French and Francophone Language and Literature | Modern Languages | Modern Literature
Published in Dalhousie French Studies, Volume 67, Summer July 1, 2004, pages 135-142.
This article has been peer reviewed.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Brian Kennelly was affiliated with Webster University. Currently, April 2008, he is Chair and Associate Professor of the Modern Languages and Literatures Department at California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo.
Author of some dozen works of homoerotic fiction, two polemical essays, and recipient of the 1973 Prix Médicis1, Tony Duvert published his first novel Récidive in 1967. Seven years later he rewrote it, ultimately publishing a much shorter version in 1976 - which for reviewer A. Thiher resembles what the prose of Jean Genet might have become were it to have been rewritten by Alain Robbe-Grillet. This disturbing work by one of France's most aggressively homosexual writers, a self-proclaimed "pédhomophile" (L'Enfant 21), has largely escaped critical attention. In the only study to focus on Récidive to date, John Phillips builds on work by Owen Heathcote on the ongoing construction and deconstruction of homosexuality and its environments ("Masochism" 176). Phillips deems Duvert's novel a "homotextuality" and focuses on the mobile nature of homosexual identity in the journey, the quest for sexual experiences pieced together by its shadowy male narrator (Forbidden 150, 153, 154). For Phillips, there are three reasons for the lack of critical interest in this work unapologetically promoting pederasty and at times non-consensual sexual violence: modest sales - only 2,000 copies of the first published version and barely 3,000 more of the second; Duvert's reclusiveness - by mailing his manuscripts to Jérôme Lindon, he chose indirect contact with him and his publishing staff at the Éditions de Minuit; and the critical marginalization in general of homosexual writing in France (151-2).
What Phillips describes as a "close reading" (151) of Duvert's work proves shortsighted, however. For in his consideration of the homotextual aspects of this "narrative on the loose" (154), he ignores the 1967 version of Récidive for the sake of convenience. His exclusive focus on the second version of the novel alone, which for him was "the only one available" (219), is exclusionary and therefore problematic.
Although the first edition of Récidive is no longer for sale in bookstores and as a result more difficult for the general public to acquire than the second, it should not be overlooked. It can be borrowed from academic libraries and can help us better understand Duvert's intentions in rewriting the work - the only one, Phillips reminds us, he considered important enough to rewrite (152). How does the 1967 edition shed light on the 1976 version? What does Duvert's rewriting of Récidive reveal about the extent of the simultaneously sexual and textual quest (Phillips 172) it rehearses? Is his privileging of circularity, repetition, and fragmentation in the novel's promiscuous and abusive textuality ultimately more extensive and further reaching than has been assumed?