Friday, January 02, 2004

What is pornography?

Nikolaj Frobenius, scriptwriter of Insomnia (starring Al Pacino, Hillary Swank and Robin Williams, and directed by Christopher Nolan of Memento-fame), let hisself be interviewed by Bøygen (The Bend, also a character in the last act of Ibsen's Peer Gynt, a devil-like appearance), in conjunction with the publication of The Shy Pornographer in 1999 (Le Pornographe timide, Actes Sud, 2000). More or less wittingly, the conversation drifts into a comparison with his 1996 novel Latours katalog (De Sade's Valet, trans. Tom Geddes, Marion Boyars, 2001). Frobenius, a master of scriptwriting from LPC college in London, studied the letter the Marquis wrote from the Vincennes and the Bastille to his manservant Latour Quiros, and immersed himself in what he calls a Sadean universe.


It is basically violent, inhuman and paradoxical -- and confusing. Confusion is a cornerstone i de Sade's way of being in the world and communicating in language. As soon as we engage in a careful reading of him, we find out that his language works on several levels. You find reason, which in a way incorporates you into his universe, and it says: 'This happens, my good friend, if you don't follow the path of virtue.' It is a very confusing claim, since it directly follows descriptions of what we may call the Sadistic problem: a world of fiece passions and fascinations, but where apathy is also just around the corner. There is an affinity with the executioner and the victim, and contradictory elements are played out in turns. [Georges] Bataille finds de Sade's literature paradoxical, since it essentially is the victim's language. I believe de Sade tries to destroy language, in an attempt to overcome a lack of communcation.


de Sade lives in complete isolation for large periods of his adult life because of his extravagant transgressions of the law and common sense in France. He's imprisoned, and eats, writes and fantasizes, that's all he's doing. I think his most important problem, from he was a boy, has been his distance to others. And what constitutes the bridge between myself and everybody else? That's language. That is what he wants to destroy, I believe that's what he wants. With his monotony, with confusion, with constant repetitions and detours.

In order to completely burn down the bridge between himself and the world around him?

Perhaps, but also to provoke a reaction, to get attention in some form or the other. He's up there on the bridge that language is, demolishing it. You will find the same effect with a great many other pornographic authors: Charles de Mas, Bataille, Cooper. It is a constant struggle at the borders of language. Pornography is conserned with 'non-language', that which exists on the other side of language. With those authors I mentioned, you will always find reflections on the boundary between language and non-language.