Elie Grekoff’s Tirésias


Elie Grekoff (1914–1985) is the illustrator, a Russian-born French artist. Tirésias (1954) is a short work of homoerotica originally published anonymously in an edition of 150. The Grekoff website describes the volume (via Babel Fish) thusly:

One of the most beautiful text of the homosexual literature, a work which circulated under the coat, and which was condemned by the courts in 1964 and which make also this work an extremely rare publication. Publication of 92 pages.

The author, Marcel Jouhandeau (1888–1979), apparently spent much of his life oscillating between licentiousness and guilt thanks to his Catholicism but nevertheless managed to produce an acclaimed piece of gay fiction. Us Anglophones have to take the acclaim on faith, however, since the story doesn’t yet appear to have been translated into English. Given the increasing interest in gay fiction past and present this is a surprising oversight but we can still appreciate Grekoff’s illustrations, a rather fine series of fifteen wood engravings. There was also an additional run of fifteen copies of the book containing five “refusées” prints.


Grekoff illustrated a variety of novels and poetry in different styles. His work for Tirésias is reminiscent of Jean Cocteau’s in its outline figures and especially the stars for nipples, the star being a recurrent Cocteau motif. Jouhandeau’s wife, Élisabeth Toulemont, was a friend of Cocteau’s so this may have been deliberate although it’s hard to tell either way given the scarcity of information.

The excellent Bibliothèque Gay should be commended for making these rare illustrations public. See the complete set here. At the same site recently was a substantial post about Jean Cocteau’s Le livre blanc (1930).

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