24 July 2017

Zarafa the Book-Giraffe in Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

Zarafa was originally created in 2006 for the 'festival du livre' in the La Canebière. It was named after Zarafa, the first giraffe to arrive in France, in 1826. The first model Zarafa was intended to last only three days, but it lasted a year before being burned. This newer model is made of metal and with a young giraffe, Marcel, at its side. Zarafa's body is empty because it serves as a kind of book exchange, with people leaving books they don't want, borrowing a book to return, replacing it with another, or simply walking off with one.

23 July 2017

Frédéric Mistral in Saint-Giniez, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

The bust of Frédéric Mistral in the Place Théo Lombard, eighth arrondissement, Saint--Giniez, Marseille. The back reads 'Je souhaite, mes chers amis, que Marseille, si hosptaliére, devienne la capitale de l'empire du soleil': Mistral hoping that the very hospitable Marseille becomes the capital of the empire of the sun.

Le Panier, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

Le Panier is in the second arrondissement of Marseille, is the oldest part of the city, and perhaps has been made most famous by Jean-Claude Izzo's novels. Its name dates from a former inn that had a basket as its sign. There is an exchange 'shop' there in which you can take one of the items and replace it for another. That was the problem this morning: the bookcase  outside had a book I wanted: Emmanuelle Pireyre's Féerie Generale. Problem is, we didn't have a book to give in exchange, a problem made even worse by the fact that it was Sunday: no way of buying a book for three euros at Gibert Joseph to leave in exchange for this. Then my partner Penny thought of a brilliant idea: dash to the giraffe near Réformés Canebières. Unfortunately the giraffe's belly was empty, but even as we were turning away a guy came up and left two books in the receptacle: I grabbed the scholarly non-fiction work on Martin Luther King and we sped back to leave the MLK work in exchange for the Emmanuelle Pireyre. OK, I know that some would argue that Féerie Generale is unreadable, but I'm happy with the exchange: how else can you find good literature on a French Sunday in Marseille, apart from the vide grenier in the hippodrome?

Oh, yeah, Le Panier: my photographic comments below:

This last shot was taken from La Place des Moulins, and is one of the three windmill remains here.

Jean-Claude Izzo in Le Panier, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

Jean-Claude Izzo (1945-2000), who was born and died in Marseille, wrote detective novels of which the most famous is the 'Marseille trilogy' Total Khéops (1995), Chourmo (1996) and Solea (1998). Fabio Montale is the cop in some of Izzo's novels, and uses Le Bar des 13 Coins in the Le Panier area of Marseille.

22 July 2017

Cimetière Saint-Pierre, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13) #3: Antonin Artaud

This, as might be expected on the name on it, is where Antonin Artaud (1896–1948) lies. And not, as has been suggested by Odette Boulaméry in her Le cimetière de Saint-Pierre de Marseille (1999), in the grave of the tomb of the Baigneris-Catalan family shown below.

Cimetière Saint-Pierre, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13) #2: Edmond Rostand

No specific mention of Rostand being a writer, and in particular of the hugely successful play Cyrano de Bergerac (1897). His son, the writer and biologist Jean Rostand (1894–1977), was the product of Edmond's marriage to the poet Rosemonde Gérard (1866–1953).

Cimetière Saint-Pierre, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13) #1: Vincent Scotto and Alibert

Vincent Scotto (1874–1952) was born in Marseille and died in Paris. He wrote 4000 songs and 60 operettas: his 'opérettes marseillaises' (sometimes caricatural) were very popular in Paris and elsewhere. He also composed songs for some two hundred cinema films, some by his friend of the director and writer Marcel Pagnol, who even gave him the title rôle in Jofroi (1934). His most successful song is undoubtedly 'Sous les ponts de Paris' (translated as 'Under the bridges of Paris'). The Prix Vincent Scotto has existed since 1948 for the popular song considered (by the Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Éditeurs de Musique (SACEM)) the best of the year. He lies here under this impressive memorial with his singer and actor son-in-law (Henri) Alibert (1889-1951), who was born in Carpentras.

21 July 2017

Antonin Artaud in Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

The bust of Marseille-born Antonin Artaud (1896–1948) at the entrance to the parc zoologique. The day before, I noticed someone cleaning graffiti from a lamp post opposite the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de la Major, although of course that is a much more touristic area of Marseille: it's vital to spend money on the places where the money's coming in.

20 July 2017

Théodore Aubanal, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

Théodore Aubanel (1829–1886) also (along with Frédéric Mistral) has a plaque dedicated to him near the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, and it's also written in Provençal: as the plaque here states, Aubanel (whose grave I (almost unbelievably) wasn't allowed to photograph in Saint-Véran cemetery in Avignon) was a founder member of Le Félibrige. In 1850 Aubanel met Jenny Manivet (or Zani), the love of his life, although the two were unable to reveal their love for each other: Zani joined a convent. His first poems were published in 1851 in Li Prouvencalo, and in 1860 Aubanel published La mióugrano entre duberto (literally 'The Half-Opened Pomegranate'), concerning his lost love of Zani. It was well received in literary circles, although local Catholic organisations condemned it. Aubanel married another woman (Joséphine Mazen) the following year.

Frédéric Mistral, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

On the steps leading up to the Basilique de Notre-Dame de la Garde – a building which dominates the marseillais skyline) is a plaque dedicated to Frédéric Mistral (1830–1914), who was a member of the Académie de Marseille and of course won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1904. The five-line verse in Provençal (Mistral being one of the founder members of Le Félibrige) is a hymn to Marseille. The verse is taken from the book Li isclo d'or (1875), which was translated into French as Les Îles d'or ('The Golden Islands').

19 July 2017

Louise Michel in Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

19 Rue Dogommier, where Louise Michel, relentless enemy of the capitalist status quo, died of double pneumonia.

Henri Barbusse in Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

Rue Henri Barbusse. Barbusse (1873–1935) founded the Association républicaine des anciens combattants (ARAC), for former left-wing fighters, in 1917, and it continues to exist. He married Hélyonne (1879–1955), the daughter of Augusta Holmès and Catulle Mendès, and a museum dedicated to him is in Aumont-en-Halatte (Oise).'Lutteur infatigable pour la paix et contre le fascisme': 'Indefatigable fighter for peace against fascism.' An appropriate epitaph for the writer who lies in le Cimetière du Père Lachaise in Paris.

16 July 2017

Outsider Art, etc.

I've had a minor linking fest, and while so doing I've now gathered together the few posts on outsider artists, or similar, that I've made and created links to them. I've no doubt forgotten a few, but these are the ones that spring instantly to mind:

The Art of Theodore Major
Kevin Duffy, Ashton-in-Makerfield
The Outsider Art of Léopold Truc, Cabrières d'Avignon
Le Musée Extraordinaire de Georges Mazoyer, Ansouis
Le Facteur Cheval's Palais Idéal, Hauterives

Delphine de Vigan: Les jolis garçons (2005)

Delphine de Vigan's Les jolis garçons is one of her earlier published works, and although it seems to be three short stories of three different men the narrator Emma has had contact with, and although the similarities which hold it together are merely the mention of Emma's brother Martin and the occasional reference to one of her other lovers in the stories, the (often very loose if not eccentric) French definition of the work seems to be 'novel'. So be it.

Each section of the book is named after the man in question, the first being the lawyer Mark Stevenson, who is married and only visits Emma for thirty minutes each day. As the section progresses the reader has to wonder exactly what happens in this short period as he seems to spend a lot of time on the phone while at Emma's, in fact he seems to be disappearing altogether from her life. Hardly surprising really because he's just a figment of her imagination: no wonder she needs a shrink.

The writer Ethan Castor's section disappointed me, probably largely because his only interest, while his wife's not in town, appears to be in bedding as many women as possible. And needless to say Emma's attracted, although this reader at least isn't too sure why: it must be his captivating books, about which nothing is revealed.

Milan Mikaev is a famous television presenter of whom Emma (wise woman) knows nothing as she's not into television. But Milan is obsessed with her when she snubs him in a café, continues to follow her until they're both playing cat and mouse, then both living together, then (media fest) going to get married. But then she quietly (while he's sleeping) walks out on him.

Maybe all three men here are supposed to be read as invented, or maybe not. Certainly themes Delphine de Vigan would later highlight in her books – truth versus fiction, alienation, an overall strangeness, the need for love and stability in an unstable world, etc – are all present here. Unfairly, I'm sure, a number of casual blog comments have more of less written off this book, when it clearly contains the seeds of the fruition of Vigan's writing.

Links to my other Delphine de Vigan posts:
Delphine de Vigan: Les heures souterraines
Delphine de Vigan: Rien ne s'oppose à la nuit
Delphine de Vigan: No et moi
Delphine de Vigan: Jours sans faim

15 July 2017

Didier van Cauwelaert: Jules (2015)

There wasn't a great number of books to choose from in Super U so I picked up Didier van Cauwelaert's Jules. And it's not bad, but then what should you expect from a Goncourt winner? Maybe more, OK, but here we have guide dog labrador Jules whose (lesbian) mistress Alice stops off to buy some macaroons at Orly airport from Zibel's stand. Zibel is really an engineer in bio-chemistry and astrophysics, but we won't go into that. He's also smitten, obsessed by the beautiful Alice. But Jules is smitten by her too.

So when Alice's operation succeeds and she gains her sight Jules is redundant. When he's given a new (blind) owner Jules can still find no purpose in life, so he attaches himself to the closest he can find to Alice: Zibel. Due to Jules, Zibel loses his job, his accommodation, and his bearings. He must find Alice, and of course he now has a perfect excuse for searching for her.

Great literature this certainly isn't, but it's nevertheless a very readable, humorous, and undemanding read if you're in the right mood.

My other Didier van Cauwelaert post:
Didier van Cauwelaert: Un aller simple | One Way

Virginie Despentes: Vernon Subutex I (2015)

Although this is over four hundred pages long, it's only the first part of a trilogy which lives up to the kind of expectations which you might have of a writer and film director who made a film (and book) called Baise-moi (literally 'Fuck Me', but the French title was retained for a prissy Anglophone audience and readership). Despentes (recently welcomed onto the Goncourt panel) also wrote Apocalypse bébé, in which the main character blows up a literary crowd (and herself of course) with a bomb concealed in her vagina.

Vernon Subutex  (or at least the one third of it that I've read) is explosive in different ways, and the eponymous protagonist – who takes his first name from Boris Vian's pseudonym Vernon Sullivan and his surname from the trade name of the drug buprenorphine – is a former disc jockey who had a popular record store but has now fallen on hard times with the death of vinyl. What happens to people when they age?

What happens to Vernon is that he strives heroically in his attempt to conceal his new-found poverty and homelessness by inventing excuses to stay in old friends' homes until he becomes incapable of bluffing anymore and the inevitable happens: he's on the street with the other down and outs, rapidly learning how to survive down there.

Not that he's been forgotten though, as this is very much a chase story, people trying to track him down for a recording he has of an interview with a drunken Alex Bleach, the ageing rocker who latterly was Vernon's main source of income, but who recently died of an overdose.

On the back cover of this edition there's a quotation by Pierre Vavasseur from Le Parisien, in which he describes this book as '[A] comédie humaine for today that could well have delighted Balzac.' It's an interesting comparison, with its drugs, its various references to ageing rock stars, the frequent use of the internet, the ageing porn stars, transsexuals, lesbians (even La Hyène from Apocalypse bébé has quite an important re-appearance here), etc.

Wanting to be a porn star and disliking anal sex is like wanting to be a baker and being allergic to flour. Oh yes, there are many humorous moments in this dazzling book. I really must read the other two volumes.

My other Virginie Despentes post:
Virginie Despentes: Apocalypse bébé

Ivan Calbérac: Venise n'est pas en Italie (2015)

It's hardly surprising that Ivan Calbérac's first novel, Venise n'est pas en Italie, reads like a young adult publication as it's taken from the fictional diary of the fifteen-year-old protagonist Émile: not that that in any way suggests inferiority because Calbérac really skilfully puts us inside an adolescent's head. The humour (and there's a great deal of it) is provided by Émile's rather crazy family and Émile's own attempts to escape from embarrassing situations.

And there are many of those. Essentially this is the story of two star-crossed lovers, not (as with Romeo and Juliet) simply born into the wrong family because of rivalry, but because born into different classes. Émile's father is a travelling salesman and the family live in a caravan pending building a house; Pauline, though, lives in a palace in comparison and her father leads an orchestra. What chance has Émile in all this, especially when he visits Pauline at her parents and arrives with a hole in his sock so decides to go barefoot?

Only at the end will Émile discover the truth of Pauline's huge love for him, but before that her family invite him to Venice to a concert with them, then have to change their minds when cousins decide to stay in the hotel suite with them. Before that though Émile's family have invited themselves to a nearby campsite, so what swerves from another potentially deeply embarrassing experience means that Émile can still go to the concert and see Pauline.

But he misses her and she finds her way to the campsite anyway, and imagine that, she finds Émile's parents fascinating, down to earth, totally unlike she own intensely stodgy mother and father. So things are turning out all right? Uh-uh: Pauline's father appears on the scene, is disgusted by the sight, and Émile returns to a Pauline-free school. First loves can be heartbreaking.

Oh, and the title? Why isn't Venice in Italy? Because it's a state of mind.

10 July 2017

Flavie Flament: La Consolation (2016)

RTL presenter Flavie Flament was serially raped by a photographer from the age of thirteen. She wrote about it in this book: La Consolation, published late last year. The above book, however – a new and swiftly published poche edition with an additional six-page Preface (as opposed to the original more expensive paperback (broché) edition) – reveals the name of her rapist. The first edition didn't because of the délai de prescription law in France, meaning that no one aged over thirty-eight can legally denounce their attacker. Meaning that not only must a person suffer as a victim, but that the law can further victimise the person for, er, 'diffamation': Flavie Flamand was forty-two when she published this. The French law doesn't allow for traumatic amnesia.

She discussed her book on television programmes, but it was on Thierry Ardisson's Salut les Terriens ! that her attacker's name was revealed on 22 October 2016. After Flament explained why she felt that she couldn't reveal the name of the rapist, Ardisson pushed the issue, saying that politicians had tried to extend the délai to forty-eight years, but Flament still wouldn't say the name, stating that the proposed change to the law had been rejected. Ardisson asked her if he could say the name, Flament said it was up to him. Ardisson clearly pronounced 'David Hamilton', adding a very strongly worded insult to the rapist: 'J'sais pas si t'es à la télé mais t'es un bel enculé, connard !' I won't attempt a translation because strong language is particularly irksome to convey in another language, but the French here can't come much stronger. OK, it makes for good TV, but Thierry Ardisson deserves a huge commendation for this brave outburst.

Unfortunately, even as the rapist Hamilton denied the charges he seemed to admit them: he killed himself on 25 November 2016, a little more than a month after Ardisson's revelation. Flavie Flament was gutted because Hamilton had taken the easy way out, thus avoiding his own trauma which would inevitably have followed. But what of the trauma his victim had gone through?

Flavie Flament is now pushing for reform of the délai de prescription – not for its abolition, as that would take a long time. We can only hope that her wishes come soon, but then the seventies (when these attacks happened) are a different country, aren't they? I mean, surely attitudes towards sexual abuse of this nature can no longer be tolerated, can they? Don't bank on it.

I've not even said anything about the book itself, of its accusations of Flament's mother's involvement in the whole business, which includes other (slightly less serious) details. But her mother claims not to have read the book, affirming that her daughter needs a good doctor.

Anyway, the book is in two parts, with serif and non-serif fonts interspersed. The serif typeface predominates, being an account of Flament's loss of innocence, loss of childhood. But the non-serif reveals the emotions she's experienced, the psychotherapy she's been through, the constant torment, torture. Often, Flament (or Poupette as she quite often calls herself here) describes herself in the third person, as if she's an object, which of course she was to David Hamilton, that enculé, that connard. Motherfucker? Life-fucker? Yes, I'm sure. Devastating.

NB. The photo on the cover is of course one taken by Hamilton during one of his sessions with Flavie Flament, although she certainly looked younger than thirteen at the time.

Léon Daudet in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

 The grave of the very right-wing Léon Daudet (1867–1942) – journalist and novelist and son of Alphonse Daudet – who died in Saint-Rémy.

Le Château de Lacoste, Lacoste, Vaucluse (84)

Le Château de Lacoste is on a hill at the top of Lacoste village and although the original castle dates from the eleventh century, it has evidently been much modified since then. It passed into the ownership of the Sade family, and is today inevitably known as 'le château du Marquis de Sade'. The infamous marquis stayed here on several occasions between 1769 and 1778, the longest being in 1772, when he had a theatre constructed for 120 spectators. he is said to have been 'extraordinarily attached' to the building, which was in large part destroyed during the French Revolution. Despairing of the loss, Sade, riddled by debt, was forced to sell the property. The ruins were named a 'monument historique' in 1992, and in 2001 couturier Pierre Cardin bought it and began some restoration. In the summer there is an annual music festival there.

Pierre Cardin's shop is below in the village. Yes, of course it was closed.

And of course, there is a bust of Sade in the window.

9 July 2017

L'Abbaye troglodytique de Saint-Roman, Beaucaire, Gard (30)

L'Abbaye troglodytique de Saint-Roman, or the Troglodytic Abbey of Saint-Roman, Beaucaire, Gard (30), consists of calcareous rocks originally occupied (pre-historically) by tribes of hunters. Towards the end of the fifth century increasing numbers of hermits (possibly followers of Saint Roman) occupied the rock. From the seventh to the eighth century the inhabitants here lived a monastic life-style on a line with the Desert Fathers, becoming a Benedictine abbey, enlarging the natural cavities and creating a chapel and monastic cells. The abbey lost its independence in the eleventh century but its prestige and its history still held it in great esteem. However, in 1538 the monks left Saint-Roman, which had been sold privately, and a kind of castle built over the former religious property. The abbey had been abandoned for very many years when La Société d'Histoire et d'Archéologie de Beaucaire began excavations in the 1960s. It was declared a Monument Historique in 1991.

The entrance to the chapel.

Inside the abbey.

The abbatial seat.

Hewn out of the rock, 152 tombs are still visible.

And from the necropolis there is a commanding view of the River Rhône and beyond. A little to the left in the middle ground is the Vallabrègues dam: Vallabrègues, in the background to the left of the dam, is the only commune on the left bank of the Rhône which is in the département of Gard. Frédéric Mistral was influenced by the basket makers of Vallabrègues in the creation of the main male character Vincent in his narrative poem Miréio.

Monastic cells.

The wine press for the peasants who cultivated the surrounding fields.

La Grande Salle, which was originally on three levels, the bottom one probably serving as a stable.