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The Castle of Communion by Bernard Noël

The Castle of Communion (original 1969; edition 1993)

by Bernard Noël, Paul Buck, Glenda George

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Title:The Castle of Communion
Authors:Bernard Noël (Author)
Other authors:Paul Buck, Glenda George
Info:Atlas Pr (1993), Paperback, 116 pages
Collections:Your library, Read
Tags:fiction, French, erotica, surrealism, protest, experimental, transgressive

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The castle of communion by Bernard Noël (1969)




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The Castle of Communion is a protest against what Noël calls "sensureship." The bourgeois establishment, he says, has impoverished language of its meanings and power of imagination as a subtle form of brainwashing. The novel, much of which was written in response to the Algerian War, is also a more direct protest against colonialism and racism. Noël explained his motivations in a 1975 essay entitled "The Outrage Against Words" which is appended to the novel in the Atlas Press edition.

The novel itself begins in folkloric fashion with the unnamed narrator setting out across the desert interior of a large, fictional island. Eventually he comes to a village on the other shore. The natives are at first very wary of him, as they conduct elaborate nocturnal rituals in apparent worship of the moon. Gradually he gains their trust, and is finally invited to participate. He finds himself the focus of the strange rite, in which he is both punished and pleasured. He also gets his first glimpse of an amazingly beautiful woman who appears at the head of a procession clad only in her flowing red hair.

After the ceremony, the narrator inquires after the mysterious beauty. He learns that she is known as the "Countess," and that she lives in a castle on an island off the shore. It is she who invents and directs the rites in which he has participated. Aside from her monthly appearance, it is forbidden to see or approach her. Naturally, our narrator wastes no time in setting out for the forbidden island.

With his arrival on the island, the narrator's experiences move from the exotic into the surreal. Strange and dreamlike visions alternate or coincide with extreme violence and bizarre sexual experiences as though the narrator is being tested in a series of ordeals. Eventually he concludes "What the world shows me is not there. What I see emerges barely from the edge of habit. What I see myself in the process of seeing is actually what I create and that is all that exists." Eventually he begins to take control of the situation by controlling his pain and fear, overcoming his prejudices and assumptions, and replacing the meanings projected upon him with meanings and images of his own choosing.

Much of The Castle of Communion is confusing. It is a labyrinth of mythic landscapes and geometric constructs that probably stand for nothing at all and are only a protest against the convention that says everything must have a definition and a purpose. The novel also has passages that are deliberately and shockingly obscene, again as a protest against the "sensureship" of language. It is recommended for those who appreciate literature that is unconventional, challenging, and transgressive. ( )
6 vote StevenTX | Dec 26, 2012 |
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The moon emerged from the sea.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0947757295, Paperback)

When Le Château de Cène (here translated as The Castle of Communion) first appeared in France in 1969, under the sonorous pseudonym of Urbain d’Orlhac, it created a sensation. Immediately recognised as being among the finest works of French literary eroticism (along with, say, Bataille’s Story of the Eye, or Reage’s Story of O), its author was soon identified: the poet and essayist Bernard Noël, born in 1930.

The author recounts an intense initiatory sexual quest which occurs on a mysterious remote island. Chosen as the moon’s lover the hero undertakes a Dantesque voyage through sucessive levels of pain and ecstasy. The book’s climax is a beatific rite of sexual purification in the Castle of Communion, which is described in a poetic language at once incantatory, crude and almost mystical. The intensity of the book matches its method of composition: dictated into a tape recorder and finished in only 3 weeks, and written as a partial response to the atrocities of the French authorities in Algeria.

This edition is postfaced by Noël’s essay The Outrage Against Words, his thoughts on the government’s unsuccessful attempts through the courts to supress the novel for "outraging public morals." He illuminates the intimate connection between writing and censorship in general.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:31 -0400)

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