Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Bath of Madame Mauriac- A Short Story by Andre de Mandiargues,first published in translation from the French by Albert Herzing, in The Paris Review, Issue 76, Fall, 1979

An Introduction to a Great Mid-Century Weird Fabulist by Edward Gauvin 

Works Read so for Paris in July 2019

  1. At the Existentialist Cafe:Freedom, Being and Apricot  Cocktails by Sarah Blackwell.  2016 - An exploration of the Parisian origins of French post World War Two Existentialism 
  2. Suzanne's Children: A Daring Rescue in Nazi Paris by Anne Nelson. 2017- an important addition to French Holocaust Literature
  3. Journey to the Edge of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine -1932
  4. Death on The Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Celine - 1936
  5. "Luc and his Father" - a set in Paris short story by Mavis Gallant - 1982
  6. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer - 2010
  7. Paris Vagabond by Jean-Paul Clebert - 1952, translated 2016
  8. Cheri by Colette- 1920
  9. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - 2011 - Hemingway’s first marriage 
  10. The Bath of Madame Mauriac- A Short Story by Andre de Mandiargues,first published in translation from the French by Albert Herzing, in The Paris Review, Issue 76,  a very weird delightful surrealist story

““I have always regarded sadomasochism as one of the best literary instruments, and one of the most powerful generators of emotion at a writer’s disposal, as in Balzac and Flaubert. Does it not have the added advantage of removing or, rather, confusing gender? It seems to me that the answer is yes, and that my greatest happiness, the proof of whether what I’ve written is successful, is when I no longer know who or what I am while writing. Man and woman at once, perhaps neither woman nor man — such is the pure androgyny writing allows me to attain, especially in the erotic tale.” Andre de Mandiargues

1909 - Paris

Travel through Europe with his good friend Henri Cartier-Bresson

He was a prolific writer very influenced by French Surrealism.

1991 - Paris

(For details see the very interesting article by Edward Gauvin linked above)

The Paris Review frequently places online
items from print issues.  (I susbscribe to an E mail that keeps me informed.) This week, almost as if in honor of Paris in July 2019, there is an interview with Simone de Beauvior, “Paris”, a poem by Baudelaire and The Bath of Madame Mauriac- A Short Story by Andre de Mandiargues, a new to me writer.  It turns out he was a highly regarded Award winning writer.  

The Bath of Madame Mauriac is totally strange, weird and wonderful.  Reading time is maybe three minutes.  Madame Mauriac, a famous opera singer, very obese, and Oh so famous, is bathed by nine orphan servant girls who cascade white mice over her naked body.  The occasion is very exotic, open to a few to watch rapture.  For sure this is French surrealism, de Mandiargues makes it very visual,sensual, deeply sexual in a rights of Bacchae tradition.

Here is a good sample:

“Mauriac has numerous friends who have access to her bathroom. Sometimes there is a crowd of courtesans, pressed back into the five corners of the room to allow the orphan girls to move around the tub. Mauriac is extremely obese, with very clear skin, so spotlessly maintained that there is not a single hair from the hairline of her flowing tresses to the tips of her toes, except for her eyelids, her eyebrows, and one small tuft, which she rather fancies, just below her left breast. The mice fall in a warm rain, scampering everywhere over her body, lashing her with their tails and pricking her with their little claws; then, tired of stirring, when they are waves of billowing fur at Mauriac’s sides, her beautiful hand nonchalantly Opens the hole of the drainpipe; then she will pull a cord to induce an additional downpour of fur.
Mauriac’s doctor, a diminutive Chinaman from Batignolles, assures her that, in the ancient East, baths of mice, dormice and rats were commonly used to stimulate the circulation of the blood among the great sedentary beauties of those days. Whether these benefits are real or imagined, it remains true that when the singer leaps forth, her skin flushed rose as if from the glacial pummelings of alpine waterfalls, her throat is crystalline, and from that moment until the moment that she appears on stage, a fata morgana, troubling the senses of the holy hermit from behind a heaven of tulle, the overwhelming frenzy of her voice and gestures is a mighty flood without stint.
Even the most passionate music-lovers, familiar with Thais, come away so transported by Mauriac’s trills that they find it impossible to believe that such a perfect nightingale could have taken wing, in effect, from that Auvergnat throat.”

I have found online another story by de Mandiargues and hope to post on it next week.

(If this story goes offline and you wish to read it, contact us.

Ambrosia Bousweau 

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