THE ORIGINS OF
THE ORIGINS OF O
"O is... little more than... a shadow that
murmers in the night." - Pauline Reage
I would like to share with you a set of photographs from a 1936 issue of PARIS Magazine which has been passed to me as a "too good to be true" origin of Pauline Reage's STORY OF O. It is of course pure conjecture that such a sequence of photographs in one slim volume may have inspired the writing of Histoire d'O but it is not unreasonable that this magazine or booklets like it, may well have been amongst the collection of erotica that Dominique Aury discovered in her father's library when she was fourteen or fifteen years of age, and may well have served as a way forward when Aury's lover Jean Paulhan, whom she had first met in the early years of the war, challenged her to write the novel she had proposed. John de St-Jorre explains, "She read The Decameron, The Letters of a Portuguese Nun, Les Liasons Dangereuses (her favourite) and other books. When her father found out, instead of punishing her, he explained the facts of life to her with elaborate diagrams. An older girl-friend then proposed a meeting with a male cousin who would give a more practical demonstration."
Dominique Aury, having received a bilingual education and discovered at an early age the works of Shakespeare, Kipling, Virginia Woolf, Laclos and Fene, was a voracious reader. She read Proust in the French, Shakespeare in the English, the Bible, Baudelaire, Villon, her father's hidden editions of Boccaccio and Crebillon, Malherbe, Bertaut, the English Gothic writers, Fenelon's mystical writings, and as a child religious manuals given by her aunt, and devotional books illustrating the tortures of the martyred saints. Aury did not however, read De Sade until after she had written Histoire d'O and in Confessions of O she maintains that it was not only books that, "provoked my fantasies; my fantasies are much more autonomous... those underground tales relate in a curious way to the fantasy world I created beneath the garden of the house I lived in as a little girl..."
Appropriate text from Story of O: "Another version of the same beginning was simpler, more direct: similarly dressed, the young woman was taken off in a car by her lover and by a second man, an unknown friend of his... and after about thirty minutes drive, she was helped out of the car and marched a few steps..."
Appropriate text from Story of O: "He told her that, to begin with, she must not think of herself as free. From now on, that is to say, she was not free; or rather she was free in on sense, only in one: to stop loving him and to leave him immediately. But if she did love him, if she was going to, then she was not free at all..."
"From the first day, O had shared the life led in that house. a life of absolute and mandatory idleness relieved by monotonous distractions. The girls were free to take walks in the garden, to read, to draw, to play cards... In the evening, Anne-Marie designated one of them as her bed-companion for the night..." ( from Story of O )
"Who am I, finally, if not the long silent part of someone, the secret
and nocturnal part... which communicates through the subterranean depths
of the imaginary with dreams as old as the world itself - ?" - Pauline Reage
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