Sunday, 17 June 2012
Chartres is a commune and capital of the Eure-et-Loir department in northern France. It is located 96 km southwest of Paris. Chartres is built on the left bank of the Eure River, on a hill crowned by the famous Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres, the spires of which are a landmark in the surrounding country. To the south-east stretches the fruitful plain of Beauce, the "granary of France", of which the town is the commercial centre.
The town is the setting for Lowry's short story 'Hotel Room In Chartres' based on a visit made by Lowry and Jan Gabrial to the town and Rouen in 1934; "We've been to Chartres and to Rouen". Jan Gabrial Inside The Volcano Pg. 57). Lowry refers to several location in the city in the short story: Grotte Luminaire, Café Jacques Restaurant Bar du Cinéma, St Piat Chapel, La Gare Chartres and Chartres – Champhol Aerodrome.
Lowry visited the city again with Maurice Sachs and Henry Wibbels in May 1934 when they stayed in the village of St Prest walking across the fields to Chartres. A walk that Jacques Laruelle recalls in Under The Volcano, a memory evoked by his passion for Yvonne:
walking over the meadows from Saint Pres, the sleepy French village of backwaters and locks and grey disused watermills where he was lodging, he had seen, rising slowly and wonderfully and with boundless beauty above the stubble fields blowing with wildflowers, slowly rising sunlight, as centuries before the pilgrims straying over the same fields had watched them rise, the twin spires of Chartres Cathedral. His love had brought a peace, for all too short a while, there was strangely like the enchantment, the spell, of Chartres itself, long ago, whose every side-street he had come to love and cafe where he would gaze at the Cathedral eternally sailing against the clouds, the spell not even the fact he was scandalously in debt there could break.
Lowry also mentioned Chartres cathedral in his 1940 version of Under The Volcano; " his wife, his child, his fishing trip, his career, his sun and moon on the twin spires of Chartres cathedral, his immortal, posthumous work on 'Hidden Knowledge,' which would never be written. Why?" (Pg. 93)