Constance Deprey read us Margaret Radcliffe Hall’s wonderful lesbian novel

[Spécial écrivaines oubliées 4/9] With the movie The Well of Solitude, she was the subject of the second largest homosexuality trial in England at the beginning of the 20th century. However, history has only preserved the history of Oscar Wilde, thirty years ago. This writer who defied all injustice must be rediscovered.

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“You don’t understand, I trust my books, too much confidence; one day I will go to the heights and force the world toI accept who I am. It’s a matter of time “. So says Stephen Gordon, heroine well from loneliness, Who’s Like Author Margaret Radcliffe Hall, writer and lesbian. A prophetic phrase that responds to what will happen when the novel comes out in 1928: first ban, then massive success.

There is the book, there is the trial, there is the author. All three are exciting, but this book is so breathtaking, I admit, I wasn’t expecting it. well of isolation (well of isolation) It is a “monument to lesbian culture”. No doubt that’s the reason, any lesbian I haven’t read. I imagined an old sentimental novel, of ambiguous historical significance. Good lesson for me. Because whatever a lesbian, which is so cool, well of isolation It is a great book.

she called herself john

But let’s start with her, Margaret Radcliffe Hall, born in England in 1880 and died in England in 1943, fifteen years in France between the two, upper class and ultraclass. Pictures show her in a tie or suit tailored to her, often accompanied by a woman, a cigarette, or a dog, often all three.

There is also a picture of her by Charles Bushell, black tie tied high on a white collar, black jacket, gray waistcoat, one-handed, thin, short brown or perhaps red hair, green or gray eyes, drooping, a joe of Montesquieu by Whistler or Boldini, less arrogance, more tenderness. Radcliffe Hall, who called himself John, wore a costume as I said, and thirty years after the Oscar Wilde trial, he lived with a woman. It is indeed not bad for the poise and elegance which this virtue always imparts.

His novel talks about homosexuality very directly and without writing the word.

well of isolation Appeared in London in 1928. Barely a few months later Orlando. A year later, with us, the last volume of Search, Which no one has ever said is a strange novel, and it is. Orlando He wasn’t worried at all. Nor Proust, of course, but France is not England. Radcliffe Hall has already published five famous and award-winning poetry books and three novels. His novel talks about homosexuality very directly and without writing the word (Radcliffe Hall talks about homosexuality – “He was the most naturally abnormal person of all men” -, often reflexive, such as Proust; This is the time).

careless absence

Its release was initially successful, selling 10,000 copies, then a newspaper, and Saturday Journal upset. Then the Home Secretary sued the book and its author for obscenity and got a ban: copies seized in Scotland Yard vaults were destroyed.

A second lawsuit followed, in the United States, losing in first instance and winning on appeal: the book was approved in America and sold a million copies. In France, it was to be published by Gallimard in 1932 and has been reissued several times since then. In England, it would be necessary to wait until 1949, that is, more than twenty years, for the censorship to be lifted and the book to be returned to the bookstores.

Less an advocacy of homosexuality than an indictment of the injustice and cruelty of its consequences

The first thing that surprises you is that, even back then, it could have been considered obscene. Certainly not for the sake of sex scenes that don’t exist (but an absence without caution: “They were now just lovers by name. This forced abstinence was affecting Jimmy’s work, as well as his nerves…”), but for the sake of obscene. It is not an advocacy of homosexuality so much as an indictment against the injustice of its denunciation and the cruelty of its consequences, in particular, and, as usual, on women when they are poor.

“And abroad there are happy people sleeping in the sleep of the so-called righteousness and righteousness. And when they awaken, it will be the persecution of those who, through no fault of their own, were separated on the day of their birth, depriving them of all sympathy and understanding. They are impetuous, those people who sleep . …and who is there to make them think, Miss Gordon?” An indictment so precise and quiet as a demonstration one is surprised he couldn’t convince her. But somehow the trial and the ban prove what the book denounces. This means its accuracy, its truth.

Studio on rue Visconti, rue Jacob and the house of Natalie Clifford Barney…this environment of female homosexuality in Paris

Losers vs Winners

well of isolation It is a political book. Like all great books, he speaks of the vanquished, whoever they are, against the victors. Hence, it is also – and this is where I was struck by – a wonderful novel court.

It is a fresco that makes worlds reappear; The English countryside at the beginning of the last century, then London and above all Paris, before and after the war, a studio on Visconti rue, Jacob rue and the house of Natalie Clifford Barney, this environment of female homosexuality in Paris, recreated social classes, Paris that moves from Ritz (again Proust) to Montmartre, from fox trotting to jazz, which chronicles the transformation from the world before the war to the world after.

It’s a great romance novel and a great book about childhood. I skip some and forget some. Ah yes, what a book! Last quotes : “Those who have Bravery, It is also his duty to perform it.” I love this sentence.

well of isolation by Marguerite Radclyffe Hall (Gallimard/”L’Imaginaire”), translated from English by Leo Lac, 574 pages, €15. In a bookstore.

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