Dominique Fernandez  

The non-militant provocateur !
In 1985 a novel-biography, "In the Hand of an Angel" about Pier Paulo Pasolini by the French novelist, essayist, translator and critic, Dominique Fernandez, was published in the  G.D.R. Fernandez had been awarded the coveted French 'Prix Goncourt" for this work in 1982. At the end of April this year Fernandez introduced to the public in Berlin extracts from his new book, 'The Robbing of Ganymede", a volume about homosexuality and cultural history. Colin de la Motte-Sherman spoke to him before the public reading.

C.M-S: Why have you written so many books about homosexuality or Aids?

D.F: I am a homosexual myself and it seems to me normal that it should be a main theme of    my works.

C.M-S: But many gay writers have avoided writing about homosexuality. Why do you do so?

D.F: When I was still young, a student, the topic was tabu in society. But I have lived in two epochs. The one epoch where the theme was a forbidden one, and people were expected to be ashamed of the fact. I don't think it is the task of a writer to get mixed up in politics. But he can be active on matters which affect him daily.

C.M-S: So you don't take part in the French homosexual movement then ...

D.F: Non. I'm not at all militant in this respect. As a young man I suffered very much from being an 'outsider". Since I have achieved a degree of fame as a writer, I felt the urge to write about the question of homosexuality.

C.M-S: What led you to write the novel about Pasolini ion the early 80's?

D.F: Pasolini was a challenge as a character for a novel. In my opinion he is one of the last heroes of the novel -- a hero who is searching for death.

C.M-S: It would appear you consciously carry out publicity work for homosexuals.

D.F: Yes. As I said I'm not militant, but I think that through my books ...

C.M-S: What moved you to write this new book about the cultural history of homosexuality when there are so many books about gays in history?

D.F: I don’t think there is a comparable book. At least not as a complete work on this theme.

C.M-S: Do you hope that your books will: give the average citizen a better picture of homosexuals?

D.F: I think I have already had some influence dealing with certain events. For example my “The Pink Star" caused much discussion and debate in the press and TV, too.

C.M-S: And how do you think things will develop

D.F: France, I think, is the country in which homosexuals enjoy most freedom.    Homosexuality is not  even mentioned in the law books; the age of consent is 15.  Nevertheless public opinion is in general opposed to us, The socialist government is relatively liberal ... It is still necessary to struggle for freedom But I think homo­sexuals will always be regarded an 'outsider" ('andere/other") as in the title of journal  "The Other World".

C.M-S: Have you, in the process of writing your book thought about why homosexual men feel so drawn to the military?

D.F: They feel drawn towards male societies. Some of most determined opponents of homo­sexuals are themselves homosexual. The cause is the suppression of their own sexuality. They are afraid their own homosexuality and haven't got the courage to carry out their feelings for other men although they feel drawn to them, They are angry at those who do so.

C.M-S: Thank you for the interview.


 Fernandez read some extracts from his new book. Here they are, in our unofficial, and slightly shortened translation.

D F on role models

Dolls for the girls, toy soldiers for the boys: with the first toys the great plot begins to absorb everyone into a predetermined gender role. What do you read in school? We hear about Adam and Eve but not about David and Jonathan; about Hector and Andromache, not Hadrian and Antoninous, about Romeo and Juliet, not Edward II and Piers Gaveston.  This terrible cultural plot is never punished. Never, not in literature, nor in everyday life, are homosexual couples depicted as role models.

D F on demographic considerations

The ban on homosexuality comes originally from Moses. from the Jewish religion. The Jewish people was a small one and forced to multiply itself, to survive at all -- to produce children and soldiers to continue to exist as a people. In this respect the necessity to reproduce itself is a purely demographic one which gave rise to the argumentation (against homosexuality). Our planet is threatened now with an over-population. In China it is forbidden to have more than one child. -- They should encourage homosexuality. An intelligent government would pursue such a policy, because the danger today is that there will be too many people on our planet earth.

DF on freedom and mediocrity

Homosexual culture has today an essentially greater opportunity of expressing itself. But despite this greater freedom homosexual culture and art is in fact on the decline. The numerous homosexuals in history who played a major role in art and culture precisely because they were different from  hetero­sexual society were in no way hindered by their homosexual nature from being creatively active.

As I already said homosexual literature is markedly freer to express itself, at least in some few countries of western Europe. We have this large number of books by homosexuals, at least in France and Italy – the countries which I can be judge, because I know them, -- and at the same time it is clear that this is  accompanied by mediocrity. The fact that much is now permitted that was previously forbidden has obviously led to this mediocrity that can be seen everywhere. I don't want to say that this freedom leads necessarily to mediocrity. I only want to state that this is the situation at present. At least in the field which I know I can see that standards have declined. That doesn't mean that it must always be so ... I am of the opinion, however, that homosexual writing is in a land of crisis because writers obviously don't know how this greater freedom in the means of expression, can be used to create great literature.

(The titles of books mentioned here are translations and not necessarily those used by the publisher of a foreign edition.)

Colin de la Motte-Sherman

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