Architecture, socialism and De Sade
I had only fleeting thoughts of the Marquis de Sade when I was writing my Boyabuse stories. He is not a favourite writer of mine. I had read 120 Days of Sodom, along with other smuggled writings in my twenties, but only for prurient interest. Racy writings in those days were usually circulated with the "interesting" passages already marked. I found 120 Days to be pretty gross and more of a curiousity. I completely failed to get any literary enlightenment out of this or any of the other stuff that was passed around in those days. The eroticism was pretty irrelevant to this young man still desperately seeking, but not really trying to lose his "virginity". Unfortunately it never occurred to me that other males could count as sex! And besides I still retained some moral prejudices. I did get from de Sade the idea that one could write about such things. Nobody else did but they could. Some might claim that I picked up a cognitive distortion. Only much later, I think after reading Simone de Bouvoir's essay, Must We Burn de Sade? did I have anything more than a pornographic appreciation of the Marquis.
My favourite adolescent sado-erotica was the tales of boys in Ancient Sparta. I imagined my middle school classmates and myself in their roles. Since then on several occasions I have looked up information on Spartan society, and other past and present exotic cultures with "interesting" sexual and fortitudinous rites. I have developed a deeper interest in ethnology and cultural anthropology as a result. I would make at least a weak claim that literary appreciation can evolve out of pornographic interest. As they say about the Harry Potter books; it gets kids reading.
In de Sade at the literal level I read him, I saw absolutism along with the libertinage. One just tortured, raped and killed. Objectification? As a child my fears were primal? Why didn't the strong simply kill the weak. Why was I allowed to live? I had no concept of socialization, or politics, or escape from the omniscient authority, God. An Anglican God was my prototype. From an early age I knew I had bad thoughts. I had feelings and ideas which were antagonistic to authority which I might act on if I became strong. They didnt know and I was allowed to live, and authority, despite its injustices and stupidity could be good. I knew no alternative.
The ugly, bleak brick school buildings and the physically beautiful children in my classes were for me a metaphor for society. Something was wrong. A childish socialism beckoned as a political religion but I was not devout. Soon however I had hairs down there and other priorities polluted my rebellious idealism. But I saw modernism, socialism and human betterment in architecture. The "Architectural Revolution" of the early Twentieth Century, the rejection, zero tolerance ideally, of all classical, revivalist and whimsical embellishment, and ornamentation, inspired me, and made me intolerant. I saw decadence in any retro acknowledgements. Detail, ornamentation and craftsmanship, once the product of artisans skill, was now hopelessly debased by mass industrial production. The architectural revolution as I saw it became my prototype for progress. I saw beauty in surfaces, especially pristine white surfaces and dark flush windows. I adored the authoritarian urban schemes of Le Corbusier, "Sun, Space & Greenery", and the reductionist designs of Walter Gropius became my ideal. When "form follows function" came along I thought it was so incisive, so right on. We must start again, and in the "International Style", the Bauhaus, Tel Aviv, early Soviet examples. I found Dutch Modern stodgy and impure, and 1930s American skyscrapers as too pretentious and, well, decadent.
At fourteen I applied Le Courbusier's concept of "La Ville Radieuse" to downtown Victoria, British Columbia. At Pussers Corner" (Yates & Douglas) where in the 1940s zoot suiters rumbled with sailors, and us kids who wore draped pants worried about getting beat up, I had a cloverleaf interchange amidst a park surrounded high rise slabs. I could as well have continued my previous omnipotent religion nonsense.
But it was an external, exogamous ideal, brimming with altruism that did not relate to the me I was uncertain about. My socialism followed my understanding of the "architectural revolution". With an eye to ideological correctness I examined each new building going up in Victoria for signs of the revolution's progress. In the 1940s and 50s the excesses of revivalism seemed blunted and the decadence of Art Nouveau was reduced to clumsy motifs. However, the pure functionalism and elemental beauty of the International Style were missing. Politics wasn't pure either but at least the direction was clear to me. My early socialism wanted to replace the ugly urban environment with one to match the clean fresh, physical beauty of children. No more bleak brick but a pristine new school. My later socialism wanted equality and justice enforced, believing one could have both.
There was no place for de Sade in my socialism, or architectural dreams. Or sex for that matter. Having my fantasy of fortitudinous Spartan boys I realized I was a pervert of sorts, and having been brought up on the germ theory the least I could do was not to infect others. I was lonely and tried to be normal, and tried to dream of a bungalow with an apple tree in the yard.
Architecture, Socialism and de Sade
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