Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Further Decadent Decrepitude

Well here's the view for today folks, and as you can see, it ain't pretty! Of course, that does depend on one's aesthetic sense, but I can easily see this view delighting one of my all time favorite characters in French literature, Des Esseintes ... the infamous "hero" of Joris-Karl Huysmans' bible of Decadence, Against Nature. Without revealing too much of the book (see the Wikipedia link for more), suffice to say that being the ultimate decadent aesthete he is, Des Esseintes devotes a period of his explorations to collecting bizarre and artificial looking plants, and though I'd have to go back and check to make sure, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Dracunculus vulgaris figures among the items in the catalogue he creates to document his "research."

Somehow the shot I got tonight reminds me vaguely of a rather withered cobra who's lost most of his sass. Or it could be the back end of some creature ... or any number of things not so pleasant to contemplate. What do you see? Let me know in the comments if the thought so moves you.

Photo taken June 4, 2007.

I did a little more research out of curiosity as to whether the Arum was referenced in Against Nature and found that the entire text of the novel is available online (links to English and French below). Though Huysmans doesn't cite Dracunculus specifically, he does reference the Arum family (and I wonder if Dracunculus was even in common cultivation back in 1884, but that's a dissertation topic I'm not going to pursue at this moment). The relevant paragraphs are quoted below, though if you're curious enough to read the entire chapter on bizarre plants, make sure to jump to Chapter VIII in the online text. Huysmans' stylistic renderings probably aren't for everyone, but if you've ever been curious about what "Decadent" literature was all about, you owe it to yourself to read at least a few chapters of this truly seminal late 19th Century French novel.

It was the Anthurium, one of the arum family, recently imported from Colombia; it formed part of a section of the same family to which also belonged an Amorphophallus, a plant from Cochin China, with long black stalks seamed with scars, like a negro's limbs after a thrashing.

Des Esseintes' cup of joy was brimming over.

PS to Manny. If you read all the way through the chapter, the linkage with venereal disease is made surrealistically (and hilariously, I might add) explicit. After all, it all comes down to syphilis... Or so Des Esseintes said!


olivia said...

From such former splendour to this ... it's been a wild ride, and I've enjoyed seeing every moment of the arum's life cycle, and look forward to the next stage.


Gonzo's nose ... Gonzo the muppet. :)

But, after reading your post, I can see the back end of an elephant.

Family Man said...


You had to mention a snake didn't ya. Now all I see is a broken open coconut with a snake crawling through. [He shakes uncontrollably] :)

Janet said...

Dear IVG :) I am trying again to post in your blog. I used to have trouble doing so. I haven't been around much (been busy) but would love to hear from you.

My email is azulism@yahoo.com

Maybe we can talk on the phone one of these days?

Janet, damnit.

I hope this works

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Olivia, you leave me baffled yet again as to which one Gonzo was, but I'll take your word on it! Pretty much the same sad view today, so I skipped any pictures. I'm keeping my eye on that potential seed pod though, hehe.

And sorry to traumatize you again FM, lol. I assure you, our snakes are quite mellow and we don't see them that often. :-)

And Janet, great to see you made it by the comment monster (still don't understand why it's so stinky to some). Thx for the email and I'll be in touch soon. I've kept up a bit w/all you're doing and I'd have collapsed long before now! Will be in touch soon!

Man Eegee said...

Great, it seems as though my seer powers are only accurate when it comes to VeeDee. This is a problem :D