Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dominique Fernandez, Gay Académicien

On 13 December, the Académie Française received an openly gay member who had been elected in March.

The Académie Française, or the French Academy was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. It consists of forty members, known as immortels (immortals). New members are elected by the members of the Académie itself. Académicians hold office for life, but they may be removed for misconduct. The body has the task of acting as an official authority on the language; it is charged with publishing an official dictionary of the language. Its rulings, however, are only advisory; not binding on either the public or the government.

Académiciens ear a ceremonial uniform which includes a sword. Each members has the handle of his sword sculpted into representing something he or she find important. Author, Dominique Fernandez, 78, chose a representation of Ganymede, a beautiful youth who was abducted to serve as cupbearer to the gods and as Zeus' beloved.

It is also customery for newly received académiciens to make a speech. In his speech, Fernandez defended his father's memory. Literary critic, Ramon Fernandez, supported collaboration with the German during WWII. While findind his political views inexcusable, Fernandez pointedly defended his work as a writer, today forgotten.

Dominique Fernandez also made reference to his sexual orientation while speaking about his love for Italy, a country which "rarely severly chased heretics; heretics of the faith, heretic of the sex". "In Italy, one always feels welcome, always loved, however little one follows the dominant opinion."

Fernandez came out in 1974 with the release of his novel Porporino or, The secrets of Naples for which he won the Prix Médicis (1975). He talked ab out his belated coming out in his autobiography The Pink Star (1978). In 1999, he campaigned in support of PaCS (Civil Partnership) while admitting in The Wolf and the Dog that legal advances weaken the subversive nature of gayness. In 2002, he published A Hidden Love: Art and Homosexuality, a survey of homosexuality in art.

Dominique Fernandez is of course not the first LGBT member of the Académie. The names of Jean Cocteau, Henry de Montherlant, Marguerite Yourcenar (the first woman elected), Julien Green and Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès come to mind.

Dominique Fernandez
Académie Française

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