Utopia and Queer Temporality

In this first section of Giovanni’s Room, I was interested in the question of queer temporality. The work starts at dusk before “the night which is leading me to the most terrible morning of my life” (221). The depiction of night as a transitory darkness emphasizes the churning, oppressive nature of time. From this nefarious first moment, the narrator enters into the darker past. Two timelines unfold for the reader almost simultaneously, as David dreads his constant, oppressive present movement and walks with the reader in a darker, more erotic, yet somehow unrelated, past. 

The first time a different conception of temporality arises coincides with David’s experience of homosexuality. When he sleeps with Joey, the narrator claims “a lifetime would not be long enough for me to act with Joey the act of love” (225). Unfortunately, this utopic, expansive feeling of infinity crashes back into “that night” which bounds it (225). Again later, as Giovanni and David banter shamelessly, of the age of Paris and the future of New York, a feeling of time as freeing blooms. David vulnerably proposes that ” ‘Time’s not water and we’re not fish and you can choose to be eaten and also not to eat’ ” (248). This sentiment seems to work in opposition to the trickling and bullying conception of time as common, passing, and oppressive. In it, there is a hopeful image of a moment of freedom. Giovanni, too, images this freeing temporality when he mocks David’s hesitancy, stating “We can become friends then” (250). Giovanni doesn’t seem to care when they officially become friends. He doesn’t believe in waiting for certainty. There is a consuming and alluring permanent presentness to their flirtations, which Giovanni’s statement reveals. 

This conception of time as a freeing presentness of pleasure is intimately connected with homosexual relationships. In fact, it seems to contrast with the oppressive futurism of heterosexuality. The old woman at the end of this section, who David compares to Giovanni’s mother, speaks unnervingly of her grandson, with the same name as her husband. This child, the only joy to a painful old age, instead of bringing hope to the scene, seems foolish and distasteful in this moment of loss and intrusion. This emphasizes the crash of the utopian queer temporality into an oppressive realism.