“[…] such threadbare stuff as Les Misérables. But it is not permitted to say anything against it. One would have the air of a police spy. The author’s position is impregnable, unassailable. I, who have spent my life adoring him, am at the present moment indignant! I have to explode.
I find neither truth nor greatness in this book. As for the style, it strikes me as deliberately incorrect and low. It’s a way of flattering the populace. Hugo is taking pains to be nice to everybody. Saint-Simonians, Philippistes, and even innkeepers — the lot. […] Let truth take care of itself, if it can. Where are the prostitutes like Fantine, convicts like Valjean, and politicians like the stupid cocos of A.B.C.? Not once do you see them suffer in the depths of their souls. They are puppets, figures made of sugar, beginning with Monseigneur Bienvenu. In his socialist mantra Hugo slanders the church just as he slanders the poor. Where will you find a bishop who asks a conventionnel for his blessing? Where will you find a factory that would discharge a girl for having had a baby? Etc. And the digressions! So many! The passage about fertilizers must have enchanted Pelletan. This book is designed for the catholic-socialist rabble, for all the philosophical-evangelical vermin. What a charming character is Monsieur Marius, living only three days on a cutlet. And Monsieur Enjolras, who has given only two kisses in his life, poor chap! And for what they say, they talk very well, but all alike. Old Gillenormand’s drivel, Valjean’s last ravings, the humor of Tholomyès and Grantaire — it’s all from the same mold. Innumerable quips and jokes, artificial high spirits, and never anything comic. Endless explanations of irrelevancies, and none whatever of things indispensable to the subject. But instead, sermons to show that universal suffrage is a very fine thing, that the masses must be educated: this repeated ad nauseum. Despite its good passages, and they are rare, this book is decidedly infantile. Observation is a secondary quality in literature, but a contemporary of Balzac and Dickens hasn’t the right to depict society so falsely. The subject was certainly a good one. But it called for such unemotional handling, such broad, scientific consideration! It’s true that Père Hugo despises science. And he demonstrates just that…
Posterity will not forgive this man for wanting to be a thinker — a role contrary to his nature. What has he been brought to by his mania for posing as a philosopher? And such philosophy! That of Prud’homme, of Poor Richard, or Béranger. He is no more a thinker than Racine or La Fontaine, of whom his opinion is not very high. That is, like them he summarizes the drift and substance of the banal ideas of his time, and with such persistence that he forgets his own work, and his art. That is my opinion […] I am keeping it to myself, needless to say. Everyone who touches a pen must be too grateful to Hugo to allow himself to criticize. But — privately — I think the gods are growing old. What lack of regard for beauty! Just quote one page of the kind he used to write […]”
a letter from Gustave Flaubert to Mme. Roger des Genettes dated July 1862
david charles, LE BRICOLAGE, LOI DE FORMATION MÉTIQUE DES BARRICADES
chaucun des compagnons d’enjolras est, à un titre ou un autre, un alliage d’éléments contradictoires. combeferre, pour compléter la guerre par la paix, veut rectifier la révolution par la civilisation; prouvaire aime les bleuets comme le peuple et s’occupe «des nuages presque autant que des événements»; feuilly est un ouvrier évantailliste dont le «texte habituel » est le congrès de vienne; le républicain courfeyrac est un aristocrate; bahorel étudie le droit mais ne l’observe pas; bousset est «un garçon gai qui a du malheur»; joly étudie la médecine et se croit perpétuellement malade. enjolras quant à lui est un type pur, dont la lumière, l’âme et l’esprit (les «autres termes» du sublime) sont dégagés de l’ombre, du corps et de la bête (les «autres termes» du grotesque).
le dégagement du sublime par le «partage de l’humanité» auquel travaille le grotesque s’apprécie dans la confrontation qu’organise cette galerie des portraits entre enjolras et grantaire. si la contradiction grotesque qui constitue grantaire fait l’objet d’un long développement, c’est pour mieux dégager la sublime unité qui constitutive d’enjolras, par un effet que le préface de cromwell nomme «contraste», «comparaison», ou «voisinage» et que le roman appelle «juxtaposition», complémentarité, conjonction, inversion. courfeyrac traite grantaire de «futaille» au moment même où les futailles du cabaret corinthe, qu’il a largement contribué à vider, sont incorporées à la barricade, et l’ébauche d’analogie entre les caractéristiques de grantaire — le fléchissement, la dislocation, la maladie et la difformité — et celles des barricades est développée par la description de la barricade saint-antoine — écroulée, démantelée, suppliciée, difforme.
sont en effect connexes le «partage de l’humanité» des insurgés entre le grotesque grantaire et le sublime enjolras — au premier les sens et la difformité physique et intellectuelle, au second la raison et la droiture — et le partage de la république entre le bricolage grotesque et le progrès sublime — au premier la solidaires, parce qu’ils travaillent à même chose: la réalité de l’utopie républicaine comme résultat de la combinaison du grotesque et du sublime sans laquelle elle ne serait qu’une abstraction et resterait une utopie. gavroche le dit en d’autre termes: une barricade, ce doit être «tout». l’horizon prométhéen qu’enjolras voit du haut de la barricade, monté sue le trépied de ce bricolage, est encore plus sublime de toute la quantité de grotesque qui est autour de lui. la convention, «panthéon de boue et de la crachat », « grande cime» et «salle postiche», et son personnel, «des fauces sur une montagne, des reptiles dans un marais», sont traversés du même partage, et la réalité de leur oeuvre résulte de la même combinaison. la république de 1848, «l’avenir d’un peuple», «l’avenir du monde», est proclamée sur la feuille grotesque du papier à en-tête de la préfecture de la seine, «sordide, maculée, tachée d’encre» — et d’une faute d’orthographe. quatre mois après, la barricade saint-antoine, acropole misérable, sinaï d’ordure, olympe de cloaque, touche de la même façon à l’olympe du satyre; grâce à une conjonction du grotesque et du sublime qui garantit la possibilité d’un sublime «dégagé» du grotesque:
c’était l’acropole des va-nu-pieds. c’était grand et c’était petit. c’était un tas d’ordures et c’était le sinaï. il y avait du cloaque dans cette redoute et quelque chose d’olympien dans ce fouillis. […] une majesté étrange se dégageait de cette titanique hottée de gravats
❱❭ the coffin’s route across paris on tuesday, june 5, has been traced on the map. the procession departed at 10 am from the general’s house in the rue saint-honoré, not far from the place de la concorde. its intended trajectory would have followed the grands boulevards across the northern periphery of paris to the obligatory stop in the place de la bastille. soon after setting out, however, militants diverted the hearse to make a symbolic tour of the column in the place vendôme, in homage to lamarque’s close ties to napoléon. this was followed by a second unplanned stop, this time in the boulevard montmartre, where the horses were cut from the traces and replaced by students, military veterans, and decorated heroes of the july revolution, who vied for the honor of pulling the hearse. clearly the cloud — which, by some accounts, had swelled to more than 100,000 — was not allowing its enthusiasm to be dampened by the heavy rains that fell intermittently on this and the following day.
❱❭ once arrived on the place de la bastille, militants tried to convince the column of marchers that lamarque’s body should find its final resting place, not in his ancestral home in the landes near mont-de-marsan, but instead in the panthéon, in the heart of paris. others argued in favor of proceeding directly to the hôtel de ville to proclaim a new french republic. on the esplanade at the north end of the pont d’austerlitz, a series of speeches, delivered from a podium draped in black, further inflamed the crowd. after listening to the words of the marquis de lafayette, maréchal clausel, and representatives of the polish and italian expatriate communities, participants became aware of a spectral figure, towering above the crowd on a black stallion. tall and gaunt, with a long, cadaverous face and flowing mustache, he was dressed entirely in black. still as a ghost, he held aloft a red flag embroidered with a black border and the words “LIBERTY OR DEATH!” this apparition had an electrifying effect on the crowd, almost as if “…the holy spirit had descended upon them prematurely; they began to utter the strangest prophecies as the sight of the red flag, acting like a magic charm, caused them to leave of their senses.”
➀ residence of general lamarque ➁ place de la concorde ➂ place vendôme ➃ boulevard montmartre ➄ place de la bastille ➅ pont d’austerlitz ➆ panthéon ➇ hôtel de ville ➈ porte saint-denis ➉ faubourg saint-antoine
❴ B A R R I C A D E ❵ type of entrenchment that is usually made with barrels filled with earth for the purpose of defending oneself or finding cover from the enemy. dictionnaire de l’académie française❨1964❩
old french used many words to designate different shapes and sizes of wooden casks, among them tonneau, muid, pipe, futaille, and barrique. by converting the last of these terms into a collective noun through the addition of the appropriate suffix, the french term barricade — literally, an assemblage of barrels — was derived.
louis philippe has abdicated. the provisional government is yawning between the moderates in the hotel de ville and the radicals in the luxembourg commission. marie, the minister of public works, skirts louis blancs socialist decree of droit du travaille by establishing national workshops
june 21st, 1848
victor hugo, one of the most vigorous critics of the national workshops, calls the “hand-out” la honteuse puissance de la main tendue in a speech in the assembly —avant l’exil tl;dr: “the wealthy idler was bad enough but the government had now created the ‘pauper idler,’ a hundred times more dangerous to himself and society”
♔♔♔ OUR BABY BOY MONTPARNASSE WAS BORN JUNE 21st ♔♔♔
❝the red flag has had a curious history in france. during the first revolution it was the symbol of martial law, only to be flown in case the police or the army had to be called out to break up a demonstration. it remained the symbol of law and order until 1832. on june 5 of that year the funeral ceremonies of general lamarque, a napoleonic hero popular with the masses, were made the excuse for a demonstration against the regime of louis philippe. as usual, the red flag was flown before the troops went into action. in the early days of the bourgeois monarchy these street disorders were a common occurrence, and on every occasion the red flag was displayed. theoretically it was the emblem of authority, but gradually the population of paris came to associate it with scenes of disorder. in 1830 the workmen and bourgeoisie had hoisted the tricolor, and fighting under that banner they had overthrown the bourbon dynasty, but by 1848 the tricolor had lost its prestige. the workmen, in particular, craved some emblem that would represent their social and economic aspirations. they found it in the red flag, the flag that the government had formerly used to suppress the rumblings of their discontent.
for a full discussion of this question see gabriel perreux’s les origines du drapeau rouge en france (paris, 1930)
❝ in la bohème, puccini’s wonderful operatic tearjerker, after the most brilliant pickup line in all opera, rodolfo and mimì fall in love. he is the bohemian poet, she is the poor embroider; he in freely chosen happy poverty with his educated bohemian friends, a “millionaire in spirit,” she in lonely isolation and destitution. she has consumption and rodolfo, recognizing that she is dying, complains to his friend, that she is “blighted by poverty. to bring her back to life, love’s not enough.” mimì, in her turn, says that “to be alone in winter is death!” mimì, of course, dies. rodolfo weeps, and so do we, and go home uplifted
"In the war film, a soldier can hold his buddy—as long as his buddy is dying on the battlefield. In the western, Butch Cassidy can wash the Sundance Kid’s naked flesh—as long as it is wounded. In the boxing film, a trainer can rub the well-developed torso and sinewy back of his protege—as long as it is bruised. In the crime film, a mob lieutenant can embrace his boss like a lover—as long as he is riddled with bullets. Violence makes the homoeroticism of many “male” genres invisible; it is a structural mechanism of plausible deniability."
— Brintnall, Kent L.; Tarantino’s incarnational theology: Reservoir Dogs, crucifixions and spectacular violence