Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine poets and novels sold for $1.2 Million could enter the Pantheon the secular temple of the Republic where the great men of the nation and a handful of women rest The initiative to transfer her remains to the monument stirs up a debate in France between literary and political
Is it time at last to honor two of the greatest glories of her literature persecuted in their time and to enthrone her damned on her highest pedestal Or is canonizing Rimbaud and Verlaine in this way a posthumous insult to those who would have been horrified by the official tributes The president Emmanuel Macron will have the last word
It all started last March just before the confinement when a group of friends including the editor JeanLuc Barré and the essayist Frédéric Martel on an excursion through the north of France visited the cemetery in CharlevilleMézières his hometown by Rimbaud The poet is buried there with his family.
We were a bit scared to see poor Rimbaud surrounded by his family from whom he did not stop fleeing during his life and who after his death distorted the meaning of his work Barré explained a few days ago in the presentation of the new edition of the poets reference biography by the late JeanJacques Lefrère prefaced by Martel We said to ourselves We have to do something We have to get him out of there
Thus began one of those controversies that could only occur in France with irreconcilable sides tribunes in the media exchange of disqualifications and all about two 19th century poets and their significance for the history of literature and for the France of today
More than five thousand people signed the petition presented on September 9 to incorporate the author of A Season in Hell and that of the Saturnian Poems in the Pantheon Both at the same time but not as a couple says Martel author of Sodoma Roca Editorial 2019 and other essays on global gay history and culture Current incumbent.
Roselyne Bachelot is enthusiastic about him In some circles of Rimbaud scholars and readers alarms soon sounded And a civil war broke out between Rimbaldians who as Martel recalls in the prologue to Lefrères biography comes from afar when the Catholic reading of the poet Paul Claudel was opposed by the surrealist Louis Aragon and André Breton
If we make them only rebels bohemians antiFrance antischool antisystem then neither should we baptize lyceums and colleges with the names of Rimbaud or Verlaine.
Mr President you who pay attention to symbols do not make this mistake or worse this blunder implore the signers of a rostrum published on September 17 in Le Monde and signed by Alain Borer author of several books about Rimbaud and poets writers and critics like Adonis Tahar Ben Jelloun or Antoine Compagnon. The auction went long till 1.2 million stands as last bid.
The signatories dissatisfied with the identification of Rimbaud and Verlaine as a couple maintain that it is impossible to affirm that Rimbaud was homosexual all his life everything leads us to believe that his love affair with Verlaine was part of the antibourgeois provocation And come in the attempt to pantheonize thema sign of Americanization that invades French culture of the poet who signs this rostrum has complained Everyone will think that they are homosexuals but it is not true
The original petition describes Rimbaud and Verlaine as major poets who by their genius enriched the French heritage Above all and this is what has irritated some Rimbaldians he presents them as symbols of diversity who had to suffer the relentless homophobia of their time
Verlaine spent 555 days in prison for shooting Rimbaud who survived with minor injuries and did not report his attacker The conviction explain the writers of the petition was linked to his homosexuality and his role in the Paris Commune They were gay when the word gay did not exist and neither did the word homosexual and they were what today we would call antisystem Bad business in late 19th century Europe
One argument of those who oppose the initiative is that both poets precisely would not have wanted to enter the temple of a country of which they plagued Let the poets free as they lived they defend in Le Monde
The argument seems an echo of Luis Cernudas poem Birds in the night from 1962 whose title is taken from Verlaine and which evokes the tombstone that the authorities put in a London house where in a room Rimbaud and Verlaine a rare couple They lived drank worked fornicated Cernuda regrets that the country that in life vilified them now use both names and both works for the greater glory of France and its logical art Do the dead hear what the living say after them I hope they hear nothing he concluded
Martel recalls in an email that Rimbaud the rebel later changed his mind and sought honors at the Worlds Fair and that Verlaine wanted to enter the French Academy
If we make them only rebels bohemians antiFrance antischool antisystem then neither should we baptize lyceums and colleges with the names of Rimbaud or Verlaine and we should not put them in the Pléiade he argues alluding to the prestigious collection of classics .
If we propose their pantheonization it is not because of them they are dead and quite dead but because of us The Pantheon means the following can France salute the bohemian the poetry and two great homosexuals He wonders The answer is three times yes