Monk Reviews the Amphitheater of the Dead by Guy Hocquenghem

Translated by Max Fox

About a year or two ago I cooked up a string of words to function as promotional slogan for my work, particularly for my business card and table signage at zine & book fairs: “sci-fi magic smut survivor memoir.”

AMPHITHEATER OF THE DEAD is a scifi survivor memoir. It’s set in the year 2018, where the author is still alive thanks to medical technologies that don’t yet exist in the time of his writing. This is the AIDS memoir of a French author most known for his radical leftist critiques of society and intimacy through queer theory. To be honest, I wasn’t too familiar with his work until I realized I had read and underlined the hell out of two translated zines of his several years ago.

So, this book has little to do with the queer theory he’s famous for, and more to do with his life. The subtitle is an anticipated memoir.

Anyway, there’s only one way out this time. To denude myself. Not to undertake but to write, in this state of exaltation which rejuvenates me, to recount my earliest unfulfilled promises, my anguishes, to myself who will disappear. Because this time, I know the next infection will take me.

Published by Guillotine Publishing, AMPHITHEATER OF THE DEAD is an A6-sized little volume not much larger than an adult’s outstretched hand. For this, I like it. And I appreciate the translator’s desire to have this translated, as well as hearing him muse about his experience with the text. I can’t say the content of the text much endeared itself to me, and yet I find myself carrying pieces of queer and trans memoir with me any time I read them. Especially for those that come out of the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

AMPHITHEATER OF THE DEAD reminds me of Lou Sullivan’s selected diaries, WE BOTH LAUGHED IN PLEASURE, in that both books are full of episodic memories of moments in time, and both books simply end because the author has left the mortal realm.

This is a form of time travel.