‘The Rear View’: Getting to the bottom of the bootyThe human derriere is usually reticent during the day. Underneath a pair of trousers or a skirt, a person’s bottom is modestly hidden.
Among the 139 primates in the world, only humans have buttocks. The advent of the posterior, which coincided with upright bipedalism, was a trigger for the development of the human brain.
And so the book, “The Rear View: A brief and elegant history of bottoms through the ages,” delves into the evolution of the human perspective on the posterior in a witty and contemplative manner.
Written by French journalist Jean-luc Hennig, the book explores the diverse cultural, historical, artistic and literary perspectives on the human buttocks from ancient times to the present day.
The subjects range from the physical evolution of buttocks and the changing artistic and literary perspectives on them, to rear-ends as a barometer of social attitudes.
The ancient Greeks revered the buttocks for being divine, but in the Middle Ages, with the spread of Christianity, nude buttocks became taboo. During the Renaissance, buttocks re-emerged as artists portrayed them in an aesthetic light.
Then again, the uptight Victorian era considered them to be shameful. Today, they are critical to modern fashion designers.
Hennig, a self-professed lover of rear-ends, contemplates and celebrates the depiction of the derriere in art by distinguished masters such as Renoir and Degas among others. The author also analyzes the impact of the beautiful rears of movie stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot.
Countless paintings of the great masters show nude women, and it is the buttocks ― not the breasts ― that are the epitome of sexuality and passion. But Henning does not merely glorify the female derriere, but also the male, pointing out the representations of the works by Michelangelo.
Hennig also writes in a humorous conversation-like tone about literary allusions and quotes from Baudelaire and Apollinaire about the human buttocks. The sexual revolution of the 20th century gave rise to the rediscovery of the buttocks. In an age when a tight butt is praised, rediscovering the rear end is now an appropriate subject to discuss.
Some of the topics that the book deals with could be repulsive to some. But Hennig does not beat around the butt, er, bush.
According to the author, the buttocks are not just there to hide the anus, but should be revered for their voluptuous purity and innocence like white marble and its silent brilliance and luster.
This is a book to read if one is bored and in need of mischievous entertainment or for coffee-break levity. It’s certainly not for in-depth discussion at book clubs.
Translated by Lee Se-jin.
Price: 12,000 won, 336 pages.
“The Rear View”
Translated from French, the book explores perspectives on the human buttocks over history.
by Chung Jae-suk, Choi Jie-ho