Thursday, 8 September 2011

"As ignorant as the back of a cab"

   In my 'cranioteque' (above) is a plaster bust of a man with domed head and pinched features (he's hidden on the top shelf). I bought the cast at a junk stall thinking it was a likeness of Voltaire. It turned out to be that of the masochistic Curé d'Ars, the patron saint of priests, whose image, I've since realized, crops up a lot here in France and serves as a regular reminder to me of my ignorance regarding the appearance of Voltaire. But I know what the Priest of Ars looked like;

   Here's what St. Augustine has to say of him (to De Selby in Flann O'Brien's “The Dalkey Archive”);

But do you know, I think the greatest dog's breakfast of the lot is St. Vianney.
I never heard of him.
'Course you have. Jean-Baptiste. You'd know him better as the curé of Ars.
Oh yes. A French holy man.
A holy fright, you mean. Takes a notion when he's young to be a priest, as ignorant as the back of a cab, couldn't make head nor tail of Latin or sums, dodges the column when Napoleon is looking for French lads to be slaughtered in Rooshia, and at the heel of the hunt spends sixteen to eighteen hours a day in the confessional – hearing, not telling – and takes to performing miracles, getting money from nowhere and taking on hand to tell the future. Don't be talking. A diabolical wizard of a man.”