Les Bluets

Maggie Nelson’s  Bluets (Wave Books, 2009) is a fragmented love-story. It covers the narrator’s intense relationship with the color blue, her personal experiences of love & loss, philosophical investigations, natural phenomenon, art, etc. etc., all mixed together in a series of small fragments, told in a beautiful and sometimes very poetic language.

To get an idea of Nelson’s playing around, have a look at this:

145: In German, to be blue -blau sein- means to be drunk. Delirium tremens used to be called “blue devils”, as in “my bitter hours of blue -devilism” (Burns, 1787). In England “the hour blue” is the happy hour at the pub. Joan Mitchell- abstract painter of the first order, American expatriate living on Monet’s property in France, dedicated chromophile and drunk, possessor of a famously nasty tongue, and creator of arguably my favorite painting of all time, Les Bluets, which she painted in 1973, the year of my birth-found the green of spring incredibly irritating. She would have preferred to live perpetually in “l’heur de bleu”. Her dera friend Frank O’Hara understood. Ah daddy, I wanna stay drunk many days, he wrote, and did. 

Joan Mitchell: Les Bluets (1973)

Mitchell’s Les Bluets has given name to Nelson’s book, but  Nelson is however not the only writer being inspired by Mitchell’s blue painting, just have a look at this:

Lydia Davis on Joan Mitchell’s Les Bluets:

I start with the fact that Les Bluets (The cornflowers) is the painting I think of first when I think of one that has had particular significance in my life. Then I have to figure out why. I am not even certain that Les Bluets was the actual painting I saw. What I did see was a very large white and blue painting by Joan Mitchell in her studio more than twenty years ago, and that is the one I am thinking of. cont


Nelson’s book is neither the world’s first document on the color blue, but is a very original and beautiful text; intriguing, challenging – alluring –

–  in short: a book I’m very glad to have found!

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Caroline says:

    Sounds interesting and reminds me of Derek Jarman. I just wonder why she used bluets and not the correct word bleuets? A word play?

    1. Sigrun says:

      I guess Nelson used Bluets because Mitchell did, I have no idea why Mitchell did it –

  2. Jean says:

    Lydia Davis on Joan Mitchell – how completely wonderful, thank you! (and I didn’t know that particular painting)

    1. Sigrun says:

      It was new to me too. Such a great discovery!

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