Monday, July 25, 2005

Finally finished that Lautrec bio. Informed, non-theoretical, at times speculative (but clear about when it’s being so), good but at 500 pages it took a larger bite out of this trip that I’d intended. Worth noting, from my perspective: “Outside Paris and Brodeaux, Jews were barely visible and most discontented provincials directed their more violent impulses toward beating up Italians, who were the largest immigrant group and the one most often seen as stealers of jobs and women, the usual reasons given for hating foreigners.”

But the book was mainly of use to me for the material on a figure of whom I was basically ignorant: Félix Fénéon, critic, editor, and anarchist – one of the few figures in post-Impressionist/Symbolist/avant circles at the time to take the political sympathies typical of his circle to the point of deeds, keeping a cache of detonators in his desk at his respectable day job at the War Ministry (!), and placing, on 4/4/1894, a potted plant – a hyacinth – on the window-ledge of the Foyot Restaurant, near the Palais de Luxemborg. Sweetman:

“By rights the place should have been filled with representatives of the ruling order but by a grim coincidence, the table nearest the window was occupied by Laurent Tailhade, a young poet, known like so many for his anarchist sympathies, who was dining with a woman friend. Unfortunately for Tailhade, the plant pot contained more than a hyacinth: beheath the flower was a lethan mix of dinitrobenzene and ammonium nitrate, closely packed with bullets….By a miracle no one was illed, though the poet, who had jumped up to protect his companion, was blinded in one eye and disfigured for life.”

Not quite as wild as Timothy McVeigh.

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