Queer Lives: Men’s Autobiographies from Nineteenth-Century France
Edited and translated by William A. Peniston and Nancy Erber
University of Nebraska Press. 270 pages, $27.95
THIS NEW BOOK of readings assembles eight autobiographical narratives written by late 19th- and early 20th-century Frenchmen (and one Italian) who were attracted to men, providing readable translations and just enough footnotes to answer obvious questions without slowing down the reading. The result is a collection of texts that gives us considerable insight into how a diverse cross-section of Western European men saw themselves and their same-sex attraction at a time when science and medicine were just beginning to explore these issues.
Granted, as with any autobiographical narrative, one can always ask if these men told the whole truth and nothing but the truth.