How does the subversive cycle around into the dominant? How does the dominant continually situate itself as alterna- tive? How do you get from here to somewhere else? Why not accept that queerness, taken seriously, demands nothing less? Notes 1. Ernst Bloch, Heritage of Our Times, trans. Hannah Arendt, trans. Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen, Signs 1, no. In addition, there exist numerous poems dedicated to her or written about her, in both praise and blame. Neoplatonism came to France via Marsilio Ficino's translations of Plato's Dialogues, which both heterosexualized platonic love and transformed it into a potentially Christian poetics.
Thus, neoplatonism enabled poets to reconcile the erotic and the spiritual on a philosophical level, while it also provided a schema for a poetic practice combining erotics, aesthetics and morality: by loving, humans climb a ladder of affect from the human and the physical toward the transcendent ideals of the Good and the Beautiful.
Freccero 2 Finally, neoplatonism served as a philosophical ruse for a poetic practice that was manifestly idolatrous, as the legacy of Petrarchism amply demonstrates. Francesco Petrarca's sonnet cycle, Rime sparse Scattered Rhymes , became the paradigm for the sonnet sequence for generations--and indeed centuries--to come. Petrarch's sonnet sequence or canzoniere constructs a fictional narrative of unreciprocated love for a girl, Laura, and chronicles his sightings of her and the various emotions, thoughts, and moods his love for her occasions in him, until finally he renounces her and turns his love heavenward.
Petrarchism thus provided a model combining the atemporality of the love lyric which focuses primarily on the present moment and does not, strictly speaking, tell a story with narrative development. Finally, Petrarch's work makes clear the way in which the beloved object is a pretext for the poet, the figure or symbol of his or her stylistic virtuosity; Laura, the name of Petrarch's beloved, is also the lauro or laurel, symbol of poetic achievement. What the French Renaissance inherited from Petrarchism was thus a set of formal and thematic guidelines: the Italian sonnet form an octave, consisting of two stanzas of four lines each, and a sestet, consisting of two stanzas of three lines each, with varying rhyme schemes: abba, abba, then ccd, eed; or cdc, cdd; or ccd, ede, etc.
Of course, as with any great model, the French poets responded to Petrarch's canzoniere by imitating, parodying, transforming, and also rejecting the form and the content depicted there. Indeed, in her own day she was often vilified as a whore, most famously perhaps by Calvin, who called her a "plebeia meretrix" a common whore.
As feminist critics and historians have pointed out, philosophical, ii medical, legal, educational, and religious traditions combined to shape an ideology that demanded silence, obedience, chastity, modesty, and subservience from women of most classes, but particularly of the upper classes, since many proletarian and peasant women were required to exercise greater agency in cooperation with men to ensure basic survival.
As the historian Joan Kelly first remarked, the Renaissance was not an especially progressive time for women. Many aristocratic women, however, benefited iii from a certain leniency regarding these strictures, as long as they acted within certain specified constraints. Women of the royal line in France, for example, received an extensive education and could write; thus most female writers during the Renaissance were from the noble classes. These debates in France were known as the querelle des femmes, and included as one of their main participants the first European professional female writer and a forerunner of modern feminism, Christine de Pisan fourteenth-fifteenth centuries.
Christine made her living from writing after the death of her husband and dedicated much of her work to counteracting the misogyny of her male intellectual contemporaries and literary antecedents, Boccaccio in particular. Giovanni Boccaccio had written a work in Latin entitled De claris mulieribus Concerning Famous Women , in which he catalogued famous women from myth, legend, and history. In the guise of praising their heroic public accomplishments, Boccaccio often painted portraits of female moral--and particularly sexual--depravity, acknowledging that indeed, women were powerful, but in monstrous ways.
Freccero 7 What is even more radical about Louise, however, is that her work centers dangerously upon the one area of affect--female erotic desire--most proscribed by the teachings and customs of her day. Here too, feminist criticism enables the critic to focus upon the difference that gender makes, a difference especially relevant for secular lyric love poetry. On the one hand, a female love poet must overcome the strictures imposed by an ideology that dictates that women should be silent and chaste, that they should have or express no sexual desire in order to be considered "good" women; otherwise they are whores, as Calvin's above-mentioned remark demonstrates.
Thus a double-bind of sorts is created: as the subject of desire, the poet takes on the attributes of masculinity. As object of desire, though, a woman cannot speak at all. In the tradition--and usually within the social order itself--a woman risked either the charge of usurping masculinity in order to act, or she risked being accused of loose morals for exposing herself as object of desire in the public arena.
And what happens when she enters a tradition and transforms that speaking subject from a masculine one into a feminine one? What are the strategies she uses to protect herself from slander, on the one hand, and to wrest the genre from its entrenchment in fixed gender roles, on the other, in order to make the genre her own? Furthermore, the first and third elegies, as well as sonnet 24, the last in the collection, directly address other women, the "dames Lionnoises," and thus create a sense of female community in relation to the project of overcoming the obstacles that Louise--and the women of her day--encounter.
It is written in decasyllables of alternating masculine and feminine rhyming couplets Rigolot, Louise and her contemporaries used the Latin poet Ovid's Heroides as their model, a collection of fictional love letters written by abandoned women of legend and myth, lamenting their condition.
Thus already there is a tradition of a sort of poetic letter-writing, specifically aimed at an addressee, that features women's speaking voices. In Louise's case, we might ask what difference does it make when the voice that speaks is a woman's, rather than that of a man posing as one?
Au tems qu'Amour, d'hommes et Dieus vainqueur, Faisoit bruler de sa flamme mon coeur, En embrasant de sa cruelle rage Mon sang, mes os, mon esprit et courage: Encore lors je n'avois la puissance De lamenter ma peine et ma souffrance. I, ll. Phebus, friend of the green Laurels Had not yet permitted me to write verses: But now that his divine furor Has filled my intrepid breast with ardor, He makes me sing The "fureur divine" or divine furor that animates her to write belongs to neoplatonic theory and refers to one of the kinds of inspiration that can kindle creativity in mortals.
Here, in this introduction to her work, she lets the reader know that she is not an epic poet, where the subject matter is war " This genealogical connection to a newly recovered female poet reinforces Louise's feminism in some surprising ways: she will not be talking about a female object of desire, but by linking her project to Sappho's, she asserts the female poet's right to speak of desire, that dangerous territory for women, while the mention of another female poet puts female poetic achievement at the center of the reader's attention.
In doing so, she sets the stage for her sonnet cycle as a narrative account of a past experience and thus an experience with a temporal dimension to it. She also harks back to Petrarch's references to his own love lyrics as follies of his youth, thus potentially defending herself against charges of present foolishness. And yet she makes continual reference to the ways in which the memory re-evokes for her the pain of the past in order to demonstrate the power of such love, an argument she will use to gain sympathy from the "ladies" whom she fears will judge her harshly.
Mais ces miens traits ces miens yeus me defirent, Et de vengeance estre exemple me firent. Freccero 11 It was my eyes, from which I made gush forth many arrows toward those who watched me too much and did not guard themselves enough from my bow. The lover is pierced by these arrows -- smitten, as we say--and falls ill with love. At the same time, these lines boast about her desirability; she advertises herself as a woman who inspires love.
Freccero 12 Possible, un jour je feray le semblable, Et ayderay votre voix pitoyable A vos travaus et peines raconter Ladies who will read them [these verses] Sigh with me over my regrets. One day it is possible that I will do likewise, And I will help your pitiable voices Recount your labors and your woes ll. Thus she illustrates, in her work, a common dilemma faced by feminism and by any subversive practice in its confrontation with hegemonic structures: that the oppressed often collude in the enforcement of their own oppression.
But here, she invokes a community of interests and adopts the rhetoric of persuasion. Furthermore, in offering to write for them, Louise does something completely different: she establishes her solidarity with women's predicament and advertises her skills as a poet for women.
Indeed, "virile" was the only way of referring viii to women who exercised power in domains not considered feminine by the customs of the day. Trouva Amour, qui si fort la pressa, Qu'armes et loix veincue elle laissa. Ne meritoit sa Royalle grandeur Au moins avoir un moins fascheus malheur Qu'aymer son fils? Semiramis, most renowned queen Found Love, who constrained her so much That, conquered, she gave up both arms and laws. Did not her royal grandeur merit At least a less grevious misfortune Than to love her son?
This theme sets up a contrast between youth and age and warns the woman not to scorn love now while she is young lest she fall in love when she is old and ugly. In Ronsard's poem, being old and alone is punishment enough, but Louise's point is a different one: the woman will get what is coming to her. Just as she refused love when she was young, so the one she loves will flee from her when she is old. Here she threatens the "Dames" she addresses in lines , by painting a portrait of a pathetic old woman who falls in love; there is considerable aggression in the lines that describe the woman vainly attempting to make herself beautiful with cosmetics ll.
As I mentioned before, the address to the ladies often signals the lowliness of the genre, its lack of serious content: the work is written in the vernacular rather than Latin and it treats of love rather than the great epic themes of war and heroism. Meanwhile, in the pens of men, the address to the ladies is also a seductive gesture; the poet suggests that he will move the ladies with his talk of love.
First she appeals to civic solidarity and class commonality by referring to the ladies as women of Lyon; thus she produces a virtual solidarity between herself and other women. Second she asks them to pardon the folly of her youth, but immediately undermines the declaration by saying "Si c'est erreur" "If it is folly"; l. Indeed, in what follows, she compares her "error" to a catalog of far greater sins to point out the foolishness of treating love as a crime. Pour Bradamante, ou la haute Marphise, Seur de Roger, il m'ust, possible, prise.
To learn well how to paint [represent] with a needle I would have tried to outdo the fame of that one, more learned than wise, who compared her work to that of Pallas.
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Whosoever would have seen me then in proud armor Carrying the lance and hurling the spear, For Bradamante or the proud Marphise, the sister of Roger, he would possibly have mistaken me. She also ix compares herself to the heroine-warriors of the Orlando furioso, Ariosto's Renaissance romance poem, and thus immediately fictionalizes and renders "literary" this autobiographical portrait.
The second half of the poem is a meditation on the effects of time on love. In a prosopopeia, where a name takes on the properties of a person and speaks, Love challenges the poet, promising that she will fall to his powers ll. Time, she argues, conquers everything, and puts an end to great monuments; to people great and small, and even to love ll. But the examples of love present two cases of men notorious for their infidelity: Paris, who left his lover for Helen, and Jason, who abandoned Medea. These images thus serve to condemn masculine infidelity rather than confirm the ephemerality of love.
Furthermore, they may contain a threat; Medea, it will be remembered, exacted revenge on Jason for his betrayal by killing his children and serving them to him to eat. While the tradition of the love lyric includes the "blason," or celebratory description of the beloved, a description that, as Nancy Vickers has pointed out, consists in a dismemberment of the body of the lady through a catalog of her parts hair, eyes, nipples, neck, etc.
This is what is left of the beloved when the body is no x longer. While in Louise's day, women writers of both prose and poetry faced public censure for the expression of passions other than religious, and especially for expressions of their erotic desire, centuries later female writers were praised for directness, immediacy, and unmediated authenticity or sincerity in their passionate expression of love, especially when that writing treated the thematics of abandonment. In other words, one way in xi which traditional criticism has demonstrated its gender bias is to deny to women writers the same self-conscious linguistic and literary mastery in their work as is assumed to be the mark of a great male artist, particularly when the subject matter involves love.
It has also permitted us to see her as a thoroughly learned and self-conscious poet whose irony, detachment, and skillful use of intertextuality to connect her project to literary, mythic, and historical figures and events of the past, make of her work an even more astonishing lyrical achievement, in that she succeeded in conveying an impression of unmediated and naive passionate expression.
All translations are my own, unless otherwise indicated. This essay owes much to Ann Jones' work on female poetic practice in the Renaissance. See also Freccero, "Gender Ideologies. The highest praise which could then be given to the great Italian women was that they had the mind and courage of men" , Nancy K. Freccero 22 xi For an interesting exploration of this phenomenon as it applies to the epistolary tradition from the 17th century onward in France, see Katharine Ann Jensen, Writing Love: Letters, Women, and the Novel in France, Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, Cited in Rigolot, And, as topos, the meaning of this rape is constructed as universal, transcending historical conditions: in every age and place, Lucretia had to be raped so that Rome could be liberated from tyranny.
The writers who praised Lucretia so much would have left her story aside, so that they could describe at length the virtue of the heroine of your story," The name of Lucretia in such a context reminds us, as Stephanie Jed points out, of "the meaning of Lucretia's rape in the history of ideas: a prologue to republican freedom," presenting feminist scholars with a peculiar political and ethical dilemma: "To retell the story of the rape of Lucretia And she's not deadly.
She's beautiful and she's laughing," Oisille takes a skeptical view. To leave Lucretia there, "au bout de la plume," is to name her a patriarchal fantasm, the ventriloquizing automaton that permits what Alice Jardine has called gynesis. While her work makes possible the re-imagining of cross-historical philological relations, in this study she does not discuss what might arise from a textual encounter less clearly conceived of as adversarial.
What else might obtain in the encounter between a feminist scholar and a woman writer of the past? In the case of Marguerite de Navarre, feminists have sought either to claim or to disavow a potentially sororal af filiation. While I cannot here propose to study the conditions of production of The Heptameron, I would like to describe disturbances produced by the intercalation of some of the castigated manuscripts and editions of this text as they relate, in part, to the interplay between the woman writer and the apparatus through which we may wish to read "her" text.
As these variants and others suggest, what tears at the narrative is a gendering of heroic virtue at the site of nationalism, at the site of what also might be called a conflict between the people and their prince. Lucretia meets Marianne. Although she rightly marks Brutus's relation to Lucretia as a projective displacement, in other words, she points out that "Brutus finds in Lucretia's chastity the female version of his self-castigation" 15 , she does not explain why this narrative of masculine initiation into nationhood into a being-for-the-state should require passage through the violated and castigated female body in order to erect itself.
This narrative of masculine accession to impassivity, to chaste thinking, to objectivity, literally passes through the body of a woman; it founds itself upon the bloody remains of a violated and excised femininity. That which the exercise of philosophy necessitates, is it not the cutting off of, the break with, sensible nature, the immediate, those things which alone allow elevation, ascension? It is in this movement of death to the sensible, indeed of the execration of bad matter, source of all evil, for the purpose of attaining the enjoyment of the idea, that the sacrificial motion would continue by interiorizing and sublimating itself.
This restoration, this liberation, were archaically called phallic. The phallus has thus the role of a detachable value it is detachment itself which arises from the bloody cutting of a vital bond "symbolic castration" and which rewards by a second birth the metaphoric joining of the paternal ancestors, even if they are only evoked by a name which continues the lineage and allows admission to the society of males.
This displacement must also, in some sense, constitute a disavowal of other libidinal matters, such that the price of admission into the society of males is a renunciation not only of incestuous heterosexual desire, but of other desires as well, though these remain implicit in Goux's account as well as in the cultural narrative it seeks to describe.
For Marguerite, whose textual economy adopts this model, the excision required is, as we shall see, also potentially one that involves same-sex desire. In the narrative of the rape and death of Lucretia as the prelude to republican freedom, in the narrative whereby, mythically and eternally, "in every age and place, Lucretia had to be raped so that Rome could be liberated from tyranny," this meaning of the constitution of citizen-subjectry—as masculine and as "straight"—is reenacted.
Cholakian makes the point that novella 42 "develops the theme of the sentimental education The question is how the hero will make the transition from boy to man and from prince to king " Rape and Writing, , and thus is, in some sense, an initiatory narrative. For what the story is designed in part to demonstrate is how the prince develops from a boy into a worthy king.
From penis to phallus. French matter, in its encounter with the royal imprint, is also, and not incidentally, the text. Chilton's English translation supplies the name of Saffredent as speaker in the passage that follows Longarine's remark above. In manuscript A ms , however, it is Longarine and not Saffredent who goes on to contradict herself by saying: "'Puisque vous estimez la grandeur de la vertu par la mortiffication de soy-mesmes, je dictz que ce seigneur estoit plus louable qu'elle, veu l'amour qu'il luy portoit, la puissance, occasion et moien qu'il en avoit'" ; "Since you take the degree of self-mortification as the measure of virtue I declare that the prince in the story was even more to be praised than the girl, because in spite of his love for her he still refrained from utilizing his power, although he had ample opportunity to do so," Thus she nearly echoes the words [she?
These variants suggest the possibility that what is occurring is, indeed, a splitting of the same subject into masculine and feminine subjects of heroic virtue. Whose story is this anyway? Her father had remarried after her mother's death and she had moved to Poltou with her brother.
But being marriageable, and only sixteen years old, she preferred not to remain alone in her house, and instead went to board with her sister, the butler's wife When he returned to his chamber he made inquiries about the girl whom he had seen in church, and realized that when he had been small she had come to the chateau to play with her dolls with his sister, who, once reminded of her childhood friend, sent for her, gave her a warm welcome and invited her to come see them often.
The resemblance prevaricates so that she can be simultaneously circulating goods and prohibited sister. The narrative makes clear the dysfunctionality of her kin relative to their responsibility to circulate her properly and to prohibit incest : her sister begs her to meet with the prince, while her brother-in- law arranges a tryst at his behest. The family romance thus entails not the relation of the son and his desired, passive, and prohibited mother, to the father or the law , but rather a relation between the son and his closest female kin.
If the mother succeeds in keeping her son within the household, how does this young prince then accede to phallic sovereignty, for, Goux argues, "he must himself be able to enter into the ceremonial transaction as an available agent, and that presupposes, precisely, detachment, cutting off, the sacrifice of the mother which is the most obscure and the most torturous heart of the initiatory passage" ?
Here the narrative seems to militate against both heterosexual and phallocratic teleology by strengthening and rendering efficacious the maternal-filial relation and by installing the law as a maternal, rather than a paternal prohibition ; ; ; The place of sovereign phallic privilege is conserved, as we might expect it to be Marguerite must have been a royalist, n'est-ce pas? And yet, is this maternal writer, queen not herself a split subject, both sovereign and sororal both Louise and Marguerite?
Thus her resistance to inscription in the narrative of abjection, that is, as bloody, mutilated corpse that is defiled, reviled, castigated, etc. But this resistance is performed in the name of chaste thinking, that is, in the name of a self-castigation, a cutting off from desire and pleasure, for the good of the prince, the nation, honor. Then our accession to honor would be achieved, like Lucretia's, through the self-castigating gesture of overcoming our emotions and desires, like Lucretia, for the good of the state.
Lucretia's self-castigation was suicidal, and the rebirth it produced was in her brother- citizens. Marguerite's narrative, with its split agency, its double rebirth into honor of both masculine prince and feminine pauper, suggests a more modern path toward the narrative of republican "freedom," one where the woman may live. The life into which one is reborn in this narrative is, as Goux notes, a phallic order; it is, indeed, phallocracy. This symbolic order arises from the interiorization of certain demands which are no longer experienced as social demands, and above all not as the demands of a social exchange" "The Phallus," His concern in this essay is to historicize and culturally delineate the phallus or symbolic order of contemporary Lacanian psychoanalysis and to show how an archaic and mythic initiatory configuration inhabits the unconscious of modern philosophical phallocentrism.
In modernity, he argues, We see that the phallus must thus take on a new meaning. Rather than appearing as the immediately negotiable restitution of a loss, it becomes pure mediation, the mark of an integrity rediscovered after the sacrifice of the mother. With the phallus, the masculine subject affirms himself, but without any nuptial counterpart being necessary to ratify the function of renunciation.
Obtaining a woman surrendered by the group and thus the function of communication, is no longer the point. Erected for itself, the phallus is a monastic, celibate attestation of the detachment of "matter" and "nature" which guarantees integrity, identity, unity. What remains implicit in Goux's description is that the subject, through his sacrifice, is initiated not only into "the exchange of women," but also into compulsory heterosexuality itself, through this process of renunciation.
Thus, what is also permitted by the abstraction and interiorization of these social demands, as well as by the separation between sacrifice and entitled returns, is the abstraction and universalization of a law of heterosexuality. The occultation of this narrative of renunciation makes possible what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has called the "homosocial," a masculine affinity whose homoerotic boundaries are less clearly drawn for being less violently and definitively marked by excision or repudiation than the maternal bond.
For in this text, it is true that the demands one must interiorize, the constraints to which one must submit, are not experienced as concretely and entirely social, as part of an immediate exchange, and do indeed become law. We can count on it, it will never betray us. The newest graves, those on the edges of the cemeteries of the peripheries, are full of this irrational phenomenology. We take things into consideration that would have made us laugh not long ago. We assign stability and pulsion to what we know, basically, is nothing but a vague recollection of a fleeting wellbeing.
A wing in the mist, a morning flutter that soon disappeared before the need to repeat itself, that obsessive, disrespectful bureaucrat lurking in some obscure corner of us, selecting and codifying dreams like all the other scribblers in the mortuary of repression. Short-lived flashes bear witness to the heroic deeds of some comrade, some rebel here and there, stealing a glance before history brands and immobilizes him in the perfectly tormented flesh. We are not inane watchers of junk TV or readers of the serial romances that are now buried in dusty library catalogues.
We are alive and for life, so have direct experience. As soon as a vital sign appears here and there, we pick it up with the point of our fingernail and place it in the secret wallet of our heart, a tiny heart-shaped icon or forget-me-not. Basically we too, the hard, dauntless ones with our refractory refusal to accommodate or to be discouraged by the threats of the institutions or the far more terrible ones of imbecility camouflaged as rebellion, also need our iconography.
That is why we amass memories, sympathies, friendship—sometimes a mere handshake—storing them up in our minds as sharing and support, when not direct participation. How many of us have not cracked open bank safes and treasuries, carried out radical expropriation, taken land from the latifundi and killed enemies in shoot-out at sunset, at this hallucinatory level. We have only participated in them from afar in the best of cases , addressing the liveliest part of our desires to them. And that is that, while the critique that sided with the wolf and not the child remains in the loft.
So how can we put any criteria in our fantasy. The story tells of a thief. A thief with egalitarian illusions. An anarchist and his dreams. But with a difference: this man, along with his comrades, really did open the safes of the rich, and by this simple fact demonstrated that an attack on social wealth, even if only partial, is possible.
It might seem insignificant that this be the most interesting part of the whole story, but that is not so. The spectacular aspect of the activity of Jacob and his comrades, the incredible list of their robberies and the elegant way they were carried out, are not the most important aspects. Basically, now as in the past, we still want someone to supply the iconography we cannot do without.
The comparison with Arsen Lupin is enough. Maurice Leblanc was a well-known serial romance writer; Bernard Thomas is a serial journalist. The two genres go hand in hand. But Jacob and the others were something else. In the first place, they were comrades. And it is here, in the field of their choice of actions, that we need to grasp the deeper significance of their exploits.
The description of acting beyond the levels that most people put up with daily is implicit in the story, although it does not succeed in completely rendering the levels of consciousness that were necessary in order to do this. Procedure and method, rigidity and anarchist ethics in dealing with the representatives of the class in power, are but a few aspects of the tale.
It is therefore necessary to put description aside and dig deeper beyond the fiction, in order to reach a point for reflection. The first is that theft, appropriation in general, carried out with strength or guile and not simply by ceasing work, is not an arm which can lead to social levelling. The appropriation we are talking about and which was certainly sufficient to make the well-fed bourgeoisie of the French empire tremble, was simply a means to be used elsewhere in order to attempt to set off the generalising of the struggle which for anarchists is the primary aim of all revolutionary activity.
I believe that this is now clear once and for all but the ingenuous. Another myth that needs to be dispelled is that such actions could become a model for the oppressed as a simple, quick way to regain possession of what has been extracted from them by force through exploitation and repression.
Right from the first rather banal raids on supermarkets, the concept of proletarian expropriation makes no more sense than the scenario for a film of the life of a revolutionary expropriator: from Durruti to Bonnot, Sabate to Facerias, Di Giovanni to Pollastro. The passive fruition of heroic deeds always produces myths, tales for adults that the frustrating conditions of life demand nonstop, prostheses that help one to carrying on living in just the same way as alcohol or sleeping pills do. The overall conditions of the struggle could, at any given moment under certain conditions of a social or economic nature, produce movements of great masses within which expropriation, becoming generalised, ends up being a daily practice.
But that all germinates spontaneously and has no need for models. But if we think seriously about what the anarchist who asks himself what is to be done from a revolutionary point of view faces, the problem presents itself in more detail. Or, within the enclosure of interpersonal relationships, seek to create conditions that allow one to go beyond the cohabitation sadly marked by the classical limitations of the couple, to the point of knifing oneself. All this is possible, and at times even beautiful, but it is not enough. Going further, beyond, always further, one finds the first signs of the real problem: what do we want to do with our lives?
Do we want to live them as fully as possible, or do we want to hand over a considerable part of them in exchange for a salary camouflaged as economic services rendered? There are many ways to camouflage this exchange today: voluntary work is one of them. Power realizes that it must attract this band of social misfits to within the field of control by using increasingly intelligent methods because they are precisely the ones who could react violently to normal working conditions.
And many are falling over backwards to make the compromise more attractive in this direction. But conditions of privilege do not make us masters of ourselves. In a word, we become what we are doing. We are what we produce, and if we produce condescension and acceptation, we ourselves become the policeman standing on the street corner, or even the torturer in the white coat, or the prison warder brandishing a bunch of keys in his gloved hand.
According to Jacob, if we do not want to eat our hearts out there is nothing else for it, we must stretch out a hand to the property of others. But in order to reach out we must have a clear conscience, otherwise we would simply be carrying out more or less gaudy transfers of wealth, nothing more. The way to look at things then is to see what the expropriator, he who recuperates from a revolutionary point of view, is proposing: what does he intend to do about everything that needs to be done with this wider space of freedom of movement?
We are not talking about real freedom here.
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As you can see, this has little that is mythical or fascinating about it. It is simply a case of being able to realize revolutionary projects which would otherwise be clipped in the wings due to lack of means. The world in which I operate with my revolutionary activity involves my whole self. There is not me living my life on the one hand and my revolutionary activity on the other.
That is why I cannot suffer the consequences of an absurd dichotomy that lacerates me: worker and revolutionary producing wealth for the exploiters on the one hand, and combating them and the very flux that I contribute to with my own work, on the other. A classical objection to this is that theft is also work, and produces wealth. Personally, I have always seen this label in the ironic sense. At the time it threw fear into the hearts of the bourgeoisie, who had not forgotten the days of Seventy-one.
In itself, the objection is not unfounded. If nothing else, the outlaw produces the judge, a considerable part of prison, a great coming and going of lawyers and court employees, and a whole repressive mentality going right from the wealthy to the old lady who is afraid of being robbed of her pension. All this undoubtedly goes to make up the game. If the revolutionary were to fall into this trap as Malatesta seems to fear is inevitable , he would be a fool just like any poor soul who hands over his booty, fruit of honest robberies, to the first salesman of expensive cars he comes across.
Queer Quickies: The Headmaster's Study
I do not even want to think of this eventuality which in any case, for what my personal experience is worth, is not very common. But the other aspect of the problem still holds. Theft is not something that can be improvised: it requires professionalism and commitment, punctuality, precision and cold blood, knowledge of human psychology and the most advanced techniques of prevention and control.
In a word, it requires time. So it is neither a question of a generous gift, nor an exciting adventure. It nearly always becomes a meticulous routine that tires out the best of comrades. Mistakes are often made one way or the other: either by supposing such activity to be easier than it is, or by thinking that it is more complex and exciting. It is important to bear all the various problems involved in mind, and no romanced narration can help us in that. Then, after thinking about it, one might reach the conclusion that such efforts could, under certain conditions and in certain situations, be the most effective way to begin to carry out a revolutionary project.
Not being capable of grasping what pushes many rebels to single out the enemy, I know that my conclusions will not please many comrades. I only hope that the few revolutionaries, to whom these considerations are addressed, at least know how to read them for what they are: a critical reflection and the antecedent of an operative programme. Wednesday, March , the day after Carnival. Amiens court-house, ringed by three companies of chasseurs on foot and by all available personnel from the gendarmerie, is in a state of siege. Since daybreak a sizeable and edgy crowd has been gathering.
Maybe an escape. Every step along the progress through the corridors brings one up to troops, service revolver or fixed bayonet by their sides. A pass is required before access may be gained to the courtroom. Suspicious-looking sensation-seekers are peremptorily turned away.
Access to the holy of holies is granted only to those whose dress is testimony to their respectability Ten correspondents from the biggest foreign newspapers have found themselves seats.
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In the kiosks in every town in France, enormous headlines are already whipping up public opinion An unbelievable organisation. The prosecution file, pages of painstaking manuscript, covers 20, items. An overwhelming burden of proof. The police and magistrates aim to keep this affair within the narrow limits of criminal procedure. Wisely, the chief news organs have followed them in this. However, one cannot avert certain rumours racing through the crowd. To the effect that the accused are redoubtable anarchists.
Elegant ladies experience a delicious quiver at the mention of those queer romantics who schemed from the dark recesses of their offices to blow society asunder. The rentiers, though delighted to have 24 of their personal enemies brought to book here today cannot disguise their anxiety: five of the ruffians are still on the loose. What are they hatching? Such people are capable of anything. They respect nothing Nor, above all, private property, regarding which—in order to excuse their own misdeeds—they contend is theft. The court, they hope, will show no mercy: these ruffians must be dealt with severely.
To set an example. Culpable clemency would risk inciting others to swell their ranks. All things considered, the Apaches are more deserving of indulgence: at least with them, one knows what one is faced with. The accused persons are no more than their minions. The real culprits are those unscrupulous agitators hired by foreign powers to weaken the Republic, that whole shady cancer of pseudo-thinkers, assassins and Jews overrunning the country, abetted by a handful of Freemasons infected with the cholera of subversion and striving to capitalise upon the ingenuousness of the people in order to establish a dictatorship of bloodthirsty brigands.
But the workers are not so stupid. Their will. To which the minority has to defer. Anyone refusing to play by these rules constitutes a danger to the established order and is indicted by society. In this instance the authorities are displaying an excess of patience. All anarchists, all reds should be there with them. Distrustfully, the populace teeming in its thousands towards the rue des Trois-Cailloux hears out these witch-hunters.
Dress and vocabulary alike have erected a barrier between them. Instinctively, trickery is scented. Then again, what the newspapers reiterate is too pat: if the accused are vulgar thieves, how come so many precautions? Why this deployment of men? There is something queer about this. To be sure, a thief is a malefactor. To be sure, it is normal that he should be punished. Yet one does not know what to think. One Alexandre-Marius Jacob. The more literate mention him in the same breath as Robin Hood, Cartouche and Mandrin.
But the juxtaposition of the two words, though engaging, is scarcely convincing. Lupin has not yet popularised the notion. There is a lot of gossip. It is said that Jacob attacked only the rich, that he kept back nothing for himself from the proceeds of his misdeeds, but redistributed them all among the poor. It is said that Jacob had forbidden his men to take a life. While one might not be able to openly endorse that, the fact remains that the idea of downing a cop down some dark alley is not one that everybody finds displeasing: let he who never dreamed of it—if only he might be assured of impunity, of course—cast the first stone.
In short, this outlaw is intriguing. The women hope he will be handsome. It is known that Jacob comes from Marseilles; that he is a mere 26 years of age. They say that he has dark eyes, that he fears nothing and no one and is a sort of genius. He has friends everywhere. He will slip through their fingers. He will vanish as if by magic. Anyway, the Germinal gang await only the merest error by the guards to fly to his aid.
A band of French anarchists seized upon the word, the way one passes the baton in a relay race, making it the title of a newspaper. The Amiens police were immediately stirred by their activities. They ensconced themselves first in 69, rue Saint-Germain and then in 26, rue Saint-Roch four months ago, in November The editorial of the first issue gave clear, if moderate, expression to the underlying implications of the venture.
Despite all the promises of the politicians of every colour, your lot is becoming increasingly precarious.
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The press says naught of the vexations of every sort visited upon you by the exploiters in their modern prisons Frankly libertarian, Germinal will not be treading the muddy byways of politics, unless to unmask the tricksters and flatterers teeming there. The countless victims of priests, sabre-rattlers, judges, police and bosses will be able to have their cry of rebellion heard here without fear of being revealed. We have sufficient revolutionary energy to take upon ourselves full responsibility before laws that we hold sovereignly in contempt.
Let each one do his duty, and Germinal will live to make the well-fed and the complacent perish of rage, while paving the way for the Social Revolution from which Freedom will come forth at last. This profession of faith in no way resembles a pious vow. The paper has organised meetings, gatherings, conferences, demonstrations, on every pretext.
Fear is the beginning of wisdom. From issue No. Who is this Gentleman? What can this matter be? Those in the know claim that it is purely and simply a question of Alexandre-Marius Jacob. The launching of the bimonthly four months in advance of the trial and in the very town where that trial must take place is allegedly no coincidence. It was allegedly part of a two-pronged effort: to capitalise upon the audience which the Jacob affair could not fail to provide for the cause, with an eye to stepping up agitation and propaganda in the region, and to strive by every means to rescue the comrade in jeopardy.
A newspaper specifically set up to defend a thief? And indeed, it was said, the newspaper of a thief, for Jacob had allegedly managed to get money out of his prison cell to his friends on the outside: the last of his savings. Enough said. Markets are monopolised, there is speculation, there is hoarding, there is wheeling and dealing, stocks are driven down prior to purchase, driven up prior to sale: gold shapes policy, bankers declare war.
This is lawful. The worker is exploited: they capitalise upon his ignorance and resignation: some are harried into insolvency and poverty, others are prompted into strike, revolt, starvation, others still into thieving, hopelessness, suicide, murder. This, again, is lawful. The factories, prisons and barracks are breeding grounds for typhus and tuberculosis. The penniless are cast into the streets. The homeless are cast into prison. The law is the instrument of persecution. But he did not have unrestricted communication with the outside and only belatedly was he able to convey how he felt.
Small matter for the time being: the article sets the tone. Out of a population of some 40 millions, a mere 4 million men labour as toilers. And still these produce too much, as government figures themselves indicate, for there is unemployment and overproduction. Thus if everyone capable of it were to engage in useful production, each person and we are not counting adolescents, women, or the aged would have to work only half an hour each day from the age of 20 to the age of 50, which is to say ten hour days in his whole life!
The writer stipulates that in his reckoning he has taken no account of that segment of workers whose task consists of the maintenance of order or the repression of disorder Logic taken to its extremes potentially leads to such things: a fair number of us would be constrained, on pain of finding themselves unemployed again, to participate willy-nilly in the repression of others. In any event, Jacob has not disowned these lines. All humanity is bereft.
Later he had become very well acquainted with her, as with all the great names of the libertarian world who are presently signing articles in his favour in every anarchist publication Not forgetting all the others who do not have by-lines but are activists. So, were the rentiers so very wrong to take fright? The tone of their newspapers furnishes reason to fear the worst. They are mad dogs. Early in February, Issue No. If you have not the money, steal it! Maybe Jacob himself has not himself taken a life, but he is on the same side as the raging madmen.
It is a capital offence to attack strongboxes out of idealism: his head must roll for it. As is his wont, he besmirched the name of the army, the expeditionary force covering itself in glory in the Far East, then moved on to the clergy, the police and the judiciary. Police spies posted in the hall took careful note of it. But that talk was only a pretext upon which to assemble the largest possible public gathering. The orator was in on it. In small groups, several thousand people assembled in the rue Delambre. The Alcazar emptied. There it clashed with a strong contingent of troops happily posted at random on guard duty in front of the prison.
Long live the revolution! Long live anarchy! Then, all of a sudden, there was an incident. Straboni, a guard brought in specially from Rouen to watch over Jacob lest he manage to convert the usual screws to his own way of thinking, as he had successfully done in the past He was without doubt a glass or two the worse for drink.
The demonstrators threw themselves on him: they disarmed him and rained blows on him. The troops charged. Lemaire the manager of the Germinal newspaper and his cronies Pacaud and Ouin Needless to say, a search produced nothing. By contrast Germinal had the audacity to relate the whole episode in its 17 February issue: not content with being criminals, these people showed themselves to be boors as well.
One could scarcely expect anything better of them. So on this 8 March , while the Black Marias were being awaited, the people in charge of maintaining order prepared themselves for every eventuality. Suspected of preparing an escape for Jacob, the unfortunate fellow had been interrogated throughout the night, somewhat brutally, by some overzealous inspectors. Moreover, there was nothing to show that they were not in fact faced with an accomplice of the Robber.
They are murmuring. Getting worked up. Ready to intervene, narks monitor its changing moods. He picks out scattered anarchists distributing packets of leaflets attempting to offer a justification of Jacob. Their manes of hair, their beards and sombre faces make them readily visible from a distance. Over on the left, three of them are trying to organise a meeting.
Four plain clothed inspectors immediately move in to frustrate them. A crowd gathers round. Soon it degenerates into the most immense confusion. Five ranks of chasseurs protect the court-house, not to mention the troops held in reserve. The officials blithely step inside, mingling with the bourgeois who have come to watch the spectacle and who are holding forth on the threshold.
Let us go! Disorder will not triumph this time! But the ranting floats off in the direction of the boulevards. The rumbling of the Black Marias reverberates from the cobblestones. The escort appears, a squadron from the 30 th Chasseurs Regiment headed by a general in undress. The muffled sound of a song covers everything The wagons come to a halt amid a clatter of ironwork. The infantrymen push back the huddled ranks of the crowds. The doors are opened. Hollow cheeks, fiery looks. He is wearing a broad black bowler hat. He has on a black overcoat with astrakhan collar, a red tie and straight collar slightly crumpled at the edges.
In his hand he has a huge briefcase stuffed with papers. In any case, there is nothing about him that is redolent of a lout in a peaked cap. Nothing of the sinister-faced ogre. His dress is correct, his toilet painstaking, his moustaches crimped and almost bristling under his strong nose. Of medium build, but squat. He has the air of a civil servant, bordering on that of a teacher or savant. Two by two, his nineteen accomplices line up. He makes to raise his arms, despite the shackles,.
Long live Jacob! The gendarmes step in: they jostle the prisoners, prodding them with vehemence towards the steps. Jacob does not comply. They have to drag him by the arm. His eyes sparkle. He sings the Internationale. The cortege, the women, the public, join in. The song rises into the air and ascends towards the overcast skies.
The accused and their guards, followed by the flapping black sleeves of their lawyers, disappear beneath the archway. They vanish into the corridors. The team from Germinal tries to follow in their footsteps. The argument lasts barely a few seconds and then the anarchists give up the attempt. They vanish into the crush of people standing around in small knots waiting for God knows what.
The courtroom is shabby, dim, grimy, with faded frescoes on the back wall. Some benches and an additional platform have been arranged to accommodate the accused. The exhibits of the prosecution, a real mountain of them, overspill onto the press benches: jemmies, artistically laid out in order of size; bit-braces, drills, hacksaws, glass-cutters; some Edison lamps linked together by five metres of wiring; some oilcans, a few soapboxes. They admit to never having seen anything like them. According to them there is at least 10, francs worth of equipment here. Furthermore, the end of these keys presents a rectangular-shaped recess which makes it possible to tailor a special attachment to the instrument for opening the most complicated locks.
The malefactor also carried electric lamps, one of which, collapsible and fitted with reflectors, provided a powerful beam capable of lighting up an entire room. He also had in his possession a highly refined instrument designed to break open safes and from one of the finest companies in New York: a ladder of silk fitted at the ends with two sturdy hooks capable of gripping anywhere and other sundry accessories, all of them equally refined. At noon, the Court makes its entrance.
Councillor Wehekind, who seems ill at ease, presides. He is assisted by his assessors Job Vaselle and Thorel. The procurator-general Regnault in person occupies the chair of the public prosecutor, aided by his deputy, Monsieur Pennelier. First item of business: the drawing of lots for jury membership. First sensation: only 5 of those whose names are called are present. The others have been detained by urgent business. Or indeed by illness: one angina attack, some renal colic complaints, some severe bronchitis. An epidemic appears to have descended upon Amiens.
Procurator Regnault appeals to a sense of civic duty, to dedication to the law: why did they come forward as volunteers only to absent themselves now? Some medical certificates, properly and duly completed, offer the only reply. To tell the truth, the jury panel members were afraid. They have no wish to get embroiled in some squalid episode. Not of anarchists. That is too risky. Their neighbours have intimated as much to them. Their wives have pleaded with them in the name of their children. And then Thrown for a moment, court president Wehekind regains his composure: let some gendarmes be dispatched, accompanied by a doctor, to verify these excuses and summon the dodgers.
The sitting is suspended. For lunch. Capitalising upon the absence of the reporters, the troops have left unmanned the approaches to the courthouse, which are now deserted. In the clammy atmosphere about 50 soldiers are napping on the steps, belts unbuckled, rifle laid across their bellies. One would say it was the aftermath of battle. Thousands of leaflets litter the pathway. When at last the court resumes at 2 pm, the definitive jury is at last appointed Then comes the establishment of the identities of the accused:. He is seated peacefully, tethered by his handcuffs to his warder guardian angel.
The bowler hat is pulled down tight upon his head. He grins at the angels. The court president, who had not hitherto glanced in his direction, gives a start:. A parody of justice! I will show regard for you when you show some for the workers!.. The gendarme escorting him snatches the hat from his head. The remainder of the outburst is lost amid the brouhaha. Everyone catches his breath again. The enumeration of names, surnames, ages, professions proceeds without further incident. However, there is no article in the code capable of preventing the bandits from adopting an air of mockery.
Next, the clerk sets about the litany of the pages of the indictment sheet. The public strain to understand. Several of the accused ejaculate expressions of astonishment at the relation of certain exploits of their mastermind, of which they had been unaware. At 6 pm. When Jacob emerges, the crowd has formed again and is controlled by the cordons of chasseurs only with great difficulty. Revolutionary songs burst forth on all sides. Scientific and practical means of limiting female fertility, by Doctor Knowlton. Translated from the English by Lennoz.
Pamphlet prosecuted and acquitted by the Brabant assizes. Price 0. Apply within. Absolute discretion, receives boarders at any stage of pregnancy. Apply to Mlle. Consultations daily from 1 pm. By 7 pm. Feverishly, they set about preparing the special edition which they have resolved to put out just as soon as possible. Pacaud sees to the editorial:.
The judiciary, the army and the police are dumbfounded. The defenders of order have been seized by a tremendous funk that shows itself in the grotesque, not to say pointless deployment of manpower The courthouse has been turned into a barracks But disappointment among the bourgeois newspapers, the mouthpieces of middle-class mediocrity, has been great indeed!
Good Lord! Sacrosanct property has been attacked. The quivering bourgeois must have visions of looting and riot flashing before their eyes: all because the demonstrations of hate by those who own nothing against a recuperator such as Jacob have ceased. The prejudices that underpinned the old authoritarian society have melted away. Which just goes to show that our propaganda is on the right track!
How come? What, then, is the difference between the judges and the judged? It is that the thieves are not the ones that are believed to be so! For the sake of the soundness of its foundations, it was in the interest of society as a whole that some avenging spirit should stir the stupidity of the mob. To meet the requirements of its cause, the people had to anathematise the destroyers of property. All in vain! Today, for all the tremendous obstacles placed in its way, the people are in contact with these revolutionary heroes! Miscalculation and amazement!
The accused are men of mettle! Jules Lemaire picks up the baton. He is on edge. Demonstrations of sympathy from the crowd were not enough for him. He had called a meeting of all militants in the region for today: he had been expecting a riot: they had made do with a rendition of the Internationale. He looks for, still wishes for a reversal of opinion, a gesture, a backlash, something. One does not make revolution with demonstrations, but with bombs.
We have to believe that fear is the getting of wisdom, for this time the selection of the jury was not without complications. Nonetheless it is an exceptional delight for twelve who own to sit in judgement of 23 dispossessed. Whereupon the thesis of a band of malefactors led by him collapses. The fiction maintained by the hireling press caves in. You have gulled the people long enough: long enough have you managed to induce them to believe the robbed the robber! Today the truth explodes for all to see! The proletariat are awakening, they read, they listen, they reflect, they see clearly.
They know that Property is theft. You have the effrontery to pose as fair-minded men! Craven hypocrites, you well know that there is nothing fair in your stinking society. Your learned men, your professors, your journalists are repeatedly forced to concede that injustice, everything most ghastly in the moral and material sense The risen people are expropriating your like in Russia. A new day has dawned at last when there will be no more judges, no more robbed and no more robbers! Are they afraid perhaps? Do they fear lest he may go out and down one of these grasping bourgeois?
Yet he is ready to do just that! And this very evening if need be. To strike terror into the others. Violence is atrocious when it serves the master. But sublime when it serves the free man! What is holding them back? But a man enters the shop, a short, bearded, eagle-eyed man with a hooked nose, dressed almost like a bourgeois alongside the rest. He shakes himself as he removes his rain-soaked mackintosh. His name is Charles Malato. He made his acquaintance in Marseilles when he was just 17 years old.
He himself is aged He is a man who carries some weight, a man that one can tell does not hesitate to lend a hand to the plough if need be. An insurrectionist anarchist. They respect him. He has been out and about making inquiries. He has contacts everywhere, known to him alone. They huddle around him. The screw who was in with us has been moved to another department. Jacob has been moved to another cell yet again.
Be that as it may, Malato has managed to get hold of a message from Jacob. Jacob thanks them for all they are doing. It would also be madness to attempt to pull something as he is being removed from the van. It only remains to await a favourable opportunity and then to try to cobble something together One never knows In any case, Jacob prefers to be guillotined rather than be the cause of any pointless blood-letting: so, he hopes, when his head falls it will bloody the enemy.
They all bow their heads: would they show the same courage in similar circumstances? They have not many chances left to get him out of there. He has conducted himself like a free man. If die he must, he will die like a free man. And then what! At this very moment throughout France, in Paris, in Marseilles, in Lyons, in Perpignan, all of the comrades have their eyes turned to Amiens.
We have to live up to expectations. Libertad sent it for you. He had prepared it in advance. It puts things back into perspective. From our point of view, of course. The article is passed from hand to hand. They peruse it. Comment upon it. Gradually life returns and so does a diehard hope. One seems to have scored a victory: it no longer fights, it merely judges. It has even appointed its delegates who deck themselves out in uniforms and adorn themselves with special names: gendarmes, judges, soldiers, prosecutors, jurors. But they fool nobody. In them one discerns the usual partners of the social struggle: robbers, counterfeiters, murderers, according to the circumstances.
And whenever they shake their heads, delegates and onlookers look like taking to their heels. In any event, it is not remorse that drags their enemies before them, but handcuffs instead. They did not make the bread they eat, nor build the mansions where they live, nor make the garments they wear, nor the vehicles which transport them. Their shrewdness, their expertise, their strength and courage are questioned by no one. They began to burgle society in order to live in the That was their only fault—if fault they have committed. The following day, the crowd control was equally impressive.
Before the proceedings commence, Rose, dragging her gendarme behind her, manages to hurl herself into the arms of her lover who squeezes her to himself. Unexpectedly it is decided that the women are to be held apart from him and he is moved back to the fifth row of the accused instead of the second where he spent yesterday. Even so, he blows kisses to his mother and to Rose.
The people were led to believe that it was for their own good and out of a care for social progress that schooling was made compulsory for them. What a lie! Everywhere a handful of malefactors like you exploiting millions of unfortunates. Outraged cries from those present. The president of the court raises his gavel.
The family of his father, who came from Alsace, had emigrated south around into the Vaucluse first and thence to Marseilles. Joseph Jacob had started out as a cook with a shipping company. He had had to swear never to take ship again when he began to court Marie Berthou, a girl from La Crau: a sailor as a son-in-law was out of the question.
Whereupon he was able to take Marie to wife. But a pining for the South seas had begun to gnaw at him in the bakery despite his efforts to rinse it away with alcohol. The logical step would doubtless have been to go to sea again. But Joseph was a waverer. For good or ill, a thousand considerations kept him on dry land. He could not leave Marie in the lurch. In point of fact, Marie had money. It was she who would inherit from her parents. Not that they had been very well-to-do. The rent from their holding in La Crau: a bit of a field towards Plan de Cuques: a horse for turning the soil and ferrying produce to market: that was all their earthly possessions.
But they had always worked hard, and lived meagrely. They were suspected of having put by a tidy little sum. It was all the easier for him to threaten her that he might go away for ever—and that was a threat from which he did not shrink—than to actually take that chance. As pretty as she was, she would not have had much trouble in finding herself a fancy man. After about a dozen false starts, Joseph wallowed in bitterness and in talk about the sacrifices he had made for her and in the card schools in the corner grog-shop.
She came to despise him. She was suffocating. Wed at the age of 18, she had known no other world outside of the convent, the Sunday vegetables and, from 29 September when Alexandre-Marius came into the world , nappies that needed changing and knitting for pin-money. She would never forgive him for the heroic tales of fearless and irreproachable mariners with which he won her over. Divorce: the law as it stood ruled that out to all intents and purposes. Resignation, passivity, stagnation: these were impossible. He had pulled the wool over her eyes.
She had bought a pig in a poke. After three years, she had but one desire left: that he might take off, disappear, leave her in peace. Of course, the more she told him this, the more he could discover excuses for hanging around. One day she jumped the omnibus for Plan de Cuques. She ranted and raved and played the kitten: she inveigled her ageing parents into agreeing to let her have a little from the stack of louis upon which they chose to sleep, in order to set up a business. This was a bakery, just metres from the house, right in the middle of the Vieux-Port district, on a little square which lay at the top of a cobblestone ramp lost amid a warren of alleys.
By agreement, the deeds were in her name. This final degradation he could not forgive. He concocted memories for himself: she set to work. She was the mistress. To reassert his crumbling authority he soon began to thrash her. On the first occasion he begged her forgiveness, weeping like a child. He was full of good resolutions. The weeks passed.
Mates sneered at his astounding sobriety. And then, in the final analysis, women are like doormats, there to be walked over. Alexandre-Marius grew up as best he could between this unsatisfied Amazon of a mother and this emasculated father. He was not really unhappy. Not really a martyred child. The forenames borrowed from the generals of antiquity, in memory of the Other One , the true Napoleon who would have spread the Revolution throughout the whole of Europe but for the interference of the Austrians and the British, surely destined him for higher things.
On different counts, they both had high hopes of him. Marie, who had inherited a scathing opinion of soutane-wearers from her days with the sisters, superciliously gave way to this latest act of renegadeship from her lord and master. Furthermore, Alexandre never roamed the streets. Marie would shrug her shoulders at such tales, which she knew by heart. But Alexandre would salt away their quasi-epics like so many treasures in his memory where they joined the likes of Ivanhoe, Ulysses, Jean Bart and the bailiff of Suffren.
From the day when he saw his father beat his mother and his yellow animal eyes flame with rage, he despised him. Not that that stopped Marie from contending that her husband was a fine fellow. His temper was short-lived. Once the crisis had passed, he would do anything to please.
She strove in vain to paint him in an enchanting light for Alexandre. Alexandre merely heard her out without a word. By the age of eight, he had a serious look about him, like children who have already seen too much. He would sit on her lap. He would put his arm around her neck. He would hug her. He would tell her how he would carve out an empire for her in China where she would be queen. He had difficulty seeing what benefits the blessed sacraments could have brought the pagan idolaters of Lao-tse, but could talk endlessly about junks, about the Great Wall besieged by the Manchu hordes and about emperors in palanquins.
He had built himself a heroic world on the far side of the ocean, where absolute beauty and the radiant perfection of golden days were within reach, contrary to conditions in Marseilles. Priest he never dreamed of becoming. A missionary rather: on account of the travel. Anyway, his vocation dried up at the time of his first communion. That morning, in a provocative act and persuaded that a formidable hand was about to descend upon the back of his neck to the accompaniment of a roll of thunder, he bit down on the host.
His disappointment was beyond measure: God did not intervene. So he did not exist. The Brothers had been telling lies. The matter was settled once and for all: he had no supernatural soul. His mind turned more towards action—which did not rule out reflection—than contemplation. At the age of eleven and a half, he was awarded special permission to sit his school certificate which he sailed through.
His teachers vaguely expected that he would carry on for his diploma, perhaps even take his baccalaureate. They confided as much to Marie. Joseph went on a real binge. Every other batch was burned. Customers became rare. Money even rarer. This business of studies was doubtless yet another ploy by the Christian Brothers to recruit a long-stay customer and to grow fat on the backs of the poor.
Marie, who never failed to caw like a crow whenever she came across a priest in the street was quick to credit them with the most Machiavellian intentions. As for the obligation to attend school up to the age of 13, the law that had just been passed to that effect in remained, for the moment, a dead letter. Consulted by Marie, Alexandre blushed. The insult hurled by his father still had him seething.
Seminary school Given his air of discomfiture, she did not press the matter. In those days that stratum of society had not yet been touched by the craze for Great Schools. As long as one can read, write and reckon one can always get by, provided that one is dependable. Diplomas are all very well for the offspring of the rich.