Bouzingo  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Bouzingo is the name given to a group of eccentric poets, novelists, and artists in France during the 1830s that practiced an extreme form of romanticism. They were also known as the Petit-cénacle and Jeune-France. Hailed as their leader was Petrus Borel, other members included Gérard de Nerval, Théophile Gautier, Philothée O'Neddy, Xavier Forneret and Aloysius Bertrand.

Especially well documented is the battle that surrounded the premiere of Victor Hugo's play Hernani (Both Borel and Gautier played major roles in the organisation of the claque for the premiere of Hernani, Bovee).

Contents

Etymology and origins

"The bousingo was the subject of twelve articles running in the Figaro, beginning in February 1832, and ending in February of 1833." (Pétrus Borel: Background, Reception and Interpretation, Erik S. Bovee).

An early description of the movement is found in Vie de Bohème, A Patch of Romantic Paris:

The origin of the term Bousingot has been a matter of dispute among French writers. Philibert Audebrand in his memoir of Léon Gozlan says it was invented by that brilliant journalist to satirize the young republican enthusiasts of 1832 in the Figaro. Charles Asselineau in his "Bibliographie Romantique" says that after some hilarious souls had been arrested for singing too loudly in the streets "Nous avons fait du bousingo"—bousingo being the slang for "noise"—it became a popular designation for the more furious Romantics. The matter seems to be settled more or less in Asselineau's manner by a passage in the letter written by Philothée O'Neddy to Asselineau after the publication of the "Bibliographie Romantique" to give a more correct account of the second cénacle. He asserts that there never were any self-styled Bousingots, but that after the arrest of the hilarious revellers the affair got into the newspapers and the term remained as a bourgeois hit at the Romantics. The proper spelling of the word was bouzingo, and Gautier exclaimed one day: "These asses of bourgeois don't even know how bouzingo is spelt! To teach them a little orthography several of us ought to publish a volume of stories which we will bravely call 'Contes du Bouzingo.'" The suggestion was thought a happy one, and the book was even advertised as imminent, but it was never written. Gautier's promise of a contribution was afterwards redeemed in "Le Capitaine Fracasse," but Jules Vabre's famous treatise "Sur l'incommodité des commodes" did not progress beyond the title. In common parlance, however, the name remained Bousingots, and its general meaning was quite clear. Just as the Gothic frenzy made the party of Jeune-France, who were the Christian-Royalist section of the Romantics, so the political agitation, combined with the feeling of antagonism to society, made the Bousingots. The meaning became subsequently enlarged to express all the extravagances of the Romantics, their idealization of the artist and their disorderly ways; but this extension was illegitimate. Literature and poetry were, it is true, the preoccupation of the more prominent Bousingots, but their distinctive mark was a profession of ultra-democratic views and manners. The leader of them all was the mysterious Pétrus Borel,[6] whom I have already mentioned as the author of "Madame Putiphar." His other chief work was a volume of poems entitled "Rhapsodies." The young men of 1830 worshipped him as the coming champion before whom the star of Victor Hugo was ingloriously to wane. They were grievously disappointed. After the first crisis of le mal du siècle his inspiration faded away, and he died an obscure officiai in Algeria. Baudelaire, in "L'Art Romantique," says of him:
"Without Pétrus Borel, there would have been a lacuna in Romanticism. In the first phase of our literary revolution the poet's imagination turned especially to the past.... Later on its melancholy took a more decided, more savage, and more earthy tone. A misanthropical republicanism allied itself with the new school, and Pétrus Borel was the most extravagant and paradoxical expression of the spirit of the Bousingots.... This spirit, both literary and republican, as opposed to the democratic and bourgeois passion which subsequently oppressed us so cruelly, was moved both by an aristocratic hate, without limit, without restriction, without pity, for kings and the bourgeoisie, and by a general sympathy for all that in art represented excess in colour and form, for all that was at once intense, pessimistic, and Byronic; it was dilettantism of a singular nature, only to be explained by the hateful circumstances in which our bored and turbulent youth was enclosed. If the Restoration had regularly developed in glory, Romanticism would have never separated from the throne; and this new sect, which professed an equal disdain for the moderate party of the political opposition, for the painting of Delaroche or the poetry of Delavigne, and for the king who presided over the development of le juste-milieu, would have had no reason for existing."

Legacy

19th century

Victor Hugo wrote of the bousingots in Les Misérables (1862, "I am not Jacobin, sir, I am not a bousingot") and George Sand in her novel Horace ("On les appelait alors les bousingots, à cause du chapeau marin de cuir verni qu'ils avaient adopté pour signe de ralliement") based the main character of these political youth.

20th century

André Breton mentioned the influence of Nerval in the first Surrealist Manifesto. He also included Petrus Borel and Xavier Forneret in his influential "Anthology of Black Humor".

André Breton wrote, "To be even fairer, we could probably have taken over the word SUPERNATURALISM employed by Gérard de Nerval in his dedication to the Filles de feu... It appears, in fact, that Nerval possessed to a tee the spirit with which we claim a kinship..." - The Surrealist Manifesto, 1924

Italo Calvino included Petrus Borel and Gérard de Nerval in his anthology of "Fantastic Tales". La Main de gloire by Gérard de Nerval was a story intended to be published in the "Contes du Bouzingo".

Marcel Proust, Joseph Cornell, René Daumal, and T.S. Eliot have all cited Gérard de Nerval as a major influence. T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" borrowed one of its most enigmatic lines from Nerval's "El Desdichado".

Oscar Wilde, Joris-Karl Huysmans, and Lautréamont have all mentioned the works of Gautier as influential. His thoughts on the philosophy of "Art for Art's Sake" have continued to be the source of debate.

Gautier with Nerval and Baudelaire began the infamous Club des Hashischins dedicated to exploring experiences with drugs.

Truth or myth?

These are a few of the most famous exaggerations invented by the Bouzingo:

  • They hosted parties where clothes were banned and wine was drunk from human skulls.
  • They played instruments that they did not know how to play on street corners.
  • Nerval was said to have walked a pet lobster on a leash because “it does not bark and knows the secrets of the sea”.

Further reading

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Bouzingo" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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