Friday, April 07, 2006

Jenny von Westphalen

A portrait of a Marx worshiper...

Jenny Marx, née von Westphalen
What are the various ways by which the Right Honourable Reader finds himself with a book in his hands? - if this blogger of yours might ask. A nicely crafted front cover on a stand of a cosy bookshop? Check. An eloquent admiring review in previous week's Spectator? Check. A successful google-engined research about an author or subject that ends up in an Amazon-dot-com purchase? Check. A recycled offer from a family member with no time for less obvious suitable gifts? Check. A volume that falls accidentally from an hazardousous shelf on a mammoth-like bookstore? Check. An unexpected discovery at your Father's library (whose long nurtured shelves you could have swear it have ceased to be able to surprise you)? Check. Even, God forbid!, a book someone was foolish enough to lend you?! (While it has been known in Society, for ages, that one never lends one's books, guns or women). What other circumstances can explain that you find yourself reading this particular book and not any of the two you brought among your luggage (the hardback-of-the-moment and the soft-cover with valium-like sleep-inducing properties)? Well, I will not tease the Right Honourable Reader anymore. Another less obvious path to bookdom is through crime. Yes, I am afraid that these are the right words... To steal a book. "Where from?" "With deliberate criminal intent?" "With quick fingers and unclouded conscience? " Now, now, let us calm down and recover our spirits.. Will the Right Honourable Reader allow this blogger of yours to explain himself before being submerged by these accusing inquiries? Thank you.

I am talking about the most innocent form of non-authorized book acquisition, the chance encounter with the contents of the bookshelves in your rather grand hotel room. Elementary, Honourable Watson! What do you do when you spot a dozen or so books in your own room, there to lend some cultural legitimacy to the tadelakt walls? You peruse them, half expecting a sand-filled swimming pool bestseller or a gallery of rejected literary nobodies. Sometimes they are just books abandoned by previous room guests to their fate after the last page was turned and read. There is even an unwritten etiquette in these situations. You might help yourself of any book, and take it home if you had not finished it by the end of your stay, as long as you contribute yourself to the replenishment of the book stocks of your hotel room.

Those were, in fact, the circumstances surrounding the couple of delicious hours spent in the over-indulgent atmosphere of a marrakchi paradise reading about the life of Mr and Mrs Karl Marx. No better environment to read about Engels substantial inheritance, Karl's gains in the City, acquiring undervalued bonds, or about the writing of Das Kapital then to be sprawling on a white fluffy sofa, a glass in hand, with a small battalion of diligent smiling servants waiting on you.

The book was "Jenny Marx ou la femme du diable" by Françoise Giroud. The writer, famous for having founded the Parisian weekly "L'Express" might have developed a case of gender-envy for being always looked at as the female face of a journalistic reality that had in Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber (JJSS) its most obvious icon. She wrote, among other works, a couple of precious little biographies of famous muses of famous men. Being from the Beaux Quartiers herself, these books are all about grand blue-blooded ladies of great beauty. Alma Mahler, Lou Andrés-Salomé (the great love of Nietzsche) and Jenny Marx née Baroness von Westphalen.

Madame Giroud, the utmost example of a Parisian elegant and successful Feminist, is propagating the low self-esteem female tosh that beyond every great man one always find a great woman! She talks about the deep affection of Jenny for Karl Marx as " a love of a terrible kind, the one that enchains a woman to a man of genius". Is this the same Françoise Giroud who, in tailleur Chanel, was building patiently the case for a third force between Gaullisme and the Left? Why this vertigo for sugary Bibliothéque Rose fantasizing? Does one really needs a Simone de Beauvoir for each Sartre, a Frida Kahlo for each Diego Rivero?

I apologize to the Right Honourable Reader, I got a bit carried away. The book must not have been that bad, now that one thinks of it. Highly recommended 174 pages, in fact. Otherwise why would I've taken it with me when I left the hotel? Why is it next to my laptop, sleeping peacefully, as I write this bloglines?


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