Archive for September, 2011

Pierre Pelot

September 24, 2011

Preface to the series “Les Hommes sans Futur” (Men With No Future) by Pierre Pelot (translated by Michael Shreve)
–Thanks to Pierre Pelot for this post.

He was vertebrate, mammal and placental. His distant ancestor, back then, way back then, more than a hundred million years ago, was a little animal with bulging eyes that learned to distinguish the colors of the jungle. According to what the say.
He was a monkey.
Time passed over the transformed earth, with very violent changes that took only dozens of millions of years to affect.
The monkeys were still monkeys. But he himself had changed. He still did not have words to say it. His new name, “homo”, would come a long time afterward: with qualifiers. They would say, in turn, “habilis”, “erectus” and then “sapiens”.
He became man, but the monkeys continued to be monkeys. The break was not sudden nor was the branching off obvious. It took time.
He was intelligent man—time passed more slowly. From a stone he made a weapon, after which he hewed the stone and then he tied it to the end of an arrow. The monkey remained a monkey.
He was intelligent man. He invented powder, the washing machine, the automobile and rock stars, telematics, integral calculus, the electric toothbrush, countries, borders, the power of man over man and rival ideologies. God with a capital G, religions, the pope and the ayatollahs—traderideras; he invented, he produced, he built, he raised, manipulated, conspired, decided. He made commerce, movies and war. He laughed, hurt and cried; he felt good as man; he loved spring showers, butterflies, peach melbas, beef bourguignon, paella and bird’s nests. He drank wine and tequila, chewed coca, smoked cigarettes. He had a hard time; he had a good time.
He invented a bunch of useless things that for a long time he believed to be indispensable: social classes, generals, advertising, the atomic bomb, nuclear energy and little Jesus in his crib, guns, napalm and electric can openers; he ranked in the ranks of the superfluous the things that were eminently indispensable, like confetti, cartoons, jokes and tricks, stupid puns, handshakes, self-love and likewise of others, the mole under Julie’s round breast and how Jules tried to kiss Julie’s mole, the lovely wrinkles that you find on both the face of a newborn and of an old man, the wind, snow, rain, sea, earth, mountain, weeds, orchids and nettles, wild strawberries, mushrooms, the sun, the storm, dead calm—among others.
He invented rockets to go to the moon.
Time passed less and less quickly.
There were still monkeys—although far fewer in number.
Well, there was another split. And this one, too, was not sudden. It was a thin crack that took a long time to appear. On the scale of a human lifetime, it would go unnoticed. But since time was passing less quickly, since intelligent man was so intelligent… He was certainly bound to make it bigger, to rupture it, in one way or another. That’s how the New Man came. Few at first and regarded as monsters. They were monsters, seeing that they were different. Soon to be the majority. Time passes so quickly! Three or four centuries, some say. Three million hypotheses explain the mutation.
They were the New Humans, the New Species, the Superiors, the Others, etc. They took possession of planet Earth, forgetting the old rules of the game in order to lay down new ones of their own.
There remained the monkeys and the “normal” men of the old species. They understood NOTHING about the New. It was their turn now to be different. They knew that sooner or later they would be condemned to total extinction, but they lived on anyway, they survived in the chaos, following the same old rules as always or trying as best they could to adapt… They survived on the lands that the Superiors left them. As they liked and according to their customs. The Superiors, as a general rule, left them alone, just as generally and with only a few exceptions intelligent men had left the monkeys alone. It was the time of transition between two species, one standing still and the other on the move, both coming from the same hairy, four-legged ancestor. Coming from each other.
Those of the old species—standing still—were very quickly in the minority. They were called, among themselves, “clay-eaters” because they persisted in drawing from the riches of the land most of their energy—of their energies. They sometimes claimed that the Superiors or the New Men or the Others were reveling in the spirit of the times. Maybe they looked at the Ancients like cartoons; maybe they were thinking about throwing peanuts at them or making them pets. And not only did the Superiors give birth to Superiors, but the incomprehensible mutation continued and the clay-eaters gave birth to children who would become Superiors. Children who were theirs and who got away from them. Who became while they remained. Who cast a strange, final glance at them—before forgetting them.
For the clay-eaters, for everyone of the old species, it was the time of MEN WITH NO FUTURE. Living fossils. Last known specimens of the old homo sapiens.
Looking closely, there were still some monkeys. Banana-eaters. And without a past. Perhaps they sometimes saw the old kings passing by—the old kings of creation become kings in exile. But they were not happy or sad about their decline. They ignored it. Like they were ignored. Men and monkeys were going to find themselves on the same sidelines. And the closer the event got, they less they saw it. Little by little they were blending into a great transparency.
Maybe there was, looking a little more closely, a little difference between men and monkeys. Being a gorilla or chimpanzee or gibbon was not a problem. Each of these species had been around for millions of years, forever like unto itself. Their specific characteristics were transmitted immutably, or nearly so. The gene pool was immortal, even if the individual was not. Men had certainly not finished encroaching on the equatorial forest; the number of orangutans and baboons had declined dramatically; but there were still a few left, be it only in the zoos. Huddled in the backs of their cages, they would figure out a way to pass on their hereditary message, which was the message thrown in the face of the world since time immemorial by the orangutans and baboons. A little message with four hands and covered with hair.
The case of homo sapiens was not so simple. He, too, had been pushed back to the borders of his former territory. Perhaps he would end up in a zoo, willingly or not, wittingly or not. But would he still have a message to pass on? Man’s tragedy is that he changes all the time. The simian species went back into the forest; the human species are allocated to time. Fifty thousand years earlier, homo sapiens eliminated Neanderthal man. Eliminated so completely that not of trace of him remains. Not much is known about how the last survivors were finished off. The conquerors had other fish to fry; their memories kept no record of the substitution. And here a new mutation was in progress and homo sapiens was destined for elimination. Nature had prepared a final solution for him. It was not going to kill him—it was the species in him that was going to die. He would give birth to fewer and fewer “normal” children. He had always been fond of change; he thought it good that the sons better than their fathers. This time, he had a real change. But he no longer had the floor.
Time passed so slowly that it seemed to come to a total standstill. Over there, the Superiors were no doubt keeping busy. They lived faster than one could ever imagine. For them, every second counted. But the clay-eaters in their rest homes vaguely knew that time did not matter any longer. They had no more need of projects. They were free to come and go. They were empty. Absolutely, completely, perfectly empty.

The story that follows is only one fragment picked at random from the clear, glassy, almost motionless stream of HISTORY. A lazy stream leading to an inland sea, whose level is getting lower every year. There is no longer enough water to compensate for the evaporation and the sea is vanishing, leaving behind a thin layer of salt. Soon it will be reduced to nothing; there will be nothing left but a white valley, so blinding in the sun that you will not be able to see the bones.
Elsewhere, mighty rivers relentlessly flow on, dragging mud and nuggets along unstoppably, that will get lost in the depths of the peaceful ocean.


Abscontrition by André Veidaux

September 21, 2011

Abscontrition by André Veidaux (The Song of the Void), L’Art Social, January 1893.

I have blasphemed God like a dauntless anarch,
Constantly spit on that Zeus on high;
My Atlas rebellion, my heretic bark:
What ecstasy, this battle cry!

Go bribe Atropos, the final Fate,
To smother my dissident cursing;
Bury me in Charon’s boat—don’t pay the rate—
You will never hear me bitching!

I’ll remain with the untamable beasts,
Fueling our hatred for your feasts,
We sons of Titans, damned for eternity.

And what?! Doom me to the flames of Hell?!
So be it! But history will never tell
That you wrenched from me an apology.

Also available at The Anarchist Library

Ten Minutes at Han Ryner’s

September 17, 2011

Ten Minutes at Han Ryner’s by Jules Rivet, La Vie Littéraire et Artistique no. 13, April 1, 1923.

Han Ryner’s barrel is set up on the banks of the Seine, not far from the Wine Market. Thus, the rustic habitation seems more justified than the dining habits of its occupant would suggest.
Our modern Diogenes is, in fact, if my information is correct, a naturist and water drinker.
“I admire him without envying him.”
What I admire, however, is his beautiful philosopher’s beard and the succulent honey of his words. When I troubled the sage in his solitary retreat, he did not ask me to stand out of his light…
He told me the story of Dion the Golden-mouthed [Dio Chrysostom], a marvelous story that has a share of both epic and symbolic legend:
Seeing that the army he was part of was about to go into a useless and bloody battle (as the stupid recklessness of armies do), Dion the Golden-mouthed rushed to the head of the soldiers, tore his clothes to rags and, half-naked, spoke so gracefully that he succeeded in stopping the combat.

Han Ryner has not changed. But is he really of our time? By just saying yes, I would not want to feel sorry for him. No, Han Ryner is not of our time.
“I’m the only one in Paris,” he told me, “who hasn’t seen Phi-Phi and who hasn’t read the Garçonne.” There’s an originality like any other, perhaps more praiseworthy than others. However, even if Han Ryner has not seen Phi-Phi and has not read the Garçonne, at least he knows about them. And that is maybe a little urbane for a pre-decadent Stoic.
But let’s not squabble too much.
Instead, let’s praise him for remaining simple, useful and modest in an age when everything is geared toward pretentious and alluring uselessness.
Han Ryner told me another nice story. I imagine that it is his way of defending himself against tactless, inquisitive people. And of course, the stories he tells are so well chosen that you can see the thought of the Storyteller behind them.
Here’s the story of the Monkeys who dance:
One day in the court of a great king some monkeys took advantage of everyone sleeping to grab the clothes of the ministers and put them on… One of the monkeys looked like the chief of the Army, another the minister of Justice, a third the Treasurer and a fourth a famous writer. The others in the like… Then the monkeys started dancing upright like men and you would really have thought they were, until a commoner got the idea to throw a handful of nuts at them. Then the monkeys forget their clothes and started scrabbling around.
“Maybe it would only take,” Han Ryner finished, “a handful of nuts thrown in the midst of our ministers and into a full session of our Academy to witness the same scene.”
Well, that’s very likely. But it is not so certain because in our day the monkeys are not so attracted by nuts. They prefer gold francs.
Anyway, it is by telling such—and so subversive—stories that the author of Paraboles Cyniques and Voyages de Psychodore has earned faithful admirers among the individualist anarchists who do not hide their preference for honest philosophers, their love of justice and their respect for the lives of men, poor and bearded.
Now, nobody is more bearded, honest and a philosopher than Han Ryner.

Also at The Anarchist Library

Han Ryner on the Individual

September 13, 2011

What the Individual Is by Han Ryner, La Mêlée no. 29, Aug. 1, 1919.

The individual is a complex, indefinable being. Now, only the individual has something that can be called (without lying too much) existence. Therefore, as the cynic philosophers have known for a long time, nothing real, nothing concrete is definable.
Needing to think, speak, know and act compels us to act so as if there were something definable. With a smile on our lips, let us consent to the inevitable.
But let’s never forget for too long that no words can tell us about the depths of being, even our own depths, and no thought, whatever goodwill and sympathy drives it, will penetrate the depth of another. Our most beautiful, strongest, most penetrating truths are humbly proud to be the lesser lies.
The more I force myself to grasp the concrete, the more my concepts become complex and shaky, the more annoyed I get at not being able to make them supple and moving. When I pronounce absolute words, I know that I am talking in the abstract and that I am talking about nothing.

Fragonard Museum

September 10, 2011

A visit to the Fragonard Museum at Ecole nationale vétérinaire in Maisons-Alfort.

André Caroff

September 2, 2011

The Return of Madame Atomos by André Caroff (tr. by Michael Shreve with an Introduction by J.-M. Lofficier) includes Miss Atomos vs. the KKK and The Return of Madame Atomos as well as The Atomos Affair (short story by Win Scott Eckert).

Soblen handed a letter to Beffort: “Please tell Mr. Beffort that he has not won yet. He has Mie Azusa, but only her body. I have her soul. Some day in the future she will become Miss Atomos again.” Signed: Madame Atomos.”

Beffort looked up. “It’s a joke, isn’t it? Madame Atomos is dead.”

“It’s her writing.”

“Impossible! What about the body in San Francisco?”

“It’s still there, but it’s not Madame Atomos. If she’s alive, she can’t be dead!”

Miss Atomos’ fight to the death against the KKK, and her eventual betrayal after falling in love with Smith Beffort, herald the return of the sinister Madame Atomos — deadlier than ever!

The Return of Madame Atomos at Black Coat Press

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