The Chrysantheme Papers

The Chrysantheme Papers: The Pink Notebook of Madame Chrysantheme and Other Documents of French Japonsime

Translated and with an Introduction by Christopher Reed
Copyright Date: 2010
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  • Book Info
    The Chrysantheme Papers
    Book Description:

    Pierre Loti’s novel Madame Chrysanthème (1888) enjoyed great popularity during the author’s lifetime, served as a source of Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly, and remains in print to this day as a classic in Western literature. Loti’s story, cast in the form of his fictionalized diary, describes the affair between a French naval officer and Chrysanthème, a temporary "bride" purchased in Nagasaki. More broadly, Loti’s novel helped define the terms in which Occidentals perceived Japan as delicate, feminine, and, to use one of Loti’s favorite words, "preposterous"—in short, ripe for exploitation. The Pink Notebook of Madame Chrysanthème (1893) sought, according to a newspaper reviewer at the time, "to avenge Japan for the adjectives that Pierre Loti has inflicted on it." Written by Félix Régamey, a talented illustrator with firsthand knowledge of Japan, The Pink Notebook retells Loti’s story but this time as the diary of Chrysanthème. The book, presented here in English for the first time and together with the original French text and illustrations by Régamey and others, is certainly surprising in its late nineteenth-century context. Its retelling of a classic tale from the position of a character marginalized by her sex and race provocatively anticipates certain aspects of postmodern literature. Translator Christopher Reed’s rich and satisfying introduction compares Loti and Régamey in relation to attitudes toward Japan held by notable Japonistes Vincent van Gogh, Lafcadio Hearn, Edmond de Goncourt, and Philippe Burty. Reed provides further intellectual context by including new translations of excerpts from Loti’s novel as well as a portion of the travel journal of Régamey’s travel companion, the renowned collector Emile Guimet. Reed’s emphasis on competing Western ideas about Japan challenges conventional scholarly generalizations concerning Japanism in this era. This elegant translation of The Pink Notebook and Japoniste documents will delight both general and specialized readers, particularly those interested in the ambiguities in the dynamics of nationalism, gender, identification, and exploitation that, since the nineteenth century, have characterized the West’s relationship to Japan.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6072-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-60)
    Christopher Reed

    That Pierre Loti’sMadame Chrysanthèmeis a key text in the history of Occidental perceptions of Japan is often averred: “in the late nineteenth century Loti’s Japan became Europe’s Japan,” and “no other French work had such an impact in shaping attitudes toward Japan at the turn of the century.”¹ Loti’s novel, presented as the autobiographical journal of a naval officer who takes a temporary “wife” in Nagasaki, was serialized inLe Figaroin 1887, published as a lushly illustrated book in 1888, reprinted 222 times during the author’s lifetime, and translated into every major European language. An English translation...

  5. Part I The Pink Notebook of Madame Chrysanthème
    • The pink notebook of Madame Chrysanthème
      (pp. 63-63)
    • Notes on the Translation
      (pp. 64-66)
      Christopher Reed

      This translation preserves Régamey’s nineteenth-century francophone romanizations of Japanese terms; thus, “Tokio-Chimboum” (Tokyo newspaper), rather than either Tokyo (Tokyō) orshinbun;Samouraï, rather than samurai;guécharather than geisha, and so forth. All ellipses are in the original; nothing has been omitted from this translation.

      All footnotes in the original text have been preserved as they were in the original. Additional notes that I have supplied are signed with my initials....

    • PREFACE The Japanese Soul and the Japan of Monsieur Pierre Loti
      (pp. 67-76)

      “Remove this monkey business!” said Louis XIV, disdainfully touching with his cane some of those superb paintings of the Dutch school that are the glory of museums today. And now comes a famous French author to prove, by his writings on Japan, an incompetence equal to that of the great king—and with the same pomposity.

      No doubt this incompetence is not clear to all eyes; the brilliant style, the charming descriptions veil the author’s rancor and prejudice so that the impression produced for the casual reader is, on the whole, not so terrible.

      It is not the same for...

      (pp. 77-78)

      To my dear Godmother,

      the Countess MATSOUKATA,

      Ambassadress in Paris

      You were indulgent and kind to your little Chrysanthème, and so gentle at that period a thousand times blessed when she, so young, was your humble servant.

      By your example as much as by your lessons you taught me to be docile, the first duty of woman and the most appreciated of her charms.

      Alas, I am no longer a child. I am twenty years old and my experience of life has already been very harsh.

      With the sincerity you will recognize, I have retraced for you alone, day by...

    • The Pink Notebook of Madame Chrysanthème
      (pp. 79-92)

      Returning home, I found Oyouki, my little neighbor, trembling and all upset, and that worsened the anxiety I felt about not seeing her at the party at the Garden of Flowers, where we were supposed to meet.

      This is what happened: A big European naval ship arrived yesterday; out of it came blue men with bare necks; in groups they invaded the town, bursting into the houses with their booming voices, as they doubtless do in their country.

      Three of them, having rented horses, were galloping recklessly along the road Oyouki was taking to come meet me. Very frightened at...

    • Le Cahier Rose de Madame Chrysanthème
      (pp. 93-94)
    • PREFACE L’Ame japonaise et le Japon de M. Pierre Loti
      (pp. 95-104)

      « Ôtez-moi ces magots! » disait Louis XIV, en touchant dédaigneusement de sa canne quelques-uns de ces superbes tableaux de l’école hollandaise, qui sont la gloire des musées de nos jours. Et voilà qu’un fameux littérateur français vient nous donner la preuve, dans ses écrits sur le Japon, d’une incompétence égale à celle du grand roi — avec la même superbe.

      Sans doute cette incompétence n’apparaît pas à tous les yeux; l’éclat du style, le charme des descriptions, voilent, en plus d’un endroit, la rancoeur et les préventions de l’auteur, de sorte que l’impression produite sur le lecteur superficiel n’est,...

      (pp. 105-106)

      A ma bien chère Marraine,

      la Comtesse MATSOUKATA

      ambassadrice à Paris

      Vous étiez indulgente et bonne pour votre petite Chrysanthème, et si douce, au temps mille fois béni où, toute jeune, elle était votre humble servante.

      Par votre exemple, autant que par vos leçons, vous m’avez appris la docilité, premier devoir de la femme, le plus apprécié de ses charmes.

      Hélas, je ne suis plus une enfant, j’ai vingt ans, et mon expérience de la vie est déjà très rude.

      Avec la sincérité que vous me connaissez, j’ai retracé pour vous seule, au jour le jour, les événements qui ont...

    • Le Cahier Rose de Madame Chrysanthème
      (pp. 107-120)

      En rentrant à la maison je trouve Oyouki, ma petite voisine, tremblante et toute défaite, et cela augmente l’inquiétude que j’éprouvais de ne l’avoir pas vue à la fête du Jardin des Fleurs où nous devions nous rencontrer.

      Il s’est passé ceci: Un grand navire européen est arrivé hier; il en est sorti des hommes bleus, le cou nu; en bande ils se sont répandus par la ville, pénétrant dans les maisons, avec de gros éclats de voix, à la manière de leur pays sans doute.

      Trois d’entre eux ayant loué des chevaux, galopaient d’une façon désordonnée sur la route...

  6. Part II Selections from Madame Chrysanthème, Pierre
      (pp. 121-126)

      The following selections from Emile Guimet’sPromenades japonaises(two volumes published in 1878 and 1880) and Pierre Loti’s 1887Madame Chrysanthèmeexemplify the precedents Régamey had in mind when he composedThe Pink Notebook of Madame Chrysanthème. To understand why Loti’s novel so provoked Régamey, it is useful to compare his account with that of Guimet, Régamey’s traveling companion, focusing not only on what these authors said of Japan, but on how they presented themselves as Westerners in the East.

      Guimet was eager to distinguish himself from the general run of Westerners in Japan, as is clear from his “Little...

    • Madame Chrysanthème
      (pp. 127-134)

      At the break of dawn, we spied Japan.¹

      Just at the predicted time, it appeared: a point still far away but precise in this ocean that had been for so many days a great void.

      At first it was no more than a series of pink mountaintops (the foremost archipelago of Fukaï in the rising sun). But behind these, all along the horizon, we soon saw, like a thickness in the air or a veil hovering on the water: this was it, the real Japan, and little by little from this great muddled cloud emerged the altogether solid outlines that...

    • Madame Chrysanthème
      (pp. 135-142)

      Au petit jour naissant, nous aperçûmes le Japon.

      Juste à l’heure prévue, il apparut, encore lointain, en un point précis de cette mer qui, pendant tant de jours, avait été l’étendue vide.

      Ce ne fut d’abord qu’une série de petits sommets roses (l’archipel avancé des Fukaï, au soleil levant). Mais derrière, tout le long de l’horizon, on vit bientôt comme une lourdeur en l’air, comme un viole pesant sur les eaux: c’était cela, le vrai Japon, et peu à peu, dans cette sorte de grande nuée confuse, se découpèrent des silhouettes tout à fait opaques qui étaient les.

      Nous avions...

    • Walks through Japan
      (pp. 143-152)

      When at last, after a crossing of twenty-three days, we caught sight of the Japanese coast drawing its strange silhouettes in the morning fog, our souls were seized by two emotions.

      The quite justified pleasure of arriving in port was augmented by the joy of finally reaching this almost fantastical country, which the eighteenth century made us discover through its lacquers, its screens, its porcelains and ivories, and which recent political events and new means of travel have suddenly brought to our door.

      If, for the last several years, Japan has allowed itself to be invaded by the ideas and...

    • Promenades Japonaises
      (pp. 153-162)

      Lorsqu’après vingt-trois jours de traversée on entrevoit les terres japonaises dessiner, dans les brumes du matin, leurs silhouettes étranges, une double émotion envahit l’âme.

      Au plaisir bien légitime d’arriver au port vient s’ajouter la joie de toucher enfin à ce pays presque fantastique que le XVIIIesiècle nous a fait deviner sur des laques, des paravents, des porcelaines et des ivoires, et que les récents événements politiques, les nouveaux moyens de locomotion ont, tout d’un coup, mis à notre portée.

      Si, depuis quelques années, le Japon s’est laissé envahir par les idées et les produits des peuples qui se prétendent...

    • INDEX TO THE INTRODUCTORY ESSAYS Numbers in boldface refer to figures
      (pp. 163-165)
  7. Back Matter
    (pp. 166-168)