Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rerun: Billy Miller, Christian Siekmeier, and Bernard Welt present ... Straight to Hell -- 'In Cock We Trust' (orig. 11/07/08)


One man's meat
Bernard Welt

Some twenty years ago, Boyd McDonald began publishing out of his apartment a journal of men's true, prodigiously explicit accounts of homosexual sex, entitled Straight to Hell - a.k.a. The Manhattan Review of Unnatural Acts, a.k.a. The New York Review of Cocksucking, and later - amid an alphabet soup of mainstream publications like GQ, W and HG - archly and elegantly styled S.T.H. Eventually McDonald, who dies in 1993 at the age of 68, edited the anonymous autobiographical letters to S.T.H. into more than a dozen books with titles such as Meat, Filth, Flesh, and Raunch. All were best-sellers in gay bookstores, somewhat to the embarrassment of the gay literati.

The essential democracy of the project is inspiring: Every man becomes his own Henry Miller, every sexualist his own Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It is conventional to claim that smut makes weary reading, but the autobiographical accounts in S.T.H. are sprightly, involving, full of intense interest and detail, and offered without the tiresome self-justification of most writings at the margins of society. In contrast to most contemporary fiction, the memoirs in these collections are precise in their aims and entirely without affection in their style. McDonald developed a distinctive manner of titling his contributors' stories to parody the news items, so trenchantly that the editor's statement is made even before the autor begins to speak: "Baptist Boys Do It, As It Were, In Church"; "Typical 'Straight' Admits Weakness for Friend's Tongue"; "Youth Leaves Damp Underpants for Host to Sniff"; "The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name: Armpit-Sniffing."

These reminiscences are news that stays news. McDonald insisted that what he printed was not pornography, which for him meant the trite, self-conscious fantasies generated by guilt and timidity that were increasingly available in the 1970s and '80s through an increasingly commercial salacious press. He published The Truth, in a manner of a crusading journalist - a photographer without a camera - with the serious intention of assembling documentation of homosexual sex in its "classical" age, 1940-1980. The result is a kind of oral (as well as anal and genital) history, taking the reader into terrain at once strange and familiar: the unacknowledged corners of life where repression is not lifted, but exploded to bits. In contrast to pornographic fantasy, the meaning of every scene, scent and sensation in McDonald placed before his eager public is simply that, however american life has been represented in the official organs backed by business, state, and religion, such things actually do happen.

In effect, McDonald was not only a documentarian, but one of the great satirists of the age, if a satirist primarily by proxy. The needs and products of the body horrified Swift and disgusted Orwell; even to William Burroughs, they are a dark rather than joyful secret. But McDonald saw them as literally the essence of life, betrayed by the hipocrisy and pretensions of a society in which men are trained to seek power and reject love. The emblem of his stance is an illustration he once used in S.T.H.: a male nude with a with the caption, "I am not just a human being, I am a piece of meat." Through the sheer abundance of true stories, McDonald presents a picture of homosexual sex as a nearly universal male experience, in pointed contrast to the contemporary ideology of homosexuality as special identity. In the world of the S.T.H. book, every barracks shower is an orgy room; every Boy Scout jamboree is a festival of sexual initiation; every conservative politician and clergyman pays male hustlers for sex. Everything men do to bond or compete in sports, war and politics is a sublimation of, if not a substitute for, homosexual desire.

Just as the cutting-off point of the classical period at the start of the age of AIDS is no accident, neither is the writers' intention of getting the reader hot and bothered - providing, like phone sex and porn flicks, an alternative to the risks of in-person sex. This may help to explain what separates the S.T.H. books from the common run of heterosexual pornographic fantasy: not so much the obvious difference in subject matter and object of desire as the relation they establish between writer and reader. The relentless popular discussions of hetero porn lately focus on an imaginary relation, one between the consumer and the person - the woman - portrayed as a sexual object. The actual relation of the real partners in the pornographic communication - the sender and the receiver, the producer and the consumer - is generally ignored. It is for this reason that verbal and pictorial porn can be treated as functionally equivalent by advocates of censorship (as well as by free-speech advocates), when what really transpires in the two cases is so manifestly different. What we see in the war against pornography is an effort to slap the naughty consumer's hand (the one that he has free) and make him drop the manufactured fantasy before it warps his mind and stunts his growth. But the whole point of pornographic communication is that masturbation no longer becomes a solitary vice; the consumer of pornography is, in reality, never truly alone with his fantasies and hist fist.

Hetero porn is produced almost exclusively for men, and almost as exclusively by men. It is rarely, in actuality, a matter of women getting men hot, but of men getting men hot - by telling dirty stories about women, or presenting dirty pictures of women. Thus, the prudes are partly right to say that porn is essentially adolescent; its system of production and consumption is one great circle jerk. What they fail to recognize, however, is that this homosexual circle endures in adulthood not as a kind of arrested development, but as a perfectly ordinary factor in heterosexual response - an evidence by the way that male mammals of any species are aroused by each other's arousal, or by the bewildering emphasis on the "money shot" in pornographic films produced for the straight male consumer. (I have only recently learned that there are phone-sex lines on which straight men can swap heterosexual stories while they jack off; to a gay man, this seems not only titillating but truly queer.) The very real homosexual component in heterosexual relations is impossible to separate out, and the fantasy relation to a sexual object in verbal pornographic communication among men conceals an actual homosexual relation, mediated by the printed word. But that relation may never, ever be acknowledged.

It is at least possible that the notorious aggression towards women in heterosexual porn, far from being an entirely contextless display of men's violent fantasies about women, results from the repressed homosexual situation of heterosexual porn. It may be a matter of self-presentation in the homosexual circle, reflecting how both the producer and consumer want to be perceived by other men - especially in the intimate and vulnerable conditions of the pornographic communication. (This is not to say that this styled of pornography doesn't inspire men to degrade women and commit rape; I don't see how anyone, however committed to the freedom of expression, can deny that it does.) The emphasis on domination in heterosexual pornography is a whining attempt to find love - but the love of other men, the real partners in the sexualized relation of pornography, and not that of the imaginary subject of fantasy. In the first-person account of the S.T.H. books, the homosexuality of the writer-reader relation is openly acknowledged as the whole point of communication.

McDonald said that his mission was to replace pornography with smut - by which he meant to talk about sex that is truthful, idiosyncratic, and honest even about its own reason for being. Contemporary crusades against pornography focus single-mindedly on the eradication of certain kinds of representation that are deemed dangerous influences on attitudes and behaviors. They may well be; but to argue for repression is to neglect that in any struggle over ideas, falsehoods and fantasies do not yield to a determined silence, but to truth. For that reason, what we need is not a moratorium on any one kind of imagery or speech. What we need is more smut. (March 1994)

Welt, Bernard: One man's meat. In: Welt, Bernard: Mythomania. Fantasies, Fables and Sheer Lies in Contemporary American Popular Culture. Art Issues Press, 1996. pp. 58-62.

The Exhibition

Straight to Hell (a/k/a The Manhattan Review of Unnatural Acts) is a living legend. Conceived and founded by cult writer Boyd McDonald in the early 1970s, it quickly gained a large following and underground notoriety due to a combination of graphic sexual content, radical politics and stinging wit. The unique concept of Straight to Hell remains unchanged: via a New York City P.O. box, readers are invited to send their accounts of true sexual experiences to the editor. Over the decades Straight to Hell has become an infamously comprehensive and uncensored library of homosexual practice and identity. The resulting series is a uniquely democratic and powerful collection of bizarre, funny, scary, and raunchy stories documenting the real and often embarrassing sex lives of a wide range of men - detailing a continuous chronology spanning nearly a century.

Exile is honored to inaugurate its residency space with an exhibition curated by current editor Billy Miller. Straight to Hell – In Cock We Trust presents an eclectic, and in some cases never before seen, selection of vintage and contemporary materials from the archives of Straight to Hell and the personal collection of Billy Miller. This particular exhibit is specifically not intended to be a historical overview over the complete story of the series, but rather a sample of the range of material featured in the pages of the magazine. Along with an exhibit of photography from Straight to Hell contributors, the show includes rare editions and ephemera - plus samples from edited anthologies, which will be made available for research during opening hours. Exile will also present a very special limited-edition artwork in honor of the occasion.

Participating Artists: Adam Kozik, Al Baltrop, Bob Mizer (A.M.G.), Brian Brennan (Latino Fan Club), Bruce La Bruce, Dan Acton, Darren Ankenbauer (Handbook Magazine), David Hurles (Old Reliable), Gary Indiana, Jan Wandrag, Janine Gordon, Joe Ovelman, Michael Alago, Michael Economy, Nico Urquiza, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Rick Castro (Antebellum), Scott Hug, Slava Mogutin, Stash Buttinski, Steve LaFreniere, Walt Cessna, Will Munro, Xavier Stentz and others

Exile is organized in seasons consisting of three residency projects and one corresponding exhibition. Exile’s objective is to give selected artists the opportunity to come to Berlin and present themselves and their work to the public. Projects at Exile can range from curated exhibitions to artistic collaborations to site-specific installations. Visitors are invited to meet the artist and engage in his/her/their creative process.

By definition exile implies not just a loss but also the opportunity to create something new. It is a clean slate and a fresh start. Exile offers its space to develop and present artistic ideas and projects beyond expectations, limitations and margins. The use of the space during the residency solely depends on the resident artist’s practice and interests. Exile can be a temporary art studio, screening room, workshop, store, and/or gallery.

Exile is a private space that consists of two distinctly different areas that inform each other: The Ground Floor residence offers a four-week 100 sqm (about 1050 sqft) typical Berlin industrial warehouse space. This space is solely for the use of the resident artist. Here, he/she is invited to create independently according to his/her own creative and conceptual vision.
The third floor gallery space focuses on exhibitions of visual materials and artworks that connect, embed and contextualize current and historic artistic practices.

Exile is a public space. Regardless of its use, Exile will be open to the public during opening hours. The visitor will have the opportunity to engage in an artistic process and see, depending on the program, the resident’s work in progress. In the third floor gallery the visitor will have the chance to engage with the works on display in a more private and focused way. Further, each residency will be accompanied by a selection of public events according to the interests and practice of each resident. Such events can include openings and screenings as well as talks and panel discussions.

Exile is an open space. Exile encourages applications. There are no prerequisites or criteria to fulfill. There are no application forms, no fees and no deadlines. Exile will try to answer, as much as possible, all proposals in due time.

Alexandrinenstr 4, HH
D - 10969 Berlin

Contact: Christian Siekmeier

Opening Hours: Thu – Sat 12-6pm and by appointment

The Exile: Straight to Hell Special Edition (200 copies)



p.s. Hey. My rehearsals start early today, so I'll have to be kind of quick, my apologies. ** Hans Hütt, Hi. Welcome, and thank you a lot for commenting. I didn't know about that Fata Morgana book, and I'll see if I can seek it out. Thank you very much! ** Tosh Berman, Hi, Tosh! Semiotext(e) just published a small Duvert book as part of their new Whitney Biennial edition. I know that at one point they had another Duvert novel in their plans, but I'm not sure what happened to it. ** David Ehrenstein, Me too, maestro. ** Sypha, Hi, James. Only one way to solve that weirdness. I did do a barium swallowing thing ages ago when I had acid reflux. It was ... okay. I'm glad you have the right attitude. ** Kier, Hi, K. I'm still waiting for my copy of 'A Sentimental Novel' to arrive in the mail, and the waiting is making me a little batty, ha ha. Let me know what you think. Yeah, with luck, the haunted ballet house film project will be really something. We're trying. ** les mots dans le nom, Hi. Oh, no problem, about the LA/SF thing. Hopefully someone will attempt the task of creating some kind of summary or overview at some point. I'm so sorry about your health issue. It sounds really scary, and, yeah, I'm so sorry. All the strength that can be to you. ** Steevee, It's very good: that Semiotext(e) book. I don't know 'The Double', or I mean I've never heard of it. Sounds, yeah, meh, I get you. Yes, Kim's Video going under is a very, very sad thing. ** Polter, Wow, hey! It's always such a joy to see you, my pal! Awesome! It sounds you have more spring than we do down here. It's still pretty wavery between winter/spring, very indecisive. It's kind of nice, though. You went to Berlin! I'm, like, I don't know, something like an hour (?) from there today. Cool! You're in a home of your own and hooked up, roommate-wise, with an American! We're weird: Americans, to be ridiculously general, or to parrot the somewhat common generalizing view of Americans over here. 'Our' enthusiasms are, I don't know ... I mean, I get why people find the kind of enthusiasms that American have and hold and spread so wide and seemingly randomly and drop like a hot potato so often would seem ... something. Unserious? I don't know, ha ha. Paris is green, I think. I have that sense memory of it too when I'm away from it like I am right now. I'm really good, thanks. I'm up to a ton of projects. Two film projects with my friend Zac, one of them with Gisele. A new theater piece, which is why I'm in Germany at the moment. A novel. Tangential involvement in a film being made of Gisele's my theater piece Jerk'. And other stuff. Really busy. I think I'm into all kinds of new things. Or I feel like it. Too many to try to list in my scramble to do the p.s. this morning. Favorite color? Wow, maybe I'm into this particular shade of green right now that, hm, I can't describe. You? Flavor? Bean paste. That's my favorite flavor now. I've gotten into cold coffee. I used to not like it at all. Okay, I'd better run, oops, the time, but, gee, it's so wonderful to see you You're so great! Make your next trip down south to Paris maybe? Please? Lots of love, me. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. Huh, that's too bad about RAW. That more is less thing is a lesson to be learned even by the artists behind the WWE. The Japanese bill is in my wallet as I type. Poor LPS, but, man, you're teaching the way, and that's so good, man. ** Rewritedept, I don't recommend talking to parents on acid. I think I just got incredibly lucky. P-funk might be kind of way too old and dyed in the wool to see at this point, but then if you've never seen them, what choice do you have? I'm just older than you. More accumulation, and more stuff to compare and contrast, probably. I'm not in Berlin, I'm in Halle, small city near Leipzig. It goes well. I like the Coen brothers. I can't think of any film by them that I haven't liked to some degree or another. Cool about the post, a three-parter, sounds great! Thanks so much! ** Okay, I have to zoom. I'm late. Hope you can get into this old post marking the thing and history of the legendary STH. Give it a shot. See you less speedily tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rerun: Tony Duvert Day: Two exclusive* excerpts * and a jumble of almost everything I could find online either by or about him in English (orig. 07/06/08)

* Thanks to the great kindness and generosity of Hedi El Kholti and the writer/translator Bruce Benderson, the blog presents new excerpts from the forthcoming American editions of the Tony Duvert novels Diary of an Innocent (Semiotexte, 2009) and L'Isle Atlantique. Find them below * (Note: Since this post was originally published, DoaI has been released.)


Obituary: Tony Duvert, Le Monde, August 23, 2008
Jean-Noël Pancrazi, Translated by David Thorstad
from the Semiotexte website

The writer Tony Duvert, 63, was discovered dead on Wednesday, August 20, at home, in the small village of Thoré-la-Rochelle (Loir-et-Cher). He had been dead for about a month. An investigation has been opened, but it is probably a question of death from natural causes. Tony Duvert had not published any books since 1989. He had been almost forgotten, and yet, he left a mark on his epoch—the 1970s—by the extreme freedom that he demonstrated in both his writings and his life, by his unique tone of coarseness and grace, by the rhythm of his sentence, often lacking in punctuation, carried along by only the movement of desire, capable, as it was then imagined, of changing the world.

Born in 1945, Tony Duvert was an outlaw, he felt himself an ex-convict banned from certain areas—the title of one of his first books, published in 1969 by Minuit, which would always remain his publisher. But the music, at once rough and refined, of his prose lent all the nocturnal strolls and excursions of a man who loved men the look of a funereal odyssey, of an almost mythical promenade by the sheer strangeness and solitude of the darkest city neighborhoods.

In Le Voyageur [The Traveler] (1970), with a feeling of free fall and absence of himself, Tony Duvert lets old images encircle him. In the countryside drowned by winter and rain, the ghosts of Karim (killed by his mother), Daniel (the adolescent the narrator teaches to write), André, Pierre, and Patrick, unprovided for, lost, search in the fog for a gentleness and a justice that the world denies them.

It is perhaps in order to welcome them that Tony Duvert composes this Paysage de fantaisie, awarded the Prix Médicis in 1973 (published by Grove Press in 1975 as Strange Landscape). In a passing orphanage-house, the boarders can abandon themselves to all the whims of the moment, without ever any taboo, look, or reproach. In this book there is a kind of amoral jubilation and ferocious joy. And, in the jostling of grammar, gestures, and scenes, in the transport of the unique sentence, a defiance of all literary and ethical conventions. In his almost childlike joy, this is how Duvert forgot that he was an adult, perhaps even that he was a writer.

But it is in Journal d’un innocent [Journal of an Innocent, translation by Bruce Benderson Forthcoming by Semiotext(e) in 2009] (1976) that this pagan innocence is expressed most clearly. In a universe without either fault or suffering, somewhere in the South, couplings follow one another with a total, absolute naturalness. There is only skin and sun, the simple worship of desire: and one could say that Tony Duvert breaks free from the very need for eroticism, from the obligations of pornography—this pornography that he has been so readily accused of in order to mask it with a cloud of sulphur and make one forget that he was a great writer about the happiness of the flesh. Two works—Le Bon Sexe illustré [Good Sex Illustrated] (1974) and L’Enfant au masculin [The Child in the Masculine] (1980)—will attempt to give a more thought-out form to his vision of the world and of love.

Tony Duvert had a genuine fervor: for nature, at the heart especially of Quand mourut Jonathan [When Jonathan Died] (1978), which recalls the love of a man and a child. This relationship takes on the appearance and the rhythm of a biological association, as if, by dint of understanding and harmony, they both became plants mutually emitting harmful poisons to each other to the point where they are destroyed and separated by society. This society that Tony Duvert seems to rejoin in order better to denigrate it, in L’Île Atlantique [The Atlantic Island] (1979), his most classical, almost naturalist, novel. It is a kind of comedy à la Marcel Aymé that Gérard Mordillat will adapt for television in 2005. Afterwards, Tony Duvert will not write any more novels. Un anneau d’argent à l’oreille [A Silver Ring in the Ear] (1982) is only a distant reflection, the echo of a farewell to this literary form.

In 1989, he will still publish an Abécédaire malveillant [A Spiteful Primer], a series of aphorisms that express all the things he detests—priests, philosophers, parents. But one felt that he had lost the joy of provocation. As if he had understood that the times would be increasingly hostile to him, that he could no longer open up landscapes of fantasy with his sentence alone, with his almost barbarous music. He isolated himself in this small Loir-et-Clair village, very alone, unprovided for, not even searching for the aid of words and sometimes hearing in the distance only the laughing of his pagan angels.


Florent Georgesco on Tony Duvert
translated by Hedi

The articles on him I read earlier were tainted with a retrospective illusion: the importance that was given to Duvert's books is a witness to a transitory state of the sexual liberation, that allowed for such an aberration (complacency is implied); we are astonished to see that these stories of little boys generated a Medicis prize and rave reviews in Le Monde (blindness is implied). Today we would be more mature, capable of distinguishing the good from the bad (salvation, progress is implied). But this is forgetting that Duvert has upset people since his first book, he has always been the target of the sexual virtuous, he has been cursed and rejected. He could publish then "Good Sex Illustrated," hilarious parody of sexual manuals, or Gabriel Matzness "Under 16," or even Guy Hocquenghem, René Scherer and other free spirits, which amount to say deviant, but neither of them would have been called as such and persecuted.

What happened since, I think, is something else. The sexual conventions remained essentially the same: rigid border and constant surveillance. But things tightened somehow, to the effect that an escape, even imaginary, is no longer possible. No other voices can be heard, and literature must align itself, like everything else to the norm of everyday life. Tony Duvert wasn't the prophet of a some revolution that would make tolerable what is deemed monstrous, he wasn't announcing a time of universal love, he was writing books, a territory where, if they radiates, everything is made possible, in a different plane, outside of surveillance, where all is beauty.


Two World Premiere Excerpts

by Tony Duvert
translated by Bruce Benderson

----I wanted to talk about birds, but the time for that has passed. In spring there were storks; they were gray and scrawny, like the dead branches of the nests they built on the embankments, far away to the south. Later, they stretched pitiful wings, fanned them disjointedly and soared off.
----In this city it was the time for fasting, and I began writing. Call it winter in this world without seasons; my friends desert me; living is more of a burden. Sunny days go by without celebration. Then, at twilight, life can begin again. People are already seated for eating at the cheap open-air cafŽs and getting their bowls of chickpea soup. It's a spicy liquid purŽe, mixed with lentils and rather acidic tomatoes, in which swim beans and vermicelli; it's good, with an odor of roasted grain, starchy and hearty, and it burns. I'm in a house that intimidates me. A widow and her daughter are seated to my left, almost on the ground, on a straw-and-dried-flower mattress. I'm on the edge of an iron box springs, which another straw mattress has converted into a couch; the two women are leaning back against the edge of a similar bed; the older brothers complete the circle on stools. In the middle is a low table. The mother has placed the soup pot next to her, in a corner of the wall. She's sitting cross-legged with her dress and apron hiked up to her knees, and she has large tits, a flat, square face, creamy white skin, and a narrow mouth and eyes; she's slurping soup from a small wooden ladle as, briefly, she keeps glancing at me with touches of suspicion, scorn and friendliness. I feel like one of those stiff old dogs that the women pet because it belongs to a crony. I'm having sex with one of her older sons, and maybe she's aware of it; the forced smiles that form creases and dimples in her chubby face make her hard little eyes seem colder.
----For my admiration, she presents the two little boys in the family, sitting on some rag cushions below a bare wall. They're wearing worn athletic suits, still spotless and not torn, which also serve as pajamas; they aren't eating, just staring at us silently. I hardly know them. The seven-year-old has a doll's smile, you'd say he was pretty, he's the youngest; he has curly hair, a long face with a heavy jaw, eyes like a girl, a glimmer of wickedness in his cheeks and on his lips; often he grabs me by the shoulders and kisses me, in search of flattery; I push him away.
----I like the other one, who has a round face and short hair, a flat or wrinkled nose. His gaze is steady, serious, sometimes a little absent; he acts cursory, out of politeness; he doesn't speak, and he touched me only one time, to bite my hand while we were taking his picture. He's nine or ten. Between two gulps of soup, the woman of the house asks me which I prefer. I choose the little surly one. They're surprised, make a joke of it, insist he's not good-looking, ask me again and I answer the same. There's a moment of shock, and under the laughter, a rancor I don't understand. We start again, I've got to redeem myself; visitors have always adored the youngest and been turned off by the other, of this the mother insists.
----Afterward, it's made clear to me why my answer provoked such a bad reaction. When the father was alive, he preferred the boy whom I like, and in disregard of the five others, considered him the best son. This brought no benefit to the kid, nor did it appeal to his vanity. Then the father died, his spouse became boss, and the serious little fellow, once preferred, was cast aside, while the youngest son got planted in position number one, and the eldest, a hardworking brute, took the place of the old man. The tale is as unsubtle as a children's story. The night they question me, I'm supposed to incarnate the father himself, back from a long war or trip to put right the injustices of a cruel mother. It was in the time of kings and fairies, the time of simple ordeals; the little boy's tragedy is as clear as the big typeface in vacation books for children.
----I don't give in. The mother consoles her little cipher, and I wonder which of the two are looking the more angrily at me. It's the little one who scares me, he's going to choke: his brows are knit, his skin yellow with bile, his cheeks swollen, his mouth trembling, his nostrils pinched, pulling his nose into an eagle's beak, and he's picking fiercely at little black boogers and forgetting to respond to the flustered fondling of the old woman, who's beginning to look whiny.
----The boy I've chosen is studying me, and his face is lit up with surprise, as if I'd just kept him from being struck. He remains sitting on the ground with thighs spread, knee to chin; he's bare-foot; scratching between his toes with one finger, shifting gently from one buttock to the other and sending me playful little winks, mixed with laughter that opens up his face. They let him have his day. Then he falls back into his usual reserve, and his eyes get their faraway look. The men have begun to talk about other things; but now and then, on his own he still breaks into the surprised smiles of someone having a good dream.
----It would be better to think of a name for certain boys. I'll take them from a novel by Quevedo, I have hardly any books here and that will do. I just need to follow the order of the first chapter: I come to Francesco, the given name of the author, then Pablos, Pedro, Diego, Andr s, and a few others. Let's call Francesco the teenager who brought me to his family and Pablos the little brother I preferred.
----I don't know if these first names are a good match; some people think they are, others don't. But choosing ones that are accurate or attractive isn't important; it's enough for chance to decide, the way it decides in the case of real births, according to people, languages, matings, one here, the other there, for no real reason. Besides, Francesco, who's probably about seventeen, has created a legend about how he came into the world. Around that time, his father was serving a three-year prison sentence for concealing weapons, although he wasn't aware that he was. His family put up with sneers, suspicion and hunger. Therefore, when the father got out of prison, there was a renaissance; they ate every night, sang, cried from pleasure at being reunited with friends, women, neighbors, rich parents, it was a celebration; and Francesco was born two days later.
----At first I reacted the way I was expected to, the story had been well told, he'd used his most astute speaking voice, complete with innocent looks and some very nice miming. Really a lovely story, with dad as God and Francesco's nativity.
----"But since your father was in prison, how did he make you?"
----"What do you mean, make me?"
----Then he understood and blushed a bit, his face changed, his voice fell. I felt ashamed. He said, "Uh, I dunno. That's how they told it to me. I was too little!"
----We're at the table at my place. He's picking at some raw vegetables that he's prepared, tomatoes with salt, green peppers, olives, radishes split crosswise and salted as well, a bit bland, tasting like cold water. He holds back, looks shamefaced and vaguely hostile: I've deprived him of his family legend, all he's got left is an orphan's face.
----The book by Quevedo that I walk around with is The Life of the Adventurer Don Pablos de Segovia, Model Tramp and Image of the Swindler. I like this novel a lot, despite the fact that I haven't read it. The child that I dubbed Pablos isn't a swindler, not even a rascal. But he seemed to have a great appetite for living when we talked. A quiet, determined student, he didn't brag about school; laughing delightedly, he finds me an assignment for which he got an A in a notebook filled with praise and good grades. He gets up at five in the morning to look at his notebooks and books; faint sunlight silently streams onto the patio of the house; he studies in a low voice; nothing distracts him. He doesn't say anything about this work, but in the evening, before nine, he gets dazed, lies down wherever he happens to be, withdraws and falls asleep. He doesn't get a lot of it.
----He's unaware of the first time I saw him because he was already asleep, in the most deeply recessed of the beds, which form a tower of flowered bleachers in the room I come back to. They put me next to him. His head is on the other side, which I can't see because it's facing down; and right next to me are the bottoms of his smooth, dainty feet, on which his curled toes form two pinkish rosary beads. Then they lift him up to put him to bed somewhere else. He doesn't wake up. Now I can see the somewhat coarse sweetness of his handsome, impenetrable face; four pale, sturdy, naked limbs that dangle limply; and in the gape of his briefs, his little boy's cock, impish in a glint of light that tongues it furtively as he's carried off. This plump sex, exposed in its shell of creased fabric, seems like a fleshy face, happily laughing for no reason, the kind you'd discover by parting the edges of bedclothes inside a crib. Pablos's other face: less innocent than his sleeping immodesty would make you think; but more na•ve than I'm hoping when, gripping his dick and balls through his underpants to demonstrate what he's saying, he calls them my loaf of bread and grapes.
----This imagery has an origin. On a photo that was just taken, Pablos was wearing an old pair of wrinkled cotton trousers that were too short for him, to go play in the dirt alley where his family lives; the fly and the entire front, tight along his stomach and struck by the slanting sun, were full of weird bulges, knots, worn, raised areas, one of which looked kind of obscene, long and stiff like the member of a faun. We had a good time with it; and when the kid saw the photo, he as well laughed, but explained that it was only because there was some bread in his pocket that day. And the word slipped from this conspicuous crust to the invisible thing it had suggested.
----As for the grapes, on my table I have some chocolate with raisins, Pablos eats some of it, and as he was retelling the bread joke, he found a better way to describe himself: with the word grape on his lips, his eyes and his finger on the gilded bunch decorating the wrapper, his other hand tugged between his legs at his two balls to be sure of the resemblance.
----Long months passed between the evening of the chickpea soup and that pleasant afternoon of the loaf of bread; then a lot of gloomy days that I don't see any end to. A little twelve-year-old boy, Pedro, who would come by a year ago, used a piece of fruit another way. During his first visit, he stays by himself for a while, sitting stiffly on his chair, or rather, slumped on it, his shoulders slack, the back of his head sunk into his neck and his chin high, his eyes sluggish, white and vacant the way they are during a medical exam. I'm talking to his brother in the next room, because I haven't understood if they're going to have sex together or one by one. This older brother, Diego, who's sixteen, is small and looks somewhat childlike, but he has a big cock and doesn't take kindly to little brats. When we come back, I've decided to wait until later to go to bed with Pedro: even so, before he leaves today I'd like to kiss him, touch him. Standing behind his chair, I slip a hand into his clothing, without opening it, until I've reached between his legs. I immediately regret having preferred his brother, whom I knew.
----But under Pedro's clammy, lightweight "scrotumette" is a large, hard and somewhat cold ball. Taken aback, as if I'd discovered some disgusting infirmity, I palpate it. And I understand what it is: an apple. The boy had grabbed it and hidden it while he was alone. His older brother, who sometimes flaunts his principles to me, wouldn't mess around with such stealing. So I keep quiet, and in the mirror opposite us, I search for the child's eyes: his look meets mine, he suppresses a smile, then gives into it as he avoids my glance. Now he's blushing; a wave of pride, even a certain preening, floods his face. I kept my hand where it was. Standing next to us, Diego probably thinks his little brother is getting hard and that I like his dick.
----Apples are expensive in spring, and so are bananas. I keep these fruits for guests, who eat a lot of them and often arrange them into red-and-green cocks and balls, ready to crunch into. Not many boys like boys; but they like to be a boy, to show it, to be it together.

L'Isle Atlantique
An excerpt from Chapter 1
by Tony Duvert
Translated by Bruce Benderson

Raymonde Seignelet carried in the pasta and, with the monotonous yap that she used for a voice, harangued, "This is real spaghetti! Italian style! Real sauce! Not from a can!"
----"Just take a look at that meat inside!" she added. She put down the plate and glared defiantly at the spaghetti, as if telling it to shut up.
----A slow lolling of cautious necks and a slight stirring of circumspect shoulders came from the four boys in front of the dish, which was forecasting storm. Subservience, anxiety loomed, as well as a faint hunger for rancid fat.
----Madame Seignelet sat down brusquely, belying her oozing shape.
----Robert Seignelet, the ponderous assistant manager at the electricity company, sized up the pasta drowning in lumpy brown sauce. He tipped a quivering nose, like an overwhelmed gourmet, and let out an imperious grumble of approval.
----The children took a breath too soon: Madame Seignelet wasn't in a mood to be satisfied by such a brief tribute.
----"It's not like that grunge you buy in a store," she added bitterly.
----She went on to explain its merits. Jean-Baptiste Seignelet, eleven, shot a mocking look toward his brother Dominique, thirteen, and mimed a biologist startled by examining the blackened meatballs in a bog of sauce. He was good-looking and had a cheerful personality. He got hold of himself before his mother noticed his routine.
----Monsieur Seignelet, who had no opinion about factory-made sauces, took a helping while emphasizing his masquerade as eminent gourmet and head of the family. Actually, he was an alcoholic who ate little, didn't get hungry and didn't want any. His swollen belly, bulging chest, heavy neck gave him the presence that concealed his wasted limbs. What is more, he slapped his children like a homicidal butcher. He did it with theatricality and in cold blood.
----The boys' plates were filled to overflowing: they had to grow. Raymonde Seignelet crammed rancid fat into them and forbid them to react, in other words, forbid them not to eat all of it.
----"Mmm, mmm," emoted Monsieur Seignelet, swallowing a fat roll of spaghetti that, with a circular motion of his elbow and with verbal precepts and touristic maxims, he'd grandiloquently formed around his fork. He made his progeny do the same.
----Once his palate was disencumbered again, he performed, his conjugal duty.
----"Mmm, mmm," he affirmed. "They're so much better than they are in Italy. But that makes perfect sense: perfect sense. Since the cook happens to be a French cordon-bleu. She's French! Meaning: the best in the world!.. Mmm."
----Those at the table mulled over the notion. Robert Seignelet ate another meatball, which emptied his plate. He uncorked his second liter of wine and said, "Darling, it's... mmm... It's, I'd say, it's... staggering!.. It's staggering! Darling, your sauce is staggering!"
----The children looked at each other anxiously. Staggering reminded them of a medical problem they'd seen in cartoons: and despite the moistness and hugeness of the lower lip their father had used to illustrate the term, they sensed danger in it, a blunder. Without daring to look at Madame Seignelet, they were waiting for her reaction.
----Moreover she was eating. And custom dictated that you divert your eyes, simulate indifference: because Raymonde Seignelet was a disgusting glutton. She wasn't even aware of it. She liked to think of herself as having manners of a certain kind, a petit-bourgeois education: you would have thought she'd be neat and quiet at the table. But food made short work of all that.
----Madame Seignelet took her spaghetti without the folderol of a fork. She would inhale seven or eight strands of it, like a brat with a cold swallowing down parallel strands of snot. The pasta followed a single curve from her plate to her stomach, but was sucked, lapped, sundered on the way.
----When she heard the word staggering over oral percussion, Raymonde Seignelet merely rolled her eyes to the ceiling and then briefly threw a black look at the bottles and her husband. She checked to see if her sons were eating neatly. With her eyes she gunned down the youngest, Philippe, a seven-year-old who was a bit frail and was dawdling, and then went back to her praying-mantis gobbling.
----Finally, satisfied enough, she put on a nitpicking, fussy, falsely disgusted expression and, pulling that imitation of a rat's snout that was part of her motherly routine, she squealed, "No! No! Don't tell me! It's not like Buitoni! Pff! Humph! No! No! Don't think it's really mine!"
----She sniggered pityingly. Immediately, the table sniggered pityingly, but unconvincingly.
----Hurt, Raymonde Seignelet insisted.
----"No! No! Not real!" she squealed.
----She lapped up some more, tilting her right ear toward her plate as if listening to the noodles agreeing and groveling. When she'd brought them to her mouth, she opened wide, showed her teeth, stuck out her tongue. She had the eyes of a blind person, and she snatched at it brutally, with the grin of a puking dog and the noise of a sluice gate. Then she reformed her snout:
----"And worse yet that there isn't even any meat, mine! In my sauce!... No Buitoni! Roast meat yet! With their stewed junk! As if I'd roasted it myself !.. No! No meat!" She squealed again, as she sucked. "Nothing at all. Humph! Pfff! Pff! Mine!"
She pointed to the meatballs with her chin and sniggered pityingly. The table sniggered pityingly. Bertrand, the eldest, fifteen, a fat-assed oaf with a fat neck, fat chin and square jaw, square cheeks covered with yellow-tipped pimples, protested, with a malicious smile and hoarse voice, "It's good, Mom! Your sauce is great! Oh, no!"
----With a convinced slap of his palm, he pushed up his round, gold-framed glasses on his boxer's nose, covered with oozing black dots. He wore a mask of reflection, in imitation of his father. He struck his plate, which stirred the overcooked noodles in their vaguely tomato-flavored pond of flour-scorched in oil. He sopped it up using four fingers and a big shovel of bread. He smiled, chewed. He liked keeping relations with his superiors easygoing.
----There was a satisfied silence, a swallow, they were in tune.
----Then a high-pitched voice murmured, "I've got a stomach ache."
----It was Philippe. He'd been a late birth, was small in size, and his presence there was continually surprising.
----Everyone gave a start. Philippe, who really was ill, didn't notice the sensation he'd caused. He wanted permission to go and be sick and didn't dare ask. He was afraid: you don't throw up what you get from Mom. He really would have kept it in, but his stomach was refusing to obey. He was what housewives call a delicate kid, a difficult child, a pain, a cross to bear.
----Madame Seignelet considered having an outburst, hesitated, her eyes screwed up, stopped short between two attitudes.
With a voice that was dangerously low and slow, she said, "But no, Philippe, you're not sick. I know you. Did you make ca-ca at school?"
----"Yes," the child murmured.
----He was turning white.
----"And since then, here, I haven't seen you make ca-ca, right?"
----"Right," admitted Philippe.
----He frowned pleadingly, he was going to throw up at the table. Underneath it was a showy Oriental rug in peacock blue, covered with flowers.
----Madame Seignelet realized her son wasn't going to hold it in. She seemed to be thinking about it. She became unctuous, trying to find a contralto register: "Alright, go now. Hurry up. Enough already. You want me to take you?"
"No," whispered the little boy, rising. He fled.
----He could be heard letting fly an enormous volley of thick muck into the toilet water. They envied Philippe a little. They held back their saliva. They were sickened: obviously little guys were just hollow tubes.
----They kept silent. Madame Seignelet shrugged her shoulders and went back to her inane, yapping tone.
----"He never goes to the toilet! He's always playing! He doesn't even take the time to do it! And not at school, either. He's lying! His teacher told me! Why doesn't he stop fibbing! How could two or three noodles make him sick! He didn't even finish his plate!.. Take a look at that, what a bother!.. And you," she went on, "you're not gong to leave me with that, are you?"
She grabbed the platter on which her rancid gobs were turning cold. The children held out their plates once again.
----"Really staggering, my dear," repeated Monsieur Seignelet in a tired voice, as if he'd upchucked another little compliment with difficulty. He served himself some wine. His movements were becoming muddled. There were a few drops on the tablecloth. He was getting comatose.
----Philippe flushed the toilet and returned to the dining room. Madame Seignelet received him sternly and decided to put him to bed right away since he was sick.
----Infuriated, she waited for him to have a little water. Philippe was his mother's nightmare. His sensitive digestive system rejected and discredited both shrews' and cafeterias' cooking. His scrawniness was enough to bring shame to people who carried themselves well, who knew how to look, who were respected moms. When consulted, Doctor Jurieu had prescribed fresh, light, choice foods: what the child would take, and no more than he would take of it. Madame Seignelet felt accused of not knowing how to nourish. She rebelled. She slapped Philippe at the slightest pretext, to teach him to have a normal stomach. She kept feeding him as she had before, while threatening him with laxatives, enemas, paraffin, and worse reprisals. The little boy would obey, swallow, turn pale, throw it all up, get punished.
----"Your brothers never pulled such stunts! Never!"
----Raymonde Seignelet gnashed her teeth as she put the sick boy to bed. She'd had it. It was torture having this child at the table every evening. A real farce. Now it would have to change. If he dared do it again, he'd be thinking about his smarting ass. And he'd make ca-ca in front of her, like a tiny child, since that was the only way. Or had he eaten something on the sly, bought some candy? Junk food, of course. And with what money? Was he becoming a thief, too? He swore he hadn't stolen anything? She'd find out for sure by checking his wallet.
----She tucked in Philippe the way you fasten a straightjacket, and left. The child lay alone in the dark. He was freezing from having thrown up, his teeth were chattering. He loosened the covers a little bit by jerks of his shoulder and huddled beneath the sheets up to his ears.
----On evenings that Jean-Baptiste Seignelet secretly left the house, there was nothing holding him back. He wasn't anxious by nature and liked fun, tricks, cheating. He shared a room with the eldest boy, Bertrand, who was a hard-working high school student. Bertrand would go to bed at ten-thirty, read or chat for a few minutes and lights out. The only light that remained was a small one beside Jean-Baptiste's bed, which he would turn off himself shortly after. Bertrand would masturbate with the sheets pulled up to his neck, wriggling as if he were changing his briefs under a bath towel at the beach. He'd be out for the count a moment later, having wiped his penis with a special handkerchief that was stiff, crackled, stuck together, yellow and greenish, and which he would hide. Sometimes he'd wash it.
----Monsieur and Madame Seignelet, even if they stayed up a long time to watch television because of a film or to create some kind of scene, would forget about the existence of their children as soon as they'd gone to their rooms. They closed their doors. Everyone would be in place: Raymonde and Robert, Jean-Baptiste and Bertrand, Philippe and Dominique. The parents would never have done a night inspection, or even lent an ear, or been on the lookout for and deciphered anything that was less than silence. They seemed to believe that well-trained children had no will of their own. At night, after use, they are put away in a puppet's case, where they remain silent, unmoving, frightened until the next day-when they're brought out again and you recommence manipulating them and talking for them.
----The Seignelets lived in a house with a small garden that they owned. They had seventeen more years of mortgage payments to make. The house was located to the north of Saint-RŽmi, at the edge of buildings that had been unknown on the island until a quarter of a century ago. They were the homes of low-ranking employees, level, cube-shaped, prefabricated, already run-down single homes, which were showy but tacky, chucked any which way on landfill plots, each with its own lawn, lawn-mower, withered and expensive-looking Thuja trees.
----Without even waiting for his brother to fall asleep, Jean-Baptiste got up in the darkness, took his clothes, left. He locked himself in the bathroom and got dressed again. He hid his pajamas behind the toilet tank.
He slipped into the garden by way of the kitchen. He had no bike: he'd have to get to the older Cormaillon, who was waiting to take him on his moped.
----It was a nice night. The rain felt pleasant. Jean-Baptiste, well protected by clothing, hummed to himself. He was forgetting that he could be heard from his home. It wasn't his home, that house, that neighborhood, that barracks with parents, those broken-down lots.

-- more about Bruce Benderson


Six novels

Recidive, 1967

Tony Duvert published his first novel Récidive in 1967. Seven years later he rewrote it, ultimately publishing a much shorter version in 1976 - which for reviewer A. Thiher resembles what the prose of Jean Genet might have become were it to have been rewritten by Alain Robbe-Grillet. This disturbing work by one of France's most aggressively homosexual writers, a self-proclaimed "pédhomophile", has largely escaped critical attention. In the only study to focus on Récidive to date, John Phillips builds on work by Owen Heathcote on the ongoing construction and deconstruction of homosexuality and its environments. Phillips deems Duvert's novel a "homotextuality" and focuses on the mobile nature of homosexual identity in the journey, the quest for sexual experiences pieced together by its shadowy male narrator. The novel has had modest sales - only 2,000 copies of the first published version and barely 3,000 more of the second; This might be explained by Duvert's reclusiveness - by mailing his manuscripts to his editor Jérôme Lindon, he chose indirect contact with him and his publishing staff at the Éditions de Minuit; and the critical marginalization in general of homosexual writing in France. -- Brian Kennelly

'Rewriting, Rereading Tony Duvert's Recidive' (1967), by Brian Kennelly

Bon Sexe illustre (Good Sex Illustrated), 1973

Written in the wake of May ’68 and Deleuze/Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, Duvert’s Good Sex Illustrated (Bon sexe illustre) partakes in this miraculous moment when sexuality could turn the world upside down, revealing social hypocrisy for what it is. Bitterly funny and unabashedly anarchistic, Duvert openly declares war on mothers, family, psychoanalysis, morality, the entire social construct through a close reading of sex manuals for children. Published in 1973, one year after Duvert won the prestigious Prix Medicis, it proved that accolades had not tempered his scathing wit or his approach to such taboo topics as pedophilia. This translation, by award-winning Bruce Benderson, will belatedly introduce English-speaking audiences to the most infamous gay writer from France since Jean Gênet first hit the scene in the 1940s.

Read Bruce Benderson's introduction to Tony Duvert's Good Sex Illustrated

Two excerpts:

“And what exactly is touching? What do you touch? The “penis”?… Don’t girls “touch” themselves, too? How do they do it, since they “only” have a vagina? Is it an “orgasm,” like when Dad and Mom make a baby? Do you do it sitting down? Standing? On all fours? Hopping? With your legs in the air? Is it o.k. to watch? Can you sniff? Can you put a finger up your butt? How about two? Do you have to hide?… When you make love, do you keep your hands behind your back? Where’s it o.k. to put them?… And Dad, do you jerk off?

Why is pleasure “doubled” when it’s “shared”?… Do you really have to cut pleasure in two so that it’ll exist? I mean, if it’s doubled when there are two of you, then it must be tripled when there are three, quadrupled when there are four, centupled when there are a hundred, right? Is it o.k. for a hundred to share? And if I get used to trying it all alone, why is it that I’ll never love anyone again? Is it that good alone and that awful with others?

Paysafe de Fantasie (Strange Landscape), 1973

'Journalist Madeleine Chapsal of the French journal, Express, states that Duvert's Paysage de Fantasie is "scandalous", yet has proven to be a big hit. Winner of the 1973 Prix Medicis, Strange Landscape has been celebrated for its artistic content, but still remains out of reach from the ordinary book browser in France. Though it is not censored in its native country, Strange Landscape, as well as Duvert's other books, is not readily or freely displayed in French bookstores and must be asked for upon demand. The reason for this is the recurring theme in Duvert's writing where childhood is brought to desire. And that is exactly what is described in his novels. Scenes of children in sexual circumstances, with both adults and other children, shock the author's reading public, but has somehow avoided any type of controversy.

Paysage de Fantasie is set in a French chateau, presided over by a woman doctor, her husband, and their young henchman. Several boys, aged 8 to 14 years old, formerly slum kids, are bought from their families to satisfy the sexual urges of a number of successful, wealthy men. The novel is an account of their experiences at the chateau, where some boys fall in love with each other, while other boys react in very opposite ways. -- Kimberly Davies

A short analysis of 'Strange Landscape' by scholar Keith Harvey

Three excerpts:

. . . he stretches out on his back leaning on one elbow kneecaps shining as he bends both legs he took out a long filter cigarette he smokes in his manner no longer so frank one hand shoved down there between his Have you already sucked cock? watch me I can suck myself off both hands now under both legs knees that bend back toward his belly body curving into a ball he stuck out his long tongue licked the tip of it with it he stops once to crush the cigarette Move further away I need more elbow room for this trick a half-somersault backward to raise his ass high in the air legs swinging wide and free his nose smack up against his balls now he moves his mouth experimentally along . . . and finally succeeds after a couple tries . . . I feel around in my own briefs touching my own it's exciting excited we get all undressed . ..

... the madam one of the smaller kids as gossipy as a magpie pinned to some old dame's bashed in gay nineties straw boater says
---alas my good sirs have you enough money?
---how much is it? asks one of the boys
---dearie dearie me it's not cheap oh no not for any of my darling girls! ...
---Hey madame you've a whore here who's cutting out!
---oh that bitch hey there Simon why aren't you playing with us anymore?
---you're all full of shit that's what you are with all your stupid asshole fairy games I'm going out for a walk
---hey this floozy here has got balls says one of the clients to the twittering madam
---one of my young lovelies sporting balls really sir you must cease this vulgarity instantly! the madam gives a toss to her head then runs from lady to lady lifting skirts
---then I'll fuck that one lying there in the middle---he pointed at me

Lulu grows hard he's still hoping that maybe tonight Bernard will perhaps they move down the dark meadow cloud shadows cutting until they reach the riverbank Bernard pants pants already down around his ankles orders Lulu Lie there on your back and shut your eyes now open your mouth he moves closer with his flashlight I said shut your eyes fatso faggot all right now you won't open them again until I tell you right? right Bernard squatting above Lulu plunges his cock down the kid's throat then takes it out again he sits down hard upon that fat frightened face and grunts Lulu smells something at last understands struggles but the tip of the turd has already smeared his nose his forehead even his mop of hair he gasps breaks loose runs down to wash himself off in the stream Bernard calmly finishes his labors the whole turd finally emerging he laughs loudly hunting around in the shadowy grass for some leaves to wipe himself off with calling out to Lulu who refuses to answer Hey cuntface if I ever see you again I'll smash all your teeth in I swear it.

Quand Mourut Jonathan (When Jonathan Died), 1978

When Jonathan Died is a novel by Tony Duvert. It was first published in France as Quand Mourut Jonathan in 1978. The story is not narrated by Jonathan, but it is told in some parts from his point of view. The novel is an unusually frank depiction of love between a man and a boy, and presents what Duvert considers such relationships' potential faults and beauty. The story forms a part of Duvert's radical critique of present-day Western culture's views and valuation of the nuclear family, child sexuality, sexual abuse, paedophile desires, and the nature of love. -- Wikipedia


Jonathan worshipped this turbulence. He saw beyond it. Despite the disagreeable side to the situation, he could sense a truth the child was pointing out; and he recognized beneath the manners he disapproved of, a model he would have liked to follow. For with Serge he was like a wandering disciple, who... has searched for a master... and has found him at last. But this master does not know he knows; only those who have searched for him, after rejecting the great men and the charlatans, can understand.

... On a shelf fixed very high on the wall, curled up behind a heap of rumpled linen, there was a little animal gasping, rigid, savage, inaccessible, of which no more was to be seen than some ear and a bit of knee. Deeply moved, Jonathan desperately wanted to comfort him, to take him in his arms. Tears in his eyes, he waited and allowed himself to be watched. Then, suddenly, Serge overturned the rampart of linen and fastened himself about his neck.

... That put Serge back in a bad mood; more disorder, with things getting broken, shouting, and retreats to the top of the... [linen closet]. Barbara concluded from this, in accordance with her own private way of linking cause and effect, that Jonathan upset the boy and had a bad influence on him.

... In the presence of this boy... Jonathan stood aside. He chose to be a servant, not daring even to be a witness.... [He] allowed himself to be hugged, offered up his nakedness, his sex, his sleep, and observed in the house a diffident splendor in which there basked, as if tomorrow had no existence, the aerial kingdom of the little boy.

L'lle Atlantique, 1979

'It’s an island – taken as a geographical metaphor —, a large provincial town where the children are bored. At night, when everyone thinks they’re asleep, they flee their parents’ home to burgle villas for the hell of it, out of defiance, out of idleness. The booty matters less than the excitement of the theft. Unfortunately, during one of these nocturnal forays, a woman dies of a heart attack, and another woman is murdered by her husband. Nobody can now turn a blind eye to these minor crimes. The police have to investigate and a police detective is assigned to the case. But this investigation is a decoy. L'Île Atlantique doesn’t evolve as a crime drama but is played out in the theater of intimacy, family secrets and people revealing themselves in all their primitiveness, violence and stupidity. And slowly, the unacceptable truth comes out: the children, thought to be guilty, are the real victims.' --Editions Minuit

Read an excerpt (above) from Bruce Benderson's forthcoming English translation.

L'lle Atlantique was adapted by director Gérard Mordillat into an acclaimed television film in 2005. Information on the film is here.


'Tony Duvert stopped for eight years. And this silence reassured its rivals. They tremble! Because it is the rat and it sows the plague! The hope of letters of 70 years rises with a breviary of despair. I stayed on Island Atlantic fairly big book, which tells the rebel fugue of a wild boy. I admit that Duvert m'épate today. Here charcutant of aphorisms, cutting chisel, the French, and ferocious! This writer who storm against traditions, laws, Conformism supports the fine in the more traditional vein, one that delights the old men, exquisitely literate, literary evenings diners (...)' -- Liberation

translated by Electric Newspaper Boy


No, the aphorism is not an irreproachable literary genre. Its trim phrases always have something fat about them, and they share the lot of fat girls, or of boys with nothing but a fat cock: one gives in to them privately but does not acknowledge them publicly.

A collection of small opinions, remarks, ideas -- a catalogue of abusive

Of course, everything that can be said in terms of generalizations is
false: but it's also exciting, like a scandal. An act of revenge.

Capricious, slanderous, and spiteful: this is what you are. And you love

Thought in the form of "collected thoughts" has something beastly about it.

Read A - D, the first four sections


Other People's Eroticism, an essay
by Tony Duvert
from the Semiotexte website

---During the controversy provoked by pornographic productions, someone quoted this sentence:
---"Pornography is other people's eroticism."
---A formula which had the merit of using two stupid words intelligently, if not three. It was an argument for tolerance: but also a criticism of those discriminations we make to separate ourselves from what we then boast we "tolerate."
---For perhaps other people's eroticism is not so different from our own in terms of what it has to show; perhaps we are contemptuous of "pornography" simply because it pictures us without our masks—sad bodies, seedy rooms, squalid compromises, graceless gestures, pathetic fantasies. We don't like it when our copulations present as poor a front in films as they do in our existence: erotic works must wholly conform to our illusions, and must not be, in substance or in price, as petty as ourselves.
---Then what distinguishes eroticism from pornography is not a difference between our own beautiful sexuality and the disgusting one of others: in reality, in terms of establishment standards, all real sexuality remains guilty, ugly, bestial, miscarried. We are never rich enough, handsome enough, young enough, mature enough, virtuous enough, endowed enough, normal enough, man enough, woman enough, to have a sexuality that is permissible, respectable, or simply possible. These are the exigencies shaped by our laws, our moral codes, our ideals, our masterpieces, our very rules for desire. It is not surprising that they apply to entertainment as well. But "pornography" commits the crime of insufficiently idealizing what it shows—and yet in its abundance of nudes and exploits, it is a garden of delights alongside our real life. Even this free and this fulfilled, sexuality, in order to be absolved, would still need to be transfigured, eternalized, raised to mythic heights, daubed with analyses, smeared with Humanism, larded with "disalienation," laced with garlands covering just the right spots: an atonement afforded by—each in its own way—Love, Art, Science, and Subversion.
---The necessity of this redemption has been understood for a long time by the American manufacturers of porno books and magazines. They have been publishing texts which though obscene are covered with a psychiatric gloss treating them as "documents." They have been amassing indecent photographs, but with the alibi of physical culture or nudism, chaste children of Health. The market is flooded with naked men photographed from every angle, but only to furnish artists a means to perfect their touch without expensive models. And thick brochures of photos with commentary have given amateur sexologists vivid dossiers on sodomy, fellatio, masturbation, large penises, infant eroticism, or group sex. The prosperity of these publications demonstrates that the U.S. censors, touched by the nobility of intentions, were not eager to learn whether the budding draughtsmen were actually using the nudes, whether the collections of children's gang-bangs were only serving to inform educators and mothers, or whether the close-ups of pricks thrust into every hole of Human Nature were examined only by Scholars.
---Let us regard these simplistic liberties as the product of a democracy naive enough, notably, to have expelled a President on the pretext that he was dishonest—for it seems that power, as wicked as sex, needs only, like it, to be angelic in order to be tolerable. A reassuring certainty.
---Our country is not the victim of such an unsophisticated logic: in France, when we defend freedom, it is mostly against those who want to use it. So we realized, among a thousand other things, that, before liberating sexuality, we had to educate it so that nobody would have any left: or that, if we authorized pornography, it would obviously have to give up defying morality.
---Yet when we suppressed censorship, we discovered with indignation that censorable works took advantage of that suppression to appear. This is certainly proof that we were not ripe for freedom of expression.
---Normally, the French spontaneously boycott the pseudo-products a greedy capitalism claims to make them consume: in particular, they are deserting the movie houses showing the commercial garbage called "films for the general public"—cretinizing accounts which are an insult to the masses, and thus to human dignity, as has been repeated energetically for years by Messrs. Marchais and Séguy and Cardinal Marty.* But this time profit-hungry and underhanded members of the industry succeeded in hoodwinking the People by offering as a shining lure a bait of all-too-real obscenities. Immediately, millions of fathers, mothers, and workers, grandma by the hand, babe in arms, rushed to movies of fornication-without-love: and, hypnotized, thunderstruck by so many horrors, no one dared to react. I have not even heard a baby cry in the theatre, which shows how precociously these images paralyze response.
---The State and the various elites protested from their positions, and freedom was reorganized. A separate category of film would be defined, heavily taxed and narrowly distributed: the kind that depicted "other people's eroticism" (those others suitably baptized X): pornography. Our own eroticism, of course, would continue to enjoy all necessary freedom of expression.
---I have said how the two genres were distinguished: since majority eroticism has beauty for its principal trait, any ugliness, vulgarity, stupidity, gratuitous obscenity, in the representation of sexuality, is our signal that it is not ours, but that of the X's.
---A measure totally commendable. Shortly before this, as a matter of fact, François Mitterand had suggested in the Nouvel Observateur that pornography be restricted to reserved circles: for it was really too ugly, and manufactured, from all evidence, by pornographers. Moreover, these literal pictures of organs, he remarked, remained infinitely less moving than a certain touching of hands in Straight Is the Gate. Mitterand did not specify whether the little pee-pees of If It Die overwhelmed him as much as Alissa's hands—both, however, duly fingered, and sung with all proper style, by a Nobel Prize Winner. In any case, this socialist position coincides with what our government, so liberal in the circumstances because it coincides with the choices of the Left, will have decided.
---So now, for the first time in our society, we are asserting that mediocrity is intolerable, and that our citizens must be institutionally protected from it. It is unthinkable that members of the film industry should go so far as to exploit human lust: and business would be betraying itself if it suddenly ceased to strive for our moral and artistic uplift.
---Henceforth we may read on the pediment of Eros' temple: no one enters here save the inspired. Our nation, which seemed so to hate, persecute, and condemn sex, turns out on the contrary to admire it, to deify it to such an extent that it no longer wants the disreputables to touch it. This bon-bon, this salt of the earth will be, as is only fair, reserved for great men. If they are good enough to accept it, of course. And if your talents are very modest, your I.Q. very low, your passion for money unbounded, your vulgarity incommensurable, produce family films, romanticize conjugal love, comment on politics, be a critic of Arts and Letters, enter the Academy, glorify war, sports, work, virtue, crooks, racism, the State: but cunts, pricks, and ass-holes are strictly taboo to you—as to all the opportunists, morons, impostors, pigs, and nonentities who have invaded other domains. Eros is going to feel a bit lonesome.
---To me this demand for quality, for disinterestedness, for artistic mastery, seems completely justified (I need only think of the marvels it would produce in politics, journalism, or education). I have noticed pornos shown that smelled of amateurism, the rush job, the production without billions or government subsidies: and I felt, of course, very different from the X's with whom I had mingled for a moment, and whom this nullity did not embarrass. What is left, then, in these films which have nothing to recommend them?
---What is left is precisely a certain something that good films never show. And since the universe is bursting with glorious film makers, many of whom denounce the scandalous mediocrity of pornos, I wonder why they, who film so well, leave to bunglers the erotic subjects—which they seem to admire, however, since they won't allow them to be treated shabbily—instead of putting themselves to work. Is it because of the humility habitual to geniuses confronted with themes too large? Or because the realization of their creativity and the representation of sexual acts are incompatible? In this case, we must admire the abnegation of the unfortunate directors who, in order to film what others hide, do not hesitate to compromise their chances of acquiring talent.
---In fact, the existence of specifically "pornographic" works calls to mind Jean Genet's remark when he was asked why his theatre was obscene: because, he said, the other theatre is not. We are in a paradoxical situation in which it seems conceivable, evident, even desirable, to create a work (and every work speaks only of humanity and human life) where sexuality is reduced to nothing—nothing but a zone of silence toward which every narrative moves, however, and upon which it breaks off. Our culture is the historiographer, or rather the mythologist, of a man desexed. Put his sex back on: it will not be said that you are filling a lack, it will be said that your work has an excess—and it is this excess, this "obscenity," which will define it. Thus sex, with its billions of manifestations, sensations, and nuances, whose subtleties and lessons are certainly worth those of sentimental psychology, is not a spontaneous, necessary, diversely present (if only in a "low" way) component of our representation of man: it is only an indelicate speciality, characteristic of certain authors, certain artists, certain scholars, who create for themselves alone something which, outside themselves, has no right of asylum. Each creator must decide if he is going to create "with" or "without": it is the least of his liberties, and if we all know what cultural destiny awaits those who create "with," there is no doubt that this encourages future geniuses not to cut that.
---To tolerate sexuality, as we claim to do, to explore and understand it, as we say we need to do, would be, however, to allow it to appear everywhere, to be expressed and experienced everywhere, in short, to let it blossom in the bright daylight of social life. And not to wedge it in between chic books, the shops of Pigalle, royal marriages, and latrine doors.
---It is not the appearance of "erotic" works or "pornographic" products that demonstrates freedom here, it is rather the disappearance of special places and rites where sexuality, pleasure, and the body have been closeted. It is not for porno magazines to show nudes, orgies, lesbians, child-fucking, but France-Dimanche, l'Espress, Paris-Match, Tintin, Spirou and other humanist publications. It is not for the makers of X-rated films to show sexual lives, but for the film makers who draw crowds, and for television. It is not for "special" authors to decipher our bodies, it is for the whole of literature. Or else we might as well say that sexuality is intolerable, and must remain the prisoner of a few maniacs who are bound and determined to show how it exists, and fill as best they can this void in our culture and in our moral codes.
---Clearly, in a society where sexuality would not "have a place" but would resume its own, the substance of the erotic would be very different from what originates in our ghettos—where one resignedly shuffles through the hotpotch of illusions, cliches, sublimities, and obsessions that define our sexual obscurantism. I see only obscene photography which, when it avoids the affectations and the conventionalities of the Beautiful, is already liberated, doubtless because of its inferiority, from the stereotypes which, from Eroticism's height to porno's depths, manufacture a phony representation of the sexuality we "wish" we had.
---But what do the X's want? Some of them participated, without reacting, in a cruel experiment of "mise-en-abyme" (the Quaker Oats Box syndrome), which would have delighted every well-born member of the avant-garde, and which illustrates a paradox of pornography.
---It was a showing of a very good hetero porno (market conditions rarely permit mixing tastes in the same product). Title: The Talking Sex (the heroine is afflicted with a miraculous ability borrowed from Diderot: like a character in Bijoux indiscrets, she speaks from her cunt). This film contained the following scene. In a movie theatre, ordinary viewers are watching a porno. Suddenly, a female spectator, spurred to action by the film, grabs her neighbors' pricks. The next moment, the whole audience, bare-assed and cocks in the air, is joyously fucking. On the screen, of course. In the other movie theatre, the real one, nobody was doing anything. We were watching the pornophiles of the filmed movie theatre. The ones who could actually do it.**
---This imaginary scene is thus supposed to represent the pornophiles' fantasy: and, in short, it puts their backs to the wall. But the wall is too high. In a real movie theatre (apart from the fact that the porno movie theatres lack more female spectators than the leftist faction of women's liberation), this transition to action would be a criminal offense, an event that would summon the police cars and occupy the front page of the newspapers.
---Impossible legally, this orgy is just as impossible aesthetically and physiologically. As ordinary as the false spectators of The Talking Sex appear, they were chosen to present, once they were drawn from their seats, pleasing bodies with quick reflexes and immediate satisfactions. Characteristics having no relation to the appearance and the sexual behavior of the average Frenchman, pornophile or not. We see that the obstacle to the orgy is not simply in the legal violation it would constitute (a violation that homosexuals risk committing accustomed as they are to heterosexual cops). The obstacle is rather in these accommodating passions and attractive bodies at the disposal of the film actors, and not of the audience. Indispensable advantages in a porno, since they are already the rule in all films and novels. Inconceivable, the aversion aroused by actors with small penises, actresses with fatty deposits, flabby breasts, callused feet, by the third-rate copulations, thighs dribbling semen, exhibited by certain films: "defects" which are, however, the common lot of humanity. Of course, it can be judged normal (and nothing is more revoltingly so) that a film should be pleasant to look at, that it should thus avoid showing us to ourselves, and that it should select enchanting human samples exceptional enough so that the humanity which does not resemble them is willing to recognize itself in them. Unfortunately, this cult of the exception reinforces our certainty that we are sexually unfit: and, instead of making us love beauty more, makes us more detestable in our own eyes. Here we are, poor, stupid men and women, dreaming that doubtless one (lay, the Handsome One, the Beautiful One, will redeem our ugliness—as God saves, under their vermin, their spittle, and their snot, the pure in heart. We are not worthy. They, yes. So, let us titillate ourselves with the idea that tomorrow, they will descend to our very own studio-kitchenette-john.
---Pornography thus reminds us that to obtain beautiful objects of desire, either we must resemble them, or else (and this is the execrable philosophy of Sade, who, in the exploration of desire, would stage only the ecstasies of economic power over another's body)—we must be rich. The rich don't watch pornos (except among themselves, at their own homes, and in addition). A nice whore, a gigolo without major defects in fabrication, goes for 200 to 300 Francs and up. By telephone in Paris, you can get young boys and girls recruited by middle-men, and the fix costs exactly one month of S.M.I.C.*** Then, are the pornophiles exclusively the riff-raff who, in contrast to the elite who draft our laws, can only afford an X-cinema seat? Are the child molesters who are taken to court only guilty of being insolvent? In the porno-shops, the sales clerks complain of innumerable customers who come in to "handle" the merchandise and never buy anything. And one does, in fact, come across a proletariat of sad voyeurs. But let us rejoice that these lovely magazines are finally removed—sealed under cellophane so that they don't get fingered by these detectives who come in to fill their eyes without spending a sou, like Rimbaud's Effarés sniffing at the night bakery's air-vents. The girls, the boys, and the neighborhood transvestites can be had for the price of two of these ruinous reviews. So everything is laid up, meat and paper both. Business is certainly hard.
---We can rest easy: every penniless pornophile, every john with a flat wallet is a potential husband, and a future papa, since marriage is the only cheap and decent solution to the problems of the cock. Which proves that the sex industry, in its way, offers an incentive to Real Love.
---The exercise of desire has an extremely narrow economic and aesthetic code: this code excludes the majority of men and women. We have in addition a pleasure code, which assigns a specific behavior and necessary aptitudes to both sexes; and this code, too, excludes many people. The two codes are reproduced by porno and, in an aggravated form, by the Erotic. The lover of pornography, like the lover of eroticism, or of romantic novels, is convinced that sexuality must have a "good form": he judges himself unfit to experience such a form and looks for fiction and entertainment that depict the ideal in whose name he is frustrated. It is a circular movement of self-education in not making love.
---Here we see the difference between the actor-pornophiles of The Talking Sex and the pornophile-viewers: the film does not show what they would do if they were free, it shows why, even free, they would not dare do anything.
---However, this self-repressive movement depends on each person's adherence to the values that condemn his right to pleasure. And this adherence is the effect of the difficulty in making love we have met with ever since childhood. Nobody would believe that a botched anatomy, an unattractive face, or mediocre or reluctant genitals constituted a handicap, unless people more beautiful, more endowed had not made us feel it from the first day we experienced desire. And this reflex of exclusion would be extremely rare if all of us had not been taught a rule of "sexual sharing" in whose name we must reserve ourselves, handsome or ugly, for an advantageous bargain, a distinguished partner who persuades us finally to compromise our bodies. The strictness of the moral code, the minute number of situations in which physical contact, sexual enjoyment, even the simple liberty of speaking to someone, are permitted, force the unhappy and guiltridden internalization of these values. In other words, the less freedom we have to make love, the more we cling to codes that keep us from making it. Those whom this logic escapes are termed debauched: there is no middle ground between submission to principles and trespass against them.
---Or rather, the middle ground is the business solution: when one pays for porno, or for a whore, one is not so much buying sex as the right to enjoy it apart from the establishment, but without the threat of the law.
---Pornography is thus an element of the system. Yet it would be ridiculous to hold it responsible for a situation which precedes it and accompanies it, does not need it to sustain itself, and can, in the long run, suffer from its presence.
---It is this context which must be understood. Actually, the countries which preceded us in lifting restrictions on pornography are very different from France. Not because France is Latin: we are even more gloomy, tense, paralyzed than the somnolent Scandinavian populations and, sociologically, we are not really Latins. Nor is our Catholicism significant. Any libertine who has visited the most Catholic countries on earth—Portugal, Spain, Italy—has discovered the sexual paganism of the proletariat youth of these Mediterranean Christendoms. Catholicism and its indictments reign very far over the heads and the groins of the "proletariat." The prohibitions, of course, are known: but however much they make things clandestine, they can do nothing against their impregnable prosperity. Moral rigidity in France is actually a sign of the "empetitbourgeoisement" of the masses and a testimony to the absolute power of the industrial disciplinary regime over our behavior.
---In the North, in any case, the appearance of pornography was not an isolated phenomenon, but a consequence of reforms which, in laws, moral codes, and institutions, questioned all sexual morality. A questioning followed by impressive results: actual legislation in Denmark and Sweden, concrete allowances in the Netherlands and in some American states, constitute precedents unique in the history of civilizations. And what is important is not so much the happiness that these freedoms might bring today to those who have initiated them, as it is the society in which from now on men will be born for whom this new morality will not be a conquest but an immediate, normal, and, in fact, invisible datum of existence.
---In France pornography has been permitted without reforming the morality it transcends, a morality we are instead striving to save more energetically than ever, a morality which, alongside the opinions of an elite that is liberal-minded but incapable of affecting laws and moral codes, continues implacably to govern the private life of the masses. It is this stagnation that gives its power (and its strange status of a national question) to the production of pornography in France. For such production offers a representation, at once mythical and saturated with the concrete, of the freedoms we do not have.
---From now on, what matters is to know these freedoms not as voyeurs. Such an experience would doubtless teach us that the free exercise of sexuality leads to a universe where the bourgeois beauties of the Erotic and the stereotyped joys of porno are simplistic and outmoded. It is up to us to emancipate ourselves from the clichés, the illusions that our sexual conditioning and our frustrations have produced. The expression of sexuality need not be either beautiful or ugly, cultivated or crude, brilliant or idiotic: but it must become the free discourse of desire authentically expressed and no longer the staging of an eroticism we dream up for ourselves when we are deprived of the right to experience any at all.

—Translated from the French by Joan Templeton


* Georges Marchais, head of the French Communist Party; Georges Séguy, head of the C.G.T., an important leftist trade union; Cardinal François Marty, Archbishop of Paris. [Translator's note]

** Homosexuals are less timid (but this is a result of their uncivilized condition). During the showings of Histoire d 'hommes, there were cruising crowds watching from their places in the toilet conspicuously located right at the side of the screen. It is true that the gays haven't waited until now to take over certain popular movie houses, and (when the back row, the toilet, and the balcony weren't inundated with juvenile delinquents or plainclothes cops) to do there what no film yet dared show.

*** Salaire Minimum interprofessionnel de Croissance": the French minimum-wage. [Translator's note]



p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Wow, nice, Mallarme in the morning is working like a charm. Thank you, kind and tasteful sir. ** Slatted Light, Thanks a lot, David! Yeah, that Lucas de Lima book was a really great discovery. I hadn't read anything by him before that book magically opened in my face. The Sala just came out, like, three days ago. It's stellar, of course. I will pass along any news I hear from or about Jesse, for sure. Things are moving productively here on the theater front, and given that the piece involves creating something out of, for, and with the eight more respected ventriloquists in Europe, that's saying something. Have a very fine day! Love back big time from me. ** les mots dans le nom, Hi. Oh, so sorry to hear that your heath was disappointing you yesterday. I hope you're upswinging dramatically by now. It's hard to have much informed knowledge and experience of the SF and LA writers and scenes because they haven't been officialized much at all, LA basically never, and SF only re: the Language Poetry scene. Strange, that, but it's true LA would particularly hard to organize and sum up as a literary scene, which is its strength, I guess. ** Steevee, Obviously, I'm glad the air has quieted around you. Oh, sure, the Bryan Singer thing scandal is well known here, although mostly through the American media, which infiltrates everything. I think if there's a way to characterize the reaction over here, it would be a whole lot less hysterical and gun-jumping. ** Torn porter, Hi, man. Ah, well, I'll miss seeing Ratty on this trip anyway, since I won't get back to Paris until, I think, Saturday night. Next time. Oh, wow, Zac and I are scrambling to find actors to audition right now as well. If I was in Paris and not glued inside a theater for all day every day I might be able to try to find someone for you, but I know I won't have the resources or time this week at all, I'm sorry. I hope you find somebody. We're in the same boat, if any consolation. The rehearsals go very well, just intensive and long and exhausting, but that's things happen, at least in theater piece construction, at least in my experience. All is well, iow. Have a good day, man. ** Right. Here's the return of an old Tony Duvert-centric post, unfortunately, or well, fortunately, I guess, without the 'exclusive' allure it had back when it was new. Anyway, I hope you find interest and whatever else in it. See you tomorrow.