Issue 11 – Doubles

Polaroids by James Franco

Polaroid by James Franco

There is a nearly infinite amount of examples of Doubles that exist but for me, the theme was initially inspired by, and still resounds most strongly in, questions of division and duality: that there may be two worlds, two divergent natures within each person, and between these opposing forces, a spectrum of gray.

I have always been drawn to the story of Faust. It’s not really fascination, more like approval: I instinctively agreed that there are two souls –simultaneous and conflicting desires and instincts – in each person. Faust, conflicted and beleaguered, cries out in despair:

In me there are two souls, alas, and their
Division tears my life in two
One loves the world, it clutches her, it binds
Itself to her, clinging with furious lust;
The other longs to soar beyond the dust
Into the realm of high ancestral minds

– Goethe, Faust, Part I, II. 1112-7

Faust, a frustrated scholar, realizes that he cannot be fully gratified by either the natural or the intelligible world: he knows his knowledge is finite and accounts for nothing if there is no action or ambition to propel it. Faust decides that what he needs to do is try, to always keep moving, so he sells his soul to the devil in a gamble that comes down to the idea that he will never, ever be happy.

A study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) released in August 2011 reveals France to be “the world’s most depressed nation,” and many commentators,
most of them not French, suggested that this is because French people are too intellectual for their own good. These commentators are suggesting that, like Faust, the French are trapped by the confines of their own knowledge, and that without action or some kind of concrete consequence, intellectualism has no benefits. What, then, to do with all those thoughts? If, as Goethe (and many philosophers and writers before him) suggests, there is an ideal world that is mirrored by our natural, tangible world, then in which sphere should we pass our days?

Baudelaire muses on this division and, in an essay called “The Painter of Modern Life,” provides a few possible solutions to the happiness problem. He describes modern man as being “for ever in search…looking for that indefinable something we may be allowed to call ‘modernity’…you have no right to despise this transitory fleeting element… nor to dispense with it. If you do, you inevitably fall into the emptiness of an abstract.” The search for self-knowledge provides the opportunity for growth and self-awareness. Baudelaire’s goal is to conquer sadness and emptiness either through drunkenness, or the making of art (or, perhaps, both at once). “If you are not to be the martyred slaves of time, be perpetually drunk!” he proclaims in his poem Get Drunk. Drunkenness, however, is fleeting: Baudelaire decides that the more permanent and concrete way of overcoming the “ceaseless plot of time” is to create.

Gray is the colour of truth, according to André Gide. It is true that if you mix white and black, you get gray. But if you see white and black as pure light and its absence, then what lies between is every single colour we’ve ever seen. The content selected for issue 11 of Her Royal Majesty explores the idea of Doubles, and the infinite spectrum that exists between poles.

Harriet Alida Lye – Editor in Chief

And our submissions covered many of these options, including: Biblical stories (the animals arriving two by two); imagined letters between Vincent van Gogh and his brother; love stories told in stereoscope; depression; and tales of conjoined twins and hypothetical doppelgangers. All of these are valid for the theme, of course, and some of these examples are published here. There were also lots (really, lots) of stories and poems about love, which is something I had not foreseen. Draw from this what you will.

ISSN: 2116 34X