What role did Austryn Wainhouse have in the story of Diane Bataille? Despite the English readership knowing, courtesy of Patrick Kearney, since the mid-70s that Diane Bataille was almost certainly the anonymous author of The Whip Angels, published by Olympia Press in 1955, it seems that many of the French writers and authorities on the work of Georges Bataille had no idea until recent times. Initially the book was published under the pseudonym of XXX (30 in Roman Numerals), which was hardly discreet. Georges Bataille had used the pseudonyms Pierre Angélique, Lord Auch, Dianus and… Louis Trente (French for 30), the latter suggesting that he might well be involved in some way. For Georges Bataille had also been a friend of the Olympia Press’ owner Maurice Girodias from the early 40s, with Bataille’s magazine Critique starting its long life under the auspices of Girodias’ ventures in 1946, before settling a while later at Editions de Minuit. Georges Bataille had also been an early author with the Olympia Press, a translation of his Histoire de l’oeil published as A Tale of Satisfied Desire in 1953 and Madame Edwarda as The Naked Beast at Heaven’s Gate in 1956, and an essay On Reading Sade in The 120 Days of Sodom volume in 1954, all translated by Austryn Wainhouse. And then, the last project, another magazine, probably to be called Genèse (Genesis) that was being prepared, a magazine of erotics, but which saw them going in different directions as Bataille wanted it to draw together all that he had been thinking about eroticism over the last couple of decades, whilst Girodias thought a more ‘perverted clientele’ was also needed, and thus more ‘vehement images’ had to be considered. Bataille’s notes and ideas were not discarded, but were used as the basis for his book The Tears of Eros.
Reading The Whip Angels shows that the author had an English-language background. It was written at a time when Bataille and his wife were desperate for money and various lines were explored. To try her hand at erotic writing, in the manner of Victorian pornography, hardly seems astonishing given that English was Diane’s maternal language. It would be interesting to know what books she read for her research. Whilst there are overtones of Sade’s Justine in its theme, one of sexual education in this manner is not uncommon in the history of pornographic literature. Did Girodias or others in the Olympia community lend her books to read? Or did Bataille’s friends have books to lend? One intriguing question does linger though. The introduction is written in a different tone, perhaps by a different hand. It could well have been written by Bataille himself, though those who have been through his papers assiduously say that there is no trace to indicate he wrote it. I don’t doubt he didn’t write it in English. He might well have written it in French and his regular translator of the time, Austryn Wainhouse (Histoire de l’oeil, Le mort, Ma Mère, Madame Edwarda, Lascaux, Manet, Larmes d’Eros…), might have translated it. Wainhouse’s own papers are now open for all to read at Syracuse University. It needs someone to explore these matters and perhaps others relating to Georges or Diane that might be contained in the letters. What does seem strange is that Bataille’s papers don’t seem to indicate that Diane wrote at all. However, it is believed that Diane wrote more than this one book. Another publisher, Robert Laffont, had announced in his catalogue that she was to publish a book on cannibalism, but it never appeared. Nor has the manuscript surfaced. And I’ve heard from various sources that Diane Bataille wrote a number of ‘policiers’ for money to pay the bills, though until a title, publisher or indeed her pseudonym are clear, the task to find out anything more is difficult. Indeed it would seem that any papers belonging to Diane have gone missing for the present.
The Whip Angels is well-written, but there are typos, probably because the typesetter was foreign and attention to proofreading was not the most important issue with those working for Olympia. Perhaps her English was good, or perhaps Wainhouse helped, or perhaps Muffie Wainhouse (Austryn’s wife at the time) was involved, as she was the assistant at Olympia. There are not many documents and official accounts left by those associated with Olympia. According to the various books on the press, most of Olympia’s writers were reluctant to have any paperwork bearing their names, whether contracts, or indeed letters. It was easier to meet Girodias in the office and just be handed cash direct from his pocket.
When Olympia Press reissued The Whip Angels in the United States in 1968, they listed the author as Selena Warfeld. This version shows touches of editing, noticeably reducing the frequency of the word ‘cunt’, replacing it with ‘puss’ or ‘hole’. When Creation Books published it in London in 1995, initially as written by an anonymous author, though the 2001 reprint gives the author as Diane Bataille, their edition worked from the Olympia Press version, making slight adjustments, correcting typos, but also adding the odd word or phrase. It seems that The Whip Angels appeared in a French version, badly translated according to my source, and published by Jean-Jacques Pauvert, though under what title or name I haven’t ascertained or found trace of, as yet.
from “Notes in & out of the disappearing mist” in Disappearing Curtains, Slim Volume, 2016Return to previous page