La femme de ses rêves: et autres fantaisies érotiques (French Edition)
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Sir Stephen, she told Regine Desforges, 'links to a desire for one's father. He is a father figure'. This is clearly an interesting development, from a Freudian point of view, but the switch of allegiances suggests she might have run out of steam with her first thought. And, generally speaking, the energy seems to fade.
Regine Desforges, an impressive redhead who remains a household name in France, confirmed to me that Aury had never initially intended what she was writing to be made public. Another friend, Elizabeth Porquerol, now 90, says, however, that, like all writers, Aury wanted to be published and was flattered by Paulhan's conviction that what she was doing was good.
Aury wrote the further chapters and read them aloud to Paulhan as they were parked in the Bois de Boulogne or outside one of the cheap railway hotels where their assignations took place.
He did not drive, and she used to ferry him around Paris. She apparently found this reading business quite difficult: 'It was a written text,' she explained, 'not meant to be spoken. As O's tortures worsen and her torturers multiply, O attains a kind of calm, a purity of being, what Susan Sontag has called 'an ascent through degradation'.
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Clearly, submission to higher authority held an enormous attraction for Aury. Aury succeeds in giving her book a novelistic shape. One immediately begins to suffocate there, to feel bored. It's tough to maintain the tempo of pornography, and Dominique Aury's final, rather pedestrian chapter was left out of the published novel.
In its place were two alternative, perfunctory endings. In one, the action dribbles out with no resolution; in the other, Aury merely says: 'Seeing herself about to be left by Sir Stephen, she preferred to die. To which he gave his consent. Paulhan said it was all right. You have to wonder if this is some kind of in-joke, since the book is about nothing but sacrifice. There seems no doubt that the style is all hers. Paulhan contributed a preface whose sentences have none of Pauline Reage's limpid clarity, and which is, in fact, extremely difficult to understand.
Aury herself told de St Jorre even she couldn't make head or tail of it. Paulhan took the book to their joint employer first. So when do we sign the contract? Pauvert, a round-faced man who looks scarcely any different now from the way he did in photographs when he was in his twenties, says he had known Dominique Aury 12 years before he was handed the book. She is a great writer and absolutely uncopyable. While many people speculated that O had been written by a man, or was the work of two or more authors, Regine Desforges always saw it as a quintessentially female work she also had good reason to know who the author was, because she had a serious relationship with Pauvert.
It is absolutely a feminist work, empowering to women. For the first time, a woman is revealing her sex life, and it is the woman who dominates the situation, her feelings, her responses, her trajectory. It was agreed that the book would be published simultaneously in English by the Paris-based Olympia Press, a strange outfit which published a good deal of pornography, mainly for sale to sailors, but which was also the original publisher of Lolita, The Ginger Man, Naked Lunch and some works of Samuel Beckett.
Story of O came out quietly in June and didn't attract much attention until it won the Prix Deux Magots, nearly a year later, which also brought it to the notice of the Brigade Mondaine, the French vice squad. Pauvert, who had already faced 17 prosecutions in the preceding three years, noted: 'They were really very nice. We knew each other well. Paulhan, with his rather different reputation, was also hauled up to testify and dealt with them magisterially. After discoursing on the book's literary qual ity, he added that: 'Madame Reage, who is from an academic family which she feared to scandalise, has refused until now to reveal her name.
If she should change her mind, I will ask her to get in touch with you. Dominique Aury's adored father had his own collection of erotic literature, which she had read as an adolescent Les Liaisons Dangereuses was her favourite. Her mother was very different. She hated flesh. It may well have been to protect her that Dominique kept secret her authorship for so long. She also, of course, had her position at Gallimard, and the publishing house's reputation, to think of. Pola Rapaport thinks Aury's parents must have known; despite the secrecy, the Brigade Mondaine came to the apartment Dominique shared with them.
On another occasion, a friend from the provinces reported that in her district it was rumoured that Dominique was the author. Aury's son, Philippe d'Argila, the child of her very brief marriage in her twenties to a Catalan journalist, was himself in his twenties when O appeared. I only found out in , when there was talk of making a film and people came round to discuss it. D'Argila says he was not shocked: 'I already knew her as a writer, and it is a very good book.
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Jacqueline Paulhan didn't find out Dominique was the author until the day of her father-in-law's burial. By the s, according to Regine Desforges, some 12 or 15 people knew the true identity of Pauline Reage. In the s and s the numbers crept up. Philippe d'Argila recalls accompanying his mother to an event at which she was greeted by President de Gaulle with the words: 'Ah, the writer of Story of O! But the secret remained confined to an elite group of insiders until de St Jorre asked for and was granted an interview.
Even then, d'Argila believes, she didn't really intend to confess. I'm not sure she followed too precisely what he said. I don't think she meant to tell at that time. De St Jorre is an engaging, serious man, who was respectful of Aury's literary achievement and clearly would have had no interest in writing about her in a sensationalist way.
cimetière des BATIGNOLLES
Desforges thinks she did intend to reveal it: 'She didn't like lying, and she was relieved. The news broke on 1 August, when the French were on holiday; it was not until people returned to Paris on the 15th that it became a scandal. Then there were articles in the tabloids, photographs and requests for interviews.
This was a book that had never been out of print, had been bought by millions, and during the s was the most widely read contemporary French novel outside France.
Not much has changed: the day I spoke to Philippe d'Argila, he'd just signed a new contract for Greek publication. Dominique Aury's life had, however, already changed in the only way she really cared about, in when Jean Paulhan died. After that, I didn't.
I stopped. Waiting in his hospital room, night after night, fresh from work on the other side of Paris, she wrote A Girl in Love, the third-person account of the writing of Story of O, as he lay dying. It was published soon after, with the original last, rejected, chapter, as Return to the Chateau.
Why she consented to publish this abandoned part after so long is a mystery, not least because she prefaced it with a disclaimer: 'The pages that follow are a sequel to Story of O. They deliberately suggest the degradation of that work, and cannot under any circumstances be integrated into it.
Perhaps it was that she wanted A Girl in Love published and felt she needed to bulk it out. Perhaps she needed money, as Pauvert may have done. She may have been past caring.