Gérard de Nerval (French: [ʒeʁaʁ də nɛʁval]; 22 May 1808 – 26 January 1855) was the nom-de-plume of the French writer, poet, and translator Gérard Labrunie, a major figure of French romanticism, best known for his novellas and poems, especially the collection Les Filles du feu (The Daughters of Fire), which included the novella Sylvie and the poem "El Desdichado". He played a major role in introducing French readers to the works of German Romantic authors, including Klopstock, Schiller, Bürger and Goethe. His later work merged poetry and journalism in a fictional context and influenced Marcel Proust. His last novella, Aurélia, influenced André Breton and Surrealism.
Gérard de Nerval
Gérard de Nerval, by Nadar
22 May 1808
|Died||26 January 1855 (aged 46)|
|Occupation||poet, essayist and translator|
|Voyage en Orient (1851)|
Les Filles du feu (1854)
Gérard Labrunie was born in Paris on 22 May 1808. His mother, Marie Marguerite Antoinette Laurent, was the daughter of a clothing salesman, and his father, Étienne Labrunie, was a young doctor who had volunteered to serve as a medic in the army under Napoleon.
In June 1808, soon after Gérard's birth, Étienne was drafted. With his young wife in tow, Étienne followed the army on tours of Germany and Austria, eventually settling in a hospital in Głogów. While they traveled East, the Labrunies left their newborn son Gérard in the care of Marie Marguerite's uncle Antoine Boucher, who lived in Mortefontaine, a small town in the Valois region, not far from Paris. On November 29, 1810, Marie Marguerite died before she could come back to France. Gérard was two years old. Having buried his wife, Étienne took part in the disastrous French invasion of Russia. He was reunited with his son in 1814.
Upon his return to France in 1814, Étienne took his son and moved back to Paris, starting a medical practice at 72 rue Saint-Martin. Gérard lived with his father but often stayed with his great-uncle Boucher in Mortefontaine and with Gérard Dublanc in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. (Dublanc, Étienne's uncle, was also Gérard's godfather.)
In 1822 Gérard enrolled at the collège Charlemagne. This was where he met and befriended Théophile Gautier. This was also where he began to take poetry more seriously. He was especially drawn to epic poetry. At age 16, he wrote a poem that recounted the circumstances of Napoleon's defeat called "Napoléon ou la France guerrière, élégies nationales". Later, he tried out satire, writing poems that took aim at Prime Minister Villèle, the Jesuit order, and anti-liberal newspapers like La Quotidienne. His writing started to be published in 1826.
At age 19, with minimal knowledge of the German language, he began the ambitious task of translating Goethe's Faust. His prose translation appeared in 1828. Despite its many flaws, the translation had many merits, and it did a great deal to establish his poetic reputation. It is the reason why Victor Hugo, the leader of the Romantic movement in France, felt compelled to have Gérard come to his apartment on 11, rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs.
In 1829, having received his baccalaureate degree two years late (perhaps because he skipped classes to go for walks and read for pleasure), Gérard was under pressure from his father to find steady employment. He took a job at a notary's office, but his heart was set on literature. When Victor Hugo asked him to support his play Hernani, under attack from conservative critics suspicious of Romanticism, Gérard was more than happy to join the fight (see Bataille d'Hernani).
Gérard was sympathetic to the liberal and republican atmosphere of the time, and was briefly imprisoned in 1832 for participating in student demonstrations. Gérard set himself two anthology projects: one on German poetry, and one on French poetry. Alexandre Dumas and Pierre-Sébastien Laurentie arranged a library card for him so he could carry out his research.
The first anthology included translations of Klopstock, Schiller, Bürger and Goethe, and met with less enthusiasm than his translation of Faust. The second anthology included poems by Ronsard, Joachim du Bellay, Jean-Antoine de Baïf, Guillaume Du Bartas and Jean-Baptiste Chassignet.
By the fall of 1830, the Cénacle, a group created by Sainte-Beuve to ensure Victor Hugo's success with Hernani, had assembled many famed writers, including Alfred de Vigny, Alfred de Musset, Charles Nodier, Alexandre Dumas and Honoré de Balzac. After Hernani's success, the Cénacle began to fall apart. At that time a new group appeared: the Petit-Cénacle, created by the sculptor Jean Bernard Duseigneur. Gérard attended some of the meetings, which took place in Duseigneur's studio.
Gérard, following Hugo's lead, started to write plays. Le Prince des sots and Lara ou l'expiation were shown at the Théâtre de l'Odéon and met with positive reviews. He started to use the pseudonym Gérard de Nerval, inspired by the name of a property near Loisy (a village near Ver-sur-Launette, Oise) which had belonged to his family.
In January 1834, Nerval's maternal grandfather died and he inherited around 30,000 francs. That fall, he headed to Southern France, then traveled to Florence, Rome and Naples. On his return in 1835, he moved in with a group of Romantic artists (including Camille Rogier). In May of that year, he created Le Monde Dramatique, a luxurious literary journal that made him squander his inheritance. Debt-ridden, Gérard finally sold it in 1836. Getting his start in journalism, he traveled to Belgium with Gautier from July to September.
In 1837, Piquillo was shown at the Opéra-Comique. Despite Nerval's work on the project, Dumas' was the only name on the libretto. Jenny Colon played the main role. Nerval may have fallen in love with the actress. Some specialists claim that his unrequited love for her is what inspired many of the female figures that appear in his writing, including the Virgin Mary, Isis, the queen of Saba. Other experts disagree with this biographical analysis.
Despite Dumas' refusal to let him take credit for his work, Nerval continued to collaborate with Dumas on plays. In the summer of 1838, he traveled with Dumas to Germany to work on Léo Burckart, which eventually premiered at the Théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin on 16 April 1839, six days after the premiere of another play the pair worked on together called L'Alchimiste. In November 1839, Nerval traveled to Vienna, where he met the pianist Marie Pleyel at the French embassy.
Back in France in March 1840, Nerval took over Gautier's column at La Presse. After publishing a third edition of Faust in July, including a preface and fragments of Second Faust, he traveled to Belgium in October. On 15 December Piquillo premiered in Brussels, where Nerval crossed paths with Jenny Colon and Marie Pleyel once again.
After a first nervous breakdown on 23 February 1841 he was cared for at the Sainte-Colombe Borstal ("maison de correction"). On 1 March Jules Janin published an obituary for Nerval in the Journal des Débats. After a second nervous breakdown, Nerval was housed in Docteur Esprit Blanche's clinic in Montmartre, where he remained from March to November.
On 22 December 1842 Nerval set off for the Near East, traveling to Alexandria, Cairo, Beirut, Constantinople, Malta and Naples. Back in Paris in 1843, he began to publish articles about his trip in 1844. His Voyage en Orient appeared in 1851.
Between 1844 and 1847, Nerval traveled to Belgium, the Netherlands, to London, producing a significant amount of travel writing. At the same time, he wrote novellas and opera librettos and translated poems by his friend Heinrich Heine, publishing a selection of translations in 1848. His last years were spent in dire financial and emotional straits. Following his doctor Emile Blanche's advice, he tried to purge himself of his intense emotions in his writing. This is when he composed some of his best works.
Why should a lobster be any more ridiculous than a dog? ...or a cat, or a gazelle, or a lion, or any other animal that one chooses to take for a walk? I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea, they don't bark, and they don't gnaw upon one's monadic privacy like dogs do. And Goethe had an aversion to dogs, and he wasn't mad.
Increasingly poverty-stricken and disoriented, he committed suicide during the night of 26 January 1855, by hanging himself from the bar of a cellar window in the rue de la Vieille-Lanterne, a narrow lane in a squalid section of Paris.[a] He left a brief note to his aunt: "Do not wait up for me this evening, for the night will be black and white."
The poet Charles Baudelaire observed that Nerval had "delivered his soul in the darkest street that he could find." The discoverers of his body were puzzled by the fact that his hat was still on his head. The last pages of his manuscript for Aurélia ou le rêve et la vie were found in a pocket of his coat. After a religious ceremony at the Notre-Dame cathedral (which was granted despite his suicide because of his troubled mental state), he was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, at the expense of his friends Théophile Gautier and Arsène Houssaye, who published Aurélia as a book later that year.
Goethe read Nerval's translation of Faust and called it "very successful," even claiming that he preferred it to the original.
In 1867, Nerval's friend Théophile Gautier (1811–1872) wrote a touching reminiscence of him in "La Vie de Gérard" which was included in his Portraits et Souvenirs Littéraires (1875).
For Marcel Proust, Nerval was one of the greatest writers of the nineteenth century. Proust especially admired Sylvie's exploration of time lost and regained, which would become one of Proust's deepest interests and the dominant theme of his magnum opus In Search of Lost Time. Later, André Breton named Nerval a precursor of Surrealist art, which drew on Nerval's forays into the significance of dreams. For his part, Antonin Artaud compared Nerval's visionary poetry to the work of Hölderlin, Nietzsche and Van Gogh.
In 1945, at the end of the Second World War and after a long illness, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung delivered a lecture in Zürich on Nerval's Aurélia which he regarded as a work of "extraordinary magntitude". Jung described Nerval's memoir as a cautionary tale (the protagonist cannot profit psychologically from his own lucidity and profound insights), and he validates Nerval's visionary experience as a genuine encounter with the collective unconscious and anima mundi.
Henry Miller called Nerval an "extraordinary French poet" and included him among a group of exemplary translators:"[i]n English we have yet to produce a poet who is able to do for Rimbaud what Baudelaire did for Poe's verse, or Nerval for Faust, or Morel and Larbaud for Ulysses".
The English rock band Traffic included the jazz-rock track "Dream Gerrard" in their 1974 album When the Eagle Flies. Lyrics are known to be mainly written by Vivian Stanshall after reading Nerval's biography.
Auguste de Châtillon (29 January 1808 - 26 March 1881) was a French painter, sculptor and poet. He was born and died in Paris. He, Théophile Gautier, Gérard de Nerval and Arsène Houssaye formed the "bohème du Doyenné".Bouzingo
The Bouzingo were a group of eccentric poets, novelists, and artists in France during the 1830s that practiced an extreme form of romanticism whose influence helped determine the course of culture in the 20th century including such movements as Bohemianism, Parnassianism, Symbolism, Decadence, Aestheticism, Dadaism, Surrealism, the Lost Generation the Beat Generation, Hippies, Punk rock, etc.Cliché
A cliché or cliche ( or ) is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.In phraseology, the term has taken on a more technical meaning, referring to an expression imposed by conventionalized linguistic usage. The term is frequently used in modern culture for an action or idea that is expected or predictable, based on a prior event. Typically pejorative, "clichés" may or may not be true. Some are stereotypes, but some are simply truisms and facts. Clichés often are employed for comic effect, typically in fiction.
Most phrases now considered clichéd originally were regarded as striking, but have lost their force through overuse. The French poet Gérard de Nerval once said, "The first man who compared woman to a rose was a poet, the second, an imbecile."A cliché is often a vivid depiction of an abstraction that relies upon analogy or exaggeration for effect, often drawn from everyday experience. Used sparingly, it may succeed, but the use of a cliché in writing, speech, or argument is generally considered a mark of inexperience or a lack of originality.Club des Hashischins
The Club des Hashischins (sometimes also spelled Club des Hashishins or Club des Hachichins, "Club of the Hashish-Eaters") was a Parisian group dedicated to the exploration of drug-induced experiences, notably with hashish. Members included Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Baudelaire, Gérard de Nerval, and Honoré de Balzac.Cénacle
Cénacle is the name given to a Parisian literary group of varying constituency that began about 1826 to gather around Charles Nodier. The group sought to revive in French literature the old monarchical spirit, the spirit of medieval mystery and spiritual submission. The chief members were Vigny and the brothers Deschamps. They were soon joined by Lamartine, Hugo, and Sainte-Beuve, who describes the group as "royalists by birth, Christians by convention and a vague sentimentality." Their organ was La Muse Française. Musset, Mérimée, and the elder Dumas were involved within the Cénacle, too. Time and the revolution of 1830 wrought changes in the attitudes of the members of Cénacle. Théophile Gautier and Gérard de Nerval were attracted to the group at the time of the revolution, but the reasons for the existence of the Cénacle dissolved. The group lost its reason for existence with the triumph of Hugo's Hernani (1830).Jean Bernard Duseigneur
Jean Bernard Duseigneur (1808 - 6 March 1866), also known as Jehan Duseigneur, was a French romantic sculptor.
Duseigneur was born in Paris, studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, and in 1831 achieved renown when he exhibited Roland Furieux, now in Louvre and often regarded as the first romantic sculpture. He turned quickly almost exclusively to the production of religious works, along with medallions and busts of Jacques de Rougé, Marquis du Plessis-Bellière (now in the Palace of Versailles), and poet Gérard de Nerval.Joseph Méry
Joseph Méry (21 January 1797 – 17 June 1866) was a French writer, journalist, novelist, poet, playwright and librettist.La Pandora
La Pandora is a short novella by the French poet and writer Gerard de Nerval. In the style of Sylvie, it recounts Nerval's stay in Vienna in 1839-1840 and his infatuation with a theatre actress there. It was a follow-up to the text of Les Amours de Vienne, previously published in Revue de Paris in 1841 and incorporated in Nerval's book Voyage en Orient in 1852. Pandora was originally titled Suite des Amours de Vienne - La Pandora.
Begun in 1853, Nerval intended Pandora for inclusion in Les Filles du Feu, but it was not finished in time for the volume. The first part was published by Alexandre Dumas in the journal Le Mousquetaire in October 1854, but its publication was interrupted by Nerval’s suicide. Several attempts were made in the 20th century to produce a finished draft, the first published by Aristide Marie in 1921.Le duc de Guise
Le duc de Guise (full title Le duc de Guise, ou Les ėtats de Blois (The Duke of Guise, or The Council of Blois)) is an opéra comique in three acts by George Onslow, to a libretto by François-Antoine-Eugène de Planard and Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges, based on a play from 1809 of the same name by François Just Marie Raynouard. The opera received its premiere on 8 September 1837 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris.The opera, which centres on the assassination of the Duc de Guise in 1588, was the third and last of Onslow's operas to be produced. The text and music were well received by the audience, but Gérard de Nerval complained in a review that they had not offered Jenny Colon the opportunity to display her talents.Onslow made an arrangement of extracts of the opera for string quartet (his Op. 60).Les Filles du feu
Les Filles du feu (The Daughters of Fire) is a collection of short prose works, poetry and a play published by the French poet Gérard de Nerval in January 1854, a year before his death. During 1853, Nerval had suffered three nervous breakdowns and spent five months in an asylum. He saw Les Filles du feu as an opportunity to show the public, his friends and his father that he was sane, though except for the introduction all of the pieces in Les Filles du feu had been published previously: "Angélique" in Les Faux Saulniers (1850), "Sylvie" in La Revue des Deux Mondes (1853), and "Émilie", "Jemmy", "Isis" and "Octavie" in diverse reviews.
The precise meaning of the title, which Nerval chose just before publication, is uncertain. Scholars have identified its source as the ceremonies of Irish vestal virgins described in Michelet's Histoire de France (1833) or a poem in a novel by Alexandre Dumas, La Tulipe noire (1850).Les Illuminés
Les Illuminés is a collection of narratives or essays by the French poet and author Gerard de Nerval. Subtitled Recits et Portraits, it was published in 1852.
The book consists of six narratives relating the adventures and mishaps of historical figures whose lives reflected different aspects of Nerval’s own experiences. It is a male counterpart to his Les Filles du feu. The concerns of socialism in the eighteenth century and the French Revolution underline most of the narratives. The book is also subtitled: Les precurseurs du socialisme.Lorely, souvenirs d'Allemagne
Lorely is a collection of travel essays and a drama by Gérard de Nerval. The essays describe de Nerval's journeys along the Rhine and in the Netherlands and Belgium. It takes its title from the Lorelei, a rock on the eastern bank of the river Rhine.
The centerpiece of the book is the play Leo Buckhart, which de Nerval wrote in collaboration with Alexandre Dumas.
The book is dedicated to Jules Janin and its introduction is addressed to him.
It was first published by Giraud and Dagneau, Maison du Coq d'or, in 1852.Monde dramatique
Le Monde Dramatique was a periodical published in Paris, France, from May 1835 to September 1841. It was founded by Gérard de Nerval and Anatole Bouchardy. The short-lived magazine was "overly ambitious and poorly managed", consisting mostly of unsigned articles reviewing or commenting upon the theater. It also included some early writings of Anatole's brother Joseph Bouchardy, who would later go on to a successful career as a playwright.Richard Sieburth
Richard Sieburth (born 11 February 1949) is a translator, essayist, editor, and literary scholar. A graduate of the University of Chicago (B.A., New Collegiate Division, 1970) and of Harvard University (Ph.D., Comparative Literature, 1976), he retired from university life in early 2019, after 45 years of teaching (35 at NYU and 10 at Harvard). Over the course of his career, he directed many doctoral dissertations that resulted in successful books and academic careers, and advised dozens of other students who went on to careers in translation, publishing, and other corridors of the Arts.
Sieburth is considered an authority on French renaissance poetry, on European romanticism and on literary modernism in general, particularly the life and work of Ezra Pound. In addition to his numerous editions of the works of Pound for New Directions and the Library of America, Sieburth has published translations of Nostradamus, Maurice Scève, Louise Labé, Friedrich Hölderlin, Georg Büchner, Walter Benjamin, Gershom Scholem, Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, Henri Michaux, Antonin Artaud, Michel Leiris, Eugène Guillevic, and Jacques Darras. He has also published translations into French of American poets like Michael Palmer. As a historian and theorist of translation, Sieburth played a crucial role in introducing and disseminating the work of Antoine Berman into English.
A regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, his essays, articles and translations have also appeared in Studies in Romanticism, Romantisme, L’Esprit Créateur, Parnassus, Poetry, Poesie, the New York Review of Books, the New York Times Book Review, Critical Inquiry, October, Raritan, Yale Review, Sulphur, Conjunctions, the Paris Review, Bookforum and Harper’s. He was made a Chevalier dans l’ordre des palmes académiques in 1985, elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007, and received an Annual Award in Letters from the American Academy of Arts in Letters in 2017, while his forthcoming Late Baudelaire (Yale UP, 2020) has been supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship for Translation. Among many honors, he received the PEN/Book-of the Month Translation Prize in 2000 for his Selected Writings of Gérard de Nerval and his translation of Maurice Scève’s Emblems of Desire was shortlisted for the Weidenfeld Prize and the PEN Poetry Translation Prize in 2003. He was twice shortlisted for the French-American Foundation Translation Prize, in 2007 for Stroke by Stroke (by Henri Michaux) and then in 2010 for The Salt Smugglers (Gérard de Nerval), while his translations of Eugène Guillevic's Geometries was shortlisted for the Three Percent Poetry Translation Prize in 2012. Most recently, his A Certain Plume (Michaux) received the 2019 PEN Prize for Poetry in Translation.Sylvie
Sylvie is a name and may refer to:
The French form, as well as an affectionate shortened form, of the given name Sylvia
Sylvie (novel), by Gérard de Nerval
Sylvie (band), a Canadian indie rock band
Sylvie (actress), a French actress born 1883
Sylvie (album)Sylvie (novel)
Sylvie (1853) is a novella by French Romanticist Gérard de Nerval. It was first published in the periodical La Revue des Deux Mondes in 1853, and as a book in Les Filles du feu in 1854, just a few months before Nerval killed himself in January 1855. Sylvie is often considered to be Nerval's prose masterpiece, and has been a favorite of Marcel Proust, André Breton, Joseph Cornell and Umberto Eco. Harold Bloom included it in The Western Canon (1994).An idyll written in the form of a reminiscence, the story is about a hero's love for three women, all of whom he loses - a hymn to unattainable, unrequited love. The story begins when a paragraph in a newspaper plunges the narrator into his memories as a younger man. The perspective seems to shift back and forth between the past and present, so the reader is never entirely sure if the narrator is recounting past events from memory, or retelling current events as they happen. Critics have praised the writing for its lucid and lyrical style. The narrator, of noble status and who has recently come into an inheritance, decides to leave Paris, where he is living a debauched life of theater and drink, and return to the love of his youth, a peasant girl named Sylvie who has classic features and brunette hair, a "timeless ideal". She sews gloves for a living and ends up marrying another man more equal to her class. The narrator also loves a seductive actress in Paris named Aurélia, who has many suitors who tell her empty idylls of love, but none love her for who she really is - including the narrator, who sees her as a lovely illusion that fades in the daylight of reality. The narrator also loves Adrienne, of noble birth, tall with blonde hair; she is an "ideal beauty", but she lives in a convent, and dies an early death. In the end, he loves all three but obtains none, seemingly for reasons both beyond and within his making.
Sylvie has many features of Romanticism, including flowing descriptions of a beautiful but lost natural world, appreciation for the architecture and traditions of the Middle Ages, and Greek traditions. The use of color appears to be unique, with binary oppositions serving as a simplifying mechanism to make distant memories emerge more strikingly from the mist.The novel contains autobiographical elements. As in the story, Nerval often traveled to Germany and to the east. Nerval had an unhappy love for a real actress, Jenny Colon. He had a female childhood friend named Adrienne, whom he unhappily lost earlier in life. These unattainable and lost female figures are represented in the story, as well in his other works. In real life, Nerval lost his mother at an early age.Guillaume Apollinaire relates (in La Vie Anecdotique) that while writing Sylvie, Nerval spent a week in Chantilly solely to study a sunset that he needed for it.
Julien Gracq wrote of Sylvie in 1966: "I know of no more enchanted narrative in our language" ("Je ne connais aucun récit plus enchanté dans notre langue").The Dark Third
The Dark Third is the first full-length album by Pure Reason Revolution. It was produced by Paul Northfield (Rush, Porcupine Tree, Gentle Giant, Hole) and recorded at Fairhazel Studios and later RAK studios. An earlier single "Apprentice of the Universe" peaked at #74. The title refers to the "Dark Third", the third of a person's life spent asleep and dreaming, with the song on disc 2 "In Aurelia" being based lyrically and thematically around the book Aurelia by Gérard de Nerval.Voyage to the Orient
Voyage to the Orient (French: Voyage en Orient) is one of the works of French writer and poet Gérard de Nerval, published during 1851, resulting from his voyage of 1842 to Cairo and Beirut. In addition to a travel account it retells Oriental tales, like Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, in terms of the artist and the act of creation.
The chapters first appeared in the periodical Revue des Deux Mondes in 1846 and 1847, where the series was called Scènes de la Vie Orientale. Later, when the chapters appeared together in book form in 1851, it was retitled Voyage en Orient, and an account of de Nerval's travels through Europe before leaving for the Orient was added. For a later edition, de Nerval added a series of appendices, the majority of the material taken directly from Lane's Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians. In 1930 the book was translated as The Women Of Cairo by Conrad Elphinstone in two volumes, it included only the material originally published in 1846–47. More recent translations are incomplete.