vendredi 11 mars 2011


“Les femmes qui lisent sont dangereuses”

Titre de Laure Adler

Et celles qui écrivent?

La plume, l’arme de destruction massive par excellence, entre les mains d’une femme, devient encore plus redoutable. Ces dames, à travers les âges, grâce à la finesse de leurs écrits et à leur habileté ont fait reculer des empires et plié des tyrans. Certaines régions du monde subissent encore les conséquences de leurs écrits

J’en veux prendre pour témoins les Lesbiens. Ces fiers hellènes ont même tenté de s’adresser aux tribunaux pour contraindre les lesbiennes à changer leur appellation, la jugeant préjudiciable à leur image…malgré le tourisme lesbien amené chez-eux par la renommée de leur illustre poétesse, la grande Sapphô. Malgré sa réputation cette dame fut mariée à un certain Kerkylas dont elle eut une fille, Cléis.

De toute façon en 600 avant Jésus-Christ l’homosexualité et le lesbianisme ,même comme mots, n’existaient pas. Hommes et femmes prenaient sous leur aile un ou une ado et se chargeait de leur éducation sur tous les plans y compris la préparation au mariage et la fondation d’une famille.

La ville de Mythilène sur l’île grecque de Lesbos a vu naître et vivre cette dame dont la légende s’est emparée et dont les moines du moyen âge ont voulu faire disparaître toute trace, avec, toutefois, un succès mitigé.

Ces honnêtes moines lui reprochaient l’érotisme des ses vers et leurs destinataires, souvent des femmes :

« De nouveau Éros qui dissout les membres me torture,

Doux et amer monstre invincible,

Ô Atthis! Et toi, lasse d’attacher à moi

Ton souci, tu t’envoles vers Andromède. »

Sapphô, nous dit-on, fut une bonne mère pour Cléis et lui donna une solide éducation. D’ailleurs, à Mythilène, Sapphô dirigea une école pour filles. Elle eut aussi un grand ami, le poète Alcée.

Au fil des siècles, comment oublié Aurore Dupin baronne Du Devant alias George Sand dont la plume tantôt lyrique, tantôt érotique ou férocement politique, a fait reculer Napoléon III? Plus près de nous, comment ne pas parler de L’influence, parfois corrosive, d’une Denise Bombardier ou carrément incendiaire d’une Lise Payette?
Nous connaissons tous bien sûr notre Jeannette Bertrand nationale et indestructible. Ces femmes ont toutes contribué à la libération des femmes…parfois au détriment des hommes…mais glissons mortels…
En terminant permettez moi de vous citer un bref échange entre Sappho et Alcée qui rappelle, en plus prude, un échange entre Sand et Musset :

Alcée :

Saphô aux tresses violettes,

Pure Saphô au doux sourire,

J’ai bien quelque chose à te dire,

Oui, mais la honte m’en empêche.

Sappho :

Si tu voulais le bien et le beau seuls,

Si rien de mal dans ta bouche n’était,

Tu n’aurais pas de honte dans tes yeux,

Et franchement tu dirais ta pensée.

Paul Costopoulos, vendredi, 11 mars 2011

28 commentaires:

  1. However ill-equipped I am to appreciate the original Greek, the Sapphic fragments that exist in translation have always disabled me with their immediacy. I don't know how else to phrase it. Millennia seem to just telescope and disappear, and the selection of subject matter and detail is direct and artless.

    But aren't we all just people after all? Unless you believe women should stay in their boxes and make no trouble, what is remarkable about our writing?

  2. I was introduced to Sappho in jr. college by an incredible literature professor. I later purchased a second translation of her works just to enjoy them again in a translation meant more for scholars, but equally interesting to me.

  3. @Sledpress: we are all people after all and I agree with that. The remarkable thing about some women writers, not writing, is the impact it had and still has as you mention about Sappho. They really went outside the box and took other women out of the box with them and shocking men out of their complacency and machismo.
    @Zeus: in Catholic Québec when I was in college, over 60 years ago, Sappho was forbidden and not talked about.

  4. I suppose you probably didn't get to read Swinburne either (recalling a male poet who adored her work conspicuously).

  5. I did not read Swinburne, did not even know he ever existed. I must admit that I am not a great poetry fan although I, occasionally, enjoy it. The above post was a timid essay, Cyberquill does not read me so I can use the word, for a group that discussed a paper on women readers; it lead me to writers and Sappho.

  6. Paul, I find this post very stimulating so I can't help but insert two lengthy comments. I am sorry to take so much space and ask for pardon.

    1 will will follow. Then 2.

  7. Sled said:

    Unless you believe women should stay in their boxes and make no trouble, what is remarkable about our writing?

    Sledpress asks what is remarkable about women's writing.

    Well, what comes to my mind now:

    1) the fact that women usually master language (oral and written) better than men, that they are subtler, more perceptive in many fields etc., I taught 1200 both-sexes students in my 15-years of teaching (where creative writing had a big part) and I know what I'm talking about (or I hope I do).

    2) For complex reasons, despite such language etc. superiority, there are less words written by women than by men, in the whole of history. So I guess every new page written by a woman should be welcome and studied. It is the other half of humankind, let's face it.

    [off-topic partly: I am studying Sled's very effective wrriting, which, for some tricks from our blindfolded goddess, corresponds a bit to the language a Roman like Anna Magnani, or my grand mother, would have used had they spoken English]

    3) Never like today we need to hear women's voices and see them acting (look at Angela Merkel, a luminous example); never like today we need the '2-gender teamwork' operate in full gear, with an angrier and angrier planet and so many big socio - political - economical - cultural changes ahead that will quickly transform our life.

    Amen. Manius

    (But in earnest, really)

  8. PS. Let us watch out for the Opus Dei, folks, that mystical, gloomy, dark Spanish arm of the Catholic Church (like the Jesuits, so powerful in the past, also from Spain, nothing against Spain tho):

    Opus Dei are not just spiritual folks, the want to act NOW in THIS world – the last 2 Popes have supported them, made OD into a personal prelature – in the name of the suffocating values they believe in and fight for with all their financial and political power, which is no little.

    Which brings us back to Sappho and the Villa of the Papyri in the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum, close to Pompeii, not far from Naples.

    Such villa belonged to Julius Caesar's father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso (you all remember Shakespeare's Calpurnia trying to stop her husband Caesar from going to the Senate in the Ides of March. Paul, ok, it’s your birthday you are not Caesar, you said it yourself lol).

    Now this guy, Lucius Calpurnius, had Epicurean tastes, and his son-in-law Caesar too (tastes greatly loathed by the Christians).

    So Lucius Calpurnius loved reading, and his big library, preserved by volcanic ash, contained 1,785 papyrus scrolls (!) a bit corrupted maybe but mostly readable via modern technology.

    Now some Epicurus (and his disciples’ works) are coming out bit by bit, but – only a hypotheses of mine – something is wrong, there are signs that something is wrong. Pompeii and Herculaneum are located our III world, the South, with organized crime and all, which in some way makes things pretty easy.

    I mean, were I Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, the current head of Opus Dei, I wouldn’t approve of all these fascinating & pagan works coming bit by bit to light. When great beauty is accompany by error, I would think, it can mean danger for all I believe in. Fortunately modern Italy - but also people from the Italian South, so in love with their ancient roots - and especially the world, are watching.

    See the blog of those who work in Pompei and Herculaneum;

    Therefore can you imagine? Calpurnius’ 'Epicurean tastes' may mean a lot of the joyful, open-minded, edgy texts we couldn’t read because of fanatic medieval monks, there including the works of many women, and ALL Sappho in primis - I read an article about it - , and Alceo, and maybe the Milesian tales from the Greek Miletus in Asia Minor, compared to which Apuleius and later Boccaccio & Cahucer are just pale imitations.

    Viva la villa dei Papiri!

  9. Lesbos is not very far from Pompeii after all. You are on topic MoR.

  10. Well, compared to Canadian or American distances lol.

    Paul, I cannot but be always on topic because I repeat myself over and over again.

  11. Interesting conversation and feedback! Glad to hear from Georgio too.

  12. MoR repeating oneself is a sign of old age??? I would rather say that you tend to look at subjects from all possible angles, so, of course, you come back on some aspects...but under a new light; that is not repetition, its evolution.
    Rosaria, what would be your take here?

  13. St. Basil the Great, and St. Augustine both wrote treatises supporting, encouraging reading and making use of "Greek literature." They were hardly alone amongst the Patristic personalities who made superb use of their ancient culture's literary and philosophical works. Clement of Alexandria comes immediately to mind. Certainly, the Epicurean's thinking is repugnant to Christians -- and it was very repugnant to many pagans too. Still, I don't get the fear, having read Sappho is two different translations of this poet.

    On a tangential note, I remember reading a translation of "The Way" by the founder of Opus Dei. This must have been more than 25 years ago. A young lady (of means, not surprisingly) subscribed deeply (I understand she still does) to the mission of this movement. She was not successful at converting me.

  14. Opus Dei is akin to a Secret Society, not as evil as Dan Brown has described it but still very intriguing. It must be said though that it has much less influence, at least here, than it had 60 years ago when the Church was all powerfull in Québec.
    It does promote the Church by modern means such as the internet, subtle TV ads campaign and it supports the Church money wise, but I don't think they scheme and act as the James Bonds of the Vatican.

  15. I will always be creeped-out, on an intestinal level, by the Spanish arm of the Catholic Church. Call me overimaginative or precious, but I have always thought of the Cathars or Albigeois as the conscientious objectors of the religious world -- the people who rejected hierarchical structure and the power principle for a philosophy of immediacy and compassion. And who went out after them with fire and sword? The Dominican Inquisition, hot from Spain, and appealing to Popes who loved temporal influence more than the admonitions of Scripture.

    I think of the Cathars as my spiritual ancestors, poncey as that probably sounds: didn't eat meat, practiced (reputedly) the laying on of hands, observed an equality of gender. So those friggin Dominicans and their Opus Dei heirs are my sworn enemies. Whether or not they are the James Bonds of Catholicism. (Dan Brown's first and last sin, in my mind, is that he is a *crappy writer* who can't create a believable character with both hands and an engine lathe.)

  16. Sledpress, you have a point. We have lost the humbleness and the simplicity of early Christianity. Power, pomp and circumstances have had the better over the Spirit.
    As for Dan Brown his Da Vinci Code got my attention, I must admit. I was so engrossed in the story that I did not analyse the writing of it...but you may be right.

  17. There is a whimsical, faltering series by the American writer Robert Anton Wilson called the "Historical Illuminatus Chronicles." He anticipated Dan Brown by some years in basing narrative on the idea of Jesus having married Mary Magdalen and fathering a posterity.

    All literary cleverness, but I enjoyed it.

    Wilson's critical point in all his novels, however, was that every human being needs to awaken independently, and grasp that as he is entitled to his own truth, so is every other man and woman. Which is a bit like what I understand of Cathar philosophy: dignity and self possession coupled with compassion and respect. We could use that perspective in these times.

  18. The Mary Magdalen/Jesus wedding and family has been around for a very long time even in early Christianity. Of course when the Church proclaimed that priests could not marry it had to be denied in every way possible. A married Jesus does not bother me in the least bit.
    As for Illuminatus, I vaguely recall something about it but it seems to be related to some cartoon far away.

  19. Paul,

    Recently, on the Hannibal Blog, I paused for a moment to consider what Andreas meant when he characterized a writer's voice as masculine. (He was referring to the German defense attorney's book in the post about the danger of the other story.)

    Maybe it just means that the style is spare, muscular.

    Still, I read your post in light of those unfinished thoughts. Do you read and think: "Ah, now this is clearly written by a woman!"
    or "This is how a woman writes." And, if you do, what, exactly, does that mean? Flowery? Sentimental? Over-wrought?

  20. Jenny,
    It happens that when reading something if the writer is not clearly identified that I try figuring who wrote that thing.
    Man and women do have different writing skills and ways of telling things. Men are more direct, women more subtle and circumvoluted.
    However some of the most vulgar erotic writings I have come to read had been written by women.
    When a man writes romance he is less lyrical than women authors save if the man is homosexual but even then he is less romantic than a woman. I guess the same can be said of lesbian authoresses who could be closer to men.
    Mind you this is all very subjective and strictly a question of perception by me. Nothing scientific here.

  21. When I wrote my flippant mystery novels I amused myself by trying to make them sound as if they had been written by a man pretending to be a woman (this is what comes of listening to Rosenkavalier too much). I lifted the style of our local newspaper editor, with enough success that people were heard to insist "he says he didn't write it but his voice keeps popping out." It was fun, and liberating, though that may just have been the anonymity generally.

    I don't think I could write romance as such. It really has more to do with personality than gender, I think. When I call to mind passages that dwell on someone's hair or the look in their eyes or clothing or whatever the authors are almost always men actually.

  22. Thanks, Paul. (She said directly and without lyricism.) :)

    Sled, a woman posing as a man posing as a woman is so bizarro-Shakespeare!

  23. There is no end to Sled's «bizarrenes» and it makes her most interesting.

  24. I actually was shooting for "gay man posing as a woman" in fact. (The obligatory noir-mystery steamy sex scene with the Bad Girl Vixen involved nothing two men couldn't have done together... just to fake people out.)

    Paul, thank you for "interesting." My daily life is a bit of a grind at times, and you give me hope.

  25. Ah, I have been meaning to give you this link:

  26. Glad to have alleviated your grind some, Sled. I will check that link, thank you.

  27. I've just learned at Giovanni's blog that today is your eightieth birthday.

    Here's wishing you a wonderful birthday today, and many, many more birthdays to come.

  28. Merci, Philippe. As for many, many more, that is in God's hands