The Torture Garden – Octave Mirbeau (Part 3)

Book: The Torture Garden – Octave Mirbeau
Status: Read

Very sorry for the delay in posting this, here is the final selection of quotes from ‘The Torture Garden’.
Now this one does come with a bit of a warning.. I wanted to give an example of this section of the book, so some of these quotes aren’t for youngsters or for some readers. They aren’t the most macabre in the book, but they aren’t altogether pleasant!

“Listen! I’ve seen thieves hung in England. I’ve been to bullfights, and seen anarchists garrotted in Spain. In Russia I’ve seen beautiful young women whipped to death by soldiers. In Italy I’ve seen living phantoms – phantoms of famine – exhume cholera victims and avidly eat them.. On river banks in India I’ve seen thousands of completely naked beings writhing and dying in the throes of the plague. One evening in Berlin I saw a woman I had loved the previous evening, a splendid creature in pink tights devoured by a tiger in a cage.. I’ve seen every horror, all human tortures.. It was very beautiful! But I’ve seen nothing as beautiful – do you know what I mean? – as these Chinese convicts… it’s most beautiful of all! You can’t imagine, I tell you, you can’t imagine. “

“I thought my heart would fail me, due to the dreadful smell of carrion that exhaled from these stalls, from these shaken up basins and from the whole of the crowd as it hurled itself on the carcasses as though they were flowers.
‘Clara, dear Clara!’ I implored. ‘Lets go, please!’
‘Oh, how pale you are! Why? Isn’t this fun?’
‘Clara, dear Clara!’ I insisted. ‘Lets  go, I beg you! I can’t stand  the smell any more.’
‘But it’s not a bad smell, my love. It smells of death, that’s all!’
It didn’t seem to affect her. No grimace of disgust marked her white skin, as fresh as cherry tree blossom. To judge by the veiled ardour of her eyes and the pulsing of her nostrils, it seemed as through she was sensually aroused… She inhaled decay with delight, as though it was a perfume.
‘Oh what a beautiful, beautiful piece!’
With graceful gestures she filled the basket with vile fragments.”

“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 as if I was about to faint.
‘Clara! Clara!’ I called.
She gave me smelling salts, whose cordial power revived me a little. She was unconstrained and joyful in the midst of this crowd whose odour she inhaled, submitting to the most repugnant embraces with a sort of sensual swooning. She presented her body – the whole of her lithe and vibrant body- to the harshness, the blows, and the mauling. Her skin, usually so white, was now an intense pink. Her eyes contained a hazy brilliance of sexual joy. Her lips had swelled up like firm buds ready to blossom. She told me, with mocking pity:
‘What a little old woman you are! You’ll never be anything but an insignificant little old lady!’”

“Emerging from that hell, still quite pallid with the terror of those faces of the damned, nostrils still completely filled with the smell of decay and death, ears still vibrating with the howls of torture, the spectacle of that garden brought me sudden relaxation after an unconscious exaltation like an unreal ascension of my whole being towards the dazzling land of dream. With delight I took in deep gulps of fresh air that was impregnated with find and gentle aromas. It was the inexpressible joy of waking after an oppressive nightmare.”

“Clara spoke to him in English.
‘It’s really unfortunate you didn’t arrive an hour earlier,’ the gallant chap told her. ‘ You would have seen something very fine.. Not an everyday occurrence but an ex extraordinary work, milady! I reconstituted a man from head to toe after removing his whole skin. He wasn’t very well constructed, ha ha! (….) when I had skinned him, leaving his hide attached  to his shoulders only by two small incisions, I made him walk, milady. Ha ha! Really a great idea! Enough to make you split  your sides! He seemed to be wearing  – what’s it called? .. Ah yes! – an Inverness cape.
The dog had never been so well dressed, nor by a finer tailor. But his bones were so hard I cracked my saw on them – my beautiful saw.’”

Taken from ‘ The Torture Garden’ by Octave Mirbeau, translated by Michael Richardson
Available to Amazon UK:


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