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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Bangkok, in the Morning

Bangkok in the Morning perhaps is a better representation of the real Bangkok, rather than the touristic image it has during day time and during night time. No wonder, most tourists searched for those attractive places during day time and the entertainments at night time. Not many tourists want to wake-up early in the morning to see the people of Bangkok getting ready and rush to work, to beat the traffic jams.

Even less tourists wake-up earlier than 6AM to see the monks go on a daily alms round to collect their food of the day. I happened to woke up early in the morning one day and went with my camera to the see the early morning roads and to visit Wat That Thong temple located in the heart of Bangkok, Ekkamai area, that is not on most tourists itinerary.

On the streets and at the Wat That Thong temple, I saw many monks in orange robe wandering with a bowl in their hands. Traditionally in Theravada Buddhism, monks would get up as early as 4 am, do some prayers to the Buddha and meditate, and then have a light morning meal. After that, they might go for alms round in the community, return to monastery and have the meal together before 12 noon.

Mothers have been cooking food for monks and giving alms since the dawn of Buddhism over 2,500 years ago. Specifically, almsgiving is a tradition of Theravada Buddhists, who are an overwhelming majority in Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Laos. By bringing monks food each day, the faithful are investing in the faith, and in doing so they too make merit to nourish their own souls.

So, on that day I felt like giving alms to the monks, but we must remember that most of the monks are vegetarian. The food should be simple as the monks generally must eat whatever foods are given to them. But it is not charity as presumed by Western interpreters. It is closer to a symbolic connection to the spiritual realm and to show humbleness and respect in the presence of the secular society. Indeed, it was always the best food from our kitchen, as it was intended not just to give food to the monks but also to demonstrate the giver’s selflessness and commitment to the faith. It is the worldly duty of the layman, as a way to maintain a direct connection with the Lord Buddha.


Saturday, May 9, 2020

Hi Seoul Festival, Pop Music

The Korean popular music or K-pop has become a global phenomenon featuring distinctive blend of catchy melodies, slick choreography and stage effects. The success of K-pop is also attributed to the attractive performers spending years in grueling studio learning and practicing to sing and dance in synchronized perfection. The songs typically consist of one or a mixture of pop, rock, hip hop, R&B, and electronic music.

In October, the ‘Hi Seoul Festival’ was going on at Gwanghwamun Square. It was a large annual performing arts festival to promote international unity by enabling people to communicate with one another through music and non-verbal performances, going beyond the barriers of language, race and age. Hundreds of performances by teams from around the world are presented during the week-long festival.

One of the performances in the festival is off course the Pop band. Korean pop music has been around in Korea for some time, but it’s only in the past decade or so that it’s made significant inroads into the mainstream music world. The Korean youngsters love their Korean pop music bands and are proud of them gaining recognition on an international level as well.


Saturday, April 18, 2020

An Interview with Sulli

I came straight from the Incheon airport to SM Entertainment brand new head quarter in Cheongdam-dong area of Seoul to meet the highly popular actress and singer, Sulli. Actually I was surprised to get the assignment to interview this star, as our publication normally does not cover tabloid articles like this. But, hey, the times change and we must adapt to the times.

Anyway, it would be exciting to meet celebrities in the epicenter of the K-Pop industry, the driver of “Hallyu“ or “Korean Wave”. If lucky, I may also got see BoA, TVXQ, Super Junior, SNSD, Shinee, f(x), EXO, Girls’ Generation, etc. Just follow the screaming voice of the fans and I could find them.

Sulli appeared to be a modest behaviour girl, too modest for her stage persona. Dressed like other Korean girl, yellow with flower embroidery pinned to the skirt, like she was going to a wedding party. Her smile was sweet, which she covered it with her hand when she laughed, like a shy teen girl meeting a cute boy. So much different than the way she dressed and danced on stage, or on video clip or as a drug addict on her latest movie.

Her skin was as white as milk, like other Korean girls, her hair bleached to pinkish blond, like many other Korean celebrities. Her eyes looked puffy like what we can see on many of her photos and instagrams, the puffy lower eyelids looked dark, probably because of cosmetic, not sure.

Anyway, it was very pleasant to meet her, she was very friendly and casual, no ‘diva’ air in her behaviour. Neither did she looked like Sulli the controversial girl that rocked the social media with her appearance and statements, rather she was soft spoken and occasionally smiled and laughed.

So, after greeting her, I went straight to my check list that I prepared, not to waste time:

“Sulli, you began your career as a trainee at the very young age of 11 in 2004, and then played the young Princess Seonhwa of Silla in the drama movie Ballad of Seodong. Further, as a young actress you played in drama movie like the ‘Vacation’, ‘Punch Lady’, ‘Babo’.  Then you debuted as a member of the girl singing group f(x) in 2009, while in the mean time you continued your acting career and peaked in the television drama series ‘To the Beautiful You’. In this drama series you received the New Star Award in 2012 for your role as a girl disguised as a boy to meet an athlete idol, played by Choi Minho of Shinee.  All I can say, what an impressive career Sulli, you must have been under huge pressure to achieve all that at young age.”

“I think because I've been active since I was young, there haven't been many people who thought of me as young. There were a lot of scary moments. If they told me to do something, I would, and I didn't even know the reason why I had to. At a certain point, I started to wonder, 'Why do I have to do this?' I don't think it was a good fit for me.  I was under so much pressure. I often felt scared. “

I said:
“You left the girls singing group f(x) in 2014, reportedly due to mental and physical exhaustion and to focus on your acting career. What happened….?”

“I had been struggling with online abuse, and struggling with a panic disorder, social phobia my whole life …. I’ve had panic disorder ever since I was young. There were times when close people… Some of my closest friends have left me. People hurt me, so everything fell apart. I didn’t feel like I had anyone on my side or anyone who could understand me. So that’s why I completely fell apart. I was scared and unsure of my future, so I think I tried to protect myself as much as possible. I was trying to protect myself, so there was a sense of urgency. There wasn't anybody to listen to me when I was going through a hard time. It felt like I was just left alone in the world”.

I said:
“It was also rumored that you took a break from the entertainment industry due to the stress of rumors revolving around your relationship with Dynamic Duo's Choiza. The two of you later confirmed your relationship. The 14-year age gap with the then 20-year old you as well as Choiza’s rough and thuggish image shattered your cutesy pop idol facade – fueling fans’ outrage at the relationship. Is Choiza your ideal type really?”

“My ideal type is someone that is dependable, that doesn’t act cute a lot and listens to everything I say. It would be nice if he is always in the same place. And that he should be a man with straight hair, tidy clothing, sexy, and a dignified and open mind.”

I said:
“And Choiza said in an interview that his ideal type has never been a pretty woman or a young woman. He has never felt attraction towards someone who is both, but he really got along well with you, Sulli. You two have a lot in common. He also said that he takes inspiration from his relationship with you. He said, that it’s especially true that these memories are engraved in his songs. One of the songs that he wrote while dating you is ‘Eat, Do It, Sleep’, received criticism from Korean listeners due to its sexual and suggestive lyrics, and many presumed that the song was about you.”

“Back then I used to upload pictures of our dates. But when I posted one of our kisses, haters flocked to my Instagram, saying ‘Did you have to post this?’, ‘Please get married. Looks like you’ll have to.’
But I could care less what they say. I was in love and I was proud to show it. Why am I not allowed to post a photo of our kiss?”

I said:
“You have also come under fire for your posts on Instagram, which have been perceived by many as too revealing. In some of your photos, you were wearing thin, see-through lingerie, no bra, showing your nipples. What comments did you receive from the netizens about these photos?”.

“Something like, ‘Is Sulli's beauty real?’, ‘So beautiful in fall’, ‘I can't stop looking even though I try not too’, ‘She's a public figure. Can't she hold back a little bit?’, ‘You want to get naked so bad, huh?’,
‘Who does this? Who takes pictures like this and posts them?’, and more…..”

I said:
“In the Reality TV show Night of Hate Comments, where Korean celebrities gathered to tackle cyberbullying by reading and discussing harsh comments, you talked with a light laughter that you were sitting there in the show without wearing a bra. Why did you choose no bra clothing?”

“It is the freedom of the individual. Bras aren’t good for your health, they have a wire, they are not good for your digestive organs, and I have issues with my digestion. Since it’s more comfortable not to, I don’t wear them. I think that it’s free and beautiful. I also think of bras as accessories. They suit some clothing and if there is a clothing that doesn’t look good with bra, then I don’t wear one. When I first posted a ‘no bra photo’ there was a lot of talk about it. I was scared and could have hidden, but the reason I didn’t is that I want to change people’s prejudices about that. Part of me also wanted to say ‘This isn’t that big of a deal’. I have heard that lately there are more people who go out without bras on.”

I said:
“Did you file a criminal complaint against those people who wrote malicious comment about you?”

“I had filed a criminal complaint against someone. However, I found out that the person was going to a famous university and was the same age as me. If I wasn’t lenient with a student who goes to such good university, that person would become an ex-convict. The person would have issue when trying to find a job later on. I received a long letter from the malicious commenter. The person said sorry and hadn’t known it would become such a big issue, and had taken out their stress on me. I felt bad about turning someone my own age into an ex convict and decided to be lenient. However, if I file a complaint again I won’t be lenient ……(laughing, covering it with her hand).”

I said:
“Another controversy was about your comment in regards to South Korea's lift on the abortion ban. On 11th April 2019 the government ruled the 66-year-old anti-abortion law as unconstitutional. The anti-abortion law made having an abortion a crime and punishable up to 2 years in prison.”

“On that day, I shared a photo of flowers via Instagram and stated, ‘abortion crime abolished. It's an honorable day! Give choice to all women."

I said:
“Given that the subject of abortion has always been a controversial one, it would have been best for celebrities to perhaps been discreet about how overjoyed you were. While these acts aren’t surprising for the Western world, Korea’s conservative beliefs and culture lead to your condemnation in the public eye.”

“ Sorry, I do not wish to make any further comment about my stance on this matter.”

I said:
“There are people who suspected that you were using drug by looking at some of your Instagram posts, your pupils look dilated. Is it true?”

“There are people who have uploaded comparison photos of my pupils next to the photos of people who really do drugs. I did a film called ‘Real’ and there was a scene that portrayed drug use. I did a lot of research then and watched 5 films a day about drugs. So, my friend said: ‘Are you Heath Ledger or something?’,  I told them ‘Can’t I do methodical acting too? I do this because I want to do a good job.’
I could take a strand of my hair now to test whether I have been using drug.”

I said:
“I see, a hair follicle drug test is the only drug test that can detect repeated drug use up to 90 days prior to the test. But you had dyed her hair and eyebrows….”

“Then I do it with my leg hair….. (laughing, covering it with her hand). I don’t do anything illegal, I act freely within the limit of the law.”

I said:
“You mentioned the movie ‘Real’, which you starred with top-tier actor Kim Soo Hyun in 2017, but actually flopped in the box office. Why do you think so?”

“Its convoluted plot and twists are hard to understand and failed any effort to make the audiences’ mind blown. In Kim Soo Hyun words, the film isn’t exactly the kind of movie that people will naturally like at first so it will take some time for it to sink in. But the reviews were so harsh it brought Kim Soo Hyun to tears when giving speech during the promotional events for the movie. The tears didn’t last long, though, and he was quickly able to get ahold of himself and finish up with his speech.”

I said:
“Actually, your overdosed death scene in the bathtub hugged by Kim Soo Hyun was quite touching and memorable.  Your scenes were not that many but receive good comments from your fans. And the negative reviews that ‘Real’ has been getting, you were able to portray an unconventional and risky role, which has opened more doors for your acting career.
But somehow the scene that went viral is your explicit sex scene with Kim Soo Hyun, your naked breasts visible in the scene, was this scene really necessary to the story?”

“Yes, I feel the explicit sex scenes are necessary to the story. I don’t think it was easy. It was a huge challenge for me, acting-wise and in other areas. It was hard and I had a lot of concerns but it was fun.
I think I have a lot of ambition when it comes to acting. It grew when I was shooting this film. I felt something like a sense of achievement while acting.”

I said:
“After you left the girl singing group f(x) in 2014 to take a break, as you became mentally and physically exhausted from the continuous malicious comments and false rumors, then in 2017 you renewed your contract with SM Entertainment for movies and other programs.  Then in 2019 you returned to the K-Pop idol scene, debuting as a soloist in the Music Video single album ‘Goblin’. You helped to write the lyrics of the three songs.

The song ‘Goblin’ tells an internal monologue where a lady, which you portrayed, converses with three personalities, one good, one bad, and the other being her normal self. They want to be accepted by the lady since she has a dissociative order. With all of the controversies you have had in the past, people may easily assume that the song is indeed talking about you and your experience.”

“The three personalities are not monsters or goblins and the lady even comforted them saying ‘don’t be afraid, I just wanna tell you hi.’ (she mumbled the song)….. Don’t be so hard on me, I’m not a bad person (trying to smile through her sorrows). Please don’t misunderstand me.

 You know, my name Sulli, Sul means snow, and Li means the flower of Callery pear tree, originated from China and Vietnam, with small 5 petals white flowers,  so I will probably reincarnate into a flower that, though small, will be full of vitality.”

I said:
“Thank you Sulli for this interesting interview, but I have a last request, may I …ehm…..hug you…?”

Sulli said “Sure” with a sweet smile and reached for the hug. She smelled like the rose of the ‘Romance’ fragrance by Ralph Lauren ……

This is an imaginary interview in memory of Sulli.


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Seoul, at Gwanghwamun Square

Walking from the Gwanghwamun gate of Gyengbokgung towards the city, I noticed a lively and exciting avenue. The avenue is surrounded by modern high-rise buildings, and is named Gwanghwamun Square. Observing the avenue, then I remembered this was the location of the actions of the movie Iris, the popular Korean TV serial drama, where the thrilling chase, and fights happened. Kim Hyeon-jun (Lee Byung-hun) and Kim Sun-hwa (Kim So-yeon) come to Gwanghwamun Square to find the bomb planted here by terrorists in episode 17.

The avenue towards the palace exists since Seoul became the capital of Korea. It was a large avenue for the king and his entourage traveling from the palace to other places. In the 20th century it remained a wide avenue, originally a 16-lane roadway, but in 2009 the Government decided to create a landmark national square by transforming 10 lanes of the roadway into a public space where people could enjoy and socialize. Thus it became Gwanghwamun Square.

At its center stands a statue of King Sejong the Great, the fourth and most respected king of the Joseon Dynasty and creator of Hangeul, Korea's alphabet. Coincidently I watched the movie The King's Letters in my flight with Asiana, a historical film about King Sejong who risked everything of his reputation to invent the Hangeul, Korea's alphabet for his people. It was quite an interesting movie to watch, considering the boring and academic topic about the founding of the Korean written language. Surely it wasn’t easy to make an interesting movie about that topic.

Further down there is the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-shin, a naval commander noted for his victories against the Japanese navy during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598) and a hero among Koreans. In front of the statue is a miniature turtle ship that the Admiral built, and at each front corner are two drums that were used to increase the morale of soldiers going to the battlefield.

That time in October, the ‘Hi Seoul Festival’ was going on at Gwanghwamun Square. It was a large annual performing arts festival to promote international unity by enabling people to communicate with one another through music and non-verbal performances, going beyond the barriers of language, race and age. Hundreds of performances by teams from around the world are presented during the week-long festival.

However, it wasn’t only festivity. As the Sewol ship tragedy had just happened a few months before there was a memorial of the victims of the sunken ship on display. There were posters showing the sadness of the victims’ parents, friends and relatives, some also showed anger about how the government handled this tragedy.

Out of 476 passengers and crew, 304 died in the disaster, most notably around 250 students from Danwon High School, Ansan City. The sinking of MV Sewol resulted in widespread social and political reaction within South Korea. Many criticized the actions of the captain and most of the crew. Also criticized were the ferry operator and the regulators who oversaw its operations, along with the administration of President Park Geun-hye for its disaster response.


Source: Wikipedia

Friday, March 6, 2020

Seoul, at Gyeongbokgung Palace

As I entered the main audience halls of the Gyeongbokgung Palace, I looked up at the ceiling and I was amazed by the patterns of colourful ornaments, in red, blue and green, which bloomed on the eaves (the part of a roof that meets or overhangs the walls of a building). I could see the grand depictions of dragons on the ceilings, they were shown as two yellow dragons flying in the sky. In the Eastern tradition the yellow color is associated with the centre, so it is the color of the centre of the power.

Dragons have been part of Eastern mythology since ancient times, and it is a major symbol of the king’s authority and dignity. A dragon flying up into the sky symbolizes the ideal that a sage man will ascend to the throne. This comes from the mythology in which a dragon that had been hidden in the waters rises and flies up to Heaven. So the flying yellow dragons depicted on the ceilings, as well on the canopy over the king’s throne symbolize the king’s central position, from where the he rules the world around him with authority and dignity.

Walking around I also noticed many other animal figures at the palace, these animals are lucky symbols signifying long life, peace and well-being, and happiness. These include the qilin (kirin in Japanese), elephants, deer, and cranes engraved on the Hall of the Gyeongbokgung Palace. There are also animal figures that are supposed to drive away evil spirits and prevent misfortune. Among these are the cheollok seen around the Yeongjegyo Bridge in Gyeongbokgung Palace, when evil spirits or bad people crossed the bridge, these mythological animals attacked them and chased them away.

King Taejo, the first king and the founder of the Joseon dynasty, in 1392 decided to move government to Hanyang (current Seoul) in the third year of its reign, and started construction of Gyeongbokgung Palace in 1394. This location of the place is surrounded by 4 mountains, mount Bugaksan to the North, mount Namsan to the South, mount Naksan to the East and mount Imwangsan to the West. The arrangement of these mountains was believed to attribute Gyeongbokgung with a good fengshui.

Construction of the palace began in December 1394 under the joint supervision of Jeong Do-jeon, an influential government minister, and his associate Sim Deokpu. Jeong Do-jeon, who was also a leading Confusian scholar, designed the palace reflecting the philosophy of Confucianism. He wanted to reflect the principles of the Joseon dynasty in accordance with the ideals in Confucianism. According to Confucianism one needs to train his mind and body before he can teach others and rule the world.

Therefore Jong Do-jeon suggested that the palace should not be a symbol of sovereign power, but a place where the king himself cultivates his mind and rule over his people with the assistant of good government officials.  He wanted to build a palace that’s not grand or imposing, but rather simple and elegant. Building an extravagant palace would not be a value in Confucianism.

Jong Do-jeon also gave name to the palace Gyeongbokgung, which means the ‘Palace of Shining Blessings’. ‘Gyongbok’ is a word borrowed from one of the Confucian scriptures which means ‘to enjoy good fortune and prosper’. The word ‘gung’ means palace, so ‘Gyeongbokgung’ suggested good wishes to the new dynasty.


Sources: ; ;

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

An Interview with Emile

One of the controversial writings by Emile is the novel “Lourdes” about the conflict of faith and naturalism that took stage in the famous pilgrimage place Lourdes, France. Since reading the novel I felt compelled to have a chat him and to confront him with the controversy aroused by this novel. I tried contacting him many times, but he seemed very busy and was traveling around France.

Then, during my trip to Lourdes in August, I heard that Emile was there amid the thousands of pilgrims coming from around the world.  I was so surprised that he came here, knowing his reputation as the founder of a new literary movement ‘Le Naturisme’, return to nature, an extreme form of realism which explains everything based on natural causes rather than supernatural or divine causes.

Eager to find him, I went around asking people about him, but it wasn’t easy. Everyone had their own interest to come here, and certainly celebrity searching wasn’t their favorite interest. With a bit of luck though, after a long search I saw him in a small crowd of singing and dancing pilgrims, nearby the Grotto by the Gave de Pau river.

He seemed to be having a good time there and was friendly and approachable.  After a ‘Bonjour’ exchange, and a polite  ‘may I talk to you’ he agreed for a chat there at the bank of Gave de Pau river. I couldn’t believe it, my head exploded with the imagination of the praises and rewards I would get from the publisher of ‘stenote’.

I then hastily opened the discussion:
“Monsieur, this time Lourdes appears very far developed compared with the time of Bernadette Soubirous. Lourdes was a greenery village with a few hundred people, far from any frequented highway during Bernadette’s time. Now, look, there is a beautiful basilica at the centre, and the wild Massabielle grotto where Santa Maria appeared is now beautifully decorated with flowers, and there are many nice hotels and restaurants surrounding the site. ”

“Indeed, in my book I wrote about the contracts between Lourdes now and Bernadette’s house at Rue des Petits Floses which has been kept the same as the original. It is a simple wretched looking house in a gloomy neighborhood, with a mournful facades in which never a window opens. Inside the house it is like a low dark chamber, the walls, with their decaying, damped stained plaster falling off bits by bits, were full of cracks, and turning dirty black like the ceiling. Yes this is the room, all come from here, three beds for seven people of the Soubirous family filling this small space. All of them lived here without air, without light, almost without bread! What frightful misery! What lowly, pity-awaking poverty!”

I said:
“It is inevitable that people criticize the modern Lourdes on the shrine’s relationship with modern market practices, commercialization. Some five million pilgrims from around the world visit Lourdes every year, making it the second most-visited city in France after Paris. There is a concern that by becoming a religious shrine that catered to a mass audience, the commercialized activities surrounding the pilgrimage undermine the holiness of the site.”

Emile, citing his book:
“But, really, I must say that members of a religious community ought not to keep hotels. No, no, it isn’t right. Ought not those Blue Sisters, those Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, to have confined themselves to their real functions, the manufacture of wafers for sacramental purposes, and the repairing and washing of church linen?

Instead of that, however they had tranformed their convent into a vast hostelry, where ladies who came to Lourdes unaccompanied found separate rooms and were able to take their meals either in privacy or in the general dining room. Everything was certainly very clean, very well organized and very inexpensive, thanks to the thousands advantages which the sisters enjoyed; in fact no hotel in Lourdes did so much business.”

I said:
“Because of its modern formation, there are even allegations that Lourdes has become a Disneyland for the adults. Come to think about it, the boulevards and gardens look like those in a Disney town, the Rosary Basilica can be compared with Cinderella castle, the Ave Maria procession can be compared with “Happiness is here” carnival in Disneyland, and the candle lights prayer can be compared with the firework at Disneyland. “

“The Disneyland in Hong Kong has its own special train to its secluded location in Lantau island. The whole train is decorated with Mickey Mouse images inside out, painted with Mickey’s face. The seating are arranged like a family room so the passengers can feel cozy. The windows are in Mickey’s shape, the handholds for the standing passengers are in the shape of Mickeys’s ears, and the interior is decorated with Mickey, Donald and Goofy statues. So you feel “Disneyed” even before you arrive at the theme park.

In a way, the Church also used the railway in innovative ways as they sought to augment the number of pilgrims coming to Lourdes. They coordinated special trains for pilgrimages, designed compartments to transport sick and disabled pilgrims, and secured reduction in prices of 20 to 30 percent for third class tickets.

As I wrote in my book, these trains to Lourdes were the rolling hospitals of disease at its last stage, of human sufferings rushing for the hope of cure, furiously seeking consolation between attacks of increased severity, with the ever present threat of death – death hastened, supervening under awful conditions, amidst the mob-like scramble.”

I said:
“You joined a train to Lourdes that time to see for yourself the condition in the train and based on this experience you wrote in your book the suffering, passion and hope of the pilgrims. The pain, anxiety and death are real experience you encountered in the train.”

“Yes, for instance Elise Rouquet was a real 18 years old girl, she had lupus which had preyed on her nose and mouth.  Ulceration had spread, and was hourly spreading- in short all the hideous peculiarities of this terrible disease were in full process of development.  She covered her entire face with a black scarf to hide the disease. She could eat only tiny pieces of bread, cautiously slipping it into her poor shapeless mouth.  When she uncovered her face to eat, people could see her face with the gaping cavities which seemed to be the face of death. Everyone in the carriage had turned pale at sight of the awful apparition. And the same thought ascended from all those hope-inflated souls. Ah Blessed Virgin, Powerful Virgin, what a miracle indeed if such an ill were cured!”

I said:
“Then, as you wrote in the book,  Elise Rouquet thinking it was useless to go to the piscinas to bathe the frightful sore which was eating away her face had contended herself by employing the water of the fountain as a lotion, every two hours since her arrival that morning. Doctor Bonamy who advised her to continue using water as a lotion and to return everyday for further examination, after sometime noticed that there were signs of improvement in this case- that was beyond doubt. It had become evident that the lupus that was eating away her face, was showing signs of cure.

Elise Rouquet, now that the sore was healing, then bought herself a pocket mirror, a large round one, in which she did not weary contemplating herself, finding herself quite pretty and verifying from minute to minute the progress of her cure with a gayness which, now that her monstrous face was becoming human again, made her purse her lips and try a variety of smiles.

However, Monsieur, you saw and wrote about this cure of lupus, yet you denied that it was a miracle. You even refused to look at her the healing of her face closely as suggested by doctor Bonamy, and said: ’To me she is still ugly.’  How could you deny it?”

“ As I wrote in the Preface of the book, I will admit that I came across some instances of real cure. Many cases of nervous disorders have undoubtedly been cured, and there also have been other cures which may perhaps be attributed to errors of diagnosis on the part of the doctors who attended the patients so cured. These cures are based on ignorance of the medical profession.

As doctor Chassaigne said our most learned medical men suspect many of these sores to be nervous origin. Yes, they are discovering that complaints of these kinds are often simply due to bad nutrition of skin. These questions are still so imperfectly studied and understood ! And some medical men are also beginning to prove that the faith which heals can even cure sores, certain forms of lupus among others. However science is vain, it is a sea of uncertainty. ”

I said:
“You came to Lourdes to examine the miracle phenomenon in a skeptical point of view, however you unexpectedly observed three miracles in a single trip, while for most of the people we cannot hear even one miracle or apparent miracle in a few trips.

You wrote about those miracles in detail, besides Elise Rouquet there was this young peasant girl Sophie Couteau who came back to visit Lourdes after she was cured the year before. She suffered for three years from a horrid open sore on her foot, it was swollen and quite deformed. The foot had to be kept bandaged because there was always a lot of nasty matter coming from it. The doctor who made a cut in it, so as to see the inside, said that he should be obliged to take out a piece of the bone; and that, sure enough would have made her lame for life.

But she was suddenly cured by bathing her foot in the piscina, where the bandages fell off, and her foot was entirely restored to a healthy condition.”

“I investigated this case thoroughly. I was told there were three or four ladies living in Lourdes who could guarantee the facts as stated by Clementine Trove, Sophie’s real name. I looked up those ladies.
But no one could vouch for anything, no one had seen anything, and no where was I able to find any corroboration of the girl’s story. Yet the little girl did not look like a liar, and I believe that she was fully convinced of the miraculous nature of her cure. It is the facts themselves which lie.”

I said:

“There is another case that you observed, the cure of Marie Lebranchu, you named her as La Grivotte in your book. The 36 years old lady suffered from severe pulmonary tuberculosis for two years, and had reached the terminal stages of this disease. “
Emile, citing his book:
“La Grivotte was weeping hot tears because they would not bathe her at the piscina. They said she was with a wasting disease, and they could not dip somebody like that into the cold water. So she had been wearing herself out for half an hour in telling them that they were only grieving the Blessed Virgin, for she believed she would be cured. She was beginning to cause a scandal till one of the chaplains approached and endeavoured to calm her. Then after receiving Father Fourcade’s express permission, she had been obliged to insist and beg and sob in order prevail upon them to do so.

And then it had all happened as she had previously said it would.  She had not been immersed in the icy water for 3 minutes- all perspiring as she was with her consumptive rattle-before she had felt strength returning into her like a whipstroke lashing her whole body. And then flaming excitement possessed her; radiant, stamping her feet, she was unable to keep still. On the previous night she was seen lying on the carriage seat, annihilated, coughing and spitting blood, with her face of ashen hue.”

I said:
“ At the end of your book you wrote that La Grivotte had relapsed into her mortal disease dying on the train back to home, implying that the cure was neither permanent nor supernatural, but rather a case of autosuggestion in an hysterical religious atmosphere.  

Yet you remained in communication with the woman long after her recovery, and were perfectly aware that there had been no relapse. She actually lived in perfect health until 1920.

Dr. Boissarie, or Dr. Bonamy in your book, the President of the Medical Bureau, questioned you as to the honesty of your account, pointing out that you had said that you had come to Lourdes to make an impartial investigation.”

“I replied to Dr. Boissarie that being an artist I could do whatever I liked with my writing. I wrote to express my view about this religion of human suffering, the redemption by pain, weeping humanity desperate with anguish, like some despairing invalid, irrevocably invalid, and whom only a miracle could save.”

I said:
“Almost 7,000 cures have been documented at the waters of Lourdes. The Church has vigorously investigated all these cases and validated a mere 67 of them.  These 67 were also authenticated as miracles by the International Medical Committee of Lourdes (CMIL).

All three miracles that you observed, of Clementine Trove (Sophie Couteau in your book), Marie Lemarchand (Elise Rouquet) and Marie Lebranchu (La Griovote), all are included in the 67 approved miracles by the Church and CMIL.”

“The Lourdes miracles can neither be proved nor denied. In none of the miracles that I observed was I able to discover any real proof for or against the miraculous nature of the cure. Even were I to see all the sick at Lourdes cured, I would not believe in a miracle.”

I said:

Then, may I ask you a last question, did Sophie really tell : ‘I hadn’t brought many bandages for my foot with me, so it was very kind of the Blessed Virgin to cure me on the first day, as I should have run out of linen on the morrow.”

Emile just smiled…..


This is an imaginary interview in memory of Emile Zola.