The Sexual Night

Pascal Quignard

Translated by Chris Turner


6 x 7.25 inches, 124pp, 48 colour plates. January 2015

ISBN : 9780857422064

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Meditating on a remarkable collection of illustrations of sexual imagery, renowned French writer and critic Pascal Quignard moves from the annals of global art to ancient and modern, from Bosch and Dürer to Rembrandt and Tintoretto, from Caspar David Friedrich and Caravaggio to Bacon and Jean Rustin. Wonderfully woven together, the meditations present a reflection on the sexual image that psychoanalysis calls ‘the primal scene’—a concept introduced by Freud as the first sexual scene witnessed by a child, a scene that is unexplained, unforgettable, and ultimately haunting.

With 27 chapters drawing on the mythological and artistic resources of West- ern and Far Eastern culture—including the tragic love of Dido and Aeneas; the scandalous figure of Mary Magdalene; Lascaux and Golgotha; voyeurism and melancholy; Saint Augustine and Freud—the book is a disquisition on vision, temporality, generation and creation in all its forms. 

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.

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