Blog to Self

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sad today / Nana the "call girl"

I'm feeling sad today.

I just finished reading Nana by Emile Zola -- a pioneer of the naturalist school of fiction apparently. Completed in i think 1890, banned as obscene and denounced as "too strong." It's still strong, but most of all in its entirety -- the ending is its strongest part, though of course its effect can be fully felt only after reading the entirety of the novel prior to the ending (preferably the case with endings generally...)

In some ways it's too racy for today as well. Prostitution as an art, as a high society type lifestyle (the demimonde is apparently the word for this world in the France of the day), has never been more realistically and aptly portrayed. Flaubert summarized it with this sentence:
Nana tourne au mythe, sans cesser d'être réelle.
(Nana turns into myth, without ceasing to be real.)
(--Why not "Turns into a myth"? --I dunno, it's French to me...)
I think the French tolerance of this kind of decadence, (then at least, maybe now too? --I wouldn't know) is still "too strong" for the (hypocritically puritan) American Sensibility. You can't handle the truth, America! --Me neither. The truth is disgusting! (--and beautiful too!)

"Camille," La Dame Aux Camelias (Dumas fils), La Traviata (Verdi), give the romanticized version of the courtesan, or call girl / high society prostitute. Zola was reacting to this apparently, saying, here's what it really looks like. Much of it is glamorized in the sense of portraying high fashion (Nana sets the fashion in her society), success on the stage (due to physical beauty and charm rather than acting talent), etc., but the multiple partners and the bleeding of the the men dry financially -- ruining them, using them utterly (One immolates himself, another stabs himself twice in the chest with a pair of scizzors) -- gives the other side, the spiritual can of worms beneath the glamorous surface. The extraordinary ending shows Nana's circle reacting to her death (of Smallpox) in a light, cold, passing way, closing finally with a gruesome closeup of her deathmask.

I'm going to start blogging at Thelonious Bosch (TB) instead of here, at least on this sort of topic. Perhaps I will continue here in another vein.
This post belongs there, however. See you at TB! Perhaps I will double post for a time until my meager readership catches on...