Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ceaucescu in New York

 At the NY Romanian Film Festival the opening night film was "The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu". 3 hrs. All archive footage, without narrator, that was shot to serve as propaganda for the government, if it can be called that.. Riveting. Intelligent: so well constructed. Long, it felt like we had to suffer for the long years of his dictatorship.

Most heart wrenching moment: an old committee member - he must have learned he was suffering from a terminal disease which freed him of any desire to stay alive - challenges Ceausescu's changes to the Romanian constitution. The hundreds of members of the Congress are dumb with stupefaction for a short moment. Suspense. An opportunity for the whole Congress to rise and oppose Ceausescu. Sheep, they choose safety: they start heckling and booing the heroic old man.

Most delightful moment: the government's glitterati dancing in the huge palace dancehall to Sonny Curtis "I fought the law and the law won".

Interesting to see the quality of the images evolving, from a pristine black and white film to muddier color film to even muddier first video images. The government was documenting all events with a huge amount of media coverage.

Some of our Romanian friends expressed after the screening that they were surprised to discover Ceaucescu had a sense of humour, through some of the private scenes in the film.

Sad that his trial was as much as monkey trial as any in the Eastern block.

No conclusion. One more conclusionless entry.

Here's the link to the Romanian Film Festival: check it out if you're not - and all the more if you are - familiar with the Romanian Cinema New Wave.

Contributed by  - -  Arabella Hutter

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ed Schmidt's "My Last Play" in Brooklyn

Ed's announcement for "My Last Play"
Went to see Ed Schmidt's show last night: My Last Play. Here's what he says about it:

"After 32 years of playwriting, at the age of 48, I am walking away from the theater, and, in the process, giving away all of my 2000+ theater books. One book at a time. At the end of the performance, each audience member walks out with any book off my shelves. The run of the play will end when my bookshelves are bare."

I don't know many performers with as much gut as Ed. That's why I'm a fan. I can't do anything in front of an audience, I'm not even good at spilling for an audience of one. He's into taking a lot of risk, and that pays off.

Actors are usually protected from the audience by a set of conventions:  usually the actors, up on a stage, pretend to be other people, in a different place, with a different time frame.

Meanwhile Ed is in his home, plays himself, sees everyone, knows some of the audience personally,. He breaks the barriers in every possible way. And he manages to be poignant and touching and all sorts of emotions which are so hard to bring about, and make good theater.

I was still mulling over the show later that night, my thoughts distracting me from reading Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, which I think is highly complimentary to Ed.

I often love or hate stuff, not a lot of in between, not a lot of grey area. I'll grant that. Some of Ed's tone is a bit unctuous, his language could be simpler, more direct. I'm writing this, to show I'm not on payroll.

As a reminder, this is not a review: I've become deeply suspicious of criticism. No introduction no conclusion. As Ed deconstructs theater I deconstruct the review.

But I'm managing to get this entry out before the review in the New York Times, which tickles pleasantly.

John and I each left clasping one of Ed's books, stamped "My Last Play": The Marriage by Gobromowicz and Collected Plays of Beckett. We'll keep them preciously. Unless their value goes up irresistibly.

I forgot to take a pic.

Contributed by  - -  Arabella Hutter

Friday, November 19, 2010

Talk about transparency

“I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that
Lord Macaulay
I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation”. - Lord McCauley in his speech of Feb 2, 1835, British Parliament.

What I find extraordinary in the passage, and paradoxical, is Macaulay's respect for Indian civilization. His reaction is far from the typical European 19th century paternalism towards other cultures. His response: crush it. Well, nice try, but I don't think you succeeded, mylord.

Below's Animesh Rai's nuanced approach to the subject of English impact in India, as a comment to the passage by Macaulay. From his book "The Legacy of French Rule in India", p.145:

"The current Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in an acceptance speech at his alma mater, Cambridge University, very aptly stated that English in India was seen as just another Indian language.[1] While not entirely condoning the impact of British colonialism, he admitted that one of the beneficial aspects of the British Raj was Indians’ accessibility to English language and literature even though the English spoken in India may not be recognized by the former British colonizers as it is an indigenized version of the language. He also stated that many other countries in the world had also adapted English to their milieu. In an article analyzing Manmohan Singh’s speech, N.S. Jagannathan states that Macaulay is not well perceived among patriotic Indians due to his ill-informed denigration of Indians’ literary and intellectual heritage. However, Jagannathan admits that Macaulay was instrumental in inducting English into the educational apparatus of Indians as much as he was in the codification of civil and criminal law and the law of evidence."

[1] “Carry on Doctor Singh” by N.S. Jagannathan, The New Sunday Express Magazine (The New Indian Express), August 7, 2005, p. II.

Contributed by  - -  Arabella Hutter & Animesh Rai

Friday, November 12, 2010

"From Chaos to Classicism", and back?

Judgment of Paris, Ivo Saliger, Nazi painter
It's incredible what a difference good curation will do. Is that what it's called, curation? Of course, I've been aware of this fact before, as in the exhibition "Les magiciens de la terre" at the Centre Pompidou, many years ago, which juxtaposed in the same space works by contemporary occidental artists - "Modern Art", with that of non occidental artists - "Indigenous Art". And demonstrated brilliantly that it's one and the same thing.
(The images are not from the exhibition, except for the painting by Balthus)

Testa - Mario Sironi
From Chaos to Classicism is deeply troubling. Here the juxtaposition of works by mainstream 20th century artists with fascistic works is very upsetting. Some of the latter are herrendous, almost laughable (check Paris in Brown Shirt outfit above), badly executed, clearly expressing an extreme political position endossing supremacy, submission, intolerance and other fascist values. These are not too upsetting, and have the advantage of reminding us that we have to be on alert, to look out and fight the resurgence of political movements which promote all or some of these values. Other works are more upsetting. For example those of artists (that's what they're called too, right?) who worked for fascism, in particular for Mussolini who supported some forms of art at the beginning of his government. Some of them are quite beautiful. The artist Mario Sironi was a cofounder of the Italian futurist movement who went on to promote fascism. Are his paintings acceptable before he joined the fascist movement? What about after? Should they be shown? And what about the works which are fullblown nazi and clearly horrible pieces of art, should they be preserved for posterity, as they have been in various museums? 

La famiglia - Mario Sironi

Mother and Child - Picasso
The other upsetting works were those of the artists we have learned to celebrate such as Picasso, De Chirico, Balthus. Their paintings were sometimes very close to clearly fascist works, showing how a movement can be born and influence even the more progressive part of society, and its creators. That also rings as a warning in these days and times of various brands of fundamentalism.

Street - Balthus

Sunday, November 7, 2010

James Thierrée and/is Raoul

My son is taught in his school how to write an essay: an introduction, a meatier middle with details and quotes, a conclusion. Thankfully this is a blog entry where everything is permissible. In no particular order but my fancy:

To me -
Raoul is James Thierrée's best show so far at BAM. By far.

His previous shows were esthetic, and had magic, but were not always buoyant with meaning. The form he has developed does come from circus which resolutely skirts any depth to provide weightless entertainment. And there's something to be said for that. Thierrée's new show manages to retain the acrobatics and antics of the circus and combine them with the expressivity of theater.

In Raoul, Thierrée dwells on the human condition. There's not much of a story, no linear narrative. As in life. At times, he waits for something to happen. We wait too. We wait together. Then nothing much happens.

An aspect of our human condition is control, which is a subject that I have been interested in, along with certainty, nostalgia, romanticism. Control of the body, control of the environment. His body gets out of control, whether his legs start running the other way, or his heart moves up and down his body. The joke is that as a performer, his control of movement is astounding. The loss of control of the environment is the base for many a circus jokes. He takes it further. The environment is entitled to escape human control. It subverts human narcissism.

The pure joy of James Thierrée expressing himself with an orchestra playing out of his mouth.

The pure joy of James Thierrée becoming double onstage under our very own eyes. He was one, then he's two. Trickster.

He gets away with doing the ultra cliché slo mo miming. I was astounded, I would have thought that was an impossibility. The beautiful, abstracted movements fit into the whole mood of the piece.

James Thierrée seems to make references to some of his grandfather's iconic movements, without becoming referential. A delight. Charlie Chaplin was a master when it came to not being in control.

In the end his humility, his utter commitment as a performer, his imagination, his lightness of body and soul is incredibly touching. The audience was rapt. James Thierrée gave a last dance of joy, the joy of being appreciated by its audience as the applause went on and on.

About imagery but not a conclusion to entry, see note about not a school essay:
The imagery Thierrée favors is popular with many creators, mainly European. Dust. Red velvet. Old toys, including mechanical birds. Mechanical anything for that matter. long skinny shapes, made out of metal. Spider webs. Derelict rooms. Moth eaten lace. Morbid. Quaint. Spooky. Feels a lot like grandma's attic, associated with the emotions a child might feel there: curiosity, fear, tenderness, loneliness. Plastic, modern technology, bright colors are proscribed. It gets a bit repetitive, as a vocabulary, something that would appeal to teenagers because it's easy and flattering.

Delicatessen, the film by Jeunot

A still from a film by the Quay brothers
Still from a Jan Svanmakjer film

A still from  a film by Jan Svankmajer
The Quay brothers

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Animesh Rai muses as he reads Glissant

From Animesh Rai, who has written entries previously on this blog, about the French presence in India, creolization and Glissant of course, here are his thoughts as he further studies this great writer philosopher.

In my current situation, my reading and re-reading of Glissant, in particular some of his theoretical essays in their original French versions such as Le Discours Antillais, Poétique de la Relation and Faulkner, Mississippi makes me feel like someone solving a gigantic jigsaw puzzle: bit by bit, things seem to fall into place.  Referring to my previous entry regarding
Work of Victor Anicet, artist from Martinique
Glissant on this blog, these readings are enabling me to simultaneously synthesize my earlier interactions with him, my thesis work and an overwhelming urge to understand the bearing and implications of his theories on the world stage.  While trying to take a full measure of it however partial it may be, I am struck at the same time by an exhilaration at the beauty of the writing which is not just elegantly poetic but analytic as well as synthetic in terms of the illuminating comprehension which it provides and perhaps as importantly, if not more, of the incisive questions which it raises and by a certain overpowering dizziness or giddiness best summarized by the word vertige in French. The result is an ensuing combination of sheer joy as well as exhaustion for Glissant will not yield himself without a considerable amount of intellectual as well as imaginative effort on the part of the reader.

Contributed by Animesh Rai
Published by Arabella Hutter

For more contributions from Animesh Rai, go to:

Friday, October 29, 2010

De la part du MCUR/From the MCUR

This blog has become invested in the support of the MCUR, as an institution which promotes the meeting of cultures as well as the preservation of various cultural heritages. Here is an announcement from its organizers for an event more than appropriate on this All Saints Day:

Ce blog s'intéresse au sort du MCUR, puisqu'il s'agit d'une institution dont un des buts est de favoriser les rencontres et échanges entre cultures. Voici un communiqué de ses organisateurs à propos d'une cérémonie plus qu'appropriée pour la Toussaint:

( Recherche - Culture - Action)
Madam, Mésié,
Lo groupaz MCUR-CRA organiz lo 31 oktob 2010 in lomaz pou nout bann  zansèt lé mor san tonm. Lo sérénomi va espass dann simetièr « Père Lafosse Saint-Louis ». 9èr édmi apartir ziska midi.
Bann moune group « interreligieux » va di in fonnkèr, rant in lartis va shant in morso.
2ème lané La MCUR-CRA i mèt an plas sérémoni la mémoir-la.
Nou atann aou pou vni tienbo ek nou, invit out lantouraz.
In gran mersi aou pou out dalonaz.
Madame, Monsieur,

L’Association MCUR-CRA organise le 31 octobre 2010 une cérémonie en hommage à nos ancêtres morts sans sépulture. La cérémonie se déroulera de 9h30 à 12 heures dans le cimetière du Père Lafosse à Saint-Louis. Vous êtes invité à participer à cette cérémonie, et à y faire participer vos amis, vos relations, vos collègues.

                                       Le Président,
Jean-Claude Carpanin Marimoutou

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mystery of the non identical, in fact non fraternal twins at BAM

I mentioned in the previous blog entry about Deerhouse ( catching eye of two remarkable young men at BAM after the show. And wondering whether they were part of the show. I found them! They're called Andrew and Andrew, they're an act, and here they are, giving a much more tolerant review of Persephone, at BAM.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Polite? Persephone

I respect the efforts of creative people. It's hard to come up with something new and put it out there. It takes a lot of work and perseverance. Therefore I am not going to expand too much on the new show "Persephone" at BAM, out of kindness.

When I went to see Deerhouse a few weeks back, I came back with a well of questions about art and shows. What is nonsense? Is there good faith in art? What's a review? What is certainty?

Last night at BAM no questions  came swirling in my mind. Apart from: how many more seconds do we give this show to prove that it has a tiny spark of intelligence before we walk out? A minute nugget of meaning?

Uh. The projections were rather pretty.

The deconstruction of the play with actors and director seen behind the scenes is heavy handed. One of Julia Stiles' first line is:" the audience's going to think it's stupid. This is Brooklyn." Well, if the actors start reviewing the play in the first 2 minutes of the show...

I'll try to stay positive. Some of the acting in Persephone was bearable. The costumes were really quite pretty. A column near where we sat would hide Demeter from view from time to time.

If I covered my ears with my hands, the sound was less loud, the music less bland.

Below is a link to two people, the writer and composer, trying to make a convincing case the show has a meaning. Actually Ben Neil doesn't seem so sure, but is putting on a brave front.

There is one puzzling question: how does such a show make it to BAM? It must be some kind of machinery that, once it gets going, can not be stopped: the show gets a famous actress. The writer has gotten recognition in the past. The show gets financial backing. The show takes a lot of effort to put together. And finally, as what might seem a necessary last stage, is shown and seen. It is unfortunate that no one had the wisdom to stop this production at any of its various stages.

The NY Times reviewer is trying to be even more polite that I have been:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Back and forth between cultures

The trend this blog has taken toward multiculturalism delights me. I feel it has happened by itself, thanks to contributions and influences from various people such as Animesh Rai, Astou Arnould, M. Gobalakichenane, Dominique Aupiais, and of course, Edouard Glissant.

Here are just a few photographs from an exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, entitled Picturing The West: Yokohama Prints 1859-1870. It was forbidden for Japanese to travel outside Japan and the country was virtually closed to foreigners. In the mid19th century, trade was open with the West, and Westerners started traveling to Japan. Prints were in demand, picturing Westerners, as the Japanese were curious to find out what they were like. Some of the artists didn't actually see the foreigners, but inspired themselves from prints or from hearsay. An example of two cultures meeting and their cross fertilization. In the West the influence of many painters such as Van Gogh and Matisse by Asian art, and particularly Japanese print, is well known. It's interesting to see the reverse, and, as often in this situation, how people can project their fantasies onto the unknown other. I don't know how many American women from the Victorian era would have recognized themselves in the amazon galloping on a fierce horse through the snow, but what a beautiful image of wild femininity! It is in fact astounding to see how the image resembles Art Déco which would flourish decades later. Ironically as the influence from Asian art defined to some extent this early 20th century art movement, the Japanese touch in this depiction of a Western woman produced an Art Déco image before that movement existed.

An American Lady
American women were often portrayed with this head crown which
might have been inspired by native American head dress.

The images below show European prints which are not part of the Philadelphia Museum exhibit, just to show the interesting parallel between a Japanese print with Western influence, and European prints with Japanese influence. 


An English couple

A Russian couple

A French couple - with a bottle!

An American city


This blog offers more images and more information about this period:

Contributed by  - -  Arabella Hutter

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Secret of the Mysterious False Twins

Went to see the Deer House at BAM.
Will not expand on this much.  The reviews have not been good in Europe and BAM was practically paying people to see the show. Have never had seating that good for such a low price! Nonetheless I was intrigued by the show. By its mix of tones, something I have become very interested in. While I watched the show, many questions swirled in my head, and to that extent the show was successful if art is also about getting one out comfort zone. What is tone? What is nonsense (the show veered in that direction)? What is fraudulent (also in that direction)? What is a critic and a review? "The show was this and not that, it was successful in this and failed in that." Assertions. Certainty. The more I go the more uncertain I get. It takes more confidence - maybe - sometimes - to admit uncertainty than to bang on the table to assert opinions.

After the show two guys were ferreting around the lobby. Look: 50's dork. They had exactly the same jeans jacket with a label on the back, the same hair cut (see illustration), same docker jeans, same leather bags, same glasses with thick upper frame, known in England as National Health as they were the only model offered free to patients for several decades. Their faces looked the same. I had to look twice to ascertain they were not twins. One was taller. Brothers? Lovers? Performers? One of them would be a geek, two is a performance or a statement. Anybody knows them, please let me know ASAP. Because the show had been chaotic and sent me into a cycle of questioning and confusion, I wasn't sure if they were real. But I was hugely amused. Then a guy from the bus service to Manhattan (you will be wheezed from Manhattan to BAM and back without setting foot in Brooklyn practically! Smoked windows allows you to ignore ugly reality out there!) leaned in my direction and said loudly : "What a smile!". He was also part of the show? Was I? Was Brooklyn?

Contributed by  - -  Arabella Hutter  - -

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rencontres Afriqua Paris

Astou Arnould nous communique le programme remarquable d'octobre des Rencontres Afriqua Paris. Je ne sais pas si je pourrai faire un saut par dessus de l'Atlantique et y assister, mais j'en ai bien envie...

Publié par  - -  Arabella Hutter

Friday, October 8, 2010

Des précisions sur le manuscrit d'Anandaragappillai/Precisions on the origins of Anandarangappillai

Mr Gobalakichenane contributes below precisions about the Anandarangappillai, as well as the English translation of page 59. Mr. Gobalakichenane grew up in Pondicherry and studied at University in France. After graduating as an engineer in 1963, he taught physics in South Vietnam. During that period he started to get passionately interested in Tamilnadu history, and later in Buddhism in South India. He worked from 1968 to 1998 as a computer engineer, while he explored further his area of interest, contributing articles and readings. He is credited for discovering Tamil Viranaiker's manuscript at the Bibliothéque Nationale. He's also president of the association Cercle Culturel des Pondichériens ( At the end of this entry, you will find his complete bio.

Monsieur Gobalakichenane nous envoie des précisions sur le manuscrit d'Anandarangappillai ainsi que la traduction en anglais de la page 59. M. Gobalakichenane a grandi à Pondichéry et étudié à l'université en France. Après être devenu ingénieur en 1963, il a enseigné la physique au Sud Vietnam qui, sous occupation française, se nommait encore Indochine. C'est pendant cette période qu'il a commencé à se passioner pour l'histoire tamoulnadu, et plus tard pour le bouddhisme dans le Sud de l'Inde. Il a travaillé de 1968 à 1998 comme ingénieur informatique, tout en continuant à étendre ses connaissances et contribuant articles et conférences à son sujet de prédilection. Il découvre les mansuscrits en tamoul de Viranaiker à la Bibliothèque Nationale. Il est aussi président de l'association Cercle Culturel des Pondichériens ( trouverez à la fin de cette issue sa bio complète.

"In fact, Gallois Montbrun and Edouard Ariel (1818-1854) made copies from the original by tamil writers; Gallois Montbrun's has been recopied by the British in the end of 19th c. which was used for the English translation by Fr.Price helped by Rangachari, published in Madras from 1904 onwards –the first 3 volumes, the following nine others by H.Dodwell later. I asked to make a microfilm copy for Pondicherry which is now in IFP library. Gallois Montbrun's copy has been lost in Pondicherry in about 1916 while the original Diary has never been recovered afterward!  But after the demise in Pondicherry, at the age of 36, of E.Ariel who spent there his last 10 years (1844-1854), his copies have been brought to Paris and now preserved in Bibliothèque Nationale François Mitterrand; so, the handwriting of the facsimile is the writer's one and not Anandarangappillai's. But, in few other documents, we find the latter's signature in Tamil), and how beautiful the original is.
Note: These explanations and other details have been published elsewhere by me some twenty years ago.

En fait, Gallois Montbrun et Edouard Ariel (1818-1854) levèrent des copies de l'original par des copistes rémunérés; la copie de Gallois Montbrun a été recopiée par les Britanniques à la fin du 19ème s., ce qui a permis sa traduction en Anglais et sa publication en 1904 à Madras par Fr.Price aidé de Rangachari – en ce qui concerne les premiers 3 vol., les autres l'ayant été par H.Dodwell plus tard. J'ai fait faire une copie en microfilm pour Pondichéry qui se trouve maintenant à la bibliothèque de l'IFP. La copie de Gallois-Montbrun fut perdue, alors que le Journal original ne fut jamais retrouvé! Mais, après le décès en 1854 à Pondichéry, à l'âge de 36 ans, de E. Ariel qui y passa  ses dernières dix années, ses copies furent rapportées à Paris et conservées à la Bibliothèque Nationale François Mitterrand: l'écriture en facsimile est donc celle du copiste et non celle d'Anandarangappillai. Cependant, dans quelques autres documents, on trouve sa signature en tamoul.

Note: Ces explications et d'autres détails ont été publiés ailleurs par moi il y a une vingtaine d'années.

Translation in English of the page 59:

(Year) Angirasa (Month) Vaiyâssi 30 (Day) Guruvâram – June 8th 1752 (Thursday)

Today I didn't go neither to see the Governor because of intestinal problems.

I heard today that the last inimical relations between the Tanjoreans and our Governor have gone down a little.

News came that Chandâ Sâhib who was in Seringapatam had sent all men and was staying with ten 'kisumdar'. I heard also that only Gundo Pandit refused to go and stayed there.

It was said also that, among Mr. Law and Sheick Hussein men, those wounded and dead together with those European and sepoys joining the enemy could number about 2 or 3 thousand. Moreover, rice, curd, ghee, salt were hard to find and the little available  was acquired at very high rupees  price. It was said also that d'Auteuil and few sepoys were  in Vâlikondâpuram and Ranjankadai and that cavalry men and 'jamedars' went away because they had not been  paid.

(From H.Dodwell's edition, Vol.8, p. 105)
Thursday, June 8, - (the passages given above in italics are examples of those contained in the E.Ariel's tamil copy of Paris but not given in the English translation set of 12 volumes published in Madras)
There is news of Chandâ Sâhib's writing to the Governor, that M. Law has gone over to Muhammad'Alî Khân and the English, and ruined everything. The Europeans, Muhammadans and Tamils are all saying that they have the same news from the officers who have quarrelled with M. Law. "

Retired IT Engineer, Historian (Second half of XVIIIth c. History of South India and Indian Ocean)
Up to 1958 - French College, Pondicherry 
1958-1963 - University of Paris and Grenoble (degree in Maths and Physics, Telecoms Engineer), France  
1964-1968 - Physics Professor in Dalat and Saigon (South-Vietnam)
After extensive travels in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia, great interest in Tamilnadu History (including Later Buddhism in Tamilnadu and South India)
1968-1998 - Computer Engineer in the Netherlands and France
            As result of long time field research in Tamilnadu (during summer vacations, since 1968) and analytical study of selected manuscripts in Oriental and Western Manuscripts Dept, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris :
1986-87 Discovery of Tamil Viranaiker's Diary Manuscripts in Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris 
1987  6th International Conference-Seminar of Tamil Studies, Kuala Lumpur, two papers read :
            - Latin Character-Tamil Character Bilingual Text Processing (ISO2022 standard coding) on PC 
            - Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions in Tamilnadu
1989  7th International Conference-Seminar of Tamil Studies, Mauritius:
- Viranaiker II historian 
1989  9th IABS Conference, Taipeh, two papers read:
- Arittapatti Tamil-Brahmi Inscription
- Buddhism in Tamilnadu
1991  10th IABS Conference, Paris (UNESCO):
- Buddhism in Pondicherry region
1992  Publication of Irandaam Viranaiker's Diary (1778-1792), in Tamil
1992-1995 - Contacts with History Dept, University of Pondicherry and French Institute of Pondicherry for a critical edition of Anandarangappillai's Diary in Tamil (several passages remaining unpublished).
1997            M.Phil. History, University of Nantes, France
1997 35th ICANAS, Budapest:
- The 'French Revolution' of the Tamils in Pondicherry 1790-1793
1999-2000 Health problems which compelled, after 2 years research, to discontinue the Ph.D. thesis on
            - The Turmoil of the French in the second half of XVIIIth c. in South India (1761-1799) 
2000 Société Asiatique, Paris:
- The French account of Siege of Pondicherry of 1778 and its author    

2002 17th European Conference of Modern South Asian Studies, Heidelberg:

- The Diaries of Anandarangappillai, of Viranaiker II and of their followers: Their Contribution to 18th c. South Indian History.

After full retirement, critical editions: 
2004  Publication of Anandarangappillai V-Diary Prajothpathi Year (1751-1752), in Tamil (Mss. of BNF Paris)
2005  Publication of Anandarangappillai V-Diary Angirasa Year (1752-1753), in Tamil (Mss. of BNF Paris)
2005  Société Asiatique: The Sapiential literature in Tamil and Edouard Ariel's contribution    
2008  Publication of The Origin of the Nattukkottaiyars and their Communal Practices, (based on a Mss. of BNF, Paris) 
2008  Publication of Anandarangappillai V-Diary Srimuga Year (1753-1754), in Tamil (Mss. of BNF Paris)
Ongoing : Anandarangappillai V-Diary Bhava Year (1754-1755) publication works
   and other historical research papers

Friday, September 24, 2010

More about Wiles, from Animesh Rai

Following our publishing of the entry in Tamil of the Pondicherrian diary, and the mention of William Miles work, below is a passage from Animesh Rai's classic study. The question of identify within multiple cultures is a riveting subject. In our contemporary world which has been crisscrossed by mass emigration on all its continents, many human beings, possibly the majority, identify with more than one culture. African Americans in the US, Arabs in France, Caucasians in South Africa, Turks in Germany, the list is endless. We welcome comments and contributions from all, and in particular from ... Pondicherrians!

"William Miles, in his book, Imperial Burdens, has spoken about the notions of “legitimacy and psychology” with reference to the Franco-Pondicherrians in Pondicherry.[1] He argues that they lack political legitimacy and that they are economically and psychologically dependent on France due to the severance of their links with India. Even though they are financially well off due to their pensions which they receive in European currency, the French state in reality is very reluctant to continue paying them these pensions. He also points out that they lack a proper homeland. While they are juridically a part of France, they do not belong culturally there and it is the reverse situation for them inIndia. My own assessment of the situation on the ground led me to conclude that present day Pondicherry lacks a certain sense of legitimacy. Ironically, for me, this lack of legitimacy came from the departure of the Franco-Pondicherrians and I can only repeat the phrase, “Les Pondichériens sont tous partis” (which translates as“Pondicherrians have all left”) which I heard from some people during my field trips there. There is certainly a sense of legitimacy which comes from being legally part of India. In that sense, the present day Pondicherrians are legitimate. But so rampant is the perception that Pondicherry is now constituted of migrants from other parts of Tamil Nadu as well as from other parts of India that I viewed these people as being, in a sense, the false proprietors of Pondicherry. "

[1] William Miles, Imperial Burdens, p. 172.

From: "The Legacy of French Rule in India (1674-1954): an Investigation of a Process of Creolization."
Animesh Rai, IFP - Publications Hors série n° 8, French Institute of Pondicherry / Henri Peyre French Institute of CUNY, 2008, viii, 251 p. Language: English. Rs 500 (18 €) ISBN: 978-81-8470-167-8.

For orders/enquiries, contact: 
French Institute of Pondicherry
11, St. Louis Street, P.B. 33, Pondicherry-605 001, INDIA
Phone: (91)-413-2334168. Fax:(91)-413-2339534

Published by  - -  Arabella Hutter

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pillai in Tamil!/Pillai en tamil!

I had hoped to publish here an extract of Anandarangaillai's diary in its original language, Tamil. Thanks to the generosity of M.Gobalakichenane, a researcher residing in France and a native from Pondicherry, it's done. I am thrilled that he also contributed a scan of the manuscript which is located at the National Library François Mitterrand (shouldn't it be in India?). Very touching to see the manuscript in the beautiful Tamil script. For more precision about the manuscript, check blog entry for October 7, 2010.

J'espérais publier ici un extrait de l'extraordinaire journal d'Anadarangappillai dans sa langue originale. Grâce à la générosité de M. Gobalakichenane, un chercheur résident en France originaire justement de Pondichéry, c'est chose faite! Je suis absolument ravie qu'il ait aussi contribué un scan du manuscrit lequel est préservé à la Bibliothèque Nationale François Mitterrand (serait-il mieux à sa place en Inde?). Touchant d'avoir sous les yeux le manuscrit dans cette magnifique écriture tamoul. Pour plus de précisions sur le manuscrit, référez-vous à l'issue de ce blog du 7 octobre 2010.

You will find below:

- one page of the Tamil manuscript dated June 8th 1752;
- the corresponding one in Gobalakichenane's Tamil publication (in italics the paragraphs hitherto unpublished);
- and the cover illustration of that publication 'Anandarangappillai V-Natkurippu Angirasa andu (1752-1753)', 2005, which shows the portrait of the famous diarist.

-une page du manuscrit en tamil datant du 8 juin 1752;
- la page correspondante dans la publication en tamil de Gobalakichenane (les paragraphes non encore publiés sont en italique);
- et l'illustration de la couverture de la publication 'Anandarangappillai V-Natkurippu Angirasa andu (1752-1753)', 2005, montrant le portrait du fameux courtier.
- la traduction en anglais

Translation in English of the page 59:

(Year) Angirasa (Month) Vaiyâssi 30 (Day) Guruvâram – June 8th 1752 (Thursday)

Today I didn't go neither to see the Governor because of intestinal problems.

I heard today that the last inimical relations between the Tanjoreans and our Governor have gone down a little.

News came that Chandâ Sâhib who was in Seringapatam had sent all men and was staying with ten 'kisumdar'. I heard also that only Gundo Pandit refused to go and stayed there.

It was said also that, among Mr.Law and Sheick Hussein men, those wounded and dead together with those European and sepoys joining the enemy could number about 2 or 3 thousand. Moreover, rice, curd, ghee, salt were hard to find and the little available  was acquired at very high rupees  price. It was said also that d'Auteuil and few sepoys were  in Vâlikondâpuram and Ranjankadai and that cavalry men and 'jamedars' went away because they had not been  paid.

(From H.Dodwell's edition, Vol.8, p. 105)
Thursday, June 8, - (the passages given above in italics are examples of those contained in the E.Ariel's tamil copy of Paris but not given in the English translation set of 12 volumes published in Madras)
There is news of Chandâ Sâhib's writing to the Governor, that M.Law has gone over to Muhammad'Alî Khân and the E,glish, and ruined everything. The Europeans, Muhammadans and Tamils are all saying that they have the same news from the officers who have quarrelled with M.Law.


Once more I recommend reading the diary to anyone interested in the effect of different cultures meeting (Edouard Glissant!), and in history in general. This vivid account is a window on the day to day life in the colony of Pondicherry in the 18th Century, as well as the relationship between the French and the indigenous population. Below is the link to the Columbia University's extracts in English.

Je recommande vivement la lecture de ce journal à tous ceux qui s'intéressent à l'interaction de diverses cultures (Edouard Glissant!) et à l'histoire en général. Ce texte est très vivant et donne une impression unique des rapports entre Français et autochtones à Pondichéry, ainsi que la vie quotidienne dans cette colonnie. Ci-dessous le lien de référence pour la version française, plus autres liens se référant au sujet de Pondichéry.

M. Gobalakichenane also recommends the following book on this subject/M. Gobalakichenane recommande aussi le livre suivant qui traite de ce sujet: William F.S.Miles 'Imperial Burdens: Counter Colonialism in Former French India'

More links related to this subject:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Not a travelogue

I had decided not to write a travelogue. But. First day in Istanbul. The men on the streets, vendors, strollers, with their sunken faces. Standing still, pensive, with a resigned expression of wonderment. The myriads of women, colorful, pretty, their attire in every degree of muslim dress code: burkhas, chadors, tank tops. Their fairy tale set: the city, with its minarets and islands raising out of the haze, old rickety wooden buildings with surprising majesty.

At sunset we take the 30 min boat ride back to Kadikoy where we're staying. On the horizon we see the other sections: Galata, Besiktas, Üsküdar. As in every new city I visit, I look for the center. Here it's right in the middle of the Bosphorus. Not the sweet gentle Mediterranean that licks the coasts of Marseilles or Barcelona. A rough sea that's throbbing with strong, unseen currents.

We exit the boat terminal in Kadikoy with a crowd of commuters. A bang. Like a shot. I look around to see which street stand balloon has exploded. People start running. Right at the entrance of the terminal hall a man is holding up a gun, he takes a shot at a young woman. I run, following my sister and our children, behind a shack.

The woman is dressed in silk clothes: white pants, a black shirt and a black and white head cover. She's slight and thin. Same built as most Turks, making them light on the lightning fast horses that swept through Europe many centuries ago. He's of the same build. They both have beautiful, miniature-like heads and features. He's wearing an impeccable silver suit which opens on his white shirt as he shoots. She's begging him, with gentle cries. He keeps on shooting, toward her legs. Unbelievably, she's unhurt. It's unreal. I'm terrified she's going to get killed. She falls to her knees and raises her square handbag, its patent leather shining like a talisman between her and the man's gun. At last she's clearly hurt, in her lower body or her legs. She screams as she collapses. The man comes away toward the esplanade. He raises both his arms up, as in triumph, holding the gun by its barrel. Men in the crowd run from behind him, masking her from view, and rush him to the floor.
I hurry to the children. My niece is in tears. My son upset. I run to my husband who is approaching after going for information, I whisper:
   -  If she died don't tell the kids.
   -  She'll be fine.
Our daughter is missing. I look for her, she's on the other side of the shack. She's got a blank expression on her face. Just like my face. Some people near us, older ladies, laugh. A young woman, sitting on a wedge, is shaking with sobs. I feel nothing. Except for the insane beauty of the scene. It looked like a film shot from my point of view. The man and the woman exactly positioned for best viewing. They were both so elegant. Even the gun, unlike American series' fat species, was long and stylish. It seems such an inadequate reaction. Grasping it as an esthetic tableau instead of a tragedy.

Not one cellphone held up in the air to record the act. I certainly didn't use mine.

We gather, trying to comfort the children. Later we talk of what happened. I still feel uneasy about my reaction, was  I just so relieved she was not killed? My sister says she saw a man carrying away the young woman in his arms. She had four red circles on her silky pants. My husband adds the gun probably jammed at first, he fears the man who took her away might have been a relative from the revenging family. We agree the gunman had it all planned, his best suit, his giving himself up, every move codified. I tell my sister that the man didn't really seem to want to kill the young woman. She didn't see any of it:
   -  I ran, I didn't want to see it. But you came behind the shack with us, how come you saw it all?

That's right, how come I saw it all? And I remember. I had forgotten I ran back, and I screamed and screamed stop stop stop stop. And I forced out my loud whistle between my fingers which so impresses my children. Futile. Looked around for something to throw at the man. I'm too far. I'm scared to go closer. It all happened so fast. A short few seconds in which to balance how much I will risk for another human being, how safe I want to stay, and act.

Published by  - -  Arabella Hutter

Monday, July 26, 2010

La nostalgie, une maladie suisse?

J'ai parlé plus tôt de la nostalgie, telle que l'analyse Isaiah Berlin, et je mentionnais que j'en suis une victime. Serait-ce parce que j'ai grandi en Suisse? Le terme nostalgie a été inventé au XVIIème siècle par un médecin suisse, Johannes Hoffer, qui introduisit le terme dans la thèse qu'il présenta à Bâle en 1688. Il avait composé ce mot à partir de racines grecques, algie douleur, et nost- le retour, pour le faire mieux accepter en tant qu'affection médicale par la communauté scientifique. Bien qu'adoptée par le corps médical, cette notion devient particulièrement importante au XIXème siècle, en parallèle avec le romantisme. Kant en traite déjà, intéressant, puisque Berlin rattache la pensée de Kant à la naissance du romantisme:

"Les Suisses ainsi que les Westphaliens et les Poméraniens de certaines régions, à ce que m'a raconté un général expérimenté, sont saisis du mal du pays, surtout quand on les transplante dans d'autres contrées; c'est par le retour des images de l'insouciance et de la vie de bon voisinage, du temps de leur jeunesse, l'effet de la nostalgie pour les lieux où ils ont connu les joies de l'existence." Kant

Cette maladie est beaucoup étudiée par les médecins militaire au XIXème. En particulier dans l'armée de Napoléon. Les médecins trouvaient ce mal particulièrement mystérieux chez les soldats suisses. Ces hommes venaient de contrées jugées ingrates, pleines de montagnes et de précipices, qu'il semblait extraordinaire de pouvoir regretter. Les soldats qui souffraient de cette affection en mouraient fréquemment. Etonnant, de nos jours, où la nostalgie ne semble plus tuer, comme si le fait qu'elle ait été démédicalisée lui ait ôté de son pouvoir.

Ci-dessous une référence à un article très complet sur la nostalgie.

Le terme « nostalgie « est un néologisme formé par le médecin alsacien Johannes Hofer pour désigner une maladie causée par le mal du pays, et qui associait un état dépressif à de graves perturbations physiologiques qui menaient régulièrement à la mort, à défaut du seul traitement possible, le rapatriement. L'histoire des conceptions et du traitement de cette véritable entité morbide pourrait résumer à elle seule l'évolution de la médecine et de la psychiatrie des trois derniers siècles. Si le Heimweh ne répond plus aujourd'hui aux canons de la scientificité, il n'en a pas moins laissé maintes traces dans nos théories et pratiques actuelles. Le romantisme allemand, plutôt que de voir dans la nostalgie une redoutable maladie, a fait de la Sehnsucht son véritable credo. L'absence dans l'espace devient perte dans le temps, mais la nostalgie romantique signifie aussi reconquête d'un passé mythique dans un avenir non moins imaginaire. Le danger est grand cependant de confondre dans cette quête les registres réel, imaginaire et symbolique. Les romantiques ont rarement su éviter ce piège, tout comme d'ailleurs certains cauchemars totalitaires du xxe siècle. Il existe cependant une sorte de bon usage de la nostalgie, qui peut être considérée aujourd'hui comme étant la métaphore du désir du névrosé.

Publié par  - -  Arabella Hutter