Petrus Borel in Africa

January 7, 2010

Petrus Borel

Petrus Borel, the Lycanthrope (wolfman) of French decadence. Mentioned in Breton’s Black Humor. In 1850s Borel gave up literature and went to Algeria. There he built a gothic castle and worked as a colonial officer until he was removed, allegedly for sending in statistical reports written in verse! All around good guy, was trying to find a picture of his castle but only found a couple of boring mentions in colonial reports. This might be because of the dispute between google and France about copyright on French published books; merde!

Dictionnaire universel des contemporains 1858

M. Borel a abandonné la littérature; il est aujourd’hui inspecteur de la colonisation à Mostaganem.

Almanach national 1850
listed as Inspectuer, 3rd class

Almanach national 1854
listed as Inspectuer, 2nd class

couple of mentions in regards to cotton and henna cultivation:

Itinéraire historique et descriptif de l’Algérie 1862

L’Algérie et les colonies françaises 1877

Family coat of arms



Rimbaud in Africa

January 5, 2010

Bunch of links mentioning Rimbaud after he left for Africa

Note sur les Inscriptions et Dessins Rupestres de la Gara des Chorfa

Mentions the publication Rimbaud wrote Les Tifinar de la gara des Chorfa, published in Renseignements coloniaux et Documents publiés par le Comité de l’Afrique française et le Comité du Maroc – 1901 -N° 5. Can’t find this anywhere though, its a shame because it is illustrated.

Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society 1884

M. Alfred Bardey, a member of the Society, forwarded from Africa a report, which M. Rimbaud, agent of the commercial house of Mazeran, Bardey et Cie., at Harar, had furnished on the subject of Ogadine, the name given to a central place of tribes of Somali origin as well as to the country which these tribes occupy. This territory is generally defined on the maps as situated between the Somali tribes of the Habr-Gerhadjis, Doulbahantes, Midjertins and Hawias on the north, east, and south; while on the west, Ogadine borders on the Eunyas (Gallas shepherds) as far as the river Webbe, which separates it from the great Oromon tribe of the Aroussis. The general aspect of the country is that of a steppe covered with long grass, but with stony gaps. The trees, at least in the districts explored by M. Rimbaud and his companions, are those of the Somali deserts, mimosas, gum-trees, &c. However, on nearing the Webbe, the inhabitants lead a more settled life and devote themselves to agriculture. But the shepherds of Ogadine, like the rest of the shepherds of this country, are always at war among themselves or with their neighbours. They are fanatical Mussulmans; each encampment has its iman, who chants the prayer at prescribed hours. Extempore poets, who possess a knowledge of the Koran and the Arab scriptures, are found in every tribe.

The places that he went to were no joke page 258:

All efforts, however, to penetrate from Harar into the interior have, with one single exception, ended disastrously. M. Luceran, a scientific explorer in the service of the French Ministry of Education, was murdered by the Galla, when he had scarcely left that place, in 1881. Sacconi, who proposed to visit the Ogaden country, met with the same fate when about twenty days’ march to the south or south-east of that town (5th August, 1883); and Lazzaro Panajosi, a Greek, shared the same fate soon afterwards. M. Rimbaud, however, a gentleman in the service of Messrs. Mazeran, Bardoy and Co., is reported to have returned in safety from a trading trip into the country of the Ogaden.

Comptes rendus des séances de la Société de géographie 1887
letter from Rimbaud to Bardey.

André Breton and FWH Meyers

January 4, 2010

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research vol 17 1903
Tribute to FWH Myers by William James
Frederick Myers’s Service to Psychology

William James, one of the grand old men of psychology, wrote this tribute following the death of Myers. Very interesting in itself as a summary of Myers’s work and also of the man himself. You get a sense of why Myers appealed to those outside of academic science and conversely why he repelled those inside.

Source of two quotes from André Breton’s Le Message Automatique:

Myers’s Problem page 17

What is the precise constitution of the Subliminal —such is the problem which deserves to figure in our Science hereafter as the problem of Myers; and willy-nilly, inquiry must follow on the path which it has opened up. But Myers has not only propounded the problem definitely, he has also invented definite methods for its solution. Posthypnotic suggestion, crystal-gazing, automatic writing and trance-speech, the willing-game, etc., are now, thanks to him, instruments of research, reagents like litmus paper or the galvanometer, for revealing what would otherwise be hidden. These are so many ways of putting the Subliminal on tap.

gothic psychology page 14
James doesn’t actually use this term, instead refering to Myers as a romantic psychologist as opposed to classical-academic:

(referring to the sunlit terrace of classical-academic psychology)

But of late years the terrace has been overrun by romantic improvers, and to pass to their work is like going from classic to Gothic architecture, where few outlines are pure and where uncouth forms lurk in the shadows. A mass of mental phenomena are now seen in the shrubbery beyond the parapet. Fantastic, ignoble, hardly human, or frankly nonhuman are some of these new candidates for psychological description. The menagerie and the madhouse, the nursery, the prison, and the hospital, have been made to deliver up their material. The world of mind is shown as something infinitely more complex than was suspected ; and whatever beauties it may still possess, it has lost at any rate the beauty of academic neatness.

Automatic Writing 1915

January 2, 2010

The American Journal of Psychology
April 1915

Another experimental attempt to induces automatic writing. The experiments are similar to those of Solomons and Stein: person attempts to write while distracted by reading. Actual content of writing is from memory or from dictation. Pretty boring, only interesting part is that they come closer to automatic reading then writing; they reported lapses of conscience during act of reading and rarely during that of writing. Also it doesn’t seem that they are even using the right approach, instead of the writing coming from the subconscience they rely on conscience memory or external dictation. No champs magnétiques.

Monkeys in the Sun: a Spiritualist Drama in Two Acts

December 31, 2009

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research

volume 28 1915

Hysterical record of two automatic writing sessions with Mrs. Piper (channeling Sir Walter Scott) and Professor Newbold. Mrs. Piper was a very famous English medium, similar to Helene Smith in France. Newbold was professor of philosophy at Princeton, a determined investigator of the supernatural.

Newbold’s questions and Piper’s written responses are arraigned like some bizarre play, the combination of Sir Walter’s descriptions of life on the various planets and Newbold’s dead pan questioning is priceless.

From the sublime (describing Venus)…

The atmosphere warm, balmy, beautiful, too much so to put in words and express. Now we feel a slight breeze and we are wafted through the outer rim as it were into a perfect little heaven by itself. Nothing ever realized on earth could compare with this. Now we see no one, i. e. no living being so to speak, only these beautiful creatures the trees like wax, the flowers like the true soul as it were, they are so really beautiful, the fields are one mass of green, the flowers of various hues, yet we see not a man anywhere.

…to the absurd (describing the sun)

we find it very warm and deserted like a deserted island. We wish to find its inhabitants if there are any i.e. if it has any. Now we see what we term monkeys, dreadful looking creatures, black extremely black, very wild. We find they live in caves which are made in the sand or mud, clay etc.

Read on until at least page 444 for the ensuing monkey controversy and Newbold’s admiting to losing it.

F.W.H. Myers on Automatic Writing

December 30, 2009

Four articles by F.W.H Myers, whose “gothic psychiatry” is mentioned in Breton’s Le Message Automatique.

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research ii 1884
On a Telepathic Explanation of Some So-Called Spiritualistic Phenomena

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research iii 1885
Automatic Writing II

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research iv 1887
Automatic Writing III

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research v 1889
Automatic Writing IV The Daemon of Socrates

Myers was the grand old man of psychic research at the time who had almost free reign to publish in Proceedings. He would have been a better writer if he had an editor though, he gets very verbose and rambling. His 30 page article titled “The Daemon of Socrates” doesn’t mention Socrates until page 18, he never sticks to the topic on hand but goes on long nested tangents. Gothic indeed.

Myers completely ascribes automatic writing to the writer’s subconscious, with the catch that the subconscience can also receive telepathic messages from others.

In part 2 he developes a theory of right brain hemisphere being the source of automatic messages that comes close to that of Julian Jaynes, particularly in part 4 when he discusses “automatic hearing”, hearing voices and hallucination.

Very interesting reads but not always easy going.

Vanity Fair Nov 1922

December 29, 2009

Yvonne George

Vanity Fair

Pretty cool 3 pages:

Page 49
Yvonne George: Late of Chez Fisher; Now of Ours

Yvonne was the beloved of Robert Desnos, who wrote some of his best poems to her. Short article of her working in NYC with a picture.

Page 50
A New Method of Realizing the Artistic Possibilities of Photography

Very early article about Man Ray’s rayographs. So early that he is still called a painter! Four rayographs and a pic of the artist.

Page 51
News of the Seven Arts in Europe

News of the arts in Europe by none other then Tristan Tzara himself. Mentions Arp, Ernst (who was then still in Cologne), two new Dada books in Paris (by Soupault and Eluard), Henri Rousseau retrospective.

Tzara then gives an interesting account of the collapse of Breton’s Congress of Paris, never thought that Peret was ever not in Breton’s camp (text is a little chopped off on the right):

A storm, memorable in the annals of modern art, has lately disturbed our life in Paris. A group of artist’s decision to hold a sort of convention in defense of modern art; unfortunately they at once proved themselves dogmatists of the narrowest kind, with a straightness of view which could not leave us cold. Satie and I organized a meeting of protest which buried the Convention and discredited its members. We issued a little pamphlet Le Coeur a Barbe. Contributors: Satie, Ribemont-Dessaignes, Eluard, Peret, Soupault, Fraenkel and I. The paper on which it was printed was of a vulgar pink: a housewife would not hesitate to wrap a camembert in Le Coeur a Barbe. The cover looked like a rebus, but only a haphazard mixture of pictures from catalogues of 30 years ago.