“Serving as her own protagonist, Wittig. . . confronts implications of female oppression as she struggles against gale winds and knifelike sands on her way to Acheron, the river of tears. Led by a woman always referred to as ‘Manastabel, my guide,’ ‘Mana’ embodies the idea of universal order. Wittig’s alter ego passes through various circles of Hell and Limbo, occasionally ascending to such earthly gathering places as a laundromat and a parade ground. Wherever she goes, she sees women flogged and tortured, castrated and dismembered, collared, chained and dragged unprotesting by their male masters through streets awash with blood, bones and excrement.
“In the midst of feasting, the women starve, dragging their emaciated bodies to serve their masters and afterwards licking up the half-chewed bits of skin and gristle, the spewed-out bones. Yet in the Angels’ Kitchen the copper gleams, the fruits glisten, cauldrons bubble, and the women chorus, ‘Soup, beautiful soup.’ A Guernica of the human (feminist) condition, a blacker, bleaker, more vengeful Alice’s tea party, this is a novel as graphic as a painting, whose brilliance its translators have creditably preserved.” —Publishers Weekly (retrieved on July 7, 2009)
“Monique Wittig’s last novel Virgile, non was written in 1985. The English title is Across the Acheron. The story is told by a female character called «Wittig» who is guided throughout hell by another woman called Mastanabal. The protagonist Wittig keeps the name of her author and, the main character of the Divine Comedy is named after the author as well. Wittig started this journey to rejoin a woman who is her “providence”. Wittig depicts these three reigns as follows: the sandstorms represent hell, the cafes where the travelers sit and sip tequila represent limbo, and glimpses represent paradise. The journey of Wittig culminates in a paradise of angels on motorcycles resembling dykes on bikes. People in Hell are not damned: they are victims. Mastanabal – unlike Virgil – does not justify the tortures inflicted on them. The victims are women, the punishments represent the social constraints, and the two voyagers are their liberators.
“Wittig writes, ‘I mentioned Dante, whose Divine Comedy was my matrix. Virgile, non does not mean “no to Virgil,” the poet I love, but it says “no” to Virgil as a guide, since in this book the guide is Manastabal. Manastabal is far, far from being as sweet as the sweet Virgil.’ (Wittig, Monique. Reading and Comments: Virgile, non/ Across the Acheron in Queer Ideas, The David R. Kessler Lectures in Lesbian and Gay Studies, New York: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 2003. Queer Ideas, 131).” –Chiara Caputi, CUNY Staten Island, Ph.D. candidate)