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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 6 New Men I: Éric Jourdan’s ‘Sons and Lovers’: Trois cœurs (2008); Le Jeune soldat (2009, 20

Extract

11) After the war zones of Classical Greece in Sans lois ni dieux and of the Golden Triangle in Aux gémonies, Éric Jourdan takes the reader into rather dif ferent territory in a new pair of contrasting but complementary texts: Trois cœurs (2008) and Le Jeune soldat (2009). Although both of these texts were written rather earlier in Jourdan’s career, with Trois cœurs dating back to 1987 and Le Jeune soldat to 1956, it will be useful to examine them in the chronology of their (recent) publication since they seem to indicate a shift in Jourdan out of insistent, recurrent violence and into a greater emphasis on reconciliation, rebirth and regeneration. Although young men continue to occupy centre-stage, they are seen less in the context of war and conf lict (even in the interestingly entitled Le Jeune soldat) than in the context of extended and evolving families. Trois cœurs, for example, covers several generations of a complex, dispersed family and Le jeune soldat foregrounds, at least initially, one generation of a single family, but one complicated by issues of illegitimacy and incest. As Jourdan focuses here on a young male in the context of family relations, the violence of both oppression and self- oppression seems to recede. The young males accordingly tend to evolve from the recidivist ‘mauvais ange’ of earlier texts into more accepting, more serene and more fulfilled adults. Not only do they actually survive rather than perish in the more familiar Liebestot, but...

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