House of PainBy Pan Pantziarka (Creation Books; 1995/2000)

An unrestrained exercise in perversion from the UK that proclaims itself a “Modern Classic” and “probably the most extreme document of sadism and erotic extremes since the writings of de Sade.” An account of lust and sadism centering on a convent of pervy nuns, this novel occupies the same ground as authentic X-rated classics like THE STORY OF O and JUSTINE. It doesn’t exactly break new ground (naughty nuns are hardly a novelty in erotic fiction), and I’m not entirely sure the “classic” tag is appropriate, but HOUSE OF PAIN does nonetheless deserve credit for the very real sense of anguish that emanates from its pages.

The author prefaces the novel with a heartfelt dedication to one Gina Pantziarka, “whose cancer death at the age of 29 caused such unbearable pain and suffering to all who loved her.” Furthermore, “The pain of her death served to remind me of a truth I had been stupid enough to forget–The universe doesn’t give a fuck.”

That would appear to be the moral of this novel, and is certainly the lesson learned by its first person heroine, a streetwalker whose self-worth is outlined thusly: “I know I’m a worthless bitch, a cheap slut destined to die in misery with a knife in my guts and a cock up my arse.” As the novel opens she’s picked up by a lascivious woman who turns out to have a penis. Beyond that, what differentiates this pickup from the streetwalker’s other encounters is that she finds herself genuinely aroused by the woman/man. A further surprise occurs when after some vigorous sex play the heroine is dumped without getting paid.

From there the gal winds up in the hands of horny doctors who want to give her an “internal examination” that comes to involve enemas, rape and electrocution. After this the fun really begins, inside a convent packed with S&M obsessed nuns. Their object, they claim, is to cure the heroine of her spiritual ills, a “cure” that naturally entails all manner of perversion and torture. She briefly comes around to the nuns’ way of thinking, and enthusiastically administers the torture she herself suffered, only to recoil when she learns that murder is on the menu (because in the words of one of the sisters, “to die a martyr’s death is beautiful”).

As punishment for not going along with the killing the heroine is exiled to a sexual concentration camp where she’s forced to suck off countless men each day, driven on by a master who intones “I don’t want mere submission, understand? I want complete subjugation.” Here incest eventually joins the outrages suffered by the heroine, who concludes that “Life is shit but there’s nothing else. The universe hates us, it despises us with a passion that makes me want to weep…”

Hardly a comforting message, but the fact that this novel has a message at all sets it apart from most fuck books. It’s also fairly well written for this sort of fare; profane, certainly, but also quite literate (unlike so much of today’s erotica, come here is not spelled “cum”). But the unremitting darkness at its core is quite palpable, and leaves a definite aftertaste; erotic this book may be, but pleasant it’s definitely not.