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Saturday April 18, 2015


Poster on the departure of the painting from Austria

According to Austrian sources, in her will, Adele Bloch-Bauer asked her husband to donate the Klimt paintings to the Austrian State Gallery upon his death. She died in 1925 from meningitis. When the Nazis took over Austria, her widowed husband had to flee to Switzerland. His property, including his Klimt paintings, was confiscated. In his 1945 testament, Bloch-Bauer designated his nephew and nieces, including Maria Altmann, as the inheritors of his estate.

The painting was seized by the Nazis during the Anschluss, and later put on display in the Austrian State Gallery.

In 2000, following administrative impedance by the Austrian authorities to her claims for restitution of the seized works, Maria Altmann sued Austria in US Court for ownership of Adele Bloch-Bauer I and other paintings from her uncle's collection. As Bloch-Bauer's pictures had remained in Austria, the Austrian government took the position that the testament of Adele Bloch-Bauer had determined that these pictures were to stay there. After a court battle, binding arbitration by a panel of Austrian judges established in 2006 that Maria Altmann was the rightful owner of this and four other paintings by Klimt.

In June 2006 the work was sold for US$135 million to Ronald Lauder for the Neue Galerie in New York City, at the time a record price for a painting. It has been on display at the Neue Galerie since July 2006.

Some in the art world criticized the heirs' decision to sell all of the restituted paintings: specifically, New York Times chief art critic Michael Kimmelman described the heirs as "cashing in," and thus transforming a "story about justice and redemption after the Holocaust" into "yet another tale of the crazy, intoxicating art market." Kimmelman wrote: "Wouldn’t it have been remarkable (I’m just dreaming here) if the heirs had decided instead to donate one or more of the paintings to a public institution?"

Maria Altmann's story is dramatized in the 2015 film Woman in Gold, starring Helen Mirren as Maria and Ryan Reynolds as her lawyer, E. Randol Schoenberg (grandson of the composer).

From Wikipedia

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/17/2015 5:39 am

One of the good things about going to the slaughterhouse is that I'm in the truck for five-hours, to and fro. This Wednesday, I listened to Neville Jason reading Marcel Proust's Remembrance Of Things Past—the Moncrieff translation—specifically Volume 2, Within a Budding Grove, where the narrator is at the hotel in Balbec musing about the "Simonet girl". I don't know why I remember this passage from previous readings, but I do remember it:

I stepped out of the lift, but instead of going to my room I made my way further along the corridor, for before my arrival the valet in charge of the landing, despite his horror of draughts, had opened the window at the end, which instead of looking out to the sea faced the hill and valley inland, but never allowed them to be seen because its panes, which were made of clouded glass, were generally closed. I made a brief halt in front of it, time enough just to pay my devotions to the view which for once it revealed beyond the hill immediately behind the hotel, a view that contained only a single house situated at some distance, to which the perspective and the evening light, while preserving its mass, gave a gem-like precision and a velvet casing, as though to one of those architectural works in miniature, tiny temples or chapels wrought in gold and enamel, which serve as reliquaries and are exposed only on rare and solemn days for the veneration of the faithful. But this moment of adoration had already lasted too long, for the valet, who carried in one hand a bunch of keys and with the other saluted me by touching his sacristan’s skull cap, though without raising it on account of the pure, cool evening air, came and drew together, like those of a shrine, the two sides of the window, and so shut off the minute edifice, the glistening relic from my adoring gaze.

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleursMarcel Proust (1919); translated as Within a Budding Grove by Moncrieff (1924), Kilmartin (1981) and Enright (1992); the pages numbers, 521-522. are from the Modern Library Edition.

Proust describes for the reader what the Narrator sees through the windows with his eyes. In his article for Le FigaroSentiments filiaux d'un parricide he mentions eyes are important to understanding the past. 

Our eyes play a greater part than we are prepared to admit in that active exploration of the past to which we give the name of memory. If, when someone is scrutinising an incident of his past in an endeavour to fix it, to make it once again a living reality...

Proust has no camera, that I know of. Virginia Woolf's great aunt, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)—an early photographer—was described  as the Annie Leibowitz (1949...) of her day; in 1863 when she was 48 years old she was given her first camera, but Proust made pictures with the assemblage of his words.

Proust's language is eye-ready; it is as if he'd first taken a photograph of what he describes. Among other things involuntary memory, according to Proust, has the distinctness of uniting the past with the present. We see it in Proust's writing in Sentiments filiaux d'un parricide (1907),

(Of Princess Mathilde): It was that she saw: something we shall never see. At such moments, when my glance met hers, I got a vivid impression of the supernatural, because with a curious and mysterious nearsightedness, and as the result of an act of resurrection, she was linking past and present.

and his novel. By most accounts Proust began writing À la recherche du temps perdu in 1908, but really its subject was his whole life.

All writing done is in the past; we read it in the present as that present too slips into our past. The valet in charge of the landing had opened the window... then the Narrator tells us: 

I made a brief halt in front of it, time enough just to pay my devotions to the view... 

The Narrator specifically and people in general had a horror of drafts: evil and sickness were brought in on them, they thought. Why didn't the Narrator say something about the open window to the valet?

Perhaps it was anomalies like this and the comparison to a divine experience when he saw the house through the open window  that make me remember the scene as well as his fine writing. These oddities are my madeline and lime blossom tisane. The scene closes when the valet...

...came and drew together, like those of a shrine, the two sides of the window, and so shut off the minute edifice, the glistening relic from my adoring gaze.  

And the Narrator enters his psychedelic room of maritime reflections.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/15/2015 4:37 pm

After several days in a 4 foot square jug to facilitate bonding, the ewe and her newborn lamb(s) are taken to a communal pen where 30 ewes might abide along with their plus or minus 50 lambs. Play begins in earnest here.

But the warmth of the sun always attracts sheep on a chilly Spring morning.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/3/2015 2:26 pm
Labels: Lambing 2015

Almost two years after his beloved father had died of natural causes ago, Henri Van Blarenberghe shot and killed his eighty-year-old mother then committed suicide in January of 1907. Because he knew Henri Van Blarenberghe, Marcel Proust was asked by Gaston Calmette, the editor-in-chief of Le Figaro, to write an article about the tragedy.

Proust has included letters written by the murderer in his article, Sentiments filiaux d'un parricide; they give Proust's impressions a degree of reality—you can judge for yourself the sincerity of Henri Van Blarenberghe. 

Below, being informational rather than instructive as Proust was, I have included letters between Gaston Calmette and him about the writing, publishing and censuring of that article in Le Figaro.


Filial Sentiments Of A Parricide

Le Figaro, 1 February 1907

When, some months ago, Monsieur Van Blarenberghe died, I remembered that my mother had known his wife very well. Ever since the death of my parents, I have become (in a sense which this is not the place to discuss) less myself and more their son. Though I have not turned my back on my own friends, I very much prefer to cultivate theirs, and the letters which I write now are, for the most part, those I think they would have written, those they can no longer write. I write, in their stead, letters of congratulation, letters, especially, of condolence, addressed to friends of theirs whom I scarcely know. When, therefore, Madame Van Blarenberghe lost her husband, I wanted her to receive some small token of the sadness which my parents would have felt. I remembered that, many years before, I had occasionally met her son at the houses of mutual friends. It was to him, now, that I wrote, but in the name, so to speak, of my vanished parents rather than in my own. I received the following reply. It was a beautiful letter, eloquent of filial affection. I feel that such a piece of evidence, in view of the significance which it assumes in the light of the drama which followed so hard upon its heels, and of the light which it throws upon that drama, ought to be made public. Here it is:

Les Timbrieux, par Josselin


September 24, 1904

My Dear Sir,

It is a matter of regret to me that I have been so long in thanking you for your sympathy in my great sorrow. I trust that you will forgive me. So crushing has been my loss that, on the advice of my doctors, I have spent the last four months in travelling. It is only now, and with extreme difficulty, that I am beginning to resume my former way of life. 

However dilatory I may have been, I should like you to know that I deeply appreciate your remembering our former pleasant relations, and that I am touched by the impulse that led you to write to me—and to my mother— in the name of those parents who have been so untimely taken from you. I never had the honour of knowing them, except very slightly, but I am aware how warmly my father felt for yours, and how pleased my mother always was to see Madame Proust. It shows great delicacy and sensibility on your part thus to convey to me a message from beyond the grave.

I shall shortly be back in Paris, and if, between now and then, I can overcome that desire to be left to myself which, up to the present, I have felt as the result of the disappearance of one in whom my whole life was centred, and who was the source of all my happiness, it will give me much pleasure to shake your hand and talk with you about the past.

Yours, most sincerely,

H. Van Blarenberghe


I was much touched by this letter. I felt full of pity for a man who was suffering so acutely—of pity, and of envy. He still had a mother left to him, and in consoling her could find consolation for himself. If I could not respond to the efforts he wished to make to bring about a meeting, it was because of purely material difficulties. But, more than anything else, his letter made pleasanter the memories I had of him. The happy relationship to which he referred had, as a matter of fact, been the most ordinary of social contacts. I had had few opportunities of talking to him when we had happened to meet one another at dinners, but the intellectual distinction of our hosts had been, and still was, a guarantee that Henri Van Blarenberghe, beneath an appearance that was slightly conventional, and representative more of the circle in which he moved than of his own personality, concealed an original and lively nature. Among the strange snapshots of memory which our brains, so small and yet so vast, collect by the thousand, the one that is clearest to me when I rummage among those in which Henri Van Blarenberghe appears, is that of a smiling face, and of the curious amused look he had, with mouth hanging half open, when he had discharged a witty repartee. It is thus that I, as one so rightly says ‘see’ him, always charming, always moderately distinguished. Our eyes play a greater part than we are prepared to admit in that active exploration of the past to which we give the name of memory. If, when someone is scrutinising an incident of his past in an endeavour to fix it, to make it once again a living reality, we look at his eyes as he tries to recollect, we see that they are emptied of all consciousness of what is going on around him, of the scene which, but a moment earlier, they reflected. ‘You’re not there at all,’ we say: ‘you’re far away.’ Yet, what we see is but the reverse side of what is going on within his mind. At such moments the loveliest eyes in all the world are powerless to move us by their beauty, are no more—to misinterpret a phrase of Wells,—than ‘Time Machines’, than telescopes focussed upon the invisible, which see further the older we grow. When we watch the rusted gaze of old men wearied by the effort to adapt themselves to the conditions of a time so different from their own, grow blind in an effort to remember, we feel, with extraordinary certainty, that the trajectory of their glance, passing over life’s shadowed failures, will come to earth not some few feet in front of them— as they think—but, in reality, fifty or sixty years behind. I remember how the charming eyes of Princesse Mathilde took on a more than ordinary beauty when they became fixed on some image which had come unbidden to the retina when, in memory, she saw this or that great man, this or that great spectacle dating back to the early years of the century. It was that she saw: something we shall never see. At such moments, when my glance met hers, I got a vivid impression of the supernatural, because with a curious and mysterious nearsightedness, and as the result of an act of resurrection, she was linking past and present.

Charming and moderately distinguished. Those are the words I used when thinking back to my memories of him. But after his letter had come I put a few added touches to the picture thus preserved, interpreting as evidence of a deeper sensibility, of a less wholly ‘social’ mentality, certain ways he had of looking, certain characteristics, which might lend themselves to a more interesting, a more generous ‘reading’ that the one I had at first accorded him.

When, somewhat later, I asked him to tell me about one of the staff of the Eastern Railway (Monsieur Van Blarenberghe was Chairman of the Board) in whom a friend of mine was taking an interest, I received the following reply. It had been written on the 12th of last January, but, in consequence of my having changed my address, unknown to him, did not reach me until the 17th, that is to say, not a fortnight, barely eight days, before the date of the drama.

48, Rue de la Bienfaisance

January 12, 1907

Dear Sir,

Thinking it possible that the man X . . . might still be employed by the Eastern Railway Company, I have made enquiries at their offices, and have asked them to let me know where he may be found. Nothing is known of him. If you have the name right, its owner has disappeared, leaving no trace. I gather that he was, in any case, only temporarily in their employ, and that he occupied a very subordinate position. I am much disturbed by the news you give me of the state of your health ever since the premature and cruel death of your parents. If it is any consolation, let me tell you that I, too, have suffered physically as well as emotionally, from the shock of my father’s death. But hope springs eternal . . . What the year 1907 may have in store for me I do not know, but it is my dearest wish that it may bring some alleviation to you as well as to me, and that in the course of the next few months we may be able to meet. I should like you to know how deeply I sympathise with you.

Yours sincerely,

H. Van Blarenberghe


Five or six days after receiving this letter, I remembered, one morning on waking, that I wanted to answer it. One of those unexpected spells of cold had set in which are like the high tides of Heaven, submerging all the dykes raised by great cities between ourselves and Nature, thrusting at our closed windows, creeping into our very rooms, making us realise, when they lay a bracing touch upon our shoulders, that the elements have returned to attack in force. The days were disturbed by sudden changes in the temperature, and by violent barometric shocks. Nor did this display of Nature’s powers bring any sense of joy. One bemoaned in advance the snow that was on the way, and even inanimate objects, as in André Rivoire’s lovely poem, seemed to be ‘waiting for the snow’. A ‘depression’ has only to ‘advance towards the Balearics’, as the newspapers put it, Jamaica has only to experience an earthquake tremor, for people in Paris who are subject to headaches, rheumatism and asthma, and probably lunatics as well, to have a crisis—so closely linked are nervous temperaments with the furthest points upon the earth’s surface by bonds whose strength they must often wish was less compulsive. If the influence of the stars upon some at least of such cases be ever recognised (see Framery and Pelletean as quoted by Monsieur Brissaud) to whom could the lines of the poet be held to be more applicable :

Et de longs fils (soyeux) l'unissent aux étoiles? 

(René-François Sully-Prudhomme, 1839-1907)

No sooner was I awake than I sat down to answer Henri Van Blarenberghe. But before doing so, I wanted just to glance at Le Figaro, to proceed to that abominable and voluptuous act known as reading the paper, thanks to which all the miseries and catastrophes of the world during the past twenty-four hours—battles that have cost the lives of fifty-thousand men, crimes, strikes, bankruptcies, fires, poisonings, suicides, divorces, the shattering emotions of statesmen and actors alike—are transmuted for our own particular use, though we are not ourselves involved, into a daily feast that seems to make a peculiarly exciting and stimulating accompaniment to the swallowing of a few mouthfuls of coffee brought in response to our summons. No sooner have we broken the fragile band that wraps Le Figaro, and alone separates us from all the miseries of the world, and hastily glanced at the first sensational paragraphs of which the wretchedness of so many human beings ‘forms an element’, those sensational paragraphs the contents of which we shall later retail to those who have not yet read their papers, than we feel a delightful sense of being once again in contact with that life with which, when we awoke, it seemed so useless to renew acquaintance. And if, from time to time, something like a tear starts from our gorged and glutted eyes, it is only when we come on a passage like this : ‘An impressive silence grips all hearts: the drums roll out a salute, the troops present arms, and a great shout goes up—“Vive Fallières At that we weep, though a tragedy nearer home would leave us dry-eyed. Vile actors that we are who can be moved to tears only by the sorrows of Hercules, or, at a still lower level, by the State Progresses of the President of the Republic! But on this particular morning the reading of Le Figaro moved me to no easy responses. I had just let my fascinated eyes skim the announcements of volcanic eruptions, ministerial crises and gang-fights, and was just beginning to read a paragraph, the heading of which, ‘Drama of a Lunatic’, promised a more than usually sharp stimulus for my morning faculties, than I suddenly saw that the victim of this particular episode had been Madame Van Blarenberghe, that the murderer, who had later committed suicide, was the man whose letter lay within reach of my hand waiting to be answered. ‘Hope springs eternal. .. What the year 1907 may have in store for me I do not know, but it is my dearest wish that it may bring some alleviation to you as well as to me . . .’ etc. ‘Hope springs eternal! What the year 1907 may have in store for me I do not know ! ’ Well, life’s answer had not been long delayed. 1907 had not yet dropped the first of its months into the past, and already it had brought him his present—a gun, a revolver, a dagger, and that blindness with which Athene once struck the mind of Ajax, driving him to slaughter shepherds and flocks alike on the plains of Greece, not knowing what he did. ‘I it was who set lying images before his eyes. And he rushed forth, striking to right and left, thinking it was the Atrides whom he slew, falling first on one, then on another. I it was who goaded on this man caught in the toils of a murderous madness, I who set a snare for his feet, and even now he is returned, his brow soaked in sweat, his hands reeking with blood.’ Madmen, in the fury of their onslaught, are without knowledge of what they do, but, the crisis once past, then comes agony. Tekmessa, the wife of Ajax, said: ‘His madness is diminished, his fury fallen to stillness like the breath of Motos. But now that his wits are recovered, he is tormented by a new misery, for to look on horrors for which no one but oneself has been responsible, adds bitterness to grief. Ever since he realised what has happened, he has been howling in a black agony; he who used to say that tears are unworthy of a man. He sits, not moving, uttering his cries, and I know well that he is planning against himself some dark design.’ But when with Henri Van Blarenberghe the fit had passed, it was no scene of slaughtered flocks and shepherds that he saw before him. Grief does not kill in a moment. He did not fall dead at sight of his murdered mother lying there at his feet. He did not fall dead at the sound of her dying voice, when she said, like Tolstoy’s Princesse Andrée: ‘Henri, what have you done to me! what have you done to me!’ . . . ‘On reaching the landing of the stairs between the first and second floors, they’, said the Matin (the servants who, in this account— which may not have been accurate—are represented as being in a panic, and running down into the hall four steps at a time) ‘saw Madame Van Blarenberghe, her face contorted with terror, descending the first few stairs, and heard her cry out: “Henri! Henri! what have you done”. Then the wretched woman, her head streaming with blood, threw up her arms and fell forward on her face. The terrified servants rushed for help. Soon afterwards, four policemen, who had been summoned, forced the locked door of the murderer’s room. There were dagger wounds on his body, and the left side of his face had been ripped open by a pistol shot. One eye was hanging out on the pillow.’ I thought, reading this, not of Ajax. In the ‘eye hanging out on the pillow’ I saw, remembering that most terrible act which the history of human suffering has ever recorded, the eye of the wretched Oedipus . . . ‘and Oedipus, rushing forth with a great cry, called for a sword . . . With terrible moaning he dashed himself against the double doors, tore them from their sunken hinges, and stormed into the room where he saw Jocasta hanging from the strangling rope. Finding her thus, the wretched man groaned in horror and loosened the cord. His mother’s body, no longer supported, fell to the ground. Then he snatched the golden brooches from Jocasta’s dress and thrust them into his open eyes, saying that no longer should they look upon the evils he had suffered, the miseries he had caused : and, bellowing curses, he struck his staring eyes again and again, and the bleeding pupils ran down his cheeks in a rain, in a hail, of black blood. Then he cried out, bidding those who stood by to show the parricide to the race of Cadmus, urging them to drive him from the land. Ah! thus is ancient felicity given its true name. But from that day has been no dearth of all the evils that are named among men; groans and disasters, death and obloquy.’ And, thinking of Henri Van Blarenberghe’s torment when he saw his mother lying dead before him, I thought, too, of another wretched madman, of Lear holding in his arms the body of his daughter, Cordelia :

She’s dead as earth . . .

No, no, no life.

Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life

And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more.

Never, never, never, never, never ...

Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,

Look there, look there!

In spite of his terrible wounds, Henri Van Blarenberghe did not die at once. I cannot but think abominably cruel (though there may have been purpose in it. Does one really know what lay behind the drama? Remember the Brothers Karamazov) the behaviour of the Police Inspector. ‘The wretched man was not dead. The Inspector took him by the shoulders, and spoke to him “Can you hear me? Answer” . . . The murderer opened his one remaining eye, blinked a few times, and relapsed into a coma.’ I am tempted to address to that brutal Inspector the words uttered by Kent in that same scene of King Lear from which I have just quoted, when he stopped Edgar from bringing Lear round from his fainting fit:

Vex not his ghost! let him pass: he hates him

That would upon the rack of this tough world

Stretch him out longer.

If I have dwelt upon those great names of Tragedy, Ajax and Oedipus, I wish the reader to understand why, and why, too, I have published these letters and written this essay. I want to show in what a pure, in what a religious, atmosphere of moral beauty this explosion of blood and madness could occur, and bespatter without soiling. I want to bring into the room of the crime something of the breath of Heaven, to show that what this newspaper paragraph recorded was precisely one of those Greek dramas the performance of which was almost a sacred ceremony; that the poor parricide was no criminal brute, no moral leper beyond the pale of humanity, but a noble example, a tender and a loving son whom an ineluctable fate—or, let us say, pathological, and so speak the language of today—had driven to crime, and to its expiation, in a manner that should for ever be illustrious. I find it difficult to believe in death’, wrote Michelet in a fine passage. True, he was speaking only of a jelly-fish, about whose death—so little different from its life—there is nothing incredible, so that one is inclined to wonder whether Michelet was not merely making use of one of those hackneyed ‘recipes’ on which all great writers can lay their hands at need, and so serve to their customers, at short notice, just the dish for which they have asked. But if I find no difficulty in crediting the death of a jelly-fish, I do not find it easy to believe in the death of a person, nor even in the mere eclipse, the mere toppling of his reason. Our sense of the continuity of the human consciousness is too strong. A short while since, and that mind was master of life and death, could move us to a feeling of respect; and now, both life and death have mastered it. It has become feebler than our own, which, for all its weakness, can now no longer bow before what so quickly has become almost nothing. For this, madness is to blame, madness which is like an old man’s loss of his faculties, like death itself. What, the man who, only yesterday, could write the letter that I have already quoted, so high-minded and so wise, is today . . .? And even—to move for a moment to the lower level of those trivial matters which, nevertheless, are so important—the man who was so moderate and so sober in what he asked of life, who loved the little things of existence, answered a letter with such charm, was so scrupulous in doing what was demanded of him, valued the opinions of others, and wanted to appear in their eyes as someone, if not of influence, at least of easy friendliness, playing the social game so sensitively, so loyally . . . These things, I say, are very important, and, if I quoted, a while back, the first part of his second letter, which really concerned only my personal affairs, it was because the practical good-sense which it displays, seems even more at variance with what afterwards occurred than does the admirable and profound melancholy expressed in its final lines. Often, when a mind has been brought low, it is the main limbs of the tree, its top, that live on, when all the tangle of its lower branches has been eaten away by disease. In the present case, the spiritual core was left intact. I felt, as I was copying those letters, how very much I should have liked to be able to make my readers realise the extreme delicacy, nay, more—the quite incredible firmness of the hand which must have been needed to produce such neat and exquisite calligraphy.

What have you done to me! what have you done to me! If we let ourselves think for a few moments we shall, I believe, agree that there is probably no devoted mother who could not, when her last day dawns, address the same reproach to her son. The truth is that, as we grow older, we kill the heart that loves us by reason of the cares we lay on it, by reason of that uneasy tenderness that we inspire, and keep for ever stretched upon the rack. Could we but see in the beloved body the slow work of destruction that is the product of the painful tenderness which is the mainspring of its being, could we but see the faded eyes, the hair against whose valiant blackness time had so long been powerless, now sharing in the body’s general defeat and suddenly turned white; could we but see the hardened arteries, the congested kidneys, the overworked heart; could we but watch courage failing under the blows of life, the slowing movements, the heavy step, the spirit once so tireless and unconquerable, now conscious of hope gone for ever, and that former gaiety, innate and seemingly immortal, so sweet a consort for sad moments, now finally withered—perhaps, seeing all this in a flash of that lucidity now come too late, which even lives spent in a long illusion may sometimes have, as Don Quixote once had his—perhaps, then, like Henri Van Blarenberghe when he stabbed his mother to death, we should recoil before the horror of our lives, and seize the nearest gun, and make an end. In most men these painful moments of vision (even assuming they can gain the heights from which such seeing is possible) soon melt in the early beams of the sun which shines upon the joys of life. But what joy, what reason for living, what life, can stand up to the impact of such awareness? Which is true, it or the joy of life? Which of them is the Truth? 

From Marcel Proust, A Selection of his Miscellaneous Writings selected and translated by Gerard Hopkins, 1948 p. 177.


On the day that Proust read his article, Sentiments filiaux d'un parricide, that appeared in Le Figaro on the 1st of February in 1907, he wrote to Gaston Calmette, Le Figaro's editor-in-chief, that he had sent the article off to Le Figaro without an ending the previous morning, however to the proofs which came to him later that day he added an ending which he felt closed the article.

The final paragraph (the same one that was censured) came with a warning that cut what Le Figaro may cut, it should not cut this addition that closes the article. Understandably, Proust was upset when he read his truncated article in the newspaper the next day. He quotes the last paragraph that was added in his letter to Gaston Calmette. (see below)

Before reading Le Figaro's report of the parricide's deed, entitled Drama of a Lunatic, Proust knew the vulgarity of the world where he found himself living. Le Figaro, being a mercantile enterprise, was read by the common man as well; yet Proust published where he could hope to catch the rare eye of people who were as sensitive as he was. Everybody, no matter who they were, read Le Figaro.

The sub-editor of Le Figaro, M. Cardane, who censured Proust's closure remarked, "Does Monsieur Proust imagine that anyone will trouble to read his article besides himself and the few people who know him?"

Rather than concentrate wholly on Shakespeare or the ancient Greek playwrights (Proust is rich in the artistic allusions he makes) I want to discuss another matter untouched that I feel influences this article and the writing of À la recherche du temps perdu.

Vulgarity was as prevalent a century ago as it is today; now it is approached in a manner of understanding, then one could blatantly state it and even publicly in Le Figaro. Of course, no one accused of being vulgar would own up to it; to be vulgar was like being evil today: it is the other who is evil or vulgar—certainly not me or my friends, except perhaps in an odd jest that self-incriminates the doer as Proust does when he opens Le Figaro "to proceed to that abominable and voluptuous act known as reading the paper". He  tongue and cheek confesses to this vulgar act and with his morning coffee.

Proust is uncomprehending of the vulgar depiction in the initial report in Le Figaro of Henri Van Blarenberghe called Un drame de la folle. Proust mentions that with his writing in the article, "I want to bring into the room of the crime something of the breath of Heaven, to show that what this newspaper paragraph recorded was precisely one of those Greek dramas the performance of which was almost a sacred ceremony; that the poor parricide was no criminal brute, no moral leper beyond the pale of humanity, but a noble example, a tender and a loving son whom an ineluctable fate..." Perhaps not here, not this, but the vulgar inverts (or if you will, fashion changes into its opposite)—what was once vulgar becomes fashionable: look at denim pants, what was once working attire becomes high-fashion garb and very expensive today; and recently in menswear, sneakers can be worn with suits, according to the fashion section of the New York Times, that arbiter of today's taste reports. And I'm sure that you could list what was once fashionable that has now become passé or vulgar.

In his correspondence below Marcel Proust  explains the desire for possession of the tombs of the parricides, Oedipus and Orestes.


Marcel Proust

Selected Letters

Volume 2  1904-1909


To Gaston Calmette

[Friday, 1 February 1907]

Dear Sir,

My deep sense of your kindness and my gratitude received an even more direct and more powerful, almost crushing reinforcement when I saw just now your charming Figaro encumbered by the compact mass of my unwieldy article, and all the other articles, all the news, all the light flotilla of telegrams from every point of the compass held up by the enormous convoy to which your infinite kindness had accorded this special precedence of which I so unscrupulously took advantage.

One thing distresses me, however, because it increases even more the disproportion between the unworthiness of the article and your delightful benevolence. The only thing I had indicated to M. Cardane as being essential was omitted, though I said that he could cut anything he liked rather than these last few lines. I had indeed in my hurry sent off the article in the morning without an ending. I added one on the proofs, a paragraph in which I gathered my reins, my scattered steeds, at once hurtling and floundering, straying. The article ended thus: 

‘Let us remember that for the ancients there was no altar more sacred, surrounded with more profound superstition and veneration, betokening more grandeur and glory for the land that possessed them and had dearly disputed them, than the tomb of Oedipus, at Colonus, and the tomb of Orestes at Sparta, that same Orestes whom the Furies had pursued to the feet of Apollo himself and Athene, saying: “We drive from the altar the parricidal son.”’

Thus the word parricide, having opened the article, closed it. The article was given a sort of unity thereby. I dare not ask for an insertion tomorrow to the effect that a printing accident scuppered the final lines. Who will remember it all tomorrow? But to the extent that it may have made the article even more unworthy of the kindness which you so divinely bestow on its author, I am very unhappy, for nothing could be more distressing to me than to make you repent of your benevolence towards your grateful and devoted.

Marcel Proust



From Gaston Calmette


26 rue Drouot

[Friday, 1 February 1907]


Your article was very fine, my dear contributor and excellent friend. Don’t worry about those few lines: they frightened Cardane who thought they showed insufficient disapprobation for the unfortunate parricide’s deed. Cardane was undoubtedly wrong: but there is not a reader who will not thank you and re-read your article with an enchanted heart.

Yours ever,

Gaston Calmette


To Gaston Calmette

102 boulevard Haussmann

[Friday evening 1 February 1907]

Dear Sir,

Forgive me! It’s my last letter! First of all it’s too kind of you to have replied to me and I shan’t dare write again. Secondly, if what I thought was the clumsiness of a make-up man, a compositor (the omission of my ending), was the deliberate act of a severe moralist (M. Cardane) I have nothing to say. Or rather I have: I have this to say to M. Cardane (but I don’t know whether I’m supposed to know about his indignation—please don’t bother to write and tell me, we’ll talk about it when I see you), that one of his colleagues on the, Journal des Débats of old, St-Marc Girardin, who was not known for his immorality, wrote in his Cours de littérature dramatique some very edifying pages on the Greeks’ belief that the city which safeguarded the ashes of Oedipus and Orestes would always be victorious. He saw this as the effect of the high philosophy the Greeks which required that the crime of these parricides, ever involuntary, should be punished in their lifetime, but that in order re-establish a higher justice, since they had been involuntarily guilty, their memory should be honoured, consecrated. In my case the severe M. Cardane (who is, by the way, so kind and charming) must be aware all the wars which Athens and Sparta waged in order to lay hands on the bodies of Oedipus and Orestes of whom the oracles had predicted that they alone could ensure the greatness of their cities. I don’t want to bore you by quoting a passage from Herodotus on one of these oracles although it’s extremely interesting.

All the same, to take me for an apologist for parricide is a bit much! Forgive this self-defence which is not meant too seriously as I quite take the point of your letter and realize that M. Cardane didn’t mean to censure me. But the tragedy of Oedipus at Colonus which revolves exclusively around the military glory which the possession of Oedipus remains would bring to the Athenians has made these questions popular, so topical, that I’m sure that if my article had arrived at Le Figaro a little earlier, at an hour when one has a bit more time remember the Greek tragedians, M. Cardane would have judged my ending in a diametrically opposite way. Dear Sir, please don’t bother write to me; forget me in order to forgive me, and believe me.

Your infinitely grateful and devoted,

Marcel Proust


Selected Letters Volume 2 1904-1909, edited by Philip Kolb, 1989 translated by Terrance Kilmartin  p. 249-251

Also I would like to thank William C. Carter and his marvelous biography: Marcel Proust: A Life, 2002-2013, Loc 8773 ff; he was my guide but is in no way responsible for my opinions. But I'd like to quote him, "Many friends wrote to express their admiration for 'Sentiments filiaux.' To close friends Marcel expressed serious doubts about his talent. He did not trust this new voice."

Boldface type is either my emphasis or an addition.

Finally, Sharon thank you for your kind letter and for the patience to read mine; excuse me for my comment on your reference as I was already thinking of Sentiments filiaux d'un parricide.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/2/2015 8:54 pm

I was curious. Was the struggle to write fiction the same for Marcel Proust as it was for the Narrator(s) In Search of Lost Time Yes, Proust was reluctant to think of himself as a writer but his articles were published in Le Figaro and well received. Yet Proust doubted his abilities as a writer of fiction—which he valued more highly than writers of nonfiction—but perhaps the poorly received novellas of Les Plaisirs et les Jours published in 1896 were part of his doubt along with the novel, called Jean Santeuil, that he could not finish satisfactorily and abandoned in 1900.

For a second time, I read the biography by William C. Carter where he says in his preface to Marcel Proust: A Life, "... (he) came to produce what is arguably the most brilliant sustained prose narration in the history of literature."

Chronologically, I would read Carter's references to the development of Proust's "mature voice" in various letters, published articles, Contre Sainte-Beuve and his translations of John Ruskin's The Bible of Amiens and here I quote Marcel Proust from the translators preface to Sesame and Lilies:

It is likewise the living syntax of seventeenth-century France - and in it vanished customs and turns of thought - that we love to find in Racine’s poetry. The forms themselves of this syntax, laid bare, honoured, embellished by a chisel as sturdy as it is delicate, are what move us in his turns of phrase, colloquial to the point of strangeness and daring, 19 whose abrupt pattern we see, in the sweetest and most touching passages, flash by like an arrow or turn back in beautiful broken lines.

19 For example, I believe that the charm we are accustomed to find in these lines from Racine’s Andromaque:

Pourquoi l’assassiner? Qu’a-t-il fait? A quel titre? Qui te l’a dit?

[Why murder him? What did he do? On what grounds? Who told you that?]

comes precisely from intentionally breaking the customary syntactical connections. ‘On what grounds?’ refers not to ‘What did he do?’ — the immediately preceding sentence — but to ‘Why murder him?’ and ‘Who told you that?’ refers to the ‘murder’ as well. ... Such zigzags of expression ...

Marcel Proust, note 19 to his translator's preface of John Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies (1905) published as On Reading, translated by Damion Searles p. 40. 

The Andromaque passage quoted by Proust is uttered by Hermione (in love with Pyrrhus) to Orestes (in love with Hermione). Hermione asks Orestes to kill Pyrrhus (in love with Andromaque). But she regrets her request, and before Hermione can cancel it, Orestes tells her the deed is done: Pyrrhus is dead.   


Pourquoi l’assassiner? Qu’a-t-il fait? A quel titre? Qui te l’a dit?

Proust was well aware of Racine's "zigzags of expression" and his "breaking the customary syntactical connections"; we might see this broken syntax in Proust's novel as "strangeness and daring" or something else as that impression will be music to one and noise to another.

In lieu of Racine's Hermione who responds to her rapid and changing thoughts of Orestes (to his differing "social personalities" as they are manifested in her mind) we have multiple narrators tell the story of the Search as it occurs. This is Proust using Racine not slavishly but creatively: The telling goes from one narrator to another, and then back again, but the telling, or the narration, may or may not be the same in later occurrences. If you will, it is music in the Search; it is like variations of a phrase within a larger sonata-like composition. 

Below I have selected a passage from Within a Budding Grove (which I happened to reread recently and was impressed with Proust's superb handling of the character M. de Norpois) that has the three basic narrational schemes In Search of Lost Time:

The younger, active Narrator; 1st person

The older, reflective Narrator; 1st person

Marcel Proust; 1st and 3rd persons

There are more narrators (versions of the active, the reflective narrators and the "social personalities" of Marcel Proust and how reliable these narrators are or what they know) In Search of Lost Time than those I've listed, but the three will suffice as they are different from one another and mostly irreducible.

In this passage we begin with the active Narrator, 

“Oh, Monsieur,” I assured M. de Norpois, when he told me that he would inform Gilberte and her mother how much I admired them, “if you would do that, if you would speak of me to Mme Swann my whole life would not be long enough to prove my gratitude, and that life would be all at your service.

transitioning into the reflective Narrator:

But I feel bound to point out to you that I do not know Mme Swann, and that I have never been introduced to her.” I had added these last words from a scruple of conscience, and so as not to appear to be boasting of an acquaintance which I did not possess.

the reflective Narrator continues,

But as I uttered them I sensed that they were already superfluous, for from the beginning of my speech of thanks, with its chilling ardour, I had seen flitting across the face of the Ambassador an expression of hesitation and displeasure, and in his eyes that vertical, narrow, slanting look

until we arrive at a simile,

*(like, in the drawing of a solid body in perspective, the receding line of one of its surfaces),

in which Marcel Proust interrupts the reflective Narrator with a likeness—he is the speaker. Most generally Proust uses similes in his own voice—as many writers of fiction do (there are passages in the Search, for example, about aesthetics and art that Proust soliloquies in his voice as the narrator). Then we go back to the very sophisticated turn of phrase of the reflective Narrator.

This is a music of syntax, and also of narration, in that the repetition or near-repetition, so important in music, is occasioned by the breaking of the syntactical (and narrative voices) connections making the repetition or the reconnection possible making music.

This novel is wealthy; there are different types (or themes) of prose music here. Let's listen to the reflective Narrator:

that look which one addresses to the invisible interlocutor whom one has within oneself at the moment when one is telling him something that one’s other interlocutor, the person to whom one has been talking up till then—myself, in this instance—is not meant to hear. ...

Within a Budding Grove, Marcel Proust, 1919; translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright, 1992 p. 68.

To note here: For Proust to have been celebrated as he is, he had to be compared favorably with Racine, Balzac, Flaubert and the greats of French literature. In other words he had to do something new and his narration in the Search is part of that newness. No one had told a story like he had before. And noteworthy is John Ruskin and how he composed and how his composition had influenced the fiction of In Search of Lost Time. At first, Ruskin in his ellipses (the order he appears to leave out) makes one think of Racine and his rapid changes of address (it appears that order has been left out until his "zigzags of expression" are explained). 

In Proust's words...

He (Ruskin) moves from one idea to the next without any apparent order but actually the imagination which leads him is following its own deep affinities and imposing a higher logic on him in spite of himself, to such an extent that at the end he finds himself to have obeyed a kind of secret plan, unveiled at the end, that retroactively imposes a kind of order on the whole and makes it seem magnificently staged, right up to the climax of the final apotheosis. ...

Marcel Proust's note 1 to John Ruskin's Of Kings Treasuries in On Reading translated by Damion Searles p. 94.

*My emphasis.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/23/2015 6:14 pm

Edo period (1615–1868), 60 1/16 x 140 inches. 

A full moon, once silver but now blackened by age, appears on an unobstructed horizon between a background of golden clouds and a foreground frieze of grasses and autumnal wildflowers: yellow maiden-flower, blue and white Chinese bellflower, purple agrimony, and wild chrysanthemum. A queue of descending geese (perhaps a later addition) at upper right conveys the vastness of the grassy plain.

These pictorial motifs are associated with the once-wild plain of Musashi, now a densely populated area of North Tokyo.

There are close-ups of the six-panel folding screen on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/20/2015 5:02 pm

We use the natural hormone Oxytocin frequently in the lambing barn with ewes who are not attentive to their newborn lambs.

"OxyT": Oxytocin is a mammalian neurohypophysial hormone. Produced by the hypothalamus and stored and secreted by the posterior pituitary gland, oxytocin acts primarily as a neuromodulator in the brain.

Oxytocin plays an important role in the neuroanatomy of intimacy, specifically in sexual reproduction of both sexes, in particular during and after childbirth. It is released in large amounts after distension of the cervix and uterus during labor, facilitating birth, maternal bonding, and, after stimulation of the nipples, lactation. Both childbirth and milk ejection result from positive feedback mechanisms.

Recent studies have begun to investigate oxytocin's role in various behaviors, including orgasm, social recognition, pair bonding, anxiety, and maternal behaviors. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the "bonding hormone".

From: Wikipedia

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/18/2015 7:56 am
Labels: Oxytocin

Si je ne compris pas la Sonate je fus ravi d'entendre jouer Mme Swann. Son toucher me paraissait, comme son peignoir, comme le parfum de son escalier, comme ses manteaux, comme ses chrysanthèmes, faire partie d'un tout individuel et mystérieux, dans un monde infiniment supérieur à celui où la raison peut analyser le talent.

"N'est-ce pas que c'est beau cette Sonate de Vinteuil?" me dit Swann.

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, 1919 Marcel Proust, Loc 1756 of 8912


If I did not understand the sonata, I was enchanted to hear Mme Swann play. Her touch appeared to me (like her wrapper, like the scent of her staircase, like her coats, like her chrysanthemums) to form part of an individual and mysterious whole, in a world infinitely superior to that in which reason is capable of analysing talent.

“Isn’t it beautiful, that Vinteuil sonata?” Swann asked me.

Within a Budding Grove, 1992 translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright, P. 144.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/15/2015 9:32 pm

Mais en les prononçant, je sentais qu'ils étaient déjà devenus inutiles, car dès le début de mon remerciement, d'une ardeur réfrigérante, j'avais vu passer sur le visage de l'ambassadeur une expression d'hésitation et de mécontentement et dans ses yeux, ce regard vertical, étroit et oblique (comme, dans le dessin en perspective d'un solide, la ligne fuyante d'une de ses faces), regard qui s'adresse à cet interlocuteur invisible qu'on a en soi-même, au moment où on lui dit quelque chose que l'autre interlocuteur, le Monsieur avec qui on parlait jusqu'ici - moi dans la circonstance - ne doit pas entendre.

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, 1919 Marcel Proust, Loc. 823 of 8912.


But as I uttered them I sensed that they were already superfluous, for from the beginning of my speech of thanks, with its chilling ardour, I had seen flitting across the face of the Ambassador an expression of hesitation and displeasure, and in his eyes that vertical, narrow, slanting look (like, in the drawing of a solid body in perspective, the receding line of one of its surfaces), that look which one addresses to the invisible interlocutor whom one has within oneself at the moment when one is telling him something that one’s other interlocutor, the person to whom one has been talking up till then—myself, in this instance—is not meant to hear.

Translated as Within a Budding Grove, 1992 Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright, P. 68.

The emphasis is my own. 

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/10/2015 7:58 pm

Intrepid lambs coming down from the shearing shed on day 2 of shearing. We'd hoped for warmer temperatures (the nights had lows of single digits) and no falling or fallen snow, but who knows when you join the rams in October of 2014 what the weather will be in February and March of 2015. It can be warm and suitable for shirtsleeves or it can be snowy like last year. 

We always shear three weeks before lambing.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/5/2015 5:21 pm
Labels: Sheep Journal

We moved the ewes a quarter mile uphill to an old dairy barn we call the shearing shed. They will be shorn on the first Monday of March. Our sheep spend their days and nights out of doors all year round. But if you value your wool, you can't shear wet sheep; we shelter them during the time they are being shorn.

And all the ewes are pregnant. For lambing, which begins three weeks after shearing, we bring the newborn lambs and their dams inside—rain or shine—at night we leave the door to the barn open so the ewe can enter and choose a comfortable place to lamb. When the ewe has lambed we move her and her lambs into a 4' x 4' bonding jug. After several days inside together—if they look healthy—we let them go outside until the next shearing.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/25/2015 4:06 pm
Labels: Sheep Journal

One work Proust was eager to hear again in the late winter of 1916 was César Franck’s Quartet in D as performed by the Poulet QuartetOne evening at a concert by this ensemble, Proust approached the viola player Amable Massis during the intermission and asked him whether the group would be willing to come and play for him in a private concert. Massis agreed in principle and thought no more about it.

One night around eleven Gaston Poulet, the leader of the quartet, heard his doorbell ring. Poulet, already in his pajamas, opened the door to find himself face to face with a thin, pale man with a moustache, who said, “I am Marcel Proust.” The caller made an unusual request: he wanted to hear Franck’s Quartet that very night. There was a cab waiting that could round up the other members of the quartet. Poulet agreed. Once in the cab Poulet directed the driver to the homes of Louis Ruyssen, cellist, Victor Gentil, second violin, and Amable Massis, viola. When Massis entered the taxi, he saw Proust wrapped in a huge eiderdown; there was a bowl of mashed potatoes sitting on the folding seat. Massis, suddenly disconcerted by the oddity of the situation, received a reassuring smile and gesture from the driver, signaling that his employer was somewhat bizarre, but harmless. By the time Proust had collected all the musicians and their instruments and arrived back at boulevard Haussmann, it was nearly one in the morning.

Céleste opened the door and greeted the group. Massis, like everyone who saw her the first time, noted that she was tall for a woman, svelte, and very pretty. The men removed their overcoats, opened their cases, and took out their instruments. Massis remembered playing in a bedroom lighted solely by candles. Just beyond a circle of light a divan covered in green velvet had been placed in the semidarkness; near the bed stood a mountain of manuscripts. The opening of the chimney had been covered, as Poulet had recommended, to prevent any of the sound from escaping. While Céleste assisted the musicians in setting up makeshift music stands, Proust stretched out on the divan.

The String Quartet in D Major, FWV 9: II. Scherzo. Vivace by the Vilnius Quartet

During the playing Proust lay with his eyes closed, without making the slightest movement. So solemnly eerie was this concert deep in the night that the musicians dared not speak to each other between movements. When the last notes of the Franck piece were no longer audible, Proust opened his eyes and asked the musicians to begin again. The stricken instrumentalists looked at each other. The Franck quartet took forty- five minutes to perform. It was now around two in the morning, and the musicians felt dead with fatigue. Sensing their distress, Proust asked Massis to bring him a small Chinese box from a nearby shelf. The novelist opened it and removed a stack of fifty- franc bank bills redeemable for gold. He handed each musician three of the bills. According to Massis’s recollection, 150 of these gold francs were worth 45,000 ordinary francs. Their energy restored at the sight of so much money, the musicians immediately began again to play the entire quartet. The room filled once more with the strains of the Pater Angelus.

Afterward, Proust thanked the musicians warmly and told them that he would like to have them back again under similar conditions. Céleste came in with champagne and fried potatoes. Shortly before dawn the musicians stepped out onto the boulevard Haussmann to find four taxis waiting to take them home.

Marcel Proust: A Life, William C. Carter 2013

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/24/2015 6:16 pm
Labels: Franck, Poulet, Proust

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/19/2015 6:09 pm
Labels: Sheep Journal

Marcel Proust writes in 1910 to Robert Dreyfus, a long time friend, whose brother Henri has just died,

Proust...used one of his favorite images, found in a number of variations in Time Regained (his last volume): 

“In continuing to live thus you will be living in a region of yourself where the barriers of flesh and time no longer exist, where there is no death, because there is no time and no body, and where one lives tranquilly in the immortal company of those one loves.”

Marcel Proust, A Life (2002-2013) William C. Carter.

Since high school I've loved The Mountains High (1961) by Dick and Dee Dee; their lyrics resemble Marcel Proust in the quote above,

I know someday that we will meet again,

But I don't know exactly where or wh-en-n-n-n-en. 

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/17/2015 12:43 pm