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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mario Vargas Llosa, Nietzsche en Sils-Maria



Cuando Nietzsche vino por primera vez a Sils-Maria, en el verano de 1879, era una ruina humana. Perdía la vista a pasos rápidos, lo atormentaban las migrañas y las enfermedades lo habían obligado a renunciar a su cátedra en la Universidad de Basilea, luego de profesar allí 10 años. Fue un amor a primera vista: lo deslumbraron el aire cristalino, el misterio y vigor de las montañas, las cascadas rumorosas, la serenidad de lagos y lagunas, las ardillas y hasta los enormes gatos monteses. En Sils-Maria escribiría o concebiría sus libros más importantes, La gaya ciencia, Así habló Zaratustra, Más allá del bien y del mal, El ocaso de los ídolos, El Anticristo.





(Mario Vargas Llosa)

(Nietzsche)

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn
photo by David Hunt, 2007
(source: wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended


An article to read in today's NY Times, about the current situation in the British Labour Party (the author is Steven Erlanger). Will be Jeremy Corbyn the next leader?





(Zoon Politikon)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Luchino Visconti, Ossessione (1943)



Visconti's stunning feature debut transposes The Postman Always Rings Twice to the endless, empty lowlands of the Po Delta. There, an itinerant laborer (Massimo Girotti) stumbles into a tatty roadside trattoria and an emotional quagmire. Seduced by Clara Calamai, he disposes of her fat, doltish husband (Juan De Landa), and the familiar Cain litany - lust, greed, murder, recrimination - begins. Ossessione is often described as the harbinger of neo-realism, but the pictorial beauty (and astute use of music, often ironically) are pure Visconti, while the bleak view of sexual passion poaches on authentic noir territory, steeped, as co-scriptwriter Giuseppe De Santis put it, 'in the air of death and sperm' (SJo in TimeOut, London)

Here the filmmaker is intent on his subject, though his shaky visuals feel looser, as if another subject wandering into frame could suddenly lead us to a tangential narrative. In the opening scene, the camera shimmers in the point-of-view of an approaching streetcar, but the quakes remain on stable ground when characters appear. The visual style of this classic trend-setter now feels customary, as if the Neo-Realists could anticipate the extensive hand-held docudrama tradition to follow them. Visconti’s long takes accentuate the style all the more; shorter takes would only chip away at the truth (Matthew Sorrento in Pop Matters)


Before bursting into the Italian movies of postwar years, Neorealism had been but a concept developed within a group of film thinkers. It was during the end of 1930's / beginning of 1940's, and the group included Visconti, Zavattini, De Santis, Ingrao, among others, all of them revolving around the magazine Cinema (whose editor-in-chief was Vittorio Mussolini, the son of Il Duce - history enjoys sometimes playing ironically, all those guys having strong antifascist convictions). What preoccupied these young film thinkers was the crisis of the Italian cinematography (maybe a sign of a much larger crisis throughout the society). The Italian movies of the epoch were not telling anything consistent to the viewer, being totally disconnected from reality, placed in an artificial universe - the historic superproductions and the Telefoni Bianchi comedies. So Visconti and the others were looking for ways to revitalize the cinema, inspired by the Verist traditions of Italian literature, as well as by the Poetic Realist French movies of the 1930's (in synch with the leftist sympathies of the guys around Cinema, by the way).

Ossessione was a collective project implying these Cinema guys: a laboratory to test their ideas, a proof of concept. As film director and co-scenarist, Visconti was the main guy in this enterprise. The other co-scenarists were Mario Alicata, Eduardo De Santis and Gianni Puccini (together with Alberto Moravia and Antonio Pietrangeli - these two remaining in the end uncredited).

Visconti had firstly in mind to adapt a novel by Giovanni Verga, the great don of Verismo; well, the censorship of Il Duce said no: the story revolved around Sicilian bandits - it would have been too much for a regime petrified in his adoration for the dictator. So Visconti turned to an American policier written by James Cain: The Postman Always Rings Twice (he had read it in a French translation - a copy that seemingly had been given to him by Jean Renoir: Visconti had been his assistant sometime in the 1930's). And a story so Americana became a story very à l'italienne, placed in a sordid inn on the road to Ferrara. And a demonstration in full force of how should Neorealism look like. A shabby inn with shabby owners, attracting only mediocre clients, everything around is just sordid: the people, their dreams, their reactions. Even the landscape becomes sordid, as it is viewed through the eyes of these small unimportant people. The tragedy of a total lack of perspective. A world enclosed in itself.

An interesting character (who is not in Cain's novel) comes in the movie at a certain moment, to propose just a perspective, the possibility of getting free from that sordid world: it is Lo Spagnolo (Elio Marcuzzo) who believes that roads aren't just for making love, and life is not just about making some money (there is a radical approach in this character, beyond his nice appearance, and maybe he speaks actually in the name of the filmmaker - think at other similar characters in his other movies, with radical approaches,  for instance Ciro Parondi from Rocco e i suoi fratelli). This Lo Spagnolo brings a balance, an air of liberation, in the small universe of the others. Anyway, people around him are too weak to get free of themselves. It is also a homosexual suggestion in this personage (which maybe shouldn't be a surprise in Visconti's complex universe).

Was Ossessione the first Neorealist movie? There had been earlier movies (like some made by Alessandro Blasetti) that presented the same style; but the movie of Visconti was the first made programmatically Neorealist, the first being totally aware of his appurtenance.

The life of this movie was as dramatic as the movie itself. The fascist regime banned Ossessione immediately, and destroyed the copies. Fortunately Visconti succeeded to keep a duplicate negative. On the other hand, as the movie had been made in 1943, the director could not get the American copyright for the novel, due to the war situation. That was why after the war the international distribution of this movie was banned, a situation that would be solved only much later, in 1976.





(Luchino Visconti)

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Reading John Carey: Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici

pirated edition from 1642 of Religio Medici
(published by Andrew Crooke)
frontispiece engraved by William Marshall
source: Houghton Library at Harvard University
(wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended

If a proof is needed to demonstrate a pompous character and a ridiculous mind, here it is:

I would be content that we might procreate like trees, without conjunction, or that there were any way to perpet6uate  the world without this trivial and vulgar act of coition. It is the foolishest act a wise man commits in all his life, nor is there anything that will more deject his cool imagination, when he shall consider what an odd and unworthy piece of folly he hath committed.

It belongs to Sir Thomas Browne: a fragment from his Religio Medici, and it is quoted everytime the name of Browne comes into picture. I found it in NY Times, also in a book of John Carey. I tried to upload the whole opus, without success (you can give a shot: it is on a site of Chicago University).

Well, John Carey gives an interesting explanation: it is not necessarily about pompous character (or ridiculous mind).

... he (Browne) is simply being rational, and comparing, in a spirit of scientific detachment, the human species and its curious means of reproduction, with other forms of life.

To understand Browne one should keep in mind that he belongs to a special epoch: watching him, his curious sentences, means watching the moment when modern world comes into being (John Carey), the epoch of two simultaneous revolutions, the Protestantism and the modern science. Simultaneous and maybe contradictory, anyway with ups and downs, with pushes forward and backward, and with an amazing mix of old and new, of superstition and free mind.


(Sir Thomas Browne)

(John Carey)

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Sir Thomas Browne

Lady Dorothy Browne (née Mileham) and Sir Thomas Browne
by Joan Carlile, c. 1641 – 1650
National Portrait Gallery, London
(source: wikipedia)
no copyright infringement intended


To say that Sir Thomas Browne was a minor writer with a major style (as Hugh Aldersey-Williams puts it) wouldn't probably be so nice. To say that he was not a thinker of the first rank (like Newton), or even of the second rank (like Hobbes) (you gotcha, the same Hugh Aldersey-Williams) wouldn't be elegant either. To say that he was inclined rather toward isolated marvels than to the general laws - well, that begins to be fair (and it is said by Hugh Aldersey-Williams, to make things straight). Let's say this: he created symphonic prose (ditto), transforming English into an elegant Mandarin tongue. And he coined throughout his grandiose sentences lots of new words (electricity, hallucination, medical, ferocious, deductive - just a few examples).

Wow! English getting a Mandarin dimension! You'd ask what's all this galimatias. Here's how Jim Holt (the author of Why Does World Exists?) puts it: the history of English prose can be seen as a dialectical struggle between two tendencies: plain versus grand; the plain style (Dryden, Swift, Hemingway, The New Yorker) aims at ease and lucidity; it favors simply structured sentences, short words of Saxon origin and a conversational tone; it runs the risk of being flat; by contrast, the grand style (Gibbon, Nabokov, the Time magazine, and of course Sir Thomas Browne) — also called (by Cyril ­Connolly) “mandarin” — aims at rhetorical luxuriance; it is characterized by rolling ­periods decked with balanced subordinate clauses, a polysyllabic Latinate vocabulary, elaborate rhythms, stately epithets, sumptuous metaphors, learned allusions and fanciful turns of phrase; it runs the risk of being ridiculous.

A book dedicated to Browne (In Search of Sir Thomas Browne, and authored by - you betcha - Hugh Aldersey-Williams -  it seems to be a fascinating opus) has a review (written by who else than Jim Holt - if not small our world is definitely circular) in NY Times:





(A Life in Books)

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Reading John Carey: Milton's De Doctrina Christiana

title page of De Doctrina Christiana
written pre-1700, published before 1825
(source: wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended


In De Doctrina Christiana Milton rejects belief in Holy Trinity, and with it the belief that Christ, the Son of God, is of the same essence as God the Father. If the Father and the Son were of one essence (he briskly observes) it would follow that the Father was the Son's son, and the Son the Father's father. With similarly robust common sense he rejects the orthodox belief that God created the universe out of nothing. It is impossible, he asserts, to make anything out of nothing, and, since only God can have existed before the creation of the universe, He must have made the universe out of Himself.As the universe is made of matter, it follows that God must be made of matter too. Spirit is just a refined form of matter: everything that exists is matter (and advanced view for his day) ... the soul has no separate existence from the body and dies with the body.

Quite inflammatory sentences from a mainstream Christian perspective. So it goes (would maybe have said Vonnegut). De Doctrina Christiana is a manuscript in Latin, attributed to Milton, the question of authorship remaining controversial up to this day. It was translated in English twice: in 1825 by Charles Richard Sumner (who was a bishop of the Church of England, in Llandaff and then in Winchester) and in 1973 by John Carey, who worked on it for five years: a huge effort, and the real gain (said Carey) was the amount of knowledge he got about the mind that created Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.


(John Milton)

(John Carey)

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A. E. Stallings: Greekdebtcrisishaiku

(source: Corfu Blues)
no copyright infringement intended


Europa, we’re through:
Take back your privative a-
vowals: I, O, U.

*

Why is Hope the one
campaign promise still stuck in
the jar, Pandora?

*

Tragic ironies:
Stock Market’s not on Wall Street,
here it’s Sophocles.


*
Snowfall. Parthenon.
Is it a miracle, or
Hell freezing over?

*

Finance minister:
fashion shoot in Paris Match,
swanky apartment.

*

It’s like the movies,
Only not Zorba the Greek,
Thelma and Louise.

*

To: Lord Byron--Sir
Greek loan approved but held up
Now that you’re dead. Stop.

*

Easter: Anarchists
quit occupying buildings,
crack red eggs, not glass.

*

Alphabet of angst—
Ach! Is all that’s left between
Drama and drachma.

*

Panic, oligarchs,
Democracy, tragedy,
dilemma, chaos.


*

Solon promises
to devalue the coinage:
600 B.C.

*

Grexit—so ugly!
So Latinate! What’s wrong with
Hellenexodus?
(source: Partisan)



(A. E. Stallings)

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Balcon la Argentin





(Bucureşti)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Casă pe strada Platon

photo made today



(Bucureşti)

Reading John Carey: W.H.Auden, Rhythm and Poetry

(source: quoteko.com)
no copyright infringement intended)


One night he (Auden) talked about rhythm in poetry, and how his poems - or some of them - came to him as rhythms rather than as words or ideas, and how he had to find words and ideas to fit the rhythms.


(Auden)

(John Carey)

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