Inanimate objects, do you have a sex?

Rue aux Saintes-Maries, Vincent Van Gogh, ink, July 1888.

« Thatched cottage where the fire sparkled from the hearth / Roof that the pilgrim liked to see smoking, / Inanimate objects, do you have a soul / Who clings to our soul and the strength to love? »

Lamartine’s question, in his Poetic harmonies*, is so usually taken out of context that we do not understand its meaning. Lamartine underlines with what force the things which surround us are of human expression, they smoke, they breathe, they live! And we are never insensitive to the symbols they carry. Objects are places of memory, fetishes of our history.

As a brilliant storyteller that he was, Raymond Devos allows us to penetrate the universe of things in his aptly titled sketch Inanimate Objects** : “Imagine, one night … I was not sleeping … I was waiting for a phone call from the object of my desires who stubbornly refused to become my thing. She had fallen in love with another object: a mirror cabinet! In short, I was not sleeping. And all of a sudden I hear strange noises, it was… it was the legs of the table creaking. Incidentally, it’s a table that had been offered to me by the object of my desires, the one that stubbornly refused to become my thing. This is to tell you that there is a relationship between the thing and the object.

In short, the legs of this table creaked and I could tell myself that it was the wood that was working, all the same, at 2 o’clock in the morning it is not an hour to work with wood! And the question arose in my mind, dazzling: Inanimate objects, then, do you have a soul? This famous verse by Lamartine that everyone knows. The only way was to become an object myself. With duplication, it is possible. And that’s what I did, I became a comb. – Why a comb? … Because it’s the first thing that crossed my mind. “(Raymond Devos, Inanimate Objects)

This duplication of humans in objects and certain in things is exactly the point of Dorothée de Monfreid in a delicious little book entitled Things of love*** which I would gladly qualify as roman because it tells a story, that of everyday objects, those which surround us and which have a soul. They live by our side without our being aware of it. At every moment of this collection, made of one drawing per page, we can wonder about something that we come across every day without having thought about it. And – like us humans – these things, these objects have relationships with each other, they send messages to each other, they exchange emotions, they declare their feelings. In short: they love… they love each other.

Love is everywhere. These are two slices of bread, soft and chewy, which enjoy being sandwiched while bread and toaster are thrown into the air …

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The glass of white and the glass of red are only in the first phases of the seduction while the bedside lamp plays the tease towards a dashing book!

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Love is sometimes made with several people, because there is often a voyeur:

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The target dreams of “doing it again” while the “single shot pistol” folds, replying, “Sorry, I’m drained!” “; just like the love of the tube of toothpaste and the toothbrush, which throws at him: “Pfff, you came too quickly again!” “; or the shamelessness of uncovered cutlery:

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Dorothée de Monfreid is an author and illustrator of children’s books, most of them at the École des loisirs, including Doctor Popov, Ada and Rosie, Noodle Necklaces, the Doggies in ParisThings of love introduce you to an unknown daily life in which you can project yourself: Are you toothpaste or toaster, domino or toolbox, fork rather than knife…? Everyone will recognize themselves in this delicious little guide to things in love.

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* Poetic and religious harmonies, II, Milly or the homeland by Alphonse de Lamartine, 1830 ** The inanimate objects by Raymond Devos (Live at the Théâtre 140, Brussels / 1982); *** Things of love by Dorothée de Monfreid, Misma, 2020.

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Inanimate objects, do you have a sex?


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