Monday, 10 June 2019

Arbour. Amour. Affaire de Coeur . . . Saboteur.

At the farther end of our garden, behind the boxwood maze, there was a bower with
honeysuckle and other creeping plants overlooking the tennis court. That evening I sat with Douglas on the swing-seat within the trellised shadows of 
the arbour. Douglas had been singles champion at our village club.   


  Boy, my kid brother, knew perfectly well how I first met Douglas, from that 
auspicious day I returned home from a match with a tennis ball I’d mistaken for my own.
  Douglas had written his name on it in indelible ink: DE SHERRARD (the ‘E’ stood for Eric, I was to learn eventually, of course, but at first I’d been willing to believe the ‘de’ was the nobiliary particle, because Douglas was such a perfect gentleman). I have the ball still. 
  The fringes of our fingers were touching. I felt an electrical charge passing between us.
  A crescent moon rocked gently in the cradle of a pine crest.
  Above us, in the twilight, hung yellow roses so brilliant that for a moment I’d almost mistaken them for lanterns. Beyond the rhododendrons, the chalk lines of the tennis court glowed in the dusk, and I glimpsed a pair of bats dipping low over the net.
  I nestled on Douglas’s shoulder as he talked of warring Dayak tribesmen.
  ‘When drums speak out, laws hold their tongues,’ he said gravely, puffing on his pipe.
  ‘In a remote place of flies and midges men don’t need permission to smoke,’ he added thoughtfully in parenthesis, striking another match.
  Suddenly I felt Douglas’s shoulders stiffen and he slowly reached down and I saw his hand close on a large windfall apple, which with a lightning move he hurled into the darkness.
  There was a yelp of pain from the shrubbery and Boy emerged.
  ‘Listen, chummy,’ Douglas drawled, ‘there’s a difference between staring and being stark blind.’
  Douglas was a crack shot with a sporting rifle; he could shoot the eye out of a mosquito, or so he claimed. And he also said he slept with his eyes open like a hare. 
  ‘What do you want here?’ Boy asked in a shrill quavering voice.
  ‘Your sister,’ Douglas boomed. 
  ‘No one wants to marry a quaint old thing in a poke bonnet,’ Boy sneered. ‘Besides,’ he continued, ‘Mummy says she would not let a daughter of hers marry a Roman Candle.’
  It was true. Mother and Boy had got up a whispering campaign against me when they had learned Douglas was a Roman Catholic. 
  Boy ran off up the path, shouting, ‘She’s got it bad, Mummy! She’s got it bad!’
  ‘Sawn off little runt,’ I heard Douglas mutter.
  ‘What did you expect?’ my brother grinned evilly, when the next evening my new beau arrived looking glum. ‘Rosaries all the way?’
Dispossession, pages 292 and 293, Sister Morphine (2008)

Catherine Eisner believes passionately in plot-driven suspense fiction, a devotion to literary craft that draws on studies in psychoanalytical criminology and psychoactive pharmacology to explore the dark side of motivation, and ignite plot twists with unexpected outcomes. Within these disciplines Eisner’s fictions seek to explore variant literary forms derived from psychotherapy and criminology to trace the traumas of characters in extremis. Compulsive recurring sub-themes in her narratives examine sibling rivalry, rivalrous cousinhood, pathological imposture, financial chicanery, and the effects of non-familial male pheromones on pubescence, 
see Eisner’s Sister Morphine (2008)

Thursday, 16 May 2019

‘Chubby Boy’ Orwell’s Earworm . . . Rural Bard or Faltering Palimpsestic Balladeer . . . ?

Has any Orwellian scholar, I wonder, checked the verses of their subject against the Suffolk heritage of his youth? 

As it is, I believe this dedicated champion of the proletariat most probably heard a neural echo of certain lines composed by a celebrated early nineteenth century Suffolk versifier and ‘the first of Rural Bards’*, when he (George Orwell) wrote the concluding couplet of an unfinished poem that must have persisted like an earworm from his days in Southwold . . . 

        When good King Edward ruled the land
        And I was a chubby boy.


Compare, then, this palimpsestic (?) verse with Robert Bloomfield’s Suffolk Dialect Ballad . . .

     When once a giggling Mawther [girl] you,
     And I a red-faced chubby boy

A couplet from Bloomfield’s Rural Tales, Ballads and Songs 1802. (The Walk to the Fair, page 5.)


* The poet Robert Bloomfield, of humble parentage, was celebrated as the author of The Farmer’s Boy (published in 1800 with woodcuts by Thomas Bewick); he was born in Suffolk two hundred and fifty years ago, in December 1766, and has a lasting reputation as one of the most significant of the uneducated rustic poets of the English tradition.  

The poet John Clare, (‘a poetical genius . . . in the humble garb of a farm labourer’) called Bloomfield ‘the first of Rural Bards’ and recognised his mastery of rustic descriptive verse.


As I have conceded readily enough in earlier posts, I am very much an amateur literary sleuth hound, but I would be interested to know whether the Bloomfield/Orwell connexion has ever been made by contributors to the Orwell Foundation at University College London.  

For more literary sleuthing, see . . .
Grim Secrets of Room 101 which traces the horrors of the Ministry of Truth to their source in the works of the Hungarian Tabori Brothers
http://catherineeisnerfrance.blogspot.com/2018/06/grim-secrets-of-room-101-is-it-time-to.html
and
Year Zero ‘A Thing with One Face’ : Prescient Words of the Godfather Who Foresaw the Birth of Winston Smith 
http://catherineeisnerfrance.blogspot.com/2017/03/year-zero-thing-with-one-face-prescient.html
Maimed Hero: Frankenstein Exhumed . . . Tragic Monster in Nelson’s Own Image? A Bicentennial Investigation
https://catherineeisnerfrance.blogspot.com/2016/06/maimed-hero-frankenstein-exhumed-tragic.html
and
Three haikus in homage to John Clare
https://catherineeisnerfrance.blogspot.com/2017/02/three-haikus-in-homage-to-john-clare.html


Catherine Eisner believes passionately in plot-driven suspense fiction, a devotion to literary craft that draws on studies in psychoanalytical criminology and psychoactive pharmacology to explore the dark side of motivation, and ignite plot twists with unexpected outcomes. Within these disciplines Eisner’s fictions seek to explore variant literary forms derived from psychotherapy and criminology to trace the traumas of characters in extremis. Compulsive recurring sub-themes in her narratives examine sibling rivalry, rivalrous cousinhood, pathological imposture, financial chicanery, and the effects of non-familial male pheromones on pubescence, 
see Eisner’s Sister Morphine (2008)

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Stage Fright and Cage Fighting . . . a Parallel Universe of Freudian Terms.

As have pointed out in a number of posts here, my admiration for the novelist, Ethelind Colburn Mayne, one of the earliest translators of Freud, is unbounded. 

Particularly, Ethelind’s own writings are distinguished by her own very elegant Englishing of the Conscious and the Unconscious mind, which she calls the ‘Stage-side’ and ‘Cage-side’ of human personality. 

How exquisitely neat! How entirely original, sui generis

And it gives us a glimpse of how plain meat-and-potatoes English could have provided limpid alternative terms for the complexities of Freudian thought, which by their simplicity would have had the power to confer enlightenment in a parallel universe of meaning unalloyed.

This thought reminds me of another polyglottal writer of fiction who also believed in the divine right to create works on the writer’s terms by resisting ‘all totalitarianism of meaning, all systems that claim to have captured and colonised truth’ and who went further to denounce ‘the oneiromancy and mythogeny of psychoanalysis.’ 

Vladimir Nabokov slammed the ‘Viennese Quack’ saying ‘. . . he’s crude, I think he’s medieval, and I don’t want an elderly gentleman from Vienna with an umbrella inflicting his dreams upon me. I don’t have the dreams that he discusses in his books. I don’t see umbrellas in my dreams. Or balloons. I think that the creative artist is an exile in his study, in his bedroom, in the circle of his lamplight. He’s quite alone there; he's the lone wolf. As soon as he’s together with somebody else he shares his secret, he shares his mystery, he shares his God with somebody else.’

And . . . 

‘Let the credulous and the vulgar continue to believe that all mental woes can be cured by a daily application of old Greek myths to their private parts. I really do not care.’ 

And . . .

‘Freudism and all it has tainted with its grotesque implications and methods appears to me to be one of the vilest deceits practiced by people on themselves and on others.’ 

I think it can be fairly said that Nabokov did indeed create his own language to resist a ‘totalitarianism of meaning’. However, his love of puns does rightly condemn him in the eyes of Freud, who believed punning was ‘a victorious assertion of the ego’s invulnerability’, an ‘ego’ that often blinded Nabokov, in the view of many critics, to the rigours of stylistic judgement.


For a more extended tribute to the translations of Ethelind Colburn Mayne, see : The Murder of a Doctrinaire Freudian by Her Analysand Nephew . . . . Oneiric Precognition of Parricide . . . . The Case of Hermine Hug-Hellmuth. 
https://catherineeisnerfrance.blogspot.com/2016/06/the-murder-of-doctrinaire-freudian-by.html

Ethel Colburn Mayne (1865 – 1941)
Irish novelist, short-story writer, 
biographer, literary critic, journalist
and first English translator of Freud.


Catherine Eisner believes passionately in plot-driven suspense fiction, a devotion to literary craft that draws on studies in psychoanalytical criminology and psychoactive pharmacology to explore the dark side of motivation, and ignite plot twists with unexpected outcomes. Within these disciplines Eisner’s fictions seek to explore variant literary forms derived from psychotherapy and criminology to trace the traumas of characters in extremis. Compulsive recurring sub-themes in her narratives examine sibling rivalry, rivalrous cousinhood, pathological imposture, financial chicanery, and the effects of non-familial male pheromones on pubescence, 
see Eisner’s Sister Morphine (2008)

Monday, 22 April 2019

Shaking Bell Towers of Notre Dame and the Deluge of Boiling Lead . . . ‘Built by a Magician’ claims the Duc d’Égypte . . .

All eyes were raised to the top of the church. They beheld there an extraordinary sight. On the crest of the highest gallery, higher than the central Rose Window, there was a great flame rising between the two towers with whirlwinds of sparks, a vast, disordered, and furious flame, a tongue of which was borne into the smoke by the wind, from time to time. 


Below that fire, below the gloomy balustrade with its trefoils showing darkly against its glare, two spouts with monster throats were vomiting forth unceasingly that burning rain, whose silvery stream stood out against the shadows of the lower façade. As they approached the earth, these two jets of liquid lead spread out in sheaves, like water springing from the thousand holes of a watering-pot. Above the flame, the enormous towers, two sides of each of which were visible in sharp outline, the one wholly black, the other wholly red, seemed still more vast with all the immensity of the shadow which they cast even to the sky.

Their innumerable sculptures of demons and dragons assumed a lugubrious aspect. The restless light of the flame made them move to the eye. There were griffins which had the air of laughing, gargoyles which one fancied one heard yelping, salamanders which puffed at the fire, tarasques* which sneezed in the smoke. And among the monsters thus roused from their sleep of stone by this flame, by this noise, there was one who walked about, and who was seen, from time to time, to pass across the glowing face of the pile, like a bat in front of a candle.

Without doubt, this strange beacon light would awaken far away, the woodcutter of the hills of Bicêtre, terrified to behold the gigantic shadow of the towers of Notre-Dame quivering over his heaths.

The Duke of Egypt, seated on a stone post, contemplated the phantasmagorical bonfire, glowing at a height of two hundred feet in the air, with religious terror. Clopin Trouillefou bit his huge fists with rage.

    “Impossible to get in!” he muttered between his teeth.
    “An old, enchanted church!” grumbled the aged Bohemian, Mathias Hungadi Spicali.
    “By the Pope’s whiskers!” went on a sham soldier, who had once been in service, “here are church gutters spitting melted lead at you better than the machicolations of Lectoure.”
     “Do you see that demon passing and repassing in front of the fire?” exclaimed the Duke of Egypt.
     “Pardieu, ’tis that damned bellringer, ’tis Quasimodo,” said Clopin.
     
“Is there, then, no way of forcing this door,” exclaimed the King of Thunes, stamping his foot.
      The Duke of Egypt pointed sadly to the two streams of boiling lead which did not cease to streak the black facade, like two long distaffs of phosphorus.
     “Churches have been known to defend themselves thus all by themselves,” he remarked with a sigh. “Saint-Sophia at Constantinople, forty years ago, hurled to the earth three times in succession, the crescent of Mahom**, by shaking her domes, which are her heads. Guillaume de Paris, who built this one was a magician.***
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
by Victor Hugo (1831)

*     The representation of a monstrous animal recognised in Tarascon and other French towns.

**   The Mohammedans.

*** Guillaume de Piedoue was the third Mayor of Paris whose family financed the second part of the construction of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral between 1250 and 1345.



Saturday, 16 March 2019

D-r Tchékhov, Detektiv . . . the Problems of Englishing a Completist. Too anorakish?

It is well-known that, like Kipling, Tchékhov prided himself on his hyperdetailed understanding of the habits, customs and manners of the toilers from his own great sprawling multicultural empire. 
Filth! The place was one mass of it. Filth underfoot – filth on the walls, the rafters and the beams – filth floating on the hot, heavy pestiferous air.                                    (‘Zola,Tchékhov thought, ‘would revel in a minute description of this reeking den.’)                                    Anton placed his enamel tray on the workbench.   Old Vańuška cleared a space by removing an ancient fowling-piece, and a peculiarly shaped stump which Anton knew to be a leg-guard used by the cannoneers.  (When two shaft-horses drew a field-gun, one horse was ridden by a postilion who would have this clumsy-looking, very comical piece of wood fixed to his right leg.)
By comparison with a later text (see below), the Englishing of this modest display of military intelligence did not fox my father when first confronted with the ‘Chekhov manuscript’, labelled The Fatal Debut (understood to be a provisional title) in Anton’s own hand on the wax paper wrapper containing the putative Chekhov novel, bartered in 1946 by a prisoner of the Nürnberg Trials for ‘. . . half a carton of Chesterfields, two tins of cocoa and one can of condensed milk . . .’ (My father was an interpreter with SHAEF at the trials when he became acquainted with the possessor of the ms, General Vadim Ignatyvich Kulikov, who, following demands from the Soviets for his repatriation, was returned to Russia where after a show trial in Moscow he was executed for treason.)


Trainspotting credentials.


My father complained that Chekhov’s completism became more pronounced as the novel (he retitled the ms D-r Tchékhov, Detektiv: A Textbook Case) progressed towards its denouement and the measure of the challenges he faced may be grasped from his tackling of a particularly anorakish Chekhovian line, which warrants, I think, a more protracted textual exegesis . . .


From D-r Tchékhov, Detektiv: A Textbook Case, conclusion of Part 1, The Unvarnished Truth . . .  
Soon, the double yolk of a yellow approach-signal shimmered in a glair of mist.
I do believe my father’s erudite translation has the distinction of conveying Chekhov’s meaning with the very lightest touch. The preceding sentence, sets the scene . . .
In the far distance, a railway engine laboured on a curve, and then the railway lights came into view over the brow of a hill, and a high column of grey smoke and sparks shifted fretfully hither and thither, trapped in the cutting between the forest trees.
The elegance of the ‘double yoke’ is matched, in this case, by D-r Tchékhov’s apposite usage of a practically untranslatable Cheremissian word for a particularly serpentine river mist, which is also a homograph for ‘egg white’. (My learned father wittily employs the Scottish Gaelic word, glair, which has a very similar double meaning.)

The Soviet Railroad Signals Manual (see diagram) certainly confirms D-r Tchékhov’s trainspotting credentials and, indeed, does not contradict his observations of a ‘ramassage train’ for the fortress general’s remounts approaching signals set for their diversion to the marshalling yard. (Diagram: Switchgear for points, inwards, with a graduated outward crossover plate to the running line.

For the opinion of a Marxist footplatemen on the aridity of matters literary, see :
https://catherineeisnerfrance.blogspot.com/2011/10/solitary-truck-euphonious-assonance.html


A number of extracts from the as-yet-unpublished crime novel, D-r Tchékhov, Detektiv, have been posted here over recent years :

The transcription and restoration of a long lost crime novel by Chekhov (he, himself, referred to such a work in progress in 1888) has been a task requiring considerable cerebral vigour, which I confess demands a savviness I can no longer own.

The novel relates the misadventures of the morphine-dependent D-r Anton Tchékhov, aged 28 years, when investigating the mysterious duelling death of an aristocratic cadet in a remote snowbound northern garrison. 

Saturday, 2 March 2019

From unpublished notebooks of L v. K


In a deserted room


the mirror shows 

a hyacinth

above

the fireplace


hyacinth

fireplace


a circumstantial affinity

the glass

does not

deny


L v. K  (Paris 1937)                                            


In a previous post . . . 
http://catherineeisnerfrance.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/dotty-premature-embalmment-of-anti-art.html
. . .  is found mentioned a particularly recherché (even prophetic) example of la poésie concrète from The Eleven Surviving Works of L v. K.  It prompted me to add a further example of L v. K’s ‘deep continent’ brand of polymathy, see . . . 
https://catherineeisnerfrance.blogspot.com/2016/04/circo-perfuso-fato-sanguinis.html
The eleven works are exhibited at the Arts Council Poetry Collection website administered by the Poetry Library at Royal Festival Hall in London’s Southbank Centre:



The Eleven Surviving Works of L v. K 
(1902-1939)

A Memoir of a Numeromaniacal Futurist



Friday, 25 January 2019

Lower than dirt

Once I lived lower than dirt; below,
in the basement area,
under the steps to my master’s front door.


I would dread his return
from the brickyards where
of those mute slaves 
there was not one who did not fear
their hellbent master
and quake at his tread.

Many times, on his approach, 
the brute would bawl my name;
stamp a tantrum at his door
to bid his craven drudge:
‘Take off my boots!’

And there, on that door step,
so near above my head,
there at that boot scraper,
under his tyrant heel
he stamps out the dirt
while I, his bootblack,  
suffer his taunts to bear 
all the cold earth

all the cold earth
he rains down
 to mire my hair.

Ranting.
Ever stomping
to mire my hair.

Until the day I fled away
and seven years passed before
the Time of Rain and Retribution brought
a brown mudslide to bury 
all the master’s works:

the city 

the brickyard

his house

he had built to
last a thousand years.

Misfortune seldom comes alone to a house.

                                             Catherine Eisner             
                                    25.01.2019             
   
For the photograph of the 19th Century boot scraper that lends substance to this text we are indebted to the documentarian, Areta, and her fascinating explorations of the former Austrian empire in her scholarly website: