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Diary of an Innocent (1976)
by Tony Duvert
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A trip downriver - the Mississippi - but also a trip through time and history with a charming narrator. Unique in my experience this novel is nothing if not a transmogrification of history and the being of a part of America. With several parts of innocence, hypocrisy, and alternate reality the book is an imaginative gem. ( )
Duvert makes an excellent Rousseauist and sexual obsessive, writes with immaculate style, and when it comes to it, is a cutting polemicist. After reading this and District, he has shot up to being one of my favorite writers.
I can't say I share the narrator's predilection, but so much of the book shines through that I have to give it 5 stars. (Also, it's not nearly as edgy as the blurb makes it sound. It's quite a sweet book.)
The only novel by Tony Duvert presently available in English is in part a pornographic diary of the narrator's sexual exploits with adolescent boys, but it also functions as a critique of the bourgeoisie and an attack on the formulation of the family in modern capitalist society. Duvert's sexual libertinism with boys that are waifs and impoverished hustlers functions as an extreme and outlying model of rebellion against the capitalist machinations of the family that cultivate children as workhorses with the stinging whip of morality. In between blowjobs, rimming, and philosophical diatribes rest memorable descriptions of the subdued beauty of peasant boys and ravaged colonial houses in which the narrator stews and ruminates. This is a difficult and at times unsettling novel, but beneath whatever readers may find unnerving or objectionable is a blistering indictment of heteronormativity, middle class values, and bourgeois hypocrisy.
Translation of 1976 novel 'Journal d’un innocent'
Now in English, Duvert's shocking novel about a sexual adventurer among a tribe of adolescent boys in Northern Africa."I'd find it amusing if, in a few centuries, the only thing that our descendents condescend to retain of our artistic production, the only thing in which they'll see worlds to admire, to penetrate, the only thing that they'll show off as precious in immense museums after having flushed down the toilet all our acknowledged masterpieces, the only thing that will give them nostalgia and love for us will be our porn."-from Diary of an Innocent Exiled from the prestigious French literary circles that had adored him in the 1970s, novelist Tony Duvert's life ended in anonymity. In 2008, nineteen years after his last book was published, Duvert's lifeless body was discovered in the small village of Thore-la-Rochette, where he had been living a life of total seclusion. Now for the first time, Duvert's most highly crafted novel is available in English. Poetic, brutally frank, and outright shocking, Diary of an Innocent recounts the risky experiences of a sexual adventurer among a tribe of adolescent boys in an imaginary setting that suggests North Africa. More reverie than narrative, Duvert's Diary presents a cascading series of portraits of the narrator's adolescent sexual partners and their culture, and ends with a fanciful yet rigorous construction of a reverse world in which marginal sexualities have become the norm. Written with gusto and infused with a luminous bitterness, this novel is more unsettling to readers today than it was to its first audience when published in French in 1976. In his openly declared war on society, Duvert presents a worldview that offers no easy moral code and no false narrative solution of redemption. And yet no reader will remain untouched by the book's dazzling language, stinging wit, devotion to matters of the heart, and terse condemnation of today's society.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)843.914Literature French French fiction Modern Period 20th Century 1945-1999
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