New Voices: “The Art of Ending” by Olivia Parkes

July 13, 2018

This Friday The Thirteenth, we present a triptych that explores three unusual, historic ends. In very few words, Parkes takes us on an eerie look back at the lives (and deaths) of Camille Claudel, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Saint Bernadette. Olivia Parkes is a writer to watch.

“His mind was a mess of thickets, mud, and sudden jarring turns. It was an ill fate, everyone agreed, for the man who had practically invented landscape design.”


Camille Claudel died three times. She slipped away first when her brother Paul signed the commitment papers. “I have fallen into a void,” she wrote to a friend, of her internment at the asylum, though her letters did not get out. Neither did Camille, though the sisters tried to release her to her family several times. Her family did not want her back. Camille was not much of a housekeeper and had demonstrated a nasty habit of smashing her sculptures every summer with a hammer. Besides, they had one genius in the family already. In the asylum, she did not sculpt or sketch. Her body became a block, her hands heavy and veined as marble. Time carved the lines of a madwoman in her face. In 1920 Camille expired officially, at least according to several popular books of reference that recorded this as the year of the artist’s death. But the artist was still alive! Or was she? When she died a third and final time, twenty-three years later, it seemed somehow too late, and yet too early, to place a stone upon her grave.

To read the rest of “The Art of Ending” click here.


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