5.2 L'intestin de Léviathan 21/7/11-26/7/11

Abaissé re-reads the novel in its entirety! All welcome, no matter whether you're reading in French or some other translation. Discussion topics for each step along the way.

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5.2 L'intestin de Léviathan 21/7/11-26/7/11

Postby Frédérique » Thu Jul 21, 2011 10:19 pm

Volume 5: Jean Valjean, book 2: The intestine of Leviathan

Chapters:

1. La terre appauvrie par la mer/Land impoverished by the sea
2. L'histoire ancienne de l'égout/Ancient history of the sewer
3. Bruneseau/Bruneseau
4. Détails ignorés/Little-known details
5. Progrès actuel/Current progress
6. Progrès futur/Future progress


You can find the French text of this book here and the Hapgood English translation here.

Past, present, and predictions for the sewers of Paris. Guest-starring a dead ourang-outan, amongst other things.

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Re: 5.2 L'intestin de Léviathan 21/7/11-26/7/11

Postby MmeBahorel » Sun Jul 31, 2011 6:26 pm

Sewers! I haven't abandoned the read-through - it's more that I let myself get behind because I really did not feel like crying over everyone dying. I hope to get caught up this week.

Livre 2

Chapitre 1
1 (Land Impoverished by the Sea): Ce titre renvoie aux discours de V. Hugo des 27 juin et 1er juillet 1846, devant la Chambre des Pairs, sur la << défense du littoral >> agressé par l'océan. Voir Actes et Paroles I, Avant l'exil au volume Politique.
This title recalls Hugo's speeches from 27 June to 1 July 1846, before the Chamber of Peers, on the “defense of the littoral” attacked by the ocean. See Acts and Words I, Before Exile, in the volume Political.

2 (it's his sewer): Hugo s'est servi, pour ce livre, d'une Statistique des égouts de Paris publiée en 1837 et de la brochure de Pierre Leroux, publiée à Londres et à Jersey en 1853, Aux États de Jersey, sur un moyen de quintupler, pour ne pas dire plus, la production agricole du pays.
Hugo used, for this book, a Statistic of the Sewers of Paris published in 1837 and Pierre Leroux's pamphlet, published in London and Jersey in 1853, To the States of Jersey, on a Method of Quintupling, to Say No More, the Agricultural Production of the Country. [Pamphlet, ha! it's 227 pages.]

3 (the Thames poisons London): C'est du moins ce que pensait V. Hugo écrivant, le 21 juillet 1859, à sa fille Adèle qui prolongeait avec sa mère son séjour à Londres : << On me dit de tous côtés que la Tamise empeste et empoisonne Londres en été. Les journaux sont pleins de détails hideux sur le curage qu'on a été obligé d'interrompre. Dépêchez-vous donc de sortir de ce typhus ! >> Cité par H. Guillemin, L'Engloutie, Le Seuil, 1985, p. 59. Il faut tenir compte, pour apprécier tout ceci, que nous somme à la grande époque des théories de la contagion aérienne et de l'hygiène respiratoire : fenêtres ouverte et << bon air >>.
It's at least what Hugo thought in writing, 21 July 1859, to his daughter Adèle who had extended, along with her mother, her visit to London: “I am told from all sides that the Thames stinks up and poisons London in summer. The newspapers are full of hideous details on the clean-up that had to be interrupted. Hurry, then, to get out of that typhus!” Cited by H. Guillemin, The Devoured, Le Seuil, 1985, p. 59. It is necessary to keep in mind, to understand all this, that we are at the great epoch of theories of aerial contagion and respiratory hygiene: open windows and “good air”.

4 (it will be resolved): Gauvain développera cette idée dans Quatrevingt-treize : << Supprimez les parasitismes ; le parasitisme du prêtre, le parasitisme du juge, le parasitisme du soldat. […] Ensuite, tirez parti de vos richesses ; vous jetez l'engrais à l'égout, jetez-les au sillon. >>
Gauvain will develop this idea in Ninety-Three: “Suppress the parasitisms; the parasitism of the priest, the parasitism of the judge, the parasitism of the soldier. . . . Finally, turn your wealth to good account: you throw manure into the sewer; throw it onto your plowed fields.”

5 (its Beaujon folly): Entrevue << en l'année 1817 >>, voir I, 3, 4 et la note 45.
Discussion “in the year 1817”, see I, 3, 4 and note 45. [Beaujon pleasure garden and roller coaster.]

6 (Urbi et orbi): La grande bénédiction papale commence par ces termes, traduits à la phrase précédente.
The great papal benediction begins with these terms, translated in the preceding sentence.

7 (the city of mud): Selon l'étymologie courante, Lutèce vient de lutum, boue. Hugo avait déjà noté cette étymologie dans un fragment non daté (entre 1834 et 1839) : << L'Urbs des temps modernes […] s'appelle Lutétia, ce qui vient de Lutus, boue, et elle s'appelle Parisis, ce qui vient d'Isis, la mystérieuse déesse de la Vérité. Ainsi vingt siècles ont amené la double idée, la souillure et le rayonnement […] à se résoudre en cette chose hideuse et splendide, prostituée et saint, que nous nommons Paris. >> (éd. J. Massin, t. V, p. 978.)
According to current etymology, Lutèce derives from lutum, mud. Hugo had already noted this etymology in an undated fragment (between 1834 and 1839): “The Urbs of modern times . . . is called Lutétia, which comes from Lutus, mud, and it is called Parisis, which comes from Isis, the mysterious goddess of Truth. Thus twenty centuries have brought the double idea, the stain and the shine . . . to resolve in this hideous and splendid, corrupt and holy, thing we call Paris.” (ed. J. Massin, vol. V, p. 978.)

Chapitre 2
8 (from a bird's-eye view): Voir IV, 13, 1, Paris à vol d'hibou, et la note 2.
See IV, 13, 1, An Owl's-Eye view of Paris, and note 2. [Compare to Notre-Dame de Paris.]

9 (the firemen [chauffeurs]): Les << chauffeurs >> avaient, sous le Directoire, la spécialité de << chauffer >> les pieds de leurs victimes pour les faire parler. Ces brigands était souvent des hommes de main des royalistes du Midi.
The “Chauffeurs” had, under the Directory, the specialty of “heating” the feet of their victims to make them talk. These brigands were often the right-hand men of Royalists in the Midi.

10 (Messalina's elbow): Toute cette page est à rapprocher de L'Égout de Rome :
Et l'immonde univers y filtre goutte à goutte.
[…]
On approche, et longtemps on reste l'oeil fixé
[…]
Sans pouvoir distinguer si ces mornes charognes
Ont une forme encore visible en leurs débris,
Et sont des chiens crevés ou des Césars pourris.
(Châtiments, VII, 4.)

This whole page links up with “The Sewer of Rome”:
And the squalid universe filters it drop by drop,
. . .
One approaches, and for a long time stays staring with fixed eyes
. . .
Without the power to distinguish if this dismal carrion
Has a form still visible in its wreckage,
And are dead dogs or rotting Caesars.
(Chastisements, VII, 4.)

Chapitre 3
11 (Mercier attests): Louis-Sébastien Mercier (1740-1814) dans son célèbre Tableau de Paris (1781-1788).
Louis-Sébastien Mercier (1740-1814) in his famous Tableau de Paris (1781-1788).

12 (the inundation of 1802): On ne peut pas ne pas observer que l'année de cette << inondation d'égout >> est aussi celle de la naissance du poète.
Pour ce chapitre et les suivant, Hugo a effectivement consulté les rapports de Bruneseau.

One cannot refrain from observing that the year of this “sewer inundation” is also the year of the poet's birth.

13 (Saint-Foix fraternised with the Marquis de Créqui): Il doit s'agir plutôt de Saint-Foix (1698-1776), littérateur, dramaturge et fort querelleur, qui semble avoir été une figure parisienne entre 1740 et 1760. Les Créqui sont une grande famille apparentée aux Montmorency et aux Rohan. Un Jean de Créqui était le personnage principal des Jumeaux (voir volume Théâtre II).
It must instead be about Saint-Foix (1698-1776), writer, playwright, and great quarreller, who seems to have been a Parisian figure between 1740 and 1760. The Créquis were a great family related to the Montmorencys and the Rohans. A Jean de Créqui was the main character of the Twins (see volume Theatre II). [Les Jumeaux is an unfinished play based on the story of the Man in the Iron Mask.]

14 (The sewer was the barathrum): Latinisation du mot grec désignant le précipice d'Athènes où l'on jetait les condamnés à mort.
Latinisation of the Greek word designating the precipice of Athens from which one threw those condemned to death.

Chapitre 5
15 (It is appropriate and grey): Comme la suite du texte le confirme - << le classique alexandrin rectiligne >> -, ce mot est emprunté à la langue romantique de 1830 qui décelait et pourfendait dans la routine classique la haine de la couleur. Gautier, dans Le Gilet rouge, dit : << Pour nous le monde se divisait en flamboyants et en grisâtres. […] Diderot était un flamboyant, Voltaire un grisâtre. >> L'égout moderne est donc typiquement << classique >>.
As the following text confirms - “the classic rectilinear alexandrine” - this word is borrowed from the Romantic language of 1830 which detects and splits wide open the hatred of colour in the classical routine. Gautier, in The Red Waistcoat, said: “For us the world splits itself into flamboyants and greys. . . . Diderot was a flamboyant, Voltaire a grey.” The modern sewer us thus typically “classical”.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: 5.2 L'intestin de Léviathan 21/7/11-26/7/11

Postby MmeBahorel » Sat Aug 13, 2011 10:16 pm

Additional notes and abject nerdiness.

General points:

The way Hugo describes the waste inherent in the sewers is at the same time both right and wrong, particularly for a modern reader who doesn't know what's actually going on. Everything I pull here is from Donald Reid, Paris Sewers and Sewermen: Realities and Representations, 1991. Sewage farming was a popular notion at the period, an idea finally put into practice in Paris in the 1870s with a test site at Gennevilliers, but possibly first articulated by Edwin Chadwick after seeing how farmers outside Edinburgh c. 1840 were using sewage outflow to fertilize the market gardens. He described this process and advocated for it in the Sanitary Commission report of 1842, more than ten years before Leroux's publication. Even Marx cited the idea in Das Kapital – by 1862, Hugo is following a crowd, not articulating anything new. However, he's also sort of wrong, or at least he gives off an impression of being wrong by completely ignoring Montfaucon.

To a modern reader, it looks as if the sewer takes all of Paris' sewage and dumps it into the Seine, thus “wasting” it as Hugo asserts. Hugo's phrasing seems to imply that he's talking about human sewage, as Paris is the conglomeration of people and thus the life of Paris is the life of the Parisians. Most human sewage went into cesspools, *not* the sewer at all. The cesspools were cleared periodically and the contents delivered to Montfaucon, where they were condensed, dried, and the residue sold as fertilizer, exactly as Hugo is saying should happen to the waste of Paris. It was sold locally, throughout France, and occasionally abroad – a shipment that had gotten wet began to decompose enroute to the West Indies in 1818 and killed half the crew.

What is most important to remember is that the sewer is public and is for public waste – the waste in the streets. Private waste, waste from houses, must be disposed of privately. It was illegal to introduce private waste into the public sewers (in the 1880s, dumping into the sewers risked a 5 franc fine for each occurrence). So as icky as all this is, you actually should not have much human waste in there, comparatively speaking (a number of cesspool cleaners dumped into the sewer rather than drive their stuff all the way out to Montfaucon or its replacement at Bondy). Not until 1892 were property owners required to hook into the main sewer system.

The sewage that is being discussed is, therefore, predominantly horse manure with a minority of human waste from illegal dumping. Moreover, much of the sand that was so dangerous and filled up the sewers actually came from above, the result of street cleaning. With sand excavated from building sites and sand spread on the roads to help the horses maintain traction, plenty washed into the sewers with the garbage and manure. I feel like this needs to be emphasised because while Parisian readers at the time knew what Hugo was saying, foreign readers, and a modern audience, are going to take his points as universal when really they apply to a different sector than they appear to.

Specifics:

Chapter 1
Madrepore Coral – the branchy stuff, sometimes called zigzag coral

I love how Hugo asserts that Paris has the best shit. Somehow, I think this cannot be proved, but it's kind of an awesome assertion. Paris has the best of everything, so of course it produces the best shit.

Chapter 2
“like some grotesque alphabet of the East” - wow, that's some random orientalism, and thoroughly unnecessary

vermin pit of Benares – I believe this refers to the Nag Kuan, or Snake Well. Edwin Greaves, in a 1909 publication, described it as “allowed to remain in a very filthy condition” except during the annual festival during which ritual bathing takes place. This main explain the attraction the well has for snakes, if there are indeed things for them to eat and water that keeps the place moist. Mr Greaves did not like the steps down to the well at all.

Tiglath Pilezer – Assyrian king, probably founder of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, defeated the king of Judah in 740 BC and took over Babylon 11 years later. He also made major reforms to improve the efficiency of the government and the army. Nineveh was his capital, and he built a new palace on the hill of Nimrud. I have no idea what Hugo's getting at.

John of Leyden – Anabaptist leader. The Wiki article is kind of hilariously awesome, and I suspect the guy was on Hugo's mind because of Meyerbeer's opera about him, The Prophet, which included a roller skating scene! (Seriously, quick research on this guy has turned out hilarious.) Nothing on a false moon or on false silver or fake coinage (“lune” being an alchemist's name for “silver”, I figured it worth a shot)

Mokannah – Persian self-proclaimed prophet; the reference here is almost certainly from Lalla-Rookh: Victory's our own-- 'tis written in that Book
"Upon whose leaves none but the angels look,
"That ISLAM'S sceptre shall beneath the power
"Of her great foe fall broken in that hour
"When the moon's mighty orb before all eyes
"From NEKSHEB'S Holy Well portentously shall rise!
"Now turn and see!" --They turned, and, as he spoke,
A sudden splendor all around them broke,
And they beheld an orb, ample and bright,
Rise from the Holy Well and cast its light[123]
Round the rich city and the plain for miles,--
Flinging such radiance o'er the gilded tiles
Of many a dome and fair-roofed imaret
As autumn suns shed round them when they set.


Ooh, in 1881, a woman in Iowa wrote in to Popular Science to ask WTF Hugo meant with these references. I don't blame her – I'm totally lost on John of Leyden, and I have Google! (I'm going to guess it came out of the opera somehow, or else was made up to match with the Lalla-Rookh reference.)

Maillotins (wiki French only)- popular uprising in 1382, under Charles VI of Valois, due to overtaxation. In Paris, they took over the Hotel de Ville and killed the tax collected with lead mallets, from which comes the name of Maillotins. It was a nationwide uprising, but brutally repressed.

Tire-Laine – refers to thieves who take cloaks. The listing here is combining political action with petty theft as the variety of people who have made use of the sewers.

Illuminés de Morin – followers of Simon Morin, a charismatic religious fanatic who was condemned to death by fire in 1663.

The list of murderers:
Louis XI and Tristan – the murder of Louis de Bourbon, entirely possibly as told by Walter Scott in Quentin Durward. Hugo uses him in Notre-Dame de Paris as well.
François I and Duprat – Duprat considered second only to Richelieu in terms of unofficial power. The deaths apparently relate to executions of those who posted subversive, protestant-sympathising pamphlets, but I'm not finding good details quickly.
Charles IX and his mother – his mother and regent was Catherine de Medici, under whose authority the St Bartholomew's Day massacre was carried out. The murder is probably that of Jeanne d'Albret, queen of Navarre, which didn't actually happen but was rumoured and which Dumas used in La Reine Margot.
Richelieu and Louis XIII – probably Henri de Montmorency
Louvois – probably the Man in the Iron Mask, as Louvois is the earliest reference
Letellier – I'm guessing it's Michel Le Tellier, Louvois' father and a major proponent of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The family was constantly involved politically, but no one else is sticking out as violent.
Hébert and [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanislas-Marie_Maillard]Maillard – the massacre of prisoners in 1792

“Philosophy is the microscope of thought.” Lovely passage here, though remember that Hugo is using a broader definition of philosophy – it makes most sense in the usage of “natural philosophy”, meaning scientific exploration, rather than the way philosophy is most often defined today. It's not strictly thought but investigation of all sorts, for the archaeological references to make sense. “Judengasse” vs “ghetto” I assume is German vs. Italian.

Messalina's enemies portrayed her as a raging slut who once won a sex competition against a prostitute – 25 partners in 24 hours. According to these stories, she sometimes slipped out of the palace and went incognito to serve in a brothel. Thus, the mark of Messalina's elbow on the coats of men she should ordinarily never have touched.

Chapter 3
giant centipedes what? There are centipedes crawling over the ruins at Thebes, yes, but 15 feet long WTF?

I am amused at his phrasing - “hussars the Pyramids had gazed at”. It both makes Bonaparte's army more awe-inspiring than the Pyramides and makes them a tiny blip in history, as if the Pyramids are gazing at them, they have gazed at many other things before and will gaze at many more in future.

Chapter 4
Not finding Lebel, unfortunately.

The story on Marat's shroud is almost certainly false but is rather important. Marat was constantly linked to the sewers – it was rumoured among his enemies that he lived there, thus when he was removed from the Panthéon, people threw busts and other images of him into the sewers as if to symbolise “go back where you came from”. The story that his body was thrown in there is false, but it was widely believed throughout the period, largely because of the earlier rumours and the symbolic burying of him in the sewer.

Chapter 5
Here we start to get a little weird. It was under the Second Empire that major work was done in widening and improving the existing sewers and building significant new connections. The infamous sewer tours began in 1867, as part of the Exposition, but the major work that enabled them was done by Haussman, who was as influential at rebuilding Paris underground as aboveground, and one can understand why Hugo would not want to mention him in this chapter on improvements. I think one can read between the lines here and see all of Haussman's improvement and “cleaning up” of Paris as a hypocrisy. Paris does not change its nature just because wide boulevards have pushed the working classes out to the suburbs; shit is still shit even if it flows through a sewer that looks fantastic.

Chapter 6
Hugo pulls back to his thesis at last here, about the waste of letting manure run into the Seine instead of being used, but it feels awkward. He praised Bruneseau, who put a lot of work into motion, he ignored Parent-Duchâtelet in favour of Bruneseau, and then he goes on at length about the Haussmanian improvements as improvements, calling them hypocritical but that isn't really an economic condemnation of them. And now we finally return, almost half-heartedly, to the original thesis of waste. Why praise Bruneseau as the originator of all this sewer work if the sewer itself is a horror that should not exist in a civilised society? Hugo obviously has contradictory feelings here – he's probably one of those people who wanted the sewer closed off entirely because of the stench yet also bitched about the cesspool cleaners waking him up at night. You can't have it both ways; your filth has to go somewhere, and it's either the cesspool, where it can be retrieved and made useful (why is this never mentioned?), or the sewer, where it is pushed out so no one has to deal with it more closely.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard


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