Sunday, March 05, 2006

Freedom of Speech


In 1857, when he was going to publish "Les fleurs du Mal" (Flowers of Evil), Charles Baudelaire had to withdraw les Métamorphoses du vampire; They were considered immoral and obscene by the censorship:


La femme cependant, de sa bouche de fraise,
En se tordant ainsi qu'un serpent sur la braise,
Et pétrissant ses seins sur le fer de son buse,
Laissait couler ces mots tout imprégnés muse :
- "Moi, j'ai la lèvre humide, et je sais la science
De perdre au fond d'un lit l'antique concscience.
Je sèche tous les pleurs sur mes seins triomphants,
Et faire rire les vieux du rire des enfants.
Je remplace, pour qui me voit nue et sans voiles,
La lune, le soleil, le ciel et les étoiles !
Je suis, mon cher savant, si docte aux voluptés,
Lorsque j'étouffe un homme en mes bras redoutés,
Ou lorsque j'abandonne aux morsures mon buste,
Timide et libertine et fragile et robuste,
Que sur ces matelas qui se pâment d'émoi,
Les anges impuissants se damneraient pour moi !"

In English:
The woman, however, with her strawberry mouth
Writhing like a snake on red-hot embers
And kneading her breasts on the iron of her stricture,
Letting these words quite impregnated run, muses:
- “Me, I’ve the humid lip, and I know the craft
Of losing on the flat of a bed the antique conscience
I dry all the tears on my triumphant breasts
And make the old laugh at the laughs of children
I replace, for those who thus me see nude and with no veils,
The moon, the sun, the sky and the stars!
I am, my dear pundit, as learned among the voluptuous,
When I choke a man in my feared arms,
Or when I abandon my bust to wild attacks,
Timid and libertine and fragile and robust,
That on these mattresses swooning of emotion
The impotent angels will damn me!”

Why did the French have to wait several decades before they were allowed to see, read and listen to these pretty words, - actually quite harmless verse? What happened during those decades?

The capacity for diversity in print increases with modernity.
What is modernity?

Well, let's say: A consequence of economic, political (democracy) and educational development. Some have it, some don't. Some will get it. Some even go back to former states of mind.

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