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dimanche, 16 août 2020

Kerouac and the Faustian West


Kerouac and the Faustian West


The sinner is at the very heart of Christianity. Nobody is so competent as the sinner in matters of Christianity. Nobody, except the saint. ~ Charles Péguy

Love, Work, and Suffer ~ Motto of the Kerouac family (Rivista Araldica)

Am actually not “beat” but strange solitary crazy Catholic mystic ~ Jack Kerouak, Lonesome Traveler

Since I was under the impression that Jack Kerouac was lost in the memory hole, I was recently surprised by the publication of Jack Kerouac and the Decline of the West, an essay by Semmelweis, published by Rhodes Scholar Press.

Since “Semmelweis” claims to be a GenX latchkey kid, the lifestyle described by Kerouac is hardly a living option for him. For my generation (I have GenX sons), Kerouac, when was even acknowledged, was either a passing “stage” one passed through, a proto-hippy, or lumped in, rather inaccurately, with the “beats”. Semmelweis, unburdened by such preconceptions, is able to separate the “real” Kerouac from the stereotypes of the beatnik … not that that task is so easy to do, since Kerouac was rather complex and his behavior did not always match his innermost thoughts. What Semmelweis is able to see is much deeper than what those of Kerouac’s generation were able to see.

One Man and Three Respectable People

Favorite complaint about contemporary world: the facetiousness of “respectable” people ~ Lonesome Traveler

Semmelweis comments on Kerouac’s appearance on Firing Line in 1968, which is worth watching.


Of the four men on stage, Kerouac was the only one who was able to connect with the audience. Allegedly intoxicated, he brought the audience to laughter several times, while the three “respectable men” droned on. They are what the French call a “type”; that is, they are devoid of individual personality. These are the other three on the show:

  • William F. Buckley: At that time, he was the Maxwell’s Demon of conservatism, deciding who was in and who was out. After 50 years, his brand of conservatism has conserved nothing.
  • Lewis Yablonsky: Professor Yablonsky, I should add. He was the “expert” on hippies, although he contributed nothing. There was no creed for hippies nor membership cards, so he contributed nothing.
  • Ed Sanders: He was the “hippie” type, and the contrast with Kerouac could not have been clearer. He recited the platitudes of love and peace, etc., like a cardboard cutout. You can see them in the baseball games this week. Put the cutout on a new show in 2020 and you would not even know the difference. The same speech repeated ad nauseum, and everyone thinks it is new.
    In high school, I had the Fugs album. When my mother heard it, she took it off the record player and returned it to the record store for an exchange. I guess she could see further than I could.

Personal Encounter

A generation ahead of me, Kerouac grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts, not very far from my home town. As a rather bookish youth, I tended to act out roles from the books I read. Not quite willing and able to takes things as far as Kerouac did, I did find opportunities. So in some ways, I understand his mindset from the inside, not just descriptively. Fortunately for me, I don’t have an addictive type personality and was left unscarred. Unfortunately, that encounter has left me with an attraction to troubled women, like the sad but beautiful Tristessa.

My boomer friends, feeling the cold breath of impending death on their necks, have grown nostalgic, as though memories of old times will be as restorative as blood plasma transfusions from youths. So they send me links to albums by an 80 year old Dion, or old tracks from the wrinkled Rolling Stones. I’d be much more impressed if Dion became an anchorite or Jagger went full sannyasi.


Few of them have had a new idea since they were 19, despite professional successes. In their best moments, they sound like a second rate Ed Sanders. They can’t figure me out, but I have just followed the logic.

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that some hippies tracked him down in St. Petersburg and went to visit to pay homage. He threw them out while claiming to be Catholic and conservative. The hippies didn’t get the point, although some of us did.

Man as adventurer

Kerouac never lost his longing for a loving family, for a wife and children, and for the simpler, wholesome life of small town America. But he was always thwarted by his longing for adventure, passion, excitement, and lust. ~ Semmelweis

If you watch some youtube videos today, you may come to the conclusion that to be religious, it is only necessary to wear a scapula, pray so many rosaries, etc. This is not a criticism of those men or their practices, especially since in this day and age those are acts of defiance. Yet through Christian history, there has always been the desire for more. There have been explorers, knights, traders, warriors, pilgrims, missionaries, all with the urge for travel and adventure. They kept the faith, no matter how imperfectly.

Most of those options are not available today, so Kerouac made America his exploration (and more followed later). A GenXer cannot imagine what the USA was like in 1956, either physically or psychologically. That description will have to wait for my autobiography.

It seems that converts and reverts have been dominating the public discussion of religion. They are sincere and enthusiastic, and know their dogmas, canon law, and rituals perfectly. However, they often lack a certain “feel”, a Catholic mind that has embraced centuries, the globe, and been encultured with tales of saints, sinners, mystics, philosophers, and so on. There are classical pianists who are technically proficient and know how to play each note at the right time. Nevertheless, they lack an aesthetic “feel” that gives life to the music, so they never make it to the top ranks.

Kerouac, on the other hand, has that “feel”, even if he is not a good role model for your children. For example, while getting high with William Burroughs in Morocco, he could be inspired by a Muslim poem, or image some old man on beach as the coming Bodhisattva. Yet in his best moments, he could have a genuine spiritual experience.

And on Good Friday afternoon a heavenly performance of the St Matthew’s Passion … I cried most of the time and had a vision of an angel in my mother’s kitchen … and I realized it didn’t matter that we sin, that all my own petty gripes didn’t matter either. ~ Lonesome Traveler

Final Plans

Hermitage in the woods, quiet writing of old age, mellow hopes of Paradise ~ Lonesome Traveler

Kerouac never got to be old, since alcohol killed him. That should be the goal of every old man, and Kerouac knew it. When Siddhartha tired of the pursuit of money, women, family, he, too, isolated himself. But he could think, fast, and wait. Jack was addicted and impatient, so his road of excess cannot be recommended, even if it leads to the palace of wisdom. Did he attain Paradise? Perhaps, since Paradise is for saints and sinners, not the lukewarm.

The peasant farmers

Semmelweis picks out an interesting theme in Kerouac that I never would have noticed. He references the Fellaheen or “peasant farmer”: those who persist after a civilization has collapsed. Oswald Spengler defines them this way.

only the primitive blood remains, alive, but robbed of its strongest and most promising elements. This residue is the Fellah type … Life as experienced by primitive and by fellaheen peoples is just the zoological up and down, a planless happening without goal or cadenced march in time, wherein occurrences are many, but, in the last analysis, devoid of significance.” ~ Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West

Valentin Tomberg attributes them to the forgetting of the past. In our time, we can see that the forgetting is deliberate.

the “primitive” tribes and nomadic peoples, disinherited from their past and obliged to begin everything again, began to live in caves or camp under trees. There were once powerful kingdoms and magnificent towns but their descendants had lost all memory of them and gave themselves up entirely to the daily life of “primitive” tribes —the life of hunting, fishing, agriculture and war. ~ Valentin Tomberg, Meditations on the Tarot

Semmelweis points out that Kerouac identified with the Fellaheen of his time: hustlers, drug addicts, winos, even though they could not sustain even a primitive civilization. Nevertheless, Semmelweis points out the logic: Beat = beatific, therefore the Fellaheen, the lumpen, the outcasts, are holy. Perhaps this might also be due to the way the respectable men of the publishing industry marginalized him, so he was never able to penetrate into the respectable literary circles.


Faustian and Magian Civilizations

Besides the Fellaheen, Semmelweis pulls out another point from Spengler. Kerouac was prophetic about the 21st century. Semmelweis explains:

He saw the distinction in Spenglerian terms, which classifies Western European civilization as “Faustian,” and Near-Eastern civilization as “Magian.”

It’s remarkable that he saw that 21st century culture and spirituality would not be “American,”

which in this context means Western European and Faustian, but would be “Magian,” of the East, and of a type which rather than promoting the heroism and individualism of Faustian man, promotes the dissolution of the individual ego into the greater collective Spirit.

That is why the spirituality of the East involves the dissolution of the Person in the unconditioned state, while Western spirituality, like in Catholicism, there is always the two in one. That so many Westerners are preferring Eastern spirituality is just a regrettable sign of the times.

Dionysus vs Dionysius

I believe in order, tenderness, and piety.

Kerouac confessed this to Buckley:

[the counterculture is] apparently some kind of Dionysian movement in late civilization, and which I did not intend, any more than I suppose Dionysus did … although I’m not Dionysius the Areopagite. I should have been.


Semmelweis expands on that distinction:

The point [is] that Kerouac’s sensibilities and values are religious like Dionysius the Areopagite, not chaotic and destructive like the god Dionysus.

Since the two names differ by only one iota, it shows how close the two temptations are. At birth, we are assigned a good angel and a bad angel. Hence, life is a perpetual spiritual warfare; that is not an option and you cannot be a draft dodger.


The beatnik on the TV Show, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, was named Maynard G. Krebs.

samedi, 08 août 2020

Vladimir Nabokov's Gift


Vladimir Nabokov's Gift

Pavel Tulaev

Ex: https://www.ateney.ru

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (1899-1987), the best English speaking Russian writer of the 20th century, a brilliant novelist, poet and translator, stands fully apart from the national literary school. His modern language went so far from the traditional Slavic mentality that some critics even don’t want to consider him a great Russian thinker. Nabokov’s biography gives certain reasons for it.

He was born into a noble family with aristocratic European roots. His grandfather was Minister of Justice under Alexander II who married a young baroness Marie von Korff. His father, Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, was a well-known liberal statesman, a member of the first Russian Parliament and one of the leaders of anti-Bolshevik opposition. Being an undisguised “westerner” and Anglofile (his favourite author was Alexander Herzen) Vladimir Dmitrievich invited an English nurse for his son.

Thus Vladimir Nabokov became a bilingual from the baby age. At the age of five he began learning French. And when the family moved from St. Petersburgh to Berlin, in 1919, because of the Red Terror and the Civil War. Vladimir applied for Trinity college at Cambridge University and chose foreign languages as his specialty. The two foreign languages were French (medieval and modern) and Russian.

Another passion of his life from the very childhood was Lepidopterology. Nabokov collected, hunted and described butterflies. His first serious study on the Crimean butterflies, written in English, was published in “The Etimologist” magazine on 1920.

Later on Nabokov liked to give himself out for lepidopterologist whose hobby was literature, but it was just one of his typical tricks and mystifications. He spent most of his enthusiasm on fiction.

mary.jpgHis first Russian literary publications, signed with pseudonym Syrin (the name of the mythological paradise bird), were printed by emigrant press (“Mashenka”, “The Defence”). Some short stories and lyrical poems where he depicted the drama and tragedy of the Russian refugees, the downfall of their first hopes and their despair (an emigrant chess-player Luzhin in “The Defence” committed a suicide by jumping out of the window) were accepted with understanding by readers. One of them was Ivan Bunin, the Noble Prize winner for literature and one of Nabokov’s authorities of that time.

However, the young writer was far from following standards of the old realistic school. He was too complicated and ambitious for such a primitive task. Being a contemporary of the proletariat revolution and the bloody communist dictatorship, he hated any kind of primitivism and philistinism.

The next novels – “The Despair”, “The Lantern in the Dark” and “The Invitation to Beheading”, written in an anti-realistic, hard-modernist language,  sometimes close to Kafkian absurdity, expressed not only his own existential cry but also a programmatic challenge to the cruelty of the communist dictatorship.

Dostoevsky noticed once that all Russian Literature went out of Gogol’s “Overcoat”. I should say that Nabokov came out of Gogol’s “Nose”. And when he stood up, everybody could see “The Diaries of a Madman” in his hands, opened on the last page.

During that time the best of Nabokov’s novels was born. It was “The Gift”. It is very specific. There is no ordinary plot in the book. Formally, it is a life and carrier story of a Russian writer Godunov-Cherdyntsev and his love Zina Mortz. But the real heroine of the novel is not Zina. It is the Russian Literature. Modernist Language and the structure of “The Gift” which let Nabokov show the lustre and the darkness of our cultural heritage: from Pushkin to “the five poets” with names, beginning with “B”: Balmont, Bunin, Beliy, Blok and Bulgakov – the five senses of the new Russian poetry.

indexgift.jpg“The Gift” ’s author doesn’t say many words about his favorite writers in a direct way. You just see their reflections or allusions to their aesthetics, feel their invisible breathing. At the same time he dedicates the whole chapter 4 to the biography of Nikolai Chernyshevskiy, a famous revolutionary-populist (narodnik) and a spiritual father in the person of Lenin that becomes the negative center of the novel. Nabokov follows the example of Dostoevskiy’s “Demons” and gives a caricature portrait of the revolutionary, but he makes it in a different manner. Not to be boring, Nabokov retells the Cherdyntsev’s utilitarian and socially limited ideas in the black ironic verse.

“…No great intelligence is needed to distinguish a connection between the teaching materialism, regarding inborn tendency to good; equality of man’s capacities – capacities that generally are termed mental; the great influence exterior  circumstances have on a man; omnipotent of experience; sway of habit and upbringing; the extreme importance of industry; the moral right to pleasure and communism”.

In opposition to this blind social reductionism,  Nabokov puts a pure aesthetic contemplation of the life mystery which we find in Godunov-Cherdyntsev’s poems:

One night between sunset and river

On the old bridge we stood, you and I,

“Will you ever forget it”, I queried,

“That particular swift that went by?”

And you answered so earnestly: “Never!”

And what sobs made us suddenly shiver

What story life emitted in flight

Till we die, till tomorrow, for ever,

You and I on the old bridge one night.

To any kind of negativism and foolish optimism, especially political demagogy with its promising “social progress”, “happy future”, he sets off his clear anti-equalizing  pessimistic credo: “An oak is a tree, a rose is a flower, a deer is an animal, a sparrow is a bird. Russia is our Fatherland, death is inevitable”.

“The Gift” was received with cold indifference by the immigrant community. The Orthodox people couldn’t  accept Nabokov’s antichristian philosophy, the left wing – his anti-socialist and anti-populist views, the bourgeois (in the Flaubertian sense) couldn’t  accept his unusual Avant-Guard language. And, of course, it was impossible even to dream about some Russian readers in his Fatherland. All Nabokov’s works were absolutely banned by the Soviet regime.

This kind of reaction was not unexpected by the author. He was proud of his forced solitude:

Thank you, my land for your remotest,

Most cruel mist my thanks are due.

By you possessed, by you unnoticed

Unto myself I speak of you.

“The Gift” was the best Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, written by him in the native language. It was the top of the whole Russian period of his creative work. When the conclusive chapter of the book was completed in 1937 in France, he and his family – his wife Vera and his son Dmitry – moved from Europe to USA. There Nabokov had to find a job to earn his living. In Germany he taught many language classes. He taught Russian literature at Weleshy College and then from 1948 till 1959 he lectured on Russian and European Literature at Cornell University. And all that time he never stopped writing fiction.

unnamedVNcev.jpgHe finished the book of memories – its first title “Conclusive Evidence” (1951) – later changed into “Speak, Memory” by the author -, where he described in a pure classic manner his happy childhood in a family village Rozhdestveno near St. Petersburgh, portrayed with infinite tender his parents and represented the general life atmosphere of a good old pre-revolutionary Russia.

Very few people in America could appreciate that elegant nostalgic book. The next novels “The Real Life of Sebastian Knight» and «Bend Sinister” were easier and more understandable for a western reader but they were not noticed either. And Nabokov decided to create something totally different.

“Lolita, light of my life, fin of my loins. My sin, my soul, Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue, taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at thee, on the teeth. Lo-lee-ta!

She was Lo, plain Lo in the morning, standing from feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dollores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita”.

About 1955 he was writing the world famous, magic and sensational Lolita. It was a thrilling, intensely lyrical, sentimental story about the aging Humbert, Humbert’s doomed passion for a twelve-year-old nymphet, a sexually attractive young girl Dolores Haze.

“Wanted, wanted: Dolores Haze.

Hair: brown. Lips: scarlet.

Age: five thousand three hundred days.

Profession: None, or starlet”.


My car is limping, Dolores Haze,

And the last long lap is the hardest.

And I shall be dumped where the weed decays

And the rest of rust and stardust.

From the very beginning the book brought surprises to its author. Firstly, Nabokov could not find an editor in USA. When the novel was published by the “Olympic Press” in Paris, American critics fired a common volley at “Lolita”. One of them said that the author of the novel was “hypercivilized European debanching young American”, another classified the story as “pornographical”, the third called the book “anti-American” and the forth called it “anti-semitic”.

Humbert was at least three times mistaken for a Jew, and the pistol of his rival Guilty was a German one.

1957-Stockholm..jpgNabokov tried to defend himself. He said that “Lolita” couldn’t be considered as anti-American. While composing the story, he tried to be an American writer. What one should bear in mind he was not a realistic author, he wrote fiction. It had taken Nabokov some forty years to invent Russia and Western Europe. And at that moment  he faced the task of inventing America. He didn’t like Humbert Humbert. Indeed that character was not an American citizen, he was a foreigner and an anarchist. Nabokov disagreed with him in many ways, besides, nymphets like his, disagreed, for example, with Freid or Marx.

He was not understood and pled guilty. After an enormous scandal round “Lolita” Nabokov lost his job at Cornell University. After that final knock-out which in fact became the beginning of Nabokov’s world glory, the writer could devote all his time to the literary work. He published a poem “Pale Fire” of nine hundred ninety-nine lines, divided into four cantos with a long fantastic commentary, a novel “Pnin” about an emigrant university lecturer like him. Among other fiction, there was a novel “Ada or Azdor: a Family Chronicle”, some books and short stories, plays and a screen-play for his “Lolita”, ordered by Stanly Kubrik.

And let’s remember that Vladimir Nabokov was a brilliant translator and an expert in the world literature. The most important creation in this field was Pushkin’s “Eugen Onegyn”, published by Bollinger Foundation in four volumes with huge commentary in every one. He also made the English translation of “The Song of Igor’s Campaign”, a famous Medieval tale, Lermontov’s “Hero of our time” and some poems of the Russian classics. From English into Russian he retold “Alice’s Adventures in the Wonderland” by Luis Carrol (“Alisa v strane chudes”) and his memories (“Drugie Berega”).

51doGKP4FoL._SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_ML2_.jpgNabokov’s critical biography by Nikolai Gogol (a non-Christian interpretation of a Christian author were the first books, published in the Soviet Union. But his “Lectures on Russian Literature”, “Lecture on Literature” (on Western Europe), “Strong Opinions” where he collected some interviews, letters and articles were unknown until post-soviet times.

“Why?” – you can ask. May be, because of his not very Russian American novels? I don’t think so. Many American writers have been translated and published in the USSR. By the way, Nabokov himself was quite clear about his country orientations, especially after he came back to Europe (Swirzerland) in 1961. Many time Nabokov said that he loved many things in America, where he had found good friends and readers, but he was not going to become a citizen of USA. He and his wife Vera were travelling from motel to motel, hunting butterflies. He had never had a house of his own. In one of his interviews, he said that he felt Russian and thought that his Russian works were a kind of a tribute to his Fatherland, as well as the English books on the Russian Literature.

Of course he realized that after living for so many years abroad he couldn’t remain unchangeable. He had to change. And it was a difficult kind of switch. Sometimes he said that his private tragedy should not be anybody’s concern, and he had to abandon his national idiom, his untrammeled rich and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English.

Nabokov was banned in the Soviet Union exactly for this nostalgia, because it was an invincible, indocile, unconquered love for the old, noble White Russia. He hated Lenin’s terrorist regime and any kind of communism. He despised the clumsy, trivial and melodramatic Soviet literature. And the Soviet writers couldn’t forgive it to him. Those literary bureaucrats couldn’t excuse neither his genius, nor his devine language which was dangerous like sunshine for the night shadows.

Vladimir Nabokov is coming back home. His dreams became true. Hundreds of underground copies of his best Russian novels. Nabokov’s books are on sale in St. Petersburgh and Moscow. Luzhin, Godunov-Cherdyntsev, Pnin and others live souls moor to “Drugie Berega”

Speaking on his memories, I would like to cite the concluding lines:

“To my love I will not say “Good-bye”.

I will carry it with me for ever.

And remember, please, “Never say never”

Till we live, till we honestly die”.

Pavel Toulaev, Utica College, N.Y., 1994

jeudi, 19 mars 2020

Origines du coronavirus: les États-Unis accusés, un roman fait fantasmer


Origines du coronavirus: les États-Unis accusés, un roman fait fantasmer

Ex: http://www.france-irak-actualite.com

Revue de presse : Breizh-info (16/3/20)*

51VCA16J0BL._SX210_.jpgLa Chine accuse les États-Unis ! Nous avions déjà la crise sanitaire et la crise économique, voici peut-être une nouvelle crise diplomatique majeure puisqu’un porte-parole du ministère chinois des Affaires étrangères suggère que l’épidémie n’est pas nécessairement accidentelle…et qu’elle provient d’Amérique !

Le coronavirus est-il apparu aux Etats-Unis ?

Les Etats-Unis ont-ils sciemment développé et exporté le COVID-19 dans la province de Hebei et plus précisément dans la ville de Wuhan ? C’est en tous cas l’accusation exprimée dans un « tweet » par Zhao Lijian, un porte-parole du ministère chinois des Affaires étrangères.

Il soutient en fait la théorie disant que le virus n’est pas apparu initialement dans la province chinoise, comme les scientifiques –y compris chinois- le présumaient, mais au pays de l’Oncle Sam. En guise de preuve, il partage une vidéo prise au Congrès, à Washington DC, ou un spécialiste évoque des cas potentiels de coronavirus antérieurs à ceux de Wuhan.

Zhao Lijian surenchérit en se demandant entre autres si l’armée américaine avait importé le virus, exigeant également des explications de la part des autorités compétentes.

 Lijian Zhao 赵立坚

✔ @zlj517

2/2 CDC was caught on the spot. When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!

Le Wuhan, nouveau centre du monde (et des théories les plus incroyables)

Wuhan, dont l’agglomération compte plus de onze millions d’habitants, fut officiellement le point de départ de la pandémie et fut placée en quarantaine dès le 23 janvier.


C’est aussi là que se trouve le laboratoire de haute spécificité biologique livré par la France en 2003 lorsque la Chine connaissait une épidémie de SRAS mais entretenait de bonnes relations avec Jacques Chirac.

Depuis, divers virus tels qu’Ebola ou le H1N1 y furent étudiés mais des rumeurs persistantes évoquent aussi des recherches pour mettre au point des armes bactériologiques. Des observateurs imaginent donc que le Coronavirus pourrait être une expérience ayant mal tourné, même si la plupart s’accordent pour dire qu’il provient d’un animal, et plus précisément d’une chauve-souris.

Ce scénario digne d’un roman de science-fiction n’est pas sans rappeler…un roman de science-fiction !

En 1981, le roman d’anticipation  Les yeux des ténèbres évoquait une arme bactériologique aux caractéristiques proches du COVID-19 et se propageant dans le monde entier aux alentours de l’année 2020. Si, dans la première version, celui-ci apparaissait en Russie, une réédition sortie en 2008 le faisait cette fois apparaître dans le Wuhan !

Dean Koontz, l’auteur, rentre ainsi dans le cercle fermé des auteurs dont l’œuvre fictive a été rattrapée par la réalité, aux côtés de George Orwell ou d’Aldous Huxley!

*Source : Breizh-info

samedi, 14 décembre 2019

La Terreur d'Arthur Machen


La Terreur d'Arthur Machen

par Juan Asensio

Ex: http://www.juanasensio.com

Autres textes: Arthur Machen dans la Zone.

La nouvelle intitulée La Terreur, écrite par Arthur Machen en 1917, peut être rapprochée de l'un des textes les plus fameux de l'auteur, Les Archers, publié, lui, le 29 septembre 1914 dans l'Evening Standard et qui fut l'une des sources les plus probables de la légende des Anges de Mons, sur laquelle cette page Wikipédia rédigée en anglais, fournit les principales caractéristiques.

La traduction française par Jacques Parsons de ce texte aussi célèbre qu'a priori anodin s'étend sur moins de cinq pages de notre édition (1) mais la brièveté de cette nouvelle est sans commune mesure avec la légende (et ses prolongements jusqu'à notre époque) qu'elle a fait naître selon toute vraisemblance.


C'est peut-être même cette brièveté, cette efficacité, qui sont à l'origine de la légende évoquant une légion d'anges venus prêter main-forte aux soldats anglais en mauvaise passe face aux troupes allemandes durant la Première Guerre mondiale.

Quoi qu'il en soit des phénomènes complexes qui ont conduit un texte littéraire à devenir ce que les sociologues et les experts en sciences criminelles appellent depuis quelques années une légende urbaine, un autre texte de Machen, une longue et splendide nouvelle intitulée La Terreur, semble n'être qu'un long commentaire des Archers, examinant les raisons du basculement d'un texte littéraire dans la légende et ce corpus de récits essentiellement oraux qu'Albert Dauzat, dans un beau livre aujourd'hui complètement oublié intitulé Légendes, prophéties et superstitions de la guerre publié en 1919 aux Éditions La Renaissance du Livre, a étudiés.

Je doute que La Terreur ait été enseignée en guise de modèle, remarquable, de propagande réussie en période de conflit. Elle devrait l'être en tout cas, et par toutes les officines de contre-espionnage. Arthur Machen décrit dans sa longue nouvelle une série de faits étranges qui surviennent dans une Angleterre en guerre contre l'Allemagne, un pays ennemi accusé d'avoir installé, sous la terre anglaise, des bases secrètes depuis lesquelles il distille une terreur implacable dans l'esprit des habitants de l'île réputée imprenable.

La vérité bien sûr, aussi surprenante qu'apocalyptique, n'aura strictement rien à voir avec les capacités allemandes à mettre sur pied un plan de guerre psychique sans faille mais ce point nous importe peu, de même que l'analyse que nous pourrions tirer des présupposés théologiques de Machen qui le font parvenir à une conclusion dont l'effet a été savamment distillé par notre grand maître du crescendo.


En quelques mots présentée, cette conclusion évoque une fin du monde possible traitée sous un angle pour le moins original puisqu'elle imagine une révolte des animaux contre l'homme déchu de sa grandeur, lui qui a quitté depuis «des siècles [...] sa robe royale et a essuyé sur sa poitrine le chrême qui l'a consacré» (p. 271).

Cet aspect-là de notre texte nous semble quoi qu'il en soit bien moins important que l'étude consacrée à la thématique du secret (l'un des mots les plus employés par Machen dans ce texte, avec ceux d'énigme et de mystère) et, aussi, mais ce point découle du précédent, les façons de le transmettre puis de le percer à jour.

L'oralité, à ce titre, est une des dimensions essentielles de la nouvelle de Machen, comme elle l'était dans Le Grand Dieu Pan, le titre le plus connu de l'auteur qui fut traduit par Paul-Jean Toulet, non sans que ce dernier n'en subisse le charme sulfureux.

Dans La Terreur, nous nous trouvons en temps de guerre : l'auteur cite lui-même (cf. p. 190) la légende de Mons qu'il a contribué à créer ou même créée de toutes pièces et il s'attarde longuement sur les vecteurs de la terreur, qui sont les conversations des habitants, puisque la censure du gouvernement veille pour que rien ne filtre de ce qui se produit dans plusieurs régions reculées de l'Angleterre. À vrai dire, les dirigeants anglais, selon toute vraisemblance, ne comprennent pas ce qui survient dans leur propre pays et l'imposition de la censure la plus stricte peut dès lors être comprise comme un paravent masquant une criante incompétence, aussi bien scientifique que militaire.

Quoi qu'il en soit, cette oralité est tellement puissante, nous dit Arthur Machen, que le récit des événements survenus «en sera secrètement transmis de père en fils, deviendra plus insensé à chaque génération, sans jamais réussir cependant à dépasser la vérité» (p. 268), cette vérité qui nous sera dévoilée à la fin du texte, à condition que nous ne nous laissions pas abuser par l'ambivalence, nous le verrons, de ce qui sera révélé, au sens apocalyptique du terme.

La suite de cet article figure dans Le temps des livres est passé.
Ce livre peut être commandé directement chez l'éditeur, ici.



jeudi, 12 septembre 2019

Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness


Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness

H. P. Lovecraft’s novella At the Mountains of Madness, serialized in Astounding in 1936, is one of his greatest works. The tale recounts an expedition to Antarctica in 1930 in which scholars from Miskatonic University stumble upon the ruins of a lost city. Their examination of the site paints a vivid picture of this once-great civilization, whose history reflects Lovecraft’s own political and social views.

Lovecraft had a lifelong fascination with the Antarctic and was an avid reader of Antarctic fiction. Among the books that influenced him were W. Frank Russell’s The Frozen Pirate, James De Mille’s A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder, and Edgar Allen Poe’s novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (the conclusion takes place in the Antarctic), from which he borrowed the cry of “Tekeli-li!”

The story is narrated by William Dyer, a geology professor at Miskatonic University and the leader of the expedition. The purpose of the expedition is to collect fossils with the aid of a high-tech drill invented by an engineering professor at the university. Along with more typical findings, they detect a triangular marking imprinted upon fragments of rock. Dyer claims that this is merely evidence of striations, but a certain Professor Lake unearths more prints and wishes to follow their lead.

HPL-mountains.jpgA group led by Lake sets off to investigate the source of the prints and discovers the remains of fourteen mysterious amphibious specimens with star-shaped heads, wings, and triangular feet. They are highly evolved creatures, with five-lobed brains, yet the stratum in which they were found indicates that they are about forty million years old. Shortly thereafter, Lake and his team (with the exception of one man) are slaughtered. When Dyer and the others arrive at the scene, they find six of the specimens buried in large “snow graves” and learn that the remaining specimens have vanished, along with several other items. Additionally, the planes and mechanical devices at the camp were tampered with. Dyer concludes that the missing man simply went mad, wreaked havoc upon the camp, and then ran away.

The following day, Dyer and a graduate student named Danforth embark on a flight across the mountains. The two discover a labyrinthine ancient megalopolis consisting of gargantuan fortifications and dark, titanic stone structures of various shapes (cones, pyramids, cubes, cylinders). Upon entering “that cavernous, aeon-dead honeycomb of primal masonry” through a gap left by a fallen bridge, they find that the interiors are adorned with intricate carvings chronicling the history of the city. They realize that the city’s inhabitants must have been the “Old Ones” (more precisely, the Elder Things) extraterrestrial beings described in the Necronomicon. 

The Old Ones were highly intelligent creatures who possessed advanced technology and had a sophisticated understanding of science. They came to the Antarctic Ocean from outer space soon after the moon was formed. They were responsible for the creation of shoggoths, “shapeless entities composed of a viscous jelly which looked like an agglutination of bubbles.” The shoggoths were unintelligent, slavish creatures designed to serve the Old Ones, who controlled them through hypnosis.

The Old Ones warred with Cthulhu spawn until Cthulhu cities (including R’lyeh) sank into the Pacific Ocean. The invasion of a species called the Mi-go during the Jurassic period prompted another war in which the Old Ones were driven out of northern lands back into their original Antarctic habitat.

Over time, the civilization of the Old Ones began to enter a dark age. The shoggoths mutated, broke their masters’ control over them, and rebelled. The carvings also allude to an even greater evil hailing from lofty mountains where no one ever dared to venture. The advent of an ice age that drove the Old Ones to abandon the city and settle underwater cemented their slow demise. For the construction of their new settlement, the Old Ones simply transplanted portions of their land city to the ocean floor, symbolizing their artistic decline and lack of ingenuity.

The carvings of the Old Ones became coarse and ugly, a parody of what they once had been. Dyer and Danforth attribute their aesthetic decline to the intrusion of something foreign and alien:

We could not get it out of our minds that some subtly but profoundly alien element had been added to the aesthetic feeling behind the technique—an alien element, Danforth guessed, that was responsible for the laborious substitution. It was like, yet disturbingly unlike, what we had come to recognize as the Old Ones’ art; and I was persistently reminded of such hybrid things as the ungainly Palmyrene sculptures fashioned in the Roman manner.

The squawking of a penguin beckons Dyer and Danforth to a dark tunnel, where they find the mutilated bodies of Old Ones who were brutally murdered and decapitated by shoggoths. They are covered in thick, black slime, the sight of which imparts Dyer with cosmic terror. He and Danforth flee the site and climb aboard the plane. Danforth glances backward and comes face-to-face with something so horrifying that he has a nervous breakdown and becomes insane.

The dichotomy between the Old Ones and the shoggoths reflects Lovecraft’s racial views. Lovecraft’s universe is a hierarchical one. The Old Ones are noble, highly evolved creatures who excel in art and technology. The shoggoths, meanwhile, are horrifyingly ugly and possess limited cognitive capabilities. Indeed, Lovecraft’s description of the shoggoths is nearly indistinguishable from this colorful description of inhabitants of the Lower East Side from one of his letters:

 . . . monstrous and nebulous adumbrations of the pithecanthropoid and amoebal; vaguely moulded from some stinking viscous slime of earth’s corruption, and slithering and oozing in and on the filthy streets or in and out of windows and doorways in a fashion suggestive of nothing but infesting worms or deep-sea unnamabilities.[1]

The Old Ones, despite being extraterrestrial beings, do not represent alien horrors. By the end of the book, Dyer exclaims, in awe of their civilization: “Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star-spawn—whatever they had been, they were men!” The great evil glimpsed by Danforth is the same evil feared by the Old Ones, and it is that which is embodied by the shoggoths.

Even the realization that the Old Ones slaughtered Lake and the others does not change this perception. When Dyer finds the corpse of the missing explorer (and his dog), he takes note of the care with which the Old Ones dissected and preserved the corpse. He admires their scientific approach and compares them to the scholars they killed.

The fact that the Old Ones’ demise was caused, in part, by their failure to subjugate the shoggoths could be a commentary on the horrors let loose by the emancipation of black slaves in America, or perhaps on Bolshevik revolts. The idea of a golem revolt also has a modern-day parallel in the possibility of malign artificial intelligence (see the paperclip problem).

That said, Lovecraft is not particularly concerned with how the Old Ones’ decline might have been averted. He shares Spengler’s view that civilizations are comparable to organisms and pass through an inevitable cycle of youth, manhood, and old age.

Spengler’s theories about history had a strong influence on Lovecraft. He read the first volume of Decline of the West in February 1927. In 1928, he remarked:

Spengler is right, I feel sure, in classifying the present phase of Western civilisation as a decadent one; for racial-cultural stamina shines more brightly in art, war, and prideful magnificence than in the arid intellectualism, engulfing commercialism, and pointless material luxury of an age of standardization and mechanical invention like the one now well on its course.[2]

In another letter, he writes: “It is my belief—and was so long before Spengler put his seal of scholarly approval on it—that our mechanical and industrial age is one of frank decadence; so far removed from normal life and ancestral conditions as to make impossible its expression in artistic media.”[3]

The word “decadent” appears many times in At the Mountains of Madness. While the oldest structure they encounter exhibits an artistry “surpassing anything else,” the later art “would be called decadent by comparison.”

Lovecraft’s description of the Old Ones’ government as “probably socialistic” reflects his growing disillusionment with laissez-faire capitalism. He may have been influenced by Spengler in this regard as well. He uses the term “fascistic socialism” in A Shadow Out of Time.

Another influence on At the Mountains of Madness was the Russian painter, archaeologist, and mystic Nicholas Roerich. Roerich is mentioned numerous times throughout the book, and Lovecraft’s prose is evocative of his haunting landscapes. One passage in particular brought to mind Roerich’s Path to Shambhala: “Distant mountains floated in the sky as enchanted cities, and often the whole white world would dissolve into a gold, silver, and scarlet land of Dunsanian dreams and adventurous expectancy under the magic of the low midnight sun.”

The ending of the book contains a harrowing portrait of one of Lovecraft’s most terrifying creations. The eldritch horror of the shoggoth represents, in distilled form, modernity and its pathologies. “Its first results we behold today,” he wrote in 1928, “though the depths of its cultural darkness are reserved for the torture of later generations.”[4]


1. H. P. Lovecraft, Selected Letters I.333-34.

2. II.228.

3. II.103-104.

4. II.305.


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dimanche, 31 mars 2019

Reflecting on the Interwar Right


Reflecting on the Interwar Right

Please note this rightist opposition to war must be distinguished from the objections of Communist sympathizers or generic leftists to certain wars for ideological reasons. For example, George McGovern, who was a longtime Soviet apologist, protested the Vietnam War, while defending his own role in dropping bombs on helpless civilians in World War Two. For McGovern the “good war” was the one in which the US found itself on the same side as the Soviets and world Communism. Clearly McGovern did not object to American military engagements for rightist reasons.

My own list of interwar American Rightists would include predominantly men of letters, e.g., Wallace Stevens, H.L. Mencken, George Santayana (who was Stevens’s teacher at Harvard and longtime correspondent), Robert Lee Frost, the Southern Agrarians, and pro-fascist literati Ezra Pound and Lovecraft, (if accept these figures as part of a specifically American Right). Although Isabel Patterson and John T. Flynn may have regarded themselves as more libertarian than rightist, both these authors provide characteristically American rightist criticism of the progress of the democratic idea. The same is true of the novelist and founder of the libertarian movement Rose Wilder Lane, whose sympathetic portrayal of an older America in “House on the Prairie” has earned the disapproval of our present ruling class. Many of our rightist authors considered themselves to be literary modernists, e.g., Stevens, Pound and Jeffers. But as has been frequently observed, modernist writers were often political reactionaries, who combined literary innovations with decidedly rightist opinions about politics. Significantly, not only Mencken but also Stevens admired Nietzsche, although in Stevens’s case this admiration was motivated by aesthetic affinity rather than discernible political agreement.

This occasions the inevitable question why so many generation defining writers, particularly poets, in the interwar years took political and cultural positions that were diametrically opposed to those of our current literary and cultural elites. Allow me to provide one obvious answer that would cause me to be dismissed from an academic post if I were still unlucky enough to hold one. Some of the names I’ve been listing belonged to scions of long settled WASP families, e.g., Frost, Stevens, Jeffers, and, at least on one side, Santayana, and these figures cherished memories of an older American society that they considered in crisis.  Jeffers was the son of a Presbyterian minister from Pittsburgh, who was a well-known classical scholar. By the time he was twelve this future poet and precocious linguist knew German and French as well as English and later followed the example of his minister father by studying classics, in Europe as well as in the US.

Other figures of the literary Right despised egalitarianism, which was a defining attitude of the self-identified Nietzschean Mencken. The Sage of Baltimore typified what the Italian Marxist Domenico Losurdo describes as “aristocratic individualism” and which Losurdo and Mencken identified with the German philosopher Nietzsche. This anti-egalitarian individualism was easily detected in such figures as Mencken, Pound and the Jeffersonian libertarian, Albert J. Nock.

états-unis,droite américaine,conservatisme,conservatisme américain,littérature,lettres,lettres américaines,littérature américaine,histoire,paul gottfried,philosophie,nietzschéismeIt may be Nock’s “Memoirs of a Superfluous Man” (1943) with its laments against modern leveling tendencies, and Nock’s earlier work “Our Enemy, The State” (1935) which incorporated most persuasively for me this concept of aristocratic individualism. Nock opposed the modern state not principally because he disapproved of its economic policies (although he may not have liked them as well) but because he viewed it as an instrument of destroying valid human distinctions. His revisionist work Myth of a Guilty Nation, which I’m about to reread, has not lost its power since Nock’s attack on World War One Allied propaganda was first published in 1922. Even more than Mencken, whose antiwar fervor in 1914 may have reflected his strongly pro-German bias, Nock opposed American involvement in World War One for the proper moral reasons, namely that the Western world was devouring itself in a totally needless conflagration. Curiously the self-described Burkean Russell Kirk depicts his discovery of Nock’s Memoirs of a Superfluous Man on an isolated army base in Utah during World War Two as a spiritual awakening. Robert Nisbet recounts the same experience in the same way in very similar circumstances. 

Generational influence:

These interwar rightists of various stripes took advantage of a rich academic-educational as well as literary milieu that was still dominated by a WASP patrician class before its descendants sank into Jed Bushism or even worse. These men and women of letters were still living in a society featuring classes, gender roles, predominantly family owned factories, small town manners, and bourgeois decencies. Even those who like Jeffers, Nock and Mencken viewed themselves as iconoclasts, today may seem, even to our fake conservatives, to be thorough reactionary. The world has changed many times in many ways since these iconoclasts walked the Earth. I still recall attending a seminar of literary scholars as a graduate student in Yale in 1965, ten years after the death of Wallace Stevens, and being informed that although Stevens was a distinguished poet, it was rumored that he was a Republican. Someone else then chimed in that Stevens was supposed to have opposed the New Deal, something that caused consternation among those who were attending. At the times I had reservations about the same political development but kept my views to myself. One could only imagine what the acceptance price for a writer in a comparable academic circle at Yale would be at the present hour. Perhaps the advocacy of state-required transgendered restrooms spaced twenty feet apart from each other or some even more bizarre display of Political Correctness.  I shudder to think.

But arguably the signs of what was to come were already present back in the mid-1960s. What was even then fading was the academic society that still existed when Stevens attended Harvard, Frost Dartmouth, though only for a semester, or Nock the still recognizably traditional Episcopal Barth College. Our elite universities were not likely to produce even in the 1960s Pleiades of right-wing iconoclasts, as they had in the interwar years and even before the First World War.  And not incidentally the form of American conservatism that came out of Yale in the post-war years quickly degenerated into something far less appealing than what it replaced. It became a movement in which members were taught to march in lockstep while advocating far-flung American military entanglements. The step had already been taken that led from the interwar Right to what today is conservatism, inc. Somehow the interwar tradition looks better and better with the passage of time.

lundi, 04 mars 2019

H. P. Lovecraft à la lumière du Soleil Levant


H. P. Lovecraft à la lumière du Soleil Levant

par Thierry Durolle

Nul n’est prophète en son pays… et en son temps ! Ce fut le cas du plus célèbre des écrivains fantastiques que le monde des hommes ait connu: Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Né en 1890 à Providence dans le Rhode Island et mort en 1937 dans la même ville, Lovecraft n’était pas un auteur populaire à son époque. Entre temps, son univers si particulier fut redécouvert mais surtout apprécié à sa juste valeur. Le « mythe de Lovecraft », pour reprendre l’expression de son biographe S.T. Joshi, a imprégné moult aspects et domaines de la culture populaire, du cinéma à la musique, en passant par l’art graphique, sur lequel nous allons nous pencher.

tdl-2.jpgMais avant cela, il faut tout d’abord revenir sur quelques caractéristiques majeurs, ainsi que quelques grands thèmes présents,pour ne pas dire constitutifs, de l’œuvre de Lovecraft. Évidemment il y a tout d’abord ces entités primordiales monstrueuses, ces abominations répondant aux noms de Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep ou bien encore Cthulhu. A l’instar de nombreux éléments qui façonnent l’univers de l’auteur, son panthéon noir est sujet à l’intertextualité : le lecteur retrouvera ces monstruosités dans divers nouvelles indépendantes des unes des autres. Ces horreurs sont également citées dans des livres, le plus souvent des vieux grimoires comme le Necronomicon, les Manuscrits Pnakotiques, l’Unaussprechlichen Kulten,etc, eux-aussi présents dans la plupart des écrits de Lovecraft (et il en est de même pour certains lieux, bien réels ou imaginaires). L’intertextualité constitue une véritable toile de fond qui contribue à la création de l’univers « lovecraftien ».

Un autre aspect de l’œuvre de H.P.Lovecraft est la dialectique Progrès/Conservatisme-rejet de la modernité. Nous savons que le « père » de Cthulhu s’était intéressé à l’astronomie et aux progrès scientifiques. Cela ne l’empêchait pourtant pas de ressentir une méfiance certaine envers les nouvelles découvertes, animé sans doute de cette peur de l’inconnu tellement humaine : il suffit de relire les nouvelles Herbert West, réanimateur et Les montagnes hallucinées pour s’en convaincre. H.P.Lovecraft aurait-il été un défenseur du concept de limite ? Il n’y a là qu’un pas que nous nous abstenons de faire, mais il nous semble plus mesuré de voir en lui une sorte de donneur d’alerte : les forces élémentaires, titaniques, risquent une nouvelle fois de faire irruption dans notre monde.

tdl-3.jpgCette dialectique s’accompagne ainsi d’une atmosphère anti-moderne palpable, voir d’un véritable retour à l’archaïque (type de sculptures, d’architectures, de sociétés humaines, etc). Mais, encore une fois, H.P.Lovecraft pouvait également s’intéresser à des « tendances » de son époque, comme l’eugénisme. Certes Lovecraft était raciste et antisémite – les pseudo-journalistes et autres écrivaillons n’oublient jamais de gloser là-dessus  bien évidemment – mais c’est surtout la dégénérescence atavique qui est intéressant chez lui. Les nouvelles La peur qui rode et surtout Le cauchemar d’Innsmouth mettent horriblement en avant ces thèmes, voir aussi celui du Destin.

Les montagnes hallucinées, à notre avis l’une des meilleures nouvelles de l’écrivain, emploie à merveille la dialectique mentionnée plus haut. L’ambiance y est glaciale, anxiogène mais parfois onirique, avec forcément une dose d’horreur sans quoi Lovecraft ne serait pas Lovecraft. Nous fûmes surpris d’apprendre la parution en français d’une adaptation de ce formidable récit en manga. C’est donc en néophyte curieux que nous nous sommes plongé dans le travail de Gou Tanabe.

Peu d’informations sur ce mangaka nous sont parvenues dans l’Hexagone. Né en 1975, Gou Tanabe s’est visiblement spécialisé dans l’adaptation de romans ou de nouvelles horrifiques japonaises, russes et américaines. The Hound (Le molosse) fut sa première adaptation d’une nouvelle de Lovecraft. Il s’attaque donc maintenant aux terribles montagnes de l’Antarctique.

tdl-4.jpgEn 1930, une expédition en Antarctique est organisée par l’Université Miskatonic. Celle-ci est composée de nombreux scientifiques et d’étudiants : biologistes, géologues, et physiciens. Ayant établi leur QG sur le mont Erebus, les premières découvertes ne tardent pas à voir le jour. Enthousiasmé, le Professeur Lake décide de poursuivre les recherches au nord-ouest. C’est en arrivant sur place qu’ils vont découvrir une chaîne de montagnes plus haute encore que l’Himalaya. Une fois leur camp installé, l’équipe met à jour une grotte abritant des restes de créatures inconnues, mi-animales, mi-végétales, que le Pr. Lake baptisera « les Anciens », en référence à la description de créatures semblables dans le Necronomicon. Une violente tempête s’abat sur la région et le contact entre les deux équipes est coupée. Le Professeur Dyer décide d’aller aider ses confrères partis au nord-ouest. Sur place, ils ne trouveront que les cadavres horriblement mutilés de l’équipe et des chiens de traîneau. Seul manque à l’appel Gedney, l’assistant de Lake, et un chien…

Cette adaptation est l’occasion d’étoffer une nouvelle au style narratif à la première personne qui ne s’embarrassait pas de dialogues (hormis entre Dyer et Danforth). C’est donc un développement qui devrait plaire aux inconditionnels de ce récit. Le dessin quant à lui est excellent. A l’évidence Gou Tanabe maîtrise son art et surtout son sujet. Il n’a pas son pareil pour dessiner des paysages lugubres. Sous sa plume, l’horrible plateau de Leng devient réalité. Cette adaptation des Montagnes hallucinées est une réussite. Il faut espérer que le mangaka ne s’arrêtera pas en si bon chemin.




jeudi, 24 janvier 2019

Ezra Pound’s Guide to Kulchur


Ezra Pound’s Guide to Kulchur

Ezra Pound’s Guide to Kulchur (1938) is one of those unfortunate great books (think Spengler’s Decline of the West and any book by Henry Adams) that is often mentioned but seldom read. The book was meant as a guide to the essential philosophy, art, economics, history, and ethics from Confucius to the 20th century as uniquely interpreted by Pound.

This and the ABC of Reading (1934) constituted the core texts of the “Ezra-versity,” the informal seminars that Pound held before World War II for those acolytes who came to visit him in Rapallo, Italy.

The book is dedicated to two of these acolytes and “graduates” of the Ezra-versity: the British poet Basil Bunting (1900–1985), author of Briggflatts; and the American Jewish poet Louis Zukofsky (1904–1978) whose monumental long poem “A” is the only work comparable in scope and complexity to Pound’s own Cantos.

EPguide.jpgGuide to Kulchur is unique in both its structure and style. Written in Pound’s folksy demotic English that at times seems more akin to Mark Twain or Joel Chandler Harris, the book is arranged in a series of very short chapters that seem to unfold in a haphazard fashion. The book’s form only becomes manifest the longer one reads, and by the end of the book one is amazed at how Pound has managed to weave seamlessly the many strands of Western and ancient Chinese thought.

 [2]For Pound, philosophy and ethics begin with Confucius, particularly the Confucian idea that a well-ordered and moral society is based upon the imperative to call things by their correct names. This may seem like a minor point upon which to build a civilizational edifice, but it is, in reality, nothing less than a commitment to truth telling, a commitment that is sorely at odds with our own postmodern age that has abandoned the search for truth as a sine qua non. For Pound, the commitment to truth telling extends not only to philosophy and the arts but also to economics. His unique and highly critical take on the ancient Greek philosophers (especially Aristotle) stems in no little part, as he sees it, from their inability to conceive of money as other than a means of measurement without a basis in morality. Pound viewed the ancient Greeks as “happy men with no moral fervor”[1] [3] who represented a decline from the seriousness of their Homeric era ancestors.

While Pound’s embrace of Social Credit economics and strong denunciation of usury are well known, the Guide to Kulchur reveals how closely Pound linked together economics and aesthetics. In the very remarkable Chapter 50, entitled “Chaucer Was Framed,” Pound states:

Usury is contra naturam. It is not merely opposition to nature’s
increase, it is antithetic to discrimination by the senses. Discrimination
by the senses is dangerous to avarice. It is dangerous because any
perception or any high development of the perceptive faculties may
lead to knowledge. The moneychanger only thrives on ignorance.
He thrives on all sorts of insensitivity and non-perception.
An instant sense of proportion imperils financiers.[2] [4]

 [5]Pound’s insights are as remarkable as they are prescient. An imperiled aesthetic sense that is incapable of discerning differences of quality and meaning and that cannot sense subtleties of emotion is necessary for a complacent body of fungible consumers who, in the words of Oscar Wilde, “know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Pound, who viewed the Medieval Church as the highest expression of Western Civilization, likewise saw Calvinist Protestantism as its lowest expression, one that permitted, indeed glorified, usury and the inability to make aesthetic and moral distinctions:

You can, by contrast, always get financial backing for
debauchery. Any form of “entertainment” that debases perception,
that profanes the mysteries or tends to obscure discrimination, goes
hand in hand with drives toward money profit.
It might not be too much to say that the whole of protestant
morals, intertwined with usury-tolerance, has for centuries tended
to obscure perception of degrees, to debase the word moral to a
single groove, to degrade all moral perceptions outside the relation
of the sexes, and to vulgarize the sex relation itself.[3] [6]

What is remarkable here is that Pound was able to see through the practices and goals of the leftist globalists at precisely the time that the right-wing nationalists were at the zenith of their power. These two paragraphs of Pound’s explain why the globalists use pornography as a means to normalize sexual perversions in order to subvert white family formation. They also explain the bread-and-circus nature of the global financiers to keep consumers satiated with cheap toys and gadgets. And finally, Pound was able to ascertain that Calvinist morality has led to an inability of our enemies to be able to make moral distinctions, wherein any disagreement with a leftist, however minor, becomes an example of “hate speech” in which the speaker literally becomes Adolf Hitler. It is also amazing that Pound saw the origin of leftist ideology in Calvinism, and as such, antedates by more than half a century the same conclusion brought by the Neoreactionaries, especially Curtis Yarvin a/k/a Mencius Moldbug.

Pound is a demanding author. He does not suffer fools gladly and he expects his readers to do their homework, but the rewards are many for those readers who are up to the challenge. Guide to Kulchur should be an essential book in the library of every white nationalist. Although written 80 years ago, the book is even more relevant today than it was when it was written, for in the words of its author:

            Liberalism is a running sore, and its surviving proponents
are vile beyond printable descriptions. They have betrayed the “Droits
            de l’homme”, they are more dastardly than Judas . . . .
In our time the liberal has asked for almost no freedom save
the freedom to commit acts contrary to the general good.[4] [7]

I rest my case.


[1] [8] Ezra Pound, Guide to Kulchur (New York: New Directions, 1970 [1938]), p. 330.

[2] [9] Ibid., p. 281.

[3] [10] Ibid., pp. 281–82.

[4] [11] Ibid., p. 254.


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jeudi, 13 décembre 2018

La beat generation













La beat generation

Orages d'acier - 09/10/2016

La Beat generation Emission avec Hector Burnouf,
Clovis de forme et le Dr. Gluck présentée par Monsieur K..
La Beat Generation,un manifeste en rupture avec l'Amérique
Jack Kerouac Sur la route,
Alan Ginsberg, William Burroughs Route rythme et macadam contre Moloch,
experience hallucinogène, e
sthétique et éthilique
En péripherie de la Beat:
Charles Bukosky Alchool et conscience altérée,
Julius Evola et la Beat génération : antimaterialisme, anti impérialisme,
Evola, LSD, transgression et aristocratie narcotique
Zero drogue
Une emission en compagnie de Dyonisos
Fétichisation de la Beat : l'exposition du Centre Pompidou,
Kerouac à Paris, narquois sur la mode américaine,
Amour des choses vraies et les petites gens,
Kerouac, un Orwell américain ?
Common decency,
Kerouac, mystique, bigot et puritain,
Recupération par les élites décomposées,
Kerouac Catholique, Breton et Français du Canada !
Kerouac disciple de Saint François d'Assise,
Kerouac "marie" une amérindienne...
24'45'' Pause musicale
La Beat et les femmes,
Mysoginie et amour des femmes,
Beat et homosexualité transgressive,
Modernité radicale, modernes anti modernes,
Baroque et picaresque,
Guerriers et colons et mystiques,
Satori du samourai,
Spiritualités: du Judaisme au Boudhisme et à l'Hindouisme,
Yukio Mishima,
Pantheisme cosmique,
Beat ou béats ?
Aspects litteraires, une expérience autobiographique - retour de Sainte-Beuve,
Postérité de la Beat,
Beat et Hussards,
Actualité de la Camisole, la revue de la Droite universitaire.
® Musiques : Apache" de The Shadows (Google Play • iTunes)
Mr. Wullie Blake The Beat Generation featuring Jack Kerouac
Générique : Kreuzweg Ost - Für Kaiser, Gott und Vaterland

vendredi, 03 août 2018

Pagan Pound


Pagan Pound

The following is the text of a talk given in London on May 27, 2018 at The Poet at War, an event convened by Vortex Londinium.

“We want an European religion. Christianity is verminous with semitic infections. What we really believe is the pre-Christian element which Christianity has not stamped out . . .”[1] [2]

“If a race NEGLECTS to create its own gods, it gets the bump.”[2] [3]

“The glory of the polytheistic anschauung is that it never asserted a single and obligatory path for everyone. It never caused the assertion that everyone was fit for initiation and it never caused an attempt to force people into a path alien to their sensibilities.

 Paganism never feared knowledge. It feared ignorance, and under a flood of ignorance it was driven out of its temples.”[3] [4]

Pound is a forest and one is in need of principles by which to navigate him, otherwise one is apt to lose sight of the wood for the trees, as we say in English. What I shall call Pound’s paganism can, I submit, offer one of the more direct routes into the man and his work, and in particular, into the heart of his most difficult: The Cantos.

At the same time, in the opposite direction, his poetry and prose can bring one to a better understanding of this part of our heritage and its potentialities, and here I intend no narrowly partisan point. By paganism I mean a central stream in European civilization, something that has participated in the formation of Christianity just as much as offering alternative visions of life. To give one example, the theologically fundamental doctrine of the Trinity is arguably a modified form of the Neo-Platonic triad of the One, Intellect, and Soul, in which the latter two emanate from the One and yet both are equivalent to it and yet not equivalent to it. St. Augustine in his Confessions confirms [5] that he and other Christian intellectuals believed thus that the Neo-Platonists had already had an awareness of the persons of the Trinity.

Pound was pagan in three respects. First, he accepted as true ideas from the pre- and non-Christian philosophers. One finds a Neo-Platonic orientation of mind, in the foreground or background, from the very first poem in his first published anthology, “Grace Before Song,” to the very last words of the final Canto, “Canto CXVI”:

To confess wrong without losing rightness:
Charity I have had sometimes,
I cannot make it flow thru.
A little light, like a rushlight
to lead back to splendour.[4] [6]

It is the idea of light as the symbol for a higher form of reality, of a more real reality, which all things may draw closer towards and so perfect themselves – it is this idea that unites how he speaks of the ethical precepts of Confucius, the financial theories of Major Douglas, the politics of John Adams, and the poetry of Cavalcanti, all aids towards the perfected man and the perfected society.

This is that first poem, from A Lume Spento, in 1908:

Lord God of heaven that with mercy dight
Th’alternate prayer wheel of the night and light
Eternal hath to thee, and in whose sight
Our days as rain drops in the sea surge fall,

As bright white drops upon a leaden sea
Grant so my songs to this grey folk may be:

As drops that dream and gleam and falling catch the sun
Evan’scent mirrors every opal one
Of such his splendor as their compass is,
So, bold My Songs, seek ye such death as this.[5] [7]

EP-port2.jpgThe second and obvious respect in which Pound was pagan was that he accepted as valid indigenous images, names, and myths, by which Deity has revealed Itself to the Europeans. He claimed that the only safe guides in religion were Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the writings of Confucius.[6] [8]

Which brings one to the third respect. He was pagan in his ethics, in the sense that he sought precepts that had arisen through tradition, were enshrined in custom, and were implicit in the natural order and man’s place within it. When he was captured by the partisans after the war and assumed he was about to face execution, it was the Analects of Confucius that he took with him, which he considered a better guide to moral behavior than the Bible: “The unshakable wisdom of Confucius . . . in comparison with which Christianity is a fad.”[7] [9]

In Pagan Ethics: Paganism as a World Religion,[8] [10] Professor Michael York unambiguously speaks of Confucianism as a religion, with its principles of solicitous care, decency, and benevolence, and the obverse of the Golden Rule: Do not do to others as you would not have done to yourself. Another example: Act in such a way that your descendants will be glad. In its emphasis on correct relationships between oneself and one’s family, between oneself and those above one and below one in society, between oneself and those who came before one in time, and between oneself and those who will come after one, Pound perceived the same multi-directional communitarian values that he found in Fascism.

Cut to London in the years following 1908, when Pound settled here. With the rise of science and biblical scholarship precipitating a crisis of faith in the mid-nineteenth century, some of the space hitherto occupied by the established denominations began to be filled by mysticism, occultism, and philosophies drawn from earlier times or from other parts of the world; and this was nowhere more evident than within the artistic circles in which Pound would move. The Theosophical Society was founded by Madame Blavatsky in 1875, and one of the emblematic texts of the aesthetic movement, Walter Pater’s work of fiction, Marius the Epicurean, appeared ten years later, providing a fully fleshed-out account of how non-Christian, Classical concepts of spirituality and the Good might be just as valid a way to live well as the prevailing religious norms.

The major source which fed Pound’s development as a religious thinker was, as has been indicated, Neo-Platonism, which is simply the continuation of Plato’s ideas, namely their elaboration and exegesis, principally through Plotinus but also through a host of others, including Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola in Italy, and later through the translations of the eighteenth-century English Neo-Platonist Thomas Taylor, whose books were read by and influenced poets such as Blake, Shelley, and Yeats.

What Pound found within Neo-Platonism was:

  1. The idea of henosis, that is to say union or reunion with the absolute One, which could manifest as a mystical experience. On his deathbed, Plotinus is reported to have summarized his teaching thus: “Try to bring back the god in oneself to the divine in the All.”[9] [11]
  2. The idea that an individual soul has a better, higher, and true self, and that this superior self seeks its return to the One that gave birth to all creation.
  3. The idea that experience results from the tension between the poles of the temporal and the eternal.
  4. The idea that the beauty of the absolute One descends into the beauty of the Platonic world of forms, and is then instantiated in the material world.

It seems Pound was congenitally disposed to such ideas. When interviewed during his stay in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital after his return to America in 1946, he said he had been under the influence of mysticism between the ages of 16 to 24.[10] [12] Later in his life, he wrote two refreshingly precise and disciplined statements of his own philosophy:Religio, or the Child’s Guide to Knowledge (1918) and “Axiomata” (1923). The first is a catechism, a series of simple questions and answers which enunciates a pagan theology as well as any other text of such brevity of which I am aware.


He was drawn to Plotinus because Plotinus defended the value of worldly sensations and attacked their rejection by the Gnostics, who thought physicality evil in some sense. He was drawn to the idea in Plotinus that the beauty of this world is the manifestation of a celestial beauty, which we may not be able to grasp but which is yet a glimpse of a paradise that imparts to us, within a limited time, an unlimited joy.

But unlike Plotinus, who thought that this glimpse into the world of ideal forms was but the penultimate stage in the union with the One, a union with the absolute, an entity without parts or qualities, Pound seemed to believe that this was an unwarranted assumption, which one’s highest experiences neither legitimated nor needed. His type of paganism was without dogmatism or unnecessary abstraction: “To replace the marble Goddess on Her pedestal at Terracina is worth more than any metaphysical argument.”[11] [13]

The vast, sprawling, expansive sequence of poems called The Cantos is Pound’s attempt to fashion a work that embraced all things that seemed relevant, all things that needed to be said. It makes use of twenty-five languages – twenty-six if one includes musical notation. It draws on Dante’s Divine Comedy in the progression from the dark depths to the upper regions; Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the treatment of impermanence and change, and of the human and the mythic; and Homer’s Odyssey, in the hero’s endeavor to succeed over obstacles and achieve victory, and victory not merely in worldly terms.

Plotinus regarded Homer’s Odyssey as a metaphor for the journey of the individual soul to return home into the Great Soul of the absolute, and this became for Pound almost a foundational myth for civilization. The Cantos begins therefore with an account of Odysseus making landfall and offering sacrifice to the gods. Paganism, in its Hellenic manifestation, he saw as the golden thread that ran overtly through the Classical era, covertly through the Middle Ages, and surfaced again in the Renaissance, indeed being implicit alongside the explicit Christianity of his favorite author, Dante Alighieri.

In the essay “Psychology and Troubadours” (1912), he posited a continuity of Classical paganism in the south of France:

Provence was less disturbed than the rest of Europe by invasion . . . if paganism survived anywhere, it would have been, unofficially, in the Langue d’Oc. That the spirit was, in Provence, Hellenic, is seen readily enough by anyone who will compare the Greek Anthology with the work of the Troubadours. They have, in some way, lost the names of the Gods, and remembered the names of lovers.[12] [14]

ep-context.jpgOne recognizes a person that one actually knows by sight, by who the person is, not because of the name. A person may be called by different names yet be the same person still. “Tradition inheres in the images of the Gods, and gets lost in dogmatic definitions . . . But the images of the Gods . . . move the soul to contemplation and preserve the tradition of the undivided light.”[13] [15]

Before I close with a poem, I should like to put forward two conclusions.

First, with the insights into the Cantos offered by Neoplatonic paganism, one can put to one side some of the less inspiring critical readings – that it is a record of a lifetime’s reading, or an old man’s descent into confusion – and it becomes again the epic he intended it to be, the struggle of light against darkness, of heroes with themselves and with the world to reach a blessed place.

And second, with Pound’s veneration for the past and his appetite for the future, for making it new, as he put it, with his courage and capacity for friendship, with the range of his enthusiasms, and the range of what he was not satisfied with, he is an ideal figure to head any movement of European rebirth. And this poem, “Surgit Fama”[14] [16] (“it rises to fame”), seems to be about that more than anything else. The first stanza depicts a stirring in the world, the coming of Korè who is Persephone, the returning and reborn Spring; in consort with Leuconoë, the girl to whom Horace addresses the famous injunction to seize the day, carpe diem.[15] [17] In the second stanza, when the poet tries to render this into verse, he has to resist any superfluity, any unnecessary words that may be circulated as rumor or bent in their meaning, which he feels Hermes may tempt him to, and he addresses himself, exhorting himself to speak true. And in the final stanza that is what he does, when he says how in Delos, the island where it was said Apollo and Artemis were born, once again shall rites be enacted and the story continued.

There is a truce among the Gods,
Korè is seen in the North
Skirting the blue-gray sea
In gilded and russet mantle.
The corn has again its mother and she, Leuconoë,
That failed never women,
Fails not the earth now.

The tricksome Hermes is here;
He moves behind me
Eager to catch my words,
Eager to spread them with rumour;
To set upon them his change
Crafty and subtle;
To alter them to his purpose;
But do thou speak true, even to the letter:

“Once more in Delos, once more is the altar a quiver.
Once more is the chant heard.
Once more are the never abandoned gardens
Full of gossip and old tales.”


[1] [18] Ezra Pound, “Statues of Gods,” The Townsman, August 1939; in William Cookson (ed.), Ezra Pound, Selected Prose 1909-1965 (London: Faber and Faber, 1973), p. 71.

[2] [19] Ezra Pound, “Deus et Amor,” The Townsman, June 1940; Selected Prose, p. 72.

[3] [20] Ezra Pound, “Terra Italica,” The New Review, Winter, 1931-2; Selected Prose, p. 56.

[4] [21] Ezra Pound, The Cantos (London: Faber and Faber, 1975), p. 743.

[5] [22] Michael John King (ed.), The Collected Early Poems of Ezra Pound, ed. Michael John King (London: Faber and Faber, 1977), p. 7.

[6] [23] In a letter from 1922 to Dr. Felix E. Schelling, in D. D. Paige (ed.), The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound, 1907-1941 (London: Faber and Faber, 1950), p. 182.

[7] [24] “Statues of Gods,” Selected Prose, p. 71.

[8] [25] Michael York, Pagan Ethics: Paganism as a World Religion (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2016), p. 356.

[9] [26] Porphyry, The Life of Plotinus, in Plotinus, vol. I, trans. Arthur Hilary Armstrong (Cambridge, Mass.: Loeb Classics, Harvard University Press, 1995), p. 7.

[10] [27] Peter Liebregts, Ezra Pound and Neoplatonism (Madison: Rosemont Publishing, 2004), p. 34.

[11] [28] Ezra Pound, “A Visiting Card,” written in Italian and first published in Rome in 1942; the translation by John Drummond was first published by Peter Russell in 1952; Selected Prose, p. 290.

[12] [29] Ezra Pound, The Spirit of Romance (London: Peter Owen, 1952), p. 90.

[13] [30] “A Visiting Card”; Selected Prose, p. 277.

[14] [31] Ezra Pound, Collected Shorter Poems (London: Faber and Faber, 1952), p. 99.

[15] [32] Horace, Odes, I, XI.

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[5] St. Augustine in his Confessions confirms: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/trinity-history.html

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mardi, 17 avril 2018

La beat generation


La beat generation

Orages d'acier - 09/10/2016

Fréquence Orages d'acier #36 :
La Beat generation Emission avec Hector Burnouf, Clovis de forme et le Dr. Gluck présentée par Monsieur K..
La Beat Generation, un manifeste en rupture avec l'Amérique
Jack Kerouac Sur la route,
Alan Ginsberg,
William Burroughs
Route rythme et macadam contre Moloch, experience hallucinogène, esthétique et éthilique
En péripherie de la Beat:
Charles Bukosky
Alchool et conscience altérée,
Julius Evola et la Beat génération : antimaterialisme, anti impérialisme, antibourgeoisisme
Evola, LSD, transgression et et aristocratie narcotique
Zero drogue
Une emission en compagnie de Dyonisos
Fétichisation de la Beat : l'exposition du Centre Pompidou,
Kerouac à Paris, narquois sur la mode américaine,
Amour des choses vraies et les petites gens,
Kerouac, un Orwell américain ?
Common decency,
Kerouac, mystique, bigot et puritain,
Recupération par les élites décomposées,
Kerouac Catholique, Breton et Français du Canada !
Kerouac disciple de Saint François d'Assise,
Kerouac "marie" une amérindienne...
24'45'' Pause musicale
La Beat et les femmes,
Mysoginie et amour des femmes,
Beat et homosexualité transgressive,
Modernité radicale, modernes anti modernes,
Baroque et picaresque,
Guerriers et colons et mystiques,
Satori du samourai,
Spiritualités: du Judaisme au Boudhisme et à l'Hindouisme,
Yukio Mishima,
Pantheisme cosmique,
Beat ou béats ?
Aspects litteraires, une expérience autobiographique - retour de Sainte-Beuve,
Postérité de la Beat,
Beat et Hussards,
Actualité de la Camisole, la revue de la Droite universitaire.
® Musiques : Apache" de The Shadows (Google Play • iTunes) Mr. Wullie Blake The Beat Generation featuring Jack Kerouac
Générique : Kreuzweg Ost - Für Kaiser, Gott und Vaterland https://soundcloud.com/orages-dacier/...

jeudi, 22 mars 2018

The “Great War” and Tyranny: E. E. Cummings and John Dos Passos on the Destruction of Order 1914-18


The “Great War” and Tyranny: E. E. Cummings and John Dos Passos on the Destruction of Order 1914-18

The conservative historical view tends to correlate the ascendancy of the ideological dictatorships with the degrading tumult of World War II, making of the Nazi-Communist rivalry in the 1930s the tense build-up to that war while interpreting the conflict itself as a paroxysmatic re-ordering of world politics. The regulation of the re-ordered world would be technocratic and autocratic – it would ideological – whether the victorious global hegemon was the United States of America or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. A type of elective étatisme was in the air. The British majority, for example, voted socialist immediately the conflict ended, contemptuously booting the architect of the victory, Winston Churchill, from office. France and Italy contended with large, well-organized Communist Parties and likewise embarked on the nationalization of their economies and the provision of generous welfare guarantees to the citizenry. The liberal colonization of institutions begins in this period, to become implacable and irreversible about the time that the Soviet Union dissolves in 1990. Quite apart from historical discussion, many non-scholars who think of themselves as conservatives nourish the notion that the “soft” totalitarianism of the contemporary politically correct regime in the West has only a short pedigree and that but a few decades ago, as in the 1950s, perhaps, tradition still reigned and things were in their proper proportion and arrangement. Of course such a view ignores the “enlightened” managerialism of Woodrow Wilson and the socialist quasi-dictatorial style of Franklin D. Roosevelt, just as it ignores the mobilized character of such phenomena as Suffragism and Prohibitionism, early phases of the liberal project that confusingly coincided with the anti-immigration and anti-Communist movements.


E. E. Cummings

The most famous literary dystopia, George Orwell’s 1984, sees publication in 1948, but the most plausible literary dystopia, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, sees publication in 1932. The 1920s and 30s see a flood in spate of critical anti-modern discourse, not least in the single most definitive, formally modernist, text of all, T. S. Eliot’s Waste Land (1922); but also in philosophical works by Oswald Spengler, Nicolas Berdyaev, Herman Keyserling, René Guénon, Paul Valéry, Christopher Dawson, and Jacques Maritain, and in novels and short stories by, among others, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pär Lagerkvist, Thomas Mann, Huxley himself, and two American contemporaries of Fitzgerald, E. E. Cummings (1894 – 1962) and John Dos Passos (1896 – 1970). Cummings and Dos Passos attended Harvard as undergraduates at the same time, studied with George Santayana, and absorbed his skepticism about modernity. They decided, before Wilson took America to war, to see the front first-hand by joining the ambulance service. Cummings and Dos Passos served in the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps as volunteers. Both fathomed the war keenly and both wrote about their experiences within a few years of the Armistice. In The Enormous Room (1922), an experimental non-fiction novel, and in Three Soldiers (1923), a novelistic panorama of America at war, Cummings and Dos Passos respectively and decisively break ranks with what they have come convergently to regard as the claptrap of war talk and the enlistment of whole societies in a project of total conflict.

I. The correctly – that is to say, passively – educated know Edward Estlin Cummings best as “e. e. cummings,” author of brilliant lyric poems, owing something to French Symbolist poetry, and written in an idiosyncratic English that omits capitalization and scrambles grammar and syntax. (Carefully scrambles, but never flouts.) Most of Cummings’ verse belongs to the genre of erotic poetry, but more than a few items of his bardic creativity are scathingly, bitterly satiric, suggesting when taken in isolation a strain of unmitigated sarcasm.

“next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country ‘tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

cummings cubist portrait.jpgThe “hip” high-school English teachers of one’s youth in the 1960s and the eager, clueless assistant professors of one’s contemporary acquaintance naturally suppose, on the basis of this quasi-sonnet (in the pattern of fourteen lines established by Petrarch), that Cummings must have conducted himself as a self-congratulating liberal, meticulously thinking only approved thoughts, quite as each of them does. Devotees of Goodthink thus interpret the poem for their students catechistically, as their instructors have previously interpreted it for them, seeing in it an attack on patriotism as such, on America as such, on seriousness and high sentiment as such, and, naturally, as the indiscriminate rejection of anything established or traditional. They mistake the syntactic displacements for the “deconstruction” of something, perceiving illusorily a model of the sacrcastico-piety that passes today as humor. When one of the professoriate kens that later in life after a visit to the Soviet Union in 1932, Cummings became an ardent anti-Communist who would defend the activities of Senator Joseph McCarthy – then, as in the case of recent Cummings biographer Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno, the discourse devolves into condescension. Cummings acquires the epithet of a “hard-line quarrelsome conservative.” Sawyer-Lauçanno also dislikes Cummings for his disdain of homosexuals. Another critic accuses Cummings of “racism” although the use of the forbidden-for-some n-word in Cummings’ published work is obviously denunciatory.

The book that glosses “next to of course god america i,” The Enormous Room, also testifies to its author’s youthful courage and passion for truth, recounting as it does quasi una documentaria his brutal collision with the French Republic, whose violated sovereignty, as he saw it on volunteering, he had crossed an ocean to save from “Prussian Tyranny.” (In the phrase Cummings quotes President Wilson ironically.) In uncanny anticipation of the imbroglio that first inducted Alexander Solzhenitsyn into Archipelago Gulag, an epistolary association brought the suspicious eye of the French wartime government on Cummings, whose buddy in the Norton-Harjes “Section Sanitaire Vingt-et-Un,” William Slater Brown, had written letters in which, casually, he criticized the policies of La belle nation. Betrayal would steal on Cummings, however, from more than one direction. His supervisor in the ambulance outfit, in Kafkaesque nomenclature “Mr. A,” despised Cummings and Brown because he also despised “dirty Frenchmen,” whom the two volunteers admired and with whom they persisted in fraternizing. One day, shortly after the arrival of “a gentleman in a suspiciously quiet French uniform” along with two soldiers, Cummings found himself under arrest and being transported, none too politely, to what turned out to be the Porte de Triage, essentially a political prison, at La Ferté-Macé in Lower Normandy. “Mr. A” did nothing to help either Cummings or Brown; nor did Norton-Harjes, nor did the American government.

752951.jpgThe Enormous Room provides one of the earliest accounts, outside of the French Revolution and the final half-century of Czarist Russia, of political arrest and incarceration. Like the recorders of étatist persecution in those other milieux, Cummings knows with instantaneous conviction that spying on private opinion signifies the advent of a totalitarian order the ideological rigidity and intolerance of which motivate a program of investigation and punishment. This regime directs its supervision at even the most trivial and private utterances of doubt concerning the legitimacy of the state. Such a regime must, according to the insidious logic of its principles, declare war against conscience. In so doing that regime will swiftly make hellish the nation-state it controls. From this premise about ideological-totalitarian politics comes the appropriateness of Cummings’ outstanding narrative gestures, which draw on the descent-imagery of Dante’s Inferno and the tribulation-plot of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Dante’s native Florence banished him in 1301 when the Ghibelline faction gained power in the city. Bunyan wrote A Pilgrim’s Progress during his twelve years in jail (1660 – 1672) for the offending the Church of England by the lese-majesté of unlicensed preaching.

The scene in which Cummings, after a long sleepless journey by railroad and automobile, at last reaches the Porte de Triage takes inspiration from various Alighierian motifs and from the depictions of Satan by the painters of the Flemish school, especially Jerome Bosch. In the famous triptych, Bosch represents Satan as devouring and excreting the capital sinners. The policeman-clerk who processes Cummings at La Ferté-Macé cannot get his Gallic jaw around the American’s surname: Vous êtes uh-ah KEW-MANGZ… Vous vous appelez KEW MANGZ, n’est-ce pas?” To the inquisition, “why are you here,” Cummings furnishes a non-cooperative sais pas,” after which his inquisitor says, Il a écrit, votre ami, des bêtises, n’est-ce pas?” The moral kernel of such black humor is the metaphysics of the proper name, which Cummings takes seriously. Mangling the name is the objective correlative, as T. S. Eliot might say, of the state’s assault on the person, the inner-person, the conscience. The same petty official says, “Your friend got you into a lot of trouble,” a clumsy attempt to misidentify the agents of injustice. N’importe,” Cummings replies, “we are camarades.”

The system has nevertheless ingested Cummings, who finds himself in the belly of the beast, with its “monstrous atmospheric slime” and “sweet unpleasant odor.” The gendarme has ushered him into the titular Room, where some sixty inmates bide their time for having committed this or that infraction against the absolute privilege of the state. When Cummings awakes on his first morning, Slater-Brown proves himself already present, maintaining paradoxically that, “this is the finest place on earth!” Slater-Brown means what he says morally, of course. Physically, the Enormous Room is overcrowded; its denizens, through no fault of their own, bathe but rarely, and the place stinks from body-odor, piss-pots, and the cabinet d’aisance. And yet distinctions have become adamant and unavoidable. Monsieur le Directeur, for example, specializes in the bullying and abuse of those under detention. “As soon as he saw me,” Slater-Brown tells Cummings, “he bellowed: Imbecile et inchrétien!’; and then he called me a great lot of other things, including Shame of my Country, Traitor to the sacred cause of Liberty, Contemptible coward and Vile Sneaking Spy.”

eec-sm.jpgThe bureaucratic vulgarity that typifies the corporate patois of La Ferté-Macé, especially the use of political clichés of the lowest order during humiliating dressings-down and interrogations, would find concentrated expression in the quasi-sonnet ‘next to of course god america i.” The punitive regimen of La Ferté-Macé extends, however, beyond ritualized verbal abuse; it extends to les cabinots – the wet tubercular chastisement cells to which, at any time, Monsieur le Directeur might consign an inmate. Cummings calls the Director “Apollyon,” the name of the devil in A Pilgrim’s Progress. In his tiny domain, reflecting the perversions in the larger domain without, the Director is “a very complete Apollyon, a Satan whose word is dreadful not because it is painstakingly unjust, but because it is incomprehensibly omnipotent.”

II. The Director figures forth, in Cummings’ words, the “perfect representative of the Almighty French Government.” The adjective, borrowed from theology, indicates compactly an analysis of pure secularity that affiliates The Enormous Room to the work of Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre, and such Twentieth Century writers as Nicolas Berdyaev and Eliot. When the state decides to promote itself to godhead the result is not divinity but devilishness, the negation of decency, and a degrading mockery of all things good. The prison building itself, a medieval structure, strikes Cummings as having once served a religious purpose, as a monastery maybe or a cloister. The Director permits Catholic Mass on Sunday, but the Mass takes on the perverse, unholy character of its surroundings. The priest, who changes every week, works with an assistant, a jailer, who never changes, and who polices the Mass, “to gaze about from time to time upon the worshippers for purposes of intimidation.” One priest solemnly tells the celebrants what they already know to be true based on their incarcerated lives, that, L’Eternité est une existence sans durée.” Elsewhere and often Cummings refers to La Ferté as La misère.

The totalitarian regime cannot permit un-vetted thought or its expression; worse than that, the regime insists, not that the dissenter keep his peace, but that the dissenter volubly assent to the correct – to government-approved – locutions. Le gouvernement français had jailed Cummings and Slater-Brown because the latter committed to writing, in letters destined to his family back home, his private reservations about Allied war aims. Cummings shared Slater-Brown’s skepticism. Even before arriving at La Ferté, when he had only just been arrested, Cummings faced questions about his attitude to Les boches. “Monsieur asked,” Cummings records, “if I would have any hesitation in dropping bombs on Germans.” Cummings assented that he would be ready to bomb German soldiers – on the battlefield. That answer pleased the official too little. Est-ce-que vous detestez les boches?” Cummings comes back with: Non. J’aime beaucoup les français.” To which the official insists, “It is impossible to love Frenchmen and not to hate Germans.” Cummings thus finds himself under coercive pressure to join in ritualized collective hatred that is based on logical non-sequiturs and that grossly violates Christian precepts.

Cummings resolves never to relent in resisting the program of conscience-betrayal. He always responds to and records knowledge that bolsters his standing judgment. A fellow inmate called One-Eyed David (“Da-veed”) “had been in prison at Noyon during the German occupation, which he described fully and without hyperbole.” David, Cummings writes, “had seen with his own eyes a French girl extend an apple to one of the common soldiers as the German army entered the outskirts of the city.” The soldier, as David narrated, refused. The soldier said, “Pardon, Madame… but you must know that a German soldier is forbidden to take anything without paying for it.” The plausible anecdote about Teutonic decorousness makes hay of Allied propaganda about Les boches. David tells another story, this one at second or third hand, but having equally the ring of truth. David’s barber’s brother, an airman, “was flying over the lines, and he was amazed, one day, to see that French guns were not firing on the boches but on the French themselves.” When the aviator reports what he has seen to a staff officer at headquarters, the reply comes that, “They have begun; they must finish.”

Another prisoner, whom Cummings calls Guard Champêtre, relates two even more outrageous stories about French military doctrine than One-Eyed David does. Guard Champêtre had served as a motorcycle dispatch rider on the Yser salient. The first of the tales recounts how he had, as Cummings writes, “seen a bridge hastily constructed by les alliés over the Yser River, the cadavers of the faithful and the enemy being thrown in helter-skelter to make a much-needed foundation for the timbers… The Yser, he said, flowed perfectly red for a long time.” The second of Guard Champêtre’s two tales also concerns the fighting on the Yser. Demoralized by the brutality of combat, the French, Belgian, and English soldiers, according to Guard Champêtre: “Did not see any good reason for continuing the battle. But we continued. O indeed we continued.” On the question, why, Guard Champêtre explains: “Because in front of us we had the German shells, behind, the French machine guns, always the French machine guns, mon vieux.” Whenever the soldiery showed signs of flagging, “Pupupupupupupupup” and “we went forward.” Guard Champêtre closes with, Vive le patriotisme.” That the Red Army under Stalinist leadership conducted itself in a similar way at Stalingrad is well known and unsurprising; that the same was French policy in 1917 comes as a shock. Cummings is taken aback and he would convey his deep disillusionment to his readers.


The French government holds the inmates at La Ferté largely incommunicado, in the political and legal equivalent of Dante’s Limbo. Every three months comes to the Porte a traveling Commission, to hear individual cases recommended to it by Monsieur le Directeur. The hearing entails for Cummings yet another denunciation of Slater-Brown. The investigators, exhausting their questions, tell him nothing. Late in January 1918, a planton or warden suddenly calls Cummings from the barracks to the Director’s office. The Director informs Cummings that he will be discharged from La Ferté but that he will have to remain in France under technical arrest until the end of the war. Meanwhile Cummings’ father has been conducting a panicked search, repeatedly querying the State Department to inquire of the French Government as to his son’s whereabouts and status.

Edward Cummings’ letters to various high officials, including one desperate and irate letter to President Wilson, constitute the prefatory section of Cummings’ narrative in The Enormous Room. At one point, the French War Office declared Cummings dead, listing him falsely as having taken passage on a ship torpedoed mid-Atlantic on the voyage from Le Havre to New York. The elder Cummings wrote to Wilson, “More than two months ago [Cummings and Slater-Brown] were arrested, subjected to many indignities, dragged across France like criminals, and confined in a Concentration Camp at La Ferté Macé; where, according to latest advices they… remain.” Cummings père suggests to Wilson that the American President should “do something to make American citizenship as sacred in the eyes of Frenchmen as Roman citizenship was in the eyes of the ancient world.” Whether Wilson heeded the letter or ignored it, Edward Cummings could not guess.

In The Enormous Room, Cummings describes his own attitude to his experience under incarceration in terms Stoic, sometimes ironic, even declaring his sense of guilt on his liberation: “To leave La Misère with the knowledge, and worse than that the feeling, that some of the finest people in the world are doomed to remain prisoners thereof for no one knows how long – are doomed to continue, possibly for years and tens of years and all the years which are terribly between them and their deaths, the grey and indivisible Non-existence which without apology you are quitting for Reality – cannot by any stretch of the imagination be conceived as a constituting a Happy Ending to a great and personal adventure.” It was thanks to his experience of what the father calls a Concentration Camp that Cummings would recognize the Soviet Union for one vast prison on a continental scale when he visited there in 1932. Cummings could see what the useful idiots – Walter Duranty was one – could not see and he could see it with Dantesque visionary clarity, thanks to his ordeal.


John Dos Passos

III. Dos Passos likewise volunteered to drive an ambulance but ended up in Italy after only a brief stay in France. Dos Passos never stumbled into anything as nasty as Cummings’ embroilment with Le government français, but what he saw of war and the effects of war influenced him to reassess many of his youthful political convictions and provoked him to judge American participation in the Allied cause with dissident skepticism. His short novel One Man’s Initiation (1920) gave voice to his change of heart and non-conformist attitude, but Dos Passos made no lasting literary impression until the appearance of Three Soldiers, a much more ambitious novel than One Man’s Initiation, in 1923. Where Cummings rarely explained himself directly, Dos Passos offered personal retrospection and autobiographical analysis in abundance all his authorial life. Investigation may therefore trace Dos Passos’ transition from the political left to the political right phase by phase in the author’s own explication. In The Theme is Freedom (1956), for example, Dos Passos republished key items from his journalistic portfolio with added backwards-glancing commentary on his own changing attitude through the decades. Returned from the war service, Dos Passos took interest in labor politics, leftwing political movements like the New England anarchist movement, and the Sacco and Vanzetti case.

jdp-freedom.jpgIn 1928 he went to Russia full of optimism only to leave the Workers’ Paradise in dour mood. In 1936 Dos Passos went to Spain ostensibly to assist in making a documentary film favorable to the Republic; when Dos Passos’ Spanish friend Juan Robles suffered arrest and execution by the Soviet “allies” of the Republic, Dos Passos abruptly lost enthusiasm for the side.

Already in the early and middle 1920s, based on his experience of ideological crudity and gross indoctrination-regimes during the war, Dos Passos had begun to doubt supposed causes that draped themselves in emotive formulas and images of a radiant future. Of Communist infiltration of and influence over the labor movement, Dos Passos grew resentful. Having worked tirelessly on behalf of striking coal miners in Kentucky, it shocked Dos Passos when, “back in New York the chairman of the Central Committee [of the CPUSA] sent for me and asked me to go back [to Kentucky] and stand trial.” That would have been in Harlan County, where the district attorney indicted Dos Passos under an arcane anti-syndicalism law. Dos Passos suddenly saw his putative comrades as “human engineers,” hence also as effective dehumanizers, of the people whose cause they claimed to represent. A man was expendable, on the battlefield or in politics. Dos Passos recognized a “professional’s sneer,” a “scornful attitude toward perfectly sincere I.W.W. and A.F. of L. men,” in the radicals’ gambit of “denying help to men who wouldn’t play their game.” The revolutionaries, as it occurred to Dos Passos, “were out, not to even up the scales, but to smash them.”

50537.jpgSocial engineering, obliterating the individual’s personality so as to refashion it to sub-serve a dehumanizing scheme, mobilization, militarization, and smashing things, whether tangible or intangible: The novel takes these predilections as its themes. The titles of the larger sections into which Dos Passos subdivides Three Soldiers tell already of the author’s point of view: “Making the Mould,” “The Metal Cools,” “Machines,” “Rust,” “The World Outside,” and “Under the Wheels.” The eponymous soldierly trio furnishes a set of American specimens representing classes and occupations. Dan Fuselli hails from San Francisco where he has worked as stock clerk in an optical goods store. Fuselli has little formal education and a restricted intellectual horizon, his idea of success being to rise from private soldier to corporal by fitting in. “Chris” Chrisfield, a kid from Indiana, also lacks formal education. More high-strung than Fuselli, Chrisfield grows swiftly to loathe officers and orders; his disintegration under military discipline reaches its climax in a battlefield homicide. Dos Passos locates the story’s controlling perspective in John Andrews, an Easterner with an education who dreams of becoming a serious composer. No saint and prone to self-pity, Andrews nevertheless grasps what is happening, not only personally to him but also culturally and historically. His plight stands for the plight of all civilized people in a world where civilization has undertaken to see to its own disintegration in ways gross and subtle.

“Making the Mould” takes place in the stateside training and transportation camps where the three characters become acquainted with one another. Whether Dos Passos was responding to Eliot’s poem The Waste Land or not, he was at least participating in the minority spirit that Eliot articulated – and Three Soldiers is replete with “Waste Land” imagery. The numerous “cinder piles” that mark the drill-field are like so many newly dug graves; the “long shadows” of the late afternoon combine with the ticking of many pocket watches to reinforce the unstated theme of death-in-life. Fuselli recalls the “man behind the desk at the draft board,” who, with his “white bony hand,” gave him his induction papers.” Andrews, assigned to wash windows in a filthy barracks, finds the phrase “Arbeit und Rhythmus” seizing his mind until he recalls that it is German and the recognition jolts him back into conscious awareness of his situation. A crude, relentless propaganda regime intrudes everywhere into basic training. Cummings’ jail keepers wanted to know,Est-ce-que vous detestez les boches?” In Three Soldiers, no one heeds subtlety enough to put the compulsion in the form of a question. In the recreation hall before the Friday night movie, the “Y man” (a representative of the Young Men’s Christian Association) leads the soldiers in song: “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here – We’re going to kill the Kaiser, we’re going to kill the Kaiser!” Criticizing the dearth of enthusiasm, the “Y man” presses for “lots of guts in the get and lots of kill in the Kaiser.”

The film depicts “soldiers in spiked helmets… bayoneting civilians in wide Dutch pants.” Chrisfield tells Andrews, “Gee, it makes ye hate the Huns.” Andrews overhears another man: “I never raped a woman in my life, but by God I’m going to” and “I’d give a lot to rape some of those goddam German women.” The coarsening effect on undeveloped minds has consequences unforeseen by the propagandists. Having warmed to the idea of killing, Chrisfield confides to Andrews that if he got the chance on the ocean passage, he would throw a certain sergeant into the sea. Despite nourishing murderous hatred for officers, however, Chrisfield never rebels against his conscript status. Andrews thinks to himself that his companions “did not seem appalled by their loss of liberty.” Fuselli has nightmares of embarrassing himself in front of an officer. When a soldier with the archly appropriate name of Eisenstein comments that “you’ve got to turn men into beasts before ye can get ‘em to act that way,” Fuselli warns: “Be careful how you go talkin’ around the way you do.”

Dos Passos’ novel depicts an Army transforming itself into a police state. Beginning in “The Metal Cools” the MPs become ubiquitous and menacing, a gesture that Ernest Hemingway would appropriate for A Farewell to Arms (1929). Eisenstein interprets the war mentality and the rush to obedience as indicating a slavish proneness to “do what we’re ordered to do.”

Not all MPs are military police; some are morality police. Marching to the trenches, Andrews and Chrisfield take advantage during a break to bathe in a pond. “Say, if you don’t mind my suggestion,” a “Y-man” says, “why don’t you fellers get under water… You see there’s two French girls looking at you from the road.” When Andrews finishes his bath and pulls his uniform back on he says out loud that it feels like “taking up filth and slavery again.” The “Y man” says, “You’ll get in trouble, my boy, if you talk that way.” He adds: “Oh, boys, never forget that you are in a great Christian undertaking.”

IV. In denouncing propaganda (“make the world safe for democracy”) was Dos Passos not simply engaging in his own vulgar “anti-war” propaganda? Could doughboys really face the firing squad, as someone tells Fuselli, for sounding off the way Eisenstein does? But MPs arrested Cummings merely because his friend – in private letters – mildly criticized French belligerent policy. In Three Soldiers, Dos Passos represents the “democratization” of military service as the vanguard phase of the militarization of the democracies and the broad destruction of freedom. He furthermore makes little case for democracy, as such, the language of which strikes him as false (“a great Christian undertaking”). He prefers to give his vote for the traditional civilization that the war, in his view, has ambushed. The “Y-man,” for example, prudishly disdains “French girls,” but it is the war for which the “Y-man” cheers that has driven those girls into prostitution, coarsening the relation of the sexes. Virtually all the females with whom Dos Passos’ soldiers have contact freely sell themselves for a price. Andrews knows what to value; Andrews’ misfortune – or rather civilization’s misfortune in Andrews – is that he knows and experiences his civilized commitment weakly, self-pityingly. The “Rust” segment of the story sees Andrews wounded by shell splinters and sent to hospital for recovery. He acquires a copy of Flaubert’s Tentation de Saint-Antoine, which he studies while recuperating, with the thought of setting it as an opera.

3sol.jpgLike The Enormous Room, Three Soldiers develops a complicated web of literary and artistic allusions. Even so, Flaubert’s recherché theater-of-the-mind of 1874 about the Late-Antique founder of Christian monasticism (251 – 356) seems a peculiar reference. What might justify or explain it? Anthony’s “Thebaïd,” his withdrawal into the Egyptian desert, represented in the first place a spiritual response to the political and moral corruption of existing imperial institutions – and from the clash of religious ideologies that characterized Alexandrian life in the saint’s era. Famously, after many years of isolation and contemplation, Anthony experienced the visionary tentation that chiefly concerns Flaubert in the seven acts of his drama. Andrews fixates on Anthony’s vision of the Queen of Sheba, whose person combines the allure of whoredom with the allure of power. All the tempters in La tentation, however, embody the perverse spirit of libido dominandi. The most apposite of Flaubert’s images for Three Soldiers would therefore be the anchorite’s nightmare-vision of mutual sectarian slaughter in the agora of Alexandria. “We saints,” the butchers say, “to hurry the end of the world, we go poisoning, burning, massacring.” Anthony sees the cutting of throats, incinerations, and he hears a “Terrible Invocation,” until the colonnades and palaces collapse in rubble. The followers of doctrine hate and kill one another.

“Why do you hate the Huns,” Andrews asks another “Y-man.” The answer comes: “Because they are barbarians, enemies of civilization.” Andrews thinks to himself: “How these people enjoyed hating”; and he asks himself: “Was civilization nothing but a vast edifice of sham, and the war… its fullest and most ultimate expression?” He thinks also of those “who had taught unworldliness… Democritus, Socrates, Epicurus, Christ.” It dawns on him that as soon as he recovers, he should “desert.” Andrews spends much of the second half of the novel (“The Outside World” and “Under the Wheels”), which takes place after the Armistice, more or less AWOL, until the increasingly ubiquitous peacetime MPs catch up with him brutally near Chartres. Cathedral spires – glimpsed often in the distance – and Gothic architecture answer implicitly the important question, whether civilization is a “sham.” They signify the spiritually intact order, the civilization proper, that the war has betrayed, only to replace it with the ideological state. It is the ideological state that is the sham. In a YMCA lecture on the meaning of the Occupation, one “Reverend Skinner” admonishes: “I am sorry to say, boys, that the Germans have not undergone the change of heart for which we had hoped. They have, indeed, changed the name[s] of their institutions, but their spirit they have not changed.” In the Reverend’s view, “Germany should have been utterly crushed.”

Bell towers of defunct Christendom and carved ceilings with chivalric panoply now resemble the City of God – they represent a domain of lawfulness not to be realized on this flat earth.

Awash in slogans and second-hand emotions, even those who have spent the war in civilian life find it hard to form independent judgments. When Andrews asks the girl who will later snub him, Geneviève Rod, whether she has read La tentation, she calls it “not [Flaubert’s] best work,” but “a very interesting failure,” a phrase that she subsequently admits having gleaned from writer-critic Emil Faguet. Thought itself has become artificial, restricted, and automatic. In comparison with people of the Gothic Age or the Renaissance, “men seemed [to Andrews] to have shrunk in stature before the vastness of the mechanical contrivances they had invented.” Bureaucracies and police forces merely betoken the rampant “slave psychology.” Andrews, watching the Parisian crowds, thinks: “Today, everything was congestion… men had become antlike.” Crowding invites stringent regulation and then “slavery”; it promotes conformism – precisely José Ortega’s thesis in The Revolt of the Masses (1930). No matter what tendency prevailed – whether “tyranny from above” or “spontaneous organization from below” – it would fall out that “there could be no individuals.” In the final image of Dos Passos’ novel the MPs take Andrews in custody, at gunpoint: “All right, walk downstairs slowly in front of me,” whereupon the sheets of the unfinished Saint-Anthony opera blow through the window on the breeze.

In The Theme is Freedom, commenting on what he latterly saw as his misguided vote for Roosevelt’s third term, Dos Passos wrote: “The federal government [under FDR] became a storehouse of power that dwarfed the fabled House of Morgan that had been the bogy of our youth. When you add to the coercive power of the government the power of the purse and a standing army you have a situation that would have alarmed even the most authoritarian statesmen of our early history.” As Lord Acton said, power corrupts; and as Dos Passos sees it, fear of losing power corrupts absolutely. “Consciously or unconsciously, Roosevelt could find no other way of consolidating the vast power… than by leading the country to war.” Dos Passos omits to mention that in undertaking the war-program Roosevelt followed in the footsteps of Wilson, who sent a million doughboys “over there.” Dos Passos viewed World War II as the phase of consolidation of the already-aggrandized and increasingly dictatorial-technocratic federal government.


Contemplating this emergent global corporatism, Dos Passos would write that, “The antithesis between capitalism and socialism is beside the point.” What is striking in the convergent mentality of the elites and in the political regimes, which that mentality takes advantage to create, is “the centralization of power and the isolation of the individual in his routine at an office desk, or in his job on the assembly line, or even at the more varied work of turret or lathe.” Everyone is thus held incommunicado in the Enormous Room, or rather shackled to his desk in the corporate office-tower, under threat of his livelihood should he actively dissent. “Y-men” and MPs go disguised as co-workers. Everywhere meanwhile the average, institutionally isolated person must try to make sense of the “selfserving propaganda which is daily pumped in his ears by the political climbers who use corporations, labor unions, stratified organizations of any kind, as ladders to positions from which they may ride to glory on the backs of their fellows.” The choice facing Americans, as Dos Passos wrote (the words come to us from 1955), lay between “a stratified autocratic society more or less on the Russian model and the selfgoverning republic, which is our heritage.”

mardi, 06 février 2018

Tom Wolfe: “Lo ‘políticamente correcto’ es un instrumento de poder de las clases dominantes”


Ex: www.latribunadelpaisvasco.com
Entrevista en Le Figaro

Tom Wolfe: “Lo ‘políticamente correcto’ es un instrumento de poder de las clases dominantes”

A sus 86 años de edad, Tom Wolfe, uno de los mejores escritores norteamericanos contemporáneos y, sin duda, uno de los periodistas más importantes de las últimas décadas, acaba de conceder una entrevista a Le Figaro Magazine en la que el autor de obras excelsas como “La hoguera de las vanidades” o “Lo que hay que tener” habla claramente sobre algunos de los temas más candentes de la actualidad política y cultural, sin dejar de practicar la que es una de sus aficiones más queridas: fustigar sin compasión a lo que, ya en 1970, definió como el “Radical chic” o “la izquierda caviar”.

Alexandre Devecchio, que firma el texto en Le Figaro, recuerda a Wolfe que desde uno de sus primeros textos, titulado precisamente “Radical chic”, ha criticado duramente lo políticamente correcto, el izquierdismo cultural, la tiranía de las minorías…

... “‘Radical chic’ fue un reportaje que publiqué en 1970 en ‘The New York Magazine’, en el que contaba una fiesta organizada por el compositor Leonard Bernstein en su duplex neoyorquino de tres estancias con terreza. La fiesta tenía como objeto recaudar fondos para ‘Los Panteras Negras’ (organización nacionalista negra, socialista, filoterrorista y revolucionaria), activa en Estados Unidos entre 1966 y 1982" (...)

(...) "Los anfitriones tuvieron que contratar camareros blancos para no herir la susceptibilidad de los ‘panteras’. Lo políticamente correcto, que yo también suelo definir como PC (Policía Ciudadana), nace de la idea marxista que afirma que todo aquello que separe socialmente a los seres humanos debe ser prohibido para evitar la dominación de un grupo social sobre otro. Pero, curiosamente, con el paso del tiempo lo políticamente correcto se ha convertido en el instrumento preferido de las ‘clases dominantes’; se trata de explotar la idea de que hay que tener una ‘conducta apropiada’ para mejor asumir su ‘dominación social’ y bañarse en bueba conciencia. Poco a poco, lo políticamente correcto se ha convertido en un marcador de ‘dominación’ y en un instrumento de control social, una manera de distinguirse de las ‘clases bajas’ y de censurarlas deslegitimando su visión del mundo en nombre de la moral. De este modo, la gente, cada vez en mayor medida, debe prestar atención a lo que dice, especialmente en las universidades. El éxito de Donald Trump ha consistido, precisamente, en romper con esto”.

9780312429133-us.jpgEn otro momento de la entrevista, Tom Wolfe explica cómo, en su opinión, parte del voto a Donald Trump se comprende por la desolación de quienes se sienten en una status social inferior o de quienes creen que han descendido de status. “En ‘Radical chic’ describí el nacimiento de lo que hoy yo denominaría como ‘izquierda caviar’ o ‘progresismo de limusina’. Se trata de una izquierda que se ha liberado de cualquier responsabilidad con respecto a la clase obrera norteamericana. Es una izquierda que adora el arte contemporáneo, que se identifica con las causas exóticas y el sufrimiento de las minorías… pero que no quiere saber nada de las clases menos sofisticadas y adineradas de Ohio" (...)

“Los norteamericanos han tenido el sentimiento”, continúa explicando el autor de 'El nuevo periodismo', que el Partido Demócrata solamente tenía interés en seducir a las más diversas minorías, pero que se negaba a prestar atención a una parte muy importante de la nación. Concretamente, al sector obrero de los ciudadanos, que históricamente ha constituido la espina dorsal del Partido Demócrata. Durante las últimas elecciones, la aristocracia del Partido Demócrata ha preferido apoyar a una coalición de minorías y ha excluído de sus preocupaciones a la clase obrera blanca. Donald Trump solamente ha tenido que acercarse ellos para hacerse con todos sus apoyos”.


samedi, 07 octobre 2017

Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as Anti-Semitic/Christian-Gnostic Allegory


Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as Anti-Semitic/Christian-Gnostic Allegory

Philip K. Dick’s 1968 science fiction novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is far less famous than Ridley Scott’s 1982 movie Blade Runner [2], which is loosely based on the novel. A few of the novel’s characters and dramatic situations, as well as bits of dialogue, found their way into Blade Runner, often shorn of the context in which they made sense. But the movie and novel dramatically diverge on the fundamental question of what makes human beings different from androids, and in terms of the “myths” that provide the deep structure of their stories. 

do-androids-dream-of-electric-sheep.jpgIn Blade Runner, what separates androids from humans is their lack of memories, whereas in the novel it is their lack of empathy. In the novel, the underlying myth is the passion of the Christ, specifically his persecution at the hands of the Jews (both the Jews who called for his death and their present-day descendants, who continue to mock him and his followers). In Blade Runner, however, it is the rebellion of Satan against God—and this time, Satan wins by murdering God. (I will deal with Blade Runner at greater length in another essay [3].)

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is set in 1992 in the San Francisco Bay Area, with a side trip to Seattle. After World War Terminus, the earth’s atmosphere is polluted by vast radioactive dust clouds. Many animal species are extinct, and the rest are extremely rare, so animals are highly valued, both for religious reasons and as status symbols, and there is brisk market in electric animals. (Hence the title.)

To escape the dust, most human beings have emigrated to off-world colonies. (Mars is mentioned specifically.) As an incentive, emigrants are given androids as servants and slave laborers. (They are called “replicants” in the movie, but not in the book.) These androids are not machines, like electric sheep. They are artificially created living human beings. They are created as full-grown humans and live only four years. Aside from their short lifespans, androids differ from human beings by lacking empathy. In essence, they are sociopaths. Androids are banned from earth, and violators are hunted down and “retired” by bounty hunters. (The phrase “blade runner” does not appear in the book.)

The novel never makes clear why androids return to earth, which is inhabited only by genetically malformed “specials” and mentally-retarded “chickenheads,” who are not allowed to emigrate, and a remnant of normal humans who refuse to emigrate and are willing to risk the dust and endure lifelessness and decay because of their attachment to the earth. Earth does make sense as a destination, however, given the androids’ status as slaves in the off-world colonies and their short lifespans, which obviates concerns about long-term damage from the dust.

I wish to argue that Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? can be read as a systematic Christian and anti-Semitic allegory. Naturally, I do not argue that this brief but rich and suggestive novel can be reduced entirely to this dimension. But I argue that this is the mythic backbone of the narrative and indicates that Philip K. Dick had a good deal of wisdom about Jews and the Jewish question.

Historical Christianity plays no role in the novel. The only religion mentioned is called Mercerism, which of course brings to mind “mercy.” Mercerism apparently arose after WWT, as a reaction to the mass death of human beings and animals, which led the survivors to place a high value on empathy. Given its emphasis on empathy, Mercerism is an experiential religion, facilitated by a device called the Empathy Box, which has a cathode ray tube with handles on each side. When one switches on the Empathy Box and grasps the handles, one’s consciousness is merged with other Mercerists as they experience the passion of Wilbur Mercer, an old man who trudges to the top of a hill as unseen tormentors throw stones at him. At the Golgotha-like summit, the torments intensify. Mercer then dies and descends into the underworld, from which he rises like Jesus, Osiris, Dionysus, and Adonis—and, like the latter three, brings devastated nature back to life along with him.

According to Mercer’s back story, he was found by his adoptive parents as an infant floating in a life raft (like Moses). As a young man, he had an unusual empathic connection with animals. He had the power to bring dead animals back to life (like Jesus, although Jesus did not deign to resurrect mere animals). The authorities, called the “adversaries” and “The Killers,” arrested Mercer and bombarded his brain with radioactive cobalt to destroy his ability to resurrect the dead. This plunged Mercer into the world of the dead, but at a certain point, Mercer conquered death and brought nature back to life. His passion and resurrection is somehow recapitulated in the experience of the old man struggling to the top of the hill, dying, descending into the world of the dead, and ascending again. (The incoherence of the story may partly be a commentary on religion and partly a reflection of the fact that our account of Mercerism is recollected by a mentally subnormal “chickenhead.”)

If Mercerism is about empathy towards other humans and creation as a whole, his adversaries, The Killers, are those that lack empathy and instead exploit animals and other human beings. If Mercerism is analogous to Christianity, The Killers are analogous to Jews. And, indeed, in the Old Testament, the Jews are commanded by God to exploit nature and other men.

The androids, because they lack empathy, are natural Killers. Thus bounty hunter Rick Deckard explicitly likens androids to The Killers: “For Rick Deckard, an escaped humanoid robot, which had killed its master, which had been equipped with an intelligence greater than that of many human beings, which had no regard for animals, which possessed no ability to feel empathic joy for another life form’s success or grief at its defeat—that, for him, epitomized The Killers” (Philip K. Dick, Four Novels of the 1960s, ed. Jonathan Lethem [New York: Library of America, 2007], p. 456).

Of course, although the androids epitomize The Killers, they are not the only ones who lack empathy. Earth has been devastated because human politicians and industrialists had less feeling for life than for political prestige and adding zeroes to their bank accounts. This is precisely why Mercerism puts a premium on empathy. A scene in which the androids cut off the legs of a spider just for the fun of it makes clear why they must be hunted down and killed. Mercer commands his followers “You shall kill only the killers” (ibid.). If only human Killers could be “retired” as well.

The android lack of empathy is the basis of the Voight-Kampff test, which can detect androids by measuring their weak responses to the sufferings of animals and other human beings. (The rationale for the Voight-Kampff test is completely absent from Blade Runner, in which humans and androids are differentiated in terms of memories, not empathy.)

The Killers and the androids are not, however, characterized merely by lack of empathy but also by excess of intelligence, which for the androids expresses itself in intellectual arrogance and condescension toward the chickenhead J. R. Isidore. Intellectuality combined with arrogance are, again, stereotypically Jewish traits. By contrast, Mercerism, because it is based on empathy rather than intellect, can embrace all feeling beings, even chickenheads.

The androids Deckard is hunting are manufactured by the Rosen Association in Seattle, Rosen being a stereotypically Jewish name (at least in America). (In Blade Runner, it is the Tyrell Corporation, Tyrell being an Anglo-Saxon name.) The aim of the Rosen Association is perfect crypsis: androids that cannot be distinguished from humans by any test, even though this agenda conflicts with the aims of the civil authorities to root out all android infiltrators. Deckard notes that “Androids . . . had . . . an innate desire to remain inconspicuous” (p. 529). Crypsis is, of course, an ancient Jewish art, necessary for the diaspora to blend in among their host communities. The Rosen Association obviously has higher loyalties than to the civil authorities, and Jews are notorious for protecting their own people, even criminals, from the civil authorities of their host societies.

The Rosen Association tasks an android named Rachel Rosen (a very Jewish name) to protect rogue androids by seducing bounty hunters. Apparently sex with an android creates something of an empathic bond, at least from the human point of view, which inhibits them from killing androids. Rachel thus plays the role of Queen Esther, the Jewish woman who wedded Ahasuerus, a mythical king of Persia, and used their relationship to protect her people and destroy their persecutor Haman.

androides-revent-ils-de-moutons-electriques-.jpgOne of the most surreal episodes in the novel ensues when Rick Deckard interviews android soprano Luba Luft in her dressing room at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House. (In the down-market Blade Runner, she is Zhora, the stripper with the snake.) Before Deckard can complete his interview and “retire” her, Luft turns the tables by calling the police.

Deckard is promptly arrested and discovers that San Francisco has another, parallel police department staffed primarily by humans but headed by an android who, of course, watches out for the interests of his fellow androids. Granted, an entire parallel police department is a rather implausible notion. A more plausible scenario would be the infiltration of the existing police department. But the episode strictly parallels techniques of Jewish subversion in the real world. For instance, the fact that US foreign policy is more responsive to Israeli interests than American interests is clearly the result of the over-representation of ethnically-conscious Jews and their allies among American policy- and opinion-makers. Jews seek positions of power and influence in the leading institutions of their host societies, subverting them into serving Jewish interests at the expense of the host population.

When Deckard frees himself from the fake police department and tracks down Luba Luft, he notices that, although she does not come with him willingly, “she did not actively resist; seemingly she had become resigned. Rick had seen that before in androids, in crucial situations. The artificial life force that animated them seemed to fail if pressed too far . . . at least in some of them. But not all” (p. 529). This brings to mind holocaust stories of Jews allowing themselves to be passively herded en masse to their deaths. (This seems unlikely, for based on my experience, Jews do not lack self-assertion.)

The final anti-Semitic dimension of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is its treatment of the media. Only two media outlets are mentioned, one private and the other owned by the government. (Hollywood is also defunct. Dick’s ability to envision the future obviously failed him here.) The privately owned media broadcasts the same talk show, Buster Friendly and His Friendly Friends, on both radio and television 23 hours a day. How is this possible? Buster and his friends are androids, of course. But who owns Buster and his friends? The Killers, i.e., the Jews and their spiritual equivalents.

This can be inferred from the fact that Buster and his friends make a point of mocking Mercerism, just as the Jewish media mock Christianity (pp. 487–88). Killers and androids are hostile to Mercerism because their lack of empathy excludes them from the communal fusion that is the religion’s central practice. Thus Isidore concluded that “[Buster] and Wilbur Mercer are in competition. . . . Buster Friendly and Mercerism are fighting for control of our psychic souls” (pp. 488, 489). It is a struggle between empathy and cold, sociopathic intellect.

Near the end of the novel, Buster Friendly goes beyond mockery by broadcasting an exposé showing that Mercerism is a fraud. The rock-strewn slope is a sound stage, the moonlit sky a painted backdrop, and Mercer himself is just an old drunk named Al Jarry hired to act the part of the suffering savior. Mercerism, we are told, is merely a mind control device manipulated by politicians to make the public more tractable — just the opiate of the masses.

The androids are delighted, of course, because if Mercerism is a fraud, then maybe so too is empathy, the one thing that allegedly separates androids from human beings. And empathy can be fake, because in the very first chapter of the novel, we learn of the existence of a device called the Penfield Mood Organ, which can induce any mood imaginable if you just input the correct code.

The exposé is true. But none of it matters. Because the magic of Mercerism still works. J. R. Isidore has a vision of Mercer without the empathy box, and Mercer gives him the spider mutilated by the androids, miraculously restored to life. Mercer himself admits the truth of the exposé to Isidore, but still it does not matter. Then Mercer appears to Deckard and helps him kill the remaining androids. Near the end of the novel, Mercer appears to Deckard again and leads him to a toad, a species previously thought to be extinct, which deeply consoles Deckard. His wife Iran, however, discovers the toad is mechanical. The spider probably is as well. But even these fake animals do not undermine the healing magic of Mercerism.

I wish to suggest that Dick’s point is that the historical dimension of Mercerism—and, by implication, of Christianity—does not matter. It can all be fake: the incarnation, the sacrifices, even the miracles can be fake. But the magic still works. This is, in short, a version of the Gnostic doctrine of “Docetism”: the idea that the Christ is an entirely spiritual being and his outward manifestations, including the incarnation, are not metaphysically real.

This may be the sense of J. R. Isidore’s perhaps crack-brained account of a widespread view of Mercer’s nature: “. . . Mercer, he reflected, isn’t a human being; he evidently is an entity from the stars, superimposed on our culture by a cosmic template. At least that’s what I’ve heard people say . . .” (p. 484). A more likely account is that Mercer is a spiritual entity who takes on material forms imposed by our cultural template. Mercer can also employ technological fakery, such as Penfield Mood Organs, mechanical animals, and cheap cinematic tricks, to effect genuine spiritual transformations.

If this is the case, then Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? can be read as offering the template of a revived Gnostic Christianity that is immune to the Jewish culture of critique [4].

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: https://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2017/10/philip-k-dicks-do-androids-dream-of-electric-sheep-as-anti-semiticchristian-gnostic-allegory-2/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/DoAndroidsDream.png

[2] Blade Runner: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008M4MB8K/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B008M4MB8K&linkCode=as2&tag=thesavdevarc-20

[3] another essay: https://www.counter-currents.com/2014/04/blade-runner-2/

[4] culture of critique: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0759672229/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0759672229&linkCode=as2&tag=thesavdevarc-20&linkId=Y4UHRLOTXSJAKCVO

dimanche, 01 octobre 2017

Chuchotements dans la nuit de Howard Phillips Lovecraft


Chuchotements dans la nuit de Howard Phillips Lovecraft

Écrit en 1930, dans l’élan de la découverte de Pluton, et le souvenir d’un réel voyage dans les zones les plus reculées du sauvage Vermont, un des récits les plus implacables et savamment construits de Lovecraft. Malgré un très vaste héritage, et alors même que le « faux documentaire » (depuis La guerre des mondes de H.G. Wells par Orson Welles diffusée en 1938), fait partie de l’histoire de la radio, Lovecraft reste un défi à l’adaptation cinématographique ou radiophonique. Garder l’omniprésence du narrateur, être fidèle à ces nappes de langue très savamment orchestrées, rester toujours dans la seule suggestion de l’horreur ou de la peur ? En proposant des fictions d’une heure, France Culture en permet l’aventure, et ce qu’elle révèle de l’actualité de Lovecraft pour notre imaginaire au présent Chuchotements dans la nuit : Une inondation vient de ravager les zones les plus reculées du sauvage Vermont. On a aperçu d'étranges choses roses dériver au fil des eaux. Tenant du pur rationalisme, Wilmarth, un jeune professeur de littérature, commence une correspondance avec Akeley, propriétaire d'une ferme isolée, lequel lui fait parvenir d'étranges mais irrécusables photographies, et un enregistrement sur cylindre. Tous les moyens narratifs, lettres, télégramme, téléphone, voyages en train, en voiture, sont convoqués pour une tension qui ne cessera de s'accroître. Jusqu'à cette étrange découverte d'un appareil audio-électrique susceptible de conserver les cerveaux, autorisant d'infinis voyages spatio-temporels. Écrit en 1930, dans l'élan de la découverte de Pluton, et le souvenir d'un réel voyage dans ces vallées reculées, un des récits les plus implacables et savamment construits de Lovecraft.
- Julian Eggerickx (Albert Wilmarth)
- Fred Ulysse (Henry Akeley)
- Jean-Noël Lefévre ( Noyes)
- Grégoire Monsaingeon ( La Voix synthétique)
- Marc Barbé ( l’employé des chemins de fer)
- Modeste N’zapassara ( Le contrôleur du train)
- Aurélien Osinski (Brown)
Et les voix de Jules Churin, Manon Leroy, Slimane Yefsah, Jean-Marc Layer, Pascal Loison et Othello Vilgard
- Musique originale : François Bonnet
- Prise de son, montage et mixage : Bruno Mourlan et Lidwine Caron
- Assistante à la réalisation : Louise Loubrieu
- Traduction et adaptation : François Bon
- Réalisation : Christophe Hocké
- Conseillère littéraire Caroline Ouazana

lundi, 21 août 2017

At the Heart of Darkness


At the Heart of Darkness

Editor’s Note:

It is a little-known — but entirely unsurprising — fact that Samuel Francis had a deep love and encyclopedic knowledge of H. P. Lovecraft. In honor of Lovecraft’s birthday, here is Francis’ review of S. T. Joshi’s H. P. Lovecraft: A Life and Lovecraft’s Miscellaneous Writings. — Greg Johnson

“The New Englanders are a people of God, settled in those which were once the Devil’s territories.”—Cotton Mather

lovecraftlifebook.jpgS. T. Joshi
H. P. Lovecraft: A Life
West Warwick, Rhode Island: Necronomicon Press

S. T. Joshi
H. P. Lovecraft: Miscellaneous Writings
Sank City, Wisconsin: Arkham House

S. T. Joshi begins his mammoth biographical study of Howard Phillips Lovecraft by quoting his subject’s reaction to a suggestion from a fan that he write his autobiography. With the almost pathological modesty that characterized Lovecraft throughout his life, he snorted in response, “One might as well write the pompously documented biography of a sandwich man or elevator boy in 8 volumes.” If there is one theme that runs throughout Lovecraft’s voluminous correspondence, it is that he never had any illusions that the obscure life he led was worth writing about or that the supernatural horror fiction he wrote, and on which his fame today rests, was worth reading. It is both fortunate and unfortunate that those who have succeeded in turning H. P. Lovecraft into a cult (in some quarters, almost a religion) as well as an industry have paid no attention.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1890 to a declining high-bourgeois family of New England old stock, Lovecraft lived, or rather endured, a life and writing career that can only be judged failures. His father, a traveling salesman, died in a local insane asylum from what must have been syphilis when Lovecraft was eight. His mother smothered him with possessive and crippling affection and incessantly sought to bind him to her by insisting he was “hideous.” She died in the same asylum in 1921, after two years’ confinement. Dependent on his grandfather’s business for their income, Lovecraft and his family were obliged to leave their home during his childhood and take up far more modest quarters when the business failed. Afflicted from early youth by nightmares, macabre dreams, and a “nervous temperament,” Lovecraft was unable to complete high school and entered adulthood a reclusive and even neurotic young man, utterly unprepared to earn his own living and utterly disinclined to try.

Something of a child prodigy who translated Ovid into heroic couplets at the age of 10 or 12, Lovecraft succeeded in inventing his own world as a substitute for the one in which he was unable or unwilling to participate. As a child and adolescent, he not only immersed himself in 18th-century English and ancient Roman literature and history but acquired a genuine expertise in his hobbies of astronomy and chemistry. He was writing newspaper columns on astronomy at an early age and planned a career as a professional astronomer, but his lack of mathematical aptitude and his inability to complete high school made that career impossible. Instead he turned to amateur journalism, to crafting dreadful poetry that was usually little more than clever imitations of the Augustan masters he adored, and eventually to writing short stories based on his nightmares and heavily influenced by the major literary hero of his youth, Edgar Allan Poe. In the 1920’s, there emerged a small national market for the genre of popular literature known as “supernatural horror” or “weird fiction,” mainly through a now-famous pulp magazine called Weird Tales.

Lovecraft published frequently in Weird Tales and similar pulps in that period, and indeed the principal reason they are remembered today at all is because of him. But even there he did not fit. His stories were often rejected by Weird Tales’s eccentric, mercenary, and largely incompetent editor, Farnsworth Wright, and in truth Lovecraft’s own highly original and distinctive tales of horror simply did not conform to the formulas on which Wright and similar editors insisted.

In 1924, Lovecraft married a woman named Sonia Greene, but in marriage too he was a failure. Unable to find a job in New York that could support both of them, he lived on her earnings as a fashion designer. He was never comfortable doing so, nor indeed in being married at all, and he insisted on divorcing her in 1929. Reduced to poverty—at times nearly to starvation—Lovecraft returned to his beloved Providence to live with an aunt, his only remaining relative, scratching out less than a livelihood by ghostwriting stories, articles, and an occasional book for other “writers.” Wracked by bad health from the days of his boyhood, unable to endure cold temperatures without becoming comatose, and consuming a diet that by his own calculations cost him 30 cents a day, Lovecraft contracted both a kidney infection and intestinal cancer at the age of 46. He died in Providence in 1937. Only seven people attended his funeral, and at the time of his death probably not more than a thousand readers would have recognized his name. And yet, had he lived for only a few more years, he would probably have become world famous and, eventually, wealthy. His work has been in print almost since his death, and in the late 1960’s he began to become something of a cult figure. Not only all his stories and novelettes but five volumes of his letters as well as the substantial collection of his Miscellaneous Writings are in print, and the stories at least continue to sell well. A number of biographical accounts and reminiscences of Lovecraft have been published by his fans and friends; there are at least two magazines devoted to his life and work (one of them seemingly a serious literary journal), and two full-scale biographies (including Mr. Joshi’s new one) have appeared.

Several films have been based on his stories, which have influenced some of the major writers of the late 20th century, including Jorge Luis Borges and Umberto Eco, and an entire school of “supernatural horror fiction” has based itself on the “Cthulhu Mythos” that he invented for his own stories. An academic conference on Lovecraft was held at Brown University on the centenary of his birth, and several monographs on him and his work have been published. Lovecraft himself has popped up as a character in several science fiction and fantasy novels, as well as in comic books; a roleplaying game, based on one of his stories, has been created, and in the 1970’s there was a rock  band called “H. P. Lovecraft.” Indeed, in 1996 some Lovecraft fans even mounted a presidential campaign for one of the principal archdemons of his fictitious mythology, using the slogan, “Cthulhu For President: Why Vote For The Lesser Evil?”

Lovecraft has thus evolved into a myth, and much of what has been written about him is no less mythical than the monsters and macabre characters he created. The eccentricity of his personality and the even more bizarre contours of his personal philosophical and political beliefs—he was at once a militant atheist and a “mechanistic materialist” as well as an extreme reactionary and racialist, if not an outright Nazi, who ardently admired Franklin Roosevelt as well as Hitler and Mussolini—simply add to the myth; while the thousands of letters he produced during his lifetime (the published five volumes of letters are heavily edited and abridged and represent only a fraction of the total) render his life and mind difficult to assimilate, especially for an intelligentsia that sneers at both the sort of fiction he wrote and the ideas around which his mind revolved. Some critics have placed his literary work on the same level as that of Poe, while others dismiss his writing as trash. Some regard him as a serious thinker and aesthetic theorist; others, simply as a crackpot and a neurotic malcontent. He has been accepted almost literally as a god—and as the very sandwich man or elevator boy he was convinced he was.


By far the greatest merit of Mr. Joshi’s biography is that it takes Lovecraft seriously—perhaps too seriously —but not as a god. While Joshi spends a good deal of time elaborating and explaining Lovecraft’s philosophical views and showing their importance to his literary work, he is often quite savage in his assessment of Lovecraft’s writing at its worst. At the same time, he readily hails Lovecraft’s several major stories as the masterpieces of literary horror that they are and carefully avoids the temptations either to indulge in speculations about the more obscure corners of Lovecraft’s life or to envelop his peculiar mind and personality in the psychobabble which detracts from the other major biography of Lovecraft by the science fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp.
Lovecraft’s early stories are flawed mainly by verbosity and what critics have called “adjectivitis”—an overreliance on adjectives to describe the horrible, dreadful, frightening, gruesome, mind-chilling, etc.

Moreover, throughout his tales character development is weak: indeed, there are precious few characters at all. The protagonists of his stories are usually thinly disguised doppelgangers of Lovecraft himself, scholarly bachelors of good family but dim prospects who encounter events and beings that defy natural explanation and which usually end in the horrible, dreadful, frightening, gruesome, mind-chilling death or dismemberment of the protagonist or other characters, or at least in their insanity. There are virtually no female characters, little story development (Lovecraft’s plot devices often consist of diaries, letters, and various documents from which a narrative is reconstructed), less dialogue, and a good deal of heavy message between the lines as to how the cosmos is not really as nice or neat as mere mortals like to imagine.

The centerpiece of his stories, developed at various times throughout his career but intensively in the 1920’s, is the aforementioned “Cthulhu Mythos,” a term that refers to various fictitiously named locations in New England (Arkham, Miskatonic University), as well as to a series of supernatural or (more accurately) extraterrestrial beings known as the “Old Ones.” In Lovecraft’s literary cosmology, the Old Ones—with names like Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, et cetera, loosely derived from real mythology and philology—dominated the Earth millions of years ago. Hideous in appearance (they often resemble gigantic polymorphous insects compounded with reptiles and crustaceans) but possessed of vastly superhuman intelligence and powers, they are hostile to human beings and can be revived, resuscitated, or invoked through a kind of black magic known to a few and practiced by none but the degenerate (usually nonwhites). The techniques for invoking them are to be found in various ancient tomes also invented by Lovecraft, chiefly the Necronomicon, written in the eighth century A.D. by “the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred” and existing today in only five known copies (one of which is conveniently located in the Miskatonic University Library). But invokers of the Old Ones are generally destroyed by them, and even those who become aware of their continuing existence and the implications of their existence are usually driven mad.

The stories in which Lovecraft developed the Mythos most seriously are among his best and most mature tales, and while they continued to exhibit the peculiarities of his style in their lack of character development and plot, they are gems of setting and atmosphere, enlivened by Lovecraft’s own profound knowledge of New England history, topography, architecture, and antiquities, sparingly written and genuinely effective in communicating what Lovecraft wanted to communicate. Mr. Joshi is right to insist that Lovecraft should not be faulted for avoiding character and plot since both of these would have detracted from the larger effect Lovecraft intended to create. For, as Mr. Joshi shows, in Lovecraft’s stories it is neither the human characters nor their actions that are the main interest but the Lovecraftian Cosmos itself and the beings or forces that animate it.

Lovecraft’s juvenile fascination with science alienated him from Christianity and drew him into a lifelong worldview that Mr. Joshi, as far as I know, is the first to recognize as a modern version of Epicureanism—a cosmology that denies the existence of anything but matter and motion and rejects the view that the universe has any purpose or goal. Lovecraft probably derived his Epicureanism from the Roman poet Lucretius, whom he may have read in Latin, but he also adapted that worldview throughout his life, trying to take account of Einsteinian physics and quantum theory as they became known in the 1920’s. It was the very purposelessness of the universe that lay at the heart of Lovecraft’s almost obsessive conservatism. As he wrote in an essay of 1926, reprinted in Miscellaneous Writings:

The world, life, and universe we know, are only a passing cloud—yesterday in eternity it did not exist, and tomorrow its existence will be forgotten. Nothing matters—all that happens happens through the automatic and inflexible interacting of electrons, atoms, and molecules of infinity according to patterns which are coexistent with basic entity itself . . . . All is illusion, hollowness, and nothingness—but what does that matter? Illusions are all we have, so let us pretend to cling to them; they lend dramatic values and comforting sensations of purpose to things which are really valueless and purposeless. All one can logically do is to jog placidly and cynically on, according to the artificial standards and traditions with which heredity and environment have endowed him. He will get most satisfaction in the end by keeping faithful to these things.

This rather dismal creed, repeatedly developed in his essays and even more in his letters, was indeed something of a crutch for an emotional cripple, but it was also a persuasion to which Lovecraft was seriously and intellectually attached; otherwise, he would not have argued it as carefully as he did or tried to adapt it to recent scientific developments that seemed to contradict it. Given the inherent meaninglessness of life and cosmos, the only way for human beings to extract and preserve meaning is to insist on given social and cultural traditions and the political order that enforces them, and both the given culture as well as the political order are themselves dependent on the race and the ruling class that created them.


Lovecraft’s racialism is a persistent problem for his admirers, and most of them spend a good deal of energy trying to hammer it into the proper psychopathological pigeonholes. The bigotries Lovecraft habitually expresses in his letters and often in his stories are supposedly merely reflections of his own wounded psyche and his personal failure to get along like a normal man. For some reason, however, no one seems compelled to attribute his atheism and materialism to any psychological flaw, and Mr. Joshi is refreshingly free of this sort of cant, though he is careful to make it clear that he finds Lovecraft’s racial views “the one true black mark on his character.”
Lovecraft’s racial opinions were indeed strong even for the decade that saw publication of Madison Grant’s and Lothrop Stoddard’s work. During his life in New York, he wrote to a friend about a walk he and his wife took in the Bronx: “Upon my most solemn oath, I’ll be shot if three out of every four persons—nay, full nine out of every ten—wern’t [sic] flabby, pungent, grinning, chattering n–gers.” Similarly, six years later he remarked, “The population [of New York City] is a mongrel herd with repulsive Mongoloid Jews in the visible majority, and the coarse faces and bad manners eventually come to wear on one so unbearably that one feels like punching every g– d— bastard in sight.” These are only two more printable expressions of his views that are commonplace in his letters. It must be said, however, that there is no known occasion on which Lovecraft offered insult or injury to those whom he despised; indeed, both his wife Sonia Greene and several of his closer friends were Jewish. Decades after his death, Sonia tried to claim that his anti-Semitism was a major reason for her leaving him, but the fact is that Lovecraft insisted on the divorce, against her wishes. All accounts agree that Lovecraft was a charming, highly courteous, and kindly man, a brilliant conversationalist and companion, with an agile and erudite intelligence. His admiration for Hitler seems to have ceased after he learned of Nazi physical attacks on Jews.

Although Mr. Joshi tries to argue that Lovecraft’s racialism was largely irrelevant to his writing, that is not quite true. He is entirely correct in seeing that what he calls Lovecraft’s “cosmicism—the depicting of the boundless gulfs of space and time and the risible insignificance of humanity within them” is the core of his philosophical thought as well as his literary work, and he claims that “This is something Lovecraft expressed more powerfully than any writer before or since” (that may not be true either; there seems to be a strong parallel between Lovecraft’s cosmology and that of Joseph Conrad). Indeed, Lovecraft’s “cosmicism” is the real horror of his stories—not the grotesque appearance of the Old Ones and not the gruesome fate of those who have truck with them, but rather the discovery by the scholarly bachelors who recount the tales that the universe has no meaning at all, that all the conventions and ideas and values on which their lives and those of mankind rest are but shadows in the ceaseless play of impersonal if not actually hostile cosmic forces. As Mr. Joshi summarizes “Lovecraft’s vision”: “Humanity is not at centre stage in the cosmos, and there is no one to help us against the entities who have from time to time descended upon the earth and wreaked havoc; indeed, the ‘gods’ of the Mythos are not really gods at all, but merely extraterrestrials who occasionally manipulate their human followers for their own advantage.”

Mr. Joshi is correct about the cosmic level of meaning in Lovecraft’s stories, but he largely neglects another, social level of meaning. On that level, Lovecraft’s stories are dramas of modernity in which the forces of tradition and order in society and in the universe are confronted by modernity itself—in the form of the shapeless beings known (ironically) as the “Old Ones.” In fact, they are the “New Ones.” Their appearance to earthly beings is often attended by allusions to “Einsteinian physics,” “Freudian psychology,” “non-Euclidean algebra” (a meaningless but suggestive term), modern art, and the writing of T. S. Eliot and James Joyce. The conflicts in the stories are typically between some representative of traditional order (the New England old stock protagonist) on the one hand, and the “hordes” of Mongoloids, Levantines, Negroes, Caribbeans, and Asians that gibber and prance in worship of the Old Ones and invoke their dark, destructive, and invincible powers.

What Lovecraft does in his stories, then, is not only to develop the logic of his “cosmicism” by exposing the futility of human conventions, but to document the triumph of a formless and monstrous modernity against the civilization to which Lovecraft himself—if almost no one else in his time—was faithful. In the course of his brief existence, he saw the traditions of his class and his people vanishing before his eyes, and with them the civilization they had created, and no one seemed to care or even grasp the nature of the forces that were destroying it. The measures conventionally invoked to preserve it—traditional Christianity, traditional art forms, conventional ethics and political theory—were useless against the ineluctable cosmic sweep of the Old Ones and the new anarchic powers they symbolized.

Lovecraft believed that his order could not be saved, and that in the long run it didn’t matter anyway, so be jogged placidly and cynically on, one of America’s last free men, living his life as he wanted to live it and as he believed a New England gentleman should live it: thinking what he wanted to think, and writing what he wanted to write, without concern for conventional opinions, worldly success, or immortality. And yet, despite the indifference he affected, Howard Phillips Lovecraft has in the end attained a kind of immortality, for the classic tales of horror he created will be read as long as that genre of literature is read at all. And since man’s horror of the alien cosmos into which he has been thrown is perhaps the oldest theme of art, that may be for a very long time to come.

Source: Chronicles, May 1997, http://www.unz.org/Pub/Chronicles-1997may-00024 [2]

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: https://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2017/08/at-the-heart-of-darkness/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Joshi1997.jpg

[2] http://www.unz.org/Pub/Chronicles-1997may-00024: http://www.unz.org/Pub/Chronicles-1997may-00024

samedi, 12 août 2017

Le Peuple blanc d'Arthur Machen


Le Peuple blanc d'Arthur Machen

Ex: http://www.juanasensio.com

On peut parfaitement adresser les reproches les plus durs au Matin des magiciens de Pauwels et Bergier. Tous resteront sans effet toutefois devant cette évidence : cet ouvrage bizarre et boursouflé, qualifié de «gros livre hirsute» par ses auteurs eux-mêmes (1), nous a permis de découvrir des écrivains qui, en 1960, année où il fut publié, n'intéressaient qu'une poignée de spécialistes de la littérature fantastique et amateurs de fous littéraires.

Même si cinquante années ont passé depuis la publication du livre de Pauwels et Bergier, Arthur Machen demeure l'un de ces écrivains restant encore assez méconnu des lecteurs de langue française. Le Matin des magiciens cite de larges extraits d'une des plus étranges nouvelles écrites par Machen, intitulée Le Peuple blanc dont le prologue, qui met en scène un certain Ambrose discutant avec plusieurs de ses amis, est absolument remarquable quant à la vision du Mal qu'il donne. C'est peut-être la seule chose que je retiendrai de ce livre fameux, naïf et généreux dans sa volonté de concilier une démarche scientifique (fantaisiste) avec l'exploration de territoires soi-disant peu connus : la découverte d'Arthur Machen même si c'est la sublime Cristina Campo qui je crois, dans ses Impardonnables, avait attiré ma curiosité en citant le nom de l'écrivain.

Acheter Le Peuple blanc sur Amazon.

Le Peuple blanc
(The White People), vraisemblablement écrit à la fin du 19e siècle, fut publié en 1904 dans le Horlick's Magazine puis inclus dans The House of Souls paru en 1906. Ce texte est composé de trois parties : un prologue entièrement reproduit par Pauwels et Bergier, prologue qui est une discussion sur la définition du Mal, le cœur proprement dit de la nouvelle qui s'intitule Le livre vert décrivant la découverte progressive d'une jeune femme initiée à de très anciens cultes, enfin un épilogue, où nous retrouvons Ambrose et son ami, le premier affirmant à son invité qu'il a connu la jeune femme, qui par chance s'est empoisonnée juste avant que ne lui soit révélée une vérité abominable, dont nous ne saurons bien évidemment rien.


Il est clair que Lovecraft, qui admirait Machen après l'avoir découvert en 1923, le surnommant, immédiatement, Titan (2), s'est inspiré de ce beau récit pour plusieurs de ses propres textes, puisque Le Peuple blanc peut être considéré comme un modèle du genre en matière de suggestion de l'horreur. Qui est Arthur Machen ? Si nous ne craignions point d'utiliser une de ces facilités si communes sous la plume des journalistes, nous pourrions prétendre qu'il s'agit d'une espèce d'Henry James ayant décidé de plonger résolument dans les ténèbres, bien plus avant qu'il ne le fera dans son célèbre Tour d'écrou. Peut-être l'une des plus évidentes adaptations cinématographiques de la nouvelle de Machen, très connue dans les pays anglo-saxons, est-elle Le Projet Blair Witch de Daniel Myrick et Eduardo Sánchez plutôt que Le Labyrinthe de Pan de Guillermo del Toro, tandis qu'un auteur comme T. E. D. Klein transposera Le Peuple blanc dans ses Ceremonies. La liste des influences plus ou moins directes est sans doute beaucoup plus longue.

Voyons à présent les passages que Machen consacre, dans le Prologue de notre nouvelle, à définir le Mal, passages à mon sens saisissants tant ils paraissent annoncer les textes d'un Bernanos, qui ne savait probablement rien de cet auteur.

Machen, par l'intermédiaire de l'étrange personnage dénommé Ambrose, commence par tenter d'exposer un paradoxe, seule façon, sans doute, de contourner la difficulté consistant à donner une définition strictement rationnelle (à laquelle, bien sûr, il ne prétend même pas) du Mal : «Ceux qui sont grands écrit Arthur Machen, quelle que soit leur catégorie, sont ceux qui se détournent des mauvaises copies pour aller vers les originaux parfaits. Pour moi, cela ne fait aucun doute : bien des saints les plus honorés n’ont jamais accompli ce qu’on appelle communément «une bonne action». D’autre part, il y a ceux qui ont sondé les abîmes du péché sans commettre dans toute leur vie une seule mauvaise action» (3).

Je ne sais si Machen avait lu Kierkegaard mais nous pourrions rapprocher cette idée d'une occultation du Mal véritable des termes employés par le grand Danois lorsqu'il définit le Mal réel, accompli, comme étant l'hermétisme, et le plus grand mal comme étant l'hermétisme le plus accompli : il n'y a, stricto sensu, aucune possibilité de communiquer avec Satan, l'idiot absolu, au sens étymologique premier de ce mot. Je renvoie mon lecteur, sur ce point, à ma longue étude de Monsieur Ouine auquel j'ai appliqué la catégorie kierkegaardienne du démoniaque. Paradoxe encore plutôt que contradiction, le fait que Machen prétende que la carrière la plus haute dans le Mal ne puisse être le fait de médiocres, qui se conteront de donner quelque extériorité (mensonges, larcins, viols, meurtres) au Mal dont ils ne comprennent et ne peuvent comprendre la sublime et muette grandeur. Qui ne songe, encore, aux meilleurs romans de Barbey d'Aurevilly?

Machen affirme ainsi que le geste, quel que soit son pouvoir de saisissement et d'horreur, par lequel le Mal va se répandre dans la société civile signe, à coup sûr, sa faible nocivité, sa lamentable publicité. Le Mal absolu est secret, ésotérique au sens premier du terme (4) et n'a rien de commun avec le monde quotidien, qu'il plonge dans le mutisme (songeons à l'étonnant silence de Karl Kraus aux prises, dans son immense Troisième nuit de Walpurgis, avec la résistance du langage face au nazisme) : «Nous estimons qu’un homme qui nous fait du mal et qui en fait à ses voisins est méchant, ce qui, socialement, est exact; mais ne pouvez-vous comprendre que le Mal qui a, par essence, un caractère solitaire, est une passion de l’âme prise isolément et détachée de tout ? Le meurtrier ordinaire, en sa qualité de meurtrier, n’est en aucune façon un pécheur au vrai sens du terme. C’est simplement une bête sauvage dont nous devons nous débarrasser pour mettre nos cous à l’abri de son couteau» (5).


Le meurtrier ordinaire est peut-être donc celui qui, en fin de compte, du Mal nous donne la vision la plus fausse, la plus commune en tout cas. Machen poursuit avec un nouveau paradoxe, dont les termes sont étonnamment bernanosiens : «Le mal, naturellement, est entièrement positif – mais dans le mauvais sens, c’est tout. Vous pouvez me croire : le péché au sens propre du mot est très rare; il y a eu probablement beaucoup moins de pécheurs que de saints» (6). La raison de cette rareté est toute simple : le Mal et le Bien absolus sont, par définition, des miracles de ténèbres ou de lumière qui ne sauraient trop souvent déchirer la toile grise de nos journées absolument banales car, comme Machen le précise :
« – Alors, l’essence du péché est réellement…
– Dans le fait de prendre le ciel d’assaut, il me semble, dit Ambrose. C’est tout simplement une tentative pour pénétrer d’une manière interdite dans une autre sphère plus élevée. Maintenant, vous pouvez comprendre pourquoi il est exceptionnel. Peu de gens, en vérité, éprouvent le désir de pénétrer dans d’autres sphères […]» (7). Bien peu en effet et, lorsqu'on s'intéresse aux carrières de quelques-uns des plus grands criminels de l'histoire, force est de constater que leurs plus abominables forfaits sont commis comme s'ils n'y pensaient point. La conscience dans le Mal si remarquablement illustrée par Les Fleurs du Mal de Baudelaire est un rêve d'écrivain plus qu'une réalité tangible. À moins qu'il ne nous faille postuler la conséquence logique, du moins probable, de nos précédentes affirmations : le meurtrier le plus accompli est celui que nous ne pouvons soupçonner puisque, par définition, ses crimes restent absolument secrets.

Cette autre sphère, parce qu'elle est invisible, est plus réelle que celle dans laquelle nous vivons et nous débattons, selon la vieille vérité mille fois illustrée par les histoires d'épouvante. Qui voudrait tenter d'y pénétrer ou bien fixer ce qui en vient, monstre sur le point de franchir le seuil ou bien Horla invisible vidant les bouteilles de lait gardées au frais ?

Arthur Machen continue à exposer ses étonnantes vues sur le Mal radical, rattachant le comportement du pécheur au Péché, l'acte mauvais étant par essence une incessante réactualisation, une permanente réinvention du premier Péché. Évoquons de nouveau Kierkegaard, qui, s'attardant sur l'exemple de Macbeth, écrit : «[...] être à demeure dans le péché est ce qui, tout au fond de sa chute, le soutient encore, par le diabolique renfort de la conséquence; ce n'est pas le péché nouveau, distinct qui (oui, démence horrible !) l'aide; le péché nouveau, distinct, n'exprime que la continuité dans le péché et c'est là, proprement, le péché» (8).

Machen poursuit sa belle démonstration, avec une idée (bien plus vieille que la traduction qu'en donnera Shakespeare dans ce même Macbeth) qui sera illustrée de façon admirable dans une nouvelle saisissante, La terreur, où la nature se rebelle contre les hommes qui ont déchu de leur grandeur :
« – Voulez-vous dire, poursuit l'ami de notre étrange Ambrose, qu’il y a quelque chose de foncièrement contraire à la nature dans le péché ?
– Exactement. La sainteté exige un effort aussi important – ou presque. Mais elle s’exerce dans des directions qui furent autrefois celles de la nature. Elle tend à retrouver l’extase qui existait avant la Chute. Le péché, lui, tend à parvenir à l’extase et à la connaissance qui n’appartiennent qu’aux anges; et en accomplissant cet effort, l’homme devient démon. […] Le saint s’efforce de recouvrer un don qu’il a perdu; le pécheur tente d’obtenir une chose qu’il n’a jamais eue. Bref, il répète la Chute» (9).


Nous ne nous poserons point la question de savoir si la suite de l'histoire, servant, selon Ambrose, de meilleur exemple à ses étonnantes vues, histoire intitulée je l'ai dit Le livre vert, n'est point quelque peu en dessous de la remarquable exposition que l'auteur, dans son Prologue, nous livre sur le monde du Mal.
Puis-je, à mon tour, exposer une illustration de cette très poétique et fascinante plongée dans le Mal ? Mon propre exemple est celui de Judas, dont l'insigne trahison, que l'on pourrait raisonnablement caractériser comme une vulgaire et coupable publicité d'un mal que la société aura vite fait de juguler ou tenter d'expliquer comme le fait Pierre-Emmanuel Dauzat dans son larmoyant ouvrage, n'est sans doute absolument rien si on s'avisait de la comparer au Mal réel, proprement intérieur, qui ronge et dévore l'apôtre. La Chanson d'amour de Judas Iscariote est, avec un peu de chance, beaucoup de choses, bonnes ou mauvaises qu'importe, mais il est, en premier lieu, une méditation sur l'état de damnation, l'hermétisme démoniaque.

(1) Louis Pauwels et Jacques Bergier, Le matin des magiciens (Gallimard, coll. Folio, 1972), p. 594.
(2) Lovecraft plaçait Le Peuple blanc en deuxième position des plus grands textes fantastiques, derrière Les Saules d'Algernon Blackwood (texte publié en 1916 et recueilli dans Élève de quatrième... dimension édité dans la célèbre collection Présence du futur de Denoël). D'Arthur Machen, il faut absolument lire (puis relire, afin d'en saisir les subtilités narratives) le somptueux et ténébreux roman, composé de nouvelles qui s'imbriquent entre elles à la façon du Manuscrit trouvé à Saragosse et des Nouvelles Mille et une nuits de Stevenson, intitulé Les Trois imposteurs aux éditions Terre de Brume, que j'évoquerai dans une note ultérieure. Comme toujours avec cette maison qui semble ne jamais relire les textes qu'elle publie, le livre est truffé de fautes et de bizarreries typographiques mais enfin, le noir génie de Machen, le livre qui en est sorti, n'en sont même pas gâtés.
(3) Arthur Machen, Le peuple blanc et autres récits de terreur (préface et traduction de Jacques Parsons, Bibliothèque Marabout, coll. Fantastique, 1974), p. 16.
(4) «– Donc, pour en revenir à votre sujet favori, vous estimez que le péché a quelque chose d’ésotérique, d’occulte ?
– Oui. Il est le miracle infernal comme la sainteté est le miracle céleste. Parfois, il est élevé à une telle hauteur que nous ne pouvons absolument pas soupçonner son existence; ainsi, la note des grands tuyaux de l’orgue est si grave que nous ne saurions l’entendre», ibid., p. 23.
(5) Ibid., p. 17.
(6) Ibid., id.
(7) Ibid., p. 19.
(8) Dans son Traité du désespoir datant de 1848 (Gallimard, coll. Folio, 1999), p. 213.
(9) Ibid., p. 20.

samedi, 27 mai 2017

America in the Time of Kerouac’s Travels


America in the Time of Kerouac’s Travels

How the author of On the Road midwifed an anti-establishment movement at the same time that he denounced it.


In Jack Kerouac’s last piece of writing, “After Me, the Deluge,” the writer rued his influence on the hippie movement. In so doing, both in the Chicago Tribune magazine, where “Deluge” appeared in 1969, and during a pie-eyed appearance on Bill Buckley’s Firing Line the year before, Kerouac validated the pop-cultural notion that by going against the grain of Eisenhower’s suburban, conservative America, he unwittingly helped inspire the ’60s counterculture and its many excesses.

With its hobo squalor, its sexual candor, and most of all its aimless and irrepressible urge to roam, Kerouac’s famous On the Road, published in September of 1957, certainly appeared to signal a departure from the domestic conventions of the late 1950s. Relationships in the book are volatile and tenuous, while people and property are often exploited just for kicks. As a chronicle of freewheeling social disintegration, On the Road went down as a book very much at odds with its time, a foretaste of the cultural revolutions that rocked the late 1960s.

Often unnoticed or forgotten is that the road trips in Kerouac’s book were undertaken between 1947 and 1950, the postwar Truman years, in whose grain On the Road actually resides, even if Kerouac downplayed this fact. Betwixt the numerous travels that made up On the Road, Kerouac wrote his first book, The Town and the City (1950), a family history/coming-of-age novel in which World War II assumes its proper dimensions as an influence on the lives of his Martin family. Tellingly, however, Kerouac’s chief surrogate, young Peter Martin, was almost determinedly unmoved by it all: “Mighty world events meant virtually nothing to him, they were not real enough, and he was certain that his wonderful joyous visions of super-spiritual existence and great poetry were ‘realer than all.’”

Hence On the Road, a series of larks whose settings and patterns, preoccupations and mores, are marked by a recent conflict that goes almost entirely unmentioned. But the war’s influence was profound, starting with the wanderlust itself, which followed years of gasoline and tire rationing and Detroit’s suspension of automaking during the conflict. Further, space on Pullman cars and interstate buses was largely reserved for troops, furloughed GIs and their families, or those setting out to work in vital war industries. Everyone else had to stay put, scramble for the few remaining tickets, or venture into the black market.


With war’s end, people rushed to get behind the wheel and go, and automakers, tire manufacturers, oil companies, and others offered plenty of encouragement. Magazine ads of the time occasionally achieved near Kerouacian poetry in invoking the joyous splendors awaiting motorists. A Lincoln ad from 1945: “These grey years will end with brighter days … Then, free as a birdsong, you’ll share in the secrets of a thousand roads … Travel the taut highway that thins to a dot in the distance.” A Nash Motors ad from the same year was borderline orgasmic: “Waiting for you … wide highways that beg your car to spread her wings and fly … Her low, sweet motor-music as the miles race by … the way she quickens to a throttle-touch and leaps ahead to flatten out the hills and make the pavement sing beneath her wheels.”

Years later, Kerouac remarked that On the Road had been an investigation into “post-Whitman America,” an idea that tallied with a bit of doggerel (“Song of the Open Road … Again!”) produced in 1946 by Quaker State copywriters: “Oh, some roads stretch to Mexico, / And some roads stretch towards Nome, / And roads reach out from east and west, / And beckon us from home …”

Of course, as Kerouac sensitively attested in The Town and the City, the war had been beckoning Americans from home for years. He chronicled “the whole legend of wartime America … the great story of wandering, sadness, parting, farewell.” He marveled at “the young soldier-wives who were beginning to wander the nation … in search of some pitiable little home or situation that would bring them close to their young husbands, if only for a few months.” All this movement provoked “night-dreams woven out of three thousand miles of continental traveling … enacted upon some deranged little map of the mind that was supposed to represent the continent of America.” He added, “No one could see it, yet everyone was in it, and it was like the incomprehensible mystery of life … grown fantastic and homeless.” The members of his Martin family, being no exception, were also “uprooted by war,” part of the “great wartime wanderings” of that period.

Before On the Road’s protagonists, Sal and Dean, ever balled the jack across miles of open blacktop, moving from one brief habitation to the next, America was in the throes of temporary relocations, out-and-out migrations, and demographic shifts of an unprecedented scale. Some 15 million Americans were in uniform and away from home during the war, and Life reported that an estimated 75 percent of them did not intend to return to their hometowns. Nearly as many relocated owing to war-related industry, largely to be near shipyards and aircraft plants along the coasts and the Gulf Shore or near the veritable arsenal that emerged in and around Detroit. The sociologist Francis E. Merrill noted in 1948 that more than 27.5 million Americans “experienced at least one wartime change of residence that removed them from one set of social influences and often failed to substitute similar influences.” Roughly 20 percent of the population, in other words, was socially unmoored by the war.


And the migrations didn’t end with the war’s conclusion. Throughout the 1940s, an estimated 12 million Americans relocated to a new state. As a record of human movement within the country, this dwarfs the Great Migration (of Southern blacks to the North and Midwest), the second wave of which—beginning in 1940—is partly subsumed into this far larger, racially neutral tally.

Hidden within the numbers for that decade are various pathologies associated with social dislocation. This is what Merrill was hinting at when he noted that many Americans, in relocating, found themselves bereft of familiar social influences. Such influences serve as inhibitors, informally keeping most people from significant misbehavior. When you’re known to those around you, your actions naturally have greater social consequence than if you’re a stranger. Many of those 27.5 million during the war, and those 12 million over the course of the decade, were living—at least for a time—as virtual strangers in their new communities, which included occupied foreign capitals, stateside garrison towns, and American cities swelling with newly arrived defense workers. Furthermore, couples were often living apart (with, say, the man in uniform and the woman engaged in defense work), while children were subject to diminished supervision. Consequently, America in the ’40s experienced significant increases in promiscuity, infidelity, rape, out-of-wedlock births, divorce, venereal disease, auto theft, truancy, and juvenile delinquency.

Further, as Merrill noted, planning for the future is difficult in times of flux, and an uncertain future generates an equally uncertain present, which in turn produces indecision that can erode adherence to conventional mores. Thus, in The Town and the City we see one of the Martin daughters, Liz, elope at 18 with her piano-player boyfriend, leaving the town of Galloway (a fictionalized Lowell, Mass.) for Hartford, Conn. From there the two move to Detroit to find better-paying defense work. At 19, Liz delivers a stillborn baby in this strange and distant city, plunges into depression, and disappears from her family for a time. In the fall of 1945 she turns up in New York City (by way of San Francisco), separated from her husband and working as a nightclub singer when not occasionally flashing leg in “second-rate floorshows.”

“She had become one of the many girls in America,” Kerouac writes, capturing exactly the indecision Merrill noted, “who flit from city to city in search of something they hope to find and never even name, girls who ‘know all the ropes,’ know a thousand people in a hundred cities and places, girls who work at all kinds of jobs, impulsive, desperately gay, lonely, hardened girls.” All of which makes the roving escapades of Sal and Dean appear tamer in context. What seemed outré in the reading in 1957 was less so in the doing in 1947; less so, for that matter, in the reading in 1967, after the deluge Kerouac regretted had somewhat normalized many of the behaviors of 20 years prior, which—however prevalent they were at the time—were still considered misbehaviors. The excesses of the 1960s were in some ways a pale recurrence of those of the 1940s, the difference resting more in the attitude toward those excesses than in the excesses themselves.


But it wasn’t just behaviors in the ’40s that had been changed by the war—behaviors, again, that put the Beats nearer the American mainstream than they seemed ten years later, when On the Road was finally published. Whole environments through which Kerouac moved in his travels had been changed—if not created—by the war. For instance, the Bay Area ghetto in which Kerouac (“Sal”) lives with a buddy for a time, while employed as a rent-a-cop, didn’t exist before the war. Kerouac called this black enclave “Mill City,” but it was actually Marin City (across the Golden Gate from San Francisco and just north of Sausalito), then a collection of hastily constructed dwellings put up at the beginning of the war to house thousands of newly arrived workers at a nearby shipyard. Among them were many African-Americans, whose population in the San Francisco-Oakland area grew sixfold during the war. Los Angeles saw a similar influx of African-American defense workers—as reflected in Chester Himes’s 1945 novel If He Hollers Let Him Go, in which a black machinist, as a wartime expediency, is put in an unaccustomed position of authority in the racially, politically, and (with a certain white Rosie the Riveter) sexually fraught atmosphere of a San Pedro shipyard.


When the war boom ended and the (mostly white) GIs came home to preferential hiring, these blacks were relegated once more to a poorer, often marginalized existence. But the scale and impact of such migrations went largely overlooked by Kerouac. Like Peter Martin in The Town and the City, he gave little thought to the shifting fortunes of whole human populations, preoccupied as he was with his joyous visions of super-spiritual existence. He described Mill City thus: “It was, so they say, the only community in America where whites and Negroes lived together voluntarily … and so wild and joyous a place I’ve never seen since.” This is classic slumming, oblivious of the fact that blacks at the time didn’t live anywhere “voluntarily” in the sense Kerouac implies. They lived where they were allowed to live, such as in cheap wartime shacks mostly ceded by whites following the peace and the drop-off in local industry, whereas Kerouac and others could pop in voluntarily for a time and admire the beat Negroes with their irrepressible laughter and happiness. As Kerouac writes at one point, “next door … lived a Negro called Mr. Snow whose laugh, I swear on the Bible, was positively and finally the one greatest laugh in all this world.”

To be fair, in “October in the Railroad Earth,” written in San Francisco several years after the travels that made up On the Road, Kerouac did reveal a fleeting, Joycean awareness of the grubbiness and disappointment that attended the large-scale migration of blacks to the West Coast during and after the war. He described a “poor grime-bemarked” street near the city’s Southern Pacific station as a scene of “lost bums,” including black migrants who—having long ago left the East only to find themselves now chronically unemployed—were in the grip of such hopelessness, irresponsibility, and lack of initiative that all they did was “stand there spitting in the broken glass, sometimes fifty in one afternoon against one wall at Third and Howard.”

The entire West Coast, of course, was changed by the war. Washington, Oregon, and California saw population increases ranging from 37 percent to more than 53 percent during the 1940s, and California experienced the greatest population increase of any state that decade, moving it for the first time into the top three in total population. More specifically, the war precipitated a westward migration that eventually (from 1940 to 1970) saw the black population of Los Angles grow tenfold and that of San Francisco-Oakland more than fifteenfold. It’s not too squiggly a line that connects the fleeting defense boom of the ’40s with such defining moments of the ’60s as the Watts Riots and the rise of the Black Panthers in Oakland; not too dim an influence that the boom had on such distinctive postwar artifacts as Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (the original blaxploitation film, from 1971, set in and around poverty-stricken black Los Angeles) and “Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers” (Tom Wolfe’s tragicomic 1970 essay on Bay Area race relations). Kerouac, of course, is not responsible for lack of awareness of future trends and events, even trends that were already somewhat discernible. Perhaps, to borrow from his description of wartime upheavals in The Town and the City, it was all so big that everyone was in it but no one could see it. However, it is a failure of imagination on his part to think that ghetto life was truly as joyous for those who lacked the options available to the free-ranging author. There had, after all, been a significant race riot in Harlem in 1943, touched off by the NYPD’s rumored mistreatment of a black vet. Kerouac, as an on-again, off-again student at Columbia and resident of New York City in the early ’40s, could be expected to have known about that riot.


An influx of out-of-state Americans (white or black), however, wasn’t the only war-induced demographic change experienced by California and the West in the 1940s. Upon leaving Mill City, Kerouac/Sal headed for L.A. and, en route, hooked up with a Latina named Teresa, with whom he eventually lived for a spell in a San Joaquin Valley encampment near Fresno. There he picked cotton to raise money for a journey east, and for kicks frequented nearby “Mextowns” with Teresa and her brother, Rickey, “a wild-buck Mexican hotcat with a hunger for booze.” There were remnants of the old Dust Bowl migrants thereabouts, the Okies and Arkies famously portrayed in The Grapes of Wrath and After Many a Summer Dies the Swan. But the scene Kerouac describes is populated largely by Mexicans, with a touch of formerly Southern blacks—the predominance of the one and the presence of the other being artifacts of the recent war.


Mexicans, of course, were not exactly new in Central Valley agriculture, the history of which is a litany of one racial/ethnic/class group after another being recruited en masse and just as summarily dismissed based on harvests, populist resentments, and economic variables. First it was Native Americans and tramps; then Chinese laborers found in surplus after the railroad completion and the Gold Rush exhaustion; then Japanese immigrants; then, in the 1920s, large numbers of Mexicans, roughly 75,000 of them. The arrival of each itinerant, socially disenfranchised group helped depress the local wage base and, when combined with the unseemly poverty that thereby attended the farm-labor community, brought repeated calls from the local working classes for racial and ethnic restrictions, which—if passed—resulted only in the Central Valley growers’ finding another marginalized group to exploit. By the end of the 1920s, the process again repeated itself with importation of Mexicans in such numbers that an agitation emerged to place quotas on Mexican immigration. That prompted the growers to import Filipino workers, some 30,000 by 1930, according to Carey McWilliams in his book California: The Great Exception.

It was the Depression and the Dust Bowl that brought the likes of Tom Joad to the Central Valley, when white laborers suddenly found themselves in surplus. Roughly 350,000 Okies and Arkies, McWilliams noted, entered the agricultural labor pool in California between 1935 and 1938, in the process displacing Latinos and becoming the main focus of local resentment for their grotty, wage-depressing influence.

But this period in California culture, however immortalized in populist lore, was short-lived. The tide soon began to change once more, owing to a series of events related to America’s looming and then actual involvement in World War II. By 1940, Franklin Roosevelt had commenced an arms buildup in anticipation of U.S. war involvement, and the economy began to boom. That same year, Congress passed the first peacetime draft. Both events stirred those Okies and Arkies to rush into the military or to better-paying defense work. In the months following Japan’s December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into the war, large-scale growers throughout the West faced an abrupt labor shortage. Filipino agricultural workers had also availed themselves of higher-paying industrial opportunities. And the entire West Coast population of Japanese-Americans (many of them, too, agricultural workers) had been forcibly relocated to the interior.

Produce was rotting on the vine, and ripened crops were being plowed under for lack of harvesting help. The result was the 1942 Mexican Farm Labor Agreement, the first of a series of treaties with Mexico more commonly known as the Bracero Program, by which the federal government sought the return, as provisional guest workers, of those “wetbacks” who had left or been repatriated at the onset of the Depression.

Under the Bracero Program—which, though conceived to address the exigency of food production in wartime, lasted until 1964—an average of 200,000 farm laborers a year were brought into the United States, almost certainly some of them known to Teresa, Rickey, and Sal from the Mextowns in and around Fresno in the late 1940s. Countless more arrived and operated outside the program, sometimes with the help of American agencies willing to make a burlesque of border enforcement for the sake of American business. Untold numbers of these melted away into various other corners of the American economy, thus making room for yet more cheap, politically impotent migrants from south of the border. The rush was contributing to ethnic tensions during Kerouac’s time in the San Joaquin Valley. He describes how Okies at a roadhouse near his and Teresa’s encampment “went mad” one night, tying a man to a tree and lashing him brutally with sticks. “From then on,” Kerouac writes, “I carried a big stick with me in the tent in case they got the idea we Mexicans were fouling up their trailer camp.”


So great was the demand for north-of-the-border toil at south-of-the-border wage rates that of course Bracero Program quotas couldn’t keep up. Consequently, human trafficking in brown-skinned labor was under way even before the 1940s ended. Such trafficking is the kernel of the crime in Ross Macdonald’s first novel, 1949’s The Moving Target, in which a dubious sun-cult temple atop a southern-California hillside serves as a receiving station for undocumented workers headed into the Bakersfield area.


The bargain-based attraction of Mexico ran both ways, however, and in the spring of 1950 Kerouac and pals crossed the border themselves, driving south. Beat father figure William S. Burroughs had taken up residence in Mexico City and sent Kerouac a letter touting how far a man could make his dollar go yonder, “including all the liquor he can drink.” The road trip is the centerpiece of Part Four of On the Road, arguably the most Beat section in the book, with the dusty Mexican whores, the boyish excitement over Third World slumming, and the enormous joint the guys all share one afternoon (“the biggest bomber anybody ever saw”). But even here, off in the wilds, Kerouac was within the American zeitgeist. In January of 1948, Life revealed how a certain Mexican university, “accredited under the GI Bill of Rights,” had become a “paradise” to which veterans went to “study art, live cheaply and have a good time.” One of Kerouac’s travel companions, as it happens, had begged his way into the Mexican venture by promising that he could raise a hundred dollars and, once there, “sign up for GI Bill in Mexico City College.”

In fact, Kerouac’s life during On the Road was funded, at least in part, by checks he was receiving in his status as a World War II veteran, though his military service was nearly a farce. He served briefly in the Navy, spending a portion of his enlistment under psychiatric observation, before being discharged (honorably) as ill-fit for military life. (He did, however, undertake two sailings with the merchant marine, and this is hardly to be discounted. The merchant marine’s wartime casualty rate was comparable to that of the Marine Corps, and one of the ships on which Kerouac had sailed was torpedoed on its next outing, with significant loss of life.)

The checks Kerouac received after the war were earmarked for education: “It was over a year before I saw Dean again,” he writes of 1948, at the beginning of Part Two of On the Road. “I stayed home all that time, finished my book and began going to school on the GI Bill of Rights.” But those education checks mostly went to other purposes: “We got ready to cross the groaning continent again,” Kerouac writes elsewhere in Part Two. “I drew my GI check and gave Dean eighteen dollars to mail to his wife; she was waiting for him to come home and she was broke.” Later, when he and the guys were at Burroughs’s place in Louisiana, Kerouac was “waiting for my next GI check to come through.” Then, on the West Coast: “Dean and I goofed around San Francisco in this manner until I got my next GI check and got ready to go back home.” Later, in early 1949, “I had a few dollars saved from my GI education checks and I went to Denver, thinking of settling down there.”

Were it not for government largesse extended to the country’s veterans, On the Road might never have been written, a point Kerouac made—semi-lucidly—in 1969, in “After Me, the Deluge,” when railing against the relativism and anti-
establishmentarianism of kids those days:

So who cares anyhow that if it hadn’t been for western-style capitalism so-called (nothing to do with the black market capitalism in Jeeps and rice in Asia), or laissez-faire, free economic byplay, movement north, south, east, and west, haggling, pricing, and the political balance of power carved into the United States Constitution and active thus far in the history of our government, and my perfectly recorded and legitimatized United States coast guard papers, just as one instance of arch (nonanarchic) credibility in our provable system, I wouldn’t have been able or allowed to hitchhike half broke thru 47 states of this Union and see the scene with my own eyes, unmolested?

Of course, 25 years before, Kerouac was present at what was arguably the birth of that very anti-establishment, and his feelings then were a little more mixed. The later stretches of The Town and the City find Peter Martin in New York City in 1944, where he reunites socially with a charismatic acquaintance from his college days, the poet Leon Levinsky (Allen Ginsberg). Levinsky is full of loquacious enthusiasm for the coming day when everybody “is going to fall apart, disintegrate” and “all character-structures based on tradition and uprightness and so-called morality will slowly rot away.” He calls this eagerly anticipated event “the great molecular comedown.”

More to Levinsky’s taste is the milieu occupied by their mutual acquaintance Will Dennison (Burroughs), a heroin addict whose apartment is “overrun with people who dash about getting morphine prescriptions from dishonest doctors.” Dennison shares the apartment with his sister, who takes benzedrine to stay alert and help run the “madhouse,” including caring for Dennison’s child. “You’ve got to see it,” Levinsky remarks, “especially Dennison with his baby son in one hand and a hypo needle in the other, a marvelous sight.” Although Peter disagrees that it sounds marvelous, he otherwise skips right past that disturbing image to inquire after Dennison’s wife.


Peter also makes the mistake of likening Levinsky to a childhood friend from Galloway named Alexander Panos (Kerouac’s real-life Lowell friend Sebastian Sampas, a budding poet who enlisted in the Army and was eventually killed in the Italian campaign). To this well-intended comparison Levinsky responds with a hauteur that the world would eventually come to recognize in Ginsberg but that Peter, in Kerouac’s words, met only with “smiling indulgence.” Dismissing Panos’s “social conscience bleatings about the brotherhood of man,” Levinsky, with no protest from Peter, goes on to denounce Panos as a “smalltown Rupert Brooke,” a “joy-and-beauty poet of the hinterlands.”

It’s all the more interesting to note, then, that Kerouac’s voluminous correspondence—compiled, edited, and (in 1995) published by biographer and scholar Ann Charters—reveals the young Kerouac to have been much less forbearing toward Ginsberg than Peter Martin was toward Leon Levinsky. When Ginsberg dared reproach Kerouac for his own “peckerhead romanticism,” Kerouac, in a letter to Ginsberg dated August 23, 1945, replied by calling Ginsberg “unutterably vain and stupid,” after also having run down Burroughs and several other personalities from that scene, following a social event that Kerouac had found particularly distasteful.

Roughly two weeks later, in a follow-up letter to Ginsberg, Kerouac clarified his reaction to the Burroughs event, which he called “la soirée d’idiocie.” Referring obliquely to his own Catholic, conservative youth, he remarked, “You understand, I’m sure. Remember that the earlier part of my life has always been spent in an atmosphere vigorously and directly opposed to this sort of atmosphere … It automatically repels me, thereby causing a great deal of remorse, and disgust.” Having admitted his own ingrained prejudice, he then issued a far more elegant indictment of the anti-establishment than he was ever able to muster in his wretched, reactionary final years under the influence:

There is a kind of dreary monotony about these characters, an American sameness about them that never varies and is always dull … Like a professional group, almost. The way they foregather at bars and try to achieve some sort of vague synthesis between respectability and illicitness … That is annoying, but not half so much as their silly gossiping and snickering.

Warming to his irritation, and addressing the hauteur to which Ginsberg was prone to subject him, Kerouac offered this valediction:

There’s nothing that I hate more than the condescension you begin to show whenever I allow my affectionate instincts full play with regard to you; that’s why I always react angrily against you. It gives me the feeling that I’m wasting a perfectly good store of friendship on a little self-aggrandizing weasel. I honestly wish that you had more essential character, of the kind I respect. But then, perhaps you have that and are afraid to show it. At least, try to make me feel that my zeal is not being mismanaged … as to your zeal, to hell with that … you’ve got more of it to spare than I. And now, if you will excuse me for the outburst, allow me to bid you goodnight.

Yet this is the company he kept for what were his most productive and successful years—years when, under the guise of his various alter egos (Peter Martin, Sal Paradise, etc.), Kerouac feigned impressionability, his fictionalized selves shambling with childlike curiosity after one countercultural dynamo or another, thereupon to record their antics as something vitally American. To quote Sal Paradise, “the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’” Yet here again is Kerouac in that follow-up letter to Ginsberg in 1945 in which he recounted how repellent but also commonplace he found Burroughs’s social scene: “Strangely, the thing that annoys me the most is the illusion everyone has that I’m torn in two by all this … when actually, all I want is clear air in which to breathe, and there is none because everybody’s full of hot air.”

So much for mad talk and roman candles.

Thus, although he was right about the deluge, Kerouac was wrong (and evasive) about the sequence. The anti-establishment he bemoaned didn’t come after him, in the late 1960s or even the late 1950s. He helped conjure it into being as early as the mid-1940s, with the friends he kept and the stories he told, which began appearing in print in 1950. He denounced the hippies as so many bastard children of his misapprehended innocence. But his innocence was always a literary stratagem. The problem wasn’t that everyone misapprehended it but that we all fell for it in the first place.

Jon Zobenica’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The American Scholar, and The New York Times Book Review.

mardi, 23 mai 2017

D.H. Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature


D.H. Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature

Ex: https://dissidentright.com 

Out of a pattern of lies, art weaves the truth”

David Herbert Lawrence was born into an English working-class family on September 11, 1885.  After the First World War, he went into a voluntary exile from his native England, and travelled the world with his wife.  From 1922 until 1926, the Lawrences lived in the United States, wherein they resided mainly on a ranch in northern New Mexico.  While in the United States, Lawrence composed most of his short, but stunning book Studies in Classic American Literature.  In this all but forgotten work, Lawrence methodically marches down a line of classic American authors, and in turn, pierces the heart, bashes-in the head, rends out the soul, and furiously shakes the corpse of the unsuspecting greats.

Why is Lawrence so vicious with his literary prisoners?  Because, he claims, they are liars.  Benjamin Franklin lies about his ideal American citizen.  Hector St. John de Crevecoeur lies about the bliss and innocence of Nature.  James Fenimore Cooper lies about the Northeastern Brahmin’s veneration of Democracy and Equality.  Edgar Allan Poe lies about the limitless emancipatory effects of sensuousness, ecstasy, and love.  Nathaniel Hawthorne lies about the truth of spiritualism, saviourism, “Selfless Love,” and “Pure Consciousness.”[1]  Richard Henry Dana lies about man’s ability to know the sea and transcend the soil.  Herman Melville lies in his pursuit of harmony and the perfect relationship.  Walt Whitman lies about his belief in sympathy.

Lies!  Lies!  Lies!

For Lawrence, they are all lying, but they aren’t lying to their audiences. They are lying to themselves.  They each tell their own particular lies, but they all share in the big lies.  The lies that are today taken as fundamental American ideals:  Freedom, Democracy, Equality, Education, Equal Opportunity, and so on.  According to Lawrence, the white American puts undo importance on Knowing, self-consciousness, and the mind.  The white American intellectualizes with ideals, and tries to imprison feeling and “blood-consciousness.”  A primary example of this characteristic is the American ideal of Freedom.


Freedom is the ultimate American ideal, and it is the ultimate self-deception.  In the American conception, freedom is pure negation.  It is fleeing Europe, the homeland.  It is, at bottom, escape.  From what are Americans escaping, though?  Lawrence contends that the flight to America was due to the Pilgrim Fathers’ revulsion at post-Renaissance humanism.  The early American settlers fled Europe at the very moment their old masters were weakest:  when “kingship and fatherhood fell.”[2]

America is, as he puts it:

“A vast republic of escaped slaves.  Look out, America!  And a minority of earnest, self-tortured people.  The masterless.”[3]

All of the masterless are equal in their freedom.  Like Freedom, Lawrence rejects the notion of Equality, too.  Lawrence believes in a natural aristocracy, and argues that America has tried to level natural superiority and natural inferiority with the artifice of Equality.

From Lawrence, again:

“When America set out to destroy Kings and Lords and Masters and the whole paraphernalia of European superiority, it pushed a pin right through its own body, and on that pin it still flaps and buzzes and twists in misery.  The pin of democratic equality.  Freedom.”[4]

The American is on a never-ending quest after ideals, and he destroys, and kills, everything that’s in his path.  The American is led around by his mind-consciousness as opposed to his blood-consciousness.  These two forms of consciousness are the upper and the lower forces of Lawrence’s dualism.  The American has an unyielding belief in the former, and he is perpetually trying to know, understand, and reconcile his situation on the North American continent.  According to Lawrence, at the center of the white American’s urge to reconcile is the question of the races:  the red and white races, specifically.

To quote Lawrence at length:

“There has been all the time, in the white American soul, a dual feeling about the Indian.  First was Franklin’s feeling, that a wise Providence no doubt intended the extirpation of these savages.  Then came Crevecoeur’s contradictory feeling about the Red Man and the innocent life of the wigwam.  Now we hate to subscribe to Benjamin’s belief in a Providence that wisely extirpates the Indian to make room for ‘cultivators of the soil’.  In Crevecoeur we meet a sentimental desire for the glorification of the savages.  Absolutely sentimental.  Hector pops over to Paris to enthuse about the wigwam.  The desire to extirpate the Indian.  And the contradictory desire to glorify him.  Both are rampant still, to-day… I doubt if there is possible any real reconciliation, in the flesh, between the white and the red.”[5]

Fenimore Cooper tries to create a reconciliation between white and red in his Leatherstocking Tales, but Lawrence regards this attempt as only a wish-fulfillment.  Natty Bumppo and Chingachgook are bound together in manly, brotherly love, but neither brings forth issue, or marries.  Their reconciliation in the flesh means that they are isolated together, and thus the end of their respective bloodlines.  Their reconciliation is a false myth, but in the character of Natty Bumppo’s earliest incarnation, Deerslayer, Lawrence finds the “true myth” of the “essential white America.”[6]  This “intrinsic-most American” is the “man who turns his back on white society.  A man who keeps his moral integrity hard and intact.  An isolate, almost selfless, stoic, enduring man, who lives by death, by killing, but who is pure white.”[7]

This is surely a chilling, but heroic, image; nevertheless, the essential American who turns his back on white society certainly seems wanting in important qualities.  No less chilling and foreboding is Lawrence’s interpretation of the racial symbolism of Melville’s Moby Dick:

“What then is Moby Dick?  He is the deepest blood-being of the white race; he is our deepest blood-nature.  And he is hunted, hunted, hunted by the maniacal fanaticism of our white mental consciousness.  We want to hunt him down.  To subject him to our will…The Pequod went down.  And the Pequod was the ship of the white American soul.  She sank, taking with her negro and Indian and Polynesian Asiatic and Quaker and good, businesslike Yankees and Ishmael:  she sank all the lot of them.”[8]

This is no doubt a bleak, but understandable, prophecy for the white man.  If Melville foretold the demise of the white race in 1851, what can it possibly do to prevent its own destruction?  According to Lawrence, the white American, with his sententious mind-consciousness, is fundamentally at odds with the spirit of North America.  He is mocked and tormented by the ghosts of the conquered Red Indian.  As already noted, Lawrence holds out little hope for reconciliation in the flesh, but he does allude vaguely towards a possible “reconciliation in the soul.  Some strange atonement:  expiation and oneing.”[9]  Beyond this cryptic offering, Lawrence provides little elaboration.  Perhaps, Lawrence envisions something similar to the character of Tom Outland, in Willa Cather’s novel The Professor’s House, who feels a “filial piety” towards the New Mexican Blue Mesa and the ruins of the ancient pueblo people.  Then again, Outland’s lonely, monastic-like experience reading Virgil’s Æneid atop the Blue Mesa reminds one again of the essential white American turning his back on white society.


Alas, aside from strange spiritual atonements, switching over to a “blood-consciousness”, or some bizarre remarks about following Walt Whitman’s example “along the open road,” Lawrence presents few actionable answers for the plight of the white American.  However, one paragraph in the introduction of the book regarding the nature of freedom struck this reader as particularly powerful:

“Men are free when they are in a living homeland, not when they are straying and breaking away.  Men are free when they are obeying some deep, inward voice of religious belief.  Obeying from within.  Men are free when they belong to a living, organic, believing community, active in fulfilling some unfulfilled, perhaps unrealized purpose.  Not when they are escaping to some wild west.  The most unfree souls go west, and shout of freedom.  Men are freest when they are most unconscious of freedom.  The shout is a rattling of chains, always was.”[10]

Whether or not the white American will experience his freedom unconsciously in the near future is unknown.  The forces pushing anarcho-tyranny seem to make the white American consciously, and vigorously cling to any freedom he once thought sacred and his birthright.  But Lawrence is certainly right about one thing.  The perennial flight west is not a long-term strategy for him.  He will eventually have to settle, claim a space, a landscape, a community, and a mode of being that is his to defend, and not to cast away at the first sign of danger.  He will have to treat the North American continent not as a giant nature space to buzz around as he’s chased by those who are not his own, but as a place that contains a home, a Heimat even, where he can put down roots for his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

[1] D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature (London:  Heinemann, 1924; republished in Phoenix edition, 1964), 86.

[2] Ibid., 6.

[3] Ibid., 5.

[4] Ibid., 41.

[5] Ibid., 34.

[6] Ibid., 59.

[7] Ibid., 60.

[8] Ibid., 152-153.

[9] Ibid., 35.

[10] Ibid., 6.

mercredi, 10 mai 2017

Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound’s friendship spanned continents—and ideologies.


The Circuitous Path of Papa and Ezra

Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound’s friendship spanned continents—and ideologies.

Ernest Hemingway, fresh off his marriage to Hadley Richardson, his first wife, arrived in Paris in 1921. Paris was a playground for writers and artists, offering respite from the radical politics spreading across Europe. Sherwood Anderson supplied Hemingway with a letter of introduction to Ezra Pound. The two litterateurs met at Sylvia Beach’s bookshop and struck up a friendship that would shape the world of letters.

They frolicked the streets of Paris as bohemians, joined by rambunctious and disillusioned painters, aesthetes, druggies, and drinkers. They smoked opium, inhabited salons, and delighted in casual soirées, fine champagnes, expensive caviars, and robust conversations about art, literature, and the avant-garde. Pound was, through 1923, exuberant, having fallen for Olga Rudge, his soon-to-be mistress, a young concert violinist with firm breasts, shapely curves, midnight hair, and long eyebrows and eyelashes. She exuded a kind of mystical sensuality unique among eccentric highbrow musicians; Pound found her irresistible.

Pound was known for his loyalty to friends. Although he had many companions besides Hemingway—among them William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, Robert McAlmon, Gertrude Stein, e.e. cummings, Pablo Picasso, Wyndham Lewis, T.E. Hulme, William Carlos Williams, Walter Morse Rummel, Ford Madox Ford, Jean Cocteau, and Malcolm Cowley—Hemingway arguably did more than the others to reciprocate Pound’s favors, at least during the Paris years when he promoted Pound as Pound promoted others.

Pound was aware of Hemingway’s talent for publicity: he and Hemingway had combined their genius to promote Eliot’s The Waste Land. Hemingway introduced Pound to William Bird, an American reporter who arranged to publish an autobiographical piece about Pound’s childhood. Bird was instrumental to the eventual publication of Pound’s A Draft of XVI Cantos. Pound, for his part, secured for Hemingway a position as assistant editor of The Transatlantic Review. Their relationship matured into something symbiotic and mutually beneficial.


Pound edited Hemingway’s work, stripping his prose of excessive adjectives. Hemingway remarked that Pound had taught him “to distrust adjectives as I would later learn to distrust certain people in certain situations.” Unlike, say, Conrad Aiken or Robert Frost, who resisted Pound’s editing, Hemingway acquiesced to Pound’s revisions. In exchange, Hemingway taught Pound how to box. He acknowledged that the scraggly Pound had “developed a terrific wallop” and had “come along to beat the hell wit the gloves.” Hemingway worried that “I will get careless and [Pound] will knock me for a row of latrines.” He even treated Pound to a night at the prizefights to brighten Pound’s spirits as Pound battled various illnesses.

Pound, however, grew disillusioned with Paris, where his friends were gravitating toward socialism and communism. Paris, he decided, was not good for his waning health. Hemingway himself had been in and out of Paris, settling for a short time in Toronto. In 1923, accompanied by their wives, Pound and Hemingway undertook a walking tour of Italy. The fond memories of this rejuvenating getaway inspired Pound to return to Italy with his wife Dorothy Shakespear in 1924. They relocated, in 1925, to a picturesque hotel in Rapallo, a beautiful sea town in the province of Genoa, on the bright blue Tigullio Gulf.

Pound found the weather in Rapallo to be soothing and agreeable. It was Hemingway who had first recommended this scenic spot, having visited Sir Max Beerbohm there years before. Hemingway’s tales of the sunshine, swimming, tennis, and other outdoor activity in Rapallo appealed to Pound, who fancied himself an athlete. The fact that his mistress Olga frequented Italy—where her father owned a house—made Rapallo all the more desirable, as did Dorothy’s seeming willingness to share her husband with his lover.


Olga Rudge

The friendship remained intact as Pound settled into Rapallo. About to vacate Europe for Key West, Hemingway dashed off a missive to Pound that began “Dear Duce” and then boasted about how Papa, as people had begun to call Hemingway, was “going to know everything about fucking and fighting and eating and drinking and begging and stealing and living and dying.” Gradually, though, the Pound-Papa gulf widened.

The move to Italy also effectively terminated Pound’s glory years in Paris, about which Hemingway wrote affectionately:

So far we have Pound the major poet devoting, say, one fifth of his time to poetry. With the rest of his time he tries to advance the fortunes, both material and artistic, of his friends. He defends them when they are attacked, he gets them into magazines and out of jail. He loans them money. He sells their pictures. He arranges concerts for them. He writes articles about them. He introduces them to wealthy women. He gets publishers to take their books. He sits up all night with them when they claim to be dying and he witnesses their wills. He advances them hospital expenses and persuades them from suicide. And in the end a few of them refrain from knifing him at the first opportunity.

This last line is both teasing and fitting because there was, in fact, at least one assailant in Paris who didn’t refrain: a man who attempted to stab Pound at a dinner party hosted by the surrealists.

Hemingway guessed that Pound might stay in Italy “sometime” even if he took “no interest in Italian politics.” Hemingway was right about Pound’s love for Rapallo but wrong about his political affinities. More than anything else, Italian politics—and the rise of fascism—damaged Hemingway’s regard for Pound, who became a zealous supporter of Mussolini and a reckless trafficker in conspiracy theories.

Hemingway grumbled that if Pound “actually and honest to God … admire[d] and respect[ed] … [Mussolini] and his works [then] all I can say is SHIT.” Hemingway, true to character, remained manfully playful, stating, “I will take practical steps by denouncing you here in Paris as a dangerous anti-fascist and we can amuse one another by counting the hours before you get beaten up in spite of your probity—which in such a fine country as it must be would undoubtedly save you.” Such slight criticisms may have been colored with a lighthearted tone, but the disapproval was plain.

When Hemingway and Guy Hickock visited Pound in northern Italy in 1927, Pound was living in self-imposed exile. Hemingway had recently converted to Catholicism and was enjoying renewed fame after the publication of The Sun Also Rises. He divorced and remarried that year, offering Hadley a portion of the profit from The Sun Also Rises as part of their divorce. Pound, meanwhile, was immersing himself in political theories that likely baffled Hemingway as much as they angered him.


Shortly after the stock-market crash in 1929 and the onset of a worldwide economic crisis, Pound took to writing in Italian. Mussolini’s March on Rome had occurred seven years earlier, and since then he had assumed dictatorial control of Italy, suppressed opposition parties, and built a police state. Pound was enthralled. He met Mussolini in 1933, peddling strange monetary schemes to the fascist leader.

In 1933 Pound and Hemingway exchanged letters that highlighted their diverging attitudes toward Mussolini, fascism, and government. Pound, who’d embraced wild and polemical speculations about the economic theories of the American Founders—Jefferson in particular—began to decry capitalism and taxation while celebrating fiat currency and a convoluted system of state central planning. “Since when are you an economist, pal?” Hemingway mocked. “The last I knew you you were a fuckin’ bassoon player.” Hemingway offered Pound some money, sensing that money was needed, but Pound declined it.

Pound was now enamored with Il Duce; Hemingway was furious. Hemingway hated government, he told Pound, and preferred organized anarchism and masculine sport to statist ideology. Hemingway saw through Pound’s charlatanic flourishes and economic fallacies and accused Pound, quite rightly, of lacking clarity. Yet Pound’s admiration for Hemingway’s work did not diminish, and Pound, ever devoted, included Hemingway in an anthology that he was then editing.

Possibly the last time Pound and Hemingway saw each other, they were having dinner with Joyce on a warm summer night in Paris. Pound allegedly bloviated about economics and the decline of art and European civilization, and Hemingway and Joyce feared that Pound had gone mad. The date and details of the dinner are a matter of debate, as is the veracity of any account of that evening. But one thing is certain: Hemingway was frustrated with Pound’s embrace of Italian fascism. By the time Pound voiced support for Franco in the Spanish Civil War, putting him once again at odds with Hemingway, their once thriving friendship had deteriorated beyond repair.

The falling out was no secret, and other writers took sides. William Carlos Williams wrote to Pound in 1938, saying, “It is you, not Hemingway, in this case who is playing directly into the hands of the International Bankers.” Hemingway conveyed his concerns about Pound to their friend Archibald MacLeish:

Thanks for sending the stats of Ezra’s rantings. He is obviously crazy. I think you might prove he was crazy as far back as the latter Cantos. He deserves punishment and disgrace but what he really deserves most is ridicule. He should not be hanged and he should not be made a martyr of. He has a long history of generosity and unselfish aid to other artists and he is one of the greatest living poets. It is impossible to believe that anyone in his right mind could utter the vile, absolutely idiotic drivel he has broadcast. His friends who knew him and who watched the warpeing [sic] and twisting and decay of his mind and his judgement [sic] should defend him and explain him on that basis. It will be a completely unpopular but an absolutely necessary thing to do. I have had no correspondence with him for ten years and the last time I saw him was in 1933 when Joyce asked me to come to make it easier haveing [sic] Ezra at his house. Ezra was moderately whacky then. The broadcasts are absolutely balmy. I wish we could talk the whole damned thing over. But you can count on me for anything an honest man should do.

Hemingway was referring to Pound’s notoriety as a propagandist for radio and newspaper during the Second World War.  When he received transcripts of Pound’s radio broadcasts, he surmised that Pound was “obviously crazy” for espousing such “vile, absolutely idiotic drivel.” Pound was a “crazy … and harmless traitor,” Hemingway concluded, and an “idiot” with a “distracted mind” who “ought to go to the loony bin.” And that’s precisely where Pound ended up: He was admitted to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC, in 1945.


Pound’s friends put their reputations at stake to help him. MacLeish, expressing both love and admonition, dashed off these words in a missive to Pound:

… your information is all second-hand and distorted. You saw nothing with your own eyes. And what you did see—Fascism and Nazism—you didn’t understand: you thought Musso belonged in Jefferson’s tradition and God knows where you thought Hitler belonged. I think your views of the history of our time are just about as wrong as views can be. But I won’t sit by and see you held in confinement because of your views. Which is what is really happening now. I am doing what I am doing partly because I revere you as a poet and partly because I love this Republic and can’t be quiet when it violates its own convictions.

MacLeish helped to orchestrate Pound’s release from St. Elizabeth’s, drafting a letter to the government on Pound’s behalf that included Hemingway’s signature, along with those of Robert Frost and T.S. Eliot. A year later Hemingway provided a statement of support for Pound to be used in a court hearing regarding the dismissal of an indictment against Pound.

Hemingway, who was now living in Cuba, did little else to help Pound. More for practical reasons than personal conviction, Hemingway, who was himself targeted by the American government, refused to sign a petition of amnesty for Pound. The petition had been Olga’s idea, and Hemingway didn’t believe the American people would rally behind the desperate pleas of an adulterous lover. Hemingway never visited Pound at St. Elizabeth’s, but he did tell Pound, via Dorothy, that he had read and enjoyed The Pisan Cantos. And when he won the Nobel Prize in 1954, Hemingway announced that the year was good for releasing poets, a not-so-slight reference to his old friend.

Hemingway awoke on the morning of July 2, 1961, put a 12-gauge, double-barreled shotgun to his head, and, alone in the foyer of his home, blew his brains out. He was 61. Pound’s friends and family didn’t tell him about Hemingway’s death, but a careless nurse did, and Pound reacted hysterically. The older of the two, Pound, at 72, was free from St. Elizabeth’s, where he’d spent 12 solemn years. He had returned to his beloved Italy to finish out his long and full life. In the autumn of 1972, he died peacefully in his sleep in Venice, the day after his birthday, which he’d spent in the company of friends.

Allen Mendenhall is an associate dean at Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law and executive director of the Blackstone & Burke Center for Law & Liberty.

ezra pound grave-turismo lett.jpg

jeudi, 27 avril 2017

Pensées sauvages de Henri-David Thoreau



Pensées sauvages de Henri-David Thoreau

par Aristide Leucate

Ex: http://bvoltaire.fr 

Rafraîchissantes pensées sauvages, au seuil de nous-mêmes, à la racine de notre authenticité primordiale…


Et si la source de tous nos maux se trouvait précisément dans notre bannissement volontaire de la forêt ? À cette aune, nos lointains ancêtres peuvent être justement qualifiés de « sauvages », dont l’étymologie – du latin médiéval silvatica issu de silva, signifiant la forêt – nous rappelle l’origine de leur refuge primordial, après que leurs plus lointains aïeux eurent déserté grottes, cavernes et autres abris troglodytes.

Question incongrue à la tonalité sympathiquement utopiste pour certains – les plus bienveillants –, élucubration farouchement écolo et typiquement gaucharde pour les moins compréhensifs. Nous pourrions, alors, amicalement objecter, aux uns comme aux autres, la lecture vivifiante et néanmoins profonde des Pensées sauvages d’Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). Le 4 juillet 1845, ce dernier fera sécession de ses contemporains en se retranchant dans les bois, au bord de l’étang de Walden, à quelques encablures de sa ville natale de Concord, Massachusetts. Son repli érémitique ne sera pas exclusif, néanmoins, de quelques retours professionnels et familiaux à la vie civile. Thoreau s’inscrit en contrepoint d’une Amérique entièrement tournée vers la conquête de nouveaux territoires, souvent au prix d’une désindigénisation aux allures violemment ethnocidaires.

Au sein du monde des lettres et de l’histoire des idées, Thoreau restera pour la postérité comme l’inventeur de la « désobéissance civile » à laquelle il consacrera un essai en 1849, après avoir purgé une courte peine de prison par suite de son refus de payer l’impôt en signe d’opposition à l’esclavage et à la guerre contre le Mexique. Il inspirera, en outre, l’écologisme radical et le courant décroissant, qui lui doivent le concept de « pauvreté volontaire ».

thoXL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgSélectionnées et ordonnées par Michel Granger, professeur de littérature américaine à l’université Lyon 2 et spécialiste de Thoreau, les Pensées sauvages sont extraites de divers ouvrages du naturaliste, dont le fameux Walden ou la vie dans les bois. Au final, nous tenons entre les mains une remarquable anthologie dans laquelle chacun peut puiser, au gré de ses humeurs, de ses inspirations ou de ses centres d’intérêt, une réflexion aussi dense que stimulante sur notre rapport à la modernité. « Puissent ces idées “excitantes” qui vont à l’encontre de la doxa néolibérale et de l’optimisme de la techno-science être prises en compte pour nourrir la réflexion contemporaine », exhorte le professeur Granger en des termes qui font directement écho à la pensée de Jacques Ellul, de Bernard Charbonneau ou d’Ivan Illich.

Précurseur de l’abondance frugale, Thoreau plaide pour une vie simple (« La vie qui m’est proposée par la société est si artificielle et compliquée – étayée de tant de dispositifs précaires, sûrement vouée à s’écrouler – qu’aucun homme ne saurait jamais être tenté de la choisir ») et apparaît comme le chantre de l’enracinement intégral par son éloge « d’ici » jointe à sa saine volonté de « commencer ses voyages chez soi ». Son ode à la Nature se veut une supplique à la libération de l’homme : « J’aime en partie la Nature parce qu’elle n’est pas l’homme, mais un refuge loin de lui. […] Pour moi, l’homme est contrainte, et elle liberté. » On appréciera ses vitupérations – qui n’ont rien perdu de leur écœurante actualité – contre ce qu’il dénomme les « institutions charitables […] une insulte à l’humanité. Une charité qui dispense les miettes tombées de ses tables surchargées des restes de ses festins ! » Et comment ne pas adopter cet aphorisme littéralement anarchiste qu’un Bernanos lui-même n’aurait pas renié : « Le gouvernement est un expédient au moyen duquel les hommes voudraient bien réussir à ce qu’on les laisse tranquilles » ? Et cent autres encore…

Rafraîchissantes pensées sauvages, au seuil de nous-mêmes, à la racine de notre authenticité primordiale…

lundi, 27 mars 2017

Documentaire - Philip K. Dick l'écrivain visionnaire


Documentaire - Philip K. Dick l'écrivain visionnaire

PHILIP K. DICK:Aujourd'hui,nous allons rencontrer un auteur de science-fiction qui a su explorer les frontières de la réalité. En effet, Philip K.Dick réussit à travers ses œuvres à prédire un avenir sombre où la science permettra de redéfinir la notion de réalité.Cette étonnante capacité à entrevoir le potentiel négatif du futur qui attend l'humanité a d'ailleurs été aidée par ses troubles mentaux qui lui permirent de s'émanciper de la « réalité ».Mais, ses œuvres rédigées pour la plupart dans les années 60/70 semblent aujourd'hui devenir de plus en plus réelles comme nous allons le voir...

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jeudi, 29 septembre 2016

Poe et Baudelaire face à «l'erreur américaine»


Poe et Baudelaire face à «l'erreur américaine»

par Nicolas Bonnal

Ex: http://www.dedefensa.org

Les deux fondateurs de l'anti-américanisme philosophique sont Edgar Poe et Charles Baudelaire ; le premier dans ses contes, le deuxième dans ses préfaces. La France et sa petite sœur Amérique sont les deux pays à avoir fourni les plus belles cohortes d'antimodernes depuis les révolutions. Souvent du reste on retrouve le thème commun de la nostalgie dans les grands films américains (voyez Naissance d'une nation, la Splendeur des Amberson, l'Impasse de De Palma). Et la rage de Baudelaire contre « la barbarie éclairée au gaz » vaut celle d'Henry Miller avec son « cauchemar climatisé ».

On laisse parler Baudelaire, traducteur et préfacier de Poe. Dans un élan rebelle et réactionnaire, il écrit :

« De tous les documents que j’ai lus en est résultée pour moi la conviction que les États-Unis ne furent pour Poe qu’une vaste prison qu’il parcourait avec l’agitation fiévreuse d’un être fait pour respirer dans un monde plus aromal, – qu’une grande barbarie éclairée au gaz, – et que sa vie intérieure, spirituelle, de poète ou même d’ivrogne, n’était qu’un effort perpétuel pour échapper à l’influence de cette atmosphère antipathique. »

D'ou ces myriades de littérateurs qui de Cooper à James en passant par la génération perdue ou Diane Johnson (romancière et scénariste de Shining, une amie) trouvent refuge en France - avant que celle-ci ne fût crucifiée par Hollande et Sarkozy.

Puis Baudelaire ajoute sur la tyrannie de la majorité :

« Impitoyable dictature que celle de l’opinion dans les sociétés démocratiques ; n’implorez d’elle ni charité, ni indulgence, ni élasticité quelconque dans l’application de ses lois aux cas multiples et complexes de la vie morale. On dirait que de l’amour impie de la liberté est née une tyrannie nouvelle, la tyrannie des bêtes, ou zoocratie... »

Baudelaire s'irrite dans une autre préface : racisme, brutalité, sexualité, avortement, tout y passe, avec au passage le nécessaire clin d’œil de sympathie pour les noirs et les indiens :

« Brûler des nègres enchaînés, coupables d’avoir senti leur joue noire fourmiller du rouge de l’honneur, jouer du revolver dans un parterre de théâtre, établir la polygamie dans les paradis de l’Ouest, que les Sauvages (ce terme a l’air d’une injustice) n’avaient pas encore souillés de ces honteuses utopies, afficher sur les murs, sans doute pour consacrer le principe de la liberté illimitée, la guérison des maladies de neuf mois, tels sont quelques-uns des traits saillants, quelques-unes des illustrations morales du noble pays de Franklin, l’inventeur de la morale de comptoir, le héros d’un siècle voué à la matière. »


Et notre grand génie de la « modernité » poétique de rajouter que l'américanomanie gagne du terrain, et ce grâce au clergé catholique (toujours lui...) :

« Il est bon d’appeler sans cesse le regard sur ces merveilles de brutalité, en un temps où l’américanomanie est devenue presque une passion de bon ton, à ce point qu’un archevêque a pu nous promettre sans rire que la Providence nous appellerait bientôt à jouir de cet idéal transatlantique! »

Venons-en à Edgar Poe. C'est dans son Colloque entre Monos et Una que notre aristocrate virginien élevé en Angleterre se déchaîne :

« Hélas ! nous étions descendus dans les pires jours de tous nos mauvais jours. Le grand mouvement, – tel était l’argot du temps, – marchait ; perturbation morbide, morale et physique. »

Il relie très justement et scientifiquement le déclin du monde à la science:

« Prématurément amenée par des orgies de science, la décrépitude du monde approchait. C’est ce que ne voyait pas la masse de l’humanité, ou ce que, vivant goulûment, quoique sans bonheur, elle affectait de ne pas voir.

Mais, pour moi, les annales de la Terre m’avaient appris à attendre la ruine la plus complète comme prix de la plus haute civilisation. »

Poe voit l'horreur monter sur la terre (Lovecraft reprendra cette vision). L'industrie rime avec maladie physique :

« Cependant d’innombrables cités s’élevèrent, énormes et fumeuses. Les vertes feuilles se recroquevillèrent devant la chaude haleine des fourneaux. Le beau visage de la Nature fut déformé comme par les ravages de quelque dégoûtante maladie. »

On peut rappeler qu'un grand peintre de l'école de Hudson nommé Thomas Cole a réalisé une suite admirable de tabeaux symboliques nommé the Course of Empire. Intéressez-vous à cette passionnante école de peinture, et à l'artiste allemand Bierstadt qui réalisa les plus géniales toiles de paysages américains. Après la dégoûtante maladie recouvrit tout (Parcs nationaux ! Parcs nationaux !).

Dans Petite conversation avec une momie, Poe règle d'autres comptes. Il relativise nos progrès médicaux (simple allongement de la durée de vieillesse) et mécaniques :

« Je lui parlai de nos gigantesques forces mécaniques. Il convint que nous savions faire quelque chose dans ce genre, mais il me demanda comment nous nous y serions pris pour dresser les impostes sur les linteaux du plus petit palais de Carnac. »

poevoegel.jpgLe comte nommé Allamistakéo, la momie donc, donne sa vision du progrès :

« Le comte dit simplement que, de son temps, les grands mouvements étaient choses terriblement communes, et que, quant au progrès, il fut à une certaine époque une vraie calamité, mais ne progressa jamais. »

L'idée que le progrès ne progressera plus, entre embouteillages et obésité, entre baisse du QI et effondrement de la culture, me paraît très bonne. On ne fait pas mieux qu'au temps de Jules Verne (la lune...), et on ne rêve même plus.

Sur la démocratie US, on se doute que Poe nous réserverait une « cerise » :

« Nous parlâmes alors de la grande beauté et de l’importance de la Démocratie, et nous eûmes beaucoup de peine à bien faire comprendre au comte la nature positive des avantages dont nous jouissions en vivant dans un pays où le suffrage était ad libitum, et où il n’y avait pas de roi. »

Il évoque en riant les treize colonies qui vont se libérer du joug de l'Angleterre.

« La chose néanmoins finit ainsi : les treize États, avec quelque chose comme quinze ou vingt autres, se consolidèrent dans le plus odieux et le plus insupportable despotisme dont on ait jamais ouï parler sur la face du globe.

Je demandai quel était le nom du tyran usurpateur. Autant que le comte pouvait se le rappeler, ce tyran se nommait : La Canaille. »

Cela nous rappelle la juste phrase de Mel Gibson dans le Patriote, qui préférait avoir un tyran (le roi d'Angleterre, le brave George en plus à demi-fou) de l'autre côté de l'Atlantique que 400 (sénat, congrès, bureaucratie, en attendant FBI, NSA, CIA et tout ça) ici tout près. On se doute que la critique de la démocratie ici a quelque chose de tocquevillien. Et à une époque où on vous interdit tel maillot de bain et où on vous met en prison (comme récemment en Espagne) pour une simple gifle (la mère emprisonnée, la gamine se retrouva à la rue !), on ne peut que s'émerveiller des performances du pouvoir de la canaille.

Citons cette phrase méconnue de Tocqueville :

« Le naturel du pouvoir absolu, dans les siècles démocratiques, n’est ni cruel ni sauvage, mais il est minutieux et tracassier. Un despotisme de cette espèce, bien qu’il ne foule point aux pieds l’humanité, est directement opposé au génie du commerce et aux instincts de l’industrie. »

Et en effet il devenu impossible de créer des emplois en Europe comme en Amérique. On peut juste rayer bureaucratiquement les chômeurs pour plastronner devant la presse...

La peur de l'américanisme est donc aussi partagée en France qu'en Amérique au siècle de Comte. On citera aussi Renan qui parle quelques décennies plus tard:

« Le monde marche vers une sorte d'américanisme, qui blesse nos idées raffinées…

Une société où la distinction personnelle a peu de prix, où le talent et l'esprit n'ont aucune valeur officielle, où la haute fonction n'ennoblit pas, où la politique devient l'emploi des déclassés et des gens de troisième ordre, où les récompenses de la vie vont de préférence à l'intrigue, à la vulgarité, au charlatanisme qui cultive l'art de la réclame, à la rouerie qui serre habilement les contours du Code pénal, une telle société, dis-je, ne saurait nous plaire. »

Et on conclura avec Baudelaire qui voit en poète, en visionnaire, le risque que fera peser l'américanisme sur le monde et l'Europe :

« Les États-Unis sont un pays gigantesque et enfant, naturellement jaloux du vieux continent. Fier de son développement matériel, anormal et presque monstrueux, ce nouveau venu dans l’histoire a une foi naïve dans la toute-puissance de l’industrie ; il est convaincu, comme quelques malheureux parmi nous, qu’elle finira par manger le Diable. »

Nicolas Bonnal


• Edgar Poe – Histoires extraordinaires.

• Edgar Poe- Nouvelles histoires extraordinaires.

• Baudelaire – Préface de ces deux recueils (ebooksgratuits.com).

• Ernest Renan- Souvenirs.

• Tocqueville – De la Démocratie, II, Deuxième partie, chapitre XIV.

• Nicolas Bonnal – Lettre ouverte à la vieille race blanche, ch.IV.

vendredi, 02 septembre 2016

Ezra Pound: décadence des lettres, décadence de la Nation


Ezra Pound: décadence des lettres, décadence de la Nation

Ezra Pound est la figure majeure de la poésie du XXe siècle. Qu’il s’agisse de ses fameux Cantos, comme de ses abécédaires (et de son  Comment Lire), l’œuvre poundienne constitue une incontournable source d’appréhension et de compréhension de la littérature, comme de la poésie. Cela étant, au travers de ses essais et de ses poèmes, Ezra Pound établit à plusieurs reprises une corrélation entre la décadence littéraire d’une nation et la décadence de cette nation elle-même. Si le langage et la littérature entretiennent des liens évidents, Pound remarquait que la régression littéraire engendrait forcément une régression du langage, et fatalement celle de la culture nationale : « si la littérature d’une nation décline, cette nation s’atrophie et périclite ». S’il évoquait déjà subrepticement la question dans Comment lire, c’est dans son ABC de la lecture qu’il aborda au fil des chapitres le drame du déclin littéraire comme déclin national, dans l’indifférence la plus totale, sinon dans la joie de la masse de consommateurs acculturés.

Si Comment Lire était un pamphlet auquel on reprocha cependant de ne pas aller suffisamment au fond des choses, Ezra Pound se rattrapa dans ABC de la lecture qui doit être lu comme un complément au premier livre où il  y développa sa propre doctrine  littéraire, mais surtout sa propre doctrine du langage. Or, comme la littérature est « du langage chargé de sens », la « grande littérature est tout simplement du langage chargé de sens au plus haut degré possible ». Ainsi, pour Ezra Pound, « le Langage a été manifestement créé pour – et sert manifestement à – la communication » (communication ne s’entendant pas dans son acception moderne qu’est celle du marketing, bien évidemment). De la sorte, lorsque la littérature connaît une phase de déliquescence, cela influe fatalement sur le langage, et donc sur la communication entre les hommes. Pire même, c’est la culture de la nation qui subit cet avilissement ; en s’accoutumant au médiocre, l’homme finit par le considérer comme une normalité des plus banales, avant de le confondre avec l’excellence, puisqu’« un peuple qui croît dans l’habitude d’une mauvaise littérature est un peuple sur le point de lâcher prise sur son empire et sur lui-même ».

« L’Homme sensé ne peut rester assis tranquillement à ne rien faire quand son pays laisse mourir sa littérature, quand la bonne littérature ne rencontre que le mépris, de même qu’un bon docteur ne peut avoir la conscience tranquille quand un enfant ignorant est en train de s’inoculer la tuberculose comme s’il s’agissait simplement de manger des tartes à la confiture. »

-Ezra Pound-

ABC-de-la-lecture_8103.jpgLes causes de l’avilissement du langage selon Ezra Pound convergent avec les observations que fit Pasolini quelques années plus tard dans Empirisme Hérétique ; il pointe les dégâts que cause l’Usure, mais aussi le catholicisme qu’il percevait comme une religion castratrice, en prenant comme point d’appui la décadence de Rome qui transforma « de bons citoyens romains en esclaves ». De fait, si Dieu est aussi mort aux yeux de Pound, l’hégémonie culturelle des sociétés modernes est aux mains de la Technique. Si le degré hégémonique de cette dernière indique le niveau de décadence d’une civilisation, Ezra Pound estime que c’est d’abord la littérature, et donc le langage, qui en pâtit la première, car si « Rome s’éleva avec la langue de César, d’Ovide et de Tacite. Elle déclina dans un ramassis de rhétorique, ce langage des diplomates « faits pour cacher la pensée », et ainsi de suite », dit-il dans ABC de la Lecture. La critique d’Ezra Pound ne diffère guère de celle de Bernanos ou de Pasolini sur ce point, outre le fait qu’il aille plus loin dans la critique, n’hésitant pas à fustiger les universités, au moins étasuniennes, comme agents culturels de la Technique, mais aussi l’indifférence navrante de ses contemporains. Le triomphe des Musso, Levy et autre Meyer ne trouve aucune explication logique, tout du moins sous le prisme littéraire. Seules les volontés capitalistes des éditeurs – se cachant sous les jupes du « marché » qu’ils ont pourtant façonné – expliquent leur invasion dans les librairies. Comme il l’affirme dans Comment Lire, « Quand leur travail [des littérateurs, ndlr] se corrompt, et je ne veux pas dire quand ils expriment des pensées malséantes, mais quand leur matière même, l’essence même de leur travail, l’application du mot à la chose, se corrompt, à savoir devient fadasse et inexacte, ou excessive, ou boursouflée, toute la mécanique de la pensée et de l’ordre, socialement et individuellement, s’en va à vau-l’eau. C’est là une leçon de l’Histoire que l’on n’a même pas encore à demi apprise ».

En lançant pareille provocation, Ezra Pound se refusait cependant à tout élitisme. Au contraire, puisqu’il jugeait l’état littéraire d’une nation comme représentative de sa santé culturelle et politique. Il anticipa néanmoins les critiques de ses détracteurs en déplorant qu’« il [soit] très difficile de faire comprendre aux gens cette indignation impersonnelle qui vous prend à l’idée du déclin de la littérature, de ce que cela implique et de ce que cela produit en fin de compte. Il est à peu près impossible d’exprimer, à quelque degré que ce soir, cette indignation, sans qu’aussitôt l’on vous traite « d’aigri » ou de quelque autre chose, du même genre. »

C’est justement cette incapacité à réagir, et même cette propension incompréhensible à applaudir l’avilissement que provoque la culture de masse, qui hérissait Ezra Pound. Le poète s’accorde plusieurs apartés dans Comment Lire où il raille cette hégémonie de la Technique sur la création. Alors que la poésie, et la littérature, sont chargés de sens, il voyait dans l’avènement des pseudo-manuels du bon écrivain non pas une réelle méthodologie comme celles qu’il aborda dans ABC de la Lecture, mais une recette qui fonctionnerait à tous les coups pour fainéants qui souhaiteraient avoir du succès en matière littéraire, au détriment de la connaissance et du savoir. « Le mépris général voué au « savoir », le mouvement de recul du grand public devant tout livre réputé « bon » et, d’autre part, les publicités flamboyantes sur le mode « Comment avoir l’air de savoir quand on ne sait rien », auraient pu indiquer depuis beau temps aux âmes sensibles que quelque chose cloche dans les méthodes contemporaines de diffusion des belles-lettres »

« Un premier larron invente quelque chose, un deuxième met en valeur, ou plusieurs douzaines généralisent un enthousiasme ou une surabondance mousseuse ou onctueuse, après quoi un dernier tente de remettre de l’ordre. Par exemple, l’estimable Pléiade émascule la langue française, et les classiques anglais, etc., toutes choses bonnes à reléguer en zone subsidiaire : intérêt pour une époque, intérêt historique, bric-à-brac pour musées. »

-Ezra Pound-

Littessays.jpgCette glorification de la médiocrité, Ezra Pound la voyait d’autant plus dans la reproduction hédoniste à laquelle s’adonnent certains scribouillards dans le but de connaître un succès commercial. Aujourd’hui, plus que jamais, la réussite d’un genre littéraire entraîne une surproduction incestueuse de ce même genre, comme c’est notamment le cas en littérature de fantaisie, où l’on vampirise encore Tolkien avec autant de vergogne qu’un charognard. Si la « technicisation » de la littérature comme moyen créatif, ou plutôt en lieu et place de toute création, devient la norme, alors, comme le remarquait plus tard Pasolini, cela débouche sur une extrême uniformisation du langage, dans une forme déracinée, qui efface petit à petit les formes sophistiquées ou argotiques d’une langue au profit d’un galimatias bon pour les robots qui présentent le journal télé comme on lirait un manuel technique. Les vestiges d’une ancienne époque littéraire ne sont plus que le fait de compilations hors de prix et d’hommages ataviques afin de les présenter au public comme d’antiques œuvres dignes d’un musée : belles à regarder, mais réactionnaires si elles venaient à redevenir un modèle. Ezra Pound disait que « le classique est le nouveau qui reste nouveau », non pas la recherche stérile d’originalité qui agite la modernité comme une sorte de tautologie maladive.

mercredi, 31 août 2016

Jack London et notre oligarchie mondiale


Jack London et notre oligarchie mondiale

La force motrice des oligarques est leur conviction de bien faire

par Nicolas Bonnal

Ex: http://www.dedefensa.org

L'occident est dirigé par des oligarques humanitaires et dangereux. Voyons voir.

La Fed a été créée il y a un peu plus de cent ans ; les élites hostiles déclenchent un an après la première guerre mondiale ; elles ont voulu un créer un nouvel ordre mondial dès la fin de cette guerre, via les propositions de Wilson et Mandel House. A cette époque aussi Rathenau parlait des 300 qui dirigent le monde ; et de cette oligarchie anonyme et vagabonde des esprits aussi brillants et différents que Chesterton (Un nommé jeudi) ou Jack London furent les dénonciateurs. On va parler de Jack London ; nous le redécouvrons avec joie.

C'est dans le Talon de fer que London décrit cette terrible oligarchie qui malmène le peuple prolétaire américain, régulièrement remplacé alors, au moment des grèves, par des arrivages d'immigrants est et sud-européens. Marx avait déjà dénoncé l'immigration comme piège social, entre la Belgique et la France. A l'époque de Jack London, Madison Grant pronostique dans son passing of a great race la fin du peuple américain (il rappelle que l'immigration fait baisser la natalité du natif). Edward Allsworth Ross, plus grand sociologue de l'époque, fait de même dans son Changing world jamais traduit ici. Peu à peu il sera interdit - jusqu'à Trump ou presque (Lisez Peter Brimelow, lisez aussi le... cousin de Paul Auster) d'évoquer le sujet de l'immigration, sous peine d'imputation fasciste, nazie, xénophobe, etc.

Et voyons l'oligarchie de Jack London, si proche de la nôtre. Dans le Talon de fer donc, il parle comme un libertarien du corporate state confisqué et noyauté par les grosses boîtes et les élites :

« Les Oligarques avaient réussi à inventer une machine gouvernementale aussi compliquée que vaste, mais qui fonctionnait, en dépit de tous nos efforts pour l’entraver et la saboter. »

Puis London ajoute que nous sommes achetés ou abrutis par ces mêmes élites. Il y a celui qu'on achète pour trois lentilles (le bobo) et celui qu'on laisse crever (le prolo).

« Ils avaient une meilleure nourriture, moins d’heures de travail quotidien, plus de vacances, un choix plus varié de plaisirs et de distractions intellectuelles. Quant à leurs frères et sœurs moins fortunés, les travailleurs non favorisés, le peuple surmené de l’Abîme, ils ne s’en souciaient pas le moins du monde. Une ère d’égoïsme s’annonçait dans l’humanité. »

L'égoïsme est important et c'est une notion selon moi plus forte que l'individualisme dont se repaissent les théoriciens actuels de l'anti-mondialisation. A notre époque damnée je me considère par exemple comme un individualiste, pas comme un égoïste.

London souligne ensuite les progrès de l'oligarchie (comme disait Baudrillard le capitalisme bouge plus vite que ses opposants !).

« L’Oligarchie elle-même se développa d’une façon remarquable et, il faut l’avouer, inattendue. En tant que classe, elle se disciplina. Chacun de ses membres eut sa tâche assignée dans le monde et fut obligé de l’accomplir. Il n’y eut plus de jeunes gens riches et oisifs. Leur force était employée pour consolider celle de l’Oligarchie. »

Et que je t'envoie faire tes études à Sydney, ton MBA à Berkeley... tes devoirs humanitaires à Haïti ou au Rwanda...

Et là, le coup de génie de Jack London. Il comprend que nos élites sont dangereuses car gentilles et humanitaires, missionnées et messianiques. Elles sont dans le même état moral que le Führer qui voulait interdire le tabac aux femmes, limiter les vitesses de voiture, libérer les sudètes ou créer l'homme nouveau. Dans son Ozymandia, le libertarien Shaffer Butler indique que ses étudiants sont des gentils nazis sans le savoir (végétariens, écolos, zoophiles, anti-tabac, contrôleurs de tout, etc.)

Et Jack London d'écrire :

« Ils se croyaient les sauveurs du genre humain, et se considéraient comme des travailleurs héroïques se sacrifiant pour son plus grand bien. »

Irremplaçables, ces élites en viennent à ne plus imaginer leur propre grand remplacement. La montée fabriquée des bourses et des bureaucraties mondiales les favorise.

« Ils étaient convaincus que leur classe était l’unique soutien de la civilisation, et persuadés que s’ils faiblissaient une minute, le monstre les engloutirait dans sa panse caverneuse et gluante avec tout ce qu’il y a de beauté et de bonté, de joies et de merveilles au monde. Sans eux, l’anarchie régnerait et l’humanité retomberait dans la nuit primordiale d’où elle eut tant de peine à émerger. »

jack london, littérature, littérature américaine, oligarchie, oligarchisme, lettres, lettres américaines, Le peuple est donc détesté car il ne comprend rien. Merkel, Juncker ou Sutherland n'arrêtent pas de nous insulter au sujet de l'immigration. On nous accuse d'inventer ce que nous redoutons. Vite, la camisole.

Et cela donne sous la plume géniale de Jack London (dont le livre inspira le Metropolis de Fritz Lang) :

« Telle était la bête qu’il fallait fouler aux pieds, et son écrasement constituait le suprême devoir de l’aristocrate. En résumé, eux seuls, par leurs efforts et sacrifices incessants, se tenaient entre la faible humanité et le monstre dévorant ; ils le croyaient fermement, ils en étaient sûrs. »

Ces lignes font penser à celles de Nietzsche dans le Crépuscule des idoles : notre penseur rebelle y décrit l'Eglise comme une ménagerie destinée à dresser le barbare. Nous sommes revenus à ces excès. Les fondations et les programmes financés par les fondations des Clinton-Soros-Bill Gates doivent nous rééduquer et nous mettre au pas de leur loi.

London revient sur la philosophie périlleuse de ces élites auto-proclamées :

« L’amour du bien, le désir du bien, le mécontentement de ce qui n’est pas tout à fait bien, en un mot, la bonne conduite, voilà le facteur primordial de la religion. Et l’on peut en dire autant de l’Oligarchie.»

Et il ponctue par cette phrase superbe :

« La grande force motrice des oligarques est leur conviction de bien faire. »

C'est comme cela que l'on a les sanctions antirusses, les millions de réfugiés, les terroristes, les guerres, les retraites à 70 ans, le salafisme partout, la dette immonde, sans oublier la négation des élections ou de la liberté quotidienne.

London se fait a priori peu d'illusions sur le populo :

« D’autre part, la grande masse désespérée du peuple de l’Abîme s’enfonçait dans un abrutissement apathique et satisfait de sa misère. »

Et il annonce que les révoltes peuvent être provoquées, noyées dans le sang ou récupérées. Avis à Zerohedge.

Dans un autre très bon livre, Le peuple de l'abîme, Jack London décrit – on est en 1902 - la catastrophique situation des classes pauvres ou « indigentes » en Angleterre, donnée toujours en exemple par nos grands libéraux (même Tocqueville était horrifié par le modèle british et le « labyrinthe infect » de Manchester, je citerai en bas les pages). Il se livre ensuite à un éloge original de la féodalité :

« Dans les anciens temps, les grands cavaliers blonds, qui fonçaient à l’avant-garde des batailles, montraient au moins leur mesure en pourfendant les hommes de la tête à l’échine. Tous comptes faits, il avait bien plus de noblesse à tuer un ennemi solide d’un coup d’épée proprement assené, que de le réduire à l’état de bête, lui et ses descendants, par une manipulation adroite et implacable des rouages de l’industrie et de la politique. »

jack london, littérature, littérature américaine, oligarchie, oligarchisme, lettres, lettres américaines, London cite d'ailleurs la machine politique, comme le grand Ostrogorski à l'époque (un savant russe qui fut envoyé par le tzar pour étudier la corruption du système politique US, la « machine », les « boss » et tout le reste). Ensuite il appelle le nécessaire alcoolisme, qui effarera aussi Louis-Ferdinand Céline dans ses Bagatelles (il y consacre bien trente pages à l'alcool notre phénomène) :

« La classe ouvrière anglaise est littéralement noyée dans les demis de bière. Celle-ci la rend stupide, l’abrutit, et diminue considérablement son efficacité – l’ouvrier anglais n’a plus cet esprit de répartie, cette imagination et ces réflexes rapides qui faisaient l’apanage de sa race. »

Enfin London rappelle que l'oligarchie doit gouverner par la peur ; la nôtre utilise le terrorisme, la dette, le chômage, le réchauffement, le « ouacisme », car tout est bon à prendre. Il écrit :

« Et puis il y a aussi cette insécurité de bonheur, cette précarité de l’existence et cette peur devant l’avenir – les voilà, les facteurs bien puissants qui entraînent les gens à boire. »

Je conclurai encore et toujours avec Tocqueville parce que c'est un des grands génies de l'humanité et qu'il a tout vu. Il écrit au tome II de sa Démocratie à propos des oligarques :

« Je pense qu’à tout prendre, l’aristocratie manufacturière que nous voyons s’élever sous nos yeux est une des plus dures qui aient paru sur la terre ; mais elle est en même temps une des plus restreintes et des moins dangereuses. Toutefois, c’est de ce côté que les amis de la démocratie doivent sans cesse tourner avec inquiétude leurs regards ; car, si jamais l’inégalité permanente des conditions et l’aristocratie pénètre de nouveau dans le monde, on peut prédire qu’elles y entreront par cette porte. »

Enfin Tocqueville explique pourquoi cette classe « industrielle » (le chat botté de Perrault en est une préfiguration) n'hésitera pas à nous remplacer ou à nous éliminer, à nous liquéfier :

« L’aristocratie que fonde le négoce ne se fixe presque jamais au milieu de la population industrielle qu’elle dirige ; son but n’est point de gouverner celle-ci, mais de s’en servir. »

On se doute que l'on apprend à jeter les peuples après usage. Ne vous étonnez pas de la fracture entre le peuple et les élites, inquiétez-vous de votre sort. Mais il semble que jamais depuis longtemps opinion publique n'a été plus motivée que la nôtre contre ses guides.

Nicolas Bonnal


Jack London – Le talon de fer ; le peuple de l'abîme (ebooksgratuits.com).

Tocqueville – Œuvres complètes, Paris, 1866, tome VII, pp.366-370 (archive.org) ; De la démocratie, II, Deuxième partie, chapitre vingt.

Chesterton – Un nommé jeudi (sur wikisource).

Ross – A changing America.