27 February 2014

Mick Middles & Lindsay Reade: Torn Apart: The Life of Ian Curtis (2006)

I was aware of Deborah Curtis's Touching from a Distance (1995), but wasn't aware of this book until I stumbled on it last weekend. Co-authored by the journalist Mick Middles (who says he 'hovered around Joy Division for a while') and Lindsay Reade (Tony Wilson's first wife), this gives a much fuller picture of the life of Ian Curtis, the lead singer of the post-punk band Joy Division, who was born into a working-class family in Old Trafford, Manchester in 1956, and who killed himself in Macclesfield, Cheshire in 1980 at the age of twenty-three.

Torn Apart is an appropriate title not only because it alludes to the Curtis-penned Joy Division song 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', but also because the song's autobiographical lyric refers to Curtis himself being torn apart – not only by the triangle he was in with his wife Debbie and his soulmate Annik Honoré, but also by his worsening epilepsy and his ambivalence toward the fame monster.

This book is revisionary in that it finally reveals the truth behind Curtis's relationship with Honoré, often via his (always capitalised) letters to her, or by her correspondance with the authors. Formerly, it had been assumed that Honoré was 'the other woman', which to a large extent she was, but not in the usually accepted sense of that term, hence my use of the expression 'soulmate'. What impresses the reader here is a young woman very far removed from being a groupie or hanger-on, but who was in fact an extremely sensitive person whose relationship with Curtis was, as she says, 'very platonic and very pure and romantic'.

Perhaps Ian Curtis was in part attracted to Annik Honoré initially because she was foreign (therefore exotic), but it was important that they could talk about the music, literature and cinema that thrilled them. However, although this was an intellectual, very intense and very loving relationship, it was never sexual: Curtis's illness and the prescribed drugs he was taking meant a considerable reduction of sex drive, but then the sexually innocent Honoré was too shy to allow anything to develop in that respect.

There is a wealth of information here, much of it culled from people who were directly involved with Ian Curtis and/or Joy Division in general – parents, other relatives, old friends, band members, neighbors, etc. I could have lived without knowing about the accidental drinks from cans of piss, or the shit in hand game, but then this is a kind of warts-and-all book.

And there are a number of minor errors:

The book I have is the 2009 edition, in which Appendix 1 notes the death of Tony Wilson in 2007. However, the first paragraph of Chapter 19 still ends with the sentence '[Wilson] was and remains a very busy man.'

The (Fac 51) Haçienda club deliberately had an aberrant cedilla for a specific reason, but I didn't notice it receiving any cedilla in this book: surely the authors could have managed a few more ALT + codes?

I also noticed a few spelling errors, as opposed to typos. The singer in Echo & the Bunnymen is affectionately called 'enigmatic', although Ian McCulloch is referred to as 'McCullouch' on several occasions, including in the Index. Also, although the reader is overhelpfully (and slightly inaccurately) informed in a footnote that 'Honoré' is pronounced 'Honourey', such attention to detail is not repeated by writing Sartre's trilogy Les Chemins de la liberté as 'Les Chemims de la Liberte': even if a writer doesn't know a foreign language, that is no excuse to make two mistakes in a few words – such sloppiness seems almost wilful. (Yes, here too the errors are reproduced in the Index: errors which could easily have been corrected for this later edition.)

OK, I do pedantic well. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed Torn Apart, which is a genuine contribution to Joy Division knowledge: a very worthy effort.

My other Curtis-related posts:

Anton Corbijn's Control
Ian Curtis in Macclesfield, Cheshire

25 February 2014

Marie Cardinal: Les Mots pour le dire | The Words to Say It (1975)

Les Mots pour le dire (The Words to Say It) is quite a staggering autobiography, the account of a woman on the verge of madness and her journey not back, but into a new life, an authentic existence.

This is a long journey, very harrowing in the first part which begins with the thirty-year-old narrator's frequent pyschosomatic vaginal bleeding, her extreme panic attacks, her refusal to take medication and her flight from a psychiatric hospital to expensive three-times-a-week sessions with the psychoanalyst who will cure her, but only after seven years.

This is the story of a pied noir, an Algerian descended from comfortable European parents, but divorced before she was born. Now a non-believer, she was largely brought up by a pious Catholic mother of overwhelming hypocrisy, who never educated her in sexual matters and still mourns the earlier death of her infant daughter. The book steadily reveals, as if from the psychiatric couch, the reasons behind her mental illness and takes us through the childhood and adolescent traumas and the almost unbelievable callousness of the mother.

The book is dedicated to 'Le docteur qui m'a aidée à naître' ('The doctor who helped me to be born'), and he is very much a listener as opposed to a talker, only speaking when it's really necessary, not taking notes but taking everything in. For instance, he coaxes from his patient the meanings of 'tuyau' ('tube'), which caused her shame as a young child when urged to piss down the tube of the train toilet by her mother and grandmother, or the makeshift one she (ignorantly) later uses to masturbate with, causing more shame.

But the key to a vital source of the victim's pain is her mother taking her, as an adolescent, into a crowded street and telling her that she did everything she could to induce a miscarriage to prevent her giving birth to her: this is a mother whose Catholic convictions mean that she sees it as a sin to have an abortion, but sees nothing wrong in attempting to perform her own abortion, nor in describing to her daughter how she wanted her not to be born.

The telling of this sickening act frees the patient from her loss of blood, and even the madness in her (which she calls 'la chose' ('the thing')) subsides to a large extent. But now she is really born she must learn to be a person in her own right, which is what the second and final part of this book is about, and which ends when she settles her final account with her psychoanalyst, just after being freed at last by the effective suicide of her mother drinking a bottle and a half of rum.


My Marie Cardinal posts:
Marie Cardinal: La Clé sur la porte | The Key of the Door
Marie Cardinal: Les Mots pour le dire | The Words to Say It

23 February 2014

Southern Cemetery #8: Jerome Caminada

Police officer Jerome Caminada (1844–1914) has been called the Manchester Sherlock Holmes by some, and he was the city's first CID superindendent. He published a few books on his experiences – the most notable being Twenty-Five Years of Detective Life (1895) – and some of his work was published posthumously. This year of course marks the centenary of his death.

My other posts on Southern Cemetery graves:

The Manchester Sound
L. S. Lowry
Maria Pawlikowska–Jasnorzewska
David Martin
George Ghita Ionescu
John and Enriqueta Rylands
John Cassidy
George Freemantle
Leo Grindon and Rosa Grindon
Eric Thompson

Southern Cemetery #7: John Cassidy

Cassidy was the sculptor of the original statue of Ben Brierley in Queen's Park, now reproduced in bronze in Failsworth by Denise Dutton, and of the statues of John Rylands and his wife Enriqueta in John Rylands Library.

My other posts on Southern Cemetery graves:

The Manchester Sound
L. S. Lowry
Maria Pawlikowska–Jasnorzewska
David Martin
George Ghita Ionescu
John and Enriqueta Rylands
Jerome Caminada
George Freemantle
Leo Grindon and Rosa Grindon
Eric Thompson

19 February 2014

Georges Duhamel: Le Désert de Bièvres (1937)

In December 1906 l'Abbaye de Créteil was formed and lasted until January 1908. Inspired by Rabelais's Abbaye de Thélème, it was intended as a kind of non-religious artistic commune, an escape from the commercialisation of the mind, from the slavery to which artistic people were subjected, printing its own works and leading a 'natural' life.

It wouldn't have been possible without the writer Charles Vildrac, who was strongly supported by his friend the poet Georges Duhamel. They found a rundown mansion – belonging to the automobile manufacturer Barriquand – for rent in Créteil and the poets René Arcos and (slightly later) Alexandre Mercereau, the painters Albert Gleizes and Henri Doucet, the printer Lucien Linard, and others, took part in the (very short-lived) experiment. The poet Henri-Martin Barzun was the patron. Thirty years after the event, Georges Duhamel gave a fictional representation of l'Abbaye Créteil in his novel Le Désert de Bièvres.

Le Désert de Bièvres is fifth in Duhamel's Chronique des Pasquiers series of novels, and it's easy to tell that there are a number of things about the protagonist Justin Weill that relate to Vildrac, just as there are a number of things that link the narrator Laurent Pasquier – who has put off his medical studies for the project – to Duhamel himself. There's a printer called Jules Piquenart who may well represent Lucien Linard, although little is heard of the patron the Marquis Farfreyde, and Duhamel seems to have jumbled the other characters about, perhaps to protect the guilty, perhaps just to fictionalize the issue more.

Almost from the start the poet Jean-Paul Sénac is trouble, perhaps indicated by the fact that he likes a drink (or two). But that is a relatively small thing, as there are a number of other bad habits he has: he stays in bed late, he's lazy and pisses out of his bedroom window rather that go to the toilet, and we discover towards the end that when he picked his nose he left the findings on his chair. He's a professional complainer, but most of all he can't live without mocking people, inventing all kinds of insulting names for them.

If this makes the book sound humorous, it certainly is in many parts – Sénac knows, for instance, from the creaking of the bed above and the sighing coming from it that the painter Raoul Brénugat is having fun with his wife again, and he must be in very good shape as he's at it not just every night but often in the morning, and at times after lunch. For a while though, Sénac will have to ease his frustration by bullying the stray dog who's made himself at home in the Abbaye and is rather taken to this poet-monster.

There's also Armand Larseneur the musician, the ardent vegetarian and philosopher Bernard Jusserand and his wife who turns out not to be his wife, and Testevel the editor, all more or less surviving through a number of months until internal conflicts and money problems mean that – slowly but surely – the utopia-turned-dystopia loses its inhabitants and only the original Justin and Laurent remain to concede defeat and make imminent plans for going back into the outside world.

Perhaps surprisingly, the real press managed (painstakingly, with a pedal machine) to produce about twenty books. This one is highly readable.

Links to my previous blog post of l'Abbaye de Créteil – plus a forty-minute video (including an aged Vildrac) relating the history of the Abbaye – are below.

L'Abbaye de Créteil, Val-de-Marne
L'Abbaye (1906–1908) [Video]

17 February 2014

Chopin in Manchester, UK

This sculpture, in Deansgate, Manchester, commemorates the bi-centenary of Fryderyk Chopin's birth. It is by the Polish sculptor Robert Sobocinski and depicts Baroness Aurore Lucile Dupon, Chopin's muse, on the right.
'Fryderyk Chopin

Fryderyk Chopin was one of the world's greatest musical composers.
His compositions combined elements of his his beloved Polish culture
with universal ones, which gave his music international appeal.

He visited Manchester in the year before his death, at the early age of 39.
On Monday, August 28th 1848 a gravely ill Fryderyk Chopin gave
a Gala Concert before a rapturous audience of 1200
at the Gentleman's Concert Hall, which was situated at the corner of
Peter Street and Lower Mosley Street.

Despite serious ill-health he insisted that he would perform, a fact which has forever endeared him to Mancunians and music lovers everywhere.'

John Rylands Library, Manchester, UK

The architect Basil Champneys designed the magnificent neo-Gothic John Rylands Library, which was opened to readers in 1900 after taking ten years to construct. It is a memorial by Enriqueta Rylands (1843–1908) to her husband John Rylands (1801–1888), and is now part of the University of Manchester. 

In the Reading Room is the statue of John Rylands at one end.
And Enriqueta at the other.
Both north and south windows are by Charles E. Kempe. Above is the south Arts Window. In the upper panels, from left to right, are representations of: Socrates, Epicletus, Marcus Aurelius, Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Cicero, Aeschylus, Raphael and Beethoven; in the lower panels: Samuel Johnson, Wordsworth, Carlyle, Descartes, Locke, Kant, Hegel, Dante, Michelangelo and Handel.
North is the Theology window.  In the upper panels, from left to right, are representations of: St Anselm, St Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Moses, Isaiah, St John, St Paul, Richard Hooker, Thomas Cartwright and Hugo; in the lower panels: Erasmus, Beza, Melanchthon, Origen, St John, Chrysostom, St Jerome, St Augustine, Bishop Butler, Jonathan Edwards and Schleiermacher.
At the time of our visit a few weeks ago an exhibition called 'Bona Eek! The Polari Mission' by Jez Dolan and Joseph Richardson was coming to its end. Above is Dolan's 'A Polari Etymology', loosely based on Alfred H. Barr's 1936 programme cover for the MOMA 'Cubism and Abstract Art' exhibition. 
This is Dolan's The Lion of Chaeronea. Founded by George Cecil Ives (1867 –1950), a poet and gay rights campaigner, the Order of Chaeronea was a secret society of homosexuals named after the place where the Sacred Band of Thebes (150 pairs of male lovers) were killed in 338 BC. Quite possibly, Oscar Wilde and Bosie were members.

The Site of Manchester's Oldest Pissotière

LAST USED A.D. 1895'

This plaque is on the side of the Lass O' Gowrie pub in Charles Street, looking down onto the River Medlock, in central Manchester. A previous post I made about Carolina Nairne and the pub is below.


Lady Carolina Nairne and The Lass O' Gowrie, Manchester.

University of Manchester plaques #4: Ellen Wilkinson

Labour Politician and
First Female Minister of Eduation
Graduate BA History 1913,
MA 1914'

The plaque is on the John Owens Building. What isn't mentioned here is that she also wrote several books, and her novel Clash (1929) is a significant example of inter-war working-class literature.

University of Manchester plaques #3: Peter Mark Roget

Physician and Compiler
of the Thesaurus
Co-founder of Manchester's
Medical School'

This plaque is on Coupland III Building.

University of Manchester plaques #2: Alan Turing

A Creator of Computer Science,
Code breaker and Mathematician
Reader in Mathematics

This plaque is on Coupland I Building. My other Turing posts are linked below:

Alan Turing, Mathematician (1912-54), Wilmslow.
Alan Turing, Sackville Park, Manchester

16 February 2014

University of Manchester plaques #1: Alison Uttley

Children's Author
BSc Physics 1906'

This plaque is on the Rutherford Building.

Thomas Bailey in Basford, Nottingham

Thomas Bailey (1785–1856) was a journalist and poet and the father of the poet Philip James Bailey (1816–1902). He was born in Nottingham and was the owner and editor of the Nottingham Mercury, although in his article in the ODNB Thompson Cooper says that Bailey was 'too moderate for his readers', and that the paper suffered from declining circulation as a result and folded in 1852. Basford House in Church Street, Basford, Nottingham, dates from 1730 (or perhaps earlier) and was formerly named the Manor House. It was bought by Bailey in the 1830s, and he lived here until his death, 'writing and collecting books and engravings'.

Among Bailey's writings, Cooper lists A Sermon on the Death of Byron (1824), the four-volume Annals of Nottinghamshire (1852–5), Village Reform: the Great Social Necessity of Britain (1854), and Records of Longevity (1857).


The old cemetery opposite the house. Writing in Old Nottingham Suburbs: Then and Now (1914) Robert Mellors states that Bailey also erected a column in the grounds of the house to commemorate the act, but that it was removed and re-erected in the old cemetery when the house was sold. Bailey's friend, anonymously mentioned above, was R. B. Spencer. The column is no longer there.

A link to my earlier post on Philip James Bailey is below.

Philip James Bailey, Nottingham

14 February 2014

Jean Cocteau in Maisons-Laffitte, Yvelines, France

The life of Jean Cocteau (1889–1963) was celebrated last year on the fiftieth anniversary of his death in his birthplace in Maisons-Laffitte, Yvelines. These information banners went around the town hall.
Cocteau's childhood home and place of birth is in the background here, while in the foreground is his birth certificate, giving the département as it was at the time – Seine-et-Oise – and his father Georges Alfred (47 years old, without profession) and mother Eugénie Junia Émilie (32 year old, without profession).

Cocteau in Maisons-Laffitte in about 1908.
Cocteau, his elder sister Marthe, mother Eugénie (née Lecomte), and a male and female cousin from the Lecomte family about 1908.
 Marthe Cocteau.

Eugénie Cocteau in the salon about 1910.
Emilie Lecomte, Cocteau's maternal grandmother, by Patrois in 1847.
Paul, Cocteau's elder brother, on a tricycle in about 1885.
 The transport in Maisons-Laffitte in 1909 or 1910.

A quotation from Cocteau, saying he grew up in a place where horse racing and cycling reigned supreme and where the Dreyfus affair divided the bourgeois world.

Natalie Barney in the Cimetière de Passy, 16th arrondissement

1876 – 1972


1879 – 1974

In L'imaginaire du féminin dans l'oeuvre de Renée Vivien (2004), Marie-Ange Bartholomot Bessou writes that Jean Chalon says Barney was, in the final years of her life, particularly concerned with the choice of her epitaph, that it should be worthy of her perceived legend. Remy de Gourmont certainly did call her 'The Amazon', and Gourmont published his creative letters of their conversations in Mercure de France, later to be incorporated into the book Lettres à l'Amazone (1917). But 'I am this legendary being in which I live again'? That's strong stuff.

I spent some time looking for Renée Vivien's tomb in the Cimetière de Passy, and now realize that I was ignoring the absolutely obvious. A further search shall be for later this year, and with it must come a proper look into Bartholomot Bessou's work on Renée Vivien. This is really very interesting.

Laura Clifford Barney looks interesting too, but that's another story.

Virgil Gheorgiu, Cimetière de Passy, 16th arrondissement

Virgil Gheorghiu (1916–92) was a Rumanian writer whose most important novel was The Twenty-Fifth Hour (1949; trans. 1950), which was adapted into a film in 1967 by Henri Verneuil. It is a denunciation of totalitarian regimes and of the impersonalization of society, and the French Preface was written by Gabriel Marcel.

In 1952 Gheorghiu was vigorously accused of anti-Semitism by the press, the accusations dating from when he was a war correspondent. He refused to deny the charges, causing Marcel to demand that the publisher remove his Preface from future editions of the novel.

Paul Léautaud in Châtenay-Malabry, Hauts-de-Seine, France


1872 – 1956'

The circular shape here is all that remains of a stone, curled-up cat: Léautaud famously had a great number of them, and I photographed the reconstruction of his room in the Musée Carnavalet here.

André Malraux in Rueil-Malmaison, Hauts-de-Seine, France

The Théâtre André Malraux's impressive wall in Rueil-Malmaison, Hauts-de-Seine, with a very impressive quotation:

'La culture ne s'hérite pas; elle se conquiert.' André Malraux

'Culture is not inherited – it is acquired by great effort.'


The other quotations are not quite as challenging:

'Nous voulons de la vie au théâtre, et du théâtre dans la vie.' Jules Renard

'We want life in the theatre, and the theatre in life.'

'Comme vous la lisez, sa lettre...' Roxane à Cyrano

'How you read it, his letter...'

'Un seul être vous manque et tout est dépeuplé.' Lamartine

'The lack of a single being can take everyone from you.'

'De la musique avant toute chose.' Paul Verlaine

'Music before everything.'

'L'éternité c'est long, surtout vers la fin.' Woody Allen

'Eternity is a long time, especially toward the end.'

Jean-Baptiste Piketty in Meudon-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, France

The Piketty family tomb in the Cimetière des Longs Réages in Meudon.
Archeologist Jean-Baptiste Piketty (1827–94) wanted to be buried in a dolmen, so – despite some opposition – bought the Ker-Han dolmen in the commune of Saint Philibert (Morbihan), Brittany, and arranged for it to be transported here.

13 February 2014

Rabelais in Meudon-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, France

This sculpture is in front of the town hall and is the work of George Saupique and erected in 1946. François Rabelais was the parish priest of Meudon from 1551 to 1553, slightly conflicting with the dates below.

Curé de Meudon de 1550 à 1552
1820 - 1888
offerte aux Meudonnais par les
en 1886 lors des premières fêtes Rabelais.
Le buste a été détruit en 1942.
En 1996 la Ville de Meudon a commandé une
nouvelle fonte d'après le plâtre original,
inauguré le 5 Octobre
par Henry Wolf, Maire de Meudon.'

So the original bust, presented to the people of Meudon by Frédéric Mistral's 'Cigaliers de Provence' in 1886, was destroyed in 1946 and reconstructed from the original plaster model in 1996 here in Place Rabelais.

Rabelais is of course associated with the Pierre levée dolmen in Poitiers, although his relationship to this dolmen, at the northern entrance to the Parc de l'Observatoire in Meudon, is far more tenuous.

I couldn't resist including these two views of Paris from the park: here you can see the Eiffel Tower to the left, and the Sacré Cœur in the middle background. The large building in the middle is Bouygues Telecom tour Sequana at Issy-les-Moulineaux.

A blanched La Défense seen through the trees.

My François Rabelais posts:
François Rabelais in Seuilly
Rabelais in Meudon-sur-Seine
Rabelais at Saint-Maur-des-Fossés