Tous les matins du monde is a 1991 novel by Pascal Quignard, which was simultaneously made into a French film. The film starred Gérard Depardieu as an aging viola player in the court of King Louis XIV, looking back on his life. The book is like a series of still life paintings, capturing successive moments in the life of composer Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe and his student Marin Marais.
Gentle reader, we struggle to make sense of life, to find meaning in its moments, looking for direction, a way forward.
Pascal deals with the subject of art. Can it be taught? Do words suffice to explain the art of the viola? Is not the music felt? It is an emotion, and therefore incapable of literary discription. Once notes are transcribed, Monsieur Saint-Colombe believes, they become like a painting, nature morte.
The subject of still life (nature morte) paintings comes up in the book through Sainte-Colombe’s friendship with the painter Lugin Baugin. Saint-Colombe requests of his friend a painting of his room after the apparition of his dead wife comes to him. Gentle reader, is there not irony in the capture of nature in a painting, and the idea that nature though captured is dead to all the senses excepting the eye?
Tous les matins du monde
But it is not he death of nature I wish to discuss. Rather it is the enigmatic meaning of the title, Tous les matins du monde.
The phrase is not delivered in the book until Chapter 26, and then it is delivered by the author as a comment on the passage of time:
“Tous les matins du monde sont sans retour. Les annees etait passees.”
Gentle reader, though we are tempted to translate literally as “without returning,” the better meaning is never to return. Each morning, each moment passes, and is gone. A painting, a thought, real to the eye and the memory is still dead to the world.