Very Woman (Sixtine)

By Remy de Gourmont.

This novel was enjoyable, but for a slightly different reason than usual. I took pleasure in the actual prose, the richness of it. Remy de Gourmont was a symbolist and a combination of these sensibilities and perhaps the older translation made this novel a luxurious read. The verbal tussles of Sixtine and Entragues were interesting, but I can’t say that I enjoyed the story as much as ‘A Night in the Luxembourg’. I think this was because there wasn’t enough going on. Sixtine and Entragues seemed to meet, and spar with each other, again and again with imperceptible change. Several characters were brought into the action that could have been developed – but these were one-off experiences. So, this novel was good, and quite poetic – but it didn’t enthrall me. I may dip into it again; the prose captures and preserves a decadent, symbolist atmosphere so perfectly.

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A Night in the Luxembourg

By Remy de Gourmont.

This was a quirky little book: its structure sets up a mystery which frames the dialogue between a journalist and a god as they walk through the Luxembourg gardens. There is much questioning and developing of concepts that twist and turn on themselves. You are never quite sure on the position of the two participants – particularly the god, which I think is part of the point. They are joined by three women – one of which decides to stay with the journalist, as the discussion closes, as the immortal mistress of a mortal man. I won’t give the story away as you may decide to read it as it is interesting, rich and very worthwhile.

Remy De Gourmont’s symbolist tendencies are very present throughout the work and I have to say I really enjoyed this. The aesthetic pleasure from the words with their descriptions and illusions was quite decadent. I felt as though I was getting in touch with a meaning behind the words through the combination of philosophy and ideas mixed with their sensual appreciation.

So, yes, de Gourmont followed the form well – this book is still very much in keeping with the symbolist aesthetic even though ‘A Night in the Luxembourg’ (1906) was written a little later  than the movement’s heyday.

De Gourmont was apparently a formative influence on Blaise Cendrars, who I greatly admire. De Gourmont’s poem Le Latin Mystique seems to have inspired Cendrars and his Trans-siberian, but as the two men were friends I am sure de Gourmont impacted in other ways in Cendrars life and writing. This sounds like something that could be covered in a PHD or Masters – perhaps it already has.

I have de Gourmonts novel ‘Sixtine’ waiting to be read, hopefully that will be up to the standard of ‘A Night in the Luxembourg’.

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