Dear Theo
Edgar Degas
I took some dental X-rays this week that I thought were good. Degas saw them and was critical. He said the composition was bad. All the cavities were bunched in the lower left corner. I explained to him that that's how Mrs Stotkin's mouth looks, but he wouldn't listen. He said he hated the frames and mahogany was too heavy. When he left, I tore them to shreds! As if that was not enough, I attempted some root-canal work on Mrs Wilma Zardis, but half-way through I became despondent. I realised suddenly that root-canal work is not what I want to do! I grew flushed and dizzy. I ran from the office into the air where I could breathe! I blacked out for several days and woke up at the seashore. When I returned, she was still in the chair. I completed her mouth out of obligation but I couldn't bring myself to sign it.
Vincent

Dear Theo
Have decided to share office with Gauguin. He is a fine dentist who specialises in bridgework, and he seems to like me. He was very complimentary about my work on Mr Jay Greenglass. If you recall, I filled his lower seven, then despised the filling and tried to remove it. Greenglass was adamant and we went to court. There was a legal question of ownership, and on my lawyer's advice, I cleverly sued for the whole tooth and settled for the filling. Well, someone saw it lying in the corner of my office and he wants to put it in a show! They are already talking about a retrospective!
Vincent

Dear Theo
Paul Gauguin
I think it is a mistake to share offices with Gauguin. He is a disturbed man. He drinks Lavoris in large quantities. When I accused him, he flew into a rage and pulled my D.D.S off the wall. In a calmer moment, I convinced him to try filling teeth outdoors and we worked in a meadow surrounded by greens and gold. He put caps on a Miss Angela Tonnato and I gave a temporary filling to Mr Louis Kaufman. There we were, working together in the open air! Rows of blinding white teeth in the sunlight! Then a wind came up and blew Mr Kaufman's toupee into the bushes. He darted for it and knocked Gauguin's instruments to the ground. Gauguin blamed me and tried to strike out but pushed Mr Kaufman by mistake, causing him to sit down on the high speed drill. Mr Kaufman rocketed past me on a fly, taking Miss Tonnato with him. The upshot, Theo, is that Rifkin, Rifkin, Rifkin and Meltzer have attached my earnings. Send whatever you can.
Vincent

Dear Theo
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Toulouse-Lautrec is the saddest man in the world. He longs more than anything to be a great dentist, and he has real talent, but he's too short to reach his patients' mouths and too proud to stand on anything. Arms over his head, he gropes around their lips blindly, and yesterday, instead of putting caps on Mrs Fitelson's teeth, he capped her chin. Meanwhile, my old friend Monet refuses to work on anything but very, very large mouths and Seurat, who is quite moody, has developed a method of cleaning one tooth at a time until he builds up what he calls 'a full, fresh mouth'. It has an architectural solidity to it, but is it dental work?
Vincent


-- Woody Allen, If the Impressionists had been dentists (1978). Full text here.

4 comments:

joseph said...

Who's Théo? Gauthier ? Lefèvre?(le Belge s'égare une fois de plus...)

another country said...

C'est un pastiche (art dans lequel Woody Allen est passé maître) des lettres de Vincent van Gogh à son frère Théo, marchant d'art et mécène, ange gardien de son artiste de frérot. Vincent lui écrivait régulièrement pour lui faire part de ses travaux et lui demander de l'argent.

Plusieurs recueils de cette correspondance sont disponibles en librairie (e.g. : sur Amazon) et constituent une édifiante et agréable lecture.

Les pastiches le Woody Allen (toutes les grandes pointures de la littérature mondiale sont ainsi maltraitées, de Flaubert à Truman Capote en passant par Bram Stoker et Malraux) ont été réunis dans une série de recueils, dont le dernier, si ma mémoire est bonne, est sorti en 2010.

J'ai personnellement un grand faible pour "L'épisode Kugelmass", dans lequel un Juif quinquagénaire, prof de littérature à Columbia et amateur de jolies femmes, se retrouve propulsé par un magicien à Yonville aux côtés d'Emma Bovary, avant d'être rapatrié, toujours par le même magicien, à New York, où Emma se fait ouvrir un compte chez Bloomingdale's et découvre les joies de la carte de crédit et du room service.

Il existe, sauf erreur de ma part, quatre recueils de ces pastiches, dont beaucoup ont été publiés initialement dans le New Yorker.

Certains (tous ?) sont disponibles en version française. Il existe, je l'ai eue entre les mains, une édition brochée qui réunit trois des quatre volumes originaux.

A noter que je n'ai jamais lu les traductions françaises et que je ne les cautionne pas a priori (ces nouvelles regorgeant de jeux de mots et de clins d'oeil extralinguistiques intraduisibles) pas plus que je ne cautionne les choix ayant prévalu à la constitution des (diverses) anthologies. Les versions traduites n'offriront, je le crains, qu'un pâle reflet des oeuvres originales ("Traduttore, traditore").

joseph said...

AC, le blog où on apprend des choses l'air de rien!

another country said...

Je prends ça comme un compliment, mon cher Joseph ! :)