Thursday, May 25, 2017

Anatole France

Intellectuals of Various Sizes

Anatole France's real name was Jacques Anatole Francois Thibault; he took his pseudonym from his father's Parisian bookstore, "Librairie de France," rather than from any premonition of becoming the personification of French literature for his generation. He wrote in every genre, and his collected works run to twenty-five volumes, but he is best remembered for his erudition, ironic wit and elegance rather than for any one book. When he won the 1921 Nobel Prize, the Committee cited his "nobility of style, a profound human sympathy, grace, and a true Gallic temperament."
By the time of his death, France was not only regarded as the grand master of French literary style but as an icon of nationalism and political commitment.

France died in 1924 and was given a state funeral and intellectuals of various sizes, one dead, met on the impromptu battlefield. 
By then Andre Breton and others had split away from the impromptu anarchy and nonsense poetry of the Dadaists, and towards a more directed "Surrealist Revolution." Their first public, orchestrated "scandal" was directed towards France and his funeral: they asked for official permission to open the casket and slap his corpse. Denied this, they handed out a pamphlet on the day of France's funeral entitled "A Corpse," in which Breton applauded the national tribute: "Let it be a holiday when we bury trickery, tradition, patriotism, opportunism, skepticism, and heartlessness.... His corpse should be put in an empty quayside box of the old books which he loved so much and thrown into the Seine. Dead, this man must produce dust no longer." Matching symbolism with symbolism, "A Corpse" was distributed among the estimated crowd of 200,000 which gathered to pay tribute to France.
(from steve king)


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