Sex, Sex, Sex (in the Contemporary European Novel)

Contrary to my wife’s belief, the title of this post is not a crude net quickly knitted to fish for further visitors (though god knows I would welcome them, should they get caught).

In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is a topic I have been avoiding – partly out of laziness, partly out of the presumption that there was no need to deal with it all. In any case, here I am at last: dealing with it – not because I am bursting out of my lethargic shell (it is December, after all) but because it happens to fit in neatly with my other subject for the week (which is, of course, the life and work of the Greek writer Alexis Pathenikolides). I need only to direct your attention to the quote two posts below for you to comprehend the nature of the link.

Here’s the rub, anyway. A bunch of unrelated rogues have claimed, lately, that my Greatest Novels List (already accused of neglecting the theme of religion) doesn’t give a fair impression of the way in which the subjects of sex and sexuality have obsessed European minds during the last decade or so.

Perhaps, perhaps. Maybe we haven’t plunged the depths of depravity, or oceans of bodily love, often enough. One supposes that, to give it its due, every novel should be suffused with sex. After all, have not  humans (well, men, anyway)  long been typified as helpless addicts to carnal thoughts? And true, if one looks hard enough, there is plently of huffing and puffing (imagined and actual) to be found between the covers of obscure European books.

So why have we gone ahead and ignored it?

Or, a better question, have we ignored it?

Pathenikoldies would be the obvious example, were it not for the fact that Sebastien Cheraz claims that he is an exception. Ah, but is he? Is The Twisted Olive Tree really the most sex-obsessed novel on the list? Allow me to crease my forehead at the very thought of it. Otters above! Have none of you read Boris Bash-Benver’s Tripulation, with its truly exhaustive sex scene, told from three different perspectives? And what of Egor Falastrom’s Dark Dreams of a Delirious Dog-Catcher? My prudish reviewer may not have mentioned them, but I distinctly recall some concupiscent chapters, passionate paragraphs and steamy sentences. And then we have O’Droningham’s randy monks… Well…

Am I stretching it a bit? Maybe I am. Perhaps you pedantic animals have a case. I’d said it before and I’ll say it again: there are omissions. Of course there are. That’s the fun of lists. Had I starting accepting submissions a month or two later than I did, I’ve no doubt that works such as Max Zdowt’s  ‘fanciful homosexual epic’  Single Cream (published late 2006) would have made a mark. And if there weren’t already two great novels by writers whose surnames begin with the letter ‘D’, one supposes that Marc de Dujardin’s Down There Again might also have been under discussion. But such is life. Not everybody gets what they want, all of the time.

Which brings us back, I suppose, to the central subject…


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