Three Little-Known Local Celebrities

From wikipedia.fr
From wikipedia.fr

Olympe de Gouges was a playwright, political activist, salon intellectual and advocate of human rights. An early abolitionist and feminist, she was initially a keen supporter of the French Revolution, but became disenchanted with the lack of equality extended to women and the more extremist elements such as the Jacobins. As the Revolution progressed, she became more and more vehement in her writings. The Jacobins arrested her allies, the Girondins, imprisoned them, and sent them to the guillotine in October, while her poster Les trois urnes led to her arrest. That piece demanded a plebiscite for a choice among three potential forms of government: unitary republic, federalist government, or constitutional monarchy. She was executed in 1793 for seditious behaviour.

Condorcetlarousse
From larousse.fr

Nicolas Condorcet was a French philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist whose Condorcet method in voting tally selects the candidate who would beat each of the other candidates in a run-off election. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he advocated a liberal economy, free and equal public instruction, constitutionalism, and equal rights for women and people of all races. His ideas and writings were said to embody the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment and rationalism, and remain influential to this day. He died a mysterious death in prison in 1794 after a period of flight from French Revolutionary authorities.  Some historians believe that he may have been murdered (perhaps because he was too loved and respected to be executed) or else committed suicide.

From redcross.int
From redcross.int

Gustave Moynier was a Swiss lawyer and co-founder and longest-serving President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, very active in charitable work during his long life (1826-1910). Differences between pragmatical Moynier and idealistic Dunant developed early over the reach of the organization’s authority and its legal and organizational formation. The key point of dispute was Dunant’s idea to grant neutrality to wounded soldiers and medical staff in order to protect them. Moynier was a determined opponent of this plan, which he did not consider realistic and thought its insistence risked the collapse of the project. He managed to oust Dunant from the organisation and possibly used his influence to make sure that Dunant would not receive any financial assistance from elsewhere when the latter went bankrupt. Moynier was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times, but, unlike Dunant, who was its first recipient in 1901, he never received it. Nor were the two of them ever reconciled.

While the first two are not strictly speaking ‘local’, the buildings at my older son’s schools are named after them, which sparked my curiosity to do a little research on them. They seem to have been strongly influenced by Voltaire, who was a local for over 20 years. Moynier did live in Geneva and even has a manor-house just over the border in France. One of those houses that I regularly drool over…

From dunant-moynier.org
From dunant-moynier.org

First Friday Fun of the Year 2016

It may seem insensitive to show pictures of lovely houses when all about us so many have lost theirs to wars, storms and flooding. But this has always been a completely unrealistic flibberty-gibbet of an escapist whimsy, and goodness knows do we need it after all the bad news of 2015. Besides, as the folk song goes:

I am the little New Year, ho, ho!
Here I come tripping it over the snow

Presents I bring for each and all –
Big folks, little folks, short and tall…

Some shall have silver and some shall have gold,
Some shall have new clothes and some shall have old;
Some shall have brass and some shall have tin –
So open your doors and let me in!

2016 is going to be a good year for you, for me, for the world more generally – 6 is my lucky number and I am willing it to be so. (Besides, the world and I are due a good one after the last few grim ones.) This year is also going to be all about literature and writing. So what better way to start than with some villas in the Lake Geneva area with literary or musical or even film associations?

I've shown you before David Bowie's old home near the Signal Tower of Sauvabelin in Lausanne. Here it is from another angle, from bilan.ch
I’ve shown you before David Bowie’s old home near the Signal Tower of Sauvabelin in Lausanne. Here it is from another angle, from bilan.ch
Charlie Chaplin's Manoir de Ban, in Corsier, just outside Vevey. From Wikipedia.
Charlie Chaplin’s Manoir de Ban, in Corsier, just outside Vevey. From Wikipedia.
Audrey Hepburn's modest house in Tolochenaz, from maisonbythelake.com
Audrey Hepburn’s modest house in Tolochenaz, from maisonbythelake.com
Stravinsky's house in Morges. From The Lausanne Guide.
Stravinsky’s house in Morges. From The Lausanne Guide.
Richard Burton died in this house in Celigny and is buried in the local cemetery. From L'Hebdo.
Richard Burton died in this house in Celigny and is buried in the local cemetery. From L’Hebdo.
Villa Diodati, where Byron stayed with his friends Percy and Mary Shelley during a terrible storm over Lake Geneva, which inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein and Dr. Polidori to create the first Gothic vampire.
Villa Diodati, where Byron stayed with his friends Percy and Mary Shelley during a terrible storm over Lake Geneva in 1816 (nearly exactly 200 years ago), which inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein and Dr. Polidori to create the first Gothic ‘vampyre’.
Vladimir Nabokov and his wife Vera outside the Montreux Palace Hotel, where he lived for the last 16 years of his life. From Pinterest.
Vladimir Nabokov and his wife Vera outside the Montreux Palace Hotel, where he lived for the last 16 years of his life. His statue is now planted in the lawn you see behind them. From Pinterest.

Incidentally, the Hotel Montreux Palace also makes a brief (but important) appearance in my WIP, sans Nabokov of course. His wife Vera continued to live in the hotel until her death in 1991. Given today’s eye-watering room prices, this must have been the highest rental property in the world!

For a little extra, here’s an interesting article about the enduring attraction of the Vera-like supportive figure for all writers, regardless of gender.