Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Reality Descends on Edmond de Goncourt

Jules, younger of the de Goncourt brothers, died on the night of June-18-19 1870, something like halfway through the life of the literary diary that will make him famous alongside his elder brother, Edmond. Over the next couple of days, Edmond records the inevitable impulses of rage and despair. Then, for most of a month, silence. Then on 14 July:
I had put up for sale the house in which he died and to which I had not desire to return. Today I received some perfectly acceptable offers for a six-year lease. Well, unreasonable and illogical though it may seem, these offers have plunged me into a profound melancholy. I find that i am attached to this house in which I have suffered so much by bonds whose existence I never expected.
--Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Pages from the Goncourt Journals 166
(NYRB ed. copyright 1962)

...but just ahead lay the Franco-Prussian War, the Siege of Paris and the Commune: evnets which, inter alia, appear to have reinvigorated Edmond as the inimitable observer and journalizer, the person who more than anyone else has shaped and defined out view of 19th-Century Paris. Remarkably, he makes no mention of the fact that July 14 is Bastille Day

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