March 7th, 2005

rock

11. endgame

Le dernier acte est sanglant, quelque belle que soit la comédie en tout le reste : on jette enfin de la terre sur la tête, et en voilà pour jamais.
— Blaise Pascal, Pensées
The final act is bloody, howsoever fine all the rest of the play: in the end they throw some earth over our head, and thus therewith forever.
— Blaise Pascal, Pensées
Toute plaisanterie dans un homme mourant est hors de sa place ; si elle roule sur de certains chapitres, elle est funeste. C’est une extrême misère que de donner à ses dépens à ceux que l’on laisse le plaisir d’un bon mot.
— Jean de La Bruyère, Les Caractères
Any joke made by a dying man is out of place; if it turns on certain subjects, it is dreadful. It is a wretched thing, to give the pleasure of a witticism, at one’s own expense, to those one leaves behind.
— Jean de La Bruyère, The Characters
Le soleil ni la mort ne se peuvent regarder fixement.
— François de La Rochefoucauld, Maximes
Neither the sun nor death can be looked upon steadily.
— François de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims[0]
In 1862, the year that followed the glory of the second edition of Les Fleurs du mal with the farce of his failed attempt to gain election to the French Academy, Baudelaire saw his friend and publisher Auguste Poulet-Malassis declared bankrupt. The poet was heavily invested in this failure. His finances collapsed. At that time, he began another journal, which he entitled Hygiène:[1]
    Plus on veut, mieux on veut.     The more you will, the better you will.
    Plus on travaille, mieux on travaille et plus on veut travailler. Plus on produit, plus on devient fécond.
    Après une débauche, on se sent toujours plus seul, plus abandonné.
    The more you work, the better you work and the more you want to work. The more you produce, the more fertile you become.
    After debauchery, you always feel more alone, more abandoned.
    Au moral comme au physique, j’ai toujours eu la sensation du gouffre, non seulement du gouffre du sommeil, mais du gouffre de l’action, du rêve, du souvenir, du désir, du regret, du remords, du beau, du nombre, etc.
    J’ai cultivé mon hystérie avec jouissance et terreur. Maintenant, j’ai toujours le vertige, et aujourd’hui, 23 janvier 1862, j’ai subi un singulier avertissement, j’ai senti passer sur moi le vent de l’aile de l’imbécillité.[2]
    Morally, as physically, I always had the feeling of the abyss, not only of the abyss of sleep, but of the abyss of action, of dream, of memory, of desire, of regret, of remorse, of beauty, of number, etc.
    I have cultivated my hysteria with delight and terror. Now, I always have vertigo, and today, January 23, 1862, I underwent a singular warning, I felt passing over me the wind of the wing of imbecillity.
The revulsion of flesh, the withdrawal from its touch, avowed by this man of the crowd, finds its complement in the transposition of a hoary sexual cliché into the realm of productive labor:
It’s a commonplace observation but true just the same ― the more you fuck, the more you want to fuck, and the better you do fuck! When you overdo it your cock seems to get more flexible: it hangs limp, but on the alert, as it were. You only have to brush your hand over your fly and it responds. For days you can walk around with a rubber truncheon dangling between your legs. Women seem to sense it, too.
― Henry Miller, Sexus[3]
But the discipline of creative work failed to accrue though fatigue party practice in the way of the young man’s well honed aptitude for debauchery. Baudelaire fantasized about fleeing to Honfleur, into his mother’s care, responsible for the production of his greatest poems five years earlier. He practiced the prescription of Pascal’s Wager, praying to the dead dearest to him. Prayer was unavailing. Collapse )