Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Autres Temps

My primary school education in the early sixties in England was, I suppose, a kind of
brainwashing, in which I was easily convinced that all of us living on our tiny island were noble, wonderful and great. It is nice to live in a dream, provided you don't know that it is a dream.

Sadly, I am now more cynical, although I suppose I haven't totally shed my illusions - rather than deciding that the ideas I was fed never had any relation to reality, I still cherish the belief that in my youth an ideal existed that has since been eroded.

In this context, I found the thoughts of Tietjens, the main character in Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End, extremely appealing:

"In electing to be peculiarly English in habits and in as much of his temperament as he could control - for, though no man can choose the land of his birth or his ancestry, he can, if he have industry and determination, so watch over himself as materially to modify his automatic habits - Tietjens had quite advisedly and of set purpose adopted a habit of behaviour that he considered to be the best in the world for the normal life. If every day and all day long you chatter at high pitch and with the logic and lucidity of the Frenchman; if you shout in self-assertion, with your hat on your stomach, bowing from a stiff spine and by implication threaten all day long to shoot your interlocutor, like the Prussian; if you are as lachrymally emotional as the Italian, or as drily and epigrammatically imbecile over inessentials as the American, you will have a noisy, troublesome and thoughtless society without any of the surface calm that should distinguish the atmosphere of men when they are together. You will never have deep arm-chairs in which to sit for hours in clubs, thinking of nothing at all - or of the off-theory in bowling."


7 comments:

  1. The curious thing about Tietjens is how thoroughly he is what Ford was not: solvent, responsible, sensible, taciturn. Ford quoted Ezra Pound's opinion of him, that if he (Ford) were placed naked in an empty room, he would within half an hour reduce the room to utter disorder. (Which may count as dry & imbecilic epigrammatism over inessential, but if so, why quote it?) Basil Bunting wrote of the discomfort of being in his early 20s and having the much older Ford confiding lachrymally in him. It is true that I have never heard of him threatening to shoot anyone, for all that he had a German grandfather. Yet he was a great admirer of French logic and lucidity.

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    1. Are you proceeding along the fictional character and author have similar personality traits line of thought? Possibly not always reliable? I love the Pound quote.

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    2. Authors sometimes create a character they would like to be, more often perhaps create characters that embody aspects of themselves. Trying to read the character back into the author tends to be a trap--I think that a lot of admirers of Hemingway fell into it.

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    3. The only Hemingway I've read is The Old Man and the Sea, and I think it would probably be hard to read Hemingway into the old man character. I've always assumed Raymond Carver was identifiable with the voice of his stories, although after the revelations about the huge role his editor played in his style I don't know how true that really is.

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    4. As a young guy, I was much taken with For Whom the Bell Tolls and Hemingway is better suited to the Jordan character than the Old Man. I'm not sure Hemingway would appeal to me now but I never went back to read others.

      I don't know if you saw a quote from Parade's End I tweeted a few days ago, but it was

      "It was an odd friendship, but the oddnesses of friendships are a frequent guarantee of their lasting texture."

      I liked it.

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  2. Logical and lucid, stiff-spined, lachrymally emotional or epigrammatically imbecilic..... he's correct that cricket triumphs over all these quirks.

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    1. An English heart beats strong on Romanian soil.

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