‘His remembrance shall perish from the earth, and he shall have no name in the street... He shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world.’
Oscar Wilde is notably celebrated as an artist persecuted for his homosexuality, a martyr for the cause of gay rights.
He was prosecuted for “acts of gross indecency with other male persons,” (sodomy) subsequently found guilty, and sentenced to two years hard labor at Reading Gaol prison.
At this time, homosexuality was both a crime, and a grave societal taboo in Britain.
Teleny, or the Reverse of the Medal, begins with one Des Grieux attending a concert with his mother; there he experiences strange and suggestive visions during a piano performance by the beautiful Hungarian, Teleny. Des Grieux becomes fascinated by the man and by the sporadically and frequently sexual telepathic connection he feels with Teleny, and this feeling becomes a mixture of curiosity, admiration, and desire, which quickly leads to jealousy.
Des Grieux feels torn about loving and desiring a man, and attempts to sexually interest himself in a household servant, but in so doing indirectly leads to her death. Shaken, he vows not to fight his feelings, and allows Teleny to introduce him to an underground sexual society of males desiring other men.
During this time Des Grieux goes to Teleny's apartments only to find Teleny in bed with Des Grieux's mother, who had offered to pay Teleny's debts in return for sexual favors.
The climax is an astonishing combination of themes, reached with persuasive logic and inevitability.
OSCAR WILDE (1854–1900) was an Irish poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, and short story writer. He is perhaps best known for Salomé, The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband, De Profundis, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. He is considered a literary colossus, and a central figure in the development of the modern novel. Teleny at its best is a superlative celebration of physical love between men. Many will be shocked by some of the excesses recounted. The novel was ahead of its time in its celebration of uninhibited sensual and sexual passion between men. It is the first gay modern novel, and deserves to be considered a classic.