By Philippe De Cherisey
From a manuscript supplied to the Editor by Louis Vazart - Translated by Bill Kersey
The following text comprises an English translation from the French of Cherisey's novel "Circuit". There seem to be several different versions of this novel in existence. Chapter 1 is entitled 'Le Bateleur'. This title itself is enigmatic, meaning 'Personne qui amuse le public, en plien vent, par de bouffonneries, des tours de force ou d'adresse'. The English translation of the title then being ' A person who entertains the public, literally with winds coming from all directions, by bufoonery, by great energy or by great stretches of the imagination or mode of speech'.
This might of course refer to the principal character, Amédée, a comedian, but more likely is directed at the author, Cherisey himself whose stock-in trade amply contributes to his rôle as a Bateleur.
The translation of the final chapter of this story appeared in an earlier issue of the Journal and these few pages set the scene in the first half of Chapter 1.
The story purports to convey hidden insights into the Rennes mysteries by a series of puns and double entendres. Some of these subtleties and puns may be lost in translation and
translator's notes have been added in square brackets for clarity. Clarity is not de Cherisey's first priority but it is important that English translations are made available for a wide audience.
These translations have formed the basis for much meaningful research without any constraints being placed on their usage. This is entirely in keeping with the aims and objectives of the
Recourse to the 1917 edition of 'Petit Larousse Illustré' with its gazetteer has been useful in elucidating the text where some phrases or locations have slipped from current usage.
Le bon roi dagobert
Le Bateleur: The Juggler from the Tarot is a street performer. In French, "the mountebank" or the "sleight of hand artist", a practitioner of stage magic - he is the second lowest in the series, outranking only the Beggar. In the Tarot he has the meaning of skill or deception. In the Visconti-Sforza deck he has a red coat on a green tunic - remember the charlatan and magician at fairs and medieval markets. In writing Hebrew letters were also used as numbers, and aleph has the numerical value of 1 . Since the letters also had a strong symbolic meaning, the Aleph, as a symbol of unity, was connected with God , the One, Unique and Eternal.
Le Bateleur was the first card, number I of the Tarot cards.
The good king Dagobert is wearing a short coat despite it being winter. The great Saint Eloi addresses him thus, " Oh my king, your majesty...It is very short". "This is true," the king said to him. " Increase its length by two fingers."
Mr. MATRAS, Film Director for 'Poulpiquet', makes a phone call to Valerien Aries, Impresario
Director of the P.S. Corporation.
MATRAS - ‘And then what?’
VALERIEN - ‘I have him right here.’
MATRAS - ‘Send him through to me’.
VALERIEN - ‘He is right there, behind the door’.
Âmédée enters. He stands 1m92 tall, the figure of a former State leader right up to the onset of his sedentary lifestyle and the advent of his pot-belly which resulted in the popular press depicting him with those little balloons that the paparazzi use to exude from the mouth.
Matras came straight to the point.
MATRAS - What project are you working on at the moment?
AMEDEE - ‘I am writing the first chapter of my memoires, or more precisely I am copying them out again. Here is the beginning: ‘Monsieur MATRAS, film producer of "Poulpiquet"...
the telephone rings... "But I don't want to bore you."
MATRAS - I see from your C.V. that both MN. Eugene Ionesco and Roland Dubillard, dramatists, count you amongst their associates. How has this come about?
AMEDEE - It was at Honfleur on the night of the 6th to the 7th of August 1954 that I met Eugene Ionesco. Several people can testify to this, Mareol Achare, Martne Carol, Bourvil, Christian Jacques, Admiral Mottard, Madeleine 0'Grancoeur, maidservant to General Aupick, Fernand Ledoux, Doctor Virel, who had already planned to set up practice in this country, Emmanuela Gide, enveloped in a shawl with her brother, a very pale English girl with bright red makeup on her cheeks whom I swear that I would recognise if by chance I were to see her again, etc... without forgetting Lilith, a direct descendant of the feline Chatelain of Stéphane Mallarmé, nor of the petite Caroline, that mentally handicapped girl of the Fleuriot family, in the care of the Sisters.
I have been given the assignment to make the award of the Alphonse Allais trophy for humour,
it comprises a head of Eugene Ionesco as a child -- to; Eugene Ionesco. The recipient and I myself must pen a verse , and is it not true, that since that time have I not extended my efforts
in this consideration, his "Amêdée, or, how to divest myself of this matter? One must continue to deliver up to me such a superb homage as this work deserves. Without doubt, this would warrant a chair at the academy and the carafe of water to accompany it for he who would thrust in his sword while delivering the reception address’.
MATRAS- Geneven in a rustic thatched hut in the Spanish countryside.
AMEDEE - I no longer attend the Opéra, but only the fine drama of Amédée, or how does one
step aside from the task in hand?
A bungling writer will have his hands full with a cadaver which, huge right from when the
curtains go up, never ceases to grow larger right up to when the curtain falls. The audience
is begged to call to mind the days of his youth where after having his spirit thrice struck
down he knew once again how to grow and stand up straight, but at the same time
to deplore the curtain coming down upon that same nature attains its greatest development..
MATRAS - And Roland Dubillard?
ÂMEDEE - We knew each other formerly from meeting at the "Death Club", at the "Maison Délétère" and other places. Then we formed an association in order to set up the hilarious duo, "Grégoire & Amédée" where he was Grégoire and myself the other partner.
MATRAS- One never hears you on the radio any more.
AMEDEE- Well, this is what happened. At the moment when the R.T.F moved into its hatbox of
a building on the Quai de Passy when it shrunk to a tenth of the size as the O.R.T.F. and pulled down the lid over its head; Grégoire & Amédée eventually separated on the grounds of security: someone pulling on the decimal point with the intention of making us shut our mouths,
this could have reduced the duo to the basic level where not one scrap of the hilarious remained.
MATRAS - Does there exist a connection between Grégoire and this famous abbé of the same name who in 1792 demanded the liberty of a cult on behalf of the inhabitants of Mont Blanc
[possible covert allusion to a white mountain] and of which Victor Hugo declared that he came to the senate in order to fill an empty seat?
AMEDEE - It could well be so, but it is necessary to say to you that the duo Grégoire and Amédée is based upon the "Golden Triangle ", an adventure of Arsène Lupin. Grégoire takes
the role of a woman disguised as a man right up to the moment when one recognises in him a man. Amédée, for his part is a talkative concierge.
And you can well figure out that the both of them die at the hands of an assassin not all that far from the Quai de Passy where the 0.R.T.F. is situated.
One could see them both shown in mourning on the cover of the popular edition published in 1968, having right alongside of them the 0 meridian on the map of France "The golden triangle" is a great romantic novel dealing with the sacrifice of a Negro [négre] in the red cross in 1917.
But to come back to Dubillard, it is Monseigneur Dubillard that is relevant rather than the
Abbé Grégoire. At that time he was the nephew of a red cloaked ecclesiastic, myself in black, formerly of Lorraine, there we were engaged in these associations taking account of them as they occured only in dribs and drabs: "In them, one takes a step, after in them one has power", so to speak.
The allusion to the O meridian did not fall on deaf ears. Valerien had laid great stress in front of Amédée on what he had made take place, and before Matras subjected him to an examination.
Nor was the approach to the topic in the least way austere, regarding this imaginary line known to have been set out by the Paris observatory. Amédée felt himself drawn to by the following anecdote.
AMEDEE -"The famous designer HANSI who formerly resided at Colmar to the rear of the musée des Unterlinden. The house was beautiful, the garden charming, nonetheless anyone there would risk serious accidents: a metallic rod, painted in blue was positioned
across the property just at knee-height!
Right from the outset Hansi hung out his linen to dry, then he hammered the rod to the garden wall so that it closely adhered to the contours. This was to be the meridian of Colmar.
MATRAS - Not bad; especially the UNTERLINDEN Museum.
AMEDEE- I myself, have had a serious accident there, but much lower down, in the location of Rodez,...
Rodez was the ancient capital of Rouergue, dep. of Aveyron, situated on the Averyon, 607 km. from Paris. (Refer to PLRI 1917 edition for more details) but I know about it much better in the area of the Observatory seen since the péristyle of the 0déon round ten o'clock in the morning when he is going to enrich his knowledge of the classics with the furious youth of theatre. Then one sees primarily the lively and agile walker like a bird who rattles its cane along railings.
[Could refer to the Sun's progress across the sky]. And then it is Madame Augustin Nouveau who passes by, blind and mad, Germain her little boy, guides her by the hem of her skirt and on their passage the passers by murmur:
In her pain she lost her head.
" Small birds cease; sing no more."
And then it is little Victor, wild child of l'Aveyron, who is always saying "Farewell, Farewell" and who walks the abbé Résina of whom the name is comical. And then it is the band of Lancelot which pass by, false countefeiters who conceal their coins in match boxes and scatter themselves
before the fountain of Carpeax [French sculptor born at Valenciennes] where some monsters
allow themselves to be crushed by a sphere reduced to longitudes and latitudes. Farther away, someone was speaking to a man without any rear space, which is short to retreat towards
the small rural Domaine of the Lilacs all resonant with the repeated cymbal-banging on the
metal plates used to die-cast the coins of the red orchestra.
M. Matras presses on a button. A television receiver replays everything that is taking place.
The examination appears to be satisfactory but another one immediately follows on, being a sort of physco-test based on six photocopied documents upon which it is necessary to make the assessment after just one minute and in a single sentence. It is for you, my friend the reader, to see if you are as intelligent as Amédée.
I - Letter addressed to Christopher Columbus in 1478 by a Genoese merchant dealing in cheese [pun: by a cheese-cake] thanking him for having brought in a cargo of "Moor's heads" [pun: death's-heads; skull and crossbones into the isle of Iron (Archipelago of the Canaries)"
2 - Journal of Christopher Columbus. 1492. The presentation of a piece of cheese in a red
beret to a redskin chief of the island of Cuba.
3 - In I493 Christopher Columbus leaving the island of Iron, that he judges to be the
tip of the western world, and undertakes his second journey toward the New World.
(excerpt from the Manual of History as used by the Salésiens Fathers of Las Palmas.)
4 - The two attractions of the island of Iron are the thermal resort and the miraculous Virgin who raised it high and dry on the beach at the time a ship that provided a boat service to Cuba ran aground on the 6th January 1639. (excerpt from the tourist diary.)
5 - The miraculous Virgin of the island of Iron as related in "Some Kings" because of festivities in her honour on the 6th January, the holiday of the Kings. Re-christened the "Virgin of the
Rosary" because, to the edge of world beyond which there is nothing more other than she plants the rose of the winds [compass rose].
Noting that there never was any iron in the island of Iron but a trembling of the needle on the card or rose of the compass. (Extract from diocesan bulletin of Las Palmas).
6 - The feast of the virgin of Rosary was transferred from the 6th January to 10th October in order to coincide with the closure of the thermal station. (Municipal notice of Valverde).
One minute passes.
AMEDEE - Distortion of time in 1, 2, 3 - a contradiction between 4, 5 & 6.
The statement is loaded into a small computer which outputs a rather undernourished response of bravos. M. Matras pulls from his drawer a tape cassette recorder capable of functioning uninterrupted over a period of months without need of human intervention.
MATRAS - Take this. You are going to undertake the duty under the title of investigator, but
under the pseudonym of Charlot.
Destination - the Canary Isles.
AMEDEE To enquire into what matter?
MATRAS - That is for you to discover. As for me, I know nothing about it. But do not disturb
yourself about that: The P.S. who supervise Valarien Ariés has some contacts everywhere who, if you get it wrong, will know how to set you back on the right road.
AMEDEE - I am a comedian, sir.
MATHAS - That is self-evident. We are making a movie about a comedian who carries out an investigation of which he no more knew the objective than I myself. But as you are a comedian,
it is necessary for you to renounce the pseudonym of AMEDEE for that of Charlot,
[which means Wagon].
The difference between Charlie Chaplin and yourself is sufficient to ensure that there will not be any confusion there.
Is that clear?
CHARLOT - One can do no more. Again what ...
MATRAS - The conditions?
CHARLOT - Yes. How much am I going to get paid? And when?
M. Matras explains to Charlot that despite their fabulous wealth the P.S. and the film "Poulpiquet" were not offering any remuneration as is befitting the status, or payroll of a servile comedian who receives his pay packet for having done whatever has been requested of him.
To be continued
First published in Rhedesium, Issue One [February 2008]