Journées du Patrimoine/29e: A Pantin, une cathédrale du vandalisme qui va disparaître (European Heritage Open Days: France mourns vandals’ spawning ground)

19 septembre, 2013
http://erreur14.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/dimanche_street.jpgIMG_1715La société du spectacle, [selon] Roger Caillois qui analyse la dimension ludique dans la culture (…), c’est la dimension inoffensive de la cérémonie primitive. Autrement dit lorsqu’on est privé du mythe, les paroles sacrées qui donnent aux œuvres pouvoir sur la réalité, le rite se réduit à un ensemble réglés d’actes désormais inefficaces qui aboutissent finalement à un pur jeu, loedos. Il donne un exemple qui est extraordinaire, il dit qu’au fond les gens qui jouent au football aujourd’hui, qui lancent un ballon en l’air ne font que répéter sur un mode ludique, jocus, ou loedos, société du spectacle, les grands mythes anciens de la naissance du soleil dans les sociétés où le sacré avait encore une valeur. (…) Nous vivons sur l’idée de Malraux – l’art, c’est ce qui reste quand la religion a disparu. Jean Clair
When you think back, and saw what eventually happened to the trains, you feel bad about it, said Taki, who asked that his last name not be used. « I never thought it would be such a big thing. » (…) Now, in an irony that would please city officials, Taki has his own graffiti problem, on his shopfront. « I am a victim, » he said, smiling. « I painted it over and two weeks later it was all written up again. But I guess what goes around, comes around. It’s justice. Joel Siegel (Daily News, April 9, 1989)
Pourquoi pas un musée du street art, au lieu d’une vulgaire agence de pub? Anonyme
A Pantin, une cathédrale du graff qui va disparaître. Rue 89

En ces temps étranges où la transgression a été littéralement élevée  au rang d’art …

Et où à l’occasion des Journées européennes du patrimoine l’une des principales frayères du vandalisme mural du pays se visite comme un musée …

Comment encore s’étonner, de la part de nos médias et gouvernants, de cette énième célébration d’une activité …

Qui, ayant désormais contaminé la planète entière, coûte probablement chaque année des centaines de millions à la communauté à nettoyer ?

Visite privée

Street-art : à Pantin, une cathédrale du graff qui va disparaître

Elodie Cabrera

Rue89

14/09/2013

Audrey Cerdan | Photographe Rue89

Ils n’allaient pas le laisser filer comme ça. En Seine-Saint-Denis, amarré au canal de l’Ourcq, les anciens magasins généraux de la Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris (aussi dit « bâtiment des douanes ») va changer de vie. Ce paquebot de béton, 41 000 mètres carrés de surface, accueillera d’ici 2015 les locaux d’une agence de publicité.

Les magasins généraux à Pantin, au milieu du XXe siècle (© AM Pantin) et en 2013 (Audrey Cerdan/Rue89)

Pour la première et la dernière fois, la mairie de Pantin se montre fière de cet édifice et l’ouvre pour les Journées du patrimoine. Ce week-end avaient lieu des concerts, projections et visite de monument historique. Des visites « strictement » encadrées.

Abandonnés à la fin des années 90

1929-1931. La ville de Paris décide d’élargir le canal de l’Ourcq pour faciliter la navigation des bateaux. Après d’importants travaux de remblai et de stabilisation des rives, les magasins généraux sont édifiés sur l’ancien lit du canal.

1931-fin des années 90. Les entrepôts stockent des marchandises (grains, papier de presse, fuel, bois, automobiles) surtout en provenance de l’étranger. L’activité diminue, jusqu’à l’arrêt complet à la fin des années 90.

2004. La vile de Pantin rachète à la ville de Paris les terrains de la CCIP pour 7 millions d’euros.

2006. De jour comme de nuit, les graffeurs s’approprient les lieux.

2013. Début des travaux pour créer le nouveau siège de l’agence de pub BETC.

Mais Rue89 s’est introduit là où vous n’aurez pas forcément le droit d’aller, dans ces deux énormes cubes en béton armé qui se dressent : 60 mètres de largeur sur 30 mètres de hauteur, reliés entre eux par des passerelles jetées dans le vide.

Le sol crépite. Un mélange de pierre éboulée et d’éclats de verre pilé, vestiges du temps qui passe et de soirées bien arrosées.

De larges portes métalliques protègent l’édifice de (presque) toute intrusion. Ces mêmes portes qui rythmaient le ballet des marchandises et des dockers. La singularité du bâtiment des douanes est sa résistance au sol : de 1 800 à 400 kilos au mètres carrés, les charges les plus lourdes étaient stockées au premier niveau.

Aux magasins généraux à Pantin (Audrey Cerdan/Rue89)

Depuis une coursive (Audrey Cerdan/Rue89)

D’’un niveau à l’autre, on retrouve de vastes plateaux éclairés par d’immenses baies vitrées en structure métallique, brisées pour la plupart. Partout, des vitraux, de la pierre, des gravats, des cloisons. Puis des pierres, du verre, oh… des cadavres de bombes de peinture (encore), des gravats…

Les techniciens qui préparent les éclairages pour les concerts de ce week-end ont fléché le sol, utilisant la même méthode que les artistes-squatteurs qui tatouaient le lieu de part en part.

Les grands noms du graff sur les façades, les locaux à l’intérieur

Presque chaque centimètre de son épiderme porte la trace des artistes qui s’y sont succédé depuis 2006. A l’intérieur, ce sont plutôt les « crews » (« équipes ») du coin. Les grands noms du graff, eux, se réservent les façades. Plus visibles et donc plus convoitées, mais aussi plus dangereuses.

Perchés sur des escabeaux, les graffeurs s’installaient sur les coursives qui ressemblent comme deux gouttes d’eau aux allées d’un bateau. Encerclant chaque étage, elles sont si étroites qu’il est impossible de prendre du recul sur son œuvre.

Artof Popof, Dacruz et Marko93, trois serial painters, ont même été mandatés par le comité départemental du tourisme de la Seine-Saint-Denis, l’année dernière pour « redonner des couleurs au bâtiment ». Et si un petit dernier se prend d’envie de recouvrir leurs créations, un message le met en garde : « Si tu touches, on te couche. »

Les anciens magasins généraux, à Pantin (Audrey Cerdan/Rue89)

D’autres graffeurs ont également apposé leur blase sur les façades, comme Bezyr, Kevlar ou encore Lilyluciole. Elle se souvient :

« J’ai toujours vu ce bâtiment de très loin. Il était là, incroyable, fantastique, sorti de nulle part. J’ai rencontré Artof Popof qui m’a invité à venir peindre l’extérieur. Et j’ai pu visité cet édifice insolite, de la tête au pied. [...]

Personne ne s’est battu pour avoir les meilleurs morceaux. Il restait encore beaucoup place. Ce n’est pas un gâchis mais presque. »

« Un monstre du graff, comme le 5PointZ »

Pour Lilyluciole, le bâtiment des douanes lui rappelle un emblème du graff de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, le 5Pointz, dans le quartier du Queens à New-York.

« C’est aussi un monstre du graff. Là-bas les artistes se battent pour préserver ce monument. Peut-être que le bâtiment des douanes aurait pu devenir un lieu de rencontre pour les artistes internationaux. »

Paris/Pantin : stop-motion & street art !

Au cinquième étage, les terrasses. Plus de dessins, mais la vue. Presque l’intégralité de la surface des deux bâtiments s’étend jusqu’au précipice. Ni rambardes, ni filet de sécurité. Et au centre, deux alcôves entourées de baies vitrées métalliques s’étirent.

Dans une pièce de plus de dix mètres sous plafond, s’élèvent des escaliers en métal qui grimpent. La dernière terrasse, la plus haute et la plus petite, offre une vue panoramique sur toute la Seine-Saint-Denis jusqu’à Paris.

Voir aussi:

Les anciens entrepôts de la Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris à Pantin

Le bâtiment « des douanes » situé à Pantin sur les berges du canal est devenu un formidable « terrain de jeu » pour de nombreux artistes graffeurs par ailleurs très actifs sur toute cette portion du canal. Dans le cadre de l’édition 2012 de l’Eté du canal, des artistes s’emparent des murs extérieurs du bâtiment pour célébrer, au travers d’un œuvre collective, la fin joyeuse de sa vie transitoire de spot artistique et sa nouvelle vie, L’œuvre collective sera ancrée sur la façade ouest, la plus visible depuis Pantin. Puis chacun des trois artistes, Artof Popof, Da Cruz et Marko, laissera sa propre esthétique envahir tel un flux horizontal un niveau de la façade nord, qui longe le canal. Les performances graff auront lieu chaque week-end du 23 juin au 26 août 2012, au Bâtiment des Douanes (métro église de Pantin).

Les entrepôts de la Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris (CCIP) s’installent sur les rives du canal de l’Ourcq en 1929 après l’élargissement du canal pour la création du port de Pantin. La plate-forme portuaire, gérée par la CCIP, est constituée du remblai de l’ancien lit du canal. Le site se composait, à l’origine, de deux entrepôts monumentaux situés de part et d’autre du canal. Ceux de la rive gauche ont été détruits par un violent incendie en juin 1995.

Le bassin de Pantin devient le plus grand port du canal de l’Ourcq

Le canal de l’Ourcq, long d’une centaine de kilomètres entre Mareuil-sur-Ourcq et le bassin de La Villette, est ouvert en 1822. Sa traversée de Pantin coupe le village en deux, mais la communication est rétablie grâce à la construction de deux ponts. Dans un premier temps, seules les galiotes, longs bateaux couverts, circulent sur le canal, transportant à la fois des marchandises et des passagers. Puis, le trafic de plus en plus florissant donne naissance à une flottille spéciale, les flûtes de l’Ourcq. Utilisées que sur ce canal, elles profitent de la descente pour se laisser porter par la vitesse du courant, évitant la traction humaine ou animale. D’une longueur de 28 mètres sur 3 mètres de large, ces bateaux peuvent transporter 40 à 50 tonnes de bois ou de matériaux de construction.

Dans son ouvrage sur Pantin, Roger Pourteau raconte qu’en 1837, deux organisateurs de voyages ont l’astucieuse idée de mettre en service un cargo en fer, long d’une vingtaine de mètres, qui assure un service régulier entre Paris et Meaux à raison de deux départs quotidiens dans chaque sens. Tracté par quatre chevaux, ce cargo file à la vitesse de quatre lieues à l’heure. Les affiches publicitaires précisent que « Les salons sont chauffés en hiver ». Le canal devient trop étroit et ne correspond plus au trafic. Dès 1892, il a fallu agrandir le canal entre la Villette et la mairie de Pantin, puis, en 1895, prolonger quelque peu vers l’amont cette mis à grande section. Pour ces travaux d’élargissement et d’approfondissement, la municipalité est mise à contribution à hauteur de 600 000 francs de l’époque. Somme considérable que la commune s’empresse d’amortir en établissant une « taxe de tonnage » sur les marchandises embarquées et débarquées dans la zone portuaire. À cette époque, le trafic atteint 95 800 tonnes par an.

En 1899 la Chambre de commerce de Paris, consciente du rôle majeur du canal de l’Ourcq, exprime le souhait d’établir à Pantin « des magasins appropriés à chaque nature de marchandises. La situation permettrait de faire arriver bateaux et wagons sans remplir aucune formalité d’octroi et d’effectuer de même les réexpéditions pour le dehors sans que la Ville de Paris puisse craindre aucune fraude. Ce serait, si l’on admet cette expression, un grand bassin de triage. ». Mais il faudra attendre 30 ans, le 10 mai 1929, pour que la mise en eau du bassin ait lieu. A ce moment le bassin de Pantin est devenu le port le plus important du canal de l’Ourcq, recevant les plus gros bateaux de la navigation intérieure en provenance de Rouen, via la Seine et la canal Saint-Denis.

Ces aménagements sont réalisés dans le cadre d’un ambitieux projet de prolongation de d’élargissement du canal qui le transforme en voie navigable pour les grands chalands. Au début de 1931 les deux magasins entrent en activité et stockent des produits variés.

Deux grands entrepôts à l’aspect d’un paquebot en bordure de berge

Ancienne CCIP – Crédit photo Gil Gueu – Ville de PantinLes magasins de la CCIP avaient pour fonction essentielle de recevoir des grains et des farines. La Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris est, à cette époque, raccordée aux gares de Pantin et de Noisy-le-Sec dont les voies ferrées desservaient les deux rives du canal. Les deux grands entrepôts qui dominent encore la rive droite sont particulièrement intéressants du point de vue de l’architecture. Construits sur six niveaux communiquant entre eux par des passerelles métalliques, leur structure est en béton et la façade composée d’un remplissage en briques gris claire dont la bichromie forme des motifs réguliers. De grandes verrières en façade éclairent les six étages tandis que les balcons soulignent l’horizontalité du bâtiment à l’aspect de paquebot.

Le grain y était à l’origine acheminé par bateaux. Un outillage pneumatique permettait de l’aspirer directement dans une tour de distribution, située dans la partie supérieure de l’édifice, tandis que des grues permettaient l’approvisionnement des bâtiments à partir des balcons. Avant d’être désaffectée, la Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie devient un lieu de stockage pour le fret venant des villes du nord. Celui-ci arrivant par route, une gare routière est ouverte à la demande de l’administration des douanes en 1950. Avec les Grands Moulins de Pantin, les entrepôts de la CCIP demeurent les témoins visibles du rôle majeur qu’ont tenu la Seine-Saint-Denis en général et Pantin en particulier dans l’approvisionnement de Paris.

Sur le plan architectural, la volumétrie des bâtiments, qui totalisent une surface utile de 41 000 m2, est des plus simples. Pour chacun, il s’agit d’un empilement de 6 plateaux identiques, desservis par des coursives extérieures, en porte-à-faux sur les quatre façades. Toute l’ossature des deux bâtiments est en béton armé. Dans un souci d’économie ou d’esthétique, le constructeur a pris le soin d’augmenter la taille des poteaux au fur et à mesure qu’on s’approche du soubassement comme s’il s’agissait d’exprimer la transmission des efforts et des surcharges dans le squelette de l’édifice. En façade, l’effet produit est singulier puisqu’à chaque niveau la section des poteaux change. Au rez-de-chaussée, de puissantes piles supportent tout le poids de l’édifice et son contenu, tandis qu’au dernier niveau les piles se sont amincies et laissent davantage de place aux éléments de remplissage en briques polychromes et aux surfaces vitrées.

Une reconversion en activités culturelle, résidentielle et de loisirs

Ancienne Chambre de Commerce de Paris à PantinL’ère industrielle étant révolue, la reconquête des berges du canal est à l’ordre du jour. L’emprise des bâtiments de la CCIP fait actuellement l’objet d’une requalification. Celle-ci s’inscrit dans la réalisation d’un nouveau quartier, identifié sur le plan local d’urbanisme comme la ZAC Sud Canal, qui s’articulera autour de deux axes principaux occupant pas moins de quatre hectares entre la voie d’eau et l’avenue Jean-Lolive. Les bâtiments jumeaux de l’ancienne Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris seront réhabilités afin d’y accueillir des activités économiques. Sur la partie sud du site, un espace résidentiel (de 400 logements), de loisirs et de promenade devrait être aménagé. Si l’on y intègre l’ancienne cité administrative devenue le Centre national de la Danse et les Grands Moulins de Pantin, la reconversion du site de la CCIP constituera une continuité cohérente de la problématique patrimoniale de l’architecture industrielle depuis le parc de la Villette.

Crédit photo 1 : Gil Gueu – Ville de Pantin

Crédit photo 2 : Hélène Sallet-Lavorel – Comité départemental du tourisme

Télécharger le fac-similé la transformation du canal de l’Ourcq en voie navigable à grande section et la création d’un port à Pantin, le génie civil, samedi 11 octobre 1930 (format pdf, 4,4 Mo). Ce document est conservé au pôle Mémoire et Patrimoine de la ville de Pantin.


Salinger: Attention, lire peut tuer (Looking back at the violent subtext of The Catcher in the Rye)

18 septembre, 2013

https://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/84433-mugshot.jpghttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d9/John_Hinckley,_Jr._Mugshot.pnghttps://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/d94f3-police_photo.jpeg

C’est une casquette de chasse à l’homme. Moi je la mets pour chasser l’homme. Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the rye, chap. 3)
Quelqu’un avait écrit "je t’encule" sur le mur … J’aurais bien tué celui qui avait écrit ça … je me voyais le prendre sur le fait et lui écraser la tête contre les marches de pierre jusqu’à ce qu’il soit mort et en sang. Holden Caulfield
Most young male characters in the movies are based on the character of Holden Caulfield. It’s been a very steady influence in the last 30 years. Every young man goes through the experiences of Holden Caulfield. Toby Maguire has made a career of being an updated Holden Caulfield. ‘The Ice Storm’ is almost a direct takeoff on ‘Catcher in the Rye.’ Since ‘Dead Poets Society,’ Ethan Hawke has played on that type of theme. Even Edward Burns, although not as young as the others, seems to fit that category. Raymond Haberski
Salinger touched on what’s at the heart of American repression: familial neglect. Parents are not paying attention or are aware of the movement of their children. That’s one of the worst things you can do. My ‘Good Girl’ character is disturbed, and I place the blame on the parents. Jake Gyllenhaal
I’ve been comparing ‘Igby’ to ‘Catcher in the Rye, Like Holden, Igby is very bright and very ironic, while the adults are lost and miserable and also affluent. When I first read ‘Catcher in the Rye,’ I didn’t identify with that kind of rebel. At the time, I thought he should get his act together. Boys are just much slower to mature in ways critical to society. They’re a couple of years behind the gals. It’s a developmental kind of glitch. Susan Sarandon
I wasn’t consciously influenced by ‘Catcher in the Rye’. I got kicked out of a prep school in Connecticut and a military school in Indiana. I liken it to being a musician and being influenced by the music ingrained in you, like the Beatles. It’s that journey of finding out. It’s a mythic story — just like ‘The Graduate’ or ‘The 400 Blows’ or ‘Hamlet.’ You feel like an anachronism in the world you’ve been born into. Everyone around you seems insane, and they see you as insane. A lot of movies have been influenced by this myth: ‘Flirting,’ ‘Rushmore,’ ‘The Graduate,’ ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien.’ I don’t think this situation will ever be played out. It’s mythic. It didn’t start with ‘Catcher in the Rye.’ It started with Christ, who rebelled against everything around him. It’s always been about iconoclasts rebelling against what came before them, challenging the rules and customs. Burr Steers
To me, ‘Catcher in the Rye’ is part of a literary trend that goes back to Goethe’s ‘The Sorrows of Werther’ (1774). I don’t think Salinger discovered it. He just did the quintessential American version. Mike White
"American Beauty," for example, is at odds with "the tone and general warmth of Salinger. Salinger’s influence takes a comedic form, a life-affirming form. ‘American Beauty’ showed the dark underside of American culture, going further than I think Salinger would ever dream of. As for "Finding Forrester, you might find some kind of resonance with Salinger himself in Sean Connery’s character, although the boy (Rob Brown) is a little bland rather than plucky. And there is a kinship with ‘Wonder Boys.’ Toby Maguire’s character is plucky to a certain extent, and he takes chances. Anthony Caputi (Cornell University)
Ever since the book came out, it’s been a touchstone of that demographic — the 17-year-old kid who sees himself not fitting in. Movies like ‘American Pie’ and ‘Beavis & Butthead’ — guys looking for a good time — that genre is playing out. ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’ is the perfect example of a movie that bridges the two kinds of movies. It starts out like ‘Dude, Where’s My Car?’ but becomes a thoughtful movie about the kids’ relationship to society. ‘Orange County’ (the teen movie White wrote last year starring Colin Hanks) had a Salinger element. It featured a book that changed a young man’s life, and he goes and seeks out the professor who wrote it. For me, it was about a kid’s quest for the meaning of life. Maybe a more thoughtful teenage coming-of-age movie is coming back into vogue. Mike White
it’s likely that Hinton’s echo of the testimonial frame Salinger used in “The Catcher in the Rye” (“If you really want to hear about it”) wasn’t consciously intended, nor was Hinton’s literalization of Holden’s “If a body catch a body coming through the rye” into the rescue of a group of children from a burning church. In fact, what struck me most as an adult reader (and sometime Y.A. novelist) is the degree to which “The Outsiders” is derivative of the popular literature of its time, sometimes obliquely, as in the Salinger parallels, sometimes more directly. Dale Peck
A substitute teacher out on Long Island was dropped from his job for fighting with a student. A few weeks later, the teacher returned to the classroom, shot the student unsuccessfully, held the class hostage and then shot himself. Successfully. This fact caught my eye: last sentence. Times. A neighbor described him as a nice boy. Always reading Catcher in the Rye. John Guare ("Six degrees of separation")
You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to? You talkin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to? Travis Bickle ("Taxi driver")
God is a concept by which we measure our pain I don’t believe in Bible I don’t believe in Jesus (…) I don’t believe in Beatles (…) I just believe in me Yoko and me and that’s reality … John Lennon
Imagine there is no heaven It’s easy if you try No hell below us Above us only sky It isn’t hard to do (…) Nothing to kill or die for And no religion, too. (…) Imagine no possessionsJohn Lennon
When I left England I still couldn’t go on the street. It was still Carnaby Street and all that stuff was going on. We couldn’t walk around the block and go to a restaurant unless you wanted to go with the business of ‘the star going to the restaurant’ garbage. Now, here, I’ve been walking the streets for the last seven years. When we first moved to New York we actually lived in the village, Greenwich Village, the arty farty section of town where all the students and the would-be’s live, and a few old poets. Yoko told me, "Yes, you can walk on the street!" but I would be walking all tense-like, waiting for someone to say something or jump on me. It took me two years to unwind. I can go out of this door now and go to a restaurant. Do you want to know how great that is? Or go to the movies? People come up and ask for autographs or say "Hi!" but they won’t bug you. They say "How ya doing? Like your record" or "How ya doing? How’s the baby?… John Lennon
Who does he think he is saying these things about God and heaven and the Beatles? Mark David Chapman
I wasn’t killing a real person. I was killing an image. I was killing an album cover. Mark David Chapman
The notorious murderer Haig who killed and drank blood said he was inspired by the sacrament of the Eucharist. Does that mean we should ban the Bible? Anthony Burgess
I begin to accept that as a novelist, I belong to the ranks of the menacing. Anthony Burgess
I discussed the matter of the novelist’s moral responsibility with George Dwyer in his Leeds Bishopric. I was invited to a Yorkshire Post literary luncheon at which he said grace. George had written his master thesis on Baudelaire and knew all about flowers of evil. Literature, even the kind celebrated at a literary luncheon, was an aspect of the fallen world and one of its tasks was to clarify the nature of the fall. Thoughtful readers of novels with criminal, or merely sinful protagonists achieved catharsis through horror, setting themselves at a distance from their own sinful inheritance. As for thoughtless readers, there was no doing anything with them. With the demented literature could prime acts of evil, but that was not the fault of literature. the Bible had inspired a New York killer to sacrifice children to a satanic Jehovah; the murderer Haigh, who drank the blood of the women he slaughtered, was obsessed with the Eucharist. Anthony Burgess
The city’s schisms reflect a cultural schizophrenia as well. As Paul explains in a soliloquy inspired by "The Catcher in the Rye," we live in a time when imagination has become "something outside ourselves" – not an integral part of our identities, a tool for the essential act of self-examination, but an anesthetizing escape from the inner life we should be embracing and exploring. So topsy-turvy is our definition of culture, in Paul’s view, that J. D. Salinger’s "touching, beautiful, sensitive story" has been turned into "a manifesto of hate" by assassins like Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley who use Holden Caulfield’s social estrangement as an excuse to commit murder. Frank Rich
The nitwit — Chapman — who shot John Lennon said he did it because he wanted to draw the attention of the world to The Catcher in the Rye and the reading of the book would be his defense. And young Hinckley, the whiz kid who shot Reagan and his press secretary, said if you want my defense all you have to do is read Catcher in the Rye. It seemed to be time to read it again. (…) I borrowed a copy from a young friend of mine because I wanted to see what she had underlined and I read this book to find out why this touching, beautiful, sensitive story published in July 1951 had turned into this manifesto of hate. I started reading. It’s exactly as I remembered. Everybody’s a phony. Page two: "My brother’s in Hollywood being a prostitute." Page three: "What a phony his father was." Page nine: "People never notice anything." Then on page 22 my hair stood up. Remember Holden Caulfield — the definitive sensitive youth — wearing his red hunter’s cap. "A deer hunter hat? Like hell it is. I sort of closed one eye like I was taking aim at it. This is a people-shooting hat. I shoot people in this hat." Hmmm, I said. This book is preparing people for bigger moments in their lives than I ever dreamed of. Then on page 89: "I’d rather push a guy out the window or chop his head off with an ax than sock him in the jaw…I hate fist fights…what scares me most is the other guy’s face…" I finished the book. It’s a touching story, comic because the boy wants to do so much and can’t do anything. Hates all phoniness and only lies to others. Wants everyone to like him, is only hateful, and he is completely self-involved. In other words, a pretty accurate picture of a male adolescent. And what alarms me about the book — not the book so much as the aura about it … John Guare
If one person uses something I have written as the justification for killing somebody, I’d say: “God, people are crazy!” But if three people use something I’d written as justification, I would be very very troubled by it. John Guare
In the months and years after Lennon’s murder, it was as if the secret life of The Catcher in the Rye came above ground for the first time since the book’s publication in 1951. It was found in Hinckley’s hotel room after he was arrested, and in 1989 Robert John Bardo had a copy of it on him when he murdered the actress Rebecca Schaeffer. The next year, in John Guare’s play Six Degrees of Separation, the con man protagonist holds forth on the book’s attraction to the violently disturbed, quoting Holden’s remark that his ever-present red hat is a “people-shooting hat.” In Richard Donner’s 1997 thriller Conspiracy Theory, the mere purchase of the book at a Barnes & Noble is enough to trip a signal to the computers of an unnamed government agency. Whoever reads Catcher, it seems, is up to no good. You could say that those events are signposts on the novel’s journey from shared totem to shared joke, or that the journey is part of the postmodern irony we’re all drowning in, when we’ve become too cool to be affected by Holden’s open wound of a psyche. But Catcher has become something even less harmless than a joke or postmodernism: a classic. The generations that once had to read it on the sly, or who saw their teachers face the ire of school boards and parents for assigning it, are now senior citizens or entering late middle age. While the book has retained its status as one of the most-censored books in American schools, that distinction now seems almost quaint. But God help The Catcher in the Rye should it ever stop being persecuted. What better confirmation for Holden’s disciples of the threat still posed by the phonies? It’s axiomatic that Holden Caulfield is the patron saint of adolescent sensitivity, that Catcher shows the cruelty with which the world treats such sensitivity and that the novel ends with a saddened, bruised Holden poised to re-enter that world and thus aware that, to make his way in it, he has to leave his sensitivity behind. What makes it hard to sustain that image of the book is reading it. “The cruellest thing you can do to Kerouac is to reread him at thirty-eight,” says a character in Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia. The cruelest thing you can do to Salinger, who died a year ago, on January 27, is to reread his fiction when an adolescent’s sneer and perpetual outrage over perceived injustice no longer seem an adequate way to view the world. If Holden Caulfield, that relentless hunter of phonies, hadn’t been there for Mark David Chapman to discover, Chapman could have invented him. Chapman’s claim that the book was his statement is disarmingly honest. Chapman, like many of us, heard the hypocrisy in John Lennon’s singing “Imagine no possessions.” But Chapman couldn’t chalk that silly line up to rock-star folly or, as Neil Young did many years later in a telethon performance to raise money for 9/11 families, rewrite the line to point it back at the person singing it: “Imagine no possessions/I wonder if I can.” Chapman, a 25-year-old with the zero-sum ethics of the most self-dramatizing adolescent, saw it as the inevitable betrayal. How dare Lennon sing about imagining no possessions while living in the Dakota? (…) As a public figure, Salinger was due the kind of freedom and anonymity Lennon enjoyed in Manhattan. But in the small town in New Hampshire to which Salinger retreated in 1953, you really can withdraw from the world. Yet for Salinger, retreat was immersion in a familiar point of view. Withdrawal—physical, emotional, spiritual—is the overriding preoccupation of his fiction. There are few authors who argue so strenuously, so consistently for exclusivity and insularity, who are so repulsed by human imperfection, especially the physical kind, as Salinger. In his fictional world compassion is extended only to those who have made the cut or whose need of compassion—like the mythical Fat Lady at the end of Franny and Zooey—can provide a vessel into which the characters can pour their higher sensibility. (…) Just as the stories constrict physically, they retreat emotionally into realms of Eastern mysticism that, for all the words Salinger lavishes on them, remain vague astral paths to some presumed higher state of consciousness. It all starts with Way of the Pilgrim, the book that unhinges Franny; and though it’s a Christian tract, Zooey likens its aim of automatic incessant prayer to the Eastern concept of the seven chakras, the opening of the third eye and such. It’s a short hop from there to Buddy (in “Seymour; an Introduction”) saying that the true poet or painter is “the only seer we have on earth” and that Seymour’s aim, the “hallmark, then, of the advanced religious,” was to find Christ in the most unimaginable places, Seymour’s preferred spot for Savior-sighting being loaded ashtrays. Some people take those spiritual preoccupations very seriously. In his new Salinger bio, Kenneth Slawenski suggests that the reason Mary McCarthy couldn’t abide Franny and Zooey is that her memoir Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, revealed “her disgust with religion, her descent into atheism, and the transfer of her faith into her own intellect.” The crude reduction of McCarthy’s book aside, it’s clear that acolytes, not apostates, are the ones qualified to enter Salinger’s higher realms. (…) The Catcher in the Rye, written before Salinger started larding his work with quotations from The Way of a Pilgrim and koans from the Mu Mon Kwan, can’t fall back on higher aspirations to disguise its misanthropy. The book squirms with a physical revulsion that is far too consistent and far too strong to belong merely to Holden—and besides, it remained a staple of Salinger’s writing. Salinger couldn’t get through the first paragraph of “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” without having Muriel tweezing hairs from a mole. Franny imagines the Fat Lady as not just having veiny legs but cancer. Catcher has a puerile, disgusted fascination with nose-picking, toenail clippings, grotty teeth, razors clogged with hair and lather. The essentials of a prep-school wardrobe can’t disguise the unkempt bodies they adorn. At times, the novel is all pimples and tweed. (…) Because so many of the people who repulse Holden are Ivy Leaguers or preps or the sort who might get fawned over by a snobbish bartender, it has been easy to talk of Catcher as a book about being an outsider when really it’s the exact opposite. There are so few people who make the cut—not just in Catcher but in all of Salinger’s work—that the reader who surrenders is reduced to hoping he or she is cool enough to be admitted to this club. This is what Mary McCarthy meant when she said that the book reads us. Don’t ever tell anybody anything,” the book ends. “If you do, you start missing everybody,” affirming silence over an admission of need. Only disconnect. It’s an attitude that puts Catcher in opposition to the great American coming-of-age novels—The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Member of the Wedding, True Grit—all books in which the protagonist is brought into close contact with people very unlike the protagonist, people whose humanity he or she can’t deny. Charles Taylor

John Lennon (pour attirer l’attention de la jeune actrice du "Taxi driver" de Scorsese), Reagan (via le même "Taxi driver" inspiré du journal de l’assassin de George Wallace et son "se regarder devenir un gros dur dans la glace des lavabos"), Rebecca Schaeffer

A l’heure où l’un des jeux vidéo les plus violents de l’histoire qui apprend à nos jeunes à abattre de simples passants se voit qualifier par nos sociologues de "fresque digne des œuvres de Steinbeck ou de Welles" …

Et suite à nos deux derniers billets sur la sortie d’une nouvelle biographie et d’un documentaire sur l’auteur culte de L’Attrape-coeurs" …

Comment ne pas repenser à tous ces livres ou films qu’il a plus ou moins directement ou consciemment influencés …

Mais aussi à tous ces livres qui, comme son "Catcher in the rye" avec son bilan de pas moins de trois assassinats ou tentatives d’assassinat, ont pu inspirer la pire violence ?

When books kill

Movies and video games get blamed for acts of senseless violence all the time. But some famous murderers got their ideas from literature.

Aidan Doyle

Salon

Dec 15, 2003

We’ve all heard about how computer games and films have supposedly influenced people to commit violence. In October a $246 million lawsuit was lodged against the makers of the game Grand Theft Auto III by the families of two people shot by teenagers allegedly inspired by the game. Such movies as “Natural Born Killers,” “A Clockwork Orange” and “Money Train” have routinely been accused of inspiring copycat crimes. But what about novels? Is literature incapable of inspiring moronic acts of mayhem?

Many of the controversial novels of the last century were publicly condemned because it was believed they would lead to a decay in public morals. These criticisms were often patronizing (“Won’t somebody please think of the children?”), expressing the belief that less educated members of society were likely to imitate anything and everything they read. The prosecutor in the 1960 British obscenity trial of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” asked jurors if it was the kind of book they wanted their wife or servants to read.

As ludicrous as that may sound today, obviously people are influenced by what they see and read, and authors have little control over how people will react to the ideas in their books. Although Isaac Asimov was a fierce critic of religion and New Age thinking, the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo was heavily influenced by his “Foundation” series of novels. The novels depict a universe where a galactic empire has become decadent and ripe for collapse. The empire’s ruling planet is a vast hive of people and the only natural environment is the garden surrounding the emperor’s palace. Only the foresight of Hari Seldon and his secret society of scientists can preserve civilization’s knowledge before it is lost in the dark ages. Seldon’s followers convert their society into a religion, believing “it is the most potent device known with which to control men and worlds.”

Although Asimov based his empire on ancient Rome, members of Aum Shinrikyo saw similarities between Asimov’s empire and modern Japanese society. The cult’s founder, Shoko Asahara, preached that civilization was coming to an end and only the faithful would survive. He gathered around him a team of scientists from diverse disciplines. David Kaplan and Andrew Marshall’s “The Cult at the End of the World” outlines how the cult’s chief scientist, Hideo Murai, saw Aum’s mission to save humanity from the coming apocalypse as mirroring the Foundation’s struggle:

“In an interview, Murai would state matter-of-factly that Aum was using the Foundation series as the blueprint for the cult’s long term plans. He gave the impression of ‘a graduate student who had read too many science fiction novels,’ remembered one reporter. But it was real enough to the cult. Shoko Asahara, the blind and bearded guru from Japan, had become Hari Seldon; and Aum Shinrikyo was the Foundation.”

Asahara directed his scientists to create a variety of chemical and biological weapons to fight their enemies. When the predicted apocalypse wasn’t forthcoming, Asahara decided to take matters into his own hands. On March 20, 1995, some of his followers released sarin gas in the Tokyo subway, killing 12 people and injuring more than 5,000.

An article in the Guardian, the British newspaper, speculated that “Foundation” may have also influenced Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. It related claims that “Foundation” had been translated into Arabic under the title “al-Qaeda” — which means the base or foundation — and that bin Laden might have identified with the idea of a small group of rebels fighting against a decadent evil empire. This speculation has not, however, been widely accepted. It isn’t even clear that an Arabic version of the novel was ever published.

“Foundation” is not the only novel to have influenced terrorists. A copy of “The Turner Diaries” was found in Timothy McVeigh’s car when he was arrested. The novel was written by a leader of the National Alliance and tells the story of a white supremacist group that overthrows the government and subsequently eradicates nonwhites as well as “race traitors.” The narrator destroys FBI headquarters by detonating a truck loaded with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. McVeigh used a similar mechanism to destroy the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.

Several of McVeigh’s friends testified he had given them copies of the book, encouraging them to read it. McVeigh had highlighted phrases in his copy of the book including: “the real value of all of our attacks today lies in the psychological impact, not in the immediate casualties,” as well as one promising that politicians will not escape: “We can still find them and kill them.” The novel ends with the narrator flying a bomb-laden plane into the Pentagon.

Another bomber with a fondness for reading was Ted Kaczynski. The Unabomber was a big fan of Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Agent,” an ironic novel in which a university professor turned anarchist is recruited to blow up a scientific icon, London’s Greenwich Observatory. A Washington Post article revealed that prior to Kaczynski’s arrest, the FBI had suspected the novel’s influence and contacted Conrad scholars to help them in constructing their profile.

Author Joe Haldeman has spoken about the unintended influence of a short story he published in the Magazine of Science Fiction & Fantasy in 1974. In “To Howard Hughes: A Modest Proposal,” a blackmailer forces world disarmament by developing his own nuclear bomb. Haldeman says the story contained “pretty detailed instructions for acquiring plutonium and constructing a subcritical nuclear device (information not that easy to find, pre-Internet, but nothing classified) … [Someone] used the story as a template and wrote a blackmail letter to the mayor of Los Angeles, saying he had a van parked somewhere downtown with a nuclear bomb in it, and he’d blow it up in 24 hours if he didn’t get a million dollars, delivered to such-and-such a park at noon. Evidently the details were accurate enough for them to respond with a suitcase full of money, and of course a park full of agents disguised as normal people. The miscreant turned out to be a 15-year-old science fiction fan.”

Science fiction operates on a grander scale than other genres, often portraying world-changing events that can be attractive to people who want to change the world. Such was the case with Robert Heinlein’s highly influential novel “Stranger in a Strange Land.” Time magazine reported that Charles Manson used the novel as a blueprint for his infamous family and that it led to the murder of Sharon Tate and others. It was later revealed, however, that Manson had never read the novel.

Some of Manson’s followers had indeed adopted ideas and terminology from the book into their rituals. “Stranger in a Strange Land” features a Martian with superpowers who comes to earth and starts a free love movement. The novel also influenced others to form their own polygamous societies, including a “neo-pagan” group known as the Church of All Worlds. The church’s Web site explains how its founders were inspired by Heinlein’s novel: “This book suggested a spiritual and social way of life and was a metaphor expressing the awakening social consciousness of the times.” (The Church of All Worlds has not been linked to any murders.)

Films reach a much wider audience than novels and often the real public outcry about a book isn’t raised until the film version is released. “A Clockwork Orange” was blamed for inspiring so many copycat crimes — from homeless people beaten to death to a gang rape where the attackers sang “Singin’ in the Rain” — that director Stanley Kubrick had it withdrawn from cinemas in England. The book’s author, Anthony Burgess, insisted that there was no definitive proof “that a work of art can stimulate antisocial behavior … the notorious murderer Haig who killed and drank [his victims'] blood said he was inspired by the sacrament of the Eucharist. Does that mean we should ban the Bible?”

Burgess was later to change his mind after the 1993 murder near Liverpool, England, in which 2-year-old James Bulger was abducted and tortured to death by two 10-year-old boys. The horror film “Child’s Play 3″ was linked to the case, and Burgess wrote that he now accepted the arts could exert a negative influence, adding, “I begin to accept that as a novelist, I belong to the ranks of the menacing.”

Criminals will sometimes blame a work of fiction for their crimes, hoping to shift responsibility. These claims are inevitably treated with considerable skepticism. But one book that has been linked to a number of serial killers is John Fowles’ “The Collector.” The 1963 novel tells the story of a butterfly collector who becomes so obsessed with a woman called Miranda that he kidnaps and imprisons her in his cellar. California serial killers Charles Ng and Leonard Lake named one of their schemes “Operation Miranda.” Lake later committed suicide, but Ng was found guilty of the imprisonment, torture and murder of 11 people during the 1980s. Ng blamed Lake for the murders and said he had been inspired to capture the women after reading “The Collector.”

In Fowles’ novel, Miranda encourages her kidnapper to read “The Catcher in the Rye,” hoping he might identify with Holden Caulfield’s feelings of alienation. Her captor complains that he doesn’t like the book and is annoyed that Holden doesn’t try harder to fit into society. There are enough rumors about murders linked to J.D. Salinger’s classic that the unwitting assassins in the Mel Gibson film “Conspiracy Theory” are portrayed as being brainwashed with the urge to buy the novel.

John Lennon’s murderer, Mark David Chapman, was famously obsessed with “The Catcher in the Rye.” Chapman wanted to change his name to Holden Caulfield and once wrote in a copy of the book “This is my statement,” and signed the protagonist’s name. He had a copy of the book in his possession when the police arrested him.

French author Max Valentin (a pseudonym) got more than he bargained for when he wrote “On the Path of the Golden Owl,” a 1993 novel featuring clues to the location of a real-life buried treasure. France was gripped with treasure-hunting fever as readers tried to find a replica of the golden owl (which could be exchanged for the real one) that Valentin had buried somewhere in rural France. In an interview with the Times of London, the author said he had received death threats and bribes amid the torrent of mail from people wanting to know where the owl was hidden.

He does not customarily respond to questions about the owl’s location, but once had to intervene to stop someone from digging up a cemetery. Others have gone even further. “There was one who tried to dig up a train track,” he said, “and another who walked into a bank with a pickaxe and started to dig up the floor of the lobby. I’ve told everyone it is buried in a public place but some people are crazy … a man had firebombed a church and left behind a book containing the message: ‘The golden owl is underneath the chapel.’” After more than 10 years, no one has yet managed to find the golden owl.

Voir aussi:

The Ballad of John and J.D.: On John Lennon and J.D. Salinger

Mark David Chapman was carrying a copy of The Catcher in the Rye when he shot John Lennon. The murder was a collision of cultures.

Charles Taylor

The Nation

January 26, 2011 (February 14, 2011 edition)

“A local crackpot.” That’s how a New York City cop, quoted by a TV reporter, described the man who had just been arrested for shooting John Lennon at the entrance to the Dakota. The cop turned out to be only half right: Mark David Chapman had come from Hawaii.

I can’t find the remark in any of the accounts of December 8, 1980, but it has stuck with me for thirty years. The cop didn’t appear on camera, but the way the reporter quoted him still makes me think that I’d heard the remark straight from his mouth. Cutting through all the breaking-news urgency, through the anchors and reporters who, having failed to rise to an unthinkable occasion, fumbled for shopworn lines about the man whose music united a generation, the policeman’s words conveyed disgust, dismissiveness, a determination to keep this killer, whoever he was, in his place. Who, the cop was asking, was this nobody to have murdered John Lennon?

Chapman’s identity, as it was pieced together through the following day, was slotted into a narrative predicated on his being a nobody. He was a fat loser who couldn’t hold a job, the newscasters said, who drifted from place to place, who wrestled with mental problems. Killing John Lennon was Chapman’s shortcut to fame—just as shooting Ronald Reagan would be John Hinckley’s a few months later.

But to Chapman, the nobody was Lennon. Chapman later reportedly said that in the week before the assassination he’d been listening to John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, the raw and abrasive 1970 record on which Lennon purged his music of the gorgeous harmonies and studio lushness of the Beatles. And yet for everything that was stripped down about the record, it is, like the music it turned its back on, magisterial. The penultimate track, “God,” builds to a close with Lennon’s rising list of denunciations: “I don’t believe in Bible … I don’t believe in Jesus … I don’t believe in Beatles.” “Who does he think he is,” Chapman remembered thinking, “saying these things about God and heaven and the Beatles?”

“I kept wanting to kill whoever’d written it…. I kept picturing myself catching him at it, and how I’d smash his head on the stone steps till he was good and goddam dead and bloody.” That’s not Chapman talking, though he had wished that it was. The voice belongs to Holden Caulfield, the name that Chapman signed in the paperback copy of The Catcher in the Rye that he was carrying with him when he shot Lennon. The signature appeared under the words “This is my statement.” After murdering Lennon, Chapman began reading from J.D. Salinger’s novel, which is what he was doing when the cops found him. A few months later at his sentencing hearing, asked if he wished to give a statement, Chapman offered these lines from Catcher:

Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around—nobody big, I mean—except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.

Using Caulfield’s words to explain himself was taken as more proof that Chapman, who instructed his lawyer not to mount an insanity defense, was crazy. In any event, at the time it was easier to think Chapman was nuts than to think about the collision of two totems, easier than asking how many members of the American generation that had embraced John Lennon could also feel their adolescent angst was given voice by a book so opposed to everything Lennon and the Beatles had stood for. No one dwelt on that side of the story.

* * *

In the months and years after Lennon’s murder, it was as if the secret life of The Catcher in the Rye came aboveground for the first time since the book’s publication in 1951. It was found in Hinckley’s hotel room after he was arrested, and in 1989 Robert John Bardo had a copy of it on him when he murdered the actress Rebecca Schaeffer. The next year, in John Guare’s play Six Degrees of Separation, the con man protagonist holds forth on the book’s attraction to the violently disturbed, quoting Holden’s remark that his ever-present red hat is a “people-shooting hat.” In Richard Donner’s 1997 thriller Conspiracy Theory, the mere purchase of the book at a Barnes & Noble is enough to trip a signal to the computers of an unnamed government agency. Whoever reads Catcher, it seems, is up to no good.

You could say that those events are signposts on the novel’s journey from shared totem to shared joke, or that the journey is part of the postmodern irony we’re all drowning in, when we’ve become too cool to be affected by Holden’s open wound of a psyche. But Catcher has become something even less harmless than a joke or postmodernism: a classic. The generations that once had to read it on the sly, or who saw their teachers face the ire of school boards and parents for assigning it, are now senior citizens or entering late middle age. While the book has retained its status as one of the most-censored books in American schools, that distinction now seems almost quaint. But God help The Catcher in the Rye should it ever stop being persecuted. What better confirmation for Holden’s disciples of the threat still posed by the phonies?

It’s axiomatic that Holden Caulfield is the patron saint of adolescent sensitivity, that Catcher shows the cruelty with which the world treats such sensitivity and that the novel ends with a saddened, bruised Holden poised to re-enter that world and thus aware that, to make his way in it, he has to leave his sensitivity behind. What makes it hard to sustain that image of the book is reading it. “The cruellest thing you can do to Kerouac is to reread him at thirty-eight,” says a character in Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia. The cruelest thing you can do to Salinger, who died a year ago, on January 27, is to reread his fiction when an adolescent’s sneer and perpetual outrage over perceived injustice no longer seem an adequate way to view the world.

If Holden Caulfield, that relentless hunter of phonies, hadn’t been there for Mark David Chapman to discover, Chapman could have invented him. Chapman’s claim that the book was his statement is disarmingly honest. Chapman, like many of us, heard the hypocrisy in John Lennon’s singing “Imagine no possessions.” But Chapman couldn’t chalk that silly line up to rock-star folly or, as Neil Young did many years later in a telethon performance to raise money for 9/11 families, rewrite the line to point it back at the person singing it: “Imagine no possessions/I wonder if I can.” Chapman, a 25-year-old with the zero-sum ethics of the most self-dramatizing adolescent, saw it as the inevitable betrayal. How dare Lennon sing about imagining no possessions while living in the Dakota?

* * *

Salinger and Lennon may each have been a touchstone for youth culture, but Lennon’s sensibility could not help irritating the preciousness of Salinger’s. Lennon was hungry, ambitious (“I came out of the fuckin’ sticks to take over the world”). His vision, even with his slashing, acerbic wit, was exclusive, expansive. (“Love you every day, girl … Eight days a week,” as if time itself could expand to encompass the parameters of his love.) He argued for living in the world openly, even foolishly. You could send two acorns to world leaders and ask each to plant a tree for peace; or spend your honeymoon in bed with your bride, invite reporters over to talk about peace and even record a new single at your bedside. Or you could do something as petty and self-serving as returning your MBE to the queen, conflating Britain’s presence in Nigeria with your new single, “Cold Turkey,” slipping down the charts.

Lennon dropped out of the public eye for five years or so after the birth of his and Yoko Ono’s son, Sean, and his victory over the witch hunt begun by President Nixon to deport him. But if you want to cut yourself off from humanity, you don’t decide to retreat to New York City. “I can go out this door now and go into a restaurant,” Lennon was quoted as saying in Jay Cocks’s Time magazine cover story on his murder. “Do you want to know how great that is?” What Lennon was saying is that, after unimaginable, isolating fame, New York offered him what might be called companionable anonymity.

As a public figure, Salinger was due the kind of freedom and anonymity Lennon enjoyed in Manhattan. But in the small town in New Hampshire to which Salinger retreated in 1953, you really can withdraw from the world. Yet for Salinger, retreat was immersion in a familiar point of view. Withdrawal—physical, emotional, spiritual—is the overriding preoccupation of his fiction. There are few authors who argue so strenuously, so consistently for exclusivity and insularity, who are so repulsed by human imperfection, especially the physical kind, as Salinger. In his fictional world compassion is extended only to those who have made the cut or whose need of compassion—like the mythical Fat Lady at the end of Franny and Zooey—can provide a vessel into which the characters can pour their higher sensibility. Empathy, a new fragrance by Chanel.

Nothing Salinger wrote takes place on as large a physical scale as Catcher, in which Holden roams over New York City. The first half of Franny and Zooey occurs in a crowded restaurant, the second half in the Glass family’s overstuffed New York apartment—and most of that in the bathroom. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters is set in an uncomfortably crowded and sweltering hired car (there never seems to be enough air in any of Salinger’s locales), and then that crowd transfers to Buddy and Seymour Glass’s small, sweltering Manhattan apartment. “Seymour; an Introduction,” from 1959, never leaves the confines of Buddy’s head. Even if it did, where would we be? In his cabin in the woods, a place to squawk over the inanity of the papers his job as a college professor obliges him to grade, and a meaner version of the home his creator had retreated to six years earlier.

Just as the stories constrict physically, they retreat emotionally into realms of Eastern mysticism that, for all the words Salinger lavishes on them, remain vague astral paths to some presumed higher state of consciousness. It all starts with Way of the Pilgrim, the book that unhinges Franny; and though it’s a Christian tract, Zooey likens its aim of automatic incessant prayer to the Eastern concept of the seven chakras, the opening of the third eye and such. It’s a short hop from there to Buddy (in “Seymour; an Introduction”) saying that the true poet or painter is “the only seer we have on earth” and that Seymour’s aim, the “hallmark, then, of the advanced religious,” was to find Christ in the most unimaginable places, Seymour’s preferred spot for Savior-sighting being loaded ashtrays. Some people take those spiritual preoccupations very seriously. In his new Salinger bio, Kenneth Slawenski suggests that the reason Mary McCarthy couldn’t abide Franny and Zooey is that her memoir Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, revealed “her disgust with religion, her descent into atheism, and the transfer of her faith into her own intellect.” The crude reduction of McCarthy’s book aside, it’s clear that acolytes, not apostates, are the ones qualified to enter Salinger’s higher realms.

The attempt to move beyond the corporeal is always, in the most fundamental sense, inhuman. In Salinger, though, it’s a pretense for a tone that’s overwhelmingly judgmental, sneering and cruel. Consider the kind of people who don’t merit sympathy in Salinger. The cracked guru Seymour Glass permanently scars a little girl’s face by throwing a stone at it because “she looked so beautiful sitting there in the middle of the driveway” with his sister’s cat. There are also fleeting hints that Seymour held up an impossible standard for his younger siblings to follow. “Is he never wrong?” Buddy asks on the last page of “Seymour; an Introduction.” (“Seymour; an Intervention” might have accomplished more.) But the people whose life Seymour makes hell are afforded no sympathy. Certainly not Muriel, the bride he leaves at the altar in Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, because he’s “indisposed by happiness.” Muriel’s bridesmaid, worried for her friend and angered at how she’s being treated, is presented throughout the story as a meddling bitch. Salinger ends “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” before we have to register Muriel’s shock and horror at waking from her nap to find Seymour has blown his brains out. Earlier in the story we learn that Seymour calls his wife “Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948,” and by that point Salinger has already spent pages characterizing Muriel as a vapid bimbo—washing, primping and reading a crummy women’s magazine.

Salinger’s characters don’t want higher knowledge; they just want to be left alone. Franny and Zooey—which ends with Zooey’s plea to his sister, Franny, to recognize the holy in the everyday, “a cup of consecrated chicken soup”—isn’t an argument for experiencing life on a higher plane but for being superior to it. Zooey tells his sister about how Seymour chastised him for disdaining the audience of the radio show the Glass brood were all on as children by telling him to remember the Fat Lady, listening at home. “This terribly clear, clear picture of the Fat Lady formed in my mind,” says Zooey. “I had her sitting on this porch all day, swatting flies, with her radio going full-blast from morning till night.” Seymour told Franny, too, it turns out, and she pictured the Fat Lady with “very thick legs, very veiny. I had her in an awful wicker chair. She had cancer, too, though, and she had the radio going full-blast all day!” Neither Franny nor Zooey is expected to engage with the Fat Lady, to talk to her, to get beyond her tacky furnishings or veiny legs or cancer, to see her as a person. They are performers, she is the audience, and they are expected merely to lavish their presence on her. For someone whose characters loved to talk about the phoniness of Hollywood, Salinger was outdone by the movies. In 1950, seven years before “Zooey” appeared in The New Yorker, Billy Wilder ended Sunset Boulevard with Gloria Swanson’s crazy Norma Desmond lauding “those wonderful people out there in the dark.” The noblesse oblige Wilder satirized is what Salinger holds up as salvation.

The Catcher in the Rye, written before Salinger started larding his work with quotations from The Way of a Pilgrim and koans from the Mu Mon Kwan, can’t fall back on higher aspirations to disguise its misanthropy. The book squirms with a physical revulsion that is far too consistent and far too strong to belong merely to Holden—and besides, it remained a staple of Salinger’s writing. Salinger couldn’t get through the first paragraph of “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” without having Muriel tweezing hairs from a mole. Franny imagines the Fat Lady as not just having veiny legs but cancer. Catcher has a puerile, disgusted fascination with nose-picking, toenail clippings, grotty teeth, razors clogged with hair and lather. The essentials of a prep-school wardrobe can’t disguise the unkempt bodies they adorn. At times, the novel is all pimples and tweed.

* * *

John Lennon was not above that kind of physical disgust. In the “Lennon Remembers” interviews he did for Rolling Stone in 1971, he told Jann Wenner about the nightmare of having crippled children foisted on the Beatles, as if they were capable of healing them. He said of the group’s first American tour, “When we got here you were all walking around in fucking Bermuda shorts with Boston crew cuts and stuff on your teeth…. The chicks looked like fuckin’ 1940s horses. There was no conception of dress or any of that jazz. I mean we just thought, ‘What an ugly race.’”

But Lennon was also one of the most frankly sexual rock ‘n’ roll singers, the man who was capable of bringing an erotic urgency to the Beatles’ cover of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold on Me” that wasn’t present in the original, and to the wry reverie of “Norwegian Wood,” his tale of a one-night stand that should have been. He was a man who, in one of the gestures of foolish bravery that caused Norman Mailer to mourn, “We have lost a genius of the spirit,” put the imperfect bodies of himself and his new lover bollocks-naked on an album cover.

It’s that kind of openness that both Holden Caulfield and his creator are incapable of imagining. In Salinger’s work, when people are not physically ugly, they are spiritually ugly: old Sally Hayes, who says “grand” and “marvelous,” and her Ivy League friend whose verdict on the Lunts is that they’re “angels.” There are the cabdrivers who can’t be asked a question without taking it as an invitation to a fight, hotel elevator operators who are pimps, bartenders who won’t talk to you unless you’re a celebrity, tourists dumb enough to think Gary Cooper has just sauntered into a shabby nightclub, and the “flits” (Salinger has a special distaste for homosexuals).

Because so many of the people who repulse Holden are Ivy Leaguers or preps or the sort who might get fawned over by a snobbish bartender, it has been easy to talk of Catcher as a book about being an outsider when really it’s the exact opposite. There are so few people who make the cut—not just in Catcher but in all of Salinger’s work—that the reader who surrenders is reduced to hoping he or she is cool enough to be admitted to this club. This is what Mary McCarthy meant when she said that the book reads us.

John Lennon read us a little, too. He couldn’t possess sarcastic wit without some sense of superiority. And yet he chose to work in the most populist art form, rock ‘n’ roll, always touting it above all the avant-gardisms and political trends he fell for. As part of the Beatles, he delineated a utopian vision that nonetheless admitted contingency, ambiguity and heartbreak, a vision in which camaraderie and love colored every aspect of life, made the work of living worthwhile: “It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’d been working like a dog … But when I get home to you I find the things that you do/Will make me feel alright”; “Life is very short, and there’s no time/For fussing and fighting, my friend”—those last two words asserting the bonds always present in Lennon’s work, whether the friend was Paul McCartney or, later, Yoko (“My best friend’s me wife,” he said in a radio interview on the day he was killed).

These human bonds are denied by Holden throughout Catcher and are what Salinger had no use for in any subsequent work. “Don’t ever tell anybody anything,” the book ends. “If you do, you start missing everybody,” affirming silence over an admission of need. Only disconnect. It’s an attitude that puts Catcher in opposition to the great American coming-of-age novels—The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Member of the Wedding, True Grit—all books in which the protagonist is brought into close contact with people very unlike the protagonist, people whose humanity he or she can’t deny.

* * *

For all the books that have been called descendants of The Catcher in the Rye, to me the closest relative to Holden Caulfield is Patrick Bateman, the serial-killer protagonist of American Psycho (1991). The sadistic torture killings Patrick inflicts on the trendy girls he picks up feel like the logical extreme of the contempt Holden shows the girls he meets in the nightclub, a demented echo of the way he recoils from the vulgarity of the prep crowd. The pages near the beginning detailing the products Patrick uses to clean and groom himself could have been inspired by the pages devoted to Zooey’s near-ritualistic ablutions.

There is, too, a connection between the era Bret Easton Ellis attempts to satirize in the book, the greed-is-good ’80s, and the time of Lennon’s murder, one month after the election of Ronald Reagan, the man who would make that era possible. In Lennon’s Rolling Stone obituary, Greil Marcus was the first person to note that “nothing like Lennon’s killing has happened before.” While Marcus was careful to say that Reagan’s election did not inspire Mark David Chapman—any more than Salinger did—he did note the confluence of Chapman’s actions with the “secret message” of Reagan’s election: “some people belong in this country, and some people don’t; that some people are worthy, and some are worthless; that certain opinions are sanctified, and some are evil.” He went on, “Such a message, which tells people they are innocent and others are to blame, can attach a private madness to its public justification.”

In 1980 John Lennon was far from the canonized figure he has become. The people who grew up with the Beatles had not yet moved into controlling positions in the media. In his Time cover story, Jay Cocks was talking about himself and his contemporaries when he wrote that some people “wondered what all the fuss was about and could not quite understand why some of the junior staff at the office would suddenly break into tears in the middle of the day.” It’s easy to dismiss Cocks’s piece for its openness of feeling. For all the things that Cocks had to do, and did exquisitely, in that piece—it was a news story, an obituary, a career retrospective—what still comes through strongest is shellshock, his disbelief that he is writing the story. Which is why it was a risk, and essential, for him to insist that the shooting was an assassination. Putting Lennon’s killing in the company of the killings that had preceded it in the previous decades is not, though, a contradiction of Marcus’s claim that this had never happened before. It had—but not to a popular artist. What both Cocks and Marcus understood was that Lennon’s murder was a symbolic murder of what he represented. Chapman was disturbed by the denunciations that ended “God,” Lennon’s brutal elaboration of Dylan’s line “don’t follow leaders.” But the Beatles, for all the adoration they inspired, stood for a vision in which people, as Marcus wrote, did not lose their identity but found it.

A vision that tells you it’s possible to live a good life and to live it your own way holds out possibilities that other visions—Reagan’s or Salinger’s—deny. Those visions judge who belongs and who doesn’t, who shuns contact with the wrong kind of people, chooses to withdraw from or tries to control the world rather than embrace it. Reagan’s America gave us the dimwit Forrest Gump as a fount of wisdom. Salinger gives us Phoebe Caulfield, and all the other little girls who turn up in his work, children who have not yet been contaminated by knowledge or experience.

Mary McCarthy called Salinger’s work a closed circuit. It can just as easily be an exclusive club, a nation drawing psychic borders around a false vision of itself, a monastery whose holy relics are those spare, monkish volumes designed by the high priest, Salinger himself. Because really, what is there to read after you’ve prostrated yourself before Salinger? What wouldn’t seem like a regression back to the dirty world? Better to immerse yourself further in the book, as Salinger’s perfect reader, Mark David Chapman, did, to open the book and turn from the still-warm body lying a few feet away.

Voir encore:

‘Rye’ misfit’s rugged spirit inspires works

"The Catcher in the Rye" has influenced the work of many writers, filmmakers and musicians. Here’s a look at some of the more notable entries.

Rachel Leibrock

The Sacramento Bee

June 7 2001

"The Blackboard Jungle" (1954): Evan Hunter’s novel about New York City’s public-school system may seem a million miles away from Holden’s tony prep-school environment – but the adults vs. kids theme is similar.

"Rebel Without a Cause" (1955): Nicholas Ray’s classic film stars James Dean as Jim Stark – the title rebel – a character that shares the same overwhelming sense of angst and alienation as Holden Caulfield.

"The Outsiders" (1967): S.E. Hinton’s story about the greasers and the socs (socials) is the quintessential tale of adolescent distress generated by social classes. The 1983 film version starred Matt Dillon and C. Thomas Howell.

"The Graduate" (1969): Benjamin Braddock, portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, is basically Holden Caulfield as he faces a lifetime of plastics.

"Heathers" (1989): A tour de force of teen isolation. Stars an anguished, ostracized Winona Ryder fighting for nonconformity and authenticity.

"Six Degrees of Separation" (1990): John Guare’s play (the 1993 silver-screen adaptation starred Will Smith and Stockard Channing) chronicles the exploits of Paul, an impostor who tries to ingratiate himself with a high-society New York family. Pretending to be a Harvard undergraduate, Paul claims that his thesis is devoted to "The Catcher in the Rye" and its connection to criminal loners.

"Smells Like Teen Spirit" (1992): The classic Nirvana song (from the album "Nevermind") sums up an entire generation of Holden Caulfield-esque angst with just one line: "Well, whatever nevermind …"

"Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?" (1992): From Green Day’s album "Kerplunk," this song muses about a boy "who fogs his world and now he’s getting lazy / there’s no motivation and frustration makes him crazy."

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1997): The 1992 movie spawned this popular TV series about a young vampire slayer’s quest to save the world. The theme evokes Holden’s timeless wish to be the "catcher in the rye."

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (1999): Stephen Chbosky’s novel gives us the shy and intelligent Charlie. We learn his story through a series of letters he writes to an unknown person (that person’s name, age or gender is never revealed) and in the process rediscover truths about adolescence.

Voir de même:

Holden Caulfield’s many pretenders / Protagonist of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is a continuing influence on Hollywood

Nancy Mills

The Chronicle

August 25, 2002

Hollywood — When J.D. Salinger’s "The Catcher in the Rye" was published in 1951, millions of teenage boys found a model for their confusion and rebellion in protagonist Holden Caulfield. Naturally, Hollywood wanted a piece of the character.

But Salinger would never allow his novel to be filmed. In fact, Holden consistently puts Hollywood down with such choice comments as: "Now he’s out in Hollywood, D.B. (his older brother), being a prostitute. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies."

But Salinger’s refusal hasn’t stopped the studios from borrowing the Holden model for such movies as "The Graduate," "Diner," "Dead Poets Society," "Rushmore," "American Beauty" and "The Royal Tenenbaums."

"Most young male characters in the movies are based on the character of Holden Caulfield," says Raymond Haberski, 33, author of "It’s Only a Movie! Films and Critics in American Culture." "It’s been a very steady influence in the last 30 years. Every young man goes through the experiences of Holden Caulfield.

"Toby Maguire has made a career of being an updated Holden Caulfield. ‘The Ice Storm’ is almost a direct takeoff on ‘Catcher in the Rye.’ Since ‘Dead Poets Society,’ Ethan Hawke has played on that type of theme. Even Edward Burns, although not as young as the others, seems to fit that category."

Add Jake Gyllenhaal to the list. In the current "The Good Girl," Jennifer Aniston starts an affair with Gyllenhaal, a disturbed young man who has renamed himself Holden and is fascinated with "The Catcher in the Rye."

Gyllenhaal, 21, has epitomized qualities of Holden in all his most recent films: "Donnie Darko," "Lovely & Amazing," "The Good Girl" and the forthcoming "Moonlight Mile." "I’ve read all of J.D. Salinger’s books, and my production company is called Nine Stories Productions (named after a Salinger book of short stories)," Gyllenhaal says.

"Salinger touched on what’s at the heart of American repression: familial neglect. Parents are not paying attention or are aware of the movement of their children. That’s one of the worst things you can do. My ‘Good Girl’ character is disturbed, and I place the blame on the parents."

The parents are also the bad guys in "Igby Goes Down," opening Sept. 13. "Igby" depicts yet another young man, played by Kieran Culkin, floundering through adolescence. "I’ve been comparing ‘Igby’ to ‘Catcher in the Rye,’ " says Susan Sarandon, who plays Igby’s mother. "Like Holden, Igby is very bright and very ironic, while the adults are lost and miserable and also affluent."

Young women may not identify with Holden in quite the same way as young men,

but they are equally responsive to films about such characters, Sarandon adds.

"When I first read ‘Catcher in the Rye,’ I didn’t identify with that kind of rebel. At the time, I thought he should get his act together. Boys are just much slower to mature in ways critical to society. They’re a couple of years behind the gals. It’s a developmental kind of glitch."

"Igby" writer and director Burr Steers, 36, contends his script is more of an autobiography than a nod to Salinger.

"I wasn’t consciously influenced by ‘Catcher in the Rye,’ " he insists. "I got kicked out of a prep school in Connecticut and a military school in Indiana."

Yet he recognizes the influence of the book: "I liken it to being a musician and being influenced by the music ingrained in you, like the Beatles. It’s that journey of finding out."

Steers, whose uncle is Gore Vidal, sees "Catcher in the Rye" as "a mythic story — just like ‘The Graduate’ or ‘The 400 Blows’ or ‘Hamlet.’ You feel like an anachronism in the world you’ve been born into. Everyone around you seems insane, and they see you as insane. A lot of movies have been influenced by this myth: ‘Flirting,’ ‘Rushmore,’ ‘The Graduate,’ ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien.’

"I don’t think this situation will ever be played out. It’s mythic. It didn’t start with ‘Catcher in the Rye.’ It started with Christ, who rebelled against everything around him. It’s always been about iconoclasts rebelling against what came before them, challenging the rules and customs."

Mike White, 32, who wrote "The Good Girl," agrees.

"To me, ‘Catcher in the Rye’ is part of a literary trend that goes back to Goethe’s ‘The Sorrows of Werther’ (1774)," he says. "I don’t think Salinger discovered it. He just did the quintessential American version."

According to Anthony Caputi, a Cornell University dramatic literature specialist and avid moviegoer, "The Catcher in the Rye" inspires variations as well as imitations. "American Beauty," for example, is at odds with "the tone and general warmth of Salinger," Caputi believes.

"Salinger’s influence takes a comedic form, a life-affirming form. ‘American Beauty’ showed the dark underside of American culture, going further than I think Salinger would ever dream of."

As for "Finding Forrester," Caputi says, "You might find some kind of resonance with Salinger himself in Sean Connery’s character, although the boy (Rob Brown) is a little bland rather than

plucky. And there is a kinship with ‘Wonder Boys.’ Toby Maguire’s character is plucky to a certain extent, and he takes chances."

"The Good Girl’s" writer and co-star White, who has also written for such teen series as "Freaks & Geeks" and "Dawson’s Creek," thinks "The Catcher in the Rye" may become even more influential in Hollywood.

"Ever since the book came out, it’s been a touchstone of that demographic –

the 17-year-old kid who sees himself not fitting in," he says.

"Movies like ‘American Pie’ and ‘Beavis & Butthead’ — guys looking for a good time — that genre is playing out. ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’ is the perfect example of a movie that bridges the two kinds of movies. It starts out like ‘Dude, Where’s My Car?’ but becomes a thoughtful movie about the kids’ relationship to society.

" ‘Orange County’ (the teen movie White wrote last year starring Colin Hanks) had a Salinger element. It featured a book that changed a young man’s life, and he goes and seeks out the professor who wrote it. For me, it was about a kid’s quest for the meaning of life.

"Maybe a more thoughtful teenage coming-of-age movie is coming back into vogue."

 Voir enfin:

Six Degrees of Separation

from the play "Six Degrees of Separation" written by John Guare

(Paul, a black man in his early twenties, has conned his way into the posh New York apartment of an art dealer and his wife, Louisa and Flan. They are examples of the politically correct and the socially concerned; he is an example of a con man par excellence, who has convinced them he is the son of Sidney Poitier, knows their children, and graduated from Harvard. They inquire about his thesis and how he became intrigued with its subject.)

Paul: Well…a substitute teacher out on Long Island was dropped from his job for fighting with a student. A few weeks later, the teacher returned to the classroom, shot the student unsuccessfully, held the class hostage and then shot himself. Successfully. This fact caught my eye: last sentence. Times. A neighbor described him as a nice boy. Always reading Catcher in the Rye.

The nitwit — Chapman — who shot John Lennon said he did it because he wanted to draw the attention of the world to The Catcher in the Rye and the reading of the book would be his defense.

And young Hinckley, the whiz kid who shot Reagan and his press secretary, said if you want my defense all you have to do is read Catcher in the Rye. It seemed to be time to read it again.

Flan: I haven’t read it in years. (Louisa shushes him.)

Paul: I borrowed a copy from a young friend of mine because I wanted to see what she had underlined and I read this book to find out why this touching, beautiful, sensitive story published in July 1951 had turned into this manifesto of hate.

I started reading. It’s exactly as I remembered. Everybody’s a phony. Page two: "My brother’s in Hollywood being a prostitute." Page three: "What a phony his father was." Page nine: "People never notice anything."

Then on page 22 my hair stood up. Remember Holden Caulfield — the definitive sensitive youth — wearing his red hunter’s cap. "A deer hunter hat? Like hell it is. I sort of closed one eye like I was taking aim at it. This is a people-shooting hat. I shoot people in this hat."

Hmmm, I said. This book is preparing people for bigger moments in their lives than I ever dreamed of. Then on page 89: "I’d rather push a guy out the window or chop his head off with an ax than sock him in the jaw…I hate fist fights…what scares me most is the other guy’s face…"

I finished the book. It’s a touching story, comic because the boy wants to do so much and can’t do anything. Hates all phoniness and only lies to others. Wants everyone to like him, is only hateful, and he is completely self-involved. In other words, a pretty accurate picture of a male adolescent. And what alarms me about the book — not the book so much as the aura about it — is this: the book is primarily about paralysis. The boy can’t function. And at the end, before he can run away and start a new life, it starts to rain and he folds.

Now there’s nothing wrong in writing about emotional and intellectual paralysis. It may indeed, thanks to Chekhov and Samuel Beckett, be the great modern theme.

The extraordinary last lines of Waiting For Godot — "Let’s go." "Yes, let’s go." Stage directions: they do not move.

But the aura around this book of Salinger’s — which perhaps should be read by everyone but young men — is this: it mirrors like a fun house mirror and amplifies like a distorted speaker one of the great tragedies of our times — the death of the imagination.

Because what else is paralysis?

The imagination has been so debased that imagination — being imaginative — rather than being the lynchpin of our existence now stands as a synonym for something outside ourselves like science fiction or some new use for tangerine slices on raw pork chops — what an imaginative summer recipe — and Star Wars! So imaginative! And Star Trek — so imaginative! And Lord of the Rings — all those dwarves — so imaginative –

The imagination has moved out out the realm of being our link, our most personal link, with our inner lives and the world outside that world — this world we share. What is schizophrenia but a horrifying state where what’s in here doesn’t match up with what’s out there?

Why has imagination become a synonym for style?

I believe that the imagination is the passport we create to take us into the real world.

I believe the imagination is another phrase for what is most uniquely us.

Jung says the greatest sin is to be unconscious.

Our boy Holden says "What scares me most is the other guy’s face — it wouldn’t be so bad if you could both be blindfolded — most of the time the faces we face are not the other guys’ but our own faces. And it’s the worst kind of yellowness to be so scared of yourself you put blindfolds on rather than deal with yourself…"

To face ourselves.

That’s the hard thing.

The imagination.


Salinger: Attention, une rebellion peut en cacher une autre ! (The squalor behind the love: looking back at Salinger’s immensely heartbreaking but rather problematic relationship to women)

12 septembre, 2013
http://www.townandcountrymag.com/cm/townandcountry/images/9J/TNC-5-for-esme-love-and-squalor-lg.jpg
Je vous le dis en vérité, si vous ne vous convertissez et si vous ne devenez comme les petits enfants, vous n’entrerez pas dans le royaume des cieux. Jésus (Matthieu 18: 3)
Le monde les a haïs, parce qu’ils ne sont pas du monde, comme moi je ne suis pas du monde. Jésus (Jean 17: 14)
The process of growing older is not necessarily allied to growing wickeder, though the two do often happen together. Children are meant to grow up, and not to become Peter Pans. Not to lose innocence and wonder, but to proceed on the appointed journey: that journey upon which it is certainly not better to travel hopefully than to arrive, though we must travel hopefully if we are to arrive. JRR Tolkien
Le succès est toujours issu d’un malentendu. Paul Valéry (?)
The problem with you, Joyce, is you love the world. JD Salinger
Les gens applaudissent toujours pour les mauvaises raisons. Holden Caulfield
Pour moi, aucune biographie de J.D. Salinger ne sera jamais complète sans une reconnaissance qu’il n’était pas simplement victime mais agresseur. (…) Quand un homme de 53 ans écrit à un étudiant de première année à Yale, il n’écrit pas à une femme, il écrit à une fille. Et lorsqu’il suggère qu’elle devrait abandonner sa bourse, quitter la fac, quitter son emploi au New York Times et couper toutes relations avec le monde, cela s’appelle aussi un événement de stress post-traumatique quand cela se répercute à travers sa vie. Joyce Maynard
His writing was all about innocence and the damage done to innocence by the world.  E.L. Doctorow
in his fiction, Salinger had a chance to be the good, untraumatized man he couldn’t be in real life.  Lev Grossman (Time)
Salinger wasn’t a recluse; rather, as the authors stress, “what he wanted was privacy.” This is often treated as the most outlandish aspect of his personality, when really it’s the most commonsensical. One of the talking heads featured in the documentary belongs to actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who explains that people who haven’t lost the ability to walk anonymously down the street cannot appreciate what a tremendous freedom it is. “I’m tired of being collared in elevators, stopped on the street, and of interlopers on my private property,” the elderly Salinger griped in a rare interview. “I want to be left alone, absolutely. Why can’t my life be my own?” The film features a fan who, as a young husband and father, traveled to Cornish to haunt the end of Salinger’s gravel driveway, believing that the author “felt like I did and we could talk about deep things.” Salinger, after asking if the man was “under psychiatric care,” questioned how he could have left his family for such a quest. In this respect, if few others, Salinger was decidedly less crazy than the society around him. The attention trained on him was pathological, and his withdrawal from it entirely understandable, but the more he pulled back the more hotly the popular obsession burned. (…) As for Salinger’s idealization and pursuit of teenage girls — a penchant that seems to me of a piece with his general fetishization of immaculate youth — Salerno and Shield see two causes: heartbreak over Oona O’Neill, an early love who married Charlie Chaplin while Salinger was at war, and sexual insecurity caused by having “only one testicle” (or an undescended testicle, which seems more likely). But “Salinger” the book also includes an anecdote about Salinger’s apprenticeship (imposed by his father) to a meat company in Vienna in the late 1930s, during which visit he fell in love with a Viennese girl of 16. Salinger later fictionalized her in a story titled “A Girl I Knew,” praising her “immense eyes that always seemed in danger of capsizing into their own innocence … When she sat down she did the only sensible thing with her beautiful hands there was to be done: she placed them on her lap and left them there.” The man’s fixation on very young, large-eyed and exquisitely simple girls seems to have been well in place before Oona broke his heart and the war ravaged his spirit. (…) It’s not always easy to accept that what gives some artists their access to greatness can also stunt them as human beings. In a few, rare cases, the work transcends the hobbled souls who created it. Laura Miller
La seconde guerre mondiale était vraiment le traumatisme transformateur de la vie de J.D. Salinger. Elle a fait de lui un artiste, mais elle l’a aussi brisé comme homme… Il a vécu toute sa vie avec le syndrome de stress post-traumatique … Lorsque vous relisez l’oeuvre avec cela à l’esprit, vous comprenez même que "The Catcher in the Rye" est un roman de guerre déguisé. Salinger se faisait répliquer par ces femmes son innocence perdue d’avant-guerre et utilisait de très jeunes filles comme des machines à explorer le temps pour revenir à avant diverses blessures. Il y a donc quelque chose d’immensément poignant dans cette quête finalement assez problématique. Shane Salerno
Ce qui pousse Holden à fuir son pensionnat est une crise sexuelle. Son camarade de chambre plus âgé est sorti avec une fille qu’Holden connait et aime platoniquement. Ce banal athlète, un certain Stradlater, est du genre à réduire grâce à son bagout ses conquêtes à la plus complète soumission: "Il était sans scrupules. Vraiment." Tout au long du roman Holden est tiraillé entre son aversion pour cette attitude macho envers les filles et son sentiment confus que peut-être il devrait l’imiter afin d’être comme tout le monde. C’est cette tension qui pousse la voix narrative du roman, avec son oscillation entre les fanfaronnades de celui à qui on ne l’a fait pas et sa naïve honnêteté de petit garçon. Il tente d’exorciser son innocence en se payant une prostituée, mais n’arrive pas à conclure. Il se demande comment apprendre à séparer l’amour et le sexe pour acquérir de l’expérience et comment se débarrasser de son embarrassante habitude de voir les filles comme des êtres humains plutôt que comme des moyens d’acquérir la confiance sexuelle. Son antipathie pour la culture en général lui vient de son sentiment que celle-ci est complice de cette attitude désinvolte et conformiste envers la sexualité, en partie grâce à Hollywood. Dans la seconde moitié du livre, il exprime une volonté plus générale de protéger l’innocence de la sordide hypocrisie adulte, mais ce désir romantique découle de son anxiété sexuelle. Ainsi, le roman ne traite pas de l’angoisse adolescente en général. Mais il est centré sur cette expérience très particulière de se sentir spirituellement menacé par la formidable pression sexuelle des pairs, cette peur que la maturité sexuelle implique pour tout être le sacrifice de son intégrité morale. Theo Hobson

Attention: une rebellion peut en cacher une autre !

Oona O’ Neill, Sylvie, Claire Douglas, Joyce Maynard, Jean Miller, Marjorie Sheard, Elaine Joyce, Colleen O’Neill …

Avec la sortie aux Etats-Unis d’une nouvelle biographie accompagnée d’un documentaire sur l’auteur culte américain JD Salinger confirmant le traumatisme qu’avait été pour lui la guerre …

Mais aussi son lot d’habituelles et plus ou moins croustillantes révélations sur les rapports notoirement compliqués avec les femmes du "dernier et meilleur des Peter Pan"

Comment, au-delà de l’habituel voyeurisme et des côtés effectivement inquiétants du personnage, ne pas voir la confirmation, du séjour en hôpital psychiatrique à l’obsession de l’innocence enfantine et de la fuite hors du monde, du scénario du jeune héros de L’Attrape-coeurs ?

Dont, à l’image de son auteur privé par la guerre de l’amour de sa vie (la ravissante fille du dramaturge Eugene O’ Neill partie épouser un Charlie Chaplin de 36 ans son ainé), la fugue est initialement provoquée par la perte de son amie de coeur dans les bras du meilleur sportif de l’école ?

Mais aussi tout le malentendu du succès d’une oeuvre dont loin de la rebellion contre l’ordre social à laquelle on la réduit souvent  …

La force tient au contraire, comme le rappelle le critique du Guardian Theo Hobson, à son exceptionnelle perception du déchirement du héros entre sa quête de pureté et d’innocence et la pression intériorisée de ses pairs de prouver sa naissante masculinité ?

Salinger, sex and scruples

Salinger’s cult novel isn’t really about rebellion against adults, but rebellion against the spirit of our age

Theo Hobson

The Guardian

1 February 2010

J.D. Salinger’s cult novel The Catcher in the Rye is about being a teenager, isn’t it? Its narrator, seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield, is the prototype of the teenage rebel, the bolshie misfit, full of self-indulgent angst, and contempt for the "phoney" adult world: he’s every-teen, isn’t he? As I see it, this is a lazy orthodoxy. It implies that his disaffection is general, unfocused, the common denominator of all adolescent angst. It also nudges him into line with sixties-style rebellion, centered on sexual liberation.

The "every-teen" image obscures the fact that Holden’s crisis is rooted in a specific anxiety, one that is not normally seen as central to the adolescent psyche. His anxiety is that sex is a threat to authenticity. This is what animates the book, and I think explains its uniqueness.

What causes Holden to run away from his boarding-school is a sexual crisis. His older room-mate has been on a date with a girl that Holden knows, and is platonically attached to. This banal jock, Stradlater, tends to schmooze his dates into full submission: "He was unscrupulous. He really was." Holden is torn between his aversion to this macho attitude to girls, and his uneasy sense that maybe he has to imitate it, to conform. This tension is what drives the narrative voice, with its oscillation between streetwise boasting and unworldly boyish honesty.

He tries to exorcise his innocence by hiring a prostitute, but can’t go through with it. He wonders how he can learn to separate love and sex, in order to get experienced, and how he can kick the inconveniently innocent habit of seeing girls as human beings rather than stepping stones to the acquisition of sexual confidence. His antipathy towards culture in general is based in his sense that it conspires in a flippant, conformist attitude to sex, partly by means of Hollywood.

In the latter half of the book he expresses a more general desire to protect innocence from dirty adult falsity, but this Romantic yearning flows from his sexual anxiety. So the novel is not about teenage angst in general. At its heart is this very specific experience of feeling spiritually threatened by the power of sexual peer-pressure, this fear that sexual maturity entails a sacrifice of one’s moral integrity.

A key reason for the novel’s enduring cult-status, I suggest, is that this anxiety became more prevalent, with the sexual revolution, but increasingly hard to speak about. For the master-narrative of the sexual revolution is that conformity belongs only to the repressed past, not to the liberated present. And this dominant ideology has proved very hard to question; those who question it are so easily labelled reactionaries, prudes. Novelists, and other artists and thinkers, have overwhelmingly failed to develop Salinger’s insight, that sex can be the site of a conformity that feeds soul-killing. The sexual frankness of someone like John Updike is not fundamentally questioning of the ideology of sexual liberation but in thrall to it. (The same goes for Martin Amis, whose teenage hero in The Rachel Papers is a sort of slick, soulless Holden.)

So please: no more clichés about this being the sacred text of teenage rebellion, adolescent angst. This view robs the novel of its daring particularity. The reality is that it uses the setting of teenage rebellion in order to tackle a profound issue, the tension between sexual conformism and morality. It does so with a raw spiritual courage that exposes just about all subsequent novelists as a bunch of phoneys.

J.D. Salinger: A ‘Selfish Old Goat,’ but Not a Perv

Donna Trussell

Politics daily

2010/04/24/

Author J.D. Salinger, who died in January, is once again in the news, in all his appalling glory.

The Morgan Library in Manhattan has put on display Salinger’s correspondence with a friend — Michael Mitchell, the artist who drew the original illustration on Salinger’s 1951 novel, "Catcher in the Rye."

These letters in particular do not address Salinger’s preference for young women, but the Catholic Church scandal has transformed sexual predators who target young people into a major focus du jour. A topic once so hush-hush that perpetrators could hurt children with impunity for decades now rarely leaves the public consciousness.

Thus, no sooner had I posted the Morgan Library news on my Facebook page, than this comment appeared:

Salinger was a "private person" because he was a pedophile who wanted to be left alone to do whatever it was he did with underage and barely legal teenage girls in peace.

Another friend wrote:

Pedophilia is a disorder involving sexual attraction with prepubescent children. Salinger was involved with young women. He was not a pedophile.

Quickly came this reply:

Tell that to the young girls.

The definition of a pedophile is: An adult who is sexually attracted to children. Pretty straightforward, but with writers, as well as other creative artists, it’s complicated.

While I found no evidence that Salinger ever molested an underage woman, I found plenty of evidence that throughout his life he was searching for a state of grace that he found in the minds of the young, especially young females.

When Salinger was 22, he fell in love with the 16-year-old daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill. Oona O’Neill was known for her quiet charisma and ethereal beauty. The two dated for a while, but after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Salinger joined the Army and O’Neill moved to Los Angeles, where she met actor and director Charlie Chaplin.

Chaplin, 55, married Oona O’Neill after she turned 18. The couple remained married for 35 years and had eight children together. I’ve yet to hear anyone call Chaplin a pedophile.

Likewise Rep. Dennis Kucinich, whose wife is 31 years his junior. Even film director Woody Allen, who married his girlfriend Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn in 1997, has gained a grudging acceptance. Thirty-five years separate Allen and Previn. Few would argue the relationship was appropriate when it began. But now? Hey, they look happy.

There was a time when May-December relationships were not so taboo or rare. Women died in childbirth. Men died in war. And after all, it’s a compliment to both parties: He’s been all over the world, and yet he loves me. She’s so innocent, and yet she loves me.

My grandmother, born in 1901, had just graduated from college when she married a widower twice her age with three children. I once asked her why she didn’t marry a man her own age. Didn’t she have suitors? Oh yes, she said. "But I didn’t feel anything for them."

Ah, l’amour. The X factor.

After serving in World War II, Salinger returned to the life of a writer living in New York and publishing in the slick magazines of the day. In 1951, Little, Brown and Company published his novel, "The Catcher in the Rye." Salinger’s fame ratcheted up and cracks began to appear.

One of the more poignant anecdotes in the unauthorized (and incomplete) 1988 biography, "In Search of J.D. Salinger," by British author Ian Hamilton, was this one. It took place at a party. The unnamed wife of a New York editor said she was unprepared for the "extraordinary impact of [Salinger's] physical presence."

There was a kind of black aura about him. He was dressed in black. He had black hair, dark eyes, and he was of course extremely tall. I was kind of spellbound. But I was married, and I was pregnant. We talked, and we liked each other very much, I thought. Then it was time for [my husband and I] to leave…and I went upstairs to where the coats were…Jerry came into the room. He came over to me and said that we ought to run away together. I said, "But I’m pregnant." And he said, "That doesn’t matter. We can still run away." He really seemed to mean it. I can’t say I wasn’t flattered, and even a bit tempted maybe.

Later that night she, her husband, and another couple from the party ended up in Salinger’s apartment. At first he played the congenial host, but when the conversation turned to colleges, his mood darkened. He began a monologue about the 12 stages of enlightenment.

According to the editor’s wife, Salinger said her husband "was at the first stage, the very lowest, and I was around stage four. As for Jerry, he said that for him the act of writing was inseparable from the quest of enlightenment, that he intended devoting his life to one great work, and that the work would be his life. There would be no separation."

This was the man who would eventually leave New York and take refuge in a rambling house near Cornish, N.H. He spent half a century there.

In 1955, Salinger married the daughter of a British art critic. They had two children and then, after 12 years of marriage, divorced. According to court papers, the isolation of the rural New Hampshire home and Salinger’s retreat for days or even weeks at a time to his small writing cabin nearby contributed to the failure of the marriage.

In 1972, along came young Joyce Maynard, by way of a fetching photograph on the cover of The New York Times magazine and the headline: "An 18-Year-Old Looks Back on Life." Salinger wrote her a fan letter. She wrote back. After a few months corresponding, they met and she moved in with him. He was 53 years old.

For years Maynard kept quiet about her ten months with Salinger, but in 1998 she went public with the memoir, "At Home in the World." The book was savaged by critics. Katha Pollitt acknowledges the book’s flaws, but adds this caveat:

It’s easy to make fun of Joyce Maynard. As if her relentless self-marketing and theatricality weren’t enough, the very fact that she presents herself as vulnerable, a victim in recovery, leaves her open to mockery…[But] we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that while still very young Maynard was on the receiving end of quite a bit of damage from adults. If she doesn’t always seem to understand her own story — if she seems like a 44-year-old woman who is still 18 — maybe that goes to show how deep the damage went.

After Maynard packed her bags and left New Hampshire, there were more young women in Salinger’s life.

Here was a man who (by his own admission in the Morgan Library letters) could not "afford the marvelous distraction of first-class friendship." Salinger called himself an "old goat" and "selfish."

So just who is an appropriate companion for a selfish, friendless old goat?

In the late 1980s, Salinger, by then around 70 years old, married a New Hampshire nurse named Colleen O’Neill. She was 40 years his junior.

In a recent article about hermits, a psychologist said that some people "really need their downtime." They may have an "avoidant attachment style" or a compulsion to "prove to themselves that they don’t need anybody." Or it could be simpler than that. Perhaps a recluse merely desires "a mystical experience. You can’t pathologize that."

Maybe Salinger found the dynamic with younger women to be more spiritual. After all, some have suggested Holden Caulfield, the protagonist in "The Catcher in the Rye," is a modern-day saint in search of purity.

In the last decade or so, Salinger rarely made the news unless he was going to court to block one thing or another. Then three months ago, he died at the age 91, and suddenly his name was everywhere — in obituaries, in tributes, in wistful reminiscences of the large part this one novel played in the adolescences of so many.

My personal favorite involves a friend. A few months ago on Facebook she posted a picture that dated back 20 years. She wore a lacy, satiny pastel-pink confection of a dress made by her beloved abuelita for quinceanera (a sweet-16 party, only for 15-year-olds). "Somewhere," my friend wrote, "there’s a picture of me in this dress brooding in a corner and reading ‘The Catcher in the Rye.’"

Over six decades the novel has sold 65 million copies worldwide. Even its detractors, one of whom called the book "mawkish" and poorly written, conceded the novel has had an enormous influence, and it did so by virtue of its sincerity.

A better, more cynical writer than Salinger easily could write a book about a troubled yet appealing teenager, but its artifice and insincerity would be self-evident and readers would reject it as false. Whatever its shortcomings, "The Catcher in the Rye" is from the heart — not Holden Caulfield’s heart, but Jerome David Salinger’s.

So here we have a writer who was personally repellent, but who gave the world his heart. I’ll take him just as he is.

Voir aussi:

Why did J.D. Salinger spend the last 60 years hiding in a shed writing love notes to teenage girls?

Anne De Courcy

Daily Mail

29 January 2010

The writer J. D. Salinger, who died yesterday aged 91, was as famous for his five decades of stringent reclusiveness as for his best-known novel, The Catcher In The Rye, which was an instant bestseller when it was published in 1951.

It also marked the beginning of an obsessive withdrawal from the world. This hermit, who guarded his privacy with a shotgun and guard dogs behind high walls, was equally fierce in protecting his anonymity with squads of lawyers who attempted to block anything intimate being written about him.

He was the ultimate anti-celebrity, refusing interviews and insisting his photograph was removed from the dust-jackets of his books.

The only recent photograph of him (taken many years ago) is of him wearing a furious face as he fends off an intruding cameraman.

Along with this quest for total seclusion went a predilection for teenage girls – not so much a Lolita syndrome as an urge to discover innocence and then mould it to the shape he wished.

Born in New York on January 1, 1919, J.D. (Jerome David) Salinger’s early life gave little hint of what he would become, although there were several factors that affected him deeply.

One was the shock of believing he was Jewish and then discovering that he was only half-Jewish – his mother was, in fact, a Catholic.

Another was his doomed first love affair, in 1941, with the 16-year-old Oona O’Neill, whom he had wished to marry – she later wed Charlie Chaplin.

Their romance ended when he was called up by the Army in 1942, after the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

More scarring still, however, were his experiences in World War II, in which he saw numerous comrades killed around him.

He landed on Utah Beach on D-Day and fought all the way to Paris. There, he met Ernest Hemingway who encouraged his writing.

Still in Europe when the war ended, he was sent to Germany to interrogate Nazis.

There, he fell in love with a girl called Sylvie – later believed to be a former Nazi official – whom he married and, after eight months, divorced.

He later described her as ‘an evil woman who bewitched me’.

He returned to the U.S. and began his writing career with short stories. Then, in 1951, he published the novel on which he had been working for ten years.

This was The Catcher In The Rye, a tale that captured the essence of teenage angst before anyone knew it existed, and it had instant and lasting success.

So far, it has sold more than 120 million copies worldwide and still regularly tops polls of the most popular novel of all time. When Mark Chapman shot John Lennon, he was carrying a copy.

Told in the voice of its tall, grey-haired hero, Holden Caulfield, who runs away from boarding school to New York, where he finds everyone ‘phoney’ except his adored little sister Phoebe, it spawned a new genre of fiction that remains stupendously popular: the first-person narrative of someone young, neurotic, misunderstood, insecure and vulnerable. It was an undoubted masterpiece.

But two years after this literary and financial success gave him untold freedom and independence, Salinger headed off to the remote rural town of Cornish, New Hampshire – and the isolation that characterised the rest of his life.

The house he chose stood behind high walls and a screen of trees and was located on a bluff overlooking the Connecticut River valley. It was reached by a rough road that winds for several miles up a hill.

There was no name on the mailbox at the end of the steep drive leading to the house, and No Trespassing signs hung on several of the tree

At first, he made occasional forays to New York. At a party, he met a young student, Claire Douglas, the 18-year-old half-sister of a British aristocrat.

Soon she moved in, and in 1955, when Claire was 20 and Salinger 36, they married. But as Salinger’s desire for solitude increased, he made her burn all her papers and cut off all contact with her friends and family.

He also built himself a separate cabin a quarter of a mile away in the woods, painted it dark green as camouflage against possible intruders, and spent most of the time there working.

Claire, who had tried desperately to please him, found herself plunged into an isolation she had never sought.

But when she became pregnant, Salinger cut off all contact with the outside world and from the fourth month of her pregnancy, she saw no one whatsoever.

Thirteen months after the birth of their daughter, Margaret, Claire had spiralled into depression and ran away with the baby. But she returned four months later to the husband she still loved, and in 1960 their son Matthew was born.

Salinger shifted the entire focus of his life to the cabin in the woods, staying there for up to two weeks at a time, burning wood in his stove to heat up the cans of food or meals brought to him by Claire or their children.

Sometimes he would sit outside between the reflectors he had installed to help him tan.

Salinger became increasingly eccentric, drinking his own urine and sitting in a special device known as an orgone box, which was supposed to promote health.

He hated sickness, which he tried to cure in his children with homeopathy and acupuncture practised with wooden dowels instead of needles; when they cried with pain or his methods failed, he would fly into a rage.

He worked sitting in an old car seat, typing on an ancient typewriter at a desk made from a plain slab of wood. He hated being disturbed, even by Margaret.

One remark he made at this time to his ten-year-old daughter expresses much of his attitude to women. After a quarrel he told her: ‘We’d better find a way to make up because when I’m through with a person – I’m through with them’.

It was perfectly true; but in his first marriage, it was his wife who cracked first. By 1966, the strain of Claire’s life of isolation had begun to have a physical effect on her.

She suffered from sleeplessness, loss of weight and sexual problems. In 1966, she filed for divorce, which was granted the following year.

Then, in spring 1972, Salinger saw a picture of a young writer, Joyce Maynard, on the cover of the New York Times Magazine with the headline An 18-Year- Old Looks Back On Life. Soon, Joyce was receiving fan letters from him.

Intrigued, she wrote back – and soon gave up her degree course at Yale University to live with him in New Hampshire.

She was 19; he was 53, with a lifestyle based on macrobiotics and Zen Buddhism – at various times he was also to become involved with Scientology and Christian Science.

Their sexual problems began at once. Salinger did not want more children and their relationship, according to Joyce, was based on oral sex – she had a condition that made full sex painful.

The nine-month affair ended while on holiday in Florida with his children, whose custody he had kept. Salinger told her to leave at once, go home and clear her things out of his house before he returned. (In 1999, she put the story of their affair in a memoir, At Home In The World, and sold 14 letters from Salinger at Sotheby’s, where they fetched almost £100,000.)

Salinger went back to his life of seclusion in the hidden cabin, around which he now owned 450 acres. Dressed in a blue boiler suit, he wrote every day, although not for publication – a possible treasure trove of up to ten novels are believed to lie in his locked safe.

In 1981, he began a relationship with the 36-year-old actress Elaine Joyce, again initiated by letter. This lasted for several years, until he met Colleen O’Neill, the director of the annual town fair, who was 40 years his junior. They married in the late Eighties.

Salinger’s privacy was momentarily breached in October 1992 when a fire broke out in his house and Colleen had to drive her blue pickup truck to a telephone box to call the fire brigade.

One of the reporters who were drawn by the news spotted him looking at the damage, but as soon as he approached, the white-haired writer darted away.

Give or take the reprinting of an early story, Hapworth 16, 1924, it is almost 50 years since the publication of his last book, Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters, in 1963, a silence he explained himself with words that could be his epitaph: ‘I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.’

Telluride: Joyce Maynard slams ‘Salinger’ documentary, says author was a ‘victimizer’ of young women

Chris Willman

Globalpost

LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) – The world premiere of "Salinger" at the Telluride Film Festival on Monday was a tale of two girlfriends. A pair of the late author’s former "muses" were in attendance — one pleased by the documentary, one not so much so.

A post-screening panel discussion led by an admirer of the film, director-producer Ken Burns, included Jean Miller, Salinger’s companion for five years in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. Sitting quietly in the audience, meanwhile, was Joyce Maynard, who had a strange liaison with the legendarily reclusive author in the early ‘70s.

Maynard’s attendance at the festival was bizarrely coincidental, and had nothing to do with promoting "Salinger," which the Weinstein Co. is releasing on Friday. Maynard had come to town to celebrate the premiere of another film, "Labor Day," Jason Reitman’s adaptation of her novel.

"Joyce is in the front row," Burns pointed out as the discussion wrapped up, "and if we had time machine we would be able to go back and invite her up to add immeasurably to our understanding of this complicated person."

But when TheWrap spoke with Maynard after the screening, she was displeased enough with what she saw as some of the film’s thematic omissions that the filmmakers will probably be relieved she wasn’t sharing her thoughts on the dais.

Maynard, who wrote a book about her experiences with Salinger, continues to see the author, who died in 2010, as just one step away from being a child predator.

"I thought the film was an extraordinary accomplishment—minus a crucial element, and yes, that’s very troubling to me," said Maynard outside the Palm Theatre. "I believe that no biography of J.D. Salinger will ever be complete without an acknowledgement that he was not simply a PTSD victim, he was a victimizer as well.

"And it’s very troubling to hear my 18-year-old self, and girls who were younger than I was, referred to as ‘women.’"

Some of those references took place in the panel discussion, which dwelled heavily on the idea of Salinger as a victim of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. "World War II really was the transformative trauma in J.D. Salinger’s life," said "Salinger" director Shane Salerno, who participated in the Q&A via Skype. "It made him as an artist but it broke him as a man… He was living with PTSD throughout his life…

"When you re-read the work with that in mind, you even understand that ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is a disguised war novel."

Whether it was Miller in 1949 or Maynard in 1972, said Salerno, Salinger "was having these women replicate a pre-war innocence for him, and used very young girls as time travel machines back to before various wounds. So there’s something immensely heartbreaking about this rather problematic pursuit."

That pursuit, admitted Miller, "raises havoc in the muse’s life … That short story ‘The Girl With No Waist at All’ really represents the moment before a girl becomes a woman."

In the "Salinger" book, Miller reveals that her relationship with Salinger, who befriended her when she was 14, was platonic until he took her virginity five years into their relationship, after which he immediately broke up with her.

Maynard was not nearly so sanguine as Miller about any afterglow from her live-in coupling with Salinger, which was similarly sexless until almost the end.

"When a 53-year-old man writes letters to a freshman at Yale, he’s not writing to a woman, he’s writing to a girl," Maynard told TheWrap. "And when he suggests that she should give up her scholarship, leave college, leave her job at the New York Times and cut off all relationship with the world, that is also called a post-traumatic stress event, when it reverberates through her life.

"Not a day has passed in 40 years that I have not faced the residue of my relationship with Salinger — and in a professional way, profoundly. Which is why I was so happy to be at this festival with a movie of a novel of mine and projects having nothing to do with Salinger."

Maynard does appear at some length in the last half-hour of the documentary.

Burns opened the discussion by noting that he lives four towns south of Cornish, N.H., where Salinger notoriously withdrew from public life from the mid-‘60s until his death three and a half years ago. He said he grew used to Salinger seekers coming through his neighborhood wanting stalking tips.

Tantalizingly, Burns added almost as an aside that he did correspond with Salinger a number of times – "he would send me passages from Christian Science manuscripts that tell you how to cure ailments with prayer."

At one point, Burns pointed out, "All the important muses of his life seem to represent some kind of attempt at innocence, perhaps a fantasy of innocence" with "an almost frightened-of-sex aspect."

Miller called her relationship with him very asexual.

"I thought of him as my uncle for many years," she said. "I don’t think really in a way he was all that interested in sex. Jerry’s power of you was absolutely mental and spiritual."

Voir encore:

‘Hi, how’s Heathcliff?’ JD Salinger’s secret lover reveals how he picked her up at the pool when she was just 14 when he saw her reading Wuthering Heights – as she speaks for first time in 60 years

Jean Miller met Salinger in Daytona Beach, Florida when she was 14 years old and the relationship lasted five years

‘I saw this glass curtain come down’: Their relationship ended five years later just after they had sex for the first time

Associated Press and Daily Mail Reporter

Daily Mail

3 September 2013

A woman who had a five-year relationship with J.D. Salinger starting in 1949 and waited 60 years to discuss her time with the reclusive author is finally spilling her secrets.

After the author’s death in 2010, Jean Miller finally opened up about the relationship to filmmaker Shane Salerno, who has made a soon-to-be released documentary on Salinger.

Miller was just 14 when she began the relationship with the secretive Salinger and the flow of such revelations has gone from trickle to flood thanks to the upcoming film and a new biography.

According to CBS, Miller’s silence was a sort prerequisite to being a friend of Salinger’s.

‘I didn’t want to talk about it because I knew [Salinger] didn’t want me to talk about it,’ she said in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning.

Miller opened up about Salinger, for the first time since she last saw him 60 years before, to Salerno after the author’s death.

Among the intimate revelations—descriptions of Salinger’s spiritual nature and how deeply affected he was by WWII—was the disclosure that Miller had been just 14 when she met Salinger.

Miller says the two met at a Daytona Beach, Florida Sheraton hotel. Salinger was 30.

‘I was sitting at a pool, I was reading Wuthering Heights. And he said, “How is Heathcliff?"’

Despite warnings from her mother, Miller continued the relationship, which consisted of long walks on the beach and the exchange of many letters.

For five years, the friendship blossomed. Then, the two had sex for the first time and Miller would only see Salinger once more for the rest of her life.

‘I saw this glass curtain come down, and I just knew it was all over,’ she said.

But she still remembers him fondly.

‘He wanted to go below the surface of your life,’ Miller said. ‘Jerry Salinger would say to me, a young girl, “Do you believe in God?” No adult had ever talked to me [like that]. Not only that, no adult had ever listened to me.

‘He once said to me, “If you ever lose track of me, just read my stories."’

The authors of a new J.D. Salinger biography are claiming they have cracked one of publishing’s greatest mysteries: What ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ novelist was working on during the last half century of his life.

The new book and related film will be released next week and they both claim that the novelist instructed his estate to release at least five new books.

Some of the work is brand-new, while other volumes extend existing stories and characters.

Starting between 2015 and 2020, a series of posthumous Salinger releases are planned, according to Salinger, co-written by David Shields and Shane Salerno and scheduled to be published Sept. 3.

Salerno’s documentary on the author opens Sept. 6. In January, it will air on PBS as an installment of ‘American Masters.’

Providing by far the most detailed report of previously unreleased material, the book’s authors cite ‘two independent and separate sources’ who they say have ‘documented and verified’ the information.

One of the Salinger books would center on Catcher protagonist Holden Caulfield and his family, including a revised version of an early, unpublished story The Last and Best of the Peter Pans.

Other volumes would draw on Salinger’s World War II years and his immersion in Eastern religion.

A publication called The Family Glass would feature additional stories about the Glass family of Franny and Zooey and other Salinger works.

Salinger does not identify a prospective publisher. Spokesman Terry Adams of Little, Brown and Company, which released Catcher and Salinger’s three other books, declined to comment Sunday.

Salinger’s son, Matt Salinger, who helps run the author’s literary estate, was not immediately available for comment. If the books do appear, they may well not be through Little, Brown.

New classics? The new book, released next week, (left) claims the five upcoming works from J.D. Salinger will be both be completely new and add to much-loved stories like The Catcher In The Rye (right)

In the mid-1990s, Salinger agreed to allow a small Virginia-based press, Orchises, to issue his novella Hapworth 16, 1924, which first appeared in The New Yorker in 1965.

But after news leaked of the planned publication, Salinger changed his mind and Hapworth was canceled.

No Salinger book came out after the early 1960s, as the author increasingly withdrew from public life.

Over the past 50 years, there has been endless and conflicting speculation over what Salinger had been doing during his self-imposed retirement. That Salinger continued to write is well documented.

Friends, neighbors and family members all reported that Salinger was writing in his final years and the author himself told The New York Times in 1974 that he wrote daily, though only for himself.

‘There is a marvelous peace in not publishing,’ he said at the time.

But there is no consensus on what he was writing and no physical evidence of what Salinger had reportedly stashed in a safe in his home in Cornish, N.H.

The Salinger estate, run partly by Matt Salinger and Salinger’s widow, Colleen O’Neill, has remained silent on the subject since the author’s death in January 2010.

The two did not cooperate with Salerno and Shields. Until now, neither Salerno nor Shields has been defined by his expertise on Salinger.

Salerno is a Hollywood screenwriter whose credits include Armageddon, the Oliver Stone film Savages and a planned sequel to James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar.

Shields is an award-winning author whose books include the novel Dead Languages; a nonfiction work on pro basketball that was a National Book Critics Circle prize finalist; and Reality Hunger, a self-described ‘manifesto’ for modern literature.

Their 700-page Salinger biography has new information well beyond any possible posthumous fiction.

Nine years in the making and thoroughly documented, Salinger features many rare photographs and letters, unprecedented detail about the author’s World War II years and brief first marriage, and a revelatory interview with the former teenage girl, Jean Miller, who inspired his classic story For Esme – With Love and Squalor.

It also has an account of how Salinger, who supposedly shunned Hollywood for much of his life, nearly agreed to allow Esme to be adapted into a feature film.

Sneak peek: ‘Saliinger’ theatrical trailer

Salinger both fleshes out and challenges aspects of the author’s legend. He is portrayed as deeply traumatized by his war experiences and stunned by his post-’Catcher’ fame.

But he also comes off as far less reclusive and detached than long believed. He does agree to the occasional interview, even initiating discussion with The New York Times, and appears sensitive to his public image.

His affinity for young people is not confined to his books, and Salinger’s biographers closely track his history of intense attachments to teens, from Oona O’Neill in the 1940s to Joyce Maynard in the 1970s.

The book is structured as an oral history, featuring hundreds of new and old interviews, excerpts from newspaper accounts and previous biographies and commentary from Shields and Salerno.

Those quoted range from Salinger’s children to authors Tom Wolfe and Gore Vidal to Mark David Chapman, who cited Catcher as a reason he murdered John Lennon in 1980.

Salerno has been promising to make headlines ever since announcing the biography and film shortly after Salinger’s death.

Earlier this year, he quickly arranged lucrative deals with the Weinstein Co. for a feature film, the producers of ‘American Masters’ for TV rights and Simon & Schuster for the book.

The filmmaker himself has proved as effective as Salinger at keeping a secret, with only a handful of people even knowing of the project’s existence during Salinger’s lifetime.

Salerno spent some $2 million of his own money and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe in search of material.

He is also adept at revealing secrets, with recent stories by The Associated Press and other media outlets, featuring photographs never previously published.

Salinger never authorized a biography, but several unauthorized books have come out over the past 30 years, notably one by Ian Hamilton.

In 1987, Salinger successfully blocked release of Hamilton’s ‘J.D. Salinger: A Writer’s Life,’ citing the use of previously unpublished letters. Hamilton described his legal battle in ‘Searching for J.D. Salinger,’ published in 1988.

Voir aussi:

J. D. Salinger’s Women

The winsome, uncanny girls of Salinger’s fiction have real-life counterparts. They’ve always kept the secrets of this country’s most famous recluse. Till Joyce Maynard changed her mind.

Paul Alexander

New York magazine

02/01/2010

. . . There were half circles under her eyes, and other, subtler signs that mark an acutely troubled young girl, but nonetheless no one could have missed seeing that she was a first-class beauty. Her skin was lovely, and her features were delicate and most distinctive.

–Franny and Zooey

Last year, on the afternoon of November 5, J. D. Salinger, who would turn 79 on New Year’s Day, headed through his house for the living room to answer the front door. Hard of hearing, his eyesight failing, he was beginning to show his age noticeably. He had lived in seclusion in Cornish, New Hampshire, since 1953, much of it in this spacious, comfortable chalet-style house situated on the top of a hill overlooking the lush Connecticut River Valley. Salinger is not in the habit of greeting strangers kindly. In recent years, he’s been known to brandish a shotgun at trespassers. But the woman standing before him that day was not a stranger. Her name was Joyce Maynard; 25 years ago, when Maynard was a bright-faced 19-year-old Yale dropout, she and Salinger had ended an affair. In the intervening years, while Salinger has maintained his famous public silence, Maynard has relentlessly chronicled almost every conceivable detail of her private life. She’s written, for instance, about her adolescent anorexia, her post-adolescent bulimia, her alcoholic father, her two rounds of breast implants, her bitter divorce. She has her own quarterly newsletter, Domestic Affairs, dedicated to publishing personal pieces about families, and her own Website, through which interested fans can order tapes of her reading an essay about the death of her mother or her stories from NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

At the time of their breakup, Maynard resolved to keep quiet about their romance. Occasionally, though, she could not resist mentioning it. “Jerry is a very private person, as I’m sure you’re aware” she told a Toronto Star reporter in 1992. “And I will always respect his privacy. I made that promise a long time ago. However, I do have ownership of our shared past. And yes, I can say I was permanently changed by the relationship. He was as much a force in my life as any person I’ve known. After I left, it seemed like I’d been in Lost Horizon. There was no place on earth for me to go.”

Around the time she appeared at his house, Maynard talked about Salinger with the Sacramento Bee. “I was giving a speech one time,” she said, “and the woman who introduced me said, ‘Well, she used to be J. D. Salinger’s girlfriend.’ I thought, ‘God, is that all I’ve been?’ I didn’t want to be reduced to that.”

Shortly after her encounter with Salinger, she described him yet again, on her Website. “Last time I saw him,” Maynard wrote, “I was a frightened and crushed girl . . . and he was, to me, the most powerful man in the world. . . . He told me I was unworthy. But when I stood on his doorstep the other day, I was a strong and brave 44-year-old woman and I knew he had been wrong.”

Maynard had traveled to Cornish from her home in Marin County, California, where she had bought a house with the money she made from selling the film rights to her novel To Die For, which became a Gus Van Sant movie starring Nicole Kidman. By the time she’d come east, she had already completed 200 pages of a memoir about her years with Salinger and showed it to her editors at St. Martin’s Press. The memoir is tentatively titled If You Really Want to Hear About It, a reference to the first sentence of Salinger’s coming-of-age masterpiece The Catcher in the Rye, and is scheduled to be published in the winter of 1999 by Picador USA, a division of St. Martin’s. The memoir didn’t stay a secret for long. A Boston Globe writer named Alex Beam, whose novels have also been published by St. Martin’s and who knew Maynard in prep school and college, got wind of it through a St. Martin’s source. He called her about it, after which Maynard promptly called the New York Times. Both the Times and the Globe published articles on November 21.

“I don’t for a moment think he would want me to write this,” Maynard told the Times, which is putting it mildly. Through the years, Salinger has guarded his privacy with, in addition to his shotgun, squads of lawyers. He successfully fought in court in 1986 to block the publication of Ian Hamilton’s biography J. D. Salinger: A Writing Life, forcing Hamilton to completely recast his work and retitle it In Search of J. D. Salinger.

Maynard’s decision to write the book also sparked heated debate within literary and publishing circles. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Maynard had “no sense of shame”; the New York Post called her “shameless.”

The debate spilled over into Maynard’s chat room on the Internet. (It must be said, Maynard’s proposed memoir and the revelations it elicited constitute a weird premonition of the controversy now surrounding the president). One fan called Salinger a “pedophile,” but another believed Maynard “had every right to want the relationship, as is normal for an 18-year-old, physically mature woman.” When one Internet user accused her of exploiting Salinger, Maynard herself answered. “And I wonder,” she wrote, “why you are so quick to see exploitation in the actions of a woman — sought out at 18 by a man 35 years her senior who promised to love her forever and asked her to forswear all else to come and live with him, who waited 25 years to write her story (HER story, I repeat. Not his). And yet you cannot see exploitation in the man who did this. I wonder what you would think of the story if it were your daughters. Would you still tell her to keep her mouth shut, out of respect for this man’s privacy?”

Although there was nothing markedly peculiar about her gait as she moved through the hall — she neither dallied nor quite hurried — she was nonetheless very peculiarly transformed as she moved. She appeared, vividly, to grow younger with each step.

–Franny and Zooey

Up to now, practically the only window into the mind of one of America’s most famous writers has been Salinger’s published books, the last of which came out in 1963. Virtually all of them, of course, are about people on the cusp of adulthood. His writing about girls and young women, while chaste, is highly charged. His teenage heroines, among them Esmé (“For Esmé — With Love and Squalor”), Leah (“A Girl I Knew”), Barbara (“A Young Girl in 1941 With No Waist at All”), Phoebe Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye), and Mattie Gladwaller (the Babe Gladwaller stories), are singular, uncanny creatures.

Not surprisingly, the women Salinger has fallen in love with bear more than a passing resemblance to his fictional creations. In 1941, while he was living with his parents in New York, Salinger, then 22, fell in love with Oona O’Neill, the 16-year-old daughter of Eugene O’Neill whose mythic beauty and hauntingly quiet personality would later be compared to Jacqueline Kennedy’s. Salinger met O’Neill in the summer of 1941, when he and a high-school friend went to visit the friend’s sister, Elizabeth Murray, at Murray’s home in Brielle, a town on the New Jersey shore where Oona’s mother kept a summer home. “Oona had a mysterious quality to her,” says Gloria Murray, Elizabeth’s daughter. “She was quiet, but she was stunning in her beauty. You just couldn’t take your eyes off her. My mother took Salinger over to meet Oona and he fell for her on the spot. He was taken with her beauty and impressed that she was the daughter of Eugene O’Neill. They dated when they got back to New York.”

Their romance ended when Salinger joined the army following Pearl Harbor. Some time after that, O’Neill moved to Los Angeles, where she met Charles Chaplin. She married him when she turned 18; Chaplin was 55.

In the army, Salinger was involved in some of the worst fighting in World War II, including the four-month period from the D-day invasion through the Battle of the Bulge. Following the war, Salinger appeared to have a nervous collapse. Convalescing in France, he met and married a French doctor, but they were divorced after eight months. Back in the States, Salinger got serious about writing. He published stories in numerous magazine, most notably The New Yorker. Then, in 1951, he published a novel he had been working on for ten years, The Catcher in the Rye. A surprise best-seller, it afforded Salinger the opportunity to become a recluse, which he did when he moved to Cornish in 1953, the year he published Nine Stories.

In Cornish, Salinger, who was now 34, devoted some of his social life to entertaining teenagers who attended the local high school. In particular, he often escorted teenage girls to school dances and sporting events. Then, in 1954, at a party in Cambridge, he met Claire Douglas, the daughter of the respected British art critic Robert Langdon Douglas. A peppy, bright Radcliffe co-ed, she was 19. Claire was soon spending time in Salinger’s Cornish home. As Salinger’s romance with Claire blossomed, he was also in the process of imagining Franny Glass, one of his most fully realized characters and one who bears more than a passing resemblance to Claire herself. On February 17, 1955, at just about the time he published “Franny” in The New Yorker, Salinger married Douglas and gave the story to her as a wedding present. They had a daughter, Margaret, in December of that year. A son, Matthew, was born in 1960.

In 1961, Salinger published Franny and Zooey, a literary event considered so noteworthy Time put Salinger on its cover. In 1963, he published Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, which despite horrendous reviews became a No. 1 New York Times best-seller. During these years of intense work, Salinger withdrew more and more into himself — and away from Claire.

“He was just never home,” says a former Salinger employee. “He had a studio” — actually a concrete structure resembling a bunker — “down a quarter of a mile from the house, and he was always there. He’d be there for two weeks at a time. He had a little stove he could heat food on. I think it was tough on Claire. When I was there, Jerry was always down in his little writing room.”

By 1966, Claire’s life of isolation had begun to take a physical toll. “She complained of nervous tension, sleeplessness, and loss of weight, and gave me a history of marital problems with her husband which allegedly caused her condition,” Dr. Gerard Gaudrault, who examined her at the time, would write. “My examination indicated that the condition I found would naturally follow from the complaints of marital discord given to me.” Perhaps on the basis of this outside confirmation, Claire filed for divorce in September 1966. In the divorce papers, her lawyer argued that “the libelee” — Salinger — “wholly regardless of his marriage covenants and duties has so treated the libelant” — Claire — “as to injure her health and endanger her reason in that for a long period of time the libelee has treated the libelant with indifference, has for long periods of time refused to communicate with her, has declared that he does not love her and has no desire to have their marriage continue, by reason of which conduct the libelant has had her sleep disturbed, her nerves upset and has been subjected to nervous and mental strain, and has had to seek medical assistance to effect a cure of her condition, and a continuation of the marriage would seriously injure her health and endanger her reason.”

A divorce was granted in early October 1967.

I saw her coming to meet me — near a high, wire fence — a shy, beautiful girl of eighteen who had not yet taken her final vows and was still free to go out into the world with the Peter Abelard-type man of her choice.

–De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period

On the cover of The New York Times Magazine on April 23, 1972 was a photograph of Joyce Maynard, accompanying a story with the Salingeresque title “An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back On Life.” In the picture, she is sitting on the floor of a corridor wearing red socks, blue jeans, a beige sweater. Her black hair hangs uncombed. Her gaze is childish, wide-eyed. Her smile is impish. The look and the pose — she props an elbow against a step as she tilts her head sideways to rest her cheek in the palm of her hand — combine to make her seem girlish, yet she is clearly a woman. “There were pictures of her taken around this time that show her,” one friend would later say, “as the Lolita of all Lolitas.”

The piece is an interesting if not brilliant work in the generational-memoir genre, linking private lives to great public events. Maynard’s thesis was that the generation that was born in the fifties — hers — was “a generation of unfulfilled expectations . . . special because of what we missed” and held together by common images — “Jackie and the red roses, John-John’s salute, and Oswald’s on-camera murder.”

Salinger was so impressed by the piece — and by Maynard — that he typed out a one-page letter warning her about the hazards of fame. He mailed the letter to her in care of the New York Times.

By the age of 18, Maynard had already lived a complicated and productive life. She was born to intellectual parents; her father taught English literature at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, and her mother, Fredelle, had published two highly regarded books, Guiding Your Child to a More Creative Life and Raisins and Almonds, a memoir of her Canadian youth. There was, however, “an elephant in the living room,” as Maynard has put it; her father was an alcoholic. According to a childhood friend of Maynard’s, she “blamed his alcoholism on having a failed career as an artist” — a view her family and friends did not share.

In 1970, Maynard transferred from the Durham public schools to Phillips Exeter Academy, in Exeter’s first co-ed class. While there, she published a story in Seventeen based on the unwanted pregnancy of a teenage couple in Durham; the piece angered local citizens, who felt Maynard had invaded the couple’s privacy. In the fall of 1971, Maynard entered Yale University, as a part of its third class to include women. As a freshman, she published “The Embarrassment of Virginity” in Mademoiselle, then her cover story in The New York Times Magazine. Her fellow students could dismiss the former but not the latter. “When I walked into the first class we had after the Times article appeared,” says Leslie Epstein, who taught the creative-writing class Maynard took that spring semester at Yale, “I could see the envy rising off the other students like steam off a radiator.”

One day, as she was sifting through the bags of fan mail she received in response to the Times article, she started reading one particular letter. Over the years, Maynard would say that, even as she read it for the first time, she knew the letter was the most profound and insightful she had read in her entire life. What’s more, she felt an instant connection with the letter’s author. Then, reaching the end of the page, she saw the signature — “J. D. Salinger.”

Maynard and Salinger corresponded for the rest of the semester. Salinger sent several letters, each one to two pages long; Maynard answered them all. “It was known at the time that Joyce was in touch with Salinger,” says Samuel Heath, who attended both Phillips Exeter and Yale with Maynard. “It seems Salinger was telling her, ‘Don’t let them spoil you. Don’t let them destroy you as a voice,’ ‘them’ being the Establishment, the publishers, the outside world. He was doing the Catcher in the Rye routine — protecting her.”

When Maynard came home for the summer, they continued their correspondence. After they had exchanged about 25 letters, Maynard went to Cornish to see Salinger. Then, instead of returning to Yale for her sophomore year, she moved in with Salinger. “Her father was furious,” says a friend of the Maynard family, “not only because she was living with J. D. Salinger but, on a more practical level, because she had dropped out of college. He always thought she had the potential to write literature. He didn’t want her to sell out.”

No doubt Maynard must have felt she was fulfilling her father’s dreams, for during the fall and on into the winter, while she lived with Salinger, who worked regularly on writing he did not intend to publish, Maynard herself worked on a memoir called Looking Back, a book based on her Times Magazine cover story. One highlight of the long winter was the trip Salinger and Maynard made into Manhattan when, one day, Salinger bought her a coat and then took her to lunch to meet his friend William Shawn.

Mostly, Maynard and Salinger stayed in Cornish and wrote. When they were not working, Maynard puttered around the house, which she later described as being furnished in a “pedestrian” fashion. Salinger liked to lecture her on the advantages of homeopathic medicine and on Zen Buddhism.

The sex life of Maynard and Salinger, Maynard has told people, consisted only of oral sex. The arrangement was Maynard’s decision rather than Salinger’s. Even then, however, one of Maynard’s life ambitions was to have a family, but Salinger had made it clear that he had no intentions of having any more children, and the issue became a source of contention between them over the winter. Finally, in the late spring, when the couple traveled to Florida on a vacation, the conflict reached a breaking point. They were lounging on the beach when Salinger finally gave her his own unqualified answer: If that’s what she wanted, then their relationship was over. When they got back to Cornish, she should move her things out. It was at this point, as Maynard later described it to a friend, that she stood up from the beach, brushed the sand off her arms and legs, and left. Her affair with Salinger was over. It had lasted ten months.

The grey-haired man turned his head again toward the girl, perhaps to show her how forbearing, even stoic, his countenance was.

–Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes”

In 1981, the actress Elaine Joyce was working on a short-lived television series called Mr. Merlin when she received an interesting piece of mail. The widow of singer Bobby Van, Joyce was 36 at the time. The letter was from J. D. Salinger. “I was doing a series,” says Joyce, “and he wrote me a letter. I get fan mail all the time, but I was shocked. I really didn’t believe it. It was a letter of introduction to me about my work.” Joyce responded, just as Maynard had; and in this case, as well, a sustained correspondence followed. “It took me forever,” she says, “but I wrote back, and then we wrote to each other quite a bit.” As he had with Maynard, Salinger eventually arranged for the two of them to meet, and they began a relationship. The couple spent a lot of time in New York. “We were very, very private,” Joyce admits, “but you do what you do when you date — you shop, you go to dinner, you go to the theater. It was just as he wanted it.” The only real suggestion the public had that the two were involved occurred in May 1982, when the press reported that Salinger showed up for an opening night at a dinner theater in Jacksonville, Florida, where Joyce was appearing in the play 6 Rms Riv Vu. But to conceal their affair, Joyce denied knowing him. “We were involved for a few years all the way through the middle eighties,” Joyce says. “You could say there was a romance.”

That romance ended in the late eighties when Salinger met Colleen O’Neill, a young woman from New Hampshire who was the director of the annual Cornish town fair. “Jerry used to come and walk around the fairgrounds with her,” says Burnace Fitch Johnson, a former Cornish town clerk. “Colleen would have to repeat things to him when people spoke to him, because he’s quite deaf.”

Their relationship developed to the point where, as of 1992, when the New York Times ran a story about a fire at Salinger’s house, the reporter identified Colleen as being “his wife.” She was also, according to the newspaper, “considerably younger than her husband.”

Johnson confirms that, as of today, the couple has been “married for about ten years.” Since 1992, at least as far as public surfacings are concerned, the Salingers have remained in seclusion — until Joyce Maynard, that ghost from the past, celebrated her 44th birthday last year by showing up on their doorstep.

As for Maynard, since 1973, she has published her books and married an artist, Steve Bethel, with whom she had the children she wanted so badly (a daughter and two sons). In 1989, her marriage having failed, she set out on what would end up being for her, as she called it, a “many-years-long search for true love, while engaged in raising kids.” This search included a six-month love affair with a musician, followed by a period during which she had casual sexual flings with a number of men.

“Fifteen minutes into our first date,” one of these men says, “Joyce kept referring to this guy named Jerry. She was talking about ‘Jerry this’ and ‘Jerry that.’ It was as though they still knew each other. It took me a few minutes to figure out that the Jerry she was talking about was J. D. Salinger.

“Joyce,” he continues, “is the most self-obsessed person I’ve ever met. She gives narcissism a bad name.”

One morning, Maynard let him read her cache of Salinger letters. On a number of occasions, she discussed how she would never write about Salinger, out of respect for his privacy. One story Maynard told him spoke to the very nature of Salinger’s personality, his saga, and the kind of life he may have lived — and the number of women he was involved with — once he and Maynard broke up. One time, Maynard was at a literary dinner party in Manhattan years after her affair with Salinger had ended. At this dinner party, Maynard told her friend, were two women writers about her age, X and Y, who did not like her. Maynard offered a passing veiled reference to Salinger that X and Y overheard. Then X made a comment to Y loud enough for Maynard to hear. “You know,” X said to Y, “I have a cache of Salinger letters, too.”

What was J.D. Salinger’s problem?

A new book and film argue that the trauma of war forged the author of "The Catcher in the Rye"

Laura Miller

Salon

Sep 5, 2013

The big revelation in “Salinger” (the film) and “Salinger” (the book), both to be released this week, is that rumors of a vault of unpublished manuscripts by the author of “The Catcher in the Rye” have turned out to be true, and, furthermore, that some of these writings continue the stories of the Glass family and Holden Caulfield. Less exciting (a lot less exciting) is the news that at least one of the manuscripts (which will be published between 2015 and 2020) is a “manual” for the Vedanta religion, the faith that engrossed Salinger for the last 50 years of his life.

Book and film also feature biographical information from new sources, most notably Jean Miller, a woman Salinger met in 1949, when she was 14, and with whom he had a quasi-romantic friendship for about five years. (Salinger dismissed her the day after the relationship was consummated.) Miller was the inspiration for the title character in his story “For Esme, with Love and Squalor.”

Apart from such discoveries, the film’s director, Shane Salerno, and his co-author on the book, David Shields, offer some theories about Salinger’s life and work: specifically, the persistent question of just what was wrong with him. As both book and film amply document, the author was a terrible father and worse husband, a man who withdrew from public life and repudiated his fame, yet was not above using that fame (via creepily seductive letters) to court teenage girls from his redoubt in Cornish, N.H. He was so merciless a perfectionist that he broke with a lifelong friend when the man, an editor, inadvertently allowed one of Salinger’s short stories to be published in a magazine with the wrong title. He once threatened his family’s former nanny with a gun when she came to his door collecting for the Red Cross drive.

Salinger wasn’t a recluse; rather, as the authors stress, “what he wanted was privacy.” This is often treated as the most outlandish aspect of his personality, when really it’s the most commonsensical. One of the talking heads featured in the documentary belongs to actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who explains that people who haven’t lost the ability to walk anonymously down the street cannot appreciate what a tremendous freedom it is. “I’m tired of being collared in elevators, stopped on the street, and of interlopers on my private property,” the elderly Salinger griped in a rare interview. “I want to be left alone, absolutely. Why can’t my life be my own?”

The film features a fan who, as a young husband and father, traveled to Cornish to haunt the end of Salinger’s gravel driveway, believing that the author “felt like I did and we could talk about deep things.” Salinger, after asking if the man was “under psychiatric care,” questioned how he could have left his family for such a quest. In this respect, if few others, Salinger was decidedly less crazy than the society around him. The attention trained on him was pathological, and his withdrawal from it entirely understandable, but the more he pulled back the more hotly the popular obsession burned. Another man interviewed by the filmmakers is a photographer who hid in the bushes outside Salinger’s house and surreptitiously shot the writer as he walked his dog.

Both book and film versions of “Salinger” are refreshingly frank about their subject’s many shortcomings and how they might have affected his work. The playwright John Guare, who appears in the film, notes that any writer would find cause for concern in having his novel held up by not one, not two but three separate assassins when they were asked for an explanation for their crimes. Salinger himself said he regretted writing “The Catcher in the Rye,” mostly because of the attention it drew to him. The film also refers to Mary McCarthy’s famous takedown of the Glass family stories, “J.D. Salinger’s Closed Circuit,” in which she accused him of creating a fictional hall of mirrors in which his own self was replicated and congratulated for its brilliance, charm and integrity over and over again. (This argument is briefly and eloquently translated into images, using the film’s recurring visual motif of a besuited man typing tormentedly on a movie-theater proscenium while scenes from Salinger’s life are projected behind him. The motif is otherwise comically histrionic.)

Salinger’s genius lay in his seemingly unfettered yet acutely focused voice, for the way that it released the irreverent impulse trapped within the confines of postwar America. In “Catcher,” he distilled the fiery, even Puritanical spirit of adolescence, with its tremendous energy and its vast blind spots, into the purest form imaginable; the novel is to youth what crack is to cocaine. In the middle of “Salinger” the film, amid the Errol Morris-style reenactments and the Ken Burns-style documentary footage, the movie opens into footage of young people all over the world reading or holding up copies of “The Catcher in the Rye,” and it’s impossible not to be moved by the spectacle, even if “Catcher” wasn’t that book for you. It’s that book for so many kids — and the more power to it, for their sake.

But the grown men who turned up on Salinger’s doorstep seeking conversations about “deep things” and the Mark David Chapmans (and John Hinckleys and Robert John Bardos) who saw “Catcher” as a call to strike down the world’s “phonies,” were not so much liberated into adolescent skepticism as trapped in adolescent angst. They turned to Salinger because he seemed to understand exactly how they felt. Whether they realized it or not, they were trying, and largely failing, to grow up, and they thought Salinger could help them. Unfortunately, they’d come to the wrong man because Salinger never figured it out himself.

“His writing was all about innocence and the damage done to innocence by the world,” E.L. Doctorow says in “Salinger” the film, registering as one of the more thoughtful and adult voices reflecting on the work. Too many of the other commentators are actors (all male) who express more enthusiasm than understanding. For Shields and Salerno, Salinger’s preoccupation with innocence and its desecration largely originates in his World War II experiences, which were brutal. The author participated in both the D-Day invasion and the liberation of a concentration camp. Salerno and Shields argue that “The Catcher in the Rye” “can best be understood as a disguised war novel.” Salinger’s rejection of public life can likewise be seen as a lifelong response to trauma. The film dissolves from his famously soulful author photo for “The Catcher in the Rye” to Ted Lea’s equally famous illustration of a harrowed soldier, “That 2000-Yard Stare,” with the eyes of both images superimposed on each other.

As for Salinger’s idealization and pursuit of teenage girls — a penchant that seems to me of a piece with his general fetishization of immaculate youth — Salerno and Shield see two causes: heartbreak over Oona O’Neill, an early love who married Charlie Chaplin while Salinger was at war, and sexual insecurity caused by having “only one testicle” (or an undescended testicle, which seems more likely).

But “Salinger” the book also includes an anecdote about Salinger’s apprenticeship (imposed by his father) to a meat company in Vienna in the late 1930s, during which visit he fell in love with a Viennese girl of 16. Salinger later fictionalized her in a story titled “A Girl I Knew,” praising her “immense eyes that always seemed in danger of capsizing into their own innocence … When she sat down she did the only sensible thing with her beautiful hands there was to be done: she placed them on her lap and left them there.” The man’s fixation on very young, large-eyed and exquisitely simple girls seems to have been well in place before Oona broke his heart and the war ravaged his spirit.

Isn’t it just as likely that Salinger went into the war a rigid, unforgiving man, and that the war broke him in the way it broke many others, but all the more so because he lacked the flexibility to absorb its terrible truths? “Salinger” (book and film) amply documents the author’s youthful arrogance and selfishness, his infatuation with his own cleverness and his inability to see the world from the perspective of anyone who wasn’t a lot like himself — or whom he could imagine to be a lot like himself, as he did at the beginnings of his many short-lived romances. These traits preexisted the war and Oona’s “betrayal,” and this, combined with his immense, innate talent, may have given his fiction the concentration and the vividness that make his depictions of young people so persuasive. Besides, Salinger famously carried six chapters of “The Catcher in the Rye” with him on D-Day, the first action he saw. That novel, too, at least partially preexisted the war.

It’s not always easy to accept that what gives some artists their access to greatness can also stunt them as human beings. In a few, rare cases, the work transcends the hobbled souls who created it. Only nostalgia could interest me in the further adventures of Holden or the Glass family. But also waiting in that cache of manuscripts are at least two books about grown-ups, set during the war, and I am more than a little curious to see what Salinger made of that.

Laura Miller is a senior writer for Salon. She is the author of "The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia" and has a Web site, magiciansbook.com.

Toronto woman who exchanged letters with J.D. Salinger recalls author as ‘handsome’

Marjorie Sheard, now 95, was looking for a mentor, her niece says.

Victoria Ptashnick

Toronto Star

Apr 25 2013

For decades she secretly kept his typewritten letters in a shoebox, tucked away in her Rosedale apartment. It was the closest she would come to literary success.

In 1941, Marjorie Sheard, a twenty-something advertising copy writer and aspiring novelist wrote to a young J.D. Salinger when his early work was appearing in publications such as Esquire, before he wrote Catcher in the Rye.

“I think she was just looking for a mentor, really. She liked his work and was interested in his advice,” says her niece, 60-year-old Sarah Sheard, from her Riverdale home.

If that was the case, Marjorie, who is now 95 and living in a seniors’ home on Queen St. E., got more than she bargained for.

In the span of a few years, from 1941 to 1943, she and Salinger exchanged a series of letters that were playful, sweet and offered a revealing look at the days when his most famous novel was still in the works.

In one letter the 22-year-old author asks Marjorie what she thought of “the first Holden story,” which he wrote was called “Slight Rebellion Off Madison.” He signed the letter “Jerry S.”

Sarah says that there were always whispers in the family that Marjorie had exchanged letters with Salinger, who died a recluse in 2010, but it wasn’t until Marjorie moved to a personal care home about a decade ago, that she gave the letters to a family member. Recently Marjorie and her family decided to sell the nine letters to the Morgan Library & Museum in New York to pay for her medical care.

Tiny in her bed with a novel tucked under her blankets, Marjorie seems pleased when a reporter hands her a gift — a copy of Catcher in the Rye.

“May I keep it?” she asks after running her fingers over the cover.

She recalls Salinger and says “he was so handsome once.”

Marjorie, a widow who has no children, says their correspondence stopped because it simply ran its course. She also said that she did think of Salinger afterwards but never wrote him again.

It was a romance that would probably be out of place in modern time, says Sarah.

“There’s a unique quality to their exchanges that I don’t think would happen now. The slowness of typing caused them to be more considered in what they said. They didn’t dash things off the way we can in a text nowadays,” she says, smiling.

Sarah remembers her aunt as a glamorous woman who sewed her own clothing and was never without her signature red lipstick. She was successful at her job writing ads but was heartbroken over the fact that she never became the fiction writer she always dreamed of.

“She always wrote on a typewriter and I remember when she was in her 50s, she had been working on a novel for decades,” Sarah says.

She remembers her aunt sent it to a publisher it was sent back with plenty of negative feedback and ugly scribbles all over the copy.

“She was embarrassed and hugely disappointed and gave up after that,” Sarah says.

She says the bittersweet part of the Salinger story is that they don’t have the letters her aunt wrote to Salinger.

“Again, she will be remembered for writing to this famous author and she won’t really be considered a writer in her own right,” Sarah says. “He was obviously very intrigued with her and what she was writing him and it’s sad we’ll never know what that is.

“I think they were both very shy people and they could be more expansive on the page than in real life.”

“There’s a courtly quality there but there’s also some sizzle,” she says, laughing.

“What do you look like?” Salinger wrote in the fall of 1941, requesting that Marjorie send him a photograph of herself.

In a subsequent exchange he thought better of it and said, “I wrote from a mood — and not a nice one.”

But Marjorie did mail him a photo, a black-and-white portrait, her lovely face pointed upwards towards the camera.

“Sneaky girl. You’re pretty,” he replied back.

With files from the New York Times

Voir également:

15 Revelations from New J.D. Salinger Biography

He liked young women but didn’t want to sleep with them, he married a Gestapo informer, he wanted to play Holden Caulfield in the film. Here are 15 revelations from the juicy new oral biography of the famed author. By Andrew Romano

Andrew Romano

The Daily Beast

September 2, 2013

On Tuesday, Simon & Schuster will publish Salinger, an oral history about the reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey, and dozens of other stories and novellas. Three days later, on Sept. 6, a documentary of the same name by screenwriter Shane Salerno (Savages, Armageddon) will debut in theaters.

There have been several accounts of J.D. Salinger’s life and work published over the past few decades, including titillating memoirs by his daughter, Margaret, and his former teenage paramour, Joyce Maynard.

But by conducting more than 200 interviews over nine years, many of them with individuals who had previously refused to speak on the record; by compiling more than 175 photographs, including dozens that have never been seen before; and by combing through diaries, legal records, private documents and lost Salinger letters, Salerno and the book’s co-author, David Shields, seem to have created the most extensive portrait yet of a writer who spent nearly 60 years doing everything in his power to avoid precisely this kind of exposure.

As such, Salinger is full of fascinating revelations. Here are 15 that everyone should be talking about.

1. There’s More Salinger to Come

For the last 45 years of his life—from June 12, 1965, the day that “Hapworth 16, 1924” appeared in The New Yorker, until Jan. 10, 2010, the day he died—Salinger did not publish a single story or novel.

But according to Salerno and Shields, who cite “two independent and separate sources,” five new or retooled works of fiction will be released in irregular installments between 2015 and 2020: The Family Glass, which “collects all the existing stories about the Glass family together with five new stories that significantly extend the world of Salinger’s fictional family”; a “manual” of Vedanta, the Hindu religious philosophy to which Salinger adhered for much of his adult life, with “short stories, almost fables, woven into the text”; a World War II novel based on Salinger’s short first marriage to a German woman; a World War II novella that “takes the form of a counterintelligence agent’s diaries … culminating in the Holocaust”; and “a complete retooling of Salinger’s unpublished 12-page 1942 story ‘The Last and Best of the Peter Pans’” that will be collected with the rest of his Caulfield material, including The Catcher in the Rye, to create a complete history of Salinger’s other fictional family.

“Jerry Salinger listened like you were the most important person in the world,” Miller says in the book. “I felt very free with him.”

There are hints in Salinger that, after 1965, the author submitted at least some of this material to The New Yorker. Truman Capote once told biographer Lawrence Grobel that “he knew on good authority that Salinger… had already written five or six novellas, and that The New Yorker had rejected all of them”; writer Phoebe Hoban says, “I’ve heard [William] Shawn turned down at least one manuscript was he was still editor.” But former New Yorker fiction editor Roger Angell denies it, and journalist Renata Adler claims that Salinger gave her a different explanation. “He said that the reason he chose not to publish the material he had been working on,” she tells Salerno and Shields, “was to spare [the famously prudish] Mr. Shawn the burden having to read, and to decide whether to publish, Salinger writing about sex.” So at least the new Salinger books will be saucy.

Speaking of …

2. Salinger Was Born With a Single Testicle

At one point, Salinger called himself as a “condition, not a man.” Based on their research, Salerno and Shields are convinced that the author was referring, at least in part, to the fact that he had been born with only one testicle.

After Pearl Harbor, Salinger tried to enlist in the Army, but he was, as he put it in a letter to his literary mentor, “classified I-B with all the other cripples and faggets [sic].” According to one of his fellow soldiers, however—Salinger later volunteered for a counterintelligence position and went on to serve in Europe—the author once told his hero Ernest Hemingway “that he didn’t think the army would take him… [because] he had only one testicle.” Salerno and Shields write that they initially dismissed the assertion, but “two women independently confirmed that Salinger had this physical deformity, about which, one of them said, he was ‘incredibly embarrassed and frustrated … It was a big deal to him.’”

The biographers go on to theorize that “surely one of the many reasons [Salinger] stayed out of the media glare was to reduce the likelihood that this information about his anatomy would emerge.” They also claim that it inspired him to “embrac[e] Eastern religions that endorsed chastity.”

At the very least, Salinger’s congenital abnormality may have contributed to the fact that …

3. Salinger Had a Thing for Much Younger Women

The contours of Salinger’s attraction to girls on the cusp of womanhood have been detailed before. But Salerno and Shields’s account is the most comprehensive yet. After losing the gorgeous young debutante Oona O’Neill, daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill, to Charlie Chaplin in 1943, Salinger seems to have spent the rest of his life fixated on girls who were approximately the same age as Oona was at the time: 17 going on 18. He would begin epistolary romances with undergraduate writers he’d read in the newspaper (Maynard); he would call up gamine actresses he’d seen on TV. He even had a pickup line, according to biographer Paul Alexander: “I’m J.D. Salinger and I wrote The Catcher in the Rye.” Unsurprisingly these come-ons seemed to work.

He said, ‘You take more steps toward me and I’m going to shoot at the ground right in front of you.’

They certainly did with Jean Miller, the young girl who inspired Salinger’s classic story, “For Esme—With Love and Squalor.” In the early 1960s, a Time magazine reporter interviewed a woman, identified in his unpublished file as “J,” who was alleged to have had an affair with Salinger when she was 16 or 17 years old. “J” denied the affair at the time, but decades later, Salerno and Shields tracked her down—and, after “a number of conversations over many months,” convinced her to talk.

It turns out that Jean Miller was only 14 when she first got involved with Salinger. “Jerry Salinger listened like you were the most important person in the world,” Miller says in the book. “I felt very free with him.” At first, Salinger and Miller would just walk and talk, first in Florida, then in New York, and later at his compound in Cornish, N.H. Years later, when Miller was 20, they finally had sex—an encounter that Miller initiated. The next day Salinger dismissed her forever. “I think he was enjoying me being a child all those years,” Miller says in the book. “I knew it was over. I knew I had fallen off that pedestal.”

Salinger’s relationships always followed the same pattern, according to Salerno and Shields. They said "he was drawn to very young, sexually inexperienced girls whom he knew he was unlikely to become intimate with, or if they did become sexual partners, they were unlikely to have enough experience with male anatomy to judge him. He almost always backed away from his lover immediately after the consummation of the relationship, thereby avoiding rejection.”

But young wasn’t enough; Salinger’s lovers also had to look the part. Once, Salinger flew to Edinburgh to meet a girl to whom he’d sent “over a hundred pages of letters.” But she was ”very tall and big-boned and kind of awkward”—not the Lolita he’d imagined—so he turned right around and left.

That said, even when Salinger liked a girl …

4. Salinger Wasn’t Particularly Smooth in Bed

According to Salerno and Shields, Salinger “never consummated his relationship with Oona O’Neill, Jean Miller had to throw herself at him to get him to respond, and Leila Hadley Luce describes her dates with Salinger as Platonic.”

With Joyce Maynard, the usual routine just wouldn’t work. “I couldn’t do it,” Maynard tells Salerno and Shields. “I couldn’t do it. The muscles of my vagina simply clamped shut and would not release. After a few minutes we stopped.” Salinger eventually took Maynard to a homeopathic specialist in Florida; the same day he announced “I can’t do this anymore,” and their relationship was over.

With his second wife, Claire Douglas, sex of any sort was rare. “We did not make love very often,” Douglas once told her daughter, Margaret. “The body was evil.” Douglas attributes at least some of Salinger’s reticence to his religious beliefs. But according to biographer Paul Alexander, the problem was that Salinger’s view of Claire changed after she gave birth: “Before that, she had been very much the image of the late teens, early twenties woman he was initially fascinated by. Now she was a mature woman.”

And yet …

5. Salinger Was Quite the Charmer… at Least on Paper

In 1999, Joyce Maynard sold her letters from Salinger at auction; they were purchased by a software millionaire and given back to Salinger. Salerno and Shields have obtained them and published excerpts. What comes through in the letters, more than anything else, is the chummy, clever, seductive force of Salinger’s voice—which remained remarkably Holden Caulfieldesque even in 1972, a decade after he penned his last published story.

“A few unsolicited words in strictest privacy, if you can bear it, from a countryman, of sorts, one who is not only an equally half-and-half right-handed New Hampshire resident but, even more rare and exciting, perhaps the last active Mouseketeer east of the White House,” Salinger writes. “I’ve spent a great part of my life in grave and increasingly sad doubt about almost every value I’ve ever had a good, long look at. My little conclusions about this and that sometimes almost sound wise to me, even, but I’m not really taken in, because I really and truly haven’t the character, the strength of character, to be wise.”

6. Salinger Married a Gestapo Informant Even Though He Was Half-Jewish

According to Salerno and Shields, it was Salinger who broke up with his first wife, the half-German, half-French Sylvia Welter, and not vice versa, as previously reported; he left an airline ticket back to Germany on her breakfast plate. The reason? She was allegedly a Gestapo informant.

The evidence here is speculative. To support their case, Salerno and Shields have obtained a copy of the official annulment, which accuses the defendant, Welter, of “bad intentions” and “false representations.” They have included a comment from Salinger friend Leila Hadley Luce in which Luce claims that Salinger had “found out some disturbing things about what [Welter] did in the war, specifically with the Gestapo. And they have commissioned a new investigation by consultant Eberhard Alsen, who uncovered “strange facts about Sylvia’s life that suggest she might have been a Gestapo informant.” Incidentally, Salinger’s parents—his Jewish father and converted mother—were convinced at the time that Welter was an anti-Semite.

7. Salinger Wasn’t As Anti-Hollywood As Previously Reported

In 1949, Sam Goldwyn made “My Foolish Heart”—an adaptation of Salinger’s story “Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut.” Salinger hated it, and swore never to cooperate with Hollywood again. Or so the story goes.

But according to Salerno and Shields, the conventional wisdom isn’t true. As late as 1957, Salinger’s agent H.N. Swanson was submitting Salinger’s work to Hollywood producers; the biographers reproduce a rejection letter for “The Laughing Man” as evidence. And later, in the late 1960s, Salinger agreed to let producer-director-writer Peter Tewksbury adapt “For Esme—With Love and Squalor” for the screen, but Tewksbury eventually backed out when Salinger insisted that the daughter of writer Peter De Vries play the title role. “She’s too old,” Tewksbury said. “She is past that delicate moment that makes the miracle of Esme… I would be destroying the beauty of Salinger’s work, and I won’t do that.”

In fact, Salinger spent his last, reclusive decades in his Cornish, N.H. living room, screening Lost Horizon and other classics. He was such a film fan that…

8. Salinger Wanted to Play Holden Caulfield Himself

“He said that the only person who could ever play Holden Caulfield was himself,” Joyce Maynard tells Salerno and Shields. “But even he acknowledged he was too old for that—although, in some ways, he was playing Holden Caulfield forever.”

9. Salinger Wanted to Give His Daughter a Dirty Name

Frustrated by her souring relationship with Salinger, Maynard fixated on the idea of having a daughter. “How this child was to be conceived I can’t imagine because nothing was happening that would have made that possible,” she says, “although we actually had a name for this child.”

The name came to Salinger in a dream: “‘Bint’—the little girl was always referred to as ‘Bint.’”

Later, after Maynard published her memoir, she received a letter from a British scholar. “Do you know what the word ‘Bint’ actually means?” he wrote. “It’s a word that means ‘whore,’ worse than ‘wench’: it’s a very ugly word for a woman.”

10. Salinger Could Be a Pleasant Neighbor—Except When He Wasn’t

Late in the book, Salerno and Shields reprint a short story by Edward Jackson Bennett, the publisher of the Claremont (N.H.) Daily Eagle, about bumping into Salinger one Sunday afternoon in 1968. Bennett, newly divorced, has mixed himself a pitcher of martinis. He is sitting in the sunshine. Salinger, now a full-fledge recluse, saunters by.

“Come up and have a martini,” Bennett says. Salinger does. “We made no introductions, nor were names exchanged,” Bennett writes. “Instead we chatted about the hard winter, the birds, and whether or not we’d be planting peas this May in the upland country.” As Salinger rises to leave, Bennett tells him they have something in common—their divorces were granted at precisely the same time. A smile creases Salinger’s face. “You have a point there,” he says, “and perhaps we share other similarities, too. Thanks for the drink.”

Still, every warm moment in the book is undermined by five or six instances of chilly behavior. A few pages later, for example, Ethel Nelson, formerly the Salingers’ nanny, relates a less neighborly tale. “I said, ‘Jerry, we’re here for the Red Cross drive,” Nelson tells Salerno and Shields. “‘You always give to it. He said, ‘You take more steps toward me and I’m going to shoot at the ground right in front of you.’ He had his gun in his hand. He did not want people trespassing on his land. He said, ‘You wait a minute. I’ll go in and write a check and throw it down to you.’ That’s how distrusting of people he had become.”

11. Even the Local Kids Wouldn’t Leave Salinger Alone

The book is very clear about Salinger’s desire for absolute privacy; the writer stopped considering himself a public figure around 1953 and came to resent all the reporters, photographers, and fans who materialized on his doorstep in subsequent decades. When Salinger first moved to Cornish, he tried to befriend a group of local teenagers, but one of them betrayed him by publishing an article in the local paper. Years later, he still couldn’t fit in. “A number of high school kids devised this elaborate plan,” according to literary agent Catherine Crawford. “They actually threw one of their friends out of a car. They drove by [Salinger’s] house, and they covered the kid in ketchup to make him look bloody. [He was] moaning, rolling around. Salinger came to the window, took one look and knew it was fake, so he shut the blinds and went back to work.”

12. Still, Salinger Wasn’t a Total Hermit

Salinger was reclusive, but Salerno and Shields also make it clear that he wasn’t a total hermit. At one point, he shows up at the center of London society—sharing drinks with a Vogue model he met on a ship; partying with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh; accidentally snorting gin up his nose with Australian ballet dancer Robert Helpmann; arguing with Enid Starkie about Kafka. At another point, Salinger mysteriously appears, in 1966, on the Long Island set of Reflections in a Golden Eye. Even after Salinger had decamped to Cornish, he loved to lunch with William Shawn and Lillian Ross at the Algonquin in New York. (“It will set me up for months,” Salinger wrote to Ross after one of their gatherings. “I was at peace.”) Back in New Hampshire, Salinger liked to watch the horses at the county fair, take in Dartmouth basketball games, and eat spinach and mushroom wraps at a cafe in Windsor, Vermont.

13. Salinger Was Not, However, the Greatest Date

This is how Leila Hadley Luce describes Salinger’s courting style: “Even when he spoke, he was not easy to talk with because if it was raining and I said, ‘Oh, I don’t mind, I like to walk in the rain,’ he’d say, ‘Oh my goodness, what a cliché.’ … Every cliché I used, he would say, ‘Oh, that’s a cliché. How can you say that?’ I felt very self-conscious talking with him because he was, of course a perfectionist.” Sounds like fun.

14. Salinger Was Also a Terrible Poker Player

According to editor A.E. Hotchner, Salinger refused to bluff—which jibes, somehow, with Holden Caulfield’s famous aversion to “phonies. “He felt anybody who bluffed was a weenie, as he would say,” Hotchner remembers. “I said, ‘But if you don’t bluff, you’re not going to be a successful poker player.’ I don’t recall Jerry ever winning a round of poker; he was too cautious and suspicious. God knows, Jerry never drew to an inside straight.”

15. It’s Too Late Now, But If You Want Salinger’s Phone Number, It’s in the Book

Really. It’s on the bottom of page 414, right in the middle of his “lost letters” to Joyce Maynard. “Just in case of anything at all,” Salinger writes, “my phone number here is 603-675-5244.” If only the editors of Newsweek had dug up those digits back in 1972.

Voir par ailleurs:

Everything You Need To Know About the J.D. Salinger Documentary

Michelle Dean

Flavorwire

Sep 6, 2013

The only clear takeaway from Salinger is that he was totally right to get the hell out of Dodge. If this is what the bright hot sun of public attention yields, this mishmash of people who sorta kinda knew him making hyperbolic claims, I sympathize with his impulse to disappear. We are all better off living in dark little farmhouses than in movies that include, I kid you not, reenactments where hunky actors bearing very little resemblance to oneself carry heavy-looking logs up hills. Every once in a while Salinger seems to display some faint trace of self-awareness about its bombast — as when it interviews one nut who went to Salinger seeking spiritual guidance and was told the truth, i.e., “I’m a fiction writer, go back to your family.” But there is something at once lurid and way too innocent about this film, and its accompanying book.download

Reams have been written already about what a terribly gossipy and craven genre biography is. There are good ones, but most of the time the biographer really has to sift through the ugly matter of a person’s life. Salinger lacks even the limited intellectual aspiration biographers can usually claim. Both book and film read more like celebrations than investigations. And though celebration has its place, there’s much less excuse for the kind of prurient rubbernecking biographical research necessarily involves when you have no interest — and no one involved in these Salinger projects has any interest — in illuminating the work with this information. If all you care about in biography is enhancing and protecting celebrity status, you’re doomed to be little more than a paparazzo-in-text.

You may leave the theater or the biography having learned something new about the man — that he believed himself to have a telepathic connection with his first wife, say, or that he wore dark blue coveralls to write — but the details don’t amount to a real psychological portrait. They are trivial details, and ones which the filmmaker-biographers confusingly decline to connect to the whole. That makes them ripe for bullet points though, and obviates your need to see the entire movie:

1. Salinger’s affair with the beatutiful debutante Oona O’Neill (later Chaplin) left him brokenhearted. The film doesn’t outright call her a heartless bitch for marrying another kind of celebrity, but it cuts awfully close to that thesis.

2. Based on precious little evidence, the film claims that Salinger’s first wife, a woman named Sylvia Welter, was a Nazi. The precise nature of her ties to the Party are left vague, likely because, as one discovers in the accompanying book, there is no real evidence of such ties beyond some hearsay from a Salinger associate and a scattered university enrollment history.

3. Salinger evidently had, in the testicular sense, a Franny but not a Zooey. (Credit for that way of putting it goes to Flavorpill Literary Editor Jason Diamond.) Salerno and Shields get real sappy about this, and suggest it gave Salinger a guiding sense of inadequacy. Perhaps. Perhaps also this really could not matter less as an item of journalistic/literary/scholarly analysis, because one intellect does not emerge directly from one’s crotch. Mercifully, this “revelation” is not discussed in the film.

4. This is more of something we knew already, but the documentary and book elaborate: Salinger was a big creep when it came to women, generally targeting the young and credulous and then shoving them out the door the moment it turns out they don’t satisfy his pedestalicious read on them. One, the inspiration for Esmé in the beautiful short story “For Esmé, With Love and Squalor,” he literally put on a plane the second after he slept with her. Not terribly charming, but also a not-unfamiliar story to literary women all over Brooklyn and environs.

5. Salinger had a giant vault which contained all sorts of manuscripts he intended to publish. A couple of them are about characters who already populate these stories: the Caulfield and Glass families. One is about a branch of Hinduism and basically no one will read it. Another couple are what sound like thinly veiled accounts of Salinger’s wartime experiences, including his marriage to Sylvia. In short: Woooooof.

There, I have now saved you $13.50.

Of these items, only the last appears to have been carefully verified. The rest is all straight-up gossip. It’s possible that every documentary is ultimately more of a profile of its maker than its subject. But that’s more true of Salinger than of the average case. It’s clear that Shane Salerno and David Shields are giant fans of J.D. Salinger, but fandom doesn’t scholarship make. And frankly, like Salinger, I think he was better off alone than with fans like these.


Salinger: L’Attrape-coeurs est-il un roman de guerre déguisé ? (Was the Catcher in the Rye a disguised war novel ?)

11 septembre, 2013
130902-stern-salinger-teasehttp://wpmedia.arts.nationalpost.com/2013/09/salinger1.jpg?w=620http://rack.1.mshcdn.com/media/ZgkyMDEzLzA5LzA2L2RkL1NhbGluZ2VyVHJhLmYyNTdmLmpwZwpwCXRodW1iCTk1MHg1MzQjCmUJanBn/dfbc5980/e8d/Salinger-Trailer.jpg.jpg
 Il a quitté les États-Unis il y a 31 mois. Il a été blessé lors de sa première campagne. Il a contracté des maladies tropicales. Il dort à moitié la nuit et fait sortir les Japonais de leur trou toute la journée. Deux tiers de sa compagnie ont été tués ou blessés. Il va repartir à l’attaque ce matin. Jusqu’à quel point un homme peut tenir ? Tom Lea
On ne se débarrasse jamais vraiment de l’odeur de chair brûlée. Quelque soit le temps qu’on vive. Salinger
Au héros du plus grand désir succède le héros du moindre désir. (…) Le romantique ne veut pas vraiment être seul; il veut qu’on le voit choisir la solitude. René Girard
L’auteur de L’attrape-cœurs est mon écrivain préféré, il a 88 ans et j’en ai marre qu’il soit mon contraire absolu. Quand il avait mon âge, Salinger était une star qui draguait les filles, dînait au Stork Club, jouait au poker, fréquentait les journalistes, et se saoûlait au Chumley’s avec des écrivains et des éditeurs. Et puis, un beau jour, il a complètement disparu.(…) Son célèbre héros Holden Caulfield, l’éternel adolescent fugueur, a changé ma vie: un garçon qui s’enfuit de son école, ment sur son âge pour entrer dans des bars, harcèle une pute, prend des taxis qui puent le vomi, se demande où vont les canards de Central Park en hiver, dit «nom de Dieu» tout le temps avant de tomber amoureux d’une bonne sœur ne pouvait que devenir mon meilleur copain. (…) En Amérique, The Catcher in the Rye est un peu l’équivalent de L’étranger de Camus, publié dix ans plus tôt (si Albert Camus n’avait pas eu d’accident de voiture en 1960, il aurait aujourd’hui à peu près le même âge que Salinger – à peine six ans de plus). Frédéric Beigbeder
Salinger told Whit Burnett his writing teacher at Columbia University and the editor at Story magazine that on D Day he was carrying six chapters of The Catcher in the rye, that he needed those pages with him not only as an amulet to help him survive but as a reason to survive. David Shields
L’un des premiers détails que j’ai appris, c’est qu’il portait avec lui six chapitres de The Catcher in the Rye quand il a débarqué le Jour J. C’est quelque chose qui m’a stupéfié. Il portait ces chapitres avec lui presque comme un talismanpour le préserver de la mort et il a travaillé sur le livre tout au long de la guerre.
Avant de participer au Débarquement,  J.D. Salinger était un gosse de riche de Park Avenue. Rien ne l’avait préparé à ce que la seconde guerre mondiale allait lui faire psychologiquement. Nous le savons car à la fin de la guerre, il a fait un passage dans un hôpital psychiatrique et ensuite quelque chose de vraiment remarquable, c’est-à-dire que dès sa sortie de l’hôpital psychiatrique, il a resigné pour la dénazification de l’Allemagne.
La seconde guerre mondiale est vraiment le traumatisme qui a transformé la vie de J.D. Salinger. Elle a fait de lui un artiste, mais elle l’a brisé en tant qu’homme. Il a vécu toute sa vie avec le syndrome de stress post-traumatique. C’est quelque chose à laquelle nous croyons très fortement, et j’ai placé un de ses anciens frère d’armes de la quatrième Division dans le film pour dire comment il voyait les bombes tomber dans son salon parce que pour moi, ce n’est vraiment pas une chose qui est généralement associée à Salinger — ce ton de gueule cassée est directement lié à ses expériences de la guerre et c’est vraiment tout l’esprit qui anime ses histoires. Lorsque vous relisez l’oeuvre avec cela à l’esprit, vous vous rendez même compte que  "Catcher in the Rye" est un roman de guerre déguisé. Shane Salerno
Je crois que ce qui lui plaisait, c’est que j’étais encore une enfant toutes ces années. Je savais que c’était fini. Je savais que j’étais tombée de ce piédestal. Jean Miller
Il avait une relation compliquée avec les femmes. Il s’intéressait particulièrement aux femmes qui étaient au seuil de la féminité, entre 16 et 18 ans et parfois plus. (…) pas sexuellement (…) plus comme un moyen de revenir au temps de l’innocence d’avant-guerre. Salinger a toujours rêvé de l’époque de sa jeunesse, avant que son service dans la seconde guerre mondiale change sa vie pour toujours (…) Salinger a toujours été fasciné par cette période de temps avant que le monde des adultes n’entre dans votre vie. Shane Salerno

L’Attrape-coeurs serait-il un "Nus et les morts" ou un "Adieu aux armes" déguisé ?

Neuf ans de production, une centaine de photos dont nombre d’images, lettres et documents inédits, plus de 200 entretiens, annonce de la sortie dès 2015 d’au moins cinq nouveaux livres

A l’heure où la double sortie aux Etats-Unis d’un documentaire de plus de 2 heures et d’une biographie de quelque 700 pages tous deux intitulés "Salinger" lève un coin du voile sur l’un des plus grands mythes littéraires contemporains …

A savoir les près de 45 ans de silence de l’auteur du roman fétiche de toute une génération ("The Catcher in the rye" ou "L’Attrape-cœurs" en français, soit avec 65 millions d’exemplaires en  en 30 langues l’équivalent pour les adolescents américains de "L’Etranger" pour les jeunes Français, sans compter tous ceux qu’il avait inspirés comme le "Moins que zéro" de Bret Easton ou en France plus récemment "Le Coeur en dehors") qui sous le feu des critiques après une poignée de nouvelles n’avait pas publié depuis 1965 ou même, hormis quelques rares photos volées au téléobjectif, été vu depuis, avant sa mort il y a trois ans à l’âge de 91 ans …

Retour avec un entretien de Shane Salerno

Qui non content d’avoir démontré, si l’on en croit ses déclarations, qu’entre ses appels aux médias, ses procès à ses biographes ou émules et son goût prononcé pour les jeunes filles en fleur, le prétendu reclus de Nouvelle Angleterre n’avait en fait jamais cessé d’écrire …

Rappelle le véritable traumatisme que fut pour lui non seulement sa rupture avec la fille du dramaturge Eugene O’ Neill qui à 18 ans à peine lui avait préféré un Charlie Chaplin de 36 ans son ainé mais surtout son expérience, à l’instar des héros de "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" ou de "For Esmé – With Love" (mais, victime d’une dépression nerveuse, Holden Caulfield ne raconte-t-il pas son récit lui aussi du lit de son sanatorium ?) , de la guerre et notamment, pour ce descendant de juifs lithuaniens, sa découverte des camps de concentration nazis …

Et redonne de ce fait une intéressante et entièrement nouvelle grille de lecture du livre culte de ce dernier comme équivalent déguisé des romans ouvertement de guerre de ses contemporains, voire de la génération précédente …

‘Salinger,’ the Documentary on Reclusive Author J.D. Salinger, Premieres at Telluride

Marlow Stern

Daily Beast

Sep 2, 2013

In the documentary ‘Salinger,’ which had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, filmmaker Shane Salerno spent a decade interviewing friends, lovers, and admirers of the reclusive author of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ to create a full-bodied portrait of a troubled soul—while revealing the titles of his upcoming works. Salerno, joined by former Salinger flame Jean Miller and others, discussed the film in a post-screening Q&A.

Salinger, the decade-in-the-making documentary on reclusive author J.D. Salinger—he of The Catcher in the Rye fame—has been buzzed about for quite some time. Just last week, news leaked that the film reveals five posthumous works by Salinger that are scheduled to be published between 2015 and 2020. And then, if things weren’t mysterious enough, the plane carrying the Salinger team crash-landed at Telluride airport (thankfully, everyone was fine).

Without further ado, here are the titles of Salinger’s unpublished works, as revealed in the documentary:

A Counterintelligence Agent’s Diary

This book is based on Salinger’s time serving in the counterintelligence division when he interrogated prisoners of war during the final months of World War II.

A World War II Love Story

This book is based on Salinger’s brief marriage to Sylvia, a Nazi collaborator, just following World War II.

A Religious Manual

This book concerns Salinger’s adherence to Ramakrishna’s Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, which he found later in life.

The Complete Chronicle of the Glass Family

This book contains five new short stories about his recurring character Seymour Glass.

“The Last and Best of the Peter Pans”

This short story was written by Salinger in 1962, and tells another tale from the perspective of Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye.

Shane Salerno’s documentary, which is a tad over two hours in length, is equal parts fascinating and exploitative, but one can’t deny the astounding level of comprehensiveness on display. The film opens with an ex-Newsweek photographer recounting how, in 1979, he was hired to snap a picture of the notoriously reclusive Salinger in his hometown of Cornish, New Hampshire—eventually capturing him leaving his local post office. It then jumps back in time, tracing Salinger’s upbringing as the child of a cheese merchant who grew up on Park Avenue and came from “country-club society,” as one talking head puts it, before being kicked out of numerous prep schools. Once someone asked him what J.D. stood for, and he famously told them, “juvenile delinquent.”

His parents enrolled him at Valley Forge Military Academy, where he began writing. But his first love was acting. When he signed his school yearbook, he signed not only his name, but the names of all the characters he portrayed in school plays. Salinger, it’s later noted, tended to treat everyone in his life, especially his revolving door of younger women, as characters whom he could, to a certain degree, manipulate to do his bidding.

Later his romance with Oona O’Neill, the debutante daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill, is documented. After Salinger signed up for World War II, he’d brag to his Army friends about the relationship and send her letters daily—that is, until she stopped replying and began seeing Charlie Chaplin. This crushed Salinger, but also perhaps provided some creative inspiration, for it was during World War II that he wrote portions of The Catcher in the Rye, allegedly carrying six chapters of the novel on his person during D-Day to protect him.

The documentary shows a brief, never-before-seen clip of Salinger in the Army during August 1944. A woman gives the soldier a bouquet of flowers, and Salinger seems so touched, he removes his hat.

“When you reread the work with that in mind, you even realize that The Catcher in the Rye is a disguised war novel.”

But WWII traumatized Salinger. In one letter to a friend he writes, “I dig my foxholes down to a cowardly depth.” After serving 299 days in the army, including participating in D-Day, V-J Day, and the liberation of the concentration camp at Dachau, Salinger—oddly—married a woman named Sylvia, who is a former Nazi. They divorced soon after, and the documentary then chronicles his flings with numerous young women, including Jean Miller, who met Salinger when she was 14 at Daytona Beach. They spent quite a bit of time together, but the relationship didn’t get physical until he took her virginity one night at a hotel in Montreal. Afterwards, he left her.

Then there are the numerous rejections he received from The New Yorker, which initially refused to publish his short stories; then his successes there and the chaos surrounding the release of The Catcher in the Rye, which eventually sent him into seclusion. He still wrote until the day he died and, according to his brief fling Joyce Maynard, who was in attendance at this very screening, would write in a secluded hut called “the Bunker” and wear a canvas jumpsuit, like “a soldier going to war.”

Salinger is a thoroughly engrossing film that provides a full-bodied portrait of the man, the myth, the legend J.D. Salinger through brief reenactmentts, archival footage, and more than 150 interviews with lovers, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, super-fans, journalists, and modern-day admirers like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Martin Sheen. It is truly unbelievable how much research went into the making of this film, and it shows on screen. But Salinger is also a bit of a Catch-22, since you know that the late author, who passed away in 2010 at age 91, would have hated that this film was made.

In a Q&A following the screening moderated by famed documentarian Ken Burns, Salinger director Shane Salerno and his collaborators, including Salinger fling Jean Miller, spoke about the man behind the mystery.

On a strange correspondence with Salinger:

BURNS: “We had a correspondence that went on for some time that was distinguished by the fact that he would send me passages from Christian Science manuscripts of how to cure ailments.”

On how they documented someone so mysterious:

SALERNO: “Salinger was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done in my life. It consumed 10 years. Having people speak for the first time was a huge challenge. It was a bit like All the President’s Men, where doors just slammed in your face for the first couple of years, but I was very grateful to finally have people come forward and share their stories. I felt that only the people that knew Salinger could really speak to how complex and contradictory he was, and people who had spent important time with him, people who had shared real experiences with him at different stages of his life. Salinger had an interesting pattern of having people in his life for three, four, five years, and during that time he would be completely focused on them, and then there always seemed to be a big blowout, and that person would be banished from his life for one reason or another. So convincing people to speak, who in some cases were really wounded for 30, 40, or 50 years, was very difficult. But to be fair, everyone said that at other times, he was a very warm and sweet man who was always known as Jerry—no one ever knew him as J.D.”

On feeling like an expendable muse:

MILLER: “Certainly, at the time, I didn’t feel expendable, but looking at this movie, I have to say, yeah, I suppose I was expendable. But the point is, everything about [Salinger] was warm, and kind, so another way you could look at it, from my point of view and my life, was what a privilege it was to have that time with him, even if it did have quite a dramatic end.”

On Salinger’s posttraumatic stress disorder following World War II:

SALERNO: “World War II really was the transformative trauma of J.D. Salinger’s life. It made him as an artist, but it broke him as a man. He was living with PTSD throughout his life. This is something that we believe in very strongly, and I placed a fellow veteran of his from the Fourth Division in the film talking about seeing bombs falling in his living room, because I do think that that is an area that is not associated with Salinger—that shell-shocked tone is directly from his experiences in WWII, and it really is the ghost in the machine of all his stories. When you reread the work with that in mind, you even realize that The Catcher in the Rye is a disguised war novel.”

On using re-creations to depict portions of Salinger’s life:

SALERNO: “The re-creations are something that we went back and forth on. There is so little material on Salinger; there are none of the traditional tools you have. There are no interviews, no audio recordings, very few pictures. The re-creations are probably a cumulative 7 minutes of a 2-hour and 4-minute film, but we felt they were really necessary to put you in that place—to have you experience a person—because there were just inherent limitations.”

Voir aussi:

The Private War Of J.D. Salinger

 NPR Staff

September 01, 2013

WADE GOODWYN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I’m Wade Goodwyn. J.D. Salinger spent 10 years writing "The Catcher in the Rye" – and the rest of his life regretting it. That’s the opening line of a major new work about one of America’s most revered writers. The book about Salinger’s life comes out this week. It’s called simply "Salinger." And a documentary, which will accompany the book, will be released this coming Friday.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SALINGER")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The publication of "Catcher in the Rye" in 1951 was a revolution.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: There had not been a voice like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: When you’re a kid and you read "Catcher in the Rye," you’re just like, oh my God, somebody gets it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: I remember that being the first book you take with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: It is a phenomenon.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: How many millions and millions came to that book?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: The great mystery is why he stopped.

GOODWYN: James Salerno is co-author and director of "Salinger." I asked him about his nine-year saga researching this very misunderstood author.

SHANE SALERNO: One of the first details that I learned is that he was carrying six chapters of the "Catcher in the Rye" with him when he landed on D-Day. And that was something that stunned me. He carried these chapters with him almost as a talisman to keep him alive. And he worked on the book throughout the war. His first day of combat was D-Day, and from there he proceeded into the hedgerows in the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge, and then ultimately entering a concentration camp, a sub-camp of Dachau.

GOODWYN: I don’t think I understood just how much Salinger’s combat experience became the formative experience for everything that Salinger wrote. His main character in "Catcher in the Rye," Holden Caulfield, isn’t born inside Salinger’s mind during the war; he’s created before that. But he’s really forged there.

SALERNO: If J.D. Salinger had not participated in World War II, we would not be having this conversation. The fact is, is that the work that is known prior to combat is not on the level that the rest of the work is. All of the work for which we know J.D. Salinger – "Banana Fish," "Esme," "Catcher," "Nine Stories" – all written after the war. Before he had landed on D-Day, J.D. Salinger was a Park Avenue rich kid. Nothing prepared him for what World War II was going to do to him psychologically. And we know this because at the end of the war he checked into a mental institution and then did something truly remarkable, which is came out of the mental institution and signed back up for more and participated in the de-Nazification of Germany.

GOODWYN: Let’s talk about the writing of "Catcher in the Rye." From reading your book, to me, Salinger’s confidence seems at once great and fragile at the same time. Did Salinger know he was writing a great American novel while he was at it, or do you think he just was hoping he was writing a great American novel?

SALERNO: It’s a great question. I mean, one of the things that we uncovered in a letter that he wrote to Jean Miller, which was a 14-year-old girl that he struck up a very unique and unusual relationship with – and he wrote her a letter where he says that he’s actually very scared about what the reaction will be to "Catcher in the Rye." He’s very scared about what his family and friends will think about the language and some of the points of view. And I don’t think he had any idea that it would become, you know, one of the most successful novels of all time.

GOODWYN: And here’s the part that will fill every aspiring writer’s heart with hope. It’s the great American novel but he can’t get it published.

SALERNO: Not only was "The Catcher in the Rye" turned down by its initial publisher, Harcourt Brace, but it was also turned down for excerpt by The New Yorker. And that’s even a harder thing to understand because at that time J.D. Salinger was their most popular writer. And they didn’t just reject it; they rejected it and wrote him a letter that we have where they say, you know, we don’t believe this book.

GOODWYN: There’s a scene in which Salinger is treated very roughly in which he’s invited in to meet with a publisher who tells him that they’re not going to publish the book and in fact Holden Caulfield is insane, and it sends Salinger running into the street.

SALERNO: That’s absolutely true. And when we discovered that and when we investigated that and actually talked – we were the first people that really talked with people who were at Harcourt Brace at the time – I mean, they really thought Holden Caulfield was crazy, and by extension that Salinger was crazy. And since Salinger had put his whole life into "The Catcher in the Rye," you can imagine a man who had, you know, stepped out of a mental institution a few years earlier being told that he was crazy and that Holden Caulfield was crazy was a great wound to him. And in fact, he teared up in the room and was deeply, deeply hurt.

GOODWYN: And then it is published and the world loves it. The reviews are ecstatic – maybe too much so because Salinger’s not happy. He’s such a literary snob that he worries that too much acclaim means that he’s actually written not a great book but a book for the masses. He wants a book for the ages. But the fact that he’s written both, he has difficulty seeing that.

SALERNO: He was completely overwhelmed by fame. And what he did, very much like Holden, very much out of "Catcher in the Rye," was beat a fast exit out of New York City. And he moved to Cornish, New Hampshire, and he never looked back. He would go into the city for certain lunches and dinners with select friends or come to a bookstore or come to a play. J.D. Salinger was not a recluse. He was very private and he wanted a private life. He was a man of deep, deep contradictions. This was a man who would write about renouncing the world and then write a letter to a friend talking about how much he loved the Whopper at Burger King.

GOODWYN: He wrote this book that eloquently touched the yearning, vulnerable, young intellect inside so many who feel like Salinger has written to them, that he understands something about them that the rest of the world doesn’t. Did you get a sense of what he thought about having suddenly touched so many young people in such a powerful way?

SALERNO: He said as much. He said very specifically that he regretted ever writing "The Catcher in the Rye." That it took over his life and made his life incredibly difficult. There are things about "The Catcher in the Rye" that are wholly unique to "Catcher in the Rye." People read that book – and this happened for decades and decades – and they want to meet Salinger. They get in their cars – we interviewed some of these people who left their lives, left their families, left their jobs just to see him. They think that he is a guru, that they think that he has the answers to the problems in their life, that they want to have deep conversations with him. That’s wholly unique to "The Catcher in the Rye."

GOODWYN: Salinger eventually has little patience for these people. I don’t know if he despises them or feels sorry for them. But it’s clear he was happiest when he was at his writing desk. And I wonder if that would have been true with or without "Catcher in the Rye" having been written.

SALERNO: He didn’t want people showing up at his doors. He didn’t want to be bothered. He didn’t want to answer questions. He said to Michael Clarkson, who we interview in the book and the film, I’m a fiction writer. I’m not a teacher or seer.

GOODWYN: Let’s talk about Salinger and women. The first-grade love his life is the daughter of one of America’s literary giants, Eugene O’Neill, and she’s 16 years old.

SALERNO: She’s a fascinating woman, a beautiful woman, truly beautiful woman. And just to put this in perspective: between the ages of 16 and 18, Wade, Oona O’Neill dated Peter Arno, Orson Welles and J.D. Salinger and then married Charlie Chaplin just after her 18th birthday. Salinger met her when she was 16 and fell head over heels in love with her. And they were divided by war. Salinger finds out that he loses Oona to Chaplin and is devastated. He’s overseas, can’t do anything about it and is utterly devastated. And every one of his relationships that followed that with women was haunted by his relationship with Oona O’Neill. And Salinger was always attracted to girls at the edge of their transformation into womanhood.

GOODWYN: In my own reporting I like to bury the lead, and in that regard, your research breaks some important news, and that is that Salinger may not be finished publishing.

SALERNO: That’s true. You know, after nine years and after uncovering photos and documents and interviews with people that had never come forward or never been seen, as part of that, we were able to confirm that there is more work and that work will be published fairly soon.

GOODWYN: When do you think the work might be published?

SALERNO: We think that from the sources that we have, that the work will be published in irregular installments between 2015 and 2020.

GOODWYN: I wonder how you feel about that. I mean, his last works were criticized as being long and preachy tone and short and other kinds of content. Do you worry that these new works might suffer the same fate?

SALERNO: I know it’s a concern for millions of Salinger fans. I see that reflected in various articles. I believe that the work will be significant and important. And I’m dying to read it.

GOODWYN: Shane Salerno is the co-author of a new book about J.D. Salinger and the director, producer and writer of an accompanying documentary. The film, also called "Salinger," will be released this coming Friday, September 6. Shane, congratulations.

SALERNO: Thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed speaking with you.

Voir également:

Film on Salinger Claims More Books Are Coming

Michael Cieply and Julie Bosman

The New York Times

August 25, 2013

LOS ANGELES — J. D. Salinger may not be done publishing after all, according to claims in a new film and book set for release next week.

Mr. Salinger, who died in 2010 at the age of 91, has been known for a distinguished but scant literary oeuvre that was capped by the enormous success of his 1951 novel, “The Catcher in the Rye.”

But a forthcoming documentary and related book, both titled “Salinger,” include detailed assertions that Mr. Salinger instructed his estate to publish at least five additional books — some of them entirely new, some extending past work — in a sequence that he intended to begin as early as 2015.

The new books and stories were largely written before Mr. Salinger assigned his output to a trust in 2008, and would greatly expand the Salinger legacy.

One collection, to be called “The Family Glass,” would add five new stories to an assembly of previously published stories about the fictional Glass family, which figured in Mr. Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey” and elsewhere, according to the claims, which surfaced in interviews and previews of the documentary and book last week.

Another would include a retooled version of a publicly known but unpublished tale, “The Last and Best of the Peter Pans,” which is to be collected with new stories and existing work about the fictional Caulfields, including “Catcher in the Rye.” The new works are said to include a story-filled “manual” of the Vedanta religious philosophy, with which Mr. Salinger was deeply involved; a novel set during World War II and based on his first marriage; and a novella modeled on his own war experiences.

For decades, those in touch with Mr. Salinger have said that he had continued to write assiduously, though he stopped publishing after a long story, “Hapworth 16, 1924,” appeared in The New Yorker. But no one had made so detailed a public claim that Mr. Salinger had left extensive posthumous publishing plans.

Matthew Salinger, who is Mr. Salinger’s son, and shares responsibility for the Salinger estate with Colleen O’Neill, the author’s widow, declined to discuss plans or the book and film. He said Ms. O’Neill, who did not respond directly to a separate query, would also decline to comment.

In an interview earlier this year, Matthew Salinger said he was skeptical that the planned book and documentary would deepen public understanding of his father, who, he said, for decades had confined his intimate dealings to a small circle of seven or eight people.

The documentary is directed by Shane Salerno, a filmmaker who spent nine years researching and filming the movie that is set for release by the Weinstein Company on Sept. 6, and will air later on PBS in the American Masters series. The companion book, co-written by David Shields, is to be published by Simon & Schuster on Sept. 3.

Speaking in his Los Angeles office on Saturday, Mr. Salerno pointed to tables and shelves filled with previously unpublished photographs, hundreds of letters and even a handwritten World War II diary that belonged to one of Mr. Salinger’s lifelong friends, a now-deceased fellow soldier named Paul Fitzgerald.

“If that’s not the inner circle, I don’t know what is the inner circle,” Mr. Salerno said.

His understanding of the publishing plans, Mr. Salerno said, took shape “fairly late” in his research.

The book and film attribute the detailed account of the plans to two anonymous sources, both of whom are described in the book as being “independent and separate.” Mr. Salerno declined to elaborate, other than to describe them as people who had not spoken to each other, but knew of the plans.

“The credibility of the last chapter,” Mr. Salerno said of a final summary of publishing prospects, entitled “Secrets,” “is in the 571 pages that preceded it.” Mr. Salerno noted that he initially had some cooperation from members of the Salinger family, but they later withdrew support.

The book and film have been marketed with the promise of revelations about Mr. Salinger, whose penchant for privacy became a hallmark. Last week, Weinstein and Simon & Schuster began a promotional campaign that includes a poster image of Mr. Salinger with a finger to his lips, beneath an admonition: “Uncover the Mystery but Don’t Spoil the Secrets!” The book, a 698-page companion to the film, is written in an oral history style with snippets of text from dozens of people who were interviewed for the project.

Jonathan Karp, the publisher of Simon & Schuster, said in an interview on Saturday that the book was “a major journalistic feat.”

“He did rely on some anonymous sources, and I’ve talked to him about that,” said Mr. Karp. “I believe that his sourcing is strong on the basis of all of the on-the-record sourcing that is unimpeachable.”

Mr. Karp said of the “big reveal” of the unpublished manuscripts, “if and when this happens, I would expect it to be one of the biggest publishing events of the year, if not the decade.”

Together, the film and book provide a highly detailed, if somewhat unconventional, tour through the life of an author who landed with the Allied invasion of Normandy in World War II, was among the first to enter the Kaufering IV death camp during his service with counterintelligence troops, suffered mental collapse, then returned to the United States — with a German wife, Sylvia Welter — where he found literary fame.

Among their more tantalizing revelations, Mr. Salerno and Mr. Shields provide little-known details and photographs of Mr. Salinger’s first wife, Ms. Welter, a German citizen who married him after World War II. At the time, in 1945, Mr. Salinger was working as a counterintelligence agent investigating Nazis who were in hiding.

But the book notes suspicious elements of Ms. Welter’s life that suggest she may have been an informant for the Gestapo, a possibility that surfaced among Mr. Salinger’s friends in the post-War era. The marriage would not last. Weeks after the newlyweds returned to the Salinger home in New York, “she found an airline ticket to Germany on her breakfast plate.”

Another relationship described in the book and film will provide plenty of intrigue to Salingerologists: after the war, Mr. Salinger met a 14-year-old girl, Jean Miller, at a beach resort in Florida. For years, they exchanged letters, spent time together in New York and eventually had a brief physical relationship. (She said, in an interview in the film and book, that Mr. Salinger dumped her the day after their first sexual encounter.) Ms. Miller said in the book that Mr. Salinger once saw her stifle a yawn while talking to an older woman and borrowed the gesture for one of his short stories, “For Esmé — With Love and Squalor.”

“He told me he could not have written ‘Esmé’ had he not met me,” Ms. Miller said in an interview in the book.

For Mr. Salerno, the near-simultaneous release of both film and book culminate a quest that took him far from his occupation as a Hollywood screenwriter of films like “Savages” and the upcoming set of sequels to “Avatar.”

Mr. Salerno said he did not expect Little, Brown and Company, which published “Catcher,” would necessarily be the publisher of future works. (The publisher declined to comment.) He said he believed Mr. Salinger’s estate has the right to place them with another publishing house.

“He’s going to have a second act unlike any writer in history,” said Mr. Salerno. “There’s no precedent for this.”

Voir encore:

Hunting Again for Salinger Within the Silences and Secrets

Michiko Kakutani

The New York Times

August 25, 2013

SALINGER

By David Shields and Shane Salerno

Illustrated. 698 pages. Simon & Schuster. $37.50.

In the J. D. Salinger story “Zooey,” the title character’s mother says of him and his brother: “Neither you nor Buddy know how to talk to people you don’t like,” adding: “You can’t live in the world with such strong likes and dislikes.”

This was true, too, of the famously reclusive Salinger, who retreated to Cornish, N.H., the small town where he lived in seclusion for more than a half-century. His alienation from the world and his mania for privacy became part of the Salinger myth — a myth that David Shields and Shane Salerno attempt to pierce in their revealing but often slapdash new book, “Salinger.”

Salinger stopped publishing decades ago (his last story to appear in print, “Hapworth 16, 1924,” came out in the June 19, 1965, issue of The New Yorker), but, by some reports, he continued to write nearly every day.

In “Salinger,” Mr. Salerno and Mr. Shields assert that Salinger, who died in January 2010 at 91, left instructions “authorizing a specific timetable” (starting between 2015 and 2020) for the release of unpublished work, including five new Glass family stories; a novel based on his relationship with his first wife, Sylvia Welter, a German he married shortly after World War II; a novella in the form of a counterintelligence officer’s diary entries during the war; a story-filled “manual” about the Vedanta religious philosophy; and new or retooled stories fleshing out the story of Holden Caulfield, known to generations of readers from “The Catcher in the Rye,” the novel that made its creator famous in 1951 as the voice of adolescent angst. The authors of “Salinger” attribute details of these plans to two anonymous sources described as “independent and separate.”

The sharp-edged portrait of Salinger that Mr. Shields and Mr. Salerno draw in this book is that of a writer whose “life was a slow-motion suicide mission” — a man who never recovered from the horrors of wartime combat and the soul-shaking sight of a Nazi death camp filled with burned and smoldering corpses. Salinger, they argue, tried to grapple with his post-traumatic stress disorder first with art and later with religion: “The war broke him as a man and made him a great artist; religion offered him postwar spiritual solace and killed his art.”

This reductive diagnosis of Salinger’s “condition” is accompanied by pages and pages of testimony about how his youthful arrogance (one friend said he dismissed “Dreiser through Hemingway” as “all inferior” writers) and disaffection with his parents’ bourgeois world calcified, after the war, into a deep antipathy, even repugnance for most worldly things and ideas. Eventually, that contempt infected many of his closest relationships, and as depicted in these pages, an observant, Holden-like young man evolves over the years into a blinkered and condescending curmudgeon who is frequently guilty of the same sort of phoniness or hypocrisy his characters so deplored.

Salinger’s family, the authors say, had to compete for his attention with the fictional characters he’d created. One scholar quoted here says that when Salinger went off to his writing bunker, he gave “strict orders that he was not to be disturbed for anything unless the house was burning down.” What’s more, as he retreated from the world, his writing grew increasingly solipsistic and hermetic, his mastery of the vernacular giving way to more and more abstract language.

“Story by story,” Mr. Salerno and Mr. Shields observe, “from ‘Teddy’ forward, Salinger’s work moves from religion as a factor or even a crutch in his characters’ lives, to religion as the only thing in their lives that matters, to the work’s entire purpose being to cryptically convey religious dogma.”

“Salinger,” self-promotingly described on its cover as “The Official Book of the Acclaimed Documentary Film,” is not a conventional biography but a kind of companion volume to Mr. Salerno’s documentary of the same name (to be released on Sept. 6). The book takes a montagelike form: Excerpts from interviews, snippets from books and newspaper articles, letters and photos (some new) and photocopies of documents have all been assembled along with the authors’ own remarks into a sprawling, cut-and-paste collage.

This volume is indebted to earlier Salinger biographies by Paul Alexander (listed curiously as “an adviser to this book”) and Kenneth Slawenski, and it also draws heavily upon memoirs by Salinger’s daughter, Margaret, and his former lover Joyce Maynard, who was 18 when he began courting her. Among the other voices featured in this book are Salinger friends, paramours, colleagues, acquaintances and fans, as well as reporters, critics (including this one) and photographers.

Although Mr. Salerno has done an energetic job of finding sources and persuading them to talk — he says he interviewed more than 200 people over nine years — numerous entries in this volume have been taken not from new interviews but from earlier books and articles, sometimes with and sometimes without real context. Mr. Shields offered a defense of this sort of approach in his 2010 book, “Reality Hunger,” which embraced the validity of “recombinant,” or appropriation, art.

This methodology gives the reader a choral, “Rashomon”-like portrait of Salinger, but it also makes for a loosey-goosey, Internet-age narrative with diminished authorial responsibility. Instead of assiduously sifting fact from conjecture and trying to sort out discrepancies, Mr. Salerno and Mr. Shields are often content to lay back and simply let sources speak for themselves.

This can make for sloppy scholarship with a lot of hedges like “probably thought,” “would have understood” and “might have been,” as well as outright speculation — sometimes by the authors themselves. Mr. Shields and Mr. Salerno even suggest that “Catcher” in some way played a role in the killings of John Lennon and the young actress Rebecca Schaeffer, and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. These terrible acts, the authors write, “are not a coincidence; they constitute frighteningly clairvoyant readings of ‘Catcher’ — the assassins intuiting the underlying postwar anger and violence in the book.”

The authors contend that Salinger “was born with only one testicle” and they argue that this caused him enormous embarrassment — that it was “surely one of the many reasons he stayed out of the media glare” so as “to reduce the likelihood that this information would emerge,” and that it amplified his psychological need “to create flawless art.” This assertion, however, is based on anonymous sources: two unnamed women who the authors say “independently confirmed” hearsay that Salinger suffered from this anomaly.

In another chapter, Mr. Shields and Mr. Salerno discuss outsourcing their research. They write that they “hired the literary scholar, Salinger expert, and German native Eberhard Alsen to travel to Germany to conduct an extensive investigation into Salinger’s year in the European Theater and postwar experience in Germany.” Mr. Alsen then proceeds to say that “utilizing his counterintelligence skills, Salinger forged French identification papers for Sylvia in order to circumvent the nonfraternization law,” and suggests, without hard evidence, that Sylvia “might have been a Gestapo informant.”

Attempting to identify patterns in Salinger’s life and art, Mr. Salerno and Mr. Shields quote sources who note his compulsion to try to control the lives of those closest to him and his appreciation of fiction as a way to orchestrate his fantasies. Innocence and nostalgia, they remind us, were recurring themes in his work, and they suggest that these preoccupations — not unlike his fondness for old-fashioned television like “The Lawrence Welk Show” — represented a desire to turn back the clock, to retreat to the past (before the war, before his hospitalization for “battle fatigue,” before his psyche was horribly scarred).

They also contend that this yearning for innocence — coupled with his devastation at being dumped as a young man by the teenage Oona O’Neill for Charlie Chaplin in 1943 — had something to do with his need to seek out young women: his need to idolize them, seduce them and then abandon them. With Jean Miller — a 14-year-old he met at a Florida beach resort in 1949 and who seems to have inspired the heroine of “For Esmé — With Love and Squalor” — he nurtured a five-year relationship, only to freeze her out the day after they had sex for the first time.

There is something creepy in Salinger’s use of his distinctive Holden-esque voice to try to charm his potential conquests — in a 1972 letter to Ms. Maynard the 53-year-old author describes himself as “perhaps the last active Mousketeer east of the White House” — and his judgmental, Glass-ian impulse to divide the world into us and them, inviting these worshipful young love interests to join his elite little club, only to expel them later with a curt dismissal that they’re merely ordinary or conventional, not special enough for him.

“The problem with you, Joyce,” Ms. Maynard recalls him saying, “is you love the world.

Voir enfin:

Shane Salerno’s decade-long obsession with J.D. Salinger

The film and book that have consumed the screenwriter’s life since 2003 began with two photos. Along the way, there have been many revelations. Now he awaits the public’s judgment.

Nicole Sperling

LATimes

September 5, 2013

When Shane Salerno turned 40 last year, he decided it was finally time to let his obsession go.

The screenwriter, best known for his collaborations with Michael Bay ("Armageddon") and Oliver Stone ("Savages"), had toiled for close to a decade trying to document the mysterious life of J.D. Salinger. The author of the bestselling "The Catcher in the Rye" had stopped publishing in 1965 and retreated from the public spotlight, leaving fans to wonder why — and to guess about what he had been doing in the 45 years until his death in 2010.

Over the years, Salerno had discovered juicy details about the enigmatic author — a short-lived marriage to a Gestapo informant at the end of World War II; a long-term relationship with a teenage girl that became the inspiration for the short story "For Esmé — With Love and Squalor"; a previously unknown best friend with whom he had corresponded over five decades. But the biggest revelation of all? Two sources saying that Salinger had left behind five unpublished manuscripts to be released between 2015 and 2020.

The plan was to pour all the research into an exhaustive biography co-written with David Shields and simultaneously release a two-hour film. But every time Salerno thought he had uncovered it all, new information would trickle in.

At last, he had reached his limit. "I turned 40 and I was done," recalled Salerno, sitting in his Brentwood office last week among the letters, photographs and documents that have consumed his life. "The film was sitting in my house as a finished master and I thought: ‘This is ridiculous, enough.’ On Dec. 3, I called my lawyer and I said, ‘I want to do this now.’"

Nine months later, the result is a 698-page oral biography, "Salinger," published Tuesday, and a documentary of the same name that’s arriving in theaters Friday after premiering last weekend at the Telluride Film Festival. Early reviews have described both works as engrossing as well as exasperating, and time will tell how deeply Salerno’s passion project resonates with a wider audience.

"I always trusted that he had what he said he had," said Salerno’s attorney, Robert Offer. "What I didn’t trust was that anyone would care as much as they did."

Project’s birth

The Salinger project began as a lark. Although the author’s work and mystique loomed large in Salerno’s household as a child (Salerno’s mother loved "Franny & Zooey" while her son was partial to "A Perfect Day for Banana-Fish" and "Esme"), his quest started in 2003, when he was in a bookstore and found the cover of Paul Alexander’s biography of Salinger which featured two incongruous photos of the author superimposed — a youthful cover portrait from "Catcher in the Rye" and a candid shot taken much later at the writer’s home in Cornish, N.H. The images depicted a man young and old, optimistic and deflated.

"I was so taken with that image that I spent 91/2 years trying to find out what happened," said Salerno, who originally thought he would spend $300,000 and six months investigating Salinger. He wound up using $2 million of his own money.

After a privileged New York upbringing, military school as a teen and a brief stint in college, Salinger was struggling as a writer when World War II broke out. He entered the Army and was sent to Europe; Salerno said it was Salinger’s trajectory during and after the war that kept him in the hunt for so long.

"The moment I said, ‘No matter what it takes, I’m going to finish the film,’ was when I learned that he went into a concentration camp [at the end of the war], went to a mental institution as a result and did what no other person on the planet would do: He signed up for more," Salerno said. "He joined the de-Nazification program and decided to go hunt these guys down. The minute I heard that, I was there."

Salerno made trips to Germany, Chile and many places on the East Coast, trying to piece together Salinger’s back story. He says that although certain members of the author’s family initially cooperated with his quest, they ultimately didn’t participate in formal interviews. But Salerno, Shields and his crew, which included cinematographer Buddy Squires ("The Central Park Five"), were propelled by gets, such as a photograph of Salinger in his bedroom or a trove of letters that Salinger exchanged with author Joyce Maynard.

At times, Salerno seems to adopt a Salingeresque secrecy about his own work; ask him, for example, whether he’s seen any of the actual manuscripts he says are awaiting publication and he refuses to answer. And he says he never sought to interview the man directly. Yet Salerno is happy to wax on about what he sees as the significance of the book and film.

"This was an extraordinarily difficult project. This wasn’t doing Ted Kennedy or Steve Jobs, where there are 100 or 200 interviews that you can draw on," he said. "We were having to pull things out of thin air."

Teen girls

One of the most compelling — and disturbing — segments of the film concerns Salinger’s predilection for teenage girls. The movie touches on Salinger’s early romance love with high-schooler Oona O’Neill (who would later marry Charlie Chaplin), and describes his multiyear courtship of Jean Miller, whom he met at Daytona Beach, Fla., when she was 14 and he was 30. It also delves into his relationship with Claire Douglas, whom he met when she was 16 and who became his second wife and mother to his two children.

In the film, Miller, now 78, describes their correspondence, her trips to his house in Cornish, how they danced to "The Lawrence Welk Show" and watched Frank Capra’s "Lost Horizon." She says that when she was 19, and he 35, she lost her virginity to him and he ended the relationship immediately.

It was a pattern Salinger would repeat at age 53 with the then-18-year-old Maynard, who came to his attention when she was featured on the cover of the New York Times Magazine for her essay on life as a teenager. Maynard dropped out of Yale University after her freshman year and lived with Salinger for 10 months, writing her first novel at his house before he ended the relationship abruptly. Maynard attended the film’s premiere in Telluride, Colo., and said she was more agitated by the movie than she expected to be.

"Salinger’s interest in seeking out young girls is certainly an element in the film. But the disturbing consequences of this behavior, to the girls, is barely addressed, and the suggestion has been made that there was some kind of privilege or honor involved in having been selected as a muse," Maynard said in an interview. "It is my view that J.D. Salinger damaged the lives of many young girls, on a far greater scale than is represented in Salerno’s film."

Salerno said he was bothered by what he learned about Salinger’s interest in teenagers but added that he cut more information about those relationships from the film due to space constraints. (The book includes another story about a 16-year-old, Shirlie Blaney, whom Salinger had a brief relationship with when he was in his early 30s.)

"We felt after Oona, Joyce, Jean and Claire, the point had been made," said Salerno. "When we showed people early cuts of the film, they were like, ‘We get it.’"

Coming to PBS

Salerno, who recently signed on to write James Cameron’s "Avatar 4," has sold the TV rights to the Salinger film to PBS, and after its theatrical run, it will air on "American Masters" next year.

Salerno’s only hope now is that people like it.

"I had to make this film, and I’m sure someone could have made it better, made it different, but I know that I gave it everything I had for nine years," said Salerno. "I really hope people enjoy it and feel that it honors Salinger, but tells the full story of his life. That was a really hard line. Yes, he’s an extraordinary artist and a deeply complicated human being."

Voir enfin:

Salinger

By David Shields and Shane Salerno

Simon and Scuster

THE BOY WHO BECAME A REBEL. THE REBEL WHO BECAME A SOLDIER. THE SOLDIER WHO BECAME AN ICON. THE ICON WHO DISAPPEARED.

Raised in Park Avenue privilege, J. D. Salinger sought out combat, surviving five bloody battles of World War II, and out of that crucible he created a novel, The Catcher in the Rye, which journeyed deep into his own despair and redefined postwar America.

For more than fifty years, Salinger has been one of the most elusive figures in American history. All of the attempts to uncover the truth about why he disappeared have been undermined by a lack of access and the recycling of inaccurate information. In the course of a nine-year investigation, and especially in the three years since Salinger’s death, David Shields and Shane Salerno have interviewed more than 200 people on five continents (many of whom had previously refused to go on the record) to solve the mystery of what happened to Salinger.

Constructed like a thriller, this oral biography takes you into Salinger’s private world for the first time, through the voices of those closest to him: his World War II brothers-in-arms, his family, his friends, his lovers, his classmates, his editors, his New Yorker colleagues, his spiritual advisors, and people with whom he had relationships that were secret even to his own family. Their intimate recollections are supported by more than 175 photos (many never seen before), diaries, legal records, and private documents that are woven throughout; in addition, appearing here for the first time, are Salinger’s “lost letters”—ranging from the 1940s to 2008, revealing his intimate views on love, literature, fame, religion, war, and death, and providing a raw and revelatory self-portrait.

Salinger published his last story in 1965 but kept writing continuously until his death, locked for years inside a bunker in the woods, compiling manuscripts and filing them in a secret vault. Was he a genius who left the material world to focus on creating immaculate art or a haunted recluse, lost in his private obsessions? Why did this writer, celebrated by the world, stop publishing? Shields and Salerno’s investigation into Salinger’s epic life transports you from the bloody beaches of Normandy, where Salinger landed under fire, carrying the first six chapters of The Catcher in the Rye . . . to the hottest nightclub in the world, the Stork Club, where he romanced the beautiful sixteen-year-old Oona O’Neill until she met Charlie Chaplin . . . from his top-secret counterintelligence duties, which took him to a subcamp of Dachau . . . to a love affair with a likely Gestapo agent whom he married and brought home to his Jewish parents’ Park Avenue apartment and photographs of whom appear here for the first time . . . from the pages of the New Yorker, where he found his voice by transforming the wounds of war into the bow of art . . . to the woods of New Hampshire, where the Vedanta religion took over his life and forced his flesh-and-blood family to compete with his imaginary Glass family.

Deepening our understanding of a major literary and cultural figure, and filled with many fascinating revelations— including the birth defect that was the real reason Salinger was initially turned down for military service; the previously unknown romantic interest who was fourteen when Salinger met her and, he said, inspired the title character of “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor”; the first photographs ever seen of Salinger at war and the last known photos of him alive; never-before-published love letters that Salinger, at fifty-three, wrote to an eighteen-year-old Joyce Maynard; and, finally, what millions have been waiting decades for: the contents of his legendary vault—Salinger is a monumental book about the cost of war and the cost of art.


France: Le changement, c’est demain (No austerity, please, we’re French: When neckties, bobby socks and cobblestones are no longer enough)

3 septembre, 2013
http://ds3.ds.static.rtbf.be/article/big_info/a/b/7/624_341_52cc87c376520bcad481cf66ecc26c76-1327831441.jpgIl faut que tout change pour que rien ne change. Tancredi (Le Guépard)
Dois-je mettre fin à mes jours ou aller boire un café ? Camus
En réalité, la reprise économique pourrait se révéler un obstacle supplémentaire, car les Français seront tentés d’espérer qu’une croissance modeste suffira une fois de plus à masquer les problèmes de fond, à la manière d’un tranquillisant. NYT

Attention: un conservatisme peut en cacher un autre !

A l’heure où, avec l’actuel frémissement de croissance, la France est à nouveau tentée par le tranquilisant de l’immobilisme …

Et que le chantre du "changement maintenant" élu pour son refus de l’austérité (ie. la réduction des dépenses publiques, le report de l’âge de départ à la retraite et la réforme du travail) sans laquelle tout changement est impossible annonce une "pause fiscale" …

Retour, avec le NYT et le Times, sur cette France de révolutionnaires "en cravate et socquettes" qui à coup de pavés "veulent conserver le confort du monde qu’ils connaissent" …

ÉCONOMIE Pourquoi la France ne survivra pas à la crise

Bien sûr, la France est un grand pays doté de nombreux atouts et d’un système social admirable. Mais pour avancer, elle doit cesser de rejeter toute réforme, alerte The New York Times.

The New York Times

Steven Erlanger

27 août 2013

traduit par Courier international

Pendant des décennies, les Européens n’en ont eu que pour l’Allemagne, sa puissance et son rôle, vu l’importance de ce pays pour la stabilité et la prospérité de l’Europe. On appelait ça la "question allemande". Aujourd’hui, c’est de “la question française” qu’il s’agit en Europe : le gouvernement socialiste de François Hollande saura-t-il endiguer le lent déclin de la France et l’empêcher d’être irrémédiablement reléguée au deuxième rang des pays européens ?

La question est de savoir si un système de démocratie sociale, qui pendant des décennies s’est targuée de fournir à ses citoyens un niveau de vie stable et élevé, pourra survivre à la mondialisation, au vieillissement de sa population et aux graves chocs budgétaires de ces dernières années.

Transformer un pays est toujours une tâche difficile. Mais, dans le cas de la France, le défi semble particulièrement complexe, notamment à cause de l’amour-propre* et de l’opinion que cette nation a d’elle-même – celle d’un leader européen et d’une puissance mondiale. Mais aussi parce que la vie en France est très confortable pour une bonne partie de la population et que le jour du Jugement dernier semble encore bien loin – en particulier pour les syndicats, qui sont petits mais puissants.

Un si beau modèle social

En réalité, la reprise économique pourrait se révéler un obstacle supplémentaire, car les Français seront tentés d’espérer qu’une croissance modeste suffira une fois de plus à masquer les problèmes de fond, à la manière d’un tranquillisant.

Les Français sont fiers de leur modèle social, et à juste titre. L’assurance-maladie et les retraites sont satisfaisantes, beaucoup partent à la retraite à 60 ans ou même avant, et il est courant de prendre cinq ou six semaines de vacances en été. A temps plein, ils travaillent trente-cinq heures par semaine et les nombreuses régulations en place les empêchent d’être licenciés ou renvoyés.

Néanmoins, dans une économie mondiale toujours plus concurrentielle, la question n’est pas de savoir si le modèle social français est valable ou non, mais si les Français auront encore longtemps les moyens de le maintenir. Et vu la tendance actuelle, la réponse est non, certainement pas sans d’importantes transformations structurelles des retraites, des impôts, des avantages sociaux, de la réglementation du travail et des attentes [de la population].

Le Parti socialiste de François Hollande et l’extrême gauche française ne semblent pas avoir compris la fameuse déclaration du neveu du prince, dans Le Guépard, le célèbre roman de Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, sur les bouleversements sociaux : "Il faut que tout change pour que rien ne change." En parlant avec les politiciens et les travailleurs français, on a parfois l’impression qu’ils se voient tous comme des communards et des révolutionnaires, des combattants de gauche – et pourtant, parallèlement, ils veulent conserver le confort du monde qu’ils connaissent, à l’instar de l’extrême droite.

La jeunesse n’est plus ce qu’elle était

En mai 1968, les étudiants de l’université de Nanterre ont déclenché ce qu’ils pensaient être une révolution. Des étudiants français en cravate et socquettes ont lancé des pavés sur la police et ont exigé que le système sclérosé de l’après-guerre évolue. Aujourd’hui, les étudiants de Nanterre craignent de ne pas trouver d’emploi et de perdre les allocations versées par l’Etat. Ce qu’ils veulent, c’est que rien ne change. Pour Raphaël Glucksmann, qui a dirigé sa première manifestation lycéenne en 1995, les jeunes de sa génération envient avec nostalgie leurs prédécesseurs rebelles, mais ils n’ont pas le courage de lutter dans ce contexte économique difficile.

“Aujourd’hui, les jeunes manifestent pour s’opposer à toutes les réformes, explique-t-il. Nous ne voyons pas d’autre solution. Nous sommes une génération sans repères.”

Les Français comprennent pourtant qu’à long terme ils n’ont pas intérêt à empêcher une modification structurelle de leur économie très régulée.

Les alertes sont partout : un chômage record, notamment chez les jeunes, une croissance lente par rapport à l’Allemagne, la Grande-Bretagne, les Etats-Unis ou l’Asie, ou encore des dépenses publiques qui atteignent quasiment 57 % du PIB, soit le taux le plus élevé de la zone euro et 11 points de plus que pour l’Allemagne. Le gouvernement emploie 90 fonctionnaires pour 1 000 habitants, contre 50 en Allemagne.

En 2012, environ 82 % des emplois créés étaient des contrats temporaires, contre 70 % cinq ans plus tôt, et contrairement aux emplois à temps plein, ces contrats ne permettent pas d’accéder à la classe moyenne française. Cette situation contraint quasiment toute une génération à vivre dans la précarité, y compris ceux qui travaillent dur et qui font de longues études.

Points forts

A Amiens, dans le Nord, l’entreprise Goodyear possède deux usines de pneus. Dans l’une, les ouvriers ont accepté à contrecœur de modifier leurs emplois du temps afin que l’usine ne ferme pas. Dans l’autre, ils ont refusé et Goodyear essaie actuellement (mais ce n’est pas si facile en France) d’en négocier la fermeture, mettant ainsi davantage de monde à la porte. “Je fais partie d’une génération qui a connu le Programme commun de la gauche, explique Claude Dimoff, ancien dirigeant syndical de l’usine qui a fait preuve de plus de flexibilité. Nous avions des projets pour l’avenir et des valeurs différentes, mais tout cela a été oublié. La gauche a complètement laissé tomber ses promesses.”

Le pays a encore beaucoup de points forts : la France est la cinquième économie mondiale, elle a une solide expérience dans la gestion, les sciences et l’innovation, et le fossé entre les riches et les pauvres, même s’il grandit, y reste plus réduit que dans la plupart des pays occidentaux. Lorsque les Français travaillent, ils travaillent dur : la productivité de la main-d’œuvre, qui est sans doute le principal indicateur du potentiel économique d’un pays, reste relativement élevée, même si elle accuse un recul certain. Mais avec de longues vacances et des semaines de trente-cinq heures, les Français travaillent moins longtemps que la plupart de leurs concurrents, ce qui met d’autant plus de pression sur les entreprises et l’économie.

Impossibles réformes

Sondage après sondage, les Français répètent qu’ils veulent des réformes et une modernisation de leur système – tant que cela n’a aucun impact pour eux. C’est l’éternel défi politique, et on reproche à Nicolas Sarkozy, le prédécesseur conservateur de François Hollande, de ne pas avoir respecté sa promesse de mettre en œuvre de grandes transformations structurelles.

S’il se plaignait constamment, par exemple, des conséquences catastrophiques de la semaine de trente-cinq heures, Nicolas Sarkozy ne l’a jamais abrogée. A la place, il s’est contenté de jouer avec la fiscalisation des heures supplémentaires, une mesure que François Hollande s’est empressé de supprimer. L’un des conseillers de Nicolas Sarkozy, Alain Minc, a admis que l’ancien président avait tout simplement peur d’affronter les syndicats et le tollé social que de véritables changements provoqueraient.

Beaucoup s’accordent à penser que seule la gauche peut lancer de grandes réformes structurelles et sociales. Mais, pour cela, il faudrait que François Hollande, qui bénéficie de la majorité parlementaire, se décide à s’opposer à son propre parti pour préparer l’avenir. C’est ce qu’a fait l’ancien chancelier allemand Gerhard Schröder au début des années 2000, lorsqu’il a apporté une série de mesures qui expliquent en grande partie la bonne santé de l’Allemagne aujourd’hui.

Concertation

François Hollande affirme croire au dialogue avec les partenaires sociaux, une méthode qui a jusqu’à présent préservé une paix relative, mais n’a pas apporté de véritable réforme. Grâce à un accord avec les syndicats centristes, il a réussi à rendre le marché du travail légèrement plus flexible : il est désormais plus facile d’appliquer des horaires variables et les charges sont plus élevées pour les contrats à court terme. A partir de 2014, les entreprises bénéficieront d’un crédit d’impôt d’environ 27 milliards de dollars [20 milliards d’euros], en partie financé par une hausse de la TVA.

Mais, souvent, des mesures qui semblent courageuses à leur échelle n’ont que peu de résultats. Sans compter que ces efforts modestes ont eu lieu à l’apogée du pouvoir de François Hollande, qui est désormais sur la pente descendante.

Note :*En français dans le texte.

Voir aussi:

ÉCONOMIE Hollande et le mirage de la croissance

Interrogés sur leur vision de la France en 2025, les membres du gouvernement ont rendu des copies bien naïves.

The Times

23 août 2013

traduit par Courrier international

Pour les ministres du gouvernement français, l’été a pris fin le 19 août. Le président Hollande avait fixé la rentrée treize jours avant la fin du mois d’août et leur avait donné comme devoir une rédaction exposant leur vision de la France dans douze ans.

On ne peut que le féliciter d’avoir invité son équipe à voir loin – espérons néanmoins qu’il aura également la sagesse de reléguer rapidement ces compositions aux archives, car elles relèvent d’un optimisme naïf là où le réalisme était de mise. Certaines frôlent même le délire, et aucune ne s’attaque aux grandes priorités de la France : réduire les dépenses publiques, repousser l’âge légal de départ à la retraite et mettre fin au blocage de la réforme du travail par les syndicats.

Si l’on entend soutenir la reprise glaciale que connaît le monde développé depuis le krach de 2008, la priorité est d’empêcher une autre crise dans la zone euro. Pour cela, il faut favoriser la croissance en France et s’assurer que le pays ne suivra pas la Grèce, l’Espagne et le Portugal sur le chemin d’un chômage en hausse constante, d’une dette débridée et d’une austérité forcée. Elu sur la promesse de ne pas imposer l’austérité, M. Hollande a été contraint d’en inventer sa propre version. Il a augmenté les impôts à deux reprises et promis de recommencer l’année prochaine.

Confiance dans l’Etat

La semaine dernière, il a reçu une nouvelle aussi bonne que rare : l’économie française a enregistré une croissance de 0,5 % au deuxième trimestre 2013. C’est mieux que de rester dans la récession, mais ce n’est probablement qu’une brève éclaircie dans un ciel bien sombre, et manifestement cette nouvelle ne fait qu’encourager le président à retarder encore plus les réformes structurelles dont la France a tant besoin.

Ce qu’il attendait de son gouvernement, c’était la vision d’une France prospère en 2025, car plus productive, moins grevée par les impôts et suffisamment porteuse de perspectives d’avenir pour empêcher les cerveaux les plus brillants de fuir vers Londres, New York et Shanghai. Ce n’est pas du tout ce qu’il a récolté. Ainsi, son ministre des Finances, Pierre Moscovici, reconnaît l’importance de réduire la dette et le chômage, mais laisse entendre qu’on peut y parvenir en augmentant les dépenses publiques, pas en les diminuant. M. Moscovici projette même une nouvelle Europe sociale, avec des dépenses mieux coordonnées. De son côté, le ministre du Redressement productif, Arnaud Montebourg, décrit à son patron une France au premier rang mondial dans tous les domaines, des nanotechnologies à l’optimisation des procédés industriels, mais ne dit pas vraiment comment y parvenir si ce n’est en faisant confiance à l’Etat pour choisir les chevaux gagnants. La ministre de la Justice imagine pour ses successeurs un rôle nouveau comme pourvoyeurs d’espoir et de réhabilitation plutôt que de condamnations. Quant à la ministre du Logement, elle promet 6 millions de nouvelles habitations et un accès au logement pour tous sans aucun stress.

Comment la France va-t-elle financer tout cela ? La réponse est sans doute détaillée dans les annexes, car elle n’est visible nulle part dans les comptes rendus officiels. Laurent Wauquiez, étoile montante du centre droit, a salué, hilare, la performance en la qualifiant de “surréaliste”. La Commission européenne et le FMI n’ont plus qu’à espérer que rien de tout cela ne se traduira par des mesures politiques.

Les ministres de M. Hollande n’ont apparemment pas apprécié d’avoir eu des devoirs à faire. En retour, ils fournissent de la matière pour des gros titres embarrassants et donnent l’impression qu’ils préféreraient revenir aux Trente Glorieuses plutôt que de réduire les dépenses et soumettre les syndicats. Venant du pays amateur de grands projets fantasques, il fallait peut-être s’y attendre. Cela n’en reste pas moins inquiétant.—

Voir encore:

Goodbye Old World, Bonjour Tristesse

Maureen Dowd

The New York Times

July 6, 2013

PARIS — VERSAILLES lived again at haute couture week, as designers paraded their let-them-eat-cake creations, hand-stitched with gilt embroidery and trimmed with guiltless fur — frousfrous that no real women can wear and few can afford.

On Friday night, Christian Lacroix offered his homage to Elsa Schiaparelli, but even high fashion couldn’t lift Paris from its low mood. “Liberté, égalité, morosité,” Le Monde declared.

Joie de vivre has given way to gaze de navel. The French are so busy wallowing in their existential estrangement — a state of mind Camus described as “Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?” — that they don’t even have the energy to be rude. And now that they’re smoking electronic cigarettes, their ennui doesn’t look as cool. It’s not that they’ve lost faith in their own superiority. They’ve lost faith that the rest of the world sees it. The whole country has, as Catherine Deneuve says of her crazy blue moods, une araignée au plafond — a spider on the ceiling.

On Place Vendome, Christian Lacroix was dispatching models in black crepe chiffon peplum basques — whatever they are — while on Avenue Hoche, Lacroix’s dentist was bemoaning the black crepe City of Lights. Holding a cigarette in a waiting room filled with Picasso-print pillows, Dr. Gérard Armandou told how his patients, always prone to pessimism, are even more filled with malheur now as they sit in his chair contemplating tous les problèmes, including “not going anymore on holiday to Egypt.”

“Cocteau said the French are Italians in a bad mood, but now there is more morosity,” he said. “We are connecting with nostalgia. What is nostalgia? Where the present doesn’t agree with the hope that you got in the past.”

He said there are widening chasms between sectors of French society — old and young, natives and immigrants, “smokers and nonsmokers, homosexuals and non-homosexuals.”

“Enter conflict, where before there was none,” he said. “The French people, maybe they think too much. The happy stupid don’t see the problem.” People with joie de vivre, after all, are simply not paying attention.

“It’s not the end of the world,” Dr. Armandou said with a Gallic shrug. “It’s the end of one world.”

The French have higher rates of taking antidepressants and committing suicide than most other Europeans. And while arguing about how to move forward, they feel trapped in the past, weighed down by high unemployment and low hopes, the onerous taxes that drove Gérard Depardieu to flee, conflicts with immigrants, political scandals, Hollande fatigue, Germany envy, economic stagnation, a hyperelitist education system, and cold, rainy weather that ruined the famous Paris spring. Instead of confronting the questions at hand — how to adjust to globalization and compete with the Chinese — the French are grieving their lost stature and glorious past, stretching back to the colonial empire, the Lumières, the revolution, Napoleon, even the Jazz Age writers and artists. They’re stuck in a sentimental time warp as vivid as the one depicted in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.”

“In 1945, France was on the losers’ side, but this reality has long been masked by the political speeches of General de Gaulle and François Mitterrand: they both maintained, in their own way, the idea that it remained a great power promised to an exceptional destiny,” the historian Christophe Prochasson told Le Monde. “After they left office, the French continued to live on that belief.” Today, he added, this illusion is disappearing gradually and “France is a country in mourning.” What is lacking now in France, he said, is the music of history, “the capacity to contemplate tomorrows that sing.”

It doesn’t help that as they come to grips with their dashed illusions of grandeur, the French find out that their own government and America’s have them under the spyglass. “L’Oncle Sam se comporte très, très mal” (Uncle Sam behaves very, very badly), Le Monde scolded in a front-page editorial last Monday.

“I know we can be unbearable but not to the point where you are entitled to put mics at our place,” said Philippe Manière, the managing partner of Footprint management consultants.

A 2011 BVA-Gallup poll conducted in 51 countries revealed that the French were even more pessimistic than Afghans and Iraqis. As the sociologist François Dubet told Le Monde, “If France doesn’t get all the Olympic medals and all the Nobel Prizes, the French consider it hopeless.”

Manière complains about how “disgusting” the Disneyfied Champs-Élysées has become, with hordes of teenage tourists snapping pictures of themselves in front of Ladurée, the macaroon shop, and pictures of the French without even a “s’il vous plait.”

“The intersection of globalization and the French spirit is especially painful,” he said. “We have this feeling that everything we were used to is disappearing and what we are offered is not as good.” The French gave up the franc but don’t want to give up anything else to mesh into a bland global society.

“The French are very conceptual, very cerebral,” Manière said. “We need to have more than food and TV. In America, it is not treason of an ideal if you want to watch TV all day, whereas in France it is.”

It is a measure of their desperation that the French have become fixated on American-style happiness studies. Claudia Senik, a professor at the Paris School of Economics and the Sorbonne, has become a media darling discussing her research on French malaise. Living in France, with its unyielding judgments about talent and its locked labor market, reduces the probability of being happy by 20 percent, she says.

Though everyone else flocks here to be dazzled, the French are less satisfied than the average European. She calls it “a cultural trait” linked not only to circumstance but to values, beliefs and behaviors passed from generation to generation, and exacerbated by madly competitive schools that are hard on self-esteem. In others words, unhappiness has been bred into the French bone. When French citizens emigrate, she said, they take their tristesse with them.

“Our happiness function is a little deficient,” she said over espresso at Le Rostand across from the Jardin du Luxembourg. “It’s really in the French genome.”

Voir enfin:

More Taxes, Please: We’re French

Bruce Crumley

Time

Dec. 26, 2011

Europe may be agonizing amid the worst financial crisis since the Second World War, but that still isn’t forcing France to accept the logic of economic liberalism that dominates much of world. That largely “Anglo-Saxon” view has long criticized the cherished French welfare state as too expensive, untenable, uncompetitive, and increasingly indebted–and now sees it as virtually doomed by an inevitable starvation diet that reality has imposed. But as they are prone to do now and again, the French are begging to differ with the rest of the world—and are doing so by defending a social system that’s a deep source of national pride in ways many societies wouldn’t stand for.

True, Paris has responded to the debt crisis—and threat of losing its AAA credit rating—by unrolling not one, but two austerity plans to rein in deficit spending. And true, too, some of that involved painful cuts in French social protection programs. But in picking through the details of that French reaction, some observers are pointing out how France has again shown its penchant for bucking conventional wisdom by devising a debt reduction scheme that relies far less on entitlement reduction than it does on considerable tax increases—Welcome to austérité à la française. For now.

The weekend edition of French daily le Monde patches together analyses of recent deficit-cutting measures unveiled by the conservative government of President Nicolas Sarkozy, and fleshes out an underlying Gallic logic of “when in doubt, raise taxes”. And — perhaps it’s because the sensation of the French government’s hand snaking into the private pocket is such a common one — Sarkozy’s option of raising taxes before cutting entitlements is thus far provoking little in the way of public outcry .

As the linked Global Spin story above notes, savings over the first two years of the French plan represent around $26 billion–a total set to increase to $90 billion by 2016. That effort aims to reduce France’s 2010 budget deficit of $199 billion to an estimated $103 billion by 2012, and thereby begin paring back the nation’s sovereign debt of $1.7 trillion (representing a bit more than 86% of GDP) over the next couple of decades. But in contrast to crisis-ravaged countries like Greece, Spain, and Ireland—which have dramatically slashed spending, frozen or cut public employee salaries, and shrunk payouts from state-funded unemployment and pension programs—French attempts to balance the country’s budget are primarily focusing on boosting revenue via tax hikes. In 2012, only 24% of the expected results from those measures will come from strictures in spending; the remaining 76% will be realized by increased state income from new taxes. The following year cuts in spending will represent 53% of reduced budget deficit—a portion rising to 64% in 2016 according to some readings of the package. Other analyses, however, estimate just over half of the anticipated deficit gains made over the next half decade will come from increased tax inflows—despite average annual growth forecasts of a mere 1% over the same period—with the remainder from actual cuts in spending. That’s not the kind of welfare state dismantling many market liberals abroad might have banked on.

The reason for that French strategy seems obvious. With general elections looming in April, May, and June, France’s ruling conservatives appear mindful that French voters of all political stripes generally hate the idea of pinching the country’s beloved welfare system and social programs more than they do finding their own pocketbooks squeezed with tax rises. Perhaps more than any other society on earth—even among European nations that tend to love their welfare states—the French will not only tolerate very high taxation of personal income to fund their social model, but will also unite across political lines to defend perceived attacks on it. Having weathered multiple, massive protests over reform, the unpopular Sarkozy is presumably aware of the perils of slashing away at programs as he nears an uphill re-election bid–even under pressure from the debt crisis.

The French leader is also presumably keeping in mind that governments in Greece, Spain, Ireland and elsewhere in the euro zone fell to public anger over increased taxes and slashed social programs both being imposed at once. That dire lesson of what one big stick and no carrot can bring about has no doubt shaped Sarkozy’s careful, two stage approach to cutting deficits. (France is not entirely alone in that cautious tack. Despite the initial prediction that Italy’s new government would take on its ballooning debt emergency by seeking both new tax revenues and undertaking deep cuts in entitlement programs, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti unveiled a package http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/16/world/europe/italys-leader-monti-offers-tax-increases-not-deep-reform.html?pagewanted=all that was mostly new taxation, and very little reform.)

But in cheating his deficit reduction effort with an early emphasis on tax hikes in deference to looming elections, Sarkozy may be setting France up for a future-shaping decision on whether to prolong that approach or not in mid-2012. The reason? Current polls suggest both Sarkozy and his ruling conservatives will be replaced by leftist rivals now running on pledges to revise the back-end of his deficit and debt reduction plans–and shift the target of his initial tax focus. Those opponents (and some independent analysts) decry the measures adopted by Sarkozy’s conservatives as unfairly weighing on the middle class and poorer households, while sparing the wealthy most pain. Were the left elected, it would not only be inclined to hit the rich with far more than the temporary 3% to 4% income tax hikes Sarkozy’s plan calls for, but to dig deep into the some 500 exemptions protecting various forms of personal revenue from taxation—most of which benefit France’s most affluent people. The money the state loses in tax receipts to those exceptions is worth around $90 billion per year—nearly the totality of France’s expected budget deficit in 2012. For that reason some voices–including those from the French center and right–are looking to country’s rich as de facto tax savings that would be of great use in the current debt crisis downpour.

French conservatives counter that raising taxes on the wealthy will simply provoke a capital flight to nations like Switzerland or Luxembourg–a move, rightists argue, that would see a ruling left raise taxes across the board to (partially) offset deficit spending. That’s an ideologically sound accusation, but an unlikely eventuality. With the overall level of taxation in France averaging 49.5% per household in 2010, even many unabashedly leftist economists say there’s a limited range of how much higher taxes can be raised before they seriously shackle purchasing power—and thereby undermine consumption and growth. (That may be true, but high taxes isn’t synonymous with economic or financial ruin. While France’s rate is 5% higher than the European union average, it’s considerably lower than robust economies like Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway.) By contrast, debate in France is very much open on untapped revenues now protected by exceptions and loopholes for the rich–and some businesses–with consensus rising among the 99% about the state getting more funding from its priviledged 1%. Meanwhile, there’s also talk in the event of a leftist victory next year about demolishing France’s complex and often opaque tax structure, and replacing it with a more streamlined, transparent, and equitable system that shifts greater financing responsibilities back to top earners.

All that’s not to suggest that there’s a rising and uniform consensus about protecting the welfare state through tax increase–and just where those hikes should hit hardest. There’s just as much debate in France as there is in the U.S. or U.K. about the justice, wisdom, or productivity of “soaking the rich” with higher taxes–and the clashes of opinion on that topic are just as frontal as they are elsewhere. By contrast, the topic of using taxes to redistribute wealth—and safeguard the country’s beloved welfare system in the process—is not only an accepted idea that more economically liberal nations like America would have a hard time understanding; it’s such a slam-dunk notion in France that few people have voiced much anger at seeing their income squeezed harder under Sarkozy’s plan as the crisis has tightened. Where economic neoliberals pronounce the welfare state dead because it can’t be financed, the French reply by pointing out higher taxes can do just that (at least to a point). Mark that up to the French being the French again–and in a way it never fails to dismay and delight people elsewhere in equal and opposing numbers.

Bruce Crumley

Crumley is TIME’s Paris bureau chief and has covered French and European news since 1989.

Read more: http://world.time.com/2011/12/26/more-taxes-please-were-french/#ixzz2doPA4fMA


Syrie: Dix ans après la tragédie irakienne, la farce syrienne ? (The old nexus of radical Islamic terror of the last three decades is finally unraveling)

2 septembre, 2013
http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/250x250/37045817.jpgHegel fait remarquer quelque part que, dans l’histoire universelle, les grands faits et les grands personnages se produisent, pour ainsi dire, deux fois. Il a oublié d’ajouter : la première fois comme tragédie, la seconde comme farce. Marx
Pendant trop longtemps, les gens ont cru que la cause profonde de l’instabilité au Moyen-Orient était le problème israélo-palestinien. Ce n’est pas la cause première, c’est l’un des résultats de la crise régionale. Si nous avons la paix avec les Palestiniens, les centrifuges ne vont pas s’arrêter de tourner en Iran, la crise ne s’arrêtera pas en Syrie, l’instabilité en Afrique du Nord ne cessera pas, les attaques contre l’Occident ne cesseront pas. (…) La situation en Syrie expose aussi une autre vérité, c’est qu’il y a quelque chose de très profond et de très large dans la tourmente du Moyen-Orient. Nous voyons la région toute entière allant du Maroc à l’Afghanistan dans la tourmente, en convulsion, dans l’instabilité. Une instabilité endémique qui n’est pas enracinée dans tel ou tel conflit, mais dans le rejet de la modernité, dans le rejet de la modération, le rejet du progrès, dans le rejet des solutions politiques. C’est en fait le cœur du problème au Moyen-Orient. C’est quelque chose qui menace tout le monde, menace les régimes modérés, menace Israël, menace l’Occident et menace tous ceux qui ne croient pas dans les dogmes doctrinaires qui guident les extrémistes. Benyamin Netanyahou
They (Syria) have a very serious chemical weapons capability. We’ve been saying that for some time-goes back to the speech I made at the BWC review conference, or on CWC that I talked about that and talked about their chemical weapons capability. So these are real programs; there’s no doubt about it. We’ve also been concerned about what might be happening in the nuclear area as well, in addition to missile and cruise missile capabilities. (…) they’re getting outside assistance in the civil nuclear area. There are a variety of things that they’ve got that we’re concerned about from a weapons point of view. I’m not saying they’re doing anything specific; I’m just saying it’s a worrisome pattern that we’ve seen, and I think that has been our view, well, before the onset of the second gulf war. John Bolton (May 2003)
Syria has "one of the most advanced Arab state chemical weapons capabilities" and is continuing to develop an offensive biological weapons capability. In addition, Syria has "a combined total of several hundred Scud and SS-21 SRBMs [short-range ballistic missiles], and is believed to have chemical warheads available for a portion of its Scud missile force. John Bolton (Sep. 2003)
Comprenez-moi bien: je ne me fais aucune illusion sur Saddam Hussein. C’est un homme brutal, un homme impitoyable, un homme qui massacre son propre peuple pour asseoir son pouvoir personnel. Il a à plusieurs reprises défié les résolutions de l’ONU, contrecarré les équipes d’inspection de l’ONU, mis au point des armes chimiques et biologiques et cherché à obtenir la capacité nucléaire. Il est une personne mal intentionnée. Le monde et le peuple irakien, serait mieux sans lui. Mais je sais aussi que Saddam ne pose aucune menace imminente et directe pour les États-Unis ou ses voisins, que l’économie irakienne est en ruine, que l’armée irakienne n’est plus que l’ombre d’elle-même et que de concert avec la communauté internationale, il peut être contenu jusqu’à ce que, comme tous les petits dictateurs, il tombe dans les oubliettes de l’histoire. Obama (Chicago, 02.10.02)
Mais si ce sont les critères sur lesquels nous nous appuyons pour décider du déploiement des forces américaines, alors, en suivant ce raisonnement, vous auriez 300 000 soldats au Congo dès maintenant – où des millions ont été massacrés en raison de conflits ethniques – ce que nous n’avons pas fait. Nous nous déployerions unilatéralement et occuperions le Soudan, ce que nous n’avons pas fait. Ceux d’entre nous qui se soucient du Darfour ne pensent pas que ce serait une bonne idée. Obama (2007)
Il s’agit d’un crime contre l’humanité et un crime contre l’humanité ne devrait pas demeurer impuni, ce qui doit être fait doit être fait. Ahmet Davutoglu (ministre turc des Affaires Etrangères)
Tout cela ne peut que nous rappeler les événements d’il y a dix ans, quand, en prenant pour prétexte des informations mensongères sur la présence en Irak d’armes de destruction massive, les Etats-Unis, en contournant l’ONU, se sont lancés dans une aventure, dont tout le monde connaît maintenant les conséquences. Alexandre Loukachevitch (porte-parole de la diplomatie russe)
As it turns out, Arabs and Muslims are today reviling Barack Obama’s America for proposing military action that is aimed at protecting Arabs and Muslims from atrocities in Syria. That is more or less the same thing that happened when George W. Bush sought to overthrow the Taliban oppressors of Afghanistan and Iraq’s madman tyrant Saddam Hussein. Whatever it is that the U.S. winds up doing in Syria will not have the imprimatur of the United Nations, and it will be opposed by the Arab League even though that august body has been vocal in its criticism of the Assad regime and supportive of efforts to effect regime change in Damascus. But the use of U.S. force to punish an Arab government for using chemical weapons against its own people is still a bridge too far for them. As the U.S. prepares to attack Syria, it will do so without a U.N. endorsement or even encouragement from those Arab governments that hate Assad. What exactly is the difference between this and Bush’s “coalition of the willing” that the American left (including Obama himself) mocked so much? Not much. (…) Just as Muslims claimed that American wars fought to save Muslim lives in Somalia, Kuwait, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq were really expressions of American imperialism, now Obama’s war in Syria is treated the same way. Jonathan S. Tobin
George W. Bush was widely mocked by the Left during the Iraq War, with liberals jeering at the “coalition of the willing,” which included in its ranks some minnows such as Moldova and Kazkhstan. Michael Moore, in his rather silly documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, went to great lengths to lampoon the Iraq War alliance. But the coalition also contained, as I pointed out in Congressional testimony back in 2007, Great Britain, Australia, Spain, Italy, Poland, and 16 members of the NATO alliance, as well as Japan and South Korea. In Europe, France and Germany were the only large-scale countries that sat the war out, with 12 of the 25 members of the European Union represented. The coalition, swelled to roughly 40 countries, and was one of the largest military coalitions ever assembled. As it stands, President Obama’s proposed military coalition on Syria has a grand total of two members – the US and France. And the French, as we know from Iraq, simply can’t be relied on, and have very limited military capability. It is a truly embarrassing state of affairs when Paris, at best a fair weather friend, is your only partner. John Kerry tried to put a brave face on it at his press conference today, by referring to France “as our oldest ally,” but the fact remains that his administration is looking painfully isolated. Nile Gardiner
Rien n’illustre mieux l’impossible équation syrienne que le refus du Parlement britannique d’autoriser le Premier ministre conservateur David Cameron à participer à d’éventuelles frappes contre le régime de Bachar al-Assad. Par rapport aux précédents irakien et libyen, on assiste à un renversement total de la situation. En 2003, la Grande-Bretagne, sous la direction de Tony Blair, s’était alliée à George W. Bush pour se débarrasser de Saddam Hussein, provoquant une profonde fracture à l’intérieur de l’Union européenne. En 2011, David Cameron avait fait cause commune avec Nicolas Sarkozy pour voler au secours des insurgés libyens contre Kadhafi, entraînant le soutien réticent de Barack Obama.  Face à l’imbroglio syrien, les Etats-Unis sont laissés seuls, avec une exception qui peut paraître paradoxale: la France. Les autres Européens se tairont ou approuveront, mais de toute façon ne participeront pas à d’éventuels raids sur des sites stratégiques syriens. Daniel Vernet
Évidemment, cela serait désastreux si le régime du président Al-Assad l’emportait après s’être débarrassé de la rébellion et avoir réaffirmé son pouvoir sur l’intégralité du pays. Mais une victoire des rebelles serait également très dangereuse pour les États-Unis et pour beaucoup de ses alliées en Europe et dans le Moyen-Orient. Des groupes extrémistes, dont certains appartenant à Al Qaida, sont devenus la force de frappe la plus efficace en Syrie (…) Le maintien d’une impasse devrait être l’objectif de l’Amérique. Il n’y a qu’une seule solution pour atteindre cet objectif : armer les rebelles quand il semble que les forces de Bashar Al-Assad reprennent le dessus et, au contraire, cesser de les approvisionner lorsqu’ils sont en train de gagner. Edward Luttwark
Maintenant que nous avons révélé au monde entier, et donc au président Bachar El-Assad, tous les détails de la future attaque aérienne contre la Syrie – la source (plusieurs navires de guerre et peut-être un ou deux bombardiers), les armes (des missiles de croisière), la durée (deux ou trois jours) et l’objectif (punir et non “changer de régime”) –, peut-être devrions-nous aussi indiquer l’heure exacte des bombardements ? histoire de ne pas déranger Damas à l’heure du souper. Charles Krauthammer
Pour revenir aux questions d’obscénité morale, les soldats français, britanniques, allemands, ou les boys peuvent-ils faire le coup de feu dans le même camp que ceux qui se plaisent à exécuter un gamin en place publique, devant ses parents, parce qu’il avait affirmé ne rien avoir à faire de Mohammad ? Dans le même camp que ceux qui filment la décapitation de prêtres chrétiens et diffusent les images sur Internet ?
Who now is gassing Arab innocents? Shooting Arab civilians in the streets? Rounding up and executing Arab civilians? Blowing up Arab houses? Answer: either Arab dictators or radical Islamists. The old nexus of radical Islamic terror of the last three decades is unraveling. With a wink and a nod, Arab dictatorships routinely subsidized Islamic terrorists to divert popular anger away from their own failures to the West or Israel. In the deal, terrorists got money and sanctuary. The Arab Street blamed others for their own government-inflicted miseries. And thieving authoritarians posed as Islam’s popular champions. But now, terrorists have turned on their dictator sponsors. And even the most ardent Middle East conspiracy theorists are having troubling blaming the United States and Israel. Victor Davis Hanson
Bombing a monstrous regime guilty of past WMD use was amoral; now it is ethical? Victor Davis Hanson

Conflits ethniques inextricables, ADM, groupes terroristes Al Qaeda compris, inspections de l’ONU, problème de mandat du Conseil de sécurité pour cause de véto russe, renversements d’alliances …

Après la tragédie, la farce ?

Alors que l’actualité dissipe, sous nos yeux et chaque jour un peu plus, les illusions des révoltes ochlocratiques (la loi de la rue et de la foule) qui avaient jusqu’ici passé pour le "printemps arabe" laissant enfin voir en plein jour, entre Téhéran, Ryiad et Doha et avec le soutien objectif de Moscou et Pékin, les vrais instigateurs et financiers du terrorisme mondial …

Comme celles du coup de la prétendue centralité du conflit israélo-palestinien (entendez: la responsabilité israélienne) pour la résolution des problèmes de la région …

Et que se dégonfle une fois de plus la baudruche de l’immense espoir soulevé il y a cinq ans par l’élection à la Maison Blanche d’un prétendu messie noir et maitre es votes "présent" qui, pris à son propre bluff, tente à nouveau de jouer la montre en s’abritant à présent derrière la consultation du Congrès …

Mais aussi, piégé à présent par son mentor américain de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, celle de l’Obama corrézien qui, seul rescapé d’une coalition réduite à lui-même (contre près d’une cinquantaine  pour le "cowboy" Bush), avait tant critiqué l’activisme brouillon de son prédécesseur …

Comment ne pas voir, avec l’historien américain Victor Davis Hanson et alors que 10 ans après une intervention américaine (et en fait alliée) qui avait soulevé l’hystérie collective anti-Bush que l’on sait …

L’incroyable et cruelle ironie que présente actuellement un imbroglio syrien où, en une sinistre et meurtrière partie de poker menteur planétaire sur fond d’une population à nouveau martyrisée et par les deux camps …

L’on se retrouve sommé de choisir, par ceux-là même qui avaient le plus critiqué alors "l‘aventure irakienne", entre le monstre Assad et ses doubles à la puissance dix allahakbaristes?

The Israeli Spring

August 29, 2013

Israel’s enemies are doing more damage to each other than Israel ever could.

Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

Israel could be forgiven for having a siege mentality — given that at any moment, old frontline enemies Syria and Egypt might spill their violence over common borders.

The Arab Spring has thrown Israel’s once-predictable adversaries into the chaotic state of a Sudan or Somalia. The old understandings between Jerusalem and the Assad and Mubarak kleptocracies seem in limbo.

Yet these tragic Arab revolutions swirling around Israel are paradoxically aiding it, both strategically and politically — well beyond just the erosion of conventional Arab military strength.

In terms of realpolitik, anti-Israeli authoritarians are fighting to the death against anti-Israeli insurgents and terrorists. Each is doing more damage to the other than Israel ever could — and in an unprecedented, grotesque fashion. Who now is gassing Arab innocents? Shooting Arab civilians in the streets? Rounding up and executing Arab civilians? Blowing up Arab houses? Answer: either Arab dictators or radical Islamists.

The old nexus of radical Islamic terror of the last three decades is unraveling. With a wink and a nod, Arab dictatorships routinely subsidized Islamic terrorists to divert popular anger away from their own failures to the West or Israel. In the deal, terrorists got money and sanctuary. The Arab Street blamed others for their own government-inflicted miseries. And thieving authoritarians posed as Islam’s popular champions.

But now, terrorists have turned on their dictator sponsors. And even the most ardent Middle East conspiracy theorists are having troubling blaming the United States and Israel.

Secretary of State John Kerry is still beating last century’s dead horse of a “comprehensive Middle East peace.” But does Kerry’s calcified diplomacy really assume that a peace agreement involving Israel would stop the ethnic cleansing of Egypt’s Coptic Christians? Does Israel have anything to do with Assad’s alleged gassing of his own people?

There are other losers as well. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to turn a once-secular Turkish democracy into a neo-Ottoman Islamist sultanate, with grand dreams of eastern-Mediterranean hegemony. His selling point to former Ottoman Arab subjects was often a virulent anti-Semitism. Suddenly, Turkey became one of Israel’s worst enemies and the Obama administration’s best friends.

Yet if Erdogan has charmed President Obama, he has alienated almost everyone in the Middle East. Islamists such as former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi felt that Erdogan was a fickle and opportunistic conniver. The Gulf monarchies believed that he was a troublemaker who wanted to supplant their influence. Neither the Europeans nor the Russians trust him. The result is that Erdogan’s loud anti-Israeli foreign policy is increasingly irrelevant.

The oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf once funded terrorists on the West Bank, but they are now fueling the secular military in Egypt. In Syria they are searching to find some third alternative to Assad’s Alawite regime and its al-Qaeda enemies. For the moment, oddly, the Middle East foreign policy of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the other oil monarchies dovetails with Israel’s: Predictable Sunni-Arab nationalism is preferable to one-vote, one-time Islamist radicals.

Israel no doubt prefers that the Arab world liberalize and embrace constitutional government. Yet the current bloodletting lends credence to Israel’s ancient complaints that it never had a constitutional or lawful partner in peace negotiations.

In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak’s corrupt dictatorship is gone. His radical Muslim Brotherhood successors were worse and are also gone. The military dictatorship that followed both is no more legitimate than either. In these cycles of revolution, the one common denominator is an absence of constitutional government.

In Syria, there never was a moderate middle. Take your pick between the murderous Shiite-backed Assad dictatorship or radical Sunni Islamists. In Libya, the choice degenerated to Moammar Qaddafi’s unhinged dictatorship or the tribal militias that overthrew it. Let us hope that one day westernized moderate democracy might prevail. But that moment seems a long way off.

What do the Egyptian military, the French in Mali, Americans at home, the Russians, the Gulf monarchies, persecuted Middle Eastern Christians, and the reformers of the Arab Spring all have in common? Like Israel, they are all fighting Islamic-inspired fanaticism. And most of them, like Israel, are opposed to the idea of a nuclear Iran.

In comparison with the ruined economies of the Arab Spring — tourism shattered, exports nonexistent, and billions of dollars in infrastructure lost through unending violence — Israel is an atoll of prosperity and stability. Factor in its recent huge gas and oil finds in the eastern Mediterranean, and it may soon become another Kuwait or Qatar, but with a real economy beyond its booming petroleum exports.

Israel had nothing to do with either the Arab Spring or its failure. The irony is that surviving embarrassed Arab regimes now share the same concerns with the Israelis. In short, the more violent and chaotic the Middle East becomes, the more secure and exceptional Israel appears.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His new book, The Savior Generals, is just out from Bloomsbury Books. You can reach him by e-mailing author@victorhanson.com.

Voir aussi:

Is The War to Save Face or Save Lives?

August 29, 2013

Victor Davis Hanson

PJ Media

Most of the arguments pro and con for an intervention in Syria have already been made.

I think the consensus is that while stopping Assad in 2011 might have been wise (before the use of the WMD and 100,000 dead), doing so now is, well, problematic.

He has shown far more resilience than the administration thought when it ordered him to leave (dictators rarely leave when ordered to by an American president). The opposition seems far more dominated by al-Qaeda affiliates than originally thought (not all that many Westernized intellectuals, persecuted minorities, and Arab Spring bloggers are still left on the barricades).

In addition, both critics and supporters of the president point out that had Obama just kept quiet, he could have kept the option of intervening on his own timetable, rather than being forced to when his rhetorical red lines were not merely crossed but erased in humiliating fashion. Since his bluff has been called, he now has to act to save face rather than to save lives — 100,000 of them too late.

Yet the rub is not just that it is unlikely that we can find all the WMD depots and destroy them safely from the air (keeping them out of both Assad’s and our allies’ hands).

Nor is the problem just that it is unlikely that a limited punitive blow against Assad will topple him (and then what?) and restore American rhetorical credibility.

Instead, we are not sure that the opposition is likely to be any better than the monster Assad. Did we learn nothing from Libya and Egypt? The paradox in the Middle East is that Americans can control the postwar landscape and promote consensual government only by inserting large numbers of ground troops — an unacceptable political reality. A Putinesque shelling and bombing solution (more rubble, less trouble) is ethically unacceptable to most Americans.

Then there are the domestic politics. During the Iraq War, authorization from Congress was essential; now it is not? The excruciating and ultimately failed effort in 2002 at the UN took weeks; now it is not even attempted by a Peace Prize laureate? Bombing a monstrous regime guilty of past WMD use was amoral; now it is ethical?

Voir également:

The Pros and Cons of Attacking Syria

PJ Media

August 28, 2013

MICHAEL LEDEEN

Well today, Thursday, it looks like we’re running away from the very idea of doing anything. Today’s headlines say that the intel is suddenly dubious, that Cameron won’t do anything without the UN — which means he won’t do anything at all — and Hollande is suddenly cautious.

Surprised? You say it’s inconceivable that Obama would do nothing at all after all the yelling and jumping up and down?

It wouldn’t be the first time. Think back to the Iranian-sponsored plot to blow up the Saudi ambassador to Washington. There was a monster press conference, featuring the FBI director and General Holder himself. Intel was presented. Violent words were uttered. Anyone who watched it would have had only one question: what terrible vengeance will we wreak upon the Iranians?

And then…nothing. Aside from General Mattis, it’s hard to find an authoritative voice condemning the inaction (and Mattis only said it on the eve of retirement). The story just went away, as pundits assured their readers, viewers, and listeners that the Iranians couldn’t possibly have been so stupid as to have ordered an attack on American soil.

Kinda like the current refrain that Assad couldn’t possibly have been so stupid as to have ordered a chemical attack against his enemies…

As you know, I think the best way to go after Assad is to help the Iranian people bring down their theocratic fascist regime. There are only two chances that Obama will support such a policy (and Slim has moved to Qatar). I would not be surprised if the air goes out of Obama’s trial war balloons, and the public is told that it never happened at all, that he never seriously contemplated violent action, and that he fought from the get-go to rein in the hawks.

Orwell says in 1984 that history was always manipulated, but nobody in the past had the ability to totally erase and rewrite recent events now on display. It may be only a matter of hours before we are told that Obama’s brave decision — to do nothing — is an example of consummate presidential leadership, courage under pressure, and moral virtue.

Yes, it could happen. Most anything can happen.

Voir encore:

ROGER KIMBALL

Aristotle gives Obama a lesson about Syria.

What is the right thing to do about Syria? On the one hand you have the thuggish Assad regime, which has murdered thousands in the past year. I doubt whether Vogue will be running more pieces like “A Rose In the Desert” [6] any time soon. That now-notorious interview with Mrs. Assad from February 2012 — talk about bad timing! — treated the magazine’s 11 million readers to a gushing portrait of the “wildly democratic” Assads, a power couple who combined the fashion sense of Anna Wintour herself with the do-gooder instincts of a latter day Mother Teresa. The preposterous puff piece won Wintour and her writer, Joan Juliet Buck, last year’s Walter Duranty Award for Journalistic Mendacity [7].

On the other hand, you have the opposition to the Assad regime. What manner of beast is that? Not all that dissimilar to the Libyan opposition. You remember those freedom fighters: two parts al-Qaeda energized by Salafist radicals [8] and tempered by the wise beards of the “largely secular” (or so says our director of national intelligence [9]) from the Muslim Brotherhood. Doubtless there was also a sprig or two of genuine secular protest, but that element was like the lemon peel on the Martini glass: a fleeting aroma of spring freshness backed up by an 80-proof cocktail of radicalism.

The trace fragrance of lemons in a properly made Martini [10] has approximately as much to do with spring time as the ochlocratic uprisings that are currently tearing apart Egypt, Libya, Syria, and other places of fun and frolic in the Muslim world. It isn’t an “Arab Spring,” as sentimentalists in the press and the Obama administration insisted, but a bad case of what Andrew McCarthy calls Spring Fever [11].

So what’s a panicked Alinskyite narcissist to do? So far, Obama’s Middle East policy — if a pattern of blundering confusion can rightly be called a “policy” — has borne an eerie similarity to his voting record as a state and later a U.S. Senator: cagey attestations of “Present” whenever a vote is taken, combined with a canny and ruthless talent for somehow taking the credit for eventualities that might redound to one’s credit. The demise of Osama bin Laden [12] is a case in point.

When Obama took office, Egypt was ruled by an authoritarian but basically pro-Western and pro-Israel autocrat. Now the country is teetering on the edge of anarchy, its economy in shambles, its people mere weeks away from starvation. When Obama took office, Libya was ruled by a preposterous transvestite thug who had been brought to heel by Western suasion. Now Libya is a toxic breeding ground of Islamic triumphalism, aptly epitomized by the obscene murder of Muammar Gaddafi by a mob of radical Islamists as well as the attack on our installation in Benghazi last September 11, a coordinated assault that left a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead and which Obama’s spokesmen blamed on a rancid anti-Muslim internet video but which was really the result of his administration’s dithering incompetence. “Present” didn’t save the day for Ambassador Chris Stevens and the brave men in his security detail and it hasn’t been working out too well with respect to Syria, either, where someone —was it Assad’s minions? (Was it?) — unleashed poison gas near Damascus [13], killing hundreds.

So, should Obama bomb Syria, even if it is illegal [14]? Careful. There’s a reason why Russia’s deputy prime minister — speaking, of course, for Putin himself — said that the West was behaving about Syria like “a monkey with a grenade [15].” The vertiginous spectacle of blundering incompetence is painful to behold.

And this is where Aristotle makes an entrance. In a famous passage of The Nicomachean Ethics [16], Aristotle observed that one can behave in certain ways that make any course of action morally opprobrious. Most of us do not choose to act in an unjust way. But we can live our lives in such a way that no good course of action is open to us. “The unjust and profligate,” Aristotle says, “might at the outset have avoided becoming so… although when they have become unjust and profligate it is no longer open to them not to be so.” Once you cast the stone, you cannot bring it back, but you are responsible for having taken up flinging the stone in the first place.

Or voting “Present.” Some of my friends believe the grounds for military action against Syria are patent. I suspect it is too late for such clarity. There was a time, in the early days of the Obama regime, when we might have taken effective action in the Middle East, when leadership might have made a difference in Egypt, in Libya, in Iran. In those days — how distant they seem! — the United States still exerted enormous if widely resented moral influence in the region. Obama’s habit of “leading from behind” (i.e., relinquishing leadership) has not-so-gradually eroded that authority. Now what? Obama, along with his Goneril and Regan, Samantha Power and Valerie Jarrett, would be sadly comic if the game they were playing were not so serious. Obama’s blundering has already cost thousands of lives in the Muslim world, many American lives as well as the lives of indigenes. In Syria, the stakes have been raised yet again. Intervene or leave it alone? There are those who believe that the horror of the gas attacks in Syria require that action, some action, any action, as a necessary cathartic for us moral paragons in the West. But what if it unleashes something far worse? Are we confident that this president and his band of not-so-merry pranksters have the skill to deploy force at the right time, in the right place, for the right ends, and in the right proportion? Pondering that I think of Aristotle’s observation that “only a blockhead fails to recognize that our character is the result of our conduct.” I am not uplifted by the reflection.

— In addition to his work at PJ Media [17] and The New Criterion [18], Roger Kimball is the publisher of Encounter Books [19], a purveyor of serious non-fiction titles from a broadly construed conservative perspective.

ROGER L. SIMON

Okay, I’m a warmonger.

Worse than that — I’m a chickenhawk. The closest I have ever come to war is a bar fight with a contributor to the Daily Kos. (Kidding… almost)

Nevertheless, I don’t see what choice the U. S. has about striking Syria — and not because our president drew some sort of “red line,” but because of gas itself. You don’t have to be Jewish to believe that, since Auschwitz, gassing your fellow human beings is pretty close to the most obscene act we can perform on each other. It’s forbidden by the Geneva Conventions for a reason.

The people who perpetrate this obscenity — Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad — deserve to die for their actions. And I’m not even much of a believer in capital punishment.

That’s one reason to move against the Syrian regime, although I fear our administration will not do enough and make the whole thing moot.

The second reason is to scare the bejeesus out of what Brother Ledeen calls the “terror masters” in Iran and perhaps deter them from obtaining nuclear weapons. We will certainly have to do more in that regard, but any weakening of the Iran-Hezbollah-Syria nexus is to the good.

Some worry we will be aiding al-Qaeda. Perhaps so. But they’re next. (Or possibly simultaneous if this report from Le Figaro [20] is to be believed.)

In any case, in the War on Terror, we are going to have to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time.

We’re even going to have to learn to function without a good commander-in-chief… at least for a while.

If you want more extensive elucidation of my views, I wrote a good deal more on the subject, yesterday [21].

— Roger L. Simon is the co-founder and CEO emeritus of PJ Media.

DAVID P. GOLDMAN

Go after the dog’s master, not the dog.

Kudos to Michael Ledeen [22] for explaining that the road to Damascus starts in Tehran. As Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu [23] explained on Aug. 25, “Assad’s regime isn’t acting alone. Iran, and Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, are there on the ground playing an active role assisting Syria. In fact, Assad’s regime has become a full Iranian client and Syria has become Iran’s testing ground. … Iran is watching and it wants to see what will be the reaction to the use of chemical weapons.”

We are at war with Iran, and I have little to add to Michael’s excellent summary. As he reiterates, we have been at war with Iran for decades. The only distinction is that Iran knows this and the Obama administration pretends it’s not happening. Because the American public is disgusted with the miserable return on our investment of 5,000 lives, 50,000 casualties, and $1 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan, Republicans are too timid to push for decisive military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program — although air strikes rather than ground troops would be required.

I made a similar case on March 29 [24]:

It’s pointless to take potshots at Obama for failing to act on Syria. What we should say is this: “Iran is the main source of instability in the Middle East. Iran’s intervention in Syria has turned the country into a slaughterhouse. By showing weakness to Iran, the Obama administration encourages its murderous activities elsewhere in the region.”

I also recommend Ed “Give War a Chance” Luttwak’s [25] Aug. 25 op-ed in the New York Times, “In Syria, America Loses if Either Side Wins.” Victory for Assad would be victory for Iran. “And if the rebels win, “ Luttwak wrote, “moderate Sunnis would be politically marginalized under fundamentalist rulers.” The whole region is paralyzed and ripe for destabilization. Saudi subsidies are keeping Egypt from starving, literally. “Turkey has large and restless minority populations that don’t trust their own government, which itself does not trust its own army. The result has been paralysis instead of power, leaving Mr. Erdogan an impotent spectator of the civil war on his doorstep.” I would add that Turkey also is at economic free-fall with its stock market down by 40% in dollar terms since April.

Luttwak argues that the U.S. should favor “an indefinite draw.” Here I disagree: the chemical attack shows how easily Iran can manipulate events in Syria to suit its strategic objectives. The best solution is Yugoslav-style partition: an Alawite redoubt in the Northwest including Latakia (where Russia has its naval station), and a Sunni protectorate in the rest of the country, except for an autonomous zone for Syria’s Kurds. Everyone wins except the Turks, who understandably abhor the idea of an independent Kurdish entity. Someone has to lose, though. What has Turkey done for us lately?

Obama probably will choose the worst of all possible alternatives. Daniel Pipes warns that this course of action “will also entail real dangers. Bashar al-Assad’s notorious incompetence means his response cannot be anticipated. Western strikes could, among other possibilities, inadvertently lead to increased regime attacks on civilians, violence against Israel, an activation of sleeper cells in Western countries, or heightened dependence on Tehran. Surviving the strikes also permits Assad to boast that he defeated the United States. In other words, the imminent attack entails few potential benefits but many potential drawbacks. As such, it neatly encapsulates the Obama administration’s failed foreign policy.”

If the problems of the Middle East look intractable now, consider what they will look like if Iran can promote mass murder from under a nuclear umbrella. The hour is late. If we Republicans can’t summon the courage to advance fundamental American national security issues in the midst of crisis, we will deserve the voters’ contempt.

— David P. Goldman [26] joined PJM after nearly 10 years of anonymous essaying at Asia Times Online and two years of editing and writing at First Things.

RICHARD FERNANDEZ

The most discouraging thing about the Syrian situation is the seeming pointlessness of Washington’s actions. There appears to be no directing intelligence, no strategic calculation behind the administration’s actions.The reasons for the proposed strike are largely cast in emotional terms: outrage at Assad having killed a thousand with nerve gas. But given that the last 100,000 of his victims did not elicit the same outrage, the recent indignation seems a judgment upon the manner (and not the fact) of the execution of innocents — a tragedy, as it were, of manners.

Yet none of the truly important questions have been aired in the proper forums. What is America’s interest in Syria? To checkmate Russia and Iran? To prevent Islamic terrorism from seizing yet another failed state? To forestall a wave of unrest and instability across the region? To prevent Israel from being drawn into war? And how will a limited strike designed not to inconvenience Assad too much achieve of any of these?

These questions were meant to be asked. They were required to be asked by the Founders, who personally knew more about war in more intimacy and length than the president ever will. This administration has abolished war by the adolescent method of giving it a variety of aliases like “leading from behind,” “kinetic military options,” and “sending a message.” In so doing, Obama has not only trivialized war but obviated the need to think on it.

Under its former and ugly name, the act of one country striking another country with military force was an awful thing, a fearful landscape to be entered only by long debate in the widest possible forum. The gateway to the battlefield was hung about with dread signs and the memories of sacrifices past. Today it’s a punch line.

The president might remember that in war the other side gets to vote and no plan, no set of talking points ever survives contact with the enemy; that once he starts something there is is an element of risk about where it goes. Did I say “the other side?” Well is there “another side” and does it have a name? It is the measure of the absurdity of the situation that this fundamental quantity, the sine qua non of conflict, the question of who is the enemy, remains, like the word “war” itself, concealed under an alias.

President Obama may not be interested in consequences, but consequences may be interested in him.

— Richard Fernandez [27] has been a software developer for nearly 15 years.

ANDREW KLAVAN

The good thing is that this is a military action with a clearly defined purpose: to distract us from the ineptitude and corruption of the Obama administration. In order to achieve this goal, a contained and restricted action should suffice, requiring little more than the meaningless scattershot dropping of bombs, followed by a presidential speech about poison gas featuring a Very Serious Expression. The word “barbaric” and the phrase “will not be tolerated” should only be deployed if absolutely necessary, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. The sides are clearly drawn: on one we have the murderous tyrant Bashar al-Assad, and on the other, we have al-Qaeda, and really, you just couldn’t ask for a nicer bunch of people. So, looking on the bright side, at least we’re unlikely to miss hitting our enemies. I remember when the media and the left excoriated George W. Bush for “going it alone” and “rushing to war” in Iraq even though he waited for more than a year and solicited the support of our allies and the UN. I’m glad to say Obama will not be distracted by that sort of background noise. It’s much easier to make these decisions by yourself in a big hurry when it’s nice and quiet.

— Andrew Klavan [28] is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and media commentator.

RONALD RADOSH

I have previously argued [29] that what to do about Syria and the regime led by Bashar Assad leaves us few good options. I have also been critical, in another column [30], of the arguments made by the interventionists. Since then, with the recent proof of the massive chemical attacks unleashed by Iran’s proxy (Syria), the situation has changed.

The administration has made it clear with their leaks of apparent plans that they are contemplating what we might call an ineffectual and purely symbolic raid on Syria, one that will leave Assad in power, spare even his presidential palace, and allow him to brag how he managed to withstand the attack from imperialist America. As a Wall Street Journal [31]editorial [31] explains, “the attack in Syria isn’t really about damaging the Bashar Assad regime’s capacity to murder its own people, much less about ending the Assad regime for good.” It is “primarily about making a political statement, and vindicating President Obama’s ill-considered promise of ‘consequences,’ rather than materially degrading Assad’s ability to continue to wage war against his own people.”

If this is the reason for the administration’s contemplated strike, the outcome will only be to strengthen the regime, embolden the Iranians to move forward more quickly to obtaining a nuclear weapon, and build up the authority of the Putin government in Russia, while emasculating further the authority and position of the United States in the world. It will likely mark the fruition of Obama’s ill-considered strategy of “leading from behind” and will also show the folly of both his outreach to the Muslim world and the once-heralded decision to work through and with the Muslim Brotherhood.

A few days ago, the Foreign Policy Initiative released a letter to the president [32] signed by a distinguished bipartisan group of liberal and conservative writers, foreign policy experts, journalists, academics, and political leaders. The group stated:

We urge you to respond decisively by imposing meaningful consequences on the Assad regime. At a minimum, the United States, along with willing allies and partners, should use standoff weapons and airpower to target the Syrian dictatorship’s military units that were involved in the recent large-scale use of chemical weapons. It should also provide vetted moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition with the military support required to identify and strike regime units armed with chemical weapons.

The group goes on to urge that the president consider “direct military strikes against the pillars of the Assad regime.” Not only the use of chemical weapons, but all weapons that Assad can use against his own people must be taken out of operational use. The writers call for training and arming moderate and trusted elements that would oppose both the Assad regime and the growing Islamist radicals working with the opposition.

They are correct to argue that if nothing or only a symbolic action is undertaken, after the president has said time and time again that certain red lines cannot be crossed, the world will see our talk as nothing but empty threats, and the Iranian regime will be emboldened.

There may be many reasons to be wary about the effects of intervention in Syria, but doing nothing is an option our nation can no longer afford.

— Ron Radosh [33] is a professional historian, author or co-author of more than 15 books, and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute.

CLAUDIA ROSETT

Yes, the U.S. should act. Short of all-out World War III, or IV, or maybe V (take your pick), for U.S. policy to have any deterrent effect on the world’s worst regimes developing and using the world’s deadliest weapons, America’s threats must be credible. The stakes here go way beyond Syria, or even the use of chemical weapons.

As President Obama said in 2009, alluding to a North Korean ballistic missile test, “Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” Or, as Obama has said in multiple permutations for at least five years now about Iran, “When the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapons, we mean what we say.” Or, as Obama said a year ago about the conflict in Syria, “If we start to see a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” that would cross “a red line.”

Since these various pronouncements, North Korea has conducted additional long-range missile tests plus two nuclear tests. Iran despite growing layers of sanctions has carried on with pursuit of the nuclear bomb. And Syria’s Assad regime, according to Obama himself, has used chemical weapons (evidently a whole bunch of them, on multiple occasions, this latest attack being the worst).

All these developments are connected, and not solely because they involve weapons of mass murder. There is an axis of rogue regime activity here, whether we call it an axis of evil, a gathering storm, or a concatenation of unacceptable red line crossers. As Michael Ledeen has rightly been explaining for years, the core problem is Iran: chief ally of Syria, business partner of North Korea, and world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, including its role as patron of Hezbollah and collaborator when convenient with al Qaeda. All these folks in various ways do business with each other, and from each other’s pioneering moves in the field of proliferation, they not only swap weapons materials and technology; they also learn how much it is possible to get away with. If anyone would like to start keeping a dossier labeled “Moral Obscenities” (to round out Secretary of State John Kerry’s description of chemical weapons use in Syria), all of the above would belong in that file.

A move to seriously disable any part of this hydra would send a much overdue message to the rest. It would also signal to Russia and China, the chief protectors and suppliers of this axis of terror, that the U.S. is not actually willing to cede the 21st century world order to the thug states of the globe.

I’d cast my vote for the prescription of Bret Stephens and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, for a strike that targets Bashar Assad and the vital figures of his regime. That leaves the question of what might follow in Syria — and the deeper question there is less who might prevail in Damascus, than whether the U.S. has prepared an end game for the fall of the regime in Iran. What’s desperately needed here is not just a tactical response, but a strategy in service of U.S. interests that aims to win.

— Claudia Rosett [34] is journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and heads its Investigative Reporting Project.

BARRY RUBIN

Forgot about the hysteria of an impending U.S. attack on Syria. Forget about the likely self-congratulatory backslapping by policy makers and the chanting of “USA!” by citizens. A U.S. air assault on Syria will not change anything.

Clearly, it will not change the regional problems, including the U.S. support for an Islamist government in Egypt, the unstable Islamist government in Tunisia, the grim expectations for a “peace process,” the constant betrayal of the United States by the Turkish government, and the Iranian nuclear race. But beyond that, it won’t change the Syrian crisis.

Would the attack determine the outcome of a Syrian civil war, either in favor of the Iranian-backed government or the Islamists favored by the United States? No. Would it by itself increase the prestige and credibility of the United States in the Middle East? No.

Let’s consider the three motives for the potential Syrian attack. One, the humanitarian motive. After perhaps 100,000 people in Syria have been killed, this addresses one percent of the casualties (namely those by chemical weapons). That might be worthwhile but leaves unaddressed the 99 percent of other casualties. Is it really true that the Syrian government somewhat, without motive, used chemical weapons? And finally, is it really humanitarian since the rebel side is likely to be equally ferocious against minorities and people it doesn’t like? The humanitarian motive, while sincere, really doesn’t amount to very much but merely tells the Syrian government the proper way in which people can be killed. Second, what message does America’s potential attack in Syria really send? That American power, which will be limited, is not going to be sufficient to change the course of the war. So the United States will not determine who wins and that, after all, is the only thing that everyone is really interested in. The third motive is to send a message to Iran that it won’t be able to succeed in aggression. But in fact this too can be said to send the opposite message: that, in the words of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, “the United States cannot do a damn thing.”

What are the possible outcomes of this mission? The Syrian government will not be overthrown or saved. That is going to be totally outside this operation. Perhaps it will make the outcome more likely to be a diplomatic one. But again, the likelihood that Russia and Iran will agree to have their client deposed is simply low. One could argue that the attack will lead to a lower estimation of American credibility since not much will have changed afterward, although this is not what the media will say. It is interesting to note that in confronting Saddam Hussein the Clinton administration attacked Iraq at least four times in 1998 alone. But of course Hussein was only overthrown six years later by a controversial decision by another administration.

What would the best beneficial outcomes for the Obama administration be? First, that Obama will congratulate himself on his daring use of force and on not backing down to anyone. But so what? Aside from the newspaper headlines and the bounces in public opinion polls, the effect will be merely psychological and domestic. In friendly capitals, it will only show that he is willing to support the Sunni Islamists and oppose the Shia ones. In enemy capitals, there will be continued derision of the limited means at Obama’s disposal for affecting events.

What would be the best outcome for America? That the war will go on long enough until one side (not the regime) wins. But basically the civil war is going to be fought out. It might well be said that strategically it would be better that Iran didn’t win the victory, but frankly a victory by radical Islamist rebels and al-Qaeda is hardly a bargain. Don’t forget that in practice an American intervention would not be on the side of easing the lot of Syrian civilians but on the side of an extremely oppressive and unstable future government winning. In other words, it is not that there are no easy answers, but that there are no good answers.

— Barry Rubin [35] has been a PJ Columnist since April 2011 and is also PJ Media’s Middle East Editor. He’s also the editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal [36] (MERIA), and editor, Turkish studies, at Taylor & Francis Online [37].

MICHAEL WALSH

Regarding Syria and possible American intervention in that benighted and savage land, there’s really only question worth asking — and it’s not whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea, or whether it helps or harms Israel, or whether it encourages or discourages Iran from its Twelver [38] obsession with Armageddon. And that question is: why?

As Napoleon said, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake” – and for the “Arab world” (perhaps better characterized as the ummah), this is the biggest and best mistake they’ve made since the Iran-Iraq War. For it is of absolutely no moment to the United States who wins the struggle between the Assad government and the al-Qaeda rebels trying to take it down; the “Arab spring” delusion surely has taught us that by now — and if it hasn’t, please see Benghazi [39]. It is of no moment whether Assad has used poison gas on his own people; please see “Hussein, Saddam,” as Western high dudgeon is entirely opportunistic. Indeed, the entire Middle East is no longer worth the life of one more American soldier, for it is an area in which we have not a single vital national interest.

Once the Obama administration has been retired into the infamy of the history books, fracking and other forms of new energy will more than compensate for any loss of Arab oil (as the old saying goes, “what are they going to do – eat it?”). Israel’s security — like that of western Europe during the Soviet threat — is guaranteed by the American nuclear umbrella, not to mention its own. Is there a scenario under which Israel suffers, depending on who wins the struggle for power in Damascus? Of course there is — but that is true about every development in the Middle East, and does not affect our strategic relationship with the Jewish state in the slightest. Further, dragging Israel into the equation, however benignly, only fuels the anti-Semites on both the Left and the Right who see the Zionist Hand behind every American foreign-policy decision.

The hand-wringing and bed-wetting over Syria represents the triumph of Foggy Bottom fecklessness over military realpolitik. Our lawyer-ridden and process-obsessed society has all but subordinated strategic thinking to the striped-pants set, whose only frame of reference is: yap, yap, yap; they’re like the capon judge, Don Curzio, trying to figure out what the hell is going in in the great sextet from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro [40], while it’s perfectly clear to everyone in the audience.

Now another Hussein, Barack Obama, is typically dithering about what sort of “measured” and “proportionate” response the U.S. — without congressional approval, of course — should offer to… what provocation, again, exactly? The Left used to stand for not imposing “our morality” on the Third World, so what’s different this time, besides the occupant of the Oval Office? Neither Obama nor Vice President Valerie Jarrett has the slightest understanding of the uses of power other than for self-aggrandizement, but then that’s what happens when you elect the unholy love child of Al Capone and Saul Alinsky to the nation’s highest office.

So let ‘em kill each other, and for as long as possible — and if the conflagration spills over the borders, quarantine it as one would a viral outbreak. Intervention, especially when we have already advertised that our goal is not regime change, will net us a grand total of zero good will from the Believers, whose zest for slaughtering each other almost matches their zest for murdering us.

To quote Napoleon again, if you start to take Vienna, take Vienna. If the goal is to stop Iran, then stop Iran, destroy its nuclear capability, disestablish Islam as the state religion, and restore the glory of Persian culture and the Peacock Throne (again [41]). That would have the added advantage of thwarting the Russian Bear, which has lusted after Iran for more than a century, and lost its best chance when its agent-in place, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh [42], served a stint as the Islamic Republic’s foreign minister during the Jimmy Carter Hostage Crisis. (Ghotbzadeh was eventually stood up against a wall and shot as a traitor to the Revolution.)

Islamism is a fever; best let it rage until it burns itself out. And if it kills the host, that’s too damn bad.

— Michael Walsh [43] is a weekly op-ed columnist for the New York Post and a regular contributor to National Review Online.

J. CHRISTIAN ADAMS

The Obama administration is on the verge of reducing their whole reason for existence — this time in Syria. In 2008, Obama ran for president promising an America where race was in the rear-view mirror. These days, racial issues are crashing through the windshield, in no small measure because of Obama’s rhetoric. In 2008, Obama capped years of harping about the UN, congressional authorizations of force, and American military hubris with an election win. Swarms of his supporters, particularly the young, bought into the rhetoric of the gentle and restrained America. The absurd “Coexist” bumper sticker had become policy.

In Libya, Obama first revealed himself as an international hypocrite. Congressional authorization for force wasn’t so important now that he was ordering it. In Syria, he is about to double down. The oddest thing about this president is that he always seems to take the side of the radicals on the Islamic spectrum — both at home and abroad. At home, he shoves a radicalized version of civil rights down Americans’ throats, forcing schools to give teachers weeks off for the Haj. Abroad, Obama has sided with regimes and factions that are slaughtering Christians and threatening the security of Israel. Some Americans, particularly journalists, avert their eyes to the ominous parallels. Rather than oppose evil, this president seems to lurk in its fringe. Rather than vocally condemning the murder of Catholic priests and the destruction of churches in Syria, this president is about to take the side of the murderers. Never before has America had a leader like this. He is not the man to be leading the nation in this present darkness.

— J. Christian Adams [44] is an election lawyer who served in the Voting Rights Section at the U.S. Department of Justice.

URLs in this post:

[1] PJ columnist: http://pjmedia.com/michaelledeen/

[2] Foundation for Defense of Democracies: http://www.defenddemocracy.org/

[3] Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B003H4I4OK/pjmedia-20

[4] PJ columnist: http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/

[5] Hoover Institution: http://www.hoover.org/

[6] Vogue will be running more pieces like “A Rose In the Desert”: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/01/the-only-remaining-online-copy-of-vogues-asma-al-assad-profile/250753/

[7] Walter Duranty Award for Journalistic Mendacity: http://pjmedia.com/blog/walter-duranty-prize/?singlepage=true

[8] Salafist radicals: http://blogs.thenewstribe.com/blog/68760/growing-salifist-terrorism-in-syria/

[9] director of national intelligence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POwd44zH9GA

[10] properly made Martini: http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/03/08/how-robert-bork-defended-the-original-martini/

[11] Spring Fever: http://www.encounterbooks.com/books/spring-fever-the-illusion-of-islamic-democracy/

[12] demise of Osama bin Laden: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2137636/Osama-bin-Laden-death-SEALs-slam-Obama-using-ammunition-bid-credit.html

[13] unleashed poison gas near Damascus: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/fears-of-possible-western-strike-on-syria-ripple-across-the-middle-east/2013/08/28/23818cde-1050-11e3-a2b3-5e107edf9897_story.html

[14] even if it is illegal: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/28/opinion/bomb-syria-even-if-it-is-illegal.html?_r=1&

[15] a monkey with a grenade: http://en.ria.ru/russia/20130827/182995837/Russian-Deputy-Premier-Calls-West-Monkey-With-Hand-Grenade.html

[16] The Nicomachean Ethics: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B006OIST5U/pjmedia-20

[17] his work at PJ Media: http://pjmedia.com/rogerkimball/

[18] The New Criterion: http://www.newcriterion.com/

[19] Encounter Books: http://www.encounterbooks.com/#

[20] if this report from Le Figaro: http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/08/28/report-u-s-syria-strikes-may-target-latakia-assads-home-province/

[21] I wrote a good deal more on the subject, yesterday: http://pjmedia.com/rogerlsimon/2013/08/28/emerson-syria-and-the-principal-enemy/

[22] Michael Ledeen: http://pjmedia.com/michaelledeen/2013/08/25/the-road-to-damascus-starts-in-tehran/

[23] Netanyahu: http://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-shines-light-on-syrias-partners/

[24] March 29: http://pjmedia.com/spengler/2013/03/29/iraq-didnt-destroy-the-republican-party-but-iran-might/2/

[25] Luttwak’s: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/25/opinion/sunday/in-syria-america-loses-if-either-side-wins.html?_r=0

[26] David P. Goldman: http://pjmedia.com/spengler/

[27] Richard Fernandez: http://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/

[28] Andrew Klavan: http://pjmedia.com/andrewklavan/

[29] previously argued: http://pjmedia.com/ronradosh/2013/06/14/7315/

[30] another column: http://pjmedia.com/ronradosh/2013/06/23/should-the-u-s-intervene-in-syria-the-debate-continues/

[31] Wall Street Journal : http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324591204579039011328308776.html

[32] letter to the president: http://www.foreignpolicyi.org/content/foreign-policy-experts-urge-president-obama-respond-assads-chemical-attack

[33] Ron Radosh: http://pjmedia.com/ronradosh/

[34] Claudia Rosett: http://pjmedia.com/claudiarosett/

[35] Barry Rubin: http://pjmedia.com/barryrubin/

[36] the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal: http://www.gloria-center.org/

[37] Taylor & Francis Online: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ftur20#.UZs4pLUwdqU

[38] Twelver: http://twelvershia.net/

[39] Benghazi: http://pjmedia.com/michaelwalsh/2013/05/05/benghazi-blues/

[40] Le Nozze di Figaro: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1b6Gb2c-M0

[41] again: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Iranian_coup_d

[42] Sadegh Ghotbzadeh: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadegh_Ghotbzadeh

[43] Michael Walsh: http://pjmedia.com/michaelwalsh/

[44] J. Christian Adams: http://pjmedia.com/jchristianadams/

— Michael Ledeen is a PJ columnist [1] and the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies [2]. He is a highly regarded expert on Iran’s Green Movement and maintains close ties to opposition groups inside Iran. The author of more than 20 books, see Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West [3].

Voir par ailleurs:

Leading From Behind Congress

Obama recklessly gambles with American credibility.

The Wall Street Journal

September 1, 2013

President Obama’s Syrian melodrama went from bad to worse on Saturday with his surprise decision to seek Congressional approval for what he promises will be merely a limited cruise-missile bombing. Mr. Obama will now have someone else to blame if Congress blocks his mission, but in the bargain he has put at risk his credibility and America’s standing in the world with more than 40 months left in office.

This will go down as one of the stranger gambles, if not abdications, in Commander in Chief history. For days his aides had been saying the President has the Constitutional power to act alone in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons, and that he planned to do so. On Friday, he rolled out Secretary of State John Kerry to issue a moral and strategic call to arms and declare that a response was urgent.

But on Friday night, according to leaks from this leakiest of Administrations, the President changed his mind. A military strike was not so urgent that it couldn’t wait for Congress to finish its August recess and vote the week of its return on September 9. If the point of the bombing is primarily to "send a message," as the President says, well, then, apparently Congress must co-sign the letter and send it via snail mail.

It’s hard not to see this as primarily a bid for political cover, a view reinforced when the President’s political consigliere David Axelrod taunted on Twitter that "Congress is now the dog that caught the car." Mr. Obama can read the polls, which show that most of the public opposes intervention in Syria. Around the world he has so far mobilized mainly a coalition of the unwilling, with even the British Parliament refusing to follow his lead. By comparison, George W. Bush on Iraq looks like Metternich.

But what does anyone expect given Mr. Obama’s foreign-policy leadership? Since he began running for President, Mr. Obama has told Americans that he wants to retreat from the Middle East, that the U.S. has little strategic interest there, that any differences with our enemies can be settled with his personal diplomacy, that our priority must be "nation-building at home," and that "the tide of war is receding." For two-and-a-half years, he has also said the U.S. has no stake in Syria.

The real political surprise, not to say miracle, is that after all of this so many Americans still support military action in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons—50% in the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC poll. Despite his best efforts, Mr. Obama hasn’t turned Americans into isolationists.

A Congressional vote can be useful when it educates the public and rallies more political support. A national consensus is always desirable when the U.S. acts abroad. But the danger in this instance is that Mr. Obama is trying to sell a quarter-hearted intervention with half-hearted conviction.

From the start of the Syrian uprising, these columns have called for Mr. Obama to mobilize a coalition to support the moderate rebels. This would depose an enemy of the U.S. and deal a major blow to Iran’s ambition to dominate the region.

The problem with the intervention that Mr. Obama is proposing is that it will do little or nothing to end the civil war or depose Assad. It is a one-off response intended to vindicate Mr. Obama’s vow that there would be "consequences" if Assad used chemical weapons. It is a bombing gesture detached from a larger strategy. This is why we have urged a broader campaign to destroy Assad’s air force and arm the moderate rebels to help them depose the regime and counter the jihadists who are gaining strength as the war continues.

The very limitations of Mr. Obama’s intervention will make it harder for him to win Congress’s support. He is already sure to lose the votes of the left and Rand Paul right. But his lack of a strategy risks losing the support of even those like GOP Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham who have long wanted America to back the Syrian rebels.

Yet now that Mr. Obama has tossed the issue to Congress, the stakes are far higher than this single use of arms in Syria or this President’s credibility. Mr. Obama has put America’s role as a global power on the line.

A defeat in Congress would signal to Bashar Assad and the world’s other thugs that the U.S. has retired as the enforcer of any kind of world order. This would be dangerous at any time, but especially with more than three long years left in this Presidency. Unlike the British in 1956, the U.S. can’t retreat from east of Suez without grave consequences. The U.S. replaced the British, but there is no one to replace America.

The world’s rogues would be further emboldened and look for more weaknesses to exploit. Iran would conclude it can march to a nuclear weapon with impunity. Israel, Japan, the Gulf states and other American friends would have to recalculate their reliance on U.S. power and will.

***

These are the stakes that Mr. Obama has so recklessly put before Congress. His mishandling of Syria has been so extreme that we can’t help but wonder if he really wants to lose this vote. Then he would have an excuse for further cutting defense and withdrawing America even more from world leadership. We will give him the benefit of the doubt, but only because incompetence and narrow political self-interest are more obvious explanations for his behavior.

All of which means that the adults in Congress—and there are some—will have to save the day. The draft language for authorizing force that Mr. Obama has sent to Congress is too narrowly drawn as a response to WMD. Congress should broaden it to give the President more ability to respond to reprisals, support the Syrian opposition and assist our allies if they are attacked.

The reason to do this and authorize the use of force is not to save this President from embarrassment. It is to rescue American credibility and strategic interests from this most feckless of Presidents.

Voir de même:

In Syria, America Loses if Either Side Wins

Edward N. Luttwak

The New York Times

August 24, 2013

WASHINGTON — ON Wednesday, reports surfaced of a mass chemical-weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs that human rights activists claim killed hundreds of civilians, bringing Syria’s continuing civil war back onto the White House’s foreign policy radar, even as the crisis in Egypt worsens.

But the Obama administration should resist the temptation to intervene more forcefully in Syria’s civil war. A victory by either side would be equally undesirable for the United States.

At this point, a prolonged stalemate is the only outcome that would not be damaging to American interests.

Indeed, it would be disastrous if President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were to emerge victorious after fully suppressing the rebellion and restoring its control over the entire country. Iranian money, weapons and operatives and Hezbollah troops have become key factors in the fighting, and Mr. Assad’s triumph would dramatically affirm the power and prestige of Shiite Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanon-based proxy — posing a direct threat both to the Sunni Arab states and to Israel.

But a rebel victory would also be extremely dangerous for the United States and for many of its allies in Europe and the Middle East. That’s because extremist groups, some identified with Al Qaeda, have become the most effective fighting force in Syria. If those rebel groups manage to win, they would almost certainly try to form a government hostile to the United States. Moreover, Israel could not expect tranquillity on its northern border if the jihadis were to triumph in Syria.

Things looked far less gloomy when the rebellion began two years ago. At the time, it seemed that Syrian society as a whole had emerged from the grip of fear to demand an end to Mr. Assad’s dictatorship. Back then, it was realistic to hope that moderates of one sort or another would replace the Assad regime, because they make up a large share of the population. It was also reasonable to expect that the fighting would not last long, because neighboring Turkey, a much larger country with a powerful army and a long border with Syria, would exert its power to end the war.

As soon as the violence began in Syria in mid-2011, Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, loudly demanded that it end. But instead of being intimidated into surrender, Mr. Assad’s spokesmen publicly ridiculed Mr. Erdogan, while his armed forces proceeded to shoot down a Turkish fighter jet, before repeatedly firing artillery rounds into Turkish territory and setting off lethal car bombs at a Turkish border crossing. To everyone’s surprise, there was no significant retaliation. The reason is that Turkey has large and restless minority populations that don’t trust their own government, which itself does not trust its own army. The result has been paralysis instead of power, leaving Mr. Erdogan an impotent spectator of the civil war on his doorstep.

Consequently, instead of a Turkey-based and Turkish-supervised rebellion that the United States could have supported with weapons, intelligence and advice, Syria is plagued by anarchic violence.

The war is now being waged by petty warlords and dangerous extremists of every sort: Taliban-style Salafist fanatics who beat and kill even devout Sunnis because they fail to ape their alien ways; Sunni extremists who have been murdering innocent Alawites and Christians merely because of their religion; and jihadis from Iraq and all over the world who have advertised their intention to turn Syria into a base for global jihad aimed at Europe and the United States.

Given this depressing state of affairs, a decisive outcome for either side would be unacceptable for the United States. An Iranian-backed restoration of the Assad regime would increase Iran’s power and status across the entire Middle East, while a victory by the extremist-dominated rebels would inaugurate another wave of Al Qaeda terrorism.

There is only one outcome that the United States can possibly favor: an indefinite draw.

By tying down Mr. Assad’s army and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies in a war against Al Qaeda-aligned extremist fighters, four of Washington’s enemies will be engaged in war among themselves and prevented from attacking Americans or America’s allies.

That this is now the best option is unfortunate, indeed tragic, but favoring it is not a cruel imposition on the people of Syria, because a great majority of them are facing exactly the same predicament.

Non-Sunni Syrians can expect only social exclusion or even outright massacre if the rebels win, while the nonfundamentalist Sunni majority would face renewed political oppression if Mr. Assad wins. And if the rebels win, moderate Sunnis would be politically marginalized under fundamentalist rulers, who would also impose draconian prohibitions.

Maintaining a stalemate should be America’s objective. And the only possible method for achieving this is to arm the rebels when it seems that Mr. Assad’s forces are ascendant and to stop supplying the rebels if they actually seem to be winning.

This strategy actually approximates the Obama administration’s policy so far. Those who condemn the president’s prudent restraint as cynical passivity must come clean with the only possible alternative: a full-scale American invasion to defeat both Mr. Assad and the extremists fighting against his regime.

That could lead to a Syria under American occupation. And very few Americans today are likely to support another costly military adventure in the Middle East.

A decisive move in any direction would endanger America; at this stage, stalemate is the only viable policy option left.

Edward N. Luttwak is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the author of “Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace.”

Voir aussi:

Barack Obama’s Iraq Speech

Speeches Against Going to War with Iraq (2002)

Wikisource

Delivered on Wednesday, October 2, 2002 by Barack Obama, Illinois State Senator, at the first high-profile Chicago anti-Iraq war rally (organized by Chicagoans Against War in Iraq) at noon in Federal Plaza in Chicago, Illinois; at the same day and hour that President Bush and Congress announced their agreement on the joint resolution authorizing the Iraq War, but over a week before it was passed by either body of Congress.

Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances.

The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I don’t oppose all wars.

My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton’s army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain.

I don’t oppose all wars.

After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administration’s pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

I don’t oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income — to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear — I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.

So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance, corruption and greed, poverty and despair.

The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not — we will not — travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

Voir de plus:

Barack Obama is proving an embarrassing amateur on the world stage compared to George W. Bush

Nile Gardiner

The telegraph

August 30th, 2013

President Bush knew how to build a coalition

George W. Bush was widely mocked by the Left during the Iraq War, with liberals jeering at the “coalition of the willing,” which included in its ranks some minnows such as Moldova and Kazkhstan. Michael Moore, in his rather silly documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, went to great lengths to lampoon the Iraq War alliance. But the coalition also contained, as I pointed out in Congressional testimony back in 2007, Great Britain, Australia, Spain, Italy, Poland, and 16 members of the NATO alliance, as well as Japan and South Korea. In Europe, France and Germany were the only large-scale countries that sat the war out, with 12 of the 25 members of the European Union represented. The coalition, swelled to roughly 40 countries, and was one of the largest military coalitions ever assembled.

As it stands, President Obama’s proposed military coalition on Syria has a grand total of two members – the US and France. And the French, as we know from Iraq, simply can’t be relied on, and have very limited military capability. It is a truly embarrassing state of affairs when Paris, at best a fair weather friend, is your only partner. John Kerry tried to put a brave face on it at his press conference today, by referring to France “as our oldest ally,” but the fact remains that his administration is looking painfully isolated.

There can be no doubt that David Cameron’s defeat in the House of Commons was a huge blow to President Obama, and has dominated the US news networks this morning. The absence of Britain in any American-led military action significantly weakens Obama’s position on the world stage, and dramatically undercuts the Obama administration. The vote reflected not only a lack of confidence in the Commons in the prime minister’s Syria strategy, it also demonstrated a striking lack of confidence in Barack Obama and US leadership.

In marked contrast to Obama, President Bush invested a great deal of time and effort in cultivating ties with key US allies, especially Britain. The Special Relationship actually mattered to George W. Bush. For Barack Obama it has been a mere blip on his teleprompter. Bush also went out of his way to build ties with other allies in Europe, including with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, and an array of countries in Eastern and Central Europe. Obama simply hasn’t bothered making friends in Europe, and has treated some nations with sheer disdain and disrespect, including Poland and the Czech Republic. He has found common currency with France’s Socialist President Francois Hollande, an ideological soul-mate, but finds himself in a very lonely position elsewhere across the Atlantic.

In addition, and most importantly, George W. Bush was a conviction president on foreign policy matters, driven by a clear sense of the national interest. President Bush emphatically made his case to the American people and to the world, explaining why he believed the use of force was necessary, and dozens of countries decided to follow him. In the case of Barack Obama, whose foreign policy has been weak-kneed, confused and strategically incoherent, the president hasn’t effectively made the case for military intervention in Syria, and has made no serious effort to cultivate support both at home and abroad. President Bush may not have been greatly loved on the world stage, but he was respected by America’s allies, and feared by his enemies. In marked contrast, Obama hasn’t generated a lot of respect abroad, and he certainly isn’t feared.

Voir enfin:

‘It Didn’t Happen’

James Taranto

The  WSJ

July 26, 2007

Barack Obama’s latest pronouncement on Iraq should have shocked the conscience. In an interview with the Associated Press last week, the freshman Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate opined that even preventing genocide is not a sufficient reason to keep American troops in Iraq.

"Well, look, if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven’t done," Mr. Obama told the AP. "We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven’t done. Those of us who care about Darfur don’t think it would be a good idea."

Mr. Obama is engaging in sophistry. By his logic, if America lacks the capacity to intervene everywhere there is ethnic killing, it has no obligation to intervene anywhere — and perhaps an obligation to intervene nowhere. His reasoning elevates consistency into the cardinal virtue, making the perfect the enemy of the good.

Further, he elides the distinction between an act of omission (refraining from intervention in Congo and Darfur) and an act of commission (withdrawing from Iraq). The implication is that although the U.S. has had a military presence in Iraq since 1991, the fate of Iraqis is not America’s problem.

Unlike his main rivals for the Democratic nomination, Mr. Obama has been consistent in opposing the liberation of Iraq. In a 2002 speech, he declared that "an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world." But Mr. Obama’s side lost that argument, and it is no longer 2002. For America to countenance genocide of Arab Muslims hardly seems a promising way to extinguish the Mideast’s flames or to encourage the best impulses of the Arab world.

One may take the position that genocide would not be the likely result of an American retreat from Iraq. That is the view of Mr. Obama’s Massachusetts colleague John Kerry, the 2004 presidential nominee. Mr. Kerry, who served in Vietnam before turning against that war, voted for the Iraq war before turning against it. He draws on the Vietnam experience in making the case that the outcome of a U.S. pullout from Iraq would not be that bad. "We heard that argument over and over again about the bloodbath that would engulf the entire Southeast Asia, and it didn’t happen," he said recently.

"It didn’t happen" — just as Mr. Kerry predicted it wouldn’t. In his June 1971 debate with fellow swift boat veteran John O’Neill on "The Dick Cavett Show," the 27-year-old Mr. Kerry said, "There’s absolutely no guarantee that there would be a bloodbath. . . . One has to, obviously, conjecture on this. However, I think the arguments clearly indicate that there probably wouldn’t be. . . . There is no interest on the part of the North Vietnamese to try to massacre the people once people have agreed to withdraw." Mr. Kerry acknowledged that "there would be certain political assassinations," but said they would number only "four or five thousand."

Here is what did happen:

In 1973, the U.S. withdrew its troops from Vietnam, as Mr. Kerry had urged. In December 1974, the Democratic Congress ended military aid to South Vietnam. In April 1975, Saigon fell.

According to a 2001 investigation by the Orange County Register, Hanoi’s communist regime imprisoned a million Vietnamese without charge in "re-education" camps, where an estimated 165,000 perished. "Thousands were abused or tortured: their hands and legs shackled in painful positions for months, their skin slashed by bamboo canes studded with thorns, their veins injected with poisonous chemicals, their spirits broken with stories about relatives being killed," the Register reported.

Laos and Cambodia also fell to communists in 1975. Time magazine reported in 1978 that some 40,000 Laotians had been imprisoned in re-education camps: "The regime’s figures do not include 12,000 unfortunates who have been packed off to Phong Saly. There, no pretense at re-education is made. As one high Pathet Lao official told Australian journalist John Everingham, who himself spent eight days in a Lao prison last year, ‘No one ever returns.’"

The postwar horrors of Vietnam and Laos paled next to the "killing fields" of Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge undertook an especially vicious revolution. During that regime’s 3½-year rule, at least a million Cambodians, and perhaps as many as two million, died from starvation, disease, overwork or murder. The Vietnamese invaders who toppled the Khmer Rouge in 1979 were liberators, albeit only by comparison.

In the aftermath of America’s withdrawal from Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. According to the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees, between 1975 and 1995 more than 1.4 million Indochinese escaped, nearly 800,000 of them by boat. This does not include "boat people" who died at sea, 10% of the total by some estimates.

Mr. Obama’s blasé cynicism about the possibility of genocide in Iraq is of a piece with Mr. Kerry’s denial of the humanitarian catastrophe that followed America’s departure from Vietnam. It also creates an opportunity for the Democratic front-runner.

In 1998, Hillary Clinton’s husband traveled to Rwanda, where he apologized for failing to intervene to prevent the 1994 genocide in which Hutus massacred some 800,000 Tutsis. "We cannot change the past," President Clinton said. "But we can and must do everything in our power to help you build a future without fear, and full of hope." It was in this spirit that Mr. Clinton intervened in Kosovo in 1999, over Republican objections, to prevent ethnic cleansing of Albanian Muslims.

Like Mr. Kerry, Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war, then tilted against it before facing the Democratic primary electorate. Her opponents on the left have made much of her refusal to apologize for her vote. But if she can find the courage to defend a continued American presence in Iraq on humanitarian grounds, it will reduce the likelihood that the next president will have to apologize for something far worse.


Internet: Mais que va-t-il rester de nos amours ? (Love hurts: It’s Hollywod, capitalism and internet, stupid !)

30 juillet, 2013
http://www.hdwallpapers.in/walls/love_hurts-normal.jpgL’Éternel Dieu dit: Il n’est pas bon que l’homme soit seul; je lui ferai une aide semblable à lui. (…) C’est pourquoi l’homme quittera son père et sa mère, et s’attachera à sa femme, et ils deviendront une seule chair. Genèse 2: 18-24
Tu ne convoiteras point la maison de ton prochain; tu ne convoiteras point la femme de ton prochain, ni son serviteur, ni sa servante, ni son boeuf, ni son âne, ni aucune chose qui appartienne à ton prochain. Exode 20: 17
Si je parle les langues des hommes, et même celles des anges, mais que je n’ai pas l’amour, je suis un cuivre qui résonne ou une cymbale qui retentit.Si j’ai le don de prophétie, la compréhension de tous les mystères et toute la connaissance, si j’ai même toute la foi jusqu’à transporter des montagnes, mais que je n’ai pas l’amour, je ne suis rien. Et si je distribue tous mes biens aux pauvres, si même je livre mon corps aux flammes, mais que je n’ai pas l’amour, cela ne me sert à rien. L’amour est patient, il est plein de bonté; l’amour n’est pas envieux; l’amour ne se vante pas, il ne s’enfle pas d’orgueil,il ne fait rien de malhonnête, il ne cherche pas son intérêt, il ne s’irrite pas, il ne soupçonne pas le mal, il ne se réjouit pas de l’injustice, mais il se réjouit de la vérité; il pardonne tout, il croit tout, il espère tout, il supporte tout. L’amour ne meurt jamais. Les prophéties disparaîtront, les langues cesseront, la connaissance disparaîtra. En effet, nous connaissons partiellement et nous prophétisons partiellement,mais quand ce qui est parfait sera venu, ce qui est partiel disparaîtra. Lorsque j’étais enfant, je parlais comme un enfant, je pensais comme un enfant, je raisonnais comme un enfant; lorsque je suis devenu un homme, j’ai mis fin à ce qui était de l’enfant. Aujourd’hui nous voyons au moyen d’un miroir, de manière peu claire, mais alors nous verrons face à face; aujourd’hui je connais partiellement, mais alors je connaîtrai complètement, tout comme j’ai été connu.Maintenant donc ces trois choses restent: la foi, l’espérance, l’amour; mais la plus grande des trois, c’est l’amour. Paul
Femmes, soyez soumises à vos maris, comme au Seigneur (…) Maris, aimez vos femmes, comme Christ a aimé l’Église, et s’est livré lui-même pour elle. Paul (Ephésiens 5: 22-25)
 Il nous a aussi rendus capables d’être ministres d’une nouvelle alliance, non de la lettre, mais de l’esprit; car la lettre tue, mais l’esprit vivifie. Paul (2 Corinthiens 3: 6)
Ne croyez pas que je sois venu apporter la paix sur la terre; je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix, mais l’épée. Car je suis venu mettre la division (…) et l’homme aura pour ennemis les gens de sa maison. Jésus (Matthieu 10: 34-36)
Il faut dire trois bénédictions pour remercier la Fortune, d’abord que je sois né être humain et non animal,; ensuite que je sois né homme et non femme; troisièmement, que je sois né grec et non barbare. Thalès (IIe siècle avant JC)
On doit dire chaque jour trois bénédictions: béni Celui qui ne m’a pas fait païen , ni femme, ni esclave. Rabbi Yehuda (Talmud de Babylone, IIe siècle)
Il n’y a plus ni Juif ni Grec, il n’y a plus ni esclave ni libre, il n’y a plus ni homme ni femme; car tous vous êtes un en Jésus Christ. Paul (Galates 3: 28)
 Liés à nos frères par un but commun et qui se situe en dehors de nous, alors seulement nous respirons et l’expérience nous montre qu’aimer, ce n’est point nous regarder l’un l’autre mais regarder ensemble dans la même direction. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Terre des hommes, 1939)
Toutes les plaisantes fictions qui allégeaient l’autorité et assouplissaient l’obéissance, qui assuraient l’harmonie des différents aspects de la vie, et qui faisaient régner dans la vie politique, par une assimilation insensible, les mêmes sentiments qui embellissent et adoucissent la vie privée, toutes ces douces illusions vont se dissiper sous l’assaut irrésistible des lumières et de la raison. Tous les voiles de la décence vont être brutalement arrachés. Toutes les idées surajoutées par notre imagination morale, qui nous viennent du coeur mais que l’entendement ratifie parce qu’elles sont nécessaires pour voiler les défauts et la nudité de notre tremblante nature et pour l’élever à nos propres yeux à la dignité – toutes ces vieilles idées vont être mises au rebut comme on se défait d’une mode ridicule, absurde et désuète. Edmund Burke
Tout ce qui était solide et stable est ébranlé, tout ce qui était sacré est profané ; et les hommes sont forcés, enfin, d’envisager leurs conditions d’existence et leurs rapports réciproques avec des yeux dégrisés. Marx
Il nous arriverait, si nous savions mieux analyser nos amours, de voir que souvent les femmes ne nous plaisent qu’à cause du contrepoids d’hommes à qui nous avons à les disputer (…) ce contrepoids supprimé, le charme de la femme tombe. On en a un exemple dans l’homme qui, sentant s’affaiblir son goùt pour la femme qu’il aime, applique spontanément les règles qu’il a dégagées, et pour être sûr qu’il ne cesse pas d’aimer la femme, la met dans un milieu dangereux où il faut la protéger chaque jour. Proust
This cloverleaf madness just fills me with sadness. We glide on these streams just postponing our dreams. The love that’s inside us How come it divides us? It just ain’t like Cole Porter It’s just all too short order. Michael Franks
Il est clair que "Je peux toucher ton sein ?" ne peut tout simplement pas marcher comme préliminaire sexuel. Avec le gars sensible, je narrive pas à me décider: est-ce qu’il veut que je le repousse ? Ou débattre avec moi, dans un Starbucks, de l’état du monde ? Si j’ai envie d’entendre parler de sentiments, je peux appeler une copine. (…) Le respect, c’est important mais quand il s’agit de passer au lit, "égalitaire" ne veut pas toujours dire "érotique". Catherine Townsend
Dans notre époque dérégulée, individualiste, où l’on se voit de moins en moins dicter sa conduite par sa famille ou par son village, c’est l’intégralité de la vie qui est entrée dans le règne de l’hyperchoix. Dans le monde actuel, libéré d’un cadre institutionnel ou coutumier très contraignant, on a le sentiment de toujours pouvoir choisir et une impression d’illimité. Gilles Lipovetsky (philosophe, université de Grenoble)
Nike propose aujourd’hui une chaussure unique, au look déterminé par le futur acheteur. Les sites de rencontres se multiplient sur la bulle, internet, en proposant un choix de plus en plus précis de la personne que l’on souhaite avoir à ses côtés : intelligent, gentil, mais aussi des caractéristiques incroyablement millimétrées (les pieds sur terre, mais pas ennuyeux, entre 1,77 mètre et 1, 82 m….). On customize à tout-va, parce que l’on a un choix insensé. Le nombre de célibataires explose littéralement dans les grandes villes, on peut donc choisir ce que l’on veut, on a le choix…Mais le paradoxe du choix, est que dès que l’on manque d’options, on parvient très facilement à attribuer sa déconvenue ou sa frustration à la Société ou à la terre entière ! Par contre, si on est malheureux dans un contexte de choix multiple et d’abondance, on s’attribue la responsabilité de l’échec. Mais l’être humain n’apprécie que très peu l’échec, surtout quand il ne le partage avec personne. In fine s’installe une certaine perplexité face à ces choix multiples, qui nous encourage à ne plus nous engager véritablement, que ce soit en amour, en amitié ou même professionnellement. Pseekliss
A large array of options may diminish the attractiveness of what people actually choose, the reason being that thinking about the attractions of some of the unchosen options detracts from the pleasure derived from the chosen one. Barry Schwartz
Internet dating has made people more disposable. (…) Internet dating may be partly responsible for a rise in the divorce rates.(…) Low quality, unhappy and unsatisfying marriages are being destroyed as people drift to Internet dating sites. (…) The market is hugely more efficient … People expect to—and this will be increasingly the case over time—access people anywhere, anytime, based on complex search requests … Such a feeling of access affects our pursuit of love … the whole world (versus, say, the city we live in) will, increasingly, feel like the market for our partner(s). Our pickiness will probably increase. (…) Above all, Internet dating has helped people of all ages realize that there’s no need to settle for a mediocre relationship. Comments from dating sites managers
The future will see better relationships but more divorce. The older you get as a man, the more experienced you get. You know what to do with women, how to treat them and talk to them. Add to that the effect of online dating. I often wonder whether matching you up with great people is getting so efficient, and the process so enjoyable, that marriage will become obsolete. Dan Winchester
The positive aspects of online dating are clear: the Internet makes it easier for single people to meet other single people with whom they might be compatible, raising the bar for what they consider a good relationship. But what if online dating makes it too easy to meet someone new? What if it raises the bar for a good relationship too high? What if the prospect of finding an ever-more-compatible mate with the click of a mouse means a future of relationship instability, in which we keep chasing the elusive rabbit around the dating track? Of course, no one knows exactly how many partnerships are undermined by the allure of the Internet dating pool. But most of the online-dating-company executives I interviewed while writing my new book, Love in the Time of Algorithms, agreed with what research appears to suggest: the rise of online dating will mean an overall decrease in commitment. (… ) At the selection stage, researchers have seen that as the range of options grows larger, mate-seekers are liable to become “cognitively overwhelmed,” and deal with the overload by adopting lazy comparison strategies and examining fewer cues. As a result, they are more likely to make careless decisions than they would be if they had fewer options, and this potentially leads to less compatible matches. Moreover, the mere fact of having chosen someone from such a large set of options can lead to doubts about whether the choice was the “right” one. No studies in the romantic sphere have looked at precisely how the range of choices affects overall satisfaction. But research elsewhere has found that people are less satisfied when choosing from a larger group: in one study, for example, subjects who selected a chocolate from an array of six options believed it tasted better than those who selected the same chocolate from an array of 30. On that other determinant of commitment, the quality of perceived alternatives, the Internet’s potential effect is clearer still. Online dating is, at its core, a litany of alternatives. And evidence shows that the perception that one has appealing alternatives to a current romantic partner is a strong predictor of low commitment to that partner. (…)  People seeking commitment—particularly women—have developed strategies to detect deception and guard against it. A woman might withhold sex so she can assess a man’s intentions. Theoretically, her withholding sends a message: I’m not just going to sleep with any guy that comes along. Theoretically, his willingness to wait sends a message back: I’m interested in more than sex. But the pace of technology is upending these rules and assumptions. Relationships that begin online, Jacob finds, move quickly. He chalks this up to a few things. First, familiarity is established during the messaging process, which also often involves a phone call. By the time two people meet face-to-face, they already have a level of intimacy. Second, if the woman is on a dating site, there’s a good chance she’s eager to connect. But for Jacob, the most crucial difference between online dating and meeting people in the “real” world is the sense of urgency. Occasionally, he has an acquaintance in common with a woman he meets online, but by and large she comes from a different social pool. “It’s not like we’re just going to run into each other again,” he says. “So you can’t afford to be too casual. It’s either ‘Let’s explore this’ or ‘See you later.’ ” Social scientists say that all sexual strategies carry costs, whether risk to reputation (promiscuity) or foreclosed alternatives (commitment). As online dating becomes increasingly pervasive, the old costs of a short-term mating strategy will give way to new ones. Jacob, for instance, notices he’s seeing his friends less often. Their wives get tired of befriending his latest girlfriend only to see her go when he moves on to someone else. Also, Jacob has noticed that, over time, he feels less excitement before each new date. “Is that about getting older,” he muses, “or about dating online?” How much of the enchantment associated with romantic love has to do with scarcity (this person is exclusively for me), and how will that enchantment hold up in a marketplace of abundance (this person could be exclusively for me, but so could the other two people I’m meeting this week)? Dan Slater
Love hurts. (…) The blame lies with Hollywood, capitalism and the internet, all of which have caused mayhem in our love lives and taught us to behave like consumers when it comes to affairs of the heart. We treat looking for love as we would approach a buffet table, says sociologist Eva Illouz, in a new book being hailed as an "emotional atlas" for the 21st century. Our relationship with relationships is now so chaotic that it touches every part of our psyche. Heartache is no longer contained in the heart and a growing army of psychologists and sociologists warn that love is in a perilous state. Modern marriage has been called "toxic", the changing roles between the genders are blamed for an upswing in divorce and an increasing focus on appearance is destroying the notion of a soulmate in favour of a sex mate. But, according to Illouz, the reason is not the rise of feminism or dysfunctional childhoods, but instead down to us having too much choice – and too many commitment-phobic men. (…) She says our consumerist, capitalist culture has changed the face of our relationships beyond all recognition. The increasing choice from internet dating has encouraged people to act as "shoppers" – demanding, comparing alternatives, constantly trying to get a better deal and killing off the gut instinct and chance that has always helped humans to find a mate. Men have become commitment-phobes because the rise of capitalism has encouraged them to be autonomous and self-centred. "Feminism has been so often blamed for the current disarray of romantic and sexual relationships," said Illouz, "that we have neglected to focus on the more immediate cause, capitalism. It has had a deep impact on the family: women defer childbearing because they prefer to develop careers provided by capitalist organisations. When they become mothers, most women keep working because work has become a part of self-fulfilment and because household expenditures now demand dual income. "For men, marriage has become more optional. They don’t need it. The romantic relationship has become more central to both men and women than ever and it’s a great source of social worth, of validation. But men use sexual prowess, how many partners they have, to get a sense of worth, and women will want to be loved. So in that respect women are more dependent on men and want exclusivity while men want quantity." (…) "Men and women are definitely needing each other less as their roles converge," said Glenn Wilson, a fellow of the British Psychology Association and visiting professor at Gresham College, London. "I think the main change over the years is the Hollywood-driven belief that love and marriage should be contiguous – go together like horse and carriage. Because passion is short-lived, this results in our pattern of serial monogamy – repeated divorce and remarriage, leaving a trail of destruction. "The other big change is that converging sex roles make marriage increasingly irrelevant. Who needs a partner if they don’t bring complementary skill or responsibility to the union?" (…) "By and large men and women are legally and intellectually equals. People think emotional difficulties between them are a remnant of the past but actually it’s new – a change in the process of courtship. "We have all these choices and think it’s a type of freedom, but it’s not. A complex menu of options is not necessarily freedom. "Pre-modern people made a decision to marry based on a sense of social duty and convention. Modern people tend to do it out of a desire to realise our inner self, to be validated. Pre-modern people felt bound by a simple declaration of love; modern people prefer to keep their options always open, even after getting married." The Observer
The couple is an island, but an island supplied with an ongoing service of ferries to other possible islands. Eva Illouz
Couples seem to have become an unnecessary institution, one that disturbs individual development and forces the individual to face and cope with his-her contradictions. Couples create confusion, conflict, loneliness and pain. The sheer numbers speak against couples, as more and more people choose to live alone. But I want to suggest that the notion is still important to defend, because couples represent a social form whose value resides precisely in the fact that it is contrary to the reigning ethos of our times. How so? Monogamous couplehood − if we are to stick to the conventional definition − is perhaps the last social unit that functions according to principles that oppose those of capitalist culture. A couple is de facto a proclamation against the culture of choice, against the culture of maximization of choice, against the culture that choices should be improved, and against the idea of the self as a permanent site for excitement, enjoyment and self-realization. Couples, in a way, function on an economy of scarcity. They require virtues and character for which modern culture no longer trains us: They require the capacity to singularize another, to suspend calculation, to tolerate boredom, to stop self-development, to live with ‏(frequently‏) mediocre sexuality, to prefer commitment to contractual insecurity. Couples, then, with all their conventionality, seem increasingly to stand for values that have become the true radical alternatives to the market. We may wonder if, by a long detour of history, couplehood and love have not again become the radical alternative to the dominant ethos of their time − not as a transgression but as an affirmation of that heavy and arduous sturdiness that binds us to others and to our own old and outdated selves. Eva Illouz
Être en couple] exige la capacité de singulariser l’autre, de suspendre le calcul, de tolérer l’ennui, de mettre fin à l’auto-développement, de vivre avec une sexualité médiocre, de préférer l’engagement à l’insécurité contractuelle. Eva Illouz

Après la littérature et la psychologie, il fallait bien que la sociologie s’en mêle …

A l’heure où, via les réseaux sociaux ou les sites de rencontre, l’Internet permet non seulement de rester en contact avec ceux que l’on aime mais de démultiplier comme jamais les possibilités de rencontre …

Le très intéressant livre d’Eva Illouz, tout récemment traduit en français, nous fait la sociologie de l’expérience amoureuse …

Mais surtout, contre la psychologisation-psychanalysation du dernier siècle et avec un parti pris explicitement féministe appuyé sur les travaux de Bourdieu, analyse à la Polanyi sa "grande transformation"

A savoir, pour faire vite à l’instar et sous la pression de l’économie, sa transformation et sa rationalisation en un marché libre et dérégulé …

Où, avec la baisse des interdictions normatives (la "révolution sexuelle"), sociales (l’affaiblissement de l’endogamie de classe et d’ethnie) et technologiques (l’Internet), les possiblités de choix sont non seulement multipliées …

Mais où, de par leur position privilégiée tant par l’économie que la biologie et malgré les indéniables gains en liberté et égalité pour tous, les hommes les plus dotés maintiennent néanmoins leur domination sur les femmes …

Et ce principalement sous la forme d’un refus de l’engagement qui, contrairement à ce que prétendent tant la psychologie que la biologie notamment évolutionniste, n’aurait alors rien de naturel …

D’où, pour tenter de maintenir les anciens idéaux de l’amour comme expérience unique et don de soi et de faire face aux inévitables désillusions liées à la perte de sens et de satisfaction, la délégitimation des médiations anciennes, littéraires comme politiques …

Mais aussi, ajouterions-nous quand on voit par exemple l’aberration du "mariage pour tous", des prétendues solutions que nous proposent aujourd’hui nos maitres et maitresses à penser …

Les infortunes de l’amour

Manuela Salcedo

Idées.fr

22 juillet 2013

Faisant la sociologie de l’expérience amoureuse, Eva Illouz analyse sa grande transformation : si le marché conjugal et sexuel valorise aujourd’hui le choix et la liberté, il fragilise également la conjugalité hétérosexuelle et génère des souffrances spécifiques, en particulier pour les femmes.

Recensé : Eva Illouz, Pourquoi l’amour fait mal. L’expérience amoureuse dans la modernité, Paris, Seuil, 2012. 400 p., 24 €.

« La souffrance amoureuse dont font l’expérience [Catherine Ernshaw et Emma Bovary] a changé de teneur, de couleur, de texture ». Pour Eva Illouz, l’amour de Catherine Earnshaw pour Heathcliff, le désespoir d’Emma Bovary quand elle reçoit la lettre de Rodolphe Boulanger rompant la promesse de leur fuite après leur longue histoire d’amour clandestin, illustrent l’évocation littéraire de la douleur amoureuse. Pourtant, elles ne correspondent plus à nos amours modernes.

Qu’est-ce qui a changé ? Il ne s’agit pas de dire que le malheur amoureux est inédit, mais que les manières de choisir notre partenaire et les manières de vivre l’expérience du désamour ne sont plus les mêmes. Cela est dû à trois raisons principales. La première et la plus générale est le peu d’ « interdictions normatives ». Dans la modernité (tardive), telle que la définit l’auteur —la période après la Première Guerre mondiale —, les normes peuvent être transgressées avec moins de difficulté qu’au temps d’Emily Brontë ou de Jane Austen. De même, les obstacles économiques que rencontrent les couples hétérogames ont été pour une part levés : même si les rapports de classe contraignent l’idéal amoureux, l’amour peut l’emporter. Celui-ci mélange et intègre les stratégies émotionnelles et économiques.

La deuxième raison est liée à l’existence d’un arsenal d’experts dont le métier est de nous porter secours dans une situation de désamour : conseillers psychologiques, spécialistes de la thérapie du couple, avocats spécialisés dans le divorce, experts en médiation, etc. Sans oublier l’imposante littérature du self-help. Et en effet, le chagrin d’amour amène souvent des hommes et des femmes à s’intéresser à cette littérature qui propose à la fois de comprendre la douleur et de la surmonter.

Enfin, la troisième et dernière raison de cette évolution sociale de l’amour est qu’aujourd’hui les victimes du sentiment de désamour, au lieu de rester silencieuses, partagent bien plus qu’auparavant leurs problèmes avec des amis, et plus récemment sur les forums sur internet.

L’amour comme marchandise

Partant de ces changements, Eva Illouz propose une sociologie du désamour, et décortique cette nouvelle organisation sociale de la souffrance. Elle s’attaque ainsi à ceux qui prétendent que ces expériences de souffrance amoureuse sont le résultat d’une psyché fragile et immature, voire défectueuse : nous avons tous souffert d’amour, personne n’est épargné !

Peut-on alors identifier les acteurs du désamour ? La psychologie clinique et la culture freudienne, auxquelles beaucoup sont fidèles, défendent l’idée selon laquelle c’est l’individu et lui seul qui est responsable de sa vie amoureuse et érotique, et que la famille est à la source de leur configuration. Autrement dit, le partenaire choisi est le reflet direct des expériences d’enfance, de sorte que la psyché devient responsable des malheurs amoureux dès lors inévitables. Eva Illouz essaie à l’inverse de démontrer que les chagrins sont le produit des institutions, ou de la structuration de la vie affective par les institutions.

Elle propose alors une lecture féministe de l’amour, qui l’appréhende comme une marchandise : « l’amour est produit par les rapports sociaux concrets, [...] l’amour circule sur un marché fait d’acteurs en situation de concurrence, et inégaux, [...où] certaines personnes disposent d’une plus grande capacité de définir les conditions dans lesquelles elles sont aimées que d’autres » (p. 30). La sociologie, selon elle, a négligé l’amour et divers types de souffrances qu’il génère, laissant à la psychologie clinique les émotions. Alors que la famine et la pauvreté ont été analysées par les anthropologues comme des souffrances sociales [1], d’autres types de souffrances, comme l’angoisse et la dépression, ont été délaissées malgré leur caractère ordinaire.

La lecture du « changement du moi romantique moderne » qu’entreprend ce livre comprend trois grandes parties : l’analyse des modalités de structuration des désirs amoureux (le choix amoureux, chapitres I et II), celle des manières par lesquelles on demande de la reconnaissance amoureuse (chapitre III) et enfin celle des modes d’activation du désir amoureux (chapitres IV et V). Les matériaux sont très variés. Outre la littérature scientifique (psychologues, philosophes, sociologues), aussi bien qu’une vaste littérature du xviiie et xixe siècles principalement, elle mobilise des e-books, des tribunes des journaux anglo-saxonnes (New York Times et The Independent) consacrés à l’amour ou à la sexualité, mais aussi des films, des séries de télévision, des forums d’entraide, des manuels de self-help, et des entretiens approfondis réalisés auprès de personnes hétérosexuelles de classe moyenne dont la plupart habitent aux États-Unis. On y décèle deux partis-pris : privilégier le point de vue des femmes, particulièrement celles des classes moyennes optant pour une vie familiale, et celui de l’amour hétérosexuel qui illustre le mieux selon elle le déni des bases économiques du choix amoureux parce qu’il mélange les logiques émotionnelles et économiques (pour une lecture féministe de cette question, voir notamment les travaux de Viviana Zelizer, Arlie R. Hochschild et Paola Tabet). Les femmes hétérosexuelles, et notamment celles qui veulent des enfants, sont ainsi au centre de l’analyse, et finalement les interlocutrices privilégiées de l’auteure.

Suis-je aimée ?

Dans les premier et deuxième chapitres, Illouz définit ce qu’elle appelle « la grande transformation de l’amour », à savoir les conditions (l’environnement social et les processus — émotionnels ou pas — d’évaluation du partenaire) dans lesquelles se fait le choix amoureux, conditions qui sont la « marque de fabrique » de l’amour contemporain.

Quelques facteurs définissent ce choix amoureux moderne : la sélection du partenaire se fait dans le cadre d’un marché très compétitif où le désir est façonné par le statut social. L’homme le plus « sexy » serait aussi celui qui est le plus riche et puissant. Le « sex appeal » devient un caractère de sélection du partenaire qui contribue à la stratification sociale. À cela vient s’ajouter une compétition pour la première place dans le marché hétérosexuel : l’homme qui a le plus d’expérience sexuelle est le plus désiré. Enfin, l’entrée du désir dans le marché économique est également régulée par les lois de ce dernier, à savoir l’offre et de la demande, l’aversion du risque, la rareté et la surabondance.

Une des expressions de cette grande transformation est la « phobie de l’engagement » des hommes (chapitre II). Dans ce marché hautement compétitif, hommes et femmes peuvent choisir librement entre plusieurs partenaires. Mais ce sont les hommes qui expriment le plus une difficulté de s’engager, principalement liée à la multiplicité des choix potentiels.

Si la « phobie de l’engagement » est particulièrement masculine, la demande de reconnaissance (chapitre III) vient plutôt, selon Eva Illouz, de la part des femmes. Au xixe siècle, la question de l’engagement ne se posait pas de la même manière qu’aujourd’hui. Dans la modernité, l’engagement constitue l’accomplissement de la relation, c’est ce qui va faire la différence entre des relations « sérieuses » (mariage, pacte civil, etc.) et des relations « légères » : sortir, s’amuser, même si cela peut durer quelques mois voire des années. Au XIXe siècle, ni l’homme ni la femme ne cachaient leur envie de s’engager, alors que dans la modernité une démarche courante dans les relations amoureuses est de mettre à distance cet engagement. Les uns cachent cette envie par peur de se montrer vulnérables, par un besoin de garder une image de soi, ou par phobie de s’engager.

Eva Illouz voit dans cette asymétrie la violence symbolique de l’amour moderne : « les hommes maîtrisent les règles de la reconnaissance et de l’engagement ». La plupart des femmes interviewées ici expriment la peur et l’angoisse de dire à leur compagnon ce qu’elles ressentent, puisqu’elles ne veulent pas « faire pression ». Elles expriment également leur besoin de reconnaissance : « une femme ne s’éloignera pas d’un homme s’il lui dit qu’il l’aime, alors qu’un homme flippera, et pensera qu’elle veut la bague et la robe blanche » (p. 224).

La rationalisation de l’hétérosexualité

Pour Eva Illouz, cette transformation est un processus de rationalisation. Cependant, cette rationalité n’est pas opposée aux émotions, bien au contraire : elle « est une force culturelle institutionnalisée qui en est venue à restructurer la vie émotionnelle de l’intérieur [...], elle a modifié les récits collectifs à travers lesquels les émotions sont comprises et négociées » (p. 254). Elle souligne la place du « freudisme populaire » dans cette évolution, à savoir les cadres interprétatifs de la psychologie et de la psychanalyse, mais aussi de la biologie, de la psychologie évolutionniste et des neurosciences. Ceux-ci ont en commun d’avoir tissé un fil entre la période de l’enfance et les expériences amoureuses adultes : par delà le changement des personnages, l’amour adulte ne serait qu’une autre facette de l’amour enfantin. En ce sens, l’amour doit être expliqué et contrôlé et surtout rester en cohérence avec le « bien-être », chacun maximisant ses intérêts.

Le dernier facteur contribuant à la rationalisation de l’amour hétérosexuel est le féminisme. Ce dernier envisage l’amour romantique comme une pratique culturelle qui produit des inégalités entre les sexes et les classes. Il invite les gens, principalement les femmes, à réviser les schémas qui régulent leur attirance sexuelle, à instaurer une symétrie dans leurs relations affectives, et finalement à introduire de nouveaux « principes d’équivalence ». Sans oublier toutefois l’impact des nouvelles technologies, principalement l’internet, qui agissent dans la sélection du partenaire selon une logique du marché [2].

Dans un article publié dans le quotidien israélien Haaretz, « Don’t be my Valentine : Are couples becoming a thing of the past ? », Eva Illouz s’interroge sur la structure du couple qui est actuellement « de facto, une proclamation contre la culture du choix, la culture de la maximisation du choix et contre l’idée du soi comme un lieu permanent d’excitation, d’auto réalisation et de jouissance. Les couples fonctionnent selon l’économie de la rareté ou du manque. [... Être en couple] exige la capacité de singulariser l’autre, de suspendre le calcul, de tolérer l’ennui, de mettre fin à l’auto-développement, de vivre avec une sexualité médiocre, de préférer l’engagement à l’insécurité contractuelle ».

Finalement, les couples décrits dans Pourquoi l’amour fait mal ne se reconnaissent pas dans l’image du couple monogame, tout comme d’autres types de couple dont Eva Illouz ne parle pas d’ailleurs : les jeunes, les queer, les couples de même sexe et les couples mixtes. Ces derniers seraient-ils influencés par le marché, destinés au désamour ? Seraient-ils régis par le principe d’équivalence et sauvés de l’ennui propre à une conjugalité monogame ? Dans tous les cas, ce livre raconte l’histoire de l’amour hétérosexuel et de la souffrance moderne, une conjugalité non moins violente ni moins asymétrique que l’amour romantique, en particulier pour les femmes.

Voir aussi:

Don’t be my Valentine: Are couples becoming a thing of the past?

Contemporary culture’s focus on individual satisfaction has made the traditional couple relationship much harder to achieve. With more and people opting to live on their own, is the very idea of couplehood passé?

Eva Illouz

Haaretz

Feb. 14, 2013

The Greeks had many myths to help them think about the nature and paradoxes of desire, and two are particularly striking. The first is the myth of Midas, King of Phrygia. Dionysus wants to reward Midas with a gift ‏(because the latter helped the satyr Silenus‏). He asks Midas what he wants, and Midas wishes that everything he touches will turn to gold. Dionysus grants his wish and, as recounted in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” when he sees a tree, he is overjoyed by the fact that a slight touch will turn it into gold. King Midas’ happiness at his newfound source of endless wealth is so great that he organizes a rich banquet. Appetizing food is laid out on a large table, but when he reaches for it to bring it to his mouth, it, too, turns to gold, becoming inedible. His daughter soon arrives. The King wishes to hug her, but she turns to lifeless gold. Starved and broken, he begs the god Dionysus to relieve him from his deepest desire.

This myth has been subject to some rather boring interpretations − the embarrassment of riches or the incapacity of money to make us happy. ‏(The English expression “the Midas touch” misunderstood the story altogether, turning it into a wondrous Wall Street kind of skill‏). But this is a story about the profoundly paradoxical nature of desire: A world that could respond mechanically to our desires would become monotonous and intolerable; such a world would not allow us to differentiate between the various dimensions of our lives, between that which is an object of ‏(and response to‏) our desires and that which is a response to functional necessity. What quickly makes Midas’ life intolerable is that his single desire colonizes and takes possession of all the spheres of his life.

The story offers a further striking insight: Fulfilled desire will leave us hungry. One could live in a gold palace, but it is the ordinary gestures of eating and hugging that turn out to be the only ones that matter, and these ordinary gestures become unattainable precisely because they evade the logic of desire. They are part of the reproduction of life, of its routine character, of what we take for granted, of what constitutes the organizational frame of our lives, not of our desires.

The myth thus signals an important warning to those who would wish to see their deepest desire realized. What we wish for, if truly realized, will make it impossible for us to feel nourished, because true nourishment does not consist in the fulfillment of desire. Eating, hugging our children − these are existential necessities.

The second myth is that of Tantalus, which seems to be the perfect counterpoint to Midas. Tantalus was not rewarded for a good deed, but punished for a dreadful one ‏(he cut up and cooked his own son and served him at a banquet‏). In the hierarchy of barbaric and hideous crimes, his would probably rank highest. But how was he punished? He was punished by being placed in a garden, under a tree, in which he tried incessantly to reach the fruit, which would always escape his reach. He was thirsty, and would try to drink the water of a nearby lake. But the water ran away from him. In this myth, we are led to presume that the punishment equals, in some way, the horror of the crime.

Interestingly enough, his punishment is the perfect opposite of that of Midas: The object of his desire escapes his grasp whenever he nears the goal of reaching it. Even more interesting, the nature of his ordeal derives from the difference created by the senses − between the fact that he sees the fruit (or the water) and the fact he tries to grasp it. And yet, despite their differences, despite the fact that one is rewarded and the other punished, both Midas and Tantalus are unable to taste the food they crave.

Taken together, these two myths suggest what is impossible about desire. First, whether satisfied or frustrated, desire is doomed to failure. The essence of desire is to attempt to grasp an object that is within our reach, and yet evades us. In fact, it does not matter whether desire is realized or not: both turn out to miss their target. Secondly, desire is a source of ceaseless suffering, not because its object is far away, but precisely because it seems so close, so within our reach, and yet simultaneously mysteriously out of our grasp. Juxtaposed, the two myths suggest that the opposite of the misery of craving an elusive object is not to have everything we grasp respond to our desire. Rather, what is most essential about our lives eludes altogether the logic of desire, which in fact turns out to be mechanical. Desire is thus, in a sense, genuinely aporetic, an insoluble contradiction. Unfulfilled, it makes us miserable; but fulfilled, it blocks access to what is essential but not determined by desire in our lives.

Although these myths are ancient, they might still describe a very modern situation: that of the couple.

***

Let us define a couple by what it is not. A couple is not two people madly in love with each other, because if these two people have an unlawful affair, they do not form that legitimate social unit we call a couple. A couple is not a married man and woman either, because heterosexual premodern families could be large units, comprising a man and a woman who live with others − children, servants, grandparents, kin. In such units the man and the woman are not a couple, but rather the heads of a social organization. ‏(Thus, a man and a woman can be married without being a couple, as when they stay together for the sake of the children‏.) A couple is not two people simply having sex, because if they do not project themselves into the future, they are just two individuals taking their pleasure where they find it.

A couple implies that two people − of the same or different sex − are on their own, so to speak. They are separated from society and yet recognized by it as a unit in which two people spend at least some of their time together. The word “couple” contains the following elements: Two people are deliberately and intentionally focused on each other. They are together “legitimately,” although their bond is not necessarily institutionalized by marriage. These two people think about the future together, but in a contractual way – that is, as long as it suits the interests of each. They are not blinded by mad passion, but aim for emotional intimacy, expressed in the capacity to share together the inner life, experiences and projects. These two people are connected by free will and not a sense of duty.

In this unit, sentiments are considered to be reflections of their freedom, which implies that their bond is freely chosen and that they are free to leave each other. In the unit called a “couple,” the other is the repository of trust, confidence, and well-being.

This social unit, then, presupposes a certain capacity to disconnect from the surrounding world, to be intensely focused on each other, to expect continuity, to engage in common projects, to have similar goals, yet without a binding and constraining life commitment. The couple is an island, but an island supplied with an ongoing service of ferries to other possible islands.

This seemingly simple unit, bound by free choice and sentiments, has become enormously difficult to achieve; it in fact has become one of the most perplexing social units, eliciting probably more books, novels, poetry, philosophical treatises, books of advice, psychological theories, psychological techniques and counseling than any other sociological unit or phenomenon. No single social organization is the object of such intense scrutiny as the couple, with an enormous number of institutions trying both to understand it and provide the guidelines to shape or improve it. Thus it raises the sociological question: What makes the couple into a project so difficult to achieve?

The response lies in a cultural paradox: In the process of becoming a problem, the couple also became a utopia – more exactly, an emotional utopia. Emotional utopias are modern cultural phenomena. They were promoted by the powerful discourse and practice of psychology, understood as an eclectic array of conceptions of the person, of the psyche, and of the story of this psyche ‏(e.g., the love story that binds the infant-child to his-her parents‏). An emotional utopia has two meanings: it promises happiness through the correct emotional-mental makeup; and it uses emotional techniques of self-transformation to reach that state.

The experience of love, matrimony and the couple were made into such a powerful emotional utopia. Individuals now felt they needed only to consult themselves and their emotions to know if they loved someone, if they had a chance to achieve happiness with him or her. Emotions became the inner compass of the self, the entity with which one would decide on one’s commitment, marriage and the quality of a shared life. “How one felt” became the motto of subjectivity. The challenge then became to find the person with whom one could achieve the emotional utopia of love. This emotional utopia included the possibility to see one’s wishes, desires and needs both discovered and realized with someone else.

Historically, the image of the couple-island was connected to the modern utopia of happiness. Happiness, conceived as a personal project of self-actualization, became conceived in emotional terms. It was no longer the eudaemonia of the Greeks, the well-being one experiences from the practice of tested and publicly recognized virtues. Rather, happiness became a project of precisely discovering the individualized, idiosyncratic and private needs and goals of autonomous individuals.

The emotional utopia of couplehood has been deployed in three different cultural and emotional sites: Sexuality has become the chief site for displaying and demonstrating the emotional bond linking two people. Sexuality has become a necessary element of romantic relations, the privileged place for the expression of intimacy, and even the site for and sign of a couple’s well-being.

The view that sexuality is a necessary condition of love is a modern phenomenon. Moreover, modernity made sexuality into the locus par excellence for the fulfillment of “mental health and maturity,” the sign of a good relationship with another, and the place to demonstrate one’s capacity to have a “good self” – defined as a hedonistic self, capable of giving and experiencing pleasure. Sexuality became a condition for the fulfillment of an emotional utopia, thanks to its connection to psychology, which would make it the sign of mature emotional and mental health.

The second site for the expression of emotions was located in leisure and the production of new and exciting experiences. Modern couples consume leisure experiences together; they go to the movies; go on vacation together; attend cultural, fashion and sports events, and so on. Leisure has been designed for and consumed by and through the channel of couples. This new pattern of interaction has had the emotional effect of making excitement into a necessary aspect of the romantic utopia, in which romantic feelings would be both produced and experienced through relaxation, excitement and novelty.

Emotional intimacy became a third ideal to achieve. Intimacy is often viewed as equivalent to couplehood, but the notion is in fact modern. It is defined as the ongoing expression and exchange of emotions, and it became the prime way to show and share subjectivity in the context of romantic relations. Couplehood became the excavation site for emotions: talking about emotions, expressing emotions, managing emotions, feeling emotions in unison: All of this has become a necessary aspect of the life of a couple, reinforced by the fact that psychological culture made emotional intimacy into the sign of a properly functioning couple.

However, anyone with eyes to see can understand that as described, couplehood has become enormously difficult. So much so that we may ask whether the modern couple is a failed project. The statistics on divorce are only the tip of the large iceberg of the struggles and emotional misery that make up the lives of modern couples. This misery takes many forms: daily conflicts over housecleaning and child care; sexual boredom or dissatisfaction; the temptation to have emotional and sexual relations with other people; resentment of the other’s independence or success; wanting to preserve one’s autonomy and independence, yet being in need of love and attachment.

Modern relations are plagued with emotional aporias, accompanied with unanswerable questions on “how to meet the needs of another”; “what to legitimately expect from another, without infringing on his/her freedom”; “how to achieve one’s will and negotiate with the will of another.” In short, couples have become a place for enacting and coping with the endless contradictions of modern personhood.

Let us reflect more carefully on what makes satisfactory couplehood so difficult to achieve.

Much of our culture is psychological, in that it calls on men and women to be deeply absorbed by their selves, by their needs, by their interiority. This inner reflection tends to make people keenly aware of their own self-interest, and has contributed to making relationships into utilitarian projects, justified not by moral duties or social conventions, but by the individualist pursuit of two persons seeking to maximize their pleasure. This focus on the self makes it difficult to engage in non-calculating behavior such as forgiveness and self-sacrifice, because it tends to encourage a fixation of the self on its own projects and goals, independently of that of another.

Moreover, the culture of needs and self-knowledge overlaps with equality as a new cultural definition of social bonds, especially between men and women. In turn, the norm of equality creates new tensions, as it implies that men and women calculate, measure and quantify what they give to each other, both in terms of their work in the household and in terms of their emotional exchange. While equality is inherent in the democratic polity, it has been more difficult to implement in the private sphere because it demands a constant tracking of the contributions of each partner.

The third difficulty encountered by couples derives from the problem of boredom, itself an outcome of the fact that excitement is now a new norm of relationships within a couple. Excitement implies a new supply of experiences and sentiments. Excitement has been institutionalized in the sphere of leisure, through the production of novel experiences. During the 20th century, excitement migrated from the realm of objects to the realm of persons, and, more exactly, from the realm of leisure to that of interpersonal interactions. If the beginning of consumer culture focused on the pleasure new objects provided, the later phase of that culture is one where the logic of consumption has spread to relationships, which mimic the properties of leisure consumption − that is, the relationships themselves are oriented to new and exciting objects. The culture of excitement is especially salient in the realm of sexuality, which must supply endless sources of novelty and stimulation.

In addition, psychological culture has made self-change and self-development imperatives. To live a good life today means to live a life in which the future self will evolve from the current one. This creates instability within couples: If change is intrinsically valued, then changing one’s personality, tastes and preferences becomes a value, thus undermining the stability that couples inherently require. This instability is accentuated by the culture of choice − in which a multiplicity of sexual partners considerably delays the formation of a couple and constitutes an ongoing threat to their stability as well. Indeed, to self-realize means to increasingly elaborate and refine one’s tastes, implying to change and to improve one’s partner. The abundance of sexual choice, coupled with the ideology of self-realization, encourages the desire to meet someone “more suitable.”

Finally, modern capitalist culture demands the cultivation of autonomy (one needs to learn independence and autonomy from one’s youngest age). The demand of autonomy in turn exerts and creates centripetal forces on a couple. Autonomy, allied to self-realization, encourages the marking of boundaries of self that prohibit fusion and make people turn away at signs of rejection or distance. In short, the imperative of autonomy conflicts with the reality of love as dependence, attachment, symbiosis and thus makes love conflict − rather than resonate with − autonomy as an important feature of personhood.

***

In many respects, we have become Midases of erotic and emotional life, trying to turn every aspect of our lives as couples into the golden eternity of desire. Yet, freeing romantic emotions from institution and convention, and making them obey the logic of desire, has not made it easier to be fulfilled. We still miss the ordinary hug of a child. The permanent dissatisfaction of our emotional lives is increased by the fact that, like Tantalus, we are forced to contemplate the fruit we cannot taste − our eyes can see the emotional utopia of love, but we are never able to quite grasp it. The romantic utopia eludes us every time we seem to have it within our grasp.

***

In the face of this, do we still need couples? Couples seem to have become an unnecessary institution, one that disturbs individual development and forces the individual to face and cope with his-her contradictions. Couples create confusion, conflict, loneliness and pain. The sheer numbers speak against couples, as more and more people choose to live alone. But I want to suggest that the notion is still important to defend, because couples represent a social form whose value resides precisely in the fact that it is contrary to the reigning ethos of our times.

How so? Monogamous couplehood − if we are to stick to the conventional definition − is perhaps the last social unit that functions according to principles that oppose those of capitalist culture. A couple is de facto a proclamation against the culture of choice, against the culture of maximization of choice, against the culture that choices should be improved, and against the idea of the self as a permanent site for excitement, enjoyment and self-realization. Couples, in a way, function on an economy of scarcity. They require virtues and character for which modern culture no longer trains us: They require the capacity to singularize another, to suspend calculation, to tolerate boredom, to stop self-development, to live with ‏(frequently‏) mediocre sexuality, to prefer commitment to contractual insecurity.

Couples, then, with all their conventionality, seem increasingly to stand for values that have become the true radical alternatives to the market. We may wonder if, by a long detour of history, couplehood and love have not again become the radical alternative to the dominant ethos of their time − not as a transgression but as an affirmation of that heavy and arduous sturdiness that binds us to others and to our own old and outdated selves.

Voir également:

Love hurts more than ever before (blame the internet and capitalism)

Consumer values are causing more and more broken hearts, warn experts in the run-up to St. Valentine’s Day

Tracy McVeigh

The Observer

12 February 2012

Love hurts. And if you are nursing a broken heart this Valentine’s Day, it won’t help at all to learn that modern love hurts more now than ever. Women may have fled to nunneries and men marched to war over it, poets pined away, playwrights gone to jail for it, and Meatloaf promised to do anything for it, but experts believe love has never caused such acute suffering as it does now.

The blame lies with Hollywood, capitalism and the internet, all of which have caused mayhem in our love lives and taught us to behave like consumers when it comes to affairs of the heart. We treat looking for love as we would approach a buffet table, says sociologist Eva Illouz, in a new book being hailed as an "emotional atlas" for the 21st century.

Our relationship with relationships is now so chaotic that it touches every part of our psyche. Heartache is no longer contained in the heart and a growing army of psychologists and sociologists warn that love is in a perilous state. Modern marriage has been called "toxic", the changing roles between the genders are blamed for an upswing in divorce and an increasing focus on appearance is destroying the notion of a soulmate in favour of a sex mate.

But, according to Illouz, the reason is not the rise of feminism or dysfunctional childhoods, but instead down to us having too much choice – and too many commitment-phobic men.

In Why Love Hurts, Illouz, a sociologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, attempts to explain the specific modern form of "romantic misery and happiness". She says our consumerist, capitalist culture has changed the face of our relationships beyond all recognition. The increasing choice from internet dating has encouraged people to act as "shoppers" – demanding, comparing alternatives, constantly trying to get a better deal and killing off the gut instinct and chance that has always helped humans to find a mate. Men have become commitment-phobes because the rise of capitalism has encouraged them to be autonomous and self-centred.

"Feminism has been so often blamed for the current disarray of romantic and sexual relationships," said Illouz, "that we have neglected to focus on the more immediate cause, capitalism. It has had a deep impact on the family: women defer childbearing because they prefer to develop careers provided by capitalist organisations. When they become mothers, most women keep working because work has become a part of self-fulfilment and because household expenditures now demand dual income.

"For men, marriage has become more optional. They don’t need it. The romantic relationship has become more central to both men and women than ever and it’s a great source of social worth, of validation. But men use sexual prowess, how many partners they have, to get a sense of worth, and women will want to be loved. So in that respect women are more dependent on men and want exclusivity while men want quantity."

The lack of harmony between the sexes is a growing concern.

"Men and women are definitely needing each other less as their roles converge," said Glenn Wilson, a fellow of the British Psychology Association and visiting professor at Gresham College, London. "I think the main change over the years is the Hollywood-driven belief that love and marriage should be contiguous – go together like horse and carriage. Because passion is short-lived, this results in our pattern of serial monogamy – repeated divorce and remarriage, leaving a trail of destruction.

"The other big change is that converging sex roles make marriage increasingly irrelevant. Who needs a partner if they don’t bring complementary skill or responsibility to the union?"

Illouz says women who want children are in an even weaker position than in the past.

As any Jane Austen character could tell you, the people of the 19th century mostly married for economic and class reasons, says Illouz. Their relationships were ritualised to suit both genders, love and duty were intertwined and insecurity was not in the picture.

"Why does Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, greet Darcy’s arrogant and dismissive comments about her appearance – ‘she is tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt me’ – with neither dejection nor with a sense of humiliation but rather with wit and spirit? Because his scorn doesn’t shape or affect her sense of self and value.

"There is no conflict between their passions and their sense of moral duty and behaviour. So by modern standards Jane Austen’s heroines are uncannily self-possessed and oddly detached from the need to be ‘validated’ or approved of by their suitors.

"Their sense of inner self is there and not changed by a man’s view of them. So while women of that time were legally and economically dependent on men, they were absolutely not reliant on them." The modern situation is totally different, she says.

"By and large men and women are legally and intellectually equals. People think emotional difficulties between them are a remnant of the past but actually it’s new – a change in the process of courtship.

"We have all these choices and think it’s a type of freedom, but it’s not. A complex menu of options is not necessarily freedom.

"Pre-modern people made a decision to marry based on a sense of social duty and convention. Modern people tend to do it out of a desire to realise our inner self, to be validated. Pre-modern people felt bound by a simple declaration of love; modern people prefer to keep their options always open, even after getting married."

Illouz said the situation was so dire that we ought to be thinking seriously about what might replace marriage as a method of raising children.

She is keen to stress that love is not over. "I wouldn’t want to give the impression we have moved from total structure to total chaos. It’s just that individuals now face a market of choices, a market of sex, and that can create great conflict and disconnect."

HEART OF THE MATTER

"The chains of marriage are so heavy it takes two to bear them, sometimes three."

Alexandre Dumas

"We are all born for love. It is the principle of existence and its only end."

Benjamin Disraeli

"There is love of course. And then there is life, its enemy."

French dramatist Jean Anouilh

"Culturally, emotionally, the whole ideas of romance is gone, gone, gone."

Maureen Dowd, New York commentator

"But to see her was to love her, love but her, and love for ever."

Robert Burns in Ae Fond Kiss, written to a women who left him to save her marriage

"Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your heart or burn down your house, you never can tell."

Actress Joan Crawford

"The word love has by no means the same sense for both sexes."

Simone de Beauvoir

"Happiness in marriage is a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least."

Jane Austen

"Little by little, absence chilled the flame of love, the pangs of regret were dulled by habit."

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Voir encore:

Why Love Hurts: A Sociological Explanation

3 May 2012

Jean Duncombe ponders the interdependency of women’s self-worth and romantic relationships

Is this a good time for me to be reading how much love hurts? My husband, who loved me dearly, died almost three years ago. His love gave my life meaning. Not a very feminist statement, I know, and friends tell me I should learn to “love myself” and gain validation from myself. But I miss having love in my life. Eva Illouz’s new book, hailed as an “emotional atlas” for the 21st century, offers words of warning to those who, like me, still hanker after romantic love. Think carefully before you venture along that road. The organised marital relationships of Jane Austen’s day, and the model of love as pure emotionality that followed, are both long gone, she says. Instead, the search for love today, while it looks like free choice, “entails engagement with a complex affective and cognitive market apparatus to evaluate partners”. Yet despite this complexity, we (women) need to understand it more than ever because it is the way we constitute our self-worth.

For those of us with busy working lives, internet dating sites are frequently recommended as the best way to find love. Through words and photos we can reinvent ourselves, and behave like consumers rationally setting out lists of attributes like a buffet table (age, appearance, lifestyle). The subsequent “romantic encounter” is the result of the best possible choice, “perfect” or “good enough”. This modern way of finding a romantic partner may seem straightforward, but there are drawbacks. Rationality and regulation destroy the erotic, and the belief in endless choice inhibits rather than promotes commitment.

Conversations (what Illouz calls “thick talk”) with friends are a key part of the choice process. With friends we spend a great deal of time reflecting on relationships, agonising over mistakes and hoping new relationships will avoid past errors. Partner choices are frequently framed within well-trodden narrative formulas and visual cliches from Hollywood films, novels and women’s magazines. The media promote the view that we will know “the right man” when we see him: we will look across a crowded room and recognise our soulmate, we will “click”. Illouz says it is too simple to call these beliefs false consciousness. She cites Simon Blackburn that love is not blind. You see each other’s faults. But you forgive them and, through forgiveness, the self-esteem of the loved one increases. Through love we become who we imagine ourselves to be. Love validates us and gives us a sense of self-worth.

However, despite our continuing search for Mr Right, today there is an added problem in achieving romantic perfection. Integral to modernity is irony. Illouz cites David Halperin that true sexual passion requires the elimination of irony. This irony, uncertainty and sometimes cynicism about “real love” leads to another new dimension of the choice process, which Illouz calls “emotional interiority”. When seeking a relationship we engage constantly in self-scrutiny. What sort of person am I really? What sort of person do I really desire? When I am in a relationship, how do I really feel? How long will this love last? It is a modern belief, she argues, that such reflexive self-understanding will help us to better understand ourselves and our choices. But again, Illouz draws our attention to the drawbacks of introspection. Choices are harder. Modern introspection creates ambivalence, a sense of dissatisfaction about never fully knowing what our “true” feelings are.

Here Illouz condemns the ease with which today we seek psychological or psychoanalytical explanations about who we are, and about past romantic disasters. We all too easily locate failed love lives in private histories. We too quickly explain our pain (real or imagined) as a product of deficient childhoods, where perhaps we were neglected, abandoned or distanced. Our love preferences are questioned as re-enactments of early parent/child relationships. Alongside talking to friends and ourselves, there is a whole battery of “relationship experts” who offer to come to the rescue with our doubts about relationship formation and/or breakdown. There are psychological counsellors, couple therapists, mediation specialists. All of private life is now to be shared and talked about – more “thick talk” – and these therapies provide, she says, a formidable arsenal of techniques to make us “verbose but inescapable bearers of responsibility for our romantic miseries”.

Illouz comments with surprise that the cultural prominence of love today is associated with the decline in men’s power in families and the rise (she says) of more egalitarian/symmetrical gender relations. But the drawback of such equality, she suggests, is a decline in eroticism. She draws out the contradictions between our endless idealisation of love set alongside irony and ambivalence. There is acknowledgement that relationships, whether marriage, remarriage or cohabitation, frequently break down. Optimistic searches for a new romantic partner therefore carry within them an inbuilt expectation of disappointment.

It is too easy, Illouz suggests, to blame feminism for the “crisis in love”. Feminism in the 1970s and 1980s drew our attention to the ways that marriage benefits men more than women, that love obscures gender inequalities and that struggles for power lie at the core of love and sexuality. Yet while men have become commitment-phobic, self-centred and sex-seeking, and more women have careers, women still seek intimacy and exclusivity in heterosexual romantic relationships. But instead of identifying institutional causes for their romantic misery – namely an acknowledgement that love is shaped and produced by concrete social relations – they seek explanations in psychodynamic theories of masculinity, or neuroscience and evolutionary biologists’ explanations about hormones, brains and chemical processes. She rather drily cites the research finding that men are biologically programmed to stay in love for only two years. Men’s commitment-phobia, and in many cases their reluctance to have children, do not necessarily lead to relationship breakdown. Instead, mirroring many of the findings in our research on couples (Jean Duncombe and Dennis Marsden), Illouz finds that women “engage in performativity”, an ongoing and constant production of sentiments. They perform “detachment”, trying not to appear too needy. But it is self-knowing, and they acknowledge their lack of authenticity. Managing the relationship becomes a complex power game, with all performances carefully self-monitored.

Overall there is much to criticise in this book, including its focus on heterosexual middle-class women at the expense of ethnicity, working-class and gay and lesbian relationships, as well as men; its lack of clarity about “modernity”; and its somewhat ambitious claim to do to love what Marx did to commodities. I also have no doubt that there will still be a sizeable lobby in sociology who would prefer “love” and “romance” to be left to the psychologists, psychoanalysts and neuroscientists. Yet even if you disagree with its claims, this is a bold, thought-provoking book, and I laughed in recognition at some of Illouz’s descriptions of self-scrutiny. It is full of interesting questions. Why is self-worth, for so many women today, not achieved through our economic and social status? Why do women need love as affirmation of self-worth?

The book concludes by asking sociology why it is so good at studying social suffering, yet fails to take more account of how our consumerist capitalist culture causes so much suffering in love relationships today; why love is so easily dismissed as mere ideological underpinning to gender and family but yet not seen, as Illouz explains, as “shaped and produced by concrete social relations, circulating in a marketplace of unequal competing actors, and part of a set of social and cultural contradictions that structure our modern selves and identities”. Indeed, why does sociology not see that love is central to understanding modernity?

The Author

A professor of sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Eva Illouz says she came to the subject aged 21 through an interest in love and its relationship to class, money, literacy and culture.

Her academic interests make her curious about everything, she notes, recalling being puzzled as a student about why going to restaurants with her boyfriend seemed so much more romantic than going to a fast-food place or eating at home: “that kitschy feeling and my question about the source of that kitsch made me write Consuming the Romantic Utopia: Love and the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1997)”.

Born in Fez, Morocco, Illouz moved with her family to France when she was 10. Her most striking memory of Morocco is “the sense that one was clearly defined by one’s community yet that one moved easily to other communities”. Life there meant “straddling different languages, worlds, religions, without ever having a sense of confusion or of boundary-crossing”, which Illouz says is very different from her life in Israel.

Her favourite pastimes are reading a good book aloud to her sons at the dinner table, reading a good book alone in her bedroom and talking about a good book with friends, again at the dinner table.

Why Love Hurts: A Sociological Explanation

By Eva Illouz

Polity, 300pp, £20.00

ISBN 9780745661520

Published 11 May 2012

Reviewer:

Jean Duncombe is senior lecturer in the department of childhood and youth, University of Chichester. She is researching “hard to reach” families and their relationships with early-years settings. Her previous research and publications focused on emotion work in couple relationships (with Dennis Marsden), and ethics in qualitative research.

Voir enfin:

Eva Illouz : pourquoi nos émotions nous gouvernent

À l’occasion de la sortie de son nouveau livre, Pourquoi l’amour fait mal (Seuil), la sociologue Eva Illouz nous a accordé ce long entretien. Revenant sur les différents aspects de son travail, elle développe une analyse passionnante sur la manière dont la société agit sur nos émotions.

Le Livre

Pourquoi l’amour fait mal

Vous creusez depuis près de vingt ans un sillon original en sociologie, qui consiste à montrer la place centrale qu’occupent les émotions dans les sociétés modernes. Qu’est-ce qui vous a poussée vers cet axe de recherche inédit ?

De nombreux chercheurs vont chercher dans leur biographie les sujets qui les préoccupent. En ce qui me concerne, c’est sans doute lié au fait d’avoir vécu dans quatre ou cinq pays : au Maroc, en France, aux États-Unis, en Israël et de façon plus épisodique en Allemagne. Cela m’a appris que, si les cultures diffèrent, c’est d’abord dans leur style émotionnel : à quelles émotions pense-t-on, quelles émotions sont régulées, quel danger représentent-elles ? Le déclencheur précis fut probablement mon étonnement face à la grande méfiance qu’entretient la société américaine à l’égard de la colère, sentiment que j’associais jusque-là à la capacité de défendre la justice et la morale, comme le dit l’expression « sainte colère ». Or, aux yeux des Américains, ce sentiment est une atteinte à l’intégrité de l’autre, le signe d’une psyché mal formée et immature, voire dangereuse. Cette méfiance vis-à-vis de la colère prend ses sources dans le protestantisme, mais elle est aussi liée au développement du capitalisme : au début du XXe siècle, les psychologues furent invités par les managers à améliorer la discipline et la productivité dans les usines et à formuler les règles nécessaires à la mission nouvelle du management. C’est alors que cette profession en pleine ascension restructure les normes et le discours sur la colère, et bien d’autres sentiments. Menant des expériences dans les usines de la Western Electric Company au cours des années 1920, le psychanalyste Elton Mayo découvre que la productivité augmente quand les relations de travail tiennent compte des émotions des salariés. En suggérant que les résistances rencontrées dans l’entreprise sont le produit de sentiments complexes, de facteurs individuels et de conflits psychologiques non résolus, Mayo introduit l’imaginaire psychanalytique au cœur même du langage de l’efficacité économique. Et le vocabulaire des « relations humaines » s’empare du management. Les psychologues font de la maîtrise de soi une condition sine qua non de la santé mentale et du droit à contrôler les autres dans l’entreprise ; c’est ainsi que s’élabore petit à petit la notion de « compétence émotionnelle ».

Alors que chez Aristote, l’homme vertueux doit exercer sa colère, le problème étant de savoir choisir les circonstances appropriées, cette émotion devient inintelligible et illégitime – dans les relations professionnelles mais aussi et au sein du couple. C’est cette découverte qui m’a poussée à m’intéresser d’une manière plus générale au rôle que jouent les structures sociales et certains groupes professionnels comme les psychologues dans la formulation et la reformulation des normes émotionnelles.

Comment expliquez-vous cette disqualification de la colère ? Est-ce simplement l’expression de l’intérêt bien compris des psychologues et des entreprises, ou l’effet d’une évolution sociale plus globale ?

Rappelons d’abord que cela ne s’est pas inscrit dans un vide culturel : dans l’Occident chrétien, la colère fait partie des sept péchés capitaux. Et le protestantisme accorde depuis toujours une grande importance au contrôle de soi. Mais, historiquement, la colère n’était pas jugée négativement ; c’était plutôt une émotion socialement clivée. Les « grands », les puissants, avaient le droit et même le devoir de se mettre en colère, celle-ci étant canalisée et exprimée par des rituels dont le meilleur exemple est sans doute le duel. Cette forme de colère est non seulement légitimée, mais aussi stylisée, à travers des formes de masculinité qui la rendent héroïque et noble. Ce qui est réprouvé, en revanche, c’est la colère des « petits » vis-à-vis des grands ou des autres petits ; voilà ce que la société s’efforçait de gérer. Ce n’est donc pas la culture psychologique en soi, ou la modernité en soi, qui a inventé la méfiance vis-à-vis de la colère.

Mais, au début du XXe siècle, la société a de nouvelles raisons de vouloir la contrôler. D’abord, celle-ci est considérée comme un facteur d’inefficacité dans le travail, elle est contre-productive. La colère devient affaire de rentabilité. Et ce discours a été introduit par les psychologues (d’entreprise et autres) qui nous ont ainsi habitués à penser nos émotions non pas en termes d’obligations morales (vis-à-vis de nous-mêmes, des autres ou de Dieu), mais du point de vue de notre intérêt bien compris. Nous avons ainsi assisté à une sorte d’alliance entre le discours psychologique et le discours économique qui a voulu convaincre les hommes, depuis le XVIIIe siècle, que la meilleure façon d’agir dans la société était de poursuivre son intérêt bien compris. La colère devient un problème a gérer au sein de l’entreprise. Ce discours n’était pas séduisant seulement pour les dirigeants auxquels il promettait d’organiser des relations non conflictuelles sur le lieu de travail, mais aussi pour les salariés, en raison de son caractère démocratique : pour être un bon manager, il fallait avoir une personnalité capable de ne pas se mettre en colère contre les autres et de les comprendre ; le rang hiérarchique ne donne plus droit à la rage.

Cette transformation de la norme, cet impératif de contrôle de soi, est d’autant plus complexe qu’il n’est pas univoque, car la culture psychologique est également imprégnée de l’idée qu’il ne faut pas réprimer, contenir, dissimuler ses émotions. L’authenticité est devenue un impératif. Et nous vivons en permanence avec ces deux idées contradictoires, l’idée de régulation et l’idée d’authenticité.

Nos projets de vie sont devenus émotionnels

Comment l’individu moderne navigue-t-il entre les deux impératifs antinomiques de régulation et d’authenticité ?

Cette contradiction produite par les institutions de la modernité (les psychologues, l’entreprise qui a endossé ce discours, la famille nucléaire) est aussi gérée par ces institutions. Imaginons une personne qui se perçoit elle-même comme trop négative sur son lieu de travail, revêche, peu souriante et voit un(e) collègue beaucoup plus amène promu(e) au poste convoité ; dans de nombreux cas, cela va mener à un retour sur soi, avec le sentiment que sa personnalité ou le vécu de son enfance, par exemple, fait problème. Dans les sociétés modernes, l’individu est constamment amené à faire un travail d’évaluation de lui-même par rapport à une norme émotionnelle.

Nos émotions sont donc socialement déterminées, alors que nous les pensons « naturelles », voire instinctives ?

Bien sûr que nos émotions sont socialement fabriquées, ce qui ne veut pas dire qu’on ne les vit pas comme « naturelles ». Un Juif pratiquant qui mange kasher (parce qu’un livre de lois et sa famille lui ont enseigné les interdits alimentaires) éprouve un sentiment instinctif de dégoût face aux poissons de mer ou au porc. Mais que nos émotions soient socialement constituées ne veut pas dire qu’il n’y ait pas des parcours individuels très différents. C’est là que la sociologie rencontre la psychologie. Vous n’allez pas vous mettre en colère comme je vais me mettre en colère : ni les modes d’expression ni le temps de réaction ne seront les mêmes ; mais cela restera intelligible et donc socialement et culturellement structuré… Si je lance en même temps dix boules de billard sur une table, elles vont toutes suivre des trajectoires différentes, mais elles vont toutes être contenues dans le cadre de la table de billard. Evidemment, quand vous êtes boule de billard, vous ne voyez pas le cadre. Vous voyez votre propre mouvement, vous voyez le mouvement des autres boules, et parfois vous avez conscience de rouler plus vite ou moins vite, plus droit ou moins droit, que la boule d’à côté ; mais c’est tout. L’existence de trajectoires individuelles n’est pas pour autant antinomique avec l’existence du social, du cadre, au contraire. C’est ce qui les rend possible.

Mais en quoi les sociétés modernes sont-elles plus « émotionnelles » que les sociétés traditionnelles ? Après tout, une société humaine est sentimentale par nature…

En tout lieu et en tout temps, les êtres humains ont ressenti des émotions. Mais le rapport social aux sentiments, aujourd’hui, ne ressemble plus à rien de ce que nous avons connu jusqu’à présent. Tout d’abord, le sujet moderne travaille à objectiver ses émotions, en faire un objet de savoir et de contrôle ; ensuite, nos sociétés conçoivent la vie bonne comme une vie émotionnelle, équation qui n’allait pas du tout de soi jusqu’à présent. Non seulement l’introspection, la connaissance de soi, l’autorégulation émotionnelles sont partie intégrante de l’existence des individus modernes, mais ce sont les projets de vie qui sont devenus émotionnels. Réussir sa vie aujourd’hui, ce n’est pas tant avoir de l’argent et un certain niveau de confort – jusqu’à un certain point. C’est se réaliser, avoir une sexualité épanouie, de bonnes relations avec son conjoint et ses enfants, etc. Nous vivons en fonction de projets de vie émotionnels. Et c’est un véritable parcours d’obstacles, car cela contraint à se demander en permanence ce que nous sommes, ce que nous voulons, ce que nous ressentons, et si nous ressentons bien ce que nous devrions ressentir, puisque la vie émotionnelle est, parallèlement, devenue très normée : je devrais être plus heureux ; je devrais aimer davantage ma femme, être moins colérique, plus sûr de moi, etc.

Nous sommes donc assistés par une énorme industrie des émotions. J’y range à la fois la psychanalyse dans ses formes les plus élaborées, les guides de comportement en tout genre, les stages de « développement personnel », et les laboratoires pharmaceutiques, qui depuis deux ou trois décennies fabriquent de plus en plus de médicaments émotionnels (lire « À qui profitent les psychotropes », Books n°29, février 2012). Tout cela participe de cette industrie des émotions et de la personne qui occupe une place centrale dans nos sociétés. Un psychologue allemand déclarait même récemment que les personnes qui n’ont pas de page Facebook ont une très forte probabilité de souffrir de dysfonctionnement mental ! Tout au long du XXe siècle, sur le terrain de la psyché, on n’a ainsi cessé d’élargir le champ des pathologies : ressentir des émotions négatives comme la tristesse, la colère ou la dépression, ne pas avoir confiance en soi, tout cela est devenu synonyme de déséquilibre ou de dysfonctionnement mental. Avec en filigrane l’idée qu’il faut optimiser la personne humaine et ses émotions. Car c’est par rapport à un modèle d’une vie « pleinement réalisée » (que l’on serait bien en peine de caractériser) que sont définis les « comportements malsains ». C’est comme si l’on considérait comme malade, dans le domaine de la santé physique, toute personne n’utilisant pas la totalité de son potentiel musculaire. C’est totalement absurde. Et en plus, dans le discours psychologique, la définition du « potentiel musculaire » n’est pas claire et varie continuellement. Cette situation est parfaitement inédite.

La rationalisation des sentiments

Comment la réalité émotionnelle de nos sociétés s’articule-t-elle avec leur extrême rationalité ? Les deux phénomènes ne sont-ils pas contradictoires ?

Justement pas ! L’intensification de la vie émotionnelle s’est produite précisément en même temps que le processus de rationalisation de la conduite de la vie dont parle Max Weber, qui est de plus en « méthodique », systématique et contrôlée par l’intellect. La vie sentimentale a été restructurée de l’intérieur par cette rationalité qui se traduit par l’utilisation accrue de catégories abstraites, scientifiques, pour comprendre nos sentiments. Par exemple, on parle moins d’attirance amoureuse, avec ce que cela comportait de mystérieux, et davantage de phéromones. Désormais, les sentiments sont vus de plus en plus souvent comme un sous-produit des hormones ou réduits à réaction chimique (on parle volontiers d’ocytocine, de dopamine, etc.) Nous avons changé de langage et pensons nos émotions à travers des catégories abstraites : c’est mon complexe d’Œdipe, c’est ma libido… Les mots des experts sont utilisés par les individus ordinaires pour comprendre et gérer leur vie émotionnelle.

Autre élément emblématique de ce processus de rationalisation : les émotions ne sont pas tant vécues pour elles-mêmes que pour servir un but. Nous avons créé des techniques pour que nos sentiments épousent nos objectifs (être promu, ne tomber amoureuse que d’hommes qui m’aiment en retour, etc.) Et voilà encore une forme de rationalisation : les sentiments doivent être bien placés, rentables, c’est-à-dire apporter plus de plaisir que de souffrance. Un utilitarisme s’est insinué au cœur de la vie émotionnelle, qui a rendu inintelligible la souffrance, devenue symptôme d’une maladie que l’on doit déchiffrer et éradiquer. Le sacrifice de soi est inacceptable comme projet de vie, ou de formation d’une personne « saine » et « mûre ». Dans le passé, la douleur occupait une place centrale, par exemple, dans certaines cultures religieuses : s’identifier à la passion du Christ est essentiel à l’identité morale du chrétien. C’est pour cela que la souffrance amoureuse était parfaitement légitime et normale, jusqu’au XIXe siècle ; on valorisait cette expérience de dépassement de soi, signe d’une dévotion désintéressée ou d’une âme élevée.

Il existe pourtant aujourd’hui un véritable culte de la souffrance ; même les gens riches et célèbres se gargarisent de souffrir ou d’avoir souffert, comme en témoignent les autobiographies des célébrités. N’est-ce pas contradictoire avec le caractère illégitime de la souffrance dont vous parlez ?

C’est tout le paradoxe de la culture psychologique que de privilégier la douleur, alors qu’elle est d’abord censée la soulager, la comprendre, la dépasser, pour permettre de mieux vivre. Car pour alléger la souffrance, il faut en identifier la source : on crée donc des catégories, des classifications pour en parler, classifications que les individus vont ensuite utiliser pour comprendre leur existence. Prenons l’exemple de ce bestseller, Ces femmes qui aiment trop : une femme qui manifeste trop – que signifie ce trop ? Aucune idée ! – d’amour ou d’intérêt pour un homme, possède un moi névrosé, sans doute lié au développement d’une dépendance très forte, elle-même liée au fait qu’elle a éprouvé un sentiment d’abandon dans l’enfance, qu’on n’a pas pris suffisamment soin d’elle… On pourrait pourtant considérer qu’il s’agit d’une qualité charmante, que d’être capable de montrer son intérêt pour un homme ; de même qu’on pourrait trouver charmantes les femmes qui sont dépitées, inquiètes ou furieuses de ne pas recevoir l’appel qu’elles attendent de l’homme qu’elles aiment. Barthes parle merveilleusement, dans Fragments d’un discours amoureux, de cette anxiété du coup de fil qui ne vient pas… Eh bien aujourd’hui, si cette angoisse se reproduit souvent, elle est jugée pathologique : ce n’est pas normal d’être aussi anxieuse, ce n’est pas normal de désirer à ce point une relation…

La norme émotionnelle thérapeutique nous oblige donc à interpréter tout ce qui ne va pas comme le résultat d’un dysfonctionnement psychique, dont la source est à rechercher dans l’enfance. D’où la tentation de raconter son histoire pour mieux accoucher de soi-même. Les récits autobiographiques du XIXe siècle reprenaient la même structure : « de la misère à la richesse ». Les autobiographies contemporaines sont avant tout des récits de succès psychique, on part de la souffrance (y compris celle des personnes riches et célèbres) et on la surmonte par un travail sur soi.

Cette structure narrative fait de nous les victimes de notre enfance et de nos parents, tout en nous ordonnant de nous améliorer et de nous en sortir. Cela donne naissance à un modèle de responsabilité original : d’un côté, le moi n’est pas responsable de sa souffrance, il est l’objet de ses parents, pour dire les choses rapidement, et n’est donc pas source d’autonomie et de volonté. De l’autre côté, quand il s’agit de changer, ce moi possède tout à coup la capacité de se transformer. Le paradoxe de l’héritage freudien contemporain est que nous sommes particulièrement maîtres dans notre propre maison quand elle est en feu. Cette dualité est inhérente à la structure narrative psychologique. L’injonction de changer, au nom d’un idéal non défini de santé et de réalisation de soi, conduit à utiliser des classifications qui « pathologisent » ce que nous sommes. En d’autres termes, le discours thérapeutique a, par une étrange ironie, créé une grande partie de la souffrance qu’il est censé faire diminuer.

Vous êtes très critique à l’égard de la culture thérapeutique. Mais faut-il regretter une société dans laquelle la souffrance psychique était moins prise en compte ?

Pas du tout. Il ne s’agit pas pour moi de rejeter en bloc la pensée psychologique. Je considère des penseurs tels que Freud et Lacan comme des génies. Mais il me semble que les psychologues n’ont souvent pas conscience des structures culturelles qu’ils ont créées. Mon projet, à vrai dire, est d’instaurer un dialogue critique entre les psychologues et les sociologues. La souffrance psychique existe, bien sûr ; mais ce que j’observe aussi et surtout, c’est un vaste processus de privatisation de cette douleur. Prenons le cas d’une personne qui se fait renvoyer trois fois de son travail, qui a le sentiment de ne rien valoir et entreprend pour cette raison une thérapie. Il est fort probable que son médecin aura le sentiment que l’inconscient de cette personne n’est pas pour rien dans ses mésaventures professionnelles… C’est cette forme de pensée que je rejette foncièrement. Car depuis l’avènement du capitalisme postfordiste, le lieu de travail est extrêmement précarisé. Et bien des gens ne sont en aucune façon responsables du fait d’avoir été renvoyés, même trois fois. J’aimerais par mon travail ébranler cette sur-responsabilisation des individus, remettre en question l’idée qu’ils sont toujours les auteurs de leur propre souffrance. Bien sûr, il faut soulager la douleur psychique, mais cela passe peut-être par le fait d’en interroger davantage la source. Souffrir faute d’être suffisamment reconnu dans son entreprise ou – pour une femme – en raison d’un comportement masculin difficile à déchiffrer, ce ne sont pas des problèmes psychologiques ; ce sont aussi et peut-être même surtout des problèmes sociologiques. J’aimerais que les psychologues se posent la question beaucoup plus clairement : comment reconnaître une souffrance d’ordre social d’une souffrance d’ordre psychologique ?

La grande transformation de l’amour

Fidèle à votre démarche, votre dernier livre, Pourquoi l’amour fait mal, soutient l’idée que la souffrance amoureuse contemporaine est mieux comprise avec les outils de sociologie qu’avec ceux de la psychologie. En quoi le social explique-t-il même l’évolution de l’expérience émotionnelle la plus intime de toutes ?

La grande transformation de l’amour au XXe siècle a partie liée avec l’avènement du capitalisme, qui a engendré une redéfinition de la vocation du mariage : il n’est plus l’opération financière lourde d’enjeux que l’on connaissait jusque-là, notamment parce que les biens d’une femme revenaient à son mari, et se mue en un choix individuel et sentimental. A la faveur de l’industrialisation, bien des gens doivent quitter leur campagne pour aller travailler dans les grands centres urbains. C’en est alors fini de la famille comme unité de production. La sphère privée devient distincte de l’activité économique et des stratégies d’alliance politique. Nous assistons alors à la naissance de ce que l’historien John Demos (1) appelle la famille comme « serre émotionnelle », un lieu clos où la température sentimentale augmente. Dans cette famille nucléaire moderne où les femmes sont responsables du soin apporté aux enfants, l’identité de celles-ci est plus que jamais façonnée par la sphère privée, mais l’homme s’en autonomise et réinvestit son identité dans la sphère publique du travail : l’ascension sociale et la réussite économique deviennent les principaux points d’ancrage de la masculinité. Dans ces conditions, l’amour est de plus en plus désencastré des cadres sociaux qui l’enserraient et devient le domaine de l’individualité privée, que la culture psychologique de plus en plus dominante veut authentique. La rencontre amoureuse devient une affaire d’affinité à la fois émotionnelle/psychologique et physique/sexuelle.

Quelles sont les conséquences de cette personnalisation de l’amour ?

Conjuguée à l’effondrement des règles religieuses, ethniques, raciales et sociales de l’endogamie, cette nouvelle donne transforme radicalement la taille des échantillons où l’on peut rechercher un conjoint. Et la question du choix – comment choisir, quand choisir, qui choisir – devient la question cruciale de l’amour moderne. L’individu fait aujourd’hui face à ce qu’on peut appeler un marché du mariage, où se rencontrent deux individualités qui semblent dépourvues d’attributs sociaux. A partir de la fin du XIXe siècle, le prétendant ne fait plus sa cour en se rendant régulièrement au domicile de la jeune fille mais en sortant avec elle – ce qu’on appelle « dating » en anglais – au restaurant, au cinéma, au théâtre, dans les dancings, etc.

En quoi cet élargissement du choix transforme-t-il la nature des relations sentimentales ? En quoi est-il bon ou mauvais pour elles ?

Tout dépend de la manière dont on définit l’amour. Si c’est l’amour passion – Héloïse et Abélard, Diderot et Sophie Volland, Victor Hugo et Juliette Drouet –, dans lequel la totalité de la personne est impliquée, alors ce n’est pas bon du tout. Le féminisme, la culture psychologique et le culte de la liberté ont fait reposer la vie sentimentale contemporaine sur une exigence d’égalité, d’autonomie et de choix qui tendent à édulcorer l’abandon et l’oubli de soi. L’amour a en somme connu le même processus de désenchantement que la nature : il n’est plus envisagé comme inspiré par des forces mystérieuses mais comme un phénomène nécessitant explication et contrôle. On n’est donc ensemble que jusqu’à nouvel ordre. Il faut en permanence convaincre l’autre qu’on représente le meilleur choix possible. Cette conscience qu’il s’agit d’un choix – qui doit être renouvelé et justifié – diminue l’intensité émotionnelle de l’amour.

Il existe bien sûr différentes façons de gérer cette question. La réponse de Catherine Millet (2) consiste par exemple à ne pas choisir : on prend tout à la fois. Même si c’est un exemple extrême qui n’est pas encore dans la norme, tout cela est très différent du modèle de l’amour absolu et unique. Ce qu’on appelait autrefois la passion passe pour hystérique aujourd’hui. Le passionné est un être devenu relativement ridicule car insuffisamment conscient de son autonomie.

Pourquoi, alors, l’amour fait-il mal ? L’individu autonome qui exerce ses choix amoureux de manière un peu distanciée et froide ne souffre-t-il pas moins que l’amoureux fou ?

Non, parce que c’est évidemment plus ambivalent. Nous vivons en réalité sous deux régimes émotionnels différents : l’un fondé sur le fantasme puissant de l’abandon de soi et de la fusion amoureuse ; l’autre fondé sur des modèles rationnels d’autorégulation des sentiments et de choix optimal. Pour continuer avec l’exemple de Catherine Millet, son livre Jours de souffrance est passionnant de ce point de vue : elle y raconte comment le fait d’avoir vu des photos de maîtresses nues de son compagnon la plonge dans une dépression profonde. Cela nous rappelle à quel point les structures culturelles se chevauchent : même quand on se croit sorti du passionnel, on y retombe.

L’amour fait particulièrement mal aujourd’hui pour une autre raison : l’un des effets de la modernité est de fragiliser le sentiment de la valeur de soi, qui n’est jamais acquis une fois pour toutes. Autrefois, celle-ci était fondée sur des critères extérieurs à la personnalité, notamment sur le rang et la valeur sociale : le rôle important de la dot dans la sélection du partenaire signifiait que la « mariabilité » d’une femme reposait sur des critères « objectifs » et non sur la qualité intrinsèque de sa personnalité.

Il n’y a plus rien de tel aujourd’hui ; la valeur doit être constamment démontrée et prouvée, notamment sur des lieux de travail de plus en plus compétitifs. L’image de soi étant précarisée, le regard des autres prend dans sa définition une importance essentielle. L’une des principales fonctions de la relation amoureuse contemporaine est précisément de réaffirmer cette valeur. Parce que la personne qui nous aime nous dit que nous sommes uniques, et même meilleurs que la multitude d’êtres avec lesquels nous étions en compétition.

La modernité engendre ainsi tout à la fois un idéal de relation amoureuse plus distanciée et calculatrice et un besoin de passion amoureuse, seule à même de nous donner le sentiment de notre valeur. Mais nous avons le plus grand mal à reconnaître cette importance de l’autre et de la relation amoureuse, puisque les psychologues nous répètent qu’il faut s’aimer soi-même, qu’il est immature de vouloir dépendre de quelqu’un d’autre, qu’il faut se donner à soi-même l’amour que l’on voudrait que quelqu’un d’autre nous donne et que personne ne nous aimera si nous ne nous aimons pas déjà nous-mêmes… Nous ne sommes pas conscients de notre dépendance réelle, et sa découverte nous fait d’autant plus souffrir.

Nous sommes en quelque sorte victimes de notre liberté d’aimer ?

En tout cas, la liberté qui a été nécessaire à l’amour est vécue dans l’anxiété et même dans la douleur. Car il n’existe plus de normes qui obligent. Autrefois – il faut relire les romans de Jane Austen –, un homme qui rendait visite pendant un an à une jeune femme était implicitement contraint de demander sa main. Les femmes et les hommes organisaient leurs sentiments d’une façon qui les engageait, à la fois sur le plan affectif et sur le plan éthique. Aujourd’hui, nous sommes complètement libres, moralement, de nous quitter, de ne pas honorer nos intentions, et même de ne pas avoir d’intention. Puisque la culture moderne postule que nous pouvons en permanence changer, que nous pouvons devenir quelqu’un d’autre, les options doivent rester ouvertes. Le respect des promesses est devenu un fardeau pour une identité qui doit rester en mouvement.

L’artiste Sophie Calle a d’ailleurs fait de ce sujet une œuvre très intéressante, avec son installation intitulée Prenez soin de vous : l’homme qu’elle aime la quitte sans explication, en lui envoyant un simple courriel de rupture. Et que fait-elle ? Au lieu de se précipiter chez le psychologue, elle fait travailler son réseau social, en demandant à une centaine de femmes de commenter le message en question, construisant ainsi un mécanisme d’humiliation publique ; exactement comme au XIXe siècle, quand un homme ne pouvait rompre un engagement sans qu’on lui fasse honte. Hélas, la plupart d’entre nous n’avons pas les moyens de faire comme Sophie Calle, car il faut pour cela un nom.

L’amour fait mal parce qu’aucune norme sociale n’empêche plus de se quitter, mais que notre dépendance à l’égard de l’autre est plus aiguë que jamais. Dans la société traditionnelle, se voir rejeté comme conjoint potentiel ne tenait pas à l’essence même du moi mais à la position que l’on occupait dans la hiérarchie sociale. Aujourd’hui, l’amour est défini comme s’adressant à l’essence la plus intime de la personne et non à sa classe et à sa position sociale, et confère directement de la valeur à la personne ; un rejet devient un rejet du moi. Si les femmes plaquées que j’ai rencontrées pour ce livre disent qu’elles ne valent rien, ce n’est pas pour des raisons psychologiques, ce n’est pas parce que leur moi est faible : c’est parce que, dans la société moderne, l’individu et en particulier la relation amoureuse sont chargés de définir la valeur de soi.

Hommes-femmes, nouveaux modes d’emploi

Vous parlez beaucoup de la souffrance des femmes plaquées, mais les témoignages d’hommes que vous avez recueillis montrent aussi une profonde souffrance masculine, notamment en raison de la difficulté à fixer son choix. Comment s’articulent ces deux souffrances ?

Vous avez raison, mais je rechigne à appeler cela souffrance. Il faudrait trouver un autre mot. Non parce que je ne pense pas qu’ils souffrent, mais parce que je veux distinguer la douleur des hommes qui ont davantage l’autonomie de leurs désirs et ne souffrent que de la difficulté de choisir, et la douleur des femmes qui doivent souvent ajuster leur désir à celui d’un autre, ou dont le désir est activé par celui d’un autre. Et c’est encore une fois une réalité sociologique et non psychologique. Les femmes sont les perdantes de la nouvelle architecture du choix amoureux parce qu’elles sont socialement rendues responsables d’avoir des enfants. Ce sont les femmes, aujourd’hui, qui sont principalement porteuses du désir de famille. La masculinité traditionnelle en avait également besoin pour s’affirmer parce qu’elle avait besoin de régner sur des enfants, des femmes, des domestiques et des terres. Longtemps, les hommes ont ainsi incliné à la vie conjugale autant que les femmes. Mais dans nos sociétés, où le patriarcat est contesté, ils sont bien moins contraints à la reproduction biologique, car la famille n’est plus le lieu où s’exerce leur domination. Le principal impératif culturel qui façonne la masculinité est aujourd’hui celui de l’autonomie psychologique, de l’ascension sociale et du succès économique. Ce sont les femmes qui adoptent maintenant les rôles sociologiques consistant à avoir et à vouloir des enfants.

Les femmes qui ne veulent plus de ce schéma familial deviennent les égales des hommes. Mais toutes celles qui y sont encore attachées sont dépendantes, c’est ce que j’appelle la domination émotionnelle. Elle n’existe pas forcément, mais c’est une force magnétique qui structure les relations entre les deux sexes.

Le travail des femmes est pourtant l’une des grandes conquêtes sociales du XXe siècle… Elles aussi devraient être moins dépendantes de la famille qu’autrefois, pour établir leur identité sociale. Et puis, il y a aussi des femmes qui plaquent les hommes…

Une précision : mon travail porte uniquement sur un groupe de femmes, les hétérosexuelles qui veulent avoir une vie de couple conventionnelle, monogame, avec des enfants. Je ne parle ni des homosexuelles, ni de celles qui ne sont pas déterminées à avoir des enfants, ni de celles qui se sentent très bien toutes seules. Je parle de ce groupe de femmes en situation d’hétérosexualité conventionnelle, qui sont les plus mises à mal. Car l’accès au travail s’est accompagné de la liberté sexuelle. Dans ces conditions de marché sexuel ouvert, la perception culturelle qu’il y a un temps biologique façonne au premier chef les stratégies d’union des femmes. Parce qu’elles décident de poursuivre des études et d’entrer sur le marché du mariage plus tard, et parce qu’elles optent encore de façon écrasante pour la maternité, elles opèrent à l’intérieur d’un cadre temporel bien plus contraignant qu’avant les années 1960, où elles pouvaient encore compter sur le schéma de la masculinité fondée sur la famille. Sur le marché de l’amour, les femmes disposent donc de moins de pouvoir de négociation que les hommes. Sauf quand elles sont en haut du champ, parce qu’elles sont belles et/ou riches. Ce qui leur donne une plus grande liberté sociologique. Pour les autres, il suffit de regarder les magazines féminins, remplis de sujets comme : « Pourquoi n’est-il pas plus présent ? », « Que faire pour raviver le couple ? » On ne trouve jamais ce genre de sujets dans les magazines masculins. Les femmes sont massivement responsables des relations sexuelles et émotionnelles ; responsables de les vouloir et de les entretenir. C’est cela que j’appelle l’inégalité.

Y aurait-il eu une sorte de ruse de la révolution sexuelle, revendiquée notamment par les militantes féministes ?

La révolution sexuelle pose problème, non pas parce que le féminisme pose problème, mais parce que cela coexiste avec des structures traditionnelles du mariage et des relations entre les sexes, qui font que ce sont les hommes qui en ont le plus profité. La révolution sexuelle a mis les hommes et les femmes sur un marché sexuel, mais étant donne que le mariage est devenu la prérogative des femmes, plus que celle des hommes, ces marchés sexuels ont créé des déséquilibres nouveaux entre eux.

Vous faites de l’Internet, à bien des égards, la quintessence de la nouvelle donne amoureuse et du désenchantement de l’amour. Mais n’est-ce pas plutôt tout simplement le retour au mariage arrangé d’autrefois ? 
Vous dites cela parce que pensez que les deux phénomènes sont rationnels, ce qui est vrai. Mais c’est la forme même de la rationalité, ses modalités sociales qui ont changé. Dans un mariage arrangé, les parents décident, ou du moins jouent un rôle important dans le choix du conjoint. Ils choisissent en fonction de critères généraux et approximatifs : la naissance, l’importance de la dot, de la fortune et de la réputation de la personne et de sa famille, quelques traits de caractère, une apparence physique acceptable. Et le « calcul » s’arrête là. La décision ne consiste pas à recueillir une information approfondie sur les goûts, la personnalité et le mode de vie de la personne. On choisit le premier parti disponible suffisamment bon et non le parti « parfait ».

Le choix du conjoint est aujourd’hui très différent. La vie de couple étant conçue comme l’union de deux personnalités dont les attributs et les goûts doivent être finement accordés, la rencontre repose sur une méthode hyper-conscientisée et rationnelle de sélection du partenaire : ce n’est pas seulement l’apparence physique mais la personnalité, la façon de réagir au monde, de passer ses loisirs, de faire l’amour, d’exprimer ses émotions. Le monde des rencontres en ligne est emblématique des formes modernes de recherche du partenaire. Il élargit à la personnalité toute entière l’esprit de calcul. Les sites de rencontre affichent ainsi une logique consumériste consistant à resserrer, à définir et à raffiner sans cesse ses goûts. C’est le désir de maximisation du choix dont parle l’économiste Herbert Simon. La rencontre amoureuse doit être le résultat du meilleur choix possible, il s’agit d’opter pour la « meilleure affaire ». Internet exige une rationalisation de la sélection du partenaire, qui contredit l’idée de l’amour comme épiphanie inattendue.

Vous en appelez dans votre livre à la réhabilitation de la passion, car vous considérez que la perte de l’amour romantique fragilise la relation aux autres. Mais la passion est-elle la seule forme de lien aux autres ?

Prenez l’exemple de la jalousie, sentiment répandu, mais qui est de moins en moins légitime. Pourquoi ? Parce qu’une énorme littérature psychologique et un changement des normes de conduite ont repensé la jalousie comme un sentiment « immature », qui témoigne d’un manque de confiance en soi. D’où la perte de légitimité de cette émotion « chaude » qui est une sorte d’incarnation immédiate de la relation sexuelle même que j’entretiens à l’autre. Avec la montée de la culture psychologique, on s’arrête sur ce sentiment « à chaud », immédiat ; on le fige, on y réfléchit, on le ramène à une histoire personnelle, à un projet d’équilibre et de santé émotionnels. Mais c’est contradictoire avec la nature insaisissable, provisoire et contextuelle des émotions. On y perd l’immédiateté des relations sociales en prise avec des sentiments qui reflètent directement le présupposé de la relation. Par exemple : « Je suis un homme fort, cette femme m’appartient, ma jalousie est donc l’expression directe de cette appartenance ». A cette immédiateté va se substituer une forme d’émotionnalité « médiée » par des catégories, des systèmes de savoir, des techniques de travail sur soi, des idéaux de santé psychique où vont se mêler des valeurs politiques (« personne n’appartient a personne » ; « Il faut respecter la liberté d’autrui » ; « les femmes sont les égales des hommes ») et des savoirs psychologiques (« la jalousie reflète une mauvaise séparation de la mère », etc.). Ce qui se substitue donc à l’émotionnalité à chaud, c’est un idéal de communication, où il faut prendre de la distance, analyser, et réguler les relations aux autres par des procédures dont le but est de produire une manière équitable de parler et de communiquer ses émotions. Cet élément procédural fait perdre aux sentiments leur valeur d’indices, leur capacité à nous orienter rapidement et de manière non réfléchie dans le réseau de nos relations quotidiennes. Il suspend paradoxalement l’investissement émotionnel dans la relation.

La passion est loin d’être le seul lien possible aux autres, mais je voudrais la réhabiliter parce que, comme le dit le philosophe Harry Frankfurt, il y a dans l’attitude passionnée une affirmation de ses propres valeurs ; la femme ou l’homme sans passion est aussi une femme et un homme sans grand horizon moral. C’est, si vous vous voulez, une autre façon de reposer le vieux problème du nihilisme relevé et discuté par Nietzsche.

La femme moderne que vous êtes se reconnaît-elle dans la description qu’elle fait d’une société où l’amour se vit dans la froideur ?

Tout d’abord, je me reconnais dans toutes les réponses que j’ai analysées, les kitsch et les moins kitsch, les douloureuses et les insouciantes, les passionnées et les analytiques. Avoir une expérience amoureuse aujourd’hui, c’est faire l’expérience d’une large palette de sentiments contradictoires. Ce n’est que comme cela que je me reconnais dans mon analyse : prise entre le kitsch de la passion, et la volonté de ne pas se faire « attraper » par elle. Sûrement pas froide, non, mais inquiète de savoir quelle place faire au kitsch de la passion.

Propos recueillis par Sandrine Tolotti

1. The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America, Vintage, 1995.

2. Dans La vie sexuelle de Catherine M., l’intellectuelle française raconte sa vie sexuelle, et notamment sa fascination pour la sexualité de groupe.


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