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From Bad Boys to New Men?

Masculinity, Sexuality and Violence in the Work of Éric Jourdan

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Owen Heathcote

This book is the first critical survey of the work of Éric Jourdan. Jourdan first came to public attention as a schoolboy in 1955, when he published Les Mauvais anges, a sulphorous novel of adolescent male-to-male love, which was banned by the censors in 1956 and again in 1974. It did not officially appear until 1984. Despite the ban, and despite ongoing censorship, Jourdan continues to write novels, short stories and plays. His many books include the ‘trilogy’ Charité, Révolte and Sang, and other equally uninhibited texts such as Le Garçon de joie, Aux gémonies and Le Jeune soldat. More recent publications include short stories, historical novels ( Sans lois ni dieux, Lieutenant Darmancour) and the more autobiographical text Trois cœurs.
This study charts Jourdan’s writing career from Les Mauvais anges to the present day, situating his work in the context of writers from Peyrefitte and Montherlant to Guibert, Dustan and Guyotat. The analysis concentrates on three main themes: boyhood and masculinity; sex and (homo)sexuality; and violence and death. Throughout, a number of questions are paramount. What is the connection between masculinity and violence? How does Jourdan reconcile joie de vivre with pain and punishment? Do his young male protagonists progress from bad boys to new men? In what ways can his texts be seen as homoerotic, homosexual, gay or queer? What, ultimately, is the connection between sex, sexuality and writing in Jourdan?
The book includes detailed bibliographies of Jourdan’s works and, for the first time since its original, controversial publication in Arcadie, his short story ‘Le Troisième but’.

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CHAPTER 1 Introduction

Extract

Prologue The work of Éric Jourdan poses a number of problems. The first of these is that his work can seem, at least from the perspective of the contemporary literary critic, to pose no problems at all. Given the censorship inf licted on his first novel, Les Mauvais anges, and given the sexual explicitness of some of his later work, he can easily be seen as simply a producer of gay erotica and thus undeserving of serious critical attention. As François Xavier has pointed out in his review of Jourdan’s 2005 text, Saccage, Jourdan’s image has been reinforced by the cover illustrations of some of his books: ‘On regrettera la couverture tapageuse qu’un service marketing a dû imposer sans avoir compris le fond du livre – une couverture qui risque de n’attirer que le lecteur avide d’un texte cru et d’éloigner le véritable lectorat d’Éric Jourdan.’1 Or, as an anonymous reviewer writes of L’Amour brut (1993; 2006): ‘On commence par apprécier la beauté du style et l’on finit par lire d’une main ce roman qui, avec Cité de la nuit de John Rechy et Histoire de l’œil de Bataille, s’impose comme une œuvre de la littérature érotique.’2 When Jourdan’s gay eroticism is compounded by gay violence – by what 1 François Xavier, ‘Saccage – Rentrée 2005’ accessed 26 October 2005. Serious academic studies of mas- culinities and queerness can have their own variant on the ‘couverture tapageuse’, as can be seen from Nick Rees-Roberts,...

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