There is a tendency among young writers to construct sentences simply for the sake of using one of their favorite words. I used to do this all the time; any chance I had to make something an autochthon, any time a catafalque might be erected, anything that could be colored puce or slide down a sluice or have to vamoose was good enough for me to bend my plot around it, Aristotelian unities be damned. This is not the sign of a good writer. But at a certain point, like many of the young, I saw the error of my ways and started editing out each and every sentence with any of the above words in it.
I will admit, however, that the above paragraph enacts a kind of apophasis (another favorite word!) claiming I’m not going to talk about something and, in the process of not doing so, managing to talk about it anyway. In telling you I stopped using my favorite words, I found an excuse to use them and so many! But, in fact, that’s what this week’s column is all about. For the problem, you see, is that the literary selection I’ve chosen allows me to use one of my all-time favorite words: polyorchid. Polyorchid, polyorchid, polyorchid, polyorchid, polyorchid, polyorchid . . .
Polyorchid someone who has more than two testicles is not a word you get to throw around all the time. In college, there was a guy famous for having three testicles (and blue hair), and one of my friends had to become a monoorchid some years back (not an un-traumatic experience for him; I decided against sending him a box of Uniball pens), but it is still rare for polyorchids to come up in conversation, or to appear in any kind of decent literature. Pity.
And thus my amusement when I stumbled on this brief narrative in Guillaume Apollinaire’s Les Onze Milles Verges (The Eleven Thousand Penises), one of the pornographic books he wrote for money at the beginning of the century. Despite Apollinaire’s ample poetic gifts (he penned the excellent volume Alcools), his contract smut is little better than any of the prurient pamphlets or “collector’s” edition erotica one could get from the Victorian period on. But the scene below, a classic case of amorously assumed (and briefly mistaken) identity, has a nice twist when the lover proves to have a mere two testicles. There are a lot of literary examples of women not being able to tell who they are having sex with in the dark (not a good sign, I take it), but Apollinaire’s is a comical exception. In this case, it takes more than two to tango.
From Les Onze Milles Verges by Guillaume Apollinaire
Translated by Nina Rootes (translation somewhat modifed)
“The die is cast. I will play the game to the end. Let us continue our explorations.”
He opened another door, which closed automatically behind him. He found himself in a room even darker than the first.
A soft female voice said in French: “Is that you, Fedor?”
“Yes, it’s me, my love!” replied Mony in a low but resolute voice. His heart was pounding like a steam-hammer.
He advanced rapidly towards the sound of the voice and came across a bed. There was a woman lying on it, fully clothed. She embraced Mony passionately, darting her tongue into his mouth. He responded to her caresses. He lifted up her skirts. She parted her thighs. Her legs were bare and a delicious perfume of verbena emanated from her satiny skin, mingled with the perfume of her odor di femina. Mony placed his hand on her cunt: it was moist. She murmured:
“Let’s fuck. I can’t wait. Naughty man, you haven’t been to see me in a month.”
But instead of replying, Mony, who had pulled out his formidable weapon, climbed thus fully armed on to the bed, trained his sights and thrust his gun ferociously into the hairy breach of the unknown woman, who immediately began to wriggle her buttocks, saying:
“Put it all the way in. You’re making me come!”
At the same time, she put her hand at the root of the organ that was pleasuring her and began to stroke the two little nuts which serve as appendages and are known as testicles not, as is commonly supposed, because they testify to the consummation of the act of love, but rather because they are little testae containing the seeds, the gray matter which spurts out of the testis or lower intelligence, just as the head contains the gray matter of the brain, which is the seat of mental functions.
The hand of the unknown woman delicately massaged Mony’s balls. All of a sudden, she let out a cry and, with a jerk of her arse, dislodged the ravisher.
“Monsieur!” she cried, “you have deceived me. My lover has three!”
She leapt off the bed, touched an electric switch and the light came on.