Bouzingo Means Noise: Satan, Anarchy, and Les Jeunes-France by Todd Pendu

Intro from the upcoming book tentatively titled; Bouzingo Means Noise: Satan, Anarchy, and Les Jeunes-France by Todd Pendu

The Bouzingo were an anti-bourgeois anarchist collective composed of writers and artists who lived and worked in Paris in the 1830’s. They were notorious for pranks and rabble rousing, for brashly playing instruments that they didn’t even know how to play to annoy passer-bys on the streets, for drinking wine from human skulls, and for other acts of defiance of good taste and bourgeois civility. They were also known as Le Petit Cénacle, Les Tartares, Les Frénétiques, and Les Jeunes-France. Later, in the 1840’s they were instrumental in the creation of the infamous Club des Haschischins.

The Bouzingo is the Noisemaker, the Agitator, the Rebel.
The Bouzingo is the Thrill Seeker, the Libertine, the Empiricist.
The Bouzingo is the Lunatic Fringe, the Eccentric, the Outsider.
The Bouzingo is the Primitivist, the Improviser, the Frenetic.
The Bouzingo values Enigma, Chance, the Esoteric, the Irrational.
The Bouzingo ridicules Reason and revels in Absurdity in the search for Absolute Freedom.
The Bouzingo is in a Perpetual State of Protest of Boredom.
The Bouzingo despises Hypocrisy and most off all… Mediocrity.

Bouzingoism is the spirit of revolution, a revolution against the ascendancy of power by the Philistine Bourgeoisie. This spirit was embodied in the “art for art’s sake” creed of Théophile Gautier, in the eccentricities and the poetry of Gérard de Nerval, by the lycanthropy and dark irony of Petrus Borel, and by those who gathered around them known as the Bouzingo. They were a decadent and radical offshoot of Romanticism and represented an unabashed pleasure in vampirism, shocking actions, and devoted to Byronic Satanism. They considered themselves a thorn in the side of the bourgeoisie meant to aggravate and irritate polite society. They roamed the streets making a scene wherever they went. They had long hair with moustaches and beards. They dressed with an air of ironic aristocracy to spite and mock the bourgeoisie. They were fanatical extremists who delved heavily in the occult, black humor, irony, dreams and nightmares, and deep imagination inspired by Cervantes from Spain, Schiller and Goethe from Germany, Lord Byron and Shelley (the “satanic poets” of English Romanticism), and Emanuel Swedenborg (the 18th century Swedish occultist). They experimented with drugs and took idealism to extremes. Although the Bouzingo have been obscured in the history of literature and art, there is no disputing their invaluable influence in the construction of Modernism. Credit to the Bouzingo can be found in writings from Baudelaire, who was directly influenced by them and later to the Surrealists. They are the forerunners, the origin of all subsequent ISMs and the beginning of Avant-Garde activity. All movements following are direct descendents of the Bouzingo legend.

Members of the Bouzingo included:
Théophile Gautier, Petrus Borel, Gérard de Nerval, Aloysius Bertrand, Philothée O’Neddy, Xavier Forneret, and Augustus McKeat

The Bouzingo became highly influential in the avant-garde movements of the late 19th century and on into the 20th century including Bohemianism, Parnassianism, Symbolism, Decadence, Aestheticism, Expressionism, Dadaism, Surrealism, the Beats, the Situationists, etc.

(BOUZINGO is sometimes spelled inaccurately as BOUSINGOS or BOUSINGOTS)


I began this project in 1999 soon after buying a copy of Aurélia & Other Writings by Gérard de Nerval published by Exact Change Press. The first sentence of the publisher’s note read “Gérard de Nerval … belonged to a group of French literary eccentrics known in their time as Bousingos: “rowdies” notorious for their orgies, for eating ice cream out of skulls, for holding literary seminars in the nude, for loudly playing instruments none of them knew how to play.” This first sentence incited a curiosity of who the bouzingo were and why I had never heard of such a group previously. The sentence clearly was meant to invoke proto-Dada images to the reader’s mind. Was this the first Avant-Garde? How is it that this group of extremists have not already been exhausted and popularized? If this group did exist in the 1830’s, how radically different were they from the other writers and artists of their time? Furthermore, if they are proven to exist, could this create a new introduction point of modernism starting far earlier than the 1870’s as most art historians have placed it. Major questions have followed, what is the legacy of the Bouzingo? Who inspired the Bouzingo? Initially, I hit a wall when doing searches for the Bouzingo. I did a google search on the internet and came up with mostly French websites that hinted at the existence of such a group, and I was able to gather a few names outside of Nerval that were associated, but I found very little substantial and detailed information. I realized that it would take the tracking down of old and mostly out of print primary source materials to put this puzzle together. It would be a few years before I would begin to research seriously this project. I moved to New York in the fall of 2003 and began working at the Strand Bookstore. Immediately I began gathering primary source materials and writings about the Bouzingo. My girlfriend also went to Hunter College which gave me access to their vast online library.

… The name Bouzingo is a deliberate alternative spelling of the word Bousingots. Bousin is French for “making noise” taken from the English “boozing”. The Bousingots were a group of young radical anti-monarchist students who rioted in the Paris Revolution of 1832. They were so-called because of the leather hat they wore as a sign of their affiliation. Victor Hugo wrote of the bousingots in Les Miserables and George Sand in her novel Horace based the main character on these political youth. The Bouzingo in contrast were politically naive and confused. They tried to be apolitical. They were interested in chaos, freedom, and anarchism, but they placed art and literature above politics. Although their political ideas varied, they were united in their hatred for the Bourgeoisie and can be seen as the first anti-bourgeois collective. The Bouzingo were originally known as Le Petit Cénacle in 1830 but became known as Les Jeunes-France around 1832. The name Bouzingo came into being in 1833. One summer night, members of Les Jeunes-France were walking through the streets loudly singing a song whose chorus was “Nous avons fait ou Nous ferons du bouzingo”. The neighbors complained of the shouting to the police and told them of a conspiracy by the bousingots against King Louis-Philippe. The Police, who were unable to tell the difference between the Bousingots and Les Jeunes-France, arrested several members including Nerval. The next day newspapers were filled with scandalous stories about these nefarious bousingots! Gautier and Nerval found the stories to be hilarious and decided to continue the scandal by taking the name Bouzingo and changing the spelling to confuse the Bourgeoisie. They immediately set out to publish a book called “Les Contes du Bouzingo”. Unfortunately it was never published, but the Bouzingo myth stuck and remains to this day. The stories the Bouzingo wrote about themselves were full of intentional exaggerations. The stories were meant to frighten the bourgeoisie. They believed the Bourgeois would be offended by the idea of poets and artists acting like barbarians and primitives. This was the aim of the Bouzingo and for a time they spawned major controversies. The actual truth is now nearly impossible to find out. These artists were not well documented with any kind of journalistic objectivity during their prime. The legends of the Bouzingo are captured most notably by Gautier in “Les Jeunes-France” (1833) but also to a lesser extent in Henry Murger’s “La Vie de Bohème” (1849).

note: Italo Calvino included Petrus Borel and Gérard de Nerval in his anthology of “Fantastic Tales” (1983). One of the stories that is included is La Main de gloire by Gérard de Nerval originally intended to be published in the “Contes du Bouzingo”.



“The only romantics to engender the Situationist’s sympathy were the Bousingots who, after the French Revolution of 1830, showed that poetry could exist without the poem by their scandals in the streets and extreme fashions.” – From Guy Debord – Revolutionary by Len Bracken, Feral House (July 1, 1997) pg. 82

“With even more justification we could have used Supernaturalism, employed by Gerard de Nerval in the dedication of Filles de Feu. In fact, Nerval appears to have possessed to an admirable extent the spirit to which we refer. Apollinaire, on the other hand, possessed only the letter of surrealism (which was still imperfect) and showed himself powerless to give it the theoretical insight that engages us.” Le Manifeste du Surréalisme by André Breton, 1924 – from a translation by Patrick Waldberg, Surrealism (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971), pp. 66-75.



André Breton included Petrus Borel and Xavier Forneret in his influential “Anthology of Black Humor” meant to create a literary lineage to the Surrealists.

Joseph Cornell, Marcel Proust, René Daumal, and T. S. Eliot have all cited Gérard de Nerval as a major influence.
T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land borrowed one of its most enigmatic lines, “Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie” from Nerval’s “El Desdichado”.

Comte de Lautréamont (Isidore Ducasse), Joris-Karl Huysmans, and Oscar Wilde have all mentioned the works of Gautier as influential. “In fact I saw him with a poetry book, Théophile Gautier’s Albertus, which I believe Georges Minvielle passed on to him.” – Reminiscences of Paul Lespes taken from Alexis Lykiard’s ‘Maldoror and the complete works of the Comte de Lautréamont’

Gautier with Nerval and Baudelaire began the infamous Club des Hashischins dedicated to exploring experiences with drugs around 1844.


Writings by the Bouzingo:

Jettatura a.k.a. Jinx by Théophile Gautier (Hesperus)

Mademoiselle de Maupin by Théophile Gautier

Aurélia & Other Writings by Gérard de Nerval (Exact Change)

De Nerval: Selected Writings by Gerard de Nerval and Richard Sieburth (Penguin Classics)

The Diamond in the Grass by Xavier Forneret (Atlas Press)

Compilated Writings from the Bouzingo:

Anthology of Black Humor by André Breton (City Lights Publishers, 1997)

Fantastic Tales: Visionary and Everyday by Italo Calvino (Vintage, 1998)

Revolutions in Writing: Readings in Nineteenth-Century French Prose by Rosemary Lloyd (Indiana University Press, 1996)

Great Nineteenth Century French Stories by Angel Flores (Dover Publications, 1990)

Demons of the Night: Tales of the Fantastic, Madness, and the Supernatural from Nineteenth-Century France by Joan C. Kessler (University Of Chicago Press, 1995)


Sources: Books about the Bouzingo:

Starkie, Enid, 1954. Petrus Borel: The Lycanthrope, His Life and Times. (Faber and Faber Ltd.)

Graña, César, 1990. On Bohemia: The Code of the Exiled – Chapter: Bouzingos and Jeunes-France pp. 365-369

Dumont, Francis, 1958. Nerval et les Bousingots (La Table ronde)

Dumont, Francis, 1949 Les Petits Romantiques Francais (Les Cahiers Du Sud)

Seigel, Jerrold, 1986. Bohemian Paris: Culture , Politics, and the Boundaries of Bourgeois Life, 1830-1930. (Elizabeth Sifton Books)

Lettre inédite de Philothée O’Neddy [pseud.] auteur de: Feu et flamme, sur le groupe littérai…by Théophile Dondey, 1875

Mélanges tirés d’une petite bibliothèque romantique: bibliographie anecdotique et pittoresque…by Charles Asselineau, Théodore Faullain de Banville, Charles Baudelaire, 1866.

Lachman, Gary, 2004. A Dark Muse: A History of the Occult (Basic Books) pp. 93-99

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