Died on this day/mort ce jour-là 20 April 1912

Bram Stoker

Abraham “Bram” Stoker was born in Dublin on 8 November 1847 and is best known today for his 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as the personal assistant of actor Sir Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre, which Irving owned.
     In 1878 Stoker married Florence Balcombe, a celebrated beauty whose former suitor had been Oscar Wilde. The Stokers moved to London where Stoker took his post at the Lyceum Theatre – a post he held for 27 years. His first novel was published in 1890.
     The speculation that Stoker was a repressed homosexual was only increased by the homoerotic aspects of his most famous novel, Dracula, which was published in 1897.
     Stoker had suffered a number of strokes and in April 1912 he took a holiday to recuperate in Montmorillon in France. He was impressed by the mixture of shops in the Cité de l’Ecrit and particularly taken by The Glass Key bookshop, with its wide range of books on display and by the bookshop’s cat Chairman Miaow. It was in Montmorillon that he suffered his final and fatal stroke and died on 20 April 1912.

*It is rumoured that some of the ‘facts’ in the last paragraph may not be entirely true.

Abraham “Bram” Stoker est né à Dublin le 8 novembre 1847 et est surtout connu aujourd’hui pour son roman d’horreur gothique Dracula de 1897. Au cours de sa vie, il était mieux connu comme assistant personnel de l’acteur Sir Henry Irving et directeur commercial du Lyceum Theatre, dont Irving était propriétaire.
En 1878, Stoker épousa Florence Balcombe, une beauté célèbre dont l’ancien prétendant avait été Oscar Wilde. Les Stokers ont déménagé à Londres où Stoker a pris son poste au Lyceum Theatre – un poste qu’il a occupé pendant 27 ans. Son premier roman a été publié en 1890.
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La spéculation selon laquelle Stoker était un homosexuel réprimé n’a été augmentée que par les aspects homoérotiques de son roman le plus célèbre, Dracula, qui a été publié en 1897.

Stoker avait subi un certain nombre de attaque d’apoplexie et en avril 1912, il prit des vacances pour récupérer à Montmorillon en France. Il a été impressionné par le mélange de boutiques de la Cité de l’Ecrit et particulièrement par la librairie The Glass Key, avec sa large gamme de livres exposés, et par le chat de la librairie, Chairman Miaow. C’est à Montmorillon qu’il subit son ultime et fatal accident vasculaire cérébral et décède le 20 avril 1912.

* Selon la rumeur, certains des «faits» du dernier paragraphe pourraient ne pas être entièrement vrais.

In Our Strange Gardens by Michel Quint

Published by Riverhead Books, New York.   Translated from the French by Barbara Bray

The story is chiefly told by a young boy seriously troubled by his father’s extra curricular activities as a clown.  Dressing up and acting the fool at every opportunity causes the boy deep embarrassment until he discovers why his father does what he does.  Gaston, married to Nicole, is a cousin and close friend of his father.  One day after a family visit to the cinema to see a film about the Germans and WWII Gaston tells the boy the whole story – a story of the Resistance, of blowing up a generator, of arrest, near death, a strange guard and an extraordinary solution.

Three clowns feature in the story and they are emblems of human resistance in this parable about the often transitory and unpredictable nature of good and evil in wartime situations.

The book is published as a bilingual edition with the original French text following the English translation.  The quality of production with continental style wrappers with flaps and the unquantifiable ‘feel’ to the book point o what you will entirely miss if you read the book in a digital format.  This really is a little gem of a book.

Died on this day – 1 April

Brian O’Nolan the Irish novelist, playwright and humorist.  His two classic novels At Swim-Two-Birds (1939) and The Third Policeman (1968) were published under the pseudonym Flann O’Brien.  For over 25 years, as Myles na gCopaleen,  he contributed a column, “The Cruiskeen Lawn” to The Irish Times.  It was in this column that some of his funniest and most savage writing appeared.  O’Nolan died in Montmorillon in 1966.

Max Ernst born 1891 was a key figure in the Dada and Surrealist movements.  Explaining how he became a Surrealist Ernst told the story of his father, a Sunday painter who painted the view from their kitchen window.  In the centre of the view (and the picture) was a tree.  Ernst senior decided the tree unbalanced his painting so he painted it out of the picture.  He then went into the garden and cut down the tree!  Ernst died in Montmorillon in 1976.