Monique Wittig, “Across the Acheron” (1987)

monique-wittig-across-the-acheron-1985“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)