[ilds] [RG 2003 Justine 1.1 - 3]

James Gifford gifford at ualberta.ca
Fri Apr 6 12:19:33 PDT 2007

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Date: Fri, 6 Jun 2003 12:08:01 -0400
From: James Gifford
To: Anna Lillios 

Both Charles and Bill have chimed in on those epigraphs to _Justine_, and I
must agree with Charles -- I think the text (right from the outset with
those epigraphs) prompts the reader toward something other than just linear
reading.  What exactly is Freud talking about, and in what way does it
preface Sade?

The quotation from Freud's letters to Fliess is immediately preceded by his
statement "Now for bisexuality! I am sure you are right" (289), which
prepares the reader for a particular perspective (such as those reflecting
mirrors -- Narcissus?).  The reader is also told that "The symbolic lovers
of the free Hellenic world are replaced here by something different,
something subtly androgynous, inverted upon itself" (1.2).  The language of
the "invert" and androgyne are telling, and if the un-named (and ungendered)
narrator is raising the child, what is his or her "position" (Sade's word)
in the four-some Freud is talking about?

Likewise, those asterisks take me, as a reader, immediately to the end of
the volume, where I discover two references to Cavafy.  This draws me again
toward a global reading where I want to spin off to other texts.  For
instance, with this web of bisexuality, inversion (read homosexuality),
forbidden sexuality (Sade), and the "more than five sexes" (1.2) the
narrator distinguishes among, what am I to do with Cavafy, a famously
homosexual poet who wrote in the Greek language that "seems to distinguish
among" those five sexes?  Some kind of intimate knowledge is held by this
figure and the "crime which renders us happy" (Sade epigraph) -- perhaps
Durrell is contra Sade; there is another way apart from the noose.

Moreover, Balthazar is already described (despite being a mysterious and
unknown figure) as having "went so often with the old poet of the city"
(1.2), who is Cavafy.  My mind thinks back to an earlier Durrell novel,
_Pied Piper of Lovers_, where the narrator is not able to say Walsh had
heterosexual intercourse first time, but instead uses the euphemistic "went
with a woman."  Is Balthazar, punningly, already set up as the "invert" who
is a part of the four-pronged group that must be caught up in the narrator's
lover (1.4) and who has secret knowledge?  After all, as Charles has pointed
out, the name "Melissa!" was added later, perhaps to avoid some confusion
that resides there.  Even in her first appearance, the passage reads: "Here
*we* so often met" (1.4).  Is this "we" the city and the narrator or the
narrator and the old man who Balthazar went with?  At this point, it is not
Melissa, nor is it even specifically female -- that distinction follows
after.  In searching for a subject, the most likely choice is Cavafy
(reading backward rather than forward), until reading on in the next
sentence the other half of the 'we' is revealed as female.  I remember this
point, because in my first reading I naturally assumed that the narrator was


Freud, Sigmund. _The Origins of Psycho-analysis; Letters to Wilhelm Fliess,
Drafts and Notes, 1887-1902_. Ed. Marie Bonaparte, Anna Freud, and Ernst
Kris. Trans. Eric Mosbacher and James Strachey. New York: Basic Books, 1954.
James Gifford
3-5 Humanities Centre
Department of English
University of Alberta

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