I’ve recently discovered Albert Londres (1884-1932), a globe-trotting French journalist who seems a bit like a real-world, earlier, more principled Tintin:
Misery is like any other State. Only those who live in it know it. Others don’t even think about it. And when sometimes they do talk about it, they do so as of a country they’ve never seen, that is to say that they only talk a lot of nonsense.
This is from Les Chemins de Buenos Aires (the extract’s translation is mine), a book-length report on the apparently flourishing sex trafficking at the time (1927) between France and Argentina. In this often quite funny first-person account, Londres follows French pimps from Paris to Buenos Aires, tells of how they seduce or trick women into following them, how they cross the ocean and avoid the authorities, how they set them up in Argentina. It’s quite extraordinary to be transported to such a time and place (and milieu), to hear early 20th century pimps in their own words.
Other works of his that I plan on reading include Au bagne (on the French penal colony in Guyana), Chez les fous (an investigation of mistreatments in psychiatric institutions) as well as works on different subjects set in colonial Africa.
His books are translated in English, but I’m not sure how easily one could get his hands on one. But I’d recommend trying! Or if by any chance you read French, a good few of his works are available for free (Public Domain) on Wikisource.
There were several dead refugees, one dead horse, and the dying cavalry officer who was pinned under the horse. At intervals the cavalryman awoke and faintly screamed. Now he screamed for Mother, and again he screamed for a priest. At times he awoke to scream for his horse. His screaming disquieted the buzzards and farther disgruntled the Poet, who was feeling peevish anyhow. He was a very dispirited Poet. He had never expected the world to act in a courteous, seemly, or even sensible manner, and the world had seldom done so; often he had taken heart in the consistency of its rudeness and stupidity. But never before had the world shot the poet in the abdomen with a musket. This he found not heartening at all.
from A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
Before starting High-Rise, I was staying one summer in a beach high-rise at Rosas on the Costa Brava, not far from Dalí’s home at Port Lligat, and I noticed that one of the French ground-floor tenants, driven to a fury by cigarette butts thrown down from the upper floors, began to patrol the beach and photograph the offenders with a zoom lens. He then pinned the photos to a notice board in the foyer of the block. A very curious exhibition, which I took to be another green light to my imagination.
-J.G Ballard, interviewed in The Paris Review
Excited by my own sex, I felt light-headed and generous. All sense of hunger had left me. I decided to startle the placid town with my sex, but not by copulating with these suburbanites still asleep in their bedrooms. I would mount the town itself, transform Shepperton into an instant paradise more exotic than all the television travelogues that presided over their lives.
-from The Unlimited Dream Company, by JG Ballard
(You can find an interview with Ballard in The Paris Review, where he says, among other things that the title of this novel was a mistake, as it sounded “like a jeans emporium”.
The latest instalment of the brilliant Unthology series was launched yesterday. As usual, it’s a great collection of fiction, gathering pieces that really work together, without falling into the old boring trap of theme or style unity. It’s as good as it looks, and it contains my short story “Nora and Anthony”.
It’s a theatrical romantic extravaganza, and if you happen to be a Corkonian, the set was fashioned after the Everyman Theatre.
Quick update: one of my poems published in the current issue of Poetry Ireland Review (see previous post) is featured on their website as their poem of the week.
Go check it out – free poem, folks!
I’m delighted to start 2016 with quite a busy line-up of publications.
I have two poems out this week in the handsome Poetry Ireland Review (below – cover art by Niamh Flanagan): After all these night buses, a fanciful travelogue of sorts, and On the madhouse grounds with Alexis, about youthful trespassings in my hometown.
And, just fresh of the day, two more poems can be found online in the new issue of Southword: Our Lady of the Clouds, patroness of bored clerks and Threesome. I’m not going to say anything about those, as anyone interested can just click on and read them. in addition to the poems, you can read the winning stories of the Seán Ó Faoláin Competition 2015, judged by Danielle McLaughlin.
I’m pretty chuffed, because the poetry editor for Southword at the moment is Matthew Sweeney, a poet I’m quite a fan of.