The bouche du metro (or métro entrance) at Porte Dauphine in the 16th arrondissement close to the Bois de Boulogne is the best example in the whole network. It is by the noted architect Hector Guimard (1867–1942), a major proponent of Art Nouveau. This work of art is particularly noted for its glass roof and its orange ceramic panels. It was opened in 1900.
Inevitably, the 'Pléiadisation' of Pierre Drieu la Rochelle (1893–1945) last year (2012) brought shocked objections. How could it not? A fascist's writings allowed into the esteemed Pléiade? Fascist Drieu certainly was (specifically from 1934), although he saved his friend Jean Paulhan from the Gestapo, and also saved such writers as Sartre. Drieu's life in any case can't be reduced to simplistic condemnations: he was riddled with contradictions. What would have become of him if he'd gone into hiding after the liberation of Paris (as for instance André Malraux suggested) and not killed himself?
This time I had no trouble finding the grave of Anatole France (1844–1924), François Anatole Thibault's pseudonym. He was one of the greatest writers and literary critics of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and in 1921 he was awarded the Noble Prize for Literature. He was also involved in many of the social and political concerns of his time – he was a Dreyfusard, for instance.
A great number of Anatole France's books are freely available online, in French and in English, via Project Gutenberg. I provide a link to them below, as well as to my original post of other graves in this cemetery:
NÉ À BESANÇON (DOUBS) LE 24 FÉVRIER, 1804. DÉDÉDÉ À SABLONVILLE, CN DE NEUILLY*, LE 6 MARS 1850.
ÉCRIVAIN DISTINGUÉ. MODESTE DANS LE SUCCÈS. SIMPLE DANS SES HABITUDES. COEUR NOBLE ET DÉVOUÉ. IL A VÉCUT POUR SA FEMME ET SES ENFANS DONT IL FIT LE BONHEUR.
PRIEZ POUR LUI.'
'DISTINGUISHED WRITER. MODEST IN HIS SUCCESS. SIMPLE IN HIS WAYS. A NOBLE AND DEVOTED HEART. HE LOVED HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN WHOM HE FILLED WITH HAPPINESS.
PRAY FOR HIM.'
Charles de Bernard was a novelist and short story writer who was very popular in the 1840s. He was a friend of Balzac and was translated into English and appreciated both in Great Britain and the USA.
Time has not been kind to his memory. Writing in the late 1870s, Henry James considered him a second-rate French author largely of only historical interest. He is almost forgotten today.
*Sablonville (literally 'Sandtown') was a village in the commune of Neuilly-sur-Seine. Today the nearby métro station Les Sablons (Jardin d'Acclimatation) remembers the Plaine des Sablons, where sand was extracted for building purposes.
Below is a link to a novel by Bernard, plus a link to an earlier post I made on other graves in this cemetery:
I'll try to keep these posts (photos shot in a month in the Paris area mid-September to mid-October) in date order, although I may fail because of tricky ones I have to research too much. This was the first day and the clouds appearing to predict rain held off most of the time – in fact almost all of the time it was superb summer weather until the last few days.
OK, here goes, and the first writer mentioned isn't even French.
'EÇA DE QUEIROZ ÉCRIVAIN ET DIPLOMATE 1845–1900'
I chose not to crop the photo as I love the memory of the Grande Arche de La Défense relatively close behind me as I capture this in the central reservation on avenue Charles de Gaulle in Neuilly-sur-Seine, the bust obscuring a distant Arc de triomphe.
Eça de Queiroz – also (particularly in modern Portuguese) written Eça de Queirós – is noted for his naturalist novels and for introducing naturalism into Portuguese literature. He is sometimes called the Portuguese Zola, although Flaubert was probably a bigger influence on him, and Zola himself even rated him above Flaubert.
'EÇA DE QUEIROZ, CONSUL DU PORTUGAL À PARIS, EST MORT À NEUILLY-SUR-SEINE LE 16 AOÛT 1900
SCULPTURE DE ANTÓNIO TEIXEIRA LOPES SELON UNE ÉTUDE DE 1903
OFFERTE PAR LA MAIRIE DE LISBONNE EN PARTENARIAT AVEC L'AMBASSADE DU PORTUGAL À PARIS 2004'
Eça de Queiroz first worked as the Portuguese consul in Paris in 1888. Although he died in Neuilly, he was buried in Portugal.
The tomb of the poet Samuel Rogers (1763–1855), where he joined his brother Henry and his sister Sarah in the churchyard at St Mary's, Hornsey. The inscription on the tomb notes that he was the author of 'The Pleasures of Memory'.
The building the plaque is on is now a pub, although for some reason I shot it at a very bad angle.
And the pub has two names – the Mawson Arms and the Fox and Hounds, as there were once two pubs on the site. The above plaque says that Pope lived here with his parents from 1716 to 1719, although Pope's father died in 1717.
'THE HORNIMAN MUSEUM AND GARDENS WERE GIVEN TO THE PEOPLE OF LONDON IN 1901 BY FREDERICK JOHN HORNIMAN WHO LIVED NEAR THIS SITE'
Frederick John Horniman (1835–1906) inherited his father John Horniman's firm, which towards the end of the 19th century was the largest tea business in the world. Frederick travelled the world collecting various specimens of natural history or cultural objects, his stated purpose being to 'bring the world to Forest Hill'.
The mosaic is Humanity in the House of Circumstance, designed by Robert Anning Bell. From the left, the figures represent Art, Poetry, Music, and Endurance; the central figure represents Humanity, with Love on the left and Hope on the right; then come Charity, Wisdom, Meditation (seated), and Resignation. The door on the left represents Birth, the door on the right Death.
The museum, in the Arts and Crafts style, was built by Charles Harrison Townsend, who also designed the Bishopsgate Institute and the Whitechapel Art Gallery.
Just an indication of the size of the place.
(As a point of interest, Annie Horniman (1860–1937), the daughter of Frederick and Rebekah (née Elmslie) Horniman, founded the Gaiety Theatre in Manchester, noted for what became known as the Manchester School of playwrights (e.g. Harold Brighouse, Stanley Houghton, Allan Monkhouse, etc).)
Polymath Jacob Bronowski is perhaps best remembered for his BBC TV series of 1973, The Ascent of Man, and the book of the same name, the title an obvious allusion to Darwin's The Descent of Man (1871).
'SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF FREDERICK TENNYSON, POET AND SCHOLAR, BORN AT LOUTH, LINCOLNSHIRE, JUNE 15th 1807, DIED AT KENSINGTON, LONDON, FEBRUARY 26 th 1898, IN HIS 91st YEAR. ERECTED BY HIS ELDEST SON JULIUS GEORGE TENNYSON, IN TOKEN OF AFFECTION.'
Frederick Tennyson was an elder brother of Alfred who was temporarily expelled from Cambridge University for refusing to accept punishment for not attending chapel. He lived in Florence for twenty years and was heavily influenced by Swedenborg.
Ellen Wood (1814–87), who used to write under the self-effacing name of Mrs Henry Wood, is best known for her novel East Lynne (1861). She lived with her husband and family in France for twenty years, returning on the failure of her husband's business. In London, she supported her family on the profits of her many novels.
Unfortunately, admission to West Cemetery is by guided tour only, which means that you're at the mercy of the guide, and that (at least on the occasion when I went this August) could well mean that you'll be subjected to the predictable: the 'menagerist' George Wombwell, the boxer Tom Sayers, etc. If the guide isn't interested in literature, as ours obviously wasn't – then there'll not even be a mention of Christina Rossetti, let alone Radclyffe Hall or Ellen Wood. Which isn't good enough for me, so it was fortunate that I'd done some online research before, and had worked out that we'd be passing by the last two authors at least. In the end, I was surprised to find the number of graves I did find – but in spite of, rather than because of – the guide.
The Egyptian Avenue, leading on to the Circle of Lebanon.
Radclyffe Hall (1880–1943) is probably most well known for her 'lesbian' novel The Well of Loneliness (1928), which was the subject of a court case. She lived with the singer Mabel Veronica Batten from her husband's death until Batten's own death in 1916.
...AND, IF GOD CHOOSE,
I SHALL BUT LOVE THEE BETTER
Batten's cousin Una Troubridge (1887–1963) was a sculptor and translator (notably of Colette) who lived with Hall from 1917.
'Ci-gît Pierre MOLINIER né le 13 avril 1900 mort vers 1950 ce fut un homme sans moralité il s'en fit gloire et honneur Inutile de P.P.L'
This epitaph, on a simple wooden cross, which notes the death of a man 'of no morality' who revelled in the fact, and declares that it is 'pointless to pray for him', was in fact not only written by the artist and photographer Pierre Molinier himself, but written and erected many years before his death, which was in 1976. But I think the words on his cross tell us a lot about him.
This biography by Pierre Petit of Auckland University is a very scholarly work containing footnotes, details of his exhibitions and paintings exhibited, and a Bibliography. The only thing missing is an Index, which would of course have been useful.
There's something amusing, because ironic, about Molinier's description of himself as without morality, because this is more the way he saw how others saw him than how he saw himself: he was thoroughly against convention. Indeed, from Petit's fascinating account – which for a few readers is perhaps literally difficult to stomach – the sex-obsessed artist had little comprehension of morality in this area: emphatically, in terms of sexual behaviour that gratified the self but didn't harm others, then pretty much anything was par for the course. But Molinier did hurt his wife emotionally by bringing his girlfriends home for instance, and it's hardly surprising that she left him.
Molinier spent almost all of his life in Bordeaux, although he lived in Agen about 90 miles east during his childhood and early youth. There, his father was a painter and decorator of houses and his mother a dressmaker who ran her business on the ground floor of their house. When Molinier was about three he'd delight in settling himself under the work table and caressing the legs and thighs of his mother's employees: he loved stockings and suspenders and the lower parts of a woman's body, and it's easy to imagine that it is from these early experiences that his obsession with these clothes and body parts became a strong feature of his professional life – all the photos he took of himself and women in stockings and suspenders, the naked flesh in his paintings, etc.
Molinier first had sex with a woman at the age of twelve. He had already fallen in love with his sister – he particularly adored her legs – and although there is no question of incest when she was living, she died of Spanish flu when he was 18 and he locked himself in the room containing her coffin and masturbated on her belly: he even took a photo of it.
For some years Molinier's paintings were shown at a number of exhibitions at the Salon des Artistes Indépendents Bordelais, until the inevitable rift when his paintings became perceived as too risqué. André Breton became a great admirer of Moliner's surrealism and was responsible for a number of Molinier's paintings being shown in Paris, but although there was never any rift this time (even when Molinier told Breton that he was opening a brothel in Bordeaux), Breton certainly maintained a distance between himself and Molinier.
A major event in Molinier's later life was when he fell in love with the married 'Emmanuelle Arsan' (Marayat Rollet-Andriane, who later became famous for the soft porn Emmanuelle novels), who also fell in love with Molinier, and even met him and posed naked for his photos, although this was a platonic love and any sex was on the level of pure fantasy.
Later, Molinier met the much younger Hanel, who also posed naked for him, and this relationship was decidedly sexual. Molinier believed photography was more difficult than painting, and made photomontages, one being a graft of the artist's much younger, made-up face onto Hanel's body clad in just stockings, suspenders and high-heeled shoes.
In one erotic painting, La Communion d'amour (1971), in which two naked (but oddly fused in parts) women (with the heads of Emmanuelle and Hanel) French kiss, there is a surplus of hands, although two of them are tweaking the two visible nipples, and another is inserting a dildo into a vagina.
A confusion of writhing bodies isn't unusual with Molinier, and the painting that most offended people's sensibilities is Oh! Marie...Mère de Dieu (1965), a crucifixion scene in which the man is being fellated by a woman and (it appears) being sodomised by another dildo-wielding woman. Molinier (a mischievous atheist) had an idea of sending this to the Pope.
As the artist grew older his external sexual outlets inevitably became more limited, although he bought dolls and (although he perhaps only once had a one-off homosexual relationship) delighted in sodomising himself with a dildo. He even invented a device for auto-fellation, of which of course a photo exists. (Auto-erotic asphyxiation isn't mentioned, and it is quite possible that Molinier wasn't aware of the practice, otherwise he might have died much earlier.)
Molinier always used a condom: in fact he mixed his sperm in with the paintings, meaning that they were truly erotic, that he had given a great deal of himself in them. He fed his beloved cats the left-over sperm.
Another of Molinier's interests was firearms, so when life became too much for him he had a relatively easy (or at least very quick) escape route. After arranging things as neatly as possible, Molinier lay in bed and fired a bullet through his skull. He left his body to medical science, although it is not known if (as he had once said he intended) he left the world in gaudily painted finger and toe nails.
Bordeaux recently showed an exhibition of Pierre Molinier's work, and there is even a rumour that a city square will be named after him. If so, this would mean that Molinier would join the other three Ms honoured there: Montaigne, Montesquieu and Mauriac.
Before Premier bilan après l'apocalypse exploded on my consciousness, I'd only read two of Frédéric Beigbeder's novels: Mémoires d'un Jeune Homme Dérangé (1990) and 99 Francs (2000), both of which I've commented on before on this blog, and both of which I link below.
But Premier bilan is quite something else, and it's difficult to express how much I enjoyed this ourageously self-opinionated, repetitive, wholly original, quirky, bizarre, immensely informative, infuriating, moving, contemptible, cliquish, and quite brilliant book written with both deep sincerity and tongue firmly in cheek.
Beigbeder obviously has deep concerns for the future of the book: not so much that it will be consumed in the flames of a Ray Bradbury-style dystopian Fahrenheit 451, but that we shall move into a paperless society in which print be only be in the form of the virtual word, with no sense of touch or smell, etc, and whose technology may even destroy our literary heritage.
So, here are one hundred books from the (essentially late half of the) 20th century (and just a few more immediately before and after that century) that Beigbeder believes must be saved. As Beigbeder is French it is unsurprising that more than 50% of these books are in that language, and as he has connections with the USA it is unsurprising that more than 25% of the books are of American origin. But barely 10% of the books are by female authors, which would appear to suggest an unfortunate male bias. (Maybe he can be excused just this once.)
It would be churlish (even ignorant) of me to even attempt to mention (in mock anger) the number and quality of the writers Beigbeder has excluded here: this is an idiosyncratic list, a list of those books he loves and considers worthy of survival, and not a list of those works he personally thinks are, er, great works in themselves (if that has any meaning).
But the strength of this book is that it is idiosyncratic, even a little insane – Beigbeder, for instance, includes in his hundred books an album by French rock band Téléphone and contrives to make his number 69 by the very sexually-oriented San-Antonio (OK, Frédéric Dard), the book of choice (En avant la moujik!) being published in the 'année érotique' of 1969. Furthermore, as I'm far from being a fan of much of what passes for good contemporary English literature (by which I mean that produced by English nationals), I am very pleased to find that only five of the 100 entries are by English writers, and that two of those entries are books by J. G. Ballard, whom Beigbeder rates higher than the usual tedious suspects he dismissively mentions: David Lodge, Ian McEwan, Jonathan Coe, and Julian Barnes.1
I am delighted to note that Beigbeder includes the glorious Jean Rhys, who was born in Dominica to a Welsh father and a white Creole mother of Scottish ancestry; the fact that the chosen book isn't the usual (and atypical of Rhys's better work) Wide Sargasso Sea but Good Morning, Midnight (1939) shows that he knows what he's talking about. But then, going for lesser known works (which are often better in quality and/or are far more interesting) is Beigbeder's forte.
Premier bilan is no conventional trip through the memory lane of its writer, but a genuine attempt to pinpoint some of missing elements in the conventional lists of 'best' books. As such, it often mentions obscure works, even, perhaps, a few that are almost impossible to find without spending far more than idle curiosity would allow for (such as Alain Pacadis's Un jeune homme chic (1978)). But others are much more accessible (at least for buying online but not necessarily from the point of view of readability), such as Rose poussière (1972) by Jean-Jacques Schuhl. And then there are Les Couleurs de l'infamie by Albert Cossery, Brèves de comptoir by Jean-Marie Gourio and Autoportrait by Edouard Levé.
This is a book I shall consult again and again, just dipping into it, discovering (I'm sure) much more each time.
Premier bilan is an infuriating delight – wouldn't anyone be infuriated by someone trying to convince you that writers such as Bret Easton Ellis or Jay McInerney are way up there among the best in the world? – but it's the way that he says it. And he says things so well (if in a slightly exaggerated fashion). (Smiley definitely required there.)
I'll translate a few gems:
'As with all of [Cossery's] books, he praises laziness, condemns the rich with their possessions, and only respects beggars, outsiders, the poor. For him, these are the only free humans. [...] [L]et's stop classing the unemployed as handicapped when they are gods!'
'...celebrity, the new opium of the people...'
'[Ned Roram's] most beautiful sentences are those which we don't completely understand but feel deeply: they are addressed to the soul more than the head.'
'The film Breakfast at Tiffanys was absolutely charming but all the same it was an act of high treason. [Blake Edwards] turned a satire that could have been called 'The Fall of an Escort Girl' into a romantic moral comedy.'
'[Guillaume] Dustan cleverly synthesises the four most modern strands of contemporary literature: new realism (Houellebecq / Ravelec / Despentes), autofiction (Donner / Angot / Doubrovsky), experimental 'dandy rock' writing (Schuhl / Pacadis / Adrien), and gay porn (Renaud Camus / Hervé Guilbert / Vincent Borel).'
'When I was an adolescent – I still am, but no matter...' (Beigbeder was 48 when this book was published.)
Beigbeder knows a great deal about literature, he loves it, he's immensely pretentious (that's one of his great strengths: he's a joker), he's still way too laddish, he'll never grow up (also one of his greatest strengths), but after reading Premier bilan I wanted to ring him up and talk about this book (that's a reference to something he says) because I loved it, because of its brilliance and because of its superb arrogance. Beigbeder has a self-deprecation which, paradoxically, can only come from conviction of his great worth. No, of course I don't take this book seriously: it's too vital for that. Another translation of mine from this book: 'I'm frightened of LSD (I've often been offered it but never wanted to try it). I don't sleep with minors (that's bad). But I love it when books allow me to know things I don't have a knowledge of.' That, of course, is what reading should be all about. This is a human, wonderful – and wonderfully annoying – book. It easily makes my one hundred, all-time list.
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 1 In Coe's defence, he wrote a brilliant biography of B. S. Johnson; Barnes's interest in Félix Fénéon and Alphonse Daudet are to be commended; Lodge is very good when talking about modernism; but McEwan, er... but then isn't he a friend of the dreadful Martin Amis?2
2 I noticed Philippe Djian (Beigbeder's number 18 with Maudit ménage and 95 with Clémence Picot) says (with apparent glee) in a magazine somewhere that the semi-colon is dead; oh no it's not.
The Geffrye Museum on Kingsland Road, Shoreditch, was established in 1914, originally being almshouses built in 1714.
Sir Robert Geffrye, the founder of the almshouses and Master of the Ironmongers' Company.
Up to fifty elderly poor people lived around this front garden area.
A partial view of the inside of the chapel.
The apse is a late 18th century addition.
On the other side, the reading room overlooks the back garden.
But the essential part of the museum is its display of home interiors, of which I found that the most recent ones were the easiest to photograph. They all represent middle-class homes. The room above is a reconstruction of an Edwardian (1900–14) drawing room in a semi-detached house. Electricity would have been a feature.
A 1930s living-cum-dining room in a London flat, which would have had running hot water, central heating, and wide windows.
A living-cum-dining room typical of an early 1960s house. The focal point of the room moves from the fireplace to the television.
Finally, from the 1990s, commercial premises converted into living space. Bare floorboards, minimal furniture.
The back garden.
An outside view of the reading room.
There is also a tiny cemetery which includes the founder's tomb.
The 2013 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion (open 1 June 2013 to 20 October 2013) was designed by the youngest person to accept the commission, 41-year-old Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. The complex network of white steel poles in front of the gallery blend with the surrounding environment to create a dream-like effect that I find quite mesmerising. I'll let the images speak for themselves.