Posted on  UTC 2018-01-01 01:02

Image of the month

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Image: Museum of Modern Art, New York.

After years of grinding poverty and episodes of madness, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) shot himself in the chest on 27 July 1890. He died, aged 37, on 29 July.

Quote of the month

The French writer and poet Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855, birth name: Labrunie) was born 210 years ago on 22 May. He suffered episodes of madness that got worse until he finally killed himself, aged 46, on 26 January 1855, 163 years ago this month.

He left a remarkable record of his madness in his brief autobiographical work Aurélia ou le rêve et la vie. The last few pages of the work were found stuffed in his overcoat pocket when his body was taken down. He hanged himself from a window grille in the rue de la Vieille-Lanterne in Paris. The work was published by his friends Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) and Arsène Houssaye (1815-1896) in the 'Revue de Paris' and brought out as a book later that year.

Gérard de Nerval: from Aurélia ou le rêve et la vie

Stretched out on a camp bed, I thought I saw the sky draw aside its veil to reveal a thousand sights of incredible magnificence. The fate of the untethered soul seemed to reveal itself to me in order to make me regret wanting to regain all the powers of my spirit on the earth that I was going to leave… Immense circles were traced in infinite space like the rings that form when water is disturbed by the fall of an object; each region, populated with radiant shapes, was coloured, moved, and melted in turn, and a divinity, always the same, exchanged with a smile the stolen masks of its various incarnations, and finally fled, beyond grasp, in the mystic splendours of the Asian sky.

Étendu sur un lit de camp, je crus voir le ciel se dévoiler et s'ouvrir en mille aspects de magnificences inouïes. Le destin de l'Âme délivrée semblait se révéler à moi comme pour me donner le regret d'avoir voulu reprendre pied de toutes les forces de mon esprit sur la terre que j'allais quitter… D'immenses cercles se traçaient dans l'infini, comme les orbes que forme l'eau troublée par la chute d'un corps ; chaque région, peuplée de figures radieuses, se colorait, se mouvait et se fondait tour à tour, et une divinité, toujours la même, rejetait en souriant les masques furtifs de ses diverses incarnations, et se réfugiait enfin insaisissable dans les mystiques splendeurs du ciel d'Asie.

Source: Gérard de Nerval, 'Aurélia ou le rêve et la vie', in 'Revue de Paris', Tome XXIV, Janvier 1855, Part I, Chapter III, p. 9f. Online. Translation ©FoS.

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