A close reading of Story of O (Pauline Reage, 1954) and the little known story of its writing
“To a greater or lesser extent, everyone depends on stories, on novels, to discover the manifold truth of life. Only such stories, read sometimes in a trance, have the power to confront a person with his fate. This is why we must keep passionately striving after what constitutes a story.” George Bataille. Blue of Noon appendix: The author’s foreword (1957)
The first of a sequence of on-the-page works that seek to find a way through this challenging text and perhaps liberate O from her rather shocking story. Doing so using minimal and multiple narrations that blend erotic literature, conceptual writing and verbal scores.
I reprint, in parallel, both English and French versions in a graphic reworking of the original story accompanied by three further texts, as meditations on love from the perspective of the writer, the reader and the character: (Story of) A, (Story of) E and (Reading) O, a series of instructions for reading alone or with others.
The book was launch at the Small Publishers Fair 2017 with a discussion between Michael Hampton and Vicky Smith on artist publishing and écriture feminine.
Reviewed by Leigh Wilson for The Contemporary Small Press online magasine, 9/03/2016.
An extract is included in New Concrete, an anthology of contemporary concrete poetry, Hayward publishing (2015) and Uniformagazine vol 1 (autumn 2014)
Various reading experiments and abstractions of the story are gathered in Ode (owed) to O double cd (Edition Wandelweiser, 2017). Does a story ever end?
Reading (Story of) O is available here
Ode to O
A body of work (book, cd, text scores, performances, prints) based upon the infamous erotic novel Story of O, in an attempt to navigate a passage through this difficult literary work and its notorious yet little known history.
The work began as a series of private love letters handwritten by Anne Cécile Desclos to her lover Jean Paulhan. It was first published in French in 1954, under the pen name Pauline Réage, and the official English translation appeared in 1965.