Sex and Terror
Translated by Chris Turner
6 x 7.5 inches, 230pp, 30 colour illustrations. February 2012
ISBN : 9781906497866
Rs 595.00 (HB)
The fascinus, or phallus, was at the heart of classical Roman art and life. No god was more represented in ancient Rome than the phallic deity Priapus, and the fescennine verses, one of the earliest forms of Roman poetry, accompanied the celebrations of Priapus, the harvest and fertility. But with this emphasis on virility also came an emphasis on power and ideas of possession and protection.
In Sex and Terror, Pascal Quignard looks closely at this delicate interplay of celebration and terror. In startling and original readings of myths, satires, memoirs and works of ancient philosophy and visual art, Quignard locates moments of both playful, aesthetic commemoration and outward cruelty. Through these examples, he describes a colossal cultural shift within Western civilization that occurred two millennia ago, as Augustus shaped the Roman world into an empire and the joyous, precise eroticism of the Greeks turned into a terror-stricken melancholy. The details of this revolution in thinking are revealed through Quignard’s astute analysis of classical literary sources and Roman art.
This powerful transformation from celebration to fear is a change whose consequences, Quignard argues, we are still dealing with today, making Sex and Terror an intriguing reconsideration of ancient Rome that transcends its history.
Pascal Quignard (b. 1948) studied philosophy at the University of Nanterre between 1966 and 1968, the crucible of the Paris ‘events’ of May 1968. Two novels—Le Salon du Wurtemberg (1986) and Les Escaliers de Chambord (1989)—published by Gallimard (for whom he worked in various capacities until 1994) brought him to the attention of a wide audience. In 1991, he published Tous les Matins du Monde (All the World’s Mornings), which was filmed by Alain Corneau with Jean-Pierre Marielle and Gérard Depardieu in leading roles. This work reflected Quignard’s intense musical activity, which included the presidency of the Versailles International Festival of Baroque Opera and Theatre. In 2002, Quignard won France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, with the first volume of his Dernier Royaume (Last Kingdom) series, Les ombres errantes—a controversial choice, as it was the first work of non-fiction to win the prize. Quignard has more than 60 other titles to his name and is widely regarded as one of the foremost literary French writers today.
Chris Turner is a writer and translator who lives in Birmingham, England.