Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Misrecognition

A Meeting of the Editorial Board of Mesures

This photo of a gathering of some Parisian literati appears in a book-length photo essay by Gisèle Freund and V. B. Carleton entitled James Joyce in Paris: His Final Years (New York: Harcourt, 1965). The authors explain and identify the members of the group:

Adrienne Monnier was extremely active as a critic and as the guiding spirit of several of those small literary magazines that have always added luster and excitement to the Parisian scene. One of them was her own, Le Navire d'Argent, in which the first French translation of "Anna Livia Plurabelle" was published in 1925. One of the most interesting magazines of the thirties was Mesures, financed by the American writer Henry Church and his wife, Barbara, who lived in a large villa not far from Paris in Ville d'Avray. When the weather was fine, the editorial board often met in the garden. Here, from left to right, are Sylvia Beach, Barbara Church, Jacques Audiberti (standing behind her), Adrienne Monnier, Germaine Paulhan, Henry Church, Henri Michaux, Michel Leiris, and (standing behind him) Jean Paulhan. (44-45)

The photo caption in the book dates the meeting to 1937. Vladimir Nabokov refers to this photo on the first page of his Foreword to Speak, Memory — his memoir of his youth in Russia and his twenty years spent as an emigré in Europe. Writing in 1966, Nabokov says about one of the chapters of his memoir:

I wrote it in French, under the title of "Mademoiselle O," thirty years ago in Paris, where Jean Paulhan published it in the second issue of Mesures, 1936. A photograph (published recently in Gisèle Freund's James Joyce in Paris) commemorates this event, except that I am wrongly identified (in the Mesures group relaxing around a garden table of stone) as "Audiberti."

One is tempted to imagine that Nabokov is distracted by a chrysalid that he has found suspended from a branch or tree trunk in the garden.


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