DC's

The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … François Augiéras The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1964)

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‘François Augiéras was born in Rochester, New York, where his father taught the piano at the Eastman School of Music. He moved to Dordogne in France with his mother after his father died while he was still a child. At the age of thirteen, at the public library, he discovered André Gide, Nietzsche and Arthur Rimbaud. Attracted to art, he left school at the age of thirteen years to take courses in drawing.

‘At the age of fourteen, he left home and started on a nomadic life. In 1941, he enrolled in a youth movement that proliferate under the Vichy regime , but in 1942 he breaks away to become an actor in a traveling theater. In 1944, he joined the French Navy.

‘Augiéras spent some time in a psychiatric asylum and in a monastery. He later moved to El Goléa, where his uncle lived. During his stay in the Sahara, Francois Augiéras was sexually abused by his uncle, discovering through this his own gay inclinations. His first novel, The Old Man and the Child, is loosely based on the avuncular rapport that ensued. The book drew the attention of André Gide, who a few months before his death, met the young writer after receiving two letters from the young man. Augiéras later imagined himself as the “last love” of the great writer.

‘Augiéras’ novels deal with incest, homosexuality, sadism and even bestiality. They also describe his trips to North Africa and Greece. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, perhaps his most famous novel, is his only work not based entirely on his autobiography.

‘In 1960, he married his cousin Viviane, but their relationship did not last. His lifetime of wandering, insecurity, and loneliness began to seriously affect his health. He began to spend lengthy times in hospitals and sanitariums. In the late 1960s, he lived in caves in the mountains of France hoping to be undetected and escape further life in hospices. Undermined by poverty and malnutrition and prematurely aged by his terrible living conditions, he moved into a nursing home in Ferns, France, and soon thereafter died in a public hospital in Dordogne in 1971.

‘Augieras is not a household name. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, arguably his masterpiece, is a gallant, almost magical book that is one of modern literature’s esoteric, underground texts. The novel is set in the Sarladais (the Dordogne region of France). An adolescent boy is sent to live with a 35-year-old priest, who becomes his teacher and spiritual mentor, and exerts a powerful control over the boy. He abuses him physically and sexually, but the boy willingly accepts his ‘punishment.’ The boy falls in love with a slightly younger, and very beautiful boy, meeting in secret and having sex.

‘This disturbing story is much more than a tale of a sexually violent predator. The adolescent himself experiences sexual activity with the other boy, but this relationship is one of genuine love and affection, rather than the coercive, harmful abuse he is subjected to by the priest. Augieras rivals Genet for the clarity of his writing, for the ordinariness of his understanding of human nature, for his acceptance and fearless confidence.’ — collaged

 

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Further

Association Littéraire François Augiéras
François Augiéras @ Pushkin Press
Bibliothèque Gay: Le Vieillard et l’Enfant, de François Augiéras
‘François Augiéras – peintre (1940-1949)’
‘La voix de François Augiéras’
‘François Augiéras, le dernier primitif de Serge Sanchez’
‘Lettre à François Augieras.’
‘François Augiéras, el artista que enterró su obra magna en el desierto’
Buy ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’

 

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Extras


François Augiéras, un essai d’occupation. 26′. 16mm. 1998.


François Augiéras : Extraits du “Vieillard et l’Enfant” lus par l’auteur


François Augiéras : Extraits du “Voyage des morts” lus par l’auteur


Augiéras,le peintre.

 

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Super 8 films


François Augiéras : Devant l’église de Saint-Amand-de-Coly (Film 8 mm)


François Augiéras : La Chasse Fantastique (Film 8 mm)


François Augiéras : L’Île du bout du monde (Film 8 mm)


François Augiéras : Ambiances de Tanger (Film 8 mm)


François Augiéras : Planeur à Bassillac (Film 8 mm)


François Augiéras : Vues d’un Sarladais abandonné (Film 8 mm)

 

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Paintings

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Interview with François Augiéras’s biographer

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— François Augiéras est un auteur qu’on redécouvre tous les dix ans. Mais jusqu’à présent il n’y avait pas de biographie « grand public » et pas grand chose en dehors de rares travaux universitaires. Pensez-vous que votre François Augiéras, le dernier primitif va changer cela ?

Serge Sanchez: Il ne faut pas oublier de saluer les efforts de Jean Chalon et Paul Placet. C’est grâce à eux que la mémoire d’Augiéras a été conservée jusqu’ici. Il faut en particulier rendre hommage au livre de Paul Placet, François Augiéras, Un barbare en occident, aujourd’hui réédité par La Différence.

Je n’aime pas le terme « grand public » accolé à mon livre. Il n’y a que deux sortes de livres, les bons et les mauvais. Stevenson, Balzac, Giono, Dickens… Des auteurs « grand public », en effet. On pourrait en citer mille. Les écrivains importants ont ceci de commun qu’ils peuvent être lus par tout le monde. Cela dit, et en toute modestie, je pense en effet que mon livre a permis de faire mieux connaître François Augiéras. Mes efforts ont été relayés par mon éditeur, Manuel Carcassonne, chez Grasset, qui a fait preuve d’une compétence et d’un enthousiasme sans faille pour éditer ce livre. Le résultat, c’est qu’Augiéras est sorti du ghetto, qu’il est délivré de l’étiquette d’auteur maudit comme le montrent les nombreux articles parus dans la presse ainsi que la présence du Dernier Primitif dans la sélection de printemps du Prix Renaudot, catégorie essais. C’était le principal but visé.

— Par « grand public » j’entendais « pas universitaire ». Et même si elle trouve son lectorat mérité, l’œuvre d’Augiéras reste difficile d’accès, par son exigence même. En cela, très loin au dessus des Marc Lévy et consorts, il n’est pas un auteur « grand public ». D’ailleurs, et c’est un vieux débat, certains textes de Balzac (Louis Lambert par exemple, et les romans inspirés par Swedenborg) sont très difficiles d’accès… En ce sens, il faut rapprocher François Augiéras de Victor Segalen, lequel, même s’il a une université à son nom et un « passé » d’auteur au programme universitaire, reste largement méconnu en dehors des fervents.

Serge Sanchez: Je vous laisse la responsabilité de ces remarques. Je ne connais pas Marc Lévy. Je ne trouve pas Balzac si difficile, en revanche ce que vous dites de Segalen me semble juste. En tout état de cause, je pense que l’accès à la pensée demande toujours un effort et que la qualité du lecteur joue autant que celle de l’écrivain, quel que soit le texte.

— Votre biographie ne fait pas référence aux précédents travaux sur Augiéras. Pourquoi ce choix du silence ?

Serge Sanchez: Il me semble avoir cité toutes mes sources. Les travaux intéressants ont été mentionnés scrupuleusement, que ce soit les écrits de Paul Placet ou les articles publiés à l’Île Verte ou au Temps qu’il fait.

— Sauf erreur de ma part et sans vouloir chercher la petite bête, vous ne mentionnez pas les travaux comme le François Augiéras, l’apprenti sorcier de Philippe Berthier (Champ Vallon, 1992) ou l’essai plus suggestif de Joël Vernet François Augiéras : L’aventurier radical (Jean-Michel Place, 2004) On ne peut pas tout lire, certes, mais Augiéras n’est pas Sartre et la bibliographie est succincte… Ces travaux ne sont pas intéressants ?

Serge Sanchez: Ces travaux sont intéressants et sensibles. Je les ai lus, mais ne m’y suis pas référé dans le cadre de la biographie, qui n’est pas une analyse mais le récit d’une vie. Voilà pourquoi je ne les ai pas mentionnés. Cela dit, j’en recommande la lecture qui peut donner un éclairage intéressant sur l’œuvre.

— Vous parliez de Paul Placet, l’ami et co-auteur de la Chasse fantastique. Dans quelle mesure Augiéras avait-il besoin de cette fidélité magnifique pour porter son œuvre ?

Serge Sanchez: Augiéras vivait très isolé, mais il avait aussi besoin de contacts. Paul Placet se montra pour lui l’ami idéal. Après sa disparition, il a organisé des expositions importantes de ses peintures, manuscrit, etc. Il a travaillé inlassablement à faire connaître son œuvre. Signalons l’exposition Augiéras qui se tient à Cahors du 15 juin à fin juillet. C’est encore grâce à lui.

— J’ai rencontré Augiéras par hasard. Un professeur m’a tendu son exemplaire défraîchi du Voyage au mont Athos en me disant que j’allais m’y retrouver, ce qui fut, et je n’ai plus quitté son œuvre. Comment la rencontre s’est passée avec vous ?

Serge Sanchez: Jean-Jacques Brochier, qui dirigea longtemps le Magazine littéraire tenait l’œuvre d’Augiéras en très haute estime. C’est grâce à lui que ma connaissance de cet auteur s’est approfondie. Il m’a demandé d’écrire plusieurs articles sur Augiéras pour le Magazine. Je ne connaissais alors que le Vieillard et l’Enfant ainsi qu’Une adolescence au temps du Maréchal. Ensuite, les choses ont suivi leur cours. Ma connaissance d’Augiéras s’est faite progressivement. Je retrouvais dans ses livres des paysages que je connais bien : la Grèce, l’Afrique du Nord, la Dordogne… Cela a créé un rapprochement supplémentaire.

— Ce rapprochement fait, vous restez en sa compagnie ou vous passez à « autre chose » ?

Serge Sanchez: Les deux. J’écris actuellement un livre sur les chasseurs de têtes de Nouvelle-Guinée, à paraître chez Payot. Encore des primitifs ! Ce livre se nourrit de mes travaux antérieurs. Il n’y a pas de rupture.

— Une œuvre comme la sienne ne souffrirait-elle pas d’être par trop connue ? N’est-elle pas de ces petits secrets qui se transmettent et qui font le sel de la littérature ?

Serge Sanchez: Je ne vois pas en quoi la notoriété pourrait nuire à un auteur. Augiéras mérite plus d’audience qu’il n’en a eu jusque-là et lui-même pensait que son œuvre serait reconnue après sa disparition. Et puis, rien n’empêche que chacun ait sa propre lecture. Tout rapport à l’art est un rapport intime, quelle que soit la célébrité de l’artiste. Les grandes idées, la beauté… tout le monde y est réceptif. Il n’y a pas de grand art sans générosité, sans don total de soi-même.

— On en revient à la question de la littérature galvaudée… le secret n’est pas nuisible, par exemple, Rimbaud, le nom est fameux, certains poèmes très connus, mais beaucoup encore n’en peuvent citer un seul vers. C’est une littérature de gourmet et pas de buffet.

Serge Sanchez: Rien n’empêche de s’y précipiter. Je ne fais pas ces distinctions. Disons que c’est une littérature de gourmet si vous voulez…mais accessible à tous. Question de volonté.

— Augiéras fonde son œuvre sur son expérience quasi mystique de la vie. C’est le premier auteur d’autofiction ?

Serge Sanchez: Il y en eut d’autres avant lui, même si, vous avez raison, c’est une de ses caractéristiques. Tout auteur recrée la réalité qui l’entoure. Il est la matière de ses propres créations. C’est le résultat d’une chimie mystérieuse qui fait intervenir à la fois l’égocentrisme et la dilution de soi dans le domaine des idées. Je ne crois pas en une vérité universelle. Un artiste est obligatoirement « visionnaire ».

— Augiéras, primitif ? Dans quel sens ? Primordial ? Il n’est d’aucun temps réel, ses écrits nous le montrent engagé dans le temps mythique, voire mythologique. Comment le monde a-t-il pu, en plein XXe siècle, enfanter un sauvage magnifique ?

Serge Sanchez: Augiéras était un grand instinctif, en particulier dans son rapport à la nature. Il s’identifiait aux éléments, aux arbres, aux animaux… Comme les primitifs. Il était aussi très séduit par l’art des anciennes civilisations, comme l’Égypte pharaonique, ou des peuplades d’Océanie, qu’il avait découverts à travers la lecture de Malraux. Pourquoi un sauvage ? Pour plusieurs raison, mais d’abord par rejet d’une civilisation occidentale matérialiste qui ne lui convenait guère et dont le moins qu’on puisse dire aujourd’hui, sans être pessimiste, c’est qu’elle court vers sa propre perte avec un acharnement et une vanité qui n’eut jamais d’exemple par le passé.

— L’expérience du mysticisme, de la quête initiatique marque son œuvre et sa vie même. Un tel parcours est-il encore possible de nos jours ?

Serge Sanchez: Toute vie est un parcours initiatique, autrement dit un apprentissage incessant. C’est la grandeur de l’homme et sa malédiction d’être tourmenté par des questions dont les réponses lui restent cachées. Il n’y a pas d’époque pour cela. La seule différence, c’est qu’aujourd’hui le monde occidental est devenu si obsédé de mercantilisme que les repères importants se sont perdus. L’Église catholique elle-même a bradé les symboles dont elle se nourrissait pour entrer de plain-pied dans la société du spectacle. Il convient à chacun de recréer individuellement son monde intérieur, d’opérer sa métamorphose. La lecture d’Augiéras, mais pas seulement celle-ci bien sûr, peut y aider. Un de ses qualités, c’est de mettre en résonance l’âme et le monde, comme deux instruments bien accordés.

— Il y a quand même une différence notable entre toute vie et celle d’Augiéras, voire celle des romans d’apprentissage comme L’Education sentimentale de Flaubert ou Wilhem Meister de Goethe. Son expérience est assez exceptionnelle, et d’autant plus qu’il a eu le génie littéraire pour la restituer.

Serge Sanchez: Bien sûr. Mais précisons à nouveau que sous une apparence de fiction les livres d’Augiéras parlent de son expérience vécue. Son œuvre est une fresque spirituelle qui prend racine dans sa vie même. On est loin des études psychologiques du siècle passé.

— En quoi, à vos yeux, Augiéras est-il essentiellement magique ?

Serge Sanchez: Augiéras pensait que la vie avait un sens. Il s’est offert corps et âme à son propre destin. La vie est un pari sur l’absolu, ce n’est pas le marathon social dans lequel on nous pousse aujourd’hui. Elle tient compte d’autres valeurs, qui doivent continuer à faire notre fierté. Si le mysticisme à outrance, l’intégrisme spirituel qui ouvre la porte à toutes les tyrannies sont illusoires, le matérialisme est l’imposture la plus néfaste qu’ait connue la civilisation. Sagesse, patience, conscience de sa propre vanité sont indispensables pour avancer… Mais il faut aussi savoir préserver en soi un don d’émerveillement quasi enfantin pour découvrir la magie du monde.

— Que peut nous dire, aujourd’hui, une œuvre comme la sienne ?

Serge Sanchez: Je crois que l’œuvre d’Augiéras prend toute son importance aujourd’hui. Comme je l’ai dit précédemment, elle ouvre une porte sur l’absolu. Elle a le don de changer la vie en nous ramenant à des valeurs essentielles. Sa noblesse, c’est le dépouillement.

— Par quelle œuvre recommanderiez-vous la découverte d’Augiéras ?

Serge Sanchez: J’aime beaucoup Domme ou l’Essai d’Occupation. Mais chaque livre d’Augiéras dévoile une facette de cet étrange personnage. Certains préféreront le Vieillard et l’Enfant. Laissons en ce domaine agir le hasard… ou la magie.

 

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Book

s-l225 Francois Augieras The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Pushkin Press

‘In the depths of the Sarladais, a land of ghosts, cool caves and woods, a teenage boy is sent to live with a thirty-five-year-old priest, but soon the man becomes more than just his teacher. Published in the United Kingdom for the first time. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a gallant, almost magical book that is one of modern literature’s esoteric, underground texts.’ — Pushkin Collection

‘This tale of spiritualised depravity is genuinely erotic. Whatever one might think of the strange division of morality and spirituality in this novella, it shows that descriptions of generous, world-encompassing desire are not solely the preserve of women.’ — Murrough O’Brien, Independent on Sunday

‘The story has a spiritual as well as a sexual, dimension, and it is essentially pantheistic. None of the characters are named, and that’s relevant to the novelist purpose, for they are vividly realised and shadowy by turns. It is flawlessly translated by Sue Dyson.’ — Paul Bailey, Daily Telegraph

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Excerpt

IN PÉRIGORD there lived a priest. His house stood high above a village made up of twenty dilapidated dwellings with grey stone roofs. These houses straggled up the side of the hill, to meet old, bramble-filled gardens, the church and the adjoining presbytery, which were built on rocks reflected in the River Vézère, flowing past at their base. Few people lived there; this priest served several parishes, which meant that, since he spent all day travelling round the countryside, he did not return home until evening. He was aged around thirty-five, just about as unpleasant as a priest can be, and although this was all my parents knew about him, they had entrusted me to his care, urging him to deal strictly with me. Which indeed he did, as you will see.
On the evening of my arrival, the sky was a soft shade of gold. He did not offer me any supper; the moment I turned up on his doorstep he took me straight to my room, which was located in a corridor as ugly as himself. Leaving the door ajar, he abandoned me without a word, if you discount a few unanswerable phrases, such as: every cloud has a silver lining; the tables are turned; come what may; sleep well in the arms of Morpheus; and other such drivel. I heard him go into the next bedroom, moving about, doing God knows what, talking to himself, then there was silence.
I had been asleep for less than an hour when I was awakened by a terrible howling. Sitting bolt upright in bed, my eyes wide open, I waited for what seemed an eternity, petrified that I would hear another sound as terrible as the first. But nothing else disturbed the silence of the night. The moon picked out a few leafy branches among the shadows in a wild garden behind the presbytery; its beautiful rays shone through the panes of my little window, lighting up the corner of a table covered with my blue school notebooks, and a whitewashed wall, and faintly outlining the rim of a water jug. I was sleepy; I drifted off again without worrying too much about my extravagant priest’s odd ways, for it was he who had shouted out in the next room, which was separated from mine only by a thin partition wall.
In the morning, when I went downstairs, I found my parish priest in an almost good mood, making coffee. I owe it to him to mention that at his house I drank the best coffee in the world, delicate yet strong, with a curious taste of embers and ash. He took a great deal of care preparing it according to his own method, all the time muttering away, not to me, but to the flames which he blew on gently, rekindling the embers, talking to them as if they were people. He removed the coffee from the heat as soon as it began to bubble, returning it for a brief instant to the burning coals which he picked up in his bare fingers, as though he derived enjoyment from the act, and without noticeably burning himself. The whole process took a good quarter of an hour, and he spent the entire time crouched in the hearth, with his cassock bunched up between his thighs.
After we had drunk our coffee, we went out into the garden. Sitting on some steps, at the intersection of two pathways, he got me to translate some Latin passage or other from my school books. As far as I could see, he had a rather poor grasp of Latin. He had the unpleasant habit of vigorously scratching his horrible black hair, and that got on my nerves. What’s more, he kept reminding me how grateful I should be to my parents, who had had the excellent idea of entrusting me to him. If my attention wandered, even for a moment, he seized me by the ear and I felt two hard, sharp fingernails sink into my flesh. He wore a disgustingly dirty cassock, for he was extremely mean with money, and thought he looked good in it. He addressed me by the sweetest names, while at the same time poking fun at me; he displayed the polite manner one might use when celebrating a small Mass; he kept calling me “Young Sir”; it was as if he were saying: I’m only a peasant, I owe you a little politeness; and there you have it, all in one go; try to be content with it, young Gentleman. This Latin lesson, punctuated with little courtesies, lasted no more than a page; he stood up; I did likewise, and both of us were delighted that it was over—in my case the Latin, in his, the politeness. To tell the truth, in that June of my sixteenth year, what I really wanted were language lessons of a different kind, for love is a language, even more ancient than Latin (and there are those who say even that defies decency).
Leaving me to Seneca and Caesar, he strode off into the countryside. He had charge of several parishes; very well then, let him leave me on my own, this solitude would not be without its attractions; I was perfectly capable of passing the time and getting by without my priest.
As soon as he had gone, I put down my books and gave up trying to follow Caesar’s conquests; instead, I opened my eyes wide and took a long look at my new life. All along the banks of the Vézère ran the vast, thickly-wooded hills of the Sarladais. Closer to me, our garden was broken up by little low walls made of heaped-up stones, and by steps and pathways. All kinds of plants were jumbled up together, growing wild, almost hiding the once-ordered layout of a rather fine formal garden. Everything flourished higgledy-piggledy, rose bushes and brambles, flowers, grass and fruit trees. This lost order reinforced the garden’s charm, as well as the anxiety which you felt as you tried to find your way round that tangled mess, whose traceries of flowers were bizarrely watched over by a pale blue plaster statue of the Virgin Mary. She rose above the wild jumble of plants, looking just a touch simple-minded, with her tear-filled eyes, her insignificant, veiled face like a blind woman’s, her gentle, soft hands and her belly tilting forward. Beyond her it was all emptiness; our garden, which was perched at the very summit of the rocks, tumbled down towards the azure sky, the waters of the Vézère and the village rooftops.
Our church shone in the sunshine. It was a former monastery chapel, with thick walls pierced by narrow windows like arrow-slits. But the thing which commanded my attention was the presbytery, which I had caught only a glimpse of the night before. It seemed very ancient, with its lintelled windows and its substantial stone roof. As I was alone, I decided to get to know it better.
On the ground floor was the kitchen, where we had drunk our coffee. The dominant feature was a vast fireplace, which filled the whole room with smoke. I pushed open a little door beside a cupboard, and was surprised to see that it led into a stable, occupied by a sparse flock of bleating sheep. I found log-piles and a kind of forge.
A flight of stone steps led up to the first floor. The previous evening, as I got ready for bed, I had noticed a large, beautiful seashell in my room, and some naval swords, bows and arrows piled up under a dressing table. Did my priest have a nostalgic longing for the sea? I opened the door to his bedroom; the thing which struck me particularly was that there was no bed, just a pile of blankets in one corner. Nearby, I found exactly what I might expect to see in the way of basic conveniences and piety, except for some more weapons, hanging from nails on a wall, and several collections of butterflies. I noted also that there was no clock, calendar or newspaper; in fact nothing at all to tell you the time of day or the date.
The other bedrooms, further down the corridor, were used for storage. They were unusable and dark because of the piles of assorted objects accumulated by generations of parish priests. It would have taken several days to get to the bottom of the various heaps.
I opened the shutters of the first room I entered, so that I could see more clearly. It turned out to be a chaos of prie-dieux, desks, benches, broken chairs bowed beneath the weight of gaping chests of drawers, and pea-sticks, heaped so high they touched the ceiling.
In the second room, which had whitewashed walls like all the other rooms in the presbytery, I bumped into another chaotic jumble of furniture, chests and baskets filled with long-forgotten clothes. There, I found clothing for housemaids and priests, cassocks and heavy cotton skirts, lavender sachets, linen, sun-hats, and white “Bâteau” knickers, slit up the sides, as worn by the Young Ladies you see on a Sunday morning, lifting their skirts behind country churches, while the bells are ringing for Mass. I counted more than fifty pairs in one trunk, all clean and new. Further on in a willow basket, I found faded skirts, soldiers’ uniforms, theatrical costumes; enough clothes to dress myself a thousand times over. Near to a nice little cradle, a picture of the Burial of Christ was rotting away in a corner, and a swarm of maddened wasps was buzzing ceaselessly inside a wardrobe.
The third bedroom was used as a drying chamber for corn cobs, which had been laid out on the floor. I was going to close the door without going in, when I realised that these corn cobs had been arranged to form a number of perfectly geometrical shapes: circles, squares, suns, and more complicated figures, structured according to gradations of colour, which must have taken my priest several days’ work and infinite patience.
The final room, at the far end of the corridor, was used purely as a drying-room for tobacco. Bunches of long tobacco leaves hung from the ceiling, and their sweet, pungent scent impregnated the whole house.
A ladder and trapdoor provided access to the attic, which covered the whole of the first floor. The glimmers of sunshine which filtered between the stone roofing-slabs and the traceries of beams and laths cast an almost adequate light on a scattering of old books on the floor: the complete Virgil, Lucretia, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Cervantes, a copy of Plutarch’s Lives of Famous Men, devotional texts. Rotting portraits of priests, stored away without their frames, looked at me with their large, wide eyes, like judges who were either benevolent or stern, meek or evil, watching me, following every move I made. That made me feel awkward for a while, I couldn’t do a thing without them immediately swivelling their eyes towards me.
I was reading, sitting comfortably—or as comfortably as one could in a stuffy roof-space—when I heard someone climbing the ladder. My priest pushed open the trapdoor with his head. He did not see me, for it took several seconds to get used to the semi-darkness of the attic. I did not move. A delicious anxiety clutched at me. He climbed up the last few rungs:
“For God’s sake, are you there?”
No reply. So as not to have climbed up for nothing, he set about removing the dust which covered the old books, striking the volumes with the flat of his hand, so frequently and so hard as he grumbled to himself that he stumbled and fell on top of me:
“Ah!” he exclaimed, “so that’s where you were.” Yes! I told him, in the same tone of voice. But could he see my smile? Already he was pulling me towards him. As I was on my knees, he too knelt down to give me a good thrashing. After taking most of my clothes off, he struck me roughly, as he had struck the books. Did I weigh heavy in his arms? He made me get up and lie down across a low beam which ran across the attic; then, pushing my head down, he finished beating me in comfort. After that he went away, leaving me half-naked, panting, covered in sweat, my flesh burning against the rough beam. Once the trapdoor had closed, I regained my senses, telling myself that my fate was not really cruel, that the boys of Ancient Rome had undergone the same punishments and had not died; at last, rather cheerfully, I got down off my beam with my dust-blackened knees and my scarlet torso, put my clothes back on and went back to reading Plutarch.
By the time I too left the attic, I could tell from the silent house that I was alone again. I went into my room and washed myself in cool water, which took the entire contents of my little water jug, as I was so dusty. Then I rested my elbows on the window ledge and gazed out at the trees and the sky. Birds were singing, hens were pecking around in the yard; a fine, strong smell of weasels drifted up from below. Worn-out from the beating I had endured, and feeling feverish, I was drawn by the calm of the garden.
At the far end of a pathway was a little murmuring spring, where I drank. In those early days of June, I found the power of the growing plants exhilarating; the scent of the carnations and roses troubled my young flesh. The warm air caressed my face. Evening fell. A sound of violently rattling saucepans told me that my priest had returned. A few logs tossed into the fireplace suddenly crackled and burned all at once. After he had called me two or three times, and since I was mischievously refusing to reply, he appeared in the kitchen doorway, which was all lit up by flames, his tall, thin silhouette stark against the firelight. Finally he came towards the clump of leafy vegetation where I had hidden myself. From my hiding place, among the leaves of a box tree, I saw his hand feel around for me, and finally encounter my face.
“Right,” he shouted, “get into that house. I’ll teach you to disobey me, you cheeky young…” How had I offended him? We left the moonlit garden and I followed him up to my room, where, after tying me across a chair, he thrashed me with a switch. Then he knelt down next to me and—as peculiar as ever—covered me with caresses, tenderly rocking me in my rush-covered clothes. He put out the light and remained there, beside my chair, in perfect darkness, saying nothing, kissing my face, for a whole quarter of an hour, before freeing me from my bonds.
*

p.s. Hey. So, tomorrow I have to get up incredibly early to catch a train to the Normandy region of France where Zac and I will try to persuade a funding committee to give us some financing for our new film. What that means for you is that I won’t be able to do the p.s., and I will be giving you a restored post from my former, murdered blog instead of a new thing. But please leave your comments today and tomorrow because I will interact with all of them when the blog returns to normal on Friday. Thanks. ** Todd Grimson, Hi, Todd. I really have to read ‘SWAY’ because I obviously haven’t. Thanks for the tip, which hit home with a bunch of others folks around here, as you probably saw. ** Slatted Light, Hi, Davido. Oh, okay, I’ll backpedal my interest in ‘American Translation’. Dreamwork is where the real work happens, if you ask me. It’s usually a mistake to rush your strategizing dreams along or cut them short unless they start to feel grabby. Your strategies-in-progress sound extremely interesting. The Sarraute inspiration is exciting. Her work is oddly underutilized by writers seeking possible advancements. Self-hatred is a fascinating area/ subject/ groundwork. Extreme encouragement from me to try. If it matters or helps, every time I start a novel, I make sure that it seems like something I won’t be able to handle given the parameters of what talent I have. Having that hard stretch ahead of me is absolutely required or something. And it’s weird how one doesn’t know one’s own talent well at all. Nonfiction-specific publishers in the indie press scene? Interesting question. I can’t think of any, just of presses that cover the bases. Huh. I don’t think I know Punctum, or else I do and don’t know it. I’ll investigate. And I’ll set my mind and browser to that general question and see if anything comes up. Thanks, man. ** Scunnard, I know, right? She’s kind of unrecognizably who she used to be now. Oh my goodness, J., of course that ‘bunch of sound experiments with video that is constructed entirely from bonsai instructional videos on youtube…’ is massively interesting to me. Wow. I’ll go hear whatever you linked me to a little later. No, really, that’s a corker of an intriguing project. I’d love to hear anything more about it. ** Tosh Berman, Hi, Tosh. I gotta read ‘SWAY’. I agree with you vis-à-vis Harrison and ‘Wonderwall’. It’s interesting that both he and Lennon went full on avant-garde at one point then pulled their work back to the song form and seemingly never searched too far afield artistically again. ** Ferdinand, Excellent. Oh, I see, about the Flemish/Dutch. I remember that about Afrikaans now. I’ve taken to French theoretically, and I understand more than I think I do, but it’s true that I haven’t buckled down with it, although I have to start learning it in earnest now because Zac’s and my new film is in French, and I’m going to have to work with the actors, so … Amsterdam is a lovely place to visit. Having lived there for two years, I’m not so sold on how it works for resettlement. I have a ‘Smot’ investigation in the cards for today. How and what was your day? ** David Ehrenstein, Hi, good morning, and all good things. ** Steevee, Tricky. Yes, trusting your instincts seems like a good place to start. Fingers very crossed for much restfulness and contrasting clarity. Ha, I like to burn mp3s onto CDs too. High five. ** MANCY, Hi, Steven. Great, awesome, about the near finishing of the Rollerball video. Do link me up. Zac and I are prepping and strategizing madly re: our imminent music video shoot. I’m good. You good? You’re good. ** Sypha, Hi. I haven’t had any thoughts about reading that Alan Moore novel. I mean, you never know. I’m not a reader/follower of his stuff really, and that book’s length is pretty off-putting, I have to say. I think I’ll probably wait to see what you think first. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. I hadn’t either until she crossed my mind, and until I just sort of randomly checked out her IMDb page and was very surprised. Just yesterday I was thinking how I would sacrifice someone to Satan to have a hot fudge sundae sitting in front of me. So I get it. ** Raymond, Hi, man. That’s very interesting about that West London type. That’s beautiful somehow. Looking like Elias Bender Rønnenfelt is a very good start, I must say. Hm, ‘Dream Boy’ sounds familiar, but I guest that’s one of those oft-employed titles. You weren’t rambling, or you were rambling rivetingly. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Good and better about the crystallization of your thesis. Those interviews should be interesting. Do you know people you can interview, or will you search them out. Will they be ‘in person’ interviews? Your day sounds to have been really good! I always like when you say you met with your writer friend. Yesterday’s prep session was very sobering, and not in such a good way. Our producer gathered together four film producers he knows to act like a mock funding-committee, and we had to present the film project to them. A couple were pretty cool and interested, but two of them obviously didn’t like what we’re trying to do and were very hard on us. They obviously dislike the kind of adventurous, strange film we’re going to make. Lots of eye-rolling and talk about what a ‘real’ film is and isn’t. While we thought they were prejudiced assholes, it did make us realize that our film is a hard-sell, and we feel a lot less hopeful about how it’s going to go with the real committee tomorrow. But it’s good to know. It’s really weird to me how conservative people in the film world can be. But it’s the same in every medium. So, that was not so great, but we’ll see what happens. That meeting and then Zac and I trying to figure out how and if we can try to circumvent that problem tomorrow was pretty much my day. My back ever-improves. It’s still sore, but it’s far more usable. Thank you for asking after it. Did Wednesday work out wonderfully for you, I hope? ** Chris dankland, Hi, Chris! Me too! And I’m so happy to see you here! The two month hell is starting to feel like just a bad dream or whatever. I knew Pallenberg from ‘Performance’ and ‘Mr. Lonely’, but, honestly, before I searched out her resume, I mostly and embarrassingly thought of her as the one-time druggie girlfriend of two of the Rolling Stones. Yeah, it’s really easy to forget how incredible the Rolling Stones used to be. I’m in the fairly large camp who thinks they were always either great or very close to that up through ‘Exile on Main Street’, after which there was a gradual and eventually severe drop off. If I had to pick a favorite album of theirs, hm, I think I would say ‘Between the Buttons’. I really liked the period where they were toying with psychedelia and writing very clever songs that weren’t just riff contexts with come-hither lusty come-on-style lyrics. My favorite song? An odd one, but nonetheless, ‘We Love You’. Exploring their early to early-mid catalog is a great thing to do, I think. Cool. How’s stuff? Are you writing? How’s it going? ** Chilly Jay Chill, Hi, Jeff. I saw ‘Michael Kohlhaas’ ages ago. I don’t remember being so interested in it. Oh, Kiefer? Mm, I just don’t buy what he’s selling and how he sells it. I get what it’s supposed to do, and I get that its heaviness and bombast and earthiness is supposed to be meaningfulness-derived, but it just feels like big, illustrative, self-consciously weighty, kind of macho stuff to me. I either don’t believe in its mythology, or I’m just not interested in it, I guess. No, I haven’t seen your Kp book yet. I’m going to early-score a copy as soon as I see Michael, so maybe even today if I’m lucky. ** Mark Stephens, Mark! Dear among dear buddies! I’m sure I made that post for you subconsciously because that’s just logical. How are you? What’s up, my man? Give my big love to Julie as well as grab a significant portion for yourself! ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. I am very practical, it’s true, it’s weird. I don’t know how that happened. Beingness is so mysterious. Zucchini is an excellent vehicle, it’s true. Even, like, zucchini bread. Now that’s some good bread right there. I just hate mushy vegetables, and too often when people cook/serve zucchini, it’s all watery and blah. It’s true that you can vex or hex yourself by using descriptions like ‘lazy bones’ when thinking of or describing yourself, so nix that from your autobio, yes. ** Kyler, I believe you. I don’t know why, but I do. Well, of course I know why I believe you, but I also strangely believe that a rehab place could have excellent food. Greetings to boring Florida! ** Right. The author/artist in the spotlight today is pretty obscure, strangely even here in France, but he’s quite interesting, and his life story and his work’s concerns might be intriguing to you possibly. Or that was my hopeful calculation. Like I said way up above, the blog will see you tomorrow, and I will see you in a fresh and immediate sense again on Friday.

24 Comments

  1. ‘We Love You’ has always been close to my favorite song by them as well, beginning with the doors slamming and the wonderful Nicky Hopkins piano. It’s a great song, and the psychedelia on the way to the end takes you there. “There’s no there, there.” But then you’re inside it, and within it, and floating above your… self?

  2. Hi!

    What an awesome post today! That little we got to know about the author’s life is interesting enough in itself but I couldn’t stop reading the excerpt! Thank you for the opportunity!

    Yes, I know a few people who I can start the interviews with and hopefully they’ll be able to introduce me to others. And again, yes, they’ll be in person interviews. My favorite ‘technique’ when exploring a subject is a semi-structured interview because it can lead us to really interesting and deep places.
    Your experiences with the second prep session sound a little maddening – I’m always really surprised to realize how conservative people can be even about art. I mean… I really don’t think we can talk about ‘real’ and ‘not-real’ films, only different aspects or opinions. On the other hand, it must’ve been useful to meet people like that, too, because if there is someone like them at the real thing, it won’t come as a total surprise and you’ll probably have a bit more confidence while facing them. I really believe you’ve done everything possible and it’ll be a success! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!!
    I’m glad to hear that your back is improving!!
    My day is pretty nice. I’ll go to the city a little later and I’m making plans with friends, so it’s not an entirely sitting-at-home day for a change.
    I wish you all the luck tomorrow!!
    I hope you have a nice day!

  3. Here’s my review of the dreadful Laura Albert apologia AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY: http://gaycitynews.nyc/a-real-phony/.

  4. Wow! Francois Augiera! Never heard of him, but his English publisher is fantastic. How I missed this gem…. this is one of the great things about your blog Dennis, that you spotlight authors that somehow fell through the cracks. Just another great reminder why I love this blog. As for the Stones, I too am a huge fan of their work in the 1960s. When Andrew Loog Oldham and Brian Jones left the fold, they became another band. For me, the last great Stones album is “Let it Bleed.” After that, they seemed to change radically in my point of view. They really started to embrace and romancize the Americana thing – and I just can’t get behind that for some reason. Even though I love their very early RnB songs/albums. Maybe it’s the side-affect of cocaine on their music, but it became just sort of riffs – and lyrically not interesting at all. And I don’t hate the later-day Stones, just not that interesting to me.

  5. Still grateful for every author I missed who arrives when I’m finally ready.

  6. Francois Augiera is deeply strange –and therefore right at home here

    Great review steevee

  7. Wow, that’s an amazingly great list for LA, thanks. My big dreaming conference is in Anaheim (of all places) next summer, and in the next couple of weeks I’ve got to start planning a couple of conference sessions, which means beating the bushes for people who want to participate. There are very cool people doing research etc on dreaming, but also a lot of folks whose notions of art are conventional, so that, for example, I haven’t so far had much support for treating Disney as an artist (or more accurately, the Disney empire as an art phenomenon — but it seems like it would be dumb to meet near Disneyland and not recognize the connection to dream and fantasy. I have to figure out how to characterize it and get some interest going. Likewise with film generally: we haven’t met in the LA area in years, so it should be an impetus to do a session or two on movies and dreaming. I’ve always wanted us to do something on a living director or screenwriter–Richard Linklater, Charlie Kaufman, David Lynch–but have hit dead ends trying to put anything together. And we are hoping to do a session on the Sandman comics, if not 2017, then 2018. So that’s what I’m doing, too, part of it.

  8. hi denmare! it’s so cool you’re working on your second film now, and a tv show! who’s your producer on this one? i really really hope tomorrow’s meeting with the money-dudes goes so well, i hope they love you and double your budget. awesome anita pallenberg day, i love the interview with her at the top. she’s so heavily beautiful in barbarella, and her costumes are so good!! i started school in oslo three weeks ago or so, it’s weird and fun and nerve-wracking. right now i’m mostly taking all these safety/intro-courses in the different workshops (you have to take them before they let you use the shops on your own). i just did ceramics yesterday, next week i’m doing dark room and woodshop! i also want to do casting and plaster, to start. they have so many cool workshops with serious heavy equipments, it’s like a dangerous playground, i love it so much. my class is doing a show in a week, just for fun, i made the poster for it, wanna see? i’m doing a series of drawings for the show called ‘the field demon.’ it’s like farm-horror. oh yeah, i don’t think you know, but i finally started taking testosterone about three months ago! it’s fun and weird, no huge changes yet. and i moved to oslo, duh. my apartments super nice and cozy. on friday my stavanger bestie is coming to stay with me for a week and i’ve been in bestie-withdrawal since i left so it’s gonna be insanely good. we’re going to this amusement park here: tusenfryd, you’ve probably been there right? my school has a house in paris btw where students can stay for periods of time and work, it’s being renovated right now, but will be back in use at the beginning of 2017 so i might take advantage and be in your neighbourhood. okay, phew, long post, sorry. all my love!!

  9. D, and how stupid am I that I can’t remember coming across this guy? So thanks again for for the wonderful introduction! Joey

  10. Thanks David, even if you thought I was too kind to Ms. Albert.

  11. I thought I’d see if I would finish Salinger’s Zooey today – at the pace I read no wonder I haven’t read almost anything. You must miss the prominence of your gif items in your previous layout. I stumbled onto the Frisk soundtrack tonight. The excitement of bringing your world to life.. Through film (does anything beat the urgency of a “real” film!) and with Gisele Vienne ( “I apologize” looks riveting. I do like Gisele’s portraits) It must be very fulfilling.
    I didn’t want to spend another late night devoted to Laura Albert’s b.s, so I’m going to pass listening to Marc Maron kissing her ass while she talks about her “pearl” like she’s Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ll rather read the fiction she wrote knowing that she was a swindler and exhausted people for her benefit. That’s probably as real as its going to get.

    Dreaming.. all this talk about dreaming.. like Blondie. I’m also dreaming a little , I want it to be scary.

  12. What an odd and intriguing collection today, Dennis. Have to squeeze Sorcerer’s Apprentice onto my overcrowded to-read list.

    Mostly just being cranky since the weekend. But my copy of the new Michael Seidlinger arrived today, yay.

    Good luck with the meeting in Normandy. Look forward to good news!

    Bill

  13. Hey Dennis, I used to post on your blog years ago.

    Anyway, I’d been visiting your blog occasionally, but found that my crappy old laptop couldn’t cope with loading everything on it, so I waited till I got a new one, only to find the old blog had been disappeared. My first thought was, “Not again!” Such a shitty thing for google to do, but not surprising I suppose. Still, I quite like the new place.

    I might be able to put together a guest post thing for you if you still do those?

  14. Ahh, I’m geeking out right now. Very glad to see a spotlight on Augiéras, with whom I’ve been obsessed for the past year or so. Not content to limit my reading of him to the too-narrow offering of his books translated thus far into English (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Journey of the Dead, and A Journey to Mount Athos), I picked up the rest of his books on my trip to Paris in early June and have been making my way through the French and translating them for myself! So far, I’ve got rough translations of Domme, or An Attempt at Occupation, The Old Man and the Child, The Barbarians of the West, and The Fantastic Hunt (his collaborative effort with Paul Placet). Incredibly grateful to have stumbled upon this genius, a true double and brother after my own poetic heart! Of course you’d know and admire him, Dennis. It’s heartening to know that you’ve expanded the audience for this visionary man. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a perfect starting point for anyone interested in Augiéras’s ideas, which are quite nicely distilled in this slim book, his least autobiographical work. His other books shed valuable light upon his seeker’s life, from which he’s fashioned such exquisite art. I’ve wanted for a while to find people with whom to discuss Augiéras, but no one I know has read him. Hoping you’re well–and thrilled to see your blog’s resurgence! Wish I could have met you in Paris.

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