La tournée de l’archevêque

From Guy de Maupassant’s Mon Oncle Sosthene in his collection Les Soeurs Rondoli. I much appreciate how many drinking idioms I’ve learned from his stories – even if, as here, I often can’t find that they’re anything but a phrase of his own invention.

À six heures on se mit à table. À dix heures on mangeait encore et nous avions bu, à cinq, dix huit bouteilles de vin fin, plus quatre de champagne. Alors mon oncle proposa ce qu’il appelait la « tournée de l’archevêque ». On plaçait en ligne, devant soi, six petits verres qu’on remplissait avec des liqueurs différentes ; puis il les fallait vider coup sur coup pendant qu’un des assistants comptait jusqu’à vingt. C’était stupide ; mais mon oncle Sosthène trouvait cela « de circonstance ».

At six we sat down at the table. At ten we were still eating and we had drunk – between the five of us – eighteen bottles of wine and four more of champagne. Then my uncle proposed what he termed the ‘ tournée de l’archevêque.’ You were to place in a row in front of you six small glasses that you then filled with different liqueurs; then you had to empty them one after the other while one of the attendees counted to twenty. It was stupid but my uncle Sosthenes found it ‘in the spirit’.

I want to say ‘tournée de l’archevêque’ is a pun – building ‘the archbishop’s round (of drinks)’ off a more technical term for an archbishop’s itinerary of visits around his diocese (or whatever his province is termed) – ‘the archbishop’s tour.’

étalant une devanture de conversation

From Ch. 2 of Maupassant’s Les Soeurs Rondoli:

Le train partit.

Elle demeurait immobile à sa place, les yeux fixés devant elle dans une pose renfrognée de femme furieuse. Elle n’avait pas même jeté un regard sur nous.

Paul se mit à causer avec moi, disant des choses apprêtées pour produire de l’effet, étalant une devanture de conversation pour attirer l’intérêt comme les marchands étalent en montre leurs objets de choix pour éveiller le désir.

Mais elle semblait ne pas entendre.

…and did not satisfy my appetite for poetry

There is a very brief story of Virginia Woolf’s – An Unwritten Novel – that I routinely think of when sitting on trains – or anywhere, really – and coming up with stories about the people around me.  Just now I found a Maupassant story – L’infirme – with much the same setup and a similar trajectory of the narrator’s engagement – an initial enthusiasm in story construction, a later disappointment at the seeming blandness of revealed reality, and a final somewhat ambivalent rebirth of curiosity following recognition potential richness behind that reality.  That last point could alternately be rendered as – the need to tell stories about others is so inborn in certain personalities that no amount of disappointment or lack of closure can keep it from endlessly reawakening.  Still, the below quote from the Maupassant story is how these affairs mostly go:

The outcome conformed to the rule, to the average, to the truth, to the likely … and did not satisfy my appetite for poetry.

Le dénouement conforme à la règle, à la moyenne, à la vérité, à la vraisemblance, ne satisfaisait pas mon appétit poétique

Cette sépulcrale chasseresse

I’d advertise spoilers if I thought anyone would read this.  The conclusion to Maupassant’s Les Tombales:

I went off, quite struck, asking myself what I had just seen, to what race of beings belonged this sepulchral huntress.  Was she a common girl, an inspired prostitute who went to gather among the graves men gloomy – haunted by a woman, wife or mistress – and still troubled with the memory of lost caresses? Was she unique?  Are there more like her? Is it a profession? Do they patrol the cemetery as they do the pavement?  Les Tombales! Or rather had she alone had this admirable idea – so truly philosophical – of exploiting the love longings that come back to life in these funereal place?

And I would indeed have liked to know whose widow she was that day.

Je m’en allai stupéfait, me demandant ce que je venais de voir, à quelle race d’êtres appartenait cette sépulcrale chasseresse. Était-ce une simple fille, une prostituée inspirée qui allait cueillir sur les tombes les hommes tristes, hantés par une femme, épouse ou maîtresse, et troublés encore du souvenir des caresses disparues ? Était-ce unique ? Sont-elles plusieurs ? Est-ce une profession ? Fait-on le cimetière comme on fait le trottoir ? Les Tombales ! Ou bien avait-elle eu seule cette idée admirable, d’une philosophie profonde d’exploiter les regrets d’amour qu’on ranime en ces lieux funèbres ?

Et j’aurais bien voulu savoir de qui elle était veuve, ce jour-là ?


A specter both pathetic and comical, the outmoded shadow of an entire age

From Menuet by Guy de Maupassant, in his short story collection Contes de la bécasse.  The narrator is recalling a memory from his youth that has never left him.  As a student he had taken the habit of visiting a park of a style no longer in fashion at the time.  There he made the acquaintance of a former dancing director of the Opera and his wife, a former star of the same.  The two visited the park each day, the director explaining their devotion as notre plaisir et notre vie … tout ce qui nous reste d’autrefois (our delight and our life … all that remains to us of the past.).  They perform the below scene for the narrator:

Then I saw something unforgettable.  They moved forward and back with childlike affectation, smiled, swayed, bent, leapt like two old puppets some old machine was making dance – puppets a bit broken and made long ago by a skilled craftsman according to the manner of his time.

And I watched them, my heart stirred with exceptional feelings, my soul touched by an inexpressible melancholy.  It seemed I was seeing a specter both pathetic and comical, the outmoded shadow of an entire age.  I wanted to laugh and needed to cry.  All at once they stopped, they had finished the movements of the dance.  For some seconds they remained standing, the one before the other, contorting their faces in an unexpected way.  Then they embraced, weeping.

Alors je vis une chose inoubliable. Ils allaient et venaient avec des simagrées enfantines, se souriaient, se balançaient, s’inclinaient, sautillaient pareils à deux vieilles poupées qu’aurait fait danser une mécanique ancienne, un peu brisée, construite jadis par un
ouvrier fort habile, suivant la manière de son temps.

Et je les regardais, le cœur troublé de sensations extraordinaires, l’âme émue d’une
indicible mélancolie. Il me semblait voir une apparition lamentable et comique, l’ombre
démodée d’un siècle. J’avais envie de rire et besoin de pleurer. Tout à coup ils s’arrêtèrent, ils avaient terminé les figures de la danse. Pendant quelques secondes ils restèrent debout l’un devant l’autre, grimaçant d’une façon surprenante ; puis il s’embrassèrent en sanglotant.


The Normand hole and a kick in the ass – some more occasional drinking terms

In the spirit of yesterday’s deoc an doruis and by happy coincidence here are a few other terms of drinking interest I ran across today in a collection of Guy de Maupassant stories, Contes de la Becasse:

From Farce Normande:

Between each course everyone made a hole – the Normand hole – with a glass of (apple) brandy which flung fire in the body and madness in the mind.

Entre chaque plat on faisait un trou, le trou normand, avec un verre d’eau-de-vie qui jetait du feu dans le corps et de la folie dans les têtes.

I’m honestly at a loss on how to put this in English since the relevant phrase – le trou normand – is literally just ‘the Normand hole’.  It refers to a drink taken between courses in the hope of facilitating digestion/dulling the senses just enough that you can keep going for the next.  Eau-de-vie in the Normand context has to be apple brandy (Calvados)

From Les Sabots:

She went to find a cup, sat down again, tasted the black liquor [coffee], made a grimace, but, under the master’s furious eye, drank it down to the bottom.  Then they had to drink the first glass of (apple) brandy for the rinse, the second for the followup-rinse, and the third for a kick in the ass.

Elle alla chercher une tasse, se rassit, goûta la noire liqueur, fit la grimace, mais, sous l’œil furieux du maître, avala jusqu’au bout.Puis il lui fallut boire le premier verre d’eau-de-vie de la rincette, le second du pousse-rincette, et le troisième du coup-de-pied-au-cul.

Rincette is defined as the ‘little bit of liqueur poured in a cup after drinking coffee’

Pousse-rincette is, here, simply the followup to the first rinse.  The term seems more generally a synonym for the rincette – it is closer to the contemporary pousse-café.

Coup-de-pied-au-cul is literally ‘a kick in the ass.’  I can’t tell if this is a witticism of Maupassant’s or a legitimate Normand phrase now lost to use.