31 August 2017

La Maison de Jules Verne in Amiens (80), Somme (80)

One of the relatively few Maisons des Illustres, of which Jules Verne's house in rue Charles-Dubois, Amiens, is one. It is a wonderful experience, and 'experience' is the word I prefer to use rather than 'visit', as this is a little beyond the normal author's house visit – as you might expect from such a character as Verne. My purpose is to give an impression through images, as opposed to showing an image and commenting on it, although I shall certainly do so where necessary. Amiens is very much Jules Verne, but this is purely my impression of his house.

François Schuiten added the sphère armillaire (or armillary sphere) to the tower in 2005, and the re-opening of the house was in the following year. The tromphe-l'oeil fresco is also his work:

On the ground floor, a bust by J. Szarwak made in about 1900.

The dining room.

The salon, with portraits of Verne and his wife Honorine.

The first floor is largely devoted to Verne's publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel.

Verne was a great lover of sailing, and this part of the second floor highlights this.

Verne's library and place of work.

Nellie Bly (whose grave I visited in NYC) is also included in the loft here.

A representation of Jules Verne on his deathbed.

A death mask of Verne.

From the top to the bottom of the staircase. A wonderful place.

Jules Verne in Le cimetière de La Madeleine, Amiens (80), Somme (80)

'Jules VERNE
LE 24 MARS  1905
SON ÉPOUSE 1829–1910'

Understandably the most popular grave in the cemetery, this is one of a number of sculptures here by Albert Roze, entitled 'Vers l'immortalité et l'éternelle jeunesse' ('Towards Immortality and Eternal Youth'). Verne's biographer Jean Jules-Verne (via his translator Roger Greaves), states that Verne's wish was to have a simple grave, which was originally the case. However, his son Michel is responsible for the ostentatious (but quite brilliant) update created two years later, showing a representation of the writer breaking free from his shroud and breaking the tomb lid, his outstretched arm and his face turned toward the sky.

As I have previously said of the strikingly similar grave of symbolist poet and novelist Georges Rodenbach (1855–98) in the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Charlotte Besnard (1854–1931) sculpted it and Albert Roze was inspired by it to create this addition to the grave of Jules Verne.

27 August 2017

Jean Jules-Verne: Jules Verne (1973; trans. and adapted by Roger Greaves 1976)

Jean Jules-Verne, the only surviving child of the marriage between Jeanne and Michel Verne (who was Jules Verne's only child), only knew his grandfather for twelve years, although (failing other candidates) he must certainly be one of the best people to give a first-person biographical account of his knowledge of Jules Verne. But as Jean Jules-Verne spent his working life in the legal profession, I'm a little sceptical about his qualifications to talk about the quality of the books of Jules Verne, and furthermore this is a translated work, which to some extent complicates things.

But then, translation of a 'non-fictional' book (if that means much) is surely preferable, and much less dubious, than a translation of a work of fiction? Usually, yes, although I refuse to mention any more of my obsession with Howard Parshley's almost criminal interference with Simone de Beauvor's Le deuxième sexe. Mercifully, Roger Greaves's book has no resemblance to that horrific monster. This is a considered, developed, and apparently generally well-written text: if some of the time it reads a little clunkily, that may well be because that's the way people used to speak.

It isn't my purpose here to speak of the author's impressions of Jules Verne's more famous works, such as  Voyage au centre de la terre (1864) (Journey to the Centre of the Earth), Vingt mille lieues sous la mer (1870) (Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea), or Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingt jours (1873) (Around the World in Eighty Days).

No, what I found most interesting was the obscure L'Île à hélice (1895) (trans. as both The Floating Island and Propellor Island), which appears in part to predict the internet, and I love the idea of reading a (fictional, still) work in chocolate print on rice paper which can be eaten after reading, and available in formats for readers with either diarrhoea or constipation.

Also fascinating, I found, was the reference to Verne's Le Rayon Vert (1882), which immediately got me thinking (quite correctly) of any possible relationship between this book and Éric Rohmer's film of the same name (1986).

And then there's the posthumous Les Naufragés du Jonathan (1909) (The Survivors of the Jonathan), in which an anarchist is forced (paradoxically) to take the lead.

Occasionally I don't understand how Jean Jules-Verne arrives at a conclusion – how, for instance, can he possibly interpret Jules Verne's opinion of Johann David Wyss's Swiss Family Robinson as an implication of weakness on the basis of the flimsy information we're given here? Or does the fault lie in the translation of Jules-Verne's text?

Whatever the faults, here we have a somewhat dysfunctional family, with a wayward son (Michel) and dull wife (Honorine), ruled over by a failed stockbroker with a passion for sailing, an apparent passion for an unnamed mistress in Asnières, but an obsession for a hobby (writing) which brings him in a lot of money. And surprisingly, perhaps, Jules Verne was definitely a kind of anarchist.

A venerable book on a man about whom no doubt much more research has been done in later years, but I shall discover that in time.

19 August 2017

William Hoyle in Manchester and Blackpool

This post updates and corrects a former one I made last year on William Hoyle, and I'm very grateful to Frances Mary Clifford for pointing out the problems with my post, and for sending me so much information about her great-grandfather and the other William Hoyle I'd confused him with. Both Hoyles were Victorians and both were concerned with drink and its many problems, but they were broaching the topic from very different angles: William Hoyle (1831–86) was a temperance reformer and a statistician who published a number of his essentially scientific findings on drinking behaviour; William Hoyle (4 September 1834 – 14 November 1895), who was Frances's great-grandfather, was more a writer of hymns and songs, often telling of the evils of drink.

William Hoyle, hymn- and song-writer, is the author of the above book with the title-page Daisy Ballads and Recitations (1891), but which (unusually) has the different title 'Hoyle's Popular Ballads and Recitations' on the cover. The word 'Daisy' is interesting, as it suggests the very popular Ben Brierley's (originally fictional) Daisy Nook: a recreational area between Failsworth and Drolysden (now Greater Manchester) which retains that name. Surely the adjectival use of 'daisy' (which Brierley intended as a holiday term) is at the root of Hoyle's use of the word? Please let me know if you have any information on this, either by email or by a simple comment to this post.

In 1863 William Hoyle founded what was to be the biggest regional branch of the Band of Hope: The Lancashire and Cheshire Band of Hope Union, which was immensely popular. Two years later he established the monthly publication Onward: The Organ of the Lancashire and Cheshire Band of Hope Union, which was heavily slanted towards the younger reader. It too was extremely popular and was published in both Manchester and London. Although Hoyle appears to have just contributed to this periodical rather than edited it, he edited the more modest Band of Hope Treasury (1869–90), also a children's temperance magazine.

William Hoyle also published, in many different editions, Hoyle's Hymns & Songs for Temperance Societies and Bands of Hope (the first being in about 1869), and Hoyle's Reciter: Fifty-four original Recitations and Dialogues (date unknown, and some of these being in the Lancashire dialect). He also wrote 'William Foster: a life story' (1895), a brief biography about a man he greatly admired, although this work was never published.

Above is a group photo of the Bennett Street School (Manchester) Superintendents from 1880, which shows William Hoyle seated fifth from the left. Hoyle was a commercial traveller by profession, and like the mysterious William Foster (who died on 5 February 1879 aged 63 years) was a member of the Manchester Independent Order of Oddfellows.

Willam Hoyle now lies in Layton Cemetery, Blackpool.

NOV14TH 1895,

My William Hoyle posts:

18 August 2017

Fanny in L'Estaque, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

I knew this plaque in L'Estaque must have a significance, and soon realised that the unusually spelled 'Fany' here referred to 'Embrasser Fanny', the practice of kissing Fanny, reserved for the hopeless loser by 13 to 0 at boules (for this is obviously a boulodrome). (And I remain clueless as to how the English expression 'Sweet Fanny Adams' obviously became associated with zero in France.)

Horace de Saussure in Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

Horace de Saussure (1740–99) was a Swiss naturalist, geologist and pioneer mountain climber who conducted most of his work in the Alps, around Mont Blanc. This plaque is outside Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, near the Frédéric Mistral and Théodore Aubanel memorials.

Léo Taxil in Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

Léo Taxil (or Marie Joseph Gabriel Antoine Jogand-Pagès to give him his actual full name), who was born in Marseille 1854 and died in Sceaux 1907), appears in a photo in a painted wooden plaque with Thérèse de Lisieux at the head in Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. Taxil was a novelist, non-fiction writer, polemicist, journalist, first anti-clericalist (for example À bas la calotte (1879) and then fervent anti-masonic writer. And something of a joker.

His, er, conversion to Catholicism came in 1885, when he began vociferously attacking free-masonry. His work Le Diable au xixe siècle (1895) was co-written by a Carl Hacks, although the name on the cover was 'Dr Bataille', supposedly being the confessions of a certain Diana Vaughan describing a satanic cult practised by free-masons. The book was a huge success with Catholics, and Thérèse was moved by the text enough to send a letter to Vaughan and write a play called Le Triomphe de l'humilité. In 1897 Taxil was forced to admit that Diana Vaughan was a mere typist and that the whole thing was a joke. Under police protection, Taxil left Paris.

Some photos of the church interior:

10 August 2017

Daniel Pennac: Chagrin d'école (2007)

The most annoying thing about Daniel Pennac's Chagrin d'école, to me at least, is the way it eats into your brain, forces you to think back to your own experience of education. I found my reminiscences of my teachers taking over. I certainly wasn't what Pennac was then called – 'un cancre' (or 'dunce') – although my educational progress was marred by poor education, what teachers thought I was and what I actually was.

Of my primary education I have very few positive memories: there was a weird guy (Robertson, Robinson, I give up) whose hair was kind of plaited at the front and he used to hit students' backs when they couldn't come up with the right answer. And then there was the headteacher who used to teach us as well: a sadist called 'Pop Martin', whom I used to call 'Monkey Mush Martin' because that's what he looked like: he used to slap arses if a mouth didn't cough up with the right word(s). I distinctly remember one teacher (whose name I forget) bursting in and excusing the person teaching for his interruption, pointing to one of the pupils and asking 'Do I frighten you?' Well, under the circumstances what answer could the pupil come up with but a negative? I don't vividly recall much else of Seely Primary, Sherwood, Nottingham, and it's probably just as well.

Before I went to High Pavement Grammar, Bestwood Park, Nottingham, Monkey Mush Martin burst into the classroom and feigned incredulity that I hadn't dashed into his room and announced (as if it were the Holy Grail) to him that I'd made it to the school. As my experience of High Pavement proved, I was underwhelmed, and had every reason to be so.

But oh, the horrors of High Pavement Grammar! Memory is obviously selective, and we all tend to remember the best times and/or the worst or the funniest. I think Baudelaire was on the menu at the time, but anyway a French teacher called Rudd (and if I ever knew his forename I forget) was asking a question which involved prostitution. The guy next to me was my former friend Raf Pérez, who showed me a note on a piece of paper saying 'Watch Rudd go red.' Rudd saw the manoeuvre, shot up in appropiate anger and indignation and demanded to know the content of the note. Raf hesitated, but knew he had to say something as outrageous as the note (only not so personal), and just said 'Are you going down the Scotch Bar tonight?'. There ensued an obvious bollocking by Rudd (who once, in private, pompously informed that he knew people who could run circles round me intellectually) but the truth was skilfully avoided by Raf.

The truth always seemed to be hidden at High Pavement, which (to me and many others, I know) just seemed to be a breeding ground or a playing field in which teachers could display their neuroses. Music rehearsals for the horrific speech days (how things looked were vital) were given more importance than, er, education.

There were fortunate breaks from the boredom and insanity of it all, such as the intentionally eccentric English teacher Bill Gray, who almost always wore odd socks and claimed the Earth was obviously flat. In his local boozer, The Grosvenor on Mansfield Road, a little after I'd left the school, he joked that he wanted to put on a school play, Oh Calcutta! (incidentally a pun on the French 'Ô quel cul t'as !', or 'Oh what an arse you've got!'), the lead role being taken by 'the kid with the biggest cock in the school': well, we can all have our fantasies.

For the record, I thought the English teacher Keith Dobson was by far the best of a poor bunch, in spite of his being (like the other English teacher, the writer Stanley Middleton (always Stan Middo to us)) also a dreaded Leavisite, those infuriating people who believed that a work should be read as is, without biographical, social, psychological, etc, umbilical attachments. In retrospect: how can much knowledge be known of a book if no outside knowledge of it is allowed?

My father thought I was a waster and wouldn't sign any university forms, although my mother (bless her) was quite willing to. No, I had principles, and worked for three years to gain independent student status before taking a BA in French of the University of Leicester. I loved it, especially the year in Albi (lengthened to two with a little bit of cunning on my part). But I'd always wanted to continue, be an eternal student or something, get an MA, even (some hope) a PhD. Just who did I think I was?

And then, years later, I filled in a form to study Literature three years part-time with the Open University. And it worked like a dream, I drank in any information I could get, and read, read, read. My tutor for most of the time, Dr Stella Brooks, had faith in me, and that counts for multitudes: I gained an MA with Distinction, my dissertation on local author James Prior's novel Forest Folk seen as a dialogue with the New Woman.

But there were problems: shortly before getting my MA I had a truly bizarre interview with a certain Dr Guy of the University of Nottingham, who told me that I'd be wasting my money going for a PhD, and that I should be taking an MA (again!) but this time with Nottingham University: the wonderful Stella's email reaction to Dr Guy after I told her of her assessment: 'nevereardover'. And a Stevie something (who didn't even have a PhD) of Nottingham Trent University scoffed and told me I'd never get a PhD.

Thanks to Stella's efforts I obtained a three-year bursary (including a research trip to Southern Illinois University) from the Open University to study the interwar working-class anarchist writer Lionel Britton's work in the context of other British working-class writers of the time, along with (then) contemporary novels by outsiders, in a Sartrean context. I had a marvellous time!

And I passed, which shows that (like the 'dysorthographic' Daniel Pennac) if a teacher has faith in you, you'll have faith in yourself, and succeed.

My other posts on Daniel Pennac:

Daniel Pennac: La Fée carabine | The Fairy Gunmother
Daniel Pennac: La Petite marchande de prose | Write to Kill
Daniel Pennac: Journal d'un corps
Daniel Pennac: Au bonheur des ogres

8 August 2017

Jean-Christophe Rufin: Le Collier rouge (2014)

Jean-Christophe Rufin, as in his Goncourt-winning Rouge Brésil, is interested in culture conflict. Le Collier rouge is more about the conflict of two political ideologies, or is it really? Maybe the conflict between the animal and the human world, to the detriment of the human? Or what exactly is the main theme?

Whatever the conclusion reached, the origins of this short novel began in Jordan in 2011, when Rufin, working for an unnamed weekly magazine, was enjoying one of his many idle moments with the late photographer Benoît Gysembergh. The photographer spoke about his grandfather who had received the Légion d'honneur during the First World War, but was afterwards arrested and tried following a transgressive drunken act.

And so we have Le Collier rouge, set just after WWI, in which Morlac (also Légion d'honneur) has been imprisoned for (we don't discover until the end) decorating his dog Guillaume with the medal during the 14th July ceremony. The story takes place in Berry, near Bourges, and the military judge Lantier has the problem of carrying out a series of interviews with Morlac, who's the only prisoner in this unnamed small place. The excessive wine-drinking jailer Dujeux sounds as if he's going to be an interesting character, although he just fades into the background as Morlac's actions and beliefs come to the fore, as well as his relationship with Lantier (and specifically the character of the judge himself).

All this notwithstanding, the main character in the book is the dog Guillaume: faithful and extraordinarily intelligent. Guillaume is the thread which runs thoughout this novel, from the first sentence when his howling is disturbing Dujeux, to the final sentence when Lantier takes him home to his wife and children in the back seat of his car, when Guillaume seems to smile at the idea of his being a present.

In between all this is the uneducated Morlac transforming himself into a pacifist anarchist largely through his lover Valentine's books (Marx, Phoudhon, Bakunin); and Lantier's determination not to go out on a negative note.

And the winner? Fidelity, of course: case dismissed.

My other Jean-Christophe Rufin posts:

Jean-Christophe Rufin: Sept histoires qui reviennent de loin
Jean-Christophe Rufin: Rouge Brésil | Brasil Red

7 August 2017

Jean-Claude Izzo: Solea (1998)

An unusual title again here in Solea (from a Miles Davis piece), the final volume in Jean-Claude Izzo's trilogie marseillaise, in which we find a number of familiar characters, such as the elderly Honorine (who delights in making Fabio Montale's meals in his cabanon in Les Goudes), Fonfon (who's still partly continuing his café-restaurant in the same village), and the departed but still living Lole who is a memory, as is the murdered Sonia, whom Fabio only very briefly knew, but whose loss he mourns.

The Mafia are a constant presence, especially as they have made the investigative journalist Babette run into hiding, and they are pressurising Fabio to discover her whereabouts by killing off his friends, slitting their throats from ear to ear: the ex-cop fears not so much for his own life but for the lives of Honorine and Fonfon.

Of course there's heavy drinking and another highly desirable woman in here, but this time it's the police commissaire Hélène Pessayre, and needless to say they don't get the opportunity to express their desire for each other physically. And nor do they entirely trust each other.

Lots of deaths, lots of fear, lots of Marseille (ah, Le Vallon des Auffes), lots of action as with the other two novels, but once again seemingly incongruous literary quotations, such as from Camus and the inevitable Louis Brauquier. There may be a few clichés in Izzo's trilogy, but there are far more surprises, and Izzo is thoroughly original and unmistakable: you recognise his literary imprint almost immediately.

My other Jean-Claude Izzo posts:

Jean-Claude Izzo: Total Khéops
Jean-Claude Izzo: Chourmo

Jean-Claude Izzo: Chourmo (1996)

Again, Jean-Claude Izzo's second volume of his trilogie marseillaise has the now resigned cop Fabio Montale as its (anti)hero, hounded by the extreme right-wing, the Mafia, drinking more than ever, puking up, regretting actions taken, reminiscing, linking the past and the present, but on a mission to help his (much desired but of course never sexually touched) cousin Gélou, whose son Guitou has disappeared from far-away Gap in the alps, although it's pretty certain that he's gone to meet his girlfriend Naïma, who was born on the wrong side of the racial tracks.

Although Gélou's husband has been harsh with Guitou at times, it seems he's brought up his step-children well, so should Fabio have any problems with this? Well, yes, especially when it's discovered that this husband of ten years is found to be a Mafia killer.

Much eating and even more drinking, of course. And more reminiscing, lost hopes, hopes for the future, etc. But where else would you get quotations from Saint-Jean Perse, Louis Brauquier, Léo Ferré, etc, in a detective story than in a Jean-Claude Izzo book? A delight.

My other Jean-Claude Izzo posts:

Jean-Claude Izzo: Solea
Jean-Claude Izzo: Total Khéops

Jean-Claude Izzo: Total Khéops (1995)

Total Khéops is the first volume of Jean-Claude Izzo's superior detective trilogie marseillaise, which is packed with a love of multi-cultural Marseille, about which it makes innumerable references: the title itself refers to the Marseillais rap band IAM's record Total Khéops, meaning  complete chaos, a general mess. Which is the underworld of early 1990s Marseille depicted here.

Cop Fabio Montale is the (anti)hero, a guy in his forties who's seen it all, done it all (but really only in Marseille and its area), drinks far too much (especially just before driving), but loves fine wine and whisky, and (surprisingly not that often) the beautiful women associated with the area. He doesn't live in Marseille itself, but Les Goudes, a tiny village close to the Calanques, where the faithful seventy-year-old Honorine treats him as a son and loves to make him meals.

At heart Fabio is a softie, although he's surrounded by fascist murderers and thugs who think nothing of killing anyone who stands in their way. Like his now murdered schoolmates Manu, and now Ugo, they shared with him a petty criminal life before his life as a cop began, when he too could have continued on the other side. But then, bent or straight (in the criminal sense) is there much difference?

My other Jean-Claude Izzo posts:

Jean-Claude Izzo: Chourmo
Jean-Claude Izzo: Solea

6 August 2017

Lucien Grimaud in Aubagne, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

'Ici a vécu
Journaliste Historien Conteur
1909 – 1993'

17 Place des Quinze, Aubagne, the same building where grammarian François-Urbain Domergue was born. Lucien Grimaud wrote stories and history books on Aubagne, the first of which, Histoires d'Aubagne (1973), was prefaced by Marcel Pagnol.

This bust of Lucien Grimaud is by Antignani in 1994, the year after the historian's death, and at the time of writing is in Le Petit Monde de Marcel Pagnol in Aubagne.

François-Urbain Domergue in Aubagne, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

23 MARS 1745 – 29 MAI 1810'

17 Place des Quinze, Aubagne. François-Urbain Domergue was born in Aubagne and died in Paris, his place of burial being unknown. He was a member of the Académie française from 1803 to 1810 and wrote a number of works on French grammar, pronunciation, and the French language in general. He founded the Journal de la Langue Française in 1784, one of whose objects was, er, to fight neologisms: it was of course unsuccessful both financially and realistically. There is a plaque to Lucien Grimaud on the same house.