Thursday, 18 May 2017

Exciting New Addition: Corrected manuscript of collaborative Symbolist short story!

Paul & Victor Margueritte, Célibitaires (Bachelors). Undated, c.1895–1918. Corrected handwritten Manuscript, processed and marked by publisher and printer.

The history of the avant-garde is rife with pairs and sets of siblings: the Jancos, the Duchamps, the Hendricks, the Hugos, the Goncourts, the Mussets, the Argüelles, the Devérias, the Borels, the Deschamps, and many more. While in many cases siblings collaborated in collective movements, they tended to do so mainly through distinct bodies of work. In the avant-garde community of the late 19th Century however, some siblings began to develop intensely collaborative writing process that explored and built upon the filial bond and their instinctive shared understandings, operating as a single intellectual unit and crafting corpi in which their individual influences were indistinguishable; these processes were later taken up by practitioners within and without the avant-garde such as the Brothers Quay, the Cohen Brothers, and Gilbert & George. The most influential of these literary brothers were the Goncourts and the Marguerittes.
The Marguerite brothers were born in Algeria in 1860 (Paul) and 1866 (Victor), the sons of a French military colonial official; each started publishing at the age of 23. Initially joining the Naturalist movement, Paul broke with Zola in 1887. The brothers began collaborating regularly around 1895, making their name with a series of Naturalist military novels about the Franco-Prussian war (in which their father, who served with distinction and died in combat, appears as a main character) and going on to produce plays and childrens' books in collaboration. They were involved with less mainstream political ideas including Feminism and moderate Socialism. Both wrote prose poetry and drama in the Parnassian and Symbolist traditions, focusing on experimental engagement with the Pierrot cycle, pantomime, and charades (one prose-poem by Paul Margueritte is translated in Merrill's Pastels in Prose anthology in this archive).

As of this cataloguing, I have only begun the process of transcribing and translating the story; this description will be updated when it is complete. The story seems to deal with the laws and culture surrounding marriage, divorce, and the "New Woman," a topic on which the brothers (especially Victor) often wrote both fiction and polemic essays. It is dedicated to Edme Piot, a leftist legislator involved with these issues, though detailed information on him is sketchy. (Page LIII of the introduction to THIS 1921 book attacking the 'Police des moers" (loosely translated "the Morality Police") mentions both Piot and Margueritte in this connection–Piot quoted near the top on the law of patrimonial succession, Margueritte cited at the bottom for his work as an 'historian of manners' dealing with the institution of divorce.
Transcribing and translating the story will be a gradual process and awaits several current translation projects' completion; but here are tentative transcriptions and translations of the first page and final paragraph of the story, to be expanded as the opportunity arises:
            À M. le sénateur [Piol].

    Eugénie [Pérusse], dans un flot d’employées, descendait un des étroits escaliers qui chaque soir, cinq heures sonnant à la grande horlage des [Ch???n] [d???r] [Réunis], degorgeaient une [c?ut????] de femmes, [empressais] de fuir leurs bureaux, de gagner la Rue. A mesure qu’elles descendaient, les mornes visages s’éclairaient, semblaient secouer le poids des habitudes, la fatigue de la journée. quelques unes [gardaient] à leurs traits tirés une pâleur jaune, un indélébite ennui.
    – Allons bon! il pleut! s’exclama une jolie [voix] grave, et pourtant gaie, où de la jeunesse résonnait encore.
    Eugénie [Pérusse] regarde son amie germaine; et sur ses joues [mates] où depuis longtemps la fleur du [sang] s’était fanée, [un] doux sourire admiratif [paria]:
    – on dirait que ça te fait plaisir! Rien ne t’en [nuie], toi!

[ . . . ]
    Alors, tout le poids de sa détresse lui retomba sur le coeur, et tandis que le wagon roulait dans les ténébres, au cinglement dela pluie qui s’écrasait aux vitres, elle se renfonça dans son coin, pleurant à chaudes larmes, éperdàment.
in English:
               To Monseur the Senator Piol

    Eugénie [Pérusse], among a flood of employees, descended one of the narrow stairways which each day, five hours on the dot to the huge timekeeper of [Ch???n] [?????] [Gathered], disgorged a ??????? of women, [was rushing] to flee their offices, to make it to the street. As they descended, the dismal faces lit up, seemed to shake off the burden of habit, the exhaustion of the journey. A few kept in their drawn features a yellow pallor, an indelible ennui.
    – Oh great! it’s raining! cried out a pretty voice, serious yet gleeful, in which youth still resounded.
    Eugénie [Pérusse] watched her best friend; and on her cheek [?????] where for a long time the bloom of [blood] had wilted, a soft admiring smile [spoke]:
    – you’d think this made you happy! Nothing [????] there, you!
[ . . . ]

    Then, the entire burden of her distress descended over her heart, and as the carriage tolled into the gloom, the rain’s whipping which crashed  at the windowpanes, she shoved herself into her corner, weeping her eyes out, in desperation.
Though no bibliographic record of it has been located, this document itself provides proof that the story was published. The manuscript offers detailed insight into the entire process of literary production: from composition, through collaborative revision, to the publisher, to the printer, to the typesetters.
We have here a first or interim draft, over-written in the revising process and then sent to the publisher as the official fair-copy. The revisions seem to be in the same hand as the draft, suggesting that the brothers composed together in the same room, as one of them transcribed, and that the revision process took place likewise. Instructions to the typesetters, such as the squiggled underscore to signify italics, were added. The fact that this corrected copy was sent to the publisher, rather than a fair-copy, might indicate that it was written for the periodical press, where deadlines were much shorter and less flexible, a hypothesis supported by the absence of the story from any known bibliography of the brothers' work.

The manuscript was then sent to the publisher, where (among other things) it was processed to determine how much type & page space would be required; this affected editing decisions, graphic design, typesetting instructions, budget, and payment of the authors. This story was to be printed in sextodecimo (each large sheet of paper folded and cut to produce sixteen finished pages). Blue pencil was used to designate approximately where each block of text would fall in order to produce sixteen pages, using the bibliographic shorthand for "sextodecimo", "16 mo." (Also used in the bibliographic entries for this archive) and each # "mo" building up to it. This was presumably used to determine page counts for editing, page design, and payment to the authors (usually determined in contract for books but often by the column or the word in periodicals).
Next, the marked-up manuscript was sent to the printing house, who trimmed off all of the margins, cut it apart, and carefully re-pasted it together, presumably to fit the stand at typesetting station. (see rear view below.) The newly-assembled pages were then re-numbered and transported to the work-floor, where the typesetter (likely a child, who often served as typesetters due to their smaller fingers) used it to manually lay out the type, probably in conjunction with a separate document specifying the layout and design of the printed page (typeface, point-size, margins, leading, etc.). After printing, the manuscript was returned to the publisher, after which it was archived–whether in the publisher's files, the editor's personal archive, or perhaps by the Marguerittes themselves; we lose the path of the manuscript between that time and its appearance on the market.
This manuscript thus bears the marks of the entire process of literary production–beginning with the personalised, imaginative act of literary composition aiming to critique and oppose mechanistic industrialized culture, and ending with the document's integration into that self-same industrialized system in order to be distributed. In this light, it is ironic to note the personalised flourish of the signature at the foot of the last page–representative of the individuality and subjectivity of the authors–jutted up against the scrawled mark of the printer, destined for mechanical reproduction, oblivious to the text's content, context, or intentions.

Transcribing and translating will be a gradual process due to my limited time, plethora of simultaneous projects, and slowness with French. I welcome help, and would publish a translation as a chapbook; if you would like higher-resolution scans, contact me at  

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