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Monsieur Vénus: A Materialist Novel

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  362 ratings  ·  36 reviews
When the rich and well-connected Raoule de Venerande becomes enamored of Jacques Silvert, a poor young man who makes artificial flowers for a living, she turns him into her mistress and eventually into her wife. Raoule's suitor, a cigar-smoking former hussar officer, becomes an accomplice in the complications that ensue.
Paperback, 160 pages
Published October 1st 2004 by Modern Language Association of America (first published 1884)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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Nov 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent decadent novel: moving and disturbing, with an ending that echoes, in an abstract way, many later horror films and stories.

The perversions presented are, by this point in time, passe: mainly a dominant/submissive relationship between a masculine rich woman and her "kept" lover, an already effeminate male artist whom she further feminizes through the course of the novel. This is the crux, but the novel also strays into both vague and specific transvestism, wanton and calculated lust,
Jul 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: french-lit
3.5 stars. One of the novels included in Asti Hustvedt's "The Decadent Reader", which I'm currently reading. Very well-written, bizarre story that explores gender roles, transvestism, and sado-masochism. Weird, yet I couldn't stop reading. I can't believe the author was only 20 when she wrote this.
Libros Prestados
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aquí la videoreseña:

Iba a darle 5 estrellas por lo divertida que me ha resultado su lectura, pero la verdad es que tiene varios puntos que me parecieron mejorables. Sin embargo, no le quito nada de mérito a esta novela que se publicó en 1884, escrita por una veinteañera y que plantea una historia de ¿amor? ¿lujuria? ¿las dos cosas? que rompía los roles de género. En la superficie. La verdad es que los refuerza (Rachilde no era revolucionaria, solo le iba
Aslı Can
Reading Monsieur Venus is as hard as reading something deeply theoratical. Despite the subject and language is so simple, most of the time I hardly understand what's going on, who talks with whom. I don't know Rachilde did it purposely or not, but all the narration is like covered with blanket. And I always felt like: please take me in.
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lett-francofona
Quanto è anomalo, questo romanzo. Pubblicato nell'Ottocento, scritto da una Rachilde appena ventenne e destinato a fare scandalo, Monsieur Vénus racconta dell'amore di Raoule de Venerande, una donna ricca e benestante, cresciuta a pane e religione, per Jacques, un ragazzo umile, che vive in condizione di povertà. Ciò che è "anomalo" (e, facile intuirlo, inaccettabile per l'epoca) è che lei si innamora di lui perché lui le sembra una lei: nei tratti del corpo, nei denti e negli occhi, nella sua ...more
Alexandra Sullivan
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Strange and beautiful. Must read if you're interested in decadent literature.
I've harped on about the misuse of the term decadent in the boring dystopia of modern America many, many times to friends and acquaintances and unfortunate people stuck next to me at parties (see my review of Sologub's Petty Demon, for example). Monsieur-Venus is decadent. Full stop. Like, reconsider your definitions of "kinky"-level decadent.

Especially when you consider how staid Anglo-American literature was at the time, you have to think that all of these French weirdos (Huysmans, Mirbeau,
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Colette, Radclyffe Hall, and Sarah Waters
Shelves: french, adult
Must the French writers always end their novels this way? Not trying to spoil it for anyone. This was such a unique read. The writing style was somewhere between Colette and Radclyffe Hall. I kind of wish there had been a little more passion in the writing style, but I enjoy the simplicity too. What makes this story so exciting for me is the art of bending gender so far that it turns its way back straight. I know the United States just recently embraced homosexuality, but I'm telling you people, ...more
Aug 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I have now finished reading Monsieur Venus, which I really enjoyed. I thought it was superbly written: the French just flows, the imagery and play on words (especially, you will have guessed, on masculine and feminine articles and pronouns) are just astounding.

I thought the story was well constructed, and could see a clear progression in the events and plot. You start off with this young woman who can get whatever she wants. She has no boundaries. Her aunt is an almost comic character: she is
May 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
I had to read this book for a course in university and while the French was sometimes challenging I ended up really enjoying it.
When it was released it was banned in Belgium and considered to be pornographic, although by today's standards it is not so shocking.The story is about a wealthy young woman called Raoule de Venerande who starts a relationship with a working class man named Jacques Silvert. The story raises questions of gender roles and identities, as they are often reversed. The
Betty H.
Jul 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Betty by: my french lit professor.
really creepy french book about transvestism and feminism... but ultimately fascinating. but creepy.
Madame Histoire
Woman pretends to be a man and makes a man be her woman, or the acme of fin-de-siècle perversity beautifully written by (what is more!) a maiden. One of the unknown classic of the French literature of the Décadence (end of the XIX century). An interesting read, poetic, which goes far beyond its storyline and into the exploration of love till complete self-abnegation.

Some quotes, in the original French:

"A sa honte éprouvée devant le mâle qu'elle avait eu l'audace de rendre grossier succédait une
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: amor, sexualidad
Una historia de amor incómoda entre una mujer muy viril y un hombre afeminado, escrita por una joven de 24 años en 1884. En su momento fue una obra escandalosa, toca temas como la homosexualidad y el fetichismo e incluso la necrofilia. En general es una obra confusa. Usa el femenino en muchos casos cuando habla de él y el masculino cuando habla de ella, pero no siempre, de ahí la confusión. La prosa me convence pero los diálogos son terribles. Me temo que sea más por una mala traducción que por ...more
Vitani Days
Che romanzo! Non me l'aspettavo! Decadente fino al midollo, morboso, romantico! Esattamente quello che piace a me. E in più, parla di esseri il cui sesso è tanto indefinito da confondersi e confondere. Un romanzo in cui l'amore verso la Bellezza conta più di qualsiasi cosa, in cui la Bellezza diviene ossessione, diviene malattia. La storia di due diavoli, o forse di due angeli, che tendono alla "distruzione del proprio sesso", fino alla paranoia, alla devastazione. Una meraviglia.
Sep 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Rachilde was a fascinating figure in the Symbolist/Decadent crowd in Paris at the turn of the last century. The wife of the publisher of the influential Mercure, close friend to Alfred Jarry, she was known for going about cross-dressed, and for writing works that upended traditional notions of gender. "Monsieur Venus" is perhaps the prime example of such things. The main character, a woman named Raoule, accidentally meets a very beautiful young man, and becomes enamored of him, despite the huge ...more
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
Intriguing gender subversion, but the characters were not particularly engaging. I found it difficult to relate to or empathize with most of them because they were fairly one-dimensional and kind of nasty. The only facet that I enjoyed was the sexual and gender playfulness.
Jul 16, 2016 rated it liked it
If I were to use a single word to describe this book it will be unsatisfying or maybe insufficient. It is the type of book you rate 3* because deals with taboo issues, made such a rumpus when it was published, was banned; you know, issues you care about, and not because you really enjoyed it.
It is build on the familiar frame of rich lady taking as a lover a young and poor man. That in itself can pass as outrageous for some, but if you are familiar with French costumes and French literature it's
Catherine Siemann
Dec 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: victorians
I've listed this with Victorians because it's 19th century, but it's a clear example of why the French were so very *not* Victorian. The story of Raoule de Venerande, an wealthy aristocratic woman who makes Jacques Silvert, a poor young maker of artificial flowers into her "mistress," the novel is full of fascinating gender play and performativity, with the two characters slipping fluidly between gender roles. It features one of the most disturbing endings I've ever read.

I rather regret buying
Feb 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Fantastic retelling of the classic Pygmalion story. A dashing and modern heiress remakes a poor artisan into something fit for high society. But, y'know, with a dark, edgy side. In this nearly perfect experiment in gender role reversal, even the macho officer Raittolbe comes down with the vapors. As the mytharc behind the story goes, its 20-year-old author had secretly read Sade in her uncle's library.

Like others here, I read this in an anthology (reviewed at
Jun 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: decadent-fiction
Raoule de Venerande, a young woman from an ancient noble family, has a taste for cross-dressing as well as fairly exotic sexual appetites. Her meeting with a poverty-stricken florist and would-be painter gives her the opportunity to indulge her tastes to the full. Jacques Silvert is a passive young man to begin with and is therefore ideal for Raoule’s purposes. She sets him up in a studio and begins an affair with him, but she is to be the man in the relationship while he is to be the woman. But ...more
"My friend," she said in a voice that trembled all at once with forced gaiety and contained passion, "I warn you I shall become drunk, because my tale cannot be told in the accents of reason, you would not understand it!"

"Ah! Very well!" muttered Raittolbe. "Then I shall contrive to keep my own head!"

Then he emptied a flagon of sauterne into an ornately chased drinking-cup. They considered one another for a moment. To prevent himself from losing his temper, Raittolbe was compelled to acknowledge
Oz Ortega
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quizás en estos días del Fin de los Tiempos ya nada nos sorprende, pero es entendible que un texto como este haya causado revuelo cuando fue publicado en 1884. Travestismo,juegos de roles de género,sadismo,prostitución y "drogas"son mezclados con diálogos ingeniosos que llegan a ser incluso "filosóficos" y con sensuales descripciones de los ambientes "exóticos" de los salones parisinos del Fin de siècle. Considerar que fue escrito por una muchachita de solo 22 años es un punto muy favorable. No ...more
Steven Felicelli
Nov 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
had this on my readlist forever and finally read it - it's authentically transgressive (still - was written in late 19th Century) - Rachilde turns gender power-structure on its head without lapsing into easy feminism

this is a strange and violent book (if occasionally over-the-top, melodramatic) - surprised she's not a bigger name (yet - soon maybe) and that no one's made a film version of this book
Katie Petersen
Dec 01, 2008 rated it liked it
I appreciate this book from a purely scholastic point of view. It wasn't the most well-structured or entertaining read but definitely interesting. More simply put, I could write endless papers about this novel but would only give a lukewarm recommendation of it to someone not actively involved in the study of 19th century French literature or Gender and Women's Studies.
Feb 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
A wealthy, aristocratic woman discovers a starving artist and literally makes him her bitch. Students of Eve Sedgwick take note, this novel is rife with gender performativity and intriguing sexual reversals. And it has a supremely creepy ending.
Akila Ally
Nov 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Extremely entertaining even when you dislike the protagonist. Touches on gender fluidity, the question of biological essentialism - gender identity vs sexual orientation and how they contrast or overlap.
Dany Salvatierra
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Resulta inquietante que la autora haya tenido 20 años al escribir el texto y que lo haya publicado en 1884, adelantándose a su época al derribar los roles de género y poner sobre el tapete el travestismo y la pansexualidad. Irrepetible.
Oct 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
One of the more incredible studies of gender and class I've ever encountered.
Disturbing but well written
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Rachilde was the nom de plume of Marguerite Vallette-Eymery, a French author who was born February 11, 1860 in Périgueux, Périgord, Dordogne, Aquitaine, France during the Second French Empire and died in April 4, 1953.
She is considered to be a pioneer of anti-realistic drama and a participant in the Decadent movement.
Rachilde was married to Alfred Vallette.
“I have never been loved enough to gain the desire of reproducing a being in the image of my lover and I have never been given enough pleasure so that my brain has not had the leisure to seek better...I have wanted the impossible...” 61 likes
“All monsters have their fits of depression.” 28 likes
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