Posts tagged Francis Poictevin
No one reads Francis Poictevin (1854–1904). Alastair Brotchie, from the 1994 Atlas translation of de Gourmont’s Book of Masks:
The mysterious and gnomic works of Poictevin…record a quest which ended in disaster: his mental collapse in 1894, and confinement in an institution until his death. He continued writing even then, but he was forgotten, except by a few friends, and these manuscripts have never been published. His books, which are not novels, nor travel diaries, nor récits, but some intermediate form, appeared with perfect annual regularity between 1882 and 1894. In them Poictevin contrived to chronicle a psychological and spiritual journey by means of observations of the external world: they are perfect demonstrations of Symbolism, everything here is symbol clothed in the skin of appearance. With hindsight his obsessive and repetitive observation of detail, verging on synesthesia, can be seen to foreshadow his illness.
A Christian mystic and hyper-aesthete, Poictevin shared these characteristics with his close friend Huysmans, but applied them to his works in a unique way….He has never been translated into English.
De Gourmont (circa 1898):
The author of Tout bas and Presque would have been able, like all the rest, to arrange his meditations into dialogues, to order his sentiments into chapters cut at random into slabs of lines, to insinuate into sham-living characters a few animated gestures and have them convey, through noticeable genuflections upon the flagstones of a known church, the efficacy of an unacknowledged creed: in short to write “Mystical Novels” and to vulgarise for the “literary journals” the practice of mental prayer. By this means his books would have acquired some popularity, which he certainly lacks, because, if few writers are so esteemed, few, among those of evident talent, are less well known and less seen in the bookshops…
[Images: top, Poictevin by Vallotton; bottom: Francis Poictevin by Jacques-Emile Blanche, 1887]
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