Debra Dragovich, “Amazon’s dictionary”, in New Women’s Times Feminist Review, 29 février – 13 mars, 1980, p. 4.

In Lesbian Peoples: Material for a Dictionary by Monique Wittig and Sande Zeig, there is no definition for “Utopia”. But that is exactly what this highly imaginative work defines.

Lesbian Peoples is a good companion “reference” to Wittig’s other explorations of mythical lesbian communities — Les Guérillres and Lesbian body. Wittig noted in the preface to that novel :

Are women who live among themselves by themselves and for themselves at all the generally accepted levels: fictional, symbolic, actual. Because we are illusionary for traditional male culture we make no distinction between the three levels. Our reality is the fictional as it is socially accepted, our symbols deny the traditional symbols and are fictional for traditional male culture, and we possess an entire fiction into which we project ourselves and which is already a possible reality. It is our fiction that validates us.

The Amazons of Lesbian Body are Companon Lovers in Lesbian Peoples, but the blending of fictional, symbolic and actual that denies traditional male culture is still evident.

Lesbian Peoples is written in the form of an ultra-abridged dictionary. It defines a utopian Glorious Age and how the lesbian peoples arrived at it through the “dark ages” of their history.

Bit by bit, we learn about the Glorious Age which is current and world-wide. Its participants are not bound by written laws ; there are only some “suggestions” inspired by word of mouth or through migratory birds. Physical time in the Glorious Age is not mechanically divided late sleeping and waking hours; sleep can occur at any moment. Idleness is esteemed and torpos is widely practiced, often by hanging in a tree sack. There is work and there is war: however, submission to work is avoided, and war — well, the only wars with any charm are wars of love.

There are innumerable colonies of companions Lovers (“these who, violently desiring one another, live/love in peoples, following the verses of Sappho.”) Some of these colonies are arboreal, some are colonies of giantesses. Many companions lovers decorate their bodies with scars in the shapes of flowers, trees, birds, or geometrical designs; some companion lovers grow for on their skin. White-skinned companion Lovers are very few in the Glorious Age, since everyone is able to choose the color of her skin, and white-skinned companion lovers are deemed to look and smell like cadavers.

According to these lexicographers, the history of the lesbian peoples started in a terrestrial garden peopled by nomadic amazons, in a time of harmony and plently, known as the Golden Age. After dissension between the amazons occurred, caused initially by the institution of cities, many amazons became “Mothers”, who were permanently enslaved to propagation and the cities.

Various ages of degeneration followed until came the origin of chaos — the Iron Age. More Dark Ages followed until the lesbian peoples entered the present utopia and reclaimed their history.

A Lesbian history is also what this lexicon is about. The authors purport that “The arrangement of the dictionary allows we to eliminate those elements which have distorted our history during the dark ages, from the Iron Age to the Glorious Age…” When there are ancient or moderns references, like Sappho or Patience and Sarah to draw from the lexicographers fill in their history with fantasy or take vast liberties with male history and culture.

Like Wittig’s other novels, the style of Lesbian Peoples — all at once cerebral, sensual and fantastic — is not for everyone. But it is original, and if one is able to become involved in its fantasy, very beautiful. There is also a good measure of humor, often revolving around a play on words: “Vandyke — During the Concrete Age this name designated all lesbians. It meant that they were of the vanguard. The companion lovers agree that all the lesbians before the Glorious Age were Vandykes.”

And, in answer to the age-old question of how a lesbian utopia is able to propagate its species: it is done, “By the war.”

 

Source : Debra Dragovich, “Amazon’s dictionary”, in New Women’s Times Feminist Review, 29 février – 13 mars, 1980, p. 4., retranscrit par Aurore Turbiau sur le carnet Études wittigiennes / Wittig Studies, mis en ligne le 6 février 2022, https://etudeswittig.hypotheses.org/1063.

 


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