Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Letter from Gauguin reports this morning that an 1889 letter from Paul Gauguin to a "Monsieur" sold for a surprising 90,000 Euros ($140,000) at a Berlin autographs auction yesterday. The estimate was 20,000 Euros. The high sale price, I'm guessing, comes from the subject of the letter: in it Gauguin speaks of his time in Arles with Vincent and the end of their cooperation. The description of the letter in the article is so vague that I do not know if its text has been published anywhere or whether it's one I've run across myself. If anybody knows its publication history, please comment!

Paul Gauguin (shown here) is an important part of Vincent's time in Arles and so I've made him a character in my novel. My narrator, Rachel (yes, THAT Rachel) doesn't like him much, so I had a lot of fun with that. The real Gauguin was opposite in every way from Vincent: obsessively neat (where Vincent was a slob), incredibly arrogant (where Vincent lacked confidence), a womanizer, and often a liar. His accounts of what happened on 23 December 1888, given in his much-later autobiography "Avant et Apres," used to be accepted as fact, but nowadays scholars see his inclination to exaggerate and take him with a grain of salt. Add all that to the feeling one gets from looking at his self-portraits and photographs taken of him, and voila! You get one fascinating novel-character and a whole lotta drama.

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