Evelyn Waugh & Father Brown

Brideshead Revisited is on my List of Deserted-Island-Books

One of the most powerful metaphors in the book, and I never spotted it’s origin. Delightful —
thanks to whoever pointed this out, you made my day! 😀

In Evelyn Waugh‘s novel Brideshead Revisited, a quote from the Father Brown story “The Queer Feet” is an important element of the structure and theme of the book. Father Brown speaks this line after catching a criminal, hearing his confession, and letting him go: “I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.” Book Three of Brideshead Revisited is called “A Twitch Upon the Thread,” and the quote acts as a metaphor for the operation of grace in the characters’ lives. They are free to wander the world according to their free will until they are ready and receptive to God’s grace, at which point He acts in their lives and effects a conversion. In the miniseries made by Granada Television adapting Brideshead, the character Lady Marchmain (Claire Bloom) reads this passage aloud.

Source: Wikipedia article on Father Brown





Stromae :: The new Jacques Brel

Stromae: Alors on danse. Live at the Victoires de la Musique 2011

Stromae is a phenomenon. He combines real chanson texts with upbeat dance music. His first hit, Alors on dance, is as depressing in its social realism, as it is ultra-dynamic and upbeat in its rhythm. With his last hit, Te quiero, the comparison with Jacques Brel, his favourite musician, became inescapable.

“Stromae” means Maestro in verlan. There is a wink, and more, at Jacques Brel. Stromae se prend pour Brel 🙂

“Jojo se prenait pour Voltaire
Et Pierre pour Casanova
Et moi, moi qui étais le plus fier
Moi, moi je me prenais pour moi”

— Jacques Brel, Les Bourgeois

Te quiero

Te quiero comes with a very Belgian “Ceci n’est pas un clip” — Version Brel-video: static shot and live take, and all the passion, the bitterness and dark sentiments of Jacques Brel for his femme fatale: Mathilde. Te quiero is a worthy 21st Century follow-up for 1964 Mathilde.

Te quiero


The text of Te quiero has certainly whiffs of Ne me quitte pas, but the bitterness and despair, the defaitism and cruelty are much closer to the atmosphere of Mathilde.“Ton Jacques retourne en enfer”, sings Brel. Stromae doesn’t seem to have ever been out of his private hell.

His choice of words echoes those of Brel: pisse, con, mort.

And have a look at his presentation of the song. All is concentrated on the voice and on the singer — the music is reduced to a sweeping, beating rythm. All is concentrated on his face, so highly expressive, the speaking eyebrows and mouth, the facial expressions which turn into grimaces. On the gestures of the story-telling hands and on the dark, deep voice, now caressing, now shouting out his bitterness, anger and hate.

Another love-hate story: Mathilda, by Jacques Brel

Te quiero

Un jour je l’ai vu, j’ai tout de suite su que
Qu’on allait devoir faire ces jeux absurdes
Bijoux, bisous et tralalas, mots doux et coups bas
Insultes, coups, etc, etc
Non! Pas les miens mais les siens oui
Notre enfant deviendra aussi le sien ensuite
Enfin c’est le juge qui insistera j’imagine
Imagine moi et qu’elle ait sous le bras : et mes jeans sales et puis tout ça…

Je voulais ma mort mais pour la vie
On se dira “oui”, à la vie, à la mort
Et même en changeant d’avis
Même en sachant qu’on a tort
On ne changera pas la vie
Donc comme tout le monde je vais en souffrir
Jusqu’à la mort

Te quiero,
J’voudrais être son ombre
Mais je la déteste
Te quiero,
Même au bout du monde
Et bien, qu’elle y reste
Te quiero,
Oui je l’aimais tellement
Et je l’aime encore
Te quiero,
Je n’aurai pas le choix, non
Jusqu’à la mort

Te quiero…
Jusqu’à la mort
Te quiero (x3)

Un jour je la reverrai, je le saurai tout de suite
Que ce sera repartit pour un tour de piste
Un monde de plus, un nouveau juge, et puis leurs odeurs de pisse
Ça redeviendra juste une fois de plus plus répetitif
Imagine moi dans mes vieux jeans
Mais cette fois-là, sans domicile
Le moral bas, en haut d’un pont, d’une falaise ou d’un building
J’aurai l’air d’un con quand je sauterai dans le vide
Je l’aime à mort, je l’aime à mort…

Je l’aime à mort mais pour la vie
On se dira “oui”, à la vie, à la mort …

Oui je l’aimais tellement
Et je l’aime encore
Te quiero,

Je n’aurai pas le choix, non
Jusqu’à la mort
Te quiero…


Ein interessanstes Interview mit Stromae in Wien (2010) auf Laila’s Musik Blog

Charles Dickens

“Not only on account of what he wrote, but on account of his bridging the chasm between the serious and the popular, I consider Dickens to be our finest writer after Shakespeare, an example and reproach to every too high-minded stylist and every too low-minded populariser who has come after him.”

Howard Jacobson on Charles Dickens and the BBC


Now Reading: Sheridan Le Fanu

My Wilkie Collins Craze is (nearly) over — gottseidank. Reading now breathlessly the last pages of Armadale.

Next, I’m expecting Great Things from Sheridan Le Fanu.

This is an Illustration for his novel Carmilla:


The novel tells the story, apparently, “of a young woman’s susceptibility to the attentions of a female vampire named Carmilla”, and is a great hit with feminists and scholars of gender studies. Wilkie Collins’ fascinating Victorian women, first and foremost Marian Halcombe, of course, and her as good as public lesbian relationship with her half-sister, but also the swarthy and especially the gorgeously red-headed villainesses have made me want more.

Joseph thomas Sheridan Le Fanu came to my attention a long time ago. In Dorothy L. Sayers‘s novel Gaudy Night (1935), Harriet Vane is doing research for a monograph on Sheridan Le Fanu, which is later reported to have been published. However, Sayers’ first quotes of Le Fanu appear in an earlier Lord Peter Wimsey novel, The Nine Tailors (1934), and a mysterious letter in the same novel is referred to by Mervyn Bunter as “written by a person of no inconsiderable literary ability, who had studied the works of Sheridan Lefanu [sic] and was, if I may be permitted the expression, bats in the belfry, my lord.”
Lord Peter’s christening present to Harriet — by then Lady Peter — for their first child is a quill pen which had belonged to Sheridan Le Fanu.

Some critics, among them William Veeder, suggest that Carmilla, notably in its outlandish use of narrative frames, was an important influence on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. Most certainly something to look out for!

I will start with In a Glass Darkly (1872), a collection of five short stories. These are presented as the posthumous papers of the occult detective Dr Hesselius, and include:

  • “Green Tea”
  • “The Familiar”
  • “Mr Justice Harbottle”
  • “The Room in the Dragon Volant”
  • “Carmilla”


According to studies, there are fourteen distinctive characteristics that differentiate a healthy eccentric person from a regular person or someone who has a mental illness (although some may not always apply). The first five are in most people regarded as eccentric:

  • Nonconforming attitude
  • Creative
  • Intense curiosity
  • Idealistic
  • Happy obsession with a hobby or hobbies
  • Known very early in his or her childhood they were different from others
  • Highly intelligent
  • Opinionated and outspoken
  • Noncompetitive
  • Unusual living or eating habits
  • Not interested in the opinions or company of others
  • Mischievous sense of humour
  • Single
  • Usually the eldest or an only child

Edith Sitwell, who wrote the aptly called book The English Eccentrics (1933) — and was a fine example herself— in a typical photograph: