31 December 2013

Anthony Cronin: Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist (1996)

Anthony Cronin's Samuel Beckett is the first biography of the writer that I've read, and before this I knew very little about him outside his work. I remember studying En Attendant Godot when I was doing my first degree (which was in French) at Leicester University, and the late Dr Peter Fawcett suggesting that Beckett perhaps wasn't all gloom and doom as he'd lived with his wife in sunny Vaucluse in Provence. He didn't appear to be joking, although I've learned through this biography that Beckett only lived in Vaucluse during the war as this was unoccupied France, but the material circumstances in which Beckett and his companion Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil (this being some time before their marriage) were living were pretty dire.

When I first read Beckett the study of literature was under the critical yoke of F. R. Leavis (and may even still be to a certain extent): close study was all-important, and shouldn't be supplemented by extraneous circumstances, such as knowing anything about an author's life, the social conditions under which a book was written, and so on. And if that's an exaggeration it's only a slight one.

All the same, although there's always a danger of reading too much autobiographical detail into a book, it's still worth remembering what I very often note that B. S. Johnson said – that even the three-headed monster of science fiction involves the concepts three, head and monster: this isn't saying that all writing is autobiographical, but that writing isn't sui generis, that it comes from somewhere.

Having said that, it doesn't surprise me that Beckett wasn't a happy-go-lucky guy, nor that (as I'm sure some people have believed) he was playing a literary hoax, refusing to say anything about his work's meaning because there in fact was no meaning. No, Beckett was a serious writer, and not just a major 20th century writer but a major writer tout court.

This is a huge 600-hundred page book that Cronin claims he intended for the general reader, a claim I find a little bizarre, but we'll pass on that for the moment. Beckett wasn't an existentialist – although it pleased some people at the time to lump him into the same bag as Sartre and Camus, etc – but in some respects the Beckett in this book can be seen in an existentialist light. Although it is simply divided into unnamed chapters and with no sections, I can see a quite clear division between the first and the second half of the book, and those two halves don't simply correspond to the unsuccessful and the successful Beckett, it's something deeper than that.

The earlier, largely unpublished Samuel Beckett the man is – put quite simply – an enormous mess. He's painfully shy, hardly talks at all, and leads a rather aimless existence largely subsidised by his mother after his father's death, hopping between Paris, his home in Dublin and relatives in Germany. He suffers from pyschosomatic disorders, such as a cyst on his neck that a doctor lances but which springs up again. Cronin mentions a number of things about Beckett's sex life (such as it was) in the first half but – most probably because there's no information on it (no doubt again partly because there was very little of it) – hardly mentions it in the second half. There are several references to the younger Beckett masturbating, to his occasional use of prostitutes, but also to a big problem he had: his huge reluctance to have sex with anyone he was emotionally involved with.

He had a bit of a 'thing' (difficult to put into a word or phrase) with Peggy Sinclair, although he was content just to look at her face rather than get physical with her. His relationship with the sexually liberated Peggy Guggenheim was troubled too: she claimed that he once had sex with her, but said that on another occasion she couldn't understand why he chose a double hotel room (actually with twin beds) when he wanted to sleep on his own – and when Beckett stated that it was cheaper than two rooms this was beyond her comprehension, and later still she claimed that she thought he was a homosexual. I won't go into another troubled relationship – Beckett and James Joyce's disturbed daughter Lucia.

Beckett first met Suzanne through playing tennis, although they first, er, came together after he'd been stabbed in Paris in the early hours of the morning after an argument with the pimp Robert Jules Prudent. Cronin is somewhat vague about the early stages of the relationship, but they would remain together for over fifty years, although after a few the author does mention that Suzanne described it as celibate, and as a non-drinker (even hating the smell of wine) she didn't take part in Beckett's frequent pub-crawling.

But the habit (a key Beckettian word) of the relationship obviously did him a great deal of good, and – although Beckett was rather apolitical – the commitment to helping in the Resistance saw him moving into very different existential territory: the reader really feels that the second part of Beckett's life, indeed the new Beckett, began in Provence.

But it wasn't until a few years later that Beckett's real professional break came: when Jérôme Lindon, of Les Éditions de minuit, began publishing his books, and the name Samuel Beckett soon became widely known.

Beckett and Suzanne will soon have money, but not that they have any great love of it: Beckett gave much of his £30,000 Nobel Prize for Literature away, and interestingly he is said to have provided a new sports car for another experimental writer: B. S. Johnson, whose work Beckett praised, and who is (lamentably) one of the very few writers of his kind that England has ever had.

Surprisingly, perhaps, there are humorous moments in the second half of the book: Beckett's chaotic driving in central Paris; his ducking and diving to ensure that his lover (if that's the right word) Barbara Bray doesn't run into Suzanne; and his enthusiastic bar crawls, etc. Through this comes a picture of a tender man – Lindon is brimming with praises of his goodness; Beckett makes sure the postman doesn't delivery letters in his mailbox where finches are nesting; and he marries Suzanne (who incidentally died a few months before him) out of concern that she should benefit from his money after his death.

I've mentioned nothing of his work itself, but then Beckett shunned interpretation. A great deal could be said about his novels, his plays, even his one short film ('starring' Buster Keaton and viewable here), but that shall be for other times.

What did I think of this book? Intended for a 'general reader', this is a huge work that also has the appearance of a very scholarly one. In six hundred pages we can expect a few minor errors and we get them, of which one example is 'Vaux-de-Chermay' for Vaux-de-Cernay, and surely the interior monologue influence on Joyce comes not from Valery Larbaud but from Édouard Dujardin's Les Lauriers sont coupés? There are one or two direct, and perhaps two other indirect, negative references to Deirdre Bair's biography of Beckett. I have this book but have not yet read it, but just flicking through it tells me that the textual apparatus looks sound, whereas Cronin's book only has a Bibliography of Beckett's work – not a general Biblography of the material he read or consulted while writing the book; furthermore, Bair does at least use generous endnotes, and marks them in the text: Cronin has a mere twelve pages of endnotes, but leaves no indication of them in the text, meaning that they are virtually useless. But then, this is only for the 'general reader' and I nevertheless found great enjoyment in reading it. But I shall be reading Bair's book in due course and form a better conclusion.

Just another point: one of the plates shows a tree in the Dublin mountains, and the caption suggests that this may have been 'the original tree' in Godot. Ha, well maybe so, but maybe not, but that seems to be a bit of needless space-filling. If Beckett had been alive to read this, I'm not sure if he'd have laughed or cried.

30 December 2013

What La Quenelle Means | La Signification de la quenelle

There seems to be some ambiguity concerning Nicolas Anelka's quenelle gesture, which he claimed was simply a tribute towards his friend Dieudonné M'bala M'bala (who seems to be more of an extreme rightwing politician than a comedian these days). The 'La Quenelle' link below is fully titled 'Pour ceux qui prétendent que la quenelle n'est pas un geste antisémite ...' ('For those who claim that the quenelle isn't an anti-Semitic gesture...'), and shows a large number of disturbing images of different people who appear to see no ambiguity at all in la quenelle.

I note that the highly respected French daily newspaper Le Monde published two brief paragraphs online a few hours ago. It reports that today, French magistrates are opening preliminary investigations into Dieudonné's 'incitement to racial hatred'. One France 2 report this month, for instance, showed Dieudonné saying of the France Inter journalist Patrick Cohen: 'Quand je l'entends parler, Patrick Cohen, je me dis, tu vois, les chambres à gaz... Dommage': 'When I hear him speak, Patrick Cohen, I say to myself, you know, the gas chambers... Pity.'

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La Quenelle

27 December 2013

Phil Morrison's Junebug (2005)

In a brief interview and question-and-answer session on the extra features disc of this DVD, Amy Adams – who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as Ashley in Junebug – seems to see the film in terms of universals. Well, I'd give a tiny 'yes' to this but also a huge 'no'.

Yes: Junebug is about love, passion, tolerance, maturity/immaturity, jealousy, etc. But no: it's also much more about the division between the shiny, sophisticated world of big city Chicago as opposed to smalltown Bible Belt-strapped North Carolina. Even through the tolerance shown in it, it screams difference.

Chicago-based outsider art dealer Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) has been married to George (Alessandro Nivola), who grew up in North Carolina, for just six months. She views the near-necessity of meeting outsider artist David Walk (Frank Hoyt Taylor) from North Carolina as a fine opportunity to meet her in-laws (who live just thirty minutes away) for the first time. But there are multiple problems here that Madeleine does her very best to circumnavigate by using a superb mix of cool laconicism and a seemingly bottomless reservoir of warmth to tap into when the occasion demands it.

Mother-in-law Peg (Celia Weston) is difficult, and father-in-law Eugene (Scott Wilson) comes over as almost emotionless, but young brother-in-law Johnny (Ben McKenzie) seems hostile, although it's actually the usually silent Eugene who (to use an appropriate tool image) hits the nail on the head when he later tells Madeleine that Peg 'hides herself', and then adds that most people do, obviously not only including his wife and himself in this. We clearly see Johnny – far too emotionally immature to be married let alone to be a father – inexpertly trying to record a program involving meercats (his wife Ashley's favorite animal): this is his very undemonstrative attempt to show his love.

But it's the very pregnant Ashley who has loved Madeleine before meeting her, who gushes clumsily and fires inappropriate question after inappropriate question as Madeleine justs acts po-faced, who (dishonestly, but endearingly) takes the blame for smashing one of Peg's ornaments that Madeleine has in fact smashed, who all but screams out to Madeleine her need to be loved. She also politely cautions Madeleine that she's been addressing Peg by the wrong name, causing Madeleine to say 'Oh fuck!', and with this interjection it seems some more ice is broken between the two women.

When Madeleine mentions to Ashley and Peg that she's not good with her hands, Ashley replies that she doesn't need to be, as she's 'clever'. This of course is not so much an allusion to the geographical distance between Chicago and North Carolina as to the cultural gap between the social class of Madeleine and that of her in-laws. But whereas Ashley is dazzled by Madeleine's difference, the rest of the household feel alienated by her, in spite of all her kisses and hugs. In their way, they're just as prejudiced towards her as Walk is to towards Jews and the people he calls 'niggers'* – a fact that Madeleine, in her financial dealing with Walk, brushes away with a mixture of her normal tolerance and commercial expediency.

All four in-laws are something of a mess, although Ashley – the only one of the four unrelated by blood – is by far the most sympathetic one, the only one whose character the audence can really love. Eugene, as usual, keeps his mouth shut about the way he feels toward Madeleine, although his wife thinks she's gone too far by staying up late with Johnny, speaks of 'Chicago ways' and (hopelessly incorrectly) thinks there's something wrong with her marriage to George. Madeleine has in fact been trying to help Johnny (who has a bum job as a packer) with his education – but he's a guy full of self-hate, jealous of his college-educated brother, and he throws his Cliffs Notes copy of Huckleberry Finn on the floor with a couple of impotent cries of 'Fuck!'. He thinks that she thinks he's just a hick, that she's making fun of him, and he unnecessarily tells her she's no better than him. OK, he's culturally and sexually frustrated, but all the same, maybe Madeleine shouldn't have thrown in a word like 'picaresque' or expected him to have heard of Don Quixote.

This is a delightful – but affecting – film. One of my favorite moments is when George gets up to sing an old hymn a cappella, and is joined by others: Madeleine appears spellbound, or maybe gobsmacked is more accurate: here is George, on his old turf, leading a religious group. She smiles broadly and claps at the end, although her reaction obviously has nothing to do with God: she's just delighted to see a new dimension in him, to catch a glimpse of him as he was some time before she met him in his new environment.

Thomas Wolfe was born in North Carolina – not very far from where this film took place – and famously wrote a novel called You Can't Go Home Again, which could be taken as the main message of this film. As George starts off on the interstate on the long trip back, the last words (before Madeleine soothingly touches his hair) are 'I'm so fuckin' glad to be outta there'.
 
*Oddly, Walk paints slaves being freed but can only paint their faces white as he doesn't know any blacks.

19 December 2013

Joséphin Péladan: Cimetière des Batignolles #1

 
The Cimetière des Batignolles is in the 17th arrondissement, and right on the edge of the périphérique.
 
Louis-Adrien Péladan, Joséphin's father, was a journalist with La France littéraire. Joséphin Péladan (1858–1918) himself was an occultist and the writer of many books, In 1884 Péladan published Le Vice suprême, a novel with 'esoteric themes' with a Preface by Barbey d'Aurevilly, which brought him immediate fame at an early age, although his most well known book now is Istar (1888). This whole thing sounds far too Colin Wilsonish for my liking, but I appreciate the colours here.
 
A link to my Verlaine and Breton post:

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Paul Verlaine and André Breton in Batignolles Cemetery

Jules-Antoine Castagnary: Cimetière de Montmartre #4

 
 
'CASTAGNARY
1830 – 1888
––––––––––––––
JOURNALISTE  CRITIQUE D'ART
PRÉSIDENT DU CONSEIL
MUNICIPAL DE PARIS 1879
CONSEILLER D'ÉTAT 1879
DIRECTEUR DES CULTES 1881
DIRECTEUR DES BEAUX-ARTS 1887'

Below is a link to my earlier, bigger post on the cemetery:

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Montmartre Cemetery / Cimetière de Montmartre

Théophile Gautier: Cimetière de Montmartre #3

 
'THÉOPHILE GAUTIER
1811 – 1872
SES AMIS'
 
There is a book, a tribute to Gautier, called Le Tombeau de Théophile Gautier, by Victor Hugo, Léon Dierx, Anatole France, et al. The link is below:

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Le Tombeau de Théophile Gautier (1873)

Zo d'Axa: Cimetière de Montmartre #2

File:Zo d'Axa portrait.jpg
 
Alphonse Gallaud de la Pérouse, better known as Zo d'Axa (1864-1930), joined the chasseurs d'Afrique (a group of mounted soldiers) in 1882, but soon deserted after an affair with the wife of one of his superiors. He spent some time in Italy, where he worked as an art critic, and returned to France in 1889.

Axa was certainly a kind of anarchist, although like many anarchists he rejected the label. He founded the anarchist weekly L'en dehors in 1891, for which many people (and certainly not all anarchists) wrote, such as: Louise Michel, Jean Grave, Bernard Lazare, Octave Mirbeau, Saint-Pol-Roux, Tristan Bernard, Georges Darien, Lucien Descaves, Sébastien Faure, Félix Fénéon, Émile Henry, Camille Mauclair, Émile Verhaeren, Adolphe Tabarant, etc. Needless to say, it wasn't popular with the authorities. When the anarchist Ravachol and his friends were arrested and Axa set up a fund for the dependants of the detainees, he was jailed for a month.

Another paper Axa founded was La feuille, in which many anti-military and anti-capitalist articles appeared. During the elections of 1899 the paper proposed a donkey as the official candidate, and Axa paraded around Paris in a cart pulled by the donkey, drawing a huge crowd following him.

Axa wrote a great deal more, travelling around the world fighting for justice. His final years were spent on a barge in Marseilles. He became pessimistic, depressive, and killed himself.
 
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Marie Gallaud (1867–1945) was Axa's sister and very close to her brother. She a sculptor, writer and explorer (particularly of the Far East) and (illegally) visited Tibet dressed as a man and accompanied by a sherpa. She studied different forms of Buddhism and wrote Une vie de Bouddha (1929).

Jocelyne François: Les Bonheurs (1970; repr. 1982)

I use labels so that I can easily consult my posts, although it seems like ghettoising to use the term 'lesbian literature' for this book, which wears no badges and is not even about homosexual identity: it's just about two women who happen to be very deeply, passionately in love.

It's also strongly autobiographical: as I understand it, the character Anne is based on the author Jocelyne François (born 1933), and the character Sarah on her lover Marie-Claire Pichaud, who was for a short time a singer and later – as Claire Pichaud – an artist.

Jocelyne and Marie-Claire met and fell in love in Catholic school, and although they became lovers they separated, Anne marrying and having children and Claire having a heterosexual relationship. But several years later they re-united permanently and lived in Saumane-de-Vaucluse for twenty-five years – François meeting and becoming friends with the poet René Char from nearby L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – before they removed to Paris for health reasons.

Les Bonheurs is narrated by both Sarah and Anne (usually as if in epistolary form), although it is not always immediately clear who is speaking at a particular time: the second person singular 'tu' is used almost all of the time, and the reader's knowledge of the narrator is often only ascertained from the a direct address to the addressee: yes, this is a kind of experimental novel.

The questioning, reminiscing narrative prevails, only occasionally interrupted by snippets of conversation, and the novel begins with Sarah remembering her relationship with Anne – who's now married to Michel – with great pain and longing. Although Sarah is now in a relationship with Jean, a married man, she can't forget Anne, and a letter asking her to come and see her for a few days when her husband's away soon finds the lovers in each other's arms, making passionate love, making up for lost time.

Sarah returns with a copy of Anne's diary smuggled out in the bottom of her bag, and for about fifty pages we read of Anne's feelings about her marriage and childbirth, but more importantly of her undying love for Sarah. On the second page of the novel we have learned that a certain Ulrich originally separated them, but it is only in the diary that we find out that he was a priest who fed Anne with religious poison and told her that the young girls' relationship was unnatural. Anne's marriage, long mulled over by Sarah, was only a desperate measure: although no dates are mentioned, the book is set, after all, in the Catholic France of the 1950s.

The book ends in Anne and Michel's divorce, but it is hard fought: fighting is the operative word here and men are seen as warriors, battling for territory overseas (the humiliating Algerian war being in the background) as well as battling for female territory. Michel only very slowly comes to realise that his wife has physically enjoyed Anne's body in the same way – only much more intensely –as his: the phallocratic fallacy.

Sex, according to Michel, is binary. He asks her:  'Eh bien, Anne, entre vous deux, comment se répartissent les rôles? Tu est l'homme ou tu est la femme?' – 'So, Anne, just between the two of us, how do you share the roles out? Are you the man or the woman?' Anne's reply is delightful: 'Pourquoi? Tu a eu l'impression d'être un pédéraste en vivant avec moi? 'Why? has living with me made you feel like a homosexual?' He of course objects to this, so she continues: 'Eh bien, Jean ne s'est pas senti péderaste avec Sarah. Tout le monde est homme et femme à la fois' – 'Well then, Jean didn't feel like a homosexual with Sarah either. We are all male and female at the same time.' Ah, if only we all understood that though!

It seems very fitting to add that one of Marie-Claire Pichaud's songs (of about 1962) was called 'Nous n'irons plus en guerre' – 'We're not Going to War Anymore'.

Jocelyne François went on to write four more autobiographical novels – Les Amantes (1978), Joue-nous 'España' (1980), Histoire de Volubilis (1986) and La femme sans tombe (1995) – and three diaries.

I'd not heard of Jocelyne François until a couple of weeks ago when I noticed this novel in the French section at Waterstones, Deansgate, Manchester: it was a 1990 reprint of the 1982 edition, still priced in French francs at that date, and I find it a little difficult to believe that the shop had had it on the shelves for so long as there is only a little sunning to the spine and slight soiling of the bottom edge. Anyway, I thought it something of a bargain at £9.50: it's been out of print for some years, and Bookfinder.com only shows a few copies available worldwide. And although the Library of Congress has both editions, the British Library doesn't have it at all, and it's never been translated into English.

This was quite a find – not just a very rare book, but what I call a significant one too.

16 December 2013

Victor Brauner: Cimetière de Montmartre #1

 
Victor Brauner (1903–66) was a Romanian-born painter – first a dadaist and then a surrealist – who was part of an important community of Romanian writers and artists in France, such as Constantin Brâncuși, Emil Cioran, Mircea Eliade, Eugène Ionesco, Isidore Isou, Panaït Istrati and Tristan Tzara. The words on his tomb read: 'Pour moi peindre c'est la vie, la vraie vie, MA VIE': 'For me painting is life, the real life, MY LIFE'.

The Pont des Arts, Vercors and Cadenas d'Amour

On the left bank of the Pont des Arts is a plaque dedicated to Vercors:
 
'A la mémoire de
VERCORS
(JEAN BRULLER)
CO-FONDATEUR en 1942 des
ÉDITIONS DE MINUIT
avec LE SILENCE DE LA MER
et des
OUVIERS DU LIVRES
Qui par leur dévouement, au péril de leur vie sous l'occupation nazie,
ont permis à la pensée française de maintenir sa permanence et son honneur
1942 – 1992
 
Ce lieu du monde, unique et prestigueux, qui hantait se pensées, nourrissait ses rêves, exaltait son âme: le pont des Arts
              Vercors, La Marche à l'Étoile.'
 
My translation:
 
'In memory of
VERCORS
(JEAN BRULLER)
CO-FOUNDER en 1942 of
ÉDITIONS DE MINUIT
WITH LE SILENCE DE LA MER
and
THE PEOPLE WHO WORKED FOR THE BOOK
Who through their devotion, in peril of their lives under Nazi occupation, allowed French thought to retain its permanence and its honour

1942–1992
 
This place in the world, unique and prestigious, which haunted his thoughts, fed his dreams, exalted his soul: the pont des Arts
                   Vercors, La Marche à l'Étoile'
 
On the bridge itself there are far more cadenas d'amour (love padlocks) than I'd seen on La passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor two years ago:
 
 
 
 

 
And the bouquinistes near the bridge have found a sideline.

Link to my Vercors post, and to my Passerelle Léopold Sédar Senghor post:

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Vercors: Le Silence de la mer (1942)

Passerelle Léopold Sédar Senghor

Tarass Chevtchenko and René Laennec in the 6th arrondissement, Paris

'TARASS CHEVTCHENKO
POÉTE UKRANIEN
1814–1861'
 
Square Tarass-Chevtchenko, in front of the Ukranian church of Saint-Vladimir-le-Grand, boulevard St Germain. The bust was sculpted by Lyssenko in 1978.
 
Also in the square is a tablet dedicated to René-Théophile-Marie-Hyacinthe Laennec, a medical doctor and the inventor of auscultation and the stethoscope. His writings include Traité de l'auscultation médiate et des maladies des poumons et du coeur (1819). The plaque was sculpted by René Quillivic (1879-1969) in 1942.

Bernard Palissy in the 6th arrondissement, Paris

Bernard Palissy (1510–1589), among other things, was a potter, painter and writer. This statue stands in a small park at the side of Saint-Germain-des-Prés church off the boulevard St Germain.
 
The statue is by Louis-Ernest Barrias (1841–1905).
 
Fossils were a great interest to Palissy, and his workshop contained a number of examples.

12 December 2013

Émile Zola in the 2nd arrondissement, Paris

Literally a few yards south of rue Montmartre from La Taverne du Croissant is a building of great historical significance.
 
'C'EST DANS CET IMMEUBLE
QUI ABRITAIT ALORS LES BUREAUX
DU JOURNAL "L'AURORE"
QUE LE 12 JANVIER 1898
ÉMILE ZOLA
REMIT À
GEORGES CLEMENCEAU
RÉDACTEUR EN CHEF SA LETTRE
AU PRÉSIDENT DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE
FÉLIX FAURE
DÉMONTRANT L'INNOCENCE
D'ALFRED DREYFUS
ET PROCLAMANT:
"LA VÉRITÉ EST EN MARCHE
ET RIEN NE L'ARRÊTERA."
LE TEXTE PARUT LE LENDEMAIN
SOUS LE CÉLÈBRE TITLE
"J'ACCUSE"'

My translation:

'THIS BUILDING
ONCE HOUSED THE OFFICES
OF THE NEWSPAPER "L'AURORE"
WHERE ON 12 JANUARY 1898
ÉMILE ZOLA
HANDED
GEORGES CLEMENCEAU –
 THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF – HIS LETTER
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC

FÉLIX FAURE

PROVING THE INNOCENCE OF
ALFRED DREYFUS
AND PROCLAIMING:
"THE TRUTH IS ON ITS WAY
AND NOTHING SHALL STOP IT."
THE ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED THE FOLLOWING DAY
UNDER THE FAMOUS TITLE
"J'ACCUSE"'

Jean Jaurès in the 2nd arrondissement, Paris

The pacifist politician Jean Jaurès (1859–1914), born in Castres (Tarn), is a hugely important figure of the French left. An unbalanced nationalist student, Raoul Villain, fired two shots at point blank range at Jaurès through an open window as he was eating with colleagues at La Taverne du Croissant on the corner of rue Montmartre and rue du Croissant. He is buried in the Panthéon.

'ICI
LE
31 JUILLET 1914
JEAN JAURÈS
FUT
ASSASSINÉ
 
HOMMAGE DE LA LIGUE DES DROITS DE L'HOMME 1923'
 
Inside the café, on the other side of the plaque, is a small display remembering the man. Unfortunately the place was closed as we passed.
 
Below is a link to the wonderful Jacques Brel's tribute to Jaures:

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Jacques Brel: Jaurès

Gregos's Face in the Wall, 1st arrondissement, Paris

Just visible between the arches here on rue de la Ferronnerie is a plaque that announces that Henri IV was killed here in 1610 by Ravaillac. Another plaque on the ground marks the spot.
 
This is also visible in the above photo. Silly little things are always of far more interest to me than any kings, queens and other such nonsense. I prefer nonsense that doesn't pretend to be anything other than nonsense. Just under the chin here is the signature 'Gregos', and there's a link to the artist's web site below:
 
 
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Gregos Street Art

Restif de la Bretonne in the 5th arrondissement, Paris

16 rue de la Bûcherie is the house in the 5th arrondissement where the working-class writer – whose parents were peasants – Nicolas Edme Restif de la Bretonne (1734–1806) died.

'DANS CETTE MAISON MOURUT
LE 3 FÉVRIER 1806
NICOLAS-EDME RESTIF DE LA BRETONNE
AUTEUR DU "PAYSAN PERVERTI"
ET "LES NUITS DE PARIS"'
 
Among Restif de la Bretonne's other books are La Vie de mon père (1779), Les Contemporaines (1780), La Paysanne pervertie (1784), and the erotic anti-Sadean L'Anti-Justine, ou les Délices de l'amour (1798).

 
Square Restif de la Bretonne is just a tiny length of vegetation hard against a wall, without even a public entrance.

11 December 2013

Gustave Flaubert and Georges Jeanclos in the 5th arrondissement, Paris

Le square René-Viviani.
 
'GEORGES JEANCLOS

FONTAINE SAINT JULIEN LE PAUVRE

LA FONTAINE SAINT JULIEN A ÉTÉ COMMANDÉ EN 1995 PAR LA VILLE DE PARIS AU SCULPTEUR GEORGES JEANCLOS, NÉ À PARIS EN 1933. ELLE REMPLACE UNE FONTAINE WALLACE.

JEANCLOS S'EST INSPIRÉ DE L'HISTOIRE DE SAINT JULIEN LE PAUVRE OU L'HOSPITALIER QUI EST AUSSI LE SAINT PATRON DE L'ÉGLISE VOISINE. SA LÉGENDE A ÉTÉ POPULARISÉ AU MOYEN-ÂGE PAR LA LÉGENDE DORÉE PUIS PAR LA NOUVELLE DE GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, PUBLIÉE DANS "LES TROIS CONTES", EN 1877.

JEANCLOS A PUISÉ LIBREMENT DANS LE RÉCIT:

"LES THÈMES ÉVOQUÉS PAR LE CONTE: LA FORÊT, LA CHASSE, LE RAPPORT AU CORPS DE L'AUTRE – CORPS MEURTRI, CORPS RADIEUX – AINSI QUE LA PRÉSENCE DU FLEUVE ET LE RÔLE DU PASSEUR, ONT ÉTÉ LES FERMENTS DE MON TRAVAIL.

LES TROIS GROUPES SITUÉS AUX ANGLES DE LA FONTAINE SONT LÀ POUR EXPRIMER L'ACTION DE SOUTENIR ET PORTER LE CORPS DE L'AUTRE DANS UN ACTE DE TENDRESSE ET DE COMPASSION, AINSI  QU'IL EST ÉCRIT DANS L'HISTOIRE DE SAINT JULIEN L'HOSPITALIER.

LES COUPLES QUI S'ÉLÈVENT AU-DESSUS D'EUX, SONT LEURS ENFANTS QUI S'AVANCENT VERS UN MONDE MEILLEUR. TROIS TÉTES DE CERF, D'OÙ S'ÉCOULENT DES FILETS D'EAU POTABLE, SERVIRONT À DÉSALTÉRER LES PASSANTS VENUS DU MONDE ENTIER".

GEORGES JEANCLOS, LE 10 JUILLET 1995'

My translation:
 
'GEORGES JEANCLOS
 
THE FOUNTAIN OF ST JULIAN THE POOR

IN 1995 THE TOWN OF PARIS COMMISSIONED GEORGES JEANCLOS – BORN IN PARIS IN 1933 – TO SCULPT THE FOUNTAIN OF SAINT JULIAN THE POOR. IT REPLACES A WALLACE FOUNTAIN.

JEANCLOS WAS INSPIRED BY 'THE STORY OF SAINT JULIAN THE POOR, OR THE HOSPITALLER', WHO IS ALSO THE PATRON SAINT OF THE NEIGHBOURING CHURCH. HIS LEGEND  WAS POPULARISED IN THE MIDDLE AGES BY THE GOLDEN LEGEND, THEN BY GUSTAVE FLAUBERT'S SHORT STORY, PUBLISHED IN "THE THREE TALES", IN 1877.

JEANCLOS BORROWED FREELY FROM FLAUBERT'S STORY:

"THE THEMES EVOKED IN THE STORY: THE FOREST, THE HUNT, THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE BODY AND THE OTHER – WRECKED BODY, RADIANT BODY – AS WELL AS THE PRESENCE OF THE RIVER AND THE ROLE OF THE FERRYMAN, HAVE GIVEN MY WORK ITS POWER.

THE THREE GROUPS AT THE CORNERS OF THE FOUNTAIN ARE THERE TO EXPRESS THE ACTION OF SUPPORT IN CARRYING THE BODIES OF THE OTHER IN AN ACT OF LOVE, TENDERNESS AND COMPASSION. JUST AS IN SAINT JULIAN THE HOSPITALLIER.

THE COUPLES RISING ABOVE THEM ARE THEIR CHILDREN MOVING TOWARDS A BETTER WORLD. THERE ARE THREE STAGS' HEADS, FROM WHICH FLOW TRICKLES OF DRINKING WATER, WHICH WILL SERVE TO QUENCH THE THIRST OF PASSERSBY FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD."

(GEORGES DUCLOS, 10 JULY 1995)'
 
The fountain:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Émile Verhaeren and André Lefèvre in the 5th arrondissement, Paris

Le square André Lefèvre is just a few metres away from Dali's sundial, on the other side of the road. The sign says it is named after the 'littérateur français' 'born in 1831'. I've discovered that a writer named André Lefèvre (1834–1904 according to the BNF catalogue) wrote such works as Les Merveilles de l'architecture, Les Parcs et les jardins, La Philosophie, La Flûte de Pan, etc. This is surely the man the park is named after.* However, at the time of writing, the French Wikipédia entry calls this exact spot the 'square André Lefèbvre', which is not only a different spelling from that on the sign, but Wikipédia seems to think this square is dedicated to a similarly-named engineer who was born in 1894 and died in 1964. That's quite an error, and one that seems to have been reproduced by a number of sites, so I hope to see it corrected soon.
 
However, there is no ambiguity about the bust in the square, which is dedicated to the Belgian, French-speaking poet Émile Verhaeren who was much influenced by symbolism, wrote in free verse and was appreciated by many writers and artists. He died by accidentally being pushed under the wheels of a train by a crowd.
 
'ÉMILE
VERHAEREN'
 
'POÈTE BELGE
NÉ À ST ARMAND
LE 21 MAI 1855
MORT ACCIDENTELLEMENT
À ROUEN
LE 27 NOVEMBRE 1916

–––––––––––––––––––––

OFFERT À LA
VILLE DE PARIS
PAR LE COMITÉ
FRANCO-BELGE
ÉMILE VERHAEREN'
 
*Piet Desmet devotes a chapter to Lefevre's theories on 'naturalistic linguistics' in La Linguistique naturaliste en France (1867-1922): Nature, origine et évolution du langage (Paris: Leuven, 1996), pp. 315–350. (According to Desmet, Lefevre was indeed born in 1834 (in Provins) and died in 1904 (in Paris).)