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Octave Mirbeau’s La 628-8: A irst Automobile Journey through Europe's Diversity. Aleksandra Gruzinska, Arizona Stite University “To whom daticate he account of this voysge, fant 0300, (esr Monin Charon win ha died ‘consucte, animated, with woncerfl if, ‘he mares car in which accomplish it "ehout stig or setbacks"? Femand Charron (12866- 1928) to whom Octave Mapes (848-1917) Gaticated the account of his voyage, “récit de ce “voyage” which Be alco calle a “josmal” @ 1) ‘was a French engineer and ‘Pioneer of the automobile ata Gime when the car wae ‘CGN.-FemadChutoa sell seen as 2 port. He ‘may have for all purposes land sssemblad one of the fst cae for Mirbanu, 2 CGV. (Chanon, Girardot et Voign, 30 CV (lotsepower)” It was registered 25 626-E8 which i aso the title of the book ‘published i 1907: a travelogue, a novel, 2 diay, and 2 collesion of eccays, of dren: and “wandering revertc” (2), or simply 2 collection of memories + Whatever genre ‘one mzy choose, i wilfi the book. Mirbeau himself admits aot toknow how to clssify this bizare volme. The 628- EB is he St book ever written os the sutomobile Omneskp of «cari 1907 postions our write in 4 milieu of wealthy people, millonaizes pehaps, thoteh Minbem was not always this wealiiy* His tip went ‘emoothly according 1 hin, wihout ftime or snags” It provided many “impressions neuves” or new ways of perceiving things, 2 greater freedom in explonng new counties and repions that were less known atthe tine Inhabited by very “diverse” popubitions and in pit oftheir “divene” appetites, disagreements, and oppositions, these sation inevitably leaned, to use Mirbeau’s words, toward ‘he gueat human “unity.” This does not mean, however, ‘partof the Belgians! Mirbean did not promise an objective account of his voyage. Unike some human beings who are zothing but ‘bea, mind, and lofty igh: of the spit, he, onthe conary, hnad a stomach, liver and nerves thot led to indigestions, melancholy and sheunatizms, All were aggravated by 2am sandra pleanre or pain that crecized hostile influences ‘on the subjects of interest to him. He did not take any notes ring th trip, and claimed to have based his count om memories and dreams filed with contradictions? What he enjoyed was change, which the tip dd provide. {ea long andadmiing dedication honoring Femand (Charron, Mivbezu fst recalls a trip that he took “six years ago” in one of the frst cars buit by the French engineer ® Dearing one carly storming from Aurillac, in the contr of France, Misbesn found himself in the evening in the litle town of Poligny located inthe Jer. Although he had not yet [eft France in just afew hours, he want, 2rcording to him, “from one race of men to anothe” (x). ‘The litle town of Poligny had « welcoming sir of decency and good health, very rae in France in Mirbeau's opinion. He found Poligny friendly, pmpathique, savored local spacalins, 2 tout aecomponiad by 2 wine irhoie He engaged in conversation with the local pessants who showed none of the uplessant attinudes of divisive nationalism, mistrust and suspicion offen attibuted to French peasant. The Poligny peasants were very diferent a ‘om the Auwergnat, for instance, whom Mibeau described ss anh and cunaing.” What were the pesemt: iz Polizwy interested in? They talled sbout weather, politics, economy, 1nd, stangely enough, about educaton, 2 subject very dear fo Misbenu. They prefared secular or ate education, lee Svored by Misbena, sther han religous inaction, Adescrived a: “fursie de légendas" or “zuffed with legend” (ii). They were alze interested in the quiity of water, sant and au, things of intrest taday, alobally, in epite of cour regional differences. ‘Mvbeau was fifty-seven mhen the tip began “one smoming in Apri 1905” (26). The itinerary of the 628ES took him through France, Belginm, Hollatd and mostly Germany. After spending the night in La Haye (7) Mies and his paty arived in Amsterdam with its infamous, offensive and bavbarian ‘pavés” or cobblestones, hat made walking or diving uncomfortable and even dangerous. Mizbema plannedto stay at last a month and gave Broscette, is driver, time of ‘The fstthingto seein Amsterdam i the museums. ‘This ¢ Rembrandt and Veneer counsy. Next, one visite the canals with their brownish and feverch dead watere, and the boats that reminded Mirkean ofthe “jonques chinaisec” or Chinese river boat. You can roam in the otsets with their color rows of buildings, the gardens with their tulips, the Kalverstast and neaiby the catholic cloisters or Le Béguinage (11), and small boutiques. Finally we find Muberu meandering trough unfamili area: ofthe harbor, ‘hich reminded him of India: slums, loud music that gts on your nerves, opium smells, and alcohol: a woman of color whispered passionate word: in his exrs There were Tacceries or bas, crowds, and bright lights. Suddenly cveryhhing began turin lile a mery-zo-round or veto. Misbeu started the day very sprightly and plannedto tay least s month in Aumsterdam, but the and ofa hese diy"= visit, he wanted nothing more than to leave immediately. Wht ic mare, 9 the cpaed of 2 rolling sar, coe must add the whirlwind vist of the city and Mirbeau finished the diy lke “a car with the ignition key still connected snd ill ‘mumbling angrily’, but unsble te disconnect,” 2 familiar feeling experienced by many travelers. His chauflewr Broscete, who spent his fee time faung the car, aked nothing better than to leave. In his opinion, Amsterdam was no city for drivers. Trowille, Dieppe, Monte-Carlo, Oxtende, on the cther hand, had excellent ‘arages by comparison with Amsierdan. a Mizbens spent, sonethelece, a superb “month” iz Holland. He seconded the politeness of the population, it: enthusiastic welcome and generous hopitlty. Sometime: the people muifesed 2 troublesome cwiosty. At Frise, for instance, some stones were thrown atthe car 28), but pecpla ware mostly recpictal A peasant sasing the 628. ES speeding by on the road, let go ofhis horse and ext and ‘trted running towards the car. then stood motonles, fall, of admintion holding bis hat im his hand, in a sim of respect. Eis fue painting St for the Netherlands, ‘The vist in the Netherland: ‘ine occasion for Matern take historical detow: He recall the ebuilint young Louis XIV his victory at Rocroi, (1643), and hic desire to conquer this region of Exops, the expaiition: with banners, machine: and food, ad the women that came with him The Sun King aever quit managed to win over the proud Beleians (9), Brussels is today the lively capital and site of mopese Union's parliament It i very different fom the impressions that Misbesu left a century ago. He sam Bruscels2¢ cty without any interes, “a en,” ina country ruled bya weslthy ling (Léopeld I) who spent mest of hi time abroad "Brussels was mainly famous for 2 fountain ‘known 2: the Mannken Fcc. This famous tourist attraction ic infrodaced in sonversaticn bettreen 2 young gil, 2 reach tourist, and ber mother. Ac cheacked for explanations that the Saedecke, the tounst guide of the tm, fale to provide, her mother signaled her to lower ber voice and ‘whisper. This was no decent subject of conversation for nineteenth-cenury yespectable women, aad much less for irk, But both mother and dughter plnned to ste the ‘Manneken Piss, eyes closed no doubt, venturing petkaps 2 icqect pene tthe seulpuze of the innocent and joyfully ‘inating boy. “the rst o Amsterdam and Bruscels in counties ‘Pierre Bonaard that enjoyed 2 more friendly relationship with France, were ‘sometimes hectic, what might one expect when crossing the German border? Thirty-five years after the Franco-Prussian ‘war of 1870 the French defest st Sedan by Napoleon II sill tasted bitter, and some Frenchmen, according to Mirbeau, perceived the Germans as uncivilized hostile savages. Mirbeas, his travel companions and Broscette prepared for the worst, incuding rifes, instruments of torture and pointed military asks: ‘Oh! But Germany! Its arogant (haughty, offensive) customs people, ite temible officer, ite pitiless ‘police? The trials would now begin. Iregretted, oh! bow much regretted at this moment [-ays Mirbemu] not to have the chimerical :oul of M. Déroulide 20 that with one gesture I could forever erase from the sap this barbarian country. (La 628-8, 30)."* Brossette reinforced this feeling by adding that “Les ‘Allemands, Monsieur?.. quel peuple de :auvages...! ne ‘comprennent pas le fangais...” (45): “The Germans, Si? what a savage people! They don't underctand French..." ‘At the German border, the Mirbezu party became somewhat disoriented and confused and lost a great deal of time searching for the crossing. They expected, no doubt, nothing ess than a military fortress guarding the entrance to (Germany, sinular tothe one tht French military architectural ‘genius, Vauban, had built at Givet, on the Franco-Belgian border" Givet ean boact ofthe most overwhelming military architecture that was inspired, no doubt, Mirbeau argues ‘onically, by the fear the French had ofthe Belgians: “What 2 strong teror the Belgians must have inspired in us [the French] to make Givet info such a formidable Fortress... ‘AR! Contemplating Givet, the Belgians must feel very proud to be Belgians..." And Mixbeau quickly added: “I can easily imagine that Givet must have been, for them [the Belgians], the best school sehere to fortify their national ropes." La 628-E8 entered Germany 2t Elten, from the ‘Netherlands, on the Rhine River. In lieu of a similarly threatening militry construction like the one at Givet, Mirbeau and his party finally located an unimpressive litle building looking more like an empty private home. Eventually they came upon an old woman, deaf, wearing lasses, mending stockings, and acat-leepingnesttoher She dhad all the atte of a witch without the meanne:e normally serocinted with witches. Misbesu went into great trouble ‘explaining to the old woman his business. She understood ‘ight away and took him to a cabaret located nearby where ‘the dreaded douanier or tenifying customs officer was busy smoking a pipe and drinking beer. He chowed great interest in the 628-ES, somewhat less enthusiasm for its French ‘paceengers, signed the customary documents and whisked ‘them off in the direction of Dusseldorf, Germany, 2 country ‘where the roads were so smooth a: if they had just been ‘waxed and polished” Mirbess demystifes the image of Genmany perceived by some Frenchmen ‘the county of savage hostile Darbarians, the county of the enemy. He was a staunch pact, an anarchist in its purest sense that is a fighter ‘who wished to make way for change pencefilly. He saw ‘the Franco-Prussian war a: a amistake but, nonetheless, did his duty toward the country in 1870, one of France's bitter ‘mentioned earlier, be w3s 20 ‘revanchard obsesced by revenge. ‘While the 628-E8 has finally entered Germany, let us take another chort detour to the year 1886. Some twenty ‘years earlier, Mizbeau found imelf in deep trouble with Mame Juliette Lamber Adam, the ‘editor of La Nowwelle Revue, 20 ‘important and influential journal She admired Muberu and at fret accepted in 1886 to serialize in ‘her jourmal Mirbeau’s st novel Le Cahir, When the time came to include Chapter Two, che Ibestated to publich a troublesome paccage.” The chapter lacked patriotism according to Mme Adam, She onthe other ‘hand, being a staunch patriot, worried that her conservative readers might react unfivorably to a chapter in Le Cabvaire ‘where, after shooting dead a Prussian during the 1870 war, like 2 soldier trained to Lill is expected to do, Mirbeau’s ‘hero, Jean Minti, ran over to the dead Prussian picked him 8 ‘up and kissed him on the mouth, still covered with blood, in a gesture of brotherly compassion. Shortly after, Le (Calvaire was published, in 1886, by Eugine Faquelle with (Chapter Two included Twenty years Inter, in La 628.58, Mibezu again ‘pointed tothe Germans asa mation different from France, yet inhabited by people who in many ways shared similarbuman ‘awe and concerns. He was not the fst who attempted to modify the attiude of the Frenck toward the Germans. ‘Mme de Stal, another epic traveler who crisscrossed ‘Europe ftom West to East and into Russia a century easier, pointed out in On Germany (De Idllemagne, 1810) the then. ‘innovative Romantic ideae of the Germans, In spite of some. criticism, De I'dllemagne contributed to promote the great French Romantic Movement; and, were she alive today, Germaine de Staal might agree with Mirbeau that the to ‘mations should lean toward fostering greater openness and La ‘925-6, vi seems tobe separate rom te trp named in La (2858 proper which stares seveal years It, one moraine ‘im Apnl [16], 1905 26) The mip was delayed al May 2 ‘Conrary te Mirteau’ aim, “Nous venions de passer ua mois ‘meneilew, un mois enchant, ex Holinde 9)” swe have ‘cpem an exchaning month in Holland” the mp cly led ‘hee weeks according 10 Michel, Pere ct Jean Franois Net (C167, There also seems to bea conic berween the date when ‘the 28-51 was purchsed (1906) and te yee when the mp ‘stared (1905) This is «probe fr scholars toslve I should ot effect the reader ec his comprehension of events nated ‘ime 628-5. The pois of elipsis [im Mitbea's cratous sare szategc techniques of is style and do not represent texual 48 See “La 61-ES:Le scmdae des Belgeset des patroes."Ia ‘iene Michel etfean Fangas Niet (07-809) 9. Selon que mes organs foncsonnent bien ou ma, marave de cst: sujourd, ce que faimas bie, et aime! le Iendemain, ce que Ia veil 1 pits vilemmest abuse (Za 928-23, 5.6, These seximens are am echo of Mirbess’s ‘Painode: pobished rng tbe Deynis Ati Hem Vored ‘stg an-Semitsmin Ze: Grimaes before he hada change ‘ofneart and became 2 nece Dreynsara For more mormatoa ‘see “[Anti-Semtisn 1890:1990s: Octave Mirbemu and EM. Goma” accesible at iapy mania weuesn eave 55 defo 10. “Ly 2 six am. pars, m main 'Aurila, sur une des ‘promiiresautomobues que Tous ayer asmaee La 28-8, x) 1. “Bee Gite miracle. En quelques beues,j sisal une ‘raced bonmes sue are race bonnie, ea peseat par ous Jes itemédiaies de eran de cule moeus, human (qu ls relent ees exspuguat, ety éprouvass cere sensazon “tam me Semblait que jaais wade choses ~ dao, ex ‘Jour, véc des mis et des mls” a 028-8, 19, 12. Tie stam of Aweigm, a province inde cena region ‘of Fiance, are called drvergat 13, “tous mes nerfs vibrent et mépident.Je suis comme la ‘machine qu'on 4 mise au plat mort, Sans Welnde, et qu sonia.” a 616-8 12). 1M. Thereference isto Leopold (1835-1908), wo became Ling ‘of te Beis in 1862 15 “Oat mais VAllenapae. See dowanien rogues, oe tees ‘officers, son impitoyable police? Les éprewes allaent {lutea cominence: Jeepers al combenjeegses, ‘ace nomen, dex'avoirpss ime chiménque deM Dézulide, pour d'un geste zayer jamais dee eave donde cebarbre pis a. 16, "Vaubun, S@hastien Le Presue de, maréchal de France é i ‘SaintLégerVauban eras) (13-1707) Commisaire inéral des frufications (167, il forita de nombreuses ‘laces des fonires fangses... "Petit arouse 1953, 17. -Quole fore tera ont donc sa now insper les Belge, que Covet soit une tlle formes, A! ls Belge doivent ee ‘ers d'ére Belge, en repardant Gvet. (1). 18. -Pimogine ssement que Give soit pour ex (lee Belge), e ‘mallee Ecos, fe forte ln arrogance natonle” 2) 19, Dusseldor, Mittens destination is mentioned eay, ox ‘page 32 However, ue never reached irunl page 25. Mrbemt esribes 18 modemity znd wealth ia adaining words G73. 3. 20. consovensal chapter on Honoré Ge Balsc ant his Poish- ‘bor anstocinc wife, Mime Haiska was cut fom Z2 625. ‘25 and i was never Fepaated i te space at Murbem, a ‘admire of Balzac, ad inendedforit In Pere Michelsrecew (tinonit appears atte end of te volume. Se also Alesana CGruinska “Octave Mirean’s Madame Hicks a ‘Lt Mor (ge Bate Ninewonmn Conny French States 15:3 0987) 502-314. La More da Belen” was fst published in: Ocave Duroens ca 920-9. ans: Faquell [November 12], 1907 Itveas positioned right afer andin coast with “Les Femmes atemabdes de Monsieur Paul Souer” Defoe beng Purge? ‘fom the book. Mifbem ao acquired rareeditionofBlzacs (Comecponderce 2 cologse, Gam, 21. “La premiére joie que Je devas coma en Hank, cee ‘eis, ce fare'apercevoir cene pti ville de Gerinchm que Jew outer! pus, peu wile esque conve ds outs, (equ de wes ioin dal'aure ct de Taam, —certle Rha ete ese gut coment, comnacts—e part st pompan et me vitbin dreanagedés quenow mes cralé quelquetemps eatemen, ans Ses rues vores, pees de pomeneus. ‘Tea isis enchants comme un enfaz dum jowjon Elle ava ‘lea Var 'ua oujou tua, ur neut—quoigelle tr ues ‘walesa novenut et sa propre.” 201) 22. -Zaanlom, evec sen cama, ses mains qui, ddbarquiat des agains de bois de Nervige, sa Noaesexée de Dargues sau preues renfées comme des jonques, les relies desu ‘se cates ses, ses eles somos, sts masons vere Zaandam, le pus jsponais de tus les décers dela Holande? cop. 23. Mom Johuston provides a diftrat vesioa of Monet @scovey anf acquisition of Japarese prs. She quotes ‘Theodor Robison, an American Inpresionst pet and fiend of Monet: “Mfontt] spoke of a Tep(anee] who bas sted» howethe Sent Jean fr these of Buropent sat He liked [very] much Moner's workbought te bully z Robinson's Diary, Fly 3, 1892. Quoted in Sons Johnston, Dr Monet? Lick. Thesdore Robncon @ Grier The Balszore ‘Maseum of Ar. London: Philip Wilson Publishes Led, 2008, 190 Tehnston furs explains hat “This [fie canvas fearing ‘Germaine isprobebly the work from 1888 entidedJeme File ins lejain de Giveray given by Monet t Tadamass Hayashi in exclange for 2 series of Japanese prins” (See not 12, > wD, 24, “Non seulement les ings, les grades coqueres, Is "emes premires, les elles denies, les mou, es pers ‘bles, les chateses, les choses, es souls, rensSeus, ‘coraeurs, les gyms, les mourews de phoques et Is ‘Eayers ontctacent ses accent qi fate et ui fitplenr ‘mS, mais—chose famastiqne—les dassewses ézsement es dacseuses surtout qu, ue pouvant metre Pacceat dias ‘ae boace,Fintedicnt dam lum jambs, dane ler ro ans Jer pses, esque dan le femissement seen ds tus exvolés (65° 25, * te plus dict et le pis rafiné des pas complies ‘ssoures ce iene at iygiee Ea prodan a ‘mjoociews Tnvage, dans wn cabinet muni de tous ls apparels Gisinbles dhydraharape, je ue powas mempecher de somger que, par Hi encee, én bien Join de nove belle ‘ranceoi, presque parout,méme das lespls grandes vies, es bates conservent alsement les hsbmudes dela race le ‘ure héséitre ose reconna, mieux que parson epi, 2 ‘ental Francaise France: Inmalpropret” G29) Sty yeas liter, Polish wnter Witold! Gonbrowiee miming in 1954 > Enrope fer 4 yeas of elem the Argenta ofthe 19405 a4 1950s, nonced the pristiae bthroons in erin’ Gonrowicz linked ther clnalners to otiel andor cancers rated 9 ‘orld War I “Kray. Lien Mycie higenicme” [Fances. ‘rie, lest nore fone nous." a 628-8, 413). 33. tmepiéee en décor. parquet nn de csetée. n'y svat pasde caf" (413) uotiegraphy (Gendault Alin “Octave Menuet Femand Charrea” Cahiers ‘Octave Mirbeau 2 (1995): 221226, ‘Comtrowie, Wiold.Dztenn 1901-1869. Kraxéw: Wyaswaic- two Lieracie, 204. Vol. 3. Gomtrowice, Wiold Journal Pape Bein 1955-1964, Tait ‘dupolensis rar Albn Kosko, Pas: Christin Bourgeois Ea- ea, 1801 Alskemdra Grusicka"Octare Maben's Modame Hacks ia “La Mort de Balzac" Nineteonh ConninFrevch Sudies 153 987) 302-314 Gmucnsa, Aleksindra “[Ast]}-Senitsm 1890919605: Octave ‘Niubeat and EM. Cioran” The Rocy Mountain Review of Languege and Zitoanre 55:1 (Spring 2001 1328. Rocky Mountin E-Review of lxguage and Literanre 55:1 (pring ‘D0: 1-14 Emma west eda] Mitbean, Octave Za 528-58. Vinguiéme mile. Pais: Biblio. ‘haque Charpentier, Eugine Fasquale iter, 1908 beau, Ocave Ze Cahare. Deusine dation Pais Paul (Olendot Eaten, 1887. La page 319 pore Vinson de “Noumoute, novenbre 1868. Johnson, Sous: t Mover? ight. Tecodow Rebinconat Giver: ‘Usaha sey by Pl Tecker The Basse Mesouss ofA. ‘London: Pulp WisonPublishrs Lal, 2008: 190, Miche iene et Jem-Funcois Nivet_ Ocane Mobeau. ‘Limpricawr au co fide. Biopaphi. Pas: Litrare ‘Sie, 1990, Robinson, Theodore. Theodore Robinson's Dares 19921096, Vol. 1. March 29, 1892-Feb. 4, 1893. Handwrimen mam- “pt evalable ot Frick Reference Lorary im New York. 113 S67 ¢ Giftof lon F H Baw 41956.