Gay Lit in different eras- VIC


My suggestions for our May meetup is to compare and contrast 2 queer romance novels with rather different settings: E.M. Forster's classic novel Maurice (written in 1913/1914, published in 1970) and Swimming in the Dark by Polish novelist Tomasz Jedrowski. A gold coin donation of $2-3 per attendee would be much appreciated to cover my meetup fees of approx. $30/month. :)

Completed in 1914, Maurice is a condemnation of the repressive attitudes of British society and a plea for emotional and sexual honesty. Aware that its publication would cause a furore, Forster ensured that it did not appear until after his death in 1970. At university Maurice Hall begins a clandestine affair with Clive Durham. Things get complicated when they approach graduation and discover they have very different goals for the future. Clive does not believe that they can have a future together. Maurice wants to be with Clive–even if they have to live their lives in the shadows to be together. Clive returns to his family home to marry and resume life as a straight man. Maurice is devastated and adrift. He abandons his Christian beliefs, gets a job as a stockbroker to get by, and attempts to get over his love for Clive. When Clive and his wife invite Maurice to their home for a visit, Maurice hopes to convince Clive to return to his arms and forsake the life of lies he has been living - but Clive believes that conforming to society’s view of a man’s role is the secret to happiness. In the end, it is Clive who is unhappy whereas Maurice opens his heart and mind to his own sexual identity and goes against the grain of society’s often unspoken rules of class, wealth, and politics.

Set in early 1980s Poland against the violent decline of communism, Swimming in the Dark is a tender and passionate story of first love between two young men who eventually find themselves on opposite sides of the political divide. When university student Ludwik meets Janusz at a summer agricultural camp, he is fascinated yet wary of this handsome, carefree stranger. But a chance meeting by the river soon becomes an intense, exhilarating, and all-consuming affair. Inhabiting a beautiful natural world removed from society and its constraints, Ludwik and Janusz fall deeply in love. But in their repressive communist and Catholic society, the passion they share is utterly unthinkable. Once they return to Warsaw, the charismatic Janusz quickly rises in the political ranks of the party and is rewarded with a highly-coveted position in the ministry. Ludwik is drawn toward impulsive acts of protest, unable to ignore rising food prices and the stark economic disparity around them. Their secret love and personal and political differences slowly begin to tear them apart as both men struggle to survive in a regime on the brink of collapse. Shifting from the intoxication of first love to the quiet melancholy of growing up and growing apart, Swimming in the Dark is a potent blend of romance, post-war politics, intrigue, and history.

Date: 15 May, 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Venue: The White Rabbit Record Bar
Address: 176 Bellair St, Kensington VIC 3031 · Melbourne
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