Gala Eluard

eluard

“I name my wife: Gala, Galushka, Gradiva; Oliva, for the oval shape of her face and the colour of her skin; Oliveta, diminutive for Olive; and its delirious derivatives Oliueta, Oriueta, Buribeta, Buriueteta, Suliueta, Solibubuleta, Oliburibuleta, Ciueta, Liueta. I also call her Lionette, because when she gets angry she roars like the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lion” (Salvador Dali)

She was born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova1894 in the beautiful city of Kazan in Russia and spent her childhood and studies in Moskow. Among her childhood friends was Marina Tsvetajewa. In Switzerland, where she was hospitalized for tuberculosis, she met Eugene Grindel (ha! In Hamburg there is a Grindelallee), later to be known as Paul Eluard. She returned to Russia, he went to war. 1917 they married. In France she met much famous people we know: René Char, Max Ernst (love! love!), Philippe Soupault, André Breton, Luis Bunuel, René Magritte… Though she had a daughter Cécile with Eluard she later married Salvador Dali. Was she a muse? Jesus Christ! (Superstar)

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Suze Rotolo

rotolo

“I once loved a girl, her skin it was bronze
With the innocence of a lamb, she was gentle like a fawn
I courted her proudly, but now she is gone
Gone as the season she’s taken.”
(Ballad in Plain D, Dylan)

For some time Suze Rotolo was Bob Dylan’s girlfriend. She was a bit leftsided, she was a bit Hippie, she was engaged against racism and took position for black people. But such girls existed for thousands in the New York of those times, when young Bob came to Greenwich Village from Minnesota. There Bob Dylan went to be famous, and today he still is. In those times his first LP’s appeared. On one of these, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” we can see Suze.

So she went to be famous by being the girlfriend of Bob Dylan. On the other side SHE showed Rimbaud’s poems to him. SHE took him to Tabori’s “Brecht on Brecht”, where she was responsible for the stage setting. Dylan was very much impressed by Brecht and his affinity to him is still obvious.
Just kidding: a future disc of him won’t be named “Brecht on Brecht” but “Blonde on Blonde” (not to increase his modesty there’s “Bob” hidden in the beginnig letters).
Suze influenced Bob. Meanwhile she died, but she will always be memorized in “Boots of Spanish Leather” and “Don’t think twice, it’s allright”.

Virginie Despentes, Vernon Subutex

Vernon, der in Paris jahrzehntelang einen Plattenladen geführt hat, muss diesen wegen der Zeitenlȁufte aufgeben, obwohl er Pop-Musik-Fachmann ist, findet mit 48 Jahren keinen weiteren Job mehr, verkauft Hab und Gut über E-Bay, wird dann obdachlos, schlȁgt sich eine Zeit bei Bekannten und Freundinnen als Gast durch und landet schliesslich auf der Strasse. Alex Bleach, der schwarze Sȁnger, der ihn bisher über Wasser gehalten hatte, bringt durch seinen Selbstmord die Dinge ins Rollen, begleitet uns als nachtodliches Schemen auch weiter durch den Roman. Wir sind es ja – etwa von Dostojewski her – gewohnt, dass unsere Helden leiden. Meist aber rappeln sie sich am Ende doch wieder auf, und sei es auch nur im Glauben an das Fatum. Nicht aber Vernon. Je lȁnger es dauert, desto apathischer wird er.

Der Reihe nach stellt uns Despentes die verschiedensten Bekannten Vernons vor, mal erzȁhlt dieser selbst, mal denken die vor sich hin und beschreiben ihre Lage. Despentes Sprache ist dabei erbarmungslos scharf und offen und sie führt uns durch ein Panoptikum von (Ex)Punks, Schwulen, Pornostars, Transvestiten, “Arabern”, Internetfreaks, Schickimickies, Clochards und Schlȁgern, entwirft dabei ein schonungsloses Bild der gegenwȁrtigen französischen (Stadt)Gesellschaft.

“Une blonde en doudoune, un cabas rose fuchsia coincé sous le bras, lit le dernier Stephen King, en se tenant à la barre. Une brune à lunettes mâche son chewing-gum, elle a laissé ouvert les boutons du haut de sa chemise noire à pois blancs, elle porte des perles nacrées aux oreilles. Elle a une allure de délurée giscardienne. Un adolescent black, teddy rouge, crâne rasé, lunettes à épaisse monture noire, tape un texto sur son portable, quelque chose semble le contrarier. Un quadragénaire, sac au dos et écouteurs fluo jaunes, est assis les jambes écartées, il n’a pas l’air de connaître la ville.” (zu faul zum Übersetzen)

In Aufbau und Dialektik ist Despentes ein Meisterwerk gelungen: Etwa, dass des promisken Vernon einzige und grosse Liebe ausgerechnet der Tranvestit Marcia ist, das Pornostar Pamela Kant ein Kinderbuch über Sex verfassen will, dass das Gedenken an verstorbene Hunde die unterschiedlichsten Leute vertraulich werden lȁsst, dass sie (die Autorin) in einem einzigen Satz über die Wohnungsausstattung der fülligen Emilie deren Verwandlung vom Punk zur Bürgerbiene zu schildern vermag – oder das gegen Ende die prollige Streetgang ausgerechnet einen Schlȁger ins Koma kickt….

Alle zur Zeit gesellschaftlich relevanten (“auf den Nȁgeln brennenden”) Themen werden ins Bild gebracht, auch etwa die Meinung der “Leute” zum Islam in Frankreich.

“Xavier a envie de décocher un formidable coup de pied dans le cul de la grosse Arabe voilée qui se pavane devant lui. Est-ce qu’on pourrait, par pitié, faire deux cents mètres dans la rue sans avoir à supporter leur voile, leur main de Fatima au rétroviseur ou l’agressivité de leurs rejetons ?… Sale race, m’étonne pas qu’on leur en veuille ! Lui, il est là à faire les courses au lieu de bosser parce que sa femme ne veut pas qu’on la prenne pour une bonniche, et pendant ce temps ces sales feignasses de crouilles traînent dehors, peinards, à rien foutre, entre chômeurs grassement entretenus par les allocations, ils passent la journée au café pendant que leurs meufs triment. Non contentes de s’occuper de tout dans la maison sans jamais se plaindre, et d’aller bosser pour les entretenir, elles ressentent encore le besoin de porter le voile pour afficher leur soumission. C’est de la guerre psychologique, ça : c’est fait pour que le mâle français sente comme il est dévalué.”

(“Xavier juckt es, der dicken, verschleierten, vor ihm stolzierenden Araberin einen gewaltigen Arschtritt zu verpassen. Kann man vielleicht zweihundert Meter gehen, ohne einen Schleier oder Fatimas Hand im Gesicht zu haben? Dreckige Rasse, kein Wunder, dass sie verfolgt werden! Er geht einkaufen anstatt zu arbeiten, weil seine Frau nicht möchte, dass man sie mit einer Art Dienstmagd verwechselt…wȁhrend diese miesen Typen von Moslems ihre Tage im Café verbringen derweil ihre Ischen malochen. Nicht zufrieden damit, den ganzen Haushalt zu machen ohne je zu klagen und dann arbeiten zu gehen um die Familie zu erhalten, setzen sie auch noch das Kopftuch auf, um ihre Unterwerfung öffentlich zu zeigen. Das ist psychologischer Krieg! Das ist, um dem Franzmann zu zeigen, wie wenig Wert er hat…” – Übersetzung von mir)

Der Name Subutex: Subutex ist anscheinend ein Schmerzmittel. Nun, wir brauchen beim Lesen was gegen Schmerzen. Wieviel mehr braucht Vernon das?

Mir kam aber auch der Gedanke, dass “Subutex” Subtext bedeuten könnte? Wenn man so will ist das gesamte Buch Intertextualitȁt, denn mehr als um Vernon geht es um die angerissenen gesellschaftlichen Spannungsfelder, welche zum Teil nachgerade unlösbar scheinen und einige Gruppen von Leuten mit nichts als Hass zurücklassen…

In unserer Gruppe lasen wir davor “Rückkehr nach Reims” von Didier Eribon. Welch gute Wahl haben wir unbewusst getroffen! Eribon und Despentes behandeln nahezu das gleiche Thema, aber wie unterschiedlich! Eribon stellt sich selbst ganz in den Vordergrund, Despentes aber nimmt sich völlig zurück, beschreibt die unterschiedlichsten Menschen und Ansichten mit gleicher Empathie. Zudem ist ihre Sprache (ich las das Buch auf Französisch) weit echter, weit mehr von dem tȁglichen Argot durchzogen als das des typischen -mȁnnlichen – französischen Intellektuellen Eribon. “Rückkehr nach Reims” ist auch gut zu lesen, aber eigentlich doch ein Essay über die befindlichkeiten eines schwulen Professors. Foucault hȁtte es vielleicht besser gekonnt.

Despentes stellt uns Fortsetzungen von “Vernon Subutex” in Aussicht. Ich bin gespannt.

vernon

Virginie Despentes, Vernon Subutex

Vernon, who for a long time run a sort of music-shop in Paris, is compelled to give it up – though he’s a real expert, but the times are a’ changing and everybody has laptops, tablets or smartphones, and nobody needs discs, cassettes or walkmen anymore. Even Vernon himself does his job as DJ with Youtube. But with nearly fifty years he can’t find a job anymore, first he sells everything he owns on E-Bay, then he roams on for a time as a guest of his kiddos and ex-girlfriends until he finally ends on the street. Alex Bleach, black pop singer who did help him financially, accelerates things by his suicide. As a shadow he will follow us further on. Well, we are used to see our heroes suffering (read my lips Feodor Dostojewski!), but mostly in the end they recover again. But not Vernon. The longer it takes, the more he gets turbid.

One after the other Despentes presents us Vernons friends and other people, sometimes Vernon tells, sometimes these are reflecting, telling us their point of views and their situation too. The author leads us through a panopticum of characters: Despentes language is without mercy, she shows us former punks, gays, porno-stars transvestites, “Arabs”, freaks of the internet, dandies, trendy people, bummers. In doing so she designs an unsparing image of the French society

“Une blonde en doudoune, un cabas rose fuchsia coincé sous le bras, lit le dernier Stephen King, en se tenant à la barre. Une brune à lunettes mâche son chewing-gum, elle a laissé ouvert les boutons du haut de sa chemise noire à pois blancs, elle porte des perles nacrées aux oreilles. Elle a une allure de délurée giscardienne. Un adolescent black, teddy rouge, crâne rasé, lunettes à épaisse monture noire, tape un texto sur son portable, quelque chose semble le contrarier. Un quadragénaire, sac au dos et écouteurs fluo jaunes, est assis les jambes écartées, il n’a pas l’air de connaître la ville.” (too lazy to translate).

In it’s composition and dialectics “Vernon Subutex is quite a little masterpiece: take the fact, that the only real and deep love of the very promiscuous Vernon is just the tranny Marcia, take that porno-star Pamela Kant wants to write a sex-book for kids, the fact that people from very different edges of our society suddenly unite in the pain of their dead dogs. Read how Despentes characterizes the furnishings of former punk and now petite-bourgeoise Emilie in one sentence – or towards the end the book how a tacky street gang kicks a hoodlum into coma…

All the social themes which are of burning importance are developed, even the sighs of right-sided chaps on Islam in France:

“Xavier a envie de décocher un formidable coup de pied dans le cul de la grosse Arabe voilée qui se pavane devant lui. Est-ce qu’on pourrait, par pitié, faire deux cents mètres dans la rue sans avoir à supporter leur voile, leur main de Fatima au rétroviseur ou l’agressivité de leurs rejetons ?… Sale race, m’étonne pas qu’on leur en veuille ! Lui, il est là à faire les courses au lieu de bosser parce que sa femme ne veut pas qu’on la prenne pour une bonniche, et pendant ce temps ces sales feignasses de crouilles traînent dehors, peinards, à rien foutre, entre chômeurs grassement entretenus par les allocations, ils passent la journée au café pendant que leurs meufs triment. Non contentes de s’occuper de tout dans la maison sans jamais se plaindre, et d’aller bosser pour les entretenir, elles ressentent encore le besoin de porter le voile pour afficher leur soumission. C’est de la guerre psychologique, ça : c’est fait pour que le mâle français sente comme il est dévalué.”

(“Xavier was tempted to give a kick up the arse to the fat and veiled Arab woman walking in front of him. Is it possible to walk in the streets, only for 200 meters, without having a veil or Fatima’s hand in sight? Dirty race! No wonder they are dogged by bad luck! He is doing couses because his wife don’t wants to be taken as a maid, … meanwhile this filty types sit in the cafés doing nothing. Their wifes though work hard to nourish the family, then they do the houshold without complaining, but additionally they feel the need to wear headscarf as a sign of submission. This is psychologic war! This serves to show French men their devaluation!” – translation by me)

Now the name “Subutex”: It seems that Subutex is a painkiller. Good for us. Even better for Vernon.

But I had the followin thought too: does “Subutex” mean subtext? The whole book is in fact full of subliminal meanings: We hear Vernons story but we get the state of the French society, wher some groups are left behind with nothing but hate.

The book we read in our group before “Vernon Subutex” was “The Return to Reims” by Didier Eribon. Without being aware of we made a good choice – Eribon and Despentes are treating the same themes, but in quite different ways! Eribon is writing about himself as a gay kid and adult, Despentes remains invisible and describes without any judgement and rather empathic. The more her language is far nearer the people she describes, showing the dayly slang they use. Eribon is the typical – male –  French professor. His book is more an essay than a novel, is nice to read, but maybe Foucault could do it better?

Despentes plans a following volume of “Vernon Subutex”. I’m curious about.

 

 

 

Vanessa Bell

She was a painter and, like her sister Virginia, married to Leonard Woolf, part of the “Bloomsbury Group”. Vanessa was educated at home in languages, mathematics, drawing lessons and history, in the father’s huge library both sisters read the classic English authors. But both sisters were apparently abduced sexually by their half-brothers. After the death of mother and father they sold the house in the Hyde Park-region and moved to Bloomsbury. Vanessa married Clive Bell. Their marriage was an open one, both had lovers in time, Vanessa even had a daughter from Duncan Grant, Clive rose her as his own daughter… A son of Vanessa, Julian Bell, died in the Spanish civil war 1937.
Vanessa Bell started the “Friday-Club” for Bloomsbury group-members and became together with Roger Fry a celebrated artist of post-impressionism.

Bell, Vanessa, 1879-1961; Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

Vanessa Bell paints her sister Virginia

Beate Daams Btw., the Stephens sisters were related to Thackeray, ( “Vanity Fair” ), their uncle, I believe. And Quentin Bell, Vanessa’s son, was James Joyce biographer.

Vita Sackville-West

In spite of her name she lived for a time in the east: in Cihangir, İstanbul and Tehran, Persia. Born in 1892, Vita went to be a gifted poet, novelist and garden-designer. Today she’s known best for her marvelous garden at Sissinghurst. But she wrote famous poems, she published and translated (f.e. “Duineser Elegien” by Rilke). With her husband Harold George Nicholson she had two sons, Nigel and Benedict, but they had an open marriage and both of them had same-sex lovers too.
We remember Vitas love affair with Virginia Woolf, who was inspired by Vita to write one of her most famous novels, Orlando, featuring a protagonist who changes sex over the centuries. This work was described by Sackville-West’s son Nigel Nicolson as “the longest and most charming love-letter in literature.”

sackville

“I simply adore Virginia Woolf, and so would you. You would fall quite flat before her charm and personality… Mrs. Woolf is so simple: she does give the impression of something big. She is utterly unaffected: there are no outward adornments — she dresses quite atrociously. At first you think she is plain, then a sort of spiritual beauty imposes itself on you, and you find a fascination in watching her. She was smarter last night, that is to say, the woollen orange stockings were replaced by yellow silk ones, but she still wore the pumps. She is both detached and human, silent till she wants to say something, and then says it supremely well. I’ve rarely taken such a fancy to anyone, and I think she likes me. At least, she asked me to Richmond where she lives. Darling, I have quite lost my heart.” (Vita Sackville-West 1922 to her husband)

Frieda Kahlo

Frieda

Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón was born on July 6, 1907.
Our common idol, isn’t she? Her family immigrated (father was German), but she was a pure plant of Mexico City. Because of an accident forever mutilating her she became our Mother Dolores, our Virgin of the Pains (Virgin? But she married Diego Rivera two times?). Her paintings, not to imagine without those pains, are marvelous. Her blue house which was shelter for Leo Trotsky, before he was killed with a piolet, is well known. In the movie her role was given by Selma Hayek. Good work!

Fanny Brawne

Bright star Fanny Brawne

Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

For sure this girl was the love of his life. “Did Fanny love Keats as much as he loved her? Did he truly love her, or did he even truly know her?” Such questions can never be answered by biographers or critics. All we know for certain is that Fanny became the other great passion of Keats’s life and another cause to mourn when illness struck. Their relationship, like his poetic ambition, would remain unfulfilled, another reason to think, If only….”
“He had already told Fanny that he ‘must impose chains’ on himself if he was to endure living so close to her (for a time they were next-door-neighbors), and now he was as good as his word. Following the advice of Burton’s Anatomy, which insisted that meat-eating increased physical desire, he put himself on a vegetarian diet, telling his sister that he hoped it would mean ‘my brains may never henceforth be in a greater mist than is theirs by nature.’…
His thoughts now turned to his final resting-place, the Protestant Cemetery beside the pyramid of Caius Cestius. He asked Severn to visit and describe the place for him. Even today, it remains a place of peace and beauty. Severn told him of the daisies and violets which grew there, and of the flocks of goats and sheep which roamed over the graves. The description pleased Keats. He asked that one phrase be put upon his tombstone: ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water.’..

I have seen this peaceful graveyard in the outskirts of Rome. Some steps away Goethe’s son August is put to rest (and pushing daisies too).

Frances ‘Fanny” Brawne was born in 1800 and died as a mother and married woman in 1865, lived from the romantic times of stagecoaches, sweet moonshine, manors and wide parks, nightingales and odes – she wrote some poems herself – to the modern ages of machines, the industrial revolution, going mainly out from Great Britain. Only for a few years she was engaged to John Keats, even seeing him depart for his last journey to Rome where he died. To research about them is to feel the pain of tuberculosis, taking not only him but several members of both their families to a gruesome slow death. If only…
Two years after the death of Keats, Fanny began learning Italian and translating short stories from the German, eventually publishing them in various magazines. Frances Keats, John’s sister – with the same name as Fanny – went to live with the Brawnes, where she was warmly welcomed.
Later, in France, where Fanny settled for a long time (after seven years of mourning for her dead fiancé) she married Louis Lindon and had children with him. Only after many years and the death of her husband she told her children about her romance with John and the love letters he left her (for example “My Mind has been the most discontented and restless one that ever was put into a body too small for it. I never felt my Mind repose upon anything with complete and undistracted enjoyment – upon no person but you. When you are in the room my thoughts never fly out of window: you always concentrate my whole senses.”).

Poetry and Fanny Brawne – Fanny Brawne and poetry: for sure this were the loves of his life. Rather unknown in his lifetime his famousness skyrocketed after his death. There is no doubt he wrote some of the most beautiful poems ever.