Two writers and a dark princess

This post continues my translation of Régine Deforges‘ interview of Pauline Réage, “O m’a dit”, started there

The interview took place in 1975. Régine died on April 3, 2014.

Portrait of a MarriageRD – You said: I long had hope to rebuild my life, in a certain way. In what way?

PR – Well, to have a life like everyone else does, with a husband and children. I long dreamed of living in the country, in a big house with plenty of kids, like women always lived. Apparently, this was not for me.

RD – Why is it part of the dream of women like you, educated women, who have the luck of exercising a profession they love? I happen to dream of jam making. Anything that preserves is so important in this feminine universe.

PR – I suppose that it is ancient nostalgia, the happiness of the home, the happiness of closed dwellings. We have seen so many images. A minute apartment, in darkness, in the evening, curtains drawn, a pregnant woman, sowing in the light of a lamp, a yellow light like that of oil lamps of childhood, silence, a table set for two, the closed world of happiness. But does it last?

RD – Of course it does not last. But it is still true that those feelings of plenitude, for a woman, reach you in those quite moments, when one is busy with small tasks, sowing a button, iron a shirt, sort lentils.

PR – The safety of home, the safety in waiting, a temporary loneliness, a wait without anxiety, it’s a common dream for all women, I believe. It’s just that some women miss their destiny.

RD – But you were not misled since you chose another, different, destiny.

PR – How does one know? Do we really chose?

RD – Can one love two men at the same time?

PR – Of course.

RD – Please explain why, how?

PR – And why not? I think you can be very attached to one man and have a lover you are much in love with as well.Why not? I have known a number of men who loved profoundly both their wives and their mistresses, madly both of them.

RD – Madly, yes, but is it the same quality of love?

PR – It may not be the same kind of love, maybe, but the same quality, yes. Quality may not be the right word, rather importance. Both matter, no question of leaving one or the other. You should read a book that has just been published , “l’Histoire d’un Marriage” (Portrait of a Marriage), I believe. It’s the story of Harold Nicholson and Victoria Sackville-West. It’s one of the most beautiful marriage stories I know of. A marriage where both partners loved deeply and loved other people at the same time. They were very happy.

RD – You said that you are not jealous, you don’t know what jealousy is. But if one is jealous, can one still love several people?

PR – I think one can. I may be a pervert, it’s possible, I don’t care.

RD – I’d like to love two people. It never happened to me, and it looks rather incompatible. We look to living under someone’s eyes, the one who can all permit, since he can punish, and since he can absolve. There can’t be two pairs of eyes, two gods, two men. Once there is one, one rejects the others.

PR – Definitely not. The threesome appears to me to be worthy, liveable and viable, to the contrary.

RD – I can say you are talking like a man, men say that.

PR – But it’s true, they are right.

RD – Of course, from their point of view, they are right!

PR – I am talking about a threesome, two women and a man as much as two men and one woman.

RD – I know of some; I don’t believe in them. I mean I don’t believe there is love there. The love I understand. There might have been, there isn’t any more, or very little. There are commodities. Or else, there is love for two out of the three, and the third one is duped, and suffers. You believe in this because of your generosity.

PR – I don’t see where there is any generosity. I imagine there is something for everyone. I would have accepted either case [two men or two women]. I happened to accept one, but the other was not found: I have known only jealous men, so…

RD – How did their jealousy manifest itself?

PR – By forbidding: “You have looked at that guy again. What on earth do you find in him?”

RD – When you said earlier that you had only met jealous men, you also added “as if I meant to.” Precisely, didn’t you mean to?

PR – To be locked up, like O? While shouting I wanted to be free. It may well be, but I did not know then.

 RD – How important is beauty for a woman?

PR – Oh! It is a great strength. Beautiful women are very lucky. Often they don’t always know how much. I once knew a girl who took my place in the heart of a boy I loved, and who was, at the time, an extraordinary beauty, a beauty that left me speechless, amazed: there is an echo of this in Histoire d’O. It’s impossible to resist that, and he was right. She was beautiful, she knew how to dress. I wasn’t, I had just a little charm, nothing more, I was poor as Job, I dressed as I could afford, without chic, I knew, I could see it, I could do nothing about it: I had no money to do otherwise, and of course I suffered from that. And I worried her!

RD – Did this please you?

PR – Oh! yes. I thought, it serves you well for being so beautiful. I saw the same thing with a boy who was one of my friends’ lover while rather preferring boys. He was one of the most handsome men I ever met. A kind of giant, with broad shoulders and narrow hips, a beautiful regular face, big grey eyes, black slightly wavy hair, a splendour, a marvel! He was humiliated, constantly, because people found him beautiful. “And then, I have some talent.” He had talent indeed, but was all the time humiliated by his beauty. And that girl had all she wanted, but was not interested. She was so used to it. It’s the story of Marilyn Monroe, who never felt safe despite her extraordinary beauty.

RD – I did not find Marilyn extraordinarily beautiful, but rather extraordinarily moving.

PR – It’s even better.

RD – It’s even better, but it is someone one always feels like protecting or hitting. You said of O that she was facile, facile with a loyal heart. But why does a facile body look to you as one of the charms of a woman?

PR – Because it’s congenial. The facility everyone mocks, I find congenial. Remember what was said of Madame, the celebrated Madame of Bossuet’s oraison: “Madame demanded the heart.” Facile girls, one treats with such contempt of “good girls”, care for others, often.

RD – And what better way to prove it than give oneself. But one can give oneself for many other reasons. To get rid of an annoying man, for example, to whom one has no longer anything to say.

PR – I would not have thought of that reason, as it seems to me rather encouraging.

RD – It depends. There is a way of saying, or to let understand: “Listen, if you really insist, let’s do it, show me what you can do, and then let’s forget it,” which is most discouraging and even insulting for a man, it seems. Often, they don’t do it, precisely, and one doesn’t see them again. Or they try to do it, fail pitifully, and disappear even faster.

PR – Ah! I wouldn’t have thought of that.

 RD – Does impossibility strengthen feeling? Is it true for you that not being able to join someone, to touch him, for reasons of etiquette, or others, strengthens your feelings?

PR – Not for me, no. I’ve had small affairs, falling in love with a boy who appeared to be in love with me, but refused to do anything because “it wasn’t done”. That “it wasn’t done”  seemed to me… He may have been right, but after all, if he hadn’t put up this obstacle himself, I wouldn’t have made things complicated. So, after fifteen days, once I understood it was hopeless, I gave up, and that was it. In that case impossibility did not strengthen feeling.

RD – If it’s impossible you give up.

PR – One does not force someone. A fist axiom is not to force anyone, and a second is not to besiege anyone.

RD – But there were passions when a man besieged a woman who eventually surrendered.

PR – He was well disappointed.

RD – He was well disappointed, he is angry with her, like Baudelaire when he wrote to the Présidente: “How come you surrendered, I don’t want to see you anymore.” Does that happen often?

PR – It happens. If you want another quote: “To be fulfilled is bitterer than being disappointed.”

RD – But why?

PR – I don’t know. Men are strange. I had a strange adventure. I was very young, was always in a difficult situation, and I was trying to earn some money  by giving French lessons to foreigners. I met an American, who happened to be a very rich American, a young man, but older than me. He presented well, intelligent. In total innocence I was giving him lessons, and then, one day he wanted to invite me to dinner. I accepted. Another time he wanted me to go out with him one evening. I declined, saying I could not. He asked me again, and again I accepted. I was vaguely aware that it was some way of courting me, and then, to conform with my own moral code, not to let people start, I explained that I was not free, that I loved someone! We had dinner, then I left. I was due to give him another lesson the day after, I went to the hotel where we met, rue des Saints Pères. I found a letter. He’d packed and gone, and had written a letter, a true declaration letter, saying: “Never do that again, never tell anyone what you told me.” I fell off my pedestal.

RD – What advice would you give girls to conduct themselves well in life?

PR – Oh! I don’t know. There is no morality in this domain. One can find maxims, that one may try and practise. I like this phrase of Luther: “Pecca fortiter”, sin with courage. It’s courage that matter, not sinning. Or that English saying: “Never explain never complain”. In Histoire d’O nobody ever complains. “All is fair in love and war” says another adage – which I find disputable, is everything permissible in war and love? And what are we to think of this  axiom of French law: “In marriage cheat who can”? It’s the manoeuvres that are painful, for both men and women. Morality has nothing to do with it.

RD – You refused to play that game?

PR – I would have liked not to play it, I played badly. I also had to manoeuvre, I am not proud of it.

RD – Did you lack coquetry toward men?

PR – Oh not at all!

RD – Yet it is coquetry to…

PR – Yes, but one shouldn’t lead people up the garden path, this is it. I used coquetry when I had intentions.

RD – So you are, as one used to say, an honest man.

PR – Maybe, but I was wrong.

RD – One expects duplicity from women.

PR – Yes, I know.

RD – If they don’t conform to the idea one has of them, men are lost, they no longer know who they have to deal with. And you liked seeing them lost? Or rather, you kept being yourself, which was more satisfying?

PR – One cannot do that to anyone! [being deceitful]

RD – Even if it is what is desired?

PR – I do not understand how one can desire being duped.

RD – But you know that it is what it is.

PR – Yes, I know very well. And God knows that most intelligent men are not exempt from that sort of weakness.

RD – It looks that way.

PR – To what extent they accept to be duped by these little women, when everyone sees how crude it is. But I think also they see it too, and maybe even are amused by it.

RD – Don’t you think there is something rather erotic in the “little woman”?

PR – Of course. Firstly because the man feels he dominates her more. Because, socially, he feels above her. Ancillary love has its price.

RD – I think there are also masochist men. Those who let themselves duped, trodden on, as they enjoy their humiliation. Its’ fairly frequent. I wonder also if some women, who have understood their power, stay deliberately “little women”.

PR – Then, those are very clever.

RD – Why would they not, they are absolutely right.

PR – Of course, but all that treachery is discouraging.

RD – I agree, but I did not always have scruples. Sometime, but not always. I have often been a dishonest man.

PR – But you are an honest woman.

[next]

#FiveSentenceFiction: Pages

In memoriam: Pauline Réage

Histoire d'OI read the words, the sentences, slowly turn the pages: your novel.

Looking back, through the mist of time, I imagine you, at night, under the feeble light of post-war Europe, patiently moving your pen along the lines, writing for him, just for him.

The woman you invented, was she you, was she your sister, your doppelgänger?

He wanted to publish, you were not so sure, after all, you would be the object of scandal, but his will was stronger: how could you resist him?

The story has survived the winds of fashion, and she, your heroine, is still in our hearts.

 

#SundayMusing: Susan holds the pen

Continuing the never-ending dialogue with those elusive characters, it is my pleasure to hand over the pen to Susan, perhaps the most sinful creation of this writer’s delirious imagination.

Leonard Cohen's quoteI dislike your introduction: yes, I recognise that you have placed me in situations that many readers may find distasteful. But, pray, remember that yesterday’s taboos are today’s fads, and, perhaps even, tomorrow’s traditions. The ancient Greeks and Romans, for example, had habits in cooking, dressing, and, yes, loving, that were anathemas to the Victorians. Und so weiter, and so on…

Still, I rather like what you have written of me and Paul, although, he, has another opinion of you (this will have to wait until he gets the pen!) I enjoyed the beginning of the story, and revel in the new “Retour à Roissy“, which is, really, a new beginning. I felt inspired to write this, and intend to continue the adventures of Myriam and O.  I am fascinated by O, and a little infatuated with the woman who created her. If we try and place ourselves in her time and place, the grim France of the after-War, a time of bigotry and falsehoods, that she could write a story of such audacity, was a miracle.

As for my relationship with Mistress G, I make no secret that we are very good friends – and more. She too is a source of inspiration, and I have learnt a lot from her. I do mean to ask her to train my new pet, you know, the one Paul drilled enthusiastically not so long ago. Miss G and Helen, are, in a nutshell, what I aspire to become, in the fullness of time, with pet. Yes, I hear from your corner of the room, more question marks than I will bother to answer: I do not crave your intimacy. You are the writer, not, underlined, not, my lover.

By the way, you haven’t given pet a name. Shall we call her… Justine? I know, not very original for this genre, but, Justine appeals to me, and it will suit her too. Talking about names, I have to say you confused us, Paul and me, totally, with the tale of the multiple Melissa’s. How many versions are they? Which one is “real”, which one is ghostly?

As for your style, and sense of storyline, well, to be absolutely honest, I think you are far too complicated. But then, it’s up to your readers to judge! See you around…

O m’a dit: Régine Deforges’ interview of Pauline Réage (cont’d) #literature

I am posting here, on several pages, the end of my translation of Régine Deforges’ s interview of Pauline Réage (1975) . The beginning is here.

Death of DidoRD – What seduces you in  a woman, what draws you to her?

PR – Her beauty, and her courage.

RD – Her beauty?

PR – In essence, yes. I am full of admiration. I so easily find beauty in a woman, I am so moved by women’s beauty, without the slightest temptation to even touch a beautiful hair, but I always have the same emotion, admiration.

RD – But what is it that moves you so much? Fragility?

PR – But it is not at all fragile, a woman’s beauty, it is not always fragile the beauty of eyes, skin, the beauty of the body, so beautiful. Men also are beautiful, and they have started showing it, fortunately.

RD – And are you a conquering individual when you are interested in a woman?

PR – It’s going too far. I have been, a little. It seemed evident then.

RD – And you could share this love with another woman or another man?

PR – It never was the case, as those were unique relationships, unequivocal. But it felt natural, the one not preventing the other.

RD – Through the ordeals, the tortures you have your heroines subjected to, one senses a contempt for that body that you say , elsewhere, to be an instrument, and as an instrument to be maintained in good order.

PR – Of course, it used for procreation, for pleasure, it’s an instrument. It is horrible not to be master of one’s own body, but it is also wonderful. If you cannot be master of your body, let someone else be, whether by your consent or by your wish. In all cases the body is something to be subdued, mastered, possessed.

RD – It is used, as you say, but why that taste for destroying that body?

PR – Because all things are made to be destroyed, thrown away, not to last. It’s books, or paintings, that last, or stone statues. A bit more than us in any case. When you give birth to a child, you give him death at the same time as life. When you write a book, it may not die.

RD – What strikes me too in Histoire d’O, is that women are treated, and ill-treated, in the most erotic manner, but never men. Why not?

PR – Ah! It’s like that. It’s a world of men who love women, not of men who love men. One of the most interesting letters I received when the book was published, was written by a man who told me that what I was writing about did exist, but to his knowledge for men with “garçons”. For, he said, it was much easier and pleasurable to subdue boys than girls. Strange observation.

RD – But wouldn’t it have been very erotic to place some men in the same situations as O and her colleagues?

PR – I did not even think of it. It meant nothing to me.

RD – So it is really as if eroticism can only be lived through a female body?

PR – For me, yes.

RD – Ah! I, sometimes, would love to see the object changed… There is something that recurs often, that is O’s exposure.

PR – Ah! Yes!

RD – There, you’re going too far.

PR – Yes. In “la Condition Humaine” Malraux makes a short comment about a female character, where he says that for many women “eroticism means being naked in front of the chosen man.” And then it stops there, besides, she’s not that keen on giving herself to him, to sleep with him. Well, I think that exposure is that, I did not think of it, but I realised what it was once, later, it was finished.

RD – Yes, but (in your book) there, O is more than naked, the girls are opened, offered, they are placed in obscene positions.

PR – Atrocious, grotesque.

RD – And why that desire for grotesque? They could be exposed without it.

PR – It’s a form of nastiness, of anger…

RD – Towards?

PR – I don’t know. Oneself? Yes, towards oneself. This need to go all the way, that furore, it’s a form of destruction, the need to break something, to desecrate something.

RD – Furore towards that body?

PR – Towards that body. But that body is something atrocious.

RD – Something that betrays you, that deserts you?

PR – Something that drops you on the way, that cannot be trusted.

RD – One feels that, at times, you are not so sure what to think of the female body?

PR – But I don’t know what to think of any kind of body! A body is the locus of happiness and unhappiness, of triumph and sacrifice, and finally and always, of disaster. What better use for it than to prove to whom we love that one belongs to him, and thus that one no longer belongs to oneself? Do you want a sacrilege quote? What O says to her lover, without saying it, is what believers repeat endlessly: in manus tuas, Domine (in your hands, Lord). It is just that, for her, and her companions, the proof which is requested from them ceaselessly, they are ready to provide, ceaselessly. The fate they meet is the demonstration of their will to achieve a total abandon, to submit themselves totally. They want to be possessed, utterly possessed, to death. What they seek is to be killed. What does the believer seek, if not lose himself into God? To be killed by someone one loves seems to me the ultimate rapture. I can’t think otherwise. And I am not alone. The famed Japanese suicide contracts are but examples in reality of a phantasm which is wide-spread.

RD – What do you exactly mean by “abandon”? Listening to you, one would think that is what you are seeking most, but also, that being abandoned by the one you love, is what you fear most?

PR – Thank goodness my unhappiness is behind all my hopes. I don’t see the contradiction, or rather the ambiguity, other than the use of the same term. Active in one case, passive in the other. But this is clear: to give oneself to one, is to depend on him. You are no longer your own, you rely on him, you are carried by the noise and fire you have given yourself to. But if the one you love ceases loving you, looking at you, living at least in part for you, as you live for him, if he abandons you, then you fall back in the outer darkness, the obscurity that is hell. Hell is every day life when no-one loves you, when you are alone. But, at the same time, that has not such importance. One gets used to it,  and that is for the best. One learns modesty. One should not take one too seriously, and use big words. It’s the common fate from which, from time to time, one is freed by the love of someone one loves. I don’t know if you have noticed them, sometime in the tube, on a bus, in the street, women, girls, men, with a sort of radiating face, who say nothing, walk as if on a cloud, those are in love, probably. It is that kind of blessing that means that all a sudden, one feels preserved, protected, for a while, for sure, one knows it’s precarious, that it won’t last. But while it is there, one is alive, one is in a sort of paradise.

RD – Why does it not last? It should last forever.

PR – It’s a fact, it never lasts, there is always something, one of the two gets tired, leaves, or dies. “Two doves loved each other tenderly, one of them was bored at home.” It happens: one of the two gets bored.

RD – Ah, this is so unbearable.

PR – What can I do? I think so too!

RD – Ah, I can’t stand it, one would rather die.

PR – Particularly if it is always the other who’s bored, but let’s be honest, it’s sometimes us.

RD – That’s what (Françoise) Sagan was telling me last night, love, passion, never lasts more than two years.

PR – She’s right, only, for some people it’s two years, for others it’s twenty years.

RD – You think so?

PR – Naturally.

RD – I am not completely utopian then, if I pray for it to last?

PR – Or, it’s me who is. But one cannot receive one thing without also its opposite. Love is a garden which is open to you, whose fruits you can enjoy for a while. Then, as in Arabic tales, the garden disappears, and you find yourself in the desert. But don’t complain: you had the garden (for a while), you were lucky.

RD – Why does one find peace in torment?

PR – Because one is taken out of oneself, I think. But torment is always the same: it is purely in the mind. I have no taste for tortures, which I feared dreadfully. But I had that obsession from childhood, perhaps from pious books. There is nothing better than pious books to give one a good idea of tortures. For example the Golden Legend of Jacques de Voragine, with pictures. I was given a nice copy, a strange idea, with pictures of wood prints from the fifteenth century. There I could look at all the tortures of martyrs and saints.

RD – And was it voluptuous for you that reading?

PR – I can’t say, but I was greatly impressed.

RD – Did you not think that by describing complacently erotic tortures in Histoire d’O you would inspire a following?

PR – No, absolutely not. Tortures and violence in Histoire d’O are entirely of the same order as fights in crime novels. Heroes get butchered on page ten, then pop out on page fifteen, fresh and healthy, it’s phantasmagoric and unreal. It belongs to the domain of dreams. It’s the same thing for Histoire d’O. This is, if you will, a sort of convention of the genre, not that I wanted to follow a genre, it is just that the genre imposes itself spontaneously, innocently I dare say. One over-does this in order to give the idea of what it is about, one puts in more of it to say very little. The excess is a symbol, not a reality. I can assure you that the tortures of erotic novels, and the fights, injuries and violence of crime novels, are the same thing. This arises from the same principle, the same genre.

RD – Okay, and as Jean-Jacques Pauvert [publisher of Sade’s work, and of Histoire d’O]  has often said, Sadism existed before Sade, and even before Gutenberg [Johannes Gutenberg, the German blacksmith credited with the western re-invention of the print press], but it would appear that, as soon as one enters the erotic genre, one touches more than a simple description of tortures or fights. Those scenes are not merely spectacular fighting.

PR – But the clashes in crime novels are not only spectacular fighting. They are enlarged images of the courage, of the strength of the story’s hero. They are proof of his invulnerability. For O, the accepted torments are proof of her abandon. They are there to signify, and make closer, the impossible, the inconceivable, the absolute.

RD – I’d love to know what remains now of O for you. Do you feel tenderness for her now?

PR – Tenderness goes too far, I see her with a little pity, and sympathy. She was very courageous.

RD – But when you say “pity”, you are saying that she always had a choice.

PR – Yes, but it’s very cruel all the same, even when one has a choice; she was not free, since she loved, one is not free when one is in love.

RD – Why not? Why can’t we be free and in love?

PR – Because one depends entirely on the feelings of the person one loves. One depends on him, on his happiness, on his unhappiness, on his breathing. One of the most admirable sentences I have heard, that was just before the war [WWII] with a man I loved [probably Thierry Maulnier]. I could not be with him in public – another clandestine life – and we had booked a private box, to be private, to watch Ondine, Giraudoux’ play. At one point, you might remember, Ondine realises the knight  no longer loves her, and she says: “The grass has turned black.” It’s like that. When one loves, and one believes, fears, that one is no longer loved, the grass turns black.

RD – But isn’t your freedom returned to you then?

PR – No, your freedom is not returned. I have never forgotten the grass turned black. Many years later, one of my friends was left by a boy he was very much in love with. There was over Paris a splendid sky, with grey and pink clouds. “Ah,” he said, “one cannot be entirely unhappy, for as along as there are clouds like that.” And I replied: “But, Pierre, this shows you are not really unhappy, when one is really unhappy, one cannot see the clouds.”

RD – There is no longer any beauty, when we are really unhappy?

PR – No, all is gone. It comes back later, love gives, love takes away. Love is something really cruel. You remember Virgil? One of very few quotes I have retained from my classical studies, there is nothing more pedantic than quote the Aeneid.

RD – It’s a very beautiful story. I read it three times when I was fifteen to seventeen.

PR – But who now reads it, or re-reads it? Not me, evidently. The only episode I remember is Aeneas in Hell, who sees Dido through the shadows, as the moon through clouds, Sicut per nubile lunam, and explains:

Hic quod durus amor crudely tabe per edit

Secreti celant calles, et myrtea circum sylva tegit.”

“Where, those whom pitiless love has wounded of its cruel pestilence, secret paths hide them, and the forest of myrtle surrounds them in its shelter.” Those woods of myrtle ands asphodel’s, inhabited by white and sad ghosts have always stayed with me, mysterious and familiar. Those stances I translated and learnt by heart when I was fifteen or sixteen, and never forgot them,  for I read and learned them at the time I was reading and learning Racine [Jean Racine, French dramatist], and as I fell in love for the first time in my life. With one of my school girl friends as it was; classical, perfectly innocent love. Every day that summer I was waiting for the postman. I learned a lot that year. I learned all this together; and it was learnt once and for all. Today I feel that I have followed those secret paths all my life. I really believe that the joy of living, the possibility of living I was given, were given through love, so that when love goes away, all goes away. It is not true, of course, since nothing stops, and there comes a time when pain gets diluted, one sees the clouds again, when grass no longer is black. But at the time, it’s really black grass, gone clouds, dead light.

RD – When all beauty, all life disappears.

PR – All life. One lives for the other, and if he goes, what remains?

Thus my life, thus my body

My spirit being joint to yours

The union of our fires

Makes one soul of our souls

You live in me, I live in you

I am more you than not me…

RD – Who said this?

PR – (Jean) Bertaut, a writer of the sixteenth century who wrote a poem about the legendary Hermaphrodite, named Fantasie. 

RD – Fantaisie!

PR – Fantasie – as in the English fantasy – in sixteenth century French, meant imagination, phantasm. It’s a beautiful baroque poem. I copied it, kept it, I still have it, on the right in my desk, in the folder where I keep phone numbers.

RD – You spoke earlier of clandestinity, we come back to that often.

PR – Ah, yes with the theatre box. It was at the Edward VII theatre, with Madeleine Ozeray and Jouvet, and I recall being moved by Ondine’s despair. Everything then was for me so precarious, so threatened. Threatened. Vigny: “Her quiet and always threatened love.” You see I am full of literature, as others of religion. But literature helps to live too. My country is books.

RD – It’s weird, we have had quite different lives, but we have this in common: we belong to the world of books. I have been librarian, publisher, book binder: with passion. Literary prestige is the one I am really sensitive to. My lover told me once, after ten years: I know what we have deeply in common: literature. What books do you reread most often?

PR – Proust, whom I discovered at the NRF [La Nouvelle Revue Françcaise, the literary magazine of Gaston Gallimard. Pauline – Dominique Aury, was literary secretary of the NRF until Jean Paulhan’s death in 1968], as he was published. Shakespear, Villon, Beaudelaire, the Bible. I have four versions. The one I prefer is King James’.

[to continue on next page]

Régine Desforges and Pauline Réage: O m’a dit

I will be posting here the whole text of Régine Desforges’ s interview of Pauline Réage, author of Histoire d’O (© 1975, 1995 Éditions Jean-Jacques Pauvert).

Régine Deforges interviews Pauline Réage in 1975, twenty one years after “Histoire d’O” was published (1954).  Régine is then forty, and in 1968 founded her own publishing house, “L’Or du Temps”, and its first erotic novel, Irène, was banned by the censors.  Pauline is sixty-eight, but her true identity as the author of O has not yet be revealed (it will be in 1994, as the following text mentions).

For the new edition of O m’a dit, in March 1995, Régine wrote this introduction.  Pauline will die three years later.

“I have with the author of Histoire d’O a relationship of infinite tenderness, made of profound affection and respect, and I know she has for me the softest of friendships.

She is now an old lady [in 1995 Pauline is eighty-eight] but I cannot see her as such. I see her rather as a lost child, as I am, in the world of adults; always capable of saying things that surprise them or shock them.  This submissive is a free and loyal being.  Even though I am not so sure that loyalty be such a great quality.  One uses it when one needs it, as one can conclude by merely looking at our politicians…  The loyalty, which one believes to owe to others, is a trap in which someone as free as Dominique Aury [Pauline’s “official” literary name]  may sometime be caught. But I love her the more for it.  Don’t we love the very weaknesses of those we cherish?

Why Dominique Aury instead of Pauline Réage? She herself lifted the veil over the identity of the author of Histoire d’O in a long interview with the New Yorker, in July 1994 [Pauline’s/Dominique’s real name was Anne Desclos but she was known in her profession as journalist and literary editor only as Dominique Aury].  There she “admits” being the author of the most erotic and troubling novel of the 50’s, which only knows a worldwide success twenty years later.

Cinema has not done justice to the book, the great film of O and her love is yet to be realised.  Perhaps it is too late?  Histoire d’O talked to us, as a disciple of Fénelon and of Madame Guyon (classical mystics of the 17th-18th century), of “abandonment in the hands of the Loved one”.  This quietism is no longer of our time.

To please me, Dominique Aury agreed we composed O m’a dit. I owe to this proof of friendship to have overcome my fear of writing; she forced me to develop some of my questions or digressions.  I obeyed her and this work appeased my anxiety. One or two years later I published my first novel Blanche et Lucie [Blanche et Lucie is the history of Régine’s two grand-mothers].  For this I am for ever indebted to her.  The following year it was Le Cahier Volé [the Stolen Notebook], in which I tried to describe what would hinder my writing for more than twenty years.  Of that fear I am not completely cured.

For a while Dominique and I thought of adding a chapter to O m’a dit. “But my child, I have told everything and I am so tired”.  I did not insist.  This book expresses the essential on the manner (the writing of) Histoire d’O was undertaken.     Perhaps today I would be more combative, more incisive, more brutal?  But already then, I wanted to protect her, and, I admit, she intimidated me still a little.  I was amazed to know her so well, she the author of a book that had so much taken hold of me, that I had read so many times with the same emotion, the same deep effect on me.  This was childish on my part.

Now, when we evoke Histoire d’O and O m’a dit, we feel that a long time has gone by, that women and men, overfed by television and films with forcefully realistic images, can no longer be moved by O.  I did a survey of twenty and thirty year-old women [Régine writes “girls” and “young women”] who have read O. All have recognised, even when they disagree with the tortures O accept, that they felt like making love when they discovered the story.  Thus the words still have the greatest strength of evocation.  As for the men, something like nostalgia of a time that preceded feminism seems to float on their eyes.  But they are wrong, one can be a feminist and take pleasure, like O, in being a sex object.  For who decided to be that object, if not her?

O m’a dit is a sincere book, where neither Pauline nor I have cheated.  It still looks like us.”

The End of the Challenge #AtoZChallenge #WritersWednesdays

The End of the Challenge

O There is always an anticlimax at the end, like finishing the first reading of a beloved book.  But, somehow, one of the posts has given me an idea.  Doing research for the Challenge leads sometime to old friends, or friends one did not expect to have.  Thus I have met Régine Deforges, a celebrated writer and hell raiser in her own time.  From Régine I have promised myself to read several books, and more about those in due time.  For now I have picked up a new project: translating and commenting on Régine’s “O m’a dit” (© Société Nouvelle des Editions Jean-Jacques Pauvert, 1975, Nouvelle Edition, Pauvert, 1995), her 1975 interview – sorry – “entretiens” with Pauline Réage, author of Histoire d’O.  In fact there is yet another idea beyond this, but for the latter, my readers may have to look elsewhere in these pages.

I think a translation of “O m’a dit” in English already exists (if so I have not read it), but I relish the idea of doing something my own way, with my own bias.  “O m’a dit” is a fascinating piece of journalism and critique, one of only two interviews Pauline gave in her lifetime.  When, in 1975, Pauline and Régine met they were already friends, and they talked about O, of course, but also about many subjects they were keen to discuss: in those lines one can read the weight of their own success – published and successful author of one world-famous book for Pauline, Régine of many to come – as well of their phantasms.  Well, enough for now, and more later.  What I am planning to do is to translate (I think the whole text: 170 pages) and post in small chunks with comments, hopefully of interest to you, reader, and I’d probably do that every Wednesday or so under the tag #WritersWednesday!

So, what about the Challenge?  Well, it is now over for 2013, and I published the last post yesterday!  It has been most enjoyable, and I found it easier than last year, which was my first year of participation.

 

#AtoZChallenge: April 17, 2013 ~ (Histoire d’)O

For @Unraveling_Mari

Histoire d'O When it was published in 1954 it was an immediate success spurred by the condemnation of the censors, worthy successors, in their ineptitude, of Lady Chatterley’s judges.

This is the story of O, a born and ingénue submissive to be, who learns the true meaning of openness and acquires the gift of obedience.  Chained, branded, whipped, pierced and transformed she will be, in a now legendary tale told by a woman author – and what author! O is the heroine of this literary introduction to the noble art of love and dominance.  O’s lineage is of course impressive, from the Marquis to Jean Paulhan, Anne’s master…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2004/jul/25/fiction.features3

Pour mes lecteurs francophones…