Saturday, 18 July 2015

10 libertine and risqué novels you just have to read

If you are an avid reader, like I am, then you really need to check out these libertine and risqué novels. Strictly speaking, the libertine novel had its origins in France. Its heyday ended with the French Revolution. However, there are many brilliantly written novels from other parts of the world, each of which touch on the same subject matter. Here's my top ten selection, which should grace every avid readers shelves.

The 120 days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade

Where to begin?  He wrote this book in 37 days, whilst locked up in the Bastille in 1785 for sexual deviancy and blasphemy. His name is the reason we have the word 'sadist'. He wrote many other books, some just as scurrilous as this one. 120 days remains a work of supreme endeavour. You do not want to leave this off your shelf.
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Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery by John Wilmot, the Second Earl of Rochester

Sodom is an obscene closet drama published in 1684 and attributed to the randy old Earl of Rochester (played, quite wonderfully in the film Libertine, by Johnny Depp). In the play, the king is called Bolloxinian and the queen, Cuntigratia. Aside from the obvious, the play is actually also a satire on the court of Charles II and his toleration of the Catholic Church.

Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland 

Even randy little James Boswell called this book 'a most licentious and inflaming book'.  Ever since its publication in 1749, it has been shrouded in mystery and controversy. It was written whilst he was in debtors prison. It is one of the most prosecuted and banned books of all time.
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The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

Moll Flanders was one of the first novels written almost as social commentary. It follows poor Moll through her career in crime and prostitution, and her eventual transportation to the colony of Virginia.
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The Story of O by Pauline Réage 

An absolute classic of the erotic genre. Precedes Fifty Shades, and is way better, by 57 years. A beautiful young French woman, her lover. A splendid mansion near Paris. An elite secret society. Sexual fantasies abound.
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Lady Chatterley's Lover by DH Lawrence

DH Lawrence wrote, “I want men and women to be able to think about sex, fully, completely, honestly, and cleanly,”  in his introduction to Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The first edition was privately printed in Italy, and it wasn't available at all in the USA until 1959 - and yet it is undoubtably a classic.

Torture Garden by Octave Mirbeau

 Torture Garden

Mirbeau was a French journalist and playwright. The Torture Garden was published in 1899 at the height of the Dreyfus affair. The book sought to expose the corruption of colonialism and civilisation, wrapped up in deliciously tortuous S&M, all of which takes place in a beautiful Chinese garden. Not for the faint at heart.
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The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Photo: Kate Chopin

First published in 1899, The Awakening was contentious, right from the start. It explored female sexual desire and feminism. Insofar as it is almost exactly the same story as Ibsen's The Doll's House, it suffered from having been written by a woman who had already scaled literary heights. The Chicago Times Herald said of it: "It was not necessary for a writer of so great refinement and poetic grace to enter the over-worked field of sex-fiction".
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The Well of Loneliness by Radcliffe Hall  

When this novel came out in 1928, the then editor of the Sunday Express said that he would 'rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel." That said, there is only one, rather obtuse, sexual reference in it. Few critics rate it as a classic novel, however, it is a classic in terms of storyline, being the first novel of its kind to explore Lesbianism. Read The Guardian's report here
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Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Tropic of Cancer was "notorious for its candid sexuality". Published in 1934 in Paris, it was banned in the States and led to obscenity trials in the 1960s. It was not banned in the UK but the only copies that could be had were smuggled in. 
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Read Angela Elliott's book, The Finish, which is first in the Venus Squared series of novels about an 18th century Covent Garden prostitute on AmazonKobo,  ibooks and Google Play

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