‘The Pain of Being and Not Being You’: Passion, Desire, and Queer Reading Encounters in Maria-Mercè Marçal’s La passió segons Renée Vivien


  • Aleksandra Gocławska SWPS Uniwersytet Humanistyczno-Społeczny



Palabras clave:

Contemporary Catalan Literature, Queer Studies, Literary Encounters, Translation, Lesbian Writing


La passió segons Renée Vivien is the only novel written by the Catalan poet Maria-Mercè Marçal. A novel of many novels, a collage of many languages and genres, by its very form it constantly and systemically dilutes the figure of the author and that of the narrator. Structured around a mysterious manuscript of a screenplay around the life of Renée Vivien, the book seems to problematize the ontology of a literary text. In my paper, I look at the conceptualization of the reading encounter in the novel, as illustrated by the passionate, yet spectral relationship between one of the main narrators, Sara T., and Vivien, an English-born author who wrote in French in the fin-de-siècle Paris, and whose life and work Sara studies. I read the novel in the context of the reader reception theory, as understood by Roman Ingarden, and later Umberto Eco and Italo Calvino. The places of indetermination in Vivien’s life, rather than abstract entities, are political, as Vivien’s disorienting, lesbian life –the backbone of the novel’s plot – has been subjected to systemic silencing and ‘straightening’ by her biographers. Marçal points to certain, socially determined, standardized patterns of filling in the silences of a literary text, patterns that are often a result of a heteronormative and patriarchal bias. The text, rather than a machine, is conceptualized as a site of a passionate encounter between the author and the reader, a destabilizing, queer romance as a result of which the reader’s self may, as Emma Wilson has put it, ‘be re-viewed and identification may thus precede, endorse, or disrupt a fiction of stable identity’ (Wilson, 1996: 5).

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Cómo citar

Gocławska, Aleksandra. 2023. «‘The Pain of Being and Not Being You’: Passion, Desire, and Queer Reading Encounters in Maria-Mercè Marçal’s La Passió Segons Renée Vivien». Studia Iberystyczne 23 (diciembre):89-113. https://doi.org/10.12797/SI.23.2023.23.04.