Saturday, 3 November 2012

Marx, Hitler, and Madame de Pompadour

I’ve been writing for a week or so, but in an experimental, exploratory way, not yet having worked out what my subject is or how the story might develop. This isn’t “free writing”. I’m crafting it as I go. In fact, I think of it as series of technical exercises. I’ll be happy to scrap most of it, once something has begun to take root.

At this early stage, it seems as though the conscious mind has to be a junior partner in the process. It makes me pay attention to my dreams. Here’s one I had last night.

I’m going to a party. As I walk along the road, I see the guests standing in the garden, Marx and Hitler among them. As I get nearer I see there’s a car parked between the road and the garden, and the only way into the garden is to climb through the car - in one door and out the other. And I think to myself, "There must be some way into this party other than through Madame de Pompadour's Fiat." 

I didn’t get the pun on fiat until I woke up and remembered it means permission or authorization, with an echo of the “fiat lux” of Genesis - the first words of creation: let there be light. I had to google Madame de Pompadour. As the mistress of Louis XV, apparently, she was known for throwing good parties, and hung out with intellectuals and artists, including Voltaire.

The visual gag of climbing in one side of a car and out the other I associate with A Hard Day's Night where I think the Beatles are chased through the middle of a taxi (is this right?). Then it occurs to me that the Marx Brothers might have done the same thing in one of their films (did they?) and I wonder if there's a buried Marx connection.

It's all too easy to imagine what Freud would make of this dream - the narrow passage into Madame de Pompadour's garden, and my desire to find another way in. Thank you, Herr Doktor, but I’m looking for a more expansive reading, and sometimes a Fiat is all the permission I need.

Jung, on the other hand, would be on the look-out for archetypal images from the collective unconscious - Marx as the trickster, perhaps, and Hitler as the shadow - aspects of myself that I'm trying to get in touch with. Which would mean what? Subverting order and delving into dark places, I suppose. Gags are good (I like gags) but only as vehicles, as ways of getting to the serious stuff.

But why should I need the permission of Madame de Pompadour? As a muse, perhaps, an artistic patron, a figure both powerful and subversive. In the dream it’s her party and, though I resist, I have to climb through the technology (or technik) of her car to reach the garden where things take root.

That’s enough on the dream. Back to my technical exercises.


  1. The image of the Beatles being chased through a taxi certainly seems familiar – Zoë thinks you have the film right.

    How wonderful that Madame de Pompadour had a Fiat - so much more susceptible to puns than most French marques. A Citroën might have reminded one of a citron, but one doesn't want a lemon at a party. The lexis of car names is not as rich as some other areas (fish, for example) for wordplay, but when one hits on a good one, it is, as you know of course, a triumph.

  2. It's always amazing when verbal puns emerge out of dreams once you speak them......
    this is all intriguing, Joe,...keep on writing..

  3. 'let it be' - the Beatles and the pope? - that fiat is making connections all over the shop. Blimey Joe, your subconscious is so much more sophisticated than mine!