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A Note on Fauvemann’s Nachlass
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This is the first volume of Jean-Pierre Fauvemann’s complete works to be devoted entirely to his Nachlass. The editors have gone from the early monographs on the history of philosophy directly to the posthumous notebooks and papers, presumably because the prolix middle period writings on “cellular automata” and “larval Christs” are not yet ready for publication. Here I want only to point to two items from the cahier intime: a page of what appear to be lecture notes and a piece of marginalia on a work of literary criticism.

On August 24, 1944, a month before Fauvemann’s death, we find a longhand sheet reproduced in facsimile. In pink ink, across the top, is the word “l’homéomérie” and below that, in pencil, “A. sacrifie tout à la rage de la symétrie.” On the facing page the editors provide an annotated diagram of the sheet telling us that Fauvemann’s lecture note refers to Lucretius’ rejection of Anaxagoras’ physics.Homoeomeria is the doctrine that the constituents of matter are interior duplicates: water is made up of water-units, air of air-units, flesh of flesh, bone of bone, etc. It follows that the parts of matter are infinitely subdividable, and this is of course incompatible with the Lucretian view that atoms are the point beyond which no further divisions may occur.

Just two days after the entry on Anaxagoras’ “rage for symmetry,” Fauvemann comments upon an essay by Sylvie Bourdonnais. A line from the Bourdonnais essay—“the most violent wrenching of the atoms of poetry; a galvanizing of the bond between nature and letters” (my trans)—is copied out in the same pink ink, below which Fauvemann adds the words “kinesis” and “epiphora.” One is reminded here of the oft-quoted line from Fauvemann’s short book on metaphor: “the earth keeps turning in the torque of tenor and vehicle.” The editors go further (too far, in my view) and claim the proximity of the entries invites us to find enacted in the marginalia the same regress Fauvemann understood Lucretius to reject as a science of nature.

An anonymous reviewer in the Times Literary Supplement wrote that Fauvemann was “the most beguiling of the generation of poet-philosophers that includes George Santayana and T.S. Eliot,” in part because he’d managed to “create his own precursors.” It is reasonable to infer from the time and tone that the reviewer was Fauvemann’s American biographer, James Kaplan. From Kaplan’s biography we learn that the day before Fauvemann added the Bourdonnais marginalia (August 25), the author’s son, Julian, died in a boating accident off the Cote d’Azur. Father and son, Kaplan conjectures, had become estranged in the years leading up to the accident: Julian dropped out of Cambridge to chase a Comtesse in Monaco (and later a starlet in Beverly Hills), yet also took on during these years a role as a wounded fighter pilot in an American war film (in which he was quite good), and a last metamorphosis from actor to poet. The only evidence of the poetry is a sonnet which appeared in a little magazine in the middle west (Big Table) with the title “Favman Oak.” Kaplan says that the sonnet, while not very successful as a poem, nevertheless appears to have been composed in accordance with an “ingenious constraint.” The end-rhyme of the first two lines (behold / cold) takes the number of letters in the second word as a rule for moving the position of the rhyme back 4 syllables in the next pair (array / day); which moves the rhyme back 3 syllables (try / my); then back 2 (why/I); leaving lines eleven and twelve rhyming on their first words (breath / death); at which point the schema resets for the sonnet’s final couplet (reservoir / nevermore). Deriving the dilattentism of the son from the atomism of the father, Kaplan somewhat strainedly suggests that the rhyme scheme is expressive of the poem’s title, and so also of the patronym: the favman is an oak in whose bark can be found decagalloyl, a tannic acid formed from the fractal repetition of a single organic molecule.

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