Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sanin preparing to go to America...

That same day Sanin sent a letter to Madame Gemma Slocum, at New York. In the letter he told her he was writing to her from Frankfort, where he had come solely with the object of finding traces of her, that he was very well aware that he was absolutely without a right to expect that she would answer his appeal; that he had not deserved her forgiveness, and could only hope that among happy surroundings she had long ago forgotten his existence. He added that he had made up his mind to recall himself to her memory in consequence of a chance circumstance which had too vividly brought back to him the images of the past; he described his life, solitary, childless, joyless; he implored her to understand the grounds that had induced him to address her, not to let him carry to the grave the bitter sense of his own wrongdoing, expiated long since by suffering, but never forgiven, and to make him happy with even the briefest news of her life in the new world to which she had gone away. 'In writing one word to me,' so Sanin ended his letter, 'you will be doing a good action worthy of your noble soul, and I shall thank you to my last breath. I am stopping here at the _White Swan_ (he underlined those words) and shall wait, wait till spring, for your answer.'

He despatched this letter, and proceeded to wait. For six whole weeks he lived in the hotel, scarcely leaving his room, and resolutely seeing no one. No one could write to him from Russia nor from anywhere; and that just suited his mood; if a letter came addressed to him he would know at once that it was the one he was waiting for. He read from morning till evening, and not journals, but serious books--historical works. These prolonged studies, this stillness, this hidden life, like a snail in its shell, suited his spiritual condition to perfection; and for this, if nothing more, thanks to Gemma! But was she alive? Would she answer? At last a letter came, with an American postmark, from New York, addressed to him. The handwriting of the address on the envelope was English.... He did not recognise it, and there was a pang at his heart. He could not at once bring himself to break open the envelope. He glanced at the signature--Gemma! The tears positively gushed from his eyes: the mere fact that she signed her name, without a surname, was a pledge to him of reconciliation, of forgiveness! He unfolded the thin sheet of blue notepaper: a photograph slipped out. He made haste to pick it up--and was struck dumb with amazement: Gemma, Gemma living, young as he had known her thirty years ago! The same eyes, the same lips, the same form of the whole face! On the back of the photograph was written, 'My daughter Mariana.' The whole letter was very kind and simple. Gemma thanked Sanin for not having hesitated to write to her, for having confidence in her; she did not conceal from him that she had passed some painful moments after his disappearance, but she added at once that for all that she considered--and had always considered--her meeting him as a happy thing, seeing that it was that meeting which had prevented her from becoming the wife of Mr. Klüber, and in that way, though indirectly, had led to her marriage with her husband, with whom she had now lived twenty-eight years, in perfect happiness, comfort, and prosperity; their house was known to every one in New York. Gemma informed Sanin that she was the mother of five children, four sons and one daughter, a girl of eighteen, engaged to be married, and her photograph she enclosed as she was generally considered very like her mother.


We will not attempt to describe the feelings Sanin experienced as he read this letter. For such feelings there is no satisfactory expression; they are too deep and too strong and too vague for any word. Only music could reproduce them.

Sanin answered at once; and as a wedding gift to the young girl, sent to 'Mariana Slocum, from an unknown friend,' a garnet cross, set in a magnificent pearl necklace. This present, costly as it was, did not ruin him; during the thirty years that had elapsed since his first visit to Frankfort, he had succeeded in accumulating a considerable fortune. Early in May he went back to Petersburg, but hardly for long. It is rumoured that he is selling all his lands and preparing to go to America.

The end

Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring, translated by Constance Garnett

Thursday, January 28, 2010

This was what Dimitri Sanin remembered

This was what Dimitri Sanin remembered when in the stillness of his room turning over his old papers he found among them a garnet cross. The events we have described rose clearly and consecutively before his mental vision.... But when he reached the moment when he addressed that humiliating prayer to Madame Polozov, when he grovelled at her feet, when his slavery began, he averted his gaze from the images he had evoked, he tried to recall no more. And not that his memory failed him, oh no! he knew only too well what followed upon that moment, but he was stifled by shame, even now, so many years after; he dreaded that feeling of self-contempt, which he knew for certain would overwhelm him, and like a torrent, flood all other feelings if he did not bid his memory be still. But try as he would to turn away from these memories, he could not stifle them entirely. He remembered the scoundrelly, tearful, lying, pitiful letter he had sent to Gemma, that never received an answer.... See her again, go back to her, after such falsehood, such treachery, no! no! he could not, so much conscience and honesty was left in him. Moreover, he had lost every trace of confidence in himself, every atom of self-respect; he dared not rely on himself for anything. Sanin recollected too how he had later on--oh, ignominy!--sent the Polozovs' footman to Frankfort for his things, what cowardly terror he had felt, how he had had one thought only, to get away as soon as might be to Paris--to Paris; how in obedience to Maria Nikolaevna, he had humoured and tried to please Ippolit Sidoritch and been amiable to Dönhof, on whose finger he noticed just such an iron ring as Maria Nikolaevna had given him!!! Then followed memories still worse, more ignominious ... the waiter hands him a visiting card, and on it is the name, 'Pantaleone Cippatola, court singer to His Highness the Duke of Modena!' He hides from the old man, but cannot escape meeting him in the corridor, and a face of exasperation rises before him under an upstanding topknot of grey hair; the old eyes blaze like red-hot coals, and he hears menacing cries and curses: '_Maledizione!_' hears even the terrible words: '_Codardo! Infame traditore!_' Sanin closes his eyes, shakes his head, turns away again and again, but still he sees himself sitting in a travelling carriage on the narrow front seat ... In the comfortable places facing the horses sit Maria Nikolaevna and Ippolit Sidoritch, the four horses trotting all together fly along the paved roads of Wiesbaden to Paris! to Paris! Ippolit Sidoritch is eating a pear which Sanin has peeled for him, while Maria Nikolaevna watches him and smiles at him, her bondslave, that smile he knows already, the smile of the proprietor, the slave-owner.... But, good God, out there at the corner of the street not far from the city walls, wasn't it Pantaleone again, and who with him? Can it be Emilio? Yes, it was he, the enthusiastic devoted boy! Not long since his young face had been full of reverence before his hero, his ideal, but now his pale handsome face, so handsome that Maria Nikolaevna noticed him and poked her head out of the carriage window, that noble face is glowing with anger and contempt; his eyes, so like _her_ eyes! are fastened upon Sanin, and the tightly compressed lips part to revile him....

And Pantaleone stretches out his hand and points Sanin out to Tartaglia standing near, and Tartaglia barks at Sanin, and the very bark of the faithful dog sounds like an unbearable reproach.... Hideous!

And then, the life in Paris, and all the humiliations, all the loathsome tortures of the slave, who dare not be jealous or complain, and who is cast aside at last, like a worn-out garment....

Then the going home to his own country, the poisoned, the devastated life, the petty interests and petty cares, bitter and fruitless regret, and as bitter and fruitless apathy, a punishment not apparent, but of every minute, continuous, like some trivial but incurable disease, the payment farthing by farthing of the debt, which can never be settled....

The cup was full enough.

Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring, translated by Constance Garnett

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

CZIFFRA - LISZT Transcendental Etude No.9 in A flat major, "Ricordanza"

A pátria e a língua

1. Essa velha história de a “minha pátria” ser a “língua portuguesa” tem sido usada abusivamente para dizer o que Pessoa nunca disse. Releia-se o texto e deixemo-nos de patriotismos que Pessoa nunca teve em mente neste trecho; o seu único patriotismo, aparentemente, é aqui a perfeição (maníaca?) da “página escrita”.

O texto de Pessoa é contraditório: por um lado ele aceita que não se saiba sintaxe, que se escreva mal, que se simplifique a ortografia; por outro, depois, diz que detesta “a página mal escrita”, a “sintaxe errada” e que "a ortografia também é gente". Em que ficamos? Eu entendo e aceito que as palavras e as frases têm cara, têm uma identidade, são como “gente” – e perante a inutilidade absurda do acordo ortográfico é também nisso que penso. Mas o texto de Pessoa é confuso. Releia-se:

“Não tenho sentimento nenhum político ou social. Tenho, porém, num sentido, um alto sentimento patriótico. A minha pátria é a língua portuguesa. Nada me pesaria que invadissem ou tomassem Portugal, desde que não me incommodassem pessoalmente. Mas odeio, com ódio verdadeiro, com o único ódio que sinto, não quem escreve mal português, não quem não sabe sintaxe, não quem escreve em ortografia simplificada, mas a página mal escrita, como pessoa própria, a sintaxe errada, como gente em que se bata, a ortografia sem ípsilon, como escarro directo que me enoja independentemente de quem o cuspisse. Sim, porque a ortografia também é gente. A palavra é completa vista e ouvida. E a gala da transliteração greco-romana veste-ma seu vero manto régio, pelo qual é senhora e rainha.”

2. Nem por ser confusa a frase de Pessoa perde o seu interesse, porém, se reinterpretada noutra direcção. Para quem vive fora de Portugal há muito tempo e foi progressivamente, por uma fatalidade a que seria difícil escapar, deixando atenuar-se ou cortar-se as ligações ou as cumplicidades com aquilo a que se chama “a pátria”, a língua é de facto uma amarra incómoda de que poderá ou poderia apetecer libertar-se. Só que essa libertação como libertação absoluta e definitiva se revela impossível: o disco duro do cérebro foi formatado para sempre pela educação, pela aprendizagem do mundo através de uma língua; e mesmo quando já nada se tem a ver ou muito pouco - ou quando já não se quer ter nada a ver - com as pessoas que falam a mesma língua que nós, a amarra subsiste, limita-nos, impede-nos de totalmente ser outra pessoa. Uma língua é uma visão do mundo de que se deve desconfiar, contra a qual é necessário bater-se. Língua e identidade confundem-se. Incomodam-se mutuamente. É um problema, se for problema, sem solução ou de resolução difícil. Com estranha teimosia, parece que somos nós que não queremos libertar-nos totalmente desse amor irracional ao passado, dessa fidelidade às "origens".

3. Escrever para quê? Para quem? A língua limita-nos: escrevemos para quem nos pode ler e quem nos pode ler são as pessoas que falam a mesma língua que nós. Ora as pessoas que falam a mesma língua que nós têm na prática quotidiana, e na própria burocracia que rege as relações e a política, problemas diferentes dos nossos, hábitos diferentes dos nossos, aspirações e uma vivência permanentemente diferentes das nossas. Não é que seja impossível vencer o obstáculo, mas é um obstáculo. E quando se vê o que os comentadores profissionais (professores, jornalistas, não importa quem, etc.) fazem de textos alheios, quando se lê o que descobrem neles, o que, no seu delírio “académico”, inventam sobre a pessoa que os escreveu, é de ficar aterrorizado. Se pelo menos no espaço da língua que falamos as pessoas tivessem rigor, competência, cautela e pudor quando falam do que os outros escreveram. Mas não têm, a gente morre e os textos que escrevemos e a nossa biografia complicada ficam abandonados à simplificação com que as feras letradas espetam a mandíbula em tudo o que é carne textual. Pior ainda do que enquanto estivemos vivos e tivemos de conviver com incompreensões e desatenções.

4. Os donos da linguagem vivem na “pátria”, são eles que mandam nos jornais e nas revistas, na televisão e na rádio, no Parlamento e em Belém. Eles quer dizer: a minoria esclarecida e poderosa, a gente que define e hierarquiza, que venera e repudia, que define o que é o bem e o que é o mal. Que decide o que se vende e se deve consumir. Aliás há várias tribos em actividade e sobretudo duas: a da política e a da arte (deixo de lado a do desporto, e em particular a do futebol, porque é assunto que não me interessa neste momento). Cada tribo tem, naturalmente, vários "poderes" ou "governos" instalados e várias "oposições"; tudo se passa antagonicamente. Nem assim há espaço para todos os gostos? Sim e não, as minorias podem não se notar mas vão existindo. O mau gosto ou a preferência pela banalidade, a ignorância, uma educação insuficiente e uma competência muito discutível dominam, são o que mais se vê e ouve, com frequência? É o que se pode pensar e há quem o pense.

5. Tudo isto - o que existe - pode parecer natural, as coisas são assim porque é assim que elas são. Mas por detrás da “naturalidade” das coisas escondem-se o enormíssimo privilégio daqueles que decidem o que é natural e as preferências daqueles que, perseguindo determinada ideia da identidade, separam o que “é “natural” do que não o é, o que é válido e o que não o é. Contra esta situação é ilusório bater-se, cada um gosta do que pode e valoriza o que aprecia. A pátria, a identidade, as obras-primas são utopias, construções mentais, devaneios, uma ambição, uma bíblia, um código civil adaptado.

6. Nenhuma língua, por muito que os “ourives” da gramática e da sintaxe pretendam o contrário, é a priori superior a outra nem mais bela do que outra. Esse tipo de orgulho nacionalista nasce da cegueira. A língua é apenas uma fatalidade a que não se pode escapar - e nós assumimos essa fatalidade. A quantidade de imbecis ou de gente inculta que fala a mesma língua que nós mas se exibe nos espaços do poder e abusa dessa autoridade devia desanimar quem quer que sinta a necessidade de escrever. Não desanima (felizmente ou infelizmente?).

7. O privilégio é ser-se proprietário da linguagem. Isto é: de todos os valores que através da linguagem se afirmam, prevalecem, constituem a “ordem” particular de determinada sociedade. Não é por outra razão que os jovens “modernistas” de todas as épocas começam por se opor - sem no entanto, sintomaticamente, abandonarem a ambição “estética” - ao mesmo tempo à linguagem dominante e àqueles que em seu entender a vigiam, a controlam, a veneram nas formas literárias admiradas. O mais curioso é que em vez de se estabelecer como critério adequado e nobre a eficiência da linguagem se aspire de modo tão obsessivo à beleza da “página escrita”, como se houvesse, para além da eficiência e da clareza, outro critério razoável e superior de distinção no uso que se faz da língua. Ter piada "literariamente" através da linguagem pode divertie e distrair e não há nada a criticar nessa atitude, mas não acrescenta forçosamente nada de muito importante ao que já existe nem ao nosso prazer e conhecimento do mundo - e poesia a sério continua a ser, por exemplo, a de Rilke. Não, não estava a defender o uso tacanho da língua porque me interessam tão pouco os poetas elegantes, políticos e mundanos que continuam a imitar lindamente Camões como certos autores que se tornaram famosos e admirados apesar de na minha opinião dominarem mal a língua e escreverem muitas vezes mal e dizerem coisas ou patetices que me parecem sem interesse.

"I am going where you will be"

(Jacques-Louis David, The Loves of Paris and Helen )

Such were Sanin's thoughts, as he went to bed; but what he thought next morning when Maria Nikolaevna knocked impatiently at his door with the coral handle of her riding-whip, when he saw her in the doorway, with the train of a dark-blue riding habit over her arm, with a man's small hat on her thickly coiled curls, with a veil thrown back over her shoulder, with a smile of invitation on her lips, in her eyes, over all her face--what he thought then--history does not record.

'Well? are you ready?' rang out a joyous voice.

Sanin buttoned his coat, and took his hat in silence. Maria Nikolaevna flung him a bright look, nodded to him, and ran swiftly down the staircase. And he ran after her.

The horses were already waiting in the street at the steps. There were three of them, a golden chestnut thorough-bred mare, with a thin-lipped mouth, that showed the teeth, with black prominent eyes, and legs like a stag's, rather thin but beautifully shaped, and full of fire and spirit, for Maria Nikolaevna; a big, powerful, rather thick-set horse, raven black all over, for Sanin; the third horse was destined for the groom. Maria Nikolaevna leaped adroitly on to her mare, who stamped and wheeled round, lifting her tail, and sinking on to her haunches. But Maria Nikolaevna, who was a first-rate horse-woman, reined her in; they had to take leave of Polozov, who in his inevitable fez and in an open dressing gown, came out on to the balcony, and from there waved a _batiste_ handkerchief, without the faintest smile, rather a frown, in fact, on his face. Sanin too mounted his horse; Maria Nikolaevna saluted Polozov with her whip, then gave her mare a lash with it on her arched and flat neck. The mare reared on her hind legs, made a dash forward, moving with a smart and shortened step, quivering in every sinew, biting the air and snorting abruptly. Sanin rode behind, and looked at Maria Nikolaevna; her slender supple figure, moulded by close-fitting but easy stays, swayed to and fro with self-confident grace and skill. She turned her head and beckoned him with her eyes alone. He came alongside of her.

'See now, how delightful it is,' she said. 'I tell you at the last, before parting, you are charming, and you shan't regret it.'

The same day, two hours later, Sanin was standing in his own room before her, like one distraught, ruined....

'Where are you going, dear?' she asked him. 'To Paris, or to Frankfort?'

'I am going where you will be, and will be with you till you drive me away,' he answered with despair and pressed close to him the hands of his sovereign. She freed her hands, laid them on his head, and clutched at his hair with her fingers. She slowly turned over and twisted the unresisting hair, drew herself up, her lips curled with triumph, while her eyes, wide and clear, almost white, expressed nothing but the ruthlessness and glutted joy of conquest. The hawk, as it clutches a captured bird, has eyes like that.

Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring, translated by Constance Garnett

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Nonsense! nonsense!"

(Titian, Salomé)

Oh, what a deep sigh of delight Sanin heaved, when he found himself in his room! Indeed, Maria Nikolaevna had spoken the truth, he needed rest, rest from all these new acquaintances, collisions, conversations, from this suffocating atmosphere which was affecting his head and his heart, from this enigmatical, uninvited intimacy with a woman, so alien to him! And when was all this taking place? Almost the day after he had learnt that Gemma loved him, after he had become betrothed to her. Why, it was sacrilege! A thousand times he mentally asked forgiveness of his pure chaste dove, though he could not really blame himself for anything; a thousand times over he kissed the cross she had given him. Had he not the hope of bringing the business, for which he had come to Wiesbaden, to a speedy and successful conclusion, he would have rushed off headlong, back again, to sweet Frankfort, to that dear house, now his own home, to her, to throw himself at her loved feet.... But there was no help for it! The cup must be drunk to the dregs, he must dress, go to dinner, and from there to the theatre.... If only she would let him go to-morrow!

One other thing confounded him, angered him; with love, with tenderness, with grateful transport he dreamed of Gemma, of their life together, of the happiness awaiting him in the future, and yet this strange woman, this Madame Polozov persistently floated--no! not floated, poked herself, so Sanin with special vindictiveness expressed it--_poked herself_ in and faced his eyes, and he could not rid himself of her image, could not help hearing her voice, recalling her words, could not help being aware even of the special scent, delicate, fresh and penetrating, like the scent of yellow lilies, that was wafted from her garments. This lady was obviously fooling him, and trying in every way to get over him ... what for? what did she want? Could it be merely the caprice of a spoiled, rich, and most likely unprincipled woman? And that husband! What a creature he was! What were his relations with her? And why would these questions keep coming into his head, when he, Sanin, had really no interest whatever in either Polozov or his wife? Why could he not drive away that intrusive image, even when he turned with his whole soul to another image, clear and bright as God's sunshine? How, through those almost divine features, dare _those others_ force themselves upon him? And not only that; those other features smiled insolently at him. Those grey,rapacious eyes, those dimples, those snake-like tresses, how was it all that seemed to cleave to him, and to shake it all off, and fling it away, he was unable, had not the power?

Nonsense! nonsense! to-morrow it would all vanish and leave no trace.... But would she let him go to-morrow?

Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring, translated by Constance Garnett

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"I don't want to flirt with you"

Long after midnight the lamp was burning in Sanin's room. He sat down to the table and wrote to 'his Gemma.' He told her everything; he described the Polozovs--husband and wife--but, more than all, enlarged on his own feelings, and ended by appointing a meeting with her in three days!!! (with three marks of exclamation). Early in the morning he took this letter to the post, and went for a walk in the garden of the Kurhaus, where music was already being played. There were few people in it as yet; he stood before the arbour in which the orchestra was placed, listened to an adaptation of airs from 'Robert le Diable,' and after drinking some coffee, turned into a solitary side walk, sat down on a bench, and fell into a reverie. The handle of a parasol gave him a rapid, and rather vigorous, thump on the shoulder. He started.... Before him in a light, grey-green barége dress, in a white tulle hat, and _suède_ gloves, stood Maria Nikolaevna, fresh and rosy as a summer morning, though the languor of sound unbroken sleep had not yet quite vanished from her movements and her eyes.

'Good-morning,' she said. 'I sent after you to-day, but you'd already gone out. I've only just drunk my second glass--they're making me drink the water here, you know--whatever for, there's no telling ... am I not healthy enough? And now I have to walk for a whole hour. Will you be my companion? And then we'll have some coffee.'

'I've had some already,' Sanin observed, getting up; 'but I shall be very glad to have a walk with you.'

'Very well, give me your arm then; don't be afraid: your betrothed is not here--she won't see you.'

Sanin gave a constrained smile. He experienced a disagreeable sensation every time Maria Nikolaevna referred to Gemma. However, he made haste to bend towards her obediently.... Maria Nikolaevna's arm slipped slowly and softly into his arm, and glided over it, and seemed to cling tight to it.

'Come--this way,' she said to him, putting up her open parasol over her shoulder. 'I'm quite at home in this park; I will take you to the best places. And do you know what? (she very often made use of this expression), we won't talk just now about that sale, we'll have a thorough discussion of that after lunch; but you must tell me now about yourself ... so that I may know whom I have to do with. And afterwards, if you like, I will tell you about myself. Do you agree?'

'But, Maria Nikolaevna, what interest can there be for you ...'

'Stop, stop. You don't understand me. I don't want to flirt with you.' Maria Nikolaevna shrugged her shoulders. 'He's got a betrothed like an antique statue, is it likely I am going to flirt with him? But you've something to sell, and I'm the purchaser. I want to know what your goods are like. Well, of course, you must show what they are like. I don't only want to know what I'm buying, but whom I'm buying from. That was my father's rule. Come, begin ... come, if not from childhood--come now, have you been long abroad? And where have you been up till now? Only don't walk so fast, we're in no hurry.'

Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring, translated by Constance Garnett

Gabriel Fauré - C'est l'extase langoureuse (Paul Verlaine)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

'Is she very pretty?'

(Ingres, The Grand Odalisque)

The free and easy deportment of Madame Polozov would probably for the first moment have disconcerted Sanin--though he was not quite a novice and had knocked about the world a little--if he had not again seen in this very freedom and familiarity a good omen for his undertaking. 'We must humour this rich lady's caprices,' he decided inwardly; and as unconstrainedly as she had questioned him he answered, 'Yes; I am going to be married.'

'To whom? To a foreigner?'


'Did you get acquainted with her lately? In Frankfort?'


'And what is she? May I know?'

'Certainly. She is a confectioner's daughter.'

Maria Nikolaevna opened her eyes wide and lifted her eyebrows.

'Why, this is delightful,' she commented in a drawling voice; 'this is exquisite! I imagined that young men like you were not to be met with anywhere in these days. A confectioner's daughter!'

'I see that surprises you,' observed Sanin with some dignity; 'but in the first place, I have none of these prejudices ...'

'In the first place, it doesn't surprise me in the least,' Maria Nikolaevna interrupted; 'I have no prejudices either. I'm the daughter of a peasant myself. There! what can you say to that? What does surprise and delight me is to have come across a man who's not afraid to love. You do love her, I suppose?'


'Is she very pretty?'

Sanin was slightly stung by this last question.... However, there was no drawing back.

'You know, Maria Nikolaevna,' he began, 'every man thinks the face of his beloved better than all others; but my betrothed is really beautiful.'

'Really? In what style? Italian? antique?'

'Yes; she has very regular features.'

'You have not got her portrait with you?'

'No.' (At that time photography was not yet talked off. Daguerrotypes had hardly begun to be common.)

'What's her name?'

'Her name is Gemma.'

'And yours?'


'And your father's?'


'Do you know,' Maria Nikolaevna said, still in the same drawling voice, 'I like you very much, Dimitri Pavlovitch. You must be an excellent fellow. Give me your hand. Let us be friends.'

She pressed his hand tightly in her beautiful, white, strong fingers. Her hand was a little smaller than his hand, but much warmer and smoother and whiter and more full of life.

'Only, do you know what strikes me?'


'You won't be angry? No? You say she is betrothed to you. But was that ... was that quite necessary?'

Sanin frowned. 'I don't understand you, Maria Nikolaevna.'

Maria Nikolaevna gave a soft low laugh, and shaking her head tossed back the hair that was falling on her cheeks. 'Decidedly--he's delightful,' she commented half pensively, half carelessly. 'A perfect knight! After that, there's no believing in the people who maintain that the race of idealists is extinct!'

Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring, translated by Constance Garnett

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sanin: "I am yours. I will come back"

Joseph-Désiré Court, Half-length Woman Lying on a Couch, 1829

'When must you go?' asked Gemma.

'To-day, in an hour's time; my friend has ordered a carriage--he will take me.'

'You will write to us?'

'At once! directly I have had a talk with this lady, I will write.'

'This lady, you say, is very rich?' queried the practical Frau Lenore.

'Exceedingly rich! her father was a millionaire, and he left everything to her.'

'Everything--to her alone? Well, that's so much the better for you. Only mind, don't let your property go too cheap! Be sensible and firm. Don't let yourself be carried away! I understand your wishing to be Gemma's husband as soon as possible ... but prudence before everything! Don't forget: the better price you get for your estate, the more there will be for you two, and for your children.'

Gemma turned away, and Sanin gave another wave of his hand. 'You can rely on my prudence, Frau Lenore! Indeed, I shan't do any bargaining with her. I shall tell her the fair price; if she'll give it--good; if not, let her go.'

'Do you know her--this lady?' asked Gemma.

'I have never seen her.'

'And when will you come back?'

'If our negotiations come to nothing--the day after to-morrow; if they turn out favourably, perhaps I may have to stay a day or two longer. In any case I shall not linger a minute beyond what's necessary. I am leaving my heart here, you know! But I have said what I had to say to you, and I must run home before setting off too.... Give me your hand for luck, Frau Lenore--that's what we always do in Russia.'

'The right or the left?'

'The left, it's nearer the heart. I shall reappear the day after to-morrow with my shield or on it! Something tells me I shall come back in triumph! Good-bye, my good dear ones....'

He embraced and kissed Frau Lenore, but he asked Gemma to follow him into her room--for just a minute--as he must tell her something of great importance. He simply wanted to say good-bye to her alone. Frau Lenore saw that, and felt no curiosity as to the matter of such great importance.

Sanin had never been in Gemma's room before. All the magic of love, all its fire and rapture and sweet terror, seemed to flame up and burst into his soul, directly he crossed its sacred threshold.... He cast a look of tenderness about him, fell at the sweet girl's feet and pressed his face against her waist....

'You are mine,' she whispered: 'you will be back soon?'

'I am yours. I will come back,' he declared, catching his breath.

'I shall be longing for you back, my dear one!'

A few instants later Sanin was running along the street to his lodging. He did not even notice that Pantaleone, all dishevelled, had darted out of the shop-door after him, and was shouting something to him and was shaking, as though in menace, his lifted hand.

Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring, translated by Constance Garnett

We Don't Live Here Anymore Trailer

Friday, January 15, 2010

Eça através de Fradique ainda

"O homem, mentalmente, pensa em resumo e com simplicidade, nos termos mais banais e usuais. Termos complicados são já um esforço de literatura - e quanto menos literatura se puser numa obra de arte, mais ela durará, por isso mesmo que a linguagem literária envelhece e só a humana perdura. (...) Um romance que não possa ser lido sem um dicionário é uma obra grotesca. Você tem um personagem e quer dizer dele - 'que era afortunado nas suas coisas, mas nunca fora generoso e por vezes se mostrara falso'. Somente estes termos: afortunado, generoso, falso, são certamente usados por toda a gente, e, não se sabendo outros, provam escassez de léxico. Você, portanto, procura sinónimos estranhos e raros, que mostrem riqueza de léxico, e põe a sua frase assim: - 'Era varão escançado, porém nunca se mostrara largueado e no seu convívio despontava de honra por mendacíssimo e lançadiço'. Você escreve esta coisa monstruosa que certamente prova opulência de léxico - e em redor estoira uma imensa gargalhada! (...) E como ninguém tem paciência para folhear o dicionário, você ficou incompreendido - e foi como se não escrevesse! Nunca me esqueceu o que um dia me disse Chardron de um romance assim escrito. Perguntei-lhe se a coisa vendia; ele teve um gesto de amargura: - Pas du tou! Il paraît que, pour comprendre ça, il faut acheter aussi un dictionaire, et ça revient trop cher!
Além da riqueza de léxico, nos termos, há a riqueza de léxico no desenvolvimento da ideia, isto é, a apresentação da ideia sob uma forma copiosa e folhuda. Isto é ainda mais fatal. "

Eça de Queirós, Cartas Inéditas de Fradique Mendes e mais páginas esquecidas, VI, A E.

Eça e a linguagem

"As palavras são, como se diz em pintura, valores: para produzir, pois,
um certo efeito de força ou de graça, o caso não está em ter
valores, mas em saber agrupar bem os três ou quatro que são

(Fradique Mendes)

É possível ter estilo sem ter ideias dignas de atenção - e até sem ter nada de que se possa dizer "é uma ideia". Será possível ter ideias sem ter estilo, porém? Creio que sim, mas ideias desorganizadas correm o risco de não passar de citações vagas do texto que nunca chegou a existir - e o que não é "escrito" (o que não se realiza em alguma forma de "narrativa") permanece em estado caótico ou incompleto e não contribui para um claro e convincente entendimento do mundo. Frases soltas não vão para lugar nenhum, ficam-se em si mesmas, a patinar nos limites do pensamento que não chegou a organizar-se. Não é forçosamente inútil, mas é assim.

Nas Cartas Inéditas de Fradique Mendes Eça surge a dado momento cheio de ironia contra os puristas da língua, maníacos estéreis e desinteressantes da caça ao galicismo. Creio que Eça se estava defender a si próprio através de Fradique dos que em Portugal o denegriam e acusavam de pensar e escrever "francêsmente". Eu dou-lhe razão. Mas não deixo de anotar que, no texto a que me refiro, a diatribe contra Camilo é prova da cegueira de Eça e do antagonismo que o espicaçou - e entende-se porquê: o adversário literário neste caso não era qualquer Zé insignificante - na crítica ao autor de Eusébio Macário. Leia-se isto: "Camilo, cujo verbo é prodigioso, acumulando tudo o que o génio nacional inventou para se exprimir (...) não sabia usar essa imensa riqueza" - e por isso, comparado com Ramalho e Oliveira Martins, "não alcançou jamais, como eles, o vigor, o relevo, a cor, a intensidade, a imagem, a vida, mesmo naqueles assuntos em que o romancista, o crítico e o historiador se encontram: na pintura exterior dos homens e do drama humano." Não sabia, ó José Maria? E o Ramalho e o Oliveira Martins, etc.? Sabes o que estás a dizer? Incapaz de se libertar da sua necessidade de se construir por oposição a Camilo, Eça vai mais longe ainda e é penoso e faz sorrir lê-lo, mesmo se é através de Fradique: "Camilo, com o verbo completo de uma raça na ponta da língua, hesita, tataranha, amontoa, retorce, embaralha e faz um pastel confuso - que nem o Diabo lhe pega, ele que pega em tudo!" A sério? Tataranha?

Apesar disso gosto desta carta de Fradique. Nela é dito, tomando exemplos nos grandes autores da literatura francesa, que "a melhor prosa, a mais perfeita, a mais lúcida, a mais lógica, a que tem sido a grande educadora literária e tem civilizado o mundo, é feita com meia dúzia de vocábulos que se podem contar pelos dedos".* Eça (Fradique) continua, antecipando Wittgenstein:

"Faça uma experiência: leia, durante uma semana, meia dúzia de páginas de cada um dos grandes mestres: Bossuet, La Bruyère, La Fontaine, Diderot, Voltaire, Beaumarchais, e diga-me se os termos com que é trabalhada cada uma dessas páginas, não são os mesmos da linguagem familiar, os mesmos que sabe e emprega qualquer modista da Rue de la Paix?"

Podia continuar, mas por ora fico-me por aqui. Termino com uma reflexão pessoal (que também necessita de ser retomada): os escritores menores, que são a maioria, têm medo das palavras simples e mais corrrentes - deve ser porque quando as usam caem numa banalidade que irrita e ofende. Procuram a literatura pelo caminho errado, porém.

Inseguros de si, os escritores menores pensam que para ser escritor é necessário distinguir-se (da gente da rua) pelo estilo. Na realidade o que distingue um autor maior de um autor menor são outras coisas: talento, experiência, conhecimento dos mecanismos de funcionamento da linguagem - e terem coisas a dizer e capacidade de as dizer de maneira que suscita interesse e atenção. Os escritores menores deviam reflectir no que diz Fradique: "Flaubert catava dos seus livros todos os termos que não pudessem ser usados na conversa pelo seu criado: daí vem ele ter produzido uma obra imortal." Esta observação deveria ser útil aos romancistas. Mas muito mais útil ainda àqueles que se crêem poetas.

* Perdoo a Eça a acumulação de caracterizações da "melhor prosa" - sintoma de incapacidade: quando um escritor necessita simultaneamente ou sucessivamente dos duvidosos, ou relativamente inadequados para o caso, "perfeita", "lúcida" e "lógica", é porque na realidade não sabe dizer bem o que é "a melhor prosa": falta-lhe a palavra suficiente. Já se notara a mesma debilidade e insegurança de Eça numa frase anterior:a referência ao "vigor", ao "relevo", à "cor", à "intensidade", à "imagem", à "vida" - trop devient trop peu - para distinguir os grandes Ramalho e Oliveira Martins do Camilo que "tataranha".

Léo Marjane-En septembre sous la pluie/September in the rain

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A aparecer em breve: encomendar em ou ao CPS na UCSB directamente

Sanin: 'I love her, love her madly!'

'Mamma told you I don't want to be Herr Klüber's wife?'


Gemma moved forward on the seat. The basket tottered, fell ... a few cherries rolled on to the path. A minute passed by ... another.

'Why did she tell you so?' he heard her voice saying. Sanin as before could only see Gemma's neck. Her bosom rose and fell more rapidly than before.

'Why? Your mother thought that as you and I, in a short time, have become, so to say, friends, and you have some confidence in me, I am in a position to give you good advice--and you would mind what I say.'

Gemma's hands slowly slid on to her knees. She began plucking at the folds of her dress.

'What advice will you give me, Monsieur Dimitri?' she asked, after a short pause.

Sanin saw that Gemma's fingers were trembling on her knees.... She was only plucking at the folds of her dress to hide their trembling. He softly laid his hand on those pale, shaking fingers.

'Gemma,' he said, 'why don't you look at me?' She instantly tossed her hat back on to her shoulder, and bent her eyes upon him, confiding and grateful as before. She waited for him to speak.... But the sight of her face had bewildered, and, as it were, dazed him. The warm glow of the evening sun lighted up her youthful head, and the expression of that head was brighter, more radiant than its glow.

'I will mind what you say, Monsieur Dimitri,' she said, faintly smiling, and faintly arching her brows; 'but what advice do you give me?'

'What advice?' repeated Sanin. 'Well, you see, your mother considers that to dismiss Herr Klüber simply because he did not show any special courage the day before yesterday ...'

'Simply because?' said Gemma. She bent down, picked up the basket, and set it beside her on the garden seat.

'That ... altogether ... to dismiss him, would be, on your part ... unreasonable; that it is a step, all the consequences of which ought to be thoroughly weighed; that in fact the very position of
your affairs imposes certain obligations on every member of your family ...'

'All that is mamma's opinion,' Gemma interposed; 'those are her words; but what is your opinion?'

'Mine?' Sanin was silent for a while. He felt a lump rising in his throat and catching at his breath. 'I too consider,' he began with an effort ...

Gemma drew herself up. 'Too? You too?'

'Yes ... that is ...' Sanin was unable, positively unable to add a single word more.

'Very well,' said Gemma. 'If you, as a friend, advise me to change my decision--that is, not to change my former decision--I will think it over.' Not knowing what she was doing, she began to tip the cherries back from the plate into the basket.... 'Mamma hopes that I will mind what you say. Well ... perhaps I really will mind what you say.'

'But excuse me, Fräulein Gemma, I should like first to know what reason impelled you ...'

'I will mind what you say,' Gemma repeated, her face right up to her brows was working, her cheeks were white, she was biting her lower lip. 'You have done so much for me, that I am bound to do as you wish; bound to carry out your wishes.


Almost running, Sanin returned to his hotel room. He felt, he knew that only there, only by himself, would it be clear to him at last what was the matter, what was happening to him. And so it was; directly he had got inside his room, directly he had sat down to the writing-table, with both elbows on the table and both hands pressed to his face, he cried in a sad and choked voice, 'I love her, love her madly!' and he was all aglow within, like a fire when a thick layer of dead ash has been suddenly blown off. An instant more ... and he was utterly unable to understand how he could have sat beside her ... her!--and talked to her and not have felt that he worshipped the very hem of her garment, that he was ready as young people express it 'to die at her feet.' The last interview in the garden had decided everything. Now when he thought of her, she did not appear to him with blazing curls in the shining starlight; he saw her sitting on the garden-seat, saw her all at once tossing back her hat, and gazing at him so confidingly ... and the tremor and hunger of love ran through all his veins. He remembered the rose which he had been carrying about in his pocket for three days: he snatched it out, and pressed it with such feverish violence to his lips, that he could not help frowning with the pain. Now he considered nothing, reflected on nothing, did not deliberate, and did not look forward; he had done with all his past, he leaped forward into the future; from the dreary bank of his lonely bachelor life he plunged headlong into that glad, seething, mighty torrent--and little he cared, little he wished to know, where it would carry him, or whether it would dash him against a rock! No more the soft-flowing currents of the Uhland song, which had lulled him not long ago ... These were mighty, irresistible torrents! They rush flying onwards and he flies with them....

He took a sheet of paper, and without blotting out a word, almost with one sweep of the pen, wrote as follows:--

'DEAR GEMMA,--You know what advice I undertook to give you, what your mother desired, and what she asked of me; but what you don't know and what I must tell you now is, that I love you, love you with all the ardour of a heart that loves for the first time! This passion has flamed up in me suddenly, but with such force that I can find no words for it! When your mother came to me and asked me, it was still only smouldering in me, or else I should certainly, as an honest man, have refused to carry out her request.... The confession I make you now is the confession of an honest man. You ought to know whom you have to do with--between us there should exist no misunderstandings. You see that I cannot give you any advice.... I love you, love you, love you--and I have nothing else--either in my head or in my heart!!


Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring, translated by Constance Garnett

Marilyn Monroe in 'The Misfits' (1961)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Beethoven - Piano Sonata nº 31

He is among the very best young pianists and his Beethoven "intégrale" has received a warm and enthusiastic recognition... What do you think?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ravel-Chants populaires nº 2

Language: Occitan

Janeta ount anirem gardar,
Qu'ajam boun tems un'oura? Lan la!
Aval, aval, al prat barrat;
la de tan belas oumbras!
Lan la!
Lou pastour quita soun mantel,
Per far siere Janetan Lan la!
Janeta a talamen jougat,
Que se ies oublidada, Lan la!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Les amants d'un jour

A multitude of stars

It was bright starlight when he came out on the steps. What multitudes of stars, big and little, yellow, red, blue and white were scattered over the sky! They seemed all flashing, swarming, twinkling unceasingly. There was no moon in the sky, but without it every object could be clearly discerned in the half-clear, shadowless twilight. Sanin walked down the street to the end ... He did not want to go home at once; he felt a desire to wander about a little in the fresh air. He turned back and had hardly got on a level with the house, where was the Rosellis' shop, when one of the windows looking out on the street, suddenly creaked and opened; in its square of blackness--there was no light in the room--appeared a woman's figure, and he heard his
name--'Monsieur Dimitri!'

He rushed at once up to the window ... Gemma! She was leaning with her elbows on the window-sill, bending forward.

'Monsieur Dimitri,' she began in a cautious voice, 'I have been wanting all day long to give you something ... but I could not make up my mind to; and just now, seeing you, quite unexpectedly again, I thought that it seems it is fated' ...

Gemma was forced to stop at this word. She could not go on; something extraordinary happened at that instant.

All of a sudden, in the midst of the profound stillness, over the perfectly unclouded sky, there blew such a violent blast of wind, that the very earth seemed shaking underfoot, the delicate starlight seemed quivering and trembling, the air went round in a whirlwind. The wind, not cold, but hot, almost sultry, smote against the trees, the roof of the house, its walls, and the street; it instantaneously snatched off Sanin's hat, crumpled up and tangled Gemma's curls. Sanin's head was on a level with the window-sill; he could not help clinging close to it, and Gemma clutched hold of his shoulders with both hands, and pressed her bosom against his head. The roar, the din, and the rattle lasted about a minute.... Like a flock of huge birds the revelling whirlwind darted revelling away. A profound stillness reigned once more.

Sanin raised his head and saw above him such an exquisite, scared, excited face, such immense, large, magnificent eyes--it was such a beautiful creature he saw, that his heart stood still within him, he pressed his lips to the delicate tress of hair, that had fallen on his bosom, and could only murmur, 'O Gemma!'

'What was that? Lightning?' she asked, her eyes wandering afar, while she did not take her bare arms from his shoulder.

'Gemma!' repeated Sanin.

She sighed, looked around behind her into the room, and with a rapid movement pulling the now faded rose out of her bodice, she threw it to Sanin.

'I wanted to give you this flower.'

He recognised the rose, which he had won back the day before....

But already the window had slammed-to, and through the dark pane nothing could be seen, no trace of white.

Sanin went home without his hat.... He did not even notice that he had lost it.

Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring, translated by Constance Garnett

Sunday, January 10, 2010

poema ambicioso

se eu ladrasse gemesse ou uivasse em vez de falar

ninguém me levaria a sério ou levavam-me a sério

de maneira errada e ofensiva por isso deve ser por

isso que por vezes passo muito tempo sem dizer

nada o silêncio é discreto ninguém dá por nós podem

limpar-nos o pó da cara e das pernas porque nos

confundiram com a cómoda no canto do quarto e

não tem importância nós ficamos imobilizados

como uma estátua para não os assustar não vale

a pena perturbar-lhes a rotina e se nesse momento

ladrássemos havia de ser engraçada a reacção não

posso evitar tive de me rir ao imaginar a cena se

eu soubesse cantar ou tocar piano também podia

falar sem usar a garganta a boca a língua mas se

tocasse flauta já seria diferente quando me dou

ao trabalho de pensar um pouco descubro coisas

interessantíssimas acontece-me quando aquilo

que designo por inspiração ou ímpeto criativo

me abandona não será curioso claro que é curioso

contribuir para denegrir aquilo a que alguns

ingénuos ainda designam por poesia e que lhes

dá tanto trabalho e tantas emoções fabricadas

na oficina em que cinzelam sem descanso as

peças de oiro que acabarão no fundo de um

armário antes de serem definitivamente enviadas

para a lixeira municipal mais próxima denegrir a

poesia a literatura nem sequer me diverte na

verdade o projecto é muito antigo o que acontece

é que eu nunca tinha tido coragem de ir tão longe

distante da pátria dos escritores dos legisladores

de meia dúzia de tolos tontos que se tomam por

historiadores da literatura e pensam que alguém

lhes presta atenção a minha liberdade é total o que

eles dizem o que eles pensam nem sequer chega ao

meu conhecimento a maior parte das vezes e quando

chega não me merece grande atenção como dizia

no início se pudesse ladrar uivar gemer e até tocar

piano ou oboé a situação mudava radicalmente

só que embora me importe pouco o que possam

pensar do que eu faço a maior parte das pessoas

não tenho competência suficiente em nenhuma

dessas artes daí o meu silêncio quando se esvai

aquilo a que chamo a inspiração o ímpeto criativo

a minha sintaxe desconjuntada não me leva a lado

nenhum bem sei mas se escrevo provo que existo

não abandono o lugar que é meu a ninguém oh não

se alguém o quer ocupar empurre-me rasteire-me

insulte-me tente assassinar-me daqui não saio

(publicado antes)

Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (Free Mp3)

Friday, January 08, 2010

A matter settled once for all

The road from Frankfort to Soden runs along the right bank of the Maine, and is planted all along with fruit trees. While the carriage was rolling slowly along an excellent road, Sanin stealthily watched how Gemma behaved to her betrothed; it was the first time he had seen them together. She was quiet and simple in her manner, but rather more reserved and serious than usual; he had the air of a condescending schoolmaster, permitting himself and those under his authority a discreet and decorous pleasure. Sanin saw no signs in him of any marked attentiveness, of what the French call 'empressement,' in his demeanour to Gemma.

It was clear that Herr Klüber considered that it was a matter settled once for all, and that therefore he saw no reason to trouble or excite himself. But his condescension never left him for an instant! Even during a long ramble before dinner about the wooded hills and valleys behind Soden, even when enjoying the beauties of nature, he treated nature itself with the same condescension, through which his habitual magisterial severity peeped out from time to time. So, for example, he observed in regard to one stream that it ran too straight through the glade, instead of making a few picturesque curves; he disapproved, too, of the conduct of a bird - a chaffinch - for singing so monotonously.

Gemma was not bored, and even, apparently, was enjoying herself; but Sanin did not recognise her as the Gemma of the preceding days; it was not that she seemed under a cloud - her beauty had never been more dazzling - but her soul seemed to have withdrawn into herself. With her parasol open and her gloves still buttoned up, she walked sedately, deliberately, as well-bred young girls walk, and spoke little. Emil, too, felt stiff, and Sanin more so than all. He was somewhat embarrassed too by the fact that the conversation was all the time in German.


Herr Klüber, for his part, did everything he supposed conducive to the mirthfulness of the company; he begged them to sit down in the shade of a spreading oak-tree, and taking out of a side pocket a small booklet entitled, Knallerbsen; oder du sollst und wirst lachen! ("Squibs; or you must and shall laugh!") began reading the funny anecdotes of which the little book was full. He read them twelve specimens; he aroused very little mirth, however; only Sanin smiled, from politeness, and he himself, Herr Klüber, after each anecdote, gave vent to a brief, business-like, but still condescending laugh.

At twelve o'clock the whole party returned to Soden to the best tavern there. They had to make arrangements about dinner. Herr Klüber proposed that the dinner should be served in a summer-house closed in on all sides - im Gartensalon; but at this point Gemma rebelled and declared that she would have dinner in the open air, in the garden, at one of the little tables set before the tavern; that she was tired of being all the while with the same faces, and she wanted to see fresh ones.

At some of the little tables, groups of visitors were already sitting. While Herr Klüber, yielding condescendingly to "the caprice of his betrothed," went off to interview the head waiter, Gemma stood immovable, biting her lips and looking on the ground; she was conscious that Sanin was persistently and, as it were, inquiringly looking at her - it seemed to enrage her. At last Herr Klüber returned, announced that dinner would be ready in half an hour, and proposed their employing the interval in a game of skittles, adding that this was very good for the appetite, he, he, he! Skittles he played in masterly fashion; as he threw the ball, he put himself into amazingly heroic postures, with artistic play of the muscles, with artistic flourish and shake of the leg. In his own way he was an athlete--and was superbly built! His hands, too, were so white and handsome, and he wiped them on such a sumptuous, gold-striped, Indian bandana!

Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring, translated by Constance Garnett

Monday, January 04, 2010

Sanin was silent

(Vanessa by John Millais)

It appeared that Gemma was not very fond of Hoffmann, that she even thought him ... tedious! The fantastic, misty northern element in his stories was too remote from her clear, southern nature. 'It's all fairy-tales, all written for children!' she declared with some contempt. She was vaguely conscious, too, of the lack of poetry in Hoffmann. But there was one of his stories, the title of which she had forgotten, which she greatly liked; more precisely speaking, it was only the beginning of this story that she liked; the end she had either not read or had forgotten. The story was about a young man who in some place, a sort of restaurant perhaps, meets a girl of striking beauty, a Greek; she is accompanied by a mysterious and strange, wicked old man. The young man falls in love with the girl at first sight; she looks at him so mournfully, as though beseeching him to deliver her.... He goes out for an instant, and, coming back into the restaurant, finds there neither the girl nor the old man; he rushes off in pursuit of her, continually comes upon fresh traces of her, follows them up, and can never by any means come upon her anywhere.

The lovely girl has vanished for him for ever and ever, and he is never able to forget her imploring glance, and is tortured by the thought that all the happiness of his life, perhaps, has slipped through his fingers.

Hoffmann does not end his story quite in that way; but so it had taken shape, so it had remained, in Gemma's memory.

'I fancy,' she said, 'such meetings and such partings happen oftener in the world than we suppose.'

Sanin was silent ... and soon after he began talking ... of Herr Klüber. It was the first time he had referred to him; he had not once remembered him till that instant.

Gemma was silent in her turn, and sank into thought, biting the nail of her forefinger and fixing her eyes away. Then she began to speak in praise of her betrothed, alluded to the excursion he had planned for the next day, and, glancing swiftly at Sanin, was silent again.

Sanin did not know on what subject to turn the conversation.

Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring, translated by Constance Garnett

Gabriel Fauré - Spleen (Verlaine)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Turgenev's interest in Music

From Turgenev's works and letters it is quite easy to see who were the composers closest to his heart: Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert (whose music also makes an appearance in Fathers and Children). But still, one cannot help asking how Turgenev, who didn't play a single instrument and was hardly competent enough to read a musical score, acquired so fine a knowledge of the treasures of Western European music that allowed him to give such inspired descriptions of music in his novels and stories? Of course, given the subject we are dealing with, it is impossible not to mention Pauline Viardot and her fateful influence on Turgenev...

Pauline Viardot. 1840s.
Pauline Viardot 1840s, Drawing by P.F. Sokolov
Stay! As I now see you – stay forever like that in my memory!
The last inspired sound has escaped your lips – your eyes are not shining nor sparkling – they have faded, weighed down by happiness, by the blissful consciousness of that beauty to which you were able to give expression, of that beauty in whose name you now hold out your triumphant, exhausted hands! [...]
Stay! And let me partake of your immortality, let fall into my soul a reflection of your immortality!
Those are the opening and closing words of one of Turgenev's most famous Poems in Prose, which he wrote down in 1879 but which evokes that moment when the twenty-five-year-old poet first set eyes on Pauline Viardot, on the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre in St Petersburg. (This opera house, also known as the Kamennyi Theatre, was reconverted, at the end of the 19th century, into the present building of the St Petersburg Conservatory). In that moment she had perhaps just finished singing Rosina's brilliant aria in The Barber of Seville (Rosina was one of her most famous roles) or an equally beatiful one of Amina's in La Sonnambula. We do not know in which role Turgenev heard her first, but at any rate it is clear that he attended probably all of her subsequent performances during that unforgettable season of the Italian Opera in St Petersburg (1843/44), and that after finally having been introduced to her, he belonged to her for the rest of his life.

Turgenev: The Torrents of Spring

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Bocca Baciata

It was the summer of 1840. Sanin was in his twenty-second year, and he was in Frankfort on his way home from Italy to Russia. He was a man of small property, but independent, almost without family ties. By the death of a distant relative, he had come into a few thousand roubles, and he had decided to spend this sum abroad before entering the service, before finally putting on the government yoke, without which he could not obtain a secure livelihood. Sanin had carried out this intention, and had fitted things in to such a nicety that on the day of his arrival in Frankfort he had only just enough money left to take him back to Petersburg.

In the year 1840 there were few railroads in existence; tourists travelled by diligence. Sanin had taken a place in the bei-wago; but the diligence did not start till eleven o'clock in the evening. There was a great deal of time to be got through before then. Fortunately it was lovely weather, and Sanin after dining at a hotel, famous in those days, the White Swan, set off to stroll about the town. He went in to look at Danneker's Ariadne, which he did not much care for, visited the house of Goethe, of whose works he had, however, only read Werter, and that in the French translation. He walked along the bank of the Maine, and was bored as a well-conducted tourist should be; at last at six o'clock in the evening, tired, and with dusty boots, he found himself in one of the least remarkable streets in Frankfort. That street he was fated not to forget long, long after.

On one of its few houses he saw a signboard: 'Giovanni Roselli, Italian confectionery,' was announced upon it. Sanin went into it to get a glass of lemonade; but in the shop, where, behind the modest counter, on the shelves of a stained cupboard, recalling a chemist's shop, stood a few bottles with gold labels, and as many glass jars of biscuits, chocolate cakes, and sweetmeats--in this room, there was not a soul; only a grey cat blinked and purred, sharpening its claws on a tall wicker chair near the window and a bright patch of colour was made in the evening sunlight, by a big ball of red wool lying on the floor beside a carved wooden basket turned upside down. A confused noise was audible in the next room. Sanin stood a moment, and making the bell on the door ring its loudest, he called, raising his voice, 'Is there no one here?' At that instant the door from an inner room was thrown open, and Sanin was struck dumb with amazement.

A young girl of nineteen ran impetuously into the shop, her dark curls hanging in disorder on her bare shoulders, her bare arms stretched out in front of her. Seeing Sanin, she rushed up to him at once, seized him by the hand, and pulled him after her, saying in a breathless voice, 'Quick, quick, here, save him!' Not through disinclination to obey, but simply from excess of amazement, Sanin did not at once follow the girl. He stood, as it were, rooted to the spot; he had never in his life seen such a beautiful creature. She turned towards him, and with such despair in her voice, in her eyes, in the gesture of her clenched hand, which was lifted with a spasmodic movement to her pale cheek, she articulated, 'Come, come!' that he at once darted after her to the open door.

Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring, translated by Constance Garnett

Wagner - Die Walküre Act 3 - Ride of the Valkyries