Story of O

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Story of O  
Cover of a French edition of Histoire d'O featuring Corinne Clery
Author Pauline Réage
Country France
Language French
Genre(s) Erotic novel
Publisher Jean-Jacques Pauvert
Publication date 1954
Media type print
One version of the Roissy triskelion ring described in the book
Movie-style Ring of O, as sold in Europe

Story of O (French: Histoire d'O) is an erotic novel published in 1954 about dominance and submission by French author Anne Desclos under the pen name Pauline Réage.

Desclos did not reveal herself to be the author until four years before her death, 40 years after the initial publication of the book. Desclos said that she had written the novel as a series of love letters to her lover Jean Paulhan[1], who had admired the work of the Marquis de Sade.


[edit] Plot

Published in French by Jean-Jacques Pauvert, éditeur, Story of O is a tale of female submission about a beautiful Parisian fashion photographer, O, who is blindfolded, chained, whipped, branded, pierced, made to wear a mask, and taught to be constantly available for oral, vaginal, and anal intercourse. Despite her harsh treatment, O grants permission beforehand for everything that occurs, and her permission is consistently sought.

At the beginning of the story, O's lover, René, brings her to the château of Roissy, where she is trained to serve the men of an elite group. After this first period of training is finished, as a demonstration of their bond and his generosity, René hands O to Sir Stephen, a more dominant master. René wants O to learn to serve someone whom she does not love, and someone who does not love her. Over the course of this training, O falls in love with Sir Stephen and believes him to be in love with her as well. While her vain friend and lover, Jacqueline, is repulsed by O's chains and scars, O herself is proud of her condition as a willing slave. During the summer, Sir Stephen decides to move O to Samois, an old mansion solely inhabited by women for advanced training and body modifications related to submission. There she agrees to receive a branding and a labia piercing with rings marked with Sir Stephen's initials and insignia. At the climax, O appears as a slave, nude but for an owl-like mask, before a large party of guests who treat her solely as an object.

[edit] Publishing history

In February 1955, Story of O won the French literature prize Prix des Deux Magots, although this did not prevent the French authorities from bringing obscenity charges against the publisher. The charges were rejected by the courts, but a publicity ban was imposed for a number of years.

The first English edition was published by Grove Press, Inc. in 1965. Eliot Fremont-Smith (of the New York Times) called its publishing "a significant event".

A sequel, Retour à Roissy (Return to Roissy, but often translated as Return to the Chateau, Continuing the Story of O), was published in 1969 in French, again with Jean-Jacques Pauvert, éditeur. It was published again in English by Grove Press, Inc., in 1971. It is not known whether this work is by the same author as the original.

A critical view of the novel is that it is about the ultimate objectification of a woman. The heroine of the novel has the shortest possible name, consisting solely of the letter O. Although this is in fact a shortening of the name Odile, it could also stand for "object" or "orifice", an O being a symbolic representation of any "hole".

The book has been the source of various terms that are used in the BDSM subculture such as SAMOIS, the name of the estate belonging to the character Anne-Marie, who brands O.

[edit] Hidden Identities

The author uses a pen name, then later reveals herself under another pen name, before finally, prior to her death, revealing her true identity. Her lover Jean Paulhan writes the preface as if he doesn't know who wrote the book. The translator of the Ballentine edition (US) attributes her skillful translation to being a woman, but it turns out that Sabine D'Estree is actually Richard Seaver.[2]

[edit] Jean Paulhan

Jean Paulhan, who was the author's lover and the person to whom she wrote Story of O in the form of love letters, wrote the preface, "Happiness in Slavery". Paulhan admired the Marquis de Sade's writing and told Desclos that a woman could not write in a similar fashion. Desclos interpreted this as a challenge and wrote the book. Paulhan was so impressed that he sent it to a publisher. Interestingly, in the preface, Paulhan goes out of his way to appear as if he does not know who wrote the book. In one part he says, "But from the beginning to end, the story of O is managed rather like some brilliant feat. It reminds you more of a speech than of a mere effusion; of a letter rather than a secret diary. But to whom is the letter addressed? Whom is the speech trying to convince? Whom can we ask? I don't even know who you are. That you are a woman I have little doubt." (xxiv).[3] Paulhan also explains his own belief that the themes in the book depict the true nature of women. At times, the preface (when read with the knowledge of the relationship between Paulhan and the author), seems to be a continuation of the conversation between them.

Discussing the ending, Paulhan states, "I too was surprised by the end. And nothing you can say will convince me that it is the real end. That in reality (so to speak) your heroine convinces Sir Stephen to consent to her death".

[edit] Adaptations

[edit] Mainstream

French director Henri-Georges Clouzot wanted to adapt the novel to film for many years. It was eventually adapted by director Just Jaeckin in 1975 as Histoire d'O (English: The Story of O), starring Corinne Clery and Udo Kier. The film met with far less acclaim than the book. It was banned in the United Kingdom by the British Board of Film Censors until February 2000.

In 1975, American director Gerard Damiano, well-known for Deep Throat (1972) and The Devil in Miss Jones (1973) created the movie The Story of Joanna, highly influenced by the Story of O, by combining the motifs from one of the book's chapters and from Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit.

In 1979, Danish director Lars von Trier made the short movie entitled Menthe—la bienheureuse, as an homage to Story of O.

A Brazilian miniseries in 10 episodes with Claudia Cepeda was made in 1992 by director Eric Rochat, who was the producer of the original 1975 movie.

In 1975, it was adapted for comics by the Italian artist Guido Crepax. It was parodied for comics (both the original and Crepax' adaptation) in 2007 by Charles Alverson and John Linton Roberson.

[edit] Documentary

Writer of O, a 2004 documentary film by Pola Rapaport, mixed interviews with re-enactments of certain scenes from the book.

In the documentary, the real author of Histoire D'O, Dominique Aury (also a pen name) talks about the book, A Girl in Love. This book was written about how The Story of O was written.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ I wrote the story of O | By genre | Books
  2. ^
  3. ^ Story of O, Ballentine Books

[edit] External links

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