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  • Verlaine, Rimbaud, Fauré and La Bonne Chanson
    Posted on Apr 20, 2020
    Some compulsory biography. Three months after the publication of the Fêtes galantes, Verlaine visited the composer, Charles de Sivry, in Montmartre. They were old friends, and two years previously Verlaine had sung a tenor role in a musical comedy that Sivry had written with Lepelletier - a performance that had been attended by Sivry’s fourteen-year-old half-sister Mathilde Mauté. She began to read Verlaine’s poetry, and it was probably more than mere interest in his verse that led her to Sivry’s house on the day of Verlaine’s visit. Sivry introduced his half-sister to the twenty-five-year-old…
  • Taking delight in small things
    Posted on Apr 16, 2020
    Mallarmé’s Les Loisirs de la Poste Like many of you, I suspect, I’ve been spending time during my enforced isolation sifting through long-neglected paperwork and files. It’s been a joy, and an almost physical pleasure, to rediscover and reread letters from old friends – to decipher one person’s tiny, cramped writing; to wallow in the beautiful, almost calligraphic, script of another; to chuckle over the cartoon-like annotations of a third. Could letter-writing, with jigsaws and board games, see a revival as a leisure activity during these troubled times? After all, Royal Mail apparently rema…
  • Silverpoints
    Posted on Apr 13, 2020
    John Gray’s Silverpoints is a slender volume. Published in 1893 by the Bodley Head, it contains only 29 poems and almost half of these are translations of Paul Verlaine, Stéphane Mallarmé, Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud. Texts such as his version of Verlaine’s ‘Parsifal’ proclaim Gray’s profound immersion in recent French literature and point to the Decadent values of the collection as a whole: Compare this with the French original: Parsifal A Jules Tellier Parsifal a vaincu les Filles, leur gentilBabil et la luxure amusante - et sa penteVers la Chair de garçon vierge que cela ten…
  • An unhealing wound
    Posted on Apr 9, 2020
    A sickness lies over the land, the leader is incapacitated, and no-one seems able to find a remedy. That is the situation at the opening of Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal, first presented in 1882. The opera is set at Easter, too. Act 1 takes place on Good Friday and Act 3 on the morning of Easter Sunday, albeit some years later. The story also echoes Christian themes of innocence, fall and redemption, and includes two eucharistic rituals. But this being Wagner it is all a bit more complicated than that… For a number of years I marked every Easter by listening to the opera on vinyl, in a re…
  • Proust in Lockdown
    Posted on Apr 6, 2020
    In his recent blog Graham Henderson wrote about the current lockdown and the unexpected acres of time it has freed up. He cited Proust and the opportunity given to have another go at reading this colossal masterpiece. Good call. Proust is relevant here. Proust’s melancholy description in his novel’s final volume, Temps Retrouvé, of returning to an empty Paris after the First World War and finding all the places he loved closed down is eerily resonant to anyone who has stepped out into the streets of London since our current crisis broke. How did Proust, or rather his narrator, respond? He d…
  • Le Chat Noir
    Posted on Apr 2, 2020
    Founded by Rodolphe Salis, Le Chat Noir cabaret opened in 1881 in Montmartre, a district to the north of Paris that was not then part of the city and therefore not subject to city taxes. It was also (and is still) the location of a tiny vineyard which in the late nineteenth century was tended by nuns. Montmartre’s many establishments devoted to drinking were certainly a prime attraction for artists and pleasure seekers. The cabaret was so successful that it moved to larger premises in 1885. Le Chat Noir was far more than a place to go for a drink and see variety acts – it was also a meeting…
  • Against Nature
    Posted on Mar 30, 2020
    It is not possible to spend very long reading about the Decadent Movement in the arts and letters of the late 19th century before coming across Against Nature (À Rebours) the extraordinary novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans. Perhaps more accurately translated as ‘going against the grain’ this story of Des Esseintes, a self-indulgent aesthete, is regarded as an almost definitive lexicon of Decadent taste and sensibilities in 1894. It was a key foundational text for the marvellous series of academic conferences organised by the Decadence and Translation Network during 2019, in which R&V also playe…
  • A bridge across cultures – Judith Gautier’s Le Livre de Jade
    Posted on Mar 25, 2020
    Relations between China and the West have always been complex and at times fraught. Perhaps, then, it’s as important as ever for us to celebrate those figures in literary history who helped create positive connections between the two cultures. In May 1867 the twenty-one-year-old Judith Gautier, favourite child of the poet Théophile, published Le Livre de Jade, a collection of 71 poems reputedly based on (‘selon’) a variety of Chinese originals. The book received wide and enthusiastic coverage from leading literary figures of the day. Hugo wrote a personal note to Judith from his exile in Gu…
  • 'A Letter from Twickenham'
    Posted on Mar 24, 2020
    Like many people I am currently in lockdown, restricted to my own home. Not wanting to let this unexpected incarceration go to waste I have decided, amongst other things, to read the Moncrieff and Kilmartin translation of À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of things past) by Marcel Proust. I tried to read this once before, back in 1984, inspired by the movie Swann in Love starring Jeremy Irons and Ornella Muti. On that occasion I only made it halfway through Swann in Love, or mid-way through the first of the three hefty volumes that make up the work in its Penguin edition. My comment a…
  • Experiential theatre and music show
    Posted on Feb 25, 2020
    The Rimbaud and Verlaine Foundation recently presented Songs from a Parisian salon at the Senate House in Bloomsbury. This short video promo provides a flavour of the show, which combined theatre, live music and fashion. The show was a pilot for a series of experiential and immersive shows which R&V hopes to programme from the autumn of 2020 at a top London music venue.  
  • Jan Patočka – and the Grounds for Political Action
    Posted on Sep 10, 2019
    R&V is delighted to be presenting both an academic conference about the Czech philosopher Jan Patočka and an evening event designed to emphasise the important part played by the arts and culture in Patočka’s philosophy. The daytime event will be suitable to academic philosophers, literature specialists, historians and social scientists as well as members of the wider public interested in civil society and the grounds for political action. The event in the evening, featuring poetry, music and fine art images, will be of interest to all those passionate about the arts. The philosophy of Jan…
  • Before the Wall - Theatre in Museums.
    Posted on Aug 6, 2019
    In the fourth of a series of blog posts, Rimbaud & Verlaine Foundation Chief Executive Graham Henderson looks at the way in which original theatre commissions like Before The Wall can be used to both raise awareness of the stories behind a museum’s collection and attract new audiences to theatre and the arts.  The Railway Children, the spectacular theatrical adaption of Edith Nesbit’s classic children’s book from 1906 has been one of the great commercial successes of the last decade. During its run at the old Eurostar terminal at Waterloo station alone it attracted over 300,000 paying c…