Monday, September 3, 2012

The Great Pierre Bruneseau

(I wrote this on a previous experiment of a blog a number of years ago.  I liked it, and I'm still getting the logistics settled here.'s something to pontificate over...)

Some of the world’s most accomplished explorers never really received the acclaim that they deserved. Despite the intricate mapping and intense dedication to their exploratory task, you wouldn’t know their undertakings. You wouldn’t even know their names.

Such is the case with Pierre Bruneseau.
Bruneseau had an astonishing gift for direction. His ability to transfer the experience to mapping paper was unprecedented. His efforts were pieced together under the most adversarial of circumstances. Yet, he succeeded in his endeavor. He achieved his arduous charge against obstacles that would have made the most seasoned peers cringe in aversion.

His task was a land that had been known for nearly 400 years. However, no one had risen to the challenge of making it more familiar. Napoleon, a man basked in self-importance, was truly impressed that Bruneseau had the persistence and fortitude to, not only, take on the endeavor, but complete it with such brilliance. The area explored was considerably more ample in comparison to, say, Rhode Island. That miniscule State is about 40 miles long and 30 miles wide. Bruneseau covered nearly 1,300 miles in his intricate set of maps. It was a marvel. Bruneseau was a phenomenon. And, still, you have never heard of him.

Pierre Bruneseau had a very good friend who was well known at the time. His friend is described for posterity as a genius of sorts. He had a true gift for capturing the moment on paper. He applied his art intertwined in the steep history of his homeland. His accomplishments are lauded in the present as he was in the past if not more so. I could tell you his name and you would know it in a second. You can see the influence of his greatest accomplishments in some of the largest (and smallest) cities all over the world. I know you’ve seen his work in one form or another. You might not have read anything by this writer, but I hope you do some day. He was quite wonderful.

The friend of Pierre Bruneseau was a writer, a novelist, a poet, a dramatist and one of the best French Romantic authors of all time. His works include Hernani, Marion de Lorme, and The King Takes his Amusement. You might not know any of those. Perhaps you have read Han of Iceland, or maybe Bug Jargal.


Well, have you ever had the opportunity to witness a little show called Les Miserables? Per chance, have you had the pleasure of turning the pages of The Hunchback of Notre Dame? If so, then you know this author. You know Victor Marie Hugo.

More importantly, you are familiar with one of Pierre Bruneseau’s close friends. In fact, provided that you are familiar with Les Miserables, you have intimate knowledge of Pierre Bruneseau’s most extraordinary accomplishment for it is soundly and profoundly represented within that superb tale.
Hugo, even, described his friend's undiscovered land as "tortuous, fissured,...interrupted by quagmires, rising and falling illogically, fetid, savage, wild."

Hugo had the gift of tempting your imagination in the way he brings poignant scene after poignant scene from Les Miserables to life with extraordinary detail. The rebels on the barricade fighting against all odds had you there in the rubble. The description of Javert invokes memories of comparable contempt. The setting of, protagonist, Jean Valjean stumbling through the underground of Paris with a wounded rebel draped over his shoulder transfers the pain.

It, also, transfers something else.

Hugo provided incredible detail of the underground sewers of Paris known as the cloaca. Pierre Bruneseau was, no doubt, his consultant in that regard. For you see, Pierre Bruneseau knew those sewers better than most Parisians knew the streets above. He mapped them for posterity. He mapped all 1,300 miles of those labyrinths. Upon completion of this voluminous task in 1812, he was lauded all throughout France as "The Christopher Columbus of the cloaca."

Sometimes the most undiscovered of all lands is right under our feet.

No comments:

Post a Comment