The Salsa Mandarins.

1 May

The following references are from:

by Simone de Beauvoir », translated by Leonard M. Friedman.

A novel based on the lives and milieu of Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and others. Existentialism », feminism, communism, capitalism. I read this book partly because a dancer visiting from France lamented to me the lack of culture in Canada. I cringed ». Rather than try to defend Canada’s cultural honour, I thought I’d try to understand her point of view by reading some French literature. First published in France in 1954.

Chapter Two, Page 70:
“… ‘If I were a man,’ she said, ‘I’d take a different woman home with me every night.’
‘If you had a different woman every night, they’d all seem the same after a while.’
‘You’re wrong. Take that little brunette over there, and the redhead with those pretty falsies, for example. You wouldn’t find the same thing at all under their dresses.’ She rested her chin in the palm of her hand and looked steadily at Henri. ‘Aren’t you interested in women?’
‘Not in that way.’
‘How then?’
‘Well, I like looking at them when they’re pretty, dancing with them when they’re grateful, or talking to them when they’re intelligent.’
‘For talk men are better,’ Nadine said. She looked at him suspiciously. ‘Look,’ she said, ‘why did you ask me to go out with you? I’m not pretty, I dance badly, and I’m a poor conversationalist.’ …”

Chapter Two, Page 70

I haven’t done a lot of reading on existentialism, but I think it has something to do with living passionately, and in the moment. I wonder if kids in France read more books on existentialism growing-up, or if it’s just in their blood? Really though, what is culture » made of? Books, movies, music, art, dance? In any case, salsa makes one live in the moment. Always wanting to dance with a different salsera, ever seeking fresh meet salsera, and when she’s in your arms, nothing else seems to matter. Reality is that dance.

Chapter Five, Page 322:
“… ‘Claudie’s giving a cocktail party; it’s horrible! The house is full of gigolos; I don’t feel at home any more. Come inside for a moment and then we’ll quietly get the hell out.’ …”

Chapter Five, Page 322

This is the only mention of gigolos in this book. These days I wonder what salsa would be like with relationship salsera. Would I feel at home on the dancefloor with relationship salsera? Holding-back of salsa gigolomojo is inevitable vs. letting it run amuk. What would a dancefloor full of relationship salsa gigolos look like, withholding salsa gigolomojo? There’s something in existentialism about questioning morality – I’ll have to read more on that.

Chapter Five, Page 355:
“… She sat down next to him. It had been a very long time since he had last found himself seated next to such a beautiful girl. As he spoke, he breathed in the sweet scent of her hair; her perfume smelled like perfume, like all perfumes, but on her it seemed an almost natural odour. And it gave Henri a terrible desire. Running his fingers through her hair, slipping his tongue inside the red mouth — it would be easy, too easy in fact. He could feel that Josette awaited his pleasure with truly discouraging resignation. …”

Chapter Five, Page 355

Yes, the scent of a salsera is sometimes all I need to get my salsa gigolomojo up and running. A beautiful salsera may leave a visual impression. A beautiful salsera in perfume will imprint her scent to my memory, to the point that I now associate certain fragrances with certain salseras. Salsa, for me, is all about the terrible desires. Morality, out the window. Culture, too.

Chapter Six, Page 455:
“… It’s difficult to become a man at a time when that word is so heavily weighted with meaning: too many of he dead, tortured, decorated, famous seniors offered themselves as examples to a boy of twenty-five who’s still dreaming of a mother’s tenderness and a father’s protection. I thought of those primitive peoples who teach their five-year-old boys to stick poisoned thorns into the flesh of living animals. With us as well, a male, to win to the dignity of adulthood, must know how to kill, must make others suffer, must suffer himself. Girls are weighted down with restrictions, boys with demands — two equally harmful disciplines. …”

Chapter Six, Page 455

It seems easier to track politics than it is to track culture. Communism makes way for capitalism, and health care reforms go on. But culture, who owns it? Is culture experienced, or possessed? Is culture part of a milieu or part of an individual? There is a salsa culture, and salsa is also part of a culture. Is culture shared in a dance? Is it given, received? Transferred, passed-on? Or is it fleeting, effervescent, temporary in the moment? When the dance ends, does culture end with it? All these questions, and all I wanted was to dance with that dancer from France. She was such a beautiful girl to sit next to.
Salsa Gigolometer 120

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