26 February 2019

Marguerite Duras: Moderato cantabile (1958)

Although highly rated both critically and popularly, the film The Sound of Music (1965) was an unspeakably tacky film of the mid-1960s which seemed to go well against the grain of the modern era where youth was both king and queen and the times were definitely a-changing. From an English point of view, the film could almost be seen as a protest against the rebel-without-a-cause mindlessness of the mods-versus-rockers skirmishes, even as a desperate, premonitory cry against the hippie movement and all its revolutionary force. A fitting example of this is the song 'Do-Re-Mi' in the film, concerning of course the musical scale: what could be more representative of the world of order, a call to an end of chaos, than that song?

Moderato cantabile isn't about the changing times, although music serves as a introduction and an occasional backcloth to the novel. Anne Desbaresdes is the wife of a wealthy factory owner in a small coastal town who every Friday leaves her home on the other side of town to take her son for piano lessons with Mademoiselle Giraud. Giraud is an old-style quietly tyrannical type of teacher who gets angry with her pupil for refusing to practice his scales, and there we have the central issue: much as The Sound of Music wants everyone to behave like sheep, love its sickly sentimentality and fall in line with everything like a musical scale, there will nevertheless always be rebels, those who transgress, and Anne Desbaresdes's son is transgressive. But then his mother is much more transgressive.

From the window of the music study comes the cry of a woman being murdered outside a working-class café (call this a kind of MacGuffin if you wish), and it is in this café that Anne goes to have a number of wines and has her first meeting with the worker Chauvin (interesting name), who of course knows who she is, as does everyone in the town. And this meeting is the first of several meetings that Anne shall have with him in the café, where Chauvin will reconstruct the circumstances leading to the murder – a murder that the unknown victim has willed, or at least according to Chauvin's unreliable narration.

Yes, Anne is far more transgressive than her son: she not only fraternises with one of her husband's workers, but goes through the motions of having an affair with the man. But then, that's not stated, and all that happens physically is a touch of hands, in the end a brief, laconic kiss, a kiss of love but almost a kiss of death: it is as if the couple – who by now are shunned by the other (non-transgressive, almost clockwork) workers in the café, the whole town being aware of the 'affair' – are playing out the murder that has so much obsessed them.

But then everything is understated: the critic Dominique Aury reckons that the book says what it doesn't say. And the rest of the critical world, in 1958, is hit almost senseless by what amounts to a book which breaks away – as Duras has finally done – from the conventional narrative norm: in itself, this is transgressive. Is it making an overstatement to suggest – and this book thrives on suggestion rather than statement – that this brief novel was a kind of literary Hiroshima?

My Marguerite Duras posts:
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Marguerite Duras: La Pute de la côte normande
Marguerite Duras: L'Homme assis dans le couloir
Marguerite Duras: Agatha
Marguerite Duras: Emily L.
Marguerite Duras: Les Yeux bleus cheveux noirs
Marguerite Duras: L'Amant | The Lover
Marguerite Duras: Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein
Marguerite Duras: L'Amante anglaise
Laure Adler: Marguerite Duras
Marguerite Duras: Cimetière du Montparnasse
Marguerite Duras: Un barrage contre le Pacifique
Marguerite Duras: L'Après-midi de Monsieur Andesmas
Marguerite Duras: Les Petits Chevaux de Tarquinia
Marguerite Duras: Le Marin de Gibraltar | The Sailor from Gibraltar
Marguerite Duras: La Douleur | The War: A Memoir
Yann Andréa: Cet amour-là
Marguerite Duras and Xavière Gauthier: Les Parleuses
Marguerite Duras: Savannah Bay

Marguerite Duras: Détruire, dit-elle | Destroy, She Said
Marguerite Duras: L'Amour
Marguerite Duras: Dix heures et demie du soir en été
Marguerite Duras: Le Square | The Square
Marguerite Duras: Les Impudents
Marguerite Duras: Le Shaga
Marguerite Duras: Oui, peut-être
Marguerite Duras: Des journées entières dans les arbres
Marguerite Duras: Suzanna Andler
Marguerite Duras: Le Vice-Consul | The Vice Consul
Marguerite Duras: Moderato cantabile
Marguerite Duras: La Vie matérielle
Marguerite Duras: La Vie tranquille
Marguerite Duras: La Pluie d'été

25 February 2019

Marguerite Duras: La Vie matérielle (1987)

La Vie matérielle is a collection of 47 texts of very differing lengths, almost all of which are taken from what Marguerite Duras said to Jérôme Beaujour about her feelings of her past and present life. They have been re-worked, although what Duras says about them is that they have no beginning and no end, that this is neither journal nor novel, just pieces taken from her everyday life.

They are, though, very revealing: the reader, for instance, may well have known about Duras’s hospitalisations for her chronic alcoholism, but not about her thoughts on alcohol, or the hallucinatory hell she went through coming off drink. She says here that alcohol is made to render the emptiness of the universe more tolerable, that it replaces the lack of God, that even tramps are made intellectuals though alcohol!

Duras also reveals more things about her very violent but very loving sexual relationship with the writer Gérard Jarlot, although (as in the earlier Les Parleuses interviews with Xaviêre Gauthier) she doesn’t mention his name. But she did, in 1958, dedicate her novel Moderato cantabile to ‘G. J.’: she says both in Les Parleuses and La Vie matéielle that the man is responsible for changing her writing style from that novel on.

All in all, it would have been some loss not to have published (as Duras had considered) this often surprising collection of observations by one of the world’s most important writers.

My Marguerite Duras posts:
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Marguerite Duras: La Pute de la côte normande
Marguerite Duras: L'Homme assis dans le couloir
Marguerite Duras: Agatha
Marguerite Duras: Emily L.
Marguerite Duras: Les Yeux bleus cheveux noirs
Marguerite Duras: L'Amant | The Lover
Marguerite Duras: Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein
Marguerite Duras: L'Amante anglaise
Laure Adler: Marguerite Duras
Marguerite Duras: Cimetière du Montparnasse
Marguerite Duras: Un barrage contre le Pacifique
Marguerite Duras: L'Après-midi de Monsieur Andesmas
Marguerite Duras: Les Petits Chevaux de Tarquinia
Marguerite Duras: Le Marin de Gibraltar | The Sailor from Gibraltar
Marguerite Duras: La Douleur | The War: A Memoir
Yann Andréa: Cet amour-là
Marguerite Duras and Xavière Gauthier: Les Parleuses
Marguerite Duras: Savannah Bay

Marguerite Duras: Détruire, dit-elle | Destroy, She Said
Marguerite Duras: L'Amour
Marguerite Duras: Dix heures et demie du soir en été
Marguerite Duras: Le Square | The Square
Marguerite Duras: Les Impudents
Marguerite Duras: Le Shaga
Marguerite Duras: Oui, peut-être
Marguerite Duras: Des journées entières dans les arbres
Marguerite Duras: Suzanna Andler
Marguerite Duras: Le Vice-Consul | The Vice Consul
Marguerite Duras: Moderato cantabile
Marguerite Duras: La Vie matérielle
Marguerite Duras: La Vie tranquille
Marguerite Duras: La Pluie d'été

21 February 2019

Marguerite Duras: La Vie tranquille (1944; repr. 1977)

Marguerite Duras's second novel, published in 1944 and revised in 1972, so – unike Les Impudents a few years earlier – accepted by the author. Many familiar themes are already in place here: the family unit, alienation, mourning, suggestions of incest, suicide, love, desire, absence, the inability to or reluctance to commmunicate, etc.

Again, we are in Le Périgord, a young agricultural worker woman (Francine) narrating. There will be three deaths – one murder and two suicides – all of which are in some (even if indirect) way related to Francine. First there's the fight between Francine's brother Nicholas and her wastrel uncle Jérôme, who's been responsible for the family leaving Belgium after the embezzlement of the mairie funds: Francine feels she pushed her brother into the murder. Then Nicholas lies across the railway lines and allows a train to run over him: Francine feels guilty that her beloved brother is dead.

In fact she feels so bad about her loss that a few weeks after his death her lover Tiène gives her money to go away to the sea for two weeks, and there – right in the middle of the book – the language briefly falls apart in sympathy with the nervous breakdown which seems to be taking hold of her. In her room in the boarding house the first person slips into the third person as the reification process tried to instate itself:

'There, in my bedroom, is me. You'd think that she no longer knows who it is. She sees herself in the wardrobe mirror [...] she pulls three shirts from the small suitcase so as to appear natural before the woman who's looking at her. At the same time as she avoids seeing herself, she sees herself in the wardrobe mirror'.

The presence of the mirror creates a double, splits her in two, as if she has two personalities. The verb used is 'see' not 'look at', passive not active, as though she has lost her will to act, is a mere object. She is in a swamp of ennui.

Later there's an episode which resembles Meusault in Camus's L'Étranger, in which she's in the sun and watches an unnamed man die. She doesn't kill him, just watches him swim out to sea and not return. For this, the boarding house guests criticise her for not shouting to the man – but like Meursault, she doesn't lie. And they seem to be acccusing her of being responsible for the man's death and the landlady says she has to leave.

And so she goes home to marry Tiène, whom she's not even asked but who falls in line, and I'm left thinking what a very strange novel this is, although it's probably nothing like as stange as some of Duras's books.

My Marguerite Duras posts:
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Marguerite Duras: La Pute de la côte normande
Marguerite Duras: L'Homme assis dans le couloir
Marguerite Duras: Agatha
Marguerite Duras: Emily L.
Marguerite Duras: Les Yeux bleus cheveux noirs
Marguerite Duras: L'Amant | The Lover
Marguerite Duras: Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein
Marguerite Duras: L'Amante anglaise
Laure Adler: Marguerite Duras
Marguerite Duras: Cimetière du Montparnasse
Marguerite Duras: Un barrage contre le Pacifique
Marguerite Duras: L'Après-midi de Monsieur Andesmas
Marguerite Duras: Les Petits Chevaux de Tarquinia
Marguerite Duras: Le Marin de Gibraltar | The Sailor from Gibraltar
Marguerite Duras: La Douleur | The War: A Memoir
Yann Andréa: Cet amour-là
Marguerite Duras and Xavière Gauthier: Les Parleuses
Marguerite Duras: Savannah Bay

Marguerite Duras: Détruire, dit-elle | Destroy, She Said
Marguerite Duras: L'Amour
Marguerite Duras: Dix heures et demie du soir en été
Marguerite Duras: Le Square | The Square
Marguerite Duras: Les Impudents
Marguerite Duras: Le Shaga
Marguerite Duras: Oui, peut-être
Marguerite Duras: Des journées entières dans les arbres
Marguerite Duras: Suzanna Andler
Marguerite Duras: Le Vice-Consul | The Vice Consul
Marguerite Duras: Moderato cantabile
Marguerite Duras: La Vie matérielle
Marguerite Duras: La Vie tranquille
Marguerite Duras: La Pluie d'été

18 February 2019

The Grave of the Poet James Leigh, Gee Cross, Hyde

Detail from a photo taken by James Leigh's friend Frederick Higham.

So the Potter grave isn't the only one of literary interest here. This is the grave of James Leigh in the cemetery at Hyde Chapel, Gee Cross, Hyde.

'IN EVER-LOVING MEMORY OF
JAMES LEIGH
OF HYDE, AUTHOR OF "GLEAMS OF SUNSHINE",
AND OTHER POEMS, WHO CROSSED THE BAR
NOVR 21ST 1918. AGED 64 YEARS.
ALSO ALICE ANN WIFE OF THE
ABOVE, WHO DIED JUNE 4TH 1938, AGED 83 YEARS.'

'"THE DARKEST NIGHT DOTH OFT PRECEDE
THE BLESSED DAWNING OF A GLORIOUS DAY.
THROUGH DEATH'S DARK VALE, THE RIGHTEOUS SOUL DOTH LEAD
TO REALMS OF LIGHT AND LIFE AND IMMORTALITY."

JAMES LEIGH.'

Gleams of Sunshine (from which the above lines are taken) is preceded by several introductions, one of which is by Thomas Middleton, of which this is a small part:

'James Leigh was born in 1854, at Walker Fold, Hyde, in an old picturesque homestead which his father had occupied as a farmer for over fifty years. He came of a family which farmed land on Werneth Low, and in Ewen Fields, Hyde, for upwards of two centuries. At the early age of eight years he went to work half-time as a piecer at "Randal Hibbert's Factory," Godley, and when he had attained the age of ten years he left school entirely. With the exception of an interval of six years, during which he worked as a mason, he continued to act as a cotton operative working at Slack Mills, Hyde, until the year 1896, when he finally left the mill and commenced a grocery business in Ridling Lane, Hyde.

From the above brief sketch it will be seen that James Leigh's life has been of the practical rather than the romantic order ; it has been spent in a district that is more famous for the number of its mill chimneys than for the possession of those attributes that are supposed to give poetical inspiration. Environment was certainly against him, and considering the early age at which he was compelled to leave school, and the necessarily small amount of education he received, it cannot be said that the task of writing verse was rendered easy in his case. It is indeed surprising to find him figuring in the role of a Lancashire rhymster as far back as the year 1868. He was still a piecer in the mill, and only fourteen years of age when his first poem appeared in the columns of the "Ashton Reporter." Since that time, however, he has continued to publish verse, and is well-known as a contributor to the local press, and to other largely read Lancashire journals. His pieces form a lengthy list, and a selection of a few titles may suitably be given. It should be added that Leigh has frequently devoted his powers to the production of election verse, which although exhibiting rare veins of humour is the wrong sort of matter to enhance his poetic fame. Politics are best avoided by bards of all ranks and classes, and Leigh's electoral effusions are left out of the collected edition of his works. Of his more serious writings a few titles are appended ; it will be noticed that some of them make reference to well- known events of local importance, "Hyde Town Hall Clock and Bells," "Kingston For Ever," "On the death of the Rev. R. K. Bateson," "New Year's Eve," "Spring/' "Jamie o' Dicks," "Christmas Time," "Cowd Winter," " The Village Parson," "Werneth Low," "The Seasons," "Pleasant Walks with Old Companions," "Rambles Round Mottram," etc.

A link to the whole book is here.

17 February 2019

André de Richaud: La Douleur (1930)

And here we have André de Richaud's La Douleur, the novel which would have such an epiphanic effect on Albert Camus as an adolescent. This book taught Camus that he could write, write about his feelings: Camus too had lost his father in World War I, like the young child 'Georget' Delombre in this book. In L'Ordre libertaire, Michel Onfray claims that the novel could make Camus's own future literature give voice to his mute mother's feelings. Camus read the book later to be disappointed and merely considered it as what today we would call a Young Adult publication, light and insignificant. I think both Camus and Onfray are wrong in their easy dismissal of the novel.

La douleur is set in World War I, when at the age of thirty-five Thérèse Delombre is left a widow after the death of her military captain husband in the village of Althen-des-Paluds, where André de Richaud lived and is buried. The locals have accepted her as she shows humility and lack of haughtiness, but trouble is to come when three German prisoners are lodged in the town. At first they assimilate easily and readily learn the foreign language.

But Thérèse is painfully sexually frustrated, as is the German prisoner Otto, and inevitably the two come together. And equally inevitably there are a number of problems which stem from the relationship: Thérèse falls in love with the ten-years-younger Otto, who can see that she will quickly age and has no plans for their future; with much jealousy and shame, the new Catholic convert Georget hates the German interloper: 'is it a sin to refuse to be kissed [goodnight] by a Kraut?', he asks at confession; and of course the relationship is discovered by the locals, who now view Thérèse with very different eyes.

As, ironically, The Merry Widow is played in the village, the German prisoners are now seen as unwelcome, and Otto has to confess he is leaving Thérèse. This is a little before the distraught Thérèse learns that she is pregnant, and a few months later the prisoners leave. Thérèse has thought of suicide, but an accident makes that task unnecessary. The innocent Georget will be able to be welcomed into the Catholic fold as an orphan.

My André de Richaud posts:
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
André de Richaud: La Douleur
André de Richaud in Althen-des-Paluds

11 February 2019

James Prior plaque, Blidworth, Nottinghamshire


'In Commemoration of
James Prior Kirk
1851 - 1922

Poet and Author of 'Forest Folk'
A tale of Blidworth and Blidworth Folk

"I have put the best of myself into my books.
they are me and nobody else".'

At last! A commemoration of James Prior in Blidworth, Nottinghamshire, in which almost all of his novel Forest Folk (1901) is set. This is on the planter in Forest Folk Corner, close to the land on which the Forest Folk pub stood. Thank you to Alan Higgins, Chairman of Blidworth and District Historical and Heritage Society, for informing me of this. Nottinghamshire County Council and Blidworth parish council supported the Society's project, and local interest has been 'very positive'.

The Forest Folk pub, taken by me in about 1992. It bore the datestone '1926' and many people were shocked by the news in 2001 that it was to be knocked down and a supermarket put up in its place. It was actually demolished in 2005.

My James Prior posts:
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
James Prior's Forest Folk (dissertation): Introduction
James Prior's Forest Folk (dissertation): Chapter One
James Prior's Forest Folk (dissertation): Chapter Two
James Prior's Forest Folk (dissertation): Chapter Three
James Prior's Forest Folk (dissertation): Conclusion
James Prior (1851–1922) in Bingham
James Prior's Parents' Grave, Nottingham
James Prior: Three Shots from a Popgun (1880)
The Forest Folk memorial window
James Prior plaque, Blidworth

Rocking Chair Ceremony, Blidworth, Nottinghamshire

The Rocking Ceremony in Blidworth, Nottinghamshire, is more than 600 years old. The information plaque by the sculpture informs us that the ceremony is 'based on an old bible play about "the presentation of the baby Jesus in the temple".' It was revived in 1922 and takes place annually in the parish church on the first Sunday in February, when the baby boy born nearest to Christmas day is baptised and rocked in a 100-year-old wooden cradle. The church is 'the last church in the country, and possibly the world, to perform the ceremony'. This sculpture was made by Morris Reddington, and presented to the village free of charge in March 2010.

9 February 2019

Jean Bertholle, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)

Jean Bertholle (1910–2002), from Châtillon-sur-Seine, Côte-d'Or, spent forty year turning forest trees into shoe heels, and then became a gamekeeper. His weathercocks remind me of Roméo Gérolami's current ones in his garden in Bléneau, the Yonne.


Art brut (Outsider Art) and associated:
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Rémy Callot, Carvin (Nord)
Carine Fol (ed.): L'Art brut en question | Outsider Art in Question
Kevin Duffy, Ashton-in-Makerfield
The Art Brut of Léopold Truc, Cabrières d'Avignon (34)
Le Musée Extraordinaire de Georges Mazoyer, Ansouis (34)
Le Facteur Cheval's Palais Idéal, Hauterives (26)
The Little Chapel, Guernsey
Museum of Appalachia, Norris, Clinton, Tennessee
Ed Leedskalnin in Homestead, Florida
La Fabuloserie, Dicy, Yonne (89)
Street Art City, Lurcy-Lévis, Allier (03)
The Outsider Art of Jean Linard, Neuvy-deux-Clochers (18)
Jean Bertholle, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Jean-Pierre Schetz, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Jules Damloup, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Camille Vidal, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Pascal Verbena, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
The Art of Theodore Major
Edward Gorey's Yarmouth Port, Cape Cod, MA
Marcel Vinsard in Pontcharra, Isère (38)
Vincent Capt: Écrivainer : La langue morcelée de Samuel Daiber
The Amazing World of Danielle Jacqui, Roquevaire (13)
Alphonse Gurlie, Maisonneuve (07)
Univers du poète ferrailleur, Lizio, Morbihan
Les Rochers sculptés de L'Abbé Fouré, Rothéneuf, Saint-Malo
Robert Tatin in Cossé-le-Vivien, Mayenne
René Raoul's Jardin de pierre in Pléhédel, Côtes d'Armor
La Demeure du Chaos, Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d'Or, Rhône (69)
Emmanuel Arredondo in Varennes Vauzelles, Nièvre (58)
Musée de la Luna Rossa (revisited), Caen, Calvados (14)
La Fontaine de Château-Chinon, Nièvre (58)

Jean-Pierre Schetz, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)

Jean-Pierre Schetz (1921–1986) was a Belgian ironsmith-turned mason displeased with the uniformity of the houses around him, and in the 1970s changed the garden of his house in Jupille near Liège into Un Coin de Soleil until his death. He constructed real and imaginary figures with mosaics (mainly from broken crockery) and used various other reclaimed objects. Thanks to the Mad Museum in Liège, a part of his work is now in La Fabuloserie.



My Art Brut and related posts:
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Rémy Callot, Carvin (Nord)
Kevin Duffy, Ashton-in-Makerfield
The Outsider Art of Léopold Truc, Cabrières d'Avignon (34)
Le Musée Extraordinaire de Georges Mazoyer, Ansouis (34)
Le Facteur Cheval's Palais Idéal, Hauterives (26) 
The Little Chapel, Guernsey
Museum of Appalachia, Norris, Clinton, Tennessee
Ed Leedskalnin in Homestead, Florida
La Fabuloserie, Dicy, Yonne (89)
Street Art City, Lurcy-Lévis, Allier (03)
The Outsider Art of Jean Linard, Neuvy-deux-Clochers (18)
Jean Bertholle, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Jean-Pierre Schetz, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Jules Damloup, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Camille Vidal, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Pascal Verbena, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
The Art of Theodore Major
Edward Gorey's Yarmouth Port, Cape Cod, MA
Marcel Vinsard in Pontcharra, Isère (38)
Carine Fol (ed.): Outsider Art in Question
Vincent Capt: Écrivainer : La langue morcelée de Samuel Daiber
The Amazing World of Danielle Jacqui, Roquevaire (13)
Alphonse Gurlie, Maisonneuve (07)
La Demeure du Chaos, Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d'Or, Rhône (69)
Emmanuel Arredondo in Varennes Vauzelles, Nièvre (58)
Musée de la Luna Rossa (revisited), Caen, Calvados (14)
La Fontaine de Château-Chinon, Nièvre (58)

Jules Damloup, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)

After Jules Damloup (1898–1985) retired, inspired by the animal figures on Poulain chocolate, he changed his garden by adding about twenty large animal figures. His first creation was Babar the elephant, equipped with its own water sprinkling system in its trunk. Michel Ragon, a writer and great enthusiast of art brut and working-class literature, discovered Damloup's work, informed Caroline Bourbonnais, and La Petite Afrique was moved to La Fabuloserie after Damloup's son donated it.


Art brut (Outsider Art) and associated:
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Rémy Callot, Carvin (Nord)
Carine Fol (ed.): L'Art brut en question | Outsider Art in Question
Kevin Duffy, Ashton-in-Makerfield
The Art Brut of Léopold Truc, Cabrières d'Avignon (34)
Le Musée Extraordinaire de Georges Mazoyer, Ansouis (34)
Le Facteur Cheval's Palais Idéal, Hauterives (26)
The Little Chapel, Guernsey
Museum of Appalachia, Norris, Clinton, Tennessee
Ed Leedskalnin in Homestead, Florida
La Fabuloserie, Dicy, Yonne (89)
Street Art City, Lurcy-Lévis, Allier (03)
The Outsider Art of Jean Linard, Neuvy-deux-Clochers (18)
Jean Bertholle, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Jean-Pierre Schetz, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Jules Damloup, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Camille Vidal, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Pascal Verbena, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
The Art of Theodore Major
Edward Gorey's Yarmouth Port, Cape Cod, MA
Marcel Vinsard in Pontcharra, Isère (38)
Vincent Capt: Écrivainer : La langue morcelée de Samuel Daiber
The Amazing World of Danielle Jacqui, Roquevaire (13)
Alphonse Gurlie, Maisonneuve (07)
Univers du poète ferrailleur, Lizio, Morbihan
Les Rochers sculptés de L'Abbé Fouré, Rothéneuf, Saint-Malo
Robert Tatin in Cossé-le-Vivien, Mayenne
La Demeure du Chaos, Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d'Or, Rhône (69)
René Raoul's Jardin de pierre in Pléhédel, Côtes d'Armor
Emmanuel Arredondo in Varennes Vauzelles, Nièvre (58)
Musée de la Luna Rossa (revisited), Caen, Calvados (14)
La Fontaine de Château-Chinon, Nièvre (58)

8 February 2019

Camille Vidal, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)

Camille Vidal (1884–1977) was born in Narbonne and died in Agde. He was a mason who made coloured cement sculptures in his garden, which he called 'L'Arche de Noë' after his animal figures. The animals here are mainly (but not entirely) human. Alain and Caroline Bourbonnais rescued his work from oblivion.

Clemenceau and a very slim-looking Churchill.

Jayne Mansfield as I'm sure many millions would like to have seen her.

A very flattering representation of Margaret Thatcher, who destroyed the lives of so many people both in the UK and abroad. To bring the story up to present, Westminster has refused to accept a statue of her because it would provoke anger and vandalism, but Grantham (the place of the monster's birth) is only too willing to accept the statue on a huge plinth, as if that will deter anyone from throwing a can of paint at the figure! The people in Grantham responsible for this outrage have only themselves to blame for the consequences of their insane decision. I have been to Grantham many times, and have no idea how much I've spent there, but never again will I go anywhere near it. Thatcher is a vile creature to be ashamed of, not praised.

My Art Brut and related posts:
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Kevin Duffy, Ashton-in-Makerfield
The Outsider Art of Léopold Truc, Cabrières d'Avignon (34)
Le Musée Extraordinaire de Georges Mazoyer, Ansouis (34)
Le Facteur Cheval's Palais Idéal, Hauterives (26) 
The Little Chapel, Guernsey
Museum of Appalachia, Norris, Clinton, Tennessee
Ed Leedskalnin in Homestead, Florida
La Fabuloserie, Dicy, Yonne (89)
Street Art City, Lurcy-Lévis, Allier (03)
The Outsider Art of Jean Linard, Neuvy-deux-Clochers (18)
La Fabuloserie, Dicy, Yonne (89)
Jean Bertholle, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Jean-Pierre Schetz, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Jules Damloup, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Camille Vidal, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Pascal Verbena, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
The Art of Theodore Major
Edward Gorey's Yarmouth Port, Cape Cod, MA
Marcel Vinsard in Pontcharra, Isère (38)
Carine Fol (ed.): Outsider Art in Question
Vincent Capt: Écrivainer : La langue morcelée de Samuel Daiber
The Amazing World of Danielle Jacqui, Roquevaire (13)
Alphonse Gurlie, Maisonneuve (07)
La Demeure du Chaos, Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d'Or, Rhône (69)
Emmanuel Arredondo in Varennes Vauzelles, Nièvre (58)
Musée de la Luna Rossa (revisited), Caen, Calvados (14)
La Fontaine de Château-Chinon, Nièvre (58)

Pascal Verbena, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)

Pascal Verbena was born in Marseille the son of wholesale fish merchants. Married, he worked at night in the postal sector and in the day fished in the calanques, bringing up pieces of wood which he used in his atelier to renew their life. He loved hiding places, a major key to his work: sliding doors, drawers, tiny human figures, imaginary prehistoric animals. His final works became more abstract.

My Art Brut and related posts:
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Kevin Duffy, Ashton-in-Makerfield
The Outsider Art of Léopold Truc, Cabrières d'Avignon (34)
Le Musée Extraordinaire de Georges Mazoyer, Ansouis (34)
Le Facteur Cheval's Palais Idéal, Hauterives (26) 
The Little Chapel, Guernsey
Museum of Appalachia, Norris, Clinton, Tennessee
Ed Leedskalnin in Homestead, Florida
La Fabuloserie, Dicy, Yonne (89)
Street Art City, Lurcy-Lévis, Allier (03)
The Outsider Art of Jean Linard, Neuvy-deux-Clochers (18)
La Fabuloserie, Dicy, Yonne (89)
Jean Bertholle, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Jean-Pierre Schetz, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Jules Damloup, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Camille Vidal, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Pascal Verbena, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
The Art of Theodore Major
Edward Gorey's Yarmouth Port, Cape Cod, MA
Marcel Vinsard in Pontcharra, Isère (38)
Carine Fol (ed.): Outsider Art in Question
Vincent Capt: Écrivainer : La langue morcelée de Samuel Daiber
The Amazing World of Danielle Jacqui, Roquevaire (13)
Alphonse Gurlie, Maisonneuve (07)
La Demeure du Chaos, Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d'Or, Rhône (69)
Emmanuel Arredondo in Varennes Vauzelles, Nièvre (58)
Musée de la Luna Rossa (revisited), Caen, Calvados (14)
La Fontaine de Château-Chinon, Nièvre (58)

Albert Sallé, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)

There are several artists in the amazing Fabuloserie that I forgot to include in this blog last year, so here goes with the first omission. I don't have any dates for Albert Sallé, who was originally a farrier, and then employed by RATP (Régie autonome des transports parisiens). On retirement he lived in a tiny place in old Menton and started making tiny objects from recycled materials: capsules, elastic products, bits of wire and cork, etc. He'd sometimes introduce a musical element to his creations, and his display of his works sometimes resulted in theft. He died a depressed man. I don't know the name of this work, although he was apparently given to using odd names to his creations.


My Outsider Artist and related posts:
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Kevin Duffy, Ashton-in-Makerfield
The Outsider Art of Léopold Truc, Cabrières d'Avignon (34)
Le Musée Extraordinaire de Georges Mazoyer, Ansouis (34)
Le Facteur Cheval's Palais Idéal, Hauterives (26) 
The Little Chapel, Guernsey
Museum of Appalachia, Norris, Clinton, Tennessee
Ed Leedskalnin in Homestead, Florida
La Fabuloserie, Dicy, Yonne (89)
Street Art City, Lurcy-Lévis, Allier (03)
The Outsider Art of Jean Linard, Neuvy-deux-Clochers (18)
La Fabuloserie, Dicy, Yonne (89)
Jean Bertholle, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Jean-Pierre Schetz, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Jules Damloup, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Camille Vidal, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
Pascal Verbena, La Fabuloserie, Yonne (89)
The Art of Theodore Major
Edward Gorey's Yarmouth Port, Cape Cod, MA
Marcel Vinsard in Pontcharra, Isère (38)
Carine Fol (ed.): Outsider Art in Question
Vincent Capt: Écrivainer : La langue morcelée de Samuel Daiber

7 February 2019

Yanny Hureaux: Un Ardennais nommé Rimbaud (2003)

This really is a masterful work by Yanny Hureaux, a novelist, journalist and writer of many local books around Ardennes subjects, who taught in Charleville-Mézières, Rimbaud's place of birth, for some years and is passionately interested in the literature and culture in general of the area. Arthur Rimbaud is seen here very much as a regional writer: nothing parochial about that: D. H. Lawrence was a regional writer as well as a national, even global, writer.

I studied Rimbaud a little at university, and was only taught that he gave up poetry at a very early age to become a gunrunner in Africa, and of course there's truth in this, although I found out nothing more. Yanny Hureaux knows a great deal about Rimbaud's travels, but more importantly he sees things from a local point of view. Certainly we follow Rimbaud on his many travels, but from the vicarious point of view of learning of his letters home – those received by his mother Vitalie and his sister Isabelle when he was in, for example, Cyprus or Aden.

For if we are with him when he is away, it is indirectly in Charleville-Mézières or the farm in tiny Roche (Vitalie's place of birth), with mother and sister, reading quotations from his letters and imagining mother and sister following place markings on a map showing his movements.

Reading this book made me think of Marie Nimier's La Reine du silence, in which (as a fatherless daughter) she muses on how many fatherless writers there are, making me think of Georges Perec, Camus, Sartre, Jean Rouaud, Marguerite Duras, the adolescent Laurent Mauvinier, and many more that don't instantly spring to mind. But Rimbaud's father wasn't dead, merely absent, one of the many who just walk out on their families and don't return. Loss and/or existential anguish is frequently present in their work.

Verlaine is also present here, occasionally also seen from a geographical distance, but more present as a son of the Ardennes, born in Metz but seen here in the late seventies and early eighties – after leaving jail for shooting Rimbaud and teaching in England for a short time working as a répétiteur in a school in Rethel, living with ex-pupil Lucien Létinois in Coulommes-et-Marqueny and then on a farm with him in Juniville: all three towns are in the Ardennes.

The picture on the front cover is of course a detail from Fantin-Latour's Coin de table, which is of a Vilains Bonshommes dinner: Verlaine sat to Rimbaud's right and Léon Valade to his left.

A treasure of a book.

(Hureaux – unsurprisingly, as this book is essentially about Rimbaud – doesn't mention the time that Verlaine taught in William Lovell's school in Stickney, Lincolnshire, although it's worth mentioning. His English wasn't very good and he had a thick French accent which made his pupils make fun of him, but both Verlaine and his pupils came to really like each other. Verlaine also enjoyed going to Boston every weekend, where his purported visit to the Roman Catholic chapel in Horncastle Road seems just to have been an excuse to sample the drinks in the local pubs. He started there in March 1875 – shortly after his release from prison – and left in June 1876.)

My Arthur Rimbaud posts:
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Yanny Hureaux: Un Ardennais nommé Rimbaud
Arthur Rimbaud and the Vilains bonhommes, Paris 6e
Rimbaud's 'Le Bateau ivre' sculpture, Paris 6e
Arthur Rimbaud, Parc Balnéaire du Prado, Marseille

Arthur Rimbaud in Charleville-Mézières cemetery
Arthur Rimbaud in Roche
Arthur Rimbaud quotations, Charleville-Mézières
Arthur Rimbaud memorial, Charleville-Mézières
Arthur Rimbaud murals in Charleville-Mézières
Rimbaud and Verlaine in Camden Town
Arthur Rimbaud museums in Charleville-Mézières
Arthur Rimbaud in Attigny
Arthur Rimbaud and Hervé Tonglet in Charleville-Mézières

4 February 2019

Lucien d'Azay: À la recherche de Sunsiaré : Une vie (2005)

In some respects Lucien d'Azay's À la recherche de Sunsiaré resembles Didier Blonde's books: recovering people from oblivion by detective work. Certainly Blonde's Leïlah Mahi 1932 (2015) is called to mind: a strikingly attractive young woman about whom very little is known. This applied to Sunsiaré de Larcône, who died in a car crash in 1962, which took the famous and highly noted 'Hussard' Roger Nimier with her. She had just published her first novel, La Messagère, which she saw as just a 'trigger' for what she was due to bring to the literary world. Obviously her ambitions were killed along with her, but just who was she? In a detective story which resembles a biography but also (unlike Blonde's investigations) contains autobiographical elements, D'Azay tries to find the answers.

Sunsiaré was born in Rambertvillers (Vosges) modestly, as Suzy Durupt, to a car mechanic father and a mother who was a hairdresser, although her mother remarried the pied-noir Diego Larcone (without circumflex), a soldier in 1947. Suzy was brought up by her paternal grandparents, who had a restaurant in Rambertvillers. Suzy left school at the age of 14. 

D'Azay's account is fascinating, containing as it does many first-hand accounts of who Sunsiaré was, her change of name (to go with her change of image ), plus many letters to add to our knowledge of her. Sunsiaré was what we might describe as an intellectual groupie, but she was a force to be reckoned with. She had many conversations and correspondences with literary figures, such as Julien Gracq (whose Château d'Argol and La Rivage des Syrtes influenced her a great deal), and other friends of hers included Guy Dupré and Raymond Abellio. This book is not much light to 400 pages, and is surely without question the definitive work on this obscure and entrancing individual.


Sunsiaré, Columbarium, Père-Lachaise, Paris 20e.

Antoine Blondin and Pierre Assouline: Le Flâneur de la rive gauche: Entretiens (1988)

This is an edited collection of interviews made in 1988 between Pierre Assoulline and Antoine Blondin, three years before the writer's death. As might be expected, it is really humorous, and at the same time appears to be very honest. But.

Associated with what Bernard Frank (of whom Blondin speaks highly) in 1952 calls Les Hussards, when taken to task on the definition of this group, Blondin says that it essentially referred to himself, Roger Nimier, Michel Déon and Jacques Laurent: the 'core' Hussards, which was never a 'school' as the writers were very different. To Blondin, the common ground was the criticism of Sartre (who was nevertheless praised in Nimier's early writing) as an 'intellectual terrorist' without humour.

Assouline tries to dig out Blondin's political affiliations, although he says he has none: he repeats (as in his chat with Serge Gainsbourg (available online via Youtube)) that he's seen as left-wing by the right, and right-wing by the left. He vaguely situates himself somewhere in the middle. Vagueness seems to be a norm with Blondin.

What isn't vague is Blondin's drinking, which is almost a religion to the man. Alcohol is to some extent an escape, certainly a way of life, but the comfort it brings, and in particular the false companionship that accompanies it, is not exactly everything to Blondin, but it's halfway there. That's all in the fun: the 'bullfighting' of cars on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, the spending of six entire days 'Chez Blanche' (a bar on the rue du Bac), the 33 arrests, Roger Nimier rescuing him financially from the cops, and on and on.

Blondin had many literary friends, Nimier being perhaps his greatest (until his death in 1962), but then there's also Marcel Aymé, Paul Morand, Jacques Chardon, etc. The idea of Blondin being elected to L’Académie française wasn't impossible: but how would he have reacted to such an invitation? Well, there were five cafés between Blondin's flat and the Académie: he would never make it there: although only 150 metres away, he would start out in his habit vert, leave his sword in the first bistrot, leave his cocked hat in the second, and shamefully end up at the Académie française in his underpants!

As for Blondin's most famous quotation, the last sentence of his novel L'Humeur vagabonde: 'Un jour nous prendrons des trains qui partent' (lit. 'One day we'll take leaving trains.'): the meaning? On 30 July 2018, the day France won the world football cup, Frédéric Beigbeder, in La Frivolité est une chose serieuse, claims that at last he's understood what Blondin meant: happiness has to be shared, otherwise it's worthless; being  proud of your country brings people closer to others. Yeah, sure, whatever you say, Beigbeder. Assouline tried hard to eke out a meaning from Blondin, and the first answer is: the quotation means that one day Blondin will write a readable book. Assouline repeats the question, and Blondin says that the meaning is that the trains will take him home. Er...

Antoine Blondin's grave in Père-Lachaise.

My Antoine Blondin posts:
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Antoine Blondin and Pierre Assouline: Le Flâneur de la rive gauche
Antoine Blondin: Monsieur jadis ou l'école du soir
Antoine Blondin: Les enfants du bon Dieu