In Artists, Current reading, En français dans le texte, Poetry on May 9, 2014 at 6:57 am

ah, mes amis. Reading these two books, side by side. One being Henry Miller’s letters to Anaïs Nin, in French translation. Long, long letters – and yours would be too, if  this were 1932, and you were stuck in Dijon’s Lycée Carnot in February (he’ll be moving back to Paris in a few pages but the letters remain as substantial; you sense the pleasure he has in writing them.)

The other book, a find at a sale called Saintes ou pouliches l’Education des jeunes filles au XIXe siècle  by Isabelle Bricard (translates as Saints or Fillies the Education of young girls in the Nineteenth Century). Wherein I re-discover what I knew: the convent education of my childhood and that of my two sisters was straight out of the century-old French Catholic tradition i.e. Quebec’s educational system in the nineteen fifties and sixties was one hundred years behind the times. (Two hundred years behind the times in my mother’s days; she had the privilege of an education inside the cloister with the nuns. Looking out a window into the street was an impeachable offense – I mean, a sin to report at the Friday confession.)

Given the physical, intellectual, moral and emotional restraints in their upbringing, the amazing thing is that a few of the saintly fillies managed to escape to other places than Glum and/or hysterical. Top o’the morning to those who did. Respects to those who didn’t.

In all fairness, I must add that, on rising from our virginal beds in the dormitory, we only had one prayer to recite while we dressed. A century earlier, at a French convent run by the Ursulines, dressing involved four separate prayers before heading down to mass – the last one, while putting on their shoes and remembering poor Jesus walked barefoot and may my steps always lead me to follow your footsteps toward the good, and the pure and the … Ah, mes amis.

Meanwhile, in Dijon, in 1932, Henry Miller quotes some Max Jacob to Anaïs Nin: “Musique Mécanique dans un Butro. Le Corbeau d’Edgar Poe a une auréole qu’il éteint parfois. Le pauvre examine le manteau de saint Martin et dit : “Pas de poches ?” (What’s a Butro? I don’t know. The rest reads: Mechanical Music in a Butro. Edgar Poe’s Raven has a halo he turns off at times. The poor man examines Saint Martin’s coat and says: “What, no pockets?”

  1. “Edgar Poe’s Raven has a halo he turns off at times.”

    Scroll down to see “Raven and the Fisherman,” by Lyle Wilson:


    I just saw that at the Whatcom Museum this afternoon and am not surprised to
    hear that Raven has a halo he turns off at times (-:

    Thank you for your writing. Mostly I just read along quietly.

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