Thursday, April 20, 2006


"If the reader find pleasure, let him continue. If not, let him throw the book away.The only criterion in the end is pleasure; all the other arguments are worthless."-Claude Simon
Claude Simon was born in Tananarive, on the island of Madagascar, off the east coast of Africa. At that time Madagascar was a French colony. Simon's father, an army officer, was killed in 1914 in World War I. His childhood Simon spent in the city of Perpignan, near the Spanish border, where he was raised by his mother and her family.
Simon attended Collége Stanislas in Paris, and Lycée Saint-Louis for naval career, but was dismissed. He studied art with Andre Lhôte, and also studied at Oxford and Cambridge. In the 1930s he travelled in the Soviet Union. From 1934 to 1935 Simon served with the French army's Thirty-first Dragoons. During the Spanish Civil War, he became involved in gunrunning to the Republicans. With the outbreak of World War II, Simon rejoined the Dragoons, and took part in the Battle of Meuse in 1940. After being captured by the Germans, he was sent to a prison camp in Saxony. On the transition to a prison camp in France, he escaped and joined the Resistance. During the 1950's Simon energed as as a leader of the " nouveau roman" school of writing. His stream of concious meanderings, sparsely punctuated and defying all forms of grammatical oversight, were major influenceces on Kerouac and Vonnegut. In 1985 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature; the committee said of him - "who in his novel combines the poet's and the painter's creativeness with a deepened awareness of time in the depiction of the human condition"

From his 1985 Nobel Prize letter:

Simon's experiences during this war, like during the Spanish Civil War in 1936, have been of immense importance to him, constantly recurring in his writings. Cruelty and absurdity are the dominating things - unforeseeable. What is apparently well-planned ends in confusion and dissolution. Each one lives through his hardships and has to save himself as best he can. Simon's experiences from the Spanish Civil War were similar, depicted in Le Palace and his latest and most important novel, Les Géorgiques, 1981. For all the sympathies which he and others might have for those faithful to the government who fought against the fascists, it soon turned out that these government champions for their part could not follow any regular and intelligently planned strategies and operations. On the contrary, the fighters were split into factions and mutual strife, obstructions and hazardous enterprises. Simon's picture of the Spanish Civil War and of the intellectual idealists who wanted to find an ideologically clear reason in the fight against oppression, shapes itself into a version, at once grotesque and tragic, compassionate and ironic, of war's reality and of man's inability to guide his fate and correct his conditions. La Route des Flandres and Les Géorgiques are richly decorated compositions which, with sensuous perspicacity and linguistic invocation, conjure up an extremely complicated pattern of personal memories and family traditions, of experiences during modern war and of equivalents from bygone ages, to be exact the Napoleonic era. The parallels are the same. The violence and the absurdity are common to all, likewise the painful compassion and feeling that the author expresses in paradoxical contrast to the fascination that these phenomena obviously have for him. A similar feeling is characteristic of Simon's descriptions of erotic relationships. In these contexts too there is a fixation with violence and violation. The sexual contacts appear as conquests, the taking in possession, mountings which resemble what stallions and mares do, or outrages resembling what occurs in battle. A tragic feeling of life emerges also here - a picture of human loneliness and of how people are exposed to destructive passions and selfish impulses, disguised as vain striving for fellowship and intimacy.
Lots to chew on here, folks....


Blogger KidKawartha said...

That opening quote is perfect.
Does anyone besides me find that the forces on the left need to have almost insurmountable strength and resources to win, over and over again? WWII, Vietnam, the present fubar that Bushco has America in up to your necks in Iraq- all are examples of how pervasive and easy to execute evil can be, and how hard it is to dislodge and/or defeat that evil once it has it's slimy foot in the door.
"If it was easy, it probably wouldn't be worth fighting for."

BTW, two new posts up at my place, and all you of my friends who have been bothering me for the last few weeks better have comments up soon, or I'm going to hold my breath until I pass out.

6:46 PM  
Anonymous WhattheH said...

Kid, you hit the nail on the head. I expect if he had taken his comparison back much further than Napoleon, back even to the empirical period of Egypt's golden age, he would have found the same comparisons, not to mention what was happening in Asia. Sometimes it's so disheartening - twelve steps forward, fourteen back. And now we have all the Iran talk. It's always the same, egomaniacal men sending others to war for power and glory, but what glory is there in war?
Another good post Durrati.

4:55 AM  
Anonymous WhattheH said...

Kid, I read your posts and tried to leave a comment, but couldn't figure out how to do so. There only seems to be the option to e-mail it to a friend. Let me know how I can leave a comment willya.

5:06 AM  
Blogger durrati said...


thanks for the comment. On the Kid's sight you click on the large numeral (0,1,2....) to leave a comment.

6:48 AM  
Blogger KidKawartha said...

Until I figure out how to change it, (I kind of like the originality) my comment link is ABOVE the post. Just run your cursor over the number at the top left, as durrati indicated.

10:25 AM  

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