(Dis)comforts: The place of hospitality in queer storytelling

Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands / La Frontera (1987) provides a rousing starting point for our thinking of the queer experience of discomfort. Writing on her time teaching at a New England college, Anzaldúa tells the story of how “a few lesbians threw the more conservative heterosexual students into a panic”.[1] One of these students, she writes, claimed to have mistook the word “homophobia” for a “fear of going home after a residency”.[2] She reflects on this: “But how apt. We’re afraid of being abandoned by the mother, la Raza, for being unacceptable, faulty, damaged. Most of us unconsciously believe that if we reveal this unacceptable aspect of the self our mother/culture/race will totally reject us”.[3]

This fear of “total rejection” reveals the double irony implicit to familiar scenes of hospitality – that is, of the hostility that always undergirds hospitality as we know it. There is an etymological point to be made here as well: the word “hospitality”, coming from the Indo-European word ghosti, shares its roots with the term “hostile”. Ghosti, if it isn’t already immediately obvious, is also where we derive the word “ghost”. The queer ghost – the one that haunts Anzaldúa’s text – exists always at the juncture of this uncertainty. It might not be rejected, but it isn’t exactly welcome either.

Paintings by Andrea Fiorino

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Bisexuality as ‘choice’ in Cyril Collard’s Les Nuits Fauves

The French novelist Cyril Collard was well known for his unapologetic depictions of bisexuality in art and literature. One of my favourite examples – and perhaps his most challenging – is his 1989 novel, Les Nuits Fauves.

I will here refer to English translation of the novel – released as “Savage Nights” in the United Kingdom – as a way of addressing the main arcs and characters of the story. If possible, I would recommend picking up the original French version for any closer textual analyses. It should also be noted that Les Nuits Fauves comes in a long line of successful French novels published on the subject of the AIDS crisis throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s (once popularised by efforts to push and publish “marginal” writers in France and then later canonised as novel-writing under the umbrella genre “sida-roman”).[1]

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Les Nuits Fauves (Film adaption still, 1992) by Cyril Collard

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