Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fiction: The Amorous Exploits of a Young Rakehell

(Guillaume Apollinaire, Wordswoth Classic Erotica, 1995)
A pleasant, trifling little surprise. Guillaume Apollinaire (1880- 1918) is a name well-known to anyone who has ever studied the history of modern painting, literature or French culture as being one of the early mover and shakers in the Paris avante garde art scene of the turn of the century, where he was an influential critic and friend of many a famous painter. The illegitimate son of Polish aristocracy, the few literary works he published during his brief life, including the novella The Poet Assassinated (1916) and a book of experimental poems entitled Alcohols (1913), were stylistic milestones and pivotal representations of Cubist and Futurist literature, and it is even claimed that he alone coined the name "Surrealism" to describe his play The Breasts of Tiresias (1917). Truth be told, however, outside and inside of France, nowadays, more people have probably heard of him, if only fleetingly, than they have read him.
This early novella, written in 1907 when the young man was strapped for cash, may not be a very good example of his influence or historical importance, but it definitely is more fun to breeze through than his serious stuff, and at least one can say afterwards that, "Yes, I have read Apollinaire."
Simply put, The Amorous Exploits of a Young Rakewell is pornography lite. Displaying a slight, easy-to-read style, Apollinaire’s tiny volume descriptively narrates the sexual awakening and plentiful adventures of a young man of the upper classes during a summer spent at his family's country estate. A precocious and (as to be expected) well-hung teenager, he works his way through a selection of servants, his aunt and both his sisters, as well as eavesdropping to the confessions of various family members to a visiting priest, before becoming the (unacknowledged) father of numerous children. Nothing new to be found here, and hardly a "masterpiece of early 20th century erotic literature," as the publishers hail the book, but it is definitely much more enjoyable and humorous than most of the smut one stumbles upon.
Illustrations: (Top) The currently available reprint; (Bottom) the good man himself.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...