Saturday, 7 December 2019

Saturday 7th December - The Death of Albine

Well, we have staggered into the first weekend of Sobvent and that's one week done.  Hopefully no-one has sobbed up their spleen yet because we still have a couple of weeks of utter, distraught misery left to look forward to, so let's crack on with today's sombre offering...

The Death of Albine (1898) John Collier
As discussed yesterday, I think all of us fancy a bit of a sit down at this time of year, but this is ridiculous.  Here we have the lovely Albine on her extremely floral deathbed.  Her story comes from Emile Zola's The Sinful Priest (or The Sin of Father Mouret) (1875), where the titular wayward clergy has it away with the young and innocent Albine.  He then abandons her, so she gathers all the flowers from the garden where they consummated the affair in order to make her deathbed.  That's a tad dramatic, dear, why not just get some friends round and say rude things about him over a couple of bottles of Lambrini?  I gather from reading the synopsis of The Sinful Priest, our Father Mouret had been through a few things by the time he reaches the novel, which is the fifth book in Zola's Les Rougon-Macquart series, and he suffers from amnesia (always handy).  He is nursed by the whimsical Albine - is 'whimsical' a euphemism for something?  It's one of those things if she was more homely then it would be more brutal - and the couple fall in love.  Okay, I'm going to say 'love' as it seems to have involved a fair amount of rolling around in the garden with your pants off.

Le Paradou (1883) Edouard Joseph Danton
Then it all goes wrong for the pair of lovers because, much like Angel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when the priest knows a bit of saucy happiness then he turns all religious (rather than a bitey vampire, obvs) and abandons the poor Albine and her pseudo Garden of Eden set-up. It's all very tragic.  So our Albine goes off and gathers the garden that has brought her so much floral joy (they are not called 'flower beds' for nothing) and sets about bedecking her room before reclining back and allowing the perfume to suffocate her.  How very Roses of Heliogabalus!  I thoroughly approve.  You might snuff it but my goodness, you smell incredible.

There are of course overtones of Ophelia in Albine's plight and fate, with her lover being so self-involved that she ends up as romantic collateral damage.  The retreat to nature in her parting moment speaks of both the innocence of nature, and a rehabilitation, for want of a better word, of all the sexy shenanigans that took place there.  For Albine, in her final moments, she sees the cupids in her flower-filled room as beautiful and innocent.  The very thing that had caused the naughty priest to be all fraught with angst is the very thing that gives Albine comfort as she is smothered by the perfume of roses.  Zola arguably infers that Albine and her natural beauty seduces the priest away from his true path and when he remembers who he is, he is ashamed, but also, conversely, that there is nothing wrong with who or what Albine is.  Maybe, what Zola is saying that you are either conscious, in the form of the priest with her learning and religion, or you are unconscious, like Albine with her flowers and spirit, but you cannot be happy with both.  Paradou, which sounds awfully like 'paradise', is denied the conscious, learned man but in the end encloses the girl and welcomes her back.  Only one of them ends up smelling of roses.

On that note, I'll see you tomorrow...

1 comment:

  1. I love your stories on the paintings. I think "rolling around in the garden with your pants off" is much better than "after he gave up painting he sold suits on the high street"


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