M I S T R A L

Walloped awake by a window bursting open and the shutter flaying in a to-and-fro struggle, I am shocked from late-night sleep and battling with clenched teeth, blinding wind, to hook my fingertips around the edge of the shutter, to pull … to pull it back so that … so that I can control what wrenches from my grip.  The catch isn’t working.  I have a piece of twine to tie … to tie onto the flapping shutter.  And I manage, while the Enemy of the Night, the Mistral, lashes this shutter, my face, this apartment block, this town, region, the west Mediterranean, wreaking an old vengeful violence.

depositphotos_26624453-stock-video-coastal-trees-blowing-under-strong

The Mistral as a wild night cannon

The shutter keeps.  I lie back on the pillow, wide-eyed, and listen to the wind, as I have never heard it. I know wind.  I come from the Cape.  But this … Is it Ligeti voices trying, like demons, to haunt their way through everything?  The high-intensity screaming like a bandsaw at my cheek … I’m scared.  Are these hexed angels?  Will the bashing shutter shower cold glass shards onto my face?  I think of flood waters.  I think of earthquakes.  I hear through the choir of lost souls in the lifeless thrashing of shutters outside against the walls of the apartment block.

Then, silence.

It’s an uncanny silence, this.  It feels as if it’s rising past my ears and slowly filling the room, like light.  The sky turns blue.  It’s day.

The day like silence comes

The day like silence comes

I’ve had this experience a number of times and throw in a thunderstorm that scared me witless.  And I know about the Mistral.  My first youthful contact was the description in Roy Campbell’s Horses on the Camargue.  He compares the wild horses of these deserted plains as wind over the sea. For me this is the most passionate poem in the language.

The spirit of the Mistral

The spirit of the Mistral

Then, there is André Brink’s Midi where he offers the mythology of the wind which bears a name in each of the southern patois.  This wind was formerly revered as a god, much as people have thought volcanoes to be gods.  And I’ve wondered how Frederic Mistral came to his surname, the Provencal poet who received the Nobel prize in 1905.

"He blows me here, he blows me there, he messes up my hair..."

“He blows me here, he blows me there, he messes up my hair…”

I think of the South-Easter – Sedoos in the patois – which tumbles Table Mountain’s tablecloth over the crags and which, as “The Cape Doctor”, blows away the germs.  It’s all so cosy until you wander around the Diaz monument on the Foreshore and experience the channeled force of the South-Easter, just as the Mistral channels its force through the Rhône valley at 100 kms/h.  Then you hold on, body and soul.

I, Mistral, am not the heavenly child"

“I, Mistral, am not the heavenly child”

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

January, 2017

 Sources

André P. Brink :  Midi. Op reis deur Suid-Frankryk. Human & Rousseau, Cape Town.  1969.

Roy Campbell: Horses on the Camargue

Wikipedia

 Refer for interest:  György Ligeti (1923-2006), the Hungarian composer’s work “Atmospheres” (1961), amongst others.  

 Images

Night tree branches – depositphotos.com

Trees in the wind – mitsiemckellick.wordpress.com

Cape Town Wind  –  source lost

Trees in the wind – source lost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NAPOLEON IN ANTIBES

It always does things to me to walk where they walked, the ones who changed history.  To see what they saw, perhaps with similar feelings.  The Trocadéro in Paris, overwhelmed by the Eiffel Tower, the specific place where Hitler and his colleagues had the well-known (or infamous) photographs taken, to stand in Picasso’s studio where in the Provencal summer he painted barechested.  Then too, there is a legend that St Paul himself walked these streets, something not unlikely at all.  Somewhere in the back of my head is the possibility that in this region, in a caved-in grotto, yet to be discovered, is the Letter to the People of Antipolis (later Antibes), written by St Paul.   What a shake-up that find would be.

"Le Maitre de l'Europe"

                   “Le Maitre de l’Europe”

Now it’s Napoleon Bonaparte, barely 223 years ago, that strolled these street as I do, saw what I see, but without doubt not with the same thoughts and feelings.

He came from an aristocratic family in Corsica and was trained in the military before the Revolution of 1789.  But he picked up serious problems with a political leader in Corsica and fled with his mother, brothers and sisters.  In Corsica there is a tradition of solving problems in a non-verbal way.  In Nissa (later Nice) he impressed Massena who led the army.  In the meantime his mother and the small tribe of siblings arrived at the Château Salé and this ushers in a time of joy for Napoleon, especially in the meeting of Pauline, the Borghese princess.

Chateau Salé, Antibes, today

                Château Salé, Antibes, today

The young captain was imposing with his Corsican accent, slim, almost thin, stiffly attired in the dark blue uniform of the artillery regiment.  The sharp intensity was channeled into energy.  He was briefed to reinforce the coastline from Nice to Marseilles against attacks.  On the Île de Lerins in the bay of Cannes I came upon Napoleon’s cannon supports in the forest, steps against royalist or other enemies, especially the English.

Cannon support, Ile de Lerins

                  Cannon support, Ile de Lerins

In Antibes itself he had the battery Graillon on the cap d’Antibes and considered it as a solid defence point.

Batterie du Graillon, Cap d'Antibes

                 Batterie du Graillon, Cap d’Antibes

But the Revolution in Paris had begun to devour its own and Robespierre was guillotined.  Since Napoleon had had considerable contact with Robespierre and his brother, he was suspected of conspiracy and arrested.

Steel engraving (1879) of Napoleon in Nice prison,

Steel engraving (1879) of Napoleon in Nice prison,

Wikipedia has it that he was detained in Nice.  The historian De la Souchére says it was in Fort Carée in Antibes, a moment in history that the Antibois are rather proud of.  The tour guide at the Fort smiled wryly at me when I asked him.  To tell you the truth, he said, we don’t really know.  The incarceration lasted all of two weeks.

Fort Carée, above Port Vauban, built 1580

        Fort Carée, above Port Vauban, built 1580

His life, one historian has said, was “stuff of legend”.  His legacy is, according to the same historian, the attempt to reconcile right and left with a Bonapartist thread that runs through the politics of the 19th-century to the leaders of 21st-century France.   Even if he met his Waterloo after astounding military success in Europe, he had established the secular state, amongst other things – the list is long – not only in France, but it took root elsewhere as well.  The impact was immense.

The Exile, by J.M.W. Turner

                   The Exile, by J.M.W. Turner

He died in 1821 on St Helena, where he had been incarcerated for almost six years.  After his death the legend, some say apotheosis, about him began to escalate and his tomb at Les Invalides in Paris is one of the biggest in the world.  It’s interesting for me to think that he and I had something in common, well, while he was on St Helena – Constantia wine from the Cape.  And fascinating for me is that Napoleon had a sort of court jester on the Island amongst his entourage.  After Napoleon had died, this man went to the Cape and settled there.  His descendant was my neighbour when I lived in Stellenbosch.

bonaparte

 

 © Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

January, 2017

 

Sources

Elena Dor de la Souchère :  Antibes 2500 ans d’histoire.  Maisonneuve & Larose, Ville d’Antibes. 2006.

Cecil Jenkins :  A Brief History of France.  Running Press, Philadelphia. 2011.

Wikipedia.

Images

“Le maitre de l’Europe”  –  napoleonbonaparte.pagespersa – orange.fr

Chateau Salé  –  plus;google.com

Cannon support – my photo

Batterie du Graillon  –  plus.google.com

Napoleon in prison  –  etsy.com

Fort Carée  –  my photo

“The Exile”  by Turner  –  parisblogged.fr

Bonaparte  –  axl.cefan.ulaval.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BROKEN TEMPLE, Bellville

Even before 1994, Anton Marais had designed the Broken Temple.  Like the architect Jan van Wijk [Afrikaans Language Monument, Paarl; The University Area Church, Pretoria], there are prophetic elements in the work.  I don’t speak as an architect, nor as anyone knowledgeable.  I speak about this because I must.

The Broken Temple, Edward St, Durbanville blvd, Bellville

The Broken Temple, Edward St, Durbanville blvd, Bellville

It has been years of driving past the Temple on Durbanville  Boulevard, Bellville.  Sometimes, I interpret the building;  sometimes, it’s just poetry.  If the columns are not Doric, Ionic or Corinthian, probably pressure from the builders, it is the pediment that seizes my attention.

Rotonda by Palladio

Rotonda by Palladio

The Greek pediment is probably the best-known motif in Western architecture.  From Palladio (1508 – 1580), considered  by some as the most influencial architect, the pediment became standard.  Globally, it remains the icon of the West.  I was surprised when, neighbouring curled-roof edifices in the middle of Seoul, I saw a massive building with pediment-and-pillars.

East meets West in Seoul, South Korea

East meets West in Seoul, South Korea

Marais’s Temple has a broken pediment.  In itself this is not unusual in the evolution of the motif.  Baroque architects broke the pediment with regularity.  But the difference is – the most striking aspect of Anton Marais’s work –  that the architects of the past “broke” the pediment symmetrically.  He does not.

Architect as prophet

Architect as prophet

One can see the asymmetrical breaking of the pediment as playful, typically post-modern.  Would that have been Anton Marais’s motivation?  Only that?  Or is there more?   This building makes me think of a great poem or a painting:  interpretations keep descending.

Does this design suggest a break with Western culture?  In this, there are positive and negative implications.  Will Southern Africa expand creatively into something new and surprising?  “Always something new out of Africa,” says Pliny, the Roman historian.  Or will South Africa lose Western traditions and, for the foreseeable future, become facelessly international?

Architecture as paradox

Architecture as paradox

I think it’s the paradox of the Broken Temple that makes it an important statement.  That it is asymmetrical, a planned off-balance, takes me to the concept of perpetual motion:  is this Temple being built or is the start of ruination?  Is the mathematical perfection of the pediment in question?  This design is and remains a question.  It is faithful to the Restless Greek that, for the past two and half millennia, has haunted our thought processes, pushing for rebirth again and again, a long tradition in Western culture.

 

 © Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Somerset-West  /  Les Semboules, Antibes

January, 2017

 

Images

Villa Rotonda  – Wikipedia

 Seoul image, two photographs of Broken Temple, drawing – Will

 

 Dedicated to Mike Oberholzer

 

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