This is the first book of Aragon’s that I’ve read, and I have to say that I’m thoroughly impressed. It’s not every day that you pick up a work of French erotica whose author is a founding member of the surrealist movement.
Irene’s Cunt (Le Con d’Irène), published in 1928 under the pseudonym Albert de Routisie – who we now know was Louis Aragon. It’s a surrealist-erotic short story, or prose, that garnered much attention upon publication.
There are no doubts over the authorship of this book. However, Aragon would never acknowledge it as his own.
Following the life of a man from his adult life into old age in which syphilis paralyses him, as well as preventing him from speaking in his later years. The text deals with his innermost sensual thoughts, most of which are hatred towards his daughter and tender love towards his granddaughter, Irene.
Released in the same year as Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye, Irene’s Cunt went under the radar, probably due to its graphic title. Much like its counterpart, both play on their bitter humour, curiosity and a helpless father figure.
Republished in 1968 under the name Irene prevented from being banned under the seizure of pornography. This work is considered highly biographical.
To understand this, we first need to take a look at Louis Aragon. Who was he? What did he do? And why should I care?
Surrealist Louis Aragon
Louis Aragon was born in Paris on 3rd October 1897. He became involved in the Dadaism movement between 1919 for five years before becoming one of the founding members of surrealism in 1924. Along with André Breton and Philippe Soupault, surrealism, and its movement was born.
In 1927 Aragon joined the French Communist Party having been involved with them for many years. This was also the case for many surrealists.
Aragon has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature on four occasions. Overall, that’s a tremendous feat for any author.
This work takes on a whole new perspective of erotic fiction. I’m no expert in the subject of eroticism, with Henry Miller being the only author in that category, and that’s a push. However, I do share a keen love of surrealism having been fascinated from an early age by the works of; Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Man Ray, Joan Miró, André Breton, and one of my favourite directors of all-time Luis Buñuel.
Now I’m aware that none of those names are writers, but I want to share with you my passion none the less.
Anyway, back to the book…
The enjoyment of this book comes from Aragon’s use of sensual language mixed with harsh realities. For instance, being unable to speak and barely able to move, he suffers constant torture from his racing mind that demands sexual attention. These thoughts of his that drive him wild with envy as he sees the passing of Irene’s lovers, coming and going.
The old man senses the passing of his time. His daughter becomes ever distant. His power over the family has dwindled, and his house is slipping away from him. In conclusion, he expresses this power shift through sensual linguistics that portray colourful scenarios and the fading of the seasons.
Illustrations included in Irene’s Cunt
Despite its often described vulgar title, Irene’s Cunt is anything but. Above all, poetic, charming and stimulating this book is an accurate reflection of the great Louis Aragon.
In addition to using surrealisms key points, black humour and aggression, this book goes well beyond the irrelevancies of most surrealist literature. Poking fun at his own bourgeoisie status, Aragon said, ‘I come of what you would call the upper middle class, the bourgeoisie. And it is only by being a traitor to my class that I am able to function as a revolutionist.’
This point is never more accurate than in his telling of fortune and power skating away into the night.
Have you read Irene’s Cunt? What did you think of it? Good, Bad, Indifferent? Let me know in the comments below.
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