Posts Tagged ‘Stendhal’

Balzac’s second visit to Italy was taken under a severe cloud of financial strain. In the early months of 1837 he owed more than 53,000 francs owing to the failure of the Chronique de Paris. He was threatened with legal proceedings and he had to use aliases in order to duck the process servers. He was ill also. But a female admirer came to his rescue. Insead of going to Russia and spend two years there, he went instead to the south. Armed with several letters of introduction he reached Milan on 19 Feb. He visited La Scala and was lionized in the press. The change must have worked wonders with him but his visit to Venice didn’t augur well. Here he was not well received in the press on complaints that he didn’t seek out the local talents or praise the Venetian art life. However having discharged tasks undertaken on behalf of Guidoboni-Viscontis he returned home. Result of his brief sojourn was in two works Gambara and Massimilla Doni. In these two works he worked on a a familiar theme: any work of art risks being lost or misunderstood due to undisciplined fervor of the artist. His passion for art must be directed dispassionately as if the purpose is on the podium as the conductor. His right hand and left must fulfil their roles as one. In Gambara the composer fails because of his music is incomprehensible. For the work to be convincing Balzac had to know the musical terms and his ignorance of musical technicalities were corrected with the help of Jakob Strunz, a composer.
Massimilla Doni was written in 1837 but not published till 1839.The theme once again the same: excess of passion can kill a work of art . By the same token it can put a damper to male virility. The male lover ‘fails’ with his mistress but may prove potent with a prostitute for whom he cares nothing. Excess of imagination can exhaust a man’s strength so the opera singer who cannot put a distance will fail in performance.
This novella is Balzac’s best and most daring and works in two levels. Between the Prince and Massimila, Emiliano knows it will end in disaster if he seeks to possess her; Genovese the tenor cannot sing at his best if Clara is not on the stage.The duchess noted for chaste love is ready to outperform Clara in bed in order to save her lover. This rather ‘odious’ theme may have been unconsciously derived from Stendhal’s Armance.
Another crucial fact is in the power of music on an occupied nation. Italy at the time was under the iron heel of Austria and whose liberty has been made a short shrift of. The scions of noble houses were reduced to accept a ducat, a mere pittance for their loss in their landed goods. Symbolic value of Rossini’s Moses cannot be lost on the reader. The opera is dealt extensively in order to give a context for the national dilemma. It is mirrored in lovers state of mind as well. Just as characters in the Opera are star crossed and strike a parallel with the private dilemma of the Duchess and the Prince. How the core of the book is delineated and preserved through these multilayered narrative,- and given life in the way the author juxtaposes them! All these imbibed by Balzac who only needed a few hours among the then Venetian society!
(ack: Prometheus: The Life of Balzac-A. Maurois)


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Where does life of a man or woman begins? Birth is merely a point, a reference point, a milestone as death is. Influences of life from its parents have already made its own impressions even while it is still a foetus. A life is measured between birth and death as a way of convenience. But it misses the essentials, which are supplied by life. Stendhal in his own time had to put up with indifferent public and conspiracy of silence from literary critics of the day. Nevertheless he kept on with his writing of which a few perceptive minds, Honorè de Balzac was one, were enthusiastic about. Stendhal dedicated his ‘ The Charterhouse of Parma’ to these ‘ happy few,’. He also predicted that he would be read some 50 years hence which uncannily was proved true.
Oneness of things works on a different timescale than we hold. We have a quality time and it is for doing the needful things like our creature comforts. We are simple and misguided to think of success in terms of material riches. It is arbitrary. Creative genius of Van Gogh or Gaugin was such that they had different priorities in life and they outraged the conservative tastes of the day.


Van Gogh sold only one painting in his troubled life and now his works are priceless. Paul Gaugin’s bad luck persisted throughout his life. He left France and Paris the art capital of the world hoping that the king of Tahiti would buy his works. Before he could see him the king had died leaving him to fend for himself to a yahoo life as TE Lawrence qualified any life that was given into ‘ possession of aliens.’ Worse still his only skill, which he possessed was of not much use in Tahiti. He was forced to a life in a limbo entirely cut off from the world of art, which was necessary for him. Three years after his death in 1903 in Marquesas islands, an exhibition of his retrospective works held in Paris was a triumph. It caused a revival and interest in his works. Soon he was judged as one of the greatest painters who had impressed upon the 20th Century art.
One may in course of his or her life come up for many disappointments. What are many missed opportunities or disappointments  of a genius if he is denied what is his due? It is not that the public or the masses are dumb but the sorrows of a genius owe to the fact the public and the genius march to a different beat; The  public have their opinion on tastes and would act as an arbiter of what is good and what is bad. These guardians of morality derive their authority from their perception of finite time: they fashion their judgment to explain their times from their insufficient evidences; they are like automatons sold to the tyranny of time. Creative minds have a different concept of time. As the sage who said, these march to a different drummer than they. Character is what balances a life whether it is done on the coordinates of time or Time. These variable Speeds still give Character its recognizable form. Truth.
Truth is that quality which, like a keystone, holds all facets of a life where influences, what is derived and what is patently homegrown, are in equipoise.

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