On May 18, 1922, the “Gala of the Century” took place against this dazzling backdrop. Hosts Sydney and Violet Schiff, a British rentier and patron of the arts, staged a coup in the Majestic Hotel Salon: they brought together five of the greatest artists of the era.
French writer ProustFind lost time“; Picasso, Spaniard painter Breaking Forms with Cubism; Joyce, Irish Writer”Ulysses,” who pioneered the stream-of-consciousness narrative; Stravinsky, the Russian composer He shocked the audience with dissonance and rhythm changes; Russian Sergei Diaghilev manager who staged stravinsky’s ballet Russian Ballet troupe.
Each was an outstanding and quintessential modernist who revolutionized his art form. The night of May 18 was the only time they breathed the same thin air, making it an important moment in art history.
The course of the evening was in Richard Davenport-Hines’ “Proust in the majestic. The British historian Davenport-Hines first heard about it as an undergraduate in the early 1970s. His university tutor Harry Potter had been friendly with Violet Schiff Relationship.
Decades later, Davenport-Hines began writing about Proust and the party. He looked for clues in the manuscript collection of the British Library and the dusty memoirs of high society.
Unsurprisingly, considering the VIP, everything he found was unpredictable.
The party started not at Hotel Majestic, but at Opéra Garnier across town. The premiere of Stravinsky’s “Reynard” by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes has just ended.this 1,979 seats theater Applause erupted.
For the composer and his manager, as well as their dancers and choreographers, the next stop was the lavish Hotel Majestic, for which Schiffs threw a party.
Soon 40 to 50 guests gathered in Majestic’s private salon. All eyes were on the night’s stars, Stravinsky and Diaghilev.
But another man caught people’s attention.While the other guests were all in tuxedos, the guy wrapped a Fasa – a traditional Catalan belt – wrapped around his forehead. The bold sartorial statement may reflect his desire to steal the show.
This is the great Picasso.
In Davenport-Hines’ view, the painter was “the most arrogant and self-sufficient man out there.” Ironically, none of the contemporary eyewitnesses remembered a single thing Picasso said or did at the party – thus relegating him to this colorful cameo.
But where are Joyce and Proust? By the time dinner was served, around midnight, the author had still not shown up.
The menu features “Russian hors d’oeuvres, caviar, and other light delicacies,” followed by meat dishes, including “leg of lamb with mayo sauce”, “boeuf à la gelée” and “chicken financière”. Dessert was a pineapple truffle salad and strawberry mousse.
After dessert is coffee. One of the guests, art critic Clive Bell, wrote in his memoirs: “About coffee time, being in an elegantly dressed crowd, a guy in other clothes, someone in worse clothes.” Bell saw the bespectacled and bearded man seem “very bad”.
James Joyce had just stumbled into the room. Since he’s an alcoholic, he’s probably drunk. According to Bell, he sat down and remained silent.At the same time, according to His biographer Richard EllmanJoyce gulps his drink to “cover up his embarrassment” because he’s dressed so bizarrely.
But the best is yet to come. Between 2 and 3 a.m., Bell watched in awe as a “little figure…dressed in fine black and white kid gloves” walked in. Although diametrically opposed to Joyce, he shares a vocation with the Irish. It’s Proust.
Proust captured everyone’s imagination that night. Joyce would later remember him wearing a “fur coat,” similar to the hero in “Satan’s Sorrows.” For his part, Stravinsky was shocked by his complexion: “As pale as the afternoon moon.” “
Proust hated sunlight. By the summer of 1922, he had been in seclusion for many years. It was a miracle that he overcame his neurosis to attend the party.
Proust sat next to Stravinsky, trying to strike up a conversation about classical music. “You admire Beethoven, no doubt,” asked Proust. “I hate Beethoven,” Stravinsky retorted.
According to Bell, “The situation was tense.” But it was defused when suddenly, a strange guttural sound rang out in the salon. Joyce was snoring.
Joyce eventually wakes up and chats with Proust.The Frenchman spoke first: “Mr Joyce, I have never read your work.” The Irishman responded with the same courtesy: “Mr Proust, I have never read your work. ” That is That for their conversation.
At least that’s a version of events. To suit the meeting of the modernists and the surrealists, Joyce-Proust’s conversations have different memories in different narratives, and they all contradict each other.
Joyce eventually wakes up and chats with Proust. According to Ford Maddox Ford, an English writer who knew Joyce, the novelists sat face to face on “two stiff chairs.” Behind Proust are his excited fans, and behind Joyce are his. If this sounds like the product of a modernist rap war, what happened next was actually much more modest.
After dissing their respective novels, the authors unexpectedly found common ground. Proust spoke of the “liver disease” that plagued him. Joyce chimed in: “Mr. Tiens, my symptoms are almost identical.” The two writers then worked together for the rest of the night, lyrical about their myriad ailments—real and imagined—until dawn.
However, according to Violet Schiff, the party ended when Proust invited her and her husband back to his apartment for a nightcap. They hop into a taxi only to find Joyce following them like a puppy.
Inside the sweltering car, Joyce opened a window. Blasphemy! Proust had a visceral aversion to fresh air, and he was convinced that inhaling it would make him sick. Joyce then tried to get Proust’s invitation, but he was sent home.
The next time the writers met, Proust was underground. The Frenchman died six months after that fateful evening, and Joyce attended his funeral. In 1941, shortly after the publication of his magnum opus, the Irishman would join him,”Finnegans Wake. “
Diaghilev, meanwhile, died of diabetes in 1929. Stravinsky continued to compose and died in 1971.
As for Picasso, he outlived everyone and gave up ghosts in 1973.
A hundred years later, “The Gala of the Century” is more than a comical footnote in art history. It showcases – in the words of Davenport-Hines – “the ruthless, overwhelming conceit of great creative intellect.”
Despite the fame and fortune, the party’s VIPs still crave flattery like a drug addict. “All they want to do is perform and get applause,” Davenport-Hines said. He added with a smile: “I think it’s a good example of how people stay still.”