Maxime Vuillaume’s “red notebooks” (cahiers rouges) contain some of the most vivid first hand testimony of all the writings on the Paris Commune. VuilMaxime Vuillaume’s “red notebooks” (cahiers rouges) contain some of the most vivid first hand testimony of all the writings on the Paris Commune. Vuillaume knew almost all the major players, some of them very well, and was himself one, as a founder and editor of one of the most popular newspapers of the Commune, Le Père Duchêne.
Only 26 when he barely escaped execution in the bloody final week of the Commune (May 20-28, 1871), Vuillaume wrote the first post-commune reports in clandestine documents from his exile in Switzerland, before the amnesty (1880) permitted him to return to France. For years, he was reluctant to publish his notes, for fear of injuring people still living or of being sued by their descendants. But finally, some 30 years after the annihilation of the commune, a younger journalist, Lucien Descaves, persuaded him to put them into shape and publish them, and Vuillaume then also began to compose and publish additional "cahiers", sometimes correcting things in the earlier ones or adding detail, and sometimes taking on aspects of the Commune that he had not personally experienced but researched through documents and interviews. All of these, the earliest and most personal and the later researched reports, have been gathered together in this edition of the “red notebooks.”
Vuillaume's Père Duchêne was a foul-mouthed, rabble-rousing, over-the-top scandal sheet, in imitation of the original Père Duchesne of Jacques-René Hébert that rallied the sans-culottes from 1790 until Hébert was guillotined in 1794. As in the original version, the "Old Man" or "Père"of the title was the fictional voice of a man of the "people", i.e., the unprivileged, lambasting the rich, the clergy, and anybody else seen as an oppressor. Its readers probably knew the paper was not to be trusted — reporting events that may or may not have occurred — but they bought it anyway, so many of them that the paper made more money than expected. They must have delighted in the invective against the “jean-foutres” and “bougres” (gross insults, common in speech but rarely seen in print in those days), meaning all those opposed to the Commune, including Catholic clergy, local bourgeois and the government in Versailles.
The more mature Vuillaume, traumatized by the horrific bloodshed and prolonged repression of the end of the commune, became a much more serious, careful and responsible reporter, but without losing his capacity for vivid and impassioned description. Thus all these reports or “notebooks” are well worth reading, even those that go over material also covered by his journalist contemporaries Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray and Jules Vallès (both of whom Vuillaume knew well). But by far the liveliest cahiers are those on the experiences closest to him: Cahier I, “Une journée à la cour martiale de Luxembourg,” describes the army's systematic killing of suspected communards after their final defeat and Vuillaume’s own very narrow escape from execution; III, “Quand nous faisions Le Père Duchêne,” about all that he and his equally young partners, Eugène Vermersch and Alphonse Humbert, had to go through to get the capital together, write and distribute a daily paper in that period of intense debate, street agitation and combats, and IV, “Quelques-uns de la Commune”, intimate portraits of communards including Raoul Rigault, who in his last days was the commune’s chief prosecutor. Samples from some of those sharp-tongued articles are included in this book, but for the most part, the mature Vuillaume writes a more temperate prose, but still with passion for the lost cause of the Commune....more
Es un placer entablar conversación con un interlocutor tan inteligente y perspicaz como José María Ridao, como pudimos hacer hace poco en una presentaEs un placer entablar conversación con un interlocutor tan inteligente y perspicaz como José María Ridao, como pudimos hacer hace poco en una presentación suya la Librería Nobel en Vera, España. Periodista y diplomático, Ridao ha visto muchos lugares en momentos críticos, ha leído mucho, y sus observaciones suelen ser informadas y provocadoras. En este libro, sus observaciones saltan en el primer capítulo desde Albania, a la práctica del periodismo, a Iraq, y después en los siguientes capítulos a Moscú, Nueva York, Israel, y otras partes, siempre con algún detalle dramático. El problema es que no se detiene para resolver las complicaciones y contradicciones, dejando el trabajo de formular y contrastar hipótesis al lector.
Para mí, las ideas más estimulantes incluyen las sobre la crisis migratoria de Europa. Fundamentalmente, él ubica el origen en las políticas de Margaret Thatcher y Ronald Reagan, de desmantelar los controles sobre las inversiones nacionales e internacionales que hasta entonces — la década de los 80 del siglo pasado — habían protegido las economías de los países más pobres de la explotación sin límites y habían garantizado reglas claras de empleo en los países ricos. Ahora los subsaharianos, los sudamericanos, los sirios y tantos otros ya no pueden sobrevivir dignamente en sus propios países, y saben que — si pueden sobrevivir la travesía — al llegar a Europa o Norteamérica siempre pueden encontrar algún patrón que le daría algún trabajo, con o sin papeles.
El libro es un placer, porque te hace pensar. Pero el título es decepcionante: muestra muchos ejemplos del malestar mundial, pero no demuestra ninguna estrategia. Más bien, lo que vemos es un sinfin de improvisaciones de políticos y otros para bregar con problemas que ellos rehusan reconocer como responsabilidad suya. En su lugar, pretenden convencernos que estamos sufriendo una abstracta "crisis" debida a la también abstracta "globalización" inevitable, no una situación creada por decisiones políticas y la abdicación de control de los instrumentos del capital....more
The strike involving at least 2,000 and possibly 8,000 women silk workers in Lyon in 1869 has achieved mythical status in radical labor history for twThe strike involving at least 2,000 and possibly 8,000 women silk workers in Lyon in 1869 has achieved mythical status in radical labor history for two reasons: it was the first sustained, large-scale and (partially) successful women's labor protest in France, and it resulted in formation of the first women's section of the International Workingmen's Association, the "First International". But who were those women, and how did they manage such an effort? This book attempts to discover that mostly hidden history.
The ovalistes worked six days a week from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., for 1 franc 40 centimes a day, standing (sitting was forbidden) inside the oval base of a steam-driven mill that wound filaments of raw silk into a yarn sturdy enough for weaving and dyeing. The few men employed at this job earned twice as much — which of course is why the employers preferred to hire young women. Most were very young (median age 27, some only 15 or 16), illiterate or barely literate, and had been recruited from rural villages of the Rhône valley or northern Italy, and thus presumably brought up to be docile and obedient. Being far from home, and earning too little for an independent life, almost all of them slept and cooked their meals in the workshops where they were under the watchful eye of the employer, who provided bed and cooking fuel while he protected (by his lights) their morality.
In early June a group of ovalistes in one of the larger shops sent first one letter, then another, with politely phrased but insistent demands for more money and shorter hours, warning that if there was no improvement they would have to strike on June 25; they also addressed letters explaining their grievances to a senator and prefect. All were drafted by a man they knew as a professional letter writer, since few of the workers could even sign their names. Their president, sometimes called Rosalie and sometimes Philomène Rozan, signed with an X.
The newspapers found such girlish protest amusing, and the mill owners did not even bother to respond. Stonewalling turned out to be a misguided strategy, however: that first group rushed to other mills to get their support, and soon whole groups — "bands" of raucous harridans, according to the scandalized press — used their free Sundays to get acquainted and argue strategy, with the support of a male café owner who provided meeting space and the encouragement of other male neighbors; Republican (i.e., ant-imperial) sentiment was already strong in working-class Lyon. And on the 25th, as announced, some 2,000 ovalistes and their supporters gathered at the Rotonde, and determined to walk out of their jobs.
How did they survive for over a month with no pay, forced to abandon their beds in the workshops, subjected to arrest for "interfering with the right to work" (by demanding that other ovalistes join them)? Some of them didn't — some kept working or went back to work under the old conditions, some went home to their villages — but enough of them kept up the struggle long enough to make a serious impact on Lyon's main industry. Without milling of the thread, there could be no weaving and no marketing of silk.
The strikers were aided by mostly male sympathizers in Lyon, and then came an offer of strike support of 1 franc per day from the International — on condition that they join. The strikers don't seem to have had any enthusiasm for the IWA, but the offer was too good to refuse.
Finally some employers, and eventually all of them, accepted the demand for a two-hour reduction in the work day, but at the same rate of pay, less than half what men were then earning. The strike most seriously damaged the smaller millers, many of whom went out of business, and so — as interpreted by the authors of this study — furthered the consolidation of the industry into the hands of the bigger industrialists. Still, the least that can be said in favor of this strike is that it was a powerful assertion of dignity by one of the most oppressed sectors of the population, and contributed to uniting women and men workers in a common struggle. It was thus an important forerunner of and preparation for the revolution that was to break out in Lyon, Paris and other cities that declared their "communes" in the spring of 1871.
Auzias and Houel have apparently sifted through all the available documentation (police reports, newspaper articles, private correspondence) on a group of workers who left almost no descriptions of their own. These reports make for confusing and often difficult reading, and not all the data presented is equally relevant and the various concerns of the authors sometimes take us far from the main story — the lament of the non-encounter between these women strikers and the very active French feminists of the period is tantalizing but hardly satisfying. But even in the glimpses Auzias and Houel have gleaned from mostly hostile sources, and the few recorded scenes and remarks of the strikers, it is clear that the struggle, while very hard at times, was also an exhilarating and at times even festive experience, as these women discovered one another and their own power to shape their destiny. ...more
Al llegar a sus 90 años, un hombre que nunca ha querido dejar de ser adolescente, que nunca se ha animado a amar ni formar otro compromiso, ni mudars Al llegar a sus 90 años, un hombre que nunca ha querido dejar de ser adolescente, que nunca se ha animado a amar ni formar otro compromiso, ni mudarse de la casa donde se crió, ni tratar el trabajo (un periodismo nada serio) como otra cosa que el juego, se sorprende enamorándose locamente de una jovencísima puta (tiene 14 años) sin llegar a conocerla ni siquiera despertarla -- porque cada vez que la ve, está dormida. Ese amor de fantasía le cambia lo que le queda de vida, y su periodismo se convierte en notas amorosas; finalmente la vieja proxeneta Rosa Cabarcas le dice algo que ni sospechaba,
--Ay mi sabio triste, está bien que estés viejo, pero no pendejo --dijo Rosa Cabarcas muerta de risa--. Esa pobre criatura está lela de amor por tí. Salí a la calle radiante y por primera vez me reconocí a mí mismo en el horizonte remoto de mi primer siglo. ... Era por fin la vida real, con mi corazón a salvo, y condenado a morir de buen amor en la agonía feliz de cualquier día después de mis cien años.
Es un cuento alargado, sin la complejidad ni las caracterizaciones de las grandes novelas de GGM. Una reflexión irónica sobre la vejez, y quizás un experimento en imaginar a un hombre completamente opuesto al autor, que sí ha sabido comprometerse con el amor, el oficio y el mundo....more
Un fraile exorcista se enamora de una niña supuestamente poseída por el demonio en Cartagena de Indias, s. xviii; en realidad la niña Sierva María, hiUn fraile exorcista se enamora de una niña supuestamente poseída por el demonio en Cartagena de Indias, s. xviii; en realidad la niña Sierva María, hija del bruto y pusilánime Marqués de Casalduero y una mujer que odia a los dos, se ha criado entre los esclavos negros de la casa y sus demonios no son otra cosa que las costumbres y lenguas africanas. La historia surge del descubrimiento por GGM en 1949 del cadáver de una niña con pelo muy largo en una cripta antigua que se está derrumbando....more
Cinco relatos llenos del lenguaje, la vida y las confusiones de todo adolescente. La colección comienza con el relato más corto, "Demostración de la eCinco relatos llenos del lenguaje, la vida y las confusiones de todo adolescente. La colección comienza con el relato más corto, "Demostración de la existencia de Dios", donde el quinceañero Rafa, rabioso, en jerga juvenil madrileña insulta a un Dios en quien solía no creer, por lo mal que está pasando su equipo, el Vallecas F.C. Pero la risa del lector se disuelve en otra emoción más grave tan pronto sabemos la verdadera razón porque este chico necesita culpar a Dios por un desastre familiar demasiado grave para él soportar. En "Tabaco y negro", es una chica, también madrileña, hija y nieta de sastres de trajes de luces para toreros, que nos cuenta sus luchas por superar la mezquinidad de su entorno y afirmarse como una persona con autoridad y capacidad para dar fuerza a otros. Es muy hermoso el cuento, e inesperado el final. Es la voz de un hombre ya maduro que narra "El capitán de la fila india", recordando su adolescencia entre primos mientras asiste a una disputa sobre la herencia de una tía recien difunta. El primo mayor que más le había impresionado, y una prima a quien apenas había prestado atención, se han transformado, ella para mejor y él no tanto, y esto lleva al narrador a reflexionar sobre los extraños giros que han dado sus vidas. Se puede leer como una reflexión sobre los cambios sociopolíticos en España desde los primeros años de la Transición (es decir, después de la muerte de Franco) — perspicaz e inteligente, pero carece de la energía y comicidad de los otros cuentos. En "Receta de verano" escuchamos la voz de una chica que, llegando a los 18 años, descubre simultáneamente el deseo erótico y lo complicado que pueden ser las relaciones entre ellas y ellos — a través de encuentros con hombres (incluyendo a su padre, incapacitado, a quien tiene que cambiar los pañales) y con chicos de su edad. Para mí, presenta magistralmente las confusiones y dudas de esta "estación de paso" de una joven. Pero mi favorito es el último relato, "Mozart, Brahms, y Corelli", donde Tomás, un chico de 17 años, gordo, feo, y con gafas, tímido pero muy buen estudiante de violín, descubre cómo su pasión musical le puede ayudar a superar su timidez. Es también una bonita historia, observada por este chico, de algunas de las mujeres caribeñas y sudamericanas que trabajan como prostitutas en la Casa del Campo, y que son parte de la educación del joven violinista. Creo que todos que alguna vez fuimos adolescentes podemos reconocernos, con nuestras dudas y confusiones y deseos de esa "estación de paso", en uno o más de estos relatos....more
No one knows more about the Paris Commune than Jacques Rougerie, and no one has done more balanced and meditated research. This small book is an excelNo one knows more about the Paris Commune than Jacques Rougerie, and no one has done more balanced and meditated research. This small book is an excellent synthesis and overview of his investigations of some of the most debated aspects: Was it the last flare-up of the sans-culottes, or the first socialist proletarian revolution? Or (as its enemies maintained) just an opportunity for wanton pillage by the "dangerous classes"? And what was it really about? Rougerie's starting point was to ask, Who were the activists and what did they want? To find out, he pored through the records of the trials of suspected communeux in a pioneering statistical study, classifying them by age, sex, origin (many were born far from Paris), and — especially important for class analysis — occupation. This is not a fair sample of all those who fought for the Commune, both because so many had been killed and because the government accusers snatched up any suspect, often on no more evidence than a denunciation by a frightened or jealous neighbor. But its a very long list, and the best sample we have. His conclusion: most were workers, though many were also employers and almost all in very small shops. Who were their enemies? Here evidence comes not just from official declarations by the Commune, but also popular songs, the popular scandal sheet Père Duchène, and reports by observers of the political clubs. The main enemy by far was the Catholic church, including the clergy and the whole ecclesiastical establishment; next, the grocers, for hoarding and high prices; and finally, the landlords, demanding exorbitant rents. Big industrialists and financiers were not part of this list. What did they want? Mostly, liberté, égalité, fraternité, with no clearer idea, but also cooperatives where workers would themselves make the rules and earn the full product of their labor. They would work with existing capitalist owners who were willing to cooperate, but if reluctantly they had to take possession themselves (reluctance due to the complexities of running an industry if you've never done it before), they had no doubt that they would compensate the owner for his fair share. This analysis, the main part of the book, was originally published in 1971, but here he adds a preface written in 2004, critiquing certain points in the light of more recent research. These include greater emphasis on the active role of women and women's organizations, and a de-mythicizing of the military campaign. The communeux did not everywhere defend every barricade down to the last cartridge; neighborly relations and traditions determined the tenacity of their defense, fiercest in the "red belt" in the easternmost and southeastern arrondissements; the massacres by the invading Versaillais was not the work of crazed or fanatical soldiers uncontrolled by their commanders, but rather a deliberate strategy and the result of a wholesale remaking of the French army after its disastrous defeat in the war against Prussia and its ineffectiveness in the first days of the Commune. Was it socialist? Rougerie thinks, yes, but socialism as understood in 1871 — which was not explicitly "anti-capitalist" but strongly for "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" in the new conditions of incipient industrialization. And it enjoyed a brief but glorious, even festive moment as a "free city", launching (but without time to complete them) advanced reforms in education, industry and local government that would later become standards for revolutionaries everywhere. Yes, he thinks, it was the last of a certain kind of mass urban uprising by people of various social classes united only by anger against poverty and injustice, but also a forerunner of more modern, class-oriented revolts....more
In the Marché aux Pouces in Paris a few weeks ago , I picked up a small collection of postcards from the Great War. To the merchant's surprise,In the Marché aux Pouces in Paris a few weeks ago , I picked up a small collection of postcards from the Great War. To the merchant's surprise, I didn't care as much about the pictures as the messages, some in cramped letters to pack in lots of detail, some more sprawling and repetitive, to and from a young soldier writing from different military addresses and his anxious wife and daughter and an aunt, more anxious about her own health and the hardships of scarcities than about the dangers at the front. And I started imagining the story of the things they left unsaid. And as it happened, I had with me this book by the very young Raymond Radiguet, about an adventure in civilian life but also involving a soldier, in just this period.
It was really an accident that I had picked up this book before the trip. I was simply looking for something in French to read for practice and for vocabulary. But I didn't recognize the name of the author and didn't remember ever hearing the title before. According to Wikipedia, Radiguet was only 17 when he wrote it, and 20 when he got it published, the same year he died of typhus — 1923. In his short life he managed to write another novel, Le bal du Comte d'Orgel, which Wiki says also deals with adultery, a play and some volumes of poetry. And to become briefly a playmate and tease of 30-something Jean Cocteau. The book is worth reading just for the scandal it caused, and as another glimpse of that brilliant and tumultuous post-war period in Paris, where Radiguet was the boy wonder.
But it's also worth reading for another reason. It is an awful, painful and true-sounding portrait of adolescent hormonal rage and egotism unchecked. It's about a schoolboy, only "12 years and a few months old" when the war begins (just a year older than Radiguet himself), whose awkward crush on a slightly older girl blossoms into a dangerous and adulterous career that is ultimately fatal to the girl. After their first awkward glimpses of one another, the girl and boy are separated (their parents live in different places), and by the time the narrator sees Marthe again, he is 15 and she has married a young man who has been mobilized and is off at the battlefront. After playful and progressively audacious flirtation, they become lovers — their rendezvous and his sleepovers complicated by his shyness and the fact that he doesn't want his parents and the neighbors to know what he is up to. Except that he really does want them to know, because having a mistress would make them deal with him as a grown man. Except that he is not a grown man and has no idea of, and no willingness to accept, the responsibility of the relationship. Oddly, Marthe, though older and more experienced—she's a married woman, after all—lets him dominate her and seems eager to have a master, even as incompetent and confused a master as this 15 and then 16-year old boy.
There is a built-in tension in the structure of the novel, because we know that summer (when her parents are away) will not last forever, nor will the war, that Jacques, the soldier husband, will be returning and that this whole relationship is utterly unsustainable. And meanwhile all the neighbors and the milkman and the letter-carrier are watching the boy's nocturnal visits to the young army wife, and her parents and/or her parents-in-law are sure to find out, probably soon. The boy, as narrator, describes all his own hesitations, bursts of bombast and other stupid mistakes, and frequently admits his cowardice—his unwillingness to accept responsibility or even the discomfort that an open break with his parents and community norms would entail. He thinks he is madly in love, but it is not a love concerned about the welfare of Marthe but one demanding that she constantly demonstrate her passion for him. He is just an awful cad, and the only excuse is his extreme youth.
There are cutting observations not just of his own conduct, but also of the ridiculous hypocrisies of the neighbors and the moral doubts of his parents, her parents and everybody. The story is probably not strictly autobiographical, but the adolescent confusions, narcissism and naked lust ring true. ...more
Esta novela es la historia del viaje del autor desde su Úbeda natal a un concepto de España múchisimo más amplio en tiempo y espacio : en tiempo, desdEsta novela es la historia del viaje del autor desde su Úbeda natal a un concepto de España múchisimo más amplio en tiempo y espacio : en tiempo, desde 1492 y la expulsión de los judíos hasta nuestros días, y en el espacio, desde Úbeda hasta todos los países y todas las ciudades donde hay o han habido gente que conservaba una llave, unas canciones, un apellido o algún otro recuerdo de ese país de que fueron expulsados sus ancestros y que ellos llamaban "Sefarad". Cada capítulo es otra aventura, de manera que el libro parece más una colección de reflexiones y relatos que una novela, donde esperamos seguir el hilo de un protagonista determinado y no las historias de decenas de personas en diferentes épocas y lugares. Pero entonces, después de varias historias aparentemente inconexas, el lector vuelve a encontrar algunos de los mismos personajes que había visto en alguno de los capítulos anteriores, y poco a poco entra en un entramado cada vez más denso. En el curso de este viaje literario, físico y emocional, llegamos a conocer o por lo menos ver veintenas de personas reales, algunas famosas y otras de nombres perdidos con el tiempo, cada uno con algo diferente y muy especial para enseñarnos sobre el siglo pasado, y los anteriores. Muñoz Molina es a la vez explorador y guía, y muy buena compañia en este viaje....more
Esta novela cortísima es de breve, amena y tranquila lectura, sin la más mínima excitación que podría perturbar al lector — porque pasa muy poco. Es lEsta novela cortísima es de breve, amena y tranquila lectura, sin la más mínima excitación que podría perturbar al lector — porque pasa muy poco. Es la historia de un chico — "H" — con talento pero también paralizante timidez, que emprende un sinfin de proyectos (escribir poesía, pintar, aprender francés, etc.) para abandonarlos a la primera dificultad, quedándose de por vida en una adolescencia de rebeldía boba. Expresa su desprecio por todo lo que por tímido e impaciente no ha conseguido (reconocimiento por su pintura-poesía-teatralidad, relación con alguna mujer, algún título universitario) mediante bromas pesadas y gestos infantiles. La figura trágica es el padre del chico, un brigada de la Guardia Civil con disciplina militar, que lo quiere y trata de encaminarlo y se angustia con todos sus fracasos. Está contada por uno que dice haber sido compañero de clase de H, primero en un colegio católico en la ficticia ciudad de Murania (un lugar inventado que Hidalgo Bayal ha usado en otros escritos). Muestra algunas de las rutinas y aficiones de los chicos españoles de clase media nacidos en 50 del siglo pasado, y — para mí — poco más. Caracterización mínima (además de H, su padre, y el narrador, hay otro joven, "Cristo"), y el narrador ha renunciando deliberadamente reproducir el diálogo (porque, dice, es imposible recordar con exactitud y él no quiere inventar), entonces nos quedamos con descripciones y muchas citas de la literatura que interesa o al narrador o a su amigo H. ...more
Jules Vallès was a central figure in the Paris Commune of March-May 1871: popular orator, creator and editor of the most-read newspaper, Le Cri du PeuJules Vallès was a central figure in the Paris Commune of March-May 1871: popular orator, creator and editor of the most-read newspaper, Le Cri du Peuple, elected deputy and even an elected battalion commander. He remained at the barricades throughout the "Week of Blood", la Semaine Sanglante of annihilation, but survived — through a combination of lucky breaks, discreet risk-taking friends, and clever improvisations — to tell the tale. In 1886, the year of his death, he told this part of it in this fictional autobiography, published posthumously and narrated by his alter-ego "Jacques Vingtras".
We can't know how much of it he fictionalized — very little, apparently, except that "Jacques Vingtras" focuses especially on the comic and self-deprecating details, careful not to attribute to himself anything like heroism, a notion he distrusts. Thus we see "Jacques" as a battalion commander with no military aptitude or tactical sense who issues contradictory and at times nonsensical orders, a loudmouth so brash he enrages people who should be allies, and so much in a hurry all the time that he can't get his official deputy's sash on straight. In the context of an immense tragedy he describes other moments not comical but so strange that I'm sure he didn't make them up: For example, when a handful of National Guards (the Commune's defenders) are running for their lives under a fierce cannonade, they pass an old, blind beggar still begging at his accustomed spot before a now-destroyed church, and — they stop to give him coins! The old urban habits of those men survived even under such enormous stress. It is the attention to such minute detail, in the context of broad involvement in all the politics of the Commune, that makes this book invaluable for feeling and reliving the immense drama. And because Vallès/Vingtras is so unpretentious, he's good company, even if his shorthand phrases and extensive use of slang sometimes make him hard to follow. ...more
These ten essays tell not only about how the modern "news" paper came to be, but also how it shaped the conditions for the creation of the vast and exThese ten essays tell not only about how the modern "news" paper came to be, but also how it shaped the conditions for the creation of the vast and expanding literature of 19th century France. Émile de Girardin (1802-1881) had a lot to do with both phenomena: he created the first paper which claimed to be nonpartisan (and thus called simply "La Presse"), cut the price in half (to the outrage of his competitors, one of whom challenged him to a duel for disloyal competition), and financed the publication mainly by filling the pages with advertising; he thus expanded circulation far beyond the privileged, monied élite, and gained the revenue to pay writers including Balzac, Sue, Gautier and a great many others.
Besides Girardin, a reader can learn here about Daumier's battles (through his caricatures) with Louis-Philippe and Louis Napoléon, and about such colorful journalists as Émile Pouget (1860-1931), who employed deliberately obscene and comical working-class vernacular to attack everybody in power.
What I missed was any discussion of the press during the Paris Commune (March-May, 1871), when over a score of new papers with enormous circulation flourished briefly, with editors including Jules Vallès (Le Cri du Peuple), Maxime Vuillaumine (Le Père Duchene) and Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray (author of the monumental Histoire de la Commune). There is however an essay by Przyblyski on the post-Commune manipulation of photographs and documents by Eugène Appert to contribute to the myth of the "pétroleuses", the crazed women incendiaries who supposedly created most of the destruction of Paris in the last days of the Commune — and who, if they existed at all, must have been very rare. ...more
What moved Graves, in his 39th year and during the vigorous rise of fascism, to write about the Roman Empire, from the last years of Augustus, throughWhat moved Graves, in his 39th year and during the vigorous rise of fascism, to write about the Roman Empire, from the last years of Augustus, through Tiberius, and up to the murder of Caligula? My question is not simply what gave him the inspiration but more seriously, what sustained him throughout the project. It is a monstrous allegory of his own times. No cruelty or treachery he had witnessed was unknown to the Romans of this period. The world did not yet know of genocide -- Hitler had become Reichskanzler only in 1933 -- so the absence of genocide from the list of Roman imperial crimes is unremarkable. (Of course, they did wipe out large numbers of Germans, but those were ordinary massacres, more recently and vividly treated in the movie Gladiator). I suppose Graves was hoping to discover something about the way people with power behave. It's a fascinating history, cleverly told from the p.o.v. of the insider, Claudius, who poses as a moron so as not to attract attention of the principals. (adapted from ntbk 4/23/86)
As you see, I read this long ago. I still remember it as a marvelous exercise of imagination, and a serious reflection on politics still relevant....more
An unknown number of British boys, none older than 12 and others half that age, are marooned on an otherwise uninhabited Pacific island, with no adultAn unknown number of British boys, none older than 12 and others half that age, are marooned on an otherwise uninhabited Pacific island, with no adults, and after some childish attempts to reproduce civilized order, turn into murderous savages. This is a powerful thought experiment, terrifying because it is so believable — as Stephen King also says, in his graceful and convincing prologue to this edition. If we could turn loose a lot of boys this young, with enough food and water to survive but no adult supervision, something like this would be bound to happen in only a few weeks time, or less. All of us who have been 12-year-old boys can remember those inchoate feelings, those moments of exultation at being free of supervision, and other moments of unbridled rage when we felt capable of any violence, and our feeling that we had to be part of some group, either as leaders or followers.
No need to say more — reviews and detailed discussions of every aspect of this book, and of the films made from it, are readily available on the 'Net. What is especially frightening is knowing that not only children can turn so cruel, but that we adults are susceptible to similar mass behavior with even more violent consequences (in "The Lord of the Flies" only two children are killed, stupidly and frantically by a crazed mob, and another "littlun" with a birthmark is lost; imagine if these painted young savages had access to landmines, rockets and suicide belts). In fact (a point made by many readers), Ralph, Piggy, Jack Meridew and the other boys on the island are replicating in childish form the behaviors of the real adults on Pitcairn Island. I don't think anyone who has read this book will be able to forget it, because it reminds us of too many terrors in our real pasts....more
John LeCarré here sets in motion a dozen or more morally and psychologically complex characters in many directions at once, leading into three major sJohn LeCarré here sets in motion a dozen or more morally and psychologically complex characters in many directions at once, leading into three major stories and at least a half a dozen lesser ones. The framing story is about Big Pharma, the enormously wealthy multinational pharmaceutical companies which can cure you or kill you to make a profit, and the people who try to be sure they do mostly good things and curb its corrupt tendencies. The second is an adventure story of a lone man, the "constant gardener"of the title, using his wits against an enormous conspiracy with deadly power — much like LeCarré's famous intelligence operative George Smiley, but here the enemy is not Iron Curtain spy rings but Big Pharma, which has killed his wife. Finally, and here the subtlety and complexity of LeCarré's imagination is best displayed, there is the story of divided loyalties, virtue and weakness and ultimately self-betrayal, exhibited to some degree by several characters but especially by the gifted, deeply religious and morally confused Markus Lorbeer. LeCarré's fictional DKV, with enormous financial resources and political influence, hopes to make millions from an anti-TB drug created by a smaller partner based in Kenya, and is willing to bribe or otherwise pressure doctors, scientific journals, hospitals and regulators to get it approved and paid for with public money; meanwhile the operation in Kenya is testing the drug on Kenya's poor, not necessarily a bad thing if there are adequate safeguards. But there are not: with the complicity of government officials and common thugs, the companies suppress information about the drug's sometimes lethal side-effects and even go to the extreme of murdering those who are about to expose their practice. Besides the psychologically complex characterizations, LeCarré offers vivid descriptions of both social and physical settings in Kenya, London, Elba and even Winnipeg. The book is seldom boring. But there are too many implied stories left unresolved, the "constant gardener" who occupies most of the story, Justin Quayle, seems far less interesting than many of the minor characters whom we glimpse too briefly (including Markus Lorbeer) or never see at all because they are dead before the story begins (Quayle's wife Tessa and the good doctor Arnold Bluhm), and the central story — the denunciation of bad practices of some pharmaceutical companies — is hardly news....more
Zadie Smith has great fun with accents and attitudes in this story of conflicting fanaticisms in multicultural London. Characters include: a middle-agZadie Smith has great fun with accents and attitudes in this story of conflicting fanaticisms in multicultural London. Characters include: a middle-aged Koran-obsessed Bengali; his happily agnostic, slow-witted and good-hearted English army buddy; their much younger wives: a black, patois-speaking Jamaican, a fugitive from Seventh Day Adventists eagerly awaiting the end of the world, and a short, practical Bangladeshi who can recite the Koran but doesn't believe it; a scientist fanatical only about his research, and the teen-aged children of these three households, alternately obsessed by religion, drugs, science and each other. The anti-Rushdie hysteria and the burning of Satanic Verses (an episode in the novel) make a kind of sense in this confusion of motives and loyalties.
The novel falls apart only when the author tries too hard to bring it all together, in an utterly implausible rush of coincidences in the last couple of pages. But no matter. The other 446 pages are full of laughs, griefs and insights. 2002-7-23
P.S. Zadie Smith has said that she is now embarrassed by this, her first novel. She shouldn't be....more
Novela de enredos sobre un editor que se fantasea como escritor mientras su ficción se produce en la realidad. Desafortunadamente, la mordaz ironía yNovela de enredos sobre un editor que se fantasea como escritor mientras su ficción se produce en la realidad. Desafortunadamente, la mordaz ironía y el buen ojo por lo absurdo que hacen tan entretenidos los comentarios de Millás y sus notas sobre fotos en el diario El País no bastan para una narrativa más larga, donde el lector tiene derecho a esperar alguna coherencia.
El editor protagonista, Julio Orgaz, sufre (goza) múltiples neurosis, sexuales, profesionales y auditivas — se imagina que los vecinos y hasta su canario cantan El Internacional, como mofándose de él por haber abandonado los valores de su juventud. Pero su mayor y más absurda delusión es que, aun sin haber escrito un solo libro, es en realidad mejor autor de ficción que nunguno de los autores que su editorial ha publicado. Cuestionado sobre esta convicción por su psicoanalista, Orgaz contesta: «Ser escritor es una custión de temperamento; el escritor más puro es el que no escribe una sola linea en toda su vida : es preferible no darse la oportunidad de fracasar en aquello que más se juega uno.»
Pero sí fantasea con ideas para novelas, incluyendo una que titulará "El desorden de tu nombre", y cuyo argumento es un enredo adultero con final violento que le está pasando en la realidad, aunque él ni se da cuenta....more
What is amazing is how much Munro can make out of so little, the lives of observant but unexceptional people, most of them in and around London, OntarWhat is amazing is how much Munro can make out of so little, the lives of observant but unexceptional people, most of them in and around London, Ontario, in the 1990s or 2010s, who perhaps once in their lives have experienced an exceptional event. Within this restricted fictional territory, the author finds innumerable variations.
After the first few stories I was hoping for a change of scenery and skipped to the last, and title, story of the collection, "Too Much Happiness," and was surprised by something quite different. Here the protagonist is an entirely exceptional person and so far from contemporary Canada she probably could not even imagine the Ontario forests and suburbs. The Russian mathematician Sofia Kovalevskaya (1850-1891) was the first woman to earn a doctorate in a European university at a time when women weren't admitted even to sudy in universities (summa cum laude, University of Göttingen, 1874). Kovalevskaya's extraordinary triumphs and disappointments, including difficult romance with another Russian intellectual exile, all really occurred. The fictional imagination is in making us feel as though we are she, living all these frustrations and sometimes wild hopes, until the fatal "too much happiness."
This is not the only wonderful story in the collection. Other favorites of mine included "Wood," which seems to understand a man's loneness — his need to be alone, but in a place where he feels himself as part of something greater — as clearly as Munro's other stories understand women's ways of relating to, and sometimes, avoiding one another. "Some Women" and "Child's Play" are especially about that complicated ballet. "Free Radicals" is another memorable story — or rather, two memorable stories, first of a woman's sudden and unexpected widowhood, and then of a startling irruption into her life that seems to reconfigure the meaning of everything. But even in this story, the conclusion is not an event but the protagonist's sudden understanding of events in a new way, even though she, or he, or we, may not be able to describe just what that new understanding is....more
The voice of the perky, inquisitive, acutely observant Scout Finch from age 6 to 9 captures the reader so strongly as to hold together a whole stringThe voice of the perky, inquisitive, acutely observant Scout Finch from age 6 to 9 captures the reader so strongly as to hold together a whole string of disparate episodes — originally conceived by the author as separate short stories. Mainly, we get to know various characters of a poor little Alabama town during the Depression, their peculiar rituals and class and racial prejudices, and their sometimes redeeming acts of generosity. In this, it is more like Mark Twain's Adventures of Tom Sawyer, another child's-eye view of a southern small town told as a series of anecdotes, than like Twain's later and more tightly structured Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Scout's most piquant observations of hypocrisy, neurosis, arrogance, or cowardice are of the white folks she knows best. But she also reports with fascination the courage and kindness of a few individuals, including especially her father Atticus Finch, a neighbor woman, Maudie, and the Finches' black maid Calpurnia. A particularly beautiful moment is Scout's visit with Calpurnia to her First Purchase AME Church, a revelation to this protected white girl of black devotion and dignity and a whole community close by but separate from the little white hamlet.
The book is best remembered for one episode that is expanded to extend over several chapters and which is a pleasing, though historically misleading fable: the trial of a black laborer accused of rape of a poor white woman, and his defense by Scout's father Atticus. Sadly, nothing like the judicial fairness of the Maycomb judge, the opportunity of the defendant to legal defense and serious cross-examination of the plaintiff ever happened or could happen in Alabama in the 1930s in a black-on-white rape case. What Harper Lee evidently had in mind when she wrote it was the famous Scottsboro Boys trial in 1933, where no such judicial niceties occurred. But there were defense attorneys — mostly northerners — who, a bit like Atticus Finch in the novel, made the effort, often at the risk of their own lives.
But it is the voice that saves this and all the stories in the book. You have to love this tomboy when she tells you in a hurt voice that, when she tried to hold her big brother back from some dangerous adventure, "Jem told me I was being a girl…" Or when she observes, back in her white church, "the Impurity of Women doctrine that seemed to preoccupy all clergymen."...more
Clearly written, extensively documented intimate biography of one of the most impressive leaders of the Paris Commune. We learn not only of the very sClearly written, extensively documented intimate biography of one of the most impressive leaders of the Paris Commune. We learn not only of the very serious side of Varlin, a country boy eager to learn, who became a master bookbinder (very proud of his trade), organizer first of the bookbinders union then of other unions, and a leader of the International Workingmen's Association (the "First International"). He also learned to sing in choral groups and to dance, becoming a tall, handsome idol to thousands of the low-paid women brocheuses, assigned to the menial folding and assembling of "brochures" (paper-covered books) in the book binderies. In London at the farewell party of a meeting of the International, he preferred to waltz with Marx's daughters to spending the evening debating economics with their father. A firm and fierce feminist (opposed to his Proudhonnien comrades' view that a woman's place was in the home and she therefore should not hold union office), he worked with Nathalie Le Mel, already a leader of women bookbinders, in numerous projects. Reading his story helps us understand how such a momentous upheaval as the Paris Commune could occur and why at that moment, and also how and why it collapsed before the massacre of the "week of blood" by troops from the extremely conservative government in Versailles. It will also help answering the third question, how it has shaped revolutionary movements up to our day, as the song says: "She [the Commune] is not dead" (Elle n'est pas morte)....more
Esta simpatiquísima fábula se rie con complicidad del autor para con la ingenuidad e inocencia de los campesinos sicilianos, tan crédulos que pueden hEsta simpatiquísima fábula se rie con complicidad del autor para con la ingenuidad e inocencia de los campesinos sicilianos, tan crédulos que pueden hacer de sus fantasías realidad. El campesino Gnazio es tan inocente que ni siquiera entiende que es una sirena, hasta que se casa con una, o por lo menos con una joven que cree que eso es lo que ella es. Pero Maruzza Musumeci es sirena solamente por épocas, y Gnazio no duda en construirle unos enormes cisternas para cuando asume esa forma. En su vida como mujer, Maruzza le da cuatro hijos, dos varones y dos hembras, una de las cuales se cree también sirena, y talvez lo sea. La pareja de Gnazio y Maruzza sobrevive la llegada del automóvil, después el fascismo, la guerra mundial, el bombardeo de su pueblito Vigàta y la invasión por unos soldados estadounidenses. Ni Gnazio ni los lectores sabremos nunca si era verdad, lo de convertirse en sirena, pero debe ser cierto porque al final de una larga vida, Maruzza asume la ropa y talvez la vida de su abuela, otro ser mágico que recuerda más de mil años de historia. Y siguen repitiendo los mitos mas antiguos que Homero, tan eternos como las sirenas. ...more
This is an immensely agitated, minutely detailed, ridiculously plotted police thriller, full of exaggerated characters, improbable coincidence and lotThis is an immensely agitated, minutely detailed, ridiculously plotted police thriller, full of exaggerated characters, improbable coincidence and lots and lots of blood and sex, set in Paris during the 1871 Commune.
An emotionally disturbed cop and ex chain-gang convict (Charles Bassoucissé, a.k.a. Horace Grondin) obsessively pursues his murder suspect, who is now the gallant army captain Antoine Tarpagnan, and who we know almost from the beginning is quite innocent — like Inspector Javert on the heels of Jean Valjean in Les misérables, but Grondin is even crazier than Javert. These and other invented characters — other cops, crooks, prostitutes and various low-lifes — come into contact with historical figures, including Louise Michel and Gustave Courbet (very briefly) and especially Jules Vallès, whose newspaper Le Cri du Peuple provided Vautrin his title.
It is fast moving. I kept flicking the pages on my Kindle to find out what these crazy characters were going to do next, and one of the sex scenes, though a cliché, is quite lovely (a whore with a heart of gold tutors a timid youth in his first encounter). But the reason I read this instead of some other police thriller was to find out more about the Paris Commune, a far more dramatic story and with far more extraordinary personalities than the cop, the gallant and lovesick army captain he believes murdered his protégée, the troupe of loveable carnival freaks or even the gang of murderers with their grotesque symbol of brotherhood — glass eyes to be left in the hands of their victims.
The gruesome slashings of the "Glass Eye" gang, presented in bloody detail, pale into insignificance beside the more extreme and massive violence of the "week of blood" (la semaine sanglante) when government troops from Versailles virtually annihilated the communards, women and children included. Vautrin makes that suffering extremely vivid, and the (real, historical) violence is so massive that the (fictional) pursuit of Tarpagnan by Grondin seems of small importance. Vautrin is especially good at conveying the smells, most of them awful — of people, mildew, exhausted horses, bombs and rotting corpses. But the writing is so overwrought — people don't merely "say" something, they "snort" it or "grunt" it or even "whinny" it (I'm translating from Vautrin's over-abundant use of underworld argot) — that you know the story must have been conceived as a comic book, which it has now become, with illustrations by Jacques Tardi.
In short: You can learn some things about the commune, especially the minuscule details of how people lived and ate and traveled through the city, and a sense of the fear and smells and rage during the massacres of that last week. What you won't get clear is what it was all about and what it means to us....more
In this first-hand report, first published in 1937, Orwell informs us that families in the mining and industrial areas of the north of England live wrIn this first-hand report, first published in 1937, Orwell informs us that families in the mining and industrial areas of the north of England live wretchedly. Government relief is inadequate and, in its present form, iniquitous. Socialism’s great drawback, Orwell argues, is its adherents, mostly cranks or otherwise objectionable. Socialist propaganda should emphasize the simple slogans of “liberty” and “justice” and remind people that socialism can mean warm-heartedness. The middle class should not object to merging with the working class: “We have nothing to lose but our aitches.” This combination of sympathy for the downtrodden, distrust of (or even contempt for) other socialists, and exaltation of simple "warm-heartedness" or good feeling toward ones fellows would be characteristic of Orwell's journalism, novels and marvelously corrosive essays ("Politics and the English Language" among them) to the end of his life, at age 47, in 1950....more
Re-reading this book today, as so many people are doing, reminds us of how gloomy the world looked in 1949. And especially how gloomy it looked to OrwRe-reading this book today, as so many people are doing, reminds us of how gloomy the world looked in 1949. And especially how gloomy it looked to Orwell, who had spent his entire life and lost his health in struggles for what he imagined as a more decent society — one where people cared about and cared for one another. The book is a biting satire of what he thought of as the muddle-headed reformism of the British Labour Party, heading toward a totally controlled society called "Ingsoc", Newspeak for "English Socialism", but the permanent anxiety-inducement, psychological manipulation through the distortion of language, and crude but effective torture were inspired more by Nazi Germany and, especially, Stalin's Soviet Union. The technology of surveillance by "Big Brother" seems laughably primitive today, in the face of Edward Snowden's revelations about the working of the NSA, but Orwell's vision of pseudo-friendships among individuals too frightened to really connect seems almost to foreshadow those on Facebook and Twitter.
Orwell's great strength was as a moral essayist, a writer with a very definite view of how things ought to be and a critique of all that fell short of that. And it is as a moral essay that this book continues to matter, not as an effort of belles lettres. It is not pleasing to read, the flow of the language is jarring, the characters unlovable and barely understandable as people — and that is surely just what Orwell intended. But those unlikeable characters all serve his two purposes: to point out the dangers of an all-controlling state and to remind us once again of how language can be corrupted in ways not to advance and express thought, but to impede it. And also perhaps to express one faint hope: Winston Smith, by resisting as long as he does, even though he finally succumbs, demonstrates that the system's control can never be absolutely complete....more
The hero is a handsome, lucky fool, Fabrizio del Dongo, who gets into and out of scrapes due to a kind of calculated passion. That is, he makes grandThe hero is a handsome, lucky fool, Fabrizio del Dongo, who gets into and out of scrapes due to a kind of calculated passion. That is, he makes grand gestures less because of true love or any particular political commitment, but because he's concerned about what pose he should strike. His most memorable adventure and the best episode in the book is his uncomprehending participation in the battle of Waterloo, whither he has hied without any military experience or training or knowledge of French. This is a funny, poignant, and probably realistic depiction of the confusion of battle and the panicked disarray of the French soldiers and officers after their defeat.
There is also fun in some of Stendahl's miscellaneous observations about love, politics and letters.
"And a man of your talents, Signor, must steal in order to live!" [says the Duchess (Fabrizio's beautiful aunt) to the highwayman, who is also a famous poet.]
"That may be the reason I have any talent. Hitherto all our authors who have become well known were people paid by the government or by the religion they sought to undermine...." (p. 357)
Another insight (this time in the voice of the author
«I am inclined to think that the immoral delight Italians experience in taking revenge is a consequence of their power of imagination; people in other countries do not, strictly speaking, forgive; they forget.» (p. 365)
Stendahl finally gets bored with Fabrizio and lets him die in a monastery, of love-sickness....more
Cowboy Ben Tyler in Cuba 1898 gets caught up in the independence war with cruel Spanish officers, less cruel Cuban officers in service to Spain, indepCowboy Ben Tyler in Cuba 1898 gets caught up in the independence war with cruel Spanish officers, less cruel Cuban officers in service to Spain, independence fighters both noble & treacherous, & a decadent American millionaire landowner; he wins the girl (Amelia, a tough, opportunistic American) &, after settling all scores with his Colt .44s, takes her to start a cattle ranch in Cuba libre. Ridiculous story, in which Cuba is merely a backdrop for the actions of American characters plucked from a US western, filled in with meticulous research on naval armaments & prison conditions of the time.
Far from Leonard's best work, but he is/was always entertaining. 99/7/21...more
In memory of the late great Elmore Leonard, this capsule note from long ago on one of his minor works: Used-car salesman Frank Ryan recruits cement mixIn memory of the late great Elmore Leonard, this capsule note from long ago on one of his minor works: Used-car salesman Frank Ryan recruits cement mixer & chronic car thief Ernest Stickley, Jr. ("Stick") for spree of armed robbery in Detroit's suburbs. But they break several of Ryan's 10 rules - "Never associate with people known to be in crime," etc. - when they team up with black hustler Sportree & his allies to rob J. L. Hudson's in Detroit; unplanned mayhem in Hudson's, double-cross by Sportree, undone by Stick & Ryan's death-defying double-double-cross & murder of Sportree. A clever white cop guided by an even cleverer fat black prosecutor catches them & the loot. Formerly titled Ryan's Rules...more