The Image by Jean de Berg ; Translated from the French by Patsy Southgate; Preface by Pauline Reage
New York : Grove Press, 1966. Third printing. Hardcover. 143 pages ; 20 cm. $5.00 dust jacket. Water stain to dust jacket verso. Light water stain to back cover board. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.
The Image by Jean de Berg
Preface by Pauline Reage
Translated by Patsy Southgate
Approximately two years after Story of O was published in Paris, there appeared another novel—TImage—similar to it in many ways. The later book bore a preface by Pauline R6age, the author of 0, whose real identity had been, and still is, cloaked in mystery. In her Introductory comments on The Image, Miss Reage obviously relished the opportunity to speculate in turn on the real identity of her fellow-author:
"Who is Jean de Berg? This question gives me a chance to have some fun at guessing games. I doubt that a man could be responsible for this volume. It sides far too often with the women's point of view."
Today, a decade after these words were written, no one knows for sure whether Jean de Berg is the pseudonym of male or female. The most persistent rumor would have it that The Image was the effort of a collaboration between one of France's leading novelists and his wife or mistress, while another rumor, almost as stubborn, claims authorship for Pauline Reage herself.
Published in 1956 in a small three thousand copy edition by Les Editions de Minuit, the leading avant-garde publisher in France during the past twenty years, The image sold out its first printing in a matter of days. Before a second printing could be readied, however, the French censors banned the work. This American edition is the first publication of the novel anywhere since that time.
Like O, The Image is a love story of an unconventional sort. The three protagonists are a man who bears the same name as that of the author, and two women: Claire, domineering and coldly self-possessed, and Anne, who is as docile as she is young. The developing and shifting relationships among them demonstrate the essential, inescapable complicity between master and slave, torturer and victim, in any affair.
In her Preface, Miss Reage considers that The Image is about not three but two people: "Like all love stories, this one is about two people. But, in the beginning, one of them is divided in half: one part offering itself up, the other inflicting punishment." Thus Anne would be but the other face of Claire, her mirror-image. "Are these not the two faces of our peculiar sex," concludes Miss Reage, "which gives itself to others, yet is conscious only of itself?"
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