Meg Powers's Reviews > La Bâtarde

La Bâtarde by Violette Leduc
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Sep 25, 10

bookshelves: wickedqueer, readin2010
Read from July 23 to September 25, 2010

** spoiler alert ** I borrowed La Batarde from one of my dearest friends to have something comforting to read while away at school. Being a "really old" (as one sniveling teenager had described me) freshman living on a secluded college campus has been an isolating experience so far; reading Violette Leduc's memoirs of unending loneliness was a good way to hush my own feelings of isolation.

It is interesting and almost comforting that Leduc began writing seriously after a lifestyle of wandering around for the first two decades of adulthood, when most people seem to have figured themselves out (she began writing cheesy copy for magazines in her twenties and didn't attempt to write a book until her thirties). The book is beautifully written and often times lacking punctuation as if she was ranting breathlessly for the book's 488 pages. Her injections of poetry into descriptions of her everyday life is gorgeous; aside from her stormy love affairs and WW II black marketeering, Leduc didn't have wild, life-shaking events to recount but made the most mundane morning activities a captivating read. Her words are focused on her everyday and her vanity of self-loathing. I love this abbreviated line, which is featured in a misty, vague description of her wanderings by the Seine and her ability to drive people away : "My empire of invalids, my crustacean cemetery." Her words are reminiscent of Lautreamont, yet her grotesqueries are gentle and elegant rather than shocking.

In regards to Leduc's descriptions of her sexuality, I was surprised by her fascination with male homosexuals. Her friendship with the homosexual writer Maurice Sachs was propelled by her difficulties in accepting the idea that a man could solely love other men. Her attitude seemed unlikely, considering she was exclusively in lesbian relationships from her teen years to her late twenties and her desire for the male sex was described as vague and confused for that majority of the book. Perhaps this attitude was a product of her bisexuality, which she accepted early on in life and thus spared the reader the familiar "Why do I feel this way about my own sex? I'm a FREEEEAK!" narratives. I suppose if one had already accepted his/her bisexulaity as the norm, heterosexuality and homosexuality alike might have seemed strange.

I applaud Leduc's gender ambiguities: the author's feverish trip to Elsa Schiapparelli's Parisian boutique with her long term girlfriend, Hermine, is recounted as an eroticized and unquestionably feminine scenario. While involved with Hermine, Leduc became a fashion plate for her girlfriend to lavish with hand-sewn clothing, couture accessories, and elegant meals. With her friend and future husband, Gabriel, Leduc was masculinized; she dressed in men's clothing, asked to be made love to as a man, and adopted the role of Gabriel's "little fellow." It is refreshing to read about someone capable of balancing masculinity and femininity, and the only people who seemed to take issue with Leduc's ambiguity were the two lovers in question.

I read this book quickly. It was sexy, engaging, a good escape from my own woe-is-me-isms, and featured a lot of time-capsule worthy descriptions of fashion from the first three decades of her recorded life.
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