Academic journal article The Romanic Review

Pinget Queer

Academic journal article The Romanic Review

Pinget Queer

Article excerpt

Translated by Maria O'Sullivan

This article proposes a rereading of Robert Pinget's work as seen through the prism of his homosexuality, a proposal that will sound at once both obvious and surprising.

For readers of Pinget it will indeed be obvious. One might, of course, hypothesize the existence of radical "hetero-readers" who have yet to discover the sexuality of books that they nonetheless know inside out. For such readers, then, let us mention by way of introduction the explicit nature of homoeroticism in Fable (1971)1 and Passacaille (1969), the play of transvestism and transsexualism in Baga (1958) and Architruc (1961), and the aristocratic homosexuality of the "gentlemen" in L'Inquisitoire (1962), as well as the more or less explicit homosexuality of all the "masters" and writer characters that the work evokes, the sexualization of the figure of the young boy and the social obsession with pedophilia in a work such as Le Libera (1968), and finally, the question that becomes central in Robert Pinget's late work, namely that of overcoming his own death, through the fantasized and initiatory transmission from uncle to nephew and from master to young man. For gay and lesbian readers, Robert Pinget's work is naturally inscribed in the corpus of homosexual literature. For Dennis Cooper, for example, "Pinget was the only gay member of the Nouveau Roman. Pinget was very significant for my work, and his 1971 novel Fable ranks high in my list of top ten favorite novels." (2) The connection between Pinget and Cooper (and, of course, Tony Duvert) is moreover explicit on many levels, and one might mention, among other things, that Robert Pinget was a reader of William S. Burroughs's novels.

This article's proposed reading is nonetheless surprising when formulated in the field of academic (and journalistic) criticism, since Robert Pinget's work has barely once been read in this way in the sixty years of its existence and reception. Major academic historians such as Madeleine Renouard and

Jean-Claude Lieber (3) have made allusions to the homosexuality of individual characters and isolated passages, while the English researcher John Phillips has analyzed the "displaced eroticism" of Fable (1971), but that is about as far as it goes. The relative neglect of Robert Pinget's work in the last fifteen years has meant that, to the best of my knowledge, it has slipped through the cracks of any rereading by Anglo-American queer or gay studies. (4) Instead, the 1990s and 2000s saw a wealth of metaphysical and religious material being written about his work. As a result, Robert Pinget's texts have remained "in the closet" for sixty years.

This article intends to bring them out, but before doing so, let us first examine the reasons for this silence. This strange situation is due, first and foremost, to academic criticism, particularly in France but in other countries as well, in which it is more a question of silence than of ignorance. As Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has shown, the order of the "closet" that defines the conditions of homosexuality in the twentieth century does not consist in completely hiding one's homosexuality or in remaining entirely ignorant of that of others. Rather, it introduces uncertainty "in the relations of the known and the unknown, the explicit and the inexplicit," (5) or in this case, between that which one knows but does not want to know, that which one does not want to know and does not say, and that which one says without really saying it. Thus, Robert Pinget's critics knew of his homosexuality without knowing it, read it in his texts without reading it, and did not know how nor wish to tap into it. This disinterest brings us back to the theoretical context of the 1960s and 1970s and to the context of poststructuralism and textualism that eschewed any references to the author, as well as a (French) universalism that was wary of any differentialism. Even today, if one were to oppose a queer reading of Robert Pinget's work, it would be in order to avoid its "ghettoization. …

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