The Troubled Tortoise

http://www.philosophyexperiments.com/tpm/Paradoxes5.aspx

Thomas Morrison, a philosophy writer in Kansas City, Missouri, wrote for Epoché Philosophy Monthly of March 2019:

“The profound thinker known as Lewis Carroll made enormous strides in both the imagination and in mathematics and logic. In an 1895 issue of Mind we are exposed to a masterful display of both at once. Carroll writes a three-page scene in which Aesop’s famous tortoise questions the Homeric hero Achilles on the foundations of logic. In effect, he asks: if I accept as true that ‘All As are Bs’, and that ‘This is an A’, why must I accept that ‘It is a B’?
I am following Carroll’s exposition itself in construing logical consequence as a matter of truth (semantic consequence), and not provability (syntactic consequence).

I will discuss what I believe are the two important lessons that the troubled tortoise taught us: one about logic and one about ourselves.

We begin with Carroll flouting Zeno’s racetrack paradox. Clearly he accepts an implicit argument against it and must so for we see Achilles and the Tortoise at the end of the race. The hero is asked by the Testudine to consider a subtler ‘race course’ that, unlike what many believe, is in fact impossible to traverse. This infinite series is the logical syllogism…

…All of this is to say that logic and human life will always exhibit a separation. Carroll’s puzzle is not a problem for logic per se as it is a problem for the tortoise qua conscious individual. It is the problem we all have of wanting to be forced or compelled; of wanting something in lieu of the indifferent void that meets us at every present; hence magic words; hence prayer; hence language. The rabbis of the Talmud believed in the mysterious power of language to create reality. Consider the narrative of the Golem in Jewish folklore: a creature sculpted from mud is brought to life by inscribing a word on it, such as emet (Hebrew for “truth”). The creature becomes unruly, its master removes the word, and the monster returns to dust. Or consider John 1:1 from the New Testament, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And consider magic words. “Abracadabra” is Arabic for, “I create as I speak.” This phrase was written on the clothing of Roman soldiers in the 3rd century to prevent malaria (Champlin 1981). And again it was put on the doors of Londoners in the 17th century to resist the plague (Defoe 1911). We have a very deep-seated desire as human beings to have a connection between world and word. We want words to change reality. And we don’t have to go very far for a proof — albeit a far shallower boon than magic promises. This essay is its own proof. It’s the very idea of communication. And for the sake of science, politics, and everyday life, we hope that we can actually change peoples’ minds by reasoned argument. But, nevertheless, as we have shown, logical arguments can no more force a rock to fly upwards than they can force a person to think anything. As Dostoevsky’s underground man exclaims in the heart of duress, “It may be the law of logic, but not the law of humanity” (Ch. 9). In light of the magazine title Epoché it would be wrong of me to fail to mention the connection with this notion and that of the ability to suspend the world, or doubt, or the epoché, as utilized in 20th century phenomenology. The reason I do not explore this further is that although this separation between human life and logic smacks of the epoché, the notion of non-transgressable logical laws alluded to with Aristotle’s help above would not sit nicely in a Sartrean ontology, for example.

So what did the troubled tortoise teach us? In this quick, three-page scene we are exposed to two very important lessons in the nature of logic. First, that logical implication is something quite different than a proposition to be accepted. And second, that human reality can always ask “ and why must I?”.”

“Persians take poetry seriously.”*

*Omid Safi, Director of the Duke Islamic Studies Center, wrote at aljazeera.com on 14 Jun 2020:

“This is the time of the year where every day I get a handful of requests to track down the original, authentic versions of some famed Muslim poet, usually Hafez or Rumi. The requests start off the same way: “I am getting married next month, and my fiance and I wanted to celebrate our Muslim background, and we have always loved this poem by Hafez. Could you send us the original?” Or, “My daughter is graduating this month, and I know she loves this quote from Hafez. Can you send me the original so I can recite it to her at the ceremony we are holding for her?”

It is heartbreaking to have to write back time after time and say the words that bring disappointment: The poems that they have come to love so much and that are ubiquitous on the internet are forgeries. Fake. Made up. No relationship to the original poetry of the beloved and popular Hafez of Shiraz.

How did this come to be? How can it be that about 99.9 percent of the quotes and poems attributed to one the most popular and influential of all the Persian poets and Muslim sages ever, one who is seen as a member of the pantheon of “universal” spirituality on the internet are … fake? It turns out that it is a fascinating story of Western exotification and appropriation of Muslim spirituality.

Let us take a look at some of these quotes attributed to Hafez:

Even after all this time,
the sun never says to the earth,
‘you owe me.’
Look what happens with a love like that!
It lights up the whole sky.

You like that one from Hafez? Too bad. Fake Hafez.

Your heart and my heart
Are very very old friends.

Like that one from Hafez too? Also Fake Hafez.

Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living in better conditions.

Beautiful. Again, not Hafez.

And the next one you were going to ask about? Also fake. So where do all these fake Hafez quotes come from?

An American poet, named Daniel Ladinsky, has been publishing books under the name of the famed Persian poet Hafez for more than 20 years. These books have become bestsellers. You are likely to find them on the shelves of your local bookstore under the “Sufism” section, alongside books of Rumi, Khalil Gibran, Idries Shah, etc. 

It hurts me to say this, because I know so many people love these “Hafez” translations. They are beautiful poetry in English, and do contain some profound wisdom. Yet if you love a tradition, you have to speak the truth: Ladinsky’s translations have no earthly connection to what the historical Hafez of Shiraz, the 14th-century Persian sage, ever said.

He is making it up. Ladinsky himself admitted that they are not “translations”, or “accurate”, and in fact denied having any knowledge of Persian in his 1996 best-selling book, I Heard God Laughing. Ladinsky has another bestseller, The Subject Tonight Is Love.

Persians take poetry seriously. For many, it is their singular contribution to world civilisation: What the Greeks are to philosophy, Persians are to poetry. And in the great pantheon of Persian poetry where Hafez, Rumi, Saadi, ‘Attar, Nezami, and Ferdowsi might be the immortals, there is perhaps none whose mastery of the Persian language is as refined as that of Hafez.

In the introduction to a recent book on Hafez, I said that Rumi (whose poetic output is in the tens of thousands) comes at you like you an ocean, pulling you in until you surrender to his mystical wave and are washed back to the ocean. Hafez, on the other hand, is like a luminous diamond, with each facet being a perfect cut. You cannot add or take away a word from his sonnets. So, pray tell, how is someone who admits that they do not know the language going to be translating the language?

Ladinsky is not translating from the Persian original of Hafez. And unlike some “versioners” (Coleman Barks is by far the most gifted here) who translate Rumi by taking the Victorian literal translations and rendering them into American free verse, Ladinsky’s relationship with the text of Hafez’s poetry is nonexistent. Ladinsky claims that Hafez appeared to him in a dream and handed him the English “translations” he is publishing:

“About six months into this work I had an astounding dream in which I saw Hafiz as an Infinite Fountaining Sun (I saw him as God), who sang hundreds of lines of his poetry to me in English, asking me to give that message to ‘my artists and seekers’.”

It is not my place to argue with people and their dreams, but I am fairly certain that this is not how translation works. A great scholar of Persian and Urdu literature, Christopher Shackle, describes Ladinsky’s output as “not so much a paraphrase as a parody of the wondrously wrought style of the greatest master of Persian art-poetry.” Another critic, Murat Nemet-Nejat, described Ladinsky’s poems as what they are: original poems of Ladinsky masquerading as a “translation.”

I want to give credit where credit is due: I do like Ladinsky’s poetry. And they do contain mystical insights. Some of the statements that Ladinsky attributes to Hafez are, in fact, mystical truths that we hear from many different mystics. And he is indeed a gifted poet. See this line, for example:

I wish I could show you 
when you are lonely or in darkness 
the astonishing light of your own being.

That is good stuff. Powerful. And many mystics, including the 20th-century Sufi master Pir Vilayat, would cast his powerful glance at his students, stating that he would long for them to be able to see themselves and their own worth as he sees them. So yes, Ladinsky’s poetry is mystical. And it is great poetry. So good that it is listed on Good Reads as the wisdom of “Hafez of Shiraz.” The problem is, Hafez of Shiraz said nothing like that. Daniel Ladinsky of St Louis did. 

The poems are indeed beautiful. They are just not … Hafez. They are … Hafez-ish? Hafez-esque? So many of us wish that Ladinsky had just published his work under his own name, rather than appropriating Hafez’s. 

Ladinsky’s “translations” have been passed on by Oprah, the BBC, and others. Government officials have used them on occasions where they have wanted to include Persian speakers and Iranians. It is now part of the spiritual wisdom of the East shared in Western circles. Which is great for Ladinsky, but we are missing the chance to hear from the actual, real Hafez. And that is a shame.

So, who was the real Hafez (1315-1390)?

He was a Muslim, Persian-speaking sage whose collection of love poetry rivals only Mawlana Rumi in terms of its popularity and influence. Hafez’s given name was Muhammad, and he was called Shams al-Din (The Sun of Religion). Hafez was his honorific because he had memorised the whole of the Quran. His poetry collection, the Divan, was referred to as Lesan al-Ghayb (the Tongue of the Unseen Realms).

A great scholar of Islam, the late Shahab Ahmed, referred to Hafez’s Divan as: “the most widely-copied, widely-circulated, widely-read, widely-memorized, widely-recited, widely-invoked, and widely-proverbialized book of poetry in Islamic history.” Even accounting for a slight debate, that gives some indication of his immense following. Hafez’s poetry is considered the very epitome of Persian in the Ghazal tradition.

Hafez’s worldview is inseparable from the world of Medieval Islam, the genre of Persian love poetry, and more. And yet he is deliciously impossible to pin down. He is a mystic, though he pokes fun at ostentatious mystics. His own name is “he who has committed the Quran to heart”, yet he loathes religious hypocrisy. He shows his own piety while his poetry is filled with references to intoxication and wine that may be literal or may be symbolic.

The most sublime part of Hafez’s poetry is its ambiguity. It is like a Rorschach psychological test in poetry. The mystics see it as a sign of their own yearning, and so do the wine-drinkers, and the anti-religious types. It is perhaps a futile exercise to impose one definitive meaning on Hafez. It would rob him of what makes him … Hafez.

The tomb of Hafez in Shiraz, a magnificent city in Iran, is a popular pilgrimage site and the honeymoon destination of choice for many Iranian newlyweds. His poetry, alongside that of Rumi and Saadi, are main staples of vocalists in Iran to this day, including beautiful covers by leading maestros like Shahram Nazeri and Mohammadreza Shajarian.

Like many other Persian poets and mystics, the influence of Hafez extended far beyond contemporary Iran and can be felt wherever Persianate culture was a presence, including India and Pakistan, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and the Ottoman realms. Persian was the literary language par excellence from Bengal to Bosnia for almost a millennium, a reality that sadly has been buried under more recent nationalistic and linguistic barrages.

Part of what is going on here is what we also see, to a lesser extent, with Rumi: the voice and genius of the Persian speaking, Muslim, mystical, sensual sage of Shiraz are usurped and erased, and taken over by a white American with no connection to Hafez’s Islam or Persian tradition. This is erasure and spiritual colonialism. Which is a shame, because Hafez’s poetry deserves to be read worldwide alongside Shakespeare and Toni Morrison, Tagore and Whitman, Pablo Neruda and the real Rumi, Tao Te Ching and the Gita, Mahmoud Darwish, and the like.

In a 2013 interview, Ladinsky said of his poems published under the name of Hafez: “Is it Hafez or Danny? I don’t know. Does it really matter?” I think it matters a great deal. There are larger issues of language, community, and power involved here.

It is not simply a matter of a translation dispute, nor of alternate models of translations. This is a matter of power, privilege and erasure. There is limited shelf space in any bookstore. Will we see the real Rumi, the real Hafez, or something appropriating their name? How did publishers publish books under the name of Hafez without having someone, anyone, with a modicum of familiarity check these purported translations against the original to see if there is a relationship? Was there anyone in the room when these decisions were made who was connected in a meaningful way to the communities who have lived through Hafez for centuries?

Hafez’s poetry has not been sitting idly on a shelf gathering dust. It has been, and continues to be, the lifeline of the poetic and religious imagination of tens of millions of human beings. Hafez has something to say, and to sing, to the whole world, but bypassing these tens of millions who have kept Hafez in their heart as Hafez kept the Quran in his heart is tantamount to erasure and appropriation.

We live in an age where the president of the United States ran on an Islamophobic campaign of “Islam hates us” and establishing a cruel Muslim ban immediately upon taking office. As Edward Said and other theorists have reminded us, the world of culture is inseparable from the world of politics. So there is something sinister about keeping Muslims out of our borders while stealing their crown jewels and appropriating them not by translating them but simply as decor for poetry that bears no relationship to the original. Without equating the two, the dynamic here is reminiscent of white America’s endless fascination with Black culture and music while continuing to perpetuate systems and institutions that leave Black folk unable to breathe.

There is one last element: It is indeed an act of violence to take the Islam out of Rumi and Hafez, as Ladinsky has done. It is another thing to take Rumi and Hafez out of Islam. That is a separate matter, and a mandate for Muslims to reimagine a faith that is steeped in the world of poetry, nuance, mercy, love, spirit, and beauty. Far from merely being content to criticise those who appropriate Muslim sages and erase Muslims’ own presence in their legacy, it is also up to us to reimagine Islam where figures like Rumi and Hafez are central voices. This has been part of what many of feel called to, and are pursuing through initiatives like Illuminated Courses.

Oh, and one last thing: It is Haaaaafez, not Hafeeeeez. Please.”

“’I think there’s a pain somewhere in the room,’ said Mrs. Gradgrind,..

…’but I couldn’t positively say that I have got it.’” Charles Dickens: Hard Times (1854).

From: Think (1999), by Simon Blackburn:

“…The emphasis on natural ways of forming belief chimes in with another strand in (David) Hume and other British philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which is their distrust of the power of unaided reason. For these philosophers, the best contact between mind and the world is not the point at which a mathematical proof crystallizes, but the point at which you see and touch a familiar object. Their paradigm was knowledge by sense experience rather than by reason. Because of this, they are labelled empiricists, whereas Descartes is a card-carrying rationalist

…the objection continues, this is a mistake, for experiences are parasitic, or adjectival on persons who have them. What does this mean?

Consider a dent in a car. We can talk about dents: this dent is worse than that one, or will be more costly to repair than the dent we suffered last year. But it is logically impossible that there could exist an ‘unowned’ dent, a dent without a surface that is dented. Dents are, as it were, the shadows of adjectives. In the beginning there is a surface, the surface is changed by becoming dented, and then we abstract out a noun, and talk about the dent. The noun ‘dent’ is logically downwind of the adjective, ‘dented’. Similarly a grin is downwind of a face that is grinning, which is the joke behind Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire cat, which disappeared leaving only its grin behind…

[see Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). In 1895, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) developed a philosophical regressus-argument on deductive reasoning in his article “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles”, which appeared in one of the early volumes of Mind. The article was reprinted in the same journal a hundred years later in 1995, with a subsequent article by Simon Blackburn titled “Practical Tortoise Raising”. Wikipedia]

…So the objection to Hume is that ‘experiences’ are in the same way parasitic on persons. You cannot imagine a pain, for instance, as a thing floating around waiting to be caught up in a bundle of other experiences, so that it might be accidental whether it, that very same pain, attaches itself to one bundle or another. In the beginning there is the person, and the onset of a pain is just the event of a bit of the person beginning to hurt, just as the onset of a dent is a bit of a surface becoming dented…”

42-43 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2

From: ‘Henrietta Street and Maiden Lane Area: Maiden Lane’, in Survey of London: Volume 36, Covent Garden, ed. F H W Sheppard (1970):

“This building was erected in 1873, under an eighty-year Bedford building lease to E. Y. and T. Cox, to form an extension to their adjacent premises at Nos. 28–29 Southampton Street. Cox and Sons (later Cox, Sons and Buckley) were church-furniture and stained-glass manufacturers. The architect was S. J. Nicholl, who also designed Roman Catholic churches in London and elsewhere. The contractor was the local builder, Howard, whose tender was accepted at £2,297.

Four storeys high, with two further storeys in the roof, the lofty appearance of the building is emphasized by its architectural treatment. Although stylistically the details are flamboyant French Gothic, the size and arrangement of the openings clearly indicate the functional requirements of the building. The front is two bays wide, one of which is a double bay, and is of red brick with stone dressings. At ground-storey level, the recessed main entrance occupies the single bay, the double bay containing a pair of large display windows with cast-iron mullions and transoms. The first- and second-storey openings are grouped together in panels slightly recessed behind the main face of the building; those above the entrance are floor-to-ceiling height, and were clearly intended for the ingress and egress of goods, while the double bay contains pairs of six-light mullioned and transomed windows. All these openings have rounded top corners, with plain rubbed brick arches over, and the secondstorey openings are surmounted by hood moulds in the form of much flattened ogee arches, enriched with carved foliage and mouldings. The third-storey openings are rectangular, but otherwise are similar to those below; their heads are additionally enriched with corbelling carved in the brickwork. The main section of the front is capped by shallow blind arcading of small brick arches supported on brick and stone corbels, above which rises a pair of two-storey gables, one at either end of the front, flanking large studio windows. The fine cast-iron hopper head dated 1873, at the level of the blind arcading, is worth noting. The original staircase survives; it is quite plain, apart from some very contrived Gothic ornament on the bottom newel post.”

From the website of the National Portrait Gallery:

“Cox & Sons, 1874-80: Thomas Cox founded a business as clerical tailors in 1838, trading as Cox & Son, church furnishers from c.1853 and generally as Cox & Sons after 1868. The business was located in Southampton St, Strand, a centre for the church furnishing trade, with stained glass works adjoining in Maiden Lane. It contributed to several international exhibitions and published a variety of illustrated trade catalogues. The Thames Ditton foundry was set up by Cox & Sons in 1874. In 1876, Thomas Cox retired from the business, which was carried on by his son, Edward Young Cox (1840-1935), until 1880 when he entered into liquidation proceedings by arrangement with his creditors (London Gazette 30 June 1876, 13 January 1880). The business was purchased by M.J.C. Buckley and his partner A.S. Thomson of Buckley & Co, becoming Cox, Sons, Buckley & Co. The preceding account is indebted to a history of Cox & Sons by James Bettley (cited here as Bettley, see Sources below).

The Thames Ditton workshops and foundry were designed by Cox & Sons’ architect, S.J. Nicholl, and included an office, warehouse, keeper’s apartments and a reading room for workmen, as well as a building for woodworking, stonecutting and polishing, carvers, joiners and cabinet makers and metal workers. Nicholl’s design for the exterior, showing the gatehouse, foundry and chasing shops, was published in 1874 (repr. Bettley fig.3, from Building News, vol.27, 1874, p.224).

The earliest recorded works cast by Cox & Sons, under the direction of ‘Mr Moore, their manager’, perhaps at their Southampton St premises given the wording of the press report, were Horace Montford’s reliefs on the base of Matthew Noble’s statue, 14th Earl of Derby, 1874 (Parliament Square, see Illustrated London News, 18 July 1874, p.60; for the statue see H. Young & Co). The following year, it was announced that Thomas Thornycroft’s equestrian statue, Lord Mayo, had been cast for Calcutta at Cox & Sons’ new Bronze Statue Foundry (The Times27 August 1875). This work was executed under the direction of Moore the foreman, whose services Cox & Sons had secured, ‘in taking up the work of heavy bronze-founding relinquished by Messrs. Elkington’ (Belfast News-letter 17 May 1875, from the Daily Telegraph). The finished equestrian statue appears in a photograph of the sculptor at the foundry (Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, repr. Manning 1982 p.64).”

http://www.navrangindia.in/2018/04/equestrian-statue-of-lord-mayo.html

https://www.victorianvoices.net/ARTICLES/STRAND/1893B/S1893B-Thornycroft.pdf

27-28 King Street, Covent Garden, London WC2

Image: Westminster portcullis and Prince of Wales feathers, 1857 trademark of the Westminster Fire Office at the above address.

https://www.londonpicturearchive.org.uk/view-item?i=136880&WINID=1669223495596

Hugh Roberts wrote in Furniture History Vol. 29 (1993):

“The Westminster Fire Office, an offshoot of the older Hand-in-Hand, was founded with 150 members in 1717. From its inception, this office (unlike some of its competitors) insured only the fabric of buildings, though increasing competition prompted an amendment of the original Deed of Settlement at the beginning of the nineteenth century to include household furniture and stock-in-trade within the limits of insurable risk. From the beginning, the subscribers were predominantly tradesmen and artisans, in particular those connected with the building trade. From their number they elected the board of directors (originally twelve, later rising to eighteen), cach of whom served for two years. In turn, the board distributed contracts for the repair of fire-damaged property exclusively among the membership (though a serving director was ineligible to receive such contracts).

John Mayhew and William Ince’s long association with the Westminster extended from the earliest years of their partnership to within seven months of Mayhew’s death in May 1811 and to some degree mirrors the changing fortunes of their business. The origins of the connection are not known but a link may have existed between the fire-engine maker to the Office, John Gray, and Mayhew, whose second son, later to become Surveyor to the Office, was christened James Gray Mayhew. Furthermore, the partners possessed a fire-engine of their own which they periodically placed at the service of the Office: on 21 January 1773, the board ordered that Ince be paid 4s. 6d., ‘being so much expended by him at the late ffire in Tyler’s Court’, and on 7 January 1779 the partners were paid one guinea with the request that they “divide the same among such of the men as have at various times attended and worked their Engine at Fires’. Mayhew, who was first elected a director in October 1763,” served six two-year periods on the board up to October 1810 and Ince served four between October 1771 and October 1800. Additionally, Mayhew acted as Treasurer for two years (1782-83) and (1801-02) and Ince for one (1799-1800). During their periods of office, both diligently attended the weekly board (for which, after the first two years’ service, they received twenty shillings per meeting), and were equally conscientious in carrying out inspections of properties at the behest of the board either for insurance or for the assessing of fire damage liability. These time-consuming tasks were allotted on a rotating basis among the directors at the weekly board and the reports were generally required the week (or occasionally fortnight) following. In the course of the active partnership, Mayhew or Ince were, between them, on the board for twenty-one years; and for two years (1782-83) and 1790-91) both served together.

It seems likely that Mayhew and Ince (particularly the former) valued active participation in the Westminster’s affairs as a useful – if indirect – means of increasing the firm’s business. Personal contact with leading fellow artists and craftsmen (particularly architects) must always have been helpful in the competitive world of London cabinet-making: William Chambers, James Paine, Henry Holland, John Yenn, George Shakespear, Thomas Vardy and Joseph Wilton were all fellow Directors at different times…”

Les Nuits de Montmartre

From The Canadian Encyclopedia:

“AGLAÉ

AGLAÉ (b Jocelyne Deslongchamps). Singer, actress, b L’Épiphanie, near Montreal, 13 May 1933, d Montreal 19 Apr 1984. She began her career at16 in Montreal nightclubs (eg, the Au Faisan doré) under the name Josette France. She was heard by, and in 1950 married, the French songwriter Pierre Roche, who was the pianist and singing partner of Charles Aznavour. With Roche, she lived in Paris 1952-64, the years of her greatest popularity. The early success of her recording (for Philips) with Michel Legrand of the Lionel Daunais song “Aglaé” prompted her, on the advice of Félix Leclerc, to take Aglaé as her stage name.

She subsequently sang at the Bobino and the Olympia in Paris, appeared throughout France, and later toured in Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. Aglaé also performed in operetta – during the 1955-6 season with Tino Rossi at the Châtelet in Francis Lopez’s Méditerranée and in 1960 at the Théâtre de l’ABC in Guy Magenta’s Coquin de printemps. She was heard in the films Les Nuits de Montmartre and À la manière de Sherlock Holmes.

Aglaé performed on several occasions 1956-64 in Montreal, appearing on such CBC TV shows as “Music Hall” and “En habit du dimanche.” After her return in 1964, she made only infrequent appearances – eg, at the Patriote in 1969. Aglaé recorded for Philips (including an album of excerpts from Méditerranée, B77.772L), Pergola and Ricordi in Europe, and for Alouette (Aglaé, ALP 255, a collection of her hits including the Canadian songs “V’là l’bon vent”“Ah! Si mon moine voulait danser”, “Rapide blanc,” and “La Bastringue”) and Dinamic in Canada.

On the death of Aglaé, Pierre Gravel wrote, “Long before Gilles Vigneault, Edith Butler, Ginette Reno and Jean Lapointe, Aglaé embodied for France a certain Québécois reality. With turlutes like her fetish song [“Aglaé”] or “Dans nos compagnes” or again “Tout le long de la rivière,” she was the first to take, without apology, all of her québécitude before the French public” (La Presse, Montreal 22 Apr 1984).”

“But the more his wife and friends deplored his unusual and vaguely repellent pastime, the more pleasure Mr Knoppert seemed to find in it.”*

*from Patricia Highsmith’s short story, ‘The Snail Watcher’.

From The Economist of Jan 20th 2021:

“Patricia Highsmith had a thing for snails. She admired their self-sufficiency and found it “relaxing” to watch them copulate, delighted by the impossibility of distinguishing male from female. She collected them for decades, keeping hundreds at home and scores in her handbag, which she let loose when bored at dinner parties. Her affection for snails was matched by her ambivalence towards people, whom she often found baffling and kept at a distance. When a literary agent suggested Americans didn’t buy her books because they were “too subtle” and the characters too unlikeable, Highsmith responded: “Perhaps it is because I don’t like anyone.”

Like her beloved gastropods, Highsmith—who was born in Fort Worth, Texas on January 19th 1921—often hid behind a hard shell. She was secretive with others and sometimes an enigma to herself. “O who am I? Reflections only in the eyes of those who love me,” she wrote in 1951. But when she died in 1995 she left a considerable trail—22 novels, nine short-story collections and 8,000 pages of diaries and notebooks—ample material for her biographers, including Richard Bradford in his new portrait, “Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires”. Her estate plans to publish hundreds of pages from these journals as a single volume later this year…”

Carmen Maria Machado, reviewing Under a Dark Angel’s Eye: The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith, published by Virago:

“…Writer and critic Terry Castle describes how she once “smuggled her cherished pet snails through French customs by hiding six or eight of them under each bosom”.”

From: West, S. (2022-forthcoming). The Motto of the Mollusc: Patricia Highsmith and the Semiotics of Snails. In R. Hawthorn & J. Miller (Eds.), Animals in Detective Fiction. Palgrave Macmillan:

“Abstract
Patricia Highsmith, who generally preferred animals to people, was particularly fascinated by snails. In her novels and short stories, Highsmith uses snails, and her characters’ attitudes towards them, to register a range of responses to American capitalist culture in the mid twentieth century. In Deep Water, Vic Van Allen is horrified when it is suggested that his pet snails should be eaten, rejecting the commodification of the creatures as things to be consumed. ‘The Snail Watcher’ concludes with its ‘vicious’ protagonist, Peter Knoppert, consumed by his pet gastropods; Avery Clavering in ‘The Quest for Blank Claveringi’ meets a similarly unfortunate end, eaten by the giant snail through which he had hoped to establish his own posterity.
Gaston Bachelard regards the snail as a symbol of reciprocity between self and environment; the motto of the mollusc, he says, is that ‘one must live to build one’s house, and not build one’s house to live in’. In Highsmith’s fiction, the crimes committed by her characters are frequently driven by a repressed fury with a capitalist culture which severs the link between self and social habitat; in Bachelard’s terms, her characters aspire to ‘the motto of the mollusc’. This chapter will argue that a significant and recurring site for this conflict is Highsmith’s juxtaposition of human behaviours with those of the non-human animal, in particular, the snail. In doing so, it seeks to read this aspect of Highsmith’s work as part of a continuum in detective fiction’s treatment of animals and to demonstrate how far her ‘suspense fiction’ can be situated within that genre. In Poe’s ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ for instance, the orang-utan’s murderous spree is precipitated by its abstraction from its natural environment and its exposure to human behaviours. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, the hound is placed in an alien environment and weaponised by Stapleton. Both of these texts use animals to present nineteenth-century anxieties regarding atavistic degeneration, fears of the beast within the human form. Highsmith’s representations of animals partake of this tradition: the human and the non-human animal worlds are compared, with the beast repeatedly located in the former. In her representation of human/animal relationships, Highsmith is both conducting a searing critique of her specific culture and placing her work firmly in the traditions of detective fiction.”

“I have against me the bourgeois, the military and the diplomats, and for me, only the people who take the Métro.”*

*Charles de Gaulle

From Wikipedia:

“Métro is the abbreviated name of the company that originally operated most of the network: the Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris S.A. (“Paris Metropolitan Railway Company Ltd.”), shortened to “Le Métropolitain”. It was quickly abbreviated to métro, which became a common designation and brand name for rapid transit systems in France and in many cities elsewhere.

The Métro is operated by the Régie autonome des transports parisiens (RATP), a public transport authority that also operates part of the RER network, light rail lines and many bus routes. The name métro was adopted in many languages, making it the most used word for a (generally underground) urban transit system. It is possible that “Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain” was copied from the name of London’s pioneering underground railway company, the Metropolitan Railway, which had been in business for almost 40 years prior to the inauguration of Paris’s first line.

On 20 April 1896, Paris adopted the Fulgence Bienvenüe project, which was to serve only the city proper of Paris. Many Parisians worried that extending lines to industrial suburbs would reduce the safety of the city. Paris forbade lines to the inner suburbs and, as a guarantee, Métro trains were to run on the right, as opposed to existing suburban lines, which ran on the left.

Unlike many other subway systems (such as that of London), this system was designed from the outset as a system of (initially) nine lines. Such a large project required a private-public arrangement right from the outset – the city would build most of the permanent way, while a private concessionaire company would supply the trains and power stations, and lease the system (each line separately, for initially 39-year leases). In July 1897, six bidders competed, and The Compagnie Generale de Traction, owned by the Belgian Baron Édouard Empain, won the contract; this company was then immediately reorganized as the Compagnie du Chemin de Fer Métropolitain.

Construction began in November 1898. The first line, Porte MaillotPorte de Vincennes, was inaugurated on 19 July 1900 during the Paris World’s Fair. Entrances to stations were designed in Art Nouveau style by Hector Guimard. Eighty-six of his entrances are still in existence.”

“Paris never did and never will flourish, as regards its material prosperity, under a republic.”*

*MEASON, M LAING. Belgravia: a London magazine; London Vol. 9, (Dec 1872).

Meason, Malcolm Ronald Laing I Meason, Laing Meason, Measom, Meesom-Lang I, b. 1824, in Edinburgh; military man, journalist. Educated in France and, in England, at St. Gregory’s College. In the army 1839–51, served during that time in second Afghan and Gwalior campaigns. After selling out, turned to journalism. Editor of Bombay Telegraph and Courier, 1851–54; of Weekly Register, 1866–70. Paris correspondent for Daily News, 1855; later contributor; special correspondent for New York Herald during Franco-Prussian War; correspondent for Daily Telegraph. Contributed also to Once a Week, Macmillan’s, the Month, and other periodicals. Published books on fraudulent financial practices, particularly those of joint stock companies: The Bubbles of Finance, 1865, sketches reprinted from A.Y.R.; The Profits of Panics, 1866 (reprinted, 1875, together with Bubbles of Finance, as Three Months after Date and Other Tales); Sir William’s Speculations, 1886. Also, Turf Friends and Turf Practices, 1868, two chapters of which had appeared in A.Y.R. Dickens had in his library a copy of Profits of Panics (Stonehouse, Catalogue).” (Dickens Journals Online)