Celebrating Obscurity: “The Necrophiliac” by Gabrielle Wittkop
I would never have encountered Gabrielle Wittkop, or her symphonic poem of a novella, The Necrophiliac, were it not for the serendipity of meeting its translator, Don Bapst. Bapst, an American-Canadian filmmaker, screenwriter, novelist, and poet, translated The Necrophiliac into English in 2011 (ECW Press, Toronto). The translation, heralded as a “masterpiece” by Nicolas Lazard of The Guardian, has provided English-language readers an incomparable entrée into the sensual, poetic, and genre-blending genius of Wittkop’s astonishing prose. The story—to reassure those readers already squinting their eyes against assumed revolting or gratuitously shocking material—is shaped as diary entries by the protagonist, Lucien, an exile of Renaissance intelligence and refined aesthetic discernment, whose beguiling sexual fluidity and emotional loyalty happen to find their fulfillment in a series of affairs with recently-deceased women, girls, men, and boys.