Tag Archives: Charles Baudelaire

RIP Ruth White (1925 – 2013)

The Litanies of Satan

This has happened seven years ago but even Wikipedia only noticed it in 2018.

Personally, I only noticed it today.

Ruth White (1925 – 2013) was an American composer noted for her work in early electronic music.

Of interest to me is her 1969 Baudelaire album, on which she reads 10 poems from The Flowers of Evil. This is really bizarre and reading her liner notes makes the experience only weirder. “The Litanies of Satan” is one of the poems that got him in to trouble.

Evil flowers and skeletons; Baudelaire and Rops

Les Épaves (1866) by Félicien Rops (detail)

Les Épaves (1866) by Félicien Rops (detail)

For Les Épaves (1866) by French poet Charles Baudelaire, Belgian artist Félicien Rops was commissioned to design a frontispiece based on the Adam and Eve with the Tree of Knowledge as Death[1] woodcut by Jost Amman as found [2] in Eustache-Hyacinthe Langlois‘s “danses des morts” essay, where it is erroneously attributed to Hans Sebald Beham.

See Félicien Rops frontispiece in Baudelaire’s ‘Les Épaves’

Grandville as the sorcerer-priest of commodity fetishism

"Les poisson d’avril" (1844) by Grandville, see April fish

“Les poisson d’avril” by Grandville from Another World

Following yesterday’s post[1] on Un autre monde, I’ve been cleaning up my copy of the full text of that fantastic book and furthering my research on it and Grandville (1803 – 1847) in general.

Kindred spirits

The only person coming close in sheer absurdity to Grandville in the Anglophone world is Edward Lear (1812 – 1888) of whom I recently posted his Walking Fish[2].

Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin on Grandville

To my surprise, Baudelaire doesn’t care for Grandville nor his work, literally saying “there are superficial people who find Grandville entertaining; as for me, he scares me.” (translation mine, see Baudelaire on Grandville).

The philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) saw in Grandville’s drawings, especially in Another World, a glorification of commodity fetishism: “The enthronement of the commodity … is the secret theme of Grandville’s art” and “if the commodity has become a fetish, Grandville is its sorcerer-priest.” (translation mine)

English translations

There is no public domain translation of the work of Grandville. There is Stanley Appelbaum’s Bizarreries & fantasies of Grandville: 266 illustrations from Un autre monde and Les animaux (Dover Publications, 1974, 1987).

Commodity fetishism?

Commodity fetishism was of great interest to me in the early 2000s, when I discovered the work of Walter Benjamin. I’m happy to have found a drawing that is proof of Grandville’s status as “sorcerer-priest of commodity fetishism.” The plate is called “Les poisson d’avril” (lit: The April Fishes, but actually French for ‘April Fools’ Day’) [3] in the chapter UN VOYAGE D’AVRIL and depicts fish fishing for humans in an enchanted wood. On their hooks are the commodity fetishes such as “diamants, … croix d’honneur, épaulettes, bourses d’or.” (“diamonds … a cross of honor, epaulettes and gold purses.”).

If you want to browse the on-line version with illustrations, here is the link[4].

We who cannot

Last weekend, I bought Joko’s Anniversary (1969) by Roland Topor.

Reading the opening pages, it dawned on me that Topor’s novel starts where Baudelaire’s “To Every Man His Chimera” (1869) left off, exactly one hundred years earlier.

A good illustration with regards to Joko’s misfortunes: “You who cannot” (1799) by Francisco Goya, published hundred seventy years earlier.