Friday, September 05, 2014


Currently working on a text about French writer and homme extraordinaire François-René de Chateaubriand, whose formative years at the Chateau de Combourg as described in his memoirs have become synonymous with the birth of Romanticism. Escaping the cold hauteur of his daunting father, the teenager spent many lonely hours roaming the surrounding woods or gazing at storms from his room at the top of a tower far removed from the other inhabitants of the castle. He invented an ideal female companion, a  fantasy bordering on the obsessive, which was to lead him into trouble with women in later life. His energies lurched between racing around the grounds to physically expunge the gloomy strictures of family life in the sombre castle, and struggling with the fateful grip of ennui to the extent that he toyed with suicide.
For the moment, I'm working on his later time in England and the almost laughable contrast between the first stay during the Revolution, when he was - literally- a writer starving in a garret in Holborn, and his return in 1822 as French ambassador to the glittering parties and empty social whirl of the Portland Place embassy. This contrast in fortunes is a typical example of the ups and downs of a remarkable individual in a tumultuous era. Despite direct participation in France's most turbulent period of history, something in Chateaubriand's own nature, set hard by the stones of Combourg, seemed to keep him emotionally strolling on the bank rather than plunged in the river of events.

No comments: