[pseud. ROBBE-GRILLET, Catherine] de BERG, Jean

The Image

New York: Grove Press, 1966

8vo, pp. 143. Original off-white boards, lettered in black on spine. Previous owner's name ('John Thomas'...) to ffep, otherwise a near fine copy with just a little bumping to spine ends, in a near fine, lightly edgeworn dustwrapper.

First US edition, INSCRIBED BY THE AUTHOR ON HALF-TITLE: 'Pour Gregory Stephenson, l'un de mes plus fidèles lecteurs, l'un de mes plus fidèles épistoliers, THE IMAGE [printed], ou l'imaginaire de jeunes femmes qui ne sont pas sages comme des images! Jean de Berg, Paris le 7 avril 2000.' WITH A 2pp. ALS FROM THE AUTHOR LAID IN, DISCUSSING THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE BOOK'S PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGING IT TO BE THE WORK OF HER HUSBAND, ALAIN ROBBE-GRILLET.

This sadomasochistic erotic novel was first published in French by Editions de Minuit in 1956, two years after The Story of O. It carried a preface by 'P.R', widely identified at the time as Pauline Réage, O's author. It was many years before it became clear that both L'Image and its preface had been written pseudonymously -- and in one case doubly pseudonymously. 'Pauline Réage' was finally unmasked as Anne Declos in 1994 -- but wasn't the author of this book's preface. As the letter laid in to this copy testifies, it was the work of Catherine Robbe-Grillet's husband, the novelist and film-maker Alain Robbe-Grillet.

Alain and Catherine Robbe-Grillet engaged in a lifelong sadomasochistic relationship, and in 1958 drew up a lengthy contract formalising the exact form of their sexual interaction. Item 3 of the contract is typical:

'The reason for her presence being solely to gratify the husband's vices, he shall treat her accordingly, with relentless harshness and brutality; no consideration whatever shall be taken of the possible enjoyment or otherwise of the young lady herself. She must know that should she find herself fondled or caressed, this will not be for the purposes of imparting to her pleasure of any kind; it shall be merely that the husband desires contact with her flesh. It is, therefore, of little importance whether she experiences pleasure or not; neither, however, is forbidden. The only participation required of her shall be of an intellectual nature: an immediate understanding of all postures and gestures imposed upon her, each of which shall be undertaken to the husband's entire satisfaction.'

In her letter Catherine encloses a photocopied extract from her husband's autobiography Le Miroir Qui Revient(1985), in which he acknowledges authorship of the preface, and explains Catherine's anonymity as author:

'Catherine....avait publié chez Minuit, sous pseudonyme pour ne pas y mêler le nom de ses parents, un joli récit érotique, bref et net, qui s'appelait L'Image, fort influencé par mes propres goûts sexuels, mais sans doute aussi par le roman de Pauline Réage et d'ailleurs dédié à celle-ci. J'avais moi-même écrit un préface, froidement signée du nom désormais illustre de cet auteur clandestin à l'identité problématique.'

Catherine's letter, dated 11 October 1995, confirms the details in her husband's book, and talks of her intimate connection to the sexual psychologies of her fictional creations:

'L'Imageétait, au départ, une fiction où je me sentais très proche d'Anne. Cette fiction est devenue réalité, bien des années plus tard, et j'y ai joué le rôle de Claire.'

A unique and revealing collection of material relating to the history of one of the key texts in French erotica.

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