Désinformation: L’islam était une religion de paix et nous ne le savions pas ! (More whitewash of Islamic antisemitism from Turkish TV producer – courtesy of the Zionist press !)

20 septembre, 2013
https://i2.wp.com/sheikyermami.com/wp-content/uploads/22309-4-8-0b946.jpgGardez-vous des faux prophètes. Ils viennent à vous en vêtement de brebis, mais au dedans ce sont des loups ravisseurs.Vous les reconnaîtrez à leurs fruits. Cueille-t-on des raisins sur des épines, ou des figues sur des chardons?Tout bon arbre porte de bons fruits, mais le mauvais arbre porte de mauvais fruits.Un bon arbre ne peut porter de mauvais fruits, ni un mauvais arbre porter de bons fruits. Jésus (Matthieu 7: 15-18)
Celui qui change de religion, tuez-le. Mahomet (Sahîh de al-Bukhari)
Les musulmans doivent s’approprier le véritable esprit du Coran qui est amour, compassion et faternité pour tous. Sinem Tezyapar
Dans la foi musulmane, il y a un aspect simple, brut, pratique qui a facilité sa diffusion et transformé la vie d’un grand nombre de peuples à l’état tribal en les ouvrant au monothéisme juif modifié par le christianisme. Mais il lui manque l’essentiel du christianisme : la croix. Comme le christianisme, l’islam réhabilite la victime innocente, mais il le fait de manière guerrière. La croix, c’est le contraire, c’est la fin des mythes violents et archaïques. René Girard
La condition préalable à tout dialogue est que chacun soit honnête avec sa tradition. (…) les chrétiens ont repris tel quel le corpus de la Bible hébraïque. Saint Paul parle de  » greffe » du christianisme sur le judaïsme, ce qui est une façon de ne pas nier celui-ci . (…) Dans l’islam, le corpus biblique est, au contraire, totalement remanié pour lui faire dire tout autre chose que son sens initial (…) La récupération sous forme de torsion ne respecte pas le texte originel sur lequel, malgré tout, le Coran s’appuie. René Girard
Les mosquées sont nos casernes, les coupoles nos casques, les minarets nos baïonnettes et les croyants nos soldats. Erdogan (1998)
Ni la mosquée d’Al Aksa, ni le tombeau du prophète Ibrahim ni la tombe de Rachel n’ont été et ne seront jamais des sites juifs, mais uniquement musulmans. Erdogan (mars 2010)
Il serait singulier que la Turquie, elle aussi candidate à l’Union [mais à l’horizon 2008], continue d’occuper militairement une portion de l’organisation qu’elle souhaite précisément intégrer. Fonctionnaire européen (2002)
Nous n’avons jamais cherché à obtenir une bombe nucléaire, et nous n’allons pas le faire. Nous voulons seulement une technologie nucléaire pacifique. Hassan Rohani

Attention: un enfumage peut en cacher un autre !

Révolutions, conflits sunnites-chiites, bombes de l’autre côté du monde, crise économique, violence et désordres en Afrique, troubles dans le Monde arabe, désécration des sites sacrés de Syrie, attentats de Boston et du Texas, 11 septembre, déstabilisation de la Syrie, soutien d’Assad, coup d’Etat égyptien, attaque de requins en Mer rouge, tremblement de terre en Iran, y a-t-il un mauvais coup que les Sionistes n’auront pas fomenté ?

Alors que le dernier pantin en date et prétendu « modéré » de la mollahcratie iranienne nous refait le coup de la main tendue et de l’Iran aspirant à la paix

Comment, à la lecture d’une dénonciation aussi éclatante des méfaits systématiquement attribués à Israël par ses ennemis arabes et musulmans qui se termine de plus par un appel auxdits musulmans à prendre leurs responsabilités pour leurs propres problèmes (et, par ailleurs excusez du peu,… aider les Sionistes à rebâtir leur temple !), ne pas se réjouir de voir autant de lucidité pour une rare fois écrite noir sur blanc ?

Surtout quand de surcroit on découvre l’identité de l’auteur, non seulement musulmane mais productrice de la télévision turque ?

Du moins jusqu’à la dernière phrase où l’on réalise brusquement à quoi on a affaire …

A savoir, faisant l’impasse sur les textes les plus embarrassants dudit Coran (comme,  par parenthèses et sans parler des déclarations d’un certain Erdogan sur « les mosquées-casernes, les minarets-baïonettes et les croyants-soldats », du pays responsable du premier et toujours nié génocide du XXe siècle comme de l’occupation continuée depuis bientôt 40 ans d’un membre de l’Union européenne dont l’impétrante se trouve être la ressortissante)…

A l’habituel refrain sur « le vrai esprit du Coran pétri d’amour, de compassion et fraternité pour tous » …

Reste à voir, si l’on ne peut que se réjouir de voir ainsi lancé noir sur blanc le débat sur les contradictions de l’islam par l’une de ses propres adeptes comme le rappelle l’islamologue américain Robert Spencer, pourquoi la presse sioniste justement semble si empressée de publier tel quel ce petit monument d’enfumage ?

Jewish Press publishes Muslim writer’s whitewash of Islamic antisemitism

Robert Spencer

Jihad watch

Sinem Tezyapar was so proud of this article that she sent it to me directly. I read it with great interest, as we’re constantly told by Muslim and non-Muslim spokesmen in the U.S. that when jihadis justify their violence by referring to the Qur’an and Sunnah that they are misinterpreting and misunderstanding those sources, and that they really teach peace and tolerance. But rare indeed is a detailed explanation of exactly how the Qur’an and Sunnah teach peace and tolerance. So I read this to see if it could fill that gap. No such luck.

In this entire lengthy piece that purports to establish that Islam « does not command war against Jews, » Tezyapar never mentions Qur’an 5:82, which designates the Jews « the most hostile of men to the believers. » She never mentions 5:51, which tells Muslims not to take Jews or Christians as friends and protectors. She never mentions Sahih Muslim 6985, in which Muhammad says that “the last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.”

In an article purporting to show that Islam doesn’t command war against Jews, these omissions (and there are others) make the whole piece highly questionable. If Sinem Tezyapar really wanted to strike a blow against Islamic Jew-hatred, she could have explained why those and other passages should not be taken at face value, and shown how Islamic antisemites were actually misunderstanding them (if such a thing could really be done). Pretending they do not exist may fool credulous kuffar into complacency, but it will do nothing to stop Islamic Jew-haters from reading such passages and acting on them.

So why did the Jewish Press publish this exercise in soothing deception?

« Listen to Me: Islam Does Not Command War Against Jews, » by Sinem Tezyapar in the Jewish Press, January 6:

In an op. ed. piece for the Jewish Press, I cited from the Qur’an to show that war is an exceptional matter for Muslims, an unwanted obligation to be fulfilled in limited circumstances, and for defensive purposes only.

In response, I’ve been denounced and accused of being a Trojan horse, the wolf trying to devour Little Red Riding Hood, of not being a Muslim or being the worst kind of liar, misguided, deceiver, of practicing taqiyya, of disseminating propaganda with the intention of deceiving Israelis & Westerners, of using jihadist tactics in disguise, etc.

The most moderate reaction has been that I am young, naive… and don’t know my religion and the real world.

Despite the criticism, I stand behind my words, and I say further that Hamas or any other Islamic group that uses violence against civilians is doing wrong according to the Qur’an and that Jews, Christians, and Muslims must and can live co-exist together in harmony and peace. The reactions to my statements have been along the following lines: “What about the jihad verses in Qur’an? What about taqiyyah? What about abrogation of the verses which counsel peace?”

Let me clarify these misconceptions about Islam so that there is no excuse for warmongers and those who wish to shed oceans of blood.

She then goes on at great length, sidestepping the real issues, and thereby raising the question of whether she really wants to take away the « excuse for warmongers, » or aid and abet them.

Voir aussi:

Muslims, stop blaming Israel
Sinem Tezyapar
Jewish Journal
September 11, 2013

« Whenever calamities befall Muslim-majority nations, there is always a country to blame: Israel. Is there a revolution against a tyrant? Zionists are responsible. Who else could be at fault if there is a clash between Sunni and Shia groups? The Jews. Did a bomb explode on the other side of the world, or is there a problem with the economy? No need look any further than Israel. And where else would the control center for destabilizing the Arab world be? In Tel Aviv, of course!

The late Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi blamed Israel for the violence and unrest in Africa. Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said that the turmoil in the Arab world is a pro-Zionist conspiracy. Saudi cleric Sheikh Ismae’il al-Hafoufi blamed Israel for the desecration of Islamic holy sites in Syria. Sheik Abd al-Jalil al-Karouri, a Sudanese cleric, pointed to Israel for the Boston and Texas bombings. And then there’s the belief that Zionists planned the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, to demonize Arabs and Muslims in the eyes of the world.

This madness of putting the blame on Zionists — and Israel in general — is a knee-jerk reaction with no basis in logic. The most surprising part is that so many people believe this without question and continue to disseminate such rumors far and wide.

Syria, Egypt, Iran and Lebanon all aggressively hold the “Zionist regime” responsible for their woes. While Bashar Assad accuses Israel of trying to destabilize Syria, the Syrian opposition blames Israel for assisting the Assad regime by giving them diplomatic cover. Both sides see Israel as responsible for all the bloodshed and unrest going on in Syria. Now with the possibility of an international intervention in Syria, Iranian legislators and commanders are issuing blunt warnings, saying any military strike from the United States on Syria would lead to a retaliatory attack on Israel. Israel’s staying out of the equation, it seems, is simply not possible. Even though Israeli politicians refrain from taking sides in the regional conflicts, all sides point toward Israel anyhow.

On the other hand, we have the Egyptian coup d’état, where we see both sides ascribe blame to Israel. Interestingly, the Egyptian grass-roots protest movement Tamarod blames Israel but urges the Egyptian government not to renege on the Camp David accords. If Israel condemns the violence committed against the anti-coup alliance, she is labeled as an enemy of Egypt and accused of collaborating to destroy the Egyptian army. Even the state-allied newspaper al-Ahram claimed that Israel is in an alliance to demolish the Egyptian army and to balkanize the country. Furthermore, in 2010, an Egyptian government official blamed Israel intelligence for a fatal shark attack off Egypt’s shores.

It must sound like a bizarre joke for some, but this tragicomic situation is quite serious for many in the Middle East. We are no longer surprised to hear Israel’s being the scapegoat for every single evil in the world, but Iran’s blaming the Zionist entity for the deadly earthquake in Iran was pushing the limits of credulity. This, despite the fact that Jews are a handful of people, a tiny population when compared to the overall population of the world.

Now let’s look at what is really going on in the Islamic-Arab world. There is a continuous and unending stream of hate — hate of the Shia, hate of the Wahabbi, hate of the Sunni, hate of the Alawi, hate of the Christians, hate of the Jews and so on. We also see slogans such as: “May God Destroy Israel,” “Down With the United States,” “Damn the West.” Hatred is deeply ingrained in their tradition, in their culture and in their own education. This fierce, venomous style is what is tearing the Islamic world apart; this is exactly what is happening in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan and others — Muslims killing Muslims.

This outcome is the result of intense efforts by some Muslim clerics who encourage hatred of the “other.” Muslims kill each other and then both sides blame the Jews. Wahabbi scholars say that all Sunnis are unbelievers and should be destroyed. Sunni scholars say Shias are unbelievers and their death is obligatory. Shias say that it is obligatory to kill Sunnis, as they are enemies. These are Muslim clerics who are promoting the most violent brand of sectarianism, preaching hatred and calling upon their followers to commit massacres. How do Jews make Muslims kill other Muslims?

When Muslim followers heed these clerical calls for violence, these same clerics turn around and promptly blame the Jews. What about calls for Muslims to not kill each other? What about Muslims unifying to solve their own problems without resorting to violence? What about the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, with its 57 member states, or the League of Arab States, with its 22 states, both which seem utterly helpless to bring about any solutions?

Some religious scholars have led many ignorant people astray with their false teachings, which plant seeds of hate. They implement a faith they have largely invented under the name of Islam — a faith that includes hatred, violence, darkness, which attaches no value to human life. They espouse bloodshed in the name of Islam, spreading hatred toward Christians, Jews and even other Muslims. These loveless, misguided people are most definitely not Muslims, but bigots and radicals.

As Muslims, let’s stop pointing the finger at others for our problems. It is time for the Muslim world to take responsibility and to ponder what has gone so horribly wrong with the Muslim world. Why is there so much bloodshed? Superstitions, innovations, localized traditions and bigotry have replaced the Quran in some Islamic countries, and their religiosity is a deeply artificial one. This hatred has to stop and Muslims must embrace the true spirit of the Quran, which is love, compassion and brotherhood for all.

Sinem Tezyapar is a political and religious commentator from Turkey, and an executive producer at a Turkish TV network.

Voir encore:

Listen to Me: Islam Does Not Command War Against Jews

Sinem Tezyapar
Jewish Press
january 6, 2013

Turkish political and religious commentator Sinem Tezyapar. Turkish political and religious commentator Sinem Tezyapar. In an op. ed. piece for the Jewish Press, I cited from the Qur’an to show that war is an exceptional matter for Muslims, an unwanted obligation to be fulfilled in limited circumstances, and for defensive purposes only.

In response, I’ve been denounced and accused of being a Trojan horse, the wolf trying to devour Little Red Riding Hood, of not being a Muslim or being the worst kind of liar, misguided, deceiver, of practicing taqiyya, of disseminating propaganda with the intention of deceiving Israelis & Westerners, of using jihadist tactics in disguise, etc.

The most moderate reaction has been that I am young, naive… and don’t know my religion and the real world.

Despite the criticism, I stand behind my words, and I say further that Hamas or any other Islamic group that uses violence against civilians is doing wrong according to the Qur’an and that Jews, Christians, and Muslims must and can live co-exist together in harmony and peace. The reactions to my statements have been along the following lines: « What about the jihad verses in Qur’an? What about taqiyyah? What about abrogation of the verses which counsel peace? »

Let me clarify these misconceptions about Islam so that there is no excuse for warmongers and those who wish to shed oceans of blood.

War and violence in the Holy Books

– Admittedly, there are commandments about war in the Qur’an, and those verses pertain to self-defense. The Tanakh and the Gospel also contain provisions about war and violence, and there are verses full of killing, especially in the Torah. The passages about war in those are, just as with the Qur’an, in regard to self-defense. The Torah and the Gospel command peace and love, and contain commandments about love and affection too. A person of love will interpret that in one way, and a cruel person in another. One can interpret it truly if one looks at it sincerely. For instance the Gospel speaks of blood up to the manes of the horses; it speaks of nobody being saved apart from 144,000 Jews. These are actually metaphorical and must be elucidated within the general tone of the Gospel, which is one of love and affection prevailing. But if someone insists on interpreting it in terms of violence, if he adds additional things to it out of his own mind, then a climate of violence will of course ensue. But a real Jew or a real Christian would never murder innocent people simply because there exists verses regarding killings in their Holy Books. In the same way, people who will look at Islam and the Qur’an through the eyes of love will not come up with violent interpretations.

Dictators against Prophets’ divine message

– Let us not forget that the Prophet Mohammed was a prophet who sought to spread the pure faith of the Prophet Abraham, which is faith in God, the One and Only and ascribing no equals to Him, in a pagan society which had been dominated by idol worship. Like many prophets whose names appear in the Tanakh, the Prophet Mohammad has been commissioned for transmitting the message of God. It was impossible for the prophets to make any concessions on this, and they carried the true message, even at the cost of their own lives, to the most extreme leaders of their times and the most perverse communities. Conveying this message sometimes meant to oppose the tyrant Nimrod, as in the case of the Prophet Abraham, and sometimes to oppose dictators such as Pharaoh, as with the Prophet Moses. At all such times, believers found opposition from people who sought to take their lives. Despite circumstances where no one enjoyed freedom of expression, all the prophets communicated God’s message without regard to the cost. And this is no different in Islam as well.

War (qital) and jihad are not the same

– The basic claim of the accusations and reactions trying to portray Islam as violent -God forbid- is that there are verses about jihad in the Qur’an and that these speak of killing. First and foremost, jihad and war are entirely different concepts: Jihad is not synonymous with holy war, as some misguided people think. Jihad means rather exertion, which is to strive, to make effort toward some object identified to the will of God as revealed in the Qur’an. Some worthy objects of jihad include strife against one’s egoistic passions, or to make an intellectual challenge against irreligion, radicalism or fanaticism. One convinces people with scientific and intellectual evidence. To expose the signs of God’s existence, to convey His revelation, to explain the malice of atheistic ideologies etc… These are the legitimate objects of the « jihad » for a Muslim, not beating someone about the head, killing someone or forcing a person to embrace Islam as an act of coercion.

There is also war or combat (qital) in the Qur’an. Whereas jihad is an affirmative duty to confront falsehood with the truth of God, the verses that command war in the Qur’an apply to situations in which a Muslim is called to respond to aggression. In such situations God describes what Muslims may be allowed to do for their own self defense. For instance, if Muslims come under attack; if, their lives, possessions and honor are threatened, if they are being killed and if there is no alternative but to fight, then it becomes obligatory and lawful for Muslims to defend themselves and to come to the aid of the innocent.

Pagan rule and self defense

– In order to understand the Qur’anic prescriptions to war, it is necessary to understand the historical context in which the commandments came. The revelation of the Qur’an to Prophet Mohammad was delivered over a period of 23 years. The first thirteen years of this period passed in Mecca, where Muslims lived as a minority and faced much oppression under a pagan rule. At that time, the Arabian peninsula was dominated by Bedouin Arab tribes who wandered about looting, robbing and murdering as a manner of life. They were hooligans that murdered, got drunk and enjoyed killing people. They made war against the Prophet Mohammad and against anyone who followed his teachings. When they were warned not to murder, they kept on murdering. Despite the fact that many Muslims were harassed, dispossessed of their homes, abused, tortured, and even murdered, Muslims strove to co-exist without resorting to any violence and always called pagans to peace. As a matter of fact, the Muslims dug trenches in the Khandaq war as a defensive strategy to avoid conflict as much as possible. They also emigrated (hejira), and ran away from them, but even then the aggressors pursued them.

In sum, nowhere in the Qur’an are Muslims commanded to wage wars of aggression, and certainly not as a means for to propagate Islam. If a community does not attack, and behaves normally, then naturally, there is no call to war. The obligation to war is and remains a limited, unwanted obligation, applicable only to repel attack.

War commandments

– It is not an easy thing to decide to wage war, and Prophet Mohammad was undecided, worrying about whether he would be committing a sin. As the aggressors in question are human beings, he felt a responsibility of conscience and was unable to make a decision. Under these circumstances, God commanded the Prophet Mohammad to kill the polytheists wherever he finds them. However that is a commandment delivered within a context of an ongoing war, not as a method for the propagation of Islam. God commanded: « … Whenever they are made to revert to hostility, they fall headlong into it. Therefore, if they do not keep aloof from you, nor offer you peace nor restrain their hands, then seize them and kill them, wherever you find them. Against these We have given you clear authority. » (Qur’an, 4:91) In this same vein, the Qur’an commands blockade and taking prisoners as a peaceful means of neutralizing a potentially aggressive community (Quran, 9:5). But if a blockade or taking prisoners are not possible, then killing is permissible only as a last resort.

Verses special for a particular time

– In addition, some of the verses that are in regard to the strategic wars are specific to that particular period. There is clearly no such situation at the moment. For instance God informs « if they do not accept conditions of agreement », that refers to a special circumstance. Regarding a battle, God says, « Behold! they came on you from above you and from below you, » (Qur’an, 33:10) and describes a a particular situation. Additionally, there are verses that refer to Prophet Mohammad in particular, and verses specific to a particular event. However a Muslim reads with wisdom and takes lessons from whatever is described in the Qur’an, just like a Jew would read the battles in the Torah with meditation.

Commandments for specific situations and general situations are different. The general commands are orders that are valid until the Day of Reckoning. For instance, God informs us to say, « Your religion is to you, our religion is to us. » (Qur’an, 109:6) This is a general verse. In another verse He says « There is no compulsion in religion, » (Qur’an, 2:256); this is also a general verse. And there certainly is no meaning such as to kill disbelievers or people from other religions, God forbid. It is required that a clear and general command should exist in the Qur’an, but there is no such verse or no general command that is still binding to this day.

Taqiyyah

– Taqiyyah is a word which is used to describe justifiable deception on behalf of Islam, and once again, self willed people have pressed this concept to their own purposes. First, as a general matter, taqiyyah only applies in a specific situation where a person is coerced to renounce Islam under the threat of violence. Under that exceptional circumstance, it is acceptable to renounce Islam with the mouth, while not actually doing so in the heart or the conscious mind. However, the notion that taqiyyah represents some broad license to commit « pious fraud » against non-Muslims is wholly incorrect. Just as the object of any truly Islamic jihad must be circumscribed to the revealed will of God in the Qur’an, likewise there can be no truly pious act of deception that conflicts with God’s command.

Abrogation

– Some people suggest that the verses sent down during the Meccan period and those sent down during the period of Medina are different, and that verses about peace have been annulled. Those claims are unfounded. All the verses of the Qur’an are valid, from beginning to end. It is disbelief to speak of the annulment of any of God’s commandments. These are ideas some people have invented for themselves, and therefore have no validity whatsoever. No commandment in the Qur’an can cease to apply. It is not acceptable to annul a verse on the basis of fabricated hadiths and of historical information. It must be kept in mind that no hadith (saying of the Prophet Mohammad) can conflict with the Qur’an. If it does, it is not an authentic hadith.

Evidence only from the Qur’an

– There is no need to look to another source when the verses of the Qur’an are so explicit. All kinds of stories appear in various historical sources, and every society has its own stories. There is the history of the Umayyad, the Abbasid, the Iranians etc., and they are all very different. We do not know what is objectively true in ancient history, therefore they are not evidence against Islam. About the hadith resources; the criteria of its authenticity is its coherence with the Qur’an. Most strife and conflict has been the result of misinterpretation and misinformation of history. That is also why the Islamic world is fragmented at the moment. The false fabrications of people today or in the past are of no concern to us; the person who applies things wrongly is in manifest error. If people have falsely made things up, their actions have nothing to do with religion itself.

In addition, the Qur’an is a whole and every verse expounds one another. So any verse from the Qur’an should be interpreted within the spirit of the Qur’an. If somebody picks one verse from the Qur’an and tries to implement it out of its context or without the knowledge of the general spirit of the Qur’an, he might practice it falsely. Most of the time, even with the explicit statement, there are conditions or exceptions explained. God warns people « Do you then believe in a part of the Book and disbelieve in another part ? » (Qur’an, 2:85)

Protecting unbelievers

– In the Qur’an, God says if any unbeliever asks you for protection, give them protection and escort them to a place where they are safe (Qur’an, 9:6). Thus, Muslims have the responsibility to protect even the unbelievers when they seek protection. This means a Muslim may have to give his life to protect the unbelievers and this is a must in the Qur’an. How can one claim that a Book which makes it a rule for Muslims to protect the unbelievers would make it a rule for them kill everyone if they do not believe? And there is no point in claiming otherwise because they have the right to live as unbelievers as God says there is no compulsion in religion.

Social life with the People of the Book

– According to the Qur’an, Christians and Jews, are people Muslims can marry, live with, and eat with, as People of the Book. Under Islam, one person has a Christian wife and another a Jewish wife; one person worships at the synagogue, another at the church and yet another at the mosque. Meanwhile, they all live in peace. This provision alone is more than sufficient evidence that Muslims are bound to live together with Christians and Jews in a climate of peace and love. If a Muslim trusts and loves a woman enough to eat what she cooks, and enough to raise his children, why would he want to kill her? Which part of a true book would advise Muslims to kill their wives? Therefore, the entire idea that Muslims are authorized to kill Christians and Jews collapses into its own absurdity.

God commands peace

– God does not love war. God does not love bloodshed. God does not want people to die by violence. God says in the Qur’an that killing someone for no reason is like killing all of mankind (Qur’an, 5:32) and He further says the punishment for killing someone is eternal hell. The commandments of these verses are quite clear. Almighty God does not want strife and conflict in this world. God says that the essential thing is peace; He tells people to enter the abode of peace (Qur’an, 10:5). He also tells us to hold to forgiveness (Qur’an, 7:9) and to enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil (Qur’an, 9:71); He does not tell us to kill and slaughter. That must not be forgotten.

In Conclusion

– I am a devout believer who strongly believes that the message of Islam, Judaism and Christianity is the same: Peace. The vision of all the Abrahamic religions talk about the coming of a better world, without pain, hunger, hatred and war. I know that in my own religious community, there are fanatics who believe that my religion should fight against those who do not embrace it and force them till they accept. But I disagree with them. What is more I believe that I have far better proof that the radicals distort the true meaning of my religion. Therefore I say, let us unite against terrorism, radicalism and bigotry, and help each other by building bridges accross the rift that the radicals work so hard to dig.

About the Author: Sinem Tezyapar is an executive producer on Turkish Television. She is a political and religious commentator and a peace activist. She can be reached on Facebook, and Twitter.

Voir également:

Activist: Al Jazeera TV Misrepresented Pro-Israel Muslim

Sinem Tezyapar
Jewish Press
April 26, 2013

Sinem Tezyapar, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, has written The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) on behalf of Turkish Muslim leader Adnan Oktar, regarding an Al-Jazeera TV interview with Oktar, dated September 28, 2007, titled “Turkish Thinker Adnan Oktar Tells about His Struggle against the Freemasons.”

According to Tezyapar, Oktar’s references to Zionism in the video are not subtitled correctly.

“I assume that Al Jazeera might have edited and translated them in a way that is coherent to its own ideology,” she notes, saying that “if you will listen to the Turkish original uncut film which was recorded and broadcast on Harun Yahya (Oktar’s literary pseudonym) websites,” he does not object to Zionism. He merely entertains the idea that had Zionism been an expansionist ideology, Oktar would have resisted it. But the Arabic voice over translation depicts him as actually objecting to Zionism.

In her letter to MEMRI, Tezyapar provides the original Turkish transcript, and the following English translation:

ADNAN OKTAR: Zionism is the same, of course. If there is an ideology that aims to rule the world, that rejects other religions, that claims the dominion of a single religion and rejects other people and tries to impose its ideology on them, I will of course fight it. But if somebody does not espouse such ideas, then there is nothing I can say. The Jews are a People of the Book. If they want to practice their own religion, if they want to live in their own country, they should stay and live freely in their own country. I respect that, but, if they say “This is not enough for me. I am going to rule the whole world and will destroy all other religions, so that only I survive”, that I cannot accept.

Tezyapar then requests that the service edit the clip accordingly, or remove it altogether, since it is misleading. She offers “many links where Mr. Adnan Oktar advocates the rights of Jews to dwell in the Holy Land, to have their own sovereign state.”

We’ll keep you posted.

In an Ocean of Islamic Hatred We Discovered True Friends

Sinem Tezyapar
Jewish press
April 22, 2013

The Jewish Press has been widely and wildly criticized for giving voice to a young Turkish, Muslim author named Sinem Tezyapar, who is, essentially, a spokesperson for author and television personality Adnan Oktar, pen named Harun Yahya, also a Turkish religious Muslim.

Oktar and his followers (feel free to use the terms “Sect” or “Cult,” it’s not anything they haven’t heard before) are no friends of the secularist establishment in Turkey. Oktar himself has done some serious time in Turkish prison, and his followers live in constant fear of persecution. They are also hated and regularly harassed by fascistic Muslims such as the Al Qaida thugs.

After a fairly jaded start, in which Oktar, or people in his employ, published several books denying the Holocaust and attacking Israel, this Muslim leader began a kind of transformation. He became better acquainted with Judaism and with Zionist history through some new Jewish friends (e.g. Jerusalem-based writer Ehud Tokatly) he was making over the Internet. He recognized his mistakes, apologized for the Holocaust denial book–which he had not authored, and started forging a brand new Muslim vision of a peaceful Middle East in which Israel is not only a Jewish Homeland ruling over its entire biblical territory, but also a place where the Jewish Temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem to become the center of adoration by the entire faithful world.

In addition, Adnan Oktar has played host to major Jewish and Israeli figures, including former Israeli Chief Rabbi Israel Lau, the late Rabbi Menachem Froman, and several past and present Israeli politicians, including many of the Shas leadership.

Sinem Tezyapar, essentially representing her teacher’s lessons, has been laboring over the virtual pages of The Jewish Press to debate against Islamic antisemitism, and presenting through cited verses a positive and optimistic vision of the Koran. At every turn, she has expressed nothing but love and acceptance of Jews and the Torah tradition. I’ve been responsible for bringing her work to this website and for preparing it for publication, and so I’ve been intimately familiar with it. There are no false notes here, no hidden agendas.

And so I was taken aback by the vitriolic response of so many of our readers, who attacked Sinem either as a naïve simpleton who doesn’t really understand what a hateful religion she follows, or a sinister Svengali, looking to trap innocent Jews in her web of lies.

At this stage of the game, the caustic debate has spread beyond our own website, to dedicated websites and Facebook pages, intended to smear both the author and us, the supposedly duped Jewish Press. That’s why I feel compelled to respond, so that we’re on the record, rather than to allow some outsider decide what our position might be.

For the record, then, and please feel free to copy and paste this to your hearts’ content (you got that, Israel Matzav?), here are the reasons why The Jewish Press has been publishing these articles:

First, Sinem and Oktar are not promoting terrorism, on the contrary, they openly and unequivocally denounce violence, hatred, anti-Semitism and terrorism.

That’s huge. As a Jew, member of a persecuted minority, my first inquiry regarding a gentile person must be: is he interested in killing me? It’s also recommended to anyone else when picking friends and loved ones, but to Jews it’s absolutely essential.

So, while millions of Muslims want me dead in many different hellish ways, these folks from Istanbul don’t. I find it refreshing and a very good start towards a better future. In fact, once I’m convinced—and I am—that they don’t want me dead, I don’t really care how truly devout they are, how chaste they are (or are not), and what are their preferred peccadilloes. It’s a group of monotheistic gentiles what don’t want me dead – I’m totally happy.

Second, they are preaching an alternative interpretation of Islam, promoting peace, love, tolerance and democracy.

They live in Turkey, for crying out loud, don’t you think they know that most Muslim leaders and followers the world over disagree with them? But they have the courage, even the chutzpah, to tell the world—and they publish unabashedly on Muslim and Arab websites as well—what Islam should be.

Unlike some American sitting in his Mom’s basement, typing away how naïve Sinem is, she is actually putting her money—and her life—where her keyboard is. And she’s doing it patiently, humbly, never an angry word, never a snappy retort. I couldn’t do it, honestly.

So we discovered these lovely Muslim peaceniks, who are lovey-dovey about Jews and Israel, and who completely ignore the grim realities of a billion Muslims out there who hate us. Fine. It still means these strange Muslim don’t want me dead, right? That definitely goes on the plus side in my ledger.

Third, they support Israel’s right to exist as an independent Jewish State, based on the Koran, they pray for the coming of the King Mashiach ben David, they support the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, they oppose Holocaust denial, they support the rebuilding of the Third Temple on the same Temple Mount. Is it any wonder they are being accused by radical Islamists that they are Zionist agents?

A recent Al Qaida attack in Istanbul, I’m told, was in retaliation for Oktar’s hosting of Rabbi Lau. So, Muslim peaceniks, don’t want to kill me, and they’re saying my country belongs to me. Beats my European friends who say I must give away another two thirds of my country so that my neighbors might agree I have the right to exist.

Fourth, it is in our own interest to embrace friends of the Jews and of Israel. Plenty of Jews happily embrace messianic evangelicals who write openly that all they want is for us to convert to Christianity, and they even know that we’re all going there, like it or not, when That Man supposedly returns. We trumpet any pope who says we no longer have to pay for crucifying what’s his name. We’re a tiny nation, we can’t afford to scoff at anyone who wants to be our friend and lives up to it.

So, please, people, get with it. We’re in a war for our lives in which every friend counts. Enough with the crazy talkbacks.

A New Muslim Vision: Rebuilding Solomon’s Temple Together

Sinem Tezyapar
Jewish press
March 12, 2013

The unique importance of the Temple Mount to Judaism and to Islam makes the location vulnerable to tensions and conflicts between Jews and Muslims. Usually, these incidents originate in rumors such as: “The Jews are coming today to bomb the mosques and build their Third Temple.” Obviously, false accusations and baseless suspicions like these turn the site from a holy place of prayer and love into a site of violent political demonstrations. And, consequently, potential escalation of tension brings more restrictions and discomfort to all. Who benefits from this? Surely not the believers.

While the Israeli government ensures limited public access to the Temple Mount regardless of religious beliefs, only Muslims are allowed to pray at the place, which is known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. Otherwise, the government has prohibited everyone except Muslims from worshipping there since 1967, due to security concerns. Nevertheless, Muslims, too, are occasionally restricted. The Jordanian Waqf which administers the site has restricted non-Muslims from entering the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque since the year 2000. What’s more, non-Muslim religious symbols are not allowed to be worn while entering the site.

Freedom of worship is an essential issue. The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples stood, is the holiest place to the people of Israel. However, it is no less holy to both Muslims and Christians. Since this is a location that God has announced to be a “house of prayer for all nations,” it should be a place of festivity for all believers. As all who call on the God of Abraham are brothers, Jews and Christians should be able to offer prayers there in dignity and peace along with Muslims. To cast believers out from such a place, to prevent worship there, is a heinous and, quite frankly, cruel policy, which is an offense not only to men, but to Islam. God Himself condemns anyone who forbids worship:

“And who is more unjust than he who forbids that in places for the worship of God, God’s name should be celebrated?-whose zeal is (in fact) to ruin them? It was not fitting that such should themselves enter them except in fear. For them there is nothing but disgrace in this world, and in the world to come, an exceeding torment.” (Koran 2:214)

Likewise, the Tanakh declares the will of God to make this unique spot a common sanctuary where all people learn to coexist and pray together: “For then will I turn clear language to the Nations, that they may all call upon the name of God, to serve Him shoulder to shoulder.” (Zephaniah 3:9)

Anywhere one prays to the One and Only Almighty God is a house of prayer. Therefore, it is an atrocious thing to forbid anyone from praying at the Temple Mount. The longings of Bnei Israel to pray in that place can never be an offense to a Muslim. On the contrary, it is very pleasant to see Jewish people praying at the Temple Mount. Indeed, all the faithful people should be able to pray there. As a matter of fact, in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and others houses of worship, foreign tourists often come and pray. Some perform their religious obligations according to their own faith, and it is something quite beautiful to see.

As a devout Muslim, I take pleasure when Jews pray to Almighty God, and their praying anywhere in the world, including at the Temple Mount, would be a glad tiding for me as well.

As a devout Muslim, it would be a joy for me to see Prophet Solomon’s Temple rebuilt as well. No, you did not hear me wrong. Prophet Solomon’s Temple being rebuilt in all its magnificence and glory would be a great delight for me, as it would be to any Muslim. Under different circumstances, in an atmosphere of trust, love and brotherhood, Muslims would welcome this with enthusiasm. The Temple of Solomon is also a historically important place, and rebuilding it would be a wonderful occasion for all believers to contemplate. Every Muslim, every believer, will want to experience the spirit of those days again, and strive to bring the beauty of those days back to life. Actually, it is everyone’s aspiration for that city to be adorned, to be beautified, and to regain the magnificent glory it had in the days of the Prophet Solomon.

Solomon’s Temple being rebuilt does not entail any harm to these shrines. So I beg my Muslim brothers and sisters not to take my words in a direction that I do not intend. They should not feel unease at all, because the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock will stand until the Last Day. Nobody will be able to harm them, because they are under the protection of God.

There is a broad expanse of land around the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. The land there is quite convenient in that respect, and the Temple can be placed just a little way from Qubbat As-Sakhrah, and a little ahead of Masjid el-Aqsa.

The Prophet Solomon—King Solomon as the Jews call him—is a prophet to Muslims too. All Muslims have profound love for him. Prophet Solomon had a superior understanding of beauty and aesthetics, and no doubt, rebuilding of his Temple in its original form would be a splendid undertaking. Decorated exactly as it was, with the same beautiful ornaments, covered in gold, adorned with fruit trees and beautiful gardens, and restored to its former glory, would be splendid!

It is of course very exciting to remember those beautiful days, to rebuild this beautiful compound, and let this beautiful prayer house be open to all. This very much excites me as a Muslim and excites other believers as well. The very thought of Christians, Jews and Muslims cooperating to rebuild this house of worship, together hand in hand, and worshipping there together, is a matter of joy.

Think of the waste of energy and resources consumed all over the world by the contention between Arabs and Jews, which could be used to beautify these holy places, to put them in a brilliant state, instead! There is plenty of space, and there are overwhelmingly sufficient resources for everyone to live there in peace and tranquility and enjoy their freedom of worship.

How have we allowed these unending wars, sporadic clashes, security walls, unnecessary discrimination and restrictions to bar us from being able to embrace each other as brothers? Why do we take it for granted that we are under any obligation to perpetuate these senseless conflicts? Why does everyone simply presume that this is the way things are meant to be? We all want suffering to end and peace to prevail in the region! Obviously we cannot achieve this peace as long as we lack the spirit of unity.

The Jews have the exact same vision, with the Third Temple being a center for all believers, not only for Jews:

“Also the aliens, that join themselves to God, to minister unto Him, and to love the name of God, to be His servants… Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:6-7)

We will rebuild—not only the Temple of Solomon, but those of all the prophets too. As a matter of fact, apart from the Prophet Solomon’s Temple, the other prayer houses of other prophets, the places where they inhabited, should be rebuilt as well. The places where they worshiped should be restored and glorified. Similarly, they should be opened, and Christians, Muslims and Jews should be allowed to visit them at the same time. The places where the Prophets Abraham, Joseph, Isaac, Jacob, Aaron lived should be restored and beautified also.

The main entrance to the Old City is the Jaffa Gate. This gate was built by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1538. The name in Arabic, Bab el-Halil, or Hebron Gate, means “The Beloved,” and refers to Prophet Abraham. In the entrance hall of the Gate, there is a stone on which the following text is engraved: “There is only one God and Abraham is his friend.” It is written this way because Jews and Christians were also using this gate along with Muslims, and the text refers to our common belief in the Prophet Abraham. So this should be the spirit in this site: We all worship the same One God and we are all children of Prophet Abraham!

Let us embrace each other with respect and love! Let us talk together, and envision better days in which we can all pray, and unite in celebration and brotherhood in this Prayer House of our blessed Prophet Solomon, and praise the glory of Almighty God together! Let every Christian, every Muslim, every Jew unite in this one godly desire! Let us endeavor to achieve this together, and let us believe that it is possible for everyone to perform their prayers in joy and peace!

Much of What You Think You Know about Islam Is Wrong (Video)

Sinem Tezyapar
Jewish press
January 17, 2013

Editor’s Note: Some of the terminology used by this Muslim author to describe the relationship between God and people is foreign to us. Notions of God “cursing” people for their actions have long been cast off by our own Rabbinic tradition. But restraint and openness are essential if we are to admit into our intellectual environment Muslim voices that seek to dialog with us. In your comments, we encourage you to challenge any point you wish. But we ask that you not denigrate the character, honesty, sincerity and courage of Ms. Tezyapar. This article is a response to antisemitic notions common among some Muslims, and expressed in a vile video made by Egyptian Cleric Mahmoud Al-Masri. Yori Yanover

It is important for people to understand the context of the verses and hadiths regarding the Jews, and it is particularly important for Muslims to understand them properly. Taking verses or hadiths out of context leads not only to poor understanding, it leads to prejudicial attitudes and outright hatred of people who have done nothing wrong. Perhaps even worse is the hypocrisy of those who wish to impose their extremist views by selecting particular verses and hadiths and deliberately distorting the meaning.

Thus it is important to stand against such despicable tactics and to speak out when these are used as a way of incitement. Here are a few of the main examples that cause a prejudiced mindset among many and are frequently misused as political propaganda by certain Islamic groups.

Why It Is a False Statement to Say Jews Are Cursed or Apes According to Islam?

Those Muslims who say “All Jews are cursed” are mistaken. They do not understand the Qur’an. They do not pay attention to the provisions in the Qur’an and interpret it only superficially. Yet if they read the verses with care, they would know that God would never issue an unjust commandment.

Every child is born innocent; this is a fundamental aspect of Islamic theology. How can a child be born cursed? Such a claim is incompatible with God’s justice. Such people are ignorant of the existence and attributes of God. They think that God could commit such an injustice. They think a child can be born cursed for reasons beyond its control, cursed for no crime, and that no matter what it does it can never escape that curse. This has nothing to do with Islam. To expect such injustice from God means to truly not understand Him. No true believer in God could ever say this. In the Qur’an

God says:

“They said ‘Our hearts are wrapped up in covers.’ Nay, God has cursed them for their disbelief. Little is that which they believe.” (Qur’an, 2:88) They have obviously failed to pay attention to what is set out in the verse. Why does God curse people? For disbelief. If someone denies God’s commandments and does not repent, and if God does not forgive him, he will go to hell; that person is already cursed. God imposes the condition of denial. God does not say ‘I have cursed every Jew, I regard them as cursed en masse.’ He says He curses people who deny Him. Some people who have set themselves up as hodjas and scholars misunderstand this and use it as anti-Jewish propaganda. In another verse, God informs the crimes of some people from the community of the Prophet Moses:

“And for their covenant we raised over them (the towering height) of Mount (Sinai); and (on another occasion) we said: ‘Enter the gate with humility’; and (once again) we commanded them: ‘Transgress not in the matter of the sabbath.’ And we took from them a solemn covenant. (They have incurred divine displeasure): In that they broke their covenant; that they rejected the signs of God; that they slew the Messengers in defiance of right; that they said, ‘Our hearts are the wrappings (which preserve God’s Word; We need no more)’;- Nay, God hath set the seal on their hearts for their blasphemy, and little is it they believe.” (Qur’an, 4:154-155)

Yet all the things listed in these verses are crimes. God lists those actions that are unlawful. People are cursed because of these, and those who commit them in any case go to hell. What about the provision regarding people who do not do these? Why should they be cursed?

God imposes these conditions and says that people who do these things are cursed. God also speaks of the existence of believers. Believers are obviously not cursed. God does not regard people as cursed if they abide by His commandments. People who are immoral, who are cruel or declare war on God’s commandments are cursed. People who do these things in any case go to hell. There are also Muslims who will go to hell. If they disobey God’s commandments, then they go to hell, and they are cursed. It is wrong to ascribe this to the Jews alone, or to interpret it in such a way as to apply only to Jews. God regards all those who declare war on His commandments as cursed. Many people misunderstand this.

The Qur’an refers to the community of the Prophet Moses who must abide by the Torah. God sometimes mentions their crimes and sometimes their good acts. For instance, in one verse we are informed about the existence of righteous Jews as such: “Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth.” (Qur’an, 7:159)

This is actually very similar to the threat of a curse in the Torah. God explains the potential curses in great detail in Deuteronomy, chapter 28 if they don’t obey the His commandments and the reason for this curse is stated as such:

“However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all His commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country… All these curses will come upon you… because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands and decrees He gave you…” (Deuteronomy, 28:15-45)

Furthermore some Muslims unwisely say that all Jews are apes based on this verse:

“When they disregarded the warnings that had been given them, We rescued those who forbade Evil; but We visited the wrong-doers with a grievous punishment because they were given to transgression. When in their insolence they transgressed (all) prohibitions, We said to them: ‘Be ye apes, despised and rejected.’” (Qur’an, 7:165-166)

However, God says that they are cursed if they rebel or insist on doing something they should not. God does not call people apes if they do not rebel against His commandments but some Muslims fail to understand this and say Jews are all humiliated like apes. God does not say this unless they rebel against Him.

It is also important to remember that God curses people because of their denial. If a Muslim stands in denial, then he is cursed as well. This is a valid statement for all people, and thus Muslims are also addressed in these verses. To present this as a curse on all Jews or calling them all apes is against the Qur’an. Most of those who say such things are mistaken and they expound on these verses falsely. However the verses are more than clear, and God discriminates between innocent people and those regarded as cursed, and He explains the conditions of what causes some to be cursed in a clear and straightforward manner.

Why It Is a False Statement to Say Jews Are the Army of Dajjal (Anti-Messiah) According to Islam?

People keep asking me if Islam is as I say, then why there is so much hatred and violence among the Muslims. And the answer is given by the Prophet of Islam 1,400 years ago. He reveals the hypocrisy prevalent in the Muslim community in the End Times as such:

“Such a time will befall my community that rulers will be oppressive and scholars will be avaricious and without fear of Allah, those who worship will be hypocritical…” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 23, p. 22)

In another hadith (saying of Prophet Mohammed) he says:

“People will spring up in the End Times: but their brains will not function. They will speak fine words when they. The will read the Qur’an, but their faith will go no further than their throats…” (Buhari, 3611, 5057, 6930, Muslim, 1066, Abu Dawud 4767, Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Musnad 1, 81, 113, 131, 289; Al-Tayalisi, al-Musnad, no. 1984.)

So it is clear that people will read the Qur’an but not think and live according to the teachings of the Qur’an. This is what I call the religion of the bigots. They implement a faith they have largely invented themselves under the name of Islam. And in this faith there is hatred, violence, darkness. These people who follow the religion of bigotry are the enemies of beauty, art, aesthetics and science as well as women, children etc. They attach no value to human beings and their hearts are far removed from love or compassion.

This is why their life and spirit contradicts the Qur’an concerning love, peace, affection, brotherhood and unity; and the Qur’an encourages beauty, art and science. They only speak hostility and they espouse bloodshed in the name of Islam, spread hatred toward Christians, Jews and even other Muslims. These loveless, misguided people are most definitely not Muslims, but bigots or radicals -however you would like to name them. And this is why we also see hatred for Jews in their mindset.

In Islamic eschatology, there is a hadith that the dajjal (anti-messiah/anti-christ) will come and will be followed by 70,000 Jews.

“Seventy thousand people from the Jews of Isfahan with turbans and gowns will follow the antichrist.” (Muslim, At-Taj Ali Nasif al-Husayn, vol. 5, p. 627)

Based on this hadith, some people who present themselves as Muslim clerics falsely claim that all Jews will be the army of the dajjal, in other words anti-messiah. It goes without saying that this hadith is not referring to each and every Jewish man, woman or child. It is referring specifically only to some who are against God’s way. Like many things from the Qur’an and hadiths, this particular example has been taken out of context and used by extremists to justify their desire to commit wanton slaughter.

However there is an apparent evidence to this hypocrisy. In another hadith, Prophet Mohammed says that “Seventy thousand scholars from my community, all wearing turbans, will follow the dajjal [anti-messiah].” (Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, p. 796)

In referring to the people who will follow the anti-messiah in the hadith, Prophet Muhammed speaks in particular of those who are from the Islamic community and what is more, he draws attention to the ones who regard themselves as scholars.

The army of the anti-messiah will emerge from every religion, and they will constitute bigots who seek to damage their own faiths and the world. Among them there will be Muslims, Jews, Christians and others who are insincere in their faith and who are removed from God’s will. As a matter of fact, backwardness, fanaticism and bigotry is a real threat to Islam as well as to all humanity. Prophet Mohammed himself also warns against this threat:

“My community will be destroyed because of evil scholars and ignorant servants.” (Darimi)

And in another one he says: “Such a time will come that scholars will be an element of mischief.” (Abu Nuaim)

These statements are all talking about the corruption and mischief among the Muslim community. The harm done by some religious scholars is highly destructive to be sure because they lead many ignorant people astray with their false teachings. And just as it was in history, to this day they are largely responsible for the disasters that have befallen Islamic states.

Mahdi (King Messiah) Will Surely Not Kill Jews:

These people who misuse the hadiths while referring to Jews as an army of the anti-messiah also claim that the Mahdi will kill all the Jews. This is far from the truth. This anti-Jewish hatred does not reflect anything about Islam.

First of all, the Mahdi that Muslims are waiting is the same holy person that the Jews are waiting for as King Messiah and this leader’s attributes are similar in both Islamic and Judaic accounts. The Mahdi will govern the world through love, not through war. He is someone who avoids war, a man of peace, who is full of love and compassion for all humanity. The way he will operate is described as follows in the hadith:

In the time of [Mahdi/King Messiah] no one will be woken up from their sleep or have a bleeding nose. (Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi ‘Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 44)

“People will seek refuge in the Mahdi [King Messiah] as honey bees cluster around their sovereign. He will fill the world that was once full of cruelty with justice. His justice will be as such that he will not wake a sleeping person not even one drop of blood is shed. The earth will return to the age of happiness.” (Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi ‘Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 29 and 48)

“Enmity and hatred between people will cease… Like the cup fills with water, so will earth fill with peace… There will be religious unity. Nobody but Allah will be worshiped. War will put down its burden.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, 10:334)

The climate of peace in the time of King Messiah -the Mahdi- is described very similarly in the Judaic scriptures:

“… In the last days… He [the Lord]… will settle disputes for many peoples… Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah, 2:2-4; Micah, 4:1-3) “…

Burn them [the weapons] up—the small and large shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears… They will use them for fuel… declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel, 39:9-10)

Consequently it is not only false information that the Mahdi will kill Jews, but it is also against Islamic theology in every way, shape and form. “Not one drop of blood will be shed” is an indisputable expression and thus the Mahdi will not shed the blood of anyone from any religion.

According to Islam, Muslims Should Not Be at War With Jews

Sinem Tezyapar
The Jewish press

December 12th, 2012

As a Muslim, I have to clarify regarding some false ideas that have been taken for granted as “Islamic.” What goes between Israel and Palestine is an artificial conflict and, what’s more, it is against Islam from several points:

Relations with Jews: Muslims are not at war with Jews. According to the Qur’an, Jews have a special status as “People of the Book” and Muslims can establish good relations with them through marriage and the sharing of food. Kosher food is also lawful for Muslims to eat and permission has been given for Muslim men to marry Jewish women. So from an Islamic perspective, this shows that there can be no obstacle to living together and in harmony, and this is clear evidence that enable the formation of warm human relationships and tranquil togetherness between Jews and Muslims.

War only for self-defense: From an Islamic point of view, there can be only defensive war and war is only an unwanted obligation when one’s life, security and honor is under attack. Muslims do not attack, they can only defend themselves. War has to be inevitable at the point that one has to defend oneself. Even if it is considered obligatory for self-defense, it has to be carried out with strict observance of humane and moral values. To put it in another way, God granted permission for war only for defensive purposes, and Muslims are warned against the use of unnecessary violence. “Fight in the Way of God against those who fight you, but do not go beyond the limits. God does not love those who go beyond the limits.” (Qur’an, 2:190)

In another verse, God commands justice and warns Muslims against feeling rage toward enemies, so that their judgments are not impaired: “You who believe! Show integrity for the sake of God, bearing witness with justice. Do not let hatred for a people incite you into not being just. Be just. That is closer to heedfulness…” (Qur’an, 5:8) I don’t accept any kind of hatred between people, but even at those times when they are not strong enough to overcome their anger, they still are responsible to be just.

Protecting peace: When there is a peace treaty, both sides should adhere to the peace agreement meticulously, and commit not to attack to each other. Especially for Muslims, after making a peace agreement, according to the Qur’an one has to watch out to protect it and abide by it. This the way according to the Qu’ran. God says: “If they incline to peace, you too incline to it…” (Qur’an, 8:61) In the case of the Palestine-Israel conflict, when one side fires rockets at the other side, the other side is fully entitled (and obligated) to protect its citizens. If there is a peace agreement, in times of peace launching rockets from Gaza is a violation of the Qur’an. When Hamas fires rockets, it’s not firing rockets only at Israel, but at its own people as well; Israel retaliates and it becomes inevitable that civilians, including innocent children, are severely effected by this. The same goes for Israel.

Protection of civilians: There is no justification in the Qur’an for killing innocent people. God says that this is like killing all mankind (Qur’an, 5:32). It is a sin to target civilians or be reckless of their security during an attack. When Hamas launches rockets over Israel, there is no aim, no precise target, and thus these rockets fall sometimes on empty land but sometimes onto the homes of innocent Israeli civilians. It is a sin to take an innocent life, and it is also a sin to cause disorder, to cause people to panic. Another important matter is that Islam absolutely forbids suicide attacks. God says: “Do not kill yourselves.” (Qur’an, 4:29) Consequently, killing oneself and killing other people are both prohibited in Islam. The right to live in the Holy Land: It is against any conscience and above all against the Qur’an to tell Jews to go somewhere else. Jews have been expelled from Spain, they have been slaughtered in Europe and there has been enormous intimidation against them in many places all over the world. So where do they have to go? These lands are places where their forefathers lived. The graves of their grandfathers are on these lands. And it is confirmed by the Qur’an that Bnei Israel will be living in the Holy Land till the end of the world. God says: “And thereafter We said to the Children of Israel: ‘Dwell securely in the Promised Land.’” (Qur’an, 17:104) and the Prophet Moses (pbuh) says “O my people! Enter the holy land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously…” (Qur’an 5: 21) Thus, it is against the Qur’an to tell Jews to leave these lands; any Muslim who does so is in contradiction of the very Word of God Himself.

Let us not forget the sons of Ishmael and the sons of Jacob, the descendants of the prophets, are fighting one another. Both sides are Abraham’s children and surely the land is spacious enough for all. There is no real reason that we can’t coexist together. Let’s live together as brothers; dine together, have conversations together; let us pray side by side, Jews in synagogues, and Muslims in mosques. Let us adopt a language of peace, a language of love. This is easy! And there is no other way.

Voir par ailleurs:

EXCLUSIVE: Iran president blames Israel for ‘instability,’ calls for peace

In an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Ann Curry, newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani talks about Israel, his viewpoints on previous president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the Iranian people’s access to the Internet.

F. Brinley Bruton, Staff Writer, NBC News

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed Israel for causing « injustice to the people » of the Middle East during an exclusive interview with NBC News in which he also called for peace, saying Iran is not « looking for war. »

Unlike his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani struck a moderate tone on many issues, but he deflected a question from NBC News’ Ann Curry about whether he believed that the Holocaust was « a myth. »

« I’m not a historian. I’m a politician, » he replied. « What is important for us is that the countries of the region and the people grow closer to each other, and that they are able to prevent aggression and injustice. »

Rouhani’s comments came in his first interview with a U.S. news outlet since his June election. The interview was broadcast Thursday on TODAY.

David Lom / NBC News

NBC News’ Ann Curry speaks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday. It was Rouhani’s first interview with a U.S. news outlet since being elected.

When asked by Curry about the fact that Ahmadinejad had people believing that Iran wanted to wipe Israel off the map, Rouhani replied: « What we wish for in this country is rule by the will of the people. We believe in the ballot box. »

Curry also asked Rouhani to respond to comments by Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called him a « wolf in sheep’s clothing. »

Rouhani described Israel as « an occupier and usurper government » that « does injustice to the people of the region, and has brought instability to the region, with its warmongering policies. »

He added Israel « shouldn’t allow itself to give speeches about a democratically and freely elected government. »

Netanyahu has previously hinted at the possibility of Israeli military strikes on Iran over the country’s controversial nuclear program if Western sanctions and diplomacy fail.

However, Rouhani also said it was important that countries across the Middle East learn to peacefully coexist.

« We are not seeking … and looking for war with any nations. We are seeking peace and stability among all the nations in the region, » Rouhani said.

In an exclusive interview with NBC’s Ann Curry, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country is asking for peace, stability and the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction.

Rouhani replaced Ahmadinejad who had been quoted as describing the Nazi Holocaust as « a myth » while in office. In 2009, Ahmadinejad dropped language from a speech at a U.N. conference on racism that branded the Holocaust « ambiguous and dubious. »

Rouhani’s comments underscored the shift in tone since he was elected with just over 50 percent of the vote. During his inaugural address, the new president spoke of engagement with the West to end bruising sanctions over his country’s controversial nuclear program.

Rouhani also appeared to pledge his support for increasing Iranians’ access to the Internet and other political and social freedoms.

« We want the people, in their private lives, to be completely free, and in today’s world having access to information and the right of free dialogue, and the right to think freely, is the right of all peoples, including the people of Iran, » he said.

When asked whether his government would stop censoring the Internet, Rouhani said « a commission for citizens’ rights » would be established.

« Does that mean that people in Iran will have access now to Twitter and to Facebook? » Curry asked.

« The viewpoint of the government is that the people must have full access to all information worldwide, » Rouhani replied. « Our opinions on this should based on protection of our national identity and on our morals. »

Officials in Washington, D.C., say the time is right for Iran, which wants a deal to get out from sanctions that are crippling its economy. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

In the interview with Curry, Rouhani also said his country will never develop nuclear weapons and that he has the clout to make a deal with the West on the disputed atomic program.

« In its nuclear program, this government enters with full power and has complete authority, » he said, adding that Iran has repeatedly pledged that « under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever. »

Rouhani, who earned a Ph.D. from a Scottish university, was the only non-conservative in the field during the election to replace Ahmadinejad. He got more than 18 million votes while five conservative candidates combined garnered just under 18 million.

Rouhani also discussed how he and President Barack Obama have exchanged letters in which they traded views on « some issues. »

« From my point of view, the tone of the letter was positive and constructive, » Rouhani said of the note he got from the White House congratulating him on his election.

The two countries severed diplomatic ties in 1980 after students supporting the Iranian revolutionaries who overthrew the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

« It could be subtle and tiny steps for a very important future, » Rouhani told Curry. « I believe the leaders in all countries could think in their national interest and they should not be under the influence of pressure groups. I hope to witness such an atmosphere in the future. »

Rouhani’s is due to appear next Tuesday at the U.N. General Assembly — where Western diplomats regularly walked out during Ahmedinejad’s fiery speeches.

NBC News’ Tracy Connor and Henry Austin contributed to this report.


Fête des Cabanes: Les sionistes ont même inventé Thanksgiving ! (Sukkot 2013: Looking back at the original Thanksgiving)

19 septembre, 2013
Chagall-Tabernacles-1916The first Thanksgiving (JLG Ferris)Vous demeurerez pendant sept jours sous des tentes … afin que vos descendants sachent que j’ai fait habiter sous des tentes les enfants d’Israël, après les avoir fait sortir du pays d’Égypte. Je suis l’Éternel, votre Dieu. Lévitique 23: 42-43
Tous ceux qui resteront de toutes les nations venues contre Jérusalem monteront chaque année Pour se prosterner devant le roi, l’Éternel des armées, Et pour célébrer la fête des tabernacles. Zacharie 14: 16
Much has been written about the rejection of socialism by major powers like China and the former Soviet Union. But nowhere is the failure of socialism clearer than in the radical transformation of the Israeli kibbutz. The kibbutz movement started in the early twentieth century in what was then Palestine by Zionist émigrés from Europe who were idealistic and utopian. Capitalism, industrialization, and the conventional family repelled these émigrés. Kibbutzniks, as they were called, replaced these fundamental aspects of modern societies with collective agriculture where all property was owned by the kibbutz, where adults were treated equally regardless of productivity, and they were rotated every few months among the various tasks that had to be performed on a farm, such as milking cows, planting crops, serving meals, and so forth. They considered the close-knit family to be a creation of capitalism, and substituted for that family structure communal dining, a fair amount of promiscuity, and separate communal living for all children, who were allowed only brief visits with their parents each day. (..) The kibbutz movement was motivated in part by the Marxian dictum of « from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs ». By abolishing capitalistic organization, the founders expected members to live in contentment and harmony, and to work for the common good. However, from what I was told and could observe during my brief visit, there was not much harmony-jealousies abounded of those who were only a little better off, including my host because he was allowed to spend some time working at his profession off the kibbutz. Anger was also felt toward those who were considered slackers since they clearly lived off the labor of others. Since everyone ate, worked, and socialized together, small differences were magnified, and became festering sores. Nor were the family arrangements any more satisfactory since parents missed their children, and visa versa. The kibbutz movement was very important in the creation of Israel, and in its early days of independence. Many military leaders came from the Kibbutz, perhaps because they were accustomed to communal living. A disproportionate number of the early political leaders and intellectuals also had a kibbutz background. But as the New York Times recognized in an article this past week, the socialist zeal that propelled the kibbutz movement in its early days has largely now disappeared. A trend that began more than 40 years ago accelerated in the 1980’s as kibbutzim lost many young members, and they failed to attract enough new members. Many of them were forced into bankruptcy, and the future of this movement was exceedingly dim if they continued with their old ways. The vast majority of the kibbutz that remained survived because they changed their ways. They expanded into industry and even real estate, they allowed a substantial degree of private ownership and private enterprise on the kibbutz, pay is no longer equal and is now significantly related to productivity, and parents and children live and eat together privately in their own homes. These changes may have prevented the Kibbutz movement from disappearing along with the many past Utopian experiments, but they did not prevent the kibbutz from becoming of little importance in the Israeli economy as Israel shifted toward privately owned high tech industry, and also toward privately owned farms, including cooperatives, for its much less important agricultural output. The transformation of the kibbutz movement from avowedly socialist to mainly capitalist shows clearly in microcosm what happened in socialist countries. Although even in their most extreme moments these countries were never as radical as the kibbutzim since children continued to live and eat with parents, socialist countries too tried to divorce individual productivity from individual rewards. They also believed that self-interest was a relic of capitalism, and that they could change human behavior to produce « a new socialist man » by abolishing private property and reorganizing society. Instead of the small scale of a kibbutz, countries like China and the Soviet Union tried to created socialism on an enormous scale. Moreover, and this is crucial, while members of any kibbutz voluntarily joined and could leave at will, Russians and Chinese had no choice about whether they wanted to work on collective farms or in government run enterprises, and they could leave only with extreme difficulty and at personal risk. Utopian socialistic experiments like the kibbutz movement, and countries that tried to create large-scale efficient socialism, all failed for the same reasons. They did not realize that while the zeal of pioneers, and the result of revolutions, could sustain a collectivist and other-serving mentality for a short while, these could not be maintained as the pioneers died off or became disillusioned, and as circumstances became less revolutionary. Basically, they ignored the evidence of history that self interest and family orientation is not the product of capitalism, but is human nature due to selection from evolutionary pressure over billions of years. Sure, there is abundant altruism toward one’s family, and some altruism toward others, and the latter might sustain a society for a brief time. But it shows a depressing ignorance of history to believe that a little propaganda and the enthusiasm of some leaders can organize an effective long-term society on the basis of any altruism and desires of mostl persons to help institutions, such as a kibbutz or a country, rather than themselves and those close to them. Gary Becker
Tant le critique que l’aficionado du communisme commettent une erreur. Une expérimentation à assez grande échelle du collectivisme volontaire le plus intégriste a existé. Et l’échec de cette expérience apporte bel et bien la preuve ultime de l’impraticabilité per se du socialisme originel, sous toute ses formes. Un socialisme « idéal » ne peut en aucun cas exister dans le monde réel. L’expérience dont il est question est le développement des Kibboutz en Israël, depuis le début du XXème siècle et plus encore après l’indépendance de 1947. Le prix Nobel d’économie 1992 Gary Becker (photo), sur son blog à 4 mains, nous gratifie d’une remarquable analyse historique et économique des Kibbutzim, qui naquirent dès le début du XXème siècle sous l’impulsion de juifs utopistes. Son compère Richard Posner, spécialiste majeur de l’analyse économique du droit, y ajoute, comme toujours, des compléments d’information pertinents. Selon Becker, nowhere is the failure of socialism clearer than in the radical transformation of the Israeli kibbutz.
Dans la plupart des Kibboutz, les parents habitaient une maison modeste appartenant à la communauté. Les enfants en étaient séparés, et dormaient dans un dortoir. Il s’agissait d’éviter que certains enfants ne soient avantagés par l’énergie ou le savoir que tentent de leur transmettre les parents les plus motivés et cultivés… Quelles qu’aient été ses compétences initiales, chacun devait contribuer aux travaux des champs, quand bien même il aurait eu une qualification qui aurait apporté plus à la communauté, et chacun recevait la même part du produit du travail commun. Lorsqu’un membre gagnait de l’argent grâce à une activité en dehors du Kibboutz, il devait le partager avec la communauté, et ne devait rien garder pour lui. La rotation des tâches agricoles était la règle. La promiscuité aussi. Dans les premiers temps, La cohésion des kibboutz fut maintenue à la fois par le sentiment de communauté religieuse, par l’engagement idéologique de leurs premiers membres, et par l’environnement hostile de nations islamiques qui ont déclenché contre l’état Hébreu 4 guerres d’agression en 25 ans, soudant la communauté autour des nécessités défensives. Mais même cette pression extérieure ne put compenser le désamour des membres du Kibboutz vis à vis de l’utopie collectiviste. Très vite, de nombreux Kibboutz connurent des difficultés. Les jeunes, notamment, voulaient quitter cet environnement – ce qu’ils étaient libres de faire, contrairement à un russe ou un chinois, soviétisé de force – dès qu’ils en avaient les moyens, ce qui n’était pas toujours le cas, car leurs parents n’accumulaient pas de capital, et à l’extérieur du Kibboutz, le blocage des loyers introduits par l’état d’Israël (qui fut d’ailleurs fondé sur des bases très socialisantes) avait détruit le marché locatif, là bas aussi. Aussi beaucoup parmi eux se sentaient-ils plus prisonniers économiques du Kibboutz que participants enthousiastes. Les problèmes de jalousie entre membres, de tirage au flanc et de parasitage – problème connu par les économistes sous le nom de « passager clandestin » ou « free rider » : pourquoi se tuer à la tâche si vous recevez autant que celui qui travaille ? -, l’inefficacité du système productif dûe à l’absence de spécialisation des tâches et à la mauvaise utilisation des compétences, le stress né de la séparation des familles, ont provoqué la disparition de certains Kibboutz, et la transformation de la plus grande partie d’entre eux en entreprises de type privée, où les familles vivent réunies, où le marché détermine les rémunérations, où l’immobilier est privé, et où l’initiative individuelle permet de développer des activités autres que l’agriculture, permettant à chacun de se spécialiser. Bref, plus de 70% des Kibboutz sont devenus des entreprises de type capitaliste, dont l’aspect social se limite à la constitution de sociétés de secours mutuel des membres. Les Kibboutz, au nombre d’environ 250, ne représentèrent jamais plus de 7% de la société Israélienne, au temps de leur splendeur. Les quelques kibboutz qui conservent une structure collectiviste (il reste des utopiste croyants…) ne représentent quasiment plus rien, et ne survivent que parce qu’ils appartiennent à un ensemble largement capitaliste qui assure à leurs productions ou leurs actifs fonciers la possibilité d’intégrer un système d’échange libéral, en toute protection du droit de propriété. Bref, l’échec du Kibboutz socialiste est l’argument ultime contre les illusions des derniers zélotes du collectivisme qui ne veulent pas voir dans les échecs de l’URSS et autres pays comparables la preuve de l’absence de viabilité intrinsèque des sociétés communistes sous toutes leurs formes. Même volontairement souscrit par des communautés idéologiquement conquises et initialement très motivées, le communisme ne peut apporter ni satisfaction, ni prospérité aux individus. Vincent Bénard
The Puritans did not believe in fixed holidays. If it was a good season, they would announce a thanksgiving, but it’s not like the Jewish holiday which occurs on the 15th of the month of Tishrei (Sukkot). They did not believe in that. So in that respect it’s different.  In terms of thanking God for a bountiful harvest, the Puritans did learn that from the Bible. They knew what they called the Old Testament, what we call the Hebrew Bible, they knew it, and they were influenced by it. Now they didn’t go out and build huts, obviously. But the notion that one would be thankful for a bountiful harvest was certainly one they would have learned from the Hebrew Bible. Sarna (Brandeis University)
The Separatists at Plymouth did not create an annual holiday. Rather, a holiday that grew in popularity and stabilized into an annual celebration over the course of several decades was later traced back to an event that took place at Plymouth in December 1621. The thesis of my book on Thanksgiving is that it is a holiday rooted in the deeply held convictions of the New England settlers, and in the human love of a holiday. Diana Muir Applebaum
Applebaum explained that the Puritans separated the laws of the Hebrew Bible into two categories. “Some were deemed moral commandments, these applied to all men, at all times,” she said. “The others were regarded as ceremonial or temporal commandments, which applied only to Jews, or only to the olden days, but not to Christians.” For Puritans, the Sabbath was an eternal, moral commandment applying to Christians, but they considered Sukkot, Passover, Shavout, kashruth, and other laws to be ceremonial or temporal commandments, not intended by God to apply to the children of the new covenant, Christians. Puritan theology “supported the proclamation of special days of prayer when unusual events occurred,” Applebaum said. “In the event, for example, of an epidemic, drought, or famine, it was appropriate to call a special day of prayer and fasting in the hope that if the people repented, God would grant relief,” she said. “In the event that God did grant a special providence, such as the lifting of a drought or famine, a special day of prayer and thanksgiving would be proclaimed.” “[People feared that] proclaiming a day of thanksgiving every autumn might ‘harden the people in their carnal confidence’ of God’s grace, and people might begin to take God’s gifts for granted,” Applebaum said. “If a proclamation was expected every year, how was it different from the unbiblical Catholic error of creating fixed annual holidays? On the other hand, [some thought] God’s great bounty in sending the harvest was surely worthy of thanksgiving. And people like holidays. In years when the General Court (the Massachusetts legislature) failed to proclaim a day of thanksgiving, individual congregations sometimes did.” After 1676 in Connecticut, and by the 1690s in Massachusetts, the government of each of those colonies proclaimed a special day of prayer and thanksgiving every autumn. It was celebrated by families returning home to celebrate, with special dishes (mince pie and plum pudding) eaten at Christmas in old England, and with events like ballgames on the village green that would have been inappropriate violations of a Sabbath day. (…) Applebaum said that by the 1700s, Thanksgiving was a holiday throughout New England, and that it spread west with the migration of New Englanders. Settlers from New England largely populated the top third of the states, starting with Ohio and rolling west, she explained. “Because New England had a precocious public school system, it also disproportionately supplied schoolteachers, ministers, lawyers, journalists, and shopkeepers to the entire country, north, south and west,” Applebaum said. “This helped spread the popularity of Thanksgiving when these New England-born thought leaders backed the early 19th century campaign led by Sarah Hale to make Thanksgiving a national holiday,” she said. “Thanksgiving proclamations were issued by state governors.” During the Civil War era, southerners associated the concept of a thanksgiving holiday with Yankee abolitionists, and therefore the holiday “did not become popular in the South until the end of the 19th century,” according to Applebaum. JNS
While we cannot be certain about what motivated those Pilgrim settlers to initiate a feast of thanksgiving, it is likely that they consciously drew on a model well-known to them from the Bible they cherished.“Seeing themselves as new Israelites in a new ‘promised land,’ the Pilgrims surely found inspiration in the Bible, in the Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, in which God commands the ancient Israelites to observe the Feast of Booths—in Hebrew, Sukkot, ‘To rejoice before Adonai your God’ at the time of the fall harvest.” (…) Both of these splendid holidays encourage us to stop and acknowledge the manifold blessings God bestows upon us each and every day,” Lieberman said. “Whether we accomplish that stock-taking over a slice of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie or beneath the leafy branches of a sukkah roof—or both—we understand and embrace the impulse which inspired our Pilgrim and our Israelite ancestors. Rabbi Elias Lieberman (Falmouth Jewish Congregation in Massachusetts)

Attention: un Thanksgiving peut en cacher un autre !

En ce jour où à l’occasion de leur fête des récoltes (dite Fête des Cabanes) …

Nos amis juifs qui eux aussi ont tiré les leçons oubliées de Soukkot

Se remémorent la protection divine dont ils avaient bénéficié durant leur longue traversée du désert après leur expulsion du goulag égyptien …

Comment ne pas y voir les prémices d’une autre fête des récoltes d’un autre groupe de « Pères pèlerins »

Reconnaissants eux aussi d’avoir survécu la plus éprouvante des quêtes de leur Terre promise ?

Is Thanksgiving Rooted in a Biblical Festival?

Mario Seiglie [2]

Historians and Jewish sources point out that America’s Thanksgiving holiday may not have been a totally new celebration—but that its roots may go back thousands of years to the biblical Feast of Tabernacles.

Is Thanksgiving Rooted in a Biblical Festival?

Source: Painting by Jennie Brownscombe, Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that the first Thanksgiving in the United States has some strong similarities to the biblical Feast of Tabernacles? Although the pilgrims did not consciously observe this biblical feast, it is interesting to study the parallels between these two celebrations that share the common spirit of thanksgiving to God.

Both were celebrated in the autumn in the northern hemisphere, and both were a time for giving thanks to God for the blessings of the harvest season. Although forgotten by many, the American Pilgrims were a deeply religious people whose heritage was strictly founded on the Bible, both Old and New Testament.

Why did the Pilgrims have this strong attraction to the Hebrew Scriptures? Is it a coincidence that the Pilgrims were the first successful colony in New England and were able to set their stamp on American culture and religion? Let’s explore these questions and see what history reveals.

Few realize how solemnly and literally the Pilgrims took the Bible. Jewish sources in particular continue to note, although recognizing there is not a direct link between the two, the striking resemblance of the Thanksgiving celebration to the Feast of Tabernacles, which Scripture also calls the Feast of Ingathering.

Here is one typical opinion: « Sukkot, the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, celebrates the autumn harvest; a similarity to the Thanksgiving holiday observed in the United States which is not coincidental. Prior to making their way to the New World, the Pilgrims, themselves the victims of religious persecution, spent several years among Sephardic Jews in Holland. When they later celebrated the legendary first Thanksgiving, their conscious frame of reference was Sukkot » (« Sukkot [3] , »Cyber-Kitchen.com).

English Harvest Home festival

Now it’s true that the Harvest Home festival was celebrated in England at that time, but among the Pilgrims there was a general rejection of observing these English fall celebrations tainted by pagan traditions.

« The Harvest Home was a holiday, » notes historian Diana Karter Appelbaum, « on which the villagers joined together to bring the last loads of grain from the field and share a merry feast when the work was done…There was sufficient taint of idol worship and evidence of licentious behavior in the old English Harvest Home for Puritans to reject the custom summarily. They recoiled from these remnants of the pagan customs that predated Christianity in England, but memories of the harvest feast lingered all the same.

« The Puritans’ shunning of the ancient Harvest Home left a void in the New England year that might not have been problematic had a similar attitude not been extended to other holidays. But the Puritans had disapproved of so many causes for celebration that a holiday vacuum existed in the young colonies. ‘All Saint’s Day’ had been swept off the calendar along with Christmas and Easter, on the grounds that these mixed ‘popish’ ritual with pagan custom.

« Sunday, the occasion in Europe for afternoon ball games, cockfights, plays, gambling, fishing trips and dances, became the Puritan Sabbath, a day passed in prayer, church attendance and devotional reading…Remaining to New Englanders were three holidays—Muster Day, Election Day and the day of the Harvard Commencement » ( Thanksgiving: An American Holiday, an American History, 1984, p. 20).

Biblical connection of Thanksgiving

So it seems the Pilgrims didn’t base their Thanksgiving celebration on English feasts, which when linked with pagan customs were generally shunned by them. Where then did they get their inspiration for Thanksgiving? Could it have a biblical foundation?

Notice what David Stern says about the Feast of Tabernacles in The Jewish New Testament Commentary: « Families build booths of palm branches, partly open to the sky, to recall God’s providence toward Israel during the forty years of wandering in the desert and living in tents.

« The festival also celebrates the harvest, coming, as it does, at summer’s end, so that it is a time of thanksgiving. (The Puritans, who took the Old Testament more seriously than most Christians, modeled the American holiday of Thanksgiving after Sukkot [the Hebrew name for the Feast of Tabernacles]) » (1996, comment on John 7:2).

This connection is not well known among most secular U.S. historians, but the Jews, who also arrived very early at the New England colonies, have kept track of this historical parallel.

« As Leviticus 23 teaches, » explains Barney Kasdan, « Sukkot was to be a time of bringing in the latter harvest. It is, in other words, the Jewish ‘Thanksgiving.’ In fact, it is widely believed that the Puritan settlers, who were great students of the Hebrew Scriptures, based the first American Thanksgiving on Sukkot » ( God’s Appointed Times, 1993, p. 92).

William Bradford, who became the first Pilgrim governor and proclaimed the first Thanksgiving celebration, used the Scriptures—both Old and New Testaments—for guidance in governing the colony.

« Though it’s a uniquely American tradition, » adds a Jewish Web site, « the roots of Thanksgiving go back to ancient Israel. In a real sense, the Jews invented Thanksgiving. I count 28 references to the word thanksgiving in the King James Bible—all but six in the Old Testament. For the ancient children of Israel, thanksgiving was a time of feasting and fasting, of praising God, of singing songs. It was a rich celebration—and still is for observant Jews today.

« Bradford himself studied the Hebrew scriptures. The Pilgrims took them very seriously. The idea of giving thanks to God with a feast was inspired by that knowledge of the Bible. In a very real way, the Pilgrims saw themselves, too, as chosen people of God being led to a Promised Land…

« In addition to proclaiming a day of thanksgiving, like the ancient Hebrews did before them, Bradford and his flock also praised God’s loving kindness, the famous refrain of Psalms 106 and 107 and Jewish liturgy (‘Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His kindness endures forever’) » (« Thanksgiving, The Puritans and Prayer, » shalomjerusalem.com/heritage).

Brief history of the Pilgrims’ journey

It’s fascinating to review the Pilgrim’s history and their roots in America.

Attempting to reform the Church of England, the Puritans wanted to base their religion purely on biblical teaching—both from the Old and New Testaments. In England, they pressured the government so much to establish its laws on biblical principles that they provoked the ire of King James I of England. « King James vowed to make these deviants conform or he would ‘harry [harass] them out of the land or else do worse' » (Martin Marty, Pilgrims in Their Own Land, 1984 , p. 59).

So a group of Puritans fled from England and sailed to Holland. There they enjoyed more religious tolerance, but eventually became disillusioned with the Dutch way of life, believing it was ungodly and that it had a corrupting effect on their children.

A number of these Puritans, seeking a better place to practice their religion, began to set their sights on America. They finally negotiated with a London stock company to finance a journey to the New World.

They sailed from Holland to Plymouth, England, and from there to the new Plymouth they would reach after more than two months at sea. They dropped anchor at Cape Cod in November of 1620. Only about half of the original colonists were true Pilgrims. The rest, whom the Pilgrims called « strangers, » were hired to protect the company’s interests.

The Pilgrims finally disembarked at Plymouth Rock on Dec. 11, 1620. Their first winter was devastating. At the beginning of the following autumn, they had lost 46 of the original 102 who sailed on the Mayflower. But the harvest of 1621 was bountiful and the Pilgrims decided to celebrate with a feast—inviting Native American Indians who had helped them survive their first year. Historians believe that the Pilgrims would not have made it through the year without the help of the natives. The feast lasted three days.

The fledgling Plymouth colony of Puritans would not be the exception to the rule. Over the next 20 years, 16,000 Puritans would migrate from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and many more settled in Connecticut and Rhode Island—thus establishing a lasting influence on American culture and character.

The Pilgrims’ view of themselves

How did the Pilgrims view themselves?

« The Puritans in England, » writes Jewish historian Max Dimont, « regarded themselves as Hebraists. They took the Old Testament as their model of government and tried to reshape the Magna Carta in its image…The British rulers rightly regarded them as Jewish fellow-travelers, and when they departed for the Colonies, the British ruling class wrote them off as good riddance.

« In America, the Puritans modeled their new homeland upon Old Testament principles. When Harvard University was founded in 1636, Hebrew along with Latin was taught as one of the two main languages. Governor Cotton wanted to make the Mosaic Code the law of Massachusetts, and Hebrew at one point almost became the official language of the state » ( The Indestructible Jews, 1971, p. 346).

In the preface to his History of Plymouth Plantation, Governor Bradford wrote of his strong desire to learn Hebrew: « Though I am grown aged, yet I have had a longing desire to see with my own eyes something of that most ancient language and holy tongue, in which the Law and the oracles of God were written and in which God and angels spoke to the holy patriarchs of old time . . . My aim and desire is to see holy text, and to discern somewhat of the same, for my own content » (p. xxviii, edited by Samuel Eliot Morison, 1989).

These remarks were followed by some 25 biblical passages in the original Hebrew and their English translation.

It is no accident that the early settlers called their Plymouth Colony « Little Israel, » and they even compared Governor Bradford to Moses. They felt that they had fled lands of oppression and had found a new home, just as the Israelites had once fled Egyptian slavery and settled in the Holy Land.

It is, then, understandable from the association the Pilgrims had with the Bible and the traditions of Israel, that their Thanksgiving festival would be patterned after the biblical festivals of thanksgiving for abundance and harvest as found in the Bible—in particular, during the fall, the Feast of Tabernacles.

Again, this is not saying there is an explicit link here, just a biblical framework for the Thanksgiving celebration to arise.

Similarities of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

Just north of the Pilgrims’ colony of Plymouth, where the Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded in 1629 mostly by Puritans, we see a similar pattern.

« No Christian community in history, » says Gabriel Sivan, « identified more with the People of the Book than did the early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who believed their own lives to be a literal reenactment of the biblical drama of the Hebrew nation.

« They themselves were the children of Israel; America was their Promised Land; the Atlantic Ocean their Red Sea; the Kings of England were the Egyptian pharaohs; the American Indians the Canaanites (or the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel); the pact of the Plymouth Rock was God’s holy Covenant; and the ordinances by which they lived were the Divine Law. . .

« [They] saw themselves as instruments of Divine Providence, a people chosen to build their new commonwealth on the Covenant entered into at Mount Sinai » ( The Bible and Civilization, 1973, p. 236).

Puritan laws in America

What kind of laws was the United States founded on?

« In England, » writes Abraham Katsch, « the Puritan identification with the Bible was so strong that some Puritan extremists sought to replace English common law with biblical laws of the Old Testament, but were prevented from doing so. In America, however, there was far more freedom to experiment with the use of biblical law in the legal codes of the colonies, and this was exactly what these early colonist set out to do.

« The earliest legislation of the colonies of New England was all determined by Scripture. At the first assembly of New Haven in 1639, John Davenport clearly stated the primacy of the Bible as the legal and moral foundation of the colony.

« ‘Scriptures do hold forth a perfect rule for the direction and government of all men…The Word of God shall be the only rule to be attended unto in organizing the affairs of government in this plantation' » ( The Biblical Heritage of American Democracy, 1977, p. 97).

Notice how influential were the Old Testament principles in their civil government.

« Subsequently, » adds Rabbi Ken Spiro, « the New Haven legislators adopted a legal code—the Code of 1655—which contained some 79 statutes, half of which contained biblical references, virtually all from the Hebrew Bible. The Plymouth Colony had a similar law code as did the Massachusetts assembly, which, in 1641—after an exhortation by Reverend John Cotton who presented the legislators with a copy of Moses, His Judicials —adopted the so-called ‘Capitall Lawes of New England’ based almost entirely on Mosaic law » ( WorldPerfect: The Jewish Impact on Civilization, 2002, p. 248).

Much to be thankful for

So we should not forget that Thanksgiving is a feast of giving thanks, not only for receiving God’s blessings today, but also for how He founded America mostly on His biblical laws. He also poured Abraham’s blessings on it, intervening time and time again from its very beginnings to turn it into a rich and powerful nation to help lift up the rest of mankind. The nation has not had a perfect record, of course, but it is still trying to defend the weak from oppressors and to provide a home for those being persecuted.

I know—for I am one of those who was persecuted and was received in the United States with open arms—a gesture for which I will be forever grateful.

Also, we should consider that the biblical Feast of Tabernacles is an annual reminder of how we should thank God for all He has done for us. Indeed, Jesus Christ and His disciples celebrated this festival—and I hope one day you will join us in observing it. GN

Source URL: http://www.ucg.org/holidays-and-holy-days/thanksgiving-rooted-biblical-festival

Links:

[1] http://www.ucg.org/files/article/audio/is-thanksgiving-rooted-in-a-biblical-festival.mp3

[2] http://www.ucg.org/author/mario-seiglie

[3] http://www.cyber-kitchen.com/rfcj/category.cgi?category=SUKKOT

[4] http://www.ucg.org/bible/4/JHN/7/2#v2

[5] http://www.ucg.org/tags/american-history

[6] http://www.ucg.org/tags/blessings

[7] http://www.ucg.org/tags/feast-tabernacles-1

[8] http://www.ucg.org/holidays-and-holy-days

[9] http://www.ucg.org/tags/pilgrims

[10] http://www.ucg.org/tags/thanksgiving-3

[11] http://www.ucg.org/good-news-magazine

[12] http://www.ucg.org/holidays-and-holy-days/gods-holy-days/feast-tabernacles

[13] http://www.ucg.org/historian

Voir aussi:

Thanksgiving and Sukkot

What’s the Connection?

John J. Parsons

Hebrew4christians

THE AMERICAN HOLIDAY OF THANKSGIVING certainly has its roots in the Jewish tradition of giving thanks to God, and some historians believe that the early « pilgrims » derived the idea directly from the Biblical festival of Sukkot (i.e., « Tabernacles »). According to some scholars, before coming to the New World, the pilgrims lived for a decade among the Sephardic Jews in Holland, since Holland was considered a safe haven from religious persecution at the time. Since the pilgrims were devout Calvinists and Puritans, their religious idealism led them to regard themselves as « new Israel, » and it is likely that they learned that Sukkot commemorated Israel’s deliverance from their religious persecution in ancient Egypt at that time. After they emigrated to the « Promised Land » of America, it is not surprising that the pilgrims may have chosen the festival of Sukkot as the paradigm for their own celebration. As the Torah commands: « [Celebrate the feast] so that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God » (Lev. 23:39-43). The highly religious pilgrims regarded their perilous journey to the new world as a type of « Exodus event » and therefore sought the appropriate Biblical holiday to commemorate their safe arrival in a land full of new promise…

Recall that during the holiday of Sukkot we are commanded to dwell in sukkahs to remind ourselves of the sheltering presence of God given to our ancestors in the wilderness. After the Jews finally began inheriting the land, the theme of Sukkot shifted to an expression of thanks for God’s provision and steadfast love. In that sense, Sukkot is a sort of « Jewish Thanksgiving » celebration. During the fall harvest (traditionally called the « Season of our Joy ») the Torah commands us to « rejoice before Adonai your God » (Deut. 16:11-15; Lev. 23:39-43). When we wave our lulavs (symbols of the fruit of the earth and the harvest), it is customary to recite the following expression of thanks:

הוֹדוּ לַיהוה כִּי־טוֹב כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ

ho·du la·Adonai ki tov, ki le·o·lam chas·do

« Give thanks to the LORD for He is good;

for His steadfast love endures forever. »

Download Study Card

The Refrains of Praise

A basic principle in Bible interpretation is to note repeated occurrences of a word or phrase. This is sometimes called the « law of recurrence. » The assumption here is that since God is the consummate Communicator, if a word or phrase is repeated in Scripture, there is surely a good reason. In some cases the function appears to be instructive (such as the two sets of instructions given for building the Mishkan (tabernacle) in Exodus); in other cases it appears to be exclamatory: the LORD doesn’t repeat Himself without the intent of getting our attention.

But notice that the phrase, hodu la-donai ki-tov, ki le’olam chasdo (« Give thanks to the LORD for He is good, for His stedfast love endures forever ») appears no less than five times in Scripture (1 Chr. 16:34; Psalm 106:1; Psalm 107:1; Psalm 118:1,29; Psalm 136:1), and in each case it is clear that the Holy Spirit is emphasizing that God’s love for us — His chesed — is the primary reason for us to give Him thanks (in Psalm 136, the refrain, « ki le’olam chasdo » occurs no less than 25 times). Notice also that the verb hodu is the imperative of yadah (to confess or express gratitude) and therefore we can understand this verse to mean that we are to « confess » or « acknowledge » that the LORD is good. Indeed, the Hebrew word todah (תּוֹדָה), usually translated « thanks, » can mean both « confession » and « praise. »

A Thanksgiving Seder

Thanksgiving is perfectly compatible with Messianic Jewish observance, and since the holiday always falls on a Thursday there is never a conflict with Sabbath celebrations. You can create a simple « Thanksgiving Seder » by reciting Kiddush (the blessing over the wine and the bread) and then offering a special prayer of thanks before eating the meal. Everyone could recite the refrain: « Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His steadfast love endures forever » (see Hebrew text above). The « Shehecheyanu » blessing may then be recited to mark the occasion as spiritually significant:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם

שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה

ba·ruch at·tah Adonai E·lo·hei·nu Me·lekh ha·o·lam

she·he·che·ya·nu ve·ki·ye·ma·nu ve·hig·gi·a·nu la·ze·man haz·zeh

« Blessed are You, LORD our God, Master of the Universe,

Who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this season. »

Download Study Card

During the meal, people might take some time to share their own experience of finding freedom in America or to discuss why they regard freedom as important. The connections between Passover (the Exodus), Shavuot (the Sinai and « Pentecost » experiences), Sukkot (God’s care for Israel during their wanderings in the desert), and the American holiday of Thanksgiving would also make an excellent discussion. It is also interesting to note that the Hebrew word for « turkey » is tarnegol hodu (תַּרְנְגוֹל הוֹדו), literally, « Indian chicken, » which is often shortened to hodu (הוֹדוּ). It is a happy coincidence that we customarily eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and this reminds us of the « thanks » connection: « Give thanks (hodu) to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever. »

Since Yeshua is the ultimate expression of God’s steadfast love (i.e., chesed: חֶסֶד), how much more should we give heartfelt thanks to God for Him? Is there anything greater than the astounding love of God? Can anything overcome it? Can even the hardness of your own heart somehow veto or negate it’s purposes? It was because of His great love that God (יהוה) « emptied Himself » of heavenly glory, becoming clothed in human flesh and becoming disguised a lowly slave (δοῦλος). God performed this act of « infinite condescension » in order to « tabernacle » with us as our « hidden King » (John 1:1,14, Phil. 2:7-8). Ultimately our thanks to God is our praise for Yeshua, our Savior, King, and LORD.

We wish you a joy-filled time of reflection during this Thanksgiving Holiday. May you remember the many blessings that the LORD God of Israel has lovingly bestowed upon you and your family…. Hodu La-Adonai!

Voir également:

Sukkot – The Harvest Holiday and Thanksgiving

Shiksa

September 22, 2010

Did the Jewish holiday of Sukkot inspire the first Thanksgiving?

Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, is a Jewish holiday celebrated on the 15th of Tishrei on the Hebrew calendar. While not as widely known or celebrated as some other Jewish holidays, Sukkot is a very important part of the Jewish experience. Historically many important events have occurred during Sukkot, including King Solomon’s dedication of the First Temple of Jerusalem.

The Sukkot holiday finds its origin in a Biblical mandate. In the Torah, God commands that the Jews must live in temporary outdoor structures for seven days in remembrance of the Israelites who fled from Egypt with Moses:

So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest. On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the Lord your God… All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt.

~ Leviticus 23:39 to 23:43

This is an example of an outdoor sukkah structure.

In this passage, God commands the Jews to build “booths” and live in them during the festival of Sukkot. These temporary structures are known as “sukkah,” and they can range in size from small (just large enough for two people) to enormous. A sukkah is constructed with three or four walls and a roof known as a “schach” made from natural organic materials. It must be at least three feet tall, and you must be able to see the sky through the roof—if you can’t, the sukkah is not considered “kosher.” Traditionally, Jewish families decorate the sukkah with a variety of decorations including homemade ornaments, paintings, and streamers. Often decorations are inspired by harvest foods and the seven species of Israel mentioned in Deuteronomy: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, dates, wheat and barley.

Rabbinic law encourages Jews to live, sleep, and eat in the sukkah for all seven days of the festival, weather permitting. Most modern Jews do not actually sleep in the sukkah; it is used instead as a special outdoor dwelling place for dining together with family and friends.

Which brings us to what I consider the most exciting part of Sukkot—the food!

Sukkot is a harvest holiday, which means that the foods served are seasonal in nature. The Sukkot menu generally features vegetables and fruits that are harvested at the turn of the season—apples, squash, eggplants, grapes, etc. As a food lover, this holiday is one of my favorites because we are encouraged to create dishes from fresh and delicious seasonal ingredients. The arrival of Sukkot ushers in the autumn season; Sukkot foods are inspired by the bounty of the harvest.

Does this all sound a little familiar? You might have noticed that the Sukkot holiday resembles the American tradition of Thanksgiving. Believe it or not, the similarities between Sukkot and Thanksgiving actually have a historical frame of reference. Before coming to the New World, the Pilgrims lived for a short time among Sephardic Jews in Holland. In fact, our American Thanksgiving tradition may have been indirectly inspired by the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

“The First Thanksgiving,” painted by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris (1863-1930)

Both the Pilgrims and the Jews were victims of religious persecution. The Sephardic Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492; they scattered and eventually settled in different parts of Europe and the Middle East. A small group of Jews made Holland their home. The Pilgrims escaped England in 1608 to avoid the increasing intolerance of their Separatist views by the Bishop of Lincoln and Archbishop of York. Both the Jews and the Pilgrims settled in Holland because of the country’s religious tolerance.

The Pilgrims only spent a decade in Holland before leaving for the New World (America), but they were certainly there long enough to interact with the local Jewish population; the Pilgrims also would have witnessed Sukkot celebrations while living among the Sephardic Jews of Holland.

The Thanksgiving cornucopia bears a strong resemblance to the Jewish shofar, blown during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

This possible tie between Thanksgiving and Sukkot is pretty intriguing, and can be seen on many symbolic levels. While harvest festivals were not unique during that time period (many Christian groups had their own harvest celebrations), there are some particular aspects of Thanksgiving that seem at least loosely connected to Sukkot. The first Thanksgiving meal in 1621 is said to have been eaten out-of-doors, which would correspond to the Sukkot tradition of dining outside in the sukkah. Sukkot, like Thanksgiving, is a holiday of welcoming; the Pilgrims welcomed the Wampanoag Native Americans to the original Thanksgiving table just as Jews are encouraged to welcome friends and extended family to dine in the sukkah. This was only fitting; the Wampanoag people and their leader, Massasoit, taught the Pilgrims vital harvesting and life skills after their arrival in the New World; the Pilgrims would not have survived without their help and guidance. The cornucopia, a Thanksgiving symbol of plenty, resembles the Jewish shofar that is blown during Yom Kippur (the holiday that precedes Sukkot). And of course, there’s the food: both Sukkot and Thanksgiving feature bountiful menus of delicious, seasonally-inspired foods.

Details on the very first Thanksgiving meal are slim. According to the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, “The first association between the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving appeared in print in 1841, when Alexander Young published a copy of a letter dated December 11, 1621, from Edward Winslow, who described a three-day event held after the crops were harvested. In a footnote to the letter Young claimed that this was ‘the first Thanksgiving.’” Beyond these details, we know very little about that first Thanksgiving meal. We do know that it was a multi-day celebration, similar to Sukkot– some accounts say it lasted three days, others say seven. Over the years, it became customary to celebrate a single day of thanks during the harvest season, which evolved into the holiday we now celebrate as Thanksgiving.

While we may never know if the first Thanksgiving was directly inspired by Sukkot, it is fun to ponder!

Voir encore:

Thanksgiving: A Harvest Festival with Roots in Sukkot

Rabbi Elias Lieberman

Interfaith family

October, 2000

I have the great good fortune to live on Cape Cod, just a short drive from Plimoth Plantation. It was there, in the Plimoth settlement, that history records the first « Thanksgiving. »

The intervening centuries have made it difficult to sort fact from Hallmark-fiction, but this much we do know, from one contemporaneous account from 1621: There were three days of feasting, in the company of Native Americans. The Thanksgiving holiday that we celebrate did not become a national holiday until President Abraham Lincoln declared it one in 1863. And it wasn’t until the 1941 that its date was firmly established by Congress as the fourth Thursday in November.

While we cannot be certain about what motivated those Pilgrim settlers to initiate a feast of thanksgiving, it is likely that they consciously drew on a model well-known to them from the Bible they cherished. Seeing themselves as new Israelites in a new « promised land, » the Pilgrims surely found inspiration in the Bible, in the Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, in which God commands the ancient Israelites to observe the Feast of Booths — in Hebrew, Sukkot, « to rejoice before Adonai your God » at the time of the fall harvest [Lev. 23:40].

In Jewish tradition, the Festival of Sukkot is a joyous occasion to give thanks and praise to the Source of Creation for the bounty we enjoy. In fact, we are told that during Sukkot, « you shall have nothing but joy. » [Deut. 16:15] Jews erect a sukkah, a harvest booth, in which they eat their meals, and sometimes sleep, during the festival. It is a reminder of the booths in which their ancestors are said to have dwelled during their forty-year Sinai sojourn. It is also precisely the kind of structure farmers in the Middle East still construct at the edges of their fields as crops come ripe and the need to rise early for harvesting makes it prudent to sleep nearby.

The sukkah is a temporary structure, hung with fruits and symbols of the harvest season. Its roof is thinly covered with branches, admitting sunlight, starlight, wind, and rain, reminding of us the precariousness of our existence in the face of the forces of nature. But the sukkah is also a powerful reminder of the many reasons for which we feel grateful to God, not the least of which is the fact that for the other fifty-one weeks of the year most of us are blessed to have solid roofs over our heads, clothes to wear, and food enough to fill our bellies.

Such was not always the case for the Pilgrims, who often contended with illness, meager rations, disappointed hopes, and death. During that very hard winter before the first « Thanksgiving, » it is recorded that food became so scarce in some settlements that the daily ration of food per person per day was five kernels of corn. In order to remember those harsh times and maintain their gratitude for the plenty they now enjoyed, some New Englanders started the custom of putting five kernels of corn on each plate at their feast.

There is a strong thread which runs from the Israelite wilderness experience to that of the Pilgrims and the harsh years they endured as they strove to sink roots in this new land. Like the ancient Israelites of whom they read in the Bible, they were people of great faith who believed themselves to be sustained through God’s great mercy and beneficence.

That they should rejoice and give thanks at harvest time was as natural an impulse for the Pilgrims as it was for the ancient Israelites.

Few of us today are farmers; we « gather » our food pre-packaged from the supermarket, far removed from the natural processes which make or break a harvest. But Thanksgiving and Sukkot come to remind us that there is far more to be grateful for in this world than a bounteous crop. Both of these splendid holidays encourage us to stop and acknowledge the manifold blessings God bestows upon us each and every day. And whether we accomplish that stock-taking over a slice of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie or beneath the leafy branches of a sukkah roof — or both — we understand and embrace the impulse which inspired our Pilgrim and our Israelite ancestors.

Rabbi Elias Lieberman

Rabbi Elias Lieberman has served the Falmouth Jewish Congregation in Falmouth, Mass., since 1990.

Voir de même:

Feast of Tabernacles

Mary Fairchild

About.com Guide

Bible Feasts:

Paul said in Colossians 2:16-17 that the Jewish feasts and celebrations were a shadow of the things to come through Jesus Christ. And though as Christians we may not commemorate these holidays in the traditional biblical sense, as we discover the significance of each, we will certainly gain a greater knowledge of God’s Word, an improved understanding of the Bible, and a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Sukkot – Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths:

Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles is a week-long fall festival commemorating the 40-year journey of the Israelites in the wilderness. It is one of the three great pilgrimage feasts recorded in the Bible when all Jewish males were required to appear before the Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem. The word Sukkot means « booths. » Throughout the holiday, Jews continue to observe this time by building and dwelling in temporary shelters, just like the Hebrew people did while wandering in the desert. This joyous celebration is a reminder of God’s protection, provision, and faithfulness.

Time of Observance:

Sukkot begins five days after Yom Kippur, from the 15-21 day of the Hebrew month of Tishri (September or October).

• See Bible Feasts Calendar for the actual dates of Sukkot.

Scripture Reference:

The observance of the Feast of Tabernacles is recorded in Exodus 23:16, 34:22; Leviticus 23:34-43; Numbers 29:12-40; Deuteronomy 16:13-15; Ezra 3:4; and Nehemiah 8:13-18.

About Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles:

The Bible reveals dual significance in the Feast of Tabernacles. Agriculturally, Sukkot is Israel’s « thanksgiving, » a joyous harvest festival to celebrate the ingathering of grain and wine. As an historical feast, it’s main characteristic is the requirement to dwell in temporary shelters or booths in remembrance of God’s protection, provision and care during their 40 years in the wilderness. There are many interesting customs associated with the celebration of Sukkot. These are explained in detail by About.com’s Judaism Guide, Ariela Pelaia.

Jesus and Sukkot:

During Sukkot, two important ceremonies took place. The Hebrew people carried torches around the temple, illuminating bright candelabrum along the walls of the temple to demonstrate that the Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles. Also, the priest would draw water from the pool of Siloam and carry it to the temple where it was poured into a silver basin beside the altar. The priest would call upon the Lord to provide heavenly water in the form of rain for their supply. During this ceremony the people looked forward to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Some records reference the day spoken of by the prophet Joel.

In the New Testament, Jesus attended the Feast of Tabernacles and spoke these amazing words on the last and greatest day of the Feast: « If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. » (John 7:37-38 NIV) The next morning, while the torches were still burning Jesus said, « I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. » (John 8:12 NIV)

More Facts About Sukkot:

The booth of Sukkot is called a sukkah. These shelters consist of at least three walls and are framed with wood and canvas. The roof or covering is made from cut branches and leaves, placed loosely atop, leaving open space for the stars to be viewed and rain to enter.

It is common to decorate the sukkah with flowers, leaves and fruits.

Today, the requirement to dwell in the booth can be met by eating at least one meal a day in it. However, some Jews still sleep in the sukkah.

Since Sukkot is a harvest celebration, typical foods include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

More about Sukkot.

Voir encore:

Did Sukkot help shape Thanksgiving?

Posted on August 14, 2013 by Robert Gluck / JNS.org and filed under Special Sections, Sukkot.

Robert Gluck

JNS.org

Thanksgiving-Brownscombe.jpg

Click photo to download. Caption: « The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, » by Jennie A. Brownscombe. JNS.org examines whether Thanksgiving was shaped by Sukkot. Credit: Jennie Augusta Brownscombe via Wikimedia Commons.

Did Sukkot help shape America’s Thanksgiving?

According to one of the foremost experts on American Judaism, Dr. Jonathan Sarna, the biblical holiday did not exactly guide the Puritans’ thinking during colonial times, but they were generally influenced by the idea of thanking God for their bounty.

“The Puritans did not believe in fixed holidays,” Sarna—the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and chief historian of the Philadelphia-based National Museum of American Jewish History—told JNS.org. “If it was a good season, they would announce a thanksgiving, but it’s not like the Jewish holiday which occurs on the 15th of the month of Tishrei (Sukkot). They did not believe in that. So in that respect it’s different.”

In terms of thanking God for a bountiful harvest, the Puritans did learn that from the Bible, Sarna said.

“They knew what they called the Old Testament, what we call the Hebrew Bible, they knew it, and they were influenced by it,” he said. “Now they didn’t go out and build huts, obviously. But the notion that one would be thankful for a bountiful harvest was certainly one they would have learned from the Hebrew Bible.”

Thanksgiving did not become a fixed holiday in America until President Abraham Lincoln declared it as such in 1863. The holiday also did not have a firm date until Congress established one—the fourth Thursday of each November—in 1941.

Although “you’ll commonly read all over the place” about the connection between Thanksgiving and Sukkot, Sarna said that Diana Muir Applebaum—a Massachusetts-based historian who wrote the book “Thanksgiving: An American Holiday, An American History”—set him straight on the subject when he consulted with her.

Applebaum believes there is always some difficulty in discovering the “first” of anything.

“The Separatists at Plymouth did not create an annual holiday [of Thanksgiving],” Applebaum told JNS.org. “Rather, a holiday that grew in popularity and stabilized into an annual celebration over the course of several decades was later traced back to an event that took place at Plymouth in December 1621. The thesis of my book on Thanksgiving is that it is a holiday rooted in the deeply held convictions of the New England settlers, and in the human love of a holiday.”

But did the Bible have any influence on the Puritans’ festival of thanks?

Applebaum explained that the Puritans separated the laws of the Hebrew Bible into two categories. “Some were deemed moral commandments, these applied to all men, at all times,” she said. “The others were regarded as ceremonial or temporal commandments, which applied only to Jews, or only to the olden days, but not to Christians.”

For Puritans, the Sabbath was an eternal, moral commandment applying to Christians, but they considered Sukkot, Passover, Shavout, kashruth, and other laws to be ceremonial or temporal commandments, not intended by God to apply to the children of the new covenant, Christians. Puritan theology “supported the proclamation of special days of prayer when unusual events occurred,” Applebaum said.

“In the event, for example, of an epidemic, drought, or famine, it was appropriate to call a special day of prayer and fasting in the hope that if the people repented, God would grant relief,” she said. “In the event that God did grant a special providence, such as the lifting of a drought or famine, a special day of prayer and thanksgiving would be proclaimed.”

There were robust debates among the Puritans in the mid-1600s over the propriety of issuing a proclamation of a day of thanksgiving every autumn. Was an ordinary harvest a routine event, or was it a special providence?

“[People feared that] proclaiming a day of thanksgiving every autumn might ‘harden the people in their carnal confidence’ of God’s grace, and people might begin to take God’s gifts for granted,” Applebaum said. “If a proclamation was expected every year, how was it different from the unbiblical Catholic error of creating fixed annual holidays? On the other hand, [some thought] God’s great bounty in sending the harvest was surely worthy of thanksgiving. And people like holidays. In years when the General Court (the Massachusetts legislature) failed to proclaim a day of thanksgiving, individual congregations sometimes did.”

After 1676 in Connecticut, and by the 1690s in Massachusetts, the government of each of those colonies proclaimed a special day of prayer and thanksgiving every autumn. It was celebrated by families returning home to celebrate, with special dishes (mince pie and plum pudding) eaten at Christmas in old England, and with events like ballgames on the village green that would have been inappropriate violations of a Sabbath day.

But there are those like Rabbi Elias Lieberman, leader of the Falmouth Jewish Congregation in Massachusetts, who see a stronger biblical influence on Thanksgiving.

“While we cannot be certain about what motivated those Pilgrim settlers to initiate a feast of thanksgiving, it is likely that they consciously drew on a model well-known to them from the Bible they cherished,” Lieberman told JNS.org. “Seeing themselves as new Israelites in a new ‘promised land,’ the Pilgrims surely found inspiration in the Bible, in the Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, in which God commands the ancient Israelites to observe the Feast of Booths—in Hebrew, Sukkot, ‘To rejoice before Adonai your God’ at the time of the fall harvest.”

The fact that Jews eat in temporary structures during Sukkot “is a reminder of the booths in which their ancestors are said to have dwelled during their 40-year Sinai sojourn,” Lieberman noted. The sukkah is also a powerful reminder “of the many reasons for which we feel grateful to God, not the least of which is for the other 51 weeks of the year most of us are blessed to have solid roofs over our heads, clothes to wear, and food to fill our bellies,” he said.

“Such was not always the case for the Pilgrims, who often contended with illness, meager rations, disappointed hopes, and death,” Lieberman said. “During that very hard winter before the first Thanksgiving, it is recorded that food became so scarce in some settlements that the daily ration of food per person per day was five kernels of corn. In order to remember those harsh times and maintain their gratitude for the plenty they now enjoyed, some New Englanders started the custom of putting five kernels of corn on each plate at their feast.”

Applebaum said that by the 1700s, Thanksgiving was a holiday throughout New England, and that it spread west with the migration of New Englanders. Settlers from New England largely populated the top third of the states, starting with Ohio and rolling west, she explained.

“Because New England had a precocious public school system, it also disproportionately supplied schoolteachers, ministers, lawyers, journalists, and shopkeepers to the entire country, north, south and west,” Applebaum said.

“This helped spread the popularity of Thanksgiving when these New England-born thought leaders backed the early 19th century campaign led by Sarah Hale to make Thanksgiving a national holiday,” she said. “Thanksgiving proclamations were issued by state governors.”

During the Civil War era, southerners associated the concept of a thanksgiving holiday with Yankee abolitionists, and therefore the holiday “did not become popular in the South until the end of the 19th century,” according to Applebaum.

Whether or not its formation was actually influenced by Sukkot, the parallels between the holidays serve as meaningful symbolism for individuals like Rabbi Lieberman.

“Both of these splendid holidays encourage us to stop and acknowledge the manifold blessings God bestows upon us each and every day,” Lieberman said. “Whether we accomplish that stock-taking over a slice of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie or beneath the leafy branches of a sukkah roof—or both—we understand and embrace the impulse which inspired our Pilgrim and our Israelite ancestors.”

Voir enfin:

Le Kibboutz, preuve ultime de la faillite du communisme

Gary Becker

traduction Objectif liberté

Lorsque vous osez affirmer à des communistes impénitents que les crimes de Staline – qu’ils sont bien obligés de reconnaître – et de Lénine – sacrilège ! -, ainsi que l’état pitoyable des anciens pays du pacte de Varsovie après des décennies de soviétisation, disqualifient toute forme de collectivisme en tant que doctrine, vous vous entendez répondre – parfois poliment, parfois par des insultes – que le vrai communisme, celui des phalanstères et de Proudhon, celui de Marx, voire du « gentil Lénine » – prière de ne pas rire – n’a jamais eu la chance de pouvoir s’exprimer, qu’il a été dénaturé par des dictateurs qui n’étaient pas, en fait de « vrais » communistes.

Notre réponse à cette absurdité consiste généralement affirmer qu’une doctrine que jamais personne n’a jamais pu mettre en oeuvre sans l’accompagner de massacres de masse, de déportations, de répressions, et qui a toujours conduit les pays qui se le sont vu imposer à la misère, est une doctrine perverse dès le départ. Ce qui nous emmène généralement, si l’éducation de l’interlocuteur le permet encore, vers une discussion sur le rôle essentiel du droit de propriété dans la préservation de la liberté individuelle.

Mais votre opposant communiste ne voudra pas en démordre: « le vrai communisme, volontaire et partageur, on ne l’a jamais vu à l’oeuvre, il faudrait laisser une chance à ce vrai communisme là ».

Or, tant le critique que l’aficionado du communisme commettent une erreur. Une expérimentation à assez grande échelle du collectivisme volontaire le plus intégriste a existé. Et l’échec de cette expérience apporte bel et bien la preuve ultime de l’impraticabilité per se du socialisme originel, sous toute ses formes. Un socialisme « idéal » ne peut en aucun cas exister dans le monde réel.

Gary Becker L’expérience dont il est question est le développement des Kibboutz en Israël, depuis le début du XXème siècle et plus encore après l’indépendance de 1947. Le prix Nobel d’économie 1992 Gary Becker (photo), sur son blog à 4 mains, nous gratifie d’une remarquable analyse historique et économique des Kibbutzim, qui naquirent dès le début du XXème siècle sous l’impulsion de juifs utopistes. Son compère Richard Posner, spécialiste majeur de l’analyse économique du droit, y ajoute, comme toujours, des compléments d’information pertinents. Selon Becker, nowhere is the failure of socialism clearer than in the radical transformation of the Israeli kibbutz.

Dans la plupart des Kibboutz, les parents habitaient une maison modeste appartenant à la communauté. Les enfants en étaient séparés, et dormaient dans un dortoir. Il s’agissait d’éviter que certains enfants ne soient avantagés par l’énergie ou le savoir que tentent de leur transmettre les parents les plus motivés et cultivés… Quelles qu’aient été ses compétences initiales, chacun devait contribuer aux travaux des champs, quand bien même il aurait eu une qualification qui aurait apporté plus à la communauté, et chacun recevait la même part du produit du travail commun. Lorsqu’un membre gagnait de l’argent grâce à une activité en dehors du Kibboutz, il devait le partager avec la communauté, et ne devait rien garder pour lui. La rotation des tâches agricoles était la règle. La promiscuité aussi.

Dans les premiers temps, La cohésion des kibboutz fut maintenue à la fois par le sentiment de communauté religieuse, par l’engagement idéologique de leurs premiers membres, et par l’environnement hostile de nations islamiques qui ont déclenché contre l’état Hébreu 4 guerres d’agression en 25 ans, soudant la communauté autour des nécessités défensives. Mais même cette pression extérieure ne put compenser le désamour des membres du Kibboutz vis à vis de l’utopie collectiviste.

Très vite, de nombreux Kibboutz connurent des difficultés. Les jeunes, notamment, voulaient quitter cet environnement – ce qu’ils étaient libres de faire, contrairement à un russe ou un chinois, soviétisé de force – dès qu’ils en avaient les moyens, ce qui n’était pas toujours le cas, car leurs parents n’accumulaient pas de capital, et à l’extérieur du Kibboutz, le blocage des loyers introduits par l’état d’Israël (qui fut d’ailleurs fondé sur des bases très socialisantes) avait détruit le marché locatif, là bas aussi. Aussi beaucoup parmi eux se sentaient-ils plus prisonniers économiques du Kibboutz que participants enthousiastes.

Les problèmes de jalousie entre membres, de tirage au flanc et de parasitage – problème connu par les économistes sous le nom de « passager clandestin » ou « free rider » : pourquoi se tuer à la tâche si vous recevez autant que celui qui travaille ? -, l’inefficacité du système productif dûe à l’absence de spécialisation des tâches et à la mauvaise utilisation des compétences, le stress né de la séparation des familles, ont provoqué la disparition de certains Kibboutz, et la transformation de la plus grande partie d’entre eux en entreprises de type privée, où les familles vivent réunies, où le marché détermine les rémunérations, où l’immobilier est privé, et où l’initiative individuelle permet de développer des activités autres que l’agriculture, permettant à chacun de se spécialiser.

Bref, plus de 70% des Kibboutz sont devenus des entreprises de type capitaliste, dont l’aspect social se limite à la constitution de sociétés de secours mutuel des membres. Les Kibboutz, au nombre d’environ 250, ne représentèrent jamais plus de 7% de la société Israélienne, au temps de leur splendeur. Les quelques kibboutz qui conservent une structure collectiviste (il reste des utopiste croyants…) ne représentent quasiment plus rien, et ne survivent que parce qu’ils appartiennent à un ensemble largement capitaliste qui assure à leurs productions ou leurs actifs fonciers la possibilité d’intégrer un système d’échange libéral, en toute protection du droit de propriété.

Bref, l’échec du Kibboutz socialiste est l’argument ultime contre les illusions des derniers zélotes du collectivisme qui ne veulent pas voir dans les échecs de l’URSS et autres pays comparables la preuve de l’absence de viabilité intrinsèque des sociétés communistes sous toutes leurs formes. Même volontairement souscrit par des communautés idéologiquement conquises et initialement très motivées, le communisme ne peut apporter ni satisfaction, ni prospérité aux individus.


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
https://i2.wp.com/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 (Watch myself getting tough in the mirror: Looking back at the violent subtext of The Catcher in the Rye)

18 septembre, 2013
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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)
Et alors je serais probablement resté sans bouger pendant cinq bonnes minutes, les foutus gants à la main et tout, en me disant que ce type je devrais bien lui balancer mon poing sur la gueule et lui défoncer la mâchoire. La suite, c’est que je manquerais d’estomac. Je resterais là à m’efforcer d’avoir l’air d’un dur. Ou alors peut-être je dirais quelque chose de cinglant et vachard pour le vexer au lieu de lui casser les dents. (…) Et ça pourrait durer des heures. Finalement, je me tirerais sans l’avoir effleuré. J’irais sans doute aux chiottes pour fumer une sèche en douce et me regarder devenir un gros dur dans la glace des lavabos. Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the rye, chap. 13)
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 (Catcher in the rye, chap. 25)
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 encore:

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.

Voir enfin:

Who Was J. D. Salinger?
Adam Gopnik
The New Yorker
September 5, 2013

Sometime in late 1968, Charles Manson was listening to “The Beatles,” to use the proper name of what’s most often called the White Album, and decided that “Helter Skelter,” an upbeat rocker about a roller coaster at an English amusement park, was a call to black insurrection in America, to be set off by the brutal murders of an actress, a hairdresser, a coffee heiress, and several other innocents. The question that this horrible incident has always provoked was not just: How could anyone have thought anything so murderously insane? It was also: Why was Charles Manson listening with such hallucinative intensity to an album whose other highlights were John Lennon’s delicate bossa-nova ballad to his mother Julia, Paul McCartney’s lyrical invocation of Noël Coward, and George Harrison’s mystical celebration of the varieties in a box of English chocolates—not to mention a nine-minute-long tribute to concrete music? Why did he pay such close attention to something so inherently unsympathetic to his, ahem, sensibility?

The simple, sad answer is: because everyone did. There are certain artists, and some art, that become so popular that everyone peers into them, finding whatever they will, however they will. All the usual tests of sympathy, natural feeling, and do-I-really-respond-to-this? are lost in the gravitational pull of ubiquity. Not surprisingly, the artists who are, briefly, the beneficiaries and thereafter the victims of this kind of attention get totally freaked out by the intensity of it all: not too long after, Bob Dylan, another of the tribe, recorded his notorious “Self Portrait,” just back out in a new version, trying to demonstrate to his admirers the simple truth that he was an American singer, with a broad taste for American songs, not some kind of guru or mystic or oracle, please go away. It didn’t help.

These questions come to mind in reading David Shields and Shane Salerno’s heavily hyped biography “Salinger” (Simon & Schuster), not least because, in one of the most bizarre sections of a bizarre book, they themselves raise the issue of murder-by-bad-reading, in connection with the murder (fearful symmetry!) of the Beatles’ John Lennon by Mark Chapman, who happened to have hallucinated a motive within “The Catcher in the Rye.” Shields and Salerno’s own peculiar view of Salinger forces them to insist that Chapman was not just a crazy hallucinant, but in his own misguided way an insightful reader, responding to the “huge amount of psychic violence in the book.” Now, there is a section in “Catcher” in which Holden fantasizes about shooting the pimp who has set him up with a prostitute, but it is exactly a bit of extended irony about the movies and their effect on everyone’s imagination: a defusing of vengeance fantasies. In Salerno’s “acclaimed documentary film” (as the book’s jacket calls it), meanwhile, a witness points out that the word “kills” occurs with ominous regularity in the text—failing to acknowledge that this is Holden’s slang for the best things that happen to him. “She kills me” is what Holden says about his beloved little sister Phoebe. There’s no more “violence” implicit in the usage than there is sublimated religiosity in Holden’s New York cabbies saying “Jesus Christ!” It’s just an American idiom, lovingly preserved by a master of them.

That Chapman’s reading strikes the authors as logical, if unfortunate, is just one demonstration, in a strange chop-shop biography, that they are no more interested in Salinger the writer or artist than the people who go through Dylan’s garbage cans are really interested in Dylan. In both book and bad movie, a simple theory is flogged: that Salinger was a victim of P.T.S.D., screwed up by a brutal combat experience in the Second World War. It’s a truth that, as far as it goes, Salinger himself dramatized at beautiful length in his story “For Esmé—with Love And Squalor,” and then left behind. (Holden is far too young to be a veteran, and Seymour Glass, so far as a close reader can tell, was in the armed forces, like most of his generation, but never in combat: the proximate cause of his suicide is a bad marriage, not a bad war.)

In any case, Salinger’s work emphatically editorializes its moral point, which is about as far from celebrating or even sublimating violence as any writing can be. No writer could ever have had his moral pluses and minuses so neatly, so columnarly, arranged and segregated off from each other. Phoebe, the Fat Lady, Esmé, innocence, and small domestic epiphanies are good. Violence, the military, cruelty are all bad. To make this view somehow its opposite is to refuse to read what’s there on the page, in search of something that might sit better on Page Six. That Salinger was wounded, like many of a generation, by combat is obvious; that it “explains” everything he wrote after is the kind of five-cent psychiatry that gives a bad name to nickels. (In any case, as the authors admit, Salinger already had six or so chapters of the book finished before he set foot in France, while the Holdenish sensibility—if not Holden’s sweetness and essential helplessness—was shared by hundreds of artists of the period, most of whom had never held a rifle.)

***

But then Salinger as writer, or craftsman, or just listener—with a perfect ear for the sound of American mid-century speech—is invisible throughout. The subject of the book and documentary is not Salinger the writer but Salinger the star: exactly the identity he spent the last fifty years of his life trying to shed. Cast entirely in terms of celebrity culture and its discontents, every act of Salinger’s is weighed as though its primary purpose was to push or somehow extend his “reputation”—careerism is simply assumed as the only motive a writer might have. If he withdraws from the world, well, what could be more of a come on? If it turns out that he hasn’t entirely withdrawn from the world but has actually participated in it happily enough on his own terms: well, didn’t we tell you the whole recluse thing was an act? This kind of scrutiny might possibly say something about a writer like Mailer, whose loudest energies (if not his best ones) were spent playing in the public square, not to mention Macy’s windows. But it couldn’t be worse suited to a writer like Salinger, the spell of whose work is cast, after all, entirely by the micro-structure of each sentence—on choosing to italicize this word, rather than that; on describing a widower’s left rather than right hand; on the ear for dialogue and the feeling for detail; above all, on the jokes. (Salinger, as Wilfrid Sheed long ago pointed out in the best thing ever written about his style, was first of all a humorist, trained on other humorists. The two writers who meant the most to Salinger, Ring Lardner and Scott Fitzgerald, seem left largely, if not completely, out of the book’s discussion—though Hemingway, the celebrity writer whom he briefly courted but never imitated, is made much of. A book about J. D. Salinger with no Ring Lardner in it, one can say with certainty, is a book about something other than J. D. Salinger.)

The “documentary” method that the book employs is what was once quaintly called a “clip-job”—the kind of celebrity bio where, in the guise of research, previously published work is passed off, with varying degrees of honesty, as original discovery. Journalists who never met Salinger, old “friends” who saw him last in 1948, are quoted fragmentarily, in the manner of the kind of oral history that Jean Stein and George Plimpton used to honorably assemble, while large chunks of quotations are lifted out of other people’s published work and plunked right down alongside the rest, as though these writers, too, had stopped by for a chat. These unwilling contributors see their work chopped up and recycled without any indication on the page of its source. (You can, with diligent effort, figure out what’s from where by consulting the notes in the back, but surely the ordinary reader can’t be expected to show such diligence, and will understandably assume that everything is, so to speak, on the same level.) Gossip is offered interchangeably with fact, bald speculation is sold as though double-checked, salacious rumor (Salinger had one testicle!) is accepted with a shrug: well, somebody said it. To take one example among a hundred, John Updike’s intricately wrought review of “Franny and Zooey”—indicating both his debt to Salinger, which he admits is enormous, and his qualms about “Zooey,” which are real, and his conviction that, in any case, Salinger was a brave artist making a journey on behalf of us all—is reduced to a “merciless” dismissal, one writer from the grave breezily zinging another. (A significant bit of praise from that review appears in another place, pages from the put-down.)

Shields, of course, has written an entire testament, the manifesto-like book called “Reality Hunger,” in defense of the chop-shop approach to prose, with a high-minded po-mo appeal to the constant recycling of other people’s words as itself a kind of originality. Like many other capitalist ventures, though, this involves taking intricate handiwork done by other people, breaking it up, and selling it off again without permission, not to mention payment. If you have persuaded yourself that invention and recycling are the same thing, then you can’t begin to make sense of someone who would spend seven or eight hours a day laboring over a single line. This puts you in terrible shape with a writer like Salinger, who feels his entire life at stake over a semi-colon. What can he be doing all day in his “bunker” except stewing over his obsessions?

Throughout book and film both, the focus is leeringly on Salinger’s presumed oddities, the authors of this book seeming never to have met any others. That the writer who can be contagiously charming on the page might be actually rather ornery and difficult to live with is a revelation only to one who has never spoken to a writer’s spouse. And an urge to escape from the world, far from being an aberrant impulse driven by neurosis, or shame at an anatomical oddity, is just part of what American writers have always been up to. E. B. White, as Sheed points out, beat Salinger to the north country by a decade, for similar reasons, while Thomas Merton became a major literary figure in those same fifties by going into a honest-to-God monastery and publishing his stuff from there.

What is true is that Salinger, through no fault or even an act of his own, save publishing a book whose reception no one could have anticipated, became the victim/beneficiary of the kind of hyper-fame that usually gets reserved for singers and actors. Seen that way, there is little that’s peculiar or pathological about Salinger’s retreat, though much in it that’s sad. A book about a week in the life of a sensitive, observant kid—affectionately viewed by the author, as one might a teen-age son or a younger brother, but hardly idolized—became a bible to a whole generation. (The ironies could not have eluded the author, since the one thing that a loner like Holden doesn’t want to be is the voice of a generation—his contemporaries being the very thing he has most contempt for.)

That the book gave Salinger the real, mind-bending, freak-out kind of fame early on was a blessing in certain respects—one important reason that he didn’t publish was because he didn’t have to. It was a curse in most others, however, since it created the circumstance in which a parade of random stalkers felt free to come up to his driveway and ask him to tell them how to run their lives. His trouble was that the writing was him, or seemed to be, in the sense that the stories gave an impression, however misleading, of being personal sources of wisdom, judgment, or good advice. Most people who get this treatment retreat to a Graceland or Neverland. Salinger retreated to New Hampshire. (Philip Roth got the treatment for a period after “Portnoy,” and it was so disconcerting—success on such a scale being “as baffling as misfortune”—that he wrote a couple of novels just about what it felt like.) For what it’s worth, the movie suggests that Salinger responded to most of the stalkers with surprising generosity, trying to explain to them that he was a fiction writer, not a guru. It didn’t help him, either.

For the rest—aside from the genuine news that Salinger made a strange, short marriage to a German girl he met during the occupation—there are no real revelations here, with the New Hampshire years mostly sketched from already familiar memoirs by family members and ex-lovers. There is a lot of prurient gossip about Salinger and his courtship of teen-age (not, to be sure, prepubescent) girls, although it does seem that if you had been imprinted on, and then rejected by, the exquisite seventeen-year-old Oona O’Neill, there would be no mystery in spending your life searching for her duplicate. (Of their claim of new books to come from Salinger, tacked on in the movie in titles with pointlessly ominous music playing, about all one can say is, Hope so! And add that it seems unlikely that someone with so good an ear would call anything “The Family Glass,” and that one of the few forthcoming stories specified, about a party in the nineteen-twenties, was already explicitly promised by Salinger himself, in the introduction to his story “Hapworth 16, 1924.”)

We have decided, legally and mostly morally, that our interest in telling truths about human life is always greater than our need to protect people’s privacy, at least after the people are dead, and so be it. But if you want to grasp why silence is so appealing to artists whose audience has grown too loud—John Lennon himself withdrew for many years, then tried peeking out again, with the tragic results we know—here it is. Indeed, the great advantage of the whole new episode is this: from now on, if you want to understand why the young J. D. Salinger fled New York publishing, fanatic readers, eager biographers, disingenuous interpreters, character assassination in the guise of “scholarship,” and the literary world generally, you need only open this book.


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
https://i1.wp.com/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-teasehttps://i2.wp.com/wpmedia.arts.nationalpost.com/2013/09/salinger1.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/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
https://i1.wp.com/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


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