Tuesday, December 6, 2011


On the night of August 30, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed died in a car crash in Paris in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel. The driver, Henry Paul, died also. Only Trevor Rees, the body- guard, survived. The Mercedes looked like some funeral art piece, as only the American installation artist Edward Kienholtz could have created. Pillar 13 still stands in the tunnel, totem for a Paradise Lost. This accident immediately became a soap opera and material for staged accident freaks. The body-guard is a useless witness, remembering nothing, an unwilling participant in a tragedy where his memory loss added to the absurdity of what almost became a Greek tragedy. Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi’s father, has never stopped crying “wolf”since. The British monarchy was in damage control, behaving with class under terrible stress. The same cannot be said of the Spencers, who chose to overreact while having given Diana the cold shoulder, after her separation from Prince Charles.

Everything has been said, imagined, suggested with regard to the circumstances which surrounded the accident. The vulgar fought for territorial control against the grief. Exploitative comments poisoned respect, while the tabloids in the UK and the paparazzi in Paris acted more like accomplices than witnesses of horror. It is useless to return to this cesspool of voyeuristic hooliganism.

Diana became a symbol malgre elle, playing, often premeditated, on her extraordinary charisma. She was ruthless in using it both for causes she believed in and for the guerilla warfare she waged against her ex-husband and the now Duchess of Cornwall. I think by the way that the Prince of Wales was right in marrying his former “companion” later on, and disagree with the anti-Camilla camp. After all, the fairy-tale marriage of Diana and Charles was an empty one. When it ended, Diana could finally become the irresistible woman we would see in front of our eyes, day after day. One did not expect or demand her to be perfect. On her own terms she made a pact with the people and the media and stood by it, enlightening the lives of many who were transformed by her touch, while she was in full control of her image. She had an extraordinary aura to communicate and to master body language as a cipher. The recipients were many and diverse. From the young pregnant woman snoozing at an official party to the elegant royal dressed in Versace, she remained like a battery which never failed a beat and accumulated endearment and love. I wonder how the men she dated later on managed to stay that close to the sun. She was not that formidable intellectual but she became more the mirror of inner feelings, glamour, frustrations, love, and sex. She ended up being a fetish, a fantasy. One never liked her later lovers (known and whispered) since they were close to her and this left outsiders with a taste of having been abandoned and, ironically so, cheated upon.

On that fatal night in August 1997 the world went cold. We were sad because we suddenly had the intuition that a page was turned. The former good feeling was indeed nothing more than a candle in the wind. Diana’s death was experienced as the agony of all that which makes life unpredictable, fragile, but worth trying. The world today looks as if the confirmation of that sudden turn for the worse continues to happen in front of our eyes. Pillar 13 is like a perverse prelude to 9/11 and to the general aphasia which has left us speechless since. The last icon may have disappeared. We are left with the consequences of our apostasy, our abandonment of a reassuring sense of happiness, which in the current socio-philosophical landscape looks almost utopian. The Diana obsession continues to carry a ritual component. There was nothing really outlandish about a woman who in reality was indifferent to any other cause but the ones of her own choice. There was a form of exhibitionism in her systematic crossing of borders. She did not play “closeness”, she was “closeness” in disguise. She was conscious of her imperfections. So were we. A complicity was made possible because the parties involved, she and us, knew that the carriage could also become a pumpkin, if convenience or circumstance required it. Aren’t we all homesick for Shakespeare‘s “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day “? The sonnet still exists but the begetter has no longer followers. I couldn’t help but thinking about all this after seeing Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia.” The summer day seems to have made room for an endless winter of discontent.

I perfectly realize that major events are more forceful than the ephemeral impact of one individual. The young who found their lives wasted in useless wars deserve equal if not more compassion than a princess, misguided and lost in the labyrinth of the equivocal. They have in common that they did not ask for humiliating ends to lives not lived and aspirations frustrated. Still, I am sure that the real, contradictory Diana meant more to them (and to us) than her absurd image in a sordid Murdoch paper. She healed the way she could, modestly and probably incoherently, navigating selfish narcissism and uncontrolled generosity. She represented a variety of competing emotions and for that reason she remains irredeemable, at the same time trivial and enchanting. Her sons must be blessed by memory and cursed perhaps by pomp and circumstance (Othello III3.351).

No comments:

Post a Comment