Tag Archives: France

Four years since the Charlie Hebdo massacre

Today, it is exactly four years ago that Charlie Hebdo was massacred. 

My father, who died in 2000, used to bring copies of Hara-Kiri home when I was a boy.

Charlie Hebdo was the new incarnation of Hara-Kiri, after it had been permanently banned by the French government.

I recently looked at ALL covers of Hara-Kiri, which you can find here.

The funniest cover is perhaps Hara-kiri n°162 (March 1975) which depicts a frontal view of male genitals wearing a shirt along with the following accompanying text:

“Chômeurs ! c’est pas avec cette tête la que vous trouverez du boulot rasez-vous !”

English:”Unemployed! You won’t find a job with your face looking like this. Shave yourselves!”

I am, you might say, an unabashed fan of Charlie Hebdo. I am also a fan of the right to offend and insult, especially of fictional beings.

The words of Marquis de Sade from “Yet Another Effort, Frenchmen, If You Would Become Republicans” are particularly apt here:

“I should like there to be perfect freedom to deride them all [all religions]; I should like men, gathered in no matter what temple to invoke the eternal who wears their image, to be seen as so many comics in a theater, at whose antics everyone may go to laugh.”

For those of you who think that Charlie Hebdo was obsessed with Islam. You are mistaken. It is simply not true and it has been proven.

Art critic Yve-Alain Bois in “Taken Liberties: Yve-Alain Bois on Charlie Hebdo”[1] has stated:

“A statistical analysis of Charlie Hebdo‘s content over the past ten years, particularly that of its front page, was published in Le Monde on February 25. It reveals not only that the publication was actually less obsessed with religion than is generally supposed, with only 7 percent of its front pages devoted to the subject, but also that the topic of Islam makes up less than a fifth of even these covers. When Charlie attacks religion–its contributors are particularly exercised by fundamentalism (of all stripes) and the hypocrisy of the clergy–Catholicism is most often the butt of its satire.”

So only seven percent is devoted to religion, and of that seven percent, only twenty percent to Islam. Which makes for 100*.07*.2 equals 1.4 percent. Yve-Alain Bois bases himself on research by Jean-François Mignot and Céline Goffette titled “Non, ‘Charlie Hebdo’ n’est pas obsédé par l’islam” [“No, ‘Charlie Hebdo’ is not obsessed with Islam”], published in Le Monde, February 24, 2015.

As we go forward, I’m rather pessimistic about freedom of speech , especially with regards to the global growth of religion. The question E. Kaufmann asks in 2010, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? is extremely relevant today.

Michel Houellebecq in ‘Near Death Experience’

Near Death Experience is a 2014 French film directed, produced and written by Benoît Delépine and Gustave de Kervern coming to local screens from September onwards.

The film stars French writer Michel Houellebecq as Paul, a burn-out man who escapes to the mountains on his racing bike with the plan to commit suicide.

Some of Houellebecq’s work has already been filmed.

Several years ago I saw the decidedly philosophical film Extension du domaine de la lutte (also known as Whatever) which is now on YouTube in its entirety.

The “our hero” of Whatever reminds me of Paul.

Houellebecq’s debut as protagonist has been acclaimed.

He is part of my canon.

Gaston Bachelard @130

Gaston Bachelard by Jean Philippe Pierron (2012) with illustrations by Yann Kebbi
[Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Happy birthday Gaston.

Gaston was a philosopher so sui generis that he is indefinable.

He would have turned 130 today had eternal life been possible.

His intellectual heir is Peter Sloterdijk.

Update: I accidentally posted this several days early.

Yves Klein, the void, obsession with fame and heart atttacks

Above: Yves Klein, la révolution bleue[1] (2006), a documentary film on Yves Klein by François Lévy-Kuentz.

This is another stumble story, by which I mean, me stumbling upon items in my encyclopedia.

I’ve been investigating the proto-avant-garde, and have identified its canon as Negroes Fighting in a Tunnel at Night (1882) Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man (1884) and Mona Lisa Smoking a Pipe (1887).

Two of these works (Negroes and Funeral March) are about nothingness and the void. They are precursors — by decades — to Russian artist’s Kazimir Malevich monochromes and to American musician John Cage’s silent music.

Then I remembered French artist Yves Klein, another artist who worked with the void.

There is his Zone of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility (1959) in which he sold empty space in exchange for gold (of which he threw away half in the Seine) and his photomontage Leap Into the Void (1960) in which he leaps from a wall seemingly on the pavement, but actually into the ‘void’.

Towards the end of the Yves Klein documentary above there is footage from the ‘living brushes’ paintings in the exploitation film Mondo cane, and the documentary mentions a tragic event:

“while leaving the screening he had a minor heart attack.”

Why did he have a heart attack? Was it a coincidence?

Maybe. Probably.

But some (among whom Derek Jarman) have speculated that the heart attack was due to his “misrepresentation” in Mondo cane. Well, misrepresentation, one could almost say ridiculing; his Monotone Symphony, for example, was exchanged for a cheesy “More, More, More“-type soundtrack song from Mondo cane (while the orchestra was still seen playing) and the voice-over was anything but respectful for Klein’s exploits.

The documentary then draws attention to “Klein’s obsession with fame,” which “finally betrayed him.”

Obsession with fame …

I am reminded of Boris Vian, who also suffered a heart attack while screening the premiere of an adaptation of one of his novels. See the death of Boris Vian.

One last digression.

Watching this documentary, I heard Klein reciting perennial favorite Gaston Bachelard:

“D’abord, il n’y a rien, ensuite un rien profond, puis une profondeur bleue.”
“First, there is nothing, then there is deep nothing, then a blue depth.”

It’s from Air and Dreams, which I’ve yet to read.

 

Only the ugly is beautiful, only the ugly is likeable

The “Pégase romantique” caricature by Jean-Gabriel Scheffer (above) depicts from left to right  Petrus BorelVictor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas sitting on a giant crayfish. Or is that the  pet lobster Gérard Nerval supposedly took for walks in Paris on the end of a blue ribbon?

The motto of the caricature (top) reads ‘rien n’est beau que le laid; le laid seul est aimable,’ which translates as “Only the ugly is beautiful, only the ugly is likeable,” illustrating the cult of ugliness professed by for example Victor Hugo (“Le beau n’a qu’un type ; le laid en a mille“).

I found this image while researching the bouzingo, a group of minor French artists active in 1830s Paris. The source of the image is the excellent piece of grey lterature Pétrus Borel: Background, Reception and Interpretation[1] (1999) by Erik S. Bovee.