September 04, 2006
have you ever reflected on the relation between Jesus and Fantômas?
have you ever reflected on the relation between Jesus and Fantômas?
It was inevitable – after looking at the book for three days after it arrived – and holding it in my hands and reading the blurb and the dedication and the epigraph – I had to go inside to see what I had done – and so I opened the book anywhere – we are talking about Return to Manure – the original English version – the one that took more than two years to be published and which – remember Angela – the excellent British publishers didn’t seem interested in this shit story – yes more than two fucking years for the original English version to be published by FC2 while the French version – Retour au Fumier – which came out a year ago enjoyed great success -- well let's say success d’estime in France – but still it was nominated for two prizes – ok it didn't win – but no one expected this story of manure to win one of those prestigious grands prix de la littérature – but it's still around doing well and a theater company is working on the staging of Retour au Fumier – and the Germans already adapted it to a radio play –
Anyway I opened the book tonight – I was watching the Padres winning big – Peavy was pitching a superb game – 6th inning and already 10 strike out – so I opened the book – anywhere and started reading – and a sentence on page 49 sort of stopped me and made me think – I wrote that sentence – of course I did -- I can assure you this sentence was not playgiarized -- it's authentic federman – and as I reread it I thought I should send it to my friend En in Wales who is writing a book on Jesus – a book he tells me that will revolutionize the vision we have of Jesus – so En here is the sentence –
Even Jesus on the cross looked familiar. I had stared at him so often on Sunday during Mass, wondering what the hell he was thinking up on his cross with his head tilted to the side.
In the novel this sentence appears at the end of the scene where Erica and Federman are visiting the old church of Concordat where every Sunday the boy would go for mass with the old farmer and his daughter-in-law – do you remember the scene – if not you'll be able to read it soon when your copy arrives –
what stopped me -- struck me in this sentence is the claim Federman makes of his familiarity with Jesus - it's true that the Jesus image appears in many places in his fiction -- remember Frenchy perched on a branch of a Christmas tree in the middle of a snow storm arms stretched out so as not to fall and screaming Jesus Christ what the fuck am I doing up here – well notice how in the rest of the sentence Federman wonders what Jesus must have been thinking up there on his cross his head titled to the side – and if Jesus is still out there what is he thinking -- does he really want to come back to this stinking planet and this insane humanity – maybe he prefers to stay where he is – sitting on the lap of Papa --
En I think you have to deal with this question in your book – what Jesus was really thinking up there on the cross – was he thinking about resurrection or about death or was he simply asking himself how the fuck did I manage to get myself in such a shitty situation – Moshe why didn’t you tell me I would end like this – naked on a cross my hands and feet bleeding – and this stupid crown of thorns on my head – waiting for the vulture to eat me – Moshe why didn’t you tell me not to mess with religion – I could have been such a good writer if instead of reading religious books I had read the great stories people told before I arrived –
So here I am sitting in my comfortable leather arm chair in front of the TV -- the game is over – the Padres won – I don’t even know the final score – suddenly I get up and rush upstairs to my study and start writing what you have just read –
And now I open Return to Manure again – lean back in my chair -- the one I sit in when writing on my computer – put my feet on my desk and start reading again -- this sentence on page 80 – purely by chance – this passage in which Federman explains to Ace who Fantômas was and how he identified with him when he was a boy knee deep in shit on the farm -- Ace had sent Federman this one word message > Fantômas? < – Federman assumed that the question mark indicated that Ace didn’t know who Fantômas was and that he wanted him to tell him – so this is what Federman wrote in the novel – but when I read this passage – a moment ago – it occurred to me -- it struck that in fact this passage was more a description of Federman himself – the real Federman as well as the fictitious one – here is the passage --
Oh, you don't know Fantômas! He is a kind of modern Robin Hood, except that he is mean, and always wears black and a mask, like Zorro. He steals from the rich to give to the poor. Though he keeps a lot for himself. You should read some of the Fantômas novels. They were written by Marcel Alain and Pierre Souvestre early in the 20th century. In 1913, Louis Feuillade made the first Fantômas movie. I never saw it, but I'm told it's a great movie. In fact, Jean-Luc Godard claims that with his Fantômas, Feuillade made the first great movie of that type. There are more than thirty different volumes in the Fantômas series. La Série Noire it's called. Le Curé de Condordat had them all. Tells you a lot about what kind of priest he was. If you like, I can give you the titles of some of the best ones. I read them all. Without Fantômas my life on the farm would have been unbearable. He helped me dream and escape in my head. I wanted to be like Fantômas. He always did his criminal deeds during the night. I had a Fantômas novel with me wherever I was working in the fields, and when I had a free moment, especially when the old man was not there with me, I would read a few pages. I would even act like Fantômas. I mean all alone in the fields, I would pretend to be Fantômas. It got to a point where everybody called me Fantômas, even Josette. And once in while, when he was in a good mood, the old bastard would call me Fantômas instead of whatever filthy name he usually called me. I can assure you, not by my real name. Recently I reread a couple of Fantômas novels, and it made me understand why I identified with that sublime criminal. He helped me to escape from the sordid reality in which I was caught. Fantômas has no sense of time. He is ageless because he exists outside of time and outside of history. He fragments history, tears it apart with his nocturnal actions. On the farm I felt exactly like that, as if I too lived outside history. Fantômas' adventures have neither beginning nor end. Ni queue ni tête, as we say in French. They make no sense. Just as my own disconnected existence on the farm made no sense to me. His crimes have no other justification than their own freedom and arrogance. Every night he appears and vanishes into discontinuity. He has no memory because he acts with effrontery in a kind of permanent present. The most striking image of Fantômas is when he stands on top of a roof overlooking Paris with a dagger in his fist. A very provocative gesture. If Freud had read Fantômas, he would certainly have said he was holding his phallus in his hand when he challenged the decadent bourgeois of the City of Lights.
I don’t know if Federman was fully aware of what he was writing here – but am I mistaken in thinking that the description of how Fantômas existed and how he committed his crimes – and how he had no sense of time – and how he existed outside of history – and how he fragmented history – and how his stories have neither beginning middle or end – how they made no sense – how disconnected his existence was – well no need to go on – am I mistaken in thinking that this is a self-portrait of Federman and of the way he functions -- Again I may be reading too much in this passage – but when Federman tells us that the most striking image of Fantômas is when he stands on the roof of a building in the City of Lights and sticks out his cock with arrogance to the City of Lights that this is a meatphor for Federman expressing his gratitude to be finally recognized in his native city -- But can one be sure with Federman – let me just remind those of you who are reading this of what D.H. Lawrence said : Trust the tale and don't trust the Author Larry [McCaffery] I know what you are going to say – Federman this time you really went too far – you writing about Jesus – are you having doubt about your posterity --
And you Doug [Rice] I am sure you’re going to ask – where the fuck did Federman steal this piece – chez Kinko --
As for you Ace – I know in advance what you are going to say – one of your best pieces of critifiction– send it immediately to the New Yorker --
As for the rest of you – you tell me what you think – me I'm finished with Return to Manure – this book is out of my system – I am now into another story trying to extricate myself out of the hole –
and you Mike put that on the blog –
Madou mets ça dans Federman sans limites – oui en anglais – ou aors on fera traduire --
Stephane si tu as envie traduis ça en français et demande a Juju d’approuver --
So long everybody ....
From : Moinous@aol.com
Sent : Sunday, September 3, 2006
Time: 4:44 PM
To : email@example.com
Subject : Fwd: jesus-fantomas
mike a friend sent this
put it up on the blog for those who don't know who fantomas is
Subject: Re: jesus-fantomas
Sent: Sunday, September 3, 2006
Time: 12:01 PM
Bye the way - get Mick O' Grady to put this web-link on the blog for those curious to know more about Fantomas