A selection of quotations from Georges Bernanos’ 1937 novel

On alienation

Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest
Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest

“Every day I become more aware of my own ignorance in the most elementary details of everyday life, which everybody seems to know without having learnt them, but a sort of instinct. Yet I don’t suppose I’m really more of a fool than most people, and if I stick to easily remembered rules of thumb, I can look as though I really understand what was going on. But all those words which seem to have such precise meaning for some folk, and pretty nigh indistinguishable to me, like a bad card-player to whom one lead seems as good as another. Whilst they were discussing the savings-banks I felt like a child strayed into a room full of gabbling grown-ups. […] I fear I shall never be practical, and I don’t improve with experience.”

“I left the Château late—far too late. I am also very bad at taking my leave. Each time the clock goes round I make a tentative move, calling forth much polite protestation which I have not the courage to resist. It might go on for hours!”

“My nervousness has lately become a real obsession. It is hard to conquer that childish unreasonable terror, which makes me turn with a jump whenever I feel the eyes of a passer-by. My heart comes into my mouth, and I can’t breathe freely again until I’ve heard his ‘good morning’ in answer to mine. When at last it comes I’ve ceased to hope for it.” (more…)

Advertisements

Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy

I have a new routine. Since finishing my duties at the university where I work, I have been dividing my time between applying for full-time academic posts and working on a manuscript for Ibidem’s Samuel Beckett in Company series.

I rise early and prepare myself a light breakfast with a cup of green tea. I check the news headlines with a sense of stoic resignation. And then I spend some time reading and writing. After finishing Stephen King‘s The Stand a week or two ago I moved on to William Peter Blatty‘s notorious novel, The Exorcist, and then found myself completing Georges Bernanos‘ excellent Diary of a Country Priest.

Yesterday morning, I restlessly searched among my books for another novel to read. Something that might pique my interest. As someone with a tendency to collect books, there is never a shortage of titles to choose from. Among the contenders were Émile Zola‘s Germinal, and both of Gustave Flaubert‘s novels, Madame Bovary and Sentimental Education. But I stopped on Leo Tolstoy‘s Anna Karenina. I am an avid reader of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, but have never read Anna Karenina before. Somewhat ridiculously, I own two translations of the novel: the recent Pevear and Volokhonsky edition that drew critical attention and acclaim, and a 1912 translation by Louise and Aylmer Maude. According to my Everyman’s Library edition, the latter were a Quaker couple that befriended Tolstoy while living in Russia, and helped him organise the Doukhobor migration to Canada in 1893. I also find in their short biography that they “share[d] many of Tolstoy’s views on spiritual life, moral obligation, and passive resistance to violence”. I picked up the Louise and Aylmer Maude translation and began reading. (more…)

Samuel Beckett with Alberto Giacometti
Samuel Beckett with Alberto Giacometti

Judith Wilkinson has written an interesting account of Samuel Beckett‘s friendship with the Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti. In a recent piece published on the Tate website, she describes how they came to know one another:

“At the time of Giacometti and Beckett’s first meeting, Beckett was living at a modest artists’ hotel in Paris called Hôtel Libéria. Located down a narrow alleyway, Giacometti’s studio (and home) was a mere twenty-minute walk from Beckett’s accommodation. The two would meet late at night, when they had finished work, in one of the Parisian cafés, such as Café Flore, Le Dôme or La Coupole, to drink and socialise. The cafés were the central hub of French cultural and intellectual life during the period, and other notable artists and thinkers, such as philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Genet, as well as painters Jean-Paul Riopelle, Joan Mitchell and Bram van Velde also visited these establishments.

The pair would often leave the cafés in the early hours of the morning to embark on long walks around the city together. During their nocturnal rambles they frequently discussed each other’s work, although Giacometti is believed to have dominated these conversations with his anxieties concerning his artworks. Beckett and Giacometti’s nights routinely concluded with a visit to a brothel – the favourite being the legendary Sphinx located behind Montparnasse train station.”

Wilkinson will be giving a Tate Modern Tour that explores the links between Beckett and Giacometti on 24 July and 31 July 2017, respectively. For more information, take a look at the event page on the Tate website.

james-joyce
James Joyce

At 5pm on Tuesday 30 May 2017, Scarlett Baron will be giving a free lecture on James Joyce at the University of Reading. The lecture will connect to her broader interest in modernist and postmodernist literature in English and French:

“Her 2011 monograph ‘Strandentwining Cable’: Joyce, Flaubert, and Intertextuality reads Joyce within an Anglo-French literary tradition and argues for the importance of his work within the emergence of intertextual theory.

Everyone is most welcome to this event, which takes place 5pm at the Special Collections, University of Reading. The lecture will be accompanied by a glass of wine and is hosted by the Finnegans Wine Reading Group.”

To book a place, or for more information, take a look at the Eventbrite page.

rebecca-solnit-c-jim-herrington
Rebecca Solnit

Back in April, Rebecca Solnit contributed to Cosmopolitan‘s ‘Get that Life’ series, where she talks about her career as a writer, historian, and activist. She discusses how she came to turn a vocation into a profession, and ends by reflecting on the role that writing continues to play in her life:

“My life has been startling to me. Nobody had ambition on my behalf when I was young. Nobody led me to have high expectations of myself or even to think about some of the things that have happened, about being something of a public figure, playing a role in some of the conversations in the culture, making a living by writing. I just wanted to do this thing, which was about describing the world as I saw it, about the art of telling stories, working with language, finding relationships and patterns in the world, intervening on behalf of the things I’m committed to — and here I am.”