Insinuation & Pertuiset, a French poem & painting


This poem from Paul Valéry is a bag of problems, a real mess. Therefore I study it with you, OK?

First, translation. The one I found is a lie…

The title is NOT Insinuation, but “The Insinuater”, or “The insinuating guy”.

Oh curves that meander -> O curves, meander
As a secret lie, -> secrets of the liar
Is not this slowness -> Is there a art more tender
The tenderest art? -> than this slowness?

I know where I’m going,
I’ll take you there, -> and I want to drive you there
My dark intentions -> My bad intent
Mean you no harm… -> Is not to harm you



Oh curves that meander
As a secret lie,
Is not this slowness
The tenderest art?

I know where I’m going,
I’ll take you there,
My dark intentions
Mean you no harm…

(Although she smiles
With blooming pride,
So much freedom

Oh curves that meander
As a secret lie,
I’ll make you wait
For the tenderest word

  1. These spoken words of a man who wants, desires, and tries to manipulate a girl, and when we read it today, it sounds… harassing, right?
  2. It is “said”, but pretty surely inside his own head, like if there was a mic inside – but I’m not sure, because of the brackets (which ARE like inside his head).
  3. Every girl knows that a guy who says “I don’t want to harm you” will harm you pretty soon.
  4. Does the poet want to sound weird? To show how it is to sound weirdly methodically desiring?
  5. Is the “tender art of being slow” a delight for the man, or for the woman? Like a too slow cat and mouse game?
  6. We readers probably hate him, with his “I’ll make you wait”…
  7. What’s the tenderest word? “I love you”? “Yes”?
  8. This mister wise guy seems to be proud of his “skills” (“so much freedom disorients!”).

Then I realized that this toxic poem is like being mockingly, sarcastically in a smooth talker, a womanizer’s head. Each of the four strophes is ridiculous and show-offy.

I couldn’t find the purpose of this, until I saw Pertuiset in a book, yesterday evening :


This Edouard Manet‘s painting is totally forgotten today – apart from Art specialists. He pictured Eugène Pertuiset, a hunter of the XIXth Century, a globetrotter who killed beasts, and showed the skins in Paris salons.

Far from Tanzania, right? All this is ridiculous, from thr French garden to his costume (more adapted to Germany than to African’s deserts), to his face, the tree, the angle (no horizon). Manet wrote, like carving lovers, his name on the trunk. “Has the artist intentionally exposed the model’s comicality?”.



Braggarts are exposed (in French we say “un fanfaron”), but not and never explained. The show-offist are just… shown, as they are. The audience has to find the ridiculousness or absurdness of what they to or try to do. The keys are not given.

Trying to impress, being sure to impress, and looking like a fanfaron, oh my. We’re all afraid of being impostors, right?

Thanks for reading!


O Courbes, méandre,
Secrets du menteur,
Est-il art plus tendre
Que cette lenteur?

Je sais où je vais,
Je t’y veux conduire,
Mon dessein mauvais
N’est pas de te nuire…

(Quoique souriante
En pleine fierté,
Tant de liberté
La désoriente!)

O Courbes, méandre,
Secrets du menteur,
Je veux faire attendre
Le mot le plus tendre.

(Paul Valéry)

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