On Ugliness

Jenny Diski writes:

The breadth of Eco’s search spreads out to include or to gloss disgust, horror, fear, obscenity, misogyny, perversity, bigotry, social exclusiveness, repression, inexplicability, evil, deformation, degradation, heterogeneity. Its exemplars are the varying social anathemas of the West: the diabolical and the exotic; excrement; old age; women; Africans; disease; lesbians; Jews; and for Georges Bataille the big toe and the putrefaction of flowers, which he manages to bind to age and misogyny: ‘flowers don’t age honestly like leaves, which lose none of their beauty even after they are dead; flowers wither like simpering, overly made-up old women.’ Beauty isn’t put to anything like this range of uses as a metaphor: it does the beautiful, the fiercely beautiful and the good, and that’s about it.

(LRB 24 January 2008)

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