Tag Archive: writers


Night Visit

The following is a text that I wrote in French while I was living in France and have just translated into English.  This is the first time that it has been published in either language.  I wrote it the day after the incident.

***

30 July 2001, Anjou, France, 11:10 p.m.

The neighbours have sent their children to bed.  I can hear windows and shutters banging.

It is strange.  Their windows remain open all day, letting in the stifling air from outside, and they close them in the evening when it is a lot cooler.  I do the opposite.  Each to his own taste.

The window of my bathroom, an en suite to my bedroom, stays open all night.  It has solid bars, conceived to discourage any thief who might have had the laughable idea of trying to find something worth stealing in my apartment.

The bars, around ten centimetres apart, do let in quite a lot of visitors however.  Every morning, I remove the leftovers from the nocturnal meals of the two spiders who are comfortably installed in ambush in my bathroom.  They sort through the Unidentified Flying Objects which have had the audacity to penetrate my home while I am asleep.  I leave them there on purpose, as a first line of defence.

From time to time, I receive the visit of a big moth who has temporarily lost sight of the moon and, led astray by my bedside lamp, braves the bars and the spiders.

This evening, I am reading.  I am not yet in bed, but am sitting on it, with my back to the room.  Theoretically, I am immersed in Emile Zola’s La Debacle, but I am having trouble concentrating.  I can still hear the windows and shutters banging.

I am starting to have some auditory hallucinations.  I hear something fall in the bathroom.  I raise my head.  I listen.  Nothing.  Anyway, there is nothing susceptible of falling in the bathroom.  I go back to Zola.

I hear some sort of movement behind my head.  A big moth.  I see it out of the corner of my eye when it changes direction.

First thought:  its colour is very dark.

It passes behind my head again.  I bid it “Good evening!”  Yes, I talk to moths.  I know, I am crazy, but this is not the right moment to discuss that subject.  I raise my head to look at this nearly black moth.  I am wearing my reading glasses and am surrounded by an artistically out-of-focus decor.  The Flying Object has gone into the bathroom and makes a left-hand turn before plunging towards the bathtub.

Second thought:  it’s not a moth;  it’s a bird!  How did it manage to get through the bars?  I’m going to have fun trying to catch it to set it free!

Third thought:  it looked odd.  Why?  Its flight.  It’s not a bird!  It’s a bat!

Fourth thought:  what do I do now?  Help!

Interior Dialogue

“First of all, we must remain calm.  It’s a tiny, little bat from Anjou.  It’s nothing like the enormous vampires in South America.”

“Maybe.  But it’s in my bathroom!”

“That’s true.  It’s in your bathroom.  But it’s there by accident and it’s more than likely that it wants to be somewhere else.”

“Then why doesn’t it just go away?”

“It would already have done so if there weren’t any bars.  You’re going to have to help it.”

“I  don’t mind doing that, but firstly, it needs to know that I’m trying to help it and don’t want to hurt it.”

“Well, tell it that.”

“Yes, yes, of course!  I take an accelerated course in Ultra-Sounds, specializing in Bat!”

“Like all living things, it feels your thoughts.”

“In that case, it mustn’t be very confident at the moment.”

“So, you already have that in common.  In your opinion, who has the biggest problem?  You, or it?”

“All right.  But what is it going to do when I go into the bathroom?”

“If you were in its place, what would you do?”

“Huddle in a corner and pray.”

“So, that’s probably what it will do, too.”

“Bats pray?”

“Let’s stay on the subject.  In your bathroom, there is a living creature who is afraid and wants to leave.  You need to make it understand that you are going to help it and that it must trust you.”

“And all that through my thoughts.   A piece of cake!”

I put Zola and my glasses down on the bed and walk the metre and a half separating me from the bathroom, which is vaguely lit by the bedside lamp.

If we start with the premise that the very, very, very tiny-little-animal-hiding-somewhere-in-the-dark doesn’t like light very much, switching on the bathroom light would be a mistake.  Therefore, we won’t.

When last seen, this really-minuscule-little-thing was plunging towards the bathtub, fortunately white, and has not made the slightest sound since.

Different things decorate the top of my bathtub:  among them, my toothbrush and the toothpaste;  the latter in the form of a little plastic bottle.  Between the two, there is something dark-coloured.  It is not moving.

Right.  Let us say that it is the bat.  How am I going to take hold of it?  This is my first bat rescue.  Let us do the same thing as for wasps and bees:  a clean cloth.

I explain, out loud, that I am going to fetch something to help it out of there.  It listens to me attentively and does not move.

I find a tea-towel in smooth cotton, in which the bat would not risk getting stuck.  I return to the bathroom.

I explain to it that I am going to take away the tooth-brush that is just in front of it.  Which I do.  The bat does not move.

It has magnificent ears – all rounded.  What a pity that I can’t turn on the light to see it better.  Naturally, I can’t take a photo of it, either.

I can’t see it very clearly and am very surprised when, after having told it what I was going to do, I pick up the bottle of toothpaste.  It is clinging to it.

I start to put it down again, then decide to try to pass it like that between the bars.

Despite its immobility, its nerves must be very taut.  They snap, and it lets go of the toothpaste.

I put down the bottle and tell it that I am going to try to take it with the tea-towel, but that I would have preferred that it were turned the other way.  It seems to understand and begins to turn around.  I am astounded.

It slips on the enamel and spreads its wings to land in the bathtub.  I can see it a lot better.  It is very beautiful.

Now, it is turned the right way around, but its wings must be folded.  It does not agree with this.

It tries to fly onto the edge of the bathtub, but does not have enough room for take-off.  It slips.  It can’t hold on.  It tries again.  This time, I understand.

I hold out the tea-towel and it grips the side of it.  I lift them both slowly.  The bat folds its wings and I pass the tea-towel between the bars.  The bat is outside.  We look at each other.  It does not fly away, but I am absolutely certain that it knows that it is free.  These few seconds during which it remains clinging to my tea-towel, looking at me, are a gift that it is giving me.

“Go!”, I tell it.  The bat unfolds its wings, holds on for another instant, then takes off into the dark.  I bring in the empty tea-towel.

I feel a bit uneasy.  This bat has greatly troubled me.  I have the impression that I have been dealing with a being of an intelligence that is equal, if not superior, to mine.  Different, of course, but not inferior.  I feel very humble.  I am not sure that I like this feeling.

In my bedroom, I look at the time:  11:20 p.m.  The last three hours have taken only ten minutes.  Apparently, that is what is known as Relativity.

I go to bed.  I am exhausted.  I wonder what the bathroom spiders think of it all.  I shall have to ask them tomorrow.

***

Guy de Maupassant and the UFO

Guy de Maupassant

The story that follows is situated in the XIXth Century.  Guy de Maupassant, who is its author, is one of the greatest French writers.  His testimony comports striking analogies with those of former epochs.  Maupassant was devoted to “the humble truth” as he said himself.  His testimony merits being added to the UFO dossier.  This account was not published in his lifetime.  It appeared for the first time in the second half of the XXth Century.

***

I was working at home, in Etretat, when my domestic announced:

“There’s a monsieur, who wants to speak to Monsieur!”

“Have him enter!…”

I noticed a little man who was bowing.  He had the air of a skinny school teacher with glasses.  He gabbled:

“I beg pardon, Monsieur!  Much pardon for disturbing you, Monsieur…  I am very troubled by the step that I am taking, but I absolutely had to see someone.  There was only you!  I took courage, but truly, I no longer dare…  As soon as I begin, you are going to take me for a madman!…”

“Mon Dieu!  That depends on what you are going to tell me…”

“What I am going to tell you is going to appear bizarre to you…”

“Eh bien, monsieur…  get on with it!”

“Monsieur, I perhaps look a bit mad, but that’s how men look when they have reflected a bit more than others, when they have crossed a little, so little, the boundaries of average thought…  For, do you see, Monsieur, no-one thinks about anything!  Each is busy with his business or his fortune, his pleasures, his life or little stupidities like politics.  But who now thinks?…  Hein!…  Who now?…  No-one!  But I’m getting worked up, Monsieur, I return to the subject…  You don’t know me, Monsieur, because at Etretat I don’t mix with people…  Me, I mostly go onto the cliffs…  I look at the sky, the sea…  Ah!  I adore the cliffs!…  Monsieur…  Would you allow me to ask a question?”

“Dare it, Monsieur!”

“Do you believe that other planets are inhabited?”

I answered without hesitation, without appearing surprised:

“But, certainly, I believe it!”

Then he was moved by vehement joy.

“Ah!  What luck, Monsieur.  Ah!  I breathe…  Ah!  You know, I doubted you!…  Ah! a man would not be truly intelligent, if he didn’t believe in inhabited worlds…  We know nothing about what’s outside, nothing of these thousands of worlds, these flames of stars, hein!…  Ah!  If we knew…

“It wasn’t a shooting star.  I saw it very close.  It was a transparent luminous globe, with something like wings, palpitating vapours around it…  It was darting around, it was turning on itself, instead of a trajectory, yes!…  It was darting around, with a big mysterious sound!…  It passed in front of me…  One would have said a monstrous crystal balloon…  Like a ship in distress, with a panicked crew…  And this strange globe, Monsieur, suddenly made an immense curve and it must have crashed very far into the sea, for I heard something like a cannon firing… !  In any case, everyone, Monsieur, in the surrounding countryside heard this formidable shock…  One would have said that it was thunder, just one thunderclap.  But me, I was there, I was watching, I saw…  I alone, I saw…  If it had fallen on the coast, one would have known at last…  Ah! yes, Monsieur, I saw…  I saw the first airship!…  I saw the first sideral ship sent into the infinity by thinking beings!…”

He had risen, he was exalted,  He opened his arms to figure the progression of the stars.  He says to me:

“Adieu, Monsieur!  You answer nothing?…  But think about it!…  think about it!…  and recount this one day, if you want!…”

***

The same phenomenon described by Maupassant was observed by some Canadian sailors in 1967.

This story surges, itself like an unidentified object, in the Maupassant works.  It has no known sources and is not a scenario, in the manner of his master, Gustave Flaubert, for a work of imagination that he intended to write.  It is also the only text in great literature which evokes an apparition of a flying saucer.  Finally, it is an unknown text by a master of French literature who wrote hundreds of famous short stories and diverse other writings which have all been published.  All, except this text, of which we do not know whether it is the account by an eyewitness who reported it to the author or whether it is Maupassant himself who is recounting something that happened to him.

***

He could have seen it himself and wrote it this way to hide that fact.  We are in 1889.  Four years later, Maupassant sank into total madness.  Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, thinks that not only did he not invent this story, but that he effectively lived it.  However, he was already wary of himself, of his hallucinatory crises and he was unable to bring himself to make the choice between reality and what could have been suggested to him by his illness.

On top of that, even if he was convinced of the reality of his vision, he didn’t dare to publish it because it appeared to him to be too unrealistic for the epoch.  The end of the XIXth Century is the triumph throughout the whole world of positive ideas and, in France, of naturalism, which is above all intransigeant fidelity to reality.  He was himself one of the representatives of this school of thought, and he certainly found that his visions of flying objects were very little in conformity with the mentality and the curiosity of the epoch, in love with scientism and rationality…

***

Maupassant was a man of great culture who had contributed to the making of the culture of his time, and not only in France.  Therefore, he cannot be reproached with not having, at the same time, gone against this culture.  Our technological culture, the first trips into Space, the infinite proliferation of flying objects, have habituated us to fictions which prefigure the scientific realities of tomorrow.  An observation like the one reported here, would appear today in all the papers and the witness would be interviewed on television.

1889 is the year when Clement Ader starts building the first aeroplane.   We don’t even know if it ever flew.  The word “aviation” has only existed for about fifty years.  Therefore, Maupassant’s scrupules and discretion are perfectly comprehensible.

But he had already intruded into modern fantasy two years earlier.  He wrote Le Horla in 1887, and this abominable apparition would inspire the authors of fantastic and horrific realism to this day…

***

Etretat where Guy de Maupassant was living in 1885.

Autumn Thud

It is early Autumn in this part of the world and, in 2005, while staying with extended family in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, I started to write a poem in English.  In 2006, I submitted it to ArtsACT, as an entry for the 2006 David Campbell Poetry Prize for an unpublished poem by an ACT poet, where it sank into oblivion, possibly with a Winter Thud, as it was in June.  In December, I learned that there had been only thirty-eight entries in this category, which makes my result even worse.

In 2008, I dug it out and reduced it to sixteen lines, which greatly improved it, and it went off to the USA where it won a second prize, along with a great number of other people’s poems (there were over seventy second prizes, I think) but, as there were many thousands of entries, I thought that this result was not too bad.  Particularly as I had entered this competition many times in the past with no result.  Perhaps they were rewarding perseverance.

The poem was published in an anthology and I don’t think that I have written any poetry since, except perhaps a few haiku.  Poetry is meant to be read aloud and I have no-one to whom to read it.  In France, I had a captive audience several times a year and this gave me an incentive to write.  Here, in the Australian Capital Territory, I have no audience.  And the way things are looking, that is not likely to change any time soon.

So, to give Autumn Thud another airing, I’ve decided to post it here.  It’s Easter Sunday and you are all bound to be high on chocolate, so it might have more chance of pleasing someone today.

Autumn Thud

*

Autumn has fallen with a thud.

The temperature drop is ten degrees.

Cockatoos, magpies, pigeons, galahs

Risk short flights to cowering trees.

***

Waves of rain sputter and stop.

Brown leaves glisten on the ground.

A young magpie flutters down,

Holds out its wings, steps around.

***

Furious, the gale renews.

Rods of water hit the earth.

The magpie tumbles, flaps, screams,

Scuttles towards the tree of its birth.

***

Autumn has fallen with a thud.

It is windy and dark, cold and damp;

A time for my nest, feather quilt,

Cocoa, a book, and the fireside lamp.

(2008 version)

Esquisse de deux amis

George Weaver from She Kept a Parrot, a WordPress blog that can be found in my Blogroll, wants me to translate a poem, Esquisse de deux amis, which won a prize in France.  It does not translate well into English.

Another poem of mine, which was originally attempted in English and abandoned because it sounded “mushy” to me, was re-written in French and came out very well because French suited it better.  The poem was called Clair de lune and went on to be highly-rated in a poetry competition at the prestigious Salon Orange in Champagne, so the language chosen for a particular subject, or a particular style, is often very important.

As the following poem sounds very jerky in English, when it should be flowing, with quiet pauses, I was reluctant to display it online.  However, as George was insistent, I decided to scan the original French version which appeared in the Municipal Bulletin with a quote about it from a local newspaper, and include it with the translation.  All complaints should be addressed to George.

The reason that the poem was written concerns another insistent person, Pascal, who harassed me until I wrote something about him and his dog Junior.  The original version was longer and included their names.  It also had a different mood about it.  However, as the entries in the competition had to be limited to twenty lines, the mood changed when I deleted the lines down to twenty.  Pascal and Junior visited me every day while I was working as Guide to a mediaeval castle in 2002.  He sent the long version of the poem to his father, so I felt obliged to give him the shorter, calligraphed, framed version that I had done for an Art show, when I left France to come back to Australia.

Pouance Infos Numero 76 Juin 2003

 

Esquisse de deux amis

(translation)

They resemble each other a lot.

They both have long, lean bodies.

The short one loves food, the tall one is more a gourmet.

How do they manage to stay slim?

 

Neither one nor the other smokes cigarettes or drinks alcohol.

Both have sparkling eyes and narrow, pointed faces.

They like other people a lot and mutually adore each other.

 

They take their meals together, watch television together.

They sleep together and both of them snore.

They separate only for work.

The tall one leaves to earn their living.

The short one stays in bed.

 

It’s because they belong to two different races.

The tall one has two legs, the short one has four.

They have been living together for more than ten years.

 

The master, a bit hunched over, takes long paces, with an absent air.

The dog stops, reads a message left by another canine, leaves a reply in return.

The master waits patiently for him to finish.

They set off again, turn the corner and are out of sight.

A man and his dog – my friends.

 

As proof that this poem really did win something (a painting by Dominique Guedon to be precise) the following is the complete article about the prize-winning poems.  I was not there, having received my letter on the day that the article appeared, so I am not in either of the photos.

Having just re-read the article, I am reminded that another of my poems, in another category, came second ex-aequo.  I’d completely forgotten about that one.

Don’t forget:  all complaints and criticisms are to be addressed to George Weaver.  This post is all her fault.

Courrier de l'Ouest du lundi 24 mars 2003.

Gustav Meyrink

Meyrink himself recounted this strange story in My Awakening to Clairvoyance, where he reports extraordinary phenomena of which he has been the object…

***

The painter Hocker could not have been inspired either by the story which had appeared in Simplicissimus, or by any knowledge of the original rough copy because (1) Gustav Meyrink wrote everything by hand – he had no secretary;  (2) he showed his mauscripts to no-one;  (3) he did not throw out his rough copies, but kept them in a cupboard.  Finally, in admitting that this rough copy had been found, no-one would have been able to decipher it for Meyrink used, to write quickly, a system of abbreviations which was absolutely personal.

***

He would not have recounted his vision, for Meyrink was a person who verbally confided little about himself, only talking about himself in his books.

***

He gives no explanation for the phenomenon.  It is a total mystery.  There is by the way another mystery:  for what reason did Mr Hocker buy, almost against his will, the number of Simplicissimus which contained the story?  Meyrink writes:

“Spiritists would say that he had been prodded to it by ghosts”;

but it is quite evident that this explanation is not sufficient…

***

Saint-Yves d'Alveydre

Gustav Meyrink really believed that he had received a message.  He was not only a great cabalistic writer, but – if not an initiate – at least a man who knew a lot of things.  He had studied theology, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, etc.  He was Rose-Croix and belonged to several secret societies.  It has been said of him that he was a “prospector of the invisible”.  After having read Saint-Yves d’Alveydre’s book Mission de l’Inde, which revealed the existence of Agarttha, he studied the mysteries of Tibet.

***

Agarttha is an underground initiation centre which is supposed to be in Tibet, and which is apparently directed by a mysterious person called the King of the World to whom Rene Guenon consecrated a very curious and very enthralling work.  According to Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, this centre is supposed to be impregnable.  He writes:

“Calling the cosmic powers to their aid, the Agarttha confederates could, if need be, blow up part of the planet.”

***

In the period in which we live – this period of violence, this dark period that the Hindus call the Kali-Yuga – Agarttha is supposed to be fighting against the forces of darkness and suscitating, from time to time, spiritual chiefs and currents of thought capable of leading Humanity towards Knowledge and Light.

***

It is said that certain writers are inspired by Agarttha.

***

Agarttha is supposed to be fighting against those that Meyrink calls the Dugpas.

***

These Dugpas are the ones who, through the intermediary of a group of which Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier spoke in Le Matin des Magiciens, are supposed to have suscitated Hitler and his swastika…

***

So, if we believe in the existence of these mysterious centres which lead the world, which of the two sent its vision to Meyrink?  Probably Agarttha, to reveal to him the role of the others and inspire him to write his “short story” on the occult causes of the war…

***

Gustav Meyrink died in 1932.  He was sixty-four years old.  He is the author of The Night of Walpurgis, of Green Face, and above all of The Golem which made him known throughout the world.

***

A Golem is a clay figure which is magically brought to life, a sort of automaton who personifies the human automatons created by modern society…

***

Why did the unknown painter Hocker have the same vision as Meyrink?  Perhaps so as to be able to confirm the Agarttha message to Meyrink, so that he did not have the slightest doubt about its provenance…  But this is only an hypothesis, for the plans of the Wise Ones are impenetrable…  And we are doubtless only pawns in a gigantic game which is being played in the Invisible and of which we know neither the rules nor the stakes…

***

Gustav Meyrink

One day in Autumn 1915, the German writer Gustav Meyrink, the author of the famous work of fiction The Golem, was at home in his armchair, near the fire, a newspaper on his knees.  He had just been reading the news from the Front and was reflecting on the profound causes of this world war in which Germany, France, Britain, Austria, Belgium, Italy, and now Serbia, Greece and Turkey, were involved, and which was going to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

What obscure forces, he was thinking, push humanity to set off such killing sprees?

Suddenly, this man, whom a practice of yoga and certain Hindu techniques have led to superior states of consciousness, is seized with trembling;  his body becomes icy and he recognizes the strange feeling which announces clairvoyancy phenomena in him.

Almost immediately, he “sees” before him a person of an unknown race whom he would later describe like this:

“Six feet tall, extremely thin, beardless, a face with olive-skin tints, slanty eyes, extraordinarily wide-spaced.  The skin of the lips and face smooth like porcelain;  the lips sharp, bright red, and so strongly tight – particularly around the corners – like in an implacable smile, that one would have thought that they were painted lips.  He had on his head a curious red bonnet.”

This strange person holds in his hand a tuning-fork between the branches of which there is a little gilded hammer.  At his feet swarm insects which are going about mysterious business, without the least clash, the least aggressivity.  Suddenly, a strident sound rings out, coming doubtless from the tuning-fork that the man in the red bonnet is holding.  Then the insects, as if animated by a murderous folly, throw themselves on each other and kill each other.  The sight is appalling.  These little beasts who, the instant before, were trotting peacefully beside each other, are now devouring each other with unimaginable violence under the cold, amused gaze of the man in the red bonnet.  Then everything disappears.

Gustav Meyrink, in his armchair, is deeply impressed, for it appears to him that this vision is a symbolic answer to the question that he was asking himself on the subject of the profound causes of the war.

He knows, for having read numerous works on this subject, that according to Oriental occultists, there is apparently in Tibet a sect called the Dugpas, which is considered as a direct instrument of “demoniacal” forces of destruction.  This man in the red bonnet who starts war among the insects by a vibration could therefore represent one of these Dugpas.

Meyrink sees there a subject to develop.  He immediately goes to work and writes a short story entitled The Game of the Crickets, in which he exposes the occult causes of the war.

The following month, this story appears in the magazine Simplicissimus.  And, a few weeks later, the writer receives from a person unknown to him, a painter by the name of Hocker, the following letter:

“Dear Sir,

“I must first tell you that I am a man in perfect health and that I have never been subject to hallucinations or other abnormal states.  Yesterday, I was in my studio, seated at my table working.  Suddenly, I heard a metallic, musical sound.  In turning around, I noticed a tall man, of a race that I didn’t know, a curious red bonnet on his head, who was standing in the room.  I immediately realized that it was a psychical trouble.  The man was holding in his hand a sort of tuning-fork composed of two branches, with which he had produced the sound of which I spoke.  Between the two branches was a gilded hammer.  Immediately, I saw appear on the ground piles of fat white insects which were tearing each other apart in a rustling of wings whose deafening noise was becoming intolerable.  I still have this sound in my ears which is upsetting all my nerves.  When the hallucination was over, I immediately started to draw the scene with a stick of seria.  Then I went out to take some air.  In passing before a newspaper kiosque, an impulse that I am unable to explain, given that I don’t like this magazine, prodded me to ask for Simplicissimus.  As the salesgirl was giving me the last number, a decision just as inexplicable prodded me to say:  ‘No, not this number, the one before, please!’  Back home, in flicking through the magazine, I found to my great stupefaction your story The Game of the Crickets relating, give or take a few details, all that I had just experienced myself one hour beforehand:  the man with the red bonnet, the insects that were tearing each other apart, etc.  I beg you, dear Sir, to have the kindness, if you can, to explain to me how I should interpret this thing…”

And it is signed:  Hocker.

Having read this letter, Gustav Meyrink is annoyed.  Another one, he thinks, who wants to make hinself interesting.

For the writer there is no doubt, in fact, that this Mr Hocker is a fabulator who has imagined all this story after having read the short story in the magazine.

Meyrink goes to throw the letter into the waste-paper basket when suddenly, an idea troubles him.  He remembers that, in copying out his manuscript to send it to the magazine’s editor, he had modified a few details of his vision.

As he doesn’t remember very well any more which ones, he takes the number of Simplicissimus where his story is printed and that he has not re-read – for he hates re-reading his own works – and runs through the text.

He then comes across a modification that he had made at the last minute and which he had totally forgotten.  And this modification stuns him, for it obliges him to think that his correspondent is not – cannot be – a joker, and that he could not have been inspired by the story which had appeared in Simplicissimus to tell him that he had seen a man with a red bonnet carrying a tuning-fork between the branches of which was a little hammer, for the simple reason that this tuning-fork is not mentioned in the story.  Gustav Meyrink had replaced it at the last minute by another object.  On his first rough copy, he had firstly written:

“The man with the red bonnet was holding in his hand a tuning-fork with which he was emitting strange sounds…”

However, in re-copying it, it had seemed to him to be more striking, more fantastic, to write:

“The man in the red bonnet was holding in his hand a prism with which he was capting the sun’s rays…”

He had also transformed the “strident sound that the tuning-fork was making” into an “apocalyptic light which was blinding the insects and making them crazy”

Finally, he had written nowhere, not even in his rough copy, for the detail had not seemed significant to him, that the tuning-fork had a little gilded hammer between its branches.

***

To be continued.

Reception of a French Academician in the XVIIth Century.

Jean Desmaret de Saint-Sorlin is one of the ancestors of the Forty Members of the Academie francaise.  He was one of the first to enter the Academy, but was a really nasty piece of work, whose name is carefully not spoken by anyone hoping to don the Academy’s green jacket.

Cardinal de Richelieu, who founded the Academy, was very fond of beautifully written literary and poetic works.  But although he was a political genius, his literary talents were non-existent, and it is our Desmaret who would ghost-write the verses that are slightly less bad that the ones that the Cardinal wrote on his own.  Under his name of Armand du Plessis, Richelieu even gives Mirame, a tragedy, ghost-written by this same Desmaret.  Naturally, the ghost draws advantages from this situation.  Lucrative positions for a start, and soon a seat in the Academy.  Beautiful in appearance, and in favour at Court, he then begins to lead a voluptuous life, woven with gold and silk…

In 1645, he arrives at the age of fifty and has an attack of religiosity.  He assures it anyway, in a work that he very simply entitles Les Delices de l’Esprit.  But our man has the itch for action, and the idea of serving the Church, excites him diabolically, literally…

As it happens, at this epoch, the Compagnie du Saint Sacrement is recruiting.  Founded by the Duke de Ventadour, the King’s Lieutenant-General in Languedoc, and Viceroy of Canada, this institution proposes to promote God’s glory “by all means”.  Which is supposed to make libertines, Protestants, unmarried mothers and prostitutes think twice, along with all those who are taking care not to let the lights of the Renaissance go out altogether, while awaiting those of the Grand Century…

Armand du Plessis, Cardinal de Richelieu

What is sure, in any case, is that our man enters into a secret Society, which acts everywhere in an underhand way, which declares the Arts and theatres to be heretical, and wants to purge society of all those who do not say their Rosary every day…  In the name of this Society, our religious man uses his pen with great zeal, spending whole days writing texts to save God and the Holy Church.

He is heard to thunder:

“Christianity is lost if a strong army does not rise to combat and exterminate impieties and heresies everywhere.  This army must be composed of one hundred and forty-four thousand fighters, who would have the mark of the living God on their foreheads.  Its chief must be Louis the Fourteenth in person.”

Although he is Controller at the Extraordinaire des Guerres and Secretary of the Marine du Levant, Desmaret has no intention of mounting a palfrey in an army of fighters of infidels.  He reserves for himself another role in this crusade.  The very distinguished role of snitch…

Let us leave our Academician for an instant and visit the little people, among those of “mechanical condition” as was said at the time.

Public writer's booth. That of Simon Morin was in Paris near Notre-Dame.

A man of the people, Simon Morin has a booth of writer-copier in the Notre-Dame quarter.  Which does not give him nor his children enough to eat every day.  But he doesn’t care, since Simon Morin is the Holy Spirit in person.

Illuminated people of this kind are legion under the Sun-King, a sombre epoch where spirits and spells still have all their powers.  For Simon Morin, the world has known only two religions:  a religion of the Jews, with Moses, a religion of the Christians, with Jesus.  But now a third religion is being announced, that of the Holy Spirit.  The Church, he proclaims, has nothing more to say, and the sacraments, along with laws of morality, have no more significance.  The Holy Spirit is here now, in the person of a few pure people.  And all is pure for the pure;  whatever they do, they commit no sin.  They are the annunciators of absolute liberty under the reign of the Holy Spirit…

And Morin carries his message to servant girls, washerwomen, shop girls, who are quickly won over to his prophecy, for he is a beautiful-looking man, his female assistant, as well as a few young, fresh male adolescents who barely leave him, and his wife, who says that all this will end badly.  In 1646, his pretty female penitents, whom he neglects from time to time, denounce him as being idolatrous.  He is imprisoned and almost immediately released for, with good sense, these Gentlemen of the Official, judge him to be more silly than heretical.  This brief stay in the Bastille builds up his popularity and his exaltation.  In 1647, he publishes Les Pensees de Simon Morin, that he dedicates directly to the King, to exhort him to get rid of the Church and take himself, Simon Morin, as his spiritual advisor…

As he persists and proclaims that he is the new Christ, he is bundled into prison for more than twenty months this time.  Upon leaving, he meets up with a cortege of his faithful followers, his legitimate children and others at their head, followed by a whole collection of washerwomen and maids.

After a short time of silence, he again says directly to the people of the City, that he is the messiah and the saviour of France.  This time, the ecclesiastical judge gets really upset.  Imprisoned for a third time, he is threatened with torture and even worse.  When he is presented with the brodequins and the red-hot pincers, he weakens and signs an abjuration in which he recognizes all his errors and swears that he will no longer prophesy…

A few years pass by, and one beautiful day our augure is again found perched on the grilles of the Louvre.  He wants to put into the King’s own hands, his most recent work, which he has modestly entitled Temoignage du Second Avenement du fils de l’Homme.  He is of course arrested, but, and here the justice of the Ancien Regime shows itself in an inhabitual light, the tribunal only sees in him an obstinate demented man and has him released.  But all these scandals have earned him disciples that are more and more numerous.  His wife keeps telling him that he is going to end by the hand of Charlot (the Paris executioner) he answers with outstretched arms and eyes raised to the sky:

“Gabriel and his celestial militia will come to deliver me!…

To be continued.

The Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz, author of "Quo Vadis?"

In July 1901, the families on holiday at Biarritz could see, each day around noon, an elegant gentleman in his fifties strolling among the bathing cabins.  His gaze was deep, his little beard tidy, and he seemed melancholy, evidently coming from northern Europe.  The ladies considered him with insistent curiosity from underneath their sunshades.  Not that they had any dishonest or matrimonial designs on him, but because they were fascinated by him.  There he was, in front of their eyes, within touching distance even, the famous Polish fiction writer Henryk Sienkiewicz, the author of Quo Vadis?, a book of fiction which had been translated into 22 languages!  The French adaptation, published a year earlier, in June 1900, had already arrived at 100,000 copies printed, an extraordinary figure for the epoch.

The prestige enjoyed by the writer was so great that none of his fervent female admirers would have had the audacity to go up to speak to him, even to stammer the most insipid compliment.

However, that which the French ladies, to their great regret, did not have the courage to do, an English lady dared.  She was a charming young, blonde girl with myosotis eyes.  One evening, in the hallway of the hotel where he was staying, she went up to him and told him that she had read Quo Vadis? and had been extremely moved by it.

Sienkiewicz, delighted and rather troubled, invited her to drink a cup of tea.  They saw each other again the next day, then all the days that followed, and took the habit of walking together.

One morning, the writer says to the young lady:

“I am not in the habit of attaching any importance to dreams, but last night I had a strange dream which has left me with an uncomfortable impression I would like to get rid of…  I was in the street where there was a hearse, behind which there was a young, blond man with very light eyes, dressed in a blue suit with metal buttons.  I can still see him very distinctly…”

“Did he speak to you?”

“No.  He smiled at me while looking fixedly at me and inviting me to enter this hearse…  I awoke very oppressed…”

The young English girl was interested in the metapsychical sciences.  She even sometimes, when in London, went to listen to the conferences made by members of the Society for Psychical Research.  She advised the writer to write down his dream without leaving out the slightest detail.  She told him that it perhaps had a meaning that he would one day discover.

Sienkiewicz having related his dream to a young English girl, everyone was talking about it for a few days on the Biarritz beach.

Docilely, Sienkiewicz follows his friend’s advice.  The following morning, when they meet again on the beach, the young lady notices that the writer appears preoccupied.  She questions him.

“You are not going to believe me, but I had the same dream again last night.  The young man that I described to you, dressed identically, was inviting me smilingly to enter a hearse.  I was backing away, but he was advancing towards me and holding out his hand to grip me…  It was horrible!  I awoke dripping with perspiration.  Do you think that this is announcing that I am in danger?”

The young girl reassures him, saying that it is very difficult to know when a dream is premonitory, and that the specialists were incapable of giving an opinion on it.  Then they talked about other things.

But, on the following morning, when the little English girl left her hotel, she found Sienkiewicz even more depressed than the day before.

“What has happened to you?  Don’t tell me that you had the same dream again?”

“Yes!  Exactly the same!  It’s terrible and this hearse is haunting me.  I know that I am going to think about it all day, just like yesterday and the day before.”

The little English girl takes his arm.

“Today, I won’t leave you.  This morning, we shall go for a walk, at noon, you will invite me to luncheon, this afternoon, we shall go for a walk on the Beach of the Basques, and this evening, we shall dine together…”

At midnight, when they separate, Sienkiewicz is smiling.

“Thank you!  I believe that I won’t have a nightmare tonight…”

The next morning, at eight o’clock, the young girl is in front of the writer’s hotel door, looking a bit anxious.

“Well?”

“Finished!  I dreamed of you!…”

Sienkiewicz remains for a while at Biarritz without his strange dream coming back to torment him.  Then one evening, he tenderly says goodbye to the little English girl and takes the train for Paris where a theatrical adaptation of Quo Vadis? is being prepared.

The hotel in Rue de Rivoli in Paris where the accident took place.

There, he settles into a hotel on the Rue de Rivoli.  Around noon, he wants to lunch, so he leaves his room and goes towards the lift.  The cabin is just at his floor and the lift-boy is holding the grille open.  Sienkiewicz stops, horrified.  The boy, a blond adolescent with light eyes who is looking at him fixedly while inviting him to enter the lift is the person that he had seen in his dream.  The same blue suit, the same metal buttons, the same gesture with his hand…

Terrified, the writer turns around and rushes to the staircase, which he descends, running.  Having arrived at the ground floor, he enters the reading room and lets himself fall into an armchair.

He is scarcely seated than he hears a most frightful noise, which is so terrifying that he loses consciousness.  When he regains it, people are running in the hallway and an employee tells him that the lift has just crashed to the ground.

He rises, pushes his way through the crowd and sees bodies stretched out on the rug.  In the midst of them, he immediately recognizes the blond lift-boy in the blue suit decorated with metal buttons…

***

This story is known to us by Henryk Sienkiewicz himself who wrote down all the details, and by Anton Niedermeier who published it in his Souvenirs.

***

This is not a premonitory dream, but rather a warning dream.  In a purely premonitory dream, Sienkiewicz would have seen the lift crash to the floor and the cadavers in the hallway of the hotel.  Here, there is nothing like that.  He only sees a symbol of death:  the hearse.  But on the other hand, the young, blond man, with his characteristic blue suit, is of photographic precision, so as to be recognized in real life.  His role is to alarm the subject to prevent him from being a victim of the mortal accident.  And so that Sienkiewicz does not forget his face, or his aspect, the dream occurs three times.

***

Two specialists, Steven and Monfang say:

“Our dreams explore, practically every night, dimensions of the Universe which the science elaborated by vigilant thought has not yet attained…  Beyond the dream itself, begins a new world of thought so far out of our everyday experience that those to whom it is familiar, find no words to describe it to us…”

***

We have no idea how our minds transform events into symbols.

***

Serious researchers have today abandoned Freud’s puerile and delirious symbolism where an umbrella was considered to be a phallic symbol “because of its possibilities of development”, and a railway station a sexual symbol, on the pretext “that trains go in and out of it”

***

In France, England, Germany, the United States of America and the former USSR, biologists are studying our brain in an attempt to discover the secrets of our oniric activity, to decode the symbols which people our dreams and to find out in what measure we could cease to be simple spectators…  For perhaps one day, we shall know how to direct our dreams toward a precise point in the future to learn what will happen to us…

***

Music from Heaven – part 2

Rosemary Brown showing music "dictated" to her by Chopin.

The musicologists to whom Rosemary Brown’s partitions were shown have published their opinions.  Here are a few.  Richard Rodney Benett, for example, who is both a composer and a Debussy specialist, declared:

“We can all imitate Liszt on the piano, if we want to, but to invent a coherent piece of music which seems to go back to the roots of the composer’s style, is a lot more complicated.  Here, in general, the writing is extraordinarily sure and competent.  You can’t write this sort of music without years of training.  I myself would not be able to do some of the Beethovens or the Debussys…”

Humphrey Searle, a Liszt specialist declares about Mrs Brown:

“Most of the pieces that she has written are very interesting from the musical point of view.  It is evident also that she does not know the technique of pastiche.  I have to admit that the origin of the pieces is really what she says it is.  I am sure that she is perfectly sincere.”

He adds:

“Of the Liszt pieces, I prefer Grubelei, a remarkable work that could very well have been written by Liszt.”

***

This composition entitled "Grubelei" is considered to be a remarkable work that Liszt could very well have written.

Some musicologists are even more categorical.  The pianist John Lill, a Beethoven specialist says:

“I firmly believe the origins that Rosemary Brown gives to this music…  Composers try to show their style as clearly as possible, but it is obviously very difficult to transmit complex works from one dimension to another.  I think that Rosemary is exceptionally gifted as an intermediary.  When the conditions are right, she faithfully transcribes her correspondents’ intentions…”

Ian Parott, who teaches music at Wales University, goes even further.  After having studied Rosemary Brown’s partitions, he declared in January 1978:

“I personally think that this music comes from another dimension…  It is really paranormal music, I don’t see any other possibility…”

He also added:

“I would select three compositions as being among the best.  All three are remarkable in their way:  Grubelei (1969) by Liszt;  Movement of a sonata in do minor (1971) by Beethoven;  and the Revenant by Stravinski (1972).  Each one possesses subtle characteristics of these three so different personalities…  Would a ‘clever’ trickster be capable of obtaining such effects?  I doubt it!”

***

Rosemary Brown played a bit of piano, but was often incapable of playing the works dictated to her by the masters.

The hypothesis that Mrs Brown composed pastiches and that the whole business is only a mystification has been emitted.  This doesn’t hold up.  An enquiry proved that Mrs Brown had only just learnt to read music and studied a bit of piano.  A professor, Mrs Mary Firth, who holds a diploma from the Royal Academy of Music, and studied her case, declared:

“I tested her ear for music, her aptitudes in reading it, and made her go through all of the miserable tests that professors inflict on students.  I discovered, to my great surprise, that she seemed to have no fundamental musical capacity whatsoever.  In other words, she was incapable of writing down a simple melody that I played for her.  When I played two simple parts, she was totally lost!  I would add that, even if she had been to a Conservatorium of Music and had studied fugue and counterpoint, she would have had to have had genius to begin with, then an extraordinary talent for forgery.  For the Director of the B. B. C. had her manuscripts examined by experts, and it was discovered that the writing and the way in which the notes had been traced, corresponded to the way that each composer, for whom she said that she was the ‘intermediary’, did it.”

***

Rosemary Brown assures that Rachmaninov also visited her and composed a concerto for her.

Doctor Lloyd Wepper, the Director of the London College of Music gave his opinion:

“I am convinced that Rosemary Brown possesses an absolutely authentic medumnic faculty.  The music that she transmits is, quite evidently, in the style of the composers with whom she says she is in contact.  A student in music can learn to imitate the style of a composer from the past, but Rosemary does not possess the necessary musical knowledge.  Her music therefore seems to come from an unknown source…”

***

Mrs Brown was examined by psychiatrists who all declared that she was absolutely physically and mentally healthy, and perfectly well-balanced.

***

As for parapsychologists, Professor Tenhaeff of the University of Utrecht and his team submitted her to numerous tests.  He came to the conclusion that Rosemary Brown is certainly one of the most astonishing mediums of all time.  However, other parapsychologists thought that they were in presence of an exceptional case of cryptomnesia, which means that Mrs Brown was unconsciously delving into a secret part of her memory where all the musical works that she had heard since her birth were registered in a latent fashion.

It would therefore be a case of unconscious plagiarism.  But this hypothesis cannot be retained, for Mrs Brown would have to have attended an extraordinary number of concerts, which was absolutely not the case.  On top of which, all the musicologists who studied her partitions noted that the works that she claims to receive contain no reminiscence…

***

It has also been said that Mrs Brown has in her entourage a marvellous musician who helps her.  And Life magazine paid detectives to try to find this “clandestine composer”.  The investigation, which lasted for weeks, gave no result.

***

Mrs Brown claims that Einstein also sometimes comes to see her…

***

Before the Second World War, a young Italian from Catane, Iole Catera – who was twenty-two in 1937 – wrote music “under the dictation” of great deceased composers, notably Bellini and Johann Strauss.  This young girl, from a modest family, had never even learnt to read music.  Her case was studied by Doctor Salvatore Gueli, of Catane, a corresponding member of the academy of Medicine in Paris, who communicated many times about her.

She claimed “to see” in front of her, as clearly as if it were a printed document, a line of musical writing that she only had to copy onto the music paper.  As soon as she had finished, another line appeared, and so on until the end of the piece.  She also wrote melodies, sonatas, piano pieces, and even orchestra partitions which were played with success…  The enigma that she posed was never elucidated…

***

Charles Dickens

There are mediums who claim to receive poems from Victor Hugo or Sully Prudhomme, others who affirm that they are in contact with Maupassant or Merimee and we have already seen the young American boy who wrote the end of one of Dickens’ books, dictated by the author two years after his death…  But there are also cases in the medical domain, notably that of George Chapman, who had been an English fireman and lived in Aylesbury, a little town in the centre of Great Britain.  George Chapman claimed to be possessed by the spirit of a London doctor who died in 1937, Doctor Lang.  He treated people and obtained extraordinary cures.

Doctor Lang’s granddaughter went to see him to denounce the charlatan and even sue him.  But in his consulting-room, she almost fainted upon recognizing the voice, the gestures and the manner of her grandfather.  And when Chapman says to her:  “Hello, my little Susan” and evokes memories from her childhood, she starts to tremble and can only articulate:  “Yes, Grandpa…  No, Grandpa…”  After which, she went back home, completely overcome.  A few days later, George Chapman came to see her and pointed out three objects which had belonged to Doctor Lang, as if he recognized them.

Robert Barrat, who investigated him for Paris-Match, writes:

“Several thousand sick publicly attest that they have been ‘miraculously’ cured or that their state of health has improved thanks to the intervention of the doctor from the After-Life.

***

In the present state of our knowledge, these phenomena can only be explained by the hypothesis of a life after death.  At the end of his article on George Chapman, Robert Barrat excellently writes:

“Stripped of its body, something of man seems to continue to live in a different universe from ours, but with a few memories of terrestrial existence and the possibility, sometimes, of communicating with the mortals that we are.  This is what man has always believed.  In the History of Humanity, our Western civilization has been the first, for a few centuries, to doubt the existence, in the human being, of a spiritual principle surviving at the death of the body.  But the pendulum of History has begun the movement back.  A lot of great names in international science are questioning the arrogant dogmas of materialism.  Einstein believed in a divine force.  His most famous disciples think that matter could well be only concentrated spirit, and that light transmits information.  Matter, energy, light, heat, thought could be only different forms of a force that some call Universal Spirit and others God.”

***

Charles Dickens

The book finally appears in November 1873 with this title:  End of the Mystery of Edwin Drood, followed by this extraordinary subtitle:  Dictated from the After-Life to Thomas James by Charles Dickens.

Naturally, the critics pounce on the book and snicker, ready to tear it to pieces.  Having read it, their amazement is without bounds.  They all have to admit that in this work can be found the style, the verve, the humour and all the mischievousness of the great English fiction writer, and one of them even writes:

“If it were not known that this book has been written by a young man from Brettleboro, it could be believed that it is by Charles Dickens himself…”

***

"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" appeared in monthly installments which were interrupted in June 1870 by Dickens' death.

Young Thomas James wrote absolutely nothing else.  He had left school at thirteen to become an apprentice printer and only just knew how to read and write.  Further, when he read anything, it was one of those magazines for adolescents filled with stories of Indians…  He had never opened one of Dickens’ books…

***

After the publication of End of the Mystery of Edwin Drood and in light of the critics’ enthusiasm, the editor, who didn’t believe a word of the story recounted by Mrs Blanck, and thought that he had found a young fiction writer full of talent and capable of following on from Dickens, ordered a second book from him…  Poor Thomas James refused, saying that he would never be able to imagine a story.  So the editor pulled a contract out of his pocket, promised him a lot of money and ordered him to get to work.  Tempted by the amount of money promised to him, Thomas finally agreed to try…  It was lamentable.  He was unable to write three lines correctly, and his personal career stopped there…

***

It could be thought that the book had been written by a professional writer, perhaps hiding amongst Mrs Blanck’s other lodgers.  However, if this author had existed and was capable of writing such a talented pastiche of Dickens’ style, he would not have remained hidden for long.  It’s not the sort of thing that a writer would do.

Some time ago, a book entitled La Chasse spirituelle was presented as an unedited work by Rimbaud.  It was an extraordinary, anonymous pastiche.  But the whole of the literary world soon found out who had written it.  It was Pascal Pia.

***

The Thomas James case was studied.  The man the most interested in it was the English fiction writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (father of Sherlock Holmes) who, in the last years of his life, was passionate about spiritism and the occult sciences.  Conan Doyle had Thomas James’ book studied by literary critics.  Their conclusion was that the author had acquired the style, the vocabulary and even the manner of thinking of Dickens.  Which appeared inexplicable to them, coming from a young, uncultured American boy…

***

It is not known what happened to Thomas James.  After the publication of his book, he returned to total obscurity.

***

Perhaps, in certain cases, we are “helped”…  And what if this “help” is what we call inspiration?

***

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