‘Father Goriot,‘ (or Balzac, Part II)

Père GoriotPère Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Recommended.

Forgive me if I think first of Rodin’s sculpture of Balzac, and not his novels. In the first place, I had not, until this week, ever read one. And in the second, I defy anyone to stumble unawares on this sculpture and resist its searing itself onto your memory. I walk into the Brooklyn Museum, where Rodin’s Merchants of Calais are the first thing you see and I think of Balzac.

Monument_to_BalzacThe sculpture, seen here, apparently depicts a slightly monstrous Honore de Balzac concealing an erection under a long cloak.

I was prepared to write in this space something of my feelings, having seen what I took to be the original at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (also recommended). Then I consulted the Internet, which disabused me of this notion: there are an unnerving number of copies of this work. In Antwerp, in D.C., at the Met in New York, in Venezuela, Australia, and so on. Myself, I saw a small study of it (so I am saying) at the tiny Rodin museum in Philadelphia (also recommended). I shudder to think of where else this icon is standing, apart from, you know, my haunted mind.

In any case, the statue was not well-received. The novel is much better.

It fits in that category (of mine) of novels that are peppered with platitudes. Mr. Balzac is, if anything, a man with something to say. To wit,

  • Paris is an ocean that no line can plumb.
  • …She lacked the two things which create woman a second time — pretty dresses and love-letters.
  • I am a great poet; I do not write my poems, I feel them and act them.
  • Happiness, old man, depends on what lies between the sole of your foot and the crown of your head.
  • [Man] is not a machine covered with a skin, but a theatre in which the greatest sentiments are displayed — great thoughts and feelings — and for these, and these only, I live.
  • …no greatness is so great that it can rise above the laws of human affection, or live beyond the jurisdiction of pain.
  • “What does he go on living for?” said Sylvie. “To suffer,” answered Rastignac.

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It’s not easy being Schiller.

Quote

Despite the school’s professional emphasis, Carl-Eugen stressed that students’ primary area of study was the knowledge of man, the most cherished of Enlightenment values. To that end, classes were given regular essay assignments like “Which student among you has the worst moral character?” Time was set aside for the students to write detailed studies of another’s characters and habits.

via Paris Review – Enlightened: Schiller at the Hohe Carlsschule, Michael Lipkin.

 

‘Too Bourgeois-Bohème’

Cyril Aouizerate, the owner of Mama Shelter, a stylish boutique hotel in the outlying 20th Arrondissement of Paris, said he was “90 percent sure” he would be opening a Mama Shelter at a site near the arena. Mr. Aouizerate said he had rejected neighborhoods like Williamsburg as “too bourgeois-bohème,” in favor of the less established Boerum Hill area, where he is negotiating with property owners. Though he is aware that the building is named for a bank and will house a basketball team, he said, “I’m more interested in the fact that Jay-Z is involved.” “That’s a name,” he said, “that we can sell to customers around the world.”

via Barclays Center’s Brooklyn Neighbors Await What’s Next – NYTimes.com.

On Syndromes

It affects an estimated 50 to 100 tourists each year, the overwhelming majority of whom are evangelical Christians. Some of these cases simply involve tourists becoming momentarily overwhelmed by the religious history of the Holy City… But more severe cases can lead otherwise normal housewives from Dallas or healthy tool-and-die manufacturers from Toledo to hear the voices of angels or fashion the bedsheets of their hotel rooms into makeshift togas and disappear into the Old City babbling prophecy.

via The Jerusalem Syndrome: Why Some Religious Tourists Believe They Are the Messiah | Wired Magazine | Wired.com.

Renoux indicates that Japanese media, magazines in particular, often depict Paris as a place where most people on the street look like stick-thin models and most women dress in high-fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton, while in reality French high-fashion brands are mainly for foreign consumers, and the French population are far more overweight than the Japanese population.

via Paris syndrome – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.