Saturday, November 5, 2011

"no myths, no glory, no peasants", or "'Will French cuisine be all that remains when everything else is forgotten?'"

"Lieux de mémoire, as Nora puts it in his introductory essay, 'exist because there are no longer any milieux de mémoire, settings in which memory is a real part of everyday experience.'  And what are lieux de mémoire?  '[They] are fundamentally vestiges . . . the rituals of a ritual-less society; fleeting incursions of the sacred into a disenchanted world:  vestiges of parochial loyalties in a society that is busily effacing all parochialisms.'"

     Tony Judt, quoting Pierre Nora's "Between memory and history," Realms of memory:  rethinking the French past 3 (Symbols), ed. Lawrence D.Kritzman, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (New York:  Columbia University Press, 1998 (1996-1998)), pp. 6-7, in his (i.e. Judt's) "À la recherche du temps perdu:  France and its pasts" (1998), Reappraisals:  reflections on the forgotten twentieth century (New York:  The Penguin Press, 2008), 204 (196-218).  Cf. Judt himself:  "In erecting formal reminders or replicas of something we ought to remember, we risk further forgetfulness:  By making symbols or remnants stand for the whole, we ease ourselves into an illusion" (197-198).  I would supplement that last sentence as follows:  "By making symbols or remnants stand for the whole" we have ourselves abandoned or been passively complicit in the demolition of (à la Wendell Berry?), whether that be the reality itself or at least the full-orbed history of it,...

     "Moreover, these ['information'] panels ['set off to the right at frequent intervals' along 'the magnificently engineered, impeccably landscaped autoroutes of France'] are intentionally and unapologetically didactic:  They tell you about the French pastor about present-day activities (wine-making, for example) that provide continuity with the pastin ways that reinforce a certain understanding of the country.  Ah, we say, yes:  The battlefield of Verdun; the amphitheater at Nîmes; the cornfields of the Beauce.  And as we reflect upon the variety and the wealth of the country, the ancient roots and modern traumas of the nation, we share with others a certain memory of France.  We are being led at seventy miles an hour through the Museum of France that is France itself" (197).