An Analysis of ROBERTE CE SOIR and THE REVOCATION OF THE EDICT OF NANTES (Pierre Klossowski) by Joseph Suglia
Roberte ce soir and The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes: two religious-erotic/erotic-religious novels from one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, Pierre Klossowski.
Roberte ce soir: Who is Roberte? To her nephew, Antoine, she is an austere and prepossessing older sister. To her husband, Octave, she is an infuriatingly beguiling hostess. To any guest who traverses the threshold of their home, she is an open receptacle for virility–strangely inaccessible and accessible at once. But Roberte is nothing, strictly speaking, in herself: She is a ceaselessly multiplying play of masks. Her self-multiplications enlarge infinitely. Purely mutative, purely transformative—who is she, really, in herself, if not a series of duplicates? To every man she encounters, she is the replica of his desires.
Her sin, according to Octave (and the narrative!), is to have separated the spirit from the body. She is both atheist (exclusive of the spirit) and a censor (exclusive of physicality). Quite appropriately, the prose is, at times, erotically informed (emblematical of the body); at others, theologically informed (emblematical of the spirit).
The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes: In this second novel, Roberte speaks in her own language. We see her free from the one-sided interpretations that men have imposed upon her. No, she never separates the word from the flesh. She is word and flesh at once; like Klossowski’s God, she is eminently communicable, absolutely self-transformative, the hypostatical union of three-in-one. And she never denied God, only the idol that men have made of God (God as an immutable and incommunicable substance).
The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes revokes every hypothesis that might be imposed on Roberte, Klossowski’s muse and God. Like a tableau vivant (a living painting, a human sculpture), she dangles silently in space.
In both of these absolutely remarkable books, theological digressions and eroticism dovetail into a seamless flow of language. Together, they form a metaphysics of the flesh.
Klossowski, my neighbor.