cover image Savage Nights

Savage Nights

Cyril Collard. Overlook Press, $18.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-87951-534-8

Collard ( Condamne Amour ) directed and starred in the film version of this raw, scorching, autobiographical novel, a movie which went on to win four Cesars (the French equivalent of the Oscar) just three days after he died of AIDS in March. Despite his HIV status, it is hard to feel sympathy for Jean, the 27-year-old hedonistic, bisexual Parisian filmmaker protagonist, because he lacks the basic decency to tell 17-year-old Laura that he is HIV-positive when they first make love. Written in precise yet feverish prose, the novel is a study in massive denial. Jean lives in the sexual fast lane, taking anonymous lovers and having an affair with Sammy, a moody sadomasochistic hooligan who likes to beat up Arabs and slash his own chest with a knife while staring in the mirror. Laura, who is supposedly trusting and innocent but one suspects is either dim or suicidal, continues to have unprotected sex with Jean even after finding out that he is HIV-positive. When in the course of time, Laura tests HIV-positive, she swings between desperate clinging and indignant fury, temporarily descending into madness. Collard's death-defying sensualist anti-hero is a self-centered rebel without a cause who willingly risks infecting others. (Jan.)