If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next

If you tolerate this

Your children will be next

Desolate child.

Wrapped in cloth and leather,

Lying in stagnation.

The best cloth and leather on the planet.

Sent directly to his parcel.

From every corner of his world everything he needed gravitated towards him.

In a basket he was offered to the river.

Putting faith in the security that whispered through the reeds.

Sheltered from the horrors that ravaged the land.

Entrance on one condition:

In exchange for paper he relinquish his questioning nature.

An impulse that guided his early days.

This system was everything and outside of it there was nothing.

Ease yourself into its flow.

Have faith in it.

As quickly as paper came in it went.

But it didn’t stop coming or going.

His pockets owned the paper no more than a river bed owns water.

The people lying on the banks of the system didn’t matter.

They only served as a reminder for the destitution that awaited if you gave in to curiosity.

Or if you couldn’t keep up with the system’s exhausting pace.

Available to him were many ways to repress curiosity.

Times when the mind might wander were swallowed up.

Be ashamed of boredom and be afraid of a wandering mind.

Though it resembled nature it was manufactured.

A canal posing as a river,

it was seen as timeless and immovable.

The only worry was the paper coming in.

How things came to be put before him didn’t matter.

The answer to every natural pang was a price.

Questions circling the causes and consequences of the experience of his existence

Along with guilt were exported.

He is the child of parents who have exported consequence.

There was no room left for guilt to be exported however.

It built up and ran into his existence.

His existence that was supposed to gently roll away from consequence.

The system failed to support itself.

With its pervading guiding principle:

Out of sight out of mind.

It ignored when there would be no room left out of sight

and when consequence would force itself into mind.

His paper was a veneer of harmony.

The horrors that cut through the land were a lie.

A lie that compelled mothers to surrender their children to the river.

So that their time could be extracted. 

Poisoning rivers for canals

For lives of luxury of very lives.

A sacrifice that is no ones to make.

The system betrayed itself.

Passed down through a few generations with the security of a ticking bomb.

A war declared on generation as well as class.

Lying in stagnation the paper seems useless.

Struggling for gulps of air.

The gaseous nature of which saved it from dominion.



The wind quivers your quiff whilst your head is held high. Your eyes are fixated on a problem that’s sitting on the top of a tree. Your brown rollie wheezes in and out and crumbles, smoke hangs around you briefly, you blow it away but your eyes don’t leave the tree. Obviously this is a problem I couldn’t fathom, if you had a spare minute in between rolling another bifter and looking like you’re absolutely dying to get back to a book I would love for you to have a look down your nose at me and tell me about the planes you’re on that I’ll never reach.

You’re an intellectual, you’re pretty confident of that, you tick all the boxes, never mind what’s in your head, what leaves your mouth is condescending enough for ten smart fellers. You’re pretty sure that everyone else thinks you’re an intellectual too, it doesn’t half feel secure.

‘The system is broken’, you say, no doubt you’ve had a good old think about it. ‘People are compelled to fill social roles. Guided by culture, lost souls get jobs, mortgages, cars, houses, girlfriends and boyfriends, husbands and wives, kids and grandkids and eventually die having never really strayed from the motorway that is social norms.’

‘Too right’, I say, ‘I’m going to have a good think about things too now. I don’t want to live my life blindly doing the things I should do, I’m going to find what makes me happy and do that. I’m glad I caught you with a spare minute to enlighten me, intellectual.’

You’ve left me with a nagging feeling though, something’s a bit off. Captivated by your address the thought daren’t cross my mind, but, aren’t you playing the same game as those people you were talking about earlier? Those with spouses and mortgages? Aren’t you too complying to a social norm? You’re living and dying by the intellectual sword.

You’re in a category just as they are and to categorise is to divide. To consider yourself as an intellectual and to foster that opinion in other people is to say that people are inherently different. To give someone a name presupposes an identity on that person and people are compelled to live their life according to that name. A name confines someone to the extent and limitations of that name.

This is an unhealthy relationship with knowledge and learning, it creates the knowledgable and the unknowledgeable, the inferior and the superior, it assumes that intellect is one thing that you either have or don’t. It creates an unattainable world of intellect and encourages intellectual stagnation.

‘Admire my intellect, proven by me being seen here, smoking and staring at a tree. Concede that I am working at a level that you will never reach.’

People aren’t one thing continuously for one hundred percent of the time. A baker doesn’t bake bread twenty four hours a day and a mechanic doesn’t only ever have engines on the brain. Someone considered stupid will undoubtedly have their moments of genius in life and a university professor will leave their shopping on the bus from time to time. Naming someone as intellectual doesn’t allow for the fluidity of human behaviour. A gap in knowledge being exposed, the admission ‘I don’t know’, is cause for shame. The fear of this occurring is so great that intellectuals band together and are very content patting each other on the back and celebrating their genius. Superiority is employed to discourage those considered un able to contribute to any mental exploration to engage in intellectual debate.

‘You will never reach the mental heights me and my pals are at mate so don’t even bother.’

Translates to,

‘Jesus, don’t try and poke holes in what I’m saying, I might get kicked out of my dead clever club.’

This poor lad has just been at the receiving end of a mental tirade, I’ve never spoken to him. I’m walking away thinking that he is a flawed human being and I’ve figured him out. The chip is on my shoulder, I am the one who is engaging in this system of superior and inferior, the existence of my own intellect is based on the opinion of others, if I am called clever once I will cling to it forever, vehemently refuting any claim to the contrary, a teacher said I was clever once, so I am, constantly. If I am treated inferiorly by someone who is well versed in asserting their intellectual superiority, I will never reach intellectual heights, I am perpetuating this cycle.

‘Sorry mate.’ I say to the lad having a moment with the tree.

He just looks at me like he has no idea what’s going on. He doesn’t, obviously, because to him, someone has just stopped in front of him with a strained look on his face for five minutes, said sorry and got off.

LIV-BCN (Barcelona) – Review

A ship sliding along the horizon towards Barcelona and a ship on the Mersey heading for the docks would be facing a similar sight; they would both be greeted by the skyline of a busy city. It is only when you turn your back on the port that you can really, authoritatively distinguish between the two. In one case, you are staring into the Mediterranean sea, in the other you are staring at the Irish Sea. Similarly, when taking off from and landing at John Lennon airport you will be guided in and out by the Mersey, and when arriving at and leaving Barcelona’s El Prat airport, you will hug the city’s three miles of beach, hemming in the wealth that the city has to offer.

Two weeks ago you could have found yourself — as I did — at the far end of Barcelona’s coastline, surrounded by building sites, boats and odd, sweeping hangars, listening to The Black Keys, The Strokes, Caribou and Belle and Sebastian, waiting for the sun to come up and contending with the sandy wind coming in off the sea at Primavera Sound. Three weeks ago a similar, salty wind coming in off the Irish sea would have whipped around you as you stood at Bramley-Moore Dock for Sound City, again listening to Belle and Sebastian, this time with The Flaming Lips and The Cribs. Barcelona and Liverpool are two cities that relentlessly draw in and export talent.

And now, LIV-BCN festival: an organic product of this trait, with both scenes sprouting out of rich environments. The LIV-BCN festival is the first independent festival between Liverpool and Barcelona, and it is very much in its infancy: growing not from the implanting of one culture on top of another, but rather from the desire to exchange, to create and share an experience together and to mutually encourage exploration and growth.

Slipping off the busy, grubby streets that sprawl off La Rambla, opposite Paral-lel, you enter La (2) d’Apolo, a small, dark venue where faces catch what little light there is and slide out of it again, making you unsure of how many people are inside. This is the venue that hosted the Barcelona leg of this two-city festival, and it was a place that only took the first band, Barcelona-based trio Boreals, only one song to fill. Quickly gathering a sense of momentum, a frantic keyboard-led electronic set captivated the audience, so much so that during the few moments of silence between the fading out of one song and the ensuing: “Gracias”, you could have heard a pin drop.

Ocellot were the second band to take to the stage, and feather-adorned lead singer Marc Fernandez charmed the audience from the first note. Best described as electronica-fuelled glam-pop, the five-piece (formed three years ago from all over Catalonia) threw themselves into their performance and injected the small room with a contagious energy. Leaving the audience simmering, Ocellot paved the way for the only artist that wasn’t local, Scottish solo artist Marnie. A member of Liverpool-based synth-poppers Ladytron, who had significant success in the noughties, it was clear that the front row were hardcore fans. Stepping onto stage in a skin-tight catsuit, the artist bathed La (2) d’Apolo in a more ambient, dreamlike set of new solo tracks and Ladytron classics (Playgirl, Seventeen); even throwing in a song about Scottish independence. Holding onto a character of angelic melancholia throughout, Marnie managed to fit a smile in at the end of her set, even dancing along with an adoring crowd.

The best was definitely saved for last, with the only artists to play in both Barcelona and Liverpool as part of the festival: Univers. Another local group, this time the music was reminiscent of the Ramones, kicking straight into a ridiculously fast-paced, vigorous guitar set. Moving everyone in La (2) d’Apolo to their feet, Univers left us hanging on hopelessly for more even after the stage was being taken down. We’re looking forward to seeing how these guys will go down in Liverpool.

After a thoroughly enjoyable night — the audience seemed happy and the talent on offer was great —  I do, however, have a nagging feeling that the UK was musically under-represented in this first half of the LIV-BCN festival. I witnessed that, without doubt, there is a wealth of genre-spanning musical ability in Barcelona, and I know that the same exists in Liverpool; yet the proof of it failed to materialise in La (2) d’Apolo. Marnie was engulfed by her Barcelona-based peers; it was a little disappointing that Liverpool failed to reciprocate what their sister city put forward. In this respect, the first half of the festival fell short of one of its principal objectives, that of exchanging artistic talent between the two cities.

Walking out into the hot night air, we see sun-faded Catalan flags rippling against the railings of balconies, and whole neighbourhoods striped in yellow and red. We take a moment to consider why the people of Barcelona are fiercely proud of their Catalan identity: both the culture and the Catalan language — the first language of the majority of Barcelona’s residents — was suppressed by a Francoist dictatorship. Not that you see wind-battered flags with Liver Birds on them strapped to lampposts in Liverpool, nor do you get Scousers speaking one language at home and another at work, but Liverpool is a place that also has a very strong and distinct identity, and a place that has in the past 30 years received a good bit of neglect at the hands of its governments.

Perhaps it is their strong identities that forge the thriving artistic scenes of Liverpool and Barcelona, helped along by well-established international links, attracting people in and giving people a taste to venture out. Whatever the reason, I’m sure that the Liverpool leg of LIV-BCN will further prove what Sound City, Primavera and the first part of this festival have demonstrated over the last few weeks: that these two cities are magnets for talent.

With all their similarities, I hope that Liverpool captivates as much as Barcelona, a city that unremittingly manages to claim the hearts of residents and tourists alike.


Project Birmingham: Limelight – Review

I imagine that driving into the heart of Birmingham is much like driving into the centre of many big cities, it is certainly very similar to Liverpool. You come in through leafy suburbs, gradually the green spaces are squeezed out until you have terraces interspersed regularly by pubs, some of which are slightly worn. It’s maybe more hilly than Liverpool, but aside from that, so far it doesn’t seem much different; we’ve got our Chinatown arch and they boast some incredible mosques planted on their main arteries in and out of the city. It takes a while to drive through these areas though, a lot longer than the suburb to centre journey that I’m used to. Here we go on and on. It is around now that the scale of this city hits me, it’s massive. The closer we get to the centre the less directly we travel and this is where the main difference lies; where Liverpool maybe shied away from bombarding itself with roads or gradually moved away from them and pedestrianised the centre, I have the impression that in Birmingham there is always a flyover sweeping around me somewhere and the orange of a traffic cone is never quite absent from my vision. I love the architecture of my city and there are equally breathtaking buildings in Birmingham, only it feels as though to catch a glimpse of these buildings you first have to wait to pass an overpowering block of concrete. It strikes me as though this city was built to ferry cars, not people, and it perhaps casts a shadow of detachment over my arrival, the feeling that I’m only ever going to be able to see this city at thirty miles an hour through a window.

As we move away from flyovers, underpasses and overpasses, we snake through Digbeth, an area forested with old, sagging warehouses and factories. Far from being decrepit however, these old buildings seem to pulsate; the brown bricks with black mortar and the rotting window frames are plastered with art. There aren’t many people on the streets but you can feel that there is life around. Not long after, the car stops and our feet touch the ground outside 112 Space, the venue for Project Birmingham’s night, Limelight.

It’s low key and unassuming and it has those huge doors that you find on old churches and factories that are too big to open and close every time someone goes in and out, so you step through a little door within a door. You twist and turn up a stairwell crammed with bikes, old signs and art equipment that either cling to the banisters or are shoved into small alcoves which, if they weren’t endlessly acquiring odds and ends, would be completely useless. There are doorways peeling off this disorientating stairwell at every floor in no obvious uniform pattern. So, finally, you guess and push at a door that opens to a long room that overlooks Birmingham from the midst of these silently vibrating old factories that are on the brink of bursting into life. It is through very elegant, ageing windows with a central swivelling panel that you survey the city and breathe it in. The room is capped off at one end by decks, keyboards and microphones and at the other by rows of food and is lined with an eclectic collection of art. Everything experienced in that intimate room, the sounds, the art and the food, is a product of the city 112 space is perched atop of.

The slowly filling room sucks you in with its intimacy and I find myself caught up in its vibe in a bit of a frantic state. I’m starving and there’s food laid out that I definitely want to get stuck into but my gaze won’t sit still, it bounces around the walls of the room, from Lesley Imgart’s illustrations of local scenes to Penelope Whitehouse’s dream like drawings. It’s around now that I try to take stock and try, and fail, to put my finger on what Limelight is. I come up with a ‘night’, Limelight is a ‘night’. That wouldn’t really enlighten anybody though so I think on, but not for very long. Jimi Suarez clearly wasn’t having the same dilemma as me; he didn’t waste any time in finding the vinyl he wanted and placing it on the decks. As a beat starts to creep out from under his fingers and permeate 112 Space I slowly slide down to that end of the room and for the time being forget all about trying to categorise what it is that has brought me to Birmingham.

As it turned out, I didn’t have any time to answer that internal query, I was constantly engaged in something throughout the night. When the decks clicked off I found myself surrounded by digital paintings and after going through them I was pulled back around by some psychedelic soundscaping by Faye Brookes. Then remembering my earlier hunger, I went to get a taster of George Hersey’s future project, ‘The Market Place’,  before a long burst from a trumpet grabbed one of my ears and sent me back to get mixed up in Flatlands and Garage flowers, getting swirled around in their raucous modern folk.

I came close to naming Project Birmingham’s Limelight by calling it a sort of house party but that wasn’t really right either. After a while, the harder I tried to name it the more stupid I felt for doing so – it just was. If someone brings an instrument to a pub and starts playing, or if paintings are hanging on the walls waiting to be sold, no one ever has been or would be bothered by the name you’d give to what is happening. Limelight was a re-creation of that breeding ground of creativity that has perhaps been strangled out of pub culture by people like me trying trying to contain varying forms of art and separate them into different categories.

I am happy to say that the air of detachment I felt upon my arrival in Birmingham as I was ferried round bending flyovers or sat at a red light, vanished pretty quickly. At some point during my stay, whether it was standing on whatever floor it was of that old factory surrounded by warm people enjoying each others ideas, or walking through the streets of Birmingham that night and the following day, I definitely grazed past the rough concrete wall of Birmingham’s charm. I just needed to get out of the car.

No offence to you Rob, you’re a brummy Colin McCrae.

Threshold Festival: The Shipbuilders – Review

Walking into The Baltic Social, its lifts draw the gaze. Young musicians pour in and out of them, carried up and down this old warehouse. These lifts are entirely out of place in this venue which is, for the most part, evocative of an old wooden ship. It is lined with mismatched wooden panels whose paint has the impression of being stripped by years of salty wind. You have the feeling that after years of ebbing, pushing and shoving, everything has creaked into place.

Who better then than Liverpool natives, The Shipbuilders, to take to the stage as the night draws in on a Sunday evening. The setting is intimate and the band accentuate this. Their sound is that of The La’s and The Coral, an inherent Merseyside sound that isn’t forced but entirely natural to them, captivating everyone within earshot with their instant familiarity. From the very first note of their opening song, ‘Feeling in my pocket’, the Shipbuilders wash over the audience and pull them closer. So much so that much to the delight of everyone, the crowd throws forth the band’s very own impromptu Bez; an audience member who confirmed the strong cohesion in the room by “rattling on” with her own tambourine. Their set is folky through and through, the drums are pounding and the guitars are both raucous and melodic. Their mastery of this well trodden path and the fact that they command so much attention is testament to hugely talented songwriting and a highly skilled group of musicians.

The band was tight throughout, they played with innate ease and their ability to pilot The Baltic Social was never in doubt. The final throes of ‘Heavy is the weight’ were met with equally powerful applause and it took this dockland venue a good few moments to settle following The Shipbuilders’ departure from the stage.


Threshold Festival: Idea Worth a Penny and Untitled Shakespeare – Review

I take a seat in the Lantern Theatre, catching the end of Ukulele Club Liverpool’s upbeat playing, lulled into a false sense of security as the lights go down and come back to reveal Jesus, slightly awkwardly draped over Mary’s lap; this was the arrival on stage of Idea Worth a Penny, with their performance of The Virgin and the Lamb. With suspense growing as the Virgin and her recently crucified son remain motionless and virtuous, I have just enough time to take account of the new environment I have been plunged into when both characters are no longer seated, Mary’s long purple veil parting to reveal a golden catsuit complete with bumbag, dancing to the Bee Gees.

The performance was as surreal as it gets as a part of the nativity was loosely narrated, only instead of travelling by donkey, Mary and Jesus were journeying with a low-cost airline. The religious icons had to cope with the torrent of problems that present themselves on these flights, such as Jesus painstakingly deliberating over what drink to order whilst the air-hostess, Mary, etches a customer-service-smile onto her face that both expresses patience and complete contempt of the passenger at the same time. Fed up with waiting, Mary gently suggests that she might order for Jesus and proceeds to produce tears of blood that roll down her cheeks and drip into a paper coffee cup which is then extended to the passenger. Both performers were effortlessly hilarious, with just a furtive glance from Jesus, the audience would erupt with laughter and in addition to her hilarity, Mary was haunting and angelic in equal measure.

Upon their exit to resounding applause and not wanting to be lulled into a false sense of security for a second time, I steel myself for Untitled Shakespeare.

On slinks what is perhaps a rather flamboyantly dressed cowboy and, supported by a harmonica, a drawling soliloquy is performed. We learn that, through illness, this evening the audience will bear witness to a two-man trio. In no way is this concealed or are the gaps left by our absent performer tied up and I must admit that the thought definitely crossed my mind that the audience was being made so blatantly aware of the missing actor in an attempt to excuse the performance. Within seconds this thought was cast out of my mind, Man with Porpoise was bursting with frantic energy and absolutely engaging.

We eagerly follow Untitled Shakespeare through various sketches interspersed with well known Shakespearean scenes. Two scientists recreate a ‘very tremendous’ Big Bang, which, much to the delight of the audience, turns out to be an awkwardly long Big Bang during which the two scientists seem unsure of what to do with themselves as they share worried, questioning glances with both each other and the audience. Shortly after, wandering onto the stage, mouth agape, is a man who seems to be in a constant state of meditation and who claims to have found himself during a recent stay in India. His hushed tones and staring eyes scream ‘inner peace’ and he very kindly invites us all to find ourselves through chanting. Very unfortunately however, he loses himself in the process and is reduced to screeches of pure terror. Through hysterical scenes from Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth we build to one of the more surreal scenes of the evening: A goodbye to a shoe. A slumped boot in the middle of the stage is presented with parting gifts, amongst which is a banana, as the shoe apparently liked them very much. In sorrow our performer bites about half of the un-peeled banana off, looking on with bated laughter, I don’t think the audience can quite believe the dedication to the performance. Looking quite horrified with the experience, ‘How can anyone eat a banana?’ is uttered, to which the audience, already in peals of laughter, roar louder.

I sit, a million miles from the lolling comfort of Ukulele Club Liverpool, thoroughly impressed by Idea Worth a Penny and Untitled Shakespeare and it takes me a few moments to collect myself and leave the intimate theatre for some air.


Inherent Vice – Review

The audience is a helpless passenger as Joaquin Phoenix’s character, Private Investigator Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello, embarks on a psychedelic trip, seemingly naive to the dangers of the 1970’s Californian underworld. This drug addled, corrupt gangland is a soap opera to him. His strict diet of pizza, cigarettes, the occasional coffee and liberal quantities of marijuana puts him in a bubble (most likely owing to the weed more than anything else), impervious to any possible harm and free to marvel at the scandals, murders and worldwide drug operations he investigates. There is an attitude of ‘so far so good’ as Sportello submerges into his investigation, knowing that as the drug use becomes more intense and the violence more present, there is only so long he can explore this world whilst staying out of harm’s way.

Whilst keeping up with the tangled web narrative of this film proves laborious at times, reminiscent of Phoenix’s deep drawl, it is firmly supported by a rich soundtrack, entrancing cinematography and a strong cast. Phoenix is a steady anchor as the narrative swirls around him. He compels the audience to indulge a stoner’s curiosity and to side with the story’s drug addicted, funny and thoroughly nice hero, ‘Doc’, a role which he effortlessly slides into. Equally perfectly cast is Josh Brolin with his role of  Lt. Christian ‘Bigfoot’ Bjornsen; his imposing figure and strict buzzcut scream, as Sortliège (a character played by the musician Joanna Newsom) puts it, “civil rights violations”. However he excels in distancing his character from its archetypal appearance. We slowly learn that he is a misfit, given to odd tendencies and actually quite a recluse within the police force he apparently fits so well into. We are also gifted with other big names such as Owen Wilson and Michael Kenneth Williams who ensure the solidity of the film. 

Unless you are familiar with the term ‘Inherent Vice’, the title is something which seems, at first, particularly vague. Given the constant presence of the sea throughout the film it could be guessed that it is a nautical term however it pales into insignificance as the film becomes more and more consuming. It is only in the final scenes of the film that it resurfaces during a conversation between Sportello and his once girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth, played by Katherine Waterston. Waterston delivers a harrowing explanation of the term leaving the audience stunned, perfectly encapsulating a brilliant film. 

Review: Inherent Vice

The Master and Margarita – Review

Swinging back and forth between Moscow in the first half of the 20th century and Jerusalem at the time of Jesus and Pontius Pilate, the story of The Master and Margarita unfolds. Soviet Moscow is an unwitting host to a brief and unsettling visitor, Professor Woland, a character whose instantly recognisable majesty befits his title, that of Satan. Whist in Jerusalem the reader bears witness to Pontius Pilate agonising over the death sentence he recently gave to Yeshua Ha Nostri. Pilate loathes his immediate surroundings, he is plagued by insomnia and he suffers violent migraines though a conversation with Ha Nostri soothes his relentless aching and interests him greatly. He is tormented at sending such a wise man to his death however he does so to maintain the fragile stability that exists in this outpost of the Roman empire. Stability is not maintained however in Moscow, as the soviet society struggles to cope with Woland and his demonic retinue.

Much as Jerusalem was helpless in preventing the descending mist permeating every aspect of the city, an image we are often presented with in the novel, Moscow fails to prevent the Devil from infiltrating every aspect of its overbearing society. Various institutions are swiftly dismantled and the stifling, controlling elements of Muscovite society are quickly exposed as fragile and pathetic. There are a few people however, who welcome this societal upheaval, namely, the Master and Margarita. The Master, an author who has written extensively about Pontius Pilate, ties together his own world and that of Pilate and Ha Nostri. Only his devoted lover, Margarita, a woman trapped in a loveless, unfulfilling marriage, recognises the work’s brilliance, it is snubbed by the local intelligentsia, something which drives the Master to admit himself to a mental asylum. Through the reader’s many encounters with Woland, a problem presents itself. Despite the deep rooted connotations between the Devil and evil, the reader can’t help but develop a fondness for Satan. Just as Soviet society is turned on it’s head, so is the notion that evil is contemptible. During a conversation between the Devil and Matthew the Levite, Woland eloquently demonstrates the ridiculousness of failing to reconcile oneself with the existence of evil.

“Think now : where would your good be if there were no evil and what would the world look like without shadow? Shadows are thrown by people and things. Do you want to strip the whole globe by removing every tree and every creature to satisfy your fantasy of a bare world? You’re stupid.”

We are presented with a paradigm wherein Jesus and the Devil are light and dark respectively, they are natural, equal and opposite. There is a glaring difference highlighted in the novel between Ha Nostri and his disciple. Ha Nostri blames no one, he accepts people as they are, he accepts the presence of shadow whereas his disciple despises it and is bitter. Bulgakov is perhaps commenting on the fragility of another seemingly overbearing institution.

Many critics consider this novel to be one of the best of the 20th century and I find it incredibly hard to disagree. Though in parts it is stained with instances of sexism, a part of the book that perhaps hasn’t aged so well, it does manage to fill the reader with admiration for the Devil. It is a novel bursting with wonderful madness.

Violette – Review

In the bleak countryside Violette Leduc can be found living a life that echoes its surroundings. We are introduced to her as she hopelessly flees through a dreary wood, abandoning a suitcase which springs open upon thudding into the earth to reveal its contents; a dead rabbit and entrails from who knows what. The only way that she could have hoped to outrun her pursuer is if they were advancing as pathetically as she was or through a miracle. Neither happens. After spending three days in prison she makes it home, a place that is equally devoid of warmth and sympathy. This is France in the closing years of the Second World War. The entrails contained within the suitcase are a commodity, products of the black market. As the narrative shifts to Paris, colour gradually intersperses the drab film, whether it be sunlight creeping through a window to illuminate flowers in a vase, or bright clothing; we move away from the hopelessness of the countryside to the richness of the capital.

Violette’s feeble half-run which opens the film is a movement which Emmanuelle Devos performs often and it is through this almost comical attempt at moving in a hurry that we are introduced to Simone De Beauvoir, as Violette stalks her back to her apartment. As De Beauvoir thrusts her door open, finding a bouquet of flowers left by Violette only moments ago before shuffling off down the stairs, we come face to face with the renowned author, a character played by Sandrine Kiberlain to be everything that Violette is not.

The childlike Leduc is played brilliantly by Devos. She is a character that could crumble at the slightest of touches and one who leaves her heart in peril. She latches onto De Beauvoir, an austere character who resonates nobility and control, someone who would never dream of performing such a clumsy act as Violette’s signature stagger. It is a portrayal masterfully carried out by Kiberlain. We bear witness to the development of their relationship, a relationship difficult to define. They aren’t exactly friends, as De Beauvoir clearly states at one point during the film. Neither are they lovers, though not through lack of trying on Violette’s part. Perhaps a mother-daughter relationship is the only paradigm their connection can squeeze into, owing to the allowance secretly paid to Violette by De Beauvoir and her fury at her wishes being ignored when Violette was in a clinic undergoing treatment.

I have no doubt that everyone from De Beauvoir to Leduc, Devos to Kiberlain and Provost to the audience, are confused as to the relationship between these two authors. It is probably best left as saying that it was a multi-faceted relationship that refused to be defined. What can be said confidently however, is that Violette Leduc was gifted with highly sensitive emotions and the ability to transcribe them and De Beauvoir was able to look into this chaos of emotion and anchor the sublime into print, liberating women as they went. The two main actresses, Kiberlain and Devos, convey this perfectly; we are presented with a pure relationship and genuine characters.