109 pages
ISBN 0-919349-68-4





Translated by Barbara Godard
Reviewed by Carolyn Hlus

Carolyn Hlus was a lecturer in English literature at the University of Alberta, Edmonton.


Lovhers, first published in French as Amantes (1980), eclipses the vertigo of orgiastic time and space: ithas no beginning and no ending, but plunges unselfconsciously into the centre of things and expands: reverberating, intensifying, slackening, pausing, intensifying, like the spasms of multiple orgasms. With the publication of L‘Amer (1977) and its English translation by Barbara Godard These Our Mothers (1983), Nicole Brossard established herself as a powerful feminist writer (I hesitate to insert “radical lesbian” because the terms detract from Brossard’s insightful expression of not only the lesbian but the universal female experience);the publication of Lovhers reinforces her artistry and moves her yet beyond the level of excellence she attained in the previous work. Here, in her fictional utopian world of the Barbizon Hotel for Women, New York, the venue for most of Lovhers, Brossard demonstrates her skill as an ardent post-modernist, increasingly obsessed with the Derridean differance or the multi-spiraledness of words, phrases, fragments, indeed, intertexts, as, first, she fuses prose and theory and, second, she alludes to other feminist writers and thus draws herself into the sisterhood of the women’s literary tradition. As the epigraph suggests, the book invites “lovhers” to a celebration of cerebral spinning, creating, through subtle innuendo to overt suggestion, a symphony of subliminal consciousnesses which defiantly resists absolute, definitive interpretations or totalization.

The collection does not use traditional patriarchal form or content; subsequently, it resists patricritical analysis. It is composed of seven seemingly unrelated — what shall we call them? Respecting translator Barbara Godar’s semantics, perhaps, “chapthers?” The sequence of the “chapthers” is unconventional. The first one is titled: “(4) [a pun on foreplay?]: Lovhers/Write.” Notable, too, is the book’s self-reflexivity. In the second section, Brossard draws attention to the title of this first section, and the last section is titled “My Continent.” Between are two sections which study events occurring over a specific time period, summer: “June the Fever” and “July the Sea.” In addition, there are chapthers whose titles suggest a character study (“Igneous Woman, Integral Woman”), an autobiographical sketch (“My Memory of (Love)”), and, perhaps, a mini-novel about revolution against savagery (“The Barbizon”). Although the contents of the chapthers simply do not reveal what the titles suggest, the ambiguity of the titles surfaces in multiplied force in the discourse of each section.

While ambiguity is the hallmark of this work, what binds the parts together is the sustained exploration of the relationship between women’s intimacy and language. Meaning is invariably obscurant, but one thread of expression persists: there is a fixed, yet abstract, link between women’s sexuality and women’s writing. The link, cloaked in Post-Lacanian sarcasm, gradually defines itself inphrases like “integral skin of thought” and “skin of origin,” and in statements like “my obsession with reading/ (with mouths) urges me/toward every discourse,” “you float within my page,” “my mouth walks like words,” “breasts get the better of breath/ we find there/writing” and “to write: the real/the skin clairvoyant.”

One spiral of the text describes the utopian desire to recreate the world by a transconfiguration of sensual female experience into discourse; other spirals invite interpretations linking reading to writing, private body to political body, and past writers to present writers. This book is not an easy read. It fulfils the demands of Barthes’ writerly text; feminists and post-modernists alike will find Lovhers a rewarding intellectual pursuit.


Brossard, Nicole, “Lovhers,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 22, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/35031.