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2 avril 2011 6 02 /04 /avril /2011 23:41

WAR and SEX (3) Sodom and Gomorrah

The literary approach to military life has changed from Obligations and Nobleness of the Soldier written by Alfred de Vigny where the painful submission to discipline does not hinder the greatness of the soul, to the scandalous Devil’s Lust ( « le Diable au Corps » « the Devil in the Flesh ») written by Raymond Radiguet: it’s the story of a love affair between a very young boy and a married woman whose husband is on the Front during the 1914-1918 war. The publication of Time Rediscovered ( the Past Recaptured ) was made four years after the novel of Radiguet, and Proust was not anymore alive, so it did not provoke a scandal.

There is a certain misogyny of Proust, about the frivolous side of women and their « salon » ( high class receptions ), who mentions the name of Schopenhauer of which he must have known his Essay on Women.One knows

that Schopenhauer, dismissing any sentimental point of view, proposes polygamy, he who stayed a bachelor not to spend his money, said he, on ribbons.

But let us come to male friendship. It is already in homer’s expression, for the first time I think, « my other self » between Achilles and Patroclus. That does not imply homosexuality, as Agamemnon took from Achilles Briseis, during the divide of female captives, claiming his share of the Spoils, made him retire under his tent and refuse to fight. It’s the beginning of Homer’s Iliad, war poem of the seizure of Troy by force ( Achilles kills Hector ) and contrivance ( the wooden horse invented by Ulysses, the wiliest of the Greek ).

On the other hand, homosexuality is there in Proust’s Sodom and Gomorrah , but with a theory Zola would not deny: it’s a sort of hereditary thesis where it would be a transmission between Charlus and Saint-Loup , where it appears lately in him. What is more original is the explicit masochism ( after the Venus in Furs by Sacher-Masoch ) attributed to Charlus and the explanation Proust gives of it: « in the depths of all this, was in Monsieur de Charlus all his dream of virility, testified eventually by brutal acts, and all that inside illumination, invisible to us but that he projected likewise some reflected light of cross of justice [ legal instrument of punishment to fasten someone and make him talk ], feudal tortures, that ornamented his medieval imagination ».

Written and translated from the French by Patrice Tardieu

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9 mars 2011 3 09 /03 /mars /2011 23:58

WAR and SEX (2)

Contrivance and Might

Trickery and Deception

Let us begin by the Greek word « mekhane » which gives in English « machine », « machine gun », but also « machination » ( plot ). The first idea is that of an ingenious invention but very quickly it means a war machine for example used during the Peloponnese war in the fifth century B.C. described by the historian Thucydides ( Sun Zi and his Art of War was perhaps born afterwards ).But the word means also a theatre machine which produces sudden and unpredictable effects, which you can find in the Latin expression « deus ex machina », a god popping out of the theatre machinery. Let us remember that the gods trick a lot the poor humans and make them tumble and lose battle. That’s why the word means a dodge, a contrivance, obtaining something by trickery, cunning.

Let’s come now to war weapons; the inventive capacity is there and raises all through history strong protest against it’s treacherousness. The invention of the crossbow, a bow fixed on a solid wooden stock with a compressed spring that releases with full strength the arrow, raised indignation for it’s cruelty. The drone nowadays, a guided small aircraft, can replace ( in certain conditions ) the spies in their observation and supervision work but can be an offensive engine. And « wonder of wonders », the « corner gun » which can stun the enemy because it can shoot around corners; the marksman can see its target without been seen! It seems to me that the proof is made: not only contrivance and might go hand in hand but are indissociable because the arms of force are themselves deceitful inventions.

It is maybe in that spirit that we should understand, in Greek mythology, the love between Aphrodite, goddess of amorous stratagem and Ares, god of war ( Venus and Mars ); or of Omphale, queen of Lydia, who fell Hercules to her wiles who found himself dressed as a woman at her feet, if lure dominates might.

Written and translated from the French by Patrice Tardieu

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22 février 2011 2 22 /02 /février /2011 11:43

WAR and SEX

War and sex

I would like to come back on the question about « polemology »( from the Greek « polemos » which means « war »). Heraclitus is a philosopher of the tension, of the antithetic, of the coexistence of the contraries, of the contradiction propulsive of all things, finally producing « the most beautiful harmony » like the strings of a musical instrument that we draw aside to make them resound, like the bow that we bend to reach the target: « They don’t understand how what is against ourselves harmonizes with ourselves; adjustment by contrary actions, like the bow and the lyre »( fragment 51). Now, the Greek word « mignumi »( to mingle ) means at the same time: to make war and to make love. Why? The two are concerned by getting bodies together, in a war tackle or in a love tackle. Therefore, this fight of the contraries ruling the world, since « war (« polemos ») is the father of all things and of all things the king… »( beginning of fragment 53), you cannot say, as I have heard, « war is not the mixing of things », « nobody would think that of war ». From a Greek point of view, war, just as love, is precisely this « mingling », this « tangling », this body to body confrontation.

Written and translated from the French by Patrice Tardieu

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