Friday night 13th November 2015
Michel Tournier’s novel The Ogre arrived earlier today. Looking up stuff about him. On a site called Books and Writers by Bamber Gascoigne this passage about one of Tournier’s novels---
“In 1975 there appeared Les Météores (Gemini), a baroque treatment of the myth of Castor and Pollux, which could be read as a contemporary version of Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. Beginning from Crusoe, Tournier's men are often solitary characters; he sees that the the natural antagonism of male and female is the major source of problems for human beings. In Gemini Thomas Koussek argues that "the heterosexual wants to lead the free, unattached life of the homosexual nobility. But the more he breaks out, the more firmly he is recalled to his proletarian condition." “ This
alignment of sexual identity with class structure is something no one would make in this country but it is pretty interesting, especially if male-female is the source of all human problems. Again, these days, no one dare make that claim.
Weds Dec 23 first day of winter, the solstice turn was last night
and tonight at 9:28 pm I have just read this in Tournier’s novel The Ogre: They are celebrating the Sun Child, “risen from his ashes at the winter solstice. The sun’s trajectory had reached its lowest level and the day was the shortest of the year: the death of the sun god was therefore lamented as an impending cosmic fatality. Funeral chants celebrating the woe of the earth and the inhospitableness of the sky praised the dead luminary’s virtues and begged him to return among men. And the lament was answered, for from then on every day would gain on the night, at first imperceptibly but soon with triumphant ease.” page 264
Finished The Ogre, 9:40 pm. rushed to get it over with, distracted and not much interested in the last five pages.
from The Complete Review
"Tournier ever longs to entrap in the single event, in the single thought or word, both the elemental and cultured, historical and perverse, anarchic and fascistic. So it is with The Mirror of Ideas" - James Sallis, Review of Contemporary Fiction
"The Mirror of Ideas is hardly a skeleton key to Tournier's fiction or biography. Only occasionally do we guess that Tournier may be talking about himself." - Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle
"This volume displays Tournier at his finest, which is to say his most outrageous. The style is as fluent as ever, but the content, depending upon whether one is a feminist, a philosopher, an atheist or a cat-lover, will either annoy, exasperate, provoke or amuse." - William Cloonan, South Atlantic Review
“will either annoy, exasperate, provoke or amuse." - William Cloonan, South Atlantic Review
liked this comment about Tournier on Complete Review. Seems that’s what he does in all of his novels, so that was The Ogre. A stew of interesting stuff, a deconstruction of the male war machines, the Nazis as well as today’s Isis, although strangely missing is adult homoeroticism, replaced by the pedaphilia, all of it drawn from Goethe’s Erl-King, which I think our American reader of myths, Robert Bly, must have used in his work. It seems that in his next novel, Gemini, he treats that topic.
Since I was so fascinated by twins years back (is it something one likes in one’s fifties?, I might read this Gemini--my star sign after all, too. Tournier is irritating and yet I guess he provides a unique sort of entertainment, reading experience.
Tuesday 29th Snow this morning. Slushy though.
Tournier’s work intrigues, alas. Someone commented that his work deals only with men and what’s that about? The Gemini did indeed occupy my imagination a while back so why not investigate. Have to calculate but that was twenty years ago. So how old was Tournier when he wrote his novels? He has a memoir too and I’ll look up sites today, snow day, for more info. Am afraid The King of Alders, the Erl-King, The Ogre, has stayed with me more than I would have wanted it to as I read it. I thought I was irritated by it but of course irritation a fine line away from fascination. And I realize his place in the late 20thC geist about deconstructin and multiple-voicing everything. So wouldn’t I had I been in his career. Plus his re-writing of Crusoe is perfect for my Copenhagen. Crusoe in Copenhagen I could even call it. The man alone after a shipwreck. I’ve never read Crusoe and the Tom Hanks movie, not seen, put me off ever wanting to. But it is the model for the philosophical novel in English.
Found the put-down of the day, an anonymous Kirkus reviewer from 1984 “And the best stories here are, in fact, the most straightforward, conventional dramatizations of Tournier's mythic preoccupations: ""The Lily of the Valley Rest Area"" reveals the epicureanism of two French long-haul truck drivers; and ""The Fetishist"" is the expected monologue about women's frilly underwear. Inventive, tingly curosities at best, then--but far too often Tournier seems like no more than a cerebral Joyce Carol Oates, lazily toying with dark urges and forbidden pleasures.
Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1984
ouch, that hurts. Can only hope the reviewer is wrong.
Dreary day. Wet snow, rainy, short excursion to the dump and that was it. Day off tomorrow. Or half a day. Kathie will do pool work with Willow in the morning. No appointment with Feeney. Nothing from Paquin. Or Scott or anybody else. Doug came in for a glass of wine while Ben plowed the driveway. Invited himself in and asked for a wine. !
A better article by John Yargo appeared this year on The Rumpus.
A good line from it is “The ultimate destination of a spiritual journey, Tournier reminds us, has to be obscure.”
That’s good. So Tournier liked Bachelard and studied philosophy.
For now I am a Tournier-o-phile. Very much a school days memory book, so far. Blustery rainy day. Furnace guy called to clarify the water problem in the basement. Paula here.
Va proposed we plot a day in Cambridge tomorrow while the weather is good
27 Dec Sunday
Finished reading a very strange novel called The Ogre by Michel Tournier. Turns out it was a John Malkovich movie in 1996. Analysis of Nazisim through use of German mythology about St Chrisopher (the Erl King) and pedophilia. ! Some brainy stuff throughout but "not recommended" is my review. Shoulda been an essay, a book, i.e. dissertation.
40 pages into Gemini and Tournier has me hooked. Delicious and pointed and sharply intelligent and more. Me and Genet agree here. Or will do.
10 January 2016
Tournier’s Gemini The bloom is off that rose. At least a bit. No matter what Genet says on the back cover. In fact that blurb itself might now do more to damn the book and the career to the remembered past more than keep it alive. How far removed the headlines about gender and sexuality are from the world Genet wrote about and, it seems, Tournier took his turn with. I’ll finish Gemini when I get back. I’m 173 page in out of 452. I could cut the book down the spine and take it with me but that doesn’t seem that essential or necessary. It will wait. It might still surprise me, but at the moment the voice of Alexandre feels less intriguing and interesting than I had at first thought. And his gender politics feel antiquated, as I noted above. Could just as well cut up Lurid & Cute, but that too seems extreme. India beckons on this stormy night.
Thurs Jan 21
Tournier’s twins book is better. His portrait of Alexandre could be Donato and could sum up the views of generations of members of their caste. Wish the tour guide would have talked about the caste system in Indian history. Will we try to go back to India? At this point, hard to say. Just to visit with Kenna? Somehow I don’t think so. To visit Mumbai and Kerala and the greatest of Hindu temples? Maybe. Waiting for more prompts on this question. For now still getting over the exhaustion. And yet “news” of Lachman’s book via Nicholas seems somehow a result of the trip. As well as all of our own interior spiritual processing of what just happened.
Remembered I have Tournier’s autobiography now too. Earlier I’d wondered if Alexandre was autobio but further on into the book I think he’s making it up and is more interested in his binary conceptualism as imaged by the twins. The twinification syndrome.
Sunday Jan 24 2016
Reading around in Tournier’s “autobiography.” Which it hardly is. More like essays on my great novels and explications of them. Still, he gives helpful tips about Gemini and what he was trying to do in it. He even mentions Modiano in reference to how dangerous it is to a novel when the author introduces a vivid homosexual character who can take over and direct the work in ways the writer had not intended.
Tournier loses me fast and now that I’m midway in Gemini I wonder if I will ever finish it. He explains exactly what he’s after and this turns out to be what turns me off. “As I state previously, my novels are all attempts to render certain metaphysical ideas in the form of images and stories.” Ok, but that interests me less than he wants it to. Burke would love his next sentence (he’s defending his interest in his characters’ chamber pots): “Well, it’s a simple fact that ontology when tossed into the crucible of fiction undergoes a partial metamorphosis into scatology. The most interesting part of the material on Gemini is a letter from a twin who says Tournier captures the essence of twinness as a perfection of incestuousness. The twin and his brother slept with their mother and more or less with one another until about the age of twenty when they finally separated out from the family triangle and developed separate lives. Why does the reader (moi) suspect that Tournier might be making this up? Burke does that every so often in his books. Whether he did or not, it confirms the fact that for me Tournier is less a novelist-poet than an essayist, a fabulist in Sheldon Sacks’ terms, writing parables and teaching stories, philosophy in narrative forms. Too cerebral, too left brain, too mentalistic. Alpha too. Where’s the feeling? His characters are puppets of his notions, his monadology. He hates mathmatics or had no talent for it in school and yet his books seem like rubics cubes, like Kehlmann’s novel, F, that I read on the plane. Puzzle constructs or ontological game-codes. Kehlmann’s touch with it all is much lighter and more playful than Tournier’s. He is too pleased with himself, the self-absorbed bachelor ontological puppet-master.
Hope shifted back now to Gebser. And more likely to go back to Modiano than Tournier.
Monday Jan 25
Swimming this morning. Back to routines. And now I’m reading more of Tournier after all, the chapter 2 entitled The Ogre (the novel I read first) in which he describes the Nazi occupation of France as he experienced it and what followed in his life. He was 19 when the war ended and the Germans retreated. And his family knew German language, literature and culture very deeply.
Bach’s Art of the Fugue a big inspiration, model.
He has an amazing tale to tell about being twenty and living in Germany right after the war. I suspect others wondered out loud--why didn’t you write all of this instead of writing it in the form of those bloody novels? In the chapter on The Ogre he says “I never had any intention of writing fantasy. My aim was to achieve a realism that became fantastic only through an extreme of precision and tationalism: hyperrrealism plus hyperrationalism.” 93 Wind Spirit
“Bachelard taught me not only the versatility of dialectic but also that hallmark of all genuine philosophical investigation, laughter. . . No, the truth is simply that laughter is the sign of man’s approach to the absolute.” 124-125
January 27, 2016 I skim the few pages left in Chapter 11 of Gemini page 250 of 452 pages total. Unconvincing pages about the Germans arriving in Paris and Hitler having his photo taken at the Eiffel tower. No interest in reading further. So now we bid Tournier adieu.