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The Opoponax
Author Monique Wittig
Original title L'Opoponax
Translator Helen Weaver
Country France
Language French
Genre Novel
Publisher Les Éditions de Minuit
Publication date

L’Opoponax is a 1964 novel by French writer Monique Wittig. It was translated into English in 1966 by Helen Weaver, and published in the US by Simon & Schuster.[1] The title comes from the plant Opopanax, aka sweet myrrh, which appears as the cover illustration on the 1976 reprint by Daughters, Inc..

Plot introduction[edit]

L'Opoponax is about "children undergoing typical childhood experiences like the first day of school and the first romance"[1]


The English translation of the novel ends with

"You say, Les soleils couchants revetent les champs les canaux la ville entiere d'hyacinthe et d'or le monde s'endort dans une chaude lumiere. You say, Tant je l'aimais qu'en elle encore je vis."

The French translates roughly as:

"Setting suns clothe the fields channels the entire city of hyacinth and gold the world falls asleep in a warm light. I loved him so much that I still am."


The book contains no common paragraphs, with each (regularly sized) chapter consisting of a single, extended paragraph. Chapters have no numbering or headings. It is written with the author addressing the protagonist as "you" and describing to her the events of the book.

Literary significance and criticism[edit]

The novel won the Prix Médicis in 1964.[1] Natalie Sarraute said, at the awards, "I shall probably not be there to witness it, but in ten or twenty years you will see what a writer we have honored here."

The New Yorker called it 'a charming feat of virtuosity'.[1] The New York Times Book Review said Wittig has 'made what can only be called a brilliant re-entry into childhood.'.[1]

Mary McCarthy, in The Writing on the Wall and Other Literary Essays (1970), devoted a chapter to the book, describing it as "...the book I've argued for -- and about -- most of this year."

Marguerite Duras wrote of it:

"It is a remarkable and very important book because it is governed by a single iron rule: that is, to use nothing but pure description conveyed by purely objective language. A masterpiece."


  1. ^ a b c d e "Monique Wittig, 67, Feminist Writer, Dies", by Douglas Martin, January 12, 2003, New York Times
  • The Opoponax, Monique Wittig, translation by Helen Weaver. Vermont: Daughters, Inc., 1976, ISBN 0-913780-15-4