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Sunday, May 03, 2009

More on Valentine de St.-Point

In my last post on Valentine de St.-Point, I said that it seemed she was more important as an artist than I had thought. Well, it now seems that I have to add to this that she was also more important as a thinker than I had thought.

An anonymous comment on my earlier post has drawn my attention to her Manifeste de la femme futuriste (Manifesto of the futurist woman) of 1912. This is available in French in a new edition of 2005 (Paris, Mille et une Nuits) and in English translation in Mary Ann Caws, Manifesto: a century of isms (University of Nebraska Press, 2001), and makes fascinating reading in whatever language.

Like Evola, St.-Point is interested in virility, and like Evola, St.-Point distinguishes the spiritual from the biological. “It is absurd to divide humanity into men and women. It is composed only of masculinity and femininity.” Unlike Evola, she sees a need for a balance in these two essential principles: “The fecund periods, when the most heroes and geniuses come forth from the terrain of culture in all its ebullience, are rich in masculinity and femininity.” Like Guénon (and of course like many others at the time), she sees an age ending–an age dominated by femininity. A strong dose of virility, of the brute, was needed to restore balance and move on to the next age. Unlike Guénon, she placed the new age firmly in the future (she was a futurist, after all), associating “turning toward the past” with femininity.

Nancy Locke sees St.-Point’s Manifesto as Fascist (“Valentine de Saint-Point and the Fascist Construction of Women” in Matthew Affron and Mark Antliff, eds, Fascist visions: art and ideology in France and Italy, Princeton University Press, 1997) while Barbara Spackman sees it as pre-Fascist (“Fascist Women and the Rhetoric of Virility” in Robin Pickering-Iazzi, ed., Mothers of invention: women, Italian fascism, and culture, University of Minnesota Press, 1995). In certain ways, both are right–depending very much on what one means by fascism, of course. Perhaps more accurately, Steven Aschheim sees it as "almost a parady of eclectic, erotic-liberationist Nietzscheanism" (The Nietzsche legacy in Germany, 1890-1990, University of California Press, 1994).

St.-Point provides yet another glimpse of the period and intellectual milieu out of which Traditionalism arose, even if she had no direct influence on its origins. Nietzsche, avant-garde art... and of course Theosophy too. St.-Point converted to Islam in Morocco in 1918, then spent several years with Blavatsky's works.

She moved to Cairo in 1924, and was initially involved in something like a Cairene version of her earlier life--a "Centre idéiste" and political activity in favor of the Egyptian and Syrian nationalists, rather like Aguéli some years before. She published a French-language journal, Phœnix, revue de la renaissance orientale (despite the widespread view in Egypt at the time that the Oriental Renaissance involved a renaissance of Arabic literature). Political activities ceased in 1928: she was expelled from Egypt, and the order was only rescinded after the intervention of the French embassy, and on condition that she abandon politics. Two years later, Guénon arrived and she became his closest French friend in Cairo.

There are a number of books on her in French, of which the most recent and most complete seems to be Véronique Richard de la Fuente, Valentine de Saint Point, une poétesse dans l'avant-garde Futuriste et méditerranéiste (Édition des Albères 2003).

2 comments:

Paolo Ciccioli said...

It didn't seem to be so near to traditionalist thinking. Overmore, beacuase of the different point of view( the futurism Vs traditionalism).
It could seem strange but there are some interpretation of futurism that, cutting away the mechanical thinking of life, find his roots on traditional religion.

bye bye

fa said...

Thank you, very interesting