The Eleven by Pierre Michon

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The Elven by Pierre Michon

French Fiction

Translators Jody Gadding and Elizabeth Deshays

Original title Les Onze

Source  Review Copy

Pierre Michon is one of the most highly regarded writers in France raised by his mother ,he studied literature at Clermount -Ferrand ,he then decide to join a travelling theatre company travelling .He entered the world of Literature at the age of 37 with the book small Lives ,a collection of interlocking stories looking at eight lives  also published by Archipelago .This book the eleven is his twelfth novel  and even thou it is a short book at just 97 pages it is one that Michon spent fifteen years working on .It won the French Grand prix prize from the French academy .

We know he was born in Combleux in 1730.
It is just upriver from Orléans with its visible church towers, and
it bathes gently on both branches of the Loire. Overhead of course
are those French Poussinian skies, which he rarely painted, and from
one steeple to the next following the levee the length of the river,
those islands, willows, rushes where as a child, one would have loved
to hide, and the sudden flights of birds. The Loire carried boats at that
time: and it is because of the boats, and what carried them, that the
creator of The Eleven was born on the shores of the Loire.

Corentin  early life and origins described

So the Eleven the title is taken from a painting a fictional painting that was supposed to have been painted during the height of the French revolution .The Artist Corentin is brought in to compile a painting the one of the title the eleven ,this  title refers to the eleven members of the  committee of .WE see how this painting was made from a number of angles ,we learn of the artist ,how he came to do the painting his thoughts whilst he is painting the paint ,the people in the painting .First Corentin this guy is a man who rose through the society he lives in, due to his talent as a painter .He rises  from his humble beginnings in Limousin region a rural area of France  .The committee well to mention a couple of names -Robespierre and Saint – Just two names that even I had heard of in regards the French revolution  .The struggle of Corentin in how he is to portray these men on the canvas with his feeling for them and how they want to be shown on the canvas .He is also comission to paint before this the mistress of louis XIV . So we see where his conflict comes from

Can you see them, Sir? All eleven of them, from left to right: Billaud,
Carnot, Prieur, Prieur, Couthon, Robespierre, Collot, Barère, Lindet,
Saint-Just, Saint-André. Unchanging and erect. The Commissioners.
The Great Committee of the Great Terror. Four point thirty by three
meters, a bit less than three.

The painting described and who starred in it

Corentin is maybe a representation of a number of artist that probably painted during the French revolution and how they maybe struggled at times with the art and the subjects they were painting   .Well as you see this is one of those French books that is very French(that sounds wrong ,I  mean in a publishing context ) I  can hardly see a British publisher taking a chance on a slim book about a fictional painting and painter  that has very little happen in it yet so much this is one of those books that makes you think .I was reminded at times of the Robles novel I read last year ,as this book has the same feel of themes on top of themes a web of ideas ,The eleven is rereader a book that I ‘m sure you get more from after every time you read it .The main theme is of course the connection between art and politics ,well the power of politics and politicians.I mean how often do we see the dictators round the world surrounded by images of themselves painting sculptures  .Also how often has art been used to capture a moment in time , I mean some of the most famous paintings from France  that I remember are paintings that fall in that category The raft of the Medusa being one of them also Delacroix liberty leading the people an image also from the French revolution  .We see the turmoil of the artist doing these paintings of these figures who hold the power but have let the power get to them .

Have you a favourite novel on art ?

Link to the publishers site .

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Brian Joseph
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 00:54:34

    Lots of interesting ideas here! The French Revolution as well as history in general is fascinating to me. The connection between art history and politics, as you allude to, is indeed important. It is a great that this novel tries to get at some of these connections.

    Reply

  2. Scott W.
    Feb 16, 2013 @ 19:33:33

    I have another Michon on the shelf unread, but I’m going to pick this up and read it first (if for no other reason than I spent my honeymoon in Combleux).

    Reply

  3. Max Cairnduff
    Feb 21, 2013 @ 12:23:39

    Thank you for putting this on my radar Stu, definitely of interest.

    I have a review at mine of John Berger’s A Painter of our Time (his first novel I think). That’s presently my favourite novel on art, but perhaps this will replace it!

    Reply

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