One or other reader should start humming Trenet‘s melody; “La Mer” was his hit 1945, recorded 1946, covered a lot. Gossip had it that the song was written on a train between Narbonne and Carcassonne in 1943, but who knows.
I encountered the Mediterranean Sea in the last months in different ways. Some time ago I started to read Braudel‘s large three volume book about it, La Méditerranée et le Monde Méditerranéen a l’époque de Philippe II (The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II), that he wrote as a prisoner of war in Lübeck.
Then I posted about Clavel’s torre positano and austere mentioned “the blue”, what reminded me of Jakob Flach who traveled around La Mer in the 1920s, before all the places that once were known for their natural beauty became “destinations” and jet-set-areas and tourist-spots of “international standard”, what simply means: exchangeable. But I do not want to lament on the course of history and life, that is time-consuming and futile.
I want to talk about other, earlier travelers of La Mer, Erzherzog Ludwig Salvator von Österreich and Baron Rodolphe D’Erlanger.
The english article on Ludwig Salvator is much too short, better use the german or have a look at the “Ludwig-Salvator-Gesellschaft“, that preserves the heritage of this remarkable man. LS traveled La Mer on his private ship “Nixe” and avoided the court, court-life and what was connected to it. There is more to him and his travels, it is not just a bored noble-man spending money and killing time. He worked as a scientist, collected, wrote, published. A pacifist he saw La Mer as a connecting force, not as a divide – he worked on bringing together different people, different beliefs, different cultures – all connected by La Mer. He died 1915 in Bohemia, where to come he was ordered by the emperor, 68 years old, alone and disappointed – feeling that the world he was born into will come to a bitter end with this bitter war.
On his travels he was accompanied by a young baron, Rodolphe d’Erlanger. They shared their curiosity for La Mer and it’s cultures and sheer beauty. And Rodolphe met his love: Music. He built a palace in Sidi-bou-Said near Tunis and found an institution that became very important for the Tunesian music, the malouf, the Centre des musiques Arabes et Mediterrannéenes. His writings (six large volumes) were edited despite his early death 1932, the last volume came out in the 1950s.
Both men shared the idea of peace by communication, by sharing cultural values, by mutual understanding, transgressing borders of faith or nationality. Both saw La Mer as an open, connecting space of beauty.
Today in this beautiful sea people from Africa drown in scores trying to reach an European island or the mainland. Those who make it and are not caught by police work on plantations in Spain, Portugal or Italy for some cents. A whole generation on the treck. Europe declared itself a fortress and lets the wet border solve the problem. It is inhumane and despises all values Europe is founded on. As long as this killing by failing is not stopped, for example by jailing any of these “business-men” that organize the transports in swimming death-traps as a first step, any discussion about bringing “God” into the european constitution is a kind of offence.