Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Arch of Desire

by Vincent Muñoz Puelles Translated from Spanish by Kristina Cordero

“[A] delicious, bold and genuinely immoral book, or perhaps rather a treatise in favor of hedonism and the pleasures of desire.” –A. Castro, El Periodico

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 208
  • Publication Date May 22, 2003
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3969-6
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $11.00

About The Book

A delectable novel of a man’s lifelong devotion to erotic exploration, The Arch of Desire is based very loosely on the life of the artist Pierre Molinier, admired by the surrealists and creator of a many-layered erotic universe. As the novel opens, Pierre is a boy, raised by a wealthy family of Belgian winemakers. Precociously curious about the opposite sex – particularly the intimate garments he finds drying in the laundry room – he is initiated into the erotic by a family servant and soon moves on to the more forbidden charms of his lovely, sophisticated half sister. As he comes of age – attending art school, becoming an acclaimed painter, and settling in Bordeaux – Pierre simultaneously pursues ever more complex pleasures, devouring his father’s collection of de Sade, Restif de la Bretonne, and other erotic classics, sampling the varieties of women – from a Senegalese prostitute, to a lesbian who works as a dominatrix to rich men, to a beautiful German who becomes his last, most perfect lover – and exploring the limits of his fetishes for dressing up and the adoration of beautiful, feminine feet. A delightful recollection of sexual pleasure from the dawn to the twilight of life, The Arch of Desire will satisfy every erotic appetite.

Tags Erotica


“[A] delicious, bold and genuinely immoral book, or perhaps rather a treatise in favor of hedonism and the pleasures of desire.” –A. Castro, El Periodico

“A fascinating novel, exquisitely conceived and structured . . . De Sade would applaud.” –Antonio Bord”n, La Provincia

“Muñoz Puelles uses an erotic vocabulary that stretches the rules of the genre.” –María Jose, El País


I – The Woman Who Rode Away on Horseback

 The sight of your foot is disturbing me.
Gustave Flaubert, The Sentimental Education

Many years before I was born, my father’s first wife would let the chateau dogs loose as a way of protecting herself against some unknown intruder that was stalking her, intent upon in­filtrating her dream life. That, at least, was the story Anne-Marie told my sister Muriel and me. Anne-Marie had been the maidservant of my father’s first wife, and of my mother later on. She told us the story in Domaine de Chevalier, a country building with two identical towers that still stands against the backdrop of a vast open field filled with vineyards and surrounded by a thicket of pine trees in the district of Graves, to the south of Bordeaux. By the time we heard the story, the lovely Polish woman had long since died, but we knew her image well from all the photographs and paintings in the chateau.

And Muriel was the living reflection of that image, which seemed more real to us than many of the people we saw every day, such as the ch”teau workers and even Anne-Marie.

“Your father worshipped her,” the maidservant would often recall wistfully.

Unlike Muriel, who was the Polish woman’s daughter and three years my senior, I would grow jealous of that mythical woman every time Anne-Marie said that. And although my mother had clearly taken her place in my father’s heart, the Polish woman’s alluring ghost continued to roam through the garden, linger in the immense armoire, and occasionally lean out from the second-floor windows. One afternoon, I thought I saw her amid the shadows of the wine press, where the naked men would crush the grapes in the giant oak barrels. It was a fleeting, feminine apparition that danced through my imagination long before I ever laid eyes on her image, and it always vanished the moment I would try to seize hold of it. Muriel claimed not to sense this presence and refused to believe it existed at all, but whenever I would feel the Polish woman’s ghost hovering nearby, Muriel would inevitably begin to chatter away nervously, or she would bend down to pick something off the floor as if trying to distract me.

Anne-Marie told us my father had discovered that woman with the great big eyes one day as he was walking along the banks of the Seine. At first he had been drawn to her exotic clothes–out-of-the-ordinary in France at the time, and out-of-season as well–but he was equally captivated by the odd way she walked: elevated, almost on tiptoe, teetering upon her high heels. And he was captivated, too, by the way she kept turning around, as if to check whether someone was following her.

The details of that first rendezvous fed my fantasy life during a great deal of my childhood and adolescence. The Polish woman herself had told the story to Anne-Marie, who then passed it down to us, telling us how my father had offered this strange woman protection and aid in a moment of selfless gallantry. My childish imagination staged the encounter in its own simplistic way: my father would surprise her as she gazed out over the river, filled with nostalgia and longing, and then he would jump in after her to rescue her from drowning. He saved her that day, delaying a suicide that, in the end, was inevitable, because she was poor and she was alone. He took her to her hotel, where he removed her soaked clothes and was spellbound by a beauty which I could only scarcely imagine in all my youthful inexperience.

In other, later versions of the story, I saw her wearing smooth white leather gloves with a long line of backstitching on the underside. My father would remove them slowly, expertly, a gesture that was shockingly intimate to her–it felt as if he were removing her embroidered knickers. The mysterious foreign woman’s cheeks would grow hot as he kissed her bare fingers one by one, and then her soft palms; here and there, in little fleeting instants, she could feel the tip of his tongue making contact with her skin. His kisses would grow bolder, traveling across her forehead, her wide cheekbones, her thick lips, and her strong swan’s neck. As if caught in a dream, she would feel my father’s fingers untying her corset, and caressing her ardent breasts, as her ginger-colored nipples grew abundant and hard.

As my father would whisper sweet words in her ear, he would unfasten the belt of her dress, explore the closures that ran up her back, unbutton the wide cuffs of her blouse, and then, with her assistance, pull her dress up and her petticoats down. At the gentle fluttering of his fingers, her feminine crevice would prepare for him, growing soft and warm. Firmly on the road to ecstasy, she would take his proud member in her hands–at this moment of my fantasy, I reached for my own as well–and she would guide it inside her luscious opening. His thighs tense, my father would kneel down on the bed as his hands gripped her ankles. He would shift her body up a bit, settling into an oddly vertical position, high enough so that as he plunged into her, he could watch himself making love to her.

“Oh, how lovely,” the foreign woman would sigh in a tremulous voice, as my father’s insistent arrow dug deeper and deeper inside of her, pounding back and forth like the piston of a steam engine or the tip of an immense, thick syringe.

“Ohh, ohh,” I would moan, and then I would rise up on the tips of my toes as pearly spurts of rain fell down from my shuddering member, spouting out into midair, in search of that elusive ghost.

My father was an extraordinarily sensual man, just as I am, and I think it was that odd, inaccessible aura that made him fall in love with the Polish ‘migr” –an aura another man might have perceived as a sign of madness. In any event, he took care of her, he doted on her, and he married her, giving her his title and his name. She, however, never revealed to him the mystery of her arrival in France, and she always refused to discuss her past with him. He could enjoy the myriad pleasures of her warm, welcoming belly beneath his own, and her tender breasts pressing against his chest, and the intimate caresses that brought him such ecstasy, but she never told her secret to him, and for that reason she would always remain elusive. But it seemed he knew that their happiness could only be temporary–that someone, someday, would come from far away and take her from him.

After two years of married life, Muriel was born, and shortly thereafter the Polish woman disappeared. They found her body, naked and dead, somewhere near the ocean. She had taken one of the horses from the stables and galloped through the rain all night long until she fell while trying to jump a fence. Her neck was broken. How could she have gone so far without being seen by anyone? Why did she ride in the nude? Where had she been going? Nobody knew. The chateau dogs had also disappeared that night, never to return, said Anne-Marie.

The rumors surrounding her death still hadn’t fully subsided when my father was married again, this time to a very young woman from Bordeaux–my mother. It seemed that he still yearned for the Polish woman and was still tormented by the fact that he had never truly understood her. Whenever he spoke of her, he would always focus on the most trivial, insignificant details–always the same details–and always avoiding the two things we really wanted to know: whether he thought she had truly loved him and whether it was true that she had lived beneath a kind of dark cloud, plagued by constant fears. My father saved a number of her things and hid them away in one of his desk drawers: a shiny lock of hair, a tiny bottle filled with fingernail clippings, a pair of patent leather slippers with a feather in the crown, and a bottle of perfume, Saoko, which on more than one occasion we caught him sniffing with a faraway expression on his face, oblivious to the possibility that anyone might be watching him.

I was ten years old then, and my mental montages of that first encounter between my father and the Polish woman were still a long way from serving as a prelude to my own particular pleasures. But one night, I was stirred awake by the vision of a succulent, open vulva rubbing back and forth against the mane and bare back of a galloping horse, and for the first time ever I ejaculated. The horse’s hooves would pound against the earth in rhythm with each spurt of ecstasy, and my linen nightshirt would grow slowly hot and moist.

©1996 by Vincent Muñoz Puelles 
Translation ©2003 by Kristina Cordero. 
Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.