l’homme aux rats

Anarchist, Symbolist, insubordinate dreyfusard, man about town, Octave Mirbeau is an indispensable maître mineur of the Third Republic. His most popular work, Le Journal d’une femme de chambre, merited film treatment by the greatest Latin directors of all times, Luis Buñuel and Jean Renoir. His most scandalous novel remains unfilmable. In Le Jardin des supplices, which appeared in 1899, at the height of the Dreyfus Affair, Mirbeau targeted fear and hatred, the twin foundations of bourgeois society, in a narrative arc traversing the terrain of desire and disgust to culminate in a strange sexual obsession. And what about the rats?

amours de voyage

     cum suis vivat valeatque moechis,
quos simul complexa tenet trecentos,
nullum amans vere, sed identidem omnium
ilia rumpens;

nec meum respectet, ut ante, amorem,
qui illius culpa cecidit velut prati
ultimi flos, praetereunte postquam
tactus aratro est.

     Memoria teneo Milesiam quandam mulierem, cum essem in Asia, quod ab heredibus secundis accepta pecunia partum sibi ipsa medicamentis abegisset, rei capitalis esse damnatam; nec iniuria quae spem parentis, memoriam nominis, subsidium generis, heredem familiae, designatum rei publicae civem sustulisset.
I recall that, when I was in Asia, a certain Milesian woman was convicted of a capital crime, because she had brought on abortion by medicines, having been bribed to do so by the heirs next in line; and rightly so, inasmuch as she had abolished the hope of the father, the memory of his name, the supply of his race, the heir of his family, a prospective citizen of the republic.

 — for Rachel Yumei Wang    



City bustle. Fading light.
You’ll have company tonight.
At your service, all your men.
They will make you whole again.

Rig your hopes and tell you lies.
Bust a nut between your thighs. 
Fart and snore and pay no heed
While dreams dwindle and recede.

Others not so long ago
Lit you up and made you glow,
Nights fulfilled you, but the dawn
Found you wan and woebegone.

Lest your gloom ensued in spawn
Its conclusion got withdrawn:
Scrape the foetus from within,
Glom more solace for your skin.

City bustle. Fading light.
You will sleep alone tonight.
One good woman, no good men.
Love can’t make you whole again.

Amours de voyage I have allowed myself to call them, as distinguished from the love we may have for localities wherein our everyday lot is cast.”

— Vernon Lee, Genius Loci, 1898