QUARTERING

Many red devils ran from my heart
And out upon the page.

Stephen Crane

_________________________

 

Could the French word for re-allotment, remembrement, ideally be the expression the Frenchman’s relation to la terre? The soil, his soil, an extension of his own body parts – les membres… Media, the extensions of man, a thought of McLuhan this country understood rather hautnah. Touch a farmer’s territoire and you touch him.

I once had a neighbor in Haarlem, who in southern France was so foolish to ‘add’ exactly 70 square cm’s of someone else’s to his own – this because his own design for a modified old house did not quite fit into his own property. For many years he was engaged in a hellish lawsuit. Out there, soil runs deep.

The whole territoire that is called France was in times of absolutism understood as being one with the body of the Prince. This more or less started with Sunny Boy Louis XIV. The notion of lèse-majesté touches immediately on this issue, considered to be an attack on the dignity of the Prince, seen as an entity that encompassed the entire state and the whole of the country.

If you commit such a crime against His Majesty personally it was a mortal sin. Obviously, sin suddenly lurks everywhere, perhaps even in a donkey that one would like to slaughter. Or, in the perspective of Gerard Reve – the Dutch writer who fucked God in his metamorphosis as an Ass – to do something else with it. After all, if everything is indeed the Prince and the Prince is considered a God, how much sin can you get…

After the Revolution, each Frenchman considers himself as king. This could very explain the immense pique of the Frenchman when even one little piece of his land is touched by a stranger. This struck me again while driving through one such stretch of destroyed countryside, with those ugly, endlessly extending prairies out of which all shrubs and hedges are all torn away. Literally, using draglines.

Curiously enough, the word prairie originates in France, this magnificent country in which such flat lands occur only in certain parts of the country. Think of la Beauce , the country’s breadbasket, situated south of Paris .

 

 

The word comes from pré (meadow) and the older version prayerie. Many of these new, often rolling prairies are the result of this re-allotment or remembrement, which resembles the violent quartering of a man. During this punishment, the body of one who had committed lèse-majesté was torn apart by four horses.

 

 

The re-allotment business – the quartering of landscapes – was purely a matter of dough. Working smaller lots was and is time consuming. Many farmers had such smaller pieces of land, lots often situated apart – due to say ‘History’. Their merging between 1960 and 1980 and then the reckless destruction of all vegetation obstructing tractors, won them much efficiency, however even more scenic beauty was lost.

The long years that I lived in an old French farmhouse – a cottage Englishman would call it, lying in a parc naturel – I considered myself protected against these kinds of attacks.

Until one of the two big farmers in the vicinity recently built two huge barns. Clear as sunlight, their space is much too large for his cattle and the hay needed. Only when I saw that these two huge, too ridiculously high roofs of 8o x 30 meter were covered with solar panels, I saw the light.

This rancher has become an energy farmer. Not only do I pay for these panels with my taxes which the French state then generously by  grants him for his vandalism, my immediate surroundings in this so-called parc naturel are also completely destroyed in order that he may leak his electrical energy to ‘the net’. Environmental awareness this is called…

Imagine this image, insinuated int a gorgeous world, multiplied by one hundred:

 

 

Aesthetically quartered I feel, while this bloody farmer is nota bene committing lèse-majesté, high treason. Sic transit gloria mundi. I fear that after a while I won’t remember how everything here was.

Sierksma, La Roche 05/08/2015

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Author: rjsiersk

contact: rjsiersk@xs4all.nl Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats. He would not ind being a cat.

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