31 Chapters
Medium 9781857547658

The Last Culture Broth: Bernard Pivot’s Bookshow

Iain Bamforth Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

The Last Culture Broth

B P’ B

How does the Brassens’ charity song go? – ‘Quand le croqu’-mort t’emportera…’

The undertaker’s mute came on  June for the th transmission of Bernard Pivot’s famous Friday night programme,

Bouillon de culture. For the past eleven years, for an hour and a half around  p.m. on France’s second public channel, France Deux,

Bouillon de culture offered little more than the prospect of an affable middle-aged man with sartorially suspect ties talking to guests about books they had written. For his last outing on air before retiring, ‘Stock-taking before final closure,’ a panel of twelve guests commented on highlights from a decade of Pivot’s being passionate about books. He had even invited the American talkshow host James Lipton, who does a good funeral, to talk in

English. Lipton was apparently doing public penance for having purloined for his own show Pivot’s questionnaire, a series of trite questions tossed to guests at the end of proceedings. ‘If heaven exists what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?’ (Answer: ‘Get off my show.’)

See All Chapters
Medium 9781857547658

The Continuing Adventures of Mr Ross Hall, Esq. (& Madam Zell)

Iain Bamforth Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

The Continuing Adventures of Mr Ross Hall, Esq.

(& Madam Zell)

W should we make of him? Like William Godwin, father of

Mary Shelley, he was a pedagogue incapable of practising what he preached. He wrote a treatise known to every educated person at the end of the eighteenth century on how to educate a young boy and left his own five children with the Foundling Hospital in Paris.

Edmund Burke observed that his often-expressed ‘love of humanity’ was a charade which excused him from any real concern with the suffering of men and women. Contemporary humanitarianism follows his impulse, allowing the heart and not history to lead it towards causes that can do no wrong: it doesn’t care for human beings too much but it likes to take care of them. As

Flaubert had to remind his mistress Louise Colet half a century later: ‘Don’t imagine that the pen has the same instincts as the heart.’ Rousseau was hopelessly dependent on his gouvernante

Thérèse Levasseur, not to speak of poor Madame de Warens, and yet proclaimed his proud ‘Roman courage’ and his defiant independence: if he had a need it was for a lack of binding attachments.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781857547658

All the Glory of His Father’s House

Iain Bamforth Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

All the Glory of his Father’s House

B S’ D  W

Bruno Schulz was born in  in the Galician town of Drohobycz, a station of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father Jacob ran a haberdashery; the family was decently well-off, and although

Bruno regularly attended the synagogue with his elder brother and sister the family was not religiously conservative. In , Schulz’s father died, and Drohobycz’s marketplace, including his father’s shop, was flattened by the Russian army. This was the great divide in Schulz’s life. Unlike Kafka, to whom he bears some resemblance, he doted on his father. One of the fetish images he carried through his life was ‘of a child carried by its father through the spaces of an overwhelming night, conducting a conversation with the darkness’. It is, as he recognised, the story of the father who tries to shelter his sick son from harm as they ride through the night, wind and wood in Goethe’s poem of frightened eroticism

‘Der Erlkönig’. With one difference: the roles are reversed. All his writings were to become a mythological consecration of his father’s cabalistic speculations in the backroom to his shop, literary returns on what the Book of Isaiah calls ‘all the glory of his father’s house’. Double-entry bookkeeping has rarely been described so enticingly: ‘The Book lay in all its glory on my father’s desk, and he, quietly engrossed in it, patiently rubbed with a wet fingertip the top of decals, until the blank page grew opaque and ghostly with a delightful foreboding and, suddenly, flaking off in bits of tissue, disclosed a peacock-eyed fragment.’ The obvious is a most terrible enigma.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781857547658

Overwhelmed by Aura

Iain Bamforth Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Overwhelmed by Aura

A’ P

There is a famous profile portrait of him, gaunt-cheeked, old and slightly gibbous, the face luminously pale above the black coat and trousers, the monumental line of which is broken only by the soft blur of the hand. It is an ash-and-clinker picture, as weighty and dark as Whistler’s famous painting of his mother. It dates from the last year of his life, , when he was known to every selfrespecting surrealist, if not to the public: the picture was taken by the young American photographer Berenice Abbott in her studio on the rue du Bac; her boyfriend, Man Ray, had been neighbour to the photographer in his little trois-pièces at  bis rue CampagnePremière, a spartan, utile studio-apartment which turns up in many of his prints. Atget was in the retail trade. The sign on his door read simply: ‘Documents pour artistes.’

His first biographer had problems finding out anything at all about the earlier life of Eugène Atget. Born in modest circumstances at Libourne in Gascony in , he was brought up in

See All Chapters
Medium 9781857547658

‘You Must Change Your Life’: A Letter from Kakania

Iain Bamforth Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

‘You Must Change Your Life’

A L  K

Does memory have a colour? If it does, it must lie somewhere in the palette between sepia and mahogany. A beautiful word the latter, even if I hear it these days as the spaced-out syllables of

Brecht’s decadent city, Mahagonny. Ma-ha-gon-ny. Mahagonny was the prototypic American city dreamed up in Europe. A city redolent of stiff-backed Biedermeier furniture, sepia daguerreotypes,

Havana cigars, Worcestershire sauce, cocoa and the little lumps of dehydrated meat extract Nietzsche used to live on. When I was a boy they were called Oxo cubes.

And the more I look around, the more my observation receives official imprimatur. Memory is brown. Drive down the superefficient tollways after the Channel Tunnel, those long concrete snakes cut around the contoured hills and ideological carcases of la bonne vieille France, and you can hardly miss them, deep ochre panels pointing out one architectural marvel after another, one battlefield after the next, the great arks bearing a generation’s collective undertakings and understanding into the next. Cut off from the landscape by your car’s metal cocoon the brown signs whiz past, pointers to what you almost slid through, at high speed, unawares. These are your didactic lessons for the day, visual lozenges of the continent’s history. And by the time you turn east of Paris to travel the four hundred odd kilometres to the flatland of the Rhine Valley – Verdun, le grès rose des Vosges, Strasbourg et sa cathédrale – and Germany takes over – schwäbische Alb, Ulmer Dom,

See All Chapters

See All Chapters