Friday, January 12, 2018

Intellectuals Out For A Night of Slumming It Among The Plebs

J'ai vendu mon âme au diable
Mon pouvoir est formidable
Sans effort je fais un voeu
Et j'ai tout ce que je veux
Je n'ai pas pu pourtant
Garder pour moi le coeur
Du gars que j'aime tant
Rien ne le touche, il aime ailleurs
J'ai vendu mon âme au diable
Mon pouvoir est formidable
Mais le diable est sans secours
Bonnes gens contre l'amour.

I was curious, after mentioning the disgusting, violently misogynistic dance apache ("les apaches" being the name racistly given by late 19th century journalists to the most violent gangs in paris) to see if the most famous French feminist who lived during what I kind of thought was its hey-day, Simone de Beauvoir, had ever condemned it.  I'm looking through her The Second Sex and have yet to find that demonstration and romantic promotion of violence against women - and an advocacy of that as "love" and have not found anything in that book or attributed to her objecting to it.  I suppose she thought it would be a most unfashionable criticism of "art" or "liberté" if she had.

I did, though, find something that sounded familiar when I read it on a blog, a description of a Paris house party of fashionable people in the arts and academia and philosophy where, having gone past midnight, de Beauvoir and her boyfriend (who has been critisized as treating her like a prop) Jean Paul Sartre where someone sang the song, J'ai Vendu Mon Âme au Diable (the refrain is the introduction) and  Les Papillon de Nuit (The Moths) the lyrics of which romanticize the brutalization of women by an "Argentinian dancer" named "Lélio" and how they fly to him only to be brutalized by them, more than implying that the women love it and find it attractive.  I'm as conflicted about posting the song or its words as I am the shockingly many video examples of the danse apache - something which has had a stunningly long and frequent use in movies, according to one list I saw online, preceding 1900 and continuing up till just about now.   It is clearly presented as a major artifact of French popular culture.   I will note that most of the movie and TV treatments on the list are not French.   Though, as the movie I mentioned it appearing in isn't on any of the lists I saw, those don't appear to be comprehensive.

I might write more about the lapse of de Beauvoir's book which I don't think I've looked at since the last century, it strikes me as far more superficially facile, dishonest and entirely inadequate if women's equality and decent behavior of men to women of all classes and conditions is the real goal, and any claimed campaign of rights which doesn't insist on that is a fraud.   I see, especially in the chapter dealing with "Prostitutes and Mistresses" and, well, lots of it is just plain awful.   I'd begin by her conflating the "church fathers" with the amorality of Bernard de Mandeville (whose philosophy would serve as a far better catechism of American Trumpian Mammonism and as a code of conduct for pre- last October Hollywood producers than it does democracy).

Sewers are necessary to guarantee the sanitation of palaces, said the Church Fathers. And Mandeville, in a very popular book, said: “It is obvious that some women must be sacrificed to save others and to prevent an even more abject filth.”

The danse apache would, actually fit right in with Mandeville's style of thought, it being an exhibition of misogynistic sexual violence for the entertainment of a jaded elite audience out for the fun of slumming it (which Sartre and de Beauvoir and their intellectual crowd was famous for, philosophical one-upsmanship bouts between watching the underclass amuse them).   I am, though, wondering which of the Church Fathers she could have pointed to who promoted the prophylactic presence of prostitution.  She gives no citation in her surprisingly skimpy footnotes.   I'm thinking hard and I can't recall reading any of them who did, and it would be very bizarre if they had and it hadn't been suppressed centuries ago.  That's not the usual rap on sex and religion made by fashionable secularists.   As it says in the first song quoted above, it's the good people who put a damper on the sexy stuff.  Between that view of things and the opposite claims of Les Papillons de Nuit and the danse apache, it seems like they insist on having it every which way.

Update:  You will note in the link that the party mentioned was famous in, um, . .  "culture" as it was the night of the famous first staged reading of Pablo Picasso's play "Desire Caught By The Tail"

For three days on a sickbed in 1941, Pablo Picasso wrote his first play, Desire Caught by the Tail. Some three years later, Picasso’s friend, surrealist Michel Leiris and his wife Zette, produced a reading in their Paris home during the Nazi occupation. The cast included the playwright, Simone de Beauvoir, Valentine Hugo, Raymond Queneau and Jean-Paul Sartre. Albert Camus directed it.

I have to admit that I haven't read the play and doubt from the descriptions I've seen that I'd be eager to see it, at the link one of the actors, so frustrated at the meaninglessness of it, said in exasperation that he didn't think he could play it.   I have gathered that the role that de Beauvoir took was charmingly named "Tartine" which means a sort of sandwich but which apparently is translated into english as "Tart".  Considering the fact that Picasso was infamously and viciously misogynist (he made the really horrible Hemingway look like a nice guy) who destroyed a long series of women, his children with them and who seriously damaged his grandchildren as well.  I can't imagine it was a depiction of a free woman with a strong sense of self-worth and self-possession.   I'll stand corrected if someone can point me to a script, in English or French.

I do know that when she found out her pet, Picasso, was putting words on paper, his early patron, Gertrude Stein was P.Oed.   I don't know why she should have been, when you produce meaningless nonsense what does it matter who puts their name on it?   That's something I learned when I tried to write a paper about the aleatoric composer Christian Wolff and gave up.  I did learn one thing from it, there's absolutely nothing to be said about it because it is entirely meaningless.   It gave me a real appreciation for meaning in art.

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