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The Torture Garden (1899) - Octave Mirbeau

Related: 1899 - 1800s literature - anarchism - French literature - Octave Mirbeau - Decadence (art movement) - Symbolism (art movement) - torture

"To priests, soldiers, judges, men who educate, lead and govern men, I dedicate these pages of Murder and Blood"

Mirbeau’s most notorious novel The Torture Garden has often been likened to Conrad's 1902 Heart of Darkness, because of their similar framing device and their treatment of postcolonialism.

Poster for Grand Guignol theatrical version of Octave Mirbeau's Torture Garden

Mirbeau’s most notorious novel The Torture Garden is often dismissed as nothing more than a decadent novel of sadomasochism. In fact, this misunderstands its political message. Its dedication “To priests, soldiers, judges, men who educate, lead and govern men, I dedicate these pages of Murder and Blood” give the game away. Why are certain crimes illegal and not others? Mirbeau lists industry, colonial commerce, war, hunting and anti-Semitism as legal forms of murder. --http://www.libcom.org/history/articles/1848-1917-octave-mirbeau/index.php

The Torture Garden (1899) - Octave Mirbeau [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Unidentified American paperback cover


The Torture Garden (Le Jardin de Supplices) is a novel written by Octave Mirbeau and first published in 1898. An allegory about the hypocrisy of European 'civilisation', it is a ferocious attack on what Mirbeau saw as the corrupt morality of bourgeois capitalist society and the state. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Torture_Garden_%28novel%29 [Jun 2006]

The Torture Garden was not valued for its beautiful language nor for the social and political messages it proclaimed when Mirbeau wrote it in 1899. Instead, it was heralded as "the most sickening work of art of the nineteenth century. . ." Well, at least they included work of art.

The novel The Torture Garden which has been interpreted as an allegorical examination of western society, written by Octave Mirbeau in 1898.

This book was once described as the "most sickening work of art of the nineteenth century!" Long out of print, Octave Mirbeau's macabre classic (1899) features a corrupt Frenchman and an insatiably cruel Englishwoman who meet and then frequent a fantastic 19th centruy Chinese garden where torture is practiced as an art form. The fascinating, horrific narrative slithers deep into the human spirit, uncovering murderous proclivities and demented desires. Lavish, loving detail of description. Introduction, biography and bibliography. --Re/Search website [May 2004]

RE/Search backcover copy

Finally back in print: Octave Mirbeau's fabulously rare 1889 classic novel The Torture Garden, one described as "the most sickening work of art of the nineteenth century." Following the twin trials 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, infinitely beyond his prior bourgeois imaginings. Entraced 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...

Well ahead of its time, The Torture Garden is exceptional for its detailed descriptions of sexual euphoria and exquisite torture; its political critique of government corruption and bureaucracy; and its revolutionary portrait of a woman, which challenges even contemporary role models of female autonomy. While weaving a richly complex morality fable, The Torture Garden grants glimpses of ecstasy and exhilaration which can only spring from a relentless probing of passion and pain.

Torture Garden - David Wood

  • Torture Garden - David Wood (Editor) [Amazon US]
    Long live the new flesh!" This quote from David Cronenberg's cinematic playground of perversion, Videodrome, announces the theme of Torture Garden, the inimitable London nightclub established in 1990. We are not allowed to categorize it as simply a fetish club, because it is "multi-dimensional, ever evolving and mutating." One way to get a handle is to peruse the strict dress code on its website. Your look better be: burlesque, fantasy, theatrical, period costume, glamour, drag, alien, cyborg, cabaret, mutation, cybersex, fetish, SM, body art, rubber, leather, PVC, or uniforms. Sounds like the East Village on a Saturday night.

    You take the Angel Tube to get to the current site of Torture Garden's monthly parties. You really do. These partygoers don't engage in much actual BDSM play, although there is some walkabout bondage. It's mainly a Stand and Model venue, a nightclub/dance scene. There's no room to swing a cane anyway. There's a floor show by some of the top out-there acts in the world. There are performance photos here of (among others) Miranda Sex Garden, the Genitorturers, Ron Athey, Medieval Magick, and Angel Grinders & Chainsaws, who use industrial equipment to send fountains of sparks gushing from the groins of troupe members.

    The production package of Torture Garden, the book, is superb. Chaplin's candids capture the feverish ecstasy of a world where nothing is true and everything is permitted. They are brilliantly grouped and sequenced. Sivroni's mostly larger format portraits bring you face to face with folk in costumes far beyond fabulous, exuding the potency of their homemade personas. The Videodrome quote above is one of many at the bottom of every page. These provide a quick, painless introduction to the TG philosophy. A few favorites:

    "...sadomasochism enjoys all the forms of religious piety - kneeling, praying, worshipping, sacrificing, invoking and punishing." -- Terence Sellers, The Correct Sadist

    "The first duty of man is to become artificial." -- Oscar Wilde

    "The body is both a pleasure palace and a torture chamber." -- Charles Levin, Body Invaders

    "It's your body, play with it." -- Fakir Musafar, Modern Primitives

    "Your body is a battleground." -- Barbara Kruger

    At Torture Garden, the concept of costume is raised to extremes of creative imagination, transcendent otherness and disgusting repulsion. By the time you get through this volume, your own definitions of these categories will have been severely mangled. On one night a performer named Franko paraded through the crowd on crutches, accompanied by a nurse. He was nude except for syringes, catheters, rubber tubes and various medical receptacles containing various bodily fluids. On the same night, completely independently, a female partygoer appeared wearing a brassiere consisting of two plasma bags filling with her own blood.

    One man's features are covered by a remarkably lifelike effect of the flesh of his face pulled back and nailed to his skull. Hellraiser-style pinheads abound. Crazed male ballerinas, harem girls, rubber boys, sirens, harpies, transvestites, androgynes, hermaphrodites, naughty nurses, naughty nuns, naughty Nazis, welder's goggles, gas masks, catcher's masks, nine-inch nails, helmets, horns, spikes, wounds, rings through everything and to top it off, a spitting-image Laurel and Hardy. Happy Halloween in Hell!--Gary Meyer, amazon.com

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