analogies : shells

For example :

form & function

The more I empty my half-litre bottle of rustic Agua Brava, the more I like its shape designed by André Ricard (born in 1929 in Barcelona.) You hold the pint like a large flask, something more mundane and manly than a bottle of expensive fragrance. There is something Gondorlaic and extravagant and Arabic in the sheer size of such a dark green container, so I normally splash myself liberally with the affordable Puig Eau de Cologne. Its unashamed brown top is an imitation of wood. First released in 1968. It smells like a fond memory from Spanish streets and terraces.
This morning in the bathroom, as I was staring out of the window, thinking about something entirely unrelated to grooming routines, I felt the cold bottleneck on my lips, and tasted the poison of the classic Catalan pine scent I was about to drink as a matter of course, an absolute first in the course of my already too-long life.
Perhaps my inner-self at this stage had inched closer to that of an alcoholic in a rehab centre, locked away from any temptation, and ready to drink whatever came my way in the form of a toxic substitute, possibly hidden in a false ceiling high above the unsuspecting nurses’ heads. But drink I did not. And I’m not a drinker.
A bottle designed by André Ricard. He must be some cousin of the Pernod-Ricards, the French manufacturers of anise-based liqueur. Quel pastis.


the sound of silence

Between 1925 and 1932, music was restricted to no more than a quarter of broadcasting time, in any case. If you turned on your wireless set a certain time on Sunday, you would hear nothing - it was the time for silent prayer.
Paradise Reforged, A History of the New Zealanders
From the 1880s to the Year 2000, James Belich (2001)
p. 251

they got to their feet

A few days earlier, a father had left his small child with his old blind mother while he went across to the merchant’s. When he came back, he found that the child had fallen into the water and been drowned.The mourning ceremony was in progress at his house, close to where we were staying. Canoes went past filled with men or women but never both, and the wailing rose and fell. Two boys stopped to talk with us. We had hunted pig together in the past. They sat chatting until one said to the other, ‘Come on, we had better go over there.’ They got to their feet, said good-bye, and without warning, started to wail loudly and continuously.
The Marsh Arabs (1964), Wilfred Thesiger

a firm and bright shell

My dear fellow, if you could see the surface I dream of, as compared with the one with which I have to content myself. Life is really too short for art—one hasn't time to make one's shell ideally hard. Firm and bright—firm and bright!—the devilish thing has a way, sometimes, of being bright without being firm. When I rap it with my knuckles it doesn't give the right sound. There are horrible little flabby spots where I have taken the second-best word, because I could n't for the life of me think of the best.

The Author of Beltraffio (1884)
Henry James

inside the cave

In his 1830 short story A Passion in the Desert, Honoré de Balzac follows a lost soldier of Napoleon Bonaparte’s campaign in Egypt. The 22-year-old Provençal first survives captivity in the hands of the Maugrabins (sic), then a suicide attempt, and finds shelter in a cave in the middle of the desert sands.


The cave is already the den of a wild beast : ‘The lion of Egypt was sleeping, curled up like a great dog who is the peaceable possessor of a sumptuous kennel at a mansion door.’ But quickly the beast appears ‘in an attitude as graceful as that of a kitten lying on the cushions of an ottoman.’


 Upon closer inspection, : ‘Involuntarily he called to mind a woman whom he once had loved, whom he sarcastically had nicknamed "Mignonne," from her jealousy, which was so fierce that during the whole time of their acquaintance he went in fear that she would stab him. This memory of his youth suggested the idea of calling the young panther by this name, whose lithe agility and grace he now admired with less terror.

Towards evening he had become so far accustomed to his perilous position, that he almost liked the hazard of it. At last his companion had got into the habit of looking at him when he called in a falsetto voice "Mignonne."

At sun-down Mignonne uttered several times a deep and melancholy cry.’


Things had to go further : ‘She was as pretty as a woman. The blonde fur blended in its delicate gradations into the dull white colour of the thighs. The brilliant sunshine made this vivid gold, with spots of brown, take on a lustre indescribable. The Provençal and the panther looked at one another understandingly; the beauty of the desert quivered when she felt the nails of her admirer on her skull. Her eyes gave forth a flash like lightning, and then she closed them hard.’


Some commentators express their embarrassment in front of such so-called ambiguity, while it is quite explicit and transparent : ‘The sultana of the desert approved the action of her slave by raising her head, stretching her neck, and showing her delight by the quietness of her attitude.’


Gondorla is not prudish : she likes caves where you get lost.


In the course of the long journey of the Comédie humaine, this orientalist entertainment is a little oasis. The soldier walks away (a bit) from the financial strategies usually found in the novels.


Sort of.


Balzac’s down-to-earth approach is always close at hand. (Its social impregnation is discussed by Thomas Piketty, an economist, in his bestselling essay Capital in the 21st Century.) About the young man at the bottom of a palm-tree : ‘ … like an heir who does not long bewail the death of a relation, he stripped the tree of the broad, long, green leaves, and used them to repair the mat on which he was about to lie.’


(English translation in The Strand Magazine February, 1891 - Vol. 1, no. 2)


tin foil hats

In pop culture, tin foil hats are paranoid accessories, which appeared in science-fiction novels in the late 1920s.


They enable people to protect themselves against harmful waves, including those emitted by aliens and telepaths who try to control our minds.


Wearing such hats is recommended when reading Gondorla since, whatever the circumstances, it has a paradoxical relationship with reality, common sense, etc.


the princesse de cadignan

detail after Diane de Maufrigneuse by Ch. Ch.
detail after Diane de Maufrigneuse by Ch. Ch.


'When one thinks of what the beautiful Duchesse de Maufrigneuse had been under the Restoration,- one of the queens of Paris, a dazzling queen, whose luxurious existence equalled that of the richest women of fashion in London,- there was something touching in the sight of her in that humble little abode in the rue de Miromesnil, a few steps away from her splendid mansion, which no amount of fortune had enabled her to keep, and which the hammer of speculators has since demolished.'


Honoré de Balzac, Les secrets de la princesse de Cadignan / The Secrets of the Princesse de Cadignan (1839), translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley




The hulls of ships make seafaring possible.

They are hard, until reefs break them.


hermit crabs

For hermit crabs, shells are interchangeable. Those crustaceans stay where they want.


Gondorla stays where it can. It slips into forms that are easy to reach, and through those forms tells stories (never quite its own).



Today's caravans, or worse motor homes, are the victims of hubris and proliferating accessories.


Not long ago, they might look like snails and keep it simple just like play huts for kids with their dolls tea parties.



Almonds are required to make sugar-coated almonds for weddings : someone is going to appear to save the relationship. Almonds are patient promises.


Here, the almonds' inverted alter egos are grapes, particularly of the Muscat variety. Muscat is fragile, keeps badly, its fermentation makes sweet wines. It glorifies full sensual maturity just before death.



Gryphée limestone is a material common in old buildings in Lyon, France. The stone filled with fossils was quarried just North of the city, including at Saint Fortunat in the village of Saint Didier.


When you climb up stairs, you often see the traces of these oysters. They remind you that the sea used to cover the area.


Children who have known nothing but those stone steps are surprised to discover that in other cities they may be made of wood, a material normally used in attics or in poorer rammed earth houses, once common on the Left bank of the Rhône river.


Gondorla likes all types of inclusions.