Archive for the ‘literature’ category

Apollonian will Vs Dionysian impulses

August 10, 2014

the artist has to curb his feelings. This requirement excludes the daily joys of normal people, but is the sine qua non condition of a perfect art. this Apollonian will will not always resist the Dionysian impulses.

Source: a comment to Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice


black hussars or the famous metaphysics of progress

September 30, 2013

In L’Argent, which he published in 1913 , Charles Peguy recalls his childhood, when he was a pupil in an elementary school which adjoined the “normal” school of teachers in Orleans (South West of Paris). The story begins in 1879.

After the victory of the Republicans, the “Paul Bert” law redefines the “normal” schools founded by Guizot (Louis-Philippe’s minister of education) in 1833. The teachers-trainees taught at Peguy’s school. Peguy described them in these famous terms: “Our young masters were beautiful as black hussars. Slender , tough , strapped , serious and a little trembling in their early and sudden omnipotence.” “Black hussars ! And, indeed , their uniform was very dark , from the shoes to the cap, a civic uniform.” Peguy added that they ” were really the children of the Republic , the infants of the Republic , the black hussars of the severity.” Black Hussars, the cavalry squadron formed in 1793 by the young French Republic, the soldiers of the Year II !

The term “black hussar” will stay and qualifies those who, in the third or the fourth French republic, incarnates the civic mission of educating the people. They are the main stakeholders of the free and compulsory secular education that Jules Ferry laws introduced in the 1880s. All children from France , aged from 6 to 11 benefit from this instruction. Meantime, the labour is allowed for young people older than 12. Others young people can stay at school after obtaining their “certificate of primary studies” (at 11), but they are really few and high school students, as college students, are a tiny minority .

The key education, then , is given in these elementary schools by male teachers and , from the beginning, by female teachers. These teachers are officials showing a moral authority even if they are not rich. And they are part of the Republican elite.

As “normal” schools of teachers are departmental, teachers-trainees have the same social origins than the pupils they will teach. Sons (or daughters) of workers, of small farmers , of small landowners, throughout France , they begin to climb the social ladder without moving further from those around them. In three decades , the French population evolves quickly, gets urbanized, reaches an increasing life expectancy. The French language imposed itself against dialects and languages ​​, sometimes forcibly. Dechristianization gets broader, the general level of education grows rapidly, while the masters embody the project of secularization and “a positivist metaphysics.” ” It was, Peguy says , the famous metaphysics of progress .”

Peguy added in 1879 that “teachers were always ready to shout ” Vive la Republique ! Vive la Nation !”, that they would have shouted so even under the Prussian saber. Because for us, confusingly, the enemy, the whole enemy, the evil spirit, was the Prussians . It was already not so stupid . Nor so far from the truth. That was in 1880. This is 1913. Thirty-three years later. And we returned to this feeling.” End of quote.

In 1914, these teachers go to the front with the pupils they have trained. They pay the same toll as other French to their homeland.


Bellino’s History: my name is Therese

September 13, 2013


Bellino’s History
The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt, 1725-1798. Volume 02


“My name is Therese. My father, a poor clerk in the Institute of Bologna, had let an apartment in his house to the celebrated Salimberi, a castrato, and a delightful musician. He was young and handsome, he became attached to me, and I felt flattered by his affection and by the praise he lavished upon me. I was only twelve years of age; he proposed to teach me music, and finding that I had a fine voice, he cultivated it carefully, and in less than a year I could accompany myself on the harpsichord. His reward was that which his love for me induced him to ask, and I granted the reward without feeling any humiliation, for I worshipped him. Of course, men like yourself are much above men of his species, but Salimberi was an exception. His beauty, his manners, his talent, and the rare qualities of his soul, made him superior in my eyes to all the men I had seen until then. He was modest and reserved, rich and generous, and I doubt whether he could have found a woman able to resist him; yet I never heard him boast of having seduced any. The mutilation practised upon his body had made him a monster, but he was an angel by his rare qualities and endowments.

“Salimberi was at that time educating a boy of the same age as myself, who was in Rimini with a music teacher. The father of the boy, who was poor and had a large family, seeing himself near death, had thought of having his unfortunate son maimed so that he should become the support of his brothers with his voice. The name of the boy was Bellino; the good woman whom you have just seen in Ancona was his mother, and everybody believes that she is mine.

“I had belonged to Salimberi for about a year, when he announced to me one day, weeping bitterly, that he was compelled to leave me to go to Rome, but he promised to see me again. The news threw me into despair. He had arranged everything for the continuation of my musical education, but, as he was preparing himself for his departure, my father died very suddenly, after a short illness, and I was left an orphan.

“Salimberi had not courage enough to resist my tears and my entreaties; he made up his mind to take me to Rimini, and to place me in the same house where his young ‘protege’ was educated. We reached Rimini, and put up at an inn; after a short rest, Salimberi left me to call upon the teacher of music, and to make all necessary arrangements respecting me with him; but he soon returned, looking sad and unhappy; Bellino had died the day before.

“As he was thinking of the grief which the loss of the young man would cause his mother, he was struck with the idea of bringing me back to Bologna under the name of Bellino, where he could arrange for my board with the mother of the deceased Bellino, who, being very poor, would find it to her advantage to keep the secret. ‘I will give her,’ he said, ‘everything necessary for the completion of your musical education, and in four years, I will take you to Dresden (he was in the service of the Elector of Saxony, King of Poland), not as a girl, but as a castrato. There we will live together without giving anyone cause for scandal, and you will remain with me and minister to my happiness until I die. All we have to do is to represent you as Bellino, and it is very easy, as nobody knows you in Bologna. Bellino’s mother will alone know the secret; her other children have seen their brother only when he was very young, and can have no suspicion. But if you love me you must renounce your sex, lose even the remembrance of it, and leave immediately for Bologna, dressed as a boy, and under the name of Bellino. You must be very careful lest anyone should find out that you are a girl; you must sleep alone, dress yourself in private, and when your bosom is formed, as it will be in a year or two, it will only be thought a deformity not uncommon amongst ‘castrati’. Besides, before leaving you, I will give you a small instrument, and teach how to fix it in such manner that, if you had at any time to submit to an examination, you would easily be mistaken for a man. If you accept my plan, I feel certain that we can live together in Dresden without losing the good graces of the queen, who is very religious. Tell me, now, whether you will accept my proposal?

“He could not entertain any doubt of my consent, for I adored him. As soon as he had made a boy of me we left Rimini for Bologna, where we arrived late in the evening. A little gold made everything right with Bellino’s mother; I gave her the name of mother, and she kissed me, calling me her dear son. Salimberi left us, and returned a short time afterwards with the instrument which would complete my transformation. He taught me, in the presence of my new mother, how to fix it with some tragacanth gum, and I found myself exactly like my friend. I would have laughed at it, had not my heart been deeply grieved at the departure of my beloved Salimberi, for he bade me farewell as soon as the curious operation was completed. People laugh at forebodings; I do not believe in them myself, but the foreboding of evil, which almost broke my heart as he gave me his farewell kiss, did not deceive me. I felt the cold shivering of death run through me; I felt I was looking at him for the last time, and I fainted away. Alas! my fears proved only too prophetic. Salimberi died a year ago in the Tyrol in the prime of life, with the calmness of a true philosopher. His death compelled me to earn my living with the assistance of my musical talent. My mother advised me to continue to give myself out as a castrato, in the hope of being able to take me to Rome. I agreed to do so, for I did not feel sufficient energy to decide upon any other plan. In the meantime she accepted an offer for the Ancona Theatre, and Petronio took the part of first female dancer; in this way we played the comedy of ‘The World Turned Upside Down.’

“After Salimberi, you are the only man I have known, and, if you like, you can restore me to my original state, and make me give up the name of Bellino, which I hate since the death of my protector, and which begins to inconvenience me. I have only appeared at two theatres, and each time I have been compelled to submit to the scandalous, degrading examination, because everywhere I am thought to have too much the appearance of a girl, and I am admitted only after the shameful test has brought conviction. Until now, fortunately, I have had to deal only with old priests who, in their good faith, have been satisfied with a very slight examination, and have made a favourable report to the bishop; but I might fall into the hands of some young abbe, and the test would then become a more severe one. Besides, I find myself exposed to the daily persecutions of two sorts of beings: those who, like you, cannot and will not believe me to be a man, and those who, for the satisfaction of their disgusting propensities, are delighted at my being so, or find it advantageous to suppose me so. The last particularly annoy me! Their tastes are so infamous, their habits so low, that I fear I shall murder one of them some day, when I can no longer control the rage in which their obscene language throws me. Out of pity, my beloved angel, be generous; and, if you love me, oh! free me from this state of shame and degradation! Take me with you. I do not ask to become your wife, that would be too much happiness; I will only be your friend, your mistress, as I would have been Salimberi’s; my heart is pure and innocent, I feel that I can remain faithful to my lover through my whole life. Do not abandon me. The love I have for you is sincere; my affection for Salimberi was innocent; it was born of my inexperience and of my gratitude, and it is only with you that I have felt myself truly a woman.”


bookstores: “buy local” networks, a militant approach for local consumption and preserving employment

July 28, 2013

In France, selling books is a “mature” market. It is going down for 3 years.

selling books has become the less profitable retail business.

The average net income is 0.6%, against nearly six times more for other businesses.

independent books retailers represent more than 40% of book sales and between 12,000 and 13,000 jobs. They are 2500 to 3000. To avoid closing their shops in quantity, the booksellers modulate their own wages.


Globally, the trends are almost the same:

– an increase in online shopping,

– the closure of large retail chains

– the majority of shopping is always in bookstores

– independent bookstores are trying to diversify by playing a more important cultural role or become a stakeholder in the “buy local” network, such as Germany and the United States, where a professional survey also shows even better the last year. This move is part of a militant approach for local consumption and preserving employment.



On the evening of June 14, 1816, all decided to play a game: the result was Frankenstein

June 2, 2013

At the Villa Diodati in Switzerland on Lake Geneva:

During the spring and summer of 1816, the house is rented by Lord Byron, accompanied by John William Polidori, his doctor and “drudge”.

Near the house, lives the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his mistress Mary Godwin who became his wife shortly after.

The couple makes frequent visits to Byron, exchanging about art and science.

On the evening of June 14, 1816, all decided to play a game: each of them has to write a ghost story. Very quickly, Shelley gives up and Byron drafts a story that will be published later. Polidori would have invented a story about a lady with a skull head, punished for having watched by a keyhole.

The major work resulting from this evening is Frankenstein, from the pen of Mary Shelley, who is just eighteen.

Completed on April 17, 1817, the novel is published on March 11, 1818 by the John Murray, editor. The author was unamed. The title: “Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus”. A reference to Mary’s husband’s “Prometheus Unbound”.

The month the novel is published, Walter Scott writes in his review of the Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine that the story is inhabited by “an extraordinary poetic imagination.”




Sumer 2300 BC: a special dialect called “language of women” was used for speeches of women and goddesses in various types of genre, including love poetry between the genders

May 5, 2013

Sumerian woman condition 2300 BC:

Being a priestess was the most prestigious position for females, which meant that they were the chief attendants to the goddesses and gods.

As was done later in Christianity, wealthy families sent one daughter with a considerable dowry, to be sequestered in the temple, whose duty was to offer up prayers for her family’s health and well-being.

As the high priestess to the moon god, Nanna, at Ur and to An, the heaven god at Uruk and to Inanna, the goddess of love and war at Uruk, Enheduanna, circa 2300 b.c.e. was the earliest known priestess, and one of the most famous women in ancient history.

While she was appointed by her father, the ruler Sargon the Great, her ability and administration of her duties was superb.

As chief priestess she presided over a huge temple complex, including a library, granaries, schools, hostels, and large land ownership. The stepped mud-brick pyramidal structures were called ziggurats and could be as big as cathedrals.

For instance, the temple in the city-state of Lagash circa 3000 b.c.e. provided daily bread and ale for 1200+ people. The temple to Nanna at Ur is extant.

One of the chief priestess’s duties was to communicate the deity’s wishes to humans by way of omens. These omens could be found in the shape of the liver in sacrificed sheep.

Failure to revere and propitiate the deities could bring catastrophes like floods, drought, pestilence, and enemy raids.

It was Enheduanna’s devotion and composition of hymns to Inanna that has brought her lasting fame. In Enheduanna’s eulogies of Inanna, she described her as the equal in rank to the deity An, who became head of the Sumerian pantheon sometime in the third millennium, supplanting Inanna.

Enheduanna wrote forty-two hymns to Inanna. In her Exaltation of Inanna, she relates how Inanna rescued the tree of life (like the biblical tree of knowledge) from the world flood and planted it in her garden.

As the first known author by name, her poetry was copied and studied, greatly influencing the development of literature in the ancient Near East.

While most literature from ancient Sumer was written in Sumerian, there was a special dialect called “language of women,” used for speeches of women and goddesses in various types of genre, including love poetry between the genders.

Ten royal priestesses followed Enheduanna over the next five hundred years (some sources say one thousand years), with each holding office for life like Enheduanna.

Written tablets exist recording the commercial activities of the priestesses, indicating their business acumen. Probably this relates to the middle and upper classes.



The average life of a web page is only 75 days

April 5, 2013

For centuries the British library has kept a copy of every book, pamphlet, magazine and newspaper published in Britain.

from now it will also be bound to record every British website, e-book, online newsletter and blog in a bid to preserve the nation’s “digital memory”

since people began switching from paper and ink to computers and mobile phones, material that would fascinate future historians has been disappearing into a digital black hole

The average life of a web page is only 75 days, because websites change, the contents get taken down

Until now, though, the British library has had to get permission from website owners before taking a snapshot of their pages.

That began to change with a law passed in 2003, but it has taken a decade of legislative and technological preparation for the library to be ready to begin a vast trawl of all sites ending with the suffix .uk.

“The library will be collecting in a single year what it took 300 years for us to collect in its newspaper archive,”