March 13, 2014
Like all writers, I have an obsession with what is good and what is bad. But for me, it’s a blurry line at times. Which makes it even more evil. When one looks away from evil, is it because you prefer evil over good? I never read the works by Paul Morand, but he was an aristocrat wealthy man who counted Jean Cocteau as a friend and actually dined with Marcel Proust. Yet, he was very much part of and supported the Vichy government. He was also seen as a modernist and a member of Imagist. That was a literary movement that favored precision of imagery and clear, sharp language. Which one can gather by now, is not exactly my aesthetic!
On the other hand I have a deep interest in artists who went along the facist route, and I try to think if that is also in their own work as well. Cocteau was a real mystery to me in a sense, because he was the poet who sees everything as an extension of poetry. In other words, an art for art’s sake. Which to be honest is what I pretty much follow. But if that art leads one to a darker political path, is it good for the soul? Is the soul important? Often participants on both sides of the road, when it involves art, are trying to find a moral ground to stand on. But I am not sure if that is what art is about. I think it's about a lot of things, and it’s best to accept the good, but one has to acknowledge the evil as well. Like Robert Mitchum’s character in “,The Night of the Hunter” when he grasps both hands to show the tattoo “love” and “hate” on the other.
What I can’t fully understand is why Morand would be for a government that would want to stop the zazous from having a good time listening to jazz and records from America? Why would he want to hunt down children, who eventually will turn out to be Serge Gainsbourg or Roman Polanski? In my mind, there are two different types of “art for art’s sake” groupings. There is the Oscar Wilde, who for sure was a man involved in his world, and acknowledge the political affairs of his time and age. Then there are people like Morand and perhaps Cocteau, who ‘ignore’ the shit around them. One uses art to build a wall between the outside world and themselves, and Wilde I think just wanted to make a difference or to being in a world of shit, and somehow stand beyond it. Celine (who I love as a writer by the way), Cocteau and Morand seemed to love the company of power, or at least acknowledge that power as almost as a turn-on for their art. Well, let me take Celine back, I reckon he was just nutty. But Cocteau and Morand were not nutty. They must have understood what was happening at that time, and while Cocteau’s role is sort of cloudy in those years, what was Morand’s excuse?
What’s interesting is the Imagist movement, because of its need to see things clearly. Art to me is naturally messy, like nature. The need to make order out of a mess is a very strong aesthetic, which I have to admit, I share. But alas I think that need is also the root of an inner-fascism.
I’m also intrigued by someone like L. Ron Hubbard, who was a science fiction writer who somewhere down the line decided to be something much bigger than a pulp writer. Yet, I feel the organization he started is very much in a pulp tradition. Its history reads like a noir Southern California fantasy. It’s interesting how an artist can make a utopia of sorts, and perhaps Morand wanted one as well, to express his wealth, and his stance in the 20th century. Oddly enough, only one of his novels is available in English. I must read it!