This is the central site for a long-term project to research, examine, and respond to the radical collective of writers, theorists, architects, and visual artists who operated in Paris between 1829 and 1835 under the names of the Jeunes France & the Bouzingo, and through them to build a critical understanding of French Romanticist subculture through the historical lens of a continuing politically vigilant Anglophone avant-garde.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


The past several months have seen a very large amount of research on my part, but extremely little of this has made it to the webpage as I'm immensely busy with other projects. For the most part it will be awhile longer before I can do a comprehensive update of the site, but I hope to keep tweaking in the interim.

Thankfully, other people have been lending a hand with research, the most exciting of which is posted below. This is doubly nice, in that it not only furthers and broadens our understanding of the Bouzingo, but even more importantly moves the project farther in the direction of a true community undertaking, in which a number of us are investigating and reconstructing whatever aspects of the Jeunes-France and their milieu we find most pertinent to our current practice.

So, updates:
  • Tim Gaze has done research into connections between the Bouzingo's community and Eliphas Lévi, the one-time Evadamist who was instrumental in re-organising the French occultist community as it developed through the 19th Century. His text is posted below, and will soon be uploaded to the 'French Romanticist Community' tab as well.
  • Gleb Kolomiets is beginning to research early Russian Romanticism in tandem with this project, and is encountering a number of historiographic challenges which he describes in the text below. He has also translated the only Russian-language writing on the Bouzingo that he could find online, also posted below and soon to be uploaded to the 'French Romanticist Community' tab.
  • Warren Fry is currently writing a monograph on Achille Devéria's 1835 series of satirical erotica, Diabolico-fucko-mania: A History of Morals under King Louis-Philippe, teasing out the Jeunes-France's politicised relationship with Libertine subculture.
  • The one thing I've managed to do myself is to add a freewheeling kind of catalog of my nascent archive of 19th Century avant-garde/gothic/counterculture ephemera, under the 'Physical Archive' tab. There will be photos up there eventually.
  • Translation has been rather stalled lately, not an unforeseen circumstance given everybody's busy schedules. In the meantime I am [VERY] slowly undertaking the task of editing a very heavily annotated anthology of French Romanticist Prefaces & Manifestos, which is a long-term project but one which may succeed in making the general outline of the community's development and self-identification comprehensible in a way which is based in their own statements and proclamations, while also providing a richly-textured picture of the overlapping social and intellectual contexts in which and for which they operated. I'm using primarily translated texts already in the public domain, plus texts already translated for this project and whatever others are translated by the time the project comes together.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tim Gaze: research on connections of Eliphas Lévi w/the Jeunes-France

Some research by experimental/ asemic writer & publisher Tim Gaze in Australia on Eliphas Lévi, who a few year after the Bouzingos' dissolution was involved with the Evadamist commune of the Mapah Ganneau. There's also a bit on this group HERE and HERE and HERE. Many thanks, Tim!

Connections between Eliphas Lévi & the «Bouzingo»

I did a tiny bit of research, to see if there were any obvious connections between the Bouzingo people and the influential scholar of esotoric knowledge, Eliphas Lévi.

My main source was Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival by Christopher McIntosh (Rider, 1972).

Eliphas Lévi is the name under which our protagonist is best known.

Named at birth (8th February 1810) Alphonse-Louis Constant, Lévi was educated from 1825 at the seminary St-Nicolas du Chardonnet, with the intention of becoming a priest. The Principal, Abbé Frére-Colonna, was an expert in supernatural phenomena such as the animal magnetism used by Anton Mesmer.

Later, he studied philosophy at a college in Issy, then entered the theological college of St-Sulpice, training to become a priest. He was ordained as a Deacon in 1835, but abandoned the idea of becoming a priest in 1836.

After leaving St-Sulpice, he started to attend artistic and literary salons, and became active in radical politics.

At some time around 1838, Lévi met Honoré de Balzac, at the home of a Mme Girardin.

In 1839, in the company of the writer Alphonse Esquiros, Lévi visited the prophet Mapah, whose family name was Ganneau, who is already mentioned in prior Bouzingo research.

Alphonse-Louis wrote a radical book, La Bible de la liberté, published by Auguste Le Gallois in 1841. Both author and publisher were fined and imprisoned for this work.

He wrote a number of other articles and books on political ideas and religion. McIntosh comments that Constant managed to simultaneously be a radical and a traditionalist, fusing Socialist ideas with Catholicism. Constant's drawings and poetry were also published in journals.

In addition, he edited some notes entrusted to him by his recently deceased friend Flora Tristan, which were published as L'Emancipation de la femme, ou testament de la paria, in 1846. An early feminist work?

His first famous work on occultism, Dogme et rituel de la haute magie, was published under his pseudonym in 1856. Fluent in reading Hebrew because of his religious education, he decided to convert his Christian names into equivalent Hebrew names, changing Alphonse-Louis to Eliphas Lévi. Sometimes he used the name Eliphas Lévi Zahed.

Another famous work, Histoire de la magie, was published in 1860.

In the 1870s, Lévi received a visit from the author Judith Gautier (Mme Judith Mendès), who was the daughter of Bouzingo Théophile Gautier. Judith's husband, also an author, named Catulle Mendès, was an enthusiast of Lévi's work, and invited him around, where Eliphas met Victor Hugo. Victor knew of Lévi's writing.

So, there were definite connections between Alphonse-Louis Constant/Eliphas Lévi and members of the Bouzingo circle, although they occurred much later than the 1930s. Constant was still finding his way in the world in the 1830s. The word "Bouzingo" does not occur in McIntosh's book.

A deeper question about magic and the Bouzingo would be: was there any conscious, willed intentional magic by members of the Bouzingo during their most active period?

rough research by Tim Gaze, June 2011

Gleb Kolomiets: on independant historical research in Russia

Writer/theorist/publisher/organiser Gleb Kolomiets in Smolensk is attempting to coordinate research on radical Russian Romanticism contemporaneous with the Bouzingo/Jeunes-France, but is encountering historiographic challenges quite different in many ways than what independent researchers face here in the West (and similar in many other ways). His account of his current struggles in this direction are fascinating:

There was a quite serious school of history of literature & fine art in the USSR (Marxist-Leninist ideology always insisted on a primary nature of political and social conflicts in the questions of art and art history). Most investigators tried to describe and analyse the political and social background of biographies, but the problem is that they gave a communist interpretation for almost every political act of every artist/writer/etc. So most soviet investigations on the history of art is a lie. For example Pushkin who lived a quite apolitical life and concentrated mostly on his sexual activity and on sexual activity of his wife is often described as a 'fighter for freedom' and 'active participant of the Decembrist uprising'. Yes, he was somewhat involved in the Decembrists political group, but it's almost impossible to investigate the 'real' character of this relation because of communist propaganda in the historical writings on Pushkin.

Contemporary art history in Russia, on the contrary, is quite anti-communist and Pushkin is described as a fully apolitical figure or a national loyalist in "new" writings. Besides this there is a strong intention of biographers to write a "scandalous bestseller", the facts are distorted to achieve good sales. The most representative example is the investigation of Mayakovsky's suicide which I read couple of yeas ago. The author was certain that Myakovsky was murdered by the NKVD but his certainty wasn't proven by any facts. Yes, I can feel a falsification in the books I read, I can see the 'hollow' places filled by hollow words but it's extremely hard to reach "original" documents. Most publications of the letters by Russian classics and memoirs of their contemporaries were "edited" in Soviet times and there are no new re-publications now.

The relationship to prominent writers|artists|etc in Russia is very harmful: the classics are the saints and nobody dares to defame their virtue. So there is a huge amount of unpublished or extremely rare "discrediting evidence" locked in the archives and in special custody where any non-specialist is never permitted.

So I've described the problems which I shall surely face when I start my investigation on Russian romanticism and its social and political background. But I still think about these ideas as very interesting and perspective. I'll try to review available materials and books and try to make a decision: is it possible to be at least relatively objective in my investigation.

By the way, a couple of years ago I found out that there was a quite active group of Futurists here in Smolensk. I tried to find info on their activities, but I found out that there is no information on this issue on the Internet at all, and all existing documents are stored in the Moscow literary archive which is unassailable for those who have no historical/philological education or just live outside Moscow... The way of prostituting and perverting the history of art in Russia is much more straightforward than in the USA...

by Gleb Kolomiets

(See the post below for Kolomiets' translation of the only Bouzingo-related text he's found in Russian)

Bazensky/Kolomiets: Russian Text on the Bouzingo

Gleb Kolomiets has translated the only text he could find in Russian dealing with the Bouzingo. This piece by Andrey Bazensky plays pretty free and easy with the name 'Bouzingo', and deals with the whole 19th Century avant-garde, but does suggest the way in which the group's influence can bee seen throughout the century. It's approaching it as analogous to punk rock, reminding me a bit of Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces. Thanks, Gleb!

By Andrey Bazensky

translated by Gleb Kolomiets

Bouzingos - the name of 19th century Parisian punks. They didn’t play music then, but wrote poems and novels. Some of them made it rather shrill and beautiful. Anyway they always played out of tune.
The leather boots and tight pants, a black velvet tunic and white Baroque-style shirt with ruffles, pink gloves, hair painted in bright green - that is Charles Baudelaire’s ordinary “suit” at the meeting of the Club des Hashischins. Once during a high-society dinner Baudelaire complained with boredom that the cheese has the smell of a child's brain…
Another sad punk and emo, Gerard de Nerval, was close to Dada and a Monty Python sketch: he was the one who walked his lobster on a blue ribbon over the streets of Paris.
Alphonse Esquiros recorded his somber hit – “The Wizard”, featuring, among others, a harem of dead courtesans, the bronze robot, as well as a hermaphrodite in love with the moon.
The album by gloomy aristocratic post-rocker Villiers de l'Isle-Adam dedicated [The Future Eve] to the inventor-Rosicrucian (he resembles Thomas Edison to me), who created an artificial woman. Mallarmé once said about Villiers de l'Isle-Adam: “this man never existed, except for his dreams”.
Huysmans tried to commit to a kind of androgenic focus in a Ziggy’s and/or in a Münchhausen’s manner: he tried to twist himself inside out in his creative experiments.
Some of these voyants suffered from synaesthesia. And most of Bouzingos sought the disorder of all the senses. They fled their own nature anywhere: into Africa, into drug addiction, to the barricades. They were stubbornly stroking themselves against the grain and heard, like Kafka, too many fraudulent votes to make up one whole personality. Bouzingos were the centaurs, openhearted freaks, walking stills trying to accommodate too many ingredients all the time.
Being aware of their monstrous nature, they believed a God, the demiurge, who isn’t a great specialist in a molding of humans. Blake once marked Him by the punk pun “Nobodaddy”. A friend Theo [this is Gautier--O.L.] called de Nerval “footless swallow”.
In short, everything has already happened. Today we can - in a cozy atmosphere - open the book and enjoy the results of theirs sublimation, an unparalleled soup from swallow-foot, transparent and delicate liquor silicum, which dissolves and disappears under the action of ordinary air…