April 9th, 2008

Sarrasine & A Passion In The Desert

These two stories are early Balzac. Sarrasine is a spook story without a spook and A Passion in the Desert is set in Egypt. Not typical. But, then, I'm not sure there is such a thing as typical Balzac. I'm tempted to say he started off Delacroix and ended up Manet, but that would be an oversimplification. The two modes, romanticism and realism, are always present in his work. The story of Lucien de Rubempre  (Illusions Perdues and Splendeurs et Miseres) starts off as social realism but then Vautrin enters the frame and everyone is plotting and putting on disguises and throwing one another off roofs and we're into the world of Fantomas.

Sarrasine is very famous (at least in France) because Roland Barthes rolled all over it, like a dog with a dead rabbit, and produced S/Z- a foundation text of post-structuralism (it may be wonderful; I haven't read it). Sarrasine could almost be Poe- only Poe writes better prose, is largely innocent of the way of the world and the girl in it isn't dead but...well- that would be giving the game away. 

A Passion in the Desert is a love story- boy meets leopard- and bracingly unsentimental.

Gardening

I wish I had a garden.

It's not that I'm a great gardener; it's just that I'd like to have a space to potter in. With hedges. Very tall hedges.

The last time I had a garden was over twenty years ago. It was a vicarage garden and really quite big. It sloped down hill and was boggy in parts. I can't pretend I did a lot with it, but I used to cut the grass and once - very amateurishly- I laid a path. 

I'd like to look out the widow and see very big trees. We have trees here in the back yard, but I have to keep them ruthlessly clipped or they'd bring down phone lines- and it's not the same.

Yesterday we went to B & Q and bought pansies. I think we left it a bit late because the plants were all half price and short of blooms- and when I got them out of their pots I found they'd been rooting furiously with nowhere to go. I've put them in the two planters in the front yard. They'll give me something to smile about as I go in and out the front door.