, , , , , , ,

Atala au tombeau (1808), by Girodet de Roussy*
*Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson (5 January 1767 – 9 December 1823)
Photo credit:  Wikipedia

François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand

In 1801, renowned French artist Chateaubriand (4 September 1768 – 4 July 1848) published Atala, ou Les Amours de deux sauvages dans le désert and, in 1826, he published Les Natchez available as an e-book.

The sad love story of our deux sauvages, Atalawas a great success.  It offered just the right element of exoticism and was written by a writer whose penmanship is both exemplary and legendary.  He was Victor Hugo’s model: “Je veux être  Chateaubriand ou rien” (I want to be Chateaubriand or nothing).

Le Mal du siècle

Chateaubriand is one of the fathers of French Romanticism.  He created a character named René (1802) who suffers from what is known as le vague des passions or le mal du siècle, beautifully described in Wikipedia.

However, we need only click on le mal du siècle I believe that le mal du siècle was aptly described by Charles Baudelaire (9 April 1821 – 31 August 1867).  In “l’Albatros,(Les Fleurs du mal; The Flowers of Evil), Baudelaire writes that while the albatross soars majestically in full flight, its long wings make it look clumsy on a ship’s deck.

Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,
Ses ailes de géant l’empêchent de marcher.

René is a French reincarnation of Goethe’s Werther.  See The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774).

The River: the Meschacebé or the Mississippi

René is particularly fascinating because the love story takes place on the shores of the Mississippi or Meschacebé, which Chateaubriand describes in masterly prose, sight unseen.  Moreover, Atala is rousseauistic (Jean-Jacques Rousseau [28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778)]) in that it glorifies nature and anything “sauvage,” untouched by the world.  The real sauvages are in France.  Consequently, Atala and Chactas are privileged human beings.  They are bons sauvages.  However, Atala’s mother has vowed that her daughter would remain a virgin.  So Atala poison’s herself.

The French Revolution: Exile

In 1791, during the French Revolution, Chateaubriand took refuge in America.  He returned to France in 1792, but had to leave France again.  He fled to London where he earned a meagre living teaching French and doing translation work.(Wikipedia)  He would later become quite wealthy.

He spent his final years in Paris, living as a recluse.  The only person he visited was Madame de Récamier.

Chateaubriand, by Girodet de Roussy 

The News

The Montreal Gazette: http://www.montrealgazette.com/index.html
The National Post: http://www.nationalpost.com/index.html
The Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/
The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/
Le Monde diplomatique: http://mondediplo.com/ EN
CBC News: http://www.cbc.ca/news/
CTV News: http://www.ctvnews.ca/
Le Monde: http://www.lemonde.fr/
Le Devoir: http://www.ledevoir.com/
Le Monde diplomatique: http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/
La Presse: http://www.lapresse.ca/
Die Welt: http://www.welt.de//
Micheline Walker©
August 16th, 2012