One Reply to “Panthéon”

  1. We traverse the white space of the page to discover an illustration of a building—a temple to all Gods—a mausoleum for the remains of distinguished French citizens (‘To the great men, from a grateful nation’ declares the carving across the entrance). Inside that pretty architectural sketch of the French Pantheon lie the remains of over 78 distinguished citizens. The Nation in its benevolence has decided to gather all its greatness in one place, to map it out, in a building 110 metres long by 84 metres wide. This unmoored drawing, its categorical geometry softened by the fragile, trembling lines provides no certainty of eternity. In the white space of the page, things get lost. In the Pantheon, political re-evaluations have thrown bodies out (Marat et al.)…others only arrived in parts, a heart in an urn for some (Mahler), the body and no heart for others (Jean Guillaume De Winter), other bodies were simply lost—marked down as having disappeared (Augustin-Marie Picot). More surprisingly, some have no corporal remains to speak of, their body was never found and so their inclusion is marked only by an inscription (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). The widely repeated story that the remains of Voltaire were stolen by religious fanatics in 1814 and thrown into a garbage heap turn out to be false. Still, the rumours were persistent enough for his coffin to be cracked open in 1897 just to make sure he was still in there. He was, in case you were wondering.

    So, the mighty building—temple to all the Gods—delicately rendered in pen and ink floats in space, context-less in an expanse of white is far from a guarantee of permanence. It is all but a fleeting image, nothing more than an illusion of what could be, possibly, for an indeterminate period of time, or only in part, or maybe just in words. Success does not guarantee respectful remembrance, and failure does not always condemn to oblivion. Some white spaces are more forgiving than others.

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