Les Mamelles de Tirésias

My first contact with the story of Therese’s breasts was through Poulenc’s wonderful one act opera. I saw it in 1979 at the ENO (therefore in English, not French) and adored it immediately. Such a welcome change from the tragic heroines I’d been living with during my first year or so of music college. The lovely Norma Burrowes was Tirésias and I still have a strong memory of her bursting two balloons (her breasts) at the point she changed from a woman into a man.

The reason this piece sprang to mind in the first place is that I sat through Woody Allen’s latest smudge of a movie on the plane back from Delhi. What a disaster! Owen Wilson doing a rather poor impersonation of Woody Allen himself, propped up by a cast of two dimensional, banal caricatures. Do your best to avoid it. Transformers 3 would probably be a better bet…

Part of the plot of the Allen movie, though, is that one of the caricatures wishes she had been born during La Belle Epoque, and for the first time in thirty years I found Apollinaire surfacing in my scrapbag of a mind. He wrote the play, Les Mamelles, but died young, at 38, when the flu pandemic of 1918 swept across Europe.

Anyway, for years I imagined he was the author of a poem I love, and was shocked to discover it was actually written by an English poet some fifty years after Apollinaire’s death. You would have thought I’d have noticed the difference in style, but no… I put the obvious stylistic contradictions down to ‘creative translation’. Clearly, I’m not much of a literary critic.

In the meantime, I haven’t stopped loving the poem, even though it was written by a man called Christopher Logue, not Guillaume Apollinaire. And it reminds me of life with Khyentse Rinpoche.

Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It’s too high!
And they came
And he pushed
And they flew.

3 thoughts on “Les Mamelles de Tirésias

  1. Thanks, lovely Lynn. I was worried those who read it would miss the photos of Rinpoche, which I’m still loathe to post for fear of further cyber-rape… I’m such a sensitive soul (please read in full knowledge that my tongue is lodge firmly in my cheek).

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