re: ECI, ICI (excitatory culture impulse)

From: Jacques Du Pasquier (
Date: Tue Nov 13 2001 - 12:38:14 MST

Amara Graps wrote (13.11.2001/15:53) :
> French
> suffering index pretty low. I've not heard really sad French music
> yet to be honest.

French art seems generally joyful, that's true...

However, you'll find in literature things with much overt suffering.
You can read "Voyage au bout de la nuit" [Journey to the end of night]
by Louis-Ferdinand CÚline (1932), for example. (In fact one of my
favourite novels of 20th century, but I'm afraid one needs to read it
in French to grasp the beauty of it).

In contemporary (and popular) literature, you have Michel Houellebecq
in which books suffering is overt, too. You can read by him the
little-known "Rester vivant" [Staying alive], which is a literary
manifesto entirely revolving around suffering (good and short) ; or
you can read the very popular "Extension du domaine de la lutte"
[Extension of the fighting field] (1997), his first novel which is a
nice expression of despair and suffering in the contemporary French
society. (short and easy to read)

> There is a French crooner named Dany Brillant who
> sings all about his broken heart, but he sounds incredibly happy.

No that's a clown, not significant in any way. Only old ladies buy his
CDs for his fifties clothes and good, clean looks :-) In pop singers
you may try Miossec, who suffers with talent (try the CD "Baiser" [To
Fuck]). But maybe it's not quite popular enough to be
significant, though it's on the radios, etc. And then of course you
have JAcques Brel (never heard "Ne me quitte pas" ??)

Also you have all the "troubadours" connection, and the "pleiade
poets" (16th cent.), but that's generally courteous suffering,
suffering for love, and so it's kind of fun at the same time :-)

There is a beautiful 191 sonnets cycle called "Les regrets" [Regrets]
(1558), by Joachim Du Bellay (part of the "pleiad poets" mentionned
above), which evokes in very natural and simple verses the "depression"
of the author, while he's attached to the service of a French
ambassador in Italy.

Actually, I think that literary creation is often linked with
suffering, whether it so appears (because the suffering is directly
evoked) or not. At least you have a strong and productive tradition
that works like that in France. Its nice to be happy, but what you
write might be boring, because there is nothing to "save" and to
"transform", so nothing much LITERARY happens in the writing. Of
course you may transmit ideas, etc. But this you can do in essays,
too. FOr me literature is pretty much about this transformation.

It's a bit like transhumanism : you don't do it if you're totally
happy with your present condition, welcoming death, for example, as
part of the marvelous natural order of things.

So literature in that tradition oftens starts with suffering, or
discomfort at least. But when it works, it ends up bringing joy and
contentment. That's all the beauty of it :-)

"Voyage au bout de la nuit" for example describes painful situations.
But when you read it with appreciation, you laugh, you are joyful, you
re-read for pleasure what you've just read, you go read it aloud to
your friends, etc. :-)

> Italian
> This culture is probably as expressive (or more?) as the Greeks
> (I think that if you tied an Italian's hands behind their back, they
> would not be able to talk), but I don't know yet where are the suffering
> icons, if they exist. The Italian crooner Paolo Conte sounds rough and
> gritty, like he's singing in a smoke-filled bar, but he doesn't sound
> like he is drowning in his sorrows. suffering index still undetermined.

I think they are usually more melancholic than suffering. Like the
napolitan traditional songs, for example.


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