“The singularity of these manuscripts is that they “cover many areas at the same time” to form “a whole, a + cathedral work +, with undeniable literary qualities”, analyzes Jocelyn Monchamp, curator in the manuscripts department of the BnF.
More than in “Récoltes et semailles”, very autobiographical, the author is “in a metaphysical retreat”, explains the curator, who has been going through the texts with passion for a month. A long-term task as the writing, in fountain pen, is dense and difficult to decipher. “I got used to it… And the advantage for us was that the author had methodically paginated and dated the texts.” One of the parts, entitled “Structures of the psyche”, a book of enigmatic diagrams translating psychology into algebraic language. In another, “The Problem of Evil”, he unfolds over 15,000 pages metaphysical meditations and thoughts on Satan. We sense a man “caught up by the ghosts of his past”, with an adolescence marked by the Shoah, underlines Johanna Grothendieck whose grandfather, a Russian Jew who fled Germany during the war, died at Auschwitz.
The deciphering work will take a long time to understand everything this genius wanted to say.
On Friday, the collection joined the manuscripts department of the Richelieu site, the historic cradle of the BnF, alongside the writings of Pierre and Marie Curie and Louis Pasteur. It will only be viewable by researchers.“This is a unique testimony in the history of science in the 20th century, of major importance for research,” believes Jocelyn Monchamp.
During the ceremony, one of the volumes was placed in a glass case next to a manuscript by the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid.”
It is therefore of no surprise to see a Photoshopped version circulating of this classic picture of some youthful Bourbaki-members (note Jean-Pierre Serre poster-boying for Elon Musk’s site),
replacing some of them with much older photos of other members. Crucial seems to be that there are just nine of them.
I don’t know whether the Clique hijacked Bourbaki’s Wikipedia page, or whether they were inspired by its content to select those people, but if you look at that Wikipedia page you’ll see in the right hand column:
René de Possel
Really? Come on.
We know for a fact that Charles Ehresmann was brought in to replace Jean Leray, and Jean Coulomb to replace Paul Dubreil. Surely, replacements can’t be founders, can they?
Well, unfortunately it is not quite that simple. There’s this silly semantic discussion: from what moment on can you call someone a Bourbaki-member…
But, before the Besse-meeting there were ten ‘proto-Bourbaki’ meetings, the first one on December 10th, 1934 in Cafe Capoulade. These meetings have been described masterly by Liliane Beaulieu in A Parisian Cafe and Ten Proto-Bourbaki Meetings (1934-35) (btw. if you know a direct link to the pdf, please drop it in the comments).
During these early meetings, the group called itself ‘The Committee for the Treatise on Analysis’, and not yet Bourbaki, whence the confusion.
Do we take the Capoulade-1934 meeting as the origin of the Bourbaki group (in which case the founding-members would be Cartan, Chevalley, De Possel, Delsarte, Dieudonne, and Weil), or was the Bourbaki-group founded at the Besse-congress in 1935 (when Cartan, Chevalley, Coulomb, De Possel, Dieudonne, Mandelbrojt, and Weil were present)?
07-1935 is the Besse-congress, 09-1936 is the ‘Escorial’-congress (or Chancay 1) and 09-1937 is the second Chancay-congress. The ten dates prior to July 1935 are the proto-Bourbaki meetings.
Even though Delsarte was not present at the Besse-1935 congress, and De Possel moved to Algiers and left Bourbaki in 1941, I assume most people would agree that the six people present at the first Capoulade-meeting (Cartan, Chevalley, De Possel, Delsarte, Dieudonne, and Weil) should certainly be counted among the Bourbaki founding members.
What about the others?
We can safely eliminate Dubreil: he was present at just one proto-Bourbaki meeting and left the group in April 1935.
Also Leray’s case is straightforward: he was even excluded from the Besse-meeting as he didn’t contribute much to the group, and later he vehemently opposed Bourbaki, as we’ve seen.
Coulomb’s role seems to restrict to securing a venue for the Besse-meeting as he was ‘physicien-adjoint’ at the ‘Observatoire Physique du Globe du Puy-de-Dome’.
Because of this he could rarely attend the Julia-seminar or Bourbaki-meetings, and his interest in mathematical physics was a bit far from the themes pursued in the seminar or by Bourbaki. It seems he only contributed one small text, in the form of a letter. Due to his limited attendance, even after officially been asked to replace Dubreil, he can hardly be counted as a founding member.
This leaves Szolem Mandelbrojt and Charles Ehresmann.
We’ve already described Mandelbrojt as the odd-man-out among the early Bourbakis. According to the Bourbaki archive he only contributed one text. On the other hand, he also played a role in organising the Besse-meeting and in providing financial support for Bourbaki. Because he was present already early on (from the second proto-Bourbaki meeting) until the Chancay-1937 meeting, some people will count him among the founding members.
Personally I wouldn’t call Charles Ehresmann a Bourbaki founding member because he joined too late in the process (March 1936). Still, purists (those who argue that Bourbaki was founded at Besse) will say that at that meeting he was put forward to replace Jean Leray, and later contributed actively to Bourbaki’s meetings and work, and for that reason should be included among the founding members.
What do you think?
How many Bourbaki founding members are there? Six (the Capoulade-gang), seven (+Mandelbrojt), eight (+Mandelbrojt and Ehresmann), or do you still think there were nine of them?
Suppose you’re writing a book, and for the duration of that project you keep a certain photo as your desktop-background. I guess we might assume that picture to be inspirational for your writing process.
If you PhotoShopped it to add specific elements, might we assume these extra bits to play a crucial role in your story?
We know from this tweet (from August 19th, 2018) that Tyler Joseph’s desktop-background picture was a photoshopped version of the classic Bourbaki-1938 photo on the left below, given it Trench-yellow, and added a bearded man in the doorway (photo on the right)
And we know from this interview (from September 5th, 2018) that, apart from the bearded man, he also replaced in the lower left corner the empty chair by a sitting person (lower photo).
But, of the seven people in the picture only three were founding members of Bourbaki: Weil, Diedonne and Delsarte. Ehresmann entered later, replacing Jean Leray, and Pison and Chabauty were only guinea pigs at that moment (they later entered Bourbaki, Chabauty briefly and Pison until 1950), and finally, Simonne Weil never was a member.
There’s another strange thing about the original picture. All of them, but Andre and Simone Weil, look straight into the camera, the Weil’s seem to be more focussed on something happening to the right.
Now, TØP has something with the number 9. There are nine circles on the cover of Blurryface (each representing one of a person’s insecurities, it seems), there are nine towers in the City of Dema, nine Bishops, etc.
So, from their perspective it makes sense to Photoshop two extra people in, and looking at the original there are two obvious places to place them: in the empty doorway, and on the empty chair.
But, who are they, and what is their significance?
1. The bearded man in the doorway
As far as I know, nobody knows who he is. From a Bourbaki point of view it can only be one person: Elie Cartan.
We know he was present at the 1938 Bourbaki Dieulefit/Beauvallon meeting, and that he was kind of a father figure to Bourbaki. Among older French mathematicians he was one of few (perhaps the only one) respected by all of Bourbaki.
But, bearded man is definitely not Elie Cartan…
If bearded man exists and has a Wikipedia page, the photo should be on that page. So, if you find him, please leave a comment.
We know from this Twentyonepilots subReddit post that the man sitting on the previously empty chair in none other than Bourbaki founding member Szolem Mandelbrojt, shopped in from this other iconic early Bourbaki-photo from the 1937 Chancay-meeting.
Let me tell you why this surprises me.
Szolem Mandelbrojt was atypical among the first Bourbaki-gang in many ways: he was the only one who didn’t graduate from the ENS, he was a bit older than the rest, he was the only one who was a full Professor (at Clermont-Ferrand) whereas the others were ‘maitre de conference’, he was the only one who didn’t contribute actively in the Julia seminar (the proto-Bourbaki seminar) nor much to the Bourbaki-congresses either for that matter, etc. etc.
Most of all, I don’t think he would feel particularly welcome at the 1938 congress. Here’s why.
Hadamard’s retirement left his position open. I thought myself not unworthy of succeeding him; my friends, especially Cartan and Delsarte, encouraged me to a candidate. It seemed to me that Lebesgue, who was the only mathematician left at the College de France, did not find my candidacy out of place. He even let me know that it was time to begin my ‘campaign visits’.
But the Bourbaki-campaign against a hierarchy of scientific prizes instituted by Jean Perrin (the so called ‘war of the medals’) interfered with his personal campaign. (Perhaps more important was that Mandelbrojt did his Ph.D. under Hadamard…)
Again from Weil’s autobiography (page 121):
Finally Lebesque put an end to my visits by telling me that he had decided on Mandelbrojt. It seemed to me that my friends were more disappointed than I at this outcome.
In the spring of 1938, Mandelbrojt succeeded Hadamard at the College de France.
There’s photographic evidence that Mandelbrojt was present at the 1935 Besse-congress and clearly at the 1937-Chancay meeting, but I don’t know that he was even present at Chancay-1936.
The only picture I know of that meeting is the one below. Standing on bench: Chevalley’s nephews, seated Andre Weil and Chevalley’s mother; standing, left to right: Ninette Ehresmann, Rene de Possel, Claude Chavalley, Jacqueline Chavalley, Mirles, Jean Delsarte and Charles Ehresmann.
Of all possible people, Szolem Mandelbrojt would be the miscast at the 1938-meeting. So, why did they shop him in?
– convenience: they had an empty chair in the original picture, another Bourbaki-photo with a guy sitting on such a chair, so why not shop him in?
– mistaken identity: in the subReddit post the sitting guy was mistakenly identified as Claude Chevalley. Now, there is a lot to say about wishing to add Chevalley to the original. He is by far the most likeable of all Bourbakis, so if these nine were ever supposed to be the nine Bishops of Dema, he most certainly would be Keons. But, Chevalley was already in the US at that time, and was advised by the French consul to remain there in view of the situation in Europe. As a result, Chevalley could not obtain a French professorship before the early 50ties.
– a deep hidden clue: remember all that nonsense about Josh Dun’s ‘alma mater’ being that Ukrainian building where Nico and the niners was shot? Well, Szolem Mandelbrojt’s alma mater was the University of Kharkiv in Ukraine. See this post for more details.
3. Is it all about Simone Weil?
If you super-impose the two photographs, pinning Mandelbrojt in both, the left border of the original 1938-picture is an almost perfect mirror for both appearances of Simone Weil. Can she be more important in all of this than we think?
Julia graduated from the ENS in 1914, so was among the worst victims of the military regime Lavisse installed at the ENS. He was mobilised but hadn’t yet completed his second year of military training. That was shortened to just 5 months, after which we has send as a second lieutenant to the war.
In January 1915 he was seriously wounded in his face, had to undergo a series of operations and for the rest of his life he resigned himself to wearing a leather strap around the area where his nose had been.
He ran a weekly seminar from 1933 till 1939, the Seminaire Julia, to which the Bourbaki core members contributed a vast number of lectures.
Until 1937-38 (so just before the Dieulefit Bourbaki congress) the Bourbakis felt happy citizens of Julia’s Seminar/Dema. But then they discovered his political agenda and were expelled from it, or escaped from it depending on the version.
Jean Leray convinced Julia that it was a terrible mistake to let his seminar run by Bourbaki, and that things would go much better if he ran it. Julia expelled Bourbaki from the seminar, changed its name to ‘ Cercle mathématique de l’École normale supérieure’ and moved the venue from the IHP to the ENS. The attendants of this seminar were younger and less international that in the preceding years, hence more malleable to his political ideas.
Another reason for the break-up between Bourbaki and Julia was that they reproached him of attending in June 1937 the festivities of the bicentennial of the University of Gottingen, which were seen as pure propaganda for the Nazi-regime.
During WW2, Julia collaborated with the occupying Nazi-regime in that he tried to find French mathematicians to contribute to the Zentralblatt. After the war he was briefly suspended for this.
Let us compare Julia’s photographs to these two in Dema-lore:
Is it a coincidence that Clancy in Trench has a scar on his nose? Is it a coincidence that the black paint on some of the Bishop’s faces looks a lot like Julia’s mask?
Can it be that victims of one Dema-era become Bishops in a next era?
This repetitiveness of Dema-environments also indicates the importance of Bishop Andre. Recall that all the Bishops’ names (except for Nico) come from concatenations of word-parts in the lyrics of the songs on the Blurryface album.
ANDRE comes from ‘..AND REpeat’ in Fairly local:
Tomorrow I’ll keep a beat
And repeat yesterday’s dance
In view of this, let’s have another look at the two Bourbaki-related photographs that appeared in the run up to the Trench-album:
On the left is the photo of the Dieulefit/Beauvallon 1938 meeting, which is on the Bourbaki Wikipedia page, and was on the desktop of Tyler Joseph.
On the right a photo of Andre Weil together with a girl, according to Wikipedia the picture dates from 1956. I’m pretty certain it was taken in the summer of 1957, and that the girl is Mireille Cartan, the second youngest daughter of Henri Cartan. Not that any of this matters, TØP-wise. A clipping of the girl was among the material originally posted at the dmaorg.info site.
In 1938, Andre Weil was a victim of Lavisse’s Dema. His year was the last one getting a military training to become reserve officers in the French infantry/artillery (as were Cartan, Dieudonne and Delsarte).
When France would mobilise they were forced to return to Dema (military service) and lead their bataljons as second lieutenants into war. All of them, except for Weil, did this.
Weil escaped to Trench (Finland), and was taken back to Dema, and imprisonment.
In 1957, Bourbaki dominated much of French mathematical life, and certainly its influence in Paris was suffocating for aspiring math-students. A good read on this is Jacques Roubaud’s Mathematique.
Bourbaki has turned French mathematics (and beyond) into its own Dema, and Andre Weil certainly was one of the more important Bishops of it.
The photo is clipped in such a way one cannot be certain whether the child is a boy or girl, so a logical explanation is that this is supposed to be the nine year old Clancy, shielding his eyes from the violence (vialism) he just discovered in Dema.
The full picture suggests that Clancy’s struggles might mirror some in Andre Weil’s life.
Andre Weil was born May 6th, 1906, so ‘in his ninth year’ World War 1 breaks out in 1914.
Last time we’ve seen that Bourbaki’s Dema = Ecole Normal Superieure in Paris during WW1, Vialism = militant patriotism sending ENS-graduates as trained reserve second lieutenants in the infantry to the trenches, and there getting killed ‘pour la patrie’ and the glory of the ENS and its director Ernest Lavisse, “L’instituteur national”.
Here’s a G-translation of his letter to the young French, published September 23rd 1914:
Dear children of France, You will be old one day, and, like the old, you will like to remember times past. There will come evenings when your little children, seeing you dreaming, will say to you: Tell us, grandfather. And you will tell. It will be a few episodes of the war, a long march, an alert, a bayonet assault, a cavalry charge, the feat of a battery of 75, the strewn enemy dead on the plain, or else, in the streets of a city, the serried ranks of corpses left standing for lack of room to fall; and then the death of comrades, the terrible losses of your company and your regiment, your wounds received in Belgium, in Champagne, on the banks of the Rhine, beyond the Rhine; but the joy of victories, the poles knocked down on too narrow frontiers, triumphal entries.
On those evenings, after the amazed children have gone to sleep, you will open a drawer where you will have collected precious objects, a bullet extracted from a wound, a piece of shell, a cloth where your blood will have turned pale, a cross of honour, I hope, or a military medal, at the very least a medal from the 1914 war, on the ribbon of which the silver clasps will bear the names of immortal battles. And whatever your life, happy or unhappy, you will be able to say: I lived great days such as the history of men had not yet seen. And you will be right to be proud of your youth, because you are sublime young people!
I have read your letters; I have spoken with the wounded. Through you, I know what heroism is. I had heard a lot about it, being a historian by profession, but now I see it, I touch it, and how beautiful your heroism is, embellished with grace and smiling in the French way! Young soldiers if you were given one chevron per battle, your march would not be enough to accommodate them, because at the end of the war you would count more chevrons than years;
Young soldiers you are glorious old warriors.
Oh! Thanks thanks! Thank you for the beautiful end of life that you give to the elderly who, for forty-four years have suffered so much from the abasement of the fatherland.
The next cycle of militant patriotism occurred in the years leading up to the second world war. Here, Andre Weil’s experiences mirror those of Clancy. He tried several times to escape, first from military action (although he too was a reserve officer in the French army), then from France itself. He was captured in Finland, brought back to France to face trial and imprisonment, was released on the condition that he did active military duty, escaped with the French army to England, there demobilised he refused to join de Gaulle’s troops, left England on a boat to Marseille, from where he escaped to the US.
Comic or not, the book tries to ‘explain’ his actions in those years, but failed to convince the French from offering him a professorship at a French university after the war.
Perhaps it may be worth looking into a comparison between Weil’s autobiography and the collected Clancy letters.
I guess that’s the best I can do to explain the use of that Weil photo by TØP. Surely they didn’t search any deeper as to where and when this picture was taken, or who the girl was next to Weil.
In case anyone might be interested, I’ll be happy to explain my own theory about this in another post.
I’m sure the full photograph ended up in the ‘Trench-bible’, given to the director of their clip-movies. The scenery is used at the end of the Jumpsuit video when ‘Clancy’ takes out a jumpsuit from the burning car and walks away along a road very similar to that in the photo.
The boy/girl shielding his/her eyes for the violence, should have been used at about minute one into the Outside video
which was photoshopped in order to get Szolem Mandelbrojt in from the Chancay (quite similar to Clancy now that i type this) 1937 Bourbaki congress
Now, these were the only two Bourbaki-meetings Simone Weil (Andre’s sister) attended, and she features prominently in both pictures.
Probably this brother/sister thing struct a chord with Twenty One Pilots. But then, you quickly end up with this iconic picture of both of them, taken in the summer of 1922, just before Andre entered the Ecole Normale (he entered the ENS at age 16…)
I’d love to be send a copy of the ‘Trench bible’ because I’m fairly certain also this photograph is in it. At the end of the Nico and the niners-video you see this boy and girl (who may be around age 9 and discover the truth about Dema) finding a jumpsuit with the Bishops approaching
and they reappear a bit older at the end of the Outside-video, with a burning Dema in the background.
Here’s the corresponding ‘beyond the movie’-clip, from which we learn (or rather are told) that the movie’s ‘city of Dema’ was shot in ‘the former Ukranian high-school’ of Josh Dun (he even calls it his ‘Alma Mater’), all in quotes because I don’t buy any of it, but take it as a desperate hint to identify Dema.
In the Trench movie-clips, Josh Dun is always cast as a Bandito, and last time we saw that also the Bourbaki-gang is likely to be close to the Banditos. Dema is supposed to be the Alma Mater of (at least some of) the Banditos. Hold that thought.
As for the connection between the City of Dema and the Bourbaki-group, we only have one piece of solid information:
That the Bourbaki-group named themselves after Nico=Nicolas Bourbaki clearly resonates with Twenty Øne Pilots who got their name from the 1947 play ‘All My Sons’ by American playwright Arthur Miller.
But the crucial info is: “The story of Dema happened before them”, so the story of Dema with the Bishops and Vialism happened before the Bourbaki-group. An extra piece of evidence that there is no way the Bourbaki-group are the nine Bishops of Dema.
So, what happened before the Bourbaki-group?
Mathematically, their direct predecessors were David Hilbert, Emil Artin, Emmy Noether and her boys, in short German mathematicians from the 1920’s and early 1930’s.
Several of the Bourbaki founding members studied in Germany (Weil in Gottingen in 1927, Chevalley in Hamburg in 1931 and Marburg in 1932, and Ehresmann in Gottingen in 1930).
So, a first candidate (also given the Bauhaus-like architecture of Dema) might be ‘German Mathematicians’, or in German, DEutscher MAthematiker = DEMA.
But one can hardly argue that there was a self-destructive attitude (like Vialism) present among that group, quite the opposite.
Still, one can ask why German mathematics was that strong in the 1920’s, compared to the French. France and Germany took different approaches with their intelligentsia during WW1: while Germany protected its young students and scientists, France instead committed them to the front, owing to the French culture of egalitarianism.
Remember that the album is called Trench, and the dirtiest trench-war in all of human history was WW1. Hold that thought.
But, how does this help us in identifying Dema.
A few months before the release of Trench, a website was launched containing letters (from a character named Clancy) and some photos (including part of a photo of Andre Weil). That website’s URL still is dmaorg.info.
On the rear of the boat in the movie-clip Saturday, we see ‘030904 DMA ORG’ (the 030904 is simplistic code for CID, believed to mean ‘Clancy Is Dead’).
Remember the inspirational, photoshopped photo of the Bourbaki 1938 congress in Dieulefit/Deauvallon:
All seven people in the original picture are ‘normaliens’, that is, their ‘Alma Mater’ is the Ecole Normale Superieure’. All but Simone Weil graduated from the DEpartement de MAthematiques=DEMA, as DMA was called then.
Whence the hypothesis: Bourbaki’s Dema = ENS before and during WW1
It is a conglomerate of buildings and its central courtyard forms a kind of secular cloister around its basin. This space is called “la Cour aux Ernests” in reference to a former director, Ernest Bersot. He had placed red (!) fish (=the Ernests in ENS-slang) in the basin, which have become one of the symbols of the school.
More important to us is that the pond of the Ernests is reached by crossing the “aquarium”, where the ENS war memorial is located, commemorating the 239 (former) ENS-students killed in WW1 on a tatal of about 1400 of them drafted…
From the Wikipedia-page on Nicolas Bourbaki:
“The deaths of ENS students resulted in a lost generation in the French mathematical community; the estimated proportion of ENS mathematics students (and French students generally) who died in the war ranges from one-quarter to one-half, depending on the intervals of time (c. 1900–1918, especially 1910–1916) and populations considered.”
“The École Normale Supérieure d’Ulm is always mentioned when historians summarize the ravages of World War I in France: the institution embodies the commitment of intellectuals at the front. The article offers an interpretation of mortality rates of the School which allows to understand why it is primarily students during schooling (Classes 1910-1913) that are heavily affected. Rather than basing the interpretation on the single assumption of sacrifice, it puts forward arguments pertaining to the history of the school in the immediate pre-war, including the institution of military training after the reform service in 1905, competition with the École Polytechnique to retain the best scientific students, and finally the forced commitment of the ENS students in the infantry.”
Crucial in this is the role of Ernest Lavisse who was the director of the ENS from 1903 till 1919.
Before, normaliens had to serve 12 months in the army, just like all other students. In 1905 the law changed, and under Lavisse’s influence ENS-students were given a heavy military training. From the paper:
“From now on, normalien students, like those of other major military schools, are subject to a two-year service: a first year before their actual entry into rue d’Ulm, which they had to perform in an infantry regiment; a second on leaving, which they can finish as a reserve second lieutenant, but always in the infantry, if they pass the tests. And there is more: because between these two years, the students also follow a fairly heavy military preparation, including theoretical and physical exercises, even on Sundays, organised by two officers seconded full-time for this mission within the walls of the School.”
He also instilled in the ENS-student a radical sense of patriotism, and was a fervent propagandist for l’Union sacrée. From the paper:
“Intellectual mobilisation crystallised in the figures of Lavisse and Durkheim via their famous Letters to all French people distributed in millions of copies across the country. In the fall of 1914, the two founded and took control, respectively as director and secretary of the Committee for Studies and Documents on the War, a propaganda organ for the country’s executives.
I would have liked that there were only nine members of the committee, but there were eleven of them…
Anyway, Lavisse and his eight professors created an extremely patriotic environment at the ENS during WW1, encouraging students to go to (the) Trench(es) and give their life for France and the glory of the Ecole. The ENS-monument is the equivalent of the Neon Gravestones in Dema-lore.
Did you spot it too? LAVIsse is almost a perfect anagram for VIALism.
Concluding, the best theory I can come up with in order to include the Bourbaki-group in Dema-lore is that their Dema is the ENS in WW1 and preceding years, and that Vialism is the regime installed by Lavisse and the other members from the committee.
That story is about the walled city of Dema, ruled by nine bishops dressed in red cloaks. They enforce their religion, called Vialism, on the inhabitants of Dema. The end-goal in Vialism is that you take your own life, having maximal impact (think: suicide bombers).
Outside the walls of Dema is the land of Trench, where a group of fighters (the Banditos) set up camp. They are dressed in grey trenchcoats adorned with yellow ribbons, and their goal is to help people escape from Dema, via its east side.
What on earth has the Bourbaki group to do with any of this?
We know from a tweet by Tyler Joseph that one Bourbaki-photograph (or at least a PhotoShopped version of it) played an important role in the creative process, as he used it as the background image on his Mac while producing the album.
It can also be seen, blurred in the background, in the opening seconds of his interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music:
Here are the three versions: the original photo, overlayed with the tweet-image, and a screenshot from the interview:
In the overlayed image an additional eight person, a bearded man, is PhotoShopped in the doorway, and in the screenshot we see that apart from this mystery man the empty chair in the lower left corner is replaced by a ninth person.
Common belief among the ‘clique’ (TØP’s fanbase name) is that the nine people in the desktop image are the nine bishops of Dema, with the bearded man being Nico (the head-bishop), Andre Weil bishop Andre, and Simone Weil bishop Sacarver (the only known female bishop).
But who are these two additional persons?
In a remarkable tour de force, Reddit user ‘banditosleepers’ was able to find the man sitting in the lower left corner (though he identified him wrongly)
That is, the ninth person, sitting in the left lower corner of the screenshot is Szolem Mandelbrojt (and not Claude Chevalley, as claimed in the Reddit-post).
There’s another photo, taken at about the same moment, showing that also Jean Dieudonne (sitting on the bank in front next to Andre Weil) and Charles Ehresmann (sitting on the bank on the right, next to Jean Delsarte and Claude Chevalley) were present.
Several people (myself included) have wasted too many hours trying to identify the bearded man in the doorway, starting from the assumption that he too might have some connection with Bourbaki (either the group or the general), without success.
There’s one problem with the ‘bearded man = Nico’ hypothesis. Nico is supposed to be the tallest of the bishops, and bearded man’s head is level with Andre Weil’s head, who stand on the first step, so bearded man must at least be 15cm smaller than Andre, who was already rather short.
In that post (from 2010) I found the exact location where that photo was taken: the Ecole de Beauvallon, founded in 1929 by Marguerite Soubeyran and Catherine Krafft, which was the first ‘modern’ boarding school in France for both boys and girls having behavioural problems. From 1936 on the school’s director was Simone Monnier.
The lower picture is taken at the Ecole de Beauvallon in 1943, the woman in the middle is Marguerite Soubeyran.
From 1936 on, about 20 refugees from the Spanish civil war found a home at the school, and in the ‘pension’, next to the school. When WW2 started, about 1500 people were hidden from the German occupation in Dieulefit (having a total population of 3500) : Jewish children, intellectuals, artists, trade union leaders, many in the Ecole and the Pension. None were betrayed to the Germans, and this is called Le miracle de silence à Dieulefit.
Given this historical context, there is only one possible way to include this Bourbaki-photo in the Trench-storyline: the Ecole de Beauvallon is the equivalent of the Bandito-camp, and the Bourbakis are Banditos (or at the very least, refugees having found a safe place in the camp).
In hindsight this was already given away by Tyler Joseph in that he gave the photo the color yellow, specifically Bandito-yellow 0xFCE300, which the bishops are unable to see (they see it as grey).
How does this help in identifying the bearded man in the doorway?
Standing in the doorway, he’s the one feeling at home there, gathering around him his guests or fellow fighters. My conjecture is that he is the leader of the bandito-camp, as seen at 2.12 in the movieclip of Levitate.
Granted, it is not a perfect match. I think ‘bearded man’ is how Tyler Joseph envisioned the camp-leader, and included his picture in the ‘Trench Bible’, the 60 page booklet given to the movie-director, who did the casting some months later.
Next time we will try to find City of Dema, or at least what it should be if you take the inclusion of Bourbaki in the Trench storyline seriously.
Somehow I missed all the excitement, five years ago. From Bourbaki’s Wikipedia page.
In 2018, the American musical duo Twenty One Pilots released a concept album named Trench. The album’s conceptual framework was the mythical city of “Dema” ruled by nine “bishops”; one of the bishops was named “Nico”, short for Nicolas Bourbaki. Another of the bishops was named Andre, which may refer to André Weil. Following the album’s release, there was a spike in internet searches for “Nicolas Bourbaki”.
You can easily get lost forever in their sub-Reddit, or the numerous YouTube-clips and blogposts made by the ‘clique’ (as their fanbase calls itself). Perhaps the quickest intro in the TØP-world is this site.
The Bourbaki-group is important to the Trench-era, yet there are very few direct references in the songs. There’s the song “Morph” (lol!) containing:
He’ll always try to stop me, that Nicolas Bourbaki
He’s got no friends close, but those who know him most know
He goes by Nico
He told me I’m a copy
When I’d hear him mock me, that’s almost stopped me
East is up
I’m fearless when I hear this on the low
East is up
I’m careless when I wear my rebel clothes
East is up
When Bishops come together they will know that
Dema don’t control us, Dema don’t control
East is up
and that’s about it.
We’ll cover Dema and the Bishops in later posts, but for now remember the mantra “East is up”, which supposedly indicates the direction of escape from the Bishops and the city of Dema.
A few months before the release of Trench, a mysterious website appeared, containing letters from someone called ‘Clancy’ and some pictures and gifs. One of these pictures was soon found out to be part of an iconic photo of Andre Weil.
This caught the attention of the ‘clique’ because another picture indicated that the name of one of the Bishops was Andre.
Poor Andre was credited for just two things he managed to do : he founded a secret group of mathematicians, called Nicolas Bourbaki (important because another Bishop’s name was ‘Nico’) and he invented the symbol $\emptyset$ for the empty set (important because TØP used it since the Blurryface-era). I guess most mathematicians will remember Andre Weil for other things.
The clique-consensus seems to be that the girl next to Andre (some even thought it was a boy) is his daughter Sylvie Weil.
If you ever read her novel Chez les Weil you’ll remember that Sylvie did have from a very young age the same exuberant hairstyle as her aunt Simone Weil. So no, she’s definitely not Sylvie.
I’ll save my theory as to where and when this photo was taken, who the girl next to Andre is, and how this picture was used later on in TØP-iconography, for another post.
For now, I just want to point out one tiny detail: the girl is shielding her eyes from the blistering summer-sun, and shadows are falling from right to left.
Got it? Yes: East is up!
The Bourbaki-hype intensified when Tyler Joseph tweeded on August 19th, indicating that a new Album called ‘Trench’ was coming up:
Again, there’s a lot more to say about this tweet, but for now look at the desktop-image. It’s part of one of the most known Bourbaki images of all time (also featuring on their Wikipedia page): the Dieulefit 1938-congress (which we discovered to be taken at Beauvallon).
(Left to right: Simone Weil, C. Pisot, Andre Weil, Jean Dieudonne (seated), Claude Chabauty, Charles Ehresmann and Jean Delsarte)
Ah, you spotted it too? We’ll come back to this, and the clique made even more surprising discoveries wrt this picture.
You see, we’ll have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s stick to the “East is up” motto,for now.
Via Google maps you can check that the exit-door in the picture is located to the East side of the main building of the Ecole de Beauvallon.
All Bourbakie-congress followers are outside, so does this mean they’ve escaped Dema? Are they now Banditos (whence the Yellow-background-color)?
If you’ve never heard about Banditos or te relevance of the color Yellow, we’ll cover that too.
There’s another ‘East is up’-side to the Beauvallon-story. For this we have to recall some of the history of the spiritual father of the B-gang, General Charles-Denis Bourbaki.
In the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, he was given the command of ‘armee de l’Est (yes, the ‘East’-army!), a ramshackle of ill-trained men.
In 1938, Bourbaki held a congress in Dieulefit, where Chabauty, who had joined the ranks of the Master’s collaborators, had familie ties. Elie Cartan graciously joined us and took part in some of our discussions.
This was precisely the time of the Munich conference. There were sinister forebodings in the air. We devoured the newspapers and huddled over the radio: this was one Bourbaki congress where hardly any real work was accomplished.
By the time I had resolved that, if war broke out, I would refuse to serve. In the middle of the congress, after confiding in Delsarte, I thought up some pretext or other and left for Switzerland.
But the immediate threat of war soon seemed to have dissipated, so I returned after two days.
So, there’s a remarkable analogy between General Bourbaki’s escape to the East in 1871, and Andre and Simone Weil’s flight to the East at the time of the Munich agreement.
Clearly, the ‘East is up’ mantra is not the only reason why Tyler Joseph used these two Bourbaki-related photos in his narrative, but it illustrates that none of these choices is arbitrary.
I think Tyler knows a lot about Bourbaki. His knowledge about them goes certainly deeper than that of the average clique-member (who state that Bourbaki was a group of mathematicians trying to prove God’s existence, or that there where exactly nine Bourbaki founders, corresponding to the nine Bishops of Dema).
But then, TØP never corrects erroneous clique-statements, every fan-theory is correct to them. In fact, they see the interactions with their fanbase as a collective work in storytelling: they pose a riddle, the clique proposes various possible solutions, and afterwards they may use one of these proposals in their further work.
Here’s an interview making clear that Tyler knows a lot more about Bourbaki than most people (1.50 till 4.40)
Interviewer: “How far are you into a Wikipedia wormhole when you come across this? (the Bourbaki group)”
Tyler: “No, no THEY named their group after Nicolas Bourbaki”
Interviewer: “but there is no Nicolas Bourbaki, right?”
Tyler: They named their group after Blurryface.”
Interviewer: “Even though it was the 1930″s?”
Interviewer: “So how does it relate?”
Tyler: “its EVERYTHING and at the same time, has nothing to do with it”
Interviewer: “See I’m no good at math, this is difficult for me.”
Tyler: “Math?! *laughs* Math has nothing to do with it… and yet it has everything to do with it.”
Okay, in the next couple of posts I’ll use the little I know about the Bourbaki group trying to make sense of the Trench-era narrative.
The Centre for Topoi Theory and its Applications carries out highly innovative research in the field of Grothendieck’s topos theory, oriented towards the development of the unifying role of the concept of topos across different areas of mathematics.
Particularly relevant to these aims is the theory of topos-theoretic ‘bridges’ of Olivia Caramello, coordinator of the Centre and principal investigator of the multi-year project “Topos theory and its applications”.
The Centre for Grothendiecian Studies is dedicated to honoring the memory of Alexander Grothendieck through extensive work to valorize his work and disseminate his ideas to the general public.
In particular, the Centre aims to carry out historical/philosophical and editorial work to promote the publication of the unpublished works of A. Grothendieck, as well as to promote the production of translations of already published works in various languages.
No comment on the first. You can look up the Institute’s Governance page, contemplate recent IHES-events, and conjure up your own story.
More interesting is the Centre of Grothendiec(k)ian studies. Here’s the YouTube-clip of the statement made by Johanna Grothendieck (daughter of) at the opening.
She hopes for two things: to find money and interested persons to decrypt and digitalise Grothendieck’s Lasserre gribouillis, and to initiate the re-edition of the complete mathematical works of Grothendieck.
So far, Grothendieck’s family was withholding access to the Lasserre writings. Now they seem to grant access to the Istituto Grothendieck and authorise it to digitalise the 30.000 pages.
You may know Mateo from his Grothendieck Github Archive. A warning note on that page states: “This site no longer updates (since Feb. 2023) and has been archived. Please visit [Instituto Grothendieck] or write to Mateo Carmona at firstname.lastname@example.org”. So probably the site will be transferred to the Istituto.
Mateo Carmona says:
As Coordinator of the CSG, I will work tirelessly to ensure that the Centre provides comprehensive resources for scholars, students, and enthusiasts interested in Grothendieck’s original works and modern scholarship. I look forward to using my expertise to coordinate and supervise the work of the international group of researchers and volunteers who will promote Grothendieck’s scientific and cultural heritage through the CSG.
It looks as if Grothendieck’s gribouillis are in good hands, at last.
In a recent post I recalled Claude Levy-Strauss’ observation “In Paris, intellectuals need a new toy every 15 years”, and gave a couple of links showing that the most recent IHES-toy has been spreading to other Parisian intellectual circles in recent years.
At the time (late sixties), Levy-Strauss was criticising the ongoing Foucault-hype. It appears that, since then, the frequency of a hype cycle is getting substantially shorter.
To me, this seems like a sensible decision, moving away from (too?) general topos theory towards explicit examples having potential applications to arithmetic geometry.
On the relation between condensed sets and toposes, here’s Dustin Clausen talking about “Toposes generated by compact projectives, and the example of condensed sets”, at the “Toposes online” conference, organised by Alain Connes, Olivia Caramello and Laurent Lafforgue in 2021.
Two days ago, Clausen gave another interesting (inaugural?) talk at the IHES on “A Conjectural Reciprocity Law for Realizations of Motives”.