31 August 2019

Album: Gauvain Sers's Pourvu (2017)

Pourvu is the title of Gauvain Sers's first album, released in late 2017 and commented on on On n'est pas couché. Christine Angot hated it because it seemed to be pure Renaud, and as for the track 'Mon fils est parti au Djhiad'... Yann Moix was kinder and said that after Gauvain Sers had shrugged off the obviously strong influence of Renaud then he'd find his own voice: after all, what do you expect at the age of 28? Laurent Ruquier argued that Renaud was influenced by Brassens, etc, everyone is influenced by someone, but anyway the public had found Sers very appealing.

And there we have it. Admittedly Sers looks more than a little like the younger Renaud in his casquette, sounds a little like him, is obviously influenced by him, uses (on this album) slang like Renaud uses, and even stood as first act before Renaud on tour, but.

It is clear to me that neither Christine Angot nor Yann Moix took this album seriously, didn't examine it properly. 'Mon fils est parti au Djhiad' is in fact one of Sers's stronger tracks, one of those which distinguish him from Renaud, although not particularly because of the content, but because of the voice. Gauvain Sers isn't (and certainly in a first album can't be expected to be) as daring as Randy Newman using the first person but expressing ideas that are contrary to his, but Sers does speak in 'foreign' voices: in 'Mon fils...' he takes on the voice of a woman whose son's been radicalised and left for Syria; in 'Hénin-Beaumont' he's a postman sick of his town voting for a Front National mayor and getting out; in 'Sur mon tracteur' he's an agricultural worker carrying on the family tradition; in 'Un clodo sur la ligne' he's a tramp; and (with Clio) in 'Le Rameau' he's the statue of Marianne in Paris, holding the olive branch. Renaud has no place in any of these songs.

There's definitely a wink to Renaud in 'Dans la bagnole de mon père' when he says of the old cassettes 'Société, tu les auras pas', recalling Renaud's statement that society wouldn't suck him in in the same way as it had Antoine and Dylan, but much of this is pure Gauvin Sers with his own way of singing: I particularly liked the reference to the 'jeu des plaques' in 'Le Bagnole de mon père', where the children discover the départements of cars from the last two numbers on the number plate. A sheer joy to listen to. Almost.

There is a bum track, and Jesus what a bummer: 'Le Poulet du dimanche'. Sorry, Gauvain Sers, but this is 2019, and by no means everyone appreciates chicken on Sunday! Especially vegetarians. Your songs speak of the love of different people, your hatred for fascists, of empathy for the downtrodden, the disinherited, but not of the love of animals, who you seem to treat as objects to be enjoyed to eat. There, as was obliquely suggested on ONPC, you have a lot to learn! Don't alienate your demographic.

Pie Tshibanda: André Baillon : Le Belge de Marly (2009)

The life of André Baillon (1875-1932) was cut short by his fifth (and obviously successful) suicide attempt. An orphan at the age of six (his father having died when he was only four months old), his life was fraught by his own frustrations, his guilt, and his inability to resolve his love life: at one time he was living with two of his women (Marie and Germaine) on different floors.

Psychologist Pie Tshibanda's critical biography was a rare find: this book is completely unavailable via the internet, there's not even a copy held at BNF, and his own publisher's site doesn't recognise it! Oddly though, I've found a link to Tshibanda advertising the book (in 2009) here. This is its tenth anniversary.

As Tshibanda says, as a 'man of colour' (he comes from the Congo), he wanted to write a book about another 'man of colour' (Baillon was red-haired as well as full of complexes), and wanted to show that he wasn't mad as is normally perceived by critics. This is a very well researched book which details Baillon's books in the light of the people and the events in his life, his living with a prostitute, his stays in psychiatric hospitals, etc. Baillon comes through all this as not exactly normal (there is of course no normal, and we are all neurotic in some way) but as someone who is writing about the problems of his life out of therapy, necessity, or mere (partly changed) autobiography. Fascinating stuff.

30 August 2019

Pascal Quignard: Tous les matins du monde (1991)

Pascal Quignard's Tous les matins du monde is set in the 17th century and its main character is Monsieur de Sainte Colombe, an essentially reclusive and gifted but austere composer and player of music for the viola da gamba ('la viole de gambe' in French). He rarely performs in concert, and although the king is very interested in his presence in his court he refuses. In time he teaches his daughters Madelaine and Toinette his art, although since the death of his wife when his daughters were young he has largely given up social contact, apart from with the odd friend such as the (obscure artist) Lubin Baugin: (Jean de) Sainte Colombe actually existed, and although little is known of him and Quignard obviously invents things between the spaces, it's clear that the author is something of a cultural medieval archaeologist.

I don't know if Sainte Colombe's daughters existed, but certainly Marin Marais, the shoemaker's son, did. And he was dissatisfied with his lowly existence, became a choirboy in L'Église-Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois in the centre of Paris, but had to withdraw when his voice broke. Then he chose to play the viola da gamba and sought out Sainte Colombe as a teacher, which he was for a brief period.

Sainte Colombe is preoccupied by his dead wife, Marin Marais is preoccupied by music (and briefly sexually by Sainte Colombe's two daughter's), although Marais is eager to join the king's court as a musician, but also to know Sainte Colombe's music which he refuses to publish. It's easy to see why Allain Corneau made a film of this book in the same year of publication, and why it is rooted so firmly in many people's minds.

29 August 2019

Yann Moix: Orléans (2019)

Yann Moix is hardly a stranger to controversy: to give four examples, he lost a court case for calling extreme right-wing writer and politician Renaud Camus 'anti-Semitic'; he's said that he could never fancy a woman over fifty; he's said that Michael Jackson wasn't a paedophile but a child himself; and now (just a short time after after the publication of this book) his brother Alexandre wrote a letter published in Le Parisien claiming that he was the person who was violently abused by Yann, and that it wasn't their parents who violently treated and humiliated Yann, as this book describes.* I note that several people (not all of whom have even read the book) on Amazon reviews have lashed out against it, it seems to me, because, among other things, they call Yann Moix narcissistic. I can find nothing narcissistic in this book.

In this month's Le Grand entretien in Lire with Yann Moix, Claire Chazal says that some of the excessive violence described as being meted out to him by his parents (who seem out to destroy him mentally if not quite physically), and asks him what is true in the book. Moix says, rather cryptically, that 'exactness' is more important than 'the truth', and goes on to say that he may have mistaken one of the years in the book for the year before! And anyway, calling the book 'a novel' acts as a 'tiny filter between reality and the author, who can protect himself behind this word'. So that's all right then: we can treat the work how we please and ignore what is truth and what is fiction? The best way, for a number of reasons, is to treat the book is as a work of fiction.

The novel is divided into two equal parts: 'Dedans' and 'Dehors', the first of which deals with the savage and mindless treatment of the first person narrator by his parents, who pick on any opportunity to attack him; the second part explains activities outside the home (mainly at school). Both parts of the novel are divided into a number of sections corresponding to each year the narrator went to school, from maternelle to terminale.

At no time in either section is there a mention of a brother, and I don't believe the names of the parents are ever mentioned. But in the first part, the slightest error the narrator makes, the punishment is harsh: his incontinence, his listening to music under the bedclothes late into the night, coming home smelling of smoke, even his obsession with André Gide is seen as negative because he was a pédé: the punishment is violent and often humiliating.

In the second part there is still humiliation for Moix, particularly on the part of girls, who make fun of him, torment him, even mentally torture this testosterone-fuelled (but painfully shy) young creature. But Moix comes to love literature through Gide, then Francis Ponge, Sartre, and there are many more writers to come. In fact, he states, intellectual enlightenment can be as rewarding as the sex act.

Yann Moix is a much reviled personality, but that notwithstanding, Orléans is an extremely well written book and should not been condemned for reasons unrelated to its contents.

*Since writing this, new information has emerged about Yann Moix's anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial thirty years ago, specifically concerning cartoons he drew, as well as writings. He appeared on On n'est pas couché yesterday and vociferously condemned the person he was as opposed to the person he is now. Somehow, I think he's probably dug himself more and more into the ground.

22 August 2019

Johan-Barthold Jongkind, Nevers, Nièvre (58)

The Dutch painter Johan-Barthold Jongkind (1819-91) was a precursor of Impressionism and stayed in the building to which this plaque is affixed, then L'Hôtel Saint Louis', for several months each year between 1871 and 1875. He was very interested in the area which he had discovered in 1861, and painted a large number of views of Nevers – its streets, monuments and the banks of the Loire, creating wonderful watercolours.

Le Pont de la Loire, Nevers, Nièvre (58)

This is not supposed to be a pretty tourist shot, although I have to admit it gives that impression, with the Pont de la Loire in the foreground, middle ground and background, and Nevers cathedral in the background on the left. But what pleased me about it is that it reminds me so much of Éric Rohmer's film Conte d'hiver, part of his Contes des quatre saisons tetralogy.

Jeanne Cressanges, Noyant d'Allier, Allier (03)

Place Jeanne Mouchonnier-Cressanges in Noyant d'Allier, where she was born. Jeanne Cressanges (the name she writes under) continues to produce novels and short stories. She was born Jeanne Mouchonnier into a working-class family, her mother a peasant from Noyant, her father a plasterer-cum-painter from Dompierre-sur-Besbre. I can't say that I understand this apparently recent street sign, which declares that she has written just two novels, whereas Wikipédia lists fourteen. However, it's fitting that this sign stands opposite the Buddhist pagoda: it says that her (second) novel La Feuille de Bétel (1962) was inspired by Noyant's Vietnamese community, and that a film of the same name was made from the novel and released in 1972. (Cressanges, incidentally, is the name of the neighbouring village.)

Boîte à Lire, Noyant d'Allier, Allier (03)

A well-stocked, in fact cram-packed Boîte à lire in Noyant d'Allier, although they've chosen to call it La Ruche aux livres because, I suppose, it does rather look like a beehive.

Boîtes à lire:
Boîte à Lire, Dicy, Nièvre
Boîte à lire, Maisons-Laffitte, Yvelines
Boîte à lire, Sorigny, Indre-et-Loire
Boîte à Lire, Jonzac, Charente-Maritime
Boîte à lire, La Roque-d'Anthéron, Bouches-du-Rhône
Boîte à Lire, Épineuil-le-Fleuriel, Cher
Boîte à lire, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône
Boîte à lire, East Markham, UK
Boîte à lire, La Folie Couvrechef, Caen, Calvados
Boîte à lire, Bergues, Nord
Boîte à lire, Le Havre, Seine-Maritime
Boîte à lire, Villerville, Calvados
Boîte à lire, Saint-Servan, Saint-Malo, Ille-et-Vilaine
Boîte à lire in Caen, Calvados
Boîte à Lire, Noyant d'Allier, Allier
Boîte à lire, Dampierre-en-Burly, Loiret
Boîte à lire, Illiers-Combray, Eure-et-Loir
Boîte à lire, Chartres, Eure-et-Loir
Boîte à lire, Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d'Or, Rhône

21 August 2019

The Pagoda, Noyant d'Allier, Allier (03)

Noyant d'Allier was an important mining village from the middle of the 19th century until the closure of the mine in 1943. From 1955 France repatriated a number of Francophone refugees from Indochina, one of the major receiving villages being Noyant d'Allier, which housed the immigrants in the former miners' dwellings. Some clips on YouTube reveal that some Vietnamese felt unease, perhaps particularly the now grown children who felt deracinated because their childhood and their culture had been removed from them. However, newcomers in time adapted themselves to their new country. In 1983 the Buddhist community in Noyant built a pagoda.

A Buddha is not a divinity because a person can become enlightened and a become a Buddha too. There are a number of statues in the park, one of which represents a reclining Buddha, head to the east and feet towards the west, symbolising reaching nirvana.

Two lines of statues lead to the columbarium, with at the beginning the lord of hell, while further on is the feminine representation of Buddha, an awakening destroying gender constructs, constructs good and evil... and then there is a monumental statue, in gold, of Buddha Sakyamuni in meditation. Buddha was originally a marine turtle.

Between this statue and the pagoda are four representations of Buddha: in meditation, protected by cobras; alone; with five adepts; young, with a monkey and elephant, recalling the stories received during youth.

Any errors made here are entirely due to me, and I welcome any corrections to a subject of which I know very little!

19 August 2019

Ecological joke in Saint-Denis-de-l'Hôtel, Loiret (45)

A customer at a supermarket:
'Could I have a plastic bag please?'
'It's in the fish, sir!!!'

Maurice Genevoix in Saint-Denis-de-l'Hôtel, Loiret (45)

Ah, la Maison Maurice Genevoix, which we knew wouldn't be open at the time we went, but we didn't expect this - nothing on the internet, etc.

Marguerite Audoux, Sancoins, Cher (18)

As this plaque says, Marquerite Audoux, author of Marie-Claire, was born in this area of Sancoins on 7 July 1863.

Suzanne Brucy, Sancoins, Cher (18)

Suzanne Brucy (1872-1903) was the daughter of a friend of Jean Baffier's. With Baffier's own grave and Hugues Lapaire's, these three form the most interesting graves in Sancoins cemetery.

Hugues Lapaire, Sancoins, Cher (18)

Poet, novelist and literary critic Hugues Lapaire (1869-1967) was born in Sancoins, where he died at the age of 97. Berry was his main inspiration, and he produced many works in both French and patois berrichon, although he also defended Nivernais and Bourbonnais traditions and values. He lost he father at the age of two, was brought up by his grandparents, and much lamented the dying of peasant society. It was in the lycée in Moulins that he met Alfred Crépin, director of Le Courrier de l'Allier, which led him to a taste in literature. Meeting Jean Baffier was even more decisive to his future, and later he met Achille Millien and contributed on several occasions to the Revue du Nivernais. Moving to Paris, he made his presence known as a patois poet. His early novels Le Courandier (1904), and L’Epervier (1906) were regional, along with a number of other works. He also published many books on the history of the region. A square in Sancoins is dedicated to him, with a bust, and he is buried in Sancoins cemetery. Jean Baffier sculpted La Prieuse in an arched niche above his grave, although a copy of it was stolen in 2011.

Jean Baffier, Sancoins, Cher (18)

Jean Baffier was a sculptor and writer born in Berry (Neuvy-le-Barrois, Cher) in 1851 and died in Paris in 1920. He had a kind of epiphany on working on the restoration a Nevers cathedral and took lessons in sculpture in Paris, making a name in bronze figures and pewter vases, etc. He was also a staunch regionalist interested in the traditional music and popular tales of Berry. On the negative side, he had reactionary, anti-Semitic opinions which he expressed in local papers such as Journal du Cher and Dépêche du Berry. A square with a bust representing him is in Sancoins, where he is buried.

18 August 2019

La Maison de George Sand, Nohant-Vic, Indre (36)

George Sand (1804-76) was brought up by her grandmother in Nohant-Vic. From 1830 until her death she wrote many novels, short stories, plays and newspaper and journal articles. She spent much of her time between Berry and Paris. The house here is an 18th century rebuild of a medieval manor house. Unfortunately, photography is not permitted inside the house 'for safety reasons and to protect furniture' (their published words in English). My comment on this is that those words are  most meaningless: places I've come across before with this policy do so only to sell postcards and general tat. Anyway, what is the point of visiting a place if you have no personal experiences to take away, apart from elusive memory? Swerve.

There exists, though, a number of things to see around the house for free.

The back of the house.

A tiny part of the garden, with the house on the left. The cemetery is fascinating.

On the right, George Sand's daughter Gabrielle Solange Clésier (1828-99), née Dudevant Sand, wife of the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Clésinger, and almost certainly the product of a relationship between Sand and Stéphane Ajasson de Grandsagne. Solange wrote three novels.

On the left, Jeanne Gabrielle Clésinger (1849-55), Sand's grand-daughter.

On the right, Marie Aurore de Saxe (1748-1821), Sand's grandmother.

On the left, Maurice François Dupin (1778-1808), Sand's father.

Claudine Jeanne Aurore Dudevant Sand (1866-1961), wife of Frédéric Lauth, and Sand's grand-daughter.

George Sand (1804-76), Amantine Aurore Dupin, Baronne Dudevant, wife of Casimir Dudevant.

Marc-Antoine Sand Dudevant (1863-64), Sand's grandson.

Maurice Dudevant (1823-1889), Baron Dudevant, Sand's son.

Marceline Claudine Augustine Calamatta (1842-1901), Maurice Dudevant's wife, and Sand's daughter-in-law.

Gabrielle Jeanne Lucille Dudevant Sand (1868-1909), Roméo Palazzi's wife, and Sand's grand-daughter.

Antoinette Sophie Victoire Delaborde (1773-1837), Maurice Dupin's wife, and Sand's mother.

Edmond Plauchut (1824-1909), a friend of the family, and a writer.

George Sand by Jean-Baptiste, or Auguste, Clésinger, Sand's son-in-law.

Maurice, George Sand's son.

My George Sand posts:
La Maison de George Sand, Nohant-Vic, Indre
George Sand in Paris: Literary Île-de-France #49
George Sand: La Petite Fadette
Norma Tessum Onda, St Maurice, La Rochelle
George Sand and Le Moulin d'Angibault, Montipouret, Indre