Bruce Benderson

Novelist, translator, and essayist Bruce Benderson is the author of a memoir, The Romanian: Story of an Obsession, winner of France's prestigious Prix de Flore in French translation, and Pacific Agony (Semiotext(e), 2009.)

  • Pacific Agony

    Pacific Agony

    Bruce Benderson

    An acidic, satiric novel in the form of a travelogue of the American northwest, complete with annotations by an outraged local.

    "I gazed out my window on the sea of dark clouds as my shaking seat jiggled the image into double vision; and I pictured the flat, geometrically divided western landscapes below, wondering why anyone still bothered to travel in this cookie-cutter country. What was the use of visiting identical reproductions of the same Wal-Mart or adding new encounters of equally streamlined mentality to the roster? As far as I was concerned, everything had been shorn from the same cloth, woven for years in the drab bungalows of suburban North America."—from Pacific Agony.

    Depressed, cynical, and subversive, East Coaster Reginald Fortiphton has been brought to Seattle by a West Coast publishing company that wants him to write a guide to the American Northwest. His job is to travel, on their dime, from Eugene, Oregon, to Vancouver, shining an admiring light on the region—which the publishers feel has been neglected by the New York publishing monopoly. Pacific Agony is his ironic attempt to fufill his assignment. To ensure that the project goes as planned, the very respectable Narcissa Whitman Applegate—notable member of the Willamette-Columbia Historical Legion and the Daughters of the Oregon Trail Historical Committee (and named after a nineteenth century missionary who was famously killed by Oregon's Nez Percé Indians)—is asked to annotate the manuscript. Her notes at the bottom of the page become progressively more outraged as the alienated Reginald's mock travel narrative skewers the region with merciless political observations—while he spirals into a depressive mania.This acidic, satirical novel hilariously eviscerates contemporary American culture at the same time that it exposes some of the darker motivations of American middle-class liberalism.

    • Paperback $14.95 £11.99

Contributor

  • Learning What Love Means

    Learning What Love Means

    Mathieu Lindon

    A memoir of a friendship with Michel Foucault that changed the author's life.

    “I loved Michel as Michel, not as a father. Never did I feel the slightest jealousy or the slightest embitterment or exasperation when it came to him.  … I was intensely close to Michel for a full six years, until his death, and I lived in his apartment for close to a year. Today I see that time as the period that changed my life, my cut-off from a fate leading to the precipice. In no specific way I'm grateful to Michel, without knowing for exactly what, for a better life."—from Learning What Love Means

    In 1978, Mathieu Lindon met Michel Foucault. Lindon was twenty-three years old, part of a small group of jaded but innocent, brilliant, and sexually ambivalent friends who came to know Foucault. At first the nominal caretakers of Foucault's apartment on rue de Vaugirard when he was away, these young friends eventually shared their time, drugs, ambitions, and writings with the older Foucault. Lindon's friend, the late Herve Guibert, was a key figure within this group. The son of the renowned founder of Editions de Minuit, Lindon grew up with Marguerite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Samuel Beckett as family friends. Much was expected of him. But, as he writes in this remarkable spiritual autobiography, it was through his friendship with Foucault—who was neither lover nor father but an older friend—that he found the direction that would influence the rest of his life.  

    As Bruce Benderson writes in his introduction, “The book is a collage of free-associated episodes and interpretatons that together compose for the reader a kind of manual about how to love. … As he runs from apartment to apartment, job to job, or lover to lover, the book becomes a story of conversion testifying to an author's radical change of viewpoint, which leads to his invitation into the social world through lessons about love.” A brilliant meditation on friendship, Learning What Loves Means provides an insight into a part of Foucault's life and work that until now, remained unkown. The book won the prestigious Prix Médicis in 2011 when it was published in French.

    • Paperback $16.95 £13.99
  • Diary of an Innocent

    Diary of an Innocent

    Tony Duvert

    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.

    • Paperback $17.95 £14.99
  • Good Sex Illustrated

    Good Sex Illustrated

    Tony Duvert

    A scathing view of sex manuals for children and society's hypocrisy of over sex that argues for the rights of children to their own bodies and their own sexuality.

    Why is pleasure "doubled" when it's "shared"?... Do you really have to cut pleasure in two so that it'll exist? I mean, if it's doubled when there are two of you, then it must be tripled when there are three, quadrupled when there are four, centupled when there are a hundred, right? Is it O.K. for a hundred to share? And if I get used to trying it all alone, why is it that I'll never love anyone again? Is it that good alone and that awful with others? ; from Good Sex Illustrated First published in France in 1973, Good Sex Illustrated gleefully deciphers the subtext of a popular sex education manual for children produced during that period. In so doing, Duvert mounts a scabrous and scathing critique of how deftly the "sex-positive" ethos was harnessed to promote the ideal of the nuclear family. Like Michel Houllebecq, Duvert is highly attuned to all the hypocrisies of late twentieth century western "sexual liberation" mass movements. As Bruce Benderson notes in his introduction, Good Sex Illustrated shows that, "in our sexual order, orgasm follows the patterns of any other kind of capital... 'good sex' is a voracious profit machine." But unlike Houllebecq, Duvert writes from a passionate belief in the integrity of unpoliced sex and of pleasure. Even more controversially now than when the book was first published, Duvert asserts the child's right to his or her own playful, unproductive sexuality. Bruce Benderson's translation will belatedly introduce English-speaking audiences to the most infamous gay French writer since Jean Gênet.

    • Paperback $16.95 £13.99