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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Rene Crevel Putting My Foot in It (1933)

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“Crevel was born rebellious the way others are born with blue eyes.”
—Philippe Soupault

 

“Crevel actually wrote only a single sentence: the long sentence of a feverish monologue from the pen of a Proust who dipped his biscuit laced with LSD into his tea, instead of the unctuous madeleine.”
—Angelo Rinaldi, L’Express

 

“He will be read more and more as the wind carries away the ashes of the ‘great names’ that preceded him. “
—Ezra Pound

 

 

‘René Crevel (1900-35) was French Surrealist who initiated experiments with hypnotic sleep. His greatest contribution to the movement, however, was to demonstrate that Surrealism and the novel could be reconciled. Whether texts such as Détours (1924), La Mort difficile (1926), Babylone (1927), Êtes-vous fous? (1929), and Les Pieds dans le plat (1933) are called ‘romans’ or ‘fictions’, the role of language itself in their elaboration is arguably the key element. Mon corps et moi (1925) is a confessional monologue and L’Esprit contre la raison (1927) is his Surrealist manifesto.

‘Crevel was born in Paris to a family of Parisian bourgeoisie. He had a traumatic religious upbringing. At the age of fourteen, during a difficult stage of his life, his father committed suicide by hanging himself. Crevel studied English at the University of Paris. He met André Breton and joined the surrealist movement in 1921, from which he would be excluded in October 1923 due to Crevel’s homosexuality and Breton’s belief that the movement had been corrupted. During this period, Crevel wrote novels such as Mon corps et moi (“My Body and Me”). In 1926, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis which made him start using morphine. The 1929 exile of Léon Trotsky persuaded him to rejoin the surrealists. Remaining faithful to André Breton, he struggled to bring communists and surrealists closer together. Much of Crevel’s work deals with his inner turmoil at being bisexual.

‘Crevel killed himself by turning on the gas on his kitchen stove the night of June 18, 1935, several weeks before his 35th birthday. There were at least two direct reasons: (1) There was a conflict between Breton and Ilya Ehrenburg during the first “International Congress of Writers for the Defense of Culture” which opened in Paris in June 1935. Breton, who like all fellow surrealists, had been insulted by Ehrenburg in a pamphlet which said – among other things – that surrealists were pederasts, slapped Ehrenburg several times on the street, which led to surrealists being expelled from the Congress. Crevel, who according to Salvador Dalí, was “the only serious communist among surrealists” (and was facing more and more solitude as the real face of Soviet socialism started to occur), spent a whole day trying to persuade the other delegates to allow surrealists back, but he was not successful and left the Congress at 11pm, totally exhausted. (2) Crevel reportedly had learned that he suffered from renal tuberculosis right upon leaving the Congress. He left a note which read “Please cremate my body. Loathing.”‘ — Wikipedia

 

 

René Crevel, dandy révolutionnaire
“Si je ne réussis rien, je me tuerai”: René Crevel inédit
Rene Crevel @ goodreads
RENÉ CREVEL AU SOMMET DE SA MONTAGNE MAGIQUE
Elle ne suffit pas l’éloquence, René Crevel
Lettre de René Crevel à Gertrude Stein
Portrait of René Crevel by Salvador Dalí
Portrait de René Crevel (1900-1935), écrivain
SOLITUDE DE RENé CREVEL
The Paris of René Crevel
Podcast: Tours et détours de René Crevel
“La Mysticité Charnelle de René Crevel”
Prolégomènes À Un Suicide (La Mort Difficile, De René Crevel)
THE MAID DRINKS KEROSENE

 


(l. to r.) André Breton, Salvador Dali, René Crevel and Paul Eluard

 

‘Rene Crevel’s 1933 novel Putting My Foot in It (Les Pieds dans le plat) has long been considered a classic of the surrealist period. Loosely structured around a luncheon attended by thirteen guests, the novel is a surrealistic critique of the intellectual corruption of post-World War I France, especially the capitalist bourgeoisie and its supporter, the Catholic Church. The novel begins with an account of the family of the major character, known as the “Prince of Journalists.” This bizarre family—the grandparents a soldier and a sodomized woman, the parents an orphaned epileptic and a hunchback—is matched by Crevel’s bizarre syntax and vocabulary: nouns that initially appear legitimate, intact, and respectable, soon decompose into obscene epithets, making other nouns, both common and proper, suspect.’ — DA

 

 

Excerpt:

Sun and tradition. A dazzling light and the firm intention not to let yourself be blinded, etc., etc.

Symbols need not limit their scope to this pendulum swing of images. But a well-balanced mind won’t try and roost on a swing of antithesis that, at the height of its arc, would only look down on treacherous metaphors and promenades strewn with wolf traps that snare innocent beige fawns in flight, rather than large carnivores.

Here, today, the herd of cavorting ideas would hardly seem threatened. Fog-toothed melancholy can only sink its teeth into moonlight. And presently, it is high noon. So much for time. As for place, the Roman Empire passed through. It even stayed, blended with the dirt on this hillside, disciplined it, militarized it, metamorphosing amorphous terrain into terraces.

One of the mighty of this earth, one of the opinion makers whose sense of order takes pleasure in evoking the grand classical past, not for vain regrets but for quite virile resolutions, is jaunting merrily along — although there is nothing merry about the thoroughfare in question—snuggly ensconced in a motorcar worthy of the Roman road. This brand-new car is French-made, for if the ear of the Caesars, including the subsequent period, was the age of hippic locomotion, it is important, when purchasing motor vehicles, to observe a certain solidarity which, if not specifically French, is Latin, or at the very least, European, but strictly European, for after all of the tricks they have played on us, those sons of Uncle Sam with their Bonus Armies, their gangsters, their crashing and crashed millionaires—they can go hang themselves elsewhere.

With a light breeze tickling the white hairs on his chest and those which serve as a nest for a certain bird and its septuagenarian eggs (fresh as a daisy, moreover, thanks to Voronoff), the man who rejoices in the title of the Prince of Journalists savors the joy of living.

Here, in the hollow of a small valley, is a ruin used to transport water before the birth of Christ. Thus, to the paradoxical and nearly imperceptible accompaniment of an almighty motor, thoughts can let themselves float along. It won’t be long before they reach the banks of reverie. They won’t, moreover, lose any of their moderation in the process. Mustn’t forget that, if Fragonard and Hubert Robert measured up to this landscape, then any French mind worthy of the name can and must, out of the greatest disorder, out of a certain shambles, indeed out of a complete mess, compose a garden, a French garden, to be exact.

And to think that the great redheaded barbarians sung (though not in earnest) by Verlaine dare to return to our countryside, to our beaches, to attack our spas, to talk about how old this country is, and even spend their money on the rags that insinuate, with each venture undertaken by the Prince of Journalists, that this time it could be his swan song. A Prince of Journalists’ song, if he is aware of his national rights and duties, can only come out as a cock’s crow. The Gallic cockerel’s. His head is bursting with bugles. He is always ready to sound the charge. Even his dreams are dedicated to his country—only last night, he dreamt he was the Unknown Soldier’s widow! Ah, that cadaveric stiffness!

But to be aware of one’s rights and duties as a Frenchman is first of all to be liberal. Thus, the Prince of Journalists agreed to have lunch today with an Austrian woman. An archduchess, of course. And if other compatriots of our former enemies should try to slip in behind the grand dame, he will take care of them. And above all, watch out for so-called philosophers, poets, and filmmakers from Central Europe. Each morning, the director of a large daily dutifully reminds the editor of his Arts and Letters column that an intellectual invasion never fails to foreshadow the other kind. So guard and watch all frontiers—the frontiers of the mind no less than those in the north and the east. Defend the moral heritage of France, French culture, the culture of French thought, French gardens, French-style gardens, the French woman’s gardens, with boxwood-lined paths, the wood itself being carved into a darning egg; for the owner, the Frenchwoman, the bourgeoisie Frenchwoman (any Frenchwoman worthy of the name being a bourgeoisie), even athletic or a touch brainy, is and will remain, until the end of time, thrifty enough to keep both the wooden stocking, wherein lies the family nest egg, and her own nylons from unraveling, mending them as soon as they begin to run.

Sitting at her window, with a song on her lips, a flower in her bosom, but never with a fire down below, this guardian of traditions, next to a table adorned with the tastiest fruits of her orchard—isn’t it something out of Chardin?

The Prince of Journalists is moved. He melts. And not only from the midsummer heat but from the warmth, far more touching, of memory. In his mind’s eye, he sees his father, his mother, the decent people who spent their lives growing old. By the time they procreated him they were in their twilight years, hoping that very solid experience would compensate for certain congenial and perhaps hereditary handicaps. The good souls had no reason to worry. Their son, although he is short and lively tempered, holds himself straight as a ruler, and, at bottom, always masters his reflexes. Actually he turned out well enough, both mentally and physically, to savor with his utmost gratitude, in the scene before him, the memory of the ruin which had been built, on his father’s orders, near a pond whose waters were confined by exquisite little banks. The wise old man, after having asked the valet who never left him for a second to set up his folding stool and cover his shoulders with a Scottish plaid, was ready to sit down, aim, shoot (wasn’t this firearmed fisherman an expert on refraction?) one, two, three, four times. He killed the father, the mother, the little boy, the little girl bleak-fish.

Only the most genuinely French virtues had caused this carbine fisherman to become an Olympian statue of warm fabrics at the edge of autumn’s waters. Beneath such majesty he was hiding a painful secret. Our firearmed fisherman’s mother, in the days when she was carrying him, had been assaulted on a dark night and, before she even had time to catch her breath, got hosed—and, what’s worse, from the flip side. How could the unborn child have possibly avoided the repercussion of this heinous violence? Expecting his offspring to bear a double original sin which no amount of baptism would wash away, the husband of the woman sodomized in spite of herself, a great friend of Cambronne, used his connections to get enlisted and heroically killed immediately, at the head of a small troop which had only recently bestowed upon him the proud title of commander.

Every sin, even unintentional, can be forgiven. Of course, the orphan paid for this forgiveness with congenital epilepsy. He was all but deprived of the joys of childhood. He can still remember his mother’s mustached nieces sitting in a circle all around her, the woman sodomized in spite of herself. These cousins, if distant memory serves him well, were neither fish nor foul, neither hide nor hair, but salt and pepper and more bitter than sweet. They were going to prevent a further accident at all costs, which is why they lived on the plains of Beauce.

On the horizon, there wasn’t a single grove that could conceal a satyr. As soon as the wheat reached a certain height, the young widow was confined to the house until the last row had been gleaned.

As a result of her adventure, she had become prone to melancholy. The sweet, desperate automatism of certain gestures which she repeated indefinitely made her guardians conclude that she was eccentric or even obsessed. For days upon end she would caress her hair, which was naturally wavy, but straightened each morning. She hardly ever opened her mouth. On one exceptional evening, however, she was talking a great deal when, perhaps, she was frightened by a reproving stare from one of the old women? In any event she jumped up and took off running. Since one of the jailers had just made sure that all the doors and windows were securely locked, none of them bothered to follow her. The young woman didn’t get far, of course, no farther than the dining room; but there, out of a Dutch candelabra she pulled a purplish candle (everything was mourning and half-mourning in her charming little interior) and, in pious kiss, brushed her lips against its wax, which was softer than the softest human skin.

 

 


teporingos bubonicos “Rene Crevel”


Une Vie, une œuvre : René Crevel (1900-1935)


Intervallo di Antonio Syxty: René Crevel

 

 

 

p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. I’ve heard about that ex-World’s Fair venue. It sounds dreamy. I think they mostly want the loud music adrenaline rush and to consequently lose their inhibitions and not think/worry about the shit in their lives? Why not more women? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself since I first started going to concerts in my early teens. ** Sypha, Hi, James. Aw, thank you, man. I’m so happy you liked PGL. It was filmed in a French city called Cherbourg, which I think is best known outside of France due to the famous film ‘Umbrellas of Cherbourg’. Seaside city, but we erased the ocean in our film to make the buildings seem more lost and purposeless. ** Count Reeshard, Hey, Count! Very good to see you! I’ve heard of/about Grande Ballroom. Its legend carries. I’m not sure why it isn’t in the post. I accidentally bypassed it, I guess. You good? I sure hope so. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. I actually went to Crobar once too on a Chicago visit. Nice. Exciting that you’re onto Issue 2. 404 Ink looks interesting. I don’t know about it. I’ll investigate. ** Kyler, Hi, K. I never managed to enter any of the Fillmores, which is strange. The kind of LA equivalent in the late 60s/early 70s was the Shrine Exposition Hall where I saw many of the best shows ever, and which still exists as a music venue, strangely enough. My Bloody Valentine played there just recently. ** Misanthrope, Yeah, it was such a good pic in general that I begrudgingly used it even with the Lizard King plunked down in the middle. Kidding. ‘Crowd’, oh, … yes, it’s playing in London and also in NYC at BAM. It’s a dance piece, about 14 dancers. Among them are Sylvain who plays ‘Guillaume’ in PGL and Katia who plays ‘Roman’s older sister’ in PGL. The stage is an after hours club, the dancers are people at the club. They enter, dance, do all kinds of shit, weird and cool, involving inebriation, lust, anger, blah blah, all of which is the stuff I devised, and all of which is kind of semi-hidden by the fact that they’re dancing. The club closes, almost everyone leaves. The score is mostly 90s techno/trance/ambient tracks. People seem to really like the piece. It’s been our biggest hit so far. You should see it, if you can, I think. Well, here’s hoping LPS gets the Taco Bell job. That would be a start. Hope you got what sleep you craved. ** Steve Erickson, Ah, you went to the Channel. That was legendary even outside of its turf. I see the Rammstein comparison, sure. But I guess I also see something cheesier in the works, early Ke$ha-like or something. I like Rammstein when they’re funny, albeit inadvertently seemingly. ** Corey Heiferman, Hey. C. Rav Hen Cinema has a really nice building there, yeah. Sad movie theaters. I think I did a dead movie theaters post. But I don’t think I managed to catch any of those. Sad. Yes, very interested to see your redeems re: Eurovision. I blame my own grump for my own experience. Wow, haha, that’s a novel looking way to adapt Blake. Your friend’s thing. I like it. I think the problem with the Blake adapts I’ve seen are they’re too fucking reverent. Same problem that happens with most bad film adaptations of, say, novels. Thanks for the three links. I’ll hit them in just a minute. Bon day! ** Right. I feel like people don’t talk or write much about Rene Crevel these days, and that’s kind of a shame because he’s quite interesting, for instance in the case of the novel I’m spotlighting today. See you tomorrow.

4 Comments

  1. Rene Crevel’s story is a sad lesson to us all. When politics contradicts the core of one’s being it must be altered or obliterated. Communism was a lovely dream that never became a reality thanks to human nature.

    The New York State Pavilion shows were loud and raucpus but totally joyous because they were out in the open air.

    It’s Fats Waller’s Birthday When Fats died Bill was so upset that he stayed home from school.

  2. “Much of Crevel’s work deals with his inner turmoil at being bisexual.”

    Well, I can relate!

    I suppose if I ever make it up to France I should make a pilgrimage to Cherbourg as well and take in the sights, ha ha.

  3. When is the BAM performance of CROWD?

    Here’s my review of Tyler, the Creator’s new album IGOR: https://www.gaycitynews.nyc/stories/2019/11/tyler-the-creator-music-2019-05-21-gcn.html.

    Speaking of New York clubs that are still open, I walked by Webster Hall a few weeks ago, and I was surprised that Halsey was playing there that evening, since it only holds 1,400 people and she’s one of the biggest pop stars in the US now. There were teenage girls in sleeping bags in line on the ground at noon (the doors opened at 8), but only a dozen or so.

  4. Today’s Spotlit book looks fantastic. I need some speculative literature to feed my thinking for The Call zine, so have sprung for this Crevel accordingly.

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