Published in 1899, Escal-Vigor by Belgian author Georges Eekhoud offers an original portrayal of homosexuality at the turn of the century. Preceding Gide, Eekhoud writes a novel entirely devoted to a love story between two men. Interestingly, their tragic destiny is counterbalanced by a formidable enthusiasm inscribed in a final message of hope and faith. Homosexuality is characterized as an "absolute religion," and, in his novel, Eekhoud clearly aims to convert and reform his readers. This unusual and controversial vision of homosexuality is unambiguously articulated in the novel's denouement, when Henry de Kehlmark and his lover Guidon Govaertz are sacrificed by the inhabitants of the island where they had sought refuge. This ending, mirroring the common association in Western cultures between ideal love and death, makes use metaphorically of the legendary figures of Orpheus, Saint Sebastian, and Saint Blandina to instill the revelation of a new religion. The homosexual martyrs are equated with Christlike figures, whose wounded flesh becomes an object of adoration and, ultimately, reformation. Haunted by the necessity to legitimate his sexual orientation, Eekhoud offers in Escal-Vigor an interesting alternative to the moral condemnation of homosexuals in Christian societies, exemplifying a dual tendency between romantic idealism and the awakening of a political consciousness. (In French) (pc)


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pp. 371-386
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