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The Torture Garden Excerpt: Tortures

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“. . . There are tortures wherever there are men. I can’t do anything about it, my baby, and I try to adjust myself to it and enjoy it, for blood is a precious auxiliary of desire. It’s the wine of love.” With the tip of her parasol, she traced some naively indecent figures in the sand, and she said:

“I’m sure you think the Chinese crueller than we. No . . . Not at all! We English? Ah, don’t mention it! And you French? In your Algeria, in the confines of the desert, I saw this: One day some soldiers captured some Arabs; poor Arabs who had committed no other crime than to try to escape the brutality of their conquerors. The Colonel commanded them to be put to death immediately, without an inquiry, without a trial. And this is what happened: There were thirty of them. They dug thirty holes in the sand, and they buried them up to their necks, naked, with their heads shaved, in the noonday sun. So they wouldn’t die too fast they watered them from time to time, like cabbages. At the end of an hour their eyelids were swollen, their eyes bulged from their sockets, their swollen tongues filled their mouths, which gaped frightfully, and their skin cracked and roasted on their skulls. It was unimaginative, I assure you, and even devoid of terror—those thirty dead heads, sticking out of the sand like shapeless rocks! And we! It’s still worse! Ah, I remember the strange sensation I felt when, at Kandy, the gloomy former capital of Ceylon, I went up the steps of the temple where the English had stupidly, without torture, slaughtered the little Modeliar princes who, legends tell us, were so charming . . . Like those skillfully made Chinese ikons, with so hieratically calm and pure a grace, and their golden halos and their long hands pressed together. I felt that what had happened there—on those sacred steps, still uncleansed of that blood by eighty years of violent possession—was something more horrible than a human massacre; the destruction of a precious, touching and innocent beauty. The traces of that double European barbarity may be found at every step you take on the ancestral soil of that suffering and always mysterious India. The boulevards of Calcutta, the cool Himalayan villas in Darjeeling, the tribades of Benares and the sumptuous homes of the contractors in Bombay have not been able to efface the impression of mourning and death left everywhere by the atrocity of unskillful massacre, vandalism and senseless destruction. To the contrary, they accentuate it. No matter in what place it appears, civilization displays that face which bears the double imprint of sterile blood and ruins forever dead . . .

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