Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby MmeJavert » Sat Aug 07, 2010 5:32 pm

silverwhistle wrote:Dante wrote quite a lot in Latin (De Vulgari Eloquentia, for example), so that would be no problem for Jehan.


Yes, I'm well aware of this. The question was more about access to the actual works, not whether he could read them. I don't know if there was enough widespread interest at the time to circulate books of all of Dante's works, in Latin or translation or whatever. That's all.

The reason I ask is ... you can walk into Borders and find (in the Ancient/Mediaeval history section!) various editions of The Divine Comedy and occasionally La Vita Nuova, all in English -- but the chances of finding Il Convivio, De Vulgari Eloquentia, de Monarchia = exactly nothing. Of course if I trawled Amazon I could probably find all of these in, whether in editions of Dante's work or by themselves, but frequently they end up being rare enough and/or out of print that I have to trawl around used books to get them. Which is why I don't have them in anything but a an omnibus edition in French of all of Dante's works.

My imagination says that one who was dedicated enough to Dante could probably lay his hands on all his works, if he looked around the right places, but if Jehan were to decide he wanted to read Il Convivio or De Vulgari Eloquentia, would he be able to get it from his usual bookshop or would he have to really go looking around because practically nobody published/circulated editions of them.
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby PureDiamondLight » Wed Aug 18, 2010 9:16 pm

I always found it interesting that Hugo tells us Jehan learned Hebrew to read Isaiah. Because yes, it talks a lot about God's punishment and judgement on sinners, etc, but there's also a huge overriding message of hope and multiple descriptions of brighter days to come -

"instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree" (and lots of others which I can't find right now)

AND there is an enormous amount of light imagery. Eg:
"if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul, then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday"

I think we all know someone who talks constantly about light. Seriously, some of Enjolras' speeches could be adapted from parts of Isaiah.

So what does this add to Prouvaire's character? Juvenal we all know is extremely dirty (translating it in my one-on-one latin lessons = UGH); Aeschylus is raw sorrow a lot of the time. Maybe Isaiah adds a soupcon of hope to the mix that is Jehan? He understands the suffering around him (represented by Aeschylus) but believes passionately in a brighter future.

Just a thought.

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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby Frédérique » Mon Aug 23, 2010 12:32 pm

Oooh, this thread has been so fascinating again lately! HOWEVER. Interrupting (alas) the Dante, Ancients etc. discussion and going back to the Prouvaire-as-a-1820s/30s-French-Romantic thing for a moment, I just realised I never posted all of this in one place - list of more or less graspable things suggesting that Prouvaire is, in fact, more directly modeled on Gérard de Nerval than any other Ami is modeled on anyone else (it's mostly tiny, vague things, but they pile up!):

- As mentioned before on various instances, Jean Prouvaire is the only one of les Amis who is regularly referred to by his first name both by the narrator and by Enjolras; Gérard de Nerval not only published as plain Gérard for some time but was still referred to as Gérard and Gérard alone years after; even after his death, Gautier published "Portraits de Gérard", not "Portraits de Nerval". While many of the Romantics addressed each other by first names (hence the need to call O'Neddy Philothée to avoid confusion with Théo [Gautier]), this is unusual.
Gérard may not have picked a medieval alias, but he did publish pseudonymously (his birth name was Labrunie) and use pseudonyms according to the nature of the work, i.e. 'Fritz' for one of his translations from German (I have not yet found the exact one [since they are all filed under 'de Nerval' today], but I think he did use it in print; the pseudonym apparently originated on a somewhat erratic road trip around Belgium with Gautier). He is also referred to as Fritz in Gautier's "Le château du souvenir". Let me just quote that so you can all try to pronounce it (I recently spent an hour trying to sing passages from the poem to the tune of "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables"):
Et Fritz explique à Cidalise
Le Walpurgisnachtstraum de Faust.

I think, on a 'when in doubt make no assumptions' basis, that 'Fritz' is not a reference to any specific person. It's short for 'Friedrich', which was an absurdly common name among German males in the eighteenth and nineteenth century (about ten times as much as the French equivalent - which is 'Frédéric', of course :D) ... just as absurdly common as 'Jehan' was in medieval France!

- Both Gautier and secondary sources (in this case, Jules Claretie in his bio of Pétrus Borel) continuously refer to Gérard as 'le bon Gérard' and stress that being 'bon' was his primary quality. Cf. Hugo on Jehan, 'above all he was good', 'a gentle poet' and so on. Claretie (who was not a part of the scene in any way, though) also refers to Gérard as 'l'homme le plus douce de la terre'.

- Jehan alone of les Amis sometimes refers to Buonaparte as Napoléon. Gérard's first published works were 'national elegies' dealing with both the Napoléonic era and the man himself.

- It's been agreed that 'Prouvaire' is from Rue des Prouvaires, right?

Image

This may actually be the most (if not the only) convincing piece of evidence. (Image is a footnote in the meagre collection of his correspondance available on Gallica.)
(The Rue des Prouvaires is also at a very reasonable walking distance from the Masonic lodge mentioned in "Enjolras and his Lieutenants". But that's not saying much.)

- Gérard did also dress differently from the rest of the gang, albeit in the opposite way from how some (if not most) of us have been reading it for Jehan:
La recherche d'excentricité était alors tellement courante que, par contraste, celui qui s'habillait simplement se faisait remarquer: c'était le cas de Nerval, toujours vêtu d'un costume noir ou bleu sombre.

[The quest for eccentricity was thus so widespread that, by contrast, those who dressed plainly stood out: this was the case of Nerval, always clad in black or sombre blue.]
From Martin-Fugier, "Les Romantiques 1820-1848".

- Gérard's primary passion in terms of foreign language, literature, and culture may have been Germany, towards which Jehan shows no inclination whatsoever (sniff) (well IN MY HEAD Jehan has a lot to say on the Germans' collecting fairy tales from French Huguenot refugees and claiming them as their own national folk tales, but, um, yeah, that is in my head), but he did also join the ranks of the oriental travelers, which ties semi-neatly into Jehan's almost-orientalism.

- This is so far-fetched but brilliant it makes me giggle: the man who ended up marrying Jenny Colon (the nature of Gérard's admiration for whom has been much debated) was a flute player.

- Pétrus Borel and Gérard de Nerval are the first prominent members of Hugo's circle who die. Not only are Bahorel and Prouvaire the first of les Amis to die, but this in general speaks for Hugo perhaps deciding to maybe actually pay homage to them*. Marguerite with her insight on various draft stages confirms that Prouvaire and Bahorel were added only in the final draft (and at the same time!), after Nerval and Borel were already dead. The more I read about Borel, the less he seems a likely Bahorel, though - far too melancholy in his own right, decidedly lacking in a 'tolerably large allowance' to waste, and not older than the rest of the gang. (I do enjoy that the first two or three times he is mentioned in Gautier's mémoirs, it is next to Gérard. And that Gautier can't stop talking about his facial hair. Ohhhh, Gautier. I keep wanting to cast him as someone but he is equal parts Courfeyrac and Bahorel [waistcoats!] and X. Well, you can't be anything in three equal parts, can you, but--)

- ... I realise this is unscientific, but but but there are so many things that sound just right even without one concrete phrase being linked to another! Théo's recollection of how Gérard would wander the streets all day (looking like an idler, but really being lost in observation, contemplation, even composition) and his friends would leave their windows open in the hope that he would pass by and climb in, staying just a little (for he never stayed for long) seems so in tune with Jehan occupying himself with clouds (and with acute social questions) and ... well. And then, there's a sense (or, you know, there is in my head) that the statement re: Jehan being 'in love' does not refer to his pining after a specific person but that the emotional state (and ensuing ostensibly erratic modes of behaviour/reaction) commonly associated with Being In Love is for him a sort of modus vivendi, and that could not be truer for Gérard, whose life is notoriously full of vague pining and devoid of actual (provable) romances/affairs. (Is anybody interested in hearing about Gérard Cogez' speculations re: Nerval's sexuality? He never seems to be able to decide whether he was homosexual, transsexual, in love with his mother, or all of the above. It's not strictly Prouvaire-related, so I'm not writing it all out here.)

- As for what Prouvaire has in common with Jehan Du Seigneur beside the name, the latter is described (both by Gautier and others - although it seems likely that all 'others', as long as they were not Cénaclists themselves, used Gautier as a source) as 'sweet, with the modest, timid air of a virgin, but robust [as sculptors have to be, facing their hard material]', which is reasonably close to 'timid yet intrepid'. (Gautier's physical description of young Gérard is positively Enjolraic, by the way.)

Long story short: the lobster is totally justified (and Nerval is wonderful) :P

Other than that, has anyone else considered that with Hugo's rather outspoken distaste for Racine (he wouldn't even leave his spirit in peace!), maybe he actually did mean to identify him as Prouvaire's least favourite writer rather than his third favourite? And Corneille somewhere in the middle? Hugo quotes Corneille so often in NDdP that it seems unlikely that he loathed him quite as much as he seems to have loathed Racine.
And re: Isaiah and Juvenal, there is a letter of Hugo's (from November 18, 1852) in which he justifies the violent language of his own "Châtiments" with reference to the two. Robb paraphrases it as follows:
Hugo's reasoning was this: the violence of his poems would impress the masses and give him the authority later on to prevent violent reprisal.
I can't find the original quote, sadly. But it might somehow play into Jehan's taste for them.


*Notable also that Hugo actually quotes Gérard in "Les Misérables", and he does not quote many of his contemporaries:
"God is dead, perhaps," said Gérard de Nerval one day to the writer of these lines, confounding progress with God, and taking the interruption of movement for the death of Being.

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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby Roses for Ophelia » Mon Aug 23, 2010 12:50 pm

That reminds me of a question i've always had; what exactly is the significance of Jehan calling Bonaparte 'Napoleon?' I get why the rest of them call him Bonaparte, and Enjolras Buonaparte ( actually, maybe i don't. Is it because he hates him so much, he doesn't even consider him French, thus the pseudo-Italian pronounciatin?) But anyway, why Napoleon?
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby Hannah » Mon Aug 23, 2010 1:03 pm

I like to think that Jehan is a little more sentimental about individual people (I like to imagine he calls a lot of people by their first/full names, too, but that's also totally unfounded) than the rest of them, but there's probably a more ...reasonable and well-founded reason than that XD

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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby Frédérique » Mon Aug 23, 2010 1:04 pm

Is it because he hates him so much, he doesn't even consider him French, thus the pseudo-Italian pronounciati


I think so. It seems to be going into 'Napoléon's so-called glory =/= French glory; he isn't even properly French, so what he did neither contributes to nor detracts from the inherent glory of the French nation'. It's very tied up in the early nineteenth century kind of nationalism which is very, very hard to look at appropriately from a modern viewpoint (as in, without spending a dozen pages on pointing out the shifts of weightings of ... things).
As for the significance of Jehan calling him Napoléon, I think it's mainly ... a poet thing, and as such dependent on the retrospective context, i.e. 'Napoléon' is the name under which the person in question has gone down in world history, it's the name attached to the era and the myth.

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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby Usefulbeauty » Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:41 pm

PureDiamondLight wrote:I always found it interesting that Hugo tells us Jehan learned Hebrew to read Isaiah. Because yes, it talks a lot about God's punishment and judgement on sinners, etc, but there's also a huge overriding message of hope and multiple descriptions of brighter days to come -


I really don't have too much to add to this discussion, but it's great fun to read!
Although I will say this--I read the first half dozen of chapters in Isaiah yesterday during church, and ended up underlining half of it (And writing little words like "Feuilly!" and "Revolution!" in the margins. I think I wrote "Feuilly," because nearby there's a verse that says, "He lifts up a banner for the distant nations.") because of all the references to oppression that I think Jehan would have read. Stuff like:

"Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the case of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." (1:17)

"What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?" declares the Lord Almighty." (3:15)

I can really see why he liked this book. It seems very Revolution-y, for lack of a better word, or a more fully functioning brain on my part. xD Can you guys just imagine Jehan quoting some of this stuff loudly?
I think I'll see if we can talk about Isaiah in my Sunday School thing, just so I can get a better understanding of the book historically.
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:58 pm

I get why Jehan loves Isaiah. I'm a reader at my parish and I usually *try* to get assigned to Sundays when the reading is sure to be from Isaiah.

The imagery and poetry in the book are so beautiful even in the less Apocalyptic parts of it. And Isaiah 60 when rendered into music is something that I am sure would make Jehan's spirit soar.
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby hazellwood » Mon Aug 23, 2010 5:53 pm

Usefulbeauty wrote:I can really see why he liked this book. It seems very Revolution-y, for lack of a better word, or a more fully functioning brain on my part. xD Can you guys just imagine Jehan quoting some of this stuff loudly?
I think I'll see if we can talk about Isaiah in my Sunday School thing, just so I can get a better understanding of the book historically.

My Jehan quotes things constantly, and often with an Outdoor Voice. (It has occurred to me that I constantly mention things I've written yet have never actually posted any of it. Err.) Buuuut I've never read any of Isaiah and thus cannot give an opinion of why Jehan likes it. :oops:

Frédérique wrote:As for the significance of Jehan calling him Napoléon, I think it's mainly ... a poet thing, and as such dependent on the retrospective context, i.e. 'Napoléon' is the name under which the person in question has gone down in world history, it's the name attached to the era and the myth.

I agree with this. But I think Hannah is right, too, about being sentimental about individual people? I think that's the kind of person he is.

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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby PureDiamondLight » Mon Aug 23, 2010 7:58 pm

Aurelia Combeferre wrote:I get why Jehan loves Isaiah. I'm a reader at my parish and I usually *try* to get assigned to Sundays when the reading is sure to be from Isaiah.

The imagery and poetry in the book are so beautiful even in the less Apocalyptic parts of it. And Isaiah 60 when rendered into music is something that I am sure would make Jehan's spirit soar.



Isaiah. Is. Awesome.

The books in the 50s (and some in the 40s I think) are my favourites. I shall have to go back and revisit...

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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby sophiedegrouchy » Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:10 am

PureDiamondLight, I'm going to have to go for Ch 40. But the real question is: is Jehan a Proto-Isaiah or a Deutero-Isaiah man? :lol:

Some disorganized thoughts on Jehan and Isaiah:

-Even if there's no way to justify it, I so want to see Jehan's love of Isaiah as a sneaky little bit of meta on the nature of apocalyptic/messianic prophecy, be the apocalypse biblical or revolutionary. In short, there's a bunch of stuff in Isaiah that Christians can point to as predictions about Jesus: virgin birth (7:14), a descendant of David who will reign over an eternal peace (9:6-7), who will smite the wicked and bless the meek (11:4), who will be "wounded for our transgressions" and "brought as a lamb to slaughter" (all of 53), etc. BUT, aside from the Ch. 53 stuff, most of it involves the twisting/reinterpretation of prophecy that Christianity is so good at, with the "it's a kingdom of heaven, not anearthly kingdom being the classic example.
I...had a more coherent point to make when I started out writing this, and now it's slipped out my ears, but it was something to the effect of: I can't think of Isaiah without getting this sense of, when one tries to deal with the (in Jehan's case, revolutionary) apocalypse, one tends to see what one wants to or is expecting to see. This isn't necessarily a problem for believers, but it causes a real disconnect between them and other schools of interpretation.

-It's easy to forget how this is a book of extremes. True, it has the horrific (eg "Through the wrath of the Lord of Hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother. ...they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm." [9:19-20]). But that's balanced out by the truly beautiful. Plowshares become swords. The wolf lies with the lamb. Once "The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers...The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet," then everyone spontaneously bursts into song. You're left with no hate, no death, no fear. So yeah, it's a bloody text, but all the blood is forgotten when its aim, the kingdom of God, comes. Then from the Christian perspective, there's the Jesus!yay! to take into account, further reducing the horrors of the work. It also contains some purely beautiful passages that could hold obvious appeal to a poet, my favorite being "Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?" (40:12).
Anyway, it's important to keep in mind when we're talking Isaiah that, while it's not the expected reading material of your average lovelorn poet, it's also not all "AND HE SHALL VANQUISH THE OPPRESSORS AND DROWN THEM IN A TIDE OF THEIR OWN BLOOD HELL YES." There's beauty and peace there too.

-The eternal question of religion: how is Jehan reading this? As a religious text? As a book of poetry? As a fantasy of bloody utopias? I can't see him liking it primarily as a Jesus-book - it's too weird for that - but neither would it be easy for him to separate its meaning from thousands of years of religious traditions. Surely he could find secular blood elsewhere.

-I know that the "And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (2:4) isn't exactly uncommon, but it's pretty cool that Isaiah shows up in the final chorus of the musical.

-30:22: "Thou shalt cast them [i.e. idols] away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence." Can anyone else see this leading to a really humorous situation involving an unfortunate lady love?

-A whole bunch of the text to Handel's Messiah comes from the book. I can just imagine Jehan wandering around singing it in a field. Or down a street. Or in his room after midnight. Trying to accompany himself with his flute.

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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:18 am

Oh dear. Now I have a mental image of Jehan trying to set Isaiah 60 to flute music (it is possible to do it on a recorder, so it shouldn't be so far-fetched).

The beauty and peace aspect of Isaiah is what I really think would catch Jehan as well. I imagine him really as a poet who is not above using drastic means to achieve the liberation so touted in the text.
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby MmeJavert » Tue Aug 24, 2010 2:22 pm

PIE I AM SO GLAD TO SEE YOU HERE.

...also, all that is awesome. I haven't cracked a bible in a really, really long time. Uh. So I've pretty much not read Isaiah in a long time either. XD
and to this day, she's glided on
always home but so far away
like a word misplaced
nothing said, what a waste

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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby PureDiamondLight » Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:30 am

It's peculiar. I can't shake the feeling that Isaiah is more Enjolras than Jehan (lying awake in bed thinking this over? me? never!!). Let me explain my thinking:

Some quotes from the description of Enjolras (which we probably all know by heart, but never mind)
"his sole passion was for justice"
"his speech was harsh and intense, with a lyrical undertone"
"Enjolras stood for [the revolution's] divine right"


- To me, harsh and intense with a lyrical undertone is exactly how I would describe Isaiah.

- Enjolras is the war-like one; he knows that violence will come before peace, that evil must be blasted out of the way by a bloody destruction - it cannot be coaxed into departing. Isaiah describes the bloody annihilation of evil and the following utopia of peace and justice. (I won't quote, seeing as there have already been several quotes made in this thread, and I think you all get the general idea). To me, those extremes are the ones that Enjolras represents and embodies.

However, Jean Prouvaire is descibed as "a shade more softhearted than Combeferre". Combeferre, according to Hugo, "can only be fulfilled by peace". he can fight when necessary but would prefer not to. So why does Jehan, who is even softer than Combeferre, read a book which is in places so harsh? Bloodthirsty, even?

I get that in places Isaiah is very poetic. And (as I said myself earlier :P ) that the overriding message is one of hope. I also get that (as Frederique said) Jehan could pick up plenty of tips for impressive writing from there, the better to make an impact on his readers.

So yes, I guess that Jehan liking Isaiah makes sense in a lot of ways. But to me it just doesn't make as much sense connecting Jehan to Isaiah as it would connecting Enjolras to it. To me, Enjolras embodies everything that Isaiah is. The fierce passion for justice. The harsh beauty of it. The divine visions. The very vivid-ness of the hope.

Sorry if this is garbled.

I will now grab my Bible and see if there is anything interesting in Ezekiel... maybe then things will make more sense.

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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Wed Aug 25, 2010 2:06 pm

Hmm, interesting thought.

Maybe you could end up connecting Ezekiel to Enjolras too...something about that book that goes beyond the cherub that Victor Hugo mentions.

Though of course (and I am sure that a_marguerite would agree with me), the book that could be connected to Enjolras is the book of Revelation :lol:
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