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The Angel and the Perverts

Lucie Delarue-Mardrus
translated by Anna Livia
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 246
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  • Book Info
    The Angel and the Perverts
    Book Description:

    Set in the lesbian and gay circles of Paris in the 1920s, The Angel and the Perverts tells the story of a hermaphrodite born to upper class parents in Normandy and ignorant of his/her physical difference. As an adult, s/he lives a double life as Marion/Mario, passing undetected as a lesbian in the literary salons of the times, and as a gay man in the cocaine dens made famous by Colette. Delarue-Mardrus's novel belongs to a category of literature, written between the turn of the century and approximately 1930, which depicted lesbians as members of a third sex. The hermaphrodite became the visual representation of the ways in which lesbians were different from their heterosexual sisters, and Rene Vivien, Natalie Clifford Barney, Rachilde, and Colette, among others, shared Delarue-Mardrus's fascination with the topic.This is the first translation into English of The Angel and the Perverts. In an astute introduction, Anna Livia rereads Lucie Delarue-Mardrus as a prolific and significant writer, despite the fact that previous scholars viewed her primarily as the wife of the scholar and translator Joseph-Charles Mardrus. Livia also places Delarue-Mardrus's life in a lesbian context for the first time and decodes this delightful novel so that readers will feel quite at home in Mario/Marion's unusual world, which runs the gamut from Auguste Rodin to Jean Cocteau and Sarah Bernhardt.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4418-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    Despite the efforts of lesbian and feminist publishing houses and a few university presses, the bulk of the most important lesbian works has traditionally been available only from rare-book dealers, in a few university libraries, or in gay and lesbian archives. This series intends, in the first place, to make representative examples of this neglected and insufficiently known literature available to a broader audience by reissuing selected classics and by putting into print for the first time lesbian novels, diaries, letters, and memoirs that are of special interest and significance, but which have moldered in libraries and private collections for...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. Introduction: Lucie Delarue-Mardrus and the Phrenetic Harlequinade
    (pp. 1-60)

    Lucie Delarue-Mardrus was a phenomenally prolific writer, chalking up more than seventy books in her seventy-one years of life, including some forty-seven novels, twelve collections of poetry, and two film adaptations of her fiction. Yet nowadays her name is rarely mentioned unless in connection with that of her husband, Joseph-Charles Mardrus, translator of the Arabian Nights, and his distinguished circle of friends, which included most of literary Paris of the 1900s and theannées folles. Indeed, it was her husband’s frequent boast that he had made Lucie what she was, and in a joking divorce settlement, in which he lists...

  6. The Angel and the Perverts

    • I
      (pp. 63-72)

      He often dreamed that his mother, or rather the blind beast which works within us independently of our minds, had been expecting twins while she was carrying him, for, ever since the age when human beings enter into the agony of the soul, he had felt instinctively at his side a mysterious second self.

      The fine lady with the reticent eyes, who carried the distinction and stiffness of her race in her very marrow, insisted from the cradle onward that she alone would look after the sickly creature she had brought into the world. She never left the child in...

    • II
      (pp. 73-82)

      “It’s no use bothering her. She cares for nothing and no one.”

      The voice of Laurette Wells remained cool and self-possessed as she pronounced these words, a most ironic expression of anger. She rewrapped her legs in the ermine blanket, pulling it out from under Janine who was curled up at the foot of the bed. Her steely eyes sent out sparks in the moonlight of her bedroom, which looked brighter than ever that evening.

      The play of the mirrors, the Venetian chandelier, the great quantities of rare crystal, decked the silhouettes of the furniture and the white animal skins...

    • III
      (pp. 83-92)

      The tall girl with the hoarse voice whistled for a taxi lost in the wastes of Neuilly bordering the Seine. In the time it would take to get to the address she had given the driver, she would be able to smoke at least two cigarettes.

      She settled down in the corner of the seat, lit up, and fell into thought with the bumping of the car.

      The pleasure of returning to her shabby bachelor flat awaited her in a little street like a twisting medieval dragon of the Left Bank.

      “My life …” Marion mused.

      Even when there was...

    • IV
      (pp. 93-104)

      So the nameless horror of my childhood was an even darker story than the eternal poison its memory has left in my soul.

      But could my parents have behaved any differently?

      The martyrdom I suffered was only the logical consequence of their own.

      I have, unfortunately, spent enough time in the company of that despicable class known as the bourgeoisie to realize what my parents must have suffered, they who considered themselves far superior to the middle class: nobility, in fact, and country nobles at that; feudal lords, in short.

      An only son to be the pride and joy of...

    • V
      (pp. 105-116)

      “Finding a publisher,” what a dreadful experience. Like that mob standing in the rain behind the bus. The people with numbered seats tried to get on first, their faces declaring implacably, “It’s my right.” The others crept aboard, hoping to get on under false pretenses as they elbowed each other out of the way.

      “Myself, I don’t give a damn,” thought Marion. “I never take a number.”

      Standing apart from the scrum, he mused, “How truly splendid to work under someone else’s name. No need for a number. My books are published, my plays performed, I earn my crust and...

    • VI
      (pp. 117-124)

      A little rest after weeks of work, that’s what Marion was looking for in her apartment in the 16th. No work in progress lay waiting to tempt her male and female imagination. There were no real books there, no piles of papers, no work table calling to her. The delicate secretaire in the living room was only good for writing a letter or two. Here it would not have been fitting to contemplate more than putting flowers in vases, reading the latest novels to keep oneself up to date, writing out the list of feminine purchases to be made in...

    • VII
      (pp. 125-134)

      “Now here I am caught up in other people’s immorality,” Miss Hervin said to herself when she got back home. “What a fine pursuit for my little vacation!”

      Elbow on knee, chin in hand, cigarette in mouth, she amused herself thinking up ways to approach Madame de Lagres until it was time for bed. “Not that it will do any good,” she decided, but it was more fun than reading a novel.

      She should have been passionate about the cause, loathe the countess-giraffe, imagine that bringing the escapee back into the grasp of Laurette’s pink fingernails was a noble act...

    • VIII
      (pp. 135-142)

      Marion was careful not to let Laurette know of little Miss de Lagres’s flirtatious behavior toward her. With her mulish stubbornness, the demented woman would have tormented her for months, maybe years, until Marion became the instrument of Aimée’s liberation.

      More than a week had passed since Marion’s last visit to Neuilly. Laurette made no special commotion when she saw Miss Hervin, for that was not her way; instead, certain of victory, she waited to be told the story of the great battle.

      This Marion understood from the expression on Laurette’s face, despite her iron self-control. She surprised Laurette writing...

    • IX
      (pp. 143-150)

      I wandered along the banks of the Seine, in the rain the asphalt was as reflective as a river. The toing and froing of the cars, trams, and buses seemed like the movement of ships. The lights came on and the illusion was complete. In the twilight, Notre-Dame hulked like a dark ship at anchor. A lost passerby, I followed where my footsteps led me, weary of work, anonymous, sexless, without destination or destiny. My heart was sucked by the leeches of despair. I saw Laurette get out of her car near the house where Aimée lives. She was alone,...

    • X
      (pp. 151-160)

      Alternately irritated and indulgent, distracting Laurette became a kind of passionate duty to Miss Hervin. She came to see her two or three times a week, often stayed for dinner, went out with her, recited poetry for her. From time to time, to conquer this dogged depression, and to win the wager she had made with herself that she would cure Miss Wells—an illusory aim which drew her out of her loneliness—she was tempted to tell her the true story of her life. “But,” she thought bitterly, “even that would be of less interest to her than her...

    • Intermezzo
      (pp. 161-166)

      The ambiguous silhouette of a figure with two faces can be seen prowling, but never participating, at various carnivals in modern dress: Julien Midalge’s studio, Laurette Wells’s villa, Ginette Lobre’s bear pit, one or two opium dens, certain cabarets, certain negro balls.

      The real bourgeoisie does not frequent these places, or rather what is left of the real bourgeoisie in a Paris heading more and more toward a confusion of the genders, a Paris in which the society of the post-war years¹ is toppling the divisive barriers one after another, leaving only an undifferentiated, multicolored mob, whose numbers are increased...

    • XI
      (pp. 167-178)

      With four in the car and Charlie up front next to the driver, and the car roof down so she could add her twopenceworth to the conversation, how would any of them have had time to watch the countryside fly by?

      Charlie, the new presence in Laurette’s life, spoke English with some unidentifiable American accent, to the irritated amusement of Lord Hampton, who refused to understand a single syllable of her formidably nasal slang.

      Though somewhat chubby, Charlie was nonetheless dressed like a man, except for a short skirt, under which she felt it necessary to wear leggings as though...

    • XII
      (pp. 179-186)

      In order to give herself up entirely to her new preoccupation—Solesmes—Marion felt the need to be a man. A very different kind of solitude from that of Passy awaited him at his already monkish apartment on the left bank.

      It was the first time his writing table had seen the poet engaged in anything other than work on other people’s writing or the composition of poetry. By some mysterious compulsion he needed to be seated in the same place where his mind had toiled over literary labor. Only there was he at ease to think.

      The mystical figure...

    • XIII
      (pp. 187-196)

      The next time Miss Hervin saw Laurette, she was dressed all in white, on her feet in her large salon. After more than seven months of silence and absence, she greeted Miss Hervin without a smile, holding out an apple she was munching instead, with the scarcely audible words, “Take a bite! It’s delicious!”

      She brought the apple right up to Marion’s mouth, and, half-heartedly, Marion bit into it.

      “Your lips are pale. Have you been ill all this time?”

      “Yes, a little.”

      “In London?”

      “In London.”

      “But why did you go to London, and for such a long time?”...

    • XIV
      (pp. 197-210)

      Miss Hervin was awakened with a start next morning by a telegram which had been written out the previous day. She had only just got to sleep after a feverish night.

      “Laurette is really too hateful.”

      Tearing open the envelope with a gesture that could kill, she read, “A. should know all the same. See to it.”

      After hours of prostration, a furious irony revitalized her. She hurried through her toilette. And laughed with rage.

      As soon as she was ready, she sat at her little desk.

      Her reply: “See to it yourself. No time.”

      She was about to get...

    • XV
      (pp. 211-218)

      The return journey under the headlamps did not inspire Laurette’s pretty images. Full of practicality now, she wanted to know how the recommended treatment would be followed. Physiotherapy required a lightness of touch which one could hardly expect from Mother Lagnel. She could cripple the child by trying to go too fast. They had forbidden her to try anything until she received further orders.

      “What would you do with him in my place?”

      “That’s a very thorny question, Mademoiselle. It doesn’t look like he should stay where he is, especially in his state of anchylosis. If he were well, Lord,...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 219-222)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 223-228)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 229-229)