UN AUTRE MONDE
Fish feign fishing from atop a waterfall
While wine and dime and time and chime
Hang from threads and threat and throw
Trinkets at hands that reach for more
It’s April Fool’s Day when they drool
Those eight floating heads that clasp
And clap to grasp and beget and beseech
While beacons and bewilders the tree
Atop a scene of dream and dread
A dreary other world in reverse
Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard known as Grandville drew independently of the word, which was merely subservient to his illustrations. He depicted alternatives to common places by demonstrating the absurdity of the status quo to undermine it: schoolboys eat their teachers, the poor command the rich, yoked men pull carts, toddlers lead nations, a crowd of Chinese watch French shadows. A love for the bizarre and the whimsical defined his forty-three years-worth of work as an illustrator and caricaturist in 19th century France.
Extinguish la lumière, you candle-snuffer!
And you, you clerical censor burning books,
go to Babylon before you bestow that grim business
of yours in our land of bellow behind
the scenes of animals in the moon
growing a crest of cheese, a crust of stars
holding a rat by the tail
in the tale of tall Mister Vulture while
female figures blossom bloom and billow
as flowers personified
as flowers animated
acerbic acrylic aqueous
Over the course of The Long 19th Century, graphic artists operated collaboratively. Commission-based and paid by the piece, their work consisted in producing drawings that could be translated by specialists into incised wood engravings at a later stage. Grandville’s illustrations of Don Quixote, Gulliver’s Travels, and Robinson Crusoe are exemplary in this sense. Different was the work that Grandville produced for Le Magasin Pittoresque, the first French illustrated periodical. Therein, his nocturnal visions were not subservient to text. A bird turns into cupid’s arrows, then into a potted flower, then into a woman, who gradually fades into a garland that dissolves into a snake slithering away. The pen rebels in my hands at forming sentences, affirmed Grandville. Say no more.
You will allow my wings
to move freely through space.
You will not impede in any way
my flight towards the new spheres
that I wish to explore.
So, you want me to serve purely
and simply as a secretary?
The pen, the crayon, the charivari.
Tin panning ran tanning.
Another World consists of a series of barely related adventures. Dr Puff intends to establish the religion of Neo-Paganism together with two cronies: Krackq, a seaman who calls himself a “Professor of Swimming”, and Hahblle, a former choirmaster and failed composer. Their attempt to prove the philosophical relevance of the sol (G) is as abortive as their symphonic work The I and the Non-I. Together, Krackq and Hahblle explore the universe in order to sell their stories to a publisher, only to come across a plurality of worlds. Meanwhile, Puff the cynic keeps playing with transformations, visions, incarnations, ascensions, locomotions, caprices, cosmogonies, reveries, whimsies, phantasmagorias, zoomorphoses, lithomorphoses and metamorphoses.
hard-working and fertile race,
will you allow the lords to rip away
at the most tender age, so
they can devour them as early produce?
Hear the cries of victims,
they demand vengeance from the bottom
of the frying pan.
The combat of two refined creatures,
a civil war between the sugar beet
and the sugar cane.
Grandville paints saynètes, brief and self-explanatory sketches with a handful of characters and a humorous gist. Among the small miseries of human life, he singles out erudition.
A man walks on the streets of Paris when he is pulled by the neck of his shirt: it is his former Greek professor Meinherr Gulielmus Schweighaeuser. Having recently published Tzetzae Antchomerica, Schweighaeuser feels the need to explain the whys and wherefores of his latest literary effort in a twenty-minute soliloquy. While he opens every new sentence by stating that it will be the last, he plays with his pupil’s coat, who dodges the prof by leaving him standing in the middle of the street with a button in his hands to avoid succumbing to a wordy flooding. He escapes the clutches of philology. And so do we.
Les fleurs animées, J.J. Grandville (Paris: Garnier Frères, 1867).
Un autre monde. Transformations, Visions, Incarnations, Ascensions, Locomotions, Explorations, Perégrinations, Excursions, Stations, Cosmogonies, Fantasmagories, Réveries, Folatreries, Facéties, Lubies, Metamorphoses, Zoomorphoses, Lithomorphoses, Métempsycoses, Apotheoses et autres choses, J.J. Grandville (Paris: Fournier, 1844).
Les Petites Misères de la vie humaine, J.J. Grandville (Paris: Garnier Frères, 1870).
Metamorphoses du jour, J.J. Grandville (Paris: Gustave Havard, 1829)
Fables de la Fontaine, J.J. Grandville (Paris: Garnier Frères, 1855)
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