If Bordeaux is undoubtedly the town of the 18th century, a metropolis dessert to devour between the Nice Century and the Revolution, caring as little as potential in regards to the origin of the sugar that Gabriel blended along with his dough, if Paris will all the time stay the nice daguerreotype from the XIXth century – I’ve simply found, deepening the thriller of modernity slightly extra, an intact photographic room within the constructing block hidden within the coronary heart of the passage of panoramas, and lower on these four sides of the remainder of the town , an island whose inside courtyard, doubly invisible, could be just like the unbroken panorama of the eponymous passage -, the city of the XVII th century, gloomy, splendid and darkish, this metropolis, in my reminiscence, is Rouen, the unloved.
Little doubt due to a confusion between the peaks of mortality within the Nice Century, which historians name “the bell towers of the 17th century” and this “metropolis of 100 bell towers”.
Or a foul college reminiscence of chalk and slate.
Its half-timbered homes and the spongy stone of its cathedral appear to me to retain one thing of the little ice age, austere and awe-inspiring, of this century badly warmed by the Solar King.
Town, excavation of the Caux plateau descended, with all its chemical installations and its cereal port, on the higher floor of a loop of the Seine, has one thing of an excavation website – virtually a gaping wound on this grandiose and badly healed century, the place I’d have preferred to dwell however whose life I wish to spend spending the remainder of my life studying. Simply as if I’d not prefer to dwell in Rouen, I want the existence, so caricaturally French, of this considerably forgotten metropolis, which serves as a perfect counterweight to all of the too mild lots that trendy France has hoisted since then, in imitation of the barracks of the cigarette camps on the plateau of Caux, over his sleepy shoulder of a giant trendy nation, throughout the nice Faubourg hinterland of its apprehensive cities, and so far as potential from the tortured coronary heart of its cathedrals.
The 17th century was not solely a second within the historical past of France, nor even a specific reign: it was the entire soul of France, all its contradictions too. Nice navy century, nice pictorial century, nice mystical century, there’s something there that also frightens and intimidates us at this time. France, seen from the 17th century, isn’t a nation, it’s a concern, from Pascal to Rancé.
By no means earlier than has such an ideal period, intimately, been so insecure. There’s, as within the virtually clumsy paintbrush of the final Poussin, that of the Flood the place Chateaubriand perceived “the admirable trembling of time” himself, an extended shiver working by this century. By no means have convents and monasteries appeared as open as they did then, all the time open in the identical route: to the world within the route of their pious cells.
And when Louis XIV needed to uproot these of Port-Royal, it was as if he had feared that their tiny shadows would shade Versailles. It’s Chateaubriand, once more, who tells it, in a scene of pure horror which is, in its personal method, nonetheless a legacy of the Nice Century: “The corpses have been unearthed on the noise of obscene sneer, whereas within the church the canines have been feeding on decomposed flesh. ”
“Louis-le-Grand, resumes Chateaubriand, imperial, you’ve taught your folks exhumations; accustomed to obey you, he adopted your examples on the very second when Marie-Antoinette's head fell on the revolutionary sq., the coffins have been damaged in Saint-Denis: on the fringe of an open vault, Louis XIV all black, that the 'we acknowledged by its broad options, awaited its final destruction; retaliation for everlasting justice! ”
All of this nonetheless lives on in us, and if we nonetheless learn the writers of the Grand Siècle, it’s far much less from patriotism than from republican compunction: this century, that of our splendor and our most resplendent miseries, can be the half the least closed of our souls. The spell of getting been a Christian, of getting been nice Christians, was badly dissipated by the snickers of Voltaire and Diderot – and the blade of the guillotine, alleged to perpetually shut the sequence of historical France and separate us from it perpetually, relatively resuscitated, after the informal 18th century, the ghosts of that point which, from Sainte-Beuve reader of Pascal to Barthes reader of La vie de Rancé, by way of Debord reader of Cardinal de Retz, maintain coming again to hang-out, as probably the most stunning curse, the alleged lightness of our character.