The Castle of Communion
When Le Château de Cène (here translated as The Castle of Communion) first appeared in France in 1969, under the sonorous pseudonym of Urbain d’Orlhac, it created a sensation. Immediately recognised as being among the finest works of French literary eroticism (along with, say, Bataille’s Story of the Eye, or Reage’s Story of O), its author was soon identified: the poet and essayist Bernard Noël, born in 1930.
The author recounts an intense initiatory sexual quest which occurs on a mysterious remote island. Chosen as the moon’s lover the hero undertakes a Dantesque voyage through sucessive levels of pain and ecstasy. The book’s climax is a beatific rite of sexual purification in the Castle of Communion, which is described in a poetic language at once incantatory, crude and almost mystical. The intensity of the book matches its method of composition: dictated into a tape recorder and finished in only 3 weeks, and written as a partial response to the atrocities of the French authorities in Algeria.
This edition is postfaced by Noël’s essay The Outrage Against Words, his thoughts on the government’s unsuccessful attempts through the courts to supress the novel for “outraging public morals.” He illuminates the intimate connection between writing and censorship in general.