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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 5 Lost Boys? Aux gémonies; Sans lois ni dieux (Le Songe d’Alcibiade)

Extract

It can be seen from the previous chapter that the achievement of jouissance, whether in a narrowly sexual or in a broader sense, is one of the themes charted by a significant number of Éric Jourdan’s novels. Although it can also be seen that this jouissance sometimes ends with the demise of at least one of the protagonists, the final message is still often one of hope. At the end of L’Amour brut Tom lives on in the heart of his former lover, Nicolas. At the end of Pour jamais, a dif ferent Tom takes over from the previous generation of young men, represented by John and Doug. At the end of Saccage, Fraîcheur and Christian are reunited. At the end of Le Garçon de joie, the eponymous hero, Didier, is virtually resurrected from the dead and the partnership between him and Gilles is similarly renewed. Death or seeming death can, therefore, be overcome or superseded by the prospect of new forms of jouissance as lovers are replaced, reconfigured, or, almost literally, reborn. In the novels of jouissance this relative optimism is accompanied by a certain teleology which frames and directs the novels’ protagonists as they gain maturity and, with it, an increasing sense of purpose and identity. This trajectory is often consolidated by the protagonists’ at least relative wealth, which enables them to combine freedom with a sense of home: they may barely have parents but they do have f lats, houses and even estates which give...

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