Diary of an Innocent
256 pp., 6 x 9 in,
- Published: September 10, 2010
- Publisher: Semiotext(e)
Now in English, Duvert's shocking novel about a sexual adventurer among a tribe of adolescent boys in Northern Africa.
"I'd find it amusing if, in a few centuries, the only thing that our descendents condescend to retain of our artistic production, the only thing in which they'll see worlds to admire, to penetrate, the only thing that they'll show off as precious in immense museums after having flushed down the toilet all our acknowledged masterpieces, the only thing that will give them nostalgia and love for us will be our porn."—from Diary of an Innocent
Exiled from the prestigious French literary circles that had adored him in the 1970s, novelist Tony Duvert's life ended in anonymity. In 2008, nineteen years after his last book was published, Duvert's lifeless body was discovered in the small village of Thoré-la-Rochette, where he had been living a life of total seclusion.
Now for the first time, Duvert's most highly crafted novel is available in English. Poetic, brutally frank, and outright shocking, Diary of an Innocent recounts the risky experiences of a sexual adventurer among a tribe of adolescent boys in an imaginary setting that suggests North Africa. More reverie than narrative, Duvert's Diary presents a cascading series of portraits of the narrator's adolescent sexual partners and their culture, and ends with a fanciful yet rigorous construction of a reverse world in which marginal sexualities have become the norm.
Written with gusto and infused with a luminous bitterness, this novel is more unsettling to readers today than it was to its first audience when published in French in 1976. In his openly declared war on society, Duvert presents a worldview that offers no easy moral code and no false narrative solution of redemption. And yet no reader will remain untouched by the book's dazzling language, stinging wit, devotion to matters of the heart, and terse condemnation of today's society.
Shock value aside, the book is intelligent to its core. Duvert's style is consummate, his devices elegant, his methods seductive; Bruce Benderson's translation is clear and stately.
Review of Contemporary Fiction
'I always write completely nude, and I don't wash before,' writes Tony Duvert, whose explosive Diary of an Innocent is part tract, part porn, part theory, part fiction, and (I presume) part fact. Certain pages of Gide, Genet, Hocquenghem and certain scenes from Bresson or Pasolini suggest themselves as mild precursors, but Duvert goes further, filthier, faster. Only the Marquis de Sade outpaces him. Must we burn Duvert? I pray not. This book, troubling and memorable, interrogates with delicate strokes the damaged state of contemporary sexual relations.
Diary of an Innocent by Tony Duvert is a truly scandalous work, but first and foremost a work of great depth and freedom.... A book that reinvents the seduction of literature.
Abdellah Taïa, author of Salvation Army