goncourt recollections

…As it turned out, however, it was none of these things that rescued the Goncourts from “oblivion.” It was, rather, their Journals — the scandalous, vain, vengeful, brutally honest diaries in which the two brothers, and then Edmond alone, wrote the secret history of their age. Starting in 1851, the year their first novel was published, and ending just twelve days before Edmond’s death in 1896, the Goncourt Journals helped to immortalize their period as well as their authors. If we are still fascinated by the literary life of Paris in the late 19th century — not just the books but the personalities, the rivalries and friendships, the piquant combination of idealism and brutishness — we have the Goncourts to thank. Read More:http://www.nysun.com/arts/masters-of-indiscretion/44314/

The Journal covers more than forty years of French social,political and aesthetic history. France had great men in numbers in those days, and the Goncourts knew most of them. Hugo, Zola, Rodin, Degas, Renan, Sainte-Beuve, Faubert, Dumas pere and fils, all these and many others either appear in person or are heard off-stage. The chief value of the Journal comes from the Goncourt’s gift for gathering and recording vivid impressions, illuminating anecdotes, evanescent sights, and winged words.

—The Goncourt Brothers: “On Female Inferiority” (page 224)
Goncourt Brothers – Edmund and Jules, two French writers
“Woman is an evil, stupid animal…. she is incapable of dreaming, thinking, or loving.”
They can’t create any poetry or things of that nature except what they are educated to create
The female mind is inherently inferior to the masculine mind
Women are also overly self assure, which allows them to be extremely witty with nothing but a little vivacity and a touch of spontaneity.
Man on the other hand is endowed with the modest and timidity which woman lacks
Women are unbearable if they try to act educated and on the same intellectual level as men
Read More:http://clementsap.blogspot.ca/2011/02/goncourt-brothers-on-female-inferiority.html image:http://www.fineart-china.com/htmlimg/image-55247.html

In the sombre winter of 1870, Victor Hugo spoke the obituary of Napoleon III’s regime: “The Empire did nothing to provide a defense against foreigners; everything it did was designed to provide a defense against the population.”

Faubert told the story of a man who was taken fishing by a friend. The friend was an atheist. The fished up a stone on which was carved: I do not exist. Signed: GOD. “There!” said the atheist. “What did I tell you?”

Oscar Wilde told Henri de Regnier,”I’ve been married three times in my life, once to a woman and twice to men.”

Discussing the dangers of exaggerated realism on the stage, Daudet told of a woman in deep mourning who boarded a bus. She looked so tragically unhappy that a neighbor asked her for the story of her misfortunes. With the passengers murmuring their sympathy and the conductor blowing his nose to hide his tears, she described the death of her first child, then the death of her second. But by the time she got to the death of her third child, interest began to slacken; and when she narrated the death of her fourth child, which was eaten alive by a crocodile on the banks of the Nile, everyone burst out laughing.

—To be sure, there are often misogynistic overtones in the Journal, particularly when it comes to the subjects of women writing or thinking:
Inferiority of the feminine to the masculine mind. All the phsyical beauty, all the strength, and all the development of woman is concentrated in and as it were directed towards the central and lower parts of the body…the beauty of a man is to be found in the upper, nobler parts…
Woman: the most beautiful and most admirable of laying machines.
Men like ourselves need a woman of little breeding and education who is nothing but gaiety and natural wit, because a woman of that sort can charm and please us like an agreeable animal to which we may become quite attached. But if a mistrress has acquired a veneer of breeding, art or literature, and tries to talk to us on an equal footing about our thoughts and our feeling for beauty; if she wants to be a companion and partner in the cultivation of our tastes or the writing of our books, then she becomes for us as unbearable as a piano out of tune — and very soon an object of dislike. Read More:http://elsewhere.typepad.com/the_view_from_elsewhere/2007/02/pages_from_the_.html

Besides many such anecdotes, there are some rapidly sketched but memorable scenes. The Goncourts would have made fine reporters. Thus: Maupassant rushing into the water at Etreat to save a drowning man who was quite drunk: he turned out to be Swinburne.

A group of Communist prisoners being taken to execution after their failure to seize Paris. “Among the women, one was singularly beautiful, with the implacable beauty of a young Fate. She was a girl with dark curly hair, steely eyes, and cheekbones red with dried tears. She stood frozen as it were in a defiant posture, hurling insults at officers and men from a throat and lips so contracted by anger that they were unable to form words. ‘She’s just like the girl who stabbed Barbier!’ a young officer said to one of his friends.”

In December, 1870, Edmond Goncourt visited a butcher’s shop that, because Paris was blaockaded, had bought some of the animals from the zoo. “On the wall,hung in a place of honor, was the skinned trunk of the elephant… and a boy was offering some camel’s kidn

for sale…I fell back on a couple of larks which I carried off for my lunch.”


(see link at end):The Goncourt brothers may have been Proust’s favorite authors to parody, but that may be because they are such fun to read. Take these two journal entries, on the death of their beloved servant Rose.

16 August

It was this woman, this admirable nurse, whose hands our dying mother put into ours. She had the keys to everything she decided and did everything for us. For as long as we could remember we had made the same old jokes about her ugliness and her ungainly body, and for twenty-five years she had given us a kiss every night. She shared everything with us, our sorrows and our joys. Hers was one of those devotions which one hopes will be there to close one’s eyes when death comes…

Thursday, 21 August

Yesterday I learnt things about poor Rose, only lately dead and practically still warm, which astonished me more than anything else in the whole of my life; things which completely took away my appetite, filling me with a stupefaction from which I have not yet recovered and which has left me positively dazed. All of a sudden, within a matter of minutes, I was brought face to face with an unknown, dreadful, horrible side of the poor woman’s life.

Those bills she signed, those debts she left with all the tradesmen, all had an unbelievable, horrifying explanation.. She had lovers whom she paid. One of them was the son of our dairywoman, who fleeced her and for whom she furnished a room. Another was given our wine and chickens. A secret life of dreadful orgies, nights out, sensual frenzies that prompted one of her lovers to say: ‘It’s going to kill one of us, me or her!’ A passion, a sum of passions, of head, heart, and senses, in which all the unfortunate woman’s ailments played their part: consumption, making her desperate for satisfaction, hysteria, and madness. She had two children by the dairywoman’s son, one of which lived six months. When, a few years ago, she told us she was going into hospital, it was to have a child. And her love for all these men was so sickly, excessive, and overwhelming that she, who was the very soul of honesty, robbed us, yes, robbed us of a twenty-franc piece out of every hundred francs, and all in order to keep her lovers and pay for their sprees.

Then, after these involuntary offences, committed in violent contradiction to her upright nature, she would sink into such despondency, such remorse, such self-reproach, that in this inferno in which she went from one lapse to another without ever finding satisfaction, she started drinking in order to escape from herself, to postpone the future, to flee the present, to sink and drown for a few hours in one of those slumbers, those torpors which used to lay her out for a whole day on a bed on to which she had collapsed while making it….Read More:http://proustreader.wordpress.com/tag/goncourt-brothers/

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