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  • Porphyria's Lover

    Browning’s perverse meditation on sexual desire sees Thanatos triumph over Eros. Or does it? As the febrile narrator of Porphyria’s Lover strangles his lover with her own long hair, in the ultimate act of possession, he must confront the irony of having lost the object of his desire at the very moment of fulfilment. Because his sexual mastery of his lover means her erasure. And of course, pre-Freud, Browning intimates that desire itself is nothing more nor less than a taunting demon. One of those hounds of hell leading lovers unwittingly towards a deep damnation. Or as Browning puts it more succinctly elsewhere ‘ … a man’s reach must exceed his grasp …’ And that grasp – reaching for nothing more nor less than the ghosts of Freud’s family romance – is doomed to clutch at thin air. What desire can never know, is that it seeks a spectre. So the necrophiliac narrator of Browning’s poem, having eliminated the object of desire, will be doomed to reincarnate her in yet another elusive love object. And as God remains silent in the face of murder itself within the poem, we can be sure that eros, erotic adventure, will urge the narrator on to enact yet further scenarios of sexual possession. In other words, desire never dies. It was this ultimate irony at the heart of Browning’s poem which led me to explore the notion of desire always being in excess of the object of its attentions. Of desire’s deathlessness. I wanted to literalise those ghosts of family romance. So I chose the setting of a spiritualist bordello for my novel inspired by Browning’s Poem. My novel, Porphyria’s Lover, originally published by Simon and Schuster, sees Gabriel Feaver: actor, seducer and master of ceremonies at The Resurrectionist Club, join in an uncanny alliance with whore, Kathleen Mangan, to take on the worlds of Victorian sexuality and spirituality, in a bid to make their fortunes. But they soon find that faking love and disinterring dead passions, has haunting consequences they could never have imagined …