Poetry: Gate of Lilacs — Notes | clivejames.com
[Invisible line of text as temporary way to expand content column justified text width to hit margins on most viewports, simply for improved display stability in the interval between column creation and loading]

Gate of Lilacs :  Notes

In the following sheaf of notes, I have tried to pick out a few points in this little book that might conceivably lead the reader out into a wider frame of reference later. In other words, the requirement is that they should be fruitful, and not just routinely explanatory: the poem is meant to explain itself. The notes begin with a point in the Introduction and go on from point to point through the poem. They aren’t essential to the poem but they do acknowledge, I hope, an essential feature of poetry: that simply because of the concentration that goes into putting it together, it is a source of radiation.

Learning French from Proust

As I eventually discovered, the best way into a reading knowledge of another language is to start with essays, rather than fiction. But much of Proust’s novel is like a critical essay anyway. When Niels Bohr arrived in England and wanted to improve the schoolboy English he had learned in Denmark, he went right through David Copperfield, dictionary within reach. Bohr was in Cambridge and Manchester while Proust was still getting ready to write his novel, and at first glance it might seem that no two men could be more different. But taken together they are a good demonstration of how science and art can preoccupy the same design of human brain. They even shared the same style of utterance. It notoriously took Bohr many drafts to produce a paper, and even in his conversation he would often express himself with a hesitancy that taxed the patience of his listeners. His excuse? ‘I try not to speak more clearly than I can think.’ The motto fits Proust. Today we give arts grants to people who ramble on fluently about nothing, but Proust was concerned with the opposite effect.

Reynaldo Hahn’s account

In London the singing teacher Ian Adam, until his death in 2007, would always insist that his pupils work away at the same few chansons out of the French repertoire until some mastery was attained over the legato line and the intervals. His own teacher had been Maggie Teyte, who was singing in Paris while Proust was alive, and one of his favourite composers was Reynaldo Hahn, especially for his setting of Victor Hugo’s Si mes vers avaient des ailes (If my verses had wings), the prodigy Hahn’s first hit number after he arrived in Paris from Venezuela. Ian used the Maggie Teyte method of making you sing the one song for months on end until you either got it right or went crazy. (In later years I took my revenge by raiding the orientalist imagery of another of his French favourites — Les roses d’Ispahan, music by Fauré and words by Leconte de Lisle — for a poem that I called ‘The Falcon Growing Old’.) But it wasn’t Ian who gave me the story of Hahn, Proust and the rose bush. I probably got that from one of the biographies. A biographical study is usually fated to go out of date no matter how well written, but the George Painter two-volume Marcel Proust is a prose achievement on a level with its subject. The student, however, can safely rest content with William C. Carter’s more recent Marcel Proust, no miracle of style but full of painstakingly researched facts in the recognized American manner. From Carter you will learn that Proust, in 1916, went out at night by taxi to round up the Poulet string quartet and bring them back to play to him in his room. The piece he wanted to hear was César Franck’s Quartet in D. The piece was forty-five minutes long and when the players reached the end, at two o’clock in the morning, they jibbed at Proust’s request for them to play it again. But he handed each of them a fortune in bills redeemable for gold, and they played it again.

Thomas Mann made notes

More scholarly admirers of Thomas Mann might like to know that he spoke of his admiration for Proust’s richness in words and knowledge (Bewunderung für seinen Reichtum an Worten und Kenntnissen) in Tagebücher 1937–1939, p.161, with particular reference to Proust’s gift for finding in nature the model of his exact observation of the human world.

Like Renoir’s La Loge

When I got to London in the early 1960s, this wonderful picture still hung in the old Bloomsbury location of the Courtauld collection, where I could see it every day during my lunch hour. It was painted in 1874 in the fabulously productive period when Renoir was still at the height of his confidence, before Degas scared him back to school and into the stiffness of his manière aigre, which he later overcompensated for by turning out lashings of odalisques spun from sugar. Renoir spent little time at the opera. The artists no longer needed the good opinion of high society; but the penalty for freedom was that they sometimes were too dependent on the good opinion of each other. It probably never occurred to Renoir that Degas might have been deliberately trying to mess with his head.

Best reported by Colette

Readers who decide, perhaps quite sensibly, that Proust might be just too much time and trouble, can get a more readily appreciable picture of Paris in those years from the novels of Colette, especially from the Chéri novels and most particularly, in my view, from Julie de Carneilhan, perfectly translated after World War II by Patrick Leigh Fermor. When the guns went silent in 1945, those among the cultivated young British literary gentry who had survived were generously determined to help transmit the heritage of civilized achievement to the next generation, and there was suddenly a wave of highly competent translation: all the key novels of Colette, for example, were done again in English of an appropriately neat finish and sensitivity to the historical background. Some of the same translators did a similar favour for the small but classic novels of the French nineteenth century, including Alphonse Daudet’s Sappho, mentioned in the poem. Another must is Bel Ami, by Guy de Maupassant. It was out of this ‘impulse to preserve’, as Philip Larkin put it, that Terence Kilmartin and D. J. Enright found their motivation to complete the Scott Moncrieff translation of Proust.

Bergotte and Elstir

Of the two giant artistic figures in the poem, Bergotte was based on Anatole France and several other writers including Proust himself; and Elstir was based on several painters including perhaps Whistler, whose name is thought by some scholars to have provided the anagrammatic materials for Elstir’s. Proust says in Time Regained that Marcel, in composing his novel, mixes originals together to form characters in the same way that Françoise mixes various kinds of meat into her famous boeuf mode. We should take Proust’s word for it. Although nothing will ever stop the scholarly hunt for Proust’s points of origin in the real world, it can’t be said often enough that he, like all novelists, developed each of his characters by synthesizing the characteristics of several models. It’s just that he did even more of that than anyone had done before. The drawback of the method, of course, is that instead of being challenged to a duel by one person when the book comes out, you might be sued into bankruptcy by several.

Laure Hayman

In view of the caveat in the immediately preceding note, Laure Hayman is a scarily relevant case. After the war, when Proust published the second volume of his sequence, Laure Hayman suddenly reminded Proust that she was still very much alive, and as angry as spit. Proust correctly said that he had based his upward-climbing Odette on half a dozen different women, but he was unable to explain why he had equipped Odette with Laure’s postal address. Today, she would have been able to stop the book. Early in my career an American friend who subsequently became one of my publishers, Starling Lawrence of Norton, explained to me why his libel lawyers took such pains when vetting a new manuscript: ‘Nobody makes anything up.’

The Value of the Ruins

I used this phrase as the title for a section of my poem in a deliberate attempt to save the idea that it contains from being tied irredeemably to the ambitions of Albert Speer. Persuading Hitler that Nazi ceremonial buildings should be constructed solidly enough so that their ruins would still be impressive in a thousand years, Speer risked Hitler’s wrath at the implied suggestion that the Third Reich might not last forever. But Speer had chosen his man well: Hitler, essentially a performer, loved the idea, which Speer in his numerous writings called the theory of ruin value (Die Ruinenwerttheorie). Luckily very little of what Hitler and Speer planned together ever got built, but the phrase is too good to be consigned to oblivion along with their dreams. The phrase does, after all, have something to it: the Egyptian pyramids and the Sphinx probably look better now than they ever did, and, unless you think they were built by visiting spacemen, the value of their ruins teaches us permanent lessons about human capacities and ambitions.

Cocteau and the Gestapo

Cocteau’s spiritual decline after World War II might not have been all to do with drugs. He could have been recalling the shame of having been suckered by the Nazi Occupation of Paris. The Nazi in charge, Otto Abetz, was billed as the German ambassador to Vichy France, but he was in fact a Francophile SS Obersturmbannführer given a special and unusual brief to go easy on the locals. Hence the relatively civilized air of the Occupation, which was such a smooth confidence trick that the French, after the war, were several decades facing up to the full implications of how their collaboration had been secured. With few exceptions, the whole non-Jewish intelligentsia of Paris were able to pursue their careers at the price of carefully not noticing when the people who were Jewish were rounded up and shipped out. I tried to give an account of the subsequent moral shame in my book Cultural Amnesia, and I wouldn’t want to try presenting a capsule version of the story here. It can’t really be encapsulated, because in its full and dreadful subtlety it’s the most important story that all the world’s intellectuals who have been born since most need to hear. Sufficient to say, perhaps, that although the city that Proust had loved was left looking unchanged after the Nazis went home it had, in sad fact, changed profoundly. Its heart had been broken, and when the heart breaks the mind reels.

Boldini and Whistler

Boldini often spoiled his portraits of fashionable women by overdoing the elongation, so that the would-be elegant distortions rivalled those of Parmigianino and El Greco; but his portraits of fashionable men could be less unlikely. Whistler, however, was more tied to reality no matter whom he painted. The poem is right to say that Whistler never did paint Montesquiou in his notorious white suit, but as Adam Gopnik reminded me (I was ashamed to need reminding, but Proust was right about the community of minds: you can’t remember everything all on your own) Whistler did paint Montesquiou in black evening dress, and the portrait, which now hangs in the Frick collection in New York, is quite a thing. Even a whole hundred years later, no great painter courts belittlement quite like Whistler: that defiantly dainty butterfly signature of his was branded by the nervously butch press deep into his cheek. What Whistler gives us, with his young ladies in their frilled white dresses, was the way that the privileged children actually looked. It’s a nice question whether the Paris of the belle époque did more to Frenchify his taste than it did to Sargent, whose lastingly famous Madame X, she of the knife-like nose and the mind-bending décolletage, could be a grand dame bred to the Faubourg, though she was actually an American married to a French banker. The painting had an unforeseen effect: Sargent had aimed it at the French upper-class market but it wrecked his chances, because none of the French female socialites would have considered showing that much skin. The great ladies were as conservative as Madame de Pompadour: the very thing that Proust loved about them.

His critic Jean-François Revel

Second only to Raymond Aron as a political commentator and critic in the later part of the twentieth century, the formidably cultivated and brilliantly aphoristic Revel — he was a career philosopher until he decided that the philosophers weren’t interested enough in being wise — wrote a little book on Proust which anyone who wants to read Proust in the original might consult on the way in. The first merit of Revel’s approach is that he has no patience with the notion that Proust’s novel might have had a structure. What has a structure in Proust is the thought. The same point is made by Charles Dantzig in his unnervingly brilliant Dictionnaire égoïste de la littérature française, in which Proust not only has a dazzling chapter to himself, but is cited to great effect throughout.

Who dined at Magny’s

The Goncourt brothers set themselves the task of writing down and abridging all the conversations between literary stars that took place at their table. It was the clearest possible sign that nineteenth-century France had finally caught up with eighteenth-century England, and that the fashionable salons were no longer the most desirable field of operations for the artists, although even in my time in London there were still instances of famous writers, usually visiting Americans such as Gore Vidal and Tennessee Williams, who could manage to spend as much time at the tables of fashionable hostesses as with each other. The two desires are not mutually exclusive. But the preponderance has shifted, and in Paris the shift had already begun before Proust came on the scene. For anyone who would like to flash back to the sheer excitement generated by the artists and intellectuals starting a new high society of their own — it could be called the upper bohemia — Robert Baldick’s book Dinner at Magny’s (1971) can still be recommended as the classic account, although a more direct approach to Proust’s time, which came later, can be made through Roger Shattuck’s marvellous cultural study The Banquet Years (1969), an exemplary and unrepeatable tour de force in bringing the artistic ferment of the belle époque back to its scintillating life.

Elisabeth, Comtesse Greffulhe

Though the original was almost certainly a much nicer person than the character, this was the aristocratic high priestess who provided the style, class and poise — what would nowadays be called the look — of the Duchesse Oriane de Guermantes. The photographs of her are sufficiently impressive, although she never sat for one of the name portrait painters. What she really needed, to do her justice in all three dimensions, was a sculpture by Troubetzkoy, but when outside Russia he mainly busied himself at the service of the emergent American plutocracy. For the Vanderbilts he immortalized every female in the family. Troubetzkoy gets a mention towards the end of the poem but he can only be treated as incidental to the main Parisian action: a great pity for anyone enchanted by his combination of elegance and energy. (George Bernard Shaw was: he commissioned a portrait bust, with a result that leaves the busts by Rodin and Epstein looking, respectively, limp and strained.) A sensitive Marxist analysis, were such a thing possible, might say that Proust’s portrait of the Comtesse Greffuhle was a last bourgeois salute, nostalgically romanticized, to the figure of the aristocratic great lady as she disappeared from history. Certainly some such gesture was a universal theme at the time. The Feldmarschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, by Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannstahl, first took the stage in Dresden in 1911, under the direction of Max Reinhardt: though she did not reach Paris until 1927, after Proust’s death.


The only German word in the poem, apart from Zeppelin, Gotha, Gestapo, Wehrmacht and Die Zeit. But Wagner was begging to be brought in, because Proust loved his music, which had already had a pervasive effect on any serious music written in France. In Proust’s later years there was a system by which performances at the opera house were transmitted over the telephone, so that Proust, scarcely believably, could listen in as he lay ill.

The Duke’s novels

The phrase ‘worthy of his grocer’ is a direct translation. Less than sixty years later, a grocer’s daughter would become Prime Minister of Great Britain. But then, well before the Duke’s time a military recruit from a very minor and impecunious family of Corsican nobility had become Emperor of France. In that regard, Proust was out of date.

The Face of Dior

My use of product endorsements is meant to be a reference to Proust’s celebrated formulation that when we attain a certain degree of knowledge we can get as much information out of a soap advertisement as out of a pensée by Pascal.

The Amalienburg

There is much exquisite architecture in Paris but it never hurts to be reminded that some of the really sensational stuff is elsewhere in Europe, often put there because other people have been energized by the spirit of emulation. Just outside Munich, the Nymphenburg Palace of the Wittelsbachs, once the ruling house of Bavaria, would scarcely be worth visiting for the collection of portraits of Ludwig I’s girlfriends, but in the garden of the palace the little pavilion called the Amalienburg is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world: a rococo bubble of glass, gold and silver that might leave you thinking again about whether Frank Gehry is really all that original. The pavilion’s architect, François de Cuvilliés, was a dwarf: an interestingly visible example of the usually hidden fact that great artists are nearly always unfitted for ordinary society. Proust was no misfit, but he was very sick. Had he been well, he would almost certainly not have written his great novel.

The bronzes of Capo Riace

The Greek bronzes were brought up from the sea floor in 1972 but needed nine years of restoration before they went on display. They are now in the classical museum in Reggio Calabria.

Drancy velodrome

This was the first appearance in modern history of the sports arena in its other role as a holding pen preparatory to kidnap, torture and death. The Jews sat there waiting to be allotted to the trains running east. If Proust had been born healthy, he might have been sitting there too. He would have been an old man by then, but the Nazis, when it came to the important business of exterminating the innocent, were no respecters of age.

Jewess of the high-born bourgeoisie

Her name was Mrs E. Levin and her portrait drawing is one of the most strikingly noble things ever done by Leonid Pasternak, right up there with his portraits of Rilke and Einstein and of his son, Boris. The Mrs Levin portrait of 1916 can be found on the image page of his Google entry, but until recent times, because it was locked up in the Soviet Union, it scarcely registered in modern art history. (The Web is changing the past as well as the future.) Before the Web came into being, the Mrs Levin portrait did feature in a monograph on Pasternak’s art that the Soviets published in Moscow in 1975. I bought a copy in London, noted the presence of the bourgeois portrait subjects, and began to arrive at the conclusion that the rewriting of art history by the Soviets had come to a halt and might even be going into reverse. This impression was confirmed a few years later when a two-volume edition of Diaghilev’s critical writings was published in Moscow: an essential document for the study of Diaghilev, and sufficient reason all on its own for learning to read Russian. A richly illustrated one-volume condensation of Diaghilev’s magazine Mir Iskusstva (The World of Art) duly followed. With all this belated truth-telling in train, it was therefore no surprise when the Kremlin softened its ideological strictures, although nobody should be trusted who says that they foresaw the complete collapse of the regime. To retroactively assure us that some event was inevitable is a clear case of predicting the past, an intellectual habit that needs to be avoided. All that aside, however, the presence of Diaghilev’s Russian ballet companies in Proust’s Paris was stunning early evidence that in the long run artistic imperialism would outrank military imperialism as a measure of national vitality.

Passion for Akhmatova

She was a born vamp and grew accustomed quite early in her life to carving a path through men. Her immortal love affair with Modigliani happened in Paris in Proust’s time. With Akhmatova standing at six feet in height and Modigliani a whole foot shorter, they must have been a striking couple; but neither of them was daunted by the discrepancy, and Modigliani went on drawing her one way or another for the rest of his life. Back in Russia, and unwisely reluctant to leave after the Revolution — the young poets of Petersburg, renamed Leningrad, touchingly believed that the burgeoning creativity of their beautiful city could only flourish further, now that despotism was a thing of the past — Akhmatova went on fascinating men, but when the new regime framed and murdered her poet husband Gumilev she was given an early sign that the new absolutism was going to leave the old one looking like freedom. History made the born vamp into a heroine of the independent spirit, but it was a cruel restriction: she was meant to write her poems about what Nadezhda Mandelstam called ‘the privilege of ordinary heartbreaks’, not about hell on earth.

Such was Akhmatova’s stature, and the accidental confinement of her fame to the borders of her unlucky country, that her name, in my view, should be given its correct pronunciation, with the accent on the second syllable, as the scansion demands when she appears in this poem. The dancer Pavlova’s name should have been stressed on the first syllable but when she came to the West nobody could manage it. Something similar recently happened to the tennis champion Maria Sharapova, whose name should be stressed on the second syllable, which would even make it easier to say: but none of our sports commentators could ever manage it, and really there’s no point protesting; after all, she was brought up as an American, not as a Russian. The name Pasternak we stress on the first syllable; or else, if we are being fancy and foreign-sounding, on the second; but in fact it should be stressed on the third, just as Nabokov, which we stress on the first, should be stressed on the second. But we in the West are always insistent on doing things our way. Akhmatova, however, belongs to Russia, the eternal Russia. She is theirs before she is ours. Her name should be left as it is, while the Russians get set to resume, if they do, the globally important cultural position that they lost in 1917, in Proust’s time.

Gate of Lilacs

Even today, to glance at a map of Paris and see the name Porte des Lilas is enough to take me back to my very first day in the city, when I saw the pictures — the actual pictures this time, not just reproductions — of the Impressionists, who in those days were still in the Jeu de Paume: a more congenial display space for their art, in my belief, than the Musée d’Orsay where they hang now, like prisoners too frail in a fortress far too strong. ‘Lilacs’ is the word that gives me Paris, in the way that the madeleine gave Proust his childhood memories. The Closerie des Lilas on Montparnasse was a hangout for Hemingway, whose name is still enshrined on a plaque in the piano bar; and it was at the same brasserie that the Dada movement came to an end when André Breton and Tristan Tzara had a fight there in 1922, the very year of Proust’s death. As Julian Barnes records in his feast of a book about painting, Keeping an Eye Open, Manet, when already dying in the agonies of tertiary syphilis, painted a crystal vase of lilacs: an image of evanescence almost too beautiful to bear.

Ashes of Maria Callas

Feeling determines everything in poetry, even its intellectual themes, and I felt that the great soprano belonged in this poem about Proust because one of the arias she sang in her post-career concerts, the recordings of which I followed closely, was the sumptuous ‘Depuis le jour’, from Charpentier’s belle-époque opera Louise. A survey of the YouTube collection of her performances of the aria proves that she sang it from the very beginning of her career, and until the end she went on deepening her interpretation even as her voice became less and less lovely in itself: an heroic arc of dedicated artistry. Charpentier was the son of a baker and he wrote Louise — the libretto was largely his too — just in time to catch the turn of the century. It was premiered in Paris in 1900, and was a huge hit. The texture of the music was drawn from the old street cries of Paris, a provenance to which Proust’s friend Reynaldo Hahn was sympathetic. But Proust was too much of a Wagnerian to approve of anything so retrograde, and Marcel speaks of the street-cry tradition disparagingly during one of his many quarrels with Albertine in The Captive. Artists could still be snobs in those days, especially about a newcomer up from nowhere. Elsewhere in the same city at the same time, if Picasso hadn’t had the courage to admire Le Douanier Rousseau nobody else would have admired him either.

I’ll drown my books

From The Tempest, Act V Scene 1. Prospero says goodbye.

Ah, soldier

From Antony and Cleopatra, last act, last scene. It was T.S. Eliot’s favourite moment in the play. When Charmian is on the point of death, she says just these two words, like a long sigh. Proust’s sigh was even longer.

* * *

Until the advent of Eliot’s short epic The Waste Land, it was traditional practice that even the longest poem should be presented, for general consideration, unaccompanied by explanatory notes, and be sent forth to posterity that way. There are gifted poets who have written epics that have died in their own lifetime because of their freight of explanatory apparatus: In Parenthesis, by the Welsh poet David Jones, was a good, or bad, example of that. As an evocation of the Great War that was fought out a few miles away while Proust was writing his book, Jones’s long poem was not without talent, but it dragged in so many curious references and allusions that the reader was soon left without patience. Fighting for his life in the mud and blood, Jones, if he had known what Proust was up to, would have thought it criminally frivolous. But under the eye of eternity, Proust is the serious artist and Jones is forgotten. (My friend P. J. O’Rourke, an admirer of In Parenthesis, would not agree that Jones has disappeared: but the cruel facts say that he has.) If Jones had been as devoted to the measure of his subject as he thought, he would not have burdened his work with all that obscurity.

Born while Proust was still alive, William Empson was a rare instance of mathematical and verbal talents sharing the same brain. His slim volume of short poems really added up to an epic. Always keen to transmit the poetry that he found in science, he loaded the back of the book with notes explaining the connections he had made between the two fields. Though they will always be of interest to students of aesthetics concerning themselves with where artists get their ideas from, Empson’s notes are not always much less bewildering for their obliquity than the poems themselves. But his poetic works got through to posterity without trouble: they were too melodic not to. Nobody except salaried academics would think that there can be no understanding Empson’s verse without his own prose gloss, plus, of course, their commentary on his comments. The same is true, indeed, for The Waste Land: the notes were always a bit of a joke anyway — Eliot didn’t really expect anybody sane to check up on his references to The Golden Bough — and to the extent that they are still remembered, they are remembered because they form part of an unforgettable poem’s total melody. Later on in his career, Eliot wrote a slightly longer short epic which is by no means without difficulties, but to which he appended no explanatory notes at all. Called Four Quartets, it went straight to posterity by the direct route.

Robert Graves, who fought in the same war as David Jones but is still remembered for doing so, was the first poet in modern times to see not only that a poem should explain itself, but to see that explaining itself is what a poem does. In the long run, if the poet is lucky enough to qualify for that, his poem must go forward minus any furniture pointing out its more arcane references and allusions. Those aspects, if they sound good enough, will be taken for granted, and if they don’t sound good enough the poem is sunk from the start.

Or such, at any rate, was true until recently. Now everything can go into the Web and stay there until hell freezes over. Some people think that that’s what the Web is — hell, frozen over — but there’s no gainsaying the awkward fact that the old curse of oblivion, which was at least half a blessing, is no longer operative. Luckily most of the dud poems, and all the dud epics, will arrive in the Web and rest there undisturbed. But for any poem that still does attract posterity’s attention there is a deadlier fate waiting than to be forgotten. There is the threat of being explained.

Any poet who loads his work with obliquities, recondite information and putatively impressive flights of synthetic reasoning must now face the frightening possibility that there will be people who, devoting themselves to the study of what he has done, will make a steadier living out of it than he did. On the off-chance that someone in the next generation might go into business as an explainer of my poem about Proust, I have listed above a few of the points that he might begin with. Having noted them first, I might have pre-empted at least part of a potentially superfluous discussion, and thereby helped to stave off a doomed search for my poem’s hidden secret.

‘My book has no key,’ said Proust, and I can say the same for this poem written in his honour. Really what I have done is to mark enough trails so as to lead any such discussion away from myself, and towards the solid topics of art, history, politics and philosophy that all accrue naturally to any discussion of Proust’s masterpiece. This is a poem about him, not me; and in fact it is not even about him, but about what he did. After a blessed life as a writer in reasonable health, and having faced no dangers except the consequences of my own folly, all I do in the poem is work my way towards death. Proust does the same, but on the way he writes A la recherche du temps perdu. It is a work on which we may comment endlessly, but if, in itself, it really needed our commentary it would never have been great. Explain it all we like, we should never lose sight of the extent to which it explains us, and the death-defying false position we are placed in simply by our will to live. Long before he embarked on the composition of his great novel, Proust wrote a little sketch, never collected into volume form while he was alive, about walking across the Tuileries in late summer. The first leaves of autumn were already on the ground, but it seemed to him that instead of portending winter they merely reflected the golden light of the warm sun: tout le mirage de l’Imagination, du Regret et du Souvenir. All the mirage of the Imagination, Regret and Memory. That sad word ‘mirage’ was his, but the capital letters were his too: tokens of our thirst for splendour, bulwarks against oblivion.