Onesuch Press

Riversong of the Rhone

Riversong of the Rhone

Nearly seventy years after the death of Charles Ferdinand Ramuz (1878-1947), the reputation of Switzerland’s legendary poet of the people is secure, at least in French. Since 2005, his 22 novels have appeared in a two-volume Pléiade Edition from Gallimard (Paris) and Éditions Slatkine in Geneva has completed 29 volumes of Ramuz’s Oeuvres Complètes (Complete Works). The author’s face is passed around daily on the Swiss 200-franc note and scenes from his Histoire du Soldat (A Soldier’s Tale), written in collaboration with Igor Stravinksy in 1918, can be found on You Tube. But only recently have English translations of Ramuz’s novels begun to appear and until now, his epic prose poem about life along the Rhone River has not been available in English.

Patti M. Marxsen’s translation of Ramuz’s Chant de Notre Rhône brings this unique work to Anglophone readers as Riversong of the Rhone in a well-crafted bilingual edition. Graced with a foreword by Geneva Writers Group founder Susan M. Tiberghien and an insightful translator’s note that compares Ramuz to both Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman, this book will surely find a readership among students, readers of poetry, and also tourists who want to take a little bit of Switzerland home. “As I write in my translator’s note, the ‘over-arching theme of Chant de notre Rhône is the unstoppable flow of time,’” Marxsen says. “It goes to the heart of humanity as it is reflected in nature.”

Working from an edition published in Geneva in 1920 by Georg et Cie Éditeurs, Marxsen, who is best known for her essays, felt increasingly drawn to the project as her own prose poetry evolved in recent years. “I find the whole question of genre intriguing,” she said. “The essence of good writing is always poetic language, even if we tend to set poetry apart as a precious form of language that towers above essays, stories, and novels. For Ramuz, it was all one and the same and that makes sense to me.”

Marxsen “discovered” C. F. Ramuz after moving to Switzerland in 2007. She was surprised, especially as a former French teacher in the USA, never to have heard of a man who had written nearly two dozen novels, to say nothing of theater, poems, and journalism. After reading his last novel, Si le soleil ne revenait pas, she devoted months to Ramuz research and, in 2008, published an article in the prestigious French Review of the American Association of Teachers of French, “The Quest and the Question in C.F. Ramuz’s Si le soleil ne revenait pas.” In 2009, she reviewed the first English translation of a Ramuz novel to appear in over 50 years in another American journal, Absinthe. “Ramuz’s World: The Young Man from Savoy” assessed Blake Robinson’s translation of Le Garçon Savoyard (1936). More recently, in 2013, Michelle Bailat-Jones’s translation of La Beauté sur la terre (1927) has appeared as Beauty on Earth (Onesuch Press). “I was in the midst of writing an article on that book when Michelle’s wonderful translation came out,” Marxsen says. “I hope to get back to it and bring her words into my thoughts about what is, probably, Ramuz’s best novel.”

Clearly, Marxsen’s writing life has taken her in numerous directions. As a journalist, essayist, and independent scholar, her work has appeared in nearly 50 publications in America, Switzerland, and France. A selected list, in addition to those above, includes the Boston Globe, Caribbean Writer, Ekphrasis, Fourth Genre, Women’s Review of Books, The Writer Magazine, Saisons d’Alsace, Hello Switzerland, Necessary Fiction, and Offshoots, the literary journal of the Geneva Writers Group.

"Riversong of the Rhone is fueled by an entrancing, hymn-like music. Patti Marxsen's agile translation of the poem reveals a musicality within incantatory repetitions and images of a rocking cradle—an aural and visual evocation of a shared birthplace." –Jennifer Kurdyla, Music & Literature

Riversong of the Rhone is now available.  Buy it now at AmazonBarnes & Noble and other retailers.

The Remarkable Female Descendants of Countess Francoise Krasinska

Countess Francoise Krasinska great-great-grand-daughter was Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna of Savoy (1851-1926), the Queen consort of the Kingdom of Italy.

She married her first cousin Umberto, Prince of Piedmont in 1868. In 1869, Margherita gave birth to Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples, afterwards Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. He was their only child.
In 1878, Umberto succeeded as the new King of Italy. She became his Queen consort and remained by his side for the rest of his reign. Umberto was killed by the anarchist, Gaetano Bresci in1900.
Margherita encouraged artists and writers and founded cultural institutions. She was a benefactor of many charities, especially the Red Cross.
In 1889, the Margherita pizza, whose red tomatoes, green basil, and white cheese represent the Italian flag, was named after her.
In 1893 she climbed the Punta Gnifetti (or Signalkuppe), a peak of the Monte Rosa massif on the Swiss-Italian border, for the inauguration of the mountain hut named after her.

Countess Francoise Krasinska's great-great-great-grand-daughter was Giovanna Elisabetta Antonia Romana Maria (1907 – 2000), the last Tsaritsa of Bulgaria.
She was born in Rome, the third daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and Queen Elena, former Princess of Montenegro. She was raised in the Villa Savoia and from a young age was aware of that the main purpose of her life would be to further the House of Savoy's dynastic aspirations through marriage.
Giovanna married Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria in Assisi in October 1930, in a Roman Catholic ceremony, attended by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Bulgarians deemed her a good match, partly because of her mother's native Slavic ethnicity. At a second ceremony in Sofia, Bulgaria, Giovanna was married in an Eastern Orthodox Church ceremony, bringing her into conflict with the Roman Catholic Church. Giovanna adopted the Bulgarian version of her name, Ioanna. She and Boris had two children: Marie-Louise of Bulgaria, born in January 1933, and then the future Simeon II of Bulgaria in 1937.
In the years prior to World War II, Tsaritsa Ioanna became heavily involved in charities, including the financing of a children's hospital. During the war she counterbalanced her husband consigning Bulgaria to the Axis by obtaining transit visas to enable a number of Jews to escape to Argentina. Tsar Boris also proved less malleable than Hitler had hoped, and following a meeting in Berlin in August 1943, the Tsar became seriously ill and died, aged 49. While stress and a heart condition were the official reasons for his death, rumours that he had been poisoned by Hitler were voiced at the time and have since grown.
Ioanna's son, Simeon, became the new Tsar and a regency was established led by his uncle Prince Kyril, who was considered more pliable by the Germans.
In the dying days of World War II, Bulgaria was invaded by the Soviet Union. Prince Kyril was tried by a People's Court and subsequently executed. Giovanna and Simeon remained under home arrest at Vrana Palace, near Sofia until 1946, when the new Communist government gave them 48 hours to leave the country. After initially fleeing to Alexandria, Egypt, to be with her father, Vittorio Emmanuele III, they moved to Madrid. After the marriage of Simeon II to the Spanish noblewoman Margarita Gómez-Acebo y Cejuela in 1962, Tsaritsa Ioanna moved to Estoril, Portugal, where she lived for the rest of her life, excepting a brief return to Bulgaria in 1993 when she visited Boris's grave. She is buried in Assisi, Italy, where she married King Boris III in 1930.

How to make Gold

Astonishing letter from CASANOVA to Prince Charles of Courland (husband of Countess Francoise Krasinska).

"MY LORD,—I hope your highness will either burn this letter after reading it, or else preserve it with the greatest care. It will be better, however, to make a copy in cypher, and to burn the original. My attachment to you is not my only motive in writing; I confess my interest is equally concerned. Allow me to say that I do not wish your highness to esteem me alone for any qualities you may have observed in me; I wish you to become my debtor by the inestimable secret I am going to confide to you. This secret relates to the making of gold, the only thing of which your highness stands in need. If you had been miserly by nature you would be rich now; but you are generous, and will be poor all your days if you do not make use of my secret.

 "Your highness told me at Riga that you would like me to give you the secret by which I transmuted iron into copper; I never did so, but now I shall teach you how to make a much more marvellous transmutation. I should point out to you, however, that you are not at present in a suitable place for the operation, although all the materials are easily procurable. The operation necessitates my presence for the construction of a furnace, and for the great care necessary, far the least mistake will spoil all. The transmutation of Mars is an easy and merely mechanical process, but that of gold is philosophical in the highest degree. The gold produced will be equal to that used in the Venetian sequins. You must reflect, my lord, that I am giving you information which will permit you to dispense with me, and you must also reflect that I am confiding to you my life and my liberty.

"The step I am taking should insure your life-long protection, and should raise you above that prejudice which is entertained against the general mass of alchemists. My vanity would be wounded if you refuse to distinguish me from the common herd of operators. All I ask you is that you will wait till we meet before undertaking the process. You cannot do it by yourself, and if you employ any other person but myself, you will betray the secret. I must tell you that, using the same materials, and by the addition of mercury and nitre, I made the tree of projection for the Marchioness d'Urfe and the Princess of Anhalt. Zerbst calculated the profit as fifty per cent. My fortune would have been made long ago, if I had found a prince with the control of a mint whom I could trust. Your character enables me to confide in you. However, we will come to the point.

"You must take four ounces of good silver, dissolve in aqua fortis, precipitate secundum artem with copper, then wash in lukewarm water to separate the acids; dry, mix with half an ounce of sal ammoniac, and place in a suitable vessel. Afterwards you must take a pound of alum, a pound of Hungary crystals, four ounces of verdigris, four ounces of cinnabar, and two ounces of sulphur. Pulverise and mix, and place in a retort of such size that the above matters will only half fill it. This retort must be placed over a furnace with four draughts, for the heat must be raised to the fourth degree. At first your fire must be slow so as to extract the gross phlegm of the matter, and when the spirit begins to appear, place the receiver under the retort, and Luna with the ammoniac salts will appear in it. All the joinings must be luted with the Philosophical Luting, and as the spirit comes, so regulate your furnace, but do not let it pass the third degree of heat.

"So soon as the sublimation begins then boldly open your forth vent, but take heed that that which is sublimed pass not into the receiver where is your Luna, and so you must shut, the mouth of the retort closely, and keep it so for twenty-four hours, and then take off your fastenings, and allow the distillation to go on. Then you must increase your fire so that the spirits may pass, over, until the matter in the retort is quite desiccated. After this operation has been performed three times, then you shall see, the gold appear in the retort. Then draw it forth and melt it, adding your corpus perfectum. Melt with it two ounces of gold, then lay it in water, and you shall find four ounces of pure gold.

"Such my lord, is the gold mine for your mint of Mitau, by which, with the assistance of a manager and four men, you can assure yourself a revenue of a thousand ducats a week, and double, and quadruple that sum, if your highness chooses to increase the men and the furnaces. I ask your highness to make me your manager. But remember it must be a State secret, so burn this letter, and if your highness would give me any reward in advance, I only ask you to give me your affection and esteem. I shall be happy if I have reason to believe that my master will also be my friend. My life, which this letter places in your power, is ever at your service, and I know not what I shall do if I ever have cause to repent having disclosed my secret. I have the honour to be, etc."

The Paris Gun

From Pierre and Luce

The Paris Gun, named after its sole purpose of shelling Paris from extreme distance began firing on the morning of 21st March 1918. The Gun holds a significant place in the history of astronautics as its shells were the first human-made objects that reached the stratosphere. Shells took 170 seconds to reach Paris, rising as high as 40 km above the earth. Parisians believed they'd been bombed by a new type of high-altitude zeppelin, as neither the sound of an airplane nor a gun could be heard. It was the largest piece of artillery used during the war and is considered a supergun.
When first deployed the shells caused widespread alarm among inhabitants which quickly subsided. A weapon like no other, its capabilities are not known with certainty, due to the weapon's total destruction by the Germans in the face of the Allied offensive.
The effects were without military importance, the results being some destruction of property and the killing and wounding of a number of harmless citizens, including women and children. However, the objective was to build a psychological weapon to attack the morale of the Parisians, not to destroy the city itself.

Designed and operated by the German Navy and manufactured by the firm of Krupp, some seven guns were made using bored-out 380mm naval guns, each fitted with special 40 metre long inserted barrels. Just three of the guns were ever in use at any one time, fired from the Forest of Coucy.
Such was the rapid wear and tear of firing 120kg shells, each requiring a 180kg powder charge, towards Paris that the gun's lining required reboring after approximately 20 shots. After every firing the succeeding shell needed to be of slightly greater width
The Paris Gun was a propaganda success in Germany. The Allies searched in vain for the guns during the German retreat of August 1918 and after the armistice, but in vain. No example of the Paris Gun has been located then or since.
The church of St-Gervais-et-St-Protais is one of the oldest in Paris, mentioned as early as the fourth century. Dedicated to Gervasius and Protasius, the church was the seat of the brotherhood of wine merchants. The square, Place Saint-Gervais, located at the foot of the steps outside the church, was for a long time called the Crossroads of the Elm. Since the Middle Ages, a venerable monarch of an elm grew at its center. The inhabitants of the neighborhood would exchange money there.

The American Ambassador in Paris, William Graves Sharp on the Paris Gun
"So full was each day's account of tragic events during this period of the war in particular, that nothing, however unusual in its every phase, seemed to startle Paris. The most notable exception to this statement was the horror of Good Friday, the twenty-ninth day of March, 1918, at the church of St. Gervais, which was occasioned by a shot from one of the long-range guns. The loss in life was indeed so great, the circumstances so tragic, that, in addition, because of the sacred character of the day itself, I felt impelled, in giving an account of this event to the Department of State, to characterize it as the most destructive of any single shot that had been fired by the enemy during the war. It was at the same time most costly in consequences, for it had its echo throughout all Christendom. As the details of this horrible catastrophe came to be known, the list of the dead mounting to nearly one hundred, a wave of indignation and horror swept over the city.

Visiting the church with Mrs. Sharp as soon thereafter as we were permitted, I beheld a scene of wreckage such as would seem inconceivable for a single shell to cause. Striking at a point high in the vaulted roof near the front of the sacred edifice, an almost incredible displacement of the heavy stones of solid masonry, of which the columns and arches were constructed, had resulted. Many stones from this débris had fallen upon the heads of the congregation. The destruction of life was appalling, and the scene was that of a veritable shambles. Though all the bodies of the poor unfortunates had by that time been removed, yet in many places on the floor were blood stains of the innocent victims ; in places the gruesome sight of human brains could be seen. Rich and poor had gathered there that afternoon, not alone for purposes of worship, but also to hear the organ music for which the church was famed. Among those who lost their lives that day were a number of Americans. The full meaning of the horror was brought nearer to us because some of them at different times had been our guests at the Embassy. One of these, Madame Landon, was a niece of former Vice-President Levi P. Morton, who, in the early '80's, was American Minister to France.
The fact that the Counsellor of the Swiss Legation, M. Stroehlin, together with his wife, met their death at that time created a marked impression upon the public mind. He was not only in the diplomatic service of a neutral Power, but was then engaged in looking after German interests. Many years before, he had been a Secretary of the Swiss Legation at Washington. He was very popular in Paris, and his taking away in this cruel manner came as a great shock to those in diplomatic circles. So horrible indeed had been some of the circumstances connected with the death of M. and Madame Stroehlin, that not until many hours thereafter were the mangled remains of the wife discovered beneath a great pile of fallen stone.
On calling a day or two later upon my colleague, M. Dunant, the Swiss Minister, to express my sympathy, he voiced the greatest indignation at such an act. I am sure that in so doing he echoed the sentiment of not alone the Allied Powers, but of all neutrals. The answer of the German Government, that of necessity it could not direct its shots so as to avoid places of worship, contained in itself its own condemnation. The fruits of such a crime could only in the slightest and most indirect manner be of any military advantage."