This book begins by focusing on the concluding paragraphs of the final chapter of Georges Bataille's last book, which reflected on photographs of a Chinese man undergoing lingchi, a form of public execution accomplished by severing limbs and ripping flesh from the victim's body. The text records that “this photograph had a decisive role in [Bataille's] life.” According to Bataille, it reveals an intimate connection between religious and erotic experiences, an ecstatic rupture both blissful and horrific. In a recent study of the practice of lingchi in China and representations of lingchi in European scholarship, the authors fault Bataille for imposing a “mask of ecstatic suffering” that burdens the tortured person, consequently concealing him.
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