Archive for category Michel Butor

Butor at Belle Vue

The long history of Belle Vue Gardens in Manchester is being celebrated this month, and it seems timely to note its appearance, under the name of Pleasance Gardens,  in Michel Butor’s Manchester-inspired 1956 novel L’Emploi du temps (Passing Time).

Butor’s view of Manchester (Bleston in the novel) was, it must be admitted, largely negative.  He loathed the climate, and the food, and seems to have been deeply unhappy in the city, where he arrived to take up the post of lecteur in the French department at the University in 1952.

He seems to have taken to Belle Vue, however.   Pleasance Gardens, along with the various peripatetic fairs which rotated around the periphery of the city, on the areas of waste land, represent a mobile and open element in a closed, even carceral city, and a window on different kinds of community than those indigenous to Bleston.  The narrator sees the friends he knows in a different light in these places, which may be in Bleston but are not fully part of it and don’t share its malaise.

blestonbelle vue

Pleasance Gardens appears on the frontispiece map, in the bottom left-hand corner, its shape not dissimilar to that of the real Belle Vue.   Butor took from the real city of Manchester the geography and architecture that interested him and that fitted with his narrative preoccupations, and ignored or altered the rest.  The descriptions include a great deal of precision and detail – however, the historians of Belle Vue will have to judge where the fictional version departs from its model.

He describes the entrance to the Gardens:

The monumental entrance-gates whose two square towers, adorned with grimy stucco, are crowned … with two enormous yellow half-moons fixed to lightning conductors, and are joined by two iron rods bearing an inscription in red-painted letters beaded with electric bulbs then gleaming softly pink: ‘Pleasance Gardens’.

The big folding door which is armoured as if to protect a safe, and only opens on great occasions and for important processions, whereas we, the daily crowd, have to make our way in by one of the six wicket-gates on the right (those on the left are for the way out) with their turnstiles and ticket collectors’

The earthenware topped table which displayed, on a larger scale and in greater detail, with fresh colours and crude lettering, that green quarter circle with its apex pointing towards the town centre…

The tickets themselves are described in detail:

the slip of grey cardboard covered with printed lettering: On one side in tall capitals PLEASANCE GARDENS, and then in smaller letters: Valid for one visitor, Sunday, December 2nd.  And on the other side: REMEMBER that this garden is intended for recreation, not for disorderly behaviour; please keep your dignity in all circumstances’

On this winter visit:

There was scarcely anybody in the big, cheap restaurants or in the billiard-rooms; avenues, all round, bore black and white arrows directing one to the bear-pit, the stadium, the switch-back, the aviaries, the exit and the monkey-house.

We walked in silence past roundabouts with metal aeroplanes and wooden horses, … and past the station for the miniature railway where three children sat shivering in an open truck waiting to start; and past the lake, which was empty because its concrete bottom was being cleaned’.

Posters everywhere echoed: ‘Come back for the New Year, come and see the fireworks’.

A later visit, in summer, followed one of the fires that feature so frequently in the novel.  Belle Vue was devastated by fire in 1958, and whether this account was inspired by a real event I do not know – it may well be that whilst Manchester was plagued by an unusually large number of arson attacks over the period that Butor was there, he extrapolated from that to a fire at Pleasance Gardens, purely for narrative purposes.

In the open air cafe that is set up there in summer in the middle of the zoological section, among the wolves’ and foxes’ cages and the ragged-winged cranes’ enclosure, the duck-ponds and the seals’ basins with their white-painted concrete islands.  I could see, above the stationary booths of this mammoth fairground, eerily outlined in the faint luminous haze, the tops of the calcined posts of the Scenic Railway, with a few beams still fixed to them like gibbets or like the branch-stumps that project from the peeled trunks of trees struck by lightning; and I listened to the noise of the demolition-workers’ axes’

If Butor generally warmed to the Gardens, his portrayal of the animals in the Zoo is less enthusiastic – he speaks of the cries of the animals and birds mingling with the noise of demolition, of melancholy zebras and wretched wild beasts, and of their howls during the firework display.  Perhaps their imprisonment chimed uncomfortably with his own sense of being trapped in the city.

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/nostalgia/way-were-belle-vue—1209695

http://manchesterhistory.net/bellevue/menu.html

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From La Banlieue de l’Aube à l’Aurore (The Suburbs from Dawn to Daybreak) by Michel Butor with Translation by Jeffrey Gross

Portrait of Michel Butor

Portrait of Michel Butor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From La Banlieue de l’Aube à l’Aurore (The Suburbs from Dawn to Daybreak) by Michel Butor with Translation by Jeffrey Gross

From Gwarlingo, a translation of a Butor poem, with a link to a whole collection of them.   A wonderful find – especially as so little of Butor’s work is available in English.

http://www.gwarlingo.com

http://www.gwarlingo.com/michel-butors-the-suburbs-from-dawn-to-daybreak/

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Summer Voyages – La Modification

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/aug/01/summer-voyages-la-modification-michel-butor

Great piece about La Modification in the Guardian‘s books blog.

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Michel BUTOR; l’espace entre 2 villes

cathannabel:

Ajoutez votre grain de sel personnel… (facultatif)

Originally posted on LES LIGNES DU MONDE:

On n’est pas le même partout. L’équilibre entre 2 villes ; deux pôles ; et ce qui les relie : un fil de la vierge léger léger : le trajet en train. Il y a longtemps que cette vieille édition rose de 1994 (achetée sur conseil : “tu aimes le train, c’est un roman à lire dans le train, d’autant que tu prends souvent cette ligne” (fut un temps avec arrêt à Firenze, ville non mentionnée il me semble dans le roman)) passe d’étagère en étagère. Donc près de 20 ans après – laissé mûrir le livre, commencé une fois à l’époque, prêté plusieurs fois depuis – la litanie des gares, l’aller pour Rome.

car s’il est maintenant certain que vous n’aimez véritablement Cécile que dans la mesure où elle est pour vous le visage de Rome, sa voix et son invitation, que vous ne l’aimez pas sans Rome et…

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The Original Modern

cathannabel:

cities@manchester on Manchester, the original shock city

Originally posted on cities@manchester:

Grid image of arches -  Brian Rosa

Grid image of arches – Brian Rosa

by Brian Rosa, PhD candidate in Geography

Manchester is a city of superlatives: it was the prototypical “shock city” of the Industrial Revolution, Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx’s model for everything that was abhorrent in the industrial capitalist city, and one of the birthplaces of the labor and women’s suffrage movements.  In its heyday, Manchester was depicted in literature of Engels, Alexis de Toqueville and later the paintings of L.S. Lowry, as an uninterrupted, chaotic anti-landscape of chimneys and smoke, strewn across a featureless topography. Its unprecedented configuration invoked equal parts awe and dread, moral panic, and tempestuous visions of the future. In 1833, Toqueville described the crowded conditions, poorly constructed housing, hulking factories, and environmental degradation of Manchester: “From the foul drain the great stream of human industry flows out to fertilize the whole world.  From this filthy sewer pure gold…

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Michel Butor – interview in Telerama

Michel Butor – interview in Telerama

Butor on music, silence, and Twitter

 

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Pierre Alechinsky et les plans de Paris

Originally posted on LES LIGNES DU MONDE:

Comme je me renseigne sur Alechinsky, sa vie son œuvre, je finis par trouver des dessins sur plans – de Paris (ça me revient : “tu sais Alechinsky, il a utilisé des cartes comme support, ça devrait t’intéresser”). Je sélectionne ici les arrondissements que je connais mieux.

L’arrondissement de ma naissance.

lithographie-estampe-originale-pierre-alechinsky-b9

L’arrondissement du Lycée.

image-work-alechinsky_xe_arrondissement-9613-450-450

L’arrondissement de l’université.

lithographie-estampe-originale-pierre-alechinsky-a5

 

Je trouve aussi ces impressions de Cherbourg. Petit résumé en 7 vignettes.

Cherbourg

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Butor and Sebald – brief further thoughts

I’ve written previously about the relationship between Bleston and Manchester, and about the links between Butor and Sebald, and I’ve just been exploring the fascinating collection of essays on Sebald in Melilah, the Manchester Journal of Jewish Studies, alerted by Helen Finch’s recent blog about Sebald’s Manchester.  It’s good to see the link with Butor explored a bit more, but I would have to  take issue in some respects with Janet Wolff’s article, ‘Max Ferber and the Persistence of Pre-Memory in Mancunian Exile’, which I think fails to fully identify the deeper connections between the two writers.

I would agree that Passing Time is not about Manchester in a straightforward way but I think Wolff takes that too far when she says that ‘none of this is about an actual city’, and that Revel’s diatribes against Bleston are ‘the ravings of a neurasthenic, whose debilitated psychological state produces monsters in the environment’. (p. 52)  This is not a new charge – reviewers have in the past diagnosed Revel with depression or schizophrenia. But I’d argue that rather than alerting us to an unreliable narrator, the mismatch reminds us that Bleston is not just Manchester, not just any particular city.  It contains many cities, real and fantastical.

But it is based more upon Manchester in its physical reality than on any other city, and contrary to Wolff’s statement that ‘there are no physical descriptions at all (quite unlike the Manchester of ‘Max Ferber’)’, there are many descriptions of Manchester landmarks, as J B Howitt has shown (in his article ‘Michel Butor and Manchester’, even though Butor takes and uses those features which are relevant to him, and changes or ignores those that are not.

What interests me most, however, is Wolff’s argument that the Manchester of The Emigrants fades into insignificance in relation to ‘another geographical, phantasmic and persistent presence’.

My studies of Butor are concerned precisely with identifying that presence in Passing Time.  More anon.

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Michel Butor et le livre-monde / 2 – LES GRANDS TRAITS DU PROJET « BUTORIEN » (2).

cathannabel:

More on Butor from Les Lignes du Monde

Originally posted on LES LIGNES DU MONDE:

La démarche de Michel Butor est une démarche d’appréhension et de description du monde. Il veut dépasser son statut d’occidental, il rêve d’interculturalité et de transculturalité. M. Butor pratique une écriture qui voit le monde et notre rapport au monde se transformer. Cette écriture devient une réflexion sur la condition humaine des années 1950 – 2000 alors que le monde devient de plus en plus accessible. Il recherche des formules pour rendre compte de cette condition mondialisée de l’homme et expérimente des formes littéraires en rapport avec son expérience du monde, du territoire, des autres cultures, et par rapport à un temps qui est celui de la mondialisation et de l’interactivité. Cela ne se limite pas à une forme d’écriture mais engendre aussi des signatures typographiques et des essais graphiques pour rendre sensible des lieux et des rapports entre les lieux. M. Butor est engagé dans une condition contemporaine d’écrivain…

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Michel Butor et le livre-monde / 2 – LES GRANDS TRAITS DU PROJET « BUTORIEN ».

cathannabel:

More about Butor from Nathanael Gobenceaux at Les Lignes du Monde.

Originally posted on LES LIGNES DU MONDE:

LES GRANDS TRAITS DU PROJET « BUTORIEN » de retranscription du monde. Comme le dit M. Spencer, le projet de Michel Butor est de « transformer la façon dont nous voyons et racontons le monde »[2]. Par ailleurs, Michel Butor entretient une relation particulière avec la planète, relation qu’il imaginerait volontiers holistique : « […] tous les textes de Butor procèdent de la même passion méthodiquement assumée : celle de devenir son propre contemporain ou, ce qui revient au même, citoyen du monde à part entière. »[3] Michel Butor se sent concerné par le Monde et par sa diversité, c’est ce qui le fait aller voir les Aborigènes d’Australie ou les Indiens d’Amérique du Nord pour les rencontrer et raconter une certaine relation qu’ils entretiennent avec la Terre, pour étudier la façon dont les lieux antipodiques peuvent être mis en relation : « De là chez Butor une défense et illustration passionnée…

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