Out of the bleak pessimism of late-winter France came the new fad of Dolorism. The first 5,000-copy issue of its melancholy bible, La Revue Doloriste, sold in Paris last week like gargles in wintertime London. The cult of sorrow and misery even took the spotlight from Jean-Paul Sartre's Existentialists (TIME, Jan. 28), as staid Figaro gave it tongue-in-cheek recognition: "No school ever chose its hour better than this one. Every French citizen is an unknowing Dolorist. And Monsieur Gouin [France's Premier], perhaps, is also one."
High priest of the inconsolable Dolorists was chalk-faced Julien Teppe, who believes that only those who suffer cosmic misery can see reality clearly. In his 43-page Manifesto of Dolorism he discovered that "even a vulgar intestinal disturbance, when analyzed, interpreted, ruminated, and properly meditated, is capable of lifting us to a high universal comprehension . . . engulfing, containing all possible experience."
Unending afflictions qualified 36-year old Teppe as the prophet of "implacable pessimism." As a child he was constantly ill and morose. He lost the sight of an eye in his 20s in a way no doctor could explain. Since then he has been plagued by rheumatism, sciatica, asthma, stomach ailments, severe headaches, and extreme insomnia. Dressed in pallbearer black, he drags out his days on a birdlike diet of bread crusts and boiled vegetables, in a barren, unheated apartment, aggressively campaigning to stimulate public interest in despondency.* Teppe has even offered a prize for the best Dolorist novel — "a scientific anatomy of pain, not a tepid caricature of misery." Teppe warns his disciples to shun society. Because nobody dares utter the complete truth, which is too cruel for people to withstand, "every conversation is a lie." Excitement too must be avoided ("enthusiasm is our enemy"). The biggest disillusionment of all is love. Says Teppe : "Love should be inevitable, preordained; it should happen to elective affinities, two people meant for each other." Alas, says he, "that is not possible. Meetings are always accidental. Any individual might meet any of a dozen individuals of the opposite sex and fall in love. Emotion is false. It is not absolute. A situation rather than transcendent necessity determines it."
A seeker after truth last week asked: "If life holds no joy, why live?" Answered Teppe: "Why indeed?"
* Dolorist Crusader Teppe would have fared ill in wartime Britain, whose Emergency Powers Act prohibited "spreading alarm and despondency."
The End of Suffering
The Pinprick Argument
The Abolitionist Project
Better Never to Have Been