Monday, November 26, 2012

Jogging With Roussel 14

It was January 19th, 1889, the day before Raymond Roussel’s 12th birthday. Raymond Roussel was the gifted child who Canterel had seen at Ernesta Wallace’s children’s soiree a few years before, acting so brilliantly in the little Orientalist play that Abu Dakni had reconstructed from old Elamite sources, and Cantarel had published, and Ernesta had found so charming, Ernesta being the eccentric niece of the famous art collector, and philanthropist of the Siege of Paris, Sir Richard Wallace, who had donated so many of those wonderful drinking fountains now called ‘Wallace Fountains’, to the city of Paris, and who was nearing the end of his life, as Raymond on this day was fidgeting with his mother’s maiden name, writing down a little scenario in his room at his family’s country home in Neuilly. At first, Raymond, took the name, Marguerite Moreau-Chaslon, and turned it around in his mind, Nolsac Eau Rome, but by and by, began to think of the Moreau name itself, and of his brother’s book on Gustave Moreau, the famous painter, and to add this spirit to his thinking, and suddenly thought of “Mademoiselle Ars Guerrite on a chaise longue of Moreau.” After he had carefully written this down, he went to find his brother Georges, the artist of the family, who was sketching in the garden, and an actual student of Moreau’s. “Georges, can you draw me an ‘odalisque’ in the manner of Gustave Moreau, whose body is made of an unknown mineral called Guerrite, which though beautiful, appears to be at war with itself, but even so, may lounge serenely upon a velvet divan, or chaise longue, and which might have as well, a little brass plaque that reads, ‘c’est la guerre’ (that’s war, it cannot be helped)?” At which, Georges, having grown somewhat bored sketching winter trees, pulled out fresh paper and laid down his pencil at once, laying out the contours of the guerrite crystal odalisque first, its surface a tumult like one might see in certain battle scenes of Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, or Édouard Detaille, not G. Moreau who abhorred war, the crystals and micro-contours at war with themselves, then filled in the rest, as little Raymond had suggested. Raymond beamed! And Georges went back to work sketching trees, Raymond running off to dream, of the strange, heavy and serene, crystal of war, a truth within a fiction, within a truth within a fiction, the latter truth a conviction, and the latter fiction, a will.