undrgrnd Cliquez ici RentreeLitteraire nav-sa-clothing-shoes Cloud Drive Photos Rentrée scolaire Cliquez ici Acheter Fire Achetez Kindle Paperwhite cliquez_ici Bijoux en or rose
Profil de Dr Jacques COULARDEAU > Commentaires

Fiche d'identité

Contenu rédigé par Dr Jacques COU...
Classement des meilleurs critiques: 8.252
Votes utiles : 2635

Chez vous : découvrez nos services personnalisés en pages d'aide !

Commentaires écrits par
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU "A soul doctor, so to say" (OLLIERGUES France)

Afficher :  
Page : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
Harry Potter 8 : Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 & 2 : The Official Script Book of the Original West End Prod
Harry Potter 8 : Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 & 2 : The Official Script Book of the Original West End Prod
par J. K. Rowling
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 17,98

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Sans les effets spéciaux c'est un Canada Dry, pas un ..., 24 août 2016
Achat vérifié(De quoi s'agit-il ?)
I can’t resist and I will start with the new triad J-K (Rowling), John/Jack (Tiffany) and Jack (Thorne) like an echo of another trinity Jesus-James-John, the master/teacher/rabbi, the brother and the youngest apostle hence the son, presented as such by Jesus to his mother Mary from his cross. I will not follow that line with this new volume but it is constantly present, especially with the two boys Albus and Scorpius who are always running after a third one like Cedric twice and then Delphi both the predator and the prey of the two boys trying to deal with another triad, herself, her father Voldemort and his arch enemy Harry Potter and to move away from the ill-fated triad James Potter Sr., Lily Potter and Harry Potter. It could only lead to a catastrophe since then Voldemort would be building a quartet with the three Potters.

First of all it is a strange book indeed since it is a play and not a novel. So we get no descriptions, or hardly any since stage directions are not as good as prose. It is essentially a dialogue between or among two characters or more, cut up in rather short scenes. You have to rebuild everything in your mind’s eye, if you have a mind and if you have an eye in that mind and thirdly if you can, because it is hard to know the precise intonations intended in these dialogues and at times the meaning depends on these intonations. In other words you, Harry Potter addicts, are going to be frustrated and maladjusted in this dry scenario.

The second remark I will make is that what we read implies a tremendous level of special effects. That is easy in a film or TV series but on a stage…? So you will never get the real thing if you can’t see it on stage and if they do not propose a capture of the play on DVD, a real capture with no re-mastered special effects. Some of them are not very creative. Shape-shifting and shape shifters have become very banal and common place after “Supernatural” (How many season already?), “The X Files” (quite a few seasons too, and they stopped though they are speaking of starting again and they may even have) and “Fringe” (and they have come to an end or the end) or some copy cats of these. And that is of course in the line of vampires who could turn into bats or werewolves who could turn into wolves precisely.

The third element is that this play is un-understandable if you do not know the whole saga. First there are many allusions to event of the previous volumes, the old volumes, and you have an obligation to remember, a duty of memory. But what’s more, the author uses a time-turner to make us go back to old events that are revived that way. You better know what she is speaking of and in some scenes, the very same way as in Back to the Future you may have two, or why not three though the author avoids that potential possibility, different identities and ages of the same characters. And what’s more modern identities are crossed with and by contradictory feelings towards the other characters, feelings coming from the past, like how the Potter side reacts to that poor Draco Malfoy. You better review and revise your summaries.

The next remark has to do with some political science fiction resulting from travelling in time and changing history, the famous butterfly effect. We are thus able to visit what the modern world would be if the dark forces were to win, if Voldemort were able to win, like Trump, le Pen or Brexit. If they do, the only solution is to push them around, filibuster them if we can and neutralize them if possible. Can you control a tempest coming from all the frustrations of people in front of the establishment: frustrated in their minds by gross lies and promises that were not held; frustrated in their feelings by the insecurity they feel in front of the changing world they do not understand; and frustrated in their deeper impulses and desires by a world in which genders are multiplied from two to more than a dozen and in which gender orientation is a multiple choice challenge with more than one answer to every stage: the gay feel besieged and become aggressive; the straight feel menaced and become uncertain; and all other colors and options feel queer, bizarre, strange and kind of disoriented. And Pride is by far not enough to make the world change smoothly.

But political science fiction comes basically, I think, from deranged and corrugated minds: Albus and Scorpius are out of their minds when they want to change the past. No one can remake history, not even by remembering it which is anyway a reconstruction to make it palatable, digestible and if possible haunting. But it is funny to find out the best intentions in the mental world of two teenagers may lead to the worst nightmares in the life of everybody, the same way as Brexit leads to a chasm of chaos to the point of pushing it back two years and then now three years and in a month or two to four years and after some rounds of negotiations it will be recognized as the perfectly good bad idea. Imagine Voldemort and his Death Eaters and all his dung beetles ready to do the worst crimes for a pellet of cow pie.

The fifth element is that the story is funny and very sentimental if not sentimentalese. That will be the last remark of that type I will make. And this remark leads to the main content of the book as I see it.

The central question is the conflict between the deficient father Harry Potter and his second son? The author does not insist or harp on the first son, a certain James Potter Jr., and thus does not really capture the problem of the younger son. Being a younger son is a real – I mean R.E.A.L., real – curse in itself. Think of Abel when God decided not to favor the first born Cain. At the end there is an allusion to that James Jr. seen as at peace with the father of the two sons, Harry Potter, by Albus Potter, and Harry Potter’s response is then that in fact there is no real relation between him and his elder son. But at the end, that’s too late and it requires a lot more exploration.

But the author, with her two male sidekicks, is a woman, probably a mother and she probably believes she knows what it is to be a parent, forgetting that being a mother has little to do with being a father and she has no direct experience of this father status and men generally cannot really speak of it because they are like afraid of being misunderstood when they start telling you they love their sons, they want to hug them and cuddle them as long as they can and they have to break that desired relation, both mental and physical, by far too early for them, but most of the time too late for the son: in other words they do not know how to shift from the relation of a loving father who expresses his love with physical and mental closeness to the relation of a loving father who expresses his love with concern, support, encouragement to get out in the world and sow their wild mental and physical oats in all social fields. And sure enough Albus Potter and Harry Potter are both incompetent and how they come to some kind of understanding is superficial and purely verbose.

She misses many things and particularly that whether there is a conflict or not, the son will end up either doing some of the things the father did, or not doing some of the things the father did, or doing some of the things the father did not do, or not doing some of the things the father did not do. And most of the time some of each of the four options. That is called transference, positive or negative transference of positive or negative elements. It works both ways from the father who tries to transfer things onto the son, and from the son who tries to be free to choose what he accepts and what he refuses.

The author even goes further and brings together two sons of two fathers, the two sons living a conflict with their respective fathers and the two fathers inheriting an old conflict between them they try to project (transference again) onto their respective sons. She very wisely makes the two boys best friends at first sight. She systematically calls that friendship and calls them friends, but they are best friends and that is love, but I guess in her mind love has to do with desire and impulse and signifies sex, marriage and children. That’s how she deals with Ron and Hermione for example. The girl is a potential mother with all it means. For Albus and Scorpius there cannot be any kind of turning the other into a mother. More about that in a moment. To end up on the transference from Harry to Albus it is simple. Harry declares his fright in front of pigeons, and Albus declares at once they are innocent – go tell that to the guardians of the cathedral in Wells who have invested on falcons to purge the site of its pigeons, or to the managers of airports who also use falcons to clear up the zone of the airport of its pigeons – and as a negative transference he will be a pigeon race manager. That kind of final solution of the conflict is rather trite, and Scorpius does not deserve the same treatment since we do not know his ending, showing that the relation between the two boys is insignificant for the author and she tries to cast it into a block of heterosexual concrete.

We have to understand their dialogue in 2016 when the relations between males, two males or several males, or actually between females too, two females or more, are just the crucial social question of the moment after for example the decision of the US Supreme Court on the subject. I will only take some examples from the end of the book, but it is present all along.

Page 265 Scorpius says: “So we hide in a hole?” Albus answers: “As pleasurable as it will be to hide in a hole with you for the next forty years . . .” Then Scorpius retorts: “If I had to choose a companion to be at the return of eternal darkness with, I’d choose you.” In the situation they are in, either this is serious and then the words have a clear meaning: it is a declaration of love on both sides, or it is humor but due to the situation it is really very dark if not black humor. Let’s say, serious or humorous it is nevertheless homoerotic.

Page 300-301 Scorpius says: “I asked out Rose Granger-Weasley.” Albus responds: “And she said no.” Scorpius retorts: “But I asked her. I planted the acorn. The acorn that will grow into our eventual marriage.” That is erotic indeed and, on the side of a dating failure, it is rather male-dominant, maybe even slightly phallocratic. But later on Albus says: “I honestly thought I’d be the first of us to get a girlfriend.” And Scorpius responds: “Oh, you will, undoubtedly, probably that new smoky-eyed Potions professor – she’s old enough for you, right?” Albus reacts: “I don’t have a thing about older women!” And Scorpius can add: “And you’ve got time – a lot of time – to seduce her. Because Rose is going to take years to persuade.” Albus can have the last word: “I admire your confidence.” In this passage they set their orientation as being heterosexual, though Scorpius is rejected – but is he really – by his first “date” who says no of course, and Albus does not seem to be in a rush to get one. In other the two boys have closet undetermined sexual orientation and follow in public some kind of heterosexual game that does not seem to be urgent or really serious. The author is exploiting neither side of the coin that has to do with gender orientation.

I can assure you at 14 they are obsessed by it. And they are indeed.

Page 302 we have this little scene:

“Scorpius reaches in and hugs Albus.
Albus: What’s this? I thought we decided we don’t hug.
Scorpius: I wasn’t sure. Whether we should. In this new version of us – I had in my head.”

It is obvious the heterosexual version of the two boys is the “new version” of them. Then the old version, or the previous version was rather gay, and now they still hug and the play makes it longer than a casual hug between two brothers or cousins. At least Scorpius wants it and takes the initiative, and Albus does not refuse it and takes part in it, accepts it. Is that going to be an orientation, or a gender? We definitely need to get more on those two pubescent teenagers.

After saying all that let me conclude. This play will both exhilarate AND frustrate you. But that’s too bad. Let’s hope we SOON get a DVD capture of the stage production.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU


Strictly Mobile: How the Largest Man-Made Platform in History is Changing Our World (English Edition)
Strictly Mobile: How the Largest Man-Made Platform in History is Changing Our World (English Edition)
Prix : EUR 0,99

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Il nous faut toujours avoir un petit robot chez soi, 22 août 2016
This book is a collection of twelve studies on twelve important developments in the field of mobile technology written by twelve people who all play a key role in the fields they each cover. The style is simple and there is no over technical or scientific terms and language. It is written for the wide public, a public that is educated in computing but not more than necessary to do just a little bit more than surviving in this connected world.

A fundamental idea is given right from the start: mobile technology is transforming the world because of four factors: 1- world wide Internet usage, 2- global smart phone adoption, 3- the Internet of Things, and 4- the millennial generation who are mobile natives, in other words they were connected to a mobile phone from their very birth onward and maybe during the pregnancy of their mothers. We are becoming unable to survive in our society without a smart phone or at least a cell phone.

The question of Artificial Intelligence is crucial. Five domains of research and progress can be listed: 1- visual perception, 2- natural language understanding, 3- planning, 4- machine learning and 5- knowledge representation. When the five subfields of AI are put together we have robotics. Yet we need to cope with the field of emotions and understanding and interacting with people, and even so it is not enough and the system has to become autonomous and thus has to be able to cope with moral dilemmas That will have to be programmed in the machine. And yet that will not be human because a person does not react the way he/she is programmed but from what he/she has integrated through his/her specific experience in life from even before birth, and according to many circumstantial elements that a machine cannot even know about, let alone have programmed in its software: things like the mood of the person, the light around him/her, the weather, the heat and air conditioning, the general atmosphere around him/her, etc. A machine can learn but a machine will never learn like a human being who started hearing in the 24th week of his/her mother’s pregnancy. To paraphrase Shakespeare: “a machine does not bleed when you prick it, etc…” This author goes as far as saying that “a person reacts on instinct.” This is not human but animal. Humans have spent years and years to learn things that are not instincts but integrated knowledge. All houses have roofs not because it is the human instinct that dictates it but because the house and its roof are there to protect man against the weather. They are the extension n of our skin and clothing as Marshall McLuhan would say. That is not instinct, nothing to do with bees and their beehives, and animals do not wear clothing.

When dealing with medicine, it is quite clear that mobile technology will be essential, if it is not already, particularly connected health machines and wearable machines connected to services and people who can follow the patient and help if there is a problem or if an adjustment in the treatment is necessary. Yes big hospital are doomed and the main resistance will come from doctors (who will lose a lot of privileged positions) and regulatory bodies who will try to impose costly traditions because they are traditions, in spite of the risk assessment policy of WHO. Some of the new “micro-or-nano-machines” envisaged here are interesting though they all run into one problem. The following are suggested: digestable sensors (a chip in a digestable pill); sensors embeddable in the blood stream; and biodegradable chips directed glued on the skin. The real question is what will these connected devices be connected to and who will have access to this central processing unit (the new connected CPU à la 1984). This question is not even asked.

As for education, the digital natives all men can be, and some are such from nearly-birth, are already confronted and will be a lot more soon to mobile technology within the learning process but the author does not seem to be aware of some learning styles and strategies when he only lists “visual, kinetic and combination of different modes.” If it were that simple! Most people are visual dominant but not limited to the visual competence and some are not visual dominant but audio dominant. The kinetic element has to be widened to the tactile, gustative and touch elements, what makes a human experience uniquely human and any human experience uniquely personal. This has to do with a myriad of psychological en experiential elements that are absolutely unique for each learner. Standard school systems have tried to treat all students alike – in the name of equality – and that was a mistake but here that mistake is not corrected. MOOC are nothing but standard classes or lectures, at times visually enhanced (and we do not need to produce a MOOC to use visual elements in class, broadcast on the Internet.. The medium is different, the product is the same.

We have to shift from “KNOWLEDGE – TRANSMITTED TO – LEARNER” to a completely different procedure or algorithm like “LEARNER/SEARCHER – SEARCHES & ASSIMILATES – KNOWLEDGE HE/SHE FINDS BY HIS/HER OWN MEANS.” And we have to add this supplementary element that all the knowledge found by the learner has to be contradictory, to contain opposed points of view. And even so learners need, require and demand a regular human contact either by telephone, or by Skype or one-on-one for discussions, confrontations, suggestions, incitation to go beyond. Knowledge is a construct and we have to get out of the prefabricated standard scholastic knowledge to get to a constructive and constructing learner who owes all his knowledge to his own efforts and searches and even to the struggle to have the necessary confrontation sessions with other learners and with specialists of what he is looking for and with teachers who are not giving knowledge any more but only indicating a road that might be more productive or interesting in that constructive construction.

When the chapter comes to assessment it is a plain futuristic illusion. Of course we have to use machines for the assessment that has to be digital, interactive, tailored to the needs of the student and integrating feedback in real time. But that is good only for factual knowledge, Multiple Choice Questionnaire. But that cannot be the case of an essay that is constructive, creative and contradictory. How can a machine measure the originality of the architecture of such an essay and the brilliance of its style? Maybe one day when humans are robots and machines humans. The machines though can easily point out plagiarism and other evils of essay writing, including the use of essay-writing software. That’s why such essays should be contradictory presentations of three or four students in the shape of systematic debates with an assessing jury that could be composed of both teachers and learners. And that can or even has to start as soon as possible after birth, or at least after the child can speak, which is around three years old.

I have little to say about self-driving cars that will be very useful for blind people, elderly people, people who cannot drive and people who use chauffeurs all the time, uberized or not. But once again these cars will be connected and some central unit will build their “experience.” Who will be behind this central processing unit and what kind of security must we think of? It will be very useful to the police and other security agencies, private or public.

Manipulation is banal with modern robots and even better with tomorrow’s robots. Sensors have become versatile and they will be useful provided they bring “delight” to the users and they respect or enhance the users’ sense of dignity (people who cannot do something accept to do it with the help of a machine they control better than with the help of another human they do not control).

Autonomous transportation of merchandise with drones is purely commercial – or military – but it is so far limited by the weight drones can carry and the distance they can fly autonomously. We are far from personal drones for individuals, and frankly if that happens one day and everyone goes to the baker’s, to the post office and all other convenience stores or services by drone it might be hectic at certain times in the day and no more walking at all: good morning obesity and heart diseases.

The lunar frontier is being privatized. Good if you want but the project is greedy: only exploit resources on the moon that do not exist on the earth or are rare or difficult to reach. But the main question that is not even considered is that of the occupation of the soil and the property of the resources extracted from that soil. What would be the criteria for anyone having the right to do this or that here or there: first arrival, military means, buying a section of the moon (from whom?), the size of each claim, etc? Are we going to transform the moon into some western territory in cosmic dimension? Is the invasion of a territory and claiming that it is mine acceptable for me or any other person? And what do we do with previous occupants, if any? Exterminate them like American Indians and First Nations?

The front lines are numerous and those considered here are only a few. The hardware is not really a problem today, and certainly not tomorrow. The software is not discussed really and that is bothering because each producer has his own software and they are not compatible. Are we going to go on reproducing the absence of open standards that can enable all users to access all resources without having to buy a special machine and a special software for each one of them? But what is more important is the content, and “content is king,” that is going to circulate on these mobile highways. Sure enough perishable content and commoditized content are not interesting. Content has to be unique and durable or perennial and of sufficient quality to stand out if it pretends to be professional or creative. That is to say it has to be sustainable: it must produce its own audience (due to the quality of its content); it must produce the means to go on with its own work and broadcasting (that means money: advertising or premium subscriptions, etc); and what is even more important it must produce the desire for more in the audience targeted and reached. The sustainability of sports events cannot be the same as the sustainability of opera because the audiences are not the same but both contents have to be sustainable with their audience if they want to simply survive and go on existing. That question is not considered in enough depth in the chapter concerned.

Mobile payments is fictitious up to the moment when the author of the chapter finally suggests an identification of the user of the mobile phone that is absolutely sure like his/her fingerprint, since smart phones have tactile screens, but the author only suggests this at the end after several pages comparing the security of credit cards and smart phones to the advantage of the latter, though the identification of the user is a number (card or phone) and a pin code with or without then some kind of back control to the user who has to get a special code on the telephone (but the person behind the telephone is not necessarily the real owner). Then the author suggests “blockchain” as a security measure but for the banks and the merchants, not for the customer. All these securities are based on automated procedures and apparently the only security for the customer is to tie the smart phone to his left or right hand with an un-pickable handcuff and a chain in non-cuttable metal.

Virtual Reality is a gadget to make ourselves believe we are in a real conference whereas it is only a video conference, in a real class, whereas it is only a MOOC, or in a real business meeting whereas it is only some Skype multi-connection. Maybe simply make you believe you are on Fifth Avenue though you have never been in New York: a VR satellite image by Google, in a way. We are far from anything there, except if we are speaking of games and entertainment: a VR-DVD for an opera at the MET, why not?

As for Love, the subject has been dealt with by so many filmmakers that it is funny to oppose artificial intelligence to companionship. We all have difficulty being understood everyday by people who know us, at times quite well, because out words and intonations are our own and other people do not acknowledge them. Imagine a robot then who will have to become an image of the user to understand and use the same words and intonations with the same meaning, and also the same functional constructions, etc. But then where will companionship be if the robot is an image of the user? Narcissistic companionship. And ethical dilemma and choices, strategic questions and life or death decisions cannot be considered within a narcissistic relation, but within a contradictive situation. But the contradiction I expect if we are discussing abortion is not at all the same as if we were discussing the wall along the border or Mexico or Brexit. Will that robot be able to be as many advisors as I need according to my needs at this or that time? A robot-orchestra for sure. But that is not feasible. If we speak of companion for a cancer patient in terminal phase, that sounds easier, but a companion who can be a personal assistant, a friend and confidant, and a small-talk companion to an advanced researcher in several fields of competence like ancient languages, anthropology, modern literature and baroque, classical or modern music, it might be slightly more complicated.

Just delve into the book and keep your imagination wide open because too often technical people seem to lose their creative imagination that would tell them they are just forgetting the fundamental fact that nothing black is black all the time and everywhere. And there are so many shades of grey!

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU


Leviathan (English Edition)
Leviathan (English Edition)
Prix : EUR 0,00

5.0 étoiles sur 5 La liberté 'est une denrée en grand danger, 19 août 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Leviathan (English Edition) (Format Kindle)
I will only consider some chapters in this approach. The a priori position is that God is the origin of everything, that the Bible is absolutely true about the history of humanity and its “creation” and that the best order is that dictated by God’s law and order in which man is only free in the subjects and situations that have not been ruled out or regulated by God himself. This represents the situation in England in 1651 under the absolute rule of the Puritans led by Oliver Cromwell and named the Commonwealth. But the value for modern human beings can only come if we get the ideas he espouses out of this religious axiom that is like a pillory to his thinking.

The introduction takes us directly into the subject. The general idea he states is that man is the central element of his thinking and this man is positioned in nature. We will have to clarify what he means by nature later on. The idea here is that man as an organism, as an architectural construction is the basis of any other construction that develops from man, that is developed by man. He thus identifies what he calls Leviathan, or the common-wealth or state, as being built on the model of our body and the concept of “sovereignty” is stated to be an “artificial soul.” This metaphor, because it is a metaphor, is even densified by comparing this Leviathan created by man to a simple machine or watch or clock, hence a complex mechanism created by man too. When we bring in the concept of God as the creator of man to his own image we feel a contradiction. Man creates Leviathan or a watch to his own image, not God’s, though this man who is the model of the creations we are speaking of is the image of God, hence Leviathan should be the image of the image of God. Yet Hobbes divides his discourse between nature that governs or should govern us in daily life, man and his civil dimension that organizes the common-wealth for peace and prosperity, and God and the religious principles that govern the ultimate human society and morality. We have the impression God is something added to the previous two levels of nature and man and that it is a sort of wrapping up that reminds us of the creative dimension of this God and of the superior ethical dimension of this God. But the whole discourse has to do with the reality of nature and the civil society organized in some common-wealth and state. In fact, we could consider this approach as very modern if we just set aside the divine supplement and we see that man is extending his own body and his own capabilities into everything he does or creates. In fact we have here the basic concept of the “extensions of man” developed by Marshall McLuhan.

I will then consider chapter 4 that deals with Speech. His starting point is that printing is not such a tremendous invention. He totally neglects the tremendous impact it had on education and all levels of social life, religion, politics, culture, and many others. This is surprising since his book is such an intervention in the field of politics and ethics that is bound to have an impact due to the number of copies that are going to be circulated. But instead of seeing what was caused by the printing press, he goes back in time (a typical and unscientific retrospective method) and considers that the invention of writing was a lot more important than printing. He traces alphabetical writing back to the Phoenicians, which is not false indeed, though that was not the invention of writing per se since there were non alphabetical writing systems before this one. This Phoenician invention reached us through the Greek alphabet. He has a good point there because Homo Sapiens started emerging 300,000 years ago and writing was only invented something like a little bit more than 5,000 years ago. He is right when he speaks of isolating the sounds of speech to represent them with letters that become some kind of conceptual written forms of the isolated sounds. We are here at the root of modern phonemics and phonetics.

He is more surprising by the fact that he still goes back to speech, oral speech. He sticks to the idea of the speech incentive and energy being given to Adam by God though God gave Adam the mission of naming everything, and he considers this speech invention as “the most noble and profitable invention.” In spite of his referring to the Babel Tower myth, he clearly states here speech is an invention of man himself using his “tongue, Palat, lips, and other organs of speech” to produce it, though God is the real “author of speech.” The objective is to “register thoughts.” We can see he is modern in a way since he connects speech to the body though he ignores the larynx and other elements in the body that were developed not for speech but for bipedal long distance fast running. What is important is that he sees the organs he names as the organs of speech implying they were developed to produce speech, which is not the case at all. At the same time speech is used by man to register thoughts for sure but were do these thoughts come from? And by what process are words and sentences with syntactic and paradigmatic architectures produced? It is quite obvious that his reference to God and the Babel Tower myth is nothing but a necessary reference in his society and the fact that God is the author of speech while man is the inventor of it shows we can just get God out and say that the necessity to have a common-wealth to permit the survival of the species requires some kind of communication and man being what he is he uses his physiological resources to produce and invent language, speech if you want. The “author” is the necessary social dimension of man’s life and survival when emerging several hundred thousand years ago. That’s what he could call a “Law of Nature” as we are going to see. God is only a name glued to it and I wonder if it was only opportunistic or really believed.

He is very modern on the uses of language: to register past or present thoughts, findings and the acquisition of arts (old meaning of crafts and artistic productions); to communicate knowledge to others; to give orders and instructions; for pleasure. His conception of speech is centered on “names”, both “proper” or “common universal.” And he reduces what we are (“wise” or “foolish”) to the meaning of the words we use, neglecting the fact that the mind (what we are, wise or foolish) is just like language, it is developed from experience, through experience and by the invention and use of language which develops in the same way through that process.

For him names can designate things, material or sensible and rational, hot or cold, moving or quiet. Then they can indicate the accidents or qualities we perceive in things, both concrete or abstract. And this is done through the properties of our own body. The eyes gives sight that perceives color that becomes our idea or fancy of it in the considered thing. The ears give hearing that perceives sound that becomes our idea, fancy or conception of it, from noise to music. His approach is very interpretative and not genetic. The final use of names, hence of speech, is to be the meta-language describing language itself. As he says names can be “general, universal, special or equivocal” and speeches can be “an affirmation, an interrogation, a commandment; a narration; a syllogism, a sermon, an oration and many others.” Here “speech” means either an utterance (sentence) or a discourse that can be one or several sentences. He even concludes that names are “inconstant” because they reflect the moods and states of mind of the speaker. All that is modern, refuses a frozen and congealed language but once again it is connected to circumstantial use, though there is no dialectic that would state the mind and language develop together one with the other, one development in the mind causing one development in language and vice versa. The approach then is very utilitarian: what we can use language for. That’s why he consider abuses of language which is one particular type of use and nothing else since the basic abuses of language are to say something that is a lie, hence not true, or to aggress and insult people.

If we turn to chapters 14 and 15 we come to the “Laws of Nature” that are in fact the central piece of this book. Let me list them with some comment. First he defines the “right of nature” which is the fact that an individual has the right to do anything he needs to do in order to defend his life. This is the survival instinct but exclusively at the level of the individual. This is important because he does not see the fact that the species per se has a survival instinct and that human beings cannot survive as a species if they do not organize their life collectively. In other words he misses the concept of survival instinct. Then he has to define his concept of “liberty” and it is for him “the absence of external impediments” which is a purely negative definition and he is going to show that such impediments are natural, implying there is no liberty, a conclusion he would absolutely refuse. He has to define the concept of “law” that he opposes to that of “right.” A law gives an obligation for him, whereas a right is a liberty for him. It sounds weird since a right is also established by society and its laws and regulations. He misses history that imposes onto people some limitations and opens to people some possible actions, hence some duties (have to do or have not to do) and some rights (can or may do). But this being said he can consider the laws of nature which are what the consideration of nature implies as for the organization of man’s life.

1- The first law of nature is that every man needs peace or otherwise it is a constant state of war for their individual survival (one against all).
2- The second law of nature is the reciprocal limitation of “the right to all things” to ensure peace. This is what he calls a covenant with the religious reference behind though these covenants are purely human and in no way divine. It is the simple observation that human beings ALWAYS live in groups of various types and even the individuals who live absolutely alone do so in reference to the groups they move out of and away from.
3- The third law of nature is that men have to perform their covenants. He comes then to a simple definition of “just” (what respects covenants) and “unjust” (what goes against covenants). Justice is then the keeping of covenants, hence and therefore the rule of reason. He states though there must be a coercive power to compel men equally to perform covenants. That is where the concept of common-wealth appears.
4- The fourth law of nature is gratitude.
5- The fifth law of nature is natural accommodation or complaisance.
6- The sixth law of nature is the facility to pardon.
7- The seventh law of nature is that in revenges man must respect only the future good.
8- The eighth law of nature is against men’s contumely contempt to one another.
9- The ninth law of nature is against pride.
10- The tenth law of nature is against arrogance.
11- The eleventh law of nature is equity, to proceed equally when dealing with various men.
12- The twelfth law of nature is the equal use by all of things that are common to all.
13- The thirteenth law of nature is “lot,” i.e. the priority of anything to first possession or possessor.
14- The fourteenth law of nature is Primogeniture and first seizing.
15- The fifteenth law of nature is about mediators.
16- The sixteenth law of nature is about one’s submission to arbitrament and arbitrators.
17- The seventeenth law of nature is the fact that no man can be his own judge
18- The eighteenth law of nature is No man can be a judge who has in himself a cause of partiality.
19- The nineteenth law of nature is about witnesses who are supposed to be as numerous as possible.

Hobbes adds a twentieth law of nature in his concluding remarks:

20- The twentieth law of nature is "that every man is bound by Nature, as much as in him lieth, to protect in Warre, the Authority, by which he is himself protected in time of Peace."

It is strange because it states clearly that the existing authority cannot be changed and that everyone is supposed to defend it if it is attacked. This is in full contradiction with the Puritan revolution that attacked the Authority of the King, though they will object that they represented the authority of Parliament that was under attack from the King, but then the Civil war was necessary since the supporters of each authority had the natural obligation to fight for it. What’s more it implies that the Puritan Common-wealth cannot be changed and that all people will have to fight if an attempt is done to change it. Historically this principle is de facto unacceptable. The restoration took place and later the Glorious Revolution took place and the Jacobites were declared illegal and traitors.

We have to point out these laws of nature are based on individualistic considerations. They are laws of nature governing every individual and the social and political facts are only the consequences of this first principle. The second remark is that they are deeply anti-historical. If these laws of nature are the basic covenant of all human commonwealths, if respecting or implementing the covenant is the only basis for justice and finally if “the laws of justice are eternal,” meaning the laws that are devised in application and continuation of the twenty laws of nature, the very essence of any covenant which is the only basis for justice, then there is no possible historical change, which is absurd. He even goes further and declares that “the science of these laws is true moral philosophy.” Such laws are not a science. They are only his own reasoning, hence at best a theory. True enough we are dealing with ethics and nothing else but ethics are not and cannot be “true” because they depend on too many personal choices that have nothing to do with truth, except that they are true at one particular moment in one particular situation for one particular person. And even when one of these ethical elements has been instated as a basic human right, for example the right to enter a same sex alliance, marriage or not, no one is forced to do it: it is a basic human right for those who choose to implement it for themselves. In other words gay marriage is not becoming compulsory for everyone just because it is considered today as a basic human right. Note in the same way that plain marriage of any type is not compulsory either though it is a basic human right.

Then his discussion of “liberty” reveals a lot about his own philosophy.

1- For him liberty is purely individualistic.

2- For him liberty is defined negatively: absence of opposition, “not hindered to do what he has a will to do.” Note here the “he” pronoun is also very meaningful: he does not consider women, just as he does not consider blacks (who are slaves in the colonies), or Indians (who are being slaughtered already in the colonies) or even the Irish who are being ruthlessly colonized) and probably a few more like all Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus.

3- For him it is based on the fear of the law as the incentive to liberty, since liberty and necessity are consistent and here comes his basic religious fundamentalism: man has to do what God wants him to do and man has not to do what God does not want him to do, and beyond these two obligations (to do and not to do) man can and may do what is not covered or included.

4- When he is dealing with the “liberty of subjects” he does not see the contradiction between “liberty” and “subject” (someone who is subjected to another, who submits to the authority of another), even when he asserts “the liberty of sovereigns.” The only important liberty he asserts is the liberty for any man to defend his own body and body’s integrity. This is the Habeas Corpus principle that will only be passed in Parliament in 1679. For him the liberty of subjects is in the silence of the law. This asserts the power of Judicature. This is the premise of what will become with Montesquieu judicial power. But he does not understand how it works: you are tried in a first level lower court. You can then appeal to an appeal court. You can finally appeal to some “supreme court” (House of Lords in England, Supreme Court in the USA) and their decision will edict a total ban on one activity, a total freedom to practice it, or an in-between regulated practice. The best example is abortion and how the US Supreme Court made history for the fifty states by ruling on an attempt to reduce the right to abort for women in Texas. (SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, Syllabus: WHOLE WOMAN’S HEALTH ET AL. v. HELLERSTEDT, COMMISSIONER, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICES, ET AL, CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT No. 15–274, Argued March 2, 2016—Decided June 27, 2016. [...], accessed August 19, 2016)

5- He concludes his book with a call for leniency from the Censors since “there is nothing in this whole Discourse, as far as I can perceive, contrary either to the Word of God, or to good Manners; or to the disturbance of the Publique Tranquillity. Therefore I think it may be profitably printed, and more profitably taught in the Universities.”

This book then is essential to prove the historicity of such concepts as “liberty,” “common-wealth,” including those I did not consider like “democracy,” “monarchy,” “aristocracy,” tyranny,” and “oligarchy” in the direct political field. In England per se we can see that some principles are becoming established: distance from the purely fundamentalist religious approach, the idea that any state organization and social organization are the results of covenants (what J.J. Rousseau will call one century later “social contracts”), the idea that any covenant is the result of some general historical rules that govern the survival of the human species, of any human group and of any human individual, and finally the idea that all human activities are governed by the ability of man to speak, communicate, imagine and create crafts, arts, and sciences. We could add religion that probably came as belief in the supernatural and in a higher level of determinism as soon as Homo Sapiens developed language that enabled him to start his trip on the road to conceptualization.

We are, within this Puritan Common-wealth, at a real round about in history. There are several roads emerging in front of us and choices are both free and determined by the context.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU


Leviathan
Leviathan
par Thomas Hobbes
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 7,91

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Pas aussi simple de faire l'histoire des libertés, 19 août 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Leviathan (Broché)
I will only consider some chapters in this approach. The a priori position is that God is the origin of everything, that the Bible is absolutely true about the history of humanity and its “creation” and that the best order is that dictated by God’s law and order in which man is only free in the subjects and situations that have not been ruled out or regulated by God himself. This represents the situation in England in 1651 under the absolute rule of the Puritans led by Oliver Cromwell and named the Commonwealth. But the value for modern human beings can only come if we get the ideas he espouses out of this religious axiom that is like a pillory to his thinking.

The introduction takes us directly into the subject. The general idea he states is that man is the central element of his thinking and this man is positioned in nature. We will have to clarify what he means by nature later on. The idea here is that man as an organism, as an architectural construction is the basis of any other construction that develops from man, that is developed by man. He thus identifies what he calls Leviathan, or the common-wealth or state, as being built on the model of our body and the concept of “sovereignty” is stated to be an “artificial soul.” This metaphor, because it is a metaphor, is even densified by comparing this Leviathan created by man to a simple machine or watch or clock, hence a complex mechanism created by man too. When we bring in the concept of God as the creator of man to his own image we feel a contradiction. Man creates Leviathan or a watch to his own image, not God’s, though this man who is the model of the creations we are speaking of is the image of God, hence Leviathan should be the image of the image of God. Yet Hobbes divides his discourse between nature that governs or should govern us in daily life, man and his civil dimension that organizes the common-wealth for peace and prosperity, and God and the religious principles that govern the ultimate human society and morality. We have the impression God is something added to the previous two levels of nature and man and that it is a sort of wrapping up that reminds us of the creative dimension of this God and of the superior ethical dimension of this God. But the whole discourse has to do with the reality of nature and the civil society organized in some common-wealth and state. In fact, we could consider this approach as very modern if we just set aside the divine supplement and we see that man is extending his own body and his own capabilities into everything he does or creates. In fact we have here the basic concept of the “extensions of man” developed by Marshall McLuhan.

I will then consider chapter 4 that deals with Speech. His starting point is that printing is not such a tremendous invention. He totally neglects the tremendous impact it had on education and all levels of social life, religion, politics, culture, and many others. This is surprising since his book is such an intervention in the field of politics and ethics that is bound to have an impact due to the number of copies that are going to be circulated. But instead of seeing what was caused by the printing press, he goes back in time (a typical and unscientific retrospective method) and considers that the invention of writing was a lot more important than printing. He traces alphabetical writing back to the Phoenicians, which is not false indeed, though that was not the invention of writing per se since there were non alphabetical writing systems before this one. This Phoenician invention reached us through the Greek alphabet. He has a good point there because Homo Sapiens started emerging 300,000 years ago and writing was only invented something like a little bit more than 5,000 years ago. He is right when he speaks of isolating the sounds of speech to represent them with letters that become some kind of conceptual written forms of the isolated sounds. We are here at the root of modern phonemics and phonetics.

He is more surprising by the fact that he still goes back to speech, oral speech. He sticks to the idea of the speech incentive and energy being given to Adam by God though God gave Adam the mission of naming everything, and he considers this speech invention as “the most noble and profitable invention.” In spite of his referring to the Babel Tower myth, he clearly states here speech is an invention of man himself using his “tongue, Palat, lips, and other organs of speech” to produce it, though God is the real “author of speech.” The objective is to “register thoughts.” We can see he is modern in a way since he connects speech to the body though he ignores the larynx and other elements in the body that were developed not for speech but for bipedal long distance fast running. What is important is that he sees the organs he names as the organs of speech implying they were developed to produce speech, which is not the case at all. At the same time speech is used by man to register thoughts for sure but were do these thoughts come from? And by what process are words and sentences with syntactic and paradigmatic architectures produced? It is quite obvious that his reference to God and the Babel Tower myth is nothing but a necessary reference in his society and the fact that God is the author of speech while man is the inventor of it shows we can just get God out and say that the necessity to have a common-wealth to permit the survival of the species requires some kind of communication and man being what he is he uses his physiological resources to produce and invent language, speech if you want. The “author” is the necessary social dimension of man’s life and survival when emerging several hundred thousand years ago. That’s what he could call a “Law of Nature” as we are going to see. God is only a name glued to it and I wonder if it was only opportunistic or really believed.

He is very modern on the uses of language: to register past or present thoughts, findings and the acquisition of arts (old meaning of crafts and artistic productions); to communicate knowledge to others; to give orders and instructions; for pleasure. His conception of speech is centered on “names”, both “proper” or “common universal.” And he reduces what we are (“wise” or “foolish”) to the meaning of the words we use, neglecting the fact that the mind (what we are, wise or foolish) is just like language, it is developed from experience, through experience and by the invention and use of language which develops in the same way through that process.

For him names can designate things, material or sensible and rational, hot or cold, moving or quiet. Then they can indicate the accidents or qualities we perceive in things, both concrete or abstract. And this is done through the properties of our own body. The eyes gives sight that perceives color that becomes our idea or fancy of it in the considered thing. The ears give hearing that perceives sound that becomes our idea, fancy or conception of it, from noise to music. His approach is very interpretative and not genetic. The final use of names, hence of speech, is to be the meta-language describing language itself. As he says names can be “general, universal, special or equivocal” and speeches can be “an affirmation, an interrogation, a commandment; a narration; a syllogism, a sermon, an oration and many others.” Here “speech” means either an utterance (sentence) or a discourse that can be one or several sentences. He even concludes that names are “inconstant” because they reflect the moods and states of mind of the speaker. All that is modern, refuses a frozen and congealed language but once again it is connected to circumstantial use, though there is no dialectic that would state the mind and language develop together one with the other, one development in the mind causing one development in language and vice versa. The approach then is very utilitarian: what we can use language for. That’s why he consider abuses of language which is one particular type of use and nothing else since the basic abuses of language are to say something that is a lie, hence not true, or to aggress and insult people.

If we turn to chapters 14 and 15 we come to the “Laws of Nature” that are in fact the central piece of this book. Let me list them with some comment. First he defines the “right of nature” which is the fact that an individual has the right to do anything he needs to do in order to defend his life. This is the survival instinct but exclusively at the level of the individual. This is important because he does not see the fact that the species per se has a survival instinct and that human beings cannot survive as a species if they do not organize their life collectively. In other words he misses the concept of survival instinct. Then he has to define his concept of “liberty” and it is for him “the absence of external impediments” which is a purely negative definition and he is going to show that such impediments are natural, implying there is no liberty, a conclusion he would absolutely refuse. He has to define the concept of “law” that he opposes to that of “right.” A law gives an obligation for him, whereas a right is a liberty for him. It sounds weird since a right is also established by society and its laws and regulations. He misses history that imposes onto people some limitations and opens to people some possible actions, hence some duties (have to do or have not to do) and some rights (can or may do). But this being said he can consider the laws of nature which are what the consideration of nature implies as for the organization of man’s life.

1- The first law of nature is that every man needs peace or otherwise it is a constant state of war for their individual survival (one against all).
2- The second law of nature is the reciprocal limitation of “the right to all things” to ensure peace. This is what he calls a covenant with the religious reference behind though these covenants are purely human and in no way divine. It is the simple observation that human beings ALWAYS live in groups of various types and even the individuals who live absolutely alone do so in reference to the groups they move out of and away from.
3- The third law of nature is that men have to perform their covenants. He comes then to a simple definition of “just” (what respects covenants) and “unjust” (what goes against covenants). Justice is then the keeping of covenants, hence and therefore the rule of reason. He states though there must be a coercive power to compel men equally to perform covenants. That is where the concept of common-wealth appears.
4- The fourth law of nature is gratitude.
5- The fifth law of nature is natural accommodation or complaisance.
6- The sixth law of nature is the facility to pardon.
7- The seventh law of nature is that in revenges man must respect only the future good.
8- The eighth law of nature is against men’s contumely contempt to one another.
9- The ninth law of nature is against pride.
10- The tenth law of nature is against arrogance.
11- The eleventh law of nature is equity, to proceed equally when dealing with various men.
12- The twelfth law of nature is the equal use by all of things that are common to all.
13- The thirteenth law of nature is “lot,” i.e. the priority of anything to first possession or possessor.
14- The fourteenth law of nature is Primogeniture and first seizing.
15- The fifteenth law of nature is about mediators.
16- The sixteenth law of nature is about one’s submission to arbitrament and arbitrators.
17- The seventeenth law of nature is the fact that no man can be his own judge
18- The eighteenth law of nature is No man can be a judge who has in himself a cause of partiality.
19- The nineteenth law of nature is about witnesses who are supposed to be as numerous as possible.

Hobbes adds a twentieth law of nature in his concluding remarks:

20- The twentieth law of nature is "that every man is bound by Nature, as much as in him lieth, to protect in Warre, the Authority, by which he is himself protected in time of Peace."

It is strange because it states clearly that the existing authority cannot be changed and that everyone is supposed to defend it if it is attacked. This is in full contradiction with the Puritan revolution that attacked the Authority of the King, though they will object that they represented the authority of Parliament that was under attack from the King, but then the Civil war was necessary since the supporters of each authority had the natural obligation to fight for it. What’s more it implies that the Puritan Common-wealth cannot be changed and that all people will have to fight if an attempt is done to change it. Historically this principle is de facto unacceptable. The restoration took place and later the Glorious Revolution took place and the Jacobites were declared illegal and traitors.

We have to point out these laws of nature are based on individualistic considerations. They are laws of nature governing every individual and the social and political facts are only the consequences of this first principle. The second remark is that they are deeply anti-historical. If these laws of nature are the basic covenant of all human commonwealths, if respecting or implementing the covenant is the only basis for justice and finally if “the laws of justice are eternal,” meaning the laws that are devised in application and continuation of the twenty laws of nature, the very essence of any covenant which is the only basis for justice, then there is no possible historical change, which is absurd. He even goes further and declares that “the science of these laws is true moral philosophy.” Such laws are not a science. They are only his own reasoning, hence at best a theory. True enough we are dealing with ethics and nothing else but ethics are not and cannot be “true” because they depend on too many personal choices that have nothing to do with truth, except that they are true at one particular moment in one particular situation for one particular person. And even when one of these ethical elements has been instated as a basic human right, for example the right to enter a same sex alliance, marriage or not, no one is forced to do it: it is a basic human right for those who choose to implement it for themselves. In other words gay marriage is not becoming compulsory for everyone just because it is considered today as a basic human right. Note in the same way that plain marriage of any type is not compulsory either though it is a basic human right.

Then his discussion of “liberty” reveals a lot about his own philosophy.

1- For him liberty is purely individualistic.

2- For him liberty is defined negatively: absence of opposition, “not hindered to do what he has a will to do.” Note here the “he” pronoun is also very meaningful: he does not consider women, just as he does not consider blacks (who are slaves in the colonies), or Indians (who are being slaughtered already in the colonies) or even the Irish who are being ruthlessly colonized) and probably a few more like all Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus.

3- For him it is based on the fear of the law as the incentive to liberty, since liberty and necessity are consistent and here comes his basic religious fundamentalism: man has to do what God wants him to do and man has not to do what God does not want him to do, and beyond these two obligations (to do and not to do) man can and may do what is not covered or included.

4- When he is dealing with the “liberty of subjects” he does not see the contradiction between “liberty” and “subject” (someone who is subjected to another, who submits to the authority of another), even when he asserts “the liberty of sovereigns.” The only important liberty he asserts is the liberty for any man to defend his own body and body’s integrity. This is the Habeas Corpus principle that will only be passed in Parliament in 1679. For him the liberty of subjects is in the silence of the law. This asserts the power of Judicature. This is the premise of what will become with Montesquieu judicial power. But he does not understand how it works: you are tried in a first level lower court. You can then appeal to an appeal court. You can finally appeal to some “supreme court” (House of Lords in England, Supreme Court in the USA) and their decision will edict a total ban on one activity, a total freedom to practice it, or an in-between regulated practice. The best example is abortion and how the US Supreme Court made history for the fifty states by ruling on an attempt to reduce the right to abort for women in Texas. (SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, Syllabus: WHOLE WOMAN’S HEALTH ET AL. v. HELLERSTEDT, COMMISSIONER, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICES, ET AL, CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT No. 15–274, Argued March 2, 2016—Decided June 27, 2016. https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/15-274_p8k0.pdf, accessed August 19, 2016)

5- He concludes his book with a call for leniency from the Censors since “there is nothing in this whole Discourse, as far as I can perceive, contrary either to the Word of God, or to good Manners; or to the disturbance of the Publique Tranquillity. Therefore I think it may be profitably printed, and more profitably taught in the Universities.”

This book then is essential to prove the historicity of such concepts as “liberty,” “common-wealth,” including those I did not consider like “democracy,” “monarchy,” “aristocracy,” tyranny,” and “oligarchy” in the direct political field. In England per se we can see that some principles are becoming established: distance from the purely fundamentalist religious approach, the idea that any state organization and social organization are the results of covenants (what J.J. Rousseau will call one century later “social contracts”), the idea that any covenant is the result of some general historical rules that govern the survival of the human species, of any human group and of any human individual, and finally the idea that all human activities are governed by the ability of man to speak, communicate, imagine and create crafts, arts, and sciences. We could add religion that probably came as belief in the supernatural and in a higher level of determinism as soon as Homo Sapiens developed language that enabled him to start his trip on the road to conceptualization.

We are, within this Puritan Common-wealth, at a real round about in history. There are several roads emerging in front of us and choices are both free and determined by the context.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU


Leviathan
Leviathan
par Thomas Hobbes
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 12,29

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Croisement, rond-point passage-à-niveau dans l'histoire, 19 août 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Leviathan (Broché)
I will only consider some chapters in this approach. The a priori position is that God is the origin of everything, that the Bible is absolutely true about the history of humanity and its “creation” and that the best order is that dictated by God’s law and order in which man is only free in the subjects and situations that have not been ruled out or regulated by God himself. This represents the situation in England in 1651 under the absolute rule of the Puritans led by Oliver Cromwell and named the Commonwealth. But the value for modern human beings can only come if we get the ideas he espouses out of this religious axiom that is like a pillory to his thinking.

The introduction takes us directly into the subject. The general idea he states is that man is the central element of his thinking and this man is positioned in nature. We will have to clarify what he means by nature later on. The idea here is that man as an organism, as an architectural construction is the basis of any other construction that develops from man, that is developed by man. He thus identifies what he calls Leviathan, or the common-wealth or state, as being built on the model of our body and the concept of “sovereignty” is stated to be an “artificial soul.” This metaphor, because it is a metaphor, is even densified by comparing this Leviathan created by man to a simple machine or watch or clock, hence a complex mechanism created by man too. When we bring in the concept of God as the creator of man to his own image we feel a contradiction. Man creates Leviathan or a watch to his own image, not God’s, though this man who is the model of the creations we are speaking of is the image of God, hence Leviathan should be the image of the image of God. Yet Hobbes divides his discourse between nature that governs or should govern us in daily life, man and his civil dimension that organizes the common-wealth for peace and prosperity, and God and the religious principles that govern the ultimate human society and morality. We have the impression God is something added to the previous two levels of nature and man and that it is a sort of wrapping up that reminds us of the creative dimension of this God and of the superior ethical dimension of this God. But the whole discourse has to do with the reality of nature and the civil society organized in some common-wealth and state. In fact, we could consider this approach as very modern if we just set aside the divine supplement and we see that man is extending his own body and his own capabilities into everything he does or creates. In fact we have here the basic concept of the “extensions of man” developed by Marshall McLuhan.

I will then consider chapter 4 that deals with Speech. His starting point is that printing is not such a tremendous invention. He totally neglects the tremendous impact it had on education and all levels of social life, religion, politics, culture, and many others. This is surprising since his book is such an intervention in the field of politics and ethics that is bound to have an impact due to the number of copies that are going to be circulated. But instead of seeing what was caused by the printing press, he goes back in time (a typical and unscientific retrospective method) and considers that the invention of writing was a lot more important than printing. He traces alphabetical writing back to the Phoenicians, which is not false indeed, though that was not the invention of writing per se since there were non alphabetical writing systems before this one. This Phoenician invention reached us through the Greek alphabet. He has a good point there because Homo Sapiens started emerging 300,000 years ago and writing was only invented something like a little bit more than 5,000 years ago. He is right when he speaks of isolating the sounds of speech to represent them with letters that become some kind of conceptual written forms of the isolated sounds. We are here at the root of modern phonemics and phonetics.

He is more surprising by the fact that he still goes back to speech, oral speech. He sticks to the idea of the speech incentive and energy being given to Adam by God though God gave Adam the mission of naming everything, and he considers this speech invention as “the most noble and profitable invention.” In spite of his referring to the Babel Tower myth, he clearly states here speech is an invention of man himself using his “tongue, Palat, lips, and other organs of speech” to produce it, though God is the real “author of speech.” The objective is to “register thoughts.” We can see he is modern in a way since he connects speech to the body though he ignores the larynx and other elements in the body that were developed not for speech but for bipedal long distance fast running. What is important is that he sees the organs he names as the organs of speech implying they were developed to produce speech, which is not the case at all. At the same time speech is used by man to register thoughts for sure but were do these thoughts come from? And by what process are words and sentences with syntactic and paradigmatic architectures produced? It is quite obvious that his reference to God and the Babel Tower myth is nothing but a necessary reference in his society and the fact that God is the author of speech while man is the inventor of it shows we can just get God out and say that the necessity to have a common-wealth to permit the survival of the species requires some kind of communication and man being what he is he uses his physiological resources to produce and invent language, speech if you want. The “author” is the necessary social dimension of man’s life and survival when emerging several hundred thousand years ago. That’s what he could call a “Law of Nature” as we are going to see. God is only a name glued to it and I wonder if it was only opportunistic or really believed.

He is very modern on the uses of language: to register past or present thoughts, findings and the acquisition of arts (old meaning of crafts and artistic productions); to communicate knowledge to others; to give orders and instructions; for pleasure. His conception of speech is centered on “names”, both “proper” or “common universal.” And he reduces what we are (“wise” or “foolish”) to the meaning of the words we use, neglecting the fact that the mind (what we are, wise or foolish) is just like language, it is developed from experience, through experience and by the invention and use of language which develops in the same way through that process.

For him names can designate things, material or sensible and rational, hot or cold, moving or quiet. Then they can indicate the accidents or qualities we perceive in things, both concrete or abstract. And this is done through the properties of our own body. The eyes gives sight that perceives color that becomes our idea or fancy of it in the considered thing. The ears give hearing that perceives sound that becomes our idea, fancy or conception of it, from noise to music. His approach is very interpretative and not genetic. The final use of names, hence of speech, is to be the meta-language describing language itself. As he says names can be “general, universal, special or equivocal” and speeches can be “an affirmation, an interrogation, a commandment; a narration; a syllogism, a sermon, an oration and many others.” Here “speech” means either an utterance (sentence) or a discourse that can be one or several sentences. He even concludes that names are “inconstant” because they reflect the moods and states of mind of the speaker. All that is modern, refuses a frozen and congealed language but once again it is connected to circumstantial use, though there is no dialectic that would state the mind and language develop together one with the other, one development in the mind causing one development in language and vice versa. The approach then is very utilitarian: what we can use language for. That’s why he consider abuses of language which is one particular type of use and nothing else since the basic abuses of language are to say something that is a lie, hence not true, or to aggress and insult people.

If we turn to chapters 14 and 15 we come to the “Laws of Nature” that are in fact the central piece of this book. Let me list them with some comment. First he defines the “right of nature” which is the fact that an individual has the right to do anything he needs to do in order to defend his life. This is the survival instinct but exclusively at the level of the individual. This is important because he does not see the fact that the species per se has a survival instinct and that human beings cannot survive as a species if they do not organize their life collectively. In other words he misses the concept of survival instinct. Then he has to define his concept of “liberty” and it is for him “the absence of external impediments” which is a purely negative definition and he is going to show that such impediments are natural, implying there is no liberty, a conclusion he would absolutely refuse. He has to define the concept of “law” that he opposes to that of “right.” A law gives an obligation for him, whereas a right is a liberty for him. It sounds weird since a right is also established by society and its laws and regulations. He misses history that imposes onto people some limitations and opens to people some possible actions, hence some duties (have to do or have not to do) and some rights (can or may do). But this being said he can consider the laws of nature which are what the consideration of nature implies as for the organization of man’s life.

1- The first law of nature is that every man needs peace or otherwise it is a constant state of war for their individual survival (one against all).
2- The second law of nature is the reciprocal limitation of “the right to all things” to ensure peace. This is what he calls a covenant with the religious reference behind though these covenants are purely human and in no way divine. It is the simple observation that human beings ALWAYS live in groups of various types and even the individuals who live absolutely alone do so in reference to the groups they move out of and away from.
3- The third law of nature is that men have to perform their covenants. He comes then to a simple definition of “just” (what respects covenants) and “unjust” (what goes against covenants). Justice is then the keeping of covenants, hence and therefore the rule of reason. He states though there must be a coercive power to compel men equally to perform covenants. That is where the concept of common-wealth appears.
4- The fourth law of nature is gratitude.
5- The fifth law of nature is natural accommodation or complaisance.
6- The sixth law of nature is the facility to pardon.
7- The seventh law of nature is that in revenges man must respect only the future good.
8- The eighth law of nature is against men’s contumely contempt to one another.
9- The ninth law of nature is against pride.
10- The tenth law of nature is against arrogance.
11- The eleventh law of nature is equity, to proceed equally when dealing with various men.
12- The twelfth law of nature is the equal use by all of things that are common to all.
13- The thirteenth law of nature is “lot,” i.e. the priority of anything to first possession or possessor.
14- The fourteenth law of nature is Primogeniture and first seizing.
15- The fifteenth law of nature is about mediators.
16- The sixteenth law of nature is about one’s submission to arbitrament and arbitrators.
17- The seventeenth law of nature is the fact that no man can be his own judge
18- The eighteenth law of nature is No man can be a judge who has in himself a cause of partiality.
19- The nineteenth law of nature is about witnesses who are supposed to be as numerous as possible.

Hobbes adds a twentieth law of nature in his concluding remarks:

20- The twentieth law of nature is "that every man is bound by Nature, as much as in him lieth, to protect in Warre, the Authority, by which he is himself protected in time of Peace."

It is strange because it states clearly that the existing authority cannot be changed and that everyone is supposed to defend it if it is attacked. This is in full contradiction with the Puritan revolution that attacked the Authority of the King, though they will object that they represented the authority of Parliament that was under attack from the King, but then the Civil war was necessary since the supporters of each authority had the natural obligation to fight for it. What’s more it implies that the Puritan Common-wealth cannot be changed and that all people will have to fight if an attempt is done to change it. Historically this principle is de facto unacceptable. The restoration took place and later the Glorious Revolution took place and the Jacobites were declared illegal and traitors.

We have to point out these laws of nature are based on individualistic considerations. They are laws of nature governing every individual and the social and political facts are only the consequences of this first principle. The second remark is that they are deeply anti-historical. If these laws of nature are the basic covenant of all human commonwealths, if respecting or implementing the covenant is the only basis for justice and finally if “the laws of justice are eternal,” meaning the laws that are devised in application and continuation of the twenty laws of nature, the very essence of any covenant which is the only basis for justice, then there is no possible historical change, which is absurd. He even goes further and declares that “the science of these laws is true moral philosophy.” Such laws are not a science. They are only his own reasoning, hence at best a theory. True enough we are dealing with ethics and nothing else but ethics are not and cannot be “true” because they depend on too many personal choices that have nothing to do with truth, except that they are true at one particular moment in one particular situation for one particular person. And even when one of these ethical elements has been instated as a basic human right, for example the right to enter a same sex alliance, marriage or not, no one is forced to do it: it is a basic human right for those who choose to implement it for themselves. In other words gay marriage is not becoming compulsory for everyone just because it is considered today as a basic human right. Note in the same way that plain marriage of any type is not compulsory either though it is a basic human right.

Then his discussion of “liberty” reveals a lot about his own philosophy.

1- For him liberty is purely individualistic.

2- For him liberty is defined negatively: absence of opposition, “not hindered to do what he has a will to do.” Note here the “he” pronoun is also very meaningful: he does not consider women, just as he does not consider blacks (who are slaves in the colonies), or Indians (who are being slaughtered already in the colonies) or even the Irish who are being ruthlessly colonized) and probably a few more like all Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus.

3- For him it is based on the fear of the law as the incentive to liberty, since liberty and necessity are consistent and here comes his basic religious fundamentalism: man has to do what God wants him to do and man has not to do what God does not want him to do, and beyond these two obligations (to do and not to do) man can and may do what is not covered or included.

4- When he is dealing with the “liberty of subjects” he does not see the contradiction between “liberty” and “subject” (someone who is subjected to another, who submits to the authority of another), even when he asserts “the liberty of sovereigns.” The only important liberty he asserts is the liberty for any man to defend his own body and body’s integrity. This is the Habeas Corpus principle that will only be passed in Parliament in 1679. For him the liberty of subjects is in the silence of the law. This asserts the power of Judicature. This is the premise of what will become with Montesquieu judicial power. But he does not understand how it works: you are tried in a first level lower court. You can then appeal to an appeal court. You can finally appeal to some “supreme court” (House of Lords in England, Supreme Court in the USA) and their decision will edict a total ban on one activity, a total freedom to practice it, or an in-between regulated practice. The best example is abortion and how the US Supreme Court made history for the fifty states by ruling on an attempt to reduce the right to abort for women in Texas. (SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, Syllabus: WHOLE WOMAN’S HEALTH ET AL. v. HELLERSTEDT, COMMISSIONER, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICES, ET AL, CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT No. 15–274, Argued March 2, 2016—Decided June 27, 2016. https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/15-274_p8k0.pdf, accessed August 19, 2016)

5- He concludes his book with a call for leniency from the Censors since “there is nothing in this whole Discourse, as far as I can perceive, contrary either to the Word of God, or to good Manners; or to the disturbance of the Publique Tranquillity. Therefore I think it may be profitably printed, and more profitably taught in the Universities.”

This book then is essential to prove the historicity of such concepts as “liberty,” “common-wealth,” including those I did not consider like “democracy,” “monarchy,” “aristocracy,” tyranny,” and “oligarchy” in the direct political field. In England per se we can see that some principles are becoming established: distance from the purely fundamentalist religious approach, the idea that any state organization and social organization are the results of covenants (what J.J. Rousseau will call one century later “social contracts”), the idea that any covenant is the result of some general historical rules that govern the survival of the human species, of any human group and of any human individual, and finally the idea that all human activities are governed by the ability of man to speak, communicate, imagine and create crafts, arts, and sciences. We could add religion that probably came as belief in the supernatural and in a higher level of determinism as soon as Homo Sapiens developed language that enabled him to start his trip on the road to conceptualization.

We are, within this Puritan Common-wealth, at a real round about in history. There are several roads emerging in front of us and choices are both free and determined by the context.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU


Peter Grimes / Gloriana: (English National Opera Guide 24)
Peter Grimes / Gloriana: (English National Opera Guide 24)
par Benjamin Britten
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 11,83

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Peter Grimes est un chef d'oeuvre mais Gloriana est surprenant, 18 août 2016
Achat vérifié(De quoi s'agit-il ?)
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Peter Grimes / Gloriana: (English National Opera Guide 24) (Broché)
Peter Grimes first, the rejected rejectee and rejecter.

An opera like this one is surprising in many ways but this is a special BBC production of 1969 and I would like to insist first on the tremendous qualities of this production.

The first element is the setting. It is a complete village square surrounded by wooden houses all raised over the ground with outside staircases to go up to the main doors, what’s more on the flank of some steep rising shore. These raised houses insist on the danger the sea represents when a tidal wave or a storm comes up to the coast. All made of wood. That's a brilliant idea and yet it is entirely unrealistic. It wants to be out of time and set in a past that could make the story plausible, a past we can evaluate to be the 18th or the beginning of the 19th century. That village looks like a pioneering settlement in New England in the 17th century, a puritan settlement in a way where everyone is meddling with the business of all others because they are locked away from the world, and their only entertainment is to gossip and accuse the one they don't like of all abominable crimes, and that’s Peter Grimes.

The second element is the house of Peter Grimes, or “hut” if you prefer. It looks like an upturned ship hull, a dream for many seamen who want to live on the earth as if they were on their boats. It is not without recalling some other uses of that concept, and in a way it reminds me of Moby Dick and of the whale which swallowed Jonas. Here the boat is swallowing the seaman even on earth. But it is Peter Grimes’ house which means he lives in an upside down sea world, in a shipwrecked boat ready to sink. This image is a very sad and grim vision.

The third positive point is the use of crowds. The chorus is not in anyway set aside or gathered in one place, even a changing place on the stage. The chorus singers are dressed like normal sea fishermen and sailors and their wives the same, and they are moving as if they were a real crowd and that gives a good illusion of the mass movements of an at times hostile crowd when they are more or less chasing Peter Grimes, rather more than less.

The fourth point is the very clear distinction between the officials of the village and that crowd. They move alone and not along with a mass of people and they are dressed in a slightly different way. The lawyer and mayor for example with his red coat, or Ellen, the widowed school-teacher, with a knitted sweater and a big brooch. There is thus a clear distinction between the important people and the common people, on top of the fact that the former are the soloists.

The story is of course what is essential in that opera that is telling us a story. It is a very bleak story. Peter Grimes, a solitary sailor, needs an apprentice and he takes orphans from the workhouse in the next but rather distant city. The profession of fisherman is a very difficult profession with many hazards and we could say it is not a profession for children of let's say 10, or even 12, or 14 as for that. What's more Peter Grimes seems to be rather rough and careless. In other words his apprentices seem to die by accident in a rather repetitive way. Helped by Ellen at first, he is abandoned by her when she discovers that the new apprentice is being brutalized. One day when trying to run away from the hostile crowd climbing up to his hut, the new apprentice slips and falls off the cliff to his death. Peter Grimes hides away for a couple of days but he has to come back and there a retired merchant captain gives him the only piece of advice that would pacify the village: take your boat, go out at sea and sink the boat and yourself. And he does it.

The story is depicting a brutal world that is not so much so physically, but I would say socially. The people are meddling with their neighbors' business all the time, creating tension and stress and pushing people to the brink of sanity and causing over-reactions more than anything else. This is perfectly rendered in this production.

But there is an aspect of this story that has to be emphasized because it is a repetitive pattern in many operas. A poor boy abandoned by society and surviving in a workhouse (which refers to at the latest the 19th century) is “bought” by Peter Grimes to be his apprentice on his ship. Apparently his apprentices systematically die. The opera starts with the “trial” of the latest victim, but the Lawyer and Mayor who presides over the court shortens the debate and declares the death occurred in “accidental circumstances” to the high disagreement of the population of the shipping village because there will be no real trial.

We discover that an old spinster is playing the role of the moralistic and ethical accuser in the village in the name of God of course. Her campaign is effective because Peter Grimes lives alone in a “hut” higher up on the cliff. His “hut” is an upside down ship hull. He is in a relation with the widow who serves as the local teacher, Ellen Orford. She intervenes to soften the villagers’ feelings when the carter is asked to bring the next boy to Peter Grimes from the workhouse since he is going to the town, and he refuses to do it not to be the accomplice of a murder. She actually goes with him to make sure. The boy is delivered in the evening: he looks frightened and completely lost, which is normal after all since he is now an uprooted child from an institution where he was already uprooted, meaning with no parents, and exploited, meaning severely. We all think of Dickens and Oliver Twist.

But there will be no escape, no redemption, no salvation for that boy. That’s an important trait in Benjamin Britten’s operas: such uprooted boys will not find any good Samaritan who would take them under their protection. This twist is amplified by the hostility of the village against Peter Grimes. He is perceived as a loner, and a busy one at that, who is trying to do better than he should, fish more than he should, even go out on Sunday when everyone is resting since it is the day of the Lord. They perceive him as looking down upon them. And when they start their move towards lynching Peter Grimes they sing at the end “Him who despises us we will destroy.” In other words he is the “stranger” they reject because he does not live like them: he does not come to the pub to drink and take advantage of the nieces of the Auntie who is taking care of the pub-cum-inn where the sailors can rest-cum-entertain. And to make more money, to be able to step up in his life to some better future, he “buys” boys instead of working with another sailor who would be a partner or an employee.

This man rejected by everyone is also a pattern in Benjamin Britten’s operas and it is easy to relate this pattern to the personal life experience of the composer. We are of course not implying Benjamin Britten is projecting his personal life into his operas, hence his emotional and sentimental frustration in this society that rejects him, and Peter Pears at the same time, but we say Benjamin Britten has a direct and personal experience of this social rejection anyone can be the victim of for any reason at hand in the homogenized single collective mind of a crowd. Every single member of this crowd might be pretty nice in private but the crowd creates the lynching and pogromming monster in every single one of us when the opportunity is right in front of our door, but here it is not ethnic cleansing but social cleansing.

This double estrangement in this opera is fascinating. The boy is estranged from society by successive uprootings that lead him to death in a way or another, the first one at the beginning of thirst, and the second one at the end of a big fall, like Humpty Dumpty who had a great fall. The man is estranged from the village and from society by his ambition that makes him appear as superior, ambition that will not be fulfilled, satisfied, realized. And the context itself is an estrangement for everyone or nearly: a sailor in his ship is alone and his home, as Peter Grimes says at the end before his own end, is “deep in the sea” and it is deep in the sea that he will end along with his ship, on the advice of the retired merchant skipper, Captain Balstrode. In other words the end is the reenactment of the walking of the plank of old shipping traditions: death penalty at sea.

All this makes this opera poignant and mind-raking. Is humanity that ugly?

But there is of course the music and that is of course a great if not the greatest element in the opera. The music never ceases, except one a capella duet, and is always dramatic in its movements up and down in the most logical and yet surprising ways, half a tone here and there turns minor the most logical major sentence, suspends it in thin air, in fear and awe. We cannot really know what is coming and the notes are thus separated one from the others as if the strings of notes were in fact successions of unlinked notes creating an effect of total outlandish isolation at times. This builds in the solos a strange feeling of distance, of something lurking in-between the notes, something menacing us constantly. That tone and atmosphere finds its acme with the choruses. The various chorus-singers sing together but most of the times along lines and patterns that are crisscrossing one another to give that impression of a hostile crowd no one can stop or dominate. There is one exception to that disorder. It is the early duet of Ellen Orford and Peter Grimes when they plan some kind of common future with the new child to come. It is sung for its major part a capella and the sentences are perfectly superimposed one onto the other with only the pronouns changing: a dual unison more than a duet, and yet a duet because we feel this unity is highly endangered. The contrast between this messy and meddling crowd as long as Peter Grimes is alive and the sudden total ignorance and forgetfulness once he is gone, meaning dead, is of course striking thanks to that use of the music to build a dangerous and menacing environment.

Now we can shift to Gloriana, composed for the coronation of Elizabeth II and dealing with Elizabeth I in her advanced age when sending the Earl of Essex to Ireland in 1599 to fight against and bring to a brutal end the rebellion led by Tyrone. He failed – or rather followed another agenda – and he comes back lo London to try and bring Elizabeth down, which fails and he ends up sentenced to death as a traitor, hence drawn, hanged, emasculated, eviscerated, quartered and beheaded, each severed part being burned in front of his eyes since he was brought down from his hanging before dying and was alive all along.

The first act shows how the younger nobles in the court are impatient and very vindictive one against the other in the pale and lackluster activities of the court like here a tournament to win a ribbon from the Queen. The second act shows a visit of the Queen to Norwich where she is received with a masque and the younger nobles who have to follow and want to have real action, in this case Ireland for the Earl of Essex, are bored and on the verge of plotting. Elizabeth I finally appoints the Earl of Essex to Ireland with the mission of bringing the rebel leader Tyrone’s head back to London. In the third act we discover he has failed and has come back to London after negotiating a truce with the rebels but now he wants to push the Queen out. She of course reacts as the Queen should and have him captured, tried and sentenced to death for treason, the harshest possible sentence he could get with no possible remission since some women, Essex’s wife and sister, come to plead for clemency. The Queen is furious and signs the court sentence immediately.

This opera sure shows the sovereign behavior and attitude of the Queen who trusts nearly no one and does not even follow her feelings or emotions, or hardly. It is always a game of power and authority, especially since she is a woman, an old woman at that, and she constantly has to make everyone feel and remember she is the one who has authority and power. But apart from that the human and humane side of this Queen disappears and in 1599 the important question of her successor is a burning question that is not dealt with apart from a vague allusion to the King of Scotland who must be James IV. Ireland is not really on the back burner but it sure is not the main question for the Queen, especially with Spain that is menacing to send a new Invincible Armada. In fact we see this Queen and her life at court or on an official visit out of London, or even in her private chamber as being rather boring and trite. Benjamin Britten probably was not best inspired in choosing this subject and the way the libretto deals with her is not exactly fascinating. So many other episodes in her life would have been so much more attractive and interesting.

The fact that this rather morbid opera was produced for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I could even be seen as bad taste. The following lines sung by the Queen at the end of the first act sound more like a testament than like the joy of a new and very young Queen coming to the throne:

“O God, my King, sole ruler of the world;
That pulled me from a prison to a palace
To be a sovereign Princess
And to rule the people of England:

Thou hast placed me high, but my flesh is frail:
Without Thee my throne is unstable,
My kingdom tottering, my life uncertain:
Oh maintain in this weak woman the heart of a man!”

She was not a man in a woman’s attire, nor a woman in a man’s position, because the “sovereign” in the English tradition was not to be necessarily a man, a king or whatever. The sovereign was supposed, and is still supposed to be beyond such gender differences. It was a difficult position to hold for a woman in her very advanced age but she did not have the heart of a man, far from it. She did not marry not because of this supposed wavering gender orientation, but because any man would never have accepted to yield power to her because she would have been the Queen and her husband would have been the consort. It was easy for Mary I since her husband was a king in Spain and in no way dependent. It was a lot more difficult for Mary II who required her husband who was not king on his own to be king along with her, an absolutely unique situation with English Kings and Queens. Queen Anne had it easy because she was a rather discreet women and her husband was like a private affair hardly a rival for power. Victoria had it rather easy since her husband was what we would call an engineer today, even maybe an industrialist, and he died very early leaving Victoria a widow for most of her life and reign.

In this opera Britten is playing with ghosts when Elizabeth II is arriving on the throne. He would have been better inspired with Queen Anne, or even Queen Victoria in her early period when Albert was planning the industrialization of the kingdom, and these subjects would probably have been better received and understood.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU


Britten : The Little Sweep, Cantata Academica. LSO, Malcolm.
Britten : The Little Sweep, Cantata Academica. LSO, Malcolm.
Prix : EUR 18,82

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Chef d'oeuvre contre sarcasme anti-académique, 17 août 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Britten : The Little Sweep, Cantata Academica. LSO, Malcolm. (CD)
Apart from being extremely difficult to find on the market this CD has some qualities by bringing together The Little Sweep in its original recording and the Cantata Academica also in its original recording. With Benjamin Britten’s music later recordings, especially after his death, can be very surprising and even disappointing.

The opera for children “The Little Sweep”cannot be approached in any way if we do not have in mind the two poems by William Blake, the Chimney Sweeper, one in the Songs of Innocence (1789) and the other in the Songs of Experience (1794). The two poems have contradictory meanings on the basis of the same description of a hateful and bleak occupation for boys under ten.

The first poem’s conclusion is:

“Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm;
So if all do their duty they need not fear harm.”

Good boy indeed who knows his duty. The second poem’s conclusion is

"And because I am happy and dance and sing,
They think they have done me no injury,
And are gone to praise God and his priest and king,
Who make up a heaven of our misery."

This chimney sweeper shows some kind of childish happiness that hides well the real bleak misery inside.

If we keep in mind this contradictory message from the most empathetic English poet ever, we can then get into the opera whose libretto was written by Eric Crozier. In that opera Benjamin Britten plays on the strong image of Blake’s first poem of these boys being locked up in black coffin of soot and their being freed by an angel.

“That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.
And by came an angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins and set them all free;
Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run,
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.
Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind.”

Benjamin Britten, or Eric Crozier, uses the image of the coffins many times: stuck in the chimney, then hidden in the toy cupboard, spending the night there, and finally being moved out of the house and onto his liberation in a travelling chest. Every time the boy is liberated in a way or another, the last time is a promise though, by the children of the house who plot that whole procedure, hence playing the role of the angel and led into that by three girls along with three boys, a perfect David’s star, from two families, the Brooks (two girls and one boy) and the Cromes (two boys and one girl), one triangle point up representing the light of divine truth poured down into the human cup and one triangle point down representing the human cup receiving the divine light.

Now we can look at the story, the way it is told. Note at once we are inside the home of an upper class family who can afford to have a nursery-maid and a housekeeper. This situation is very traditional in children’s literature in England. Let me cite Peter Pan (1902) and Mary Poppins (1964) for two famous examples, one before this opera and the other after. But there are many more. In other words the formula used here is the formula of many Yuletide pantomime using traditional elements that all children have in common to build a new story, a new plot, or just an evocation of the traditional story. But of course this opera is not a pantomime, nor a simple musical and we have to look at the music slightly more closely.

The introduction is a dynamic – and kind of joyous – opening that seems to treat the fate of the sweep-boy, Sam, as something light after all. We are told the boy has been sold by his own father to the sweep master Black Bob who is said to be cruel. There is here a contradiction between the bleak words about an even bleaker reality – that does not exist any more and hasn’t for a long time – and the light joyful music. Actually this is a characteristic of this opera: the music is never tragic or even dramatic. That’s really a pantomime that brings joy and dynamic entertainment to children. And Humpty Dumpty can have as many great falls he wants he will always be put together again, at least by the audience since all the king’s horses and men cannot do it.

The second track shows us the heartless housekeeper as opposed to the sentimental nursery-maid who is full of empathy and pity for the sweep boy who is crying out of fear since it is his first chimney. The next track provides first a clear picture of the sweep master and of his assistant. They are both ruthless and just effective: the boy is prepared and sent up the chimney. Then we have the six kids playing hide and seek. It is within that game that they hear the sweep boy calling for help because he is stuck in the chimney. Then they help him by pulling him down on the rope attached to the boy and down he comes with soot and stones. This last action is punctuated by a pulling song that sounds like some old sailor song with its burden “Pull O! Heave O!” When Sam is calling for help the situation plays on the basic fear of all children that has to do with claustrophobia, the fear of being locked up and stuck in some small space, and of course the fear of the dark. But once again the music is always light, even when it puts forward the ruffian sweep master and his assistant.

The next track is only some in-between moment when the children take charge of Sam after they have pulled him down from the chimney. This unimportant scene, both dramatically and musically is there to introduce the next track which is extremely important. The children plan Sam’s escape, or what they want everyone to believe is Sam’s escape through the window whereas they hide him in the toy cupboard. Sure enough the housekeeper is only interested in getting the chimneys swept and there are six more, whereas the sweep master and his assistant are only interested in catching the boy and teaching him his duty, and here we think of course of the first poem by William Blake. If everyone did their duty there would be no problem in our society. This situation works very well because of the color of each character in the music he uses and the words of course. From the urgent conspiratorial coloration of the children and their nursery-maid to the forbearing and forbidding tone of the housekeeper and to the naturally strict tone of the sweep master and his assistant who menace the boy with a termination that would deprive them of their profit making apprentice like tarring and feathering him. The scene finds its dynamism in these contrasting elements.

The children were so effective in their planning that even Rowan, the nursery-maid falls in the trap and you can imagine her surprise when the children show her Sam in the toy cupboard and they convince her to help make him escape his chimney sweeping fate. And the first thing to do is to give Sam a bath. Here we have a song that is supposed to be sung along by the audience. This song is like a hymn in church and is fast leading to a light joyful song about the new Sam, clean and bright and a short discussion among the children. Sam thus tells us on a dutiful tone that he was sold by his father, his father who broke his hip and cold not work any more. Since there was no food, they had to sell their son. And Sam proudly admits that he is going to be nine next birthday. The music emphasizes the logic of the situation for Sam who accepts to be sold since it was a way to save his parents from starvation. He just does not ask for how long, and it was a way to provide Sam with a livelihood, even if it is a hard job.

All these contradicting elements, and the fact Sam is crying, as we have seen, though the children haven’t, when he is about to go up a chimney is in sharp contrast with his assuming the positive motivations of his parents as well as his own, lead to the next scene. The children are planning a solution: to have Sam put in the travelling trunk on the following day that will accompany the Crome children going back home. A typical children’s solution since that will not solve the problem of Sam’s parents, nor the problem of Sam’s future: what will he do? And what will the Crome parents say and do? But suspend your disbelief for an instant.

Especially with the housekeeper who comes complaining about her feet, her joints and the chimney sweeps accusing her of hiding their apprentice, and she scrutinizes the room and finds all kinds of wrong things though we are surprised that she does not see the soot here and there. She just sees some soiled or un-tidied elements, particularly the toy cupboard that she wants to set it in proper order right now. Luckily the music saves us and introduces the most improbable event: Juliet, one of the girls, has just fainted. And that plays the trick. The house keeper is fooled and she takes Juliet to her room to look after her. So the music gives us some joy after the fear of Sam being maybe discovered.

That’s when the audience is invited again to sing along, this time the Owl’s song that will shift the action from the evening to the morning, hence cover the night. By the way this is a practice in church with hymns, but it can also be a practice in pantomimes with some popular songs that are sung along by the audience. It is a lullaby of sorts built on four animals, an owl, a heron, a turtle and a chaffinch with their own songs or cries and then the four cardinal points given in cross formation (north, south, east, west) like a sign of the cross actually, brings the four cries or songs together in some kind of chorus. Soothing and at the same time attractive to children with the animals and their songs. This lullaby brings breakfast in the morning quite naturally.

With breakfast comes the announcement of the liberation of Sam who is going to be sent away in the travelling trunk of the Crome children. This is so nice and yet so unrealistic that we could smile slightly. The tone of the music is very soft and slow just as if we were here still in the illusion of the lullaby, in a world suspended in mid air, in the sky of a child’s imagination where and when everything is possible just because the child wants it. Sam is also presented with a present from the three Brook children, three half-crowns. This leads to another moment of empathetic emotional suspension of reality. But things have to speed up now.

A little bit of drama first with the coachman and the gardener who cannot lift the trunk and require it to be emptied first when the children decide to help and with their help the trunk is lifted and set on the coach. And the opera can end with the coaching song and Sam going away to an unspecified future that is to be seen as a liberation all bright and joyful for the audience.

So this opera is a pantomime for children but there is on e element that is typical of Benjamin Britten. The main character, Sam, the little sweep is once again an uprooted stranger where he finds himself. He is uprooted from his family that sold him into this apprenticeship because they could not feed themselves and tale care of him: Tom Thumb is not far in our memory. Then he is uprooted in this apprenticeship he has not chosen and is fearful to him, an apprenticeship of crawling up dirty chimneys in the soiling soot and the fear of claustrophobia. He is a stranger to his master and his assistant, a stranger that has to be exploited for their own benefit which means their own survival in a society where they represent nothing, except a dirty chore that has to be done every year. But he is also uprooted among the children among whom he finds himself, a stranger that can be welcomed by the children but is not welcome for the grownups around, though the parents are absent and the nursery-maid is drawn into the plot. In this environment where he is a stranger he spends most of his time locked up in a toy cabinet and then in a travelling trunk. And that’s the last uprooting of this boy who is sent away in a trunk, on a coach, with three children to a family who do not even know he exists yet. He is in other words vaporized into a daydream.

We have here the themes of the boy sacrificed in a way or another in this society, and of the stranger who does not fit and cannot fit, even after a bath, a breakfast and with three half crowns, in this world and has to be sent away in a trunk on a coach, into a daydream. This end sounds so much like sweeping the soot under the withdrawing room’s carpet. It might make children in the audience dream along thanks to the music that takes them on a little pink cloud but it remains an illusionary daydream.

The Cantata Academica op. 62, with no text provided and it being impossible to find anywhere except as part of the full score, and it being in Latin anyway and hence needed a translation, is hard to follow in its words. But the music is absolutely amazing, astounding and even flabbergasting.

It is a real battle on the stage between and among the voices, the instruments. There is a strong will to produce an effect of power with dominant modernity in the singing in spite or maybe because of a few moments when the singing has a slightly more Gregorian recollection and rendering. After all, this cantata comes from Latin homilies singing the merits of the University of Basel collected for its 500th anniversary.

It is supposed to sing the merits of an academic institution and the music is more martial than academic as if thinking in this university was more or less marching along clear cut avenues and routes. There is at times here and there a small surprise like the female voice in the tenth piece (“ut iustissime Basilea audiat”) that sounds more like a temple incantation. The next piece with its male voice is slightly similar but only as a pause towards the twelfth piece that is an explosion of the same martial dominant tone.

In spite of all Benjamin Britten managed to make an original composition on a very narrowly commanded and controlled work that hardly had any future in itself. And in spite of having to be a pompous self-lauding work for a pretentious university in Switzerland, the cantata Britten composed debunks that formal pretension and makes it explode into a final soviet-like triumphant orchestral blast. And we cannot even imagine some soft touch of femininity in that mast explosion like majorettes or a band of Broadway dancers, female or male or both according to your mental orientation. So softness, no cocktails or canapés, nothing but the pounding of a pompous, overbearing and bombastic pronunciamento of academic legitimacy. God Bless the Students!

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU


Six Sonates Pour Violoncelle Et Basse Dediées Au Roi De Prusse
Six Sonates Pour Violoncelle Et Basse Dediées Au Roi De Prusse
Prix : EUR 21,43

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Ne refusez jamais le plaisir du violoncelle, 16 août 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Six Sonates Pour Violoncelle Et Basse Dediées Au Roi De Prusse (CD)
Le violoncelle plus que l’instrument du plaisir des pieds ou de l’âme selon les siècles comme le violon, il est l’organe central de ce plaisir parfaitement, entièrement, uniquement érotique qui se dévoile note à note comme une rose que l’on effeuille, comme un dénouement musical de coup d’archet en coup d’archet, lent ou rapide, toujours au sommet de la trépidation langoureuse de l’amour offert comme une communion mentale et reçu comme un élixir jaillissant de la source même de tout plaisir marin ou d’eau douce.

Nous sommes les réceptacles de ce plaisir musical qui pénètre nos sens et notre âme comme un vent d’été qui nous alanguit de sa douceur ou de sa chaleur, comme un vent d’hiver qui nous rétracte l’épiderme de sa morsure torridement glaciale.

Autant le violon est l’âme et l’esprit d’une femme ou d’un adolescent qui nous entrainent dans une aventure imprévue, non planifiée, de surprise en surprise, le violoncelle est un homme majestueux et fort qui nous prend par la main, le coude et l’avant bras d’autant de doigt qu’il en faut pour nous mener pas à pas à la route foisonnante des plaisirs offerts à chaque instant sans le moindre effort, sans la moindre attente, nous ensevelissant sous les mesures te les tempos ou tempi, et c’en est tant pis, et nous voilà enivrés de ses attaques, à notre mâle violoncelle.

Et c’est à la jointure de deux siècles à l’aine de l’histoire moderne que ce compositeur essaie de faire naître le futur du passé, l’avenir du déjà venu sinon du ou des parvenus. Passage révolutionnaire à la française ou à l’américaine, ou simplement technologique et industriel à l’anglaise. La Prusse est entre les deux ou trois, proches de l’une par Napoléon et je ne sais quel Washington, et proche tout autant de l’autre par son rêve de monarchie constitutionnelle.

Jean-Pierre Duport exporte alors la rupture française de son archet de violoncelle qui nargue et se moque de l’aristocrate attitude du clavecin et de la vieillotte prétention de la basse de gambe. Dansons la Carmagnole sur la Bannière Étoilée chers Prussiens et apprenons à faire du langoureux et du torride avec ces cordes de tripe de chat. Pas pour longtemps d’ailleurs. La révolution industrielle est métallique et les hauts fourneaux qui s’érigent ici et là veulent un son rude, rêche même, et pourtant mélodieux et puissant comme une jouissance d’orage un soir d’août dans des montagnes inconnues et inexplorées.

Laissez-vous bercer par le violoncelle et raconter des histoires plutôt sentimentales et sensuelles par le couple de ces instruments au sexe définitivement mâle, entreprenant et conquérant à l’orientation variant autant que se peut au rythme des envies des auditeurs. Dormez sur vos deux oreilles les deux violoncelles vous donneront des rêves dont vous avez besoin pour régénérer vos sens et votre sensualité et purger vos envies plus ou moins libidineusement coupables.

Une chance sur deux que ces rêves tournent aux chevaux fous – juments folles – de la nuit et que vous galopiez longtemps dans l’autre monde parallèle que vous souhaitez et ne trouvez que dans la musique de la face très cachées de l’âme sensuelle et sensorielle humaine, cette âme qui se noie dans un bénitier et s’étouffe à la fumée de l’encens. Nous ne dirons rien du goupillon.

Le violoncelle est le corps trépidant de cet autre ordre humain qui se rit des convenances et même s’en moque ouvertement comme dans la plage 6, un « minuetto con variationi » qui tire sa langue de chat aux bonnes manières. Choquant, ma brave petite dame, mais pour ces violoncelles-là, Monsieur, on ne compte pas, Madame, ni ne décline quelque rosa latine non plus, Mesdemoiselles, mais on recrute, enlève et emporte les naïfs et les naïves dans les limbes de quelque chambre sombre comme un enfer sans feu ni flammes, sans trompettes ni fanfare.

C’est l’humour du violoncelle et l’amour à la française en offrande aux pulsions retenues, voire gelées, des Prussiens engraissés de pommes de terre au lard et au saindoux de cochon, sinon de porc.

Bonne excursion dans les buissons de l’aventure déshabillée d’une forêt toute de nuit enveloppée pour visiteurs dérobés de leurs vêtements et de leur raison mondaine, autant que de leurs pépettes sonnantes et trébuchantes. Il faut bien payer pour les plaisirs artificiels de la musique, même si on se les offre à la dérobée et en catimini, au chœur d’une église ou au cœur de sa solitude.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU


Paul Bunyan: Libretto
Paul Bunyan: Libretto
par W. H. Auden
Edition : Broché

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Auden touche là à un de ses meilleurs styles, 14 août 2016
Achat vérifié(De quoi s'agit-il ?)
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Paul Bunyan: Libretto (Broché)
For his first opera, the extremely British composer chose another extremely British poet to be his librettist and a legendary American folkloric tale to evoke the birth and development of the United States from a sheer empty wilderness only containing wild beasts. There is a lot to say about this version of this campfire tale, a favorite of all YMCA summer camps, adapted by these British minds.

The first thing is the date of creation, 1941, which makes this tale and the opera coming afterwards an essential means to build the pride of Americans and their conviction they have to enter the war to defend the American Way with their Acts, which are the concluding words from Paul Bunyan:

“Where the night becomes the day,
Where the dreams becomes the fact,
I am the Eternal Guest,
I am Way,
I am Act.”

The American patriotism they try to build is surprising since W.H. Auden states in his introductory remarks, and it is absolutely clear in the opera itself, that America was born from “the stage of colonization of the land and the conquest of nature.” No human beings on that land or in that nature. So from the start of the opera it is clear America is a virginal land only covered with a virginal forest. And the birth comes when a “performer” comes there to perform his act. “What kind of a performer?” the four young trees ask. And the three wild geese answer “A man.” The geese mean one particular man known as Paul Bunyan. But the four young trees play dumb and ask “What is a man?” as if the geese were speaking of a generic and not particular man. And the chorus of the old trees asks the question a second time to make sure we have heard the mistake. The three wild geese then answer a generic answer indeed:

“A man is a form of life
That dreams in order to act
And acts in order to dream
And has a name of his own.”

The four young trees and the chorus of old trees finally understand the geese are speaking of one particular man and they ask “what is this name?” and the three wild geese can give the name of this particular man they have been speaking of all along: “Paul Bunyan.”

It is clear there was no man before the arrival of Paul Bunyan in this territory. No Indians, who are mentioned only once in section 24 out of 27:

“Of fights with Indians, of shooting matches,
Of monster bears and salmon catches.

“Of the whirling whimpus Paul fought and killed,
Of the buttermilk Line that he had to build.”

The Indians are in parallel position at the beginning of the first line of a couplet in this ballad with the whirling whimpus, a Sasquatch which is a word of Halkomelem origin, a language of various First Nations peoples in British Columbia. It is obvious that Indians are in no way First Nations here and that they rank with mythic dangerous monsters coming from the culture of the lumberjacks in the first centuries of English colonization of Northern America as shown here:

“The Whirling Whimpus (Turbinoccissus nebuloides) is a Sasquatch-type creature that was said to be responsible for the many disappearances of lumberjacks in the North American woods, a Sasquatch is an anglicized version of the Halkomelem word sásq'ets, which translates as "wild man."
“The whirling whimpus is said to be a blood-thirsty 7 foot tall gorilla-like animal that easily fools any animal of person possible. When it senses prey coming down a pathway, it hides, usually at the bend of the trail. Then as the victim comes nearer, the Whirling Whimpus begins to spin around on one foot or hoof quickly which renders it practically invisible. As it does this, the wind emits a low droning sound that seems to be coming from the trees above. As the prey looks up, trying to locate the sound, the Whimpus attacks and kills the poor creature mercilessly, making it into molasses or maple syrup!” (http://cryptidz.wikia.com/wiki/Whirling_Whimpus & http://cryptidz.wikia.com/wiki/Sasquatch, both accessed August 14, 2016.)

In short “it is a forest full of innocent beasts” as it is said in section 3. In the same way there are no Blacks in this opera on America even when it speaks of Alabama in section 9, or Jews when he speaks of New York in the same section 9. In fact the immigrants are identified as from Sweden, from France, from Germany and from Piccadilly Circus, hence London and England. The cooks are good old Americans though we could have expected some Chinese often used as cooks and laundrymen in ventures like ranching, lumbering, mining, building the railroads, etc. But even the good cook is seen as American, Slim, presented as a high plain drifter, a human character made famous in many western films many years later like High Plain Drifter (1973); My Name is Nobody (1973) or Pale Rider (1984).

This being said, and it is important, the traditional story follows different lines for its development. First of all it is interspersed with love episodes, first Paul Bunyan and his wife Carrie, then their daughter Tiny and the cook Slim. This romantic dimension is evoked with love songs and other sections dedicated to it. Then the story is also turned into a critical vision of human motivations. They are identified as love deception; entanglement in some murder or robbery, hence escaping justice; escaping poverty; and accepting to work for a lumbering camp just because they are hungry, which is the case of Johnny Inkslinger, and note this name is not innocent since he is the accountant of the camp, writing down in ink all operations and their cost in a big ledger.

The opera criticizes the vanity of these human beings, or some of them when Hel Helson, the foreman of the camp, decides, with the support of his men, to challenge Paul Bunyan and have a fight with him that was lost before starting since that’s how the legend goes since Paul Bunyan is a giant, which Hel Helson is not, and the text becomes ironical when it says “Helson is tough but Paul has the brains!” Tough is weak when compared with the strength of a giant who does not need much brain to win. After that defeat the men of the camp pretend they had warned Hel Helson. In other words they are hypocrites, or plain ordinary people who follow the wind. Yet the text is constructive since Paul Bunyan concludes the episode with “In the climax of a fight lost affection comes to light.”

Yet this wishy-washy attitude of simple people had been used before when the lumberjacks incite Inkslinger to speak to Sam Sharkey and Ben Benny, the initial two cooks, the first one of soups and the second one of beans, in order to request a change of diet and regimen and to get more variety in the culinary agenda. The two cooks resign at once and the lumberjacks then turn against Inkslinger and accuse him of having caused the resignation against their advice, which is at least a lie.

This brings up the idea that any group has to be led by one person who has more willpower, more stamina, more charisma and more vision than the others. It might only be strength like with Hel Helson, but it is something that makes them superior to the others.

The final litany in the final section 27 is clear when the three animals, the dog and the two cats, sing three stanzas each one concluded by the chorus.

“From the Pressure Group that says I am the Constitution,
From those who say Patriotism and means Persecution,
From a Tolerance that is really inertia and disillusion:
CHORUS: Save animals and men.”

“From entertainment neither true nor beautiful nor witty,
From a homespun humor manufactured in the city,
From a dirty-mindedness of a Watch Committee:
CHORUS: Save animals and men.”

“From children brought up to believe in self-expression,
From the theology of plumbers or the medical profession,
From depending on alcohol for self-respect and self-possession:
CHORUS: Save animals and men.”

The program is vast from the three perversions of the Constitution, Patriotism and Tolerance into negative elements; via the three emerging derailing of entertainment, humor and mindedness by a bureaucratic and misguided Watch Committee; to finally the three illusions of self-expression taught to children, the practical and medical theology of a god of small things, and self-respect or self-possession reduced to dependence on some habit-forming substances. And the answer is the same: a prayer to save the victims of these nine – what a marvelous Christian symbol (the Beast, the apocalypse, the hour of Jesus’ death) – evil elements, both animals and men, meaning all living creatures and we have to think of the extermination of Buffalos and other species just to make a profit with their pelts and hides, or just for fun, the fun of killing a wild beast, just the way Indians had been brought close to a full genocide, not to speak of slavery.

And that’s when Paul Bunyan says “I am Way, I am Act.” There is a lot to do to save this nation and in 1941 the world. In the revival of ,the opera in the 1970s two scenes were cut off and one is very pregnant on this subject of social criticism. It is the colorful section where Shadows, meaning dreams, are describing themselves in the poor existence they have to go through to satisfy the impulses of human beings at night when they are dreaming. Note they are four and such groups of four characters are vastly used in the opera. It could be seen as Christian (the crucifixion) but it is probably better to think it is only a pattern that gives some dynamic structure to the story, four being more balanced and stable than three which is revolving, running and whirling around. The four shadows start this long song together:

“You’ve no idea how dull it is
Just being perfect nullities,
The idols of a democratic nation;
The heroes of the multitude;
Their dreams of female pulchritude:
We’re very very tired of admiration.”

Then follows a long list sung by one or two shadows each enumerating the qualities of this pulchritude meaning beauty of women as shown in these dreams, but that are in fact nothing but the expression of the image of women in films and already on television in 1941, for the few as for TV and in the 1970s for the many if not all as for TV again. It is amazing though that this list includes some obvious elements that are masculine like “the cut of my moustache,” “all athletics” and “the Hercules of underwear.” This makes us waver from sex to gender and play on gender orientation if we apply elements that are not per se feminine or masculine to both men and women like “the whims of fashion,” “in our embraces we select whatever technique seems correct” or “for personal hygiene I’ve a flair.”

We will skip the second stanza to jump to the third and the fourth. The fifth stanza is the repeat of the first.

“The growth of social consciousness
Has failed to make our problems less,
Indeed they grow intenser;
And what with Freud and what with Marx
With bureaucrats and matriarchs
The chances are our little larks
Will not get past the censor.

“You’d hate it if you were employed
To be a sin in celluloid
Or else a saint in plaster;
O little hearts who make a fuss,
What pleasure it would give to us
To give the bird to Oedipus,
The raspberry to Jocasta.”

The direct criticism of Freud and Marx, of bureaucrats and matriarchs (who do they mean in 1941, though in the 1970s it was clearly targeting women’s lib activists), then the rejection of the cinema and its celluloid sins, or of religion and its plaster saints is treating these two activities the same, as maybe cathartic illusions though the deeper and deepest desire of the author is to give the middle finger to the Oedipus complex of Freudian men and the noisy fat kiss to the Jocasta complex of the Freudian women.

Why they took off this section is surprising because in the 1970s it would have been a lot more meaningful than in 1941 since Freud was Austrian and had escaped Hitler miraculously, and Marx was German for sure but was the star of the Communist Russians, or Soviets if your prefer. In the 1970s it was common to consider Oedipus and Jocasta complexes as very schematic not to say primitive and anyway purely European and from the West as opposed to the Rest. As for Marx after 1968 which was the culminating peak of Marxism in the world, the decline started, in Prague first as soon as 1968 and then all over the world and still going on today. Marxism has become obsolete in political terms though it is still quite pregnant as an economic and social methodology, provided nothing is reduced to antagonistic couples, and here I reject both antagonism which at least rare if not inexistent in reality, and couples that are the plague of binary methods or visions that have to reduce any complex situation to two elements and no more.

The libretto ends with a Christmas party – and not a Thanksgiving party – that enables the author to give the future of the various characters. One has become a rancher. The cook Slim and his wife Tiny have just been hired as the managers of a Manhattan hotel close to Grand Central Station. Inkslinger was recruited first as a project manager in Washington DC in hydraulic electricity and then as an expert for a full cinema covering of this lumbering epic by the cinema studios in Hollywood. Lumbering has come to an end as an adventure and is now a simple industry and the various lumberjacks have found some future in society, some positions in the economy. The USA have become a developed society in which wild adventures are no longer possible.

To conclude on this libretto, I must say the opera has to be studied musically now. But I must also say that the style of the language used by W.H. Auden is very strong and powerful, strong even at times heady in the music it contains and powerful even at times mesmerizing in the dynamic it suggests. It is Auden at his best, even if today poets seem to look for a language that contains a disrupted syntax to work more on the paradigmatic semantics of words than on their syntagmatic architecture.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU


Turn of the Screw [Import USA Zone 1]
Turn of the Screw [Import USA Zone 1]
DVD ~ Caroline Pegg
Proposé par RAREWAVES USA
Prix : EUR 14,18

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Les enfants sont trop superficiels, 12 août 2016
Achat vérifié(De quoi s'agit-il ?)
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Turn of the Screw [Import USA Zone 1] (DVD)
This adaptation is very faithful indeed with the characters, the setting, the various moments of the story, apparitions of the ghosts included. The film is also clear about the parents of the kids, the mother died of yellow fever, we assume in India, and the father died on duty in India too one year late. But the film, like Henry James’ novella, does not capture the tremendous trauma the children must have gone through and then – the film is clear about that – Miss Jessel got pregnant which made her have to go, to be let go by the Master. Pregnant from whom? The situation implies from Peter Quint. But the first double trauma of the children is now amplified by a second double trauma with Mis Jessel going away and dying, by suicide as the opening scene shows, closely followed by Peter Quint dying in some kind of accident, fake or not does not matter. And strangely enough only the nameless governess is traumatized by these facts and she is led into seeing ghosts that no one else sees.

The film insists on this aspect of the character. She is getting little by little haunted – but in her sole mind – by her two predecessors. The kids are at an age – and their having gone through these two double traumas helps – when they can capture the fears of adults and they can get motivated to play on these fears, for fun or in this case for liberation.

The governess becomes a power and control freak and she transforms teaching into taming wild animals if not beasts. She sees them perverted while she is the one who is perverted. The film is discreet on this side of things though Henry James insisted on the governess’s hugging, kissing, holding hands, embracing, etc., with Miles particularly. She was obviously falling in love with Miles and wanted to possess him so strongly that he would became part of her own self. She was cannibalistic in her unjustified love for Miles. To love a child is a lot more challenging than to love an adult because the child cannot answer, cannot say no, cannot run away and when Miles tries the governess does not understand. The film insists on that but not on the sentimental, emotional and physical love of the governess towards Miles that is definitely desire and this desire is somewhere felt as wrong, evil is her word, so she has to repress it and the ghosts are her tools to transfer her repressive desire against her perverse impulse onto the object of this pedophile lust, hence onto Miles, and accidentally Flora.

She literally tortures the kids with the ghosts, till the very end, though Benjamin Britten does a far better job with that last scene about being alone and how the governess is understanding the ambiguity of the situation on which Miles is playing full blast, and it works. That’s what the two kids show us in the film very clearly: they are playing with the governess like two cats and one mouse. She falls in the trap every single time and she ends up being a fool. But that fool is criminal.

The film here centers this last scene on the last breath of Miles. He is more or less dragged by the governess into her arms and into an embrace and here the films innovates because the call for “Quint, you devil, Where are you, where are you?” is a call for help when Miles sees his end is close, the praying manta has captured him. But Quint won’t be able to come because he is no where, near or far, he is no longer one of them. And the film is clear when it shows the governess embraces Miles to death, till death parts him from his life, and Miles is just plainly choked to death. No ambiguity, no fuzziness. She is a criminal and she was brought there by the size of the responsibility she was entrusted with and she could not cope with and up to.

Well done, well directed, well performed, the film is impressive, though in no way frightening. We are horrified by the governess’s fall into crime because of her repressed and unaccepted feelings and desires for a boy under her own educational responsibility. She is depicted as a closet pedophile who ends up killing the child she wants to possess, including physically. I am afraid though this takes a lot of mystery from the story without modernizing the vision. Such facts are rare in the concerned world of education, and in fact I just wonder if they are in proportion more important in this world than in the wide society around.

Note there is a mistake on the back sleeve of the DVD: the children are not those of the “charming bachelor” because he is only the guardian and they are his nephew and niece. But, well, a child is a child, though exiling one’s own “children” to a country house with not contact with their “father” would be more than unnatural – which it is here – but definitely inhumane and even barbaric.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU


Page : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20