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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Dark thoughts

Sunday, June 19th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

I was thinking the other day, while reading a very sensual love scene in "Le Lys Rouge", that a novelist never describes the deshabille of the male in such scenes; I can't remember an instance where he even hints at it. This shows how incomplete 'realism' is. I see no reason why the appearance of the male should not be described in a manner to assist the charm of the scene. But tradition is decidedly against the practice.

At first glance, Anatole France's Le Lys Rouge (1894) is a straightforward love story capitalizing on a fin-de-siecle vogue for medieval Italian art. Closer study, however, reveals a mordant satire of contemporaries' aesthetic pronouncements. A regular guest on the salon circuit, France was a privileged witness to contemporary taste and a powerful arbiter of aesthetic trends. Although Le Lys Rouge is a work of fiction, his careful descriptions of fin-de-siecle taste and his sly references to real-life writers, artists, and collectors influenced his readers, while providing twenty-first century scholars with a valuable appreciation of late nineteenth-century French attitudes to art.

I drafted the 7th instalment of "Hugo" yesterday.

The Ullmans and Rickards dined with me; Rickards three quarters of an hour late. Ullman brought out a theory that Wagner, though a great man, was essentially vulgar. He characterised as vulgar all the stage settings on which Wagner set so much store. I would agree as to the "Ring", but not as to the other operas. "Tannhauser" may be, and is, lovely. So is "Tristan". He said that with the same talent Wagner would have been a much finer artist had he been English or French; he was influenced by the fundamental German vulgarity. I could see what Ullman meant, but I thought he was chiefly wrong. However, he argued very well.
See also, 'Parisian Life', April 9th., http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/parisian-life.html

Later Rickards and I went to the Moulin de la Galette, and saw some good dancing. He leaves this afternoon for London.
See also, 'Parisian Views', October 4th.,  http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/parisian-views.html

Reading "Le Lys Rouge" tonight. The love scene (Chap. 23) in which Therese tries to rid Decharte of his ideees noires concerning her absolute fidelity to him, is extremely fine in its sensual way. It is just the sort of thing that A. France can do, and it atones for much of the invertebrate quality of the book. If I can accomplish anything as good in "Carlotta" I ought to be satisfied.

I had idees noires myself tonight. There are certainly times when the fact that existence is a choice of evils presents itself too clearly.
Scene from "Cyrano"

I worked from 10 to 6.30 and then dined on the boulevard, and went to see "Cyrano" with Moreno as Roxane. It is a highly elaborate exercise in the obvious, but the verbal and structural adroitness of the whole thing is tremendous. It amused me; I must say that for Rostand. Moreno was coldly distinguished. her diction and her gestures were exquisite. And she had a sore throat and a cough.

See also, 'Parisian Life', September 28th., http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/parisian-life.html
and 'Parisian evenings', April 15th., http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/parisian-evenings.html

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