Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2012

The Story of O, by Pauline Réage (Anne Desclos)

Passion is key to any novel that tends toward the erotic, and that's precisely what fuels The Story of O. The risque tale of a submissive female photographer was written on somewhat of a dare. Anne Desclos' lover, a fellow writer and admirer of Marquis de Sade, said it was not possible for a woman to write erotica as well as the famously racy, De Sade. In an attempt to impress her lover — and presumably prove him wrong — Desclos' published her prose under the pseudonym "Pauline Réage" in 1954, and went onto win a major book award the following year. With that, it caught the attention of government censors, who brought charges of obscenity against the publishers. The public was more divided. Reactions to the bawdy depictions ranged from literary praise for its brilliantly rendered female perspective, a rarity in erotic novels, to those who accused the author of misogyny for scenes wherein the protagonist finds herself in compromising and sometimes violent sexual situations. Either way, Desclos' boldness proved the fairer sex, too, could write frankly and compellingly about sex.