Category: Pornography

The Multiplying Hells of Pierre Guyotat

Blake Butler writing for Vice
Writer Pierre Guyotat

Writing for Vice, Blake Butler talks about the unreadable, and Pierre Guyotat as an alternative to Sadism:

I think I always wanted the writing of the Marquis de Sade to be more fucked up than it is. For all the hype that’d been built up around him, by the time I first snuck in the library in like seventh grade to peek into Justine or whatever all full of adrenaline and some kind of unknown fear, I think I expected to read the book and have it burn me on the face, or at least to feel nauseated to the point it would be hard to even look straight at the words.

But it didn’t feel like that. There was all this other talking in the book, philosophy and Victorian back and forth. There were dirty scenes too, though they didn’t affect me as much as the anticipation of reading them did. As an adult now there are still certain things I like about Sade, and I’d take his masturbation scribbling over most other straight white male literary fantasy. It never was really his language or even the affect of his descriptions as much as simply his historical existence that I believe has made him stick around as “taboo.”

Years later, when I finally came across the writing of Pierre Guyotat, that whole gap of where the somewhat fizzled damage from Sade’s legacy had left open became suddenly and immediately awakened. Guyotat came with a similarly messed up biographical framework: He was drafted into the Algerian war around age 20 and served there until he was eventually arrested for inciting desertion among the troops and as a result was detained in a hole in the ground for three months. Using that experience and his hallucinations on the battlefields he wrote several books in his early 20s, including 1970’s Eden Eden Eden, which was banned for 11 years in France as pornographic.

Subsequently a petition on behalf of the merit of his work was written, including signatures by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Jean-Paul Sartre, Joseph Beuys, Jean Genet, Maurice Blanchot, Max Ernst, Italo Calvino, Simone de Beauvoir, and Nathalie Sarraute, which essentially had no legal effect. Beyond all that, he is notoriously known for having written himself into a coma, writing from such a state of hyper-volatility and obsession that he refused to eat and was hospitalized (and later explored this experience in great detail in his most recent work, Coma, released in English in 2010).

All this context still doesn’t really set you up for the onslaught of full-on linguistic beatdown this man has managed to cram into his words. Where other extreme-aimed texts focus on their subject matter to do the heavy lifting on how they slam into the reader, Guyotat’s language is the primary weapon in his barrage. He uses sound, stink, texture, motion, color, and relentless juxtaposition to break through the simple sheen of something maybe gross or terrifying to immediately graft it onto more: the image not static or pleased to be itself, but constantly unscrolling. His sentences are often full of colons and semi-colons and commas, forcing the eye to continue to move and feed the brain. I mean, here, one paragraph at random, from his Tomb for 500,000 Soldiers, which is dedicated to his uncle who was killed in a concentration camp, published in French in 1968, and finally translated by Helen Lane to English in 2003…

(…)

On Alain & Catherine Robbe-Grillet

Les Robbe-Grillet

Great piece by Adam Shatz on the life and work of Alain Robbe-Grillet and his wife Catherine, also known as Jean de Berg, written on the occasion of the release of A Sentimental Novel by Dalkey Archive Press: 

The virile looks, however, were deceptive, as his wife Catherine discovered. She was the daughter of Armenians from Iran; they met in 1951 in the Gare de Lyon, as they were both boarding a train to Istanbul. He was instantly taken by her. Barely out of her teens, not quite five feet tall and only forty kilos, Catherine Rstakian ‘looked so young then that everyone thought she was still a child’. She inspired in him (as he later wrote) ‘desperate feelings of paternal love – incestuous, needless to say’. The relationship began immediately, but with one condition, imposed by Catherine: there could be no penetration, since she had undergone a painful clandestine abortion the year before and didn’t want to risk another. Six years later, on a boat from Zadar to Dubrovnik, she changed her mind, only to learn that her fiancé was impotent. He had other things in mind for his ‘petite fille’, as he called her. ‘His fantasies turned obsessively around sadistic domination of (very) young women, by default little girls,’ she wrote in her memoir of their life together, Alain. He gave her ‘drawings of little girls, bloodied’. (‘Reassure yourself, he never transgressed the limits of the law,’ she adds.) Shortly after they were married in 1957, they drew up a contract in five pages, outlining the ‘special rights of the husband over his young wife, during private séances’, where she would submit to torture, whipping and other humiliations. If she performed her duties with ‘kindness and effort’, she would be paid in cash, which she could use for ‘expensive holidays, private purchases, or lavish generosity on behalf of third parties’.

Catherine Robbe-Grillet never signed the contract, which ‘clashed with my erotic imagination’: ‘A Master imposed himself, he didn’t negotiate.’ Writing under the male pseudonym Jean de Berg, she had explored her erotic imagination in an S&M novel,L’Image, published in 1956 by Minuit. He respected her wishes, and never asked for an explanation. When they moved into the Château du Mesnil-au-Grain, a 17th-century mansion in Normandy, it was Catherine, not Alain, who became the house dominatrix – France’s most legendary practitioner – as if she were ‘substituting myself for Alain’. He was remarkably solicitous of her needs, and she of his. He welcomed her lover, Vincent, so long as Vincent agreed to be his disciple (there could only be one Master in the house). She also shared her mistresses with him, and dressed up as Lolita when they had dinner with Nabokov. She was ‘content, even proud’, when Alain fell for Catherine Jourdain, a stunning blonde who seduced him on the beach in Djerba, where he was directing her in his 1969 film L’Eden et après; she read every letter he wrote to Jourdain. The affair appears to have been the closest thing to a conventional heterosexual relationship he had, but he was overwhelmed by her ‘voraciousness’ in bed, and she failed to be ‘the docile slave he dreamed of’. When the affair ended, Robbe-Grillet lost interest in sex. He felt burdened when Catherine offered him a close friend of hers as a birthday gift in 1975; the next year he announced his retirement from ‘all erotic activity between two people or with several’. From then on, she says, he ‘isolated himself in an ivory tower populated with prepubescent fantasies, in the pursuit, in his “retirement”, of the waking dreams in his Roman sentimental – reveries of a solitary sadist.’

Emily Witt on pornography

'What Do You Desire?' by Emily Witt

Emily Witt’s essay, ‘What Do You Desire?’, on San Francisco’s sexual vanguard, from n+1‘s sixteenth issue:

Princess Donna arrived with a small entourage, wearing a vacuum-tight black minidress that flattered her exceptionally perfect breasts. Donna is an extraordinary physical presence in any group of people, and her stature plays integrally into her authority. She is five foot seven with long, almost alarmingly thin limbs that make her seem taller. She has large, brown, Bambi-ish eyes that, the night of the shoot, were complexly shadowed and wreathed in fake eyelashes, which Kink purchases in quantities of several hundred at a time. Her long brown hair was tied up in a high ponytail. She has a tattoo of a biologically correct heart on her left shoulder and a cursive inscription that says DADDY on her inner right forearm. She strode into the room carrying a black vinyl purse from which a riding crop protruded. With her minidress she wore tan cowboy boots, which made the length of her legs appear heron-like. A neck bruise the size of a silver dollar that I had noticed during my first meeting with her a week before had faded.

Donna stood before the bar with the palindromically stage-named male performer, Ramon Nomar, surveying the room. He pointed up to several hooks on the ceiling and to a metal Juliet balcony over the bar. Donna nodded without a word. They retreated to the back. I asked a production assistant where the female performer was. Penny Pax, she said, was having “quiet time.”

Soon, the music was silenced (Kink had its own music, cleared of rights, to play). The bartender removed his gingham shirt and his tie and suddenly was wearing nothing but his waistcoat. Donna came out to make some announcements to the assembled crowd, which was well on its way to getting soused.

“You might think we are doing things to the model that are mean or humiliating, but don’t,” said Donna. “She’s signed an agreement.” According to the agreement, the crowd had permission to poke the model, fondle her, and finger her, but only if they washed their hands and had neatly trimmed fingernails. A fingernail trimmer was available if necessary. “I’m going to be watching you like a hawk to make sure you’re not doing degrading things to her pussy,” Donna said. She continued: “You’re allowed to spit on her chest but not her face. You can give her a hard spanking but you are not allowed to give her a hard smack.” She pulled her production assistant over to her physically. “If Kat is the model”—here Kat bent over obligingly—“this would be a reasonable distance from which to spank her.” Donna mimed responsible spanking practice.

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