"A dream of stone": fame, vision, and the monument in nineteenth-century French literary culture.
Colosse de bronze ou d'albatre, Salue d'un peuple idolatre, Je surgirais sur la cite Comme un geant en sentinelle, Couvrant la ville de mon aile, Dans une attitude eternelle De genie et de majeste! (Victor Hugo, Oeuvres Poetiques I: 734) [Colossus of bronze or alabaster, Hailed by an idolatrous populace, I would loom over the city Like a watchful giant Covering the town with my wing, In an eternal attitude Of genius and majesty!]
In 1881, perhaps for fear the old man would not reach his, eightieth birthday, the beginning of Hugo's eightieth year was declared a national celebration. On the avenue d'Eylau, where he lived, a temporary triumphal arch was erected and, on February 26, his seventy-ninth birthday, six hundred thousand admirers paraded beneath his window. In July, the street itself was renamed avenue Victor Hugo, an honor once reserved for kings, and now for dead luminaries (Bournon 1909, 183-84). This telling rededication assumed immortality in life--indeed, from this point on the great man's friends would address mail "A monsieur Victor Hugo, en son avenue": Victor Hugo in his avenue, like Mausoleus in his tomb.
The eightieth-year fanfare was like a dress rehearsal for Hugo's grand state funeral, four years later. On June 1, 1885, two million spectators, more than the population of Paris at the time, watched the funerary procession across Paris. In an elaborate, commemorative petrifaction, organized around two symbolically-charged monumental structures, Hugo lay in state beneath the Arc de Triomphe, then was enshrined in the Pantheon. Throughout much of his long career, Hugo had been considered France's greatest living writer, his literary accomplishments already seen in monumental terms. Now, the ever-closer identification of writer and monument, flesh and stone, that characterized nineteenth-century France's evolving vision of literary greatness, reached its apogee in this ceremony marking his passage from the animate, into the inanimate--with the great writer seeming to fuse with the monument, seeming literally to become what Pierre Nora (1997) has called a lieu de memoire or realm of memory.
Hugo's spectacular state funeral was emblematic of the broader interrelations among literary fame, vision, and the monument in nineteenth-century France. Amid the profound societal changes in the wake of the Revolution, cultural permanence could best be imagined through monuments, commemorative sculptural or architectural works that helped a nation in flux define itself, its relation to the past, and anticipated survival into the future. Within this context, the literary field evolved an ideal of great writers and their work as immortal, envisioning literary glory through the metaphor of the monument. This belief in grandiose possibilities for writers and their work was "un reve de pierre" or "dream of stone"--an oxymoron that Baudelaire used to evoke the nature of beauty (1975-76, 1. 21; 1991, 47), but that also captures the curious mix of material and ideal, concrete and imaginary, ephemeral and eternal, within the period's conception of literary greatness. (1)
The "dream of stone," while now largely forgotten, was a central, organizing force in nineteenth-century French literary culture. Cutting across genres, periods, and movements, it pervaded the world of letters, informing the lives, work, and reception of literary figures from obscure but ambitious scribblers to such touchstones of greatness as Honore de Balzac, George Sand, or Victor Hugo; from popular hacks like Pierre Alexis, vicomte Ponson du Terrail to cerebral aesthetes like Stephane Mallarme; from dignified Germaine de Stael to outrageous Alfred Jarry; and, from Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand in the early years of the nineteenth century, to Marcel Proust at the beginning of the twentieth. In recent years, historical and art historical scholarship has dealt extensively with nineteenth-century France's monumental art and architecture, and especially its commemorative statuary, an abundant legacy long-disparaged by the modernist tradition that succeeded it. Attention has focused on the interrelated iconography and ideology of the monument, particularly with respect to questions of individual renown, national identity, and cultural memory (Janson 1976, Agulhon 1978, Nora 1997, Hargrove 1990). Moreover, despite excellent scholarship on the history of fame (Braudy 1986), on nineteenth-century French literary culture (Clark 1987), as well as on the period's mythologizing of the great writer (Georgel 1985, Porter 1995), and despite the recent trend toward contextualization in literary studies, there has been scarce research into the rich confluence between nineteenth-century France's culture of monumentality and its literary culture.
The purpose then of this article is to begin reconstructing nineteenth-century French literary culture's pervasive "dream of stone"--to uncover its salient features, and trace its rise and fall--by drawing not only upon an array of authors and works, but also upon diverse sorts of evidence, from journalism to poetry, caricature to statuary, postcards to public monuments. In so doing, many complex ideological, cultural and aesthetic questions arise. What impact, for example, did political systems and beliefs have on society's conception of greatness and means of representing it? How did this culture in transition negotiate tensions between an increasing democratization of fame and continued need for fame to signify distinction? How did visions of greatness differ for men and women? How did contemporary celebrity relate to lasting renown, and what sort of posterity might the monument embody? What relationships existed among different visual and verbal media, as vehicles of fame? How did new technologies transform society's vision of greatness? Amid such change, what traditional elements persisted, and why? Most fundamentally, how did nineteenth-century France come to understand greatness, particularly literary greatness, through the monument; how in turn did this "dream of stone" decline; and, what has taken its place?
Fame, Vision, and the Monument
Whether constructed, imagined, excavated, restored, preserved, consecrated, desecrated, or destroyed, monuments mattered in nineteenth-century France. From the Revolution through the First World War--a period of unprecedented flux--monuments not only commemorated specific people, accomplishments, and ideals, but also provided French culture with a powerful metaphor of permanence. Amid the historical ruptures of the Revolution and its prolonged aftermath, monuments focused French culture's attempts to define itself in relation to both past and future. The Revolution was thus a turning-point in the development of French views on monuments and monumentality conferring transcendent distinction and would-be immortality, conveying ideals of excellence and immutability, and embodying the greatness not only of individuals, and of their works, but of the nation as a whole. Such notions did not spring full-grown though from beneath Marianne's phrygian cap, but rather emerged out of a long historical development. The monument had evolved from ancient origins in the sacred, toward increasing secularity, and from a political toward a more broadly ideological role. In particular, from the seventeenth century onward, there began to take shape profound changes in the nature of fame that would, in turn, transform the monument as an embodiment of greatness. The forces underfoot included the rise of capitalism and bourgeois individualism, a relative decline in the monarchy and traditions of patronage, and blurring of boundaries between theatrical representation and politics (Brandy 1986, 317-18), all leading to greater opportunity and social mobility. Gaining momentum through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, these developments crystallized with the dramatic political, socio-economic, and technological transformations of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, as there emerged the powerful, volatile, and ubiquitous "marketplace of fame in which all might sell their wares" (342). This democratization of fame, and of literary fame in particular, was made possible by the egalitarian thrust of the Revolution, and "the great expansion of the reading and viewing public as well as the means of reaching them which marks the nineteenth century" (476). The emergence of a large bourgeois audience of readers, viewers, spectators, and fans, together with a veritable explosion of new media technologies--from lithography, to photography, to mechanized printing--permitted an unprecedented dissemination of words and images, names and faces. New cultural forms evolved and flourished, while older ones developed and expanded their scope in novel ways. Such diverse vehicles for fame included: abundant journalistic discourse on renown (e.g., gossip columns, success stories, celebrity obituaries); memoirs, biographies and other popular publications on the famous; innumerable "galleries," "pantheons," and "series" of caricatures, lithographs, and photographs of the famous (e.g., Achille Deverias's lithographic portraits; Benjamin Roubaud's Pantheon charivarique, Nadar's Lanterne magique, Adolphe-Eugene Disderi's carte de visite photographs, and Pierre Durat's Photobiographies [Figure 1]); and, new legal and commercial modalities, like literary "property," "brand" names, and paid advertising, that promoted the fame of people and products. As a result, celebrity became at once more alluring and more elusive, easier for the common citizen to obtain, yet harder to retain; tempting, yet slippery, perplexing, misleading. Such change and incertitude enhanced monuments' traditional, commemorative role, although the spread of new visual and print media flooded a fame-hungry public with portrayals of the latest celebrities, the monument alone seemed a time-tested vehicle for lasting renown. Likewise, increased travel to exotic locales brought Europeans in closer contact with the remains of ancient civilizations, furnishing abundant and influential examples of enduring monumentality. Egypt, in particular, provided such paragons of permanence as the pyramids, the Rosetta Stone, and the obelisque of Luxor. (2)
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Already in the eighteenth century, commemorative statuary had started turning toward cultural figures, as in Houdon's famous statues of Voltaire. Beginning with the Revolution, moreover, as kings and potentates were toppled, restored, and replaced with unprecedented frequency, monuments to them suffered much the same fate: the erection of lasting monuments to conventional embodiments of political authority thus became an ever more dubious proposition, making cultural figures all the more attractive as vehicles of national glory. In addition, a new romantic sensibility privileged cultural figures of a less civic, more private nature, favoring lone, tragic, promethean heroes: prophets, explorers, discoverers, inventors, and seekers, particularly in the creative arts. Typically, the hostility, neglect, or indifference that such solitary figures endured in life was thought proof of their ultimate worth to posterity, intensifying the perceived need for their posthumous commemoration. Whereas earlier, statues of the monarch had been erected during his lifetime, as an extension of worldly power, nineteenth-century monuments to cultural heroes were necessarily a posthumous apotheosis, both a last judgement upon worthy lives, and an embodiment of posterity, promising heroic eternal glory to triumph over death. In all, this was a conception closely linked to that of the pierre tombale, or funerary monument, perhaps the ultimate dream of stone. (3)
In the wake of the French Revolution then, France witnessed an increase in monuments to cultural heroes of all sorts and, by the beginning of the Third Republic, this had become a veritable boom, a phenomenon known at the time as "la statuomanie" ("statuemania"). According to Jacques Lanfranchi, in Paris alone, 26 new monuments were erected between 1815 and 1870, and an astounding 150 between 1870 and 1914. The vast majority of these statues commemorated cultural heroes, including artists, musicians, scientists, and explorers, with writers forming by far the largest group [Figure 2]. Of the 176 public monuments inaugurated in Paris between the fall of Napoleon and the start of the First World War, Lanfranchi counts 67--nearly forty percent--to literary figures (1979, passim).
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
The disproportionate honoring of literary figures epitomized the extraordinary veneration of the writer in nineteenth-century France. This cult of the author, which Paul Benichou calls "le sacre de l'ecrivain" (1973, passim), was energized by the boom in popularizing visual technologies that, like the proliferation of supposedly permanent great man statues, fed and fed upon the public's seemingly insatiable desire to contemplate its cultural luminaries, especially its writers. On newsprint, as in the public square, images spread literary celebrities' fame in ways words alone could not: once known only to a lettered elite, writers became cultural icons, whose effigies haunted the collective imagination, not unlike show business stars today. Such images formed "visions" both in a literal, and in a figurative sense. Literally, they offered visual depictions--likenesses--of a particular writer. Figuratively, they were also interpretations, conceptions of that writer's fame and, more broadly, of fame in general. Each caricature, portrait, or statue thus functioned, on a basic level, as a portrait of the writer, of more or less documentary value, while helping as well to establish that writer's stature within the collective imagination and, ultimately, to define and refine society's understanding of fame itself. What, such images asked--mixing earnestness and jest, reverence and satire--did it mean to be famous? What, they urged, in an ongoing process of renegotiation and redefinition, were the possibilities and limitations of fame, in this life and beyond?
It would be misguided though to consider such images independent of words. Within nineteenth-century French culture, there was remarkable interpenetration between visual depictions of literary celebrities, and writing by or about these writers: to wit, portrait galleries accompanied by descriptive prose, written descriptions evoking famous portraits, or caricatures alluding to the writer's published work. There was also a tendency to see the writer and his work, l'homme et l'oeuvre, as a mutually complementary whole, something greater than the sum of these parts. In the fullest sense, the collective "vision" of literary figures, of their works, and of literary fame in general, combined authorial self-fashioning and broader societal construction, in an elaborate web of visual and verbal representations, with complex patterns of harmony and dissonance, consensus and contradiction, between the documentary and the imaginary, life and art, image and text. Historically, there first evolved a vision of the literary work as monument; then one of the writer as monument; then an ideal synthesis of writer, work, and monument.
The Literary Work as Monument
How might a literary work be considered a monument? In the most basic sense, this meant quantity, the volume of work produced by extraordinarily prolific authors. The ninety tides of Balzac's La Comedie humaine [The Human Comedy] were written in less than twenty years. Dumas produced nearly 250 titles--thirteen in 1844 alone, nine of them novels, including Les Trois Mousquetaires [The Three Musketeers] and Le Comte de Monte-Cristo [The Count of Monte-Cristo]. Beyond sheer volume, monumentality also involved conceptual magnitude, the scope of the author's project, the breadth of his vision. Individual works could cover ample ground: geographically (e.g., Verne's Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours [Around the World in Eighty Days]), historically (e.g., Sue's Les Mysteres du peuple, ou histoire d'une famille Proletaire a travers les ages [The Mysteries of the People, or History of a Proletarian Family Across the Ages]), sociologically (e.g., Balzac's Splendeurs et miseres des courtisanes [Harlot High and Low), politically (e.g., Balzac's Le Medecin de campagne [The Country Doctor]), philosophically and spiritually (e.g., Sand's Spiridion or Flaubert's La Tentation de Saint-Antoine [The Temptation of Saint-Antoine]), psychologically (e.g. Stendhal's La Vie de Henry Brulard [The Life of Henry Brulard]), aesthetically (e.g., incursions into music, like Sand's Les Maitres sonneurs [The Master Pipers], or into the plastic arts, like Balzac's Le Chef d'oeuvre inconnu [The Unknown Masterpiece], or Zola's L'Oeuvre [The Masterpiece]), as well as synaesthetically (e.g., Huysman's A rebours [Against the Grain]). Authors achieved even greater amplitude by uniting individual works in overarching projects like Balzac's La Comedie humaine [The Human Comedy]; Madame Amable Tastu's four volume Chroniques de France [Chronicles of France] in verse; Ponson du Terrail's Rocambole ("un roman qui ne finirait jamais" ["A novel that would never end"; XLVI]); Paul Feval's Les Habits noirs, ou la mafia au XIXe siecle [Black Clothes, or The Mafia in the Nineteenth Century]; Gerard de Nerval's Les Filles du feu [Girls of Fire]; Hugo's La Legende des siecles [The Legend of the Centuries]; Jules Valles's Jacques Vingtras; Zola's Les Rougon-Macquart ("Histoire naturelle et sociale d'une famille sous le Second Empire" ["Natural and social history of a family under the Second Empire"]), followed by Les Trois Villes [The Three Cities] and Les Quatre Evangiles [The Four Gospels]; Maurice Barres's trilogies Le Culte du moi [The Cult of the Self] and Le Roman de l'energie nationale [The Novel of National Energy]; Alfred Jarry's Ubu plays; and, Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu [A Remembrance of Things Past]. Likewise, no subject was too vast, even the history of humanity, the central preoccupation of the romantic epic (Cellier 1954, 77). Dumas pere's Isaac Laquedem was to be "l'oeuvre capitale de [s]a vie ... un immense roman en huit volumes ... qui commencerait a Jesus Christ et qui finirait avec le dernier homme de la creation" ["the great work of his life ... a vast novel in eight volumes ... that would begin with Jesus Christ and end with the last man in creation"; letter, 16 March 1852, qtd. in Biet, Brighelli, and Rispail 1986, 112].Victor Hugo's unfinished triptych of Dieu [God], La Legende des siecles [The Legend of the Centuries], and La Fin de Satan [The End of Satan], aimed to convey his comprehensive vision of human history. Not surprisingly, neither work was completed, yet the authors, like so many of their peers, dared conceive of such projects.
Prolixity and ambition alone, while often equated with monumentality, were no guarantee of quality. Accordingly, another powerful current within French literary culture, particularly from mid-century onward, from Sainte-Beuve through the Parnasse and Symbolist movements, identified monumentality instead with formal excellence and linguistic rigour. (4) What these divergent perspectives shared was their common desire for literature to rival, even transcend, the durability of the public monument.
The Author as Monument
The concept of the text as mausoleum fostered a vision of the writer as monument. This vision had not developed during the first half of the nineteenth century, for it would have contradicted the prevailing Romantic aesthetic, which privileged the natural and sought to animate the inanimate. Around mid-century however there emerged a new aesthetic that privileged the inorganic and, tending toward reification, helped turn the writer to stone.
This aesthetic shift also informed how the crucial relationship between writer and work was understood. Throughout the period in question, l'homme et l'oeuvre were construed as indissociable; however such consubstantiality was first expressed in 'natural' terms. As Hugo wrote in a preparatory. fragment for Les Contemplations, "Ce que nous ecrivons est notre propre chair./ Le livre est a tel point l'auteur, et le poeme/ Le poete;" ["What we write is our own flesh./ The book is to such an extent the author, and the poem/ The poet"; Hugo 1964-67, 2. 853]. Here, the inanimate is animated. with text becoming flesh. As in so much romantic literature, the strongly confessional and autobiographical work is understood as an organic extension of the writer. Later, however, the living author was instead seen as becoming the inanimate text, an idea still prevalent in Sartre's youth: "A mes yeux, [les auteurs] n'etaient pas morts, enfin, pas tout a fait: ils s'etaient metamorphoses en livres" ["In my sight, they were not dead: at any rate, not entirely. They had been metamorphosed into books"; Sartre 1964a, 50; 1964c, 64]. Great writers become their works, live on through them. Along similar lines, as time passed, and his autobiographical project evolved, Chateaubriand changed its tide from Memoires de ma vie [Memoirs of My Life: 1826] to Memoires d'outre-tombe [Memoirs from Beyond the Grave; 1848]: no longer the record of a life, the work became instead a preposthumous textual afterlife. Flaubert's assertion that "les livres ne se font pas comme les enfants, mais comme les pyramides" ["books are not made like children, but like pyramids"; 1973, 2. 783] is informed as well by a view of the author's posterity, as not biological reproduction, but immortalization in stone. Similarly, at mid-century, Barbey d'Aurevilly would instead see the living author turning to stone: "Goethe, ce favori du destin, a passe marbre de son vivant, dans une vieillesse qui etait comme l'avance de son immortalite. Mais Balzac a ete frappe dans le milieu de sa vie, dans l'empire agrandi de ses facultes et de ses projets ..." ["Goethe, whom destiny favored, turned to marble during his lifetime, in an old age like the prefiguration of his immortality. But Balzac was struck down in the middle of life, in the full bloom of his faculties and projects";"La Mort de M. de Balzac;' La Mode, 24 August 1850; qtd. in Maurois 1965, 600]. The assumption is that the great man normally turns to stone after death, concretizing his immortality. This notion is illustrated as well by contemporary caricature, as in Andre Gill's caricatures of Zola. In one of the latter, the novelist salutes a bust of Balzac, clasping a copy of Les Rougon-Macquart, his answer to La Comedie humaine [Figure 3]; in another, he tries to pull a statufied Hugo from his pedestal, hoping to take his place, while nearby lies the true instrument of attack, his pen, metonymy of his monumental work-in-progress [Filgure 4]. (5) In both, ambitious Zola plays the would-be statue, with his work as means to this end.
[FIGURES 3-4 OMITTED]
Whereas earlier reluctance to think of the author as a monument proceeded from an aesthetic of the organic, and Romantic conception of genius as inherent and natural, the later nineteenth-century preference for "statufication" of authors meshed instead with a newer vision of the artist as construct, as self-consciously self-made dandy. Seen thus as artificial in life, the writer could, in death, pass more easily than his predecessors into the monument's stony permanence, privileged site of the literary afterlife. This was the case not only for the writer's body, but also for his consciousness. In "Spleen--'J'ai plus de souvenirs que si j'avais mille ans,'" Baudelaire mourns,
... mon triste cerveau.... ... est une pyramide, un immense caveau, Qui contient plus de morts que la fosse commune.... --Desormais tu n'es plus, o matiere vivante! Qu'un granit entoure d'une vague epouvante, Assoupi dans le fond d'un Sahara brumeux; Un vieux sphinx ignore du monde insoucieux, Oublie sur la carte, et dont l'humeur farouche Ne chante qu'aux rayons du soleil qui se couche. (Baudelaire 1975-76, 1. 73) [... my melancholy brain.... ... is a pyramid; it is an open drain Containing more cadavers than a pauper's tomb.... --From this time forth, O stuff of life, you are no more Than blocks of granite compassed round by some vague fear, Dozing in the depths of a Sahara's dust; An ancient sphinx, lost in the world's disinterest, Lost on the map, your wild caprice was never sung Except beneath the luster of the setting sun.]
The "pyramid" of the writer's brain stores memories; as a monument though it is also a potential repository for the broader cultural memory of his literary accomplishments. Indeed, Baudelaire's portrait of the writer as pyramid and sphinx recalls Flaubert's exactly contemporary (1857) comparison of books and pyramids. Despite the gloom in which it is shrouded, Baudelaire's metaphor, like Flaubert's, suggests that the writer could live on in stone, outlasting contemporary neglect and incomprehension ("ignore du monde insoucieux,/ Oublie sur la carte," ["lost in the world's disinterest,/ Lost on the map"]) to perhaps be recognized, by posterity, for his true greatness. (6)
Literary Statuemania and the Ideal Synthesis of Writer, Work and Monument
The dream of stone reached its apogee in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with French society experiencing an unprecedented literary "statuemania," and locating literary glory increasingly in an ideal synthesis of writer, work, and monument, a conception that had evolved out of a complex of interrelated socio-historical and aesthetic factors, including new conditions in the world of letters, changes in society's understanding of fame, and a shifting horizon of iconographical and commemorative possibilities. In reaction to anxieties over discontinuity and impermanence--from disjunctions between writer, work, and public, to the perceived fragility of renown--French literary culture evolved, from about 1850 onward, and culminating in the early decades of the Third Republic, a vision of literary glory as a seamless fusion of writer, work, and monument. (7) Counterbalancing the reality of an increasingly volatile and unpredictable literary marketplace, this was a compensatory vision, a retrograde phantasm of the whole literary enterprise as inherently unified, orderly, and durable. (8) There thus prevailed a curious dichotomy: keen awareness of the vagaries of change existing alongside an equally powerful dream of purposefulness, solidity, and immutability--of an imagined, ideal world of letters that never was, and never would be. Fundamentally an oxymoron, the "dream of stone" was an uneasy mix of the palpable and the impalpable; accordingly, it was amid the increasing materiality of fame-making in the second half of the nineteenth century--amid the burgeoning excesses of statuemania in particular--that the dream of stone's crowning ideal emerged.
Shortly after Balzac's death, Charles Matharel de Fiennes, literary columnist for Le Siecle, imagined a more appropriate tomb for the novelist than his current, modest grave: "Un beau mausolee portant une table d'airain sur laquelle on gravera ces simples mots: L'Auteur de La Comedie humaine" ["A handsome mausoleum bearing a brass tablet upon which these simple words shall be engraved: Author of The Human Comedy"; 20 June 1853, qtd. in Schopp 1981,246]. While never realized, Fiennes's project aims, with its pithy epitaph, to consolidate the author and his complete works within their commemoration, thus anticipating many later monuments. Particularly under the Third Republic, the literary monument typically blended representation of the writer with reference to his works. The author might be depicted composing works, pen in hand, or just appear to be composing his thoughts, in a contemplative attitude all the more evocative of the depths of literary creation beneath the surface. Literary monuments also displayed tides of works, typically on the pedestal, close to the author's name, but sometimes incorporated in the statue. Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse's monument to Alexandre Dumas, pere, in the novelist's native Villers-Cotterets (now destroyed but of which a terra cotta model, from around 1883, is preserved in the Getty Museum) depicted him leaning on a podium inscribed with a list of his novels, ending emphatically in "Etc. Etc. Etc." While other monuments would evoke the author's oeuvre through a global tide, a full list of individual ones, or a partial list of representative works, Carrier-Belleuse tried instead to capture the scope of Dumas' production, by suggesting that a complete enumeration would not fit, that the monumentality of the oeuvre surpasses the bounds of the monument itself. (9)
Like the Dumas memorial, many other late nineteenth-century monuments were raised in birthplaces: "Les portraits des grands hommes doivent etre edifies dans les lieux qui les virent naitre" prescribed David d'Angers ("Portraits of great men should be erected in places where they were born"; qtd. in Huchard 1990, 14).Yet this practice can only in part be explained as home towns honoring native sons. Like birthplace plaques, or such popular publications as L'Enfance des hommes illustres [The Childhood of Famous Men]--which fascinated Sartre as a boy (1964a, 167; 1964c, 202)--hometown monuments manifested a teleology of greatness, a telescoping of birth and death central to the period's ideal synthesis. This determinist idea of inexorable destiny propelling the predestined toward immortality, long a fixture of Christian martyrology and iconography, integrated into a romantic myth of the writer as doomed Promethean figure, martyr to literary creation. (10)
The phenomenon of statuemania does provide some of the most striking, tangible evidence of how literary fame was envisioned in late nineteenth-century France. Yet many contemporaries, like the contributors to the fund-raising volume Le Tombeau de Charles Baudelaire [The Tomb of Charles Baudelaire], came to see actual monuments as flawed vessels for the monumental ideal they sought to embody. In an 1893 article commemorating the anniversary of Balzac's death, Arsene Houssaye asserted, "Mais a quoi bon un autre monument que celui de ses oeuvres. En ce siecle de statuomanie, le marbre n'est plus assez pur, le bronze n'est plus assez fier pour representer l'homme de genie" ["But of what good is a monument other than his works. In this age of statuemania, marble is not pure enough, nor bronze proud enough to represent the man of genius"; 1893]. Similarly, in "Une Statue pour Balzac" ["A Statue for Balzac"], while arguing that Balzac far more deserves a monument than Dumas, Zola concludes, "Si l'on veut savoir le fond de ma pensee, je dirai que je suis d'avis de n'elever de statue a personne. Pour les ecrivains surtout, les oeuvres sont la qui suftisent comme monument" ["If you would like to know what I think deep down, I shall say that I am of the opinion that we raise statues to no one. Particularly for writers, their works are there, and suffice as a monument"; 1988, 94]. Great works, monumental in themselves, can stand alone in commemorating their author.
While such remarks might give the mistaken impression that late nineteenth-century France's commemorative options were limited to monuments and complete works, many interrelated cultural productions venerated the writer and his work. Partaking of the spirit of the monument without actually being or containing one, and incarnating as well the pervasive dream of stone, these forms included such traditional tributes as eulogies, obituaries, biographies, or reverential portraits in diverse media, as well as the collective commemoration offered by such structures as the Pantheon and the cupola of the Academie Francaise of, from the turn of the century, by museunas dedicated to individual writers. The Maison de Victor Hugo opened in 1903 (Georgel 1985, 293), and the Maison de Balzac in 1908 (Sarment 1980, 7). Thoroughfares were renamed after famous authors, and great men's residences identified with plaques (Bournon 1909, passim), such commemorative zeal marking the great man's passage through the modern city, into some kind of eternity. In conjunction with statuemania, they converted that urban space into a veritable gallery of renown, realizing the vision David d'Angers anticipated in ah 1847 letter: "Il faut que ... la France devienne un vaste pantheon" ["France must become a vast pantheon"; qtd. in Huchard 1990, 52].
Ultimately, the ideal synthesis of writer, work, and monument was predicated not upon ah actual, physical monument, but rather upon the idea, the metaphor of the monument--a paradox underscored by Rodin's Balzac monument (1898), a work that the commissioning organization, the Societe des gens de lettres, rejected ostensibly for its lack of resemblance to the real, historical Balzac, yet which so compellingly framed the concept of the writer asa creative force. Statuemania's armies of marble and bronze were indeed only a symptom of a broader mentality, which Sartre dissects and derides in Les Mots [The Words], his 1964 autobiography. As a boy, he too had longed to build "des monuments veritables" ["real monuments"; 1964a, 152; 1964c, 183]--textual ones. For this would be doomed cultural hero or "ecrivain-martyr" ["writer-martyr"; 1964a, 147; 1964c, 177], who becomes "tout a fait posthume" ["completely posthumous"; 1964a, 165; 1964c, 199] by age nine or ten, life itself is only an intermediary phase on the way to literary immortality:
Le hasard m'avait fait homme, la generosite me ferait livre; je Pourrais couler ma babillarde, ma conscience, dans des caracteres de bronze, remplacer les bruits de ma vie par des inscriptions ineffacables, ma chair par un style, les molles spirales du temps par l'eternite, apparaitre au Saint-Esprit comme un precipite du langage.... Je n'ecrirais pas pour le plaisir d'ecrire mais pour tailler ce corps de gloire dans les mots. (Sartre 1964a, 160-61) [Chance had made me a man, generosity would make me a book. I could cast my missive, my mind, in letters of bronze; I could replace the rumblings of my life by irreplaceable inscriptions, my flesh by a sstyle, the faint spiral of time by eternity, I could appear to the Holy Ghost as a precipitate of language.... I would not write for the pleasure of writing, but in order to carve that glorious body in words.]
The aspiring writer yearns to become a book; to accede to the permanence Of bronze; to replace the ephemeral noise of his life with everlasting inscriptions, and pliant time with intransigent eternity. More than in the ideas expressed though, the ideal synthesis is inscribed in the grain of Sartre's carefully-wrought prose, in words' multiple resonances: "couler" applies to writing, thought, metallurgy, and typography; "corps" to the writer's body and corpus. As Rebecca M. Pauly has demonstrated, Sartre dwells on such an equivalency between sculpture and writing not only in Les Mots, but also in La Nausee [Nausea], and in the stage set of Huis Clos [No Exit], where the mantel is decorated with a "coupe-papier" ["paper-knife"] and a "bronze de Barbedienne" ["Barbedienne bronze"; Pauly 1987, passim]. Growing up during the early years of the twentieth century, Sartre inherited an understanding of literature as an heroic, monumental entreprise, informed by ah "illusion retrospective" ["retrospective illusion"; 1964a, 166; 1964c, 199] that was not an idiosyncrasy of his, nor even of the grandfather who instilled it in him. Rather, it was characteristic of France in the first decades of the Third Republic: "ce mirage-la nait spontanement de la culture" ["that mirage is born spontaneously of culture"; 1964a, 167; 1964c, 199]. From a Sartrean viewpoint, this ideal synthesis of writer, work and monument was a collective neurosis.
The Dream Crumbles
Toward the beginning of Sartre's La Nausee narrator Antoine Roquentin, who has been trying in vain to write his life of M. de Ikollebon, contemplates the nearby Cour des Hypotheques, focusing on its pathetic monument to a local grand homme:
A l'entree de la rue Chamade et de la fue Suspedard, de vieilles chaines barrent l'acces aux voitures. [D]es dames en noir ... jettent de cote des regards ... sur la statue de Gustave Impetraz. Elles ne doivent pas savoir le nom de ce geant de bronze.... Il tient son chapeau de la mare gauche et pose la main droite sur une pile d'in-folio: c'est un peu comme si leur grand-pere etait la, sur le socle, coule en bronze.... Peut-etre que cette place etait gaie, vers 1800, avec ses briques roses et ses maisons. A presertt elle a quelque chose de sec et de mauvais, une pointe delicate d'horreur. Ca vient de ce bonhomme, la-haut, sur son socle. En coulant cet universitaire dans le bronze, on en a fait un sorcier. Je regarde Impetraz en face. Il n'a pas d'yeux, a peine de nez, une Barbe rongee par cette lepre etrange qui s'abat quelquefois, comme une epidemie, sur toutes les statues d'un quartier. Il salue; son gilet, a l'endroit du coeur, porte une grande tache vert clair. Il a l'air souffreteux et mauvais. Il ne vit pas, non, mais il n'est pas non plus inanime. Une sourde puissance emane de lui; c'est comme un vent qui me repousse: Impetraz voudrait me chaser de la cour des Hypotheques. (Sartre 1938, 147-48) [At the entrance to the Rue Chamade and the Rue Suspedard, old chains bar the way to vehicles. Women in black ... cast ingenue glances from the corner of their eyes, on the statue of Gustave Impetraz. They don't know the name of this bronze giant.... He holds his hat in his left hand, placing his right on a stack of papers: it is a little as though their grandfather were there on the pedestal, cast in bronze.... This place might have been gay, around 1800, with its pink bricks And Houses. Now there is something dry and evil about it, a delicate touch of horror. It comes from that fellow up there on his pedestal. When they cast this scholar in bronze they also turned out a sorcerer. I look at Impetraz full in the face. He has no eyes, hardly any nnose, an beard eaten away by that strange leprosy which sometimes descends, like an epidemic, on all the statues in one neighborhood. He bows; on the left hand side near his heart his waistcoat is soiled with a light green stain. He looks. He does not live, but neither is he inanimate. A mute power emanates from him: like a wind driving me backwards: Impetraz would like to chase me out of the Cour des Hypotheques.]
This passage registers the decadence of the great-man statue, and of the ideal it embodied, much as Roquentin's abortive biography of Rollebon frames the broader impossibility of reconstructing any coherent vision of the past. Like the town's name (Bouville ["Mudville"]), that of the place, evoking mortgages, suggests underlying instability and mutability. One wonders, moreover, how much longer "old chains" will hold back cars, and with them the modernization of the square, with the marginalization of outright elimination of its central great-man monument. The passage underscores that this particular statue, like others of its kind, is an archaism, a holdover ("comme si leur grand-pere etait la" ["as though their grandfather were there"]), devoid of its erstwhile function, appeal, and symbolic value. No longer a locus of renown, it has lost its commemorative power (passersby "ne doivent pas savoir le nom ..."["don't know the name ..."]). Impetraz is plagued moreover by leprous decay, afflicting his facial features, and his heart, the writerly sensibility's ostensible core, thus doubly attacking his identity. Neither alive nor inanimate, but strangely "undead" the statue seems more a zombie or vampire than the symbol of a great man's immortality.
As a writer, Gustave Impetraz would have been a paradigmatic late nineteenth-century great man, embodying--however shabbily--the bygone "dream of stone" (11) Roquentin reads, in La Grande Encyclopedie, that Impetraz
florissait vers 1890 ... et fit trois livres: "De la popularite chez les Grecs anciens" (1887),"La pedagogie de Rollin" (1891) et un Testament poetique en 1899. Il mourut en 1902, emportant les regrets emus des ressortissants et des gens de gout. (Sartre 1938, 47) [flourished around 1890 ... and wrote three books: Popularity and the Ancient Greeks (1887), Rollin's Pedagogy (1891) and a poetic Testament in 1899. He died in 1902, to the deep regret of his dependents and people of good taste.]
Emblematically, Impetraz' career peaked around 1890, like statuemania itself, and he died in 1902, the year of Hugo's centenary, as multiple signs of the dream of stone's impending disintegration converged. Typifying the broader abuse and dilution of the great-man ideal around the turn of the century, he was a minor man of letters in a provincial backwater, author of three particularly dull-sounding tomes. Though passersby no longer know his name, we do, and it suggests not only the intermingled revulsion and fascination in Sartre's proxy Roquentin, but also the decadence of both this monument and the monument in general. "Gustave" has a quaintly nineteenth-century ring, reminiscent of Gustave Flaubert, Sartrean exemplar of the nineteenth-century bourgeois writer, so exhaustively exhumed later in Sartre's monumental but anti-monumentalizing study, L'ldiot de la famille [The Family Idiot]. "Impetraz" resonates moreover with "impetrant," a person invested with some authority, especially a diploma, precisely the sort of petty legalistic and scholastic authority so antipathetic to Sartre. At the same time, the negation "im-," combined with "petr-" ("stone," as in "petre" and "petrifie") but also "petri" (molded, formed), evokes the statue's inchoateness, its disintegration.
The statue and, by extension, the dream of greatness it represented, retains only the power to arouse vague nostalgic longings in the town's narrow-minded old ladies, and confirm their petty-bourgeois ideas, while nauseating the forward-thinking Parisian intellectual. At least this is what Sartre would like us to believe. But if the monument and all it embodied were so ripe for demolition, why take several pages to do so? Sartre it seems, like the square itself, was haunted by the specter of the great-man ideal. As the treatment of the Impetraz monument suggests, by the publication of La Nausee in 1938, nineteenth-century France's literary "dream of stone" had largely crumbled, though vestiges remained. How had it come to this?
The Decline of Statuemania
Around the turn of the century, well before Sartre's novel, the "dream of stone" began to show multiple fault lines, from the controversy over Auguste Rodin's emphatically phallic Balzac monument (1898), to divergent caricatural visions of Zola from before and after J'Accuse! ... (1898), to shifts in Hugo's fame--and in literary fame itself--between the state funeral (1885) and the centenary year celebration (1902).
At his death, Hugo had for over half a century cut a monumental figure, from incarnations as the literary giant of the Romantic movement and dignitary of the later July Monarchy, to his grandiloquent posturing in exile and "pre-posthumous" apotheosis as the fledgling Third Republic's great cultural hero, and on to his final pantheonisation. All this would seem to promise abundant monuments to him after his death, but such was not the case. While many were envisioned, few were raised (Georgel 1985, 130). The commemorative energies that moved so many to dream of monumentalizing Hugo were, increasingly, channeled elsewhere. Amid the monumental pomp and circumstance of his official funeral, the press and memorabilia, abundant, varied and pervasive, already emerged in force as vehicles of a less monolithic mode of fame. Between the funeral and the centenary moreover, Hugo's name and effigy appeared on or in an ever greater gamut of articles, advertisements, souvenirs, trinkets, and products. While in one sense confirming Hugo's vast appeal at the time, these developments also heralded an underlying shift, from a monumental vision of glory, to the beginnings of a modern mass-media, mass-market brand of celebrity: from monumentality, that is, toward ubiquity. Over the course of the nineteenth century, Hugo's example had largely defined the period's grandiose vision of literary greatness; now, it was redefining this vision, leading the French public through a crucial transition and, ultimately, beyond the dream of stone.
The clearest sign though of the dream's dissolution would be the decline of its most tangible and spectacular embodiment, statuemania. In the early years of the twentieth century, automobile traffic's transformation of urban space, and the rise of a sparser modernist aesthetic hastened the great-man statue's demise (Nora 1997, 2. 1876-77;Agulhon 1978, 165). More problematic still would be the growing disconnection between the material reality of monuments and the ideal they were supposed to represent, as their increasing abundance and the cliche-ridden vulgarity of their execution clashed with their ostensible goal of transcendant distinction. By the 1880s and 90s the French were already recognizing the excesses and abuses of their commemorative predilection, as we can see in the writings of Edmond de Goncourt and Octave Mirbeau, and coining, around 1887, of the humourous, even pejorative term statuomanie (Imbs, 1971-94). Then, between the turn-of-the-century and the First World War, there arose substantial disillusionment with monuments, as suggested by the correspondence between Andre Gide and Paul Claudel, dealing with the projects for monuments to Verlaine and Rimbaud, and publication of a fund-raising Hommage a Verlaine, similar in conception to the earlier Tombeau de Baudelaire:
Charles Morice m'a demande une collaboration a un livre collectif Appele Hommage a Verlaine, et qui servira a payer l'affreux navet qu'on veut eriger la memoire de ce pauvre homme. J'ai d'abord refuse, en disant ce que je pensais des monuments, hommage hypocrite et derisoire a des gem qu'on a laisse crever de faim. Il a insiste en invoquant l'autorite qu'il savait pour moi decisive de Mallarme, initiateur, parait-il, de l'entreprise. J'ai donc envoye des vers, mais je ne sais s'ils feront plaisir a tout le monde. (Claudel to Gide, 17 June 1910; Claudel and Gide 1949, 140-141) Pour l'hommage a Verlaine, j'ai fait comme vous aviez fait d'abord; Le livre se passera de mon nom. (Gide to Claudel, June 1910; Claudel and Gide 1949, 143) On m'a demande de faire partie du Comite d'un monument pour Arthur Rimbaud. J'ai refuse. J'ai suffisamment de regrets d'avoir en quelque mesure que ce soit collabore a l'erection de l'imbecile chose dernierement dediee a la memoire de Verlaine. Je ne veux pas etre complice d'une nouvelle profanation a l'egard de l'ecrivam dont j'honore le plus la memoire et que je considere comme un ascendant spirituel. On me dit que vous avez donne votre assentiment, mais je suppose que c'est sans enthousiasme et que vous n'aimez pas plus que moi les monuments. (Paul Claudel to Andre Gide, 21 June 1911; Claudel and Gide 1949, 180) [Charles Morice asked me to collaborate on a collective volume entitled Homage to Verlaine, which will help pay for the horrid dud they want to erect in memory of this poor fellow. At first I refused, telling them what I think of monuments, hypocritical, pathetic homages to people who were let die of hunger. He insisted, by invoking Mallarme, whose authority he knew would sway me, and who has apparently initiated this project. So, I have sent some verses, but don't know if everybody will like them. As far as the homage to Verlaine is concerned, I have done as you had at first: my name shall not appear in the volume. I was asked to be part of the Committee for a monument to Arthur Rimbaud. I refused. I have enough regrets about having to whatever Extent contributed to the erection of that imbecilic thing recently erected in memory of Verlaine. I do not want to be accomplice to another profanation, this time targeting a writer whose memory I cherish the most, and whom I consider a kind of spiritual ancestor. I have heard that you have agreed, but I suppose that it is without enthusiasm, and that you like monuments no more than I.]
While deploring the inadequacy of monuments to embody a transcendant ideal, this exchange still does so without really calling that ideal into question, as the use of such reverential terms as "profanation," "honorer la memoire," and "ascendant spirituel" ["spiritual ancestor"] suggests. The ideal could--and did--exist independent of actual monuments, in complete works, eulogies, street names, writers' homes converted into museums or, as in these passages, in the hearts and minds of contemporaries. But how much longer could it thrive, amid the ongoing, public onslaught of"affreux navets" ["horrid duds"] and "imbeciles choses" ["imbecilic things"], of tributes to luminaries like Verlaine and Rimbaud alongside seemingly equivalent ones to Impetraz-like mediocrities? In the years ahead, more innovative sculptors would take ah anti-representational turn, attempting to honor great men without actually depicting them: thus, Aristide Maillol's 1912-29 monument to Cezarme, a nude baigneuse figure, more a stylistic exercise in the female form than anything else; or, Albert Bartholome's 1907-12 allegorical monument to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for his tomb in the Pantheon (Chevillot 1990, 60-63). Paradoxically, to honor great men exceptionally could now mean banishing them from the pedestal--the aesthetic bankruptcy of the great-man statue, as a genre, betraying the deeper ideological bankruptcy of the great-man ideal.
The First World War brought a definitive turn away from the commemorative frenzy of the preceding decades (Nora 1997, 2. 1877). With this catastrophe, the earlier disillusionment with the genre of the great-man monument spread to its philosophical underpinnings. The war's unprecedented slaughter and destruction shattered faith in progress through human agency, long the cornerstone of the great-man ideal. Emblematically, when the war ended, the French spurned great-man monuments, raising instead far soberer "monuments aux morts" (monuments to the fallen) commemorating the local war dead, in municipal parks and town squares throughout the land (Nora 1997, 1. 199-223).
In a sense, statuemania and the dream of stone, so closely interrelated, were both doomed from the outset, for basically the same reasons. They both arose out of uncertainty and change--rapid technological evolution, political instability, and broad societal transformation--against which they offered a compensatory vision of grandeur and permanence. Proceeding, in particular, from post-revolutionary democratization and secularization, the period's obsessive commemoration of cultural heroes and artifacts was a desperate, ultimately futile effort to shift the center of lasting values onto a cultural field already troubled by internal revolutions. Monuments to Balzac or Delacroix took the place of ones to Henri IV of Louis XIV and, as Sartre wrote of his grandfather, "ce pasteur manque" ["that minister manque"], nineteenth-century France "avait garde le Divin pour le verser dans la Culture" ["had retained the Divine and invested it in Culture"; 1964a, 147; 1964c, 177-78]. However, with the ever-greater sway of avant-gardism in the arts, cultural movements carne to seem as volatile as political regimes, and eventually a skeptical public would lose faith in the transcendent possibilities of culture, just as it had lost faith in Christian transcendence. Maurice Agulhon connects the rise and fall of statuemania, in particular, to these shifts in values: "[Si] la statuomanie a connu la meme courbe d'ascension, epanouissement et declin, qu'un certain systeme de valeurs philosophiques, et dans les memes temps, c'est peut-etre qu'elle lui etait apparentee" ["(If) statuemania went through the same pattern of rise, development, and decline, as a certain system of philosophical values, and at the same time, perhaps it is because they were related"; 1978, 152]. These too were the liberal, bourgeois, positivist values underpinning the "dream of stone": an ideal of greatness, reverence for culture, belief in the immortality of great men and their works. (12) Change and impermanence had driven French culture, particularly French literary culture, to seek an antidote in monumentality, but ultimately, the forces of instability, whose gathering strength gave this quest its peculiar urgency, would triumph. The persistent monumental metaphor largely dropped out of literary discourse after the Great War, and French literary culture indulged instead in iconoclastic movements like Dada and Surrealism, with their delight in fortuitous juxtapositions, "automatic" writing, and the evanescence of dreams: a literature of the irreverent, of the fleeting; in short, of the anti-monumental. (13) While the "dream of stone" declined irrevocably in the early part of the twentieth century, vestiges have persisted in such forms and institutions as the leatherbound Pleiade editions, the Pantheon, or the Academie Francaise, as well as in the unofficial ways that the French have continued to revere writers and their work, and that writers have continued to see themselves and serve themselves up to the public.
Literary Fame Amid Ruins
In nineteenth-century France, ways of understanding renown were organized around two poles: transitory celebrity on one end, and enduring glory on the other, embodied respectively by caricature and the monument. Photography, however, would alter this balance. From its advent in the mid-nineteenth century, photography began transforming society's conception of celebrity.
In this respect, as in so many others, Nadar's Pantheon is an emblematic image, in which caricature and sculpture act out the period's understanding of fame, as photography waits in the wing. Three decades before Hugo was enshrined in the national temple of great men, he already starred in this highly-publicized, lithographic Pantheon. Its creator, the caricaturist and pioneering photographer Nadar, was an important producer and purveyor of images of the famous, playing a role much like that of Andy Warhol a century later (Baldwin and Keller 1999, 11). Nadar's Pantheon depicts a serpentine procession of literary celebrities, arranged in order of relative prominence, with Hugo at the head, in the number one position, leaning forward toward the small cluster of deceased writers, in the extreme foreground, represented as statue busts and medallions [Figure 5]. Like the idea of a modern "pantheon" of letters, the way great men are immortalized here--transformed from caricatures into statues when they die--links the nineteenth-century writer and the monument, casting the author's death as a passage into monumentality. The fact that George Sand and several other living women writers are also included as statues, while thus excluded from the crucial process of immortalization, points at once to womens' increasing prominence in the world of letters, yet broader exclusion from the pinnacle of literary greatness.
[FIGURE 5 OMITTED]
In a revealing, preparatory sketch for Nadar's Pantheon [Figure 6], dozens of tiny demons carry flimsy, individual sheets of paper, each bearing the name of a mortal destined for literary immortality. This furious activity, reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch, swirls toward the center of the composition, where ah allegorical figure of Death records the names in a massive, bound volume (Hambourg, Heilbrun, and Neagu 1994, 22). Death plays a pivotal role, not only in the preliminary, but also in the final version of the Pantheon [Figure 5], articulating a passage from the ephemeral to the everlasting: from newsprint-like sheets to a monumental tome in the sketch; and, from caricatures of contemporary writers to statues of deceased literary glories in the completed lithograph. Both versions thus depict immortalization as a tangible, material process--in the first, a transformation from one textual mode to another; in the second, an analogous transformation from one plastic medium to another--with death as the gateway to everlasting fame. When juxtaposed, the versions reveal ala imagined equivalency of writer, work, and monument, providing a suggestive, early example of the penchant for synthesizing these three elements.
[FIGURE 6 OMITTED]
Nadar's Pantheon focuses on the writer's transformation into a monument, whereas Marcelin's nearly contemporary and thematically similar Romans populaires [Popular Novels] monumentalizes writer and work simultaneously [Figure 7]. Both images, however, in using statue busts and medallions, and including both living and dead writers, reveal a visual culture in transition toward the Third Republic ideal of full-length statues figuring posthumous glory. Lithography itself was a curiously ambivalent, transitional medium, at once a means of printing on stone--with all this material's associations of permanence and prestige--and a means of generating multiple copies on paper, with the opposite associations of transience and triviality. Such ambivalence was by no means lost on contemporary observers, as suggested by the article "La Litho-typograpbie. Lettre du Docteur Neophobus au Docteur Old-Book," published in the Revue des Deux mondes in 1839,just a few weeks before Sainte-Beuve's like-minded "De la litterature industrielle" (14) After indulging in this retrograde "dream of stone" the article returns to the ugly realities of modern printing, lamenting "la masse enorme de papier imprime qui surcharge deja notre pauvre globe" ["the enormous mass of paper already overburdening our poor globe"; 236] and, in conclusion, exhorting, "Qu'on nous delivre de ce vilain papier, si mechamment barbouille par des manoeuvres!" ["May we be delivered from vile paper, so basely besmeared by hired hands!"; 243]. These were also the early days of photography, a medium that, as it developed, would offer ever more accurate, abundant, inexpensive, and instantaneous likenesses to--and of--an ever-broader spectrum of the population. Toward the end of Nadar's work on bis satirical Pantheon, he first tried photography as a means of documenting faces, and soon afterward largely abandoned caricature to dedicate himself to the new medium (Chotard 1990, 81-82). Nadar's experience with the Pantheon propelled him toward photography: his obsession with documentary accuracy, and the sheer number of effigies crammed into his lithograph, exhausted caricature's potential for depicting a significant number of contemporary celebrities expediently and faithfully, compelling him to explore instead the representational possibilities of photography, continuing his contemporary cultural pantheon through individual photographic portraits. Thus, both through the details of its composition and circumstances of its creation, the Pantheon Nadar urges us to consider how the period's literary "dream of stone"--and, in particular, its crowning ideal synthesis--evolved amid shifting iconographical possibilities.
[FIGURE 7 OMITTED]
In La chambre claire (Camera Lucida), Roland Barthes argues that photography replaces the monument as the modern locus of cultural memory:
Les anciennes societes s'arrangeaient pour que le souvenir, substitut de la vie, fut eternel et qu'au moins la chose qui disait la Mort fut elle-meme immortelle: c'etait le Monument. Mais en faisant de la Photographie, mortelle, le temoin general et comme naturel de "ce qui a ete," la societe moderne a renonce au Monument. (Barthes 1980, 146) [Earlier societies managed so that memory, the substitute for life, was eternal and that at least the thing which spoke Death should itself be immortal: this was the Monument. But by making the [mortal] Photograph into the general and somehow natural witness of "what has been" modern society has renounced the Monument.]
Eventually, photography would indeed supplant the monument, providing different ways of understanding our relation to time, and to memory. At first, like new technologies generally, the medium was used as a substitute for or supplement to existing ones: taking the place of preliminary sketches for the portraits in Nadar's Pantheon; or, in such forms as deathbed and gravestone photography, that called upon the photographic image to perform much the same function as earlier funerary busts and steles. Increasingly though, photography would transcend existing modes, to create something new. Noticeable signs of such a paradigm shift underfoot appeared in malaise within the other modes of representing renown: the general freneticism of statuemania; the increasing pomposity of monuments, with their ever more complicated iconographical programs, and weird mixes of documentary and allegorical elements; and, the growing number of statues appearing within caricature, at first as more modest busts, then increasingly and more emphatically as full-length monuments--a curious phenomenon that, like photography itself, began to take hold in the early 1850s, and became a commonplace during the Third Republic. Such forms of malaise proceeded from the nature of the photographic medium. Through the photograph, writes Braudy, "The absent as well as the dead would be present again, and, in a manner only aspired to by writers and artists, the immediate and the eternal promised to be made one" (1986, 493). Photography conflated the subject's presence and absence, the immediacy and durability of her image and, ultimately, helped collapse the older oppositions between caricature and monument, passing celebrity and enduring fame, to frame a new vision of renown as a passing apotheosis, as something approaching Warhol's fifteen-minute fame for all.
What impact did such a shift have upon the literary world? How did a figure like Sartre fit into this new context? Between his literary debut in La Nausee (1938) and his autobiographical Les Mots (1964), Sartre had become France's premier writer and intellectual figure of the twentieth century, much Like Voltaire in the eighteenth, and Hugo in the nineteenth (Clark 1987, passim), his renown picking up where Zola's left off in a drawing like "J'Amuse!!!" [Figure 8], with the famous writer celebrated no longer as the immortal creator of immortal works (the status to which Zola aspires in the pre-"J'Accuse!" iconography), but rather as a media phenomenon. Characteristically, in a supreme gesture of reverse snobbery, false modesty, and clever media manipulation, Sartre refused the 1964 Nobel Prize for literature, refusal creating a far greater sensation than would have acceptance. Still, Sartre remained haunted by the dream of stone. In La Nausee, he had already displayed his ambivalence--crystallized in the Impetraz episode--toward an earlier, monumental vision of literary greatness, which both fascinated and repulsed him. In Les Mots, having become extraordinarily famous himself, Sartre ponders the contradictions of his own position, his shining celebrity amid the ruins of a monumental ideal. What did it mean to be, and how could one be, a great writer within an anti-monumental literary culture? Indeed, after enumerating the various embodiments of his childhood great writer fantasy, he puzzles over his descent flora such a lineage: "Je ne releve que d'eux qui ne relevent que de Dieu et je ne crois pas en Dieu" ["I'm answerable only to them, who are answerable only to God, and I don't believe in God"; 1964a, 212; 1964c, 254]. The larger question for Sartre here, as elsewhere, is what to make of transcendance if you do not believe in it, do not even think that God or great writers still exist, but are obsessed with the idea all the same.
[FIGURE 8 OMITTED]
Sartre's childhood dreams of becoming a writer form an ironic compendium of heroic, reverential notions about literary greatness. "[J]e refilai a l'ecrivain les pouvoirs sacres du heros" ["I palmed off on the writer the sacred powers of the hero"; 1964a, 139; 1964c, 167], he explains. An assiduous reader of "le Grand Larousse et les notices necrologiques" ["the encyclopedia and the obituaries ... in the newspapers"; 1964a, 139; 1964c, 168], he internalizes the standard nineteenth-century narratives of literary glory. The writer is honored posthumously: "ses compatriotes, apres sa mort, se cotisaient pour lui elever un monument; dans sa ville natale et parfois dans la capitale de son pays, des rues portaient son nom" ["his countrymen took up a collection after his death to erect a monument to him; in his native town and sometimes in the capital of his country, streets were named after him"; 1964a, 140; 1964c, 168]. While neglected during his lifetime, he is certain of future glory: "meconnu, delaisse, ... sans me douter une minute que le Pantheon m'attend" ["unappreciated, forsaken, ... without suspecting for a minute that the Pantheon awaits me"; 1964a, 146; 1964c, 175-76]. Fancying himself an "ecrivain-chevalier" of "ecrivain-martyr" ["writer-knight" or "writer-martyr"; 1964a, 147; 1964c, 177], young Sartre longs to take the non-descript world around him, "de vains ramas de blancheurs," ["idle heaps of whiteness"] and give this "des contours fixes, un sens" ["definite contours ... a meaning"], adding,"j'en ferais des monuments veritables ... je dresserais des cathedrales de paroles sous l'oeil bleu du cid. Je batirais pour des millemires ... et, plus tard, dans les bibliotheques en ruines, [mes ouvrages] survivraient a l'homme" ["I would make real monuments of them.... I would set up cathedrals of words beneath the blue eyes of the word sky. I would build for the ages ... and, later, in ruined libraries, (my works) would outlive man"; 1964a, 152; 1964c, 183].
But this was no longer the nineteenth century, and boyhood dreams of \becoming a monumental, Victor Hugo-like literary figure, are juxtaposed with doubts:
J'etais voue, illustre, j'avais ma tombe au Pere-Lachaise et peut-etre au Pantheon, mon avenue a Paris, mes squares et mes places en province, a l'etranger: pourtant, au coeur de l'optimisme, invisible, innomme,je gardais Le soupcon de mon inconsistance. (Sartre 1964a, 173) [I was consecrated, illustrious. I had my tomb in Pere Lachaise Cemetery and perhaps in the Pantheon; an avenue was named after me in Paris, as were public squares in the provinces and in foreign countries. Yet, at the core of my optimism I had a sneaking feeling that I lacked substance.]
Similarly, Sartre asserts, with tellingly sexual undertones, "Longtemps j'ai pris ma plume pour une epee: a present je connais notre impuissance" ["For a long time, I took my pen for a sword; I now know we're powerless"; 1964a, 211; 1964c, 253-54]. Like all of Les Mots, such passages are written from a double perspective: the young boy's, and the grown man's. On the one hand, there is the boy on the threshold of the Great War, at the end of a pervasively monumental literary culture, inculcated in him by his grandfather, "un homme du XIXe siecle qui se prenait, comme tant d'autres, comme Victor Hugo lui-meme, pourVictor Hugo" ["a man of the nineteenth-century who took himself for Victor Hugo, as did so many others, including Hugo himself"; 1964a, 15; 1964c, 24], a man who "avait cesse de lire depuis la mort de Victor Hugo" ["had stopped reading since the death of Victor Hugo"; 1964a, 51; 1964c, 65]. On the other, there is the adult who came of age intellectually during the twenties and thirties, published his first works on the brink of the Second World War, and suspects his own efforts of weakness, flimsiness, fragility, even impotence: the inconsistance of a literary culture that had largely shed its monumental trappings. (15)
Les Mots was Sartre's attempt to make sense not just of how he had imagined his future, but also of how such obsolete visions of grandeur had inflected what he had become: "ce vieux batiment ruineux, mon imposture, c'est aussi mon caractere: on se defait d'une nevrose, on ne se guerit pas de soi. Uses, effaces, humilies, rencoignes, passes sous silence, tous les traits de l'enfant sont restes chez le qumquagenaire" ["that old, crumbling structure, my imposture, is also my character: one gets rid of a neurosis, one doesn't get cured of one's self. Though they are worn out, blurred, humiliated, thrust aside, ignored, all of the child's traits are still to be found in the quinquagenarian"; 1964a, 212; 1964c, 254]. What does this yield though, finally: "Si je range l'impossible Salut au magasin des accessoires, que reste-t-il? Tout un homme, fait de tous les hommes et qui les vaut tous et que vaut n'importe qui" ["If I relegate impossible Salvation to the proproom, what remains? A whole man, composed of all men and as good as all of them and no better than any"; 1964a, 213; 1964c, 255]. After the beautifully-wrought prose of the preceding 200 pages, after such a superb literary slight of hand--"rien dans les mains, rien dans les poches" ["nothing in my hands, nothing up my sleeve";1964a, 212; 1964c, 255]--this apparent profession of humility seems yet another example of Sartrean bad faith. Still, this final assertion, cautiously prefaced with "si" ["if"], remains hypothetical. Perhaps salvation, imaginary but persistent, cannot be jettisoned, of perhaps Sartre is just not ready to do so.
In Les Mots, while Sartre subjects himself to considerable self-irony, he does so in the service of careful self-justification, assuming that the public should care how he carne to be the writer he is. Published just a year earlier, Boris Vian's L'ecume des jours (Mood Indigo) also probes the literary phenomenon that Sartre had become at the height of his fame, but does so in a wickedly satirical vein, devoid of Sartre's self-indulgence. In Vian's novel, character "Jean-Sol Partre," Sartre's parodic double, is at once hyperbolically famous and fundamentally hollow. Partre's lectures are outrageous "happenings;' to which--in descriptions recalling Flaubert's Salammbo--he arrives, like some ancient potentate, upon an elephant, in an armored howdah surrounded by ax-wielding bodyguards, as the beast crushes innumerable bodies underfoot. Countless fans arrive, by parachute, through rat-infested sewers, hidden in coffins, risking their lives to get close to their idol. The "radiance extraordinaire" ["extraordinary radiance"; 1979, 101; 1968, 81] of such an Elvis-like star, combined with the hysterical, swooning fans, and orgy-like atmosphere, make Partre's lectures reminiscent of a rock concert. Press coverage is massive as well: "Jean-Sol venait de debuter. On n'entendit, tout d'abord, que le cliquetis des obturateurs. Les photographes et les reporters de la presse et du cinema s'en donnaient a coeur joie" ["Jean-Sol had just begun. All one could hear to start with was the click of the camera shutters. The photographers and the press and newsreel reporters were working away to their heart's content"; 1979, 102; 1968, 82]. Media darling, Partre is also a cynical, greedy master of self-promotion. To be sure, these critiques had already been leveled at Hugo. The difference lies in the entirely different magnitude of media attention available by the mid-twentieth century. Emblematically, Sartre's L' tre et le neant [Being and Nothingness] becomes Partre's "La Lettre et le Neon, l'etude critique celebre sur les enseignes lummeuses" ["La Lettre et le Neon, the celebrated critical study on illuminated signs"; 1979, 153; 1968, 124], the period's faddish existentialist philosophy transformed into a reflection on (and o0 modern advertising. Literary celebrity is lucrative for Partre, whose main concern about dying is that he could no longer collect royalties (1979, 208; 1968, 170). Opportunistic booksellers also peddle Partre's books, his articles, recordings of his lectures, even trousers with pipe burns and pipes with teethmarks, reputed to have been his, to fans like protagonist Chick, who ruins himself buying such paraphernalia.
While Jean-Sol Partre's celebrity is extraordinary, nothing about him is substantial of enduring. His travestied name, one of punster Vian's cleverest inventions, already evokes the partial, particular, and particulate, rather than the whole, general, synthetic; it is redolent of soil, pasture, parturition, of all that is low, transitory, slippery, soft; (16) and, it is further degraded through association with Vian's version of Sartre's companion Simone de Beauvoir, the "Duchesse de Bovouard," adding connotations of bovinity, indeed asininity, the Bovouard-Partre pair recalling Flaubert's dim-witted Bouvard and Pecuchet. Equally revealing are the titles of his works: Paradoxe sur le Degueulis [Paradox on Vomit], Choix Prealable avant Le Haut-le-Coeur [Choice Precedent to Throwing-up], Vomi [Vomit], and Encydopedie de la Nausee [Encydopedia of Nausea]. On the most obvious level, this is a repeated, parodic allusion to Sartre's La Nausee. More profoundly though, it accuses the works' simultaneous abundance and lack of true substance. Partre's production is implausibly copious: "Il publie au moins cinq articles par semaine"["He publishes at least five articles a week";Vian 1979, 50; 1968, 39] and he writes nineteen of his encyclopedia's projected twenty volumes in less than a year. Writing, for Partre, is an ongoing regurgitation, a scriptural bulimia, an endless cycle of ingestion and ejection:
Partre passe ses journees dans un debit, a boire et a ecrire avec d'autres gens qui viennent boire et ecrire, ils boivent du the des Mers et des alcools doux, cela leur evite de penser a ce qu'ils ecrivent et il entre et sort beaucoup de monde, cela remue les idees du fond et on en peche une ou l'autre, il ne faut pas elimmer tout le superflu, on met un peu d'idees et un peu de superflu, on dilue. Les gem absorbent ces choses-la plus facilement, surtout les femmes n'aiment pas ce qui est pur. (Vian 1979, 206) [Partre spends his days in a bar, drinking and writing with other people like himself who come to drink and write, they drink tea and sweet liqueurs, that saves them thinking about what they're writing and lots of people come in and out, that stirs up the ideas on the bottom and they fish one or another of them up, one mustn't cut out all the padding, you put in a few ideas and a bit of padding and dilute. People absorb that sort of thing more easily, especially women, who don't like it straight.]
In the aqueous debit [bar], ideas flow and intermingle like drinks. What his works actually say does not even interest Partre: "--Ca sera assez embetant lire;' he confesses a propos his Encyclopedie de la Nausee, "parce que ca m'embete deja beaucoup a ecrire. J'ai une forte crampe au poignet gauche a force de tenir la feuille" ["It'll be pretty tedious to read ... because I've already found it very tedious writing it. I've got severe cramp in the left wrist from holding the paper";Vian 1979, 207-208; 1968, 170]. His spoken words, just as irrelevant, cannot be heard during lectures, his mousy voice lost amid the din of fans and press: "on n'entend rien.... Il ne fait pas plus de bruit qu'une souris" ["you can't hear a thing here.... He makes no more sound than a mouse"; 1979, 103; 1968, 82]. Likewise, in describing the actual volumes containing Partre's works, Vian parodies the nineteenth century's reverential binding and printing practices, with the inferiority of the material here betraying the work's true abjection. Thus, collector Chick has "une edition du Choix prealable avant Le Haut-le-Coeur de Partre, sur rouleau hygienique non dentele" ["a copy of Partre's Choice Precedent to Throwing-up, on an unperforated toilet roll"; 1979, 50; 1968, 38], unperforated toilet paper presumably being more prized by the connoisseur, and allowing an uninterrupted flow of worthlessness, the medium illustrating its empty message; or, the master's latest work,"recouvert de peau de neant, epaisse et verte, le nom de Partre se detacha[n]t en letttres creuses sur la reliure" ["covered in thick, green oblivion-skin, and Patre's name was picked out in hollow letters on the binding"; 1979, 200; 1968, 164]; of, "[d]es tirages limites sur tue-mouches"["limited editions printed on flypaper"; 1979, 201; 1968, 165], individual pages of this undoubtedly sticking together in an undifferentiated, urtreadable mess.
After such thorough excoriation of Partre and his work, the only step left is assassination, at the hands of Alise, Chick's jealous girlfriend. She fears that, were the encyclopedia of nausea completed, Chick would utterly ruin himself purchasing a copy, so she goes into the Left Bank cafe where Partre is working and sits next to him, exemplifying the electronic era's strange mix of distance and intimacy, ha which celebrities seem both formidably unapproachable and cozily familiar. When he refuses to cancel or defer publication, she tears out his heart with a special tool. But, in this anti-monumental age, death is no longer a portal into immortality, for either the writer or his work. After slaying Partre, Alise destroys his manuscript, then dispatches as well the booksellers peddling his books and souvenirs, before she sets their inventories on tire. Nothing shall survive the destruction, not even the fan, nor his cherished relics: when Chick dies defending his collection from desecration by police agents, come to collect back taxes squandered on Partre memorabilia, his apartment is about to be engulfed in flames from the bookshop next door, torched by Alise. At the very instant of Partre's death, moreover, he appears stunned by the tetrahedral form of his extracted heart, a paradoxical mini-pyramid of bleeding flesh. This too is our last image of the famous writer, with the greatest of monumental structures, and standard nineteenth-century metaphor for literary permanence, transformed into the most sensitive and vulnerable of internal organs, ripped out of a living body, and left sitting on the table like an unfinished piece of meat, soon to be tidied away by the cafe staff.
Fantastic, even hallucinatory at times, Vian's satire aims nonetheless at real developments within French literary culture, namely the rise of a media-driven model of the writer as public intellectual, with its underlying vision of literary fame as passing apotheosis, best embodied at the time by Partre's prototype Sartre. Literary France had arrived at this juncture through a long process of cultural formation, leading from the royal monopolization of renown during the ancien regime, through the nineteenth-century monumentalizing of cultural figures and accomplishments, and on toward an increasingly amnesiac modernity of fifteen-minute fame for all. The volatile state of affairs evoked in L'ecume des jours would also, in a sense, become institutionalized a dozen years later, with the start ofBernard Pivot's televised literary talk show Apostrophes, continued as Bouillon de culture, serving up the latest cultural luminaries to the ravenous but forgetful telespectateurs. Pivot, as both self-promoter and promoter, recalls Nadar, that ground-breaking impresario and midwife of renown, just as Nadar in turn anticipated Pivot, and all the more so because he foresaw the possibilities of Pivot's celebrity interview format, hoping to record sound to accompany the pictures of his interview with famed chemist and centenarian Michel-Eugene Chevreul (Barret 1989, 132). Yet, unlike the worthies in Nadar's mid nineteenth-century lithograph, who march purposefully toward the posterity of the public monument, Pivot's contemporary stars would blaze for a brief, brilliant moment, in the intimacy of the television viewer's salon, before fading into the darkness of the electronic night.
I would like to thank all the friends and colleagues whose comments helped shape this study, with special thanks to Larry Schehr for his prompt, generous, and insightful readings of the early drafts.
(1) In French, Baudelaire's phrase resonates with the biblical word-play on Pierre [Peter] and pierre [rock]: Jesus declares to his disciple Peter, "Tu es Pierre, et sur cette pierre je batirai mon Eglise, et la Puissance de la mort n'aura pas de force contre elle. Je te donnerai les clefs du Royaume des cieux" ["Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven"; Matthew 16:18-19]. Pierre/pierre is thus linked with the monumental construct of the Church (at once Saint Peter's in Rome, and all of Christianity), as well as with the prospect of eternal life. With all this cultural baggage clearly in mind, Hugo's introductory essay to an 1867 Paris-Guide works through Saint Peter, and Saint Peter's basilica, to contend that in the modern world, the "urbi et orbi" has moved from Rome to Paris, and that such a "mysterieux deplacement du pouvoir spirituel" ["mysterious shift in spiritual power"] is embodied in the Pantheon:
Les clefs de Pierre, l'allusion decourageante a la porte du ciel plutot fermee qu'ouverte, sont remplacees par le rappel perpetual du bien qu'ont fait aux peuples les grandes ames, et si Saint-Pierre de Rome est un plus vaste dome, le Pantheon est une plus haute pensee. Le Pantheon, plein de grands hommes, et de heros utiles, a au-dessus de la ville le rayonnement d'un tombeau etoile. (Hugo 1964, 658) [Peter's keys, that disheartening allusion to the closed rather than open gates of heaven, are replaced by the perpetual remembrance of the good that great souls have done for humanity, and while Saint Peter's in Rome has a larger dome, the Pantheon embodies a higher ideal. The Pantheon, filled with great men and useful heroes, shines above the city like a starry tomb.]
As Philippe Muray contends, Hugo promoted and was in turn promoted by the secular cult of great men that arose in nineteenth-century France, in opposition to traditional Christianity, and that replaced the Christian afterlife with a vision of the Pantheon as a latter-day Elysian fields for humanity's great men--culminating, of course, in Hugo's spectacular 'pantheonization.'
(2) A gift to the French from Egyptian pasha Mehemet Ali, the obelisk was installed in a prominent and strategic place, the center of the place de la Concorde, in 1836 (Hollier, 1989). In the face of such spectacular examples, contemporaries felt compelled to draw parallels between past and present: in his 1839 account of raising the Obelisk, for example, engineer Jean-Baptiste-Apollinaire Lebas (1839) goes to great lengths to position France as the latter--day avatar of ancient Egyptian civilization, with the Obelisk epitomizing this historical transfer of grandeur.
(3) Nineteenth-century France witnessed the dramatic rise of the modern cemetery, together with an unprecedented profusion of funerary monuments, as the 1995 exhibition Memoire de marbre, at the Bibliotheque historique de la ville de Paris, and Antoinette Le Normand-Romain's excellent catalogue for it, so amply demonstrated.
(4) Sainte-Beuve's seminal 1839 essay, "De la litterature industrielle" ["On Industrial Literature"] marked an important first step in this direction, decrying the rising tide of bad or "industrial" literature, brought on by democratization and commercialization in the literary world. In particular, romantic verbosity was exacerbated by the serial novel's new incentive system of payment per line--rewarding, Sainte-Beuve laments, "des pages ecrites pour fournir le plus de colonnes avec Ie moins d'idees" ["pages written to furnish the most columns with the least ideas"; Sainte-Beuve 1839, 684-85]. Commercialization thus breeds prolixity, and prolixity, triviality.
While less clear about what he dislikes than about what he likes, Sainte-Beuve does refer to "seriousness" and "good taste;' as well as to the "belles oeuvres" ["beautiful works"] or "monumens majestueux" ["majestic nsonuments"; 1839, 677] of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century literature, and to "quelques vrais monumens" ["some true monuments"; 676] written more recently. While consistently associating "bad" literature with excess, verbosity, and chaotic overabundance, Sainte-Beuve associates "good" literature with such aesthetic qualities as beauty, majesty, of refinement. A literary work is apparently a "true" monument not because of its gigantic proportions, but because of its aesthetic merits. While doing so indirectly, Sainte-Beuve's essay thus turns the prevailing view of literary monumentality on its head.
(5) This mise-en-scene of pulling Hugo off his pedestal underscores a fundamental ambivalence in the public's view of his monumentality, embodied most notably by Andre Gide's famous replique, "Victor Hugo, helas!"
(6) It is tempting to see more than coincidence in Flaubert and Baudelaire both contemplating the permanence of pyramids in the same year that they published their most enduring works--Madame Bovary and Les Fleurs du mal, respectively.
(7) This reflection upon change and transformation in the world of letters gave rise, at about the same time, to the emergence of literary history as a genre, most notably with Sainte-Beuve and Taine.
(8) Revealingly, this tendency is most pronounced in the period's treatment of novels and novelists. Despite its commercial success, the nineteenth-century novel remained in many ways the disdained stepchild among literary genres, creating all the greater perceived need for a compensatory vision of grandeur on its behalf.
(9) Similarly, Pierre Durat's "Photobiographie" of Dumas, from the mid 1860s, features a drawing of a row of massive bookshelves, that seems to continue beyond the frame, but apparently contains only the "Oeuvres incompletes d'Alex. Dumas" ["Incomplete Works of Alex. Dumas"], and alongside which a double-decker site-seeing train passes by: "Parcours en train de plaisir" ["Tour on a Pleasure Train"] the caption explains, underscoring both the entertainment value and immensity of Dumas' production (reproduced in L'Arc 71 , 45).
(10) Closely-linked as well to the Christian hagiographic tradition is the emerging fascination, in the nineteenth century, with the great man's paradoxical, prosaic humanity--with what could be called "la pipe et les pantoufles" ["pipes and slippers"], as manifested in publications like Leon Gozlan's Balzac en pantoufles [Balzac in Slippers], or in the transformation into museums of great writers' houses--phenomena parodied in Vian's L'Ecume des jours [Mood Indigo], in which collectors cherish pipes and other paraphernalia discarded by Sartre's parodic double "Jean-Sol Partre."
(11) As Rebecca Pauly notes, the Impetraz statue also recalls Sartre's maternal grandfather:"Le parallele avec le grand-pere depeint dans Les Mots est saisissant. Une fois de plus, l'heritage lourd de h culture bourgeoise positiviste etouffe la lumiere de la pensee authentique. Le grand-pere avait aussi le gout des poses, de 'se petrifier; il raffolait de ces courts instants d'eternite ou il devenait sa propre statue.'" ["The parallel with the grandfather depicted in The Words is striking. Once again, the legacy of bourgeois positivist culture weighed heavily, extinguishing any spark of authentic thought. His grandfather also liked to strike poses, 'to turn to stone. He doted on those brief moments of eternity in which he became his own statue'"; 1987, 630; Sartre 1964a, 16; Sartre 1964c, 24].
(12) Cf. Schopenhauer on the end of positivism, in The World as Will and Representation.
(13) In the preface to Nadja (1928), surrealist ringleader Andre Breton remarks, "Je prendrai pour point de depart l'hotel des Grands Hommes, place du Pantheon, ou j'habitais vers 1918" ["My point of departure will be the H6tel des Grands Hommes, Place du Pantheon, where I lived around 1918"; 1964, 24; 1960, 23]. This would suggest leaving behind the dream of stone, with its reverence for the great man, as would comments, several pages earlier, on Hugo's pettiness in his dealings with his long-term mistress Juliette Drouet (1964, 12-13; 1960, 13-14). Breton would seem to be distancing himself from the monumental pretensions of his literary predecessors: "J'envie (c'est une facon de parler) tout homme qui a le temps de preparer quelque chose comme un livre" ["I envy (in a manner of speaking) any man who has the time to prepare something like a book"; 1964, 173; 1960, 149]. Paradoxically though, he places this thought beneath a flattering photograph of himself, a portrait of the great artist, a la Deveria, with the subject's forehead bathed in light, and piercing eyes looking beyond the frame, as if into eternity. One finds similar ambivalence as Breton comments, "Si je dis qu'a Paris la statue d'Etienne Dolet, place Maubert, m'a toujours tout ensemble attire et cause un insupportable malaise ..." ["When I say that the statue of Etienne Dolet on its plinth in the Place Maubert in Paris has always fascinated me and induced unbearable discomfort"; 1964, 26; 1960, 24], thus anticipating Sartre's mix of attraction and revulsion for the Impetraz statue in La Nausee, published a decade later.
(14) "Je dois vous prevenir d'abord que la litho-typographie n'est pas tout-a-fait ce que son nom a trois radicaux semblait vous promettre, l'art de reproduire l'ecriture sur h pierre avec des types. Elle n'emploie point de types, et le procede par lequel Enoch imprima son livre sur les rochers de la Haute-Egypte, n'est pas encure retrouve. Nous vous le gardons pour l'annee prochaine, car il faut etre lentement retrograde dans le progres, quand on atraque de front toutes les industries vivantes de la civilisation. D'ici la nos poetes d'album doivent renoncer a voir retracer leurs legeres inspirations sur l'albatre et sur le granit. Quel jour glorieux pour la Iitterature, monsieur, que celui orl je pourrai vous annoncer une couple de stances tirees sur porphyre de la preimere qualite, avec des marges a volonte pour les amateurs? Nous ne produirons plus un distique qui n'ait en vue le monolithe, et c'est alors qu'elles auront le droit d'aspirer a l'immortalite, ces heureuses productions du genie qui defieront hardiment toutes les conflagrations naturelles et sociales, si ce n'est le marteau du tailleur de pierres! ("La Litho-typographie" 1839, 235-36)
[I must first warn you that litho-typography is not quite all its three-rooted name would seem to promise, the art of reproducing writing on stone with type. It uses no type, and the process whereby Enoch printed his book upon the rocks of Upper Egypt, has not yet been rediscovered. We shall wait until next year for, in progress, one should be slowly retrograde, as one launches headfirst into all of civilization's living industries. Until then, our album-writing poets should give up on seeing their light verses recorded on alabaster or granite. What a glorious day for literature, dear sir, when I shall be able to announce to you a couple of stanzas printed on first-rate porphyry, with generous margins to please connoisseurs? We shall no longer produce even a distich not destined for the monolith, and from this point on these fortunate works of genius shall enjoy the right to aspire to immortality, and shall boldly defy all natural and social unrest, save the rock-carver's hammer!]
(15) This recalls the Proustian concept of the literary oeuvre as cathedral, which resonates with le reve de pierre/Pierre (rock/St. Peter; see note 1 above).
(16) Interestingly, in this respect, the original title of Sartre's Les Mots was Jean Sans Terre.
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Michael D. Garval is Associate Professor of French Studies at North Carolina State University. His research interests include literary fame, word-image relations, and gastronomy. A book-length version of this study is forthcoming from the The University of Delaware Press.
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|Article Type:||Critical Essay|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2003|
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