20 April 2019

Vincent Capt: Écrivainer : La langue morcelée de Samuel Daiber (2010)

Samuel Daiber (1901-83) spent his final thirty-five years in a psychiatric hospital in Switzerland. This book concerns above all a letter held in the Collection de l'art brut in Lausanne, being one of a number Daiber wrote to the head of the hospital, Dr Ralph Winteler, pleading to be released. In 1926 Daiber stood in front of a tram, convinced that he could stop it by his thoughts. Four years later he burned his family's clothes because he believed that the devil inhabited them. He also destroyed his own pottery over a number of years, and was interned in psychiatric hospitals several times over a number of years, but released because of his non-violent behaviour. His final and permanent internment was in 1948.

It is the language that Daiber used in his letters begging to be released that are of interest here, as the language he uses, coming into the category of écrit brut, is of huge importance. In the Preface to this book, Jean-Michel Adam refers to a 'character-concept' in one of Édouard Glissant's plays: le déparleur. In L'Imaginaire des langues (2012) Glissant describes this character as someone 'who accepts entry into the crushed, apparently empty of meaning, apparently contradictory, apparently far-fetched'.

In his astonishing letter to the head of the hospital Samuel Daiber distorts language, invents new words, acts out the world of the déparleur, above all manipulates the French language remarkably. The letter under the microscope is addressed to 'Sieur Wintelet Docteur', the 'Sieur' being an archaic form of 'Monsieur', literally 'My sire': from the perceived medieval serfdom of the asylum, the vassal addresses the lord of the manor? It would seem so.

But that's by no means all. The body of the letter is only four lines long, although the post scriptum (containing more than forty lines) is in effect the real body of the letter. But it is the words used, the neologisms, which are the main interest. Instead, for instance, of saying 'effrayé' (frightened) or 'chassé' (chased), Daiber says 'effrayadé' and 'chassadé'. Furthermore, the morpheme 'ad' frequently appears in negatives, almost as a more emphatically negative version often with a double suffix, as in 'pasadement' for 'pas'. Vincent Capt suggests that the 'ad' is a reversal of Daiber's first two letters, which initially seems like over-interpretation, but on reflection this is quite believable: Daiber is asserting his presence in the world.

Links to my Art Brut (and related) posts:
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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)
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)

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