Monday, 1 September 2014

MADAME PICASSO by Anne Girard.



“Although this book is a novel, and thus a work of fiction, I have taken the greatest care to recount events as they are known to have occurred. Various subplots, and the motivations of some of the characters, however, can only be fictionally drawn, since Eva left so little of herself behind for the world to discover. Because much of her life remains a mystery, as well as do some elements of her death, it became incredibly important to me to honor her memory by being as accurate as possible with the parts of the story that are known. Through those, I have respectfully woven plausible details and events in order to create the world of Madame Picasso.

One fact that touched me deeply while doing my research was discovering that the half-finished painting of Eva, which is mentioned toward the end of the novel, had gone missing and was found fifty years later, only after Picasso's death. It had been hidden among his private things, perhaps too dear to him to share with the rest of the world, or to part with. To support my supposition in that regard, the acclaimed historian, and personal friend of Picasso, Pierre Daix, revealed in his work, Picasso Life and Art, about Eva that "when we spoke of her two thirds of a century later, tears came to his eyes. They had truly lived together, and Pablo, when success came, needed her."


Filling in the blank spaces around the facts in a compelling and likely way, in order to join them with fiction, came in part, not just by studying Picasso's work for hints of their life together, but also by absolutely pouring over every word and nuance of Eva's correspondence with their good friends, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. The letters, accented with little scribbles by Picasso himself, and his own added sentiments, read like a treasure trove of gossip, news, and poignant revelations about the part of her world Eva and Picasso tried desperately to keep private. They were a young couple happy, clearly in love, and with a sense of humor. In writing this novel, I was in search of the essence of the elusive Eva, and I think that was best found through Eva's own words.

Woven throughout her beautiful, sloping penmanship, the spirited underscoring of her signature, is a sense of humor, a tender heart, determination, and, most of all, a great enduring love for Picasso. I was profoundly moved by the love they shared, the struggles they endured, and the bittersweet end that I believed marked Picasso, and changed him forever.

MY MEMORABLE MEETING

One of the best things about writing novels based on the lives of real historical figures is going to places where they lived, and worked, getting a true sense of their lives to try and breathe life into their stories for readers. Last summer, while I was researching the story behind MADAME PICASSO, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to interview a man who, for 30 years, was a close friend of Pablo Picasso. To sit and speak at length with a person who had actually known the great icon was probably the most unique, and daunting, prospect I had yet faced as a writer. Meeting the famed French photographer at his Provence atelier initially seemed like a dream come true.

The actual event, however, became more than that, it was an adventure.

An international celebrity in his own right, Lucien Clergue certainly cuts a daunting figure, even across the internet. I had done my homework prior to our interview and found a distinguished looking, almost regal, white-haired gentleman whose intensely pointed gaze leapt off the page at me. But that seemed strangely fitting, considering the legend of Picasso's own powerful stare. Slightly unnerved by the prospect of meeting, I went on to view the iconic, sensual black and white photographs that first brought Clergue fame in the 1950's. Their abstract nature, the essence of them, reminded me of Picasso's later work, and so further tied the two men together in my mind, even before we met.

The plan seemed simple enough: I was to be met at my hotel by a liaison who would walk me through the cobbled back streets of the French village to the unmarked studio where Monsieur Clergue has lived and worked for decades. There was no time limit set for our meeting, and I was told nothing other than that he was tired after a delayed flight back from Italy. Still, my heart began racing the moment we set off into the Provencal summer heat, and the guide deftly maneuvered, with me trailing behind, the narrow, shadowy alleyways that looked like a setting for a sequence from Romeo and Juliet. Brightly painted doors, weathered by time. window boxes spilling fat geraniums, some of the window ledges above them holding discerning cats. Other windows were tightly shuttered from the midday sun. Already to me it was other-worldly, and on we walked to a massive arched door that looked like it could once have hidden a stable, at least something very large and imposing. She rang the buzzer. French pleasantries were exchanged with a secretary, before the buzzer rang again, the door clicked and we were let inside, the vaulted, shadowy foyer, and the door was slammed shut. You're a pro, I told myself. You've been at this a long time, how daunting can it be?

My question was answered, as my guide and I were ushered up a flight of ancient stone steps and into the commanding presence of Monsieur Clergue. Seated behind a massive carved oak desk, surrounded by soaring walls ornamented with photos of himself with Picasso, plus several priceless works of art, Clergue sank against the back of his massive leather chair, steepled his hands, raised his eyebrows and said very simply, "So then, what can I do for you?"

It was clear to me then that he was wary of writers who wanted to tread on the memory of his friend. That was something to respect and a point on which we could agree. In my novel I sought only to humanize Picasso, and thus, to honor him. So as our liaison excused herself and left the office, I decided to buck up and make the moments count. After a short exchange in which he told me of several "hit pieces" on Picasso he had witnessed recently, he admitted that he was, indeed, cautious of the motives of writers. I told him of my project, my background and my commitment to the story.

Suddenly, as if clouds had cleared away from the sun, he gave me a reserved little grin and said, "Ask away. What would you like to know about Picasso?" I had, in that moment, been given a modicum of his trust. I opened my notebook then, and went to work.

Over the next hour and a half, I heard story after story about the private Picasso, some tender-hearted things, some acts of kindness and generosity, that don't often figure into stories about the brash, womanizing artist. Even knowing what they were getting into, some of the women, Clergue explained, were happy to attach themselves to Picasso's fame and money anyway. But, he said, when it was over, there was more benefit in tell-all biographies and accusations, than in silence. Whether Clergue had a point or not, the world will never know. What I do know is that Lucien Clergue was a man staunchly defending his friend, one who was no longer here to defend himself, and I respected that.

As a novelist, it is not for me to judge Picasso's actions, or his choices. Rather, I believe it was my task -- and my incredible opportunity -- to learn some amazing private details about someone who was, first and foremost, a man, one with strengths and weaknesses, like any other man, but who, along the way, became the most famous artist of the 20th Century.

Picasso was an icon, one who loved, and who erred, who triumphed and failed. What I hope to do in MADAME PICASSO is share a bit of that man and his great love for his Eva.”

Anne Girard was born with writing in her blood. The daughter of a hard-driving Chicago newsman, she has always had the same passion for storytelling that fueled his lifelong career. She hand-wrote her first novel (admittedly, not a very good one) at the age of fourteen, and never stopped imagining characters and their stories. Writing only ever took a backseat to her love of reading.

After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature from UCLA and a Master's degree in psychology from Pepperdine University, a chance meeting with the acclaimed author, Irving Stone, sharply focused her ambition onto telling great stories from history with detailed research. "Live where your characters lived, see the things they saw," he said, "only then can you truly bring them to life for your readers." Anne took that advice to heart. After Stone's encouragement twenty years ago, she sold her first novel. When she is not traveling the world researching her stories, Anne and her family make their home in Southern California. When she is not traveling or writing, she is reading fiction



Pablo Picasso's love affair with women
'Picasso: Challenging the Past' opens at the National Gallery next week. Mark Hudson looks at how the artist saw the women in his life - as either goddesses or doormats.

'Women are machines for suffering," Picasso told his mistress Françoise Gilot in 1943. Indeed, as they embarked on their nine-year affair, the 61-year-old artist warned the 21-year-old student: "For me there are only two kinds of women, goddesses and doormats".
From Rembrandt and Goya to Bonnard and Stanley Spencer, male artists have drawn obsessively and immensely productively on the faces and bodies of their wives and lovers. But no one used and abused his women quite like the greatest artist of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso.
Looking at the extraordinary images in a new Picasso exhibition that opens later this month at the National Gallery in London, you feel that Picasso eviscerates his women in the service of his art. Here, alongside images of exquisite tenderness, are women pulled and gouged into tortured shapes, women cut in bits and reconfigured on the canvas. Yet harrowing as these images are, they are nothing beside the real life dramas that led to their creation.
Of the seven most important women in Picasso's life, two killed themselves and two went mad. Another died of natural causes only four years into their relationship. Yet while Picasso had affairs with dozens, perhaps hundreds of women, and was true to none of them – except possibly the last – each of these seven women shines out as a crucial catalyst in his development as an artist. Each stands for a different period in his career, representing a complementary or opposing ideal that inspired the evolution of a new visual language. Just as they became obsessively involved with him, so he was dependent on them.
Loyal, generous and affectionate when it suited him, Picasso could be astoundingly brutal, to friends, lovers, even complete strangers. Yet he felt real, often anguished passion for each of these women – a passion he explored in tens of thousands of paintings, drawings and prints, in which he attempted to capture not just the way these women looked, but the totality of his feelings towards them.
Fernande Olivier, the first great love of the Spanish artist's life whom he met in 1904, was far from a pushover. Incorrigibly lazy and promiscuous, but with a lively and independent mind, this statuesque redhead was a popular artist's model, a kind of "it" girl of the Parisian avant-garde. To the young Picasso, who had arrived in Paris from Barcelona only two years before – and whose experience of women was limited largely to prostitutes and the pious Catholic women who raised him – Olivier must have seemed an intoxicating challenge.
Physically obsessed with her languid, bemused presence, Picasso moved from the poetic romanticism of his Rose Period to a new way of working inspired both by the dynamism of modern Paris and by the enduring values of Mediterranean culture on which he was to draw all his life. In 1906, Olivier accompanied him to the village of Gosol in the Spanish Pyrenees, where the cubistic traditional architecture and her strong, sensual features were endlessly analysed in a vast body of drawings that led to the most influential painting of the 20th century – Demoiselles d'Avignon.
As Picasso worked on this definitive canvas in the suffocating heat of his Montmartre studio, he was consumed with jealousy and anger towards Olivier who had temporarily walked out on him – this emotional violence feeding into a work that blasted the Renaissance idea of fixed perspective out of the window and changed the course of Western art.
When Olivier took up with a minor Italian artist in 1912 in an attempt to pique his jealousy, Picasso began seeing her close friend, Eva Gouel, the most elusive of the seven women. Frail and slender, she appears in only two photographs and her personality remains an enigma. Picasso's time with her coincided with the moment of synthetic cubism, in which observational elements were synthesised into semi-abstract compositions, often including collage or text. While Picasso never painted Gouel, he paid homage to her in several of these paintings, by including the words Ma Jolie – my pretty one – which is perhaps the most overtly affectionate artistic gesture he made to any of his women. While he was apparently devastated by her death from tuberculosis in 1916, this didn't stop him carrying on a simultaneous affair with one Gaby Depeyre.
Picasso's marriage to the Russian dancer Olga Khokhlova in 1915 coincided with a complete reversal in his artistic direction – from world-changing abstraction to relatively conservative neoclassicism. His portraits of Khokhlova have a restraint and serenity inspired by the 19th-century master Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.
Yet just as Picasso's artistic restlessness couldn't be contained for more than a few hours, so the desire of the socially ambitious Khokhlova to tame the now wealthy artist soon began to suffocate him. As their relationship disintegrated and she became increasingly delusional, his depictions of her and women in general grew ever more hateful – tortured masses of teeth, limbs and vaginas.
While Picasso's sense that he could do what he liked with absolutely anyone increased as his fame and wealth grew, he stayed with Khokhlova out of a residual desire for bourgeois respectability and the deeply ingrained Spanish idea that however unfaithful, a man doesn't leave his wife.
Picasso kept his relationship with the youthful Marie-Thérèse Walter – just 17 when he met her – secret from Khokhlova for eight years. Blonde, of equable temperament and athletic physique – but completely ignorant of art – Walter was immortalised in images of melting, idyllic eroticism in which we feel her guiltless enjoyment of her own sensuality and the artist's complete satisfaction in regarding it.
If Walter offered Picasso little on an intellectual level, his next great muse was the one who came closest to challenging him on his own terms – an artist and photographer closely involved with the Surrealists. He first encountered the mesmerising, raven-haired Dora Maar across the tables of the Café aux Deux Magots, stabbing a knife between her fingers till she drew blood. Picasso asked to keep her bloodstained gloves. When Maar and Walter later met in his studio, the ensuing argument degenerated into an all-out catfight between the two women, an incident Picasso later described as one of his "choicest memories".
Maar was Picasso's partner during the period of his greatest political engagement, her inner turmoil standing in for Spain's agony during the Civil War in Tate's iconic Crying Woman. She made a photographic record of Picasso's work on the monumental masterpiece Guernica, and her unmistakable features appear in the banshee-like head swooping into the painting. But in Picasso's most telling images of Maar, her features are disturbingly reconfigured – growing out of each other in all the wrong places – as though she is literally breaking down in front of us.
When Picasso threw her over for the much younger Françoise Gilot in 1943, Maar suffered a complete mental collapse, followed by nun-like seclusion.
"After Picasso," she famously declared, "only God." Lest it should be thought that Picasso had things entirely his own way, the case of Gilot is instructive. This young aspiring artist – just 21 when they met – seems to have handled Picasso's cruelties and perversities with amazing deftness, and was the only woman to leave him entirely voluntarily, with her dignity more or less intact. She bore him two children, with whom they lived a relatively normal family life for nine years. But was this domestic stability good for Picasso's art? While he captured Gilot's features in a series of radiant drawings and etchings, this was the period of his greatest fame, when his millionaire life on the Cote d'Azur was cut off from external reality, and it was all too easy for the artist to "play Picasso" in art and life.
The last of Picasso's great loves was, on the face of it, the one most in control. Picasso created more than 400 portraits of the demure Jacqueline Roque, who he married in 1961. The most memorable imbue her sharp features with a watchful, almost classical stillness that harks back to his Blue period paintings of nearly 70 years before. Roque, you feel, was the one who finally got Picasso to behave, and created a tranquil base for his last years.
Yet even her story ended in tragedy. In 1986 she killed herself, 13 years after Picasso's death. Like the other six women, she had collaborated in what is arguably the greatest artistic oeuvre of all time. Whether it was worth the pain, only she would be able to say.
Picasso: a lifetime in muses:
Fernande Olivier
(1881-1966; with Picasso 1904-1911)

After an abusive childhood and a violent teenage marriage, Olivier escaped into Paris's bohemia, and took up with Picasso during his most revolutionary phase – though she never saw the point of cubism. Picasso failed to suppress her lively memoir Picasso et ses Amis, but paid her a small pension provided the second volume didn't appear till after his death.

Eva Gouel
(1885-1915; with Picasso 1911-1915)

Born as Marcelle Humbert, she was the girlfriend of fellow artist Louis Marcoussis when Picasso became involved with her in 1911. Little is known of the frail Eva. While Picasso later claimed he knew greater contentment with her than anyone else, he carried on an affair as Eva lay dying of tuberculosis in 1915.

Olga Khokhlova
(1891-1954; with Picasso 1917-1935)

Picasso's Ukrainian first wife, and the mother of his eldest child Paulo, was a dancer with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, and one of the few people of either sex to stand up to the artist. After their separation in 1935, she bombarded him with hate mail. But since Picasso refused to divide his assets with her, as required by French law, they never divorced.

Marie-Thérèse Walter
(1909-1977; with Picasso 1927-1936)

Picasso met the blonde 17 year-old outside the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris in 1927, but kept their affair secret for eight years. She gave him a daughter, Maia, in 1935, at about the time she was supplanted in Picasso's affections by Dora Maar. She hanged herself in 1977.

Dora Maar
(1907-1997; with Picasso 1936-1944)

Born Henriette Theodora Markovitch, of Croatian and French descent. A talented artist and photographer, this Surrealist icon – powerfully portrayed by Man Ray – had a tragic air, caused, Picasso believed, by her inability to have children. She ended her days surrounded by dust-encrusted relics of her time with Picasso.

Françoise Gilot
(b.1921; with Picasso 1944-1953)

This level-headed law student abandoned her studies in favour of art and began an affair with Picasso at 21. She gave him two children, Claude and Paloma, and recalled their nine-year relationship in the best-selling Life with Picasso. Later married to American vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, she still paints.

Jacqueline Roque
(1927-1986; with Picasso 1954-1993)

A sales assistant in the Madoura Pottery Studio in Vallauris, where Picasso created his ceramics, Jacqueline met Picasso in 1954, when she was 27, and became his second wife in 1961. While she quarrelled with his children over the division of his estate, they collaborated in the creation of the Musée Picasso. She shot herself in 1986.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Dressed to Madame Guillotine.



 1790s:
Women: "age of undress"; dressing like statues coming to life;filet-Greek classical hairstyle; simple muslin chemise w. ribbon; sheer; empire silhouette; pastel fabrics; natural makeup; bare arms; blonde wigs; accessorized with (to demonstrate individuality): hats, turbans, gloves, jewelry, small handbags - reticules, shawls, handkerchiefs; parasols; fans; Maja: layered skirt
Men: trousers w. perfect tailoring; linen; coats cutaway in the front w. long tails; cloaks; hats; the Dandy; Majo: short jacket



In the French Revolution, the sans-culottes  ​("without culottes") were the radical left-wing partisans of the lower classes; typically urban labourers, which dominated France. Though ill-clad and ill-equipped, they made up the bulk of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars.The appellation refers to the fashionable culottes (silk knee-breeches) of the moderate bourgeois revolutionaries, as distinguished from the working class sans-culottes, who traditionally wore pantalons (trousers)


Cockades were widely worn by revolutionaries beginning in 1789. They now pinned the blue-and-red cockade of Paris onto the white cockade of the Ancien Régime - thus producing the original Tricolore cockade. Later, distinctive colours and styles of cockade would indicate the wearer's faction—although the meanings of the various styles were not entirely consistent, and varied somewhat by region and period.


In revolutionary France, the cap or bonnet rouge was first seen publicly in May 1790, at a festival in Troyes adorning a statue representing the nation, and at Lyon, on a lance carried by the goddess Libertas. To this day the national emblem of France, Marianne, is shown wearing a Phrygian cap. The caps were often knitted by women known as Tricoteuse who sat beside the guillotine during public executions in Paris in the French Revolution, supposedly continuing to knit in between executions.
Early depiction of the tricolour in the hands of a sans-culotte during the French Revolution.
The Liberty cap, also known as the Phrygian cap, or pileus, is a brimless, felt cap that is conical in shape with the tip pulled forward. The cap was originally worn by ancient Romans and Greeks. The cap implies ennobling effects, as seen in its association with Homer's Ulysses and the mythical twins, Castor and Pollux. The emblem's popularity during the French Revolution is due in part to its importance in ancient Rome: its use alludes to the Roman ritual of manumission of slaves, in which a freed slave receives the bonnet as a symbol of his newfound liberty. The Roman tribune Lucius Appuleius Saturninus incited the slaves to insurrection by displaying a pileus as if it were a standard.
The pileus cap is often red in color. This type of cap was worn by revolutionaries at the fall of the Bastille. According to the Revolutions de Paris, it became "the symbol of the liberation from all servitudes, the sign for unification of all the enemies of despotism."  The pileus competed with the Phrygian cap, a similar cap that covered the ears and the nape of the neck, for popularity. The Phrygian cap eventually supplanted the pileus and usurped its symbolism, becoming synonymous with republican liberty.





The Incroyables ("incredibles") and their female counterparts, the Merveilleuses ("marvelous women", roughly equivalent to "fabulous divas"), were members of a fashionable aristocratic subculture in Paris during the French Directory (1795–1799). Whether as catharsis or in a need to reconnect with other survivors of the Reign of Terror, they greeted the new regime with an outbreak of luxury, decadence, and even silliness. They held hundreds of balls and started fashion trends in clothing and mannerisms that today seem exaggerated, affected, or even effete (decadent, self-indulgent). Some devotees of the trend preferred to be called "incoyable" or "meveilleuse", thus avoiding the letter R, as in "révolution." When this period ended, society took a more sober and modest turn.

Many Incroyables were "nouveaux riches" who had gained their wealth from selling arms and money lending. Members of the ruling classes were also among the movement's leading figures, and the group heavily influenced the politics, clothing, and arts of the period. They emerged from the muscadins, a term for dandyish anti-Jacobin street gangs in Paris from 1793  who were important politically for some two years; the terms are often used interchangeably, though the muscadins were of a lower social background, being largely middle-class.

The Merveilleuses scandalized Paris with dresses and tunics modeled after the ancient Greeks and Romans, cut of light or even transparent linen and gauze. Sometimes so revealing they were termed "woven air", many gowns displayed cleavage and were too tight to allow pockets. To carry even a handkerchief, the ladies had to use small bags known as reticules.They were fond of wigs, often choosing blonde because the Paris Commune had banned blond wigs, but they also wore them in black, blue, and green. Enormous hats, short curls like those on Roman busts, and Greek-style sandals were the rage. The sandals were tied above the ankle with crossed ribbons or strings of pearls. Exotic and expensive scents fabricated by perfume houses like Parfums Lubin were worn as both for style and as indicators of social station. Thérésa Tallien, known as "Our Lady of Thermidor", wore expensive rings on the toes of her bare feet and gold circlets on her legs.


The Incroyables wore eccentric outfits: large earrings, green jackets, wide trousers, huge neckties, thick glasses, and hats topped by "dog ears", their hair falling on their ears. Their musk-based fragrances earned them too the derogatory nickname muscadins among the lower classes, already applied to a wide group of anti-jacobins (see above). They wore bicorne hats and carried bludgeons, which they referred to as their "executive power." Hair was often shoulder-length, sometimes pulled up in the back with a comb to imitate the hairstyles of the condemned. Some sported large monocles, and they frequently affected a lisp and sometimes a stooped hunchbacked posture.

In addition to Madame Tallien, famous Merveilleuses included Anne Françoise Elizabeth Lange, Jeanne Françoise Julie Adélaïde Récamier, and two very popular Créoles: Fortunée Hamelin and Hortense de Beauharnais. Hortense, a daughter of the Empress Josephine, married Louis Bonaparte and became the mother of Napoleon III. Fortunée was not born rich, but she became famous for her salons and her string of prominent lovers. Parisian society compared Germaine de Staël and Mme Raguet to Minerva and Juno and named their garments for Roman deities: gowns were styled Flora or Diana, and tunics were styled à la Ceres or Minerva.

The leading Incroyable, Paul François Jean Nicolas, vicomte de Barras, was one of the five Directors who ran the Republic of France and gave the period its name. He hosted luxurious feasts attended by royalists, repentant Jacobins, ladies, and courtesans. Since divorce was now legal, sexuality was looser than in the past. However, de Barras' reputation for immorality may have been a factor in his later overthrow, a coup that brought the French Consulate to power and paved the way for Napoleon Bonaparte.




The Bals des victimes, or victims' balls, were balls that were said to have been put on by dancing societies after the Reign of Terror. To be admitted to these societies and balls, one had to be a near relative of someone who had been guillotined during the Terror. The balls came to prominence after the death of Robespierre, supposedly first being held in early 1795 and first mentioned in popular writing in 1797.

The bals des victimes allegedly began as part of a rash of merrymaking and balls that broke out as the Terror came to an end. According to one source, they emerged as an idea of youths whose parents and other near relatives had gone to the guillotine, and to whom the revolution had now restored their relatives' confiscated property. Reveling in the return of fortune they established aristocratic, decadent balls open to themselves alone.

Descriptions of the balls' particulars vary, but the common thread is that they were a cathartic device in which the participants acted out the emotional impact of their relatives' executions and the social upheavals occurring as a result of the revolution. Many who described the balls, often generations afterwards, nevertheless found them a scandalous idea. Whether real or imagined, the very idea of the balls reflected the post-Terror generations' morbid fascination with the horror of the guillotine and the excesses of the French Revolution with its mass executions.

Those who attended the orgiastic balls reportedly wore mourning clothes or elaborate costumes with crepe armbands signifying mourning. Some accounts have both men and women wearing plain but scanty dress in the wake of the impoverishment of the Revolution, at least until the return of their fortunes at which time ball dress became highly elaborate. Others describe women dressing scandalously in Greco-Roman attire, with their feet bare or adorned only by ribbons. The style of dress at such a ball was known by some as the "costume à la victime."Women, and by some accounts men too, wore a red ribbon or string around their necks at the point of a guillotine blade's impact. Both men and women attending the balls were said to have worn or cut their hair in a fashion that bared their necks in a manner reflecting the haircut given the victim by the executioner, women often using a comb known as a cadenette to achieve this fashion.[According to some, this was the origin of the feminine hairstyle known as the "coiffure à la victime" or more popularly the "coiffure à la Titus", or (in England) "a la guillotine". Some sources state that a woman sporting this hairstyle sometimes wore a red shawl or throat ribbon even when not attending a bal des victimes.

In another macabre touch, instead of a graceful bow or bob of the head to one's dancing partner, a man who attended a bal des victimes would jerk his head sharply downwards in imitation of the moment of decapitation. Some sources suggest that women, too, adopted this salutation.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Terror! Robespierre and the French Revolution

Terror! Robespierre and the French Revolution is a 2009 documentary broadcast on BBC Two in July 2009.

In 1794, French revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre produced the world's first defense of "state terror" - claiming that the road to virtue lay through political violence. This film combines drama, archive and documentary interviews to examine Robespierre's year in charge of the Committee of Public Safety - the powerful state machine at the heart of Revolutionary France. Contesting Robespierre's legacy is Slavoj Žižek, who argues that terror in the cause of virtue is justifiable, and Simon Schama, who believes the road from Robespierre ran straight to the gulag and the 20th-century concentration camp. The drama, based on original sources, follows the life-and-death politics of the Committee during "Year Two" of the new Republic. It was a year which gave birth to key features of the modern age: the thought crime; the belief that calculated acts of violence can perfect humanity; the notion that the interests of "mankind" can be placed above those of "man"; the use of policemen to enforce morals; and the use of denunciation as a political tool.

Terror! Robespierre and the French Revolution


The Reign of Terror (5 September 1793 – 28 July 1794), also known simply as The Terror (French: la Terreur), was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of the revolution". The death toll ranged in the tens of thousands, with 16,594 executed by guillotine (2,639 in Paris), and another 25,000 in summary executions across France.

The guillotine (called the "National Razor") became the symbol of the revolutionary cause, strengthened by a string of executions: King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, the Girondins, Philippe Égalité (Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans), and Madame Roland, and others such as pioneering chemist Antoine Lavoisier, lost their lives under its blade. During 1794, revolutionary France was beset with conspiracies by internal and foreign enemies. Within France, the revolution was opposed by the French nobility, which had lost its inherited privileges. The reactionary Roman Catholic Church did everything to discredit the Revolution, which had turned the clergy into employees of the state and required they take an oath of loyalty to the nation (through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy). In addition, the First French Republic was engaged in a series of wars with neighboring powers intent on crushing the revolution to prevent its spread.

The extension of civil war and the advance of foreign armies on national territory produced a political crisis and increased the rivalry between the Girondins and the more radical Jacobins. The latter were eventually grouped in the parliamentary faction called the Mountain, and they had the support of the Parisian population. The French government established the Committee of Public Safety, which took its final form on 6 September 1793 in order to suppress internal counter-revolutionary activities and raise additional French military forces.

Through the Revolutionary Tribunal, the Terror's leaders exercised broad powers and used them to eliminate the internal and external enemies of the Republic. The repression accelerated in June and July 1794, a period called la Grande Terreur (the Great Terror), and ended in the coup of 9 Thermidor Year II (27 July 1794), leading to the Thermidorian Reaction, in which several instigators of the Reign of Terror were executed, including Saint-Just and Robespierre.

After the resolution of the foreign wars during 1791–93, the violence associated with the Reign of Terror increased significantly: only roughly 4 percent of executions had occurred before November 1793 (Brumaire, Year I), thus signalling to many that the Reign of Terror might have had additional causes. These could have included inherent issues with revolutionary ideology, and/or the need of a weapon for political repression in a time of significant foreign and civil upheaval,leading to many different interpretations by historians.




Many historians have debated the reasons why the French Revolution took such a radical turn during the Reign of Terror of 1793–94. The public was frustrated that the social equality and anti-poverty measures that the Revolution originally promised were not materializing. Jacques Roux's Manifesto of the Enraged in 25 June 1793 describes the extent to which, four years into the Revolution, these goals were largely unattained by the common people. The foundation of the Terror is centered on the April 1793 creation of the Committee of Public Safety and its militant Jacobin delegates. The National Convention believed that the Committee needed to rule with "near dictatorial power" and the Committee was delegated new and expansive political powers to quickly respond to popular demands.

Those in power believed the Committee of Public Safety was an unfortunate, but necessary and temporary reaction to the pressures of foreign and civil war. Historian Albert Mathiez argues that the authority of the Committee of Public Safety was based on the necessities of war, as those in power realized that deviating from the will of the people was a temporary emergency response measure in order to secure the ideals of the Republic. According to Mathiez, they "touched only with trepidation and reluctance the regime established by the Constituent Assembly" so as not to interfere with the early accomplishments of the Revolution.

Similar to Mathiez, Richard Cobb introduced competing circumstances of revolt and re-education within France as an explanation for the Terror. Counter-revolutionary rebellions taking place in Lyon, Brittany, Vendée, Nantes, and Marseille were threatening the Revolution with royalist ideas.[ Cobb writes, "the revolutionaries themselves, living as if in combat… were easily persuaded that only terror and repressive force saved them from the blows of their enemies."



Terror was used in these rebellions both to execute inciters and to provide a very visible example to those who might be considering rebellion. Cobb agrees with Mathiez that the Terror was simply a response to circumstances, a necessary evil and natural defence, rather than a manifestation of violent temperaments or excessive fervour. At the same time, Cobb rejects Mathiez's Marxist interpretation that elites controlled the Reign of Terror to the significant benefit to the bourgeoisie. Instead, Cobb argues that "social struggles" between the classes were seldom the reason for revolutionary actions and sentiments.

Francois Furet, however, argues that circumstances could not have been the sole cause of the Reign of Terror because "the risks for the Revolution were greatest" in the middle of 1793 but at that time "the activity of the Revolutionary Tribunal was relatively minimal."Widespread terror and a consequent rise in executions came after external and internal threats were vastly reduced. Therefore Furet suggests that ideology played the crucial role in the rise of the Reign of Terror because "man's regeneration" became a central theme for the Committee of Public Safety as they were trying to instill ideals of free will and enlightened government in the public. As this ideology became more and more pervasive, violence became a significant method for dealing with counter-revolutionaries and the opposition because, for fear of being labelled a counter-revolutionary themselves, "the moderate men would have to accept, endorse and even glorify the acts of the more violent."

On 2 June 1793, Paris sections – encouraged by the enragés Jacques Roux and Jacques Hébert – took over the Convention, calling for administrative and political purges, a low fixed price for bread, and a limitation of the electoral franchise to sans-culottes alone. With the backing of the National Guard, they persuaded the Convention to arrest 29 Girondist leaders, including Jacques Pierre Brissot.[17] On 13 July the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat – a Jacobin leader and journalist known for his violent rhetoric – by Charlotte Corday resulted in a further increase in Jacobin political influence.


Maximilien Robespierre had others executed via his role on the Revolutionary Tribunal and the Committee of Public Safety
Georges Danton, the leader of the August 1792 uprising against the King, was removed from the Committee. On 27 July Maximilien Robespierre, known in Republican circles as "the Incorruptible" for his ascetic dedication to his ideals, made his entrance, quickly becoming the most influential member of the Committee as it moved to take radical measures against the Revolution's domestic and foreign enemies.

The result of this was policy through which the state used violent repression to crush resistance to the government. Under control of the effectively dictatorial Committee, the Convention quickly enacted more legislation. On 9 September the Convention established sans-culottes paramilitary forces, the revolutionary armies, to force farmers to surrender grain demanded by the government. On 17 September the Law of Suspects was passed, which authorized the charging of counter-revolutionaries with vaguely defined crimes against liberty. On 29 September the Convention extended price-fixing from grain and bread to other essential goods, and also fixed wages. The guillotine became the symbol of a string of executions: Louis XVI had already been guillotined before the start of the terror; Marie-Antoinette, the Girondists, Philippe Égalité, Madame Roland and many others lost their lives under its blade.

The Revolutionary Tribunal summarily condemned thousands of people to death by the guillotine, while mobs beat other victims to death. Sometimes people died for their political opinions or actions, but many for little reason beyond mere suspicion, or because some others had a stake in getting rid of them.

Among people who were condemned by the revolutionary tribunals, about 8 percent were aristocrats, 6 percent clergy, 14 percent middle class, and 72 percent were workers or peasants accused of hoarding, evading the draft, desertion, rebellion.[21] Maximilien Robespierre, "frustrated with the progress of the revolution," saw politics in a rather tyrannical way because "any institution which does not suppose the people good, and the magistrate corruptible, is evil."

Another anti-clerical uprising was made possible by the instalment of the Revolutionary Calendar on 24 October. Hébert's and Chaumette's atheist movement initiated an anti-religious campaign in order to dechristianise society. The program of dechristianisation waged against Catholicism, and eventually against all forms of Christianity, included the deportation or execution of clergy; the closing of churches; the rise of cults and the institution of a civic religion; the large scale destruction of religious monuments; the outlawing of public and private worship and religious education; the forced abjurement of priests of their vows and forced marriages of the clergy; the word "saint" being removed from street names; and the War in the Vendée.

The enactment of a law on 21 October 1793 made all suspected priests and all persons who harboured them liable to death on sight.[24] The climax was reached with the celebration of the goddess Reason in Notre Dame Cathedral on 10 November. Because dissent was now regarded as counter-revolutionary, extremist enragés such as Hébert and moderate Montagnard indulgents such as Danton were guillotined in the Spring of 1794. On 7 June Robespierre, who favoured deism over Hébert's atheism and had previously condemned the Cult of Reason, recommended that the Convention acknowledge the existence of his god. On the next day, the worship of the deistic Supreme Being was inaugurated as an official aspect of the Revolution. Compared with Hébert's somewhat popular festivals, this austere new religion of Virtue was received with signs of hostility by the Parisian public.


Fatal Purity
By Marisa Linton | Published in History Today 2006  / http://www.historytoday.com/marisa-linton/fatal-purity

Marisa Linton examines a work on one of the main characters in the French Revolution.

Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution

 Ruth Scurr

Chatto and Windus    369 pp    £20      ISBN  0701176008

The two leading figures of the French Revolution who remain best known today are at opposite ends of the spectrum, Marie Antoinette and Robespierre. Robespierre’s character is by far the more complex and compelling. Marie-Antoinette found herself at the centre of the Revolution only through the chance that made her an empress’s daughter and a king’s wife. Fate had destined Robespierre for obscurity and a respectable life as a small-town lawyer. However, once the Revolution broke out, he threw himself into it wholeheartedly and  forged himself a unique place at its very heart.

He became synonymous with all that was best about the Revolution: he was a tireless defender of liberty, equality and the rights of the poor and dispossessed. But he is also indelibly associated with the most hideous aspect of the Revolution: the use of Terror. His enigmatic personality still commands our attention: to understand Robespierre is to begin to understand the Revolution.

In 1789 Robespierre was a shy, unknown deputy in the Estates General, notable mostly for the awkwardness of his public speaking. He learned quickly: Mirabeau saw immediately what made Robespierre special: ‘That man will go far. He believes what he says.’ Robespierre was a politician by conviction and his ascetic personal life reflected this. Even at the height of his power he lived as a lodger in the house of a master carpenter. Politically astute, stubborn, infuriatingly convinced of his own rectitude, he was that most remarkable of mortals – an incorruptible politician.

No French revolutionary has attracted more biographies than Robespierre. Most have been either passionately for or passionately against him. He has that effect on people. His earnest sincerity commands respect; his conviction appals us. Indeed, it is the very integrity of his principles that makes his adoption of violent tactics so horrifying: a fact recognized by his two greatest English biographers, J.M. Thompson and Norman Hampson.

And now we have the latest biography of Robespierre, the first book by a relatively unknown author. The publisher makes great claims for it, stating that it is: ‘The highly-anticipated debut of a major new historian’, and asserting that the book ‘sheds a dazzling new light’ on the puzzle that is Robespierre. Well, does it? Far from it. This book is not likely to be of interest to anyone with specialist knowledge of the Revolution. There is no new material, no original interpretation, no use made of the burgeoning new studies of political culture and language in this period that could throw fresh light upon the subject. But that should not trouble the general reader. The story of Robespierre is itself an extraordinary one. And Scurr does a very competent job, giving her account in a clear and evocative style. At times, particularly as the narrative reaches its climax, her language approaches the almost poetic quality this tale can inspire in even the most prosaic historians. Political biographies, however, straddle an awkward position between addressing the role of the individual, and the events that shaped the time. The most notable shortcoming of this book is the downplaying of the politics of the Revolution itself. Thompson said it was misleading to think of the Revolution as having leaders at all, for they were ‘swept off their feet, and carried along by a movement which they were powerless to control.’ This does not always come across in Scurr’s account. She attributes much of the hostility between the two revolutionary groups, the Jacobins and the Girondins, to the personal enmity of their respective leaders, Robespierre and Brissot. She states: ‘Robespierre had made an implicit pact with street violence in order to destroy his Girondin enemies in the Convention.’ This is misleading: personal rancour there was in plenty, but that was not why the Girondins were overthrown. The overwhelming reasons were the war and war policy, the fate of the King, and the question of how far the Parisian lower classes, the sans-culottes, the practitioners of street violence, should control the Revolution. Eventually, the sans-culottes  took matters into their own hands to put the Jacobins in power. Robespierre and the Jacobins chose to ride the tiger of direct popular democracy in allying themselves with the sans-culottes. But to ride a tiger is a dangerous business and the Jacobin leaders wielded the Terror partly to stop the sans-culottes doing it on their own account. ‘Let us be terrible,’ said Danton, ‘to save the people from being so.’ Was Robespierre the hero or the villain of the  tragedy that was the Revolution? This book is a good place to begin the search for an answer.

  Marisa Linton is the author of The Politics of Virtue in Enlightenment France (Palgrave, 2001).

VIOLENCE MADE IT HAPPEN

Date: March 19, 1989, Sunday, Late City Final Edition Section 7; Page 1, Column 3; Book Review Desk

Byline: By EUGEN WEBER; Eugen Weber, a professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles, is the author of ''Peasants Into Frenchmen.''/

Lead: LEAD: CITIZENS A Chronicle of the French Revolution. By Simon Schama. Illustrated. 948 pp. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $29.95.

Text:

CITIZENS A Chronicle of the French Revolution. By Simon Schama. Illustrated. 948 pp. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $29.95.

 Recumbent readers beware. Those who like to do their poring lying down will scarcely rush to take up this book. It is monumental. Once hefted, however, and well balanced on lap, knee or chest, ''Citizens'' will prove hard to put down. Provocative and stylish, Simon Schama's account of the first few years of the great Revolution in France, and of the decades that led up to it, is thoughtful, informed and profoundly revisionist. Mr. Schama, who teaches history at Harvard University, has committed other large and readable tomes. But nowhere more than here does he challenge enduring prejudices with prejudices of his own. His arguments, though, are embedded in narrative. Above all, he tells a story, and he tells it well.

 The French Revolution, according to Mr. Schama, was no bourgeois thrust against stodgy despotism or anachronistic aristocracy. The old regime was not old, nor did it act anachronistic, fusty or decrepit. Neither stagnant nor reactionary, the French nobility, at least its most audible and visible members, were more open to new blood, ideas and ventures than they had ever been. Two-thirds of noble families had become ennobled during the 17th and 18th centuries: a nobleman was no more than a successful bourgeois; and capitalist enterprise among nobles was as vigorous as among their bourgeois counterparts. Far from offering an obstacle to progress, the greatest modernizers in metallurgy, mines, shipbuilding or street lighting were nobly born. Far from rejecting the social and intellectual lessons of the Enlightenment, nobles echoed them: not least the gentleman Mr. Schama says was known in America as Marcus D. Lafayette. In their sympathy for new ideas, the Marquis de Lafayette and his equally noble friends were no exception; and the reign of Louis XVI, Mr. Schama insists, was troubled more by addiction to change than by resistance to it. Indeed, he argues, revolutionary violence was fired more by hostility to modernization, attempted or proposed, than by the will to speed it forward.

 Like the elite, government was less interested in tradition than in novelty and greater efficiency. The bureaucratic personnel of the 1780's would be recalled to office by Napoleon in the late 1790's, to mend the mess the Revolution left behind. Queen Marie Antoinette was lampooned as Madame Deficit, but expenditure on all Court items, 6 or 7 percent of the total budget, was about half what the British spent on their monarchy.

 There were serious problems, similar to those faced by other contemporary regimes: venality of office (51,000 public offices held as private property) facilitated cash flow but blocked reform; tax exemptions at the top encouraged tax evasion at the bottom. But the root of the fiscal problems was the cost of armaments, coupled with resistance to new taxes. By 1788, debt service accounted for almost half of current revenues. But in 18th-century perspective, even this huge debt was neither exceptional nor unmanageable. And those who sought to manage it on the King's behalf were more than empty heads presiding over empty purses. Nevertheless, aggressive, reforming managers in high office did not manage to reform; and the money crisis turned into the political crisis that led the monarchy to its end.

 In my view, Mr. Schama underestimates structural problems that no 18th-century regime effectively coped with. But he is right to shift blame for failure from structural dysfunctions to ''circumstances and policies'' - that is, to men and, above all, to a well-meaning but indecisive King, who was addicted to changing ministers in midstream. In Louis XVI, royal irresolution produced political incoherence. With no two ministers following the same strategy, fiscal policies especially were inconsistent and ineffective. Meanwhile, it became clear that true fiscal reforms could be achieved only with the support of representative bodies. But the re-creation of an assembly representative enough to save France from bankruptcy aggravated the crisis such an assembly was supposed to solve. Public debate swelled to unexpected heights. Didactic or preachy, it often affected the muscular patriotism learned from the classics and reinforced by recent American example. Patriotic freedom would surely produce money, where reforming absolutism had not. And, just as had happened 20 years before in Britain's American colonies, argument drifted from particulars to generalities, from particular privileges, policies and liberties to more general liberty.

 This is where circumstances altered cases. For two years before the Estates General assembled at Versailles in May 1789, harvests had been rotten, food supplies were short and opportunities to earn a living wage in an agriculture-driven economy had shrunk. With 40 percent of the kingdom's population dependent on charity, hunger bred anger, crowds turned into mobs. It was to defend liberty and its patriotic proponents embattled at Versailles that Parisian crowds rioted in July 1789; but also, and more so, they rioted for bread and against taxes.

 On July 12, the wall surrounding Paris was breached and its customs posts sacked and burnt. On July 14, the Bastille fell and its seven prisoners were released: four forgers, two lunatics and one aristocratic delinquent, imprisoned at his family's request. The Bastille's governor was slaughtered; his head, hacked off with a pocketknife, was stuck on a pike and carried through streets filled with cheering crowds. That day and later, other heads were flourished in the breeze. Two, belonging to noble ''vampires'' who were blamed for the famine, had hay stuck in their mouths. Virtue militant carried a pike, and used it. Hungry, irrational, suspicious crowds easily turned from anger to murder. Real grievances were fed into a great furnace stoked by the newly emancipated press - which was less ideological than viciously vulgar, less philosophical than pornographic - and by the creative truculence of street-corner orators.

 Here lay the source of that relation between blood and freedom, or blood and bread, that was established not by the Terror of 1793, but by the patriotic stirrings of 1789. As Mr. Schama says, the Terror was merely 1789 with a higher body count. There would have been no Revolution, no source of revolutionary energy, without violence. It was violence, Mr. Schama says, that ''made the Revolution revolutionary.'' He might have added: violence expanded from its normal place among ordinary people to those social groups hitherto protected from its more discomforting aspects.

 Nor, Mr. Schama reminds us, would revolutionary transformations have taken place without the intervention of those whom they most affected. The mass abandonment of feudal privileges on Aug. 4, 1789, was accomplished by dukes and bishops.

 Despite sporadic violence, the early Revolution was a bit like the hot-air balloons that trailed tricolor ribbons over the Champs-Elysees to celebrate a new Constitution. But to get that Constitution, crowds had been brought into the streets. It would be hard to drive them off when constitutional government provided less bread than absolutism had done, when patriotism delivered no provender. There is no more reason to associate food and freedom than there is to believe liberty compatible with equality. But, in Mr. Schama's words, asking for the impossible is one good definition of a revolution.

 A lot of impossible things were asked for in the name of reason or patriotism, liberty or equality. In 1790 the clergy were declared civil servants and asked to swear a loyalty oath to the state that paid them. Most declined. Church property, nationalized and sold to pay state debts, did not solve the economic crisis. But by creating a cleavage between those who followed the state and those who followed the Pope, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy insured that differences over fundamental social and political reforms would spiral into a civil war that was also, as Mr. Schama calls it, a holy war.

 Then, in 1792, patriotism culminated in foreign wars; and the pressures of conflict, internal and external, pushed terrorism to new lengths. Because they were reminiscent of aristocratic ways, elegance, manners, wit were denounced as treason. The King was deposed, and a new calendar opened with ''Year One of French Liberty.'' In revolutionary newspeak, liberty, of course, meant its opposite: a police state, in which spying, denunciation, indictment, humiliation and death threatened all. The sententious religion of universal brotherhood gave way to the polemics of paranoia: Rousseau with a hoarse voice, as Mr. Schama puts it. Personal scores became political causes. Nuts came out of the woodwork. Marat was one, but a nuttier enthusiast, the Marquis de Bry, gauging the mood of the hour, offered to found an organization of tyrannicides - 1,200 freedom fighters dedicated to the murder of kings, generals and assorted foes of freedom.

Thus was the joy of living replaced by the joy of seeing others die. Mr. Schama is at his most powerful when denouncing the central truth of the Revolution: its dependence on organized (and disorganized) killing to attain political ends. However virtuous were the principles of the revolutionaries, he reminds us that their power depended on intimidation: the spectacle of death. Violence was no aberration, no unexpected skid off the highway of revolution: it was the Revolution - its motor and, for a while, its end.

 In the National Assembly Mirabeau had argued that a few must perish so that the mass of people might be saved. It turned out that more than a few would perish. Politicians who graduated from rhetoric to government found that rhetoric made government impossible. If patriotism was to triumph, politics had to end; liberty had to be suppressed in the name of Liberty; democracy had to be sacrificed so that Democracy should live. Speaking from the ruthless precinct of the Committee of Public Safety, Saint-Just, who is one of Mr. Schama's favorite antiheroes, insisted that the Republic stood for the extermination of everything that opposed it. And absence of enthusiastic support was opposition enough.

 With the likes of Saint-Just and Robespierre (a state scholarship boy, typical of old regime meritocracy), doublespeak was in the saddle. Murderously weepy, sadistically moralistic, fanatically denouncing as fanatics those who did not share their fanaticism, men like Robespierre stood for the will of the people as long as the people's will matched their own visions. Ever offering to die for their beliefs, they got the sour satisfaction of undergoing the martyrdom they professed to seek: murderers murdering murderers before being murdered in their turn, until the last days of July 1794 brought an end to the Terror, though not to continuing terrorism.

 This is where Mr. Schama's chronicle of the Revolution ends, before successive regimes - Directory, Consulate, Empire - tried to pick up its pieces. But not before its author presents the bill for access to French citizenship: a quarter-century of warfare, with its fallout of militarism, nationalism and xenophobia; the disaster of the Vendee, where civil war wiped out one-third of the population; the ruin of port cities and textile towns that had been the growth areas of 18th-century France; the losses to French trade, which, by 1815, was only about 60 percent of what it had been in 1789. One could add that, by enforcing and thus discrediting paper money, the Revolution set back its popular acceptance by a century and accentuated national problems of credit and cash flow.

Mr. Schama reacts against intellectual cowardice, against self-delusion, against ascribing greatness to great horrors and painting brutish acts in brilliant colors. Above all, he reacts against violence, against the way violence as means was allowed to become violence as end, against the way politicians, historians and simple-minded nincompoops rationalize violence as pathological, or sanitizing, or necessary, or whatever.

 Because they are forcefully expressed and buttressed by illuminating anecdotes, the selectiveness of his views is not immediately evident. One can be so swept along by Mr. Schama's brio that his biases seem irrelevant. They are not, because they are as exaggerated as current exaggerations in the opposite direction, and because they conceal aspects of events that receive no notice. For the positive side of the Revolution, readers will have to turn elsewhere. Mr. Schama has given us a grand argument for the prosecution. Lively descriptions of major events, colorful cameos of leading characters (and obscure ones too) bring them to life here as no other general work has done. Baroque eloquence and rococo sparkle make the book long but never long-winded. All in all, it is an intelligent book for intelligent readers that is also a delight to read. THE SEAT OF THE BEAST DESPOTISM

 The first number of the Revolutions de Paris, published on the seventeenth of July, was devoted to a lengthy - and rather muddled - account of the insurrection. . . . ''The cells were thrown open to set free innocent victims and venerable old men who were amazed to behold the light of day.'' The reality was less dramatic. Of the seven prisoners, four were forgers who had been tried by regular process of law. The Comte de Solanges, like de Sade, had been incarcerated at the request of his family for libertinism. . . . The remaining two prisoners were lunatics. . . . One of them, however, ''Major Whyte'' (described in French sources as English and in English sources as Irish), was perfect for revolutionary propaganda, bearing as he did a waist-length beard. With his carpet of silvery whiskers and shrunken, bony form he seemed . . . the incarnation of suffering and endurance. So Whyte was called the major de l'immensite and was borne around in triumph through the streets of Paris, amiably if weakly waving his hands in salutation, for in his bewildered condition he still assumed he was Julius Caesar.

 Such was the symbolic power of the Bastille to gather to itself all the miseries for which ''despotism'' was now held accountable, that reality was enhanced by Gothic fantasies. . . . Ancient pieces of armor were declared to be fiendish ''iron corsets'' applied to constrict the victim and a toothed machine that was part of a printing press was said to be a wheel of torture. Countless prints . . . supplied suitably horrible imagery, featuring standing skeletons, instruments of torture and men in iron masks. . . . The Bastille, then, was much more important in its ''afterlife'' than it ever had been as a working institution. . . . Transfigured from a nearly empty, thinly manned anachronism into the seat of the Beast Despotism, it incorporated all those rejoicing at its capture as members of the new community of the Nation. From ''Citizens.''

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Village - BBC One (VIDEO/TRAILER Bellow)



The Village is a BBC TV series written by Peter Moffat. The drama is set in a Derbyshire village in the 20th century. The first series of what Moffat hopes will become a 42-hour TV drama was broadcast in spring 2013 and covered the years 1914 to 1920. A second season began broadcasting on August 10, 2014, and will continue the story into the 1920s. Future series will be set during the Second World War, post-war Austerity Britain, and later.

The Village tells the story of life in a Derbyshire village through the eyes of a central character, Bert Middleton. Bert has been portrayed as a boy by Bill Jones, as a teen by Alfie Stewart, as a young man by Tom Varey, and as an old man by David Ryall. John Simm plays Bert's father John Middleton, an alcoholic Peak District farmer, and Maxine Peake plays Bert's mother, Grace. Peake is a preferred actress of the writer, who has called her "the best actress of her generation", and she has featured in two previous Moffat series, Criminal Justice and Silk.

Writer Peter Moffat has spoken of wanting to create 'a British Heimat', alluding to Edgar Reitz's epic German saga Heimat, which followed one extended family in a region of Rhineland from 1919 to 1982. Unlike Downton Abbey, this version of history is a working-class history—"domestics are expected to face the walls when the master walks by"
The first series was filmed in and around Hayfield, Edale, Glossop, Chapel-en-le-Frith and Charlesworth in the Peak District, and in the grounds of Tatton Park in Cheshire, during October to December 2012. The four first episodes were directed by Antonia Bird, her last work before her death the same year.

John Simm used local historian Margaret Wombwell's book Milk, Muck and Memories in his research for how the farmers from the period lived, and Moffat researched locally and at the Imperial War Museum.

On 28 April 2013 the BBC Media Centre reported that "BBC One's critically acclaimed epic Sunday night drama series starring Maxine Peake and John Simm will return with six more episodes next year." The second series began filming at the end of March 2014 in Derbyshire. The stately home and grounds at Lyme Park were used as a new filming location. It was confirmed by cast members on Twitter that filming for the second series had wrapped on 4 July 2014.
We long for a sense of belonging that village life offers
Britain's continuing fascination with a life connected to the land finds new expression in Peter Moffat's historical drama series
Rachel Cooke

For all that it longs to act as a bracing corrective to ITV's ludicrous Downton Abbey, the BBC's hyped new drama The Village isn't without its share of historical falsehoods. Its characters – we're in 1914 as it begins – talk of women's suffrage and the coming war in a way that you feel real people probably never did (a kind of polarised ping pong over the dinner table), and it seems unlikely that an upper-class young woman would ever have had spur-of-the-moment sex in the bracken with the servant whose job it was to draw her bath.

Nevertheless, as you will find should you watch the first part tonight, it's impossible not to admire the ambition of this show. Peter Moffat, its writer, wants nothing less than to tell the story of the 20th century through the lives of the inhabitants of one tiny Peak District village; the plan is that, future commissioning editors allowing, The Village will eventually comprise some 42 hours of television.

He has, he says, written an "ordinary epic", a narrative that is determined to be interested in life as it is lived. Given the way that television works these days, this is brave-bordering-on-foolhardy. Hillside intercourse apart, such quotidian rhythms are going to require more than a little patience on the part of the audience.

Moffat's bosses at the BBC, of course, will be betting on viewers swooning contentedly at the sight of clouds scudding over Edale and Hayfield, the Derbyshire villages where it is filmed, even if they aren't absolutely gripped by its plot. And not without reason. Our love of the idea of the village, if not the reality, shows no sign of letting up. We cleave to it through thick and thin, for all that most of us live in cities and suburbs; for all that so many villages now have only half-lives, thanks to second-home owners and post office closures.

Last week, much of the news was frantically metropolitan: Boris Johnson in Islington, David Miliband in Primrose Hill, Pippa Middleton and her sushi notionally at the offices of Waitrose Kitchen magazine in Ladbroke Grove. All the same, we also learned both the best place (supposedly) for rural living in England (the villages of the borough of Waverley in Surrey, according to the Halifax), and that the long-standing editor of The Archers, Vanessa Whitburn, has decided to move on – and I bet you a million pounds that it was these stories that were the more resonant for most people. Boris Johnson is endlessly entertaining but he is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a balm for the soul.

Novelists and dramatists tend to talk of villages as microcosms; the universal emotions are all there, but helpfully boundaried and with some pretty scenery to boot. Property writers, on the other hand, purr seductively over quality of life: villages are safe, and near good schools, and the air is clean.

Of course I understand both of these arguments. I like Barbara Pym and the thought of being able to leave my back door open as much as the next woman. But neither one of them truly explains the enduring fascination of villages for the kind of people who would feel buried alive if they actually had to live in one. I'm the sort of a person, literally and metaphorically, who needs to know that I can buy a paper and a pint of milk at any time of day or night. So why is it that when I'm anxious about work and life, I lie on my bed and picture myself walking across the green of a small village in County Durham? What is it that my heart is seeking as I turn myself into a human version of Google Earth?

My own hunch is that this longing is to do with sense of place, a connectedness that is increasingly elusive in our cities, which all look alike, and whose inhabitants come from everywhere and nowhere.

Peter Moffat has strained his every sinew not to gild his fictional village with what he has called a "Ready Brek glow": crops fail, families go hungry, and a scrap of tripe in milk is thought a feast fit for a king. It's no bucolic idyll. But even so, the romantic in him won't, or can't, dispense with the idea of the bond between his characters and their land.

In the first episode, John Middleton (John Simm), a struggling farmer, forces his small son Joe – a boy unwilling to work in the fields – to stare at the flag floor of the family kitchen and consider its ancient dips. By the door and the hearth, it curves steeply, worn down by the feet of many generations. Beneath the dining table, however, there is no slope, for this piece of furniture is never moved, and meals are eaten quickly, being only fuel. I didn't believe John's speech as a piece of realism but I felt its power as poetry.

We city dwellers, for all that we might cherish the sound of police sirens and hard-braking buses, are just so much flotsam and jetsam. London, the city where I have lived for 20 years, has swallowed me up. But being invisible isn't the same as belonging.

Do politicians watch any television apart from the odd box set of The West Wing and Borgen? My strong guess, having interviewed dozens of the breed, is that they don't. But we must hope that a few do at least try The Village, a series that is political in the very broadest sense of the word. Our politicians need to get back in touch with the emotional ties between town and country as a matter of some urgency.

For far too long, they have divided people into "urban" and "rural" and, having counted the relevant heads, made policy decisions based on the conviction that city types, who comprise the bigger, louder group, simply don't care what happens in the countryside (we see this most recently in this government's disastrously haphazard and wilfully ignorant new planning regime, which favours greenfield development over brownfield).

This is madness, and it will bite them on the bum in the end. And just to flip the argument over: understanding why people in Birmingham and Newcastle and Sheffield never miss The Archers, and spend a few minutes of every working day staring dreamily at village houses on the Rightmove website, should be the bottom line for those of our politicians who hope to make Britain's cities less dysfunctional (assuming such creatures do exist). For it's only by discovering what it is that so many of us are missing that we will have any hope at all of making our home towns better places – happier places – to live.

The Village: the most accomplished new drama of the year so far
Ben Lawrence is very impressed by the first episode of The Village, BBC One's epic new period drama.

In television drama, rural poverty doesn’t exist. Grim urban reality is one thing, but when it comes to the countryside, there is a need for reassurance, cosiness and, that dreaded word, heritage.
At first, it seemed that The Village (BBC One) would be a paean to our rural past. As present day centenarian Bert (played by David Ryall) reflected on his childhood and the day in 1914 when the first bus came to his small Derbyshire community, it felt certain that the next hour would play out like an extended Hovis advertisement. However, things soon became strange, poetic, ugly and dark in the most accomplished new drama of the year so far.
The lens in Peter Moffat’s six-part series is young Bert (an astonishingly assured performance from 12-year-old Bill Jones) and in the first episode, we saw him navigate a pretty wretched existence: frequently beaten at school for writing with his left hand, tormented at home by his angry, embittered father (John Simm) whose crop failure on their small farm was a metaphor for his failure as a human being. Small comforts for the boy came from his kind, quiet mother (Maxine Peake), determined that her children escape to a better life and from his adored older brother Joe (Nico Mirallegro) who went to work at the “big house” and, by the end of the episode, was marching to war, and possibly to a premature, heroic death.
When The Village slipped occasionally into period cliché (the solitary drinking of John, a dinner-party conversation about suffragism in which each person was strategically placed to offer a different point of view), it was saved by imaginative dialogue, and odd, unexpected resolutions.
Real effort has been made to create an authentic community. We witnessed conversations about mortality in a women’s bathhouse. We saw muscular Christianity visited on the village children by a buttoned-up, sadistic teacher who had failed to get enlisted on account of his low height. Most importantly, The Village refused to foist contemporary relevance on its audience. This was drama as history where the past is definitely another country.

On the strength of the first episode, The Village marks a much-needed return to intelligent populism for BBC One drama. And Moffat, who has already shown considerable talent with Criminal Justice, has just proven that he is one of the most imaginative and important writers working in television today.