28 February 2018

Ludovic Trarieux in Aubeterre-sur-Dronne (16), Charente (16)

Ludovic Trarieux (1840–1904) was born in Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, Charente, and was a lawyer and a politician of the 'soft' right. He was the founder and the first president of La Ligue des droits de l'homme (1898) (The League of the Rights of Man), and the instigator of the revision of the trial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus. As such, he was also a strong supporter of Émile Zola, who was suffering from huge legal problems following his publication of 'J'accuse' in the newspaper L'Aurore in 1898 in support of Dreyfus, an issue which was dividing France in two. Trarieux himself published a number of papers, mainly on legal questions, including the Dreyfus case. The bust of him is in the centre of Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, just a few meters away from his birthplace, with a plaque recognising his contributions to humanity.

Pierre Véry in Aubeterre-sur-Dronne and Bellon (16), Charente (16)

Pierre Véry (1900–60) was a crime writer born in Bellon (Charente), where he is buried. His first novel, Pont-Égaré (1927), featured in the selections that year for both the Renaudot and the Femina, although after hesitating between literary fiction and crime, he chose crime in 1934. Among his most famous books are L'Assassinat du père Noël (1934), Les Disparus de Saint-Agil (1935), and Goupi-Mains rouges (1937), all of which were adapted to the cinema screen. Some of his works are set in the area of his birth. His former home in Aubeterre-sur-Dronne is now a restaurant named after him:


26 February 2018

Pierre-Henri Simon, Saint-Fort-sur-Gironde (17), Charente-Maritime (17)

Pierre-Henri Simon (1903–72) was a literary historian, a novelist, poet and literary critic born in Saint-Fort-sur-Gironde, Charente-Maritime. He was elected to the Académie française in 1966. As a seven-year-old his teacher's anti-clerical views shocked him so much that his mother withdrew him from school and taught him for four years. André Malraux admired his work, he narrowly missed gaining the Femina for Les hommes ne veulent pas mourir (1953), and his Contre la torture (1957) (concerning his views on the Algerian war, towards which the government of the day was hostile) was defended by François Mitterrand (then Garde des Sceaux). Several streets and squares in different towns in Charente-Maritime are named after him, including Place Pierre-Henri Simon in Saint-Fort-sur-Gironde. He is buried in the cemetery of the town of his birth.

25 February 2018

Émile Combes, Pons (17), Charente-Maritime (17)

Émile Combes (1835–1921) was a politician who was mayor of Pons for forty-three years. Elected radical-socialiste sénateur of Charente-Inférieure in 1885, he became President of 'La Gauche Démocratique'. His anti-clericalism played a large part in the divorce of the state from the church. His writings are many, and include La Psychologie de saint Thomas d'Aquin, thèse présentée à la Faculté de Rennes (1860); De la Littérature des Pères et de son rôle dans l'éducation de la jeunesse (1864); and Considérations contre l'hérédité des maladies (1868). Below is the monument to him in the centre of Pons in the shadow of the donjon; the house in Pons where he lived for sixty years and where he died; and his grave in the Cimetière Saint-Martin in Pons.

24 February 2018

Former tannery, Pons (17), Charente-Maritime (17)

In the post immediately below on Barthélemy Gautier, I mentioned that his parents were tanners. This old tannery is perhaps very picturesque to look at, but tanning is of course a by-product of the mindless cruelty to which animals are incessantly subjected.

Barthélemy Gautier, Pons (17), Charente-Maritime (17)

Barthélemy Gautier (who dropped the Pierre- in front of his name) was born into a family of tanners, although he managed to escape from the same fate due to his artistic abilities: he was a talented creator of humorous sketches of Saintongeais and Parisians, which he drew for a number of mazagines. He was born and died in Pons, and his bust, on its huge pedestal, holds pride of place among the sculpted hedges in le jardin public by the donjon in Pons. Jean Becker's film La tête en friche has many scenes taken in Pons, including ones in the jardin public with Gérard Depardieu and Gisèle Casadesus: the book of the same name was written by Marie-Sabine Roger.

Shell sculpture, Pons (17), Charente-Maritime (17)

We came across this scalloped sculpture by chance, and I'm not too sure what the place was, as there was no sign and the place was padlocked, although there did appear to be a be a number of shiny objects inside.

ADDENDUM: I've only just realised (1 January 2020) that this is one of the stages in the Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle (Paris-Tours, etc) pilgrimage, and that the coquille Saint-Jacques is the symbol!

23 February 2018

Boîte à lire, or books in a barrel, Jonzac (17), Charente-Maritime (17)

Émile Gaboriau in Jonzac (17), Charente-Maritime (17)

Émile Gaboriau had a number of jobs before becoming Paul Féval's secretary, from whom he learned the art of journalism. His best known work as a novelelist is L'Affaire Lerouge (1865), where the police inspector Lecoq appears, and Gaboriau is generally considered to be the father of the detective story. He was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, and in turn influenced Arthur Conan Doyle. His health was fragile and he died of a lung infection at the age of forty. His father Charles Gabriel Émile Gaboriau retired to Jonzac, where Émile is buried with him and his mother Stéphanie (née Magistel). Jonzac appears under the name 'Sauveterre' in Émile Gaboriau's work.

19 February 2018

Jean Echenoz: Les Grandes Blondes (1995)

Les Grandes Blondes. So, great blonds rather than tall ones? It doesn't matter, in a sense, and they don't really have to be true blonds. Uh? Paul Salvador – probably quite a saviour as his name suggests and as it turns out, but that's not a valid point to make now – works for television and has devised a series on the great blonds: you know, Brigitte Bardot, Marlene Dietrich, and so on.

But the fictional (in 'real life') Gloire Stella (or Gloire Abrall) is elusive and hasn't been heard of for some years. She's disappeared from the radar, which obviously makes her more interesting, although the reader perhaps wonders why Salvador goes to such lengths and such expenses to re-locate her.

Quite simply, Gloire has had enough of fame and wants to live a quiet existence. But then there's this 'homoncule' (or homunculous): I remember Ian McEwan (a guy I intensely dislike) once interviewing John Updike on his use of the word 'homunculous' – just saying. But a homonculous called Béliard appears frequently in Les Grands Blondes, an invisible little creature who might be her guardian angel, although this is doubtful as he sometimes encourages Gloire to kill people who get in the way of her rehabilitation, if that's the right word. So, maybe the devil or the id...?

Nah, too simple: this is Echenoz: don't look for symbolism, just enjoy a disturbing read, prepare to be mentally knocked around, thrown from pillar to post, but accept no easy solutions as there are none. Re-read and you'll enjoy far more, but still be no wiser. Just prepare to be surprised every which way the novel takes you, and this (it's Echenoz after all) will geographically (as well as mentally) take you to many places.

Maurice Leblanc in Étretat (76), Seine-Maritime (76)

As a plaque shown below informs us, the author Maurice Leblanc (1864–1941) lived here at the Clos Lupin, Étretat, from 1915 until his death in 1914. In 1999 it was opened to the public by Leblanc's grand-daughter Florence. The tour is audio-guided (by Frence television's own Lupin, Georges Descrières) and is much more about Arsène Lupin and the mystery of L'Aiguille creuse than Maurice Leblanc himself: but then, look at the name of his house, where fiction takes over from reality. I let the photos tell the story, which ends with the treasure hidden in the needle, Lupin staring at it in the background.

My Maurice Leblanc posts:
Maurice Leblanc in Étretat (76), Seine-Maritime
Maurice Leblanc L'Aiguille creuse | The Hollow Needle
Maurice Leblanc: Arsène Lupin: gentleman cambrioleur
Maurice Leblanc: Les Trois Yeux

The Cliffs, Étretat (76), Seine-Maritime (76)

The Falaise d'Aval, with its aiguille (needle) rock formation on the left made famous by Maurice Lablanc's novel L'Aiguille Creuse ('The Hollow Needle').

Looking upstream, the rock formation of La Falaise d'Amont.

And a broader view of Étretat and its coast.

Maupassant in Étretat (76), Seine-Maritime (76)

The street where Maurice Leblanc lived, and which is now an author's house, is in fact named after Guy de Maupassant.

Maupassant bought some of the land on which La Guillette stands from his mother, who had bought it for a vegetable garden. Originally Maupassant wanted to call it 'La Maison Tellier', although his mother (and some friends) strongly objected to any suggestions that it was a brothel. Instead, he adopted Hermine Lecomte de Noüy's suggestion of La Guillette. The house was eventually built in 1883, and is where the author finished 'Pierre et Jean' and wrote a large part of 'Bel Ami'.

The original figures on top of the posts were jade Chinese lions.

What we didn't realise at the time of visiting Étretat on Saturday is that the place now belongs to L’Association les amis de la Guillette, and that visits can be arranged online.

18 February 2018

Dominique Denry in Fécamp (76), Seine-Maritime (76)

'L'Heure du Bain'
Dominique DENRY sculpteur

A meditation on women bathers on the seafront, Fécamp.