Lettre d'une jeune fille de 1877

 

     

       

 

       

 

       

Eleanor Marx

      Cher Monsieur Kurt Cobain,

Mon nom est Eleanor Marx. Je suis la fille benjamine d'un personnage historique qui collabore depuis un temps à Dialogus et que vous connaissez peut-être au moins de nom: Herr Doktor Karl Marx. J'ai 22 ans, je suis née en 1855. J'ai été fort éblouie de voir soudain apparaître un portrait de vous dans la tribune principale de la publication. J'en conclus donc que vous figurerez, à 122 ans de distance du moment où je vous écris, au nombre des Beethoven, Lee et... Marx. À en juger d'après le daguerréotype, vous êtes très jeune et, ma foi, si je puis me permettre, fort beau. Il se dégage de vous une réelle présence, une intensité. Je vous parle ici sans artifice, car telle est ma nature. Ma question est donc la suivante et, encore une fois, pardonnez en la candeur. Qui êtes-vous? Comment se décrit votre contribution à l'histoire humaine? Dites-moi, je vous en prie... et, préférablement, en des termes accessibles à une jeune fille du passé, une enfant du siècle de Victor Hugo et de la locomotive à vapeur. Je suis terriblement intriguée... Je gagerais que vous êtes un peintre ou un sculpteur. Un artiste, en tout cas. Un artiste "maudit" même. Vous pouvez me répondre dans la langue anglaise, si cela vous paraît préférable.

Mes respects,

Eleanor Marx

 

       

 

       

Kurt Cobain

      Eleanor,

Je suis très content de vous rencontrer.

Vous semblez me confondre avec quelqu'un d'autre en me qualifiant d'artiste, de quelqu'un qui contribue à l'histoire. Je ne suis pas "quelqu'un", je ne suis pas grand chose.

Il est vrai que beaucoup de personnes apprécient mes chansons, mais je ne pense qu'il s'agit de mon talent. Je pense qu'il s'agit de ma sincérité. La musique me permet d'extérioriser mes sentiments, car vous conviendrez certainement comme moi, que la vie n'est pas facile. Difficile à un point tel que j'ai fait une tentative de suicide il y a maintenant 5 jours. On parle de moi, on dit que je suis le représentant des teens (désolé je ne sais pas comment je dois dire en français), que je suis un porte-parole, alors que je n'ai jamais voulu rien pour personne, je veux juste être moi-même. Quand j'ai fondé le groupe Nirvana, à l'image de Melvin (un groupe originaire de la même région que moi), je voulais dire "No!". Simplement ce non, contre la société, qui me semblait un ennemi. C'est avec toute ma passion pour la musique, toute ma sincérité et mon application à composer que mon rêve est devenu réalité : être une rock-star.

Maintenant je ne ressent plus tout le plaisir que j'avais avant de jouer en concert, je joue, je ne sais plus vraiment pourquoi.

Alors si vous dites que je suis maudit, je comprend pourquoi. Les gens qui ont du vous dire ça, ont certainement remarqué ma tromperie, ce manque de plaisir.

Qui suis-je ? Simplement un jeune, né à Aberdeen, I'm 26 years old (can I end this letter in English, I have a hangover and it would take too much time to write this to the end if I write it in french !), my wife is Courtney Love, my daughter is France Bean, and that's all. It's all my life. Except the fact that I'm, yes, quite well-known, and that I have sold millions of albums. But why, I don't know !

I hope I answered your question, I'm looking forward to another question, and don't forget...

peace, love and empathy.

All the Best from Kurt Cobain.

NB : I've never understood your father, but I really think he is a very intelligent man. Could you tell him my admiration.

 

       

 

       

Eleanor Marx

      Mister Cobain,

I will convey your message to Old Charles. He will appreciate it. Now I beg you to be patient with me. I do not happen to understand the three following words, at least in the meaning you seem to give them: "groupe", "rock star" and "album". But at least I managed to capture what art you are involved in: music. Do you mean that you sold millions of partition albums? That is tremendous! You are a sort of Johann STRAUSS then! And I suspect that that "groupe Nirvana" is probably an orchestra of some sort. And do you mean by the pleasant term "rock star", the moon, or any new planet coming from a cooled down sun. But then still: I do not happen to understand the metaphor when you compare yourself to it. Sorry.

This being said, your suicide attempt story worries me a lot. I overheard a conversation last week between Father and an Austrian physiologist who is a former militant of the Internationale. He was explaining to Father that new psychosocial theory according to which people with suicidal tendencies are isolated soul who deeply need to talk, to communicate, to share. Anything. That their self-destruction was only the outburst of their need to speak. We do not want such an outburst to happen, do we. It would be, as we say here in Victorian England, unpleasant and quite inappropriate. So please talk to me, Kurt Cobain, the musician. Tell me what type of mysterious "astre" a "rock star" is. Why it is so pleasant at the beginning, and so sad today to be compared to it. And please remember the main constraint in our Dialogus: I am writing to you from the year 1877.

All yours,

Eleanor Marx

 

       

 

       

Kurt Cobain

      Oh my God! Am I stupid ? Why did I talk to you about albums and rock-star when you tell me that you are writing to me from the year 1877 ?! Well, if you want to understand, let's talk a bit about history.

In the 20th century, in the United States of America appeared new styles of music like jazz, blues then rock (that came from blues). A rock song is a 4:4 (sometimes 2:4 song), and this is a really loud style of music, compared to the old styles of music. Then , when Elvis Presley died (he was the first rock-star : it means he was a really well-known person), tempo went faster, musicians played louder, and finally a lot of different sounds came from rock. My music, to be sincere, is a very noisy and bad wild music. But you're not very far from the right meaning saying "star" is a metaphor. Like all the stars in the sky, we are shining people for a time and then we slowly fade away. Music is all I have to tell my life and my feelings, I hope it can change my way.

I hope I have been better understood.

Looking forward to your answer.

Kurt.

 

       

 

       

Eleanor Marx

      Mr Cobain,

That is highly interesting. My uncle Edgar von Wesphalen lived in Texas for several years. He had a very tough life over there, but he spoke to us about the entrancing music played in the countryside by the Negroes. I saw also in the pile of journalistic documentation Father was using for his works before and during the American Civil War that these poor people were... Oh this is so awful to say!... advertised in Southern newspapers, when they were "for sale" as slaves. I actually read several of these "advertisements", and often an explicit reference was made to the musical abilities of the person: "good fiddler", "plays the banjo, and is an asset in field fairs", "plays the piano in a strange distorted manner which always intrigued and pleased my guests". Obviously a sort of musical revolution is in preparation on the other side of the Atlantic. And Emancipated Black Men and Women seem to be crucial elements of that musical renewal. And if I understand properly, it will lead, through other styles called Jazz and Blues, to this... Rock, which is the style of music you yourself practice. Very interesting.

On the other aspect of our conversation, I owe to honesty to admit that I also toyed with the idea of taking my life. A couple of years ago I met a lovely man, brilliant and charming. But for reasons that remain totally remote to my understanding, Father objected to that relationship. It was very hard for me, and I deeply understand the feelings you describe in a so inspiring manner. Dont you end up as if any motivation for your mere existence simply fizzle away in thin air? Isn't it the epitome of pain? I feel silly and old fashioned to share all this with you in a so cavalier manner... Specially that your motivations for considering that extreme and supreme solution seem more complex and sophisticated than mine... I understand that you are very happy in your marital life, and I see that as a crucial sign of hope.

Anyways, on a happier tone. My sister Laura Lafargue, who is handling for us the bundle of "electronic" (what a barbarian word!) documentation that was transmitted to us in the agreement between Father and Dialogus, told me that she would look for me for a "record", what we call among ourselves a musical book, of your NIRVANA in the numerous 20th century cultural samples we have. Furthermore my other sister, Jennychen Longuet, told me that if Laura's research provide no fruit, she will ask her good friend Mister Dumontais to help us on this matter. Sometimes familly also can provide signs of hope... In other words, Mister Cobain -or can I call you Kurt?- I will very soon have the opportunity to hear some of your music. Would you care for my comments on your art!

Yours,

Eleanor Marx

 

       

 

       

Kurt Cobain

      Dear Eleanor,

I took a very long time to write you back but you know, I have a lot of work.

Sure I'd be very happy to receive your comments about my songs. Roots of music come from "when" you're writing to me. Dialogus is the only place where you could see "from when" in a right sentence !

Country music, blues, then rock, to conclude by the peace/violence style of my songs. Well, you know, it is alternative music. I made my songs according to how I felt, but I think you'll understand when you will listen. I'm sincere when I sing.

Sincerely,

Kurt.

 

       

 

       

Eleanor Marx

      Dear Kurt,

I will be candid with you, because sincerity seems to be an important feature of your century, and I treasure that. It has been a major shock for me to hear your music. Mister Dumontais managed to provide me with two "records". One, by the title of NEVERMIND, the other, by the title of UNPLUGGED IN NEW YORK. In his wisdom, Mister Dumontais advised me to start with UNPLUGGED IN NEW YORK. In my folly, I did not listen to him and started with NEVERMIND... I was initially extremely shocked and hurt by the picture on the cover. I know that in your time, if these photographic images still involve a model, the posing period is very short, what allows to picture very sudden and shifty moments. Nevertheless, I found it horrible. Oh Kurt, I just hope you did not hurt that poor baby by throwing him in cold water like that... Father had told me that 20th century is terrible. That it will manage to produce two World Wars for a total of 60 million casualties, in a span of only thirty one years. But that... It seems to me so barbaric to do that to an infant. If it means something, please explain it to me.

Now let me briefly comment the music. I suppose that that screaming voice is yours. It sounds normal, by the 1877 London standards at least, only from the couplet of the fifth piece, the one titled LITHIUM. The rest sounds like a cacophonic cluster of disrupted noises and screams. The only instrument I manage to recognize is that haunting infantry drum which is exploding in very direction. Ah, Kurt it was very difficult. Painful. UNPLUGGED IN NEW YORK was easier. I cared for it a little more, as you say in your time. But all in all it is a highly disturbing experience to discover your art. I will have to try to re-listen these concerts. Possibly in the company of the most open minded artist I have ever had the opportunity to encounter: my mother, the Baroness von Westphalen.

I hope the straightforwardness of my comments will not jeopardize our new friendship.

Respectfully,

Eleanor