Category Archives: Uncategorized

Michel Houellebecq praises “The World as Will and Wallpaper”

“Artichoke” wallpaper[1], by John Henry Dearle for William Morris & Co.

As I’ve mentioned[1], I travelled to China over the holidays, to visit my daughter Bonnie.

On holiday , and practically only then, I read.

My finest read this trip was Michel Houellebecq‘s De koude revolutie. One of the most enigmatic essays in that collection is “Sortir du XXe siècle” (2000), the title of which translates as “Leaving the 20th Century”, but which has, to my knowledge, not been translated into English.

The essay starts as a diatribe against the left, against 20th century social sciences (Pierre Bourdieu) and thought (Jean Baudrillard). It criticizes the nouveau roman and praises New Wave science fiction (“BallardDischKornbluthSpinradSturgeon and Vonnegut…”).

Most of all it praises American writer R. A. Lafferty and extols the virtues of the short story “The World as Will and Wallpaper” (1973), the title of which references Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation and manages to weave William Morris (English artist, writer, socialist, activist and designer of wallpaper) in the story, both as character and as author of The Wood Beyond the World, which in this story has become a place which cannot be reached.

Kristeva and Volksgeist

I am quite fond of texts that make broad sweeping generalizations.

Last Sunday, I came across one such generalization in the Dutch translation of Kristeva’s Strangers to Ourselves (at the Sint-Jansvliet flea market in Antwerp).

“Nowhere is one more a foreigner than in France. Having neither the tolerance of Anglo-American Protestants, nor the absorbent ease of Latin Americans, nor the rejecting as well as assimilating curiosity of the Germans or Slavs, the French set a compact social texture and an unbeatable national pride against foreigners.”

The above generalization is one of national character, one of the hardest to make and the least respected, the category basically came into being with Hegel and Herder‘s Volksgeist and fell out of favor with Nazism.

RIP France Gall (1947 – 2018)

Jazz À Gogo (1964) – France Gall

France Gall was a French singer. She is famous for such songs as “Teenie Weenie Boppie” (on LSD), “Zozoi” (Brazilian), “Ella, elle l’a” (on Ella Fitzgerald) , “Laisse tomber les filles” (on Lotarios), “A Banda (Ah Bahn-da)” (Brazilian), “Poupée de cire, poupée de son” (Eurovision song winner) and “Pauvre Lola” (which only features her giggle).

Of personal interest is her collaboration with Serge Gainsbourg.

Notorious is the fact that she ignored that the “lollipops” in  “Les Sucettes” could mean more than just mere lollipops, despite her being already 19.

2018 in the public domain

2018 is around the corner. As always, I check the new authors/painters/musicians whose work becomes public domain in 2018.

Nude Against the Light by Pierre Bonnard

Major names this year include:

RIP Alain Jessua (1932 – 2017)

Alain Jessua was a French film director and screenwriter who directed ten films between 1956 and 1997.

Léon la lune (1956), a film documenting the life of the ‘clochard‘ of the title, was Alain Jessua’s first film and it won the influential Prix Jean Vigo in 1957. The short film was inspired by Jean-Paul Clébert’s book Paris insolite (1952), the first of a series of realist photojournalistic books depicting the underworld in Paris. Clébert’s friends Jacques Yonnet and Robert Giraud wrote their own tales of the vagabond life on the streets of Paris; Yonnet wrote Paris Noir (1954), and Giraud’s Le Vin des rues (1955). The three frequented the same haunts as the youths of Letterist International, and this scene would become the subject of Ed van der Elsken’s photonovel Love on the Left Bank (1956), the most popular depiction of Parisian bohemian bar life.

Jessua first came to my attention for his “pop art film” The Killing Game (1967, above), a collaboration with the late Belgian illustrator Guy Peellaert.

Even small Belgian museums have nice collections of fine art

Beached Fish (1643), a painting by Frans Rijckhals

Beached Fish (1643), a painting by Frans Rijckhals


Over the weekend, while visiting a Robert Doisneau exhibition (he also did montages/collages![1]), I wound up in the permanent collection of the Museum of Ixelles and was surprised by Beached Fish (1643) by Dutch painter Frans Rijckhals (above). The painting is somewhat surreal as the fish (and the lobster to its right) is clearly oversized in comparison to the people in the left hand bottom corner.

See Surrealism avant la lettre.

Also see Stranded Sperm Whale by Dutch artist Jan Saenredam (1565–1607), satirized in Le Phallus phénoménal.

RIP Jerry Lewis, 91

RIP Jerry Lewis, 91

I saw the enjoyable The King of Comedy in the 1990s, a recommendation of my movie bible Cult Movie Stars.

I know French film criticism of the 1960s was crazy about him.

The reason for this infatuation was explained in the book Why the French Love Jerry Lewis.

Why the French Love Jerry Lewis
[] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Well, Lewis died.

I researched him anew.

I found the movie above: Slapstick of Another Kind.

It’s the second Kurt Vonnegut film adaptation I see.

The first was Breakfast of Champions[1] starring Bruce Willis.

Both are bad films.

I enjoyed both films.

Philosophia becoming falsafa …

In Aristote au mont Saint-Michel[1] (2008) Sylvain Gouguenheim claims that it was not so much the Islamic Golden Age which transmitted our Greek heritage, but Nestorian Christians such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq and translators such as James of Venice.

In a telling passage (above) Gouguenheim says:

“Des chrétiens ont ainsi forgé, de A à Z, le vocabulaire scientifique arabe. Telle fut notamment l’oeuvre de Hunayn ibn Ishaq (809-873), le véritable créateur de la terminologie médicale arabe, dont le génie consista non seulement à décalquer des mots grecs et à les «arabiser» en leur donnant une sonorité arabe (philosophia devenant falsafa) …”.
“Thus Christians have forged the Arab scientific vocabulary from A to Z. That was the nature of the work of Hunayn ibn Ishaq (809-873), the true creator of Arab medical terminology, whose genius not only consisted in the calquing of Greek words and to “arabize” them by giving them an Arabic sound (philosophia becoming falsafa) … “

And elsewhere:

“La conclusion est claire : l’Orient musulman doit presque tout à l’Orient chrétien. Et c’est cette dette que l’on passe souvent sous silence de nos jours, tant dans le monde musulman que dans le monde occidental.”
“The conclusion is clear: the Muslim East owes almost everything to the Christian East, and it is this debt that is often overlooked today, both in the Muslim world and in the Western world.”

Translations are mine.