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Toni Bentley THE SURRENDER in Bibliotheques

Revue de l’association des bibliothécaires de france

Toni Bentley, Ma Reddition (The Surrender), trad. Isabelle D. Phillipe, La Musardine, coll. “Lectures amoureuses”, 2007, 256 p.
By Philippe Levreaud, editor-in-chief, Bibiliothèque(s)
December 2008

(Translated by Rakesh Satyal from the French)

If a thought proves its worth by a test of the real; if the real takes no other form but by way of reflection; if, finally, writing – art – is what allows all existence, in the strictest sense, to find its completion and make of that completion an experience of liberty; then Toni Bentley’s book, which responds to all of these demands, will be in turn, for those who discover it, an occasion for a true literary experience.

The author, who was chosen by Balanchine to dance for ten years at the New York City Ballet, has already published four books on her art, of which one, WINTER SEASON: A DANCER’S JOURNAL, was translated by École des loisirs in 1983. Dance was for her a school of demands and an experience of suffering and of mixed beauty – premises for the fundamental erotic syllogism that is the unique subject of this book: sodomy revealed as the supreme path to transcendence.

In riotous language that delivers precisely, with aphoristic economy and mischievous familiarity, a language of absolute frankness, the author has written a masterpiece that, in narrating the venture as closely as possible, searching under its seemingly trivial appearance, could be like the modern-day Kierkegaard of EITHER/OR, from which came the DIARY OF A SEDUCER: the asshole would be a shortcut by which one accomplishes directly a jumping of the aesthetic hurdle (“vaginas for babies; assholes for art”) to the religious stage (“How to detach oneself,” she says in conclusion, “from the best thing that one has ever known for the hope of something better? By a foolish and illogical leap of faith.”) Far from Bataille, where sexuality is often nothing but a game of theory, the metaphysical is made here, piece by piece, physical. All of the confrontations of the soul and body are keys to the lock, for anal sex is the place where truths switch: it is open to dialecticians, in love with truth to the point of renouncing their magic tool for paradox (“is anal sex still sex?”), who, ecstasy revealed, know that it is still necessary, like the “knight of faith” of the great Dane, to reconcile with the world and return to their affairs. Once again, it’s the language that says it all. Biting irony, its relentless rigor heightened by the crudest words, makes this book, pure and biting, one by a philosopher-artist of which Nietzsche would have dreamed, one who creates by experiencing.

Toni Bentley in the New York Times Book Review

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