Friday, June 20, 2014

the last book I ever read (Marie Arana's Bolívar: American Liberator, excerpt five)

from Bolívar: American Liberator by Marie Arana:

Bolívar also managed to navigate the city on his own. Many years later, he told of a “singular adventure” at a London brothel that both amused and amazed him. In the course of negotiating his desires with one of the prostitutes, he made a request that infuriated her, and she accused him of being a homosexual. She raised such a ruckus that the entire house came running, and when he tried to calm her with a few banknotes, she threw them scornfully into the fire. She didn’t speak Spanish and he didn’t speak English, so there was no hope of correcting her misapprehension. As he later related to friends, he ended up exiting the house of pleasure “with far greater urgency” than he had entered it. Little could he have known that the woman probably feared for her life. Only weeks before, on July 8, the London police had raided the White Swan, a Vere Street “molly” house, as transgender clubs were then called, and arrested a group of suspects. An angry mob followed the accused homosexuals to Bow Street Station, knocking them down, pelting them with mud, and threatening far worse. The men were charged with attempted sodomy; a number of them were hanged. The prostitute clearly had England’s harsh laws in mind when she voiced her objections. For Bolívar, however, that incident became a striking metaphor for the vast cultural distance that separated London from Paris. Two years before his death, he still had a vivid memory of it.

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