Histories de Prix Nobel, Critique – Fiction, (Collection of 100 Stories)

Story about two Artists

Once upon a time, far from cities and towns, there lived two painters. One day the king, hunting nearby, lost his dog. He found him in the garden of one of the two painters. He saw the works of that painter and took him to the castle. The name of the painter was Leonardo da Vinci. The name of the other disappeared forever from human memory.

20,000 Times

God, like Man, is both good and bad. Unpredictable, in comprehensible and strange, too. One day, simply because he felt like it, God intimated to two artists that in their entire lifetime they should only say "hello" 20,000 times.

One of them, Sam, who also had a sense of humour, thought that God was joking and went on greeting everybody he wanted to greet, just as he had in the past.
The other, John, who had no sense of humour at all, thought about it for a moment, then became serious, not to say anxious, and stopped greeting many of his colleagues, the young ones particularly, and seemed to forget his old classmates and certain ordinary individuals. He wondered if he ought to greet keepers of minor museums, young critics and new collectors. He knew it was all changing. Sometimes he just nodded. This had a certain effect: people being what they are, thought he had become someone important for, in the meantime, he had had an exhibition.
The first artist, the one who liked a joke, greeted the lift boy, salespeople, his colleagues and critics, both young and less young. He had an exhibition as well, and he was liked. His position was less important than John's, for his manner was devoid of arrogance. Then suddenly one day he died. Everyone thought it was an unknown illness. Only John knew what he had died of, and this made him even more serious and increased his authority, for his "hellos" were becoming increasingly rare.
One morning, when coming out of the lift of a gallery on Broadway, he grew worried at the thought that he might meet large numbers of eminent people when he had only I I,249 "hellos" left. He was so worried and distracted that he forgot many of his acquaintances. A lot of people thought he was acting important. Only he knew the truth. He sometimes wondered if his behaviour would have been any different if God hadn't had said anything, but he could find no answer.
He was so preoccupied that for several days he completely lost touch with reality and, as he was walking down Broadway, lost in thought, he crossed the street while looking to his right to see if anyone was coming. There was nothing. At that very moment he was knocked down by a car coming at full speed. The direction of the one way system had been changed without him realising. He flew from Spring Street all the way to Prince Street, where he landed lifelessly.
It was seen as just a common traffic accident. Only God knew why he had lost his life in such a stupid way.

The Horse and the Slippers

Greatly impressed by an article he had read in the newspaper, and guided by the idea that art alone is the truth, J.W. set out, on the strength of simple analogy, to acquire a huge fortune. Ever since he had read in the paper that a horse - that is to say, a picture by a contemporary painter - had been sold for $ 500,000, while a horse by a famous Flemish master had made only $ 50,000, he had got into the habit of avidly scanning the daily news with the thought that he too, as a contemporary - a living person therefo{e - enjoyed certain advantages over the dead.
Some time later, he read that a pair of authenticated 16th-century slippers in good condition had been sold at auction for $ 16,000. He at once stopped wearing his own slippers, convinced that, being almost new, they could be sold for $ 160,000 without even going to auction.
To settle the question of the buyer (nobody he knew could afford such an extravagance), he went one morning to call at Sotheby's Department of Everyday Objects. The man before him had just deposited some Ming vases. So he filled in a questionnaire and watched the reactions of the employee. These were identical: he unwrapped the Ming vases and the lovingly packed slippers with great care. Only his answer was different: for the vases. it was yes, for the slippers, NO. At first, J.W. was puzzled. He left, a disappointed man. However, his mood changed suddenly when he found a solution. And so, every day he went to the pub frequented by the Sotheby's employee. There, over a drink, he managed to persuade him that if his slippers were not right for London, he should send them to Zürich, where the antique shops and auctions were offering Tzara's cigarette-holder, letters by Lenin, Kurt Schwitters' tram tickets and lots of other odds and ends. The argument about the dead horse and the living horse was hardly needed. The employee shook his hand and promised that the slippers would be sent to Zürich and that he would do his best to find a buyer.
And so the slippers took the plane for Zürich. The employee did all he could. He wore them during his three days at the hotel, but when he returned to London he handed them back to J.W., explaining that other events had made the trip useless, that the slippers had gone unsold. They did not, he said, touch the Swiss sensibility.
Failure at Christie's, Phillips and other auction houses never completely demoralised J.W. He decided that he would put them in a vacuum-sealed box in the hope that, in four centuries' time, his slippers would fetch the desired price. As he placed them in a plexiglass box for future generations, he pondered dubiously the words of a famous art expert, to the effect that a living myth was always much more potent than a dead one.

Happy and Confused

One morning, Helga Bertranelli woke up at peace, her face relaxed. She did her hair, made some coffee and looked around the room that served her as studio, kitchen, library, dining room, lounge and bathroom, all in one. "What wealth, or rather, what poverty!" she thought to herself. And yet her heart softened when, drinking the first sips of coffee, she saw Amadeo sleeping peacefully. She smoked her first cigarette sitting next to the window, waiting for him to welke up.
The smell of the coffee, the smoke or the late hour - it was nearly noon - woke Modigliani. He rubbed his eyes and said: "It's wonderful that you're still here. I had a strange dream. I dreamt that I was lying on a big rug. I was looking up at the sky and a voice was saying: 'You will become famous. One day, people will buy your paintings, and they will hang in museums. Perhaps they already are.' Hope flooded through me, I got up and I ran through the town. I ran but never arrived. It was raining pumpkin seeds. In the end, I saw the museum building and I slipped in through the crowd to the first floor. In the middle of the room, I saw something incredible, strange. My painting Le Petit payson was sticking out of a cupboard that had a pumpkin on top of it. A group of people was standing round and talking, but I couldn't make out what they were saying. I felt happy and confused. Now, my great hope is that one day my paintings will hang in a musem."
Often, the dreams of real artists come true. And sometimes, even much more.

Made in Taiwan

Disappointed by his stay in the countries known in his homeland as the Far West, Ti Schan Lee decided to return to Taiwan. He also decided to devote the rest of his life to the memory of Mondrian and the gloomy years that the famous founder of De Stijl had spent in Paris and London, without selling a single canvas.
It was while he was working quietly away at his job in a watch factory, ruminating on European conservatism and the Americans' lack of sophistication, that he had a brainwave: among these massproduced watches made to be sold all over the world for a handful of dollars, he would slip a few specimens specially set to be slightly fast. It was a fantastic idea because, that same day, Ti Schan Lee also decided to change his name to Made in Taiwan. Thus signed, his works, in the form of cheap watches, were distributed all round the world. What was revolutionary about this idea was that, in keeping with his inspiration, the watches showed 10:15 or II:23 when for everyone else it was I I o'clock. His watches, or rather, his works, had another particularity: they told the time to come. Apart from this capacity for anticipation, his product contained a touch of irony because people in the street were paying a trifling sum for an object whose true value they never suspected. He thus managed to punish the ignorant and avenge Mondrian's memory. It could stand as a warning: what you let go today for a few wretched coins, will cost you a great deal tomorrow - if you can still afford it, that is.
Continuing his work with calm and assiduity, Ti Schan Lee produced series of works with a variety of time-differences, giving each one an original name. For example, the Mondrian series showed II: 18 when it was II :00, the Malevich series showed I r: 23 and the El Greco I I: 5 9. If your watch should happen to be fast and bear the signature "Made in Taiwan", and if, at I I o'clock, it showed a time other than the aforementioned, it is up to you to find which series, or rather, which artist, this time belongs to.


Once upon a time there was a story that goes as follows: Lenin saw an amusing show in a Ztirich cafe in I9I4. SO he decided to send a postcard to the Czar telling him that the revolution was coming. He stuck on the stamp and mailed it. When the postcard arrived in St Petersburg, a postal employee decided to burn the card, and the Czar never received it.
Little does it matter. Bad news always arrives unannaunced.

The Screw

Fashion is what gets under your nails when you scratch away at style.

Early one Saturday morning, a handyman went to a hardware store. He bought two no. 8 drills and asked for a C22 screw. He had just remembered that he needed one. The helpful shopkeeper, who was used to his customer, immediately took out two drills and said that he was sorry not to have a C22, which he didn't usually stock. Aware as he was of this customer's importance, and of the importance to this customer of his Saturday hobby, he started looking for C22S in various catalogues in order to compensate, visually at least, for the absence of the article. Without seeming at all surprised, although quite taken aback by this sudden request for a C22, he offered him a CI9 instead. But the customer got angry and went to another hardware store on the other side of the border and got what he needed. By the following Saturday, his retailer had already ordered some C22S and from then on he always had them in stock.
When this story became known in the neighbouring country, a shopkeeper who sold similar articles and had always thought that CI9S, C20S, C2IS, C22S and C23S could all be replaced by C24S, also obtained some C22S, simply so as not to be without.
This apparently banal story changes totally if the screws are replaced by the kind of people who feature in encyclopaedias, the shopkeeper and the hardware store by an internationally renowned art gallery, the handyman by a super-rich collector, the drill by an artist who was once part of the avant-garde and the C22 screw by a local artist of modest talent who, for some, is the most inventive figure of the moment.
An immortal once wrote that the locks on the doors of the Pantheon are secured with C22 screws. It is impossible to say if this was a metaphor or a simple technical detaiL


Art sometimes being the reflection or even the model for everyday life, it is interesting to consider the case of J.F., a cheesemonger, and his destiny.
One day, when visiting a well-known artist who was born in the same village, J.F. observed that the man promised each collector that he would com.e to his home to see how the painting was hung in its new setting. This gesture struck J.F as being of the greatest importance. He decided to adopt the same attitude and to reach an identical agreement with each of his clients; that is to say, he would visit each one and watch as they ate his cheese.
But this was not an easy task to fulfill, for several reasons. First of all, it involved a lot of walking. And besides, customers were embarrassed to eat in front of him as they would if they were on their own. Further, J.F. was worried that his customers might wake up in the night and eat his cheese when he was away, taking advantage of his absence. But anyway, he decided that he would sell less so that would not have to go against his principle. Thus he was always there, and enjoyed the spectacle as much as if he himself were eating his own cheese. While other merchants were getting rich, our J.F. was content with what he earned and with this way of life.
Years later, now over sixty years old, he made his usual stop at his friend's house to deliver his cheese. In all this time, he had never told him that the promise he had made as a young artist had inspired the credo of his own life. J.F. noticed that a painting had disappeared from. the studio and asked, bearing in mind the artist's venerable age and prestige, if he still went to see how his buyers had hung his paintings. The artist opened a bottle of wine and, eating his cheese, told him that this was something he had never done, even when young. The cheesemonger was dumbfounded. He stared at the painter as he gobbled down the cheese, and realised that his whole life had been based on an artist's lie.