An inspiring angry love letter from Colette Peignot.
Last week we uploaded a post on the life of Georges Bataille and would like to shed some much deserved light onto his former lover Colette Peignot. Much of her work was published solely after her death by Bataille himself and their friends but she was remembered in life for being extremely fierce and intelligent. While she was alive she published personal and political writing but always wrote under the pseudonym Laude. She was from a wealthy family but spent her entire inheritance funding political journals. Her notoriety came largely from her volatile and passionate character and her writing for the time is remarkable in its violence and intensity, it’s masochism and it’s poetry. Peignot was sexually abused by a priest during her childhood schooling and grew up detesting the system of bourgeoise of Paris that put her there. She cultivated numerous affairs with prominent intellectuals to reject the expectations of her as a woman in society and used them to progress herself artistically and politically. Her writing is now disgracefully under-read but was reviewed by The London Review Of Books who remarked quite truly: “one can’t help feeling that her true masterwork was her ability to make others react to and remember her.” Colette and Bataille shared a tumultuous and passionate affair that grew and waned sporadically through their lives but their impact upon one another, their writing, their politics and their characters is unignorable. While Bataille is now well remembered for his radical art and beliefs, in Peignots letter below we can see a glimpse into the scrupulous moral standards she held both him and indeed herself to, leaving an indelible print on his fame and legacy. She died at thirty five of tuberculosis after first contracting it as a child and we can only imagine how her remarkable fervour, wit and intelligence might have manifested into more master works of literature had her remarkable life not been cut so short.
You have only one chance left to help me.
It is not sweetness, it is not your desire to “care” for me and that I call you at night: it is your truth and my own.
Georges, do you understand: my life and my death belong to me. Right now I am so close to one as to the other. No person in the world can do anything any longer since I no longer find you deep down – where I used to be able to find you. Georges, maybe I “don’t love you.”
Georges, I know what happened yesterday. I know. I hated our life, I often wanted to run away, to go off into the mountains (it was to save my life I understand that now). As soon as I had money in my pocket, I thought about it. I was horrified by this crazy pace, by my work, by our nights. You dared to insult me by talking about “weakness,” you dare it still, you who do not have the strength to spend two hours alone, you who need another person at your side to inspire all your actions, you who cannot want what you want. I know: she will lead you where she likes, that’s been proved. I believe in our life together the way you still believed in it the first day when you talked about the house. I believe in it the way I believe in everything that brought us together; in the most profound depths of your darkness and of mine. I revealed everything about myself to you. Now that it gives you pleasure to laugh at it, to soil it – this leave me as far away from anger as it is possible to be.
Scatter, spoil, destroy, throw to the dogs all that you want: you will never affect me again, I will never be where you think you find me, where you think you’ve finally caught me in a chokehold that makes you come.
Now that, thanks to me, the most banal image has taken the form of dream, desires, drama, passion, now that only the sweetest hilarity will relieve you from all that is burdensome, all in the form and appearance of the clearest, most scheming, most selfish, most pathetic “adultery.”
As for me I am beyond words, I have seen too much, known too much, experienced too much for appearance to take on form. You can do anything you want, I will not be hurt.
The tragic ones are such hypocrites: you know this well. This tragedy was so staged – day by day – before my disdainful eyes – or thanks to my horrible outbursts which were only a matter of neurosis.
Everything you have been doing, I’ve known about – everything – for more than a year, before and after Sicily, everything that crystallized around a person who took the form of your dream, a shattering dream that knows how to shatter, a dream that is leaving behind the most banal of daily realities that any human being is capable of living: adultery, well-organized, planned out, clever cunning, burning because secret. Understand me, nothing of this being can affect me. I know – rue de Rennes, the mirror she made you get and in front of which I saw her loll as much as possible, from the first day (the days of “Colette I adore you”), without even noticing, to her great vexation.
She can do anything she wants except affect me.
Let her feel herself pissing as much as she wants. I would really like you to know what liberation is: everything has turned to dust.
You can turn my things into playthings, put them at her feet, adore her, never will anything that comes from her affect me. Never, do you understand, will she touch what is between us.
I know: she pleases you “to death” now, to death from pleasure. I know because I know all that you have lived. All that you live. Down there, you will arrange to meet her when you go for a walk, while I sit here nailed to the spot. If you knew: I would come and help you organize these trysts. I will be perfectly calm and happy, I will show you.
How I managed to adorn this miserable girl with the halo of crime that excites you, this girl who was only capable of “laughing” at everything. She studied all my gestures in order to copy them, listened to my words in order to repeat them, she tries to read my books, she tries her best, she exhausts herself to be what I am – it’s so comical I pity her with all my heart.
I have no desire to punish myself – to attach myself when I need to disengage myself.
To be there at the rendezvous in the forest, or in a rented room in Saint-Germain, or at the Saint-Lazare station.
It is with the curiosity of an octopus sticking to everything that she wants to know about all you do and say, all your plans, in order to mix herself up in them, to carry weight. You no longer dare make a decision without her getting mixed up in your plans.
Is it even possible to go on this way? Surely not.
There can be no compromise in integrity, plenitude…life. There can be no compromise in me. It’s clear – isn’t this how I can live again, by escaping the mediocre, all that is
Good – evil – always these words on one’s lips.