“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, March 16, 2007

another baudelaire post

- Hugh H. Diamond, studies in puerperal mania.

“Also, I have to admit that, for the last two or three months, I’ve let my character go, I’ve taken a particular joy in wounding, in showing myself impertinent, a talent in which I excel when I want to. But here that isn’t enough: one has to be gross in order to be understood.”- letter, October 13, 1864

It is odd that – at least as I remember it – Sebald, in his last novel, Austerlitz, part of which is set in Belgium, never mentions Baudelaire. Could I be forgetting something? The 1887 edition of the Oeuvres Posthumes contains a biographical introduction by Eugène Crépet that explains the peculiar horror that overcame Baudelaire in 1864 as he familiarized himself with Belgium – it was another piece of his habitual bad luck that he chose to flee from France to, of all places, Belgium. It was the kind of place, as he explains in a letter, where the only thing that could possibly move the people to revolt would be raising the cost of beer. He was tortured by the stink of Brussels – Crépet explains that Baudelaire had an extremely developed olfactory sensibility – and the ugliness of the people and the yawning lack of conversation.

By March, 1866, the devil that had tracked Baudelaire through his life, condemned all his books to failure for various reasons – here a press goes bankrupt, there the critics condemn him, and of course there is that most comic of volumes, Fleurs de Mal, a bunch of filth that can’t compare with the beautiful and healthful lyrics of a Musset or Beranger – and so patriotic, too, that Beranger – began to pursue its endgame. Baudelaire started suffering more and more visibly from some mental derangement. On a train going to Brussels, Baudelaire asked for the door to the compartment to be opened. It was open. He meant to ask for it to be closed, but he couldn’t find the words for that phrase. They came out backwards. In an article in the Figaro, 22 April, 1866, a journalist noted that Baudelaire’s symptoms were “so bizarre that the doctors hesitated to give a name to this sickness. In the middle of his sufferings, Baudelaire felt a certain satisfaction in being attainted with an extraordinary illness, one which escaped analysis. This was still an originality.” His mother took him to Paris, where he was confined to an asylum. By this time he couldn’t speak, except to say non, cré nom, non. He tried to write on a small chalkboard, but he couldn’t shape the letters. He could, however, gesture, and did.

At his death, a few journals noted, with satisfaction, the death of a degenerate who would now no longer bother the public with his childish pornography. The kind of things you’d expect in, say, the NYT today. Same complete nullity, the same numbskull public intelligence, that combination scold and lecher that is the voice of a million articles, with the point being to erect a wall, a protective blankness, to keep at bay any doubt the consuming animal might form about the system in which it moves and breathes.

So: all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. It is in the mood of these last years that Baudelaire read the article by his friend, Janin.

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