming back in style. It’s a pretty short book so no risk, right?

I spent a few weeks at the coffeehouse I hung out at (I know, I know) trying to tread my way through this mess of a novel. I’m not sure I even want to write about what was in it. It was just like the movie Ma Mère. Sex and violence thrown in where there is no talent or story. Really, there was no plot at all. Just a bunch of self satisfied young people having sexual adventures that are only added to try and shock you. Nothing shocks me, I’m no prude. So I realized I was more offended by the idea that someone thought this junk was worth something. Worth reading, publishing. I could tell that Bataille was trying to desperately imitate the Marquis de Sade and failing. I’ve read Justine. Sir, you are no de Sade.

And it’s all about eyes. Eyes are referenced throughout the book. A bull fighter dies and his eye hangs out. You can tell the story is building up to something having to do with a damn eye. Here, I’ll save you the trouble. A priest dies after being raped and they cut out his eye so a woman can have sex with it. The End.

It’s one of those books people pretend to like because it makes them look worldly. If someone told me they like Story of the Eye, I can only assume they have a philosophy degree and spend their days playing video games in their mom’s basement and think women who don’t date them are bitches.

So please, please, don’t do it. Don’t keep this book alive any longer than it has to be. If you see any of Bataille’s work (especially Story of the Eye) run fast and run far.

Nicolina Torres
Nicolina Torres

Nikki worked for Barnes & Noble for 15 years, in seven stores. She is the author of This Red Fire, Young Nation, and Girls Who Wear Glasses. She prefers to live in the country and is a new aunt to a potential bookworm.

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