Geoff's Reviews > Pages from the Goncourt Journals

Pages from the Goncourt Journals by Edmond de Goncourt
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's review
Feb 27, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, biophilia
Read in February, 2009

I thought this book might slow down a bit after Jules' death and the Commune of 1871 (such striking descriptions of a Paris embattled by the siege!), but it turns out that Edmond was perhaps the more sensitive observer of the two brothers, and his later years are perhaps richer in detail and painterly subtlety than the time when the journal was a product of two minds. I found myself mentally comparing it to Pessoa's Book of Disquiet, in the way that through fragmented recollections, scene-paintings, thoughts on literary theory, philosophy and the descriptions of manners of a cast of innumerable minor figures the book develops a kind of shattered mosaic quality. But because the Journals are dated, and have recurring characters (such "minor figures" as Flaubert, Daudet, Gautier, Zola, Turgenev) depicted in various scenes throughout their lives and deaths, there is an underlying sense of narrative that The Book of Disquiet, by its very nature, cannot have. The Goncourts are genuinely hilarious and scathing, and are magnificent observers of life. I felt, coming to the end of the journals, almost a sense of loss that I would no longer be sharing in Edmond's private world. This is an inexhaustable resource for anyone interested in the literary life of Paris in the 19th century.
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Quotes Geoff Liked

Edmond de Goncourt
“Baudelaire had supper at the table next to ours. He was without a cravat, his shirt open at the neck and his head shaved, just as if he were to be guillotined. A single affectation: his little hands washed and cared for, the nails kept scrupulously clean. The face of a maniac, a voice that cuts like a knife, and a precise elocution that tries to copy Saint-Just and succeeds.”
Edmond de Goncourt, Pages from the Goncourt Journals

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Joseph (new) - added it

Joseph Sales I thumbed through this book at the bookstore and was curious to see what the reviews were like. Of course you had already reviewed it...Geoff, always a fresh perspective, and quite insightful.

Geoff Thanks Joseph, you are far too kind...

The Goncourt Journals are well worth your time. Cynical, erudite, cock-sure, smartass, neurotic brothers, ensconced in all aspects of the Parisian art scene of the mid to late 1800's... they knew everybody... the Journals are hilarious and scathing and insightful and as autobiography (at it's most subjective), really brilliant as well as entertaining...

message 3: by Joseph (last edited Aug 14, 2011 09:34AM) (new) - added it

Joseph Sales Yesterday would have been an optimal day to curl up with the Goncourt journals, the intermittent rain was ideal for listening to my " modern rock " (is the term archaic now??) playlist heavy with the Smiths, Cure, Siouxsie, New Order, Elvis Costello, OMD (gasp), Depeche Mode (lol), maybe shuffling in Sarah Vaughan and Nina Smone for variety, imagining Morrissey thundering about, having a tete-a-tete with David Cameron breaking down his cluelessness and explaining what's really going on in London with the new Communards.

Geoff I was in rural VA all weekend, seeing my family, hanging out on a farm in the Blue Ridge mountains, and while it rained I read the Shelley biography and Virgil's "Georgics" (poems of the land, animals, cycles of the seasons, stars, farming, etc.), so that was all utterly appropriate. So I missed the rain in the city, but yes, the Goncourts would be ideal for the rhythm of rainy gray city streets and overcast horizons...

message 5: by Joseph (new) - added it

Joseph Sales I imagine your visit home must be a feast for the senses, like in Turner's Vale of Ashburnham, or even Burkean sublime, (I'd drawl out the "i" for emphasis).

My weekend was much more prosaic. Safeway, Giant, Target, Bookstore for America, empanadas at Fast Gourmet, Dupont farmer's market. When I strolled around, I realized that dark gray clouds just seem right as the back drop for those Victorians and Queen Annes. Canaletto's supersaturated blue just don't look as right here.

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