Tag Archives: French

Attention all dromomaniacs

Have you heard of the medical condition known as”mad travellers’ disease” or more officially as “dromomania”? What a lovely word! This condition describes people who are driven to wander long distances due to irresistible impulses. They have an exaggerated desire to wander or travel.

The word is derived from Ancient Greek dromosa running/race, and mania-insanity.

Wikipedia offers the following: Dromomania, also travelling fugue, is an uncontrollable psychological urge to wander. People with this condition spontaneously depart from their routine; they may travel long distances and take up different identities and occupations. Months may pass before they return to their former identities. In the common English vernacular this is often rendered simply as ‘wanderlust’ (directly from the German), although dromomania does imply a psychological compulsion, usually on one’s own and often without one’s conscious knowledge, rather than a more generalised desire to travel. The most famous case was that of Jean-Albert Dadas, a Bordeaux gas-fitter. Dadas would suddenly set out on foot and reach cities as far away as Prague, Vienna or Moscow with no memory of his travels. Jean-Martin Charcot presented a case he called automatisme ambulatoire, French for ‘ambulatory automatism’, or ‘walking around without being in control of one’s own actions.’ More generally, the term is sometimes used to describe people who have a strong emotional or even physical need to be constantly traveling and experiencing new places, often at the expense of their normal family, work, and social lives.”

Rachael Jones constructed her own fiction based on dromomania. How many of us feel driven to travel around our own countries or abroad as often as our finances can manage? Are you a dromomaniac? Am I a dromomaniac because I feel driven to walk the length of the Derwent River, while I hope more dollars will find their way into my bank account so I can travel overseas again?

Claremont beside the Derwent River

I have wondered why there has been so much interest from USA readers for my posting about the Claremont Bowling Club.  The Club is an ordinary lawn bowling club the like of which is found in every town and city across Australia.  My blog site statistics do not indicate which part of the USA my readers come from, so more research was required.

The name Claremont derives from the French for clear mountain, and was introduced into England by refugee French Hugenots in the early 18th century.  The concept of clear mountain works here in Hobart because our town of Claremont sits comfortably at the feet of Mount Wellington.

There a city named Claremont in Sullivan County, New Hampshire, USA. It was named after Claremont, also known historically as ‘Clermont’, an 18th-century Palladian mansion of Thomas Pelham-Holles, Earl of Clare less than a mile south of the centre of Esher in Surrey, England.  This New Hampshire city is located between the Ascutney State Park and the Hawks Mountain area to the west and Mount Sunapee to the east.  Presumably offering clear mountains.

In addition, Wikipedia informs me that “Claremont is a college town on the eastern border of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Claremont is known for its many educational institutions, its tree-lined streets, and its historic buildings. In July 2007, it was rated by CNN/Money magazine as the fifth best place to live in the United States. Due to its large number of trees and residents with doctoral degrees, it is sometimes referred to as “The City of Trees and PhDs.”

Our Claremont in the City of Glenorchy within the Greater Hobart Area is very different than the Californian town with the same name.

In America, the Gold Rush of 1849 opened up California so I suspect the name Claremont was probably given by someone remembering their English heritage when the town was created in the 1880s, or by someone who had travelled west from the New Hampshire town of the same name.  I understand that the peaks of Mount Baldy, Mount San Antonio, Timber Mountain and others in the distance overlook the Californian city.

So now I have either or both California readers on the west coast of USA and New Hampshire readers on the east coast of the USA.  Will the real reader/s stand up!

Est-ce que je suis un flâneur?

Friend Ka suggested that ,in my walks along the Derwent River, I may have become what the French term, a flâneur.

I had never heard this wonderful word before, and with a little research discovered a great deal of information – and some very heavy stuff. After reading it all, I wonder – am I un flâneur, or not? The Oxford Dictionaries informed me a flâneur is “A man who saunters around observing society” and is derived from the French flâner meaning to ‘saunter, lounge’.

Wikipedia offered further information: “The flâneur was a literary type from 19th century  France, essential to any picture of the streets of Paris. The word carried a set of rich associations: the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street.  The flâneur was defined by Larousse in ambivalent terms, equal parts curiosity and laziness and he presented a taxonomy of flânerieflâneurs of the boulevards, of parks, of the arcades, of cafés, mindless flâneurs and intelligent flâneurs. The image below is by artist Paul Gavarni in 1842 and titled Le Flâneur.

Paul Gavarni Le Flaneur 1842

Wikipedia continued: In the 1860s Charles Baudelaire presented a memorable portrait of the flâneur as the artist-poet of the modern metropolis: The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world – impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito. The lover of life makes the whole world his family. Thus the lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy. Or we might liken him to a mirror as vast as the crowd itself; or to a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness, responding to each one of its movements and reproducing the multiplicity of life and the flickering grace of all the elements of life. Charles Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life”, (New York: Da Capo Press, 1964). Orig. published in Le Figaro, in 1863.”

The website for The Arcades Project at http://www.thelemming.com/lemming/dissertation-web/home/flaneur.html explained that “Flâneur” is a word understood intuitively by the French to mean “stroller, idler, walker. He has been portrayed in the past as a well-dressed man, strolling leisurely through the Parisian arcades of the nineteenth century – a shopper with no intention to buy. Traditionally the traits that mark the flâneur are wealth, education, and idleness. He strolls to pass the time that his wealth affords him, treating the people who pass and the objects he sees as texts for his own pleasure. An anonymous face in the multitude, the flâneur is free to probe his surroundings for clues and hints that may go unnoticed by the others.  As a member of the crowd that populates the streets, the flâneur participates physically in the text that he observes while performing a transient and aloof autonomy with a ‘cool but curious eye’ that studies the constantly changing spectacle that parades before him (Rignall 112). As an observer, the flâneur exists as both ‘active and intellectual’ (Burton 1). The flâneur  has no specific relationship with any individual, yet he establishes a temporary, yet deeply empathetic and intimate relationship with all that he sees – writing a bit of himself into the margins of the text in which he is immersed. Walter Benjamin posits in his description of the flâneur that ‘He flows like thought through his physical surroundings, walking in a meditative trance, (Lopate 88), gazing into the passing scene as others have gazed into campfires, yet ‘remain[ing] alert and vigilant’ all the while (Missac 61). The flâneur is acutely aware, a potent intellectual force of keen observation – a detective without a lead. If he were cast as a character in the ‘drama of the world’, he would be its consciousness.”

The Paris Review at http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/10/17/in-praise-of-the-flaneur/ remarked: “the idea of flânerie as a desirable lifestyle has fallen out of favour, due to some arcane combination of increasing productivity – hello, fruits of the Industrial Revolution! – and the modern horror at the thought of doing absolutely nothing. But, as we grow inexorably busier – due in large part to the influence of technology – might flânerie be due for a revival?”

Am I … can I be a flâneur? Whatever the answer to this question I am so grateful for Ka introducing me to this fabulous new word and all its ideas.