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Friday, February 28, 2014

Vladimir Korolenko

Человек создан для счастья, как птица для полета, только счастье не всегда создано для него

Human beings are to happiness like birds are to flight, but happiness is not always for them

(Жизнь в Kнигах)


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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Ride Through Spain, by Truman Capote

an image of Truman Capote
sitting on a low wall in front of the small harbor of Portofino, 1950s
photo by Leonida Barezzi/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images
(The New Yorker)
no copyright infringement intended

The seats sagged like the jowls of a bulldog; windowpanes were out, and strips of adhesive held together those that were left ... The southern sky was as white and burning as a desert; in it was a single, tiny cloud.

A description of a ride by train through the South of Spain. Sometime by the end of forties/beginning of fifties. A train is a universe on the move. Here the move is an illusion: a universe where nothing happens. A dilapidated train with shabby passengers. Boredom is king. A warm day of summer, no winds, the weather is as lazy and useless as the universe of the train. Each element of this world starts looking normal, soon proving its weirdness.  A piece of reality, floating now in surreal. After all, even the destination seems to become an illusion, it's a journey toward nowhere. Capote tells us the story with his usual matter of fact, observing anything without wonder. There is in his words all the time an implicit irony, well tempered by leniency.

It's actually much more than leniency. As bored and mediocre this universe is, it is way of being human. And here Capote proves his superb empathy for anything that's human: this train could be a poor thing going to nowhere, these people could be shabby slugging fellows with no horizon and no expectations, but the story about them is a gorgeous page. I stayed several days on writing these lines, as I was reading again and again the story, sipping its enchantment. A summery warm day, quiet and pleasant, caressing you with its invisible hand. It is a blessing.

A Ride Through Spain was published in The New Yorker in September 1950, then in Local Color, Capote's third volume (also published in the fall of 1950). Here is the text:

(Truman Capote)



no copyright infringement intended

В полях за Вислой сонной
Лежат в земле сырой
Серёжка с Малой Бронной
И Витька с Моховой.
А где-то в людном мире
Который год подряд
Одни в пустой квартире
Их матери не спят.
Свет лампы воспалённой
Пылает над Москвой
В окне на Малой Бронной,
В окне на Маховой.
Друзьям не встать. В округе
Без них идёт кино.
Девчонки, их подруги,
Все замужем давно.
В полях за Вислой сонной
Лежат в земле сырой
Серёжка с Малой Бронной
И Витька с Моховой.
Но помнит мир спасённый,
Мир вечный, мир живой,
Серёжку с Малой Бронной
И Витьку с Маховой.

(video by odinmim)

Каждый москвич патриот своего города

(Mark Bernes)



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pussy Riot at the Colbert Nation

Colbert: why do you carry an English name?
One of PR: to please also English speaking world.
Colbert: how would be the Russian name for Pussy Riot?
One of PR: oh, there are many names for that in Russian.

(Zoon Politikon)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Moş Pantiuşa

Restaurant din Cernăuţi, 1930
(Reclame vechi româneşti)
no copyright infringement intended

Întâmplarea face să cunosc un bătrân din Cernăuţi. Este foarte bătrân, are peste o sută de ani, oho, mai mult. Nici el nu mai ştie ce e. Român? Ucrainean? Rutean? Rus? Huţul? Neamţ? Polonez? Le-a uitat şi el şirul. Vorbeste româneşte cu oarecare greutate, amestecând mereu ucraineana şi poloneza, ba chiar şi ceva vorbe huţule. Însă cu răbdare îl inţeleg. E foarte cumsecade.

Îl cheamă Pantiuşa. Moş Pantiuşa.

L-am intrebat de curând: bre Moş Pantiuşa, că ştiu ca te-ai născut în Cernăuţi aşa de demult şi ai apucat toate stăpânirile, zi-mi rogu-te, când ţi-a fost mai bine, sub români, sub puterea sovietică, sau acum sub ucrainieni?

Măi cocoş, imi spune el zâmbind cu nostalgie, păi bine mi-a fost numai sub austrieci, că era viaţă ca lumea, fiecare îşi stia rostul lui, banii aveau valoare, lumea era cuviincioasă, dar mai ales eram tânăr şi se uitau fetele după mine... ehe, dar asta a fost de mult, tare de mult.

(am găsit-o pe Facebook)


The Rememberer, by Aimee Bender

 All of us are creatures of a day: the rememberer and the remembered alike.

Ben (that's Annie's lover) is experiencing reverse evolution. One day he wakes up a baboon, after a month he becomes a sea turtle, soon he regresses to a  salamander. Next stage will be a unicellular organism or what? The regression rate is tremendous, he is shedding a million years a day. Annie is taking care of him with love, till one day she cannot take it anymore. So she goes to the ocean and leaves him there. Maybe one day he will wash up on shore and tell her about his journey back in history.

It's The Rememberer, the first story from Aimee Bender's The Girl in the Flammable Skirt. It starts in media res, in the midst of things, no explanation is offered, you take it or you don't. It's superbly constructed, and despite the apparent absurdity, it's flawless, the consistency is perfect. Absurd? Think at this: if we accept the Theory of Evolution (I know some don't, but that's not the point), then no logic would impede us to imagine a reverse evolution: after all, it helps us get it.

There is however a hint: the guy was obsessed with the idea that we’re all getting too smart. Our brains are just getting bigger and bigger, and the world dries up and dies when there’s too much thought and not enough heart.  And also he realized that there is no space for anything but dreaming. Seemingly all that followed was in the order of things.

It's my first encounter with Aimee Bender and I must tell you I'm enchanted. To say only that her writing is beautiful would be a misnomer: she's a sorceress.

You can read the story here:

(It happened that today I learned about a Thai-French movie tackling a subject somehow similar, up to a point: a man approaching his death is taking a journey past in history, towards the beginnings of life - hopefully I find a DVD copy or something, and then I will come back here about Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Cannes Palme d'Or 2011)

(Aimee Bender)


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Donald Barthelme: A City of Churches

no copyright infringement intended

A young woman moves to a new city. She meets the realtor and starts looking for a dwelling. It's a city of churches: no other buildings but churches. One cannot find a room to rent, but in a church. All are people of faith and if a newcomer is rather indifferent to religious matters, this will change quickly. There is no other way once you are there. Impossible to leave, either: the city considers itself the perfect place, thus going away is unacceptable.

A story starting as from nowhere and ending as in nowhere. There is no past, no future, but this city. A universe perfectly sufficient to itself; there is no possible escape because this city has its references in itself only, any external reference would seem here an absurdity.

It's A City of Churches, from Donald Barthelme's Sixty Stories. My second encounter with this author. My first encounter didn't make me enthusiast, to be honest. This time I consider it brilliant. The perfect allegory of a totalitarian universe calls in mind Kafka. There is however a nuance: here the young woman replicates to each rule announced by the realtor. It's true that each replica is useless, finding a deaf year, however we can see a glimmer of hope in the end: she can will her dreams and mostly they are sexual fantasies.

Here is the story (I found it on a blog, together with the Chinese translation):

Yes, Mr. Phillips said, ours is a city of churches all right.

Cecelia nodded, following his pointing hand. Both sides of the street were solidly lines with churches, standing shoulder to shoulder in a variety of architectural styles. The Bethel Baptist stood next to the Holy Messiah Free Baptist, Saint Paul's Episcopal next to Grace Evangelical Covenant. Then came the First Christian Science, the Church of God, All Souls, Our Lady of Victory, and the Church of the Holy Apostles. The spires and steeples of the traditional buildings were jammed in next to the broad imaginative flights of the contemporary designs.

Everyone here takes great interest in church matters, Mr. Philips said.

Will I fit in, Cecelia wondered. She had come to Prester to open a branch office of a car-rental concern.

I'm not especially religious, she said to Mr. Philips, who was in the real-estate business.

Not now, he answered. Not yet. But we have many fine young people here. You'll get integrated into the community soon enough. The immediate problem is where are you to live? Most people, he said, live in the church of their choice. All of our churches have many extra rooms. I have a few belfry apartments that I can show you. What price range were you thinking of?

They turned a corner and were confronted with more churches. They passed Saint Luke's, the Church of the Epiphany, All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox, Saint Clement's, Fountain Baptist, Union Congregational, Saint Anargyri's, Temple Emanuel, the First Church of Christ Reformed. The mouths of all the churches were gaping open. Inside, lights could be seen dimly.

I can go up to a hundred and ten, Cecelia said. Do you have any buildings that are not churches?

None, said Mr. Philips. Of course, many of our fine church structures also do double duty as something else. He indicated an handsome Georgian facade. That one, he said, houses the United Methodist and the Board of Education. The one next to it, which is the Antioch Pentecostal, has the barbershop.

It was true. A red-and-white striped barber pole was attached inconspicuously to the front of the Antioch Pentecostal.

Do many people rent cars here? Cecelia asked. Or would they, if there was a handy place to rent them?

Oh, I don't know, said Mr. Philips. Renting a car implies that you want to go somewhere. Most people are pretty content right here. We have a lot of activities. I don't think I'd pick the car-rental business if i was just starting out in Prester. But you'll do fin. He showed her a small, extremely modern building with a severe brick, steele, and glass front. That's Saint Barnabas. Nice bunch of people over there. Wonderful spaghetti suppers.

Cecelia could see a number of hears looking out of the windows. But when they saw that she was staring at them, the heads disappeared.

Do you think it's healthy for so many churches to be gathered together in one place? she asked her guide. It doesn't seem...balanced, if you know what i mean.

We are famous for our churches, Mr. Philips replied. They are harmless. Here we are now.


He opened a door and they began climbing many flights of dusty stairs.; At the end of the climb they entered a good-sized room, square, with windows on all four sides. There was a bed, a table, and two chairs, lamps, a rug. Four very large brass bells hung in the exact center of the room.

What a view! Mr. Philips exclaimed. Come here and look.

Do they actually ring these bells? Cecelia asked.

Three times a day, Mr. Philips said, smiling. Morning, noon, and night. Of course when they're rung you have to be pretty quick at getting out of the way. You get hit in the head with one of these babies and that's all she wrote.

God Almighty, said Cecelia involuntarily. Then she said, Nobody lives in belfry apartments. That's why they're empty.

You think so? Mr. Philips said.

You can only rent them to new people in town, she said accusingly.

I wouldn't do that, Mr. Philips said. It would go against the spirit of Christian fellowship.

This town in a little creepy, you know that?

That may be, but it's not for you to say, is it? I mean, you're new here. You should walk cautiously, for a while. If you don't want an upper apartment, I have a basement over at Central Presbyterian. You'd have to share it. There are two women in there now.

I don't want to share, Cecelia said. I want a place of my own.

Why? the real-estate man asked curiously. For what purpose?

Purpose? asked Cecelia. There is no particular purpose. I just want-

That's not unusual here. Most people live with other people. Husbands and wives. Sons with their mothers. People have roommates. That's the usual pattern.

Still, I prefer a place of my own.

It's very unusual.

Do you have any such places? Besides bell towers, I mean?

I guess there are a few, Mr. Philips said, with clear reluctance. I can show you one or two, I suppose.

He paused for a moment.

It's just that we have different values, maybe, from some of the surrounding communities, he explained. We've been written up a lot. We had four minutes on the 'CBS Evening News' one time.; Tree of four years ago. 'A City of Churches,' it was called.

Yes, a place of my own is essential, Cecelia said, if I am to survive here.

That's kind of a funny attitude to take, Mr. Philips said. What denomination are you?

Cecelia was silent. The truth was, she wasn't anything.

I said, what denomination are you? Mr. Philips repeated.

I can will my dreams, Cecelia said. I can dream whatever I want. If I want to dream that i'm having a good time, in Paris or some other city, all I have to do is go to sleep and I will dream that dream. I can dream whatever I want.

What do you dream, then, mostly? Mr. Philips said, looking at her closely.

Mostly sexual things, she said. She was not afraid of him.

Prester is not that kind of town, Mr. Philips said, looking away.


The doors of the churches were opening, on both sides of the street. Small groups of people came out and stood there, in front of the churches, gazing at Cecelia and Mr. Philips.

A young man stepped forward and shouted, Everyone in this town already has a car! There is no one in this town who doesn't have a car!

Is that true? Cecelia asked Mr. Philips.

Yes, he said. It's true. No one would rent a car here. Not in a hundred years.

Then I won't stay, she said. I'll go somewhere else.

You must stay, he said. There is already a car-rental office for you. In Mount Moriah Baptist, on the lobby floor. There is a counter and a telephone and a rack of car keys. And a calendar.

I won't stay, she said. Not if there isn't any sound business reason for staying.

We want you, said Mr. Philips. We want you standing behind the counter of the car-rental agency, during regular business hours. It will make the town complete.

I won't, she said. Not me.

You must. It's essential.

I'll dream, she said. Things you won't like.

We are discontented, said Mr. Philips. Terrible, terribly discontented. Something is wrong.

I'll dream the Secret, she said. You'll be sorry.

We are like other towns, except that we are perfect, he said. Our discontent can only be held in check be perfection. We need a car rental girl. Someone must stand behind that counter.

I'll dream the life you are most afraid of, Cecelia threatened.

You are ours, he said, gripping her arm. Our car rental girl. Be nice. There is nothing you can do.

Wait and see, Cecelia said.

(Donald Barthelme)


Friday, February 21, 2014

A work of de Kooning and a Story by Barthelme

Willem de Kooning, Two Figures
pastel on paper
private collection
no copyright infringement intended

Starting from the work of de Kooning, let's imagine a story behind it: a she-figure and a he-figure. She was abducted by him, and her first demand is for pictures, to hang them all over the place. Then she needs to got to the church on Sunday, so he has to join her. Back home he ties her up again, only she has new demands. Meanwhile he's chatting with his friends. Each one has done an abduction, but their luck varies. Some of the captured women are okay, others are a pain in the neck. Time is passing and our man gets pissed off, so asks the woman to go away. It's not that simple, as she seems to be also pissed off by her husband. Or whatever.

It's The Captured Woman, written by Donald Barthelme, a micro-story from his collection of Sixty Stories, from 1981. Okay, and what's the point in all this galimatias, you'll ask. Good question. Here is my answer: it's a good entry to the weird universe of Donald Barthelme, the world of flash-fiction and non-sequitur, where the abductors are the victims and the abducted women put conditions. Now, honestly, it's not my favorite (but  don't tell anybody, okay?).

The captured woman asks if I will take her picture.

I shoot four rolls of 35 mm. and then go off very happily to the darkroom. . .

I bring back the contacts and we go over them together. She circles half a dozen with a grease pencil -- pictures of herself staring. She does not circle pictures of herself smiling, although there are several very good ones. When I bring her back prints (still wet) she says they are not big enough.

Not big enough?

Can you make enlargements?

How big?

How big can you make them?

The largest paper I have is twenty-four by thirty-six.


The very large prints are hung around her room with pushpins.

Make more.

For what?

I want them in the other rooms too.

The staring ones?

Whichever ones you wish.

I make more prints using the smiling negatives. (I also shoot another half dozen rolls.) Soon the house is full of her portraits, she is everywhere.

M. calls to tell me that he has captured a woman too.

Here is the rest of the story:

You can find more stories here (http://www.jessamyn.com/barth/)

(Donald Barthelme)

(Willem de Kooning)

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Willem de Kooning in his studio, 1961

Willem de Kooning in his studio
photo from 1961
no copyright infringement intended

(Contemporary Art)


Taras Shevchenko, Testament (Заповіт)

oil on canvas by Юрій Шаповал, 2014
no copyright infringement intended

Як умру, то поховайте
Мене на могилі
Серед степу широкого
На Вкраїні милій,
Щоб лани широкополі,
І Дніпро, і кручі
Було видно, було чути,
Як реве ревучий.

Як понесе з України
У синєє море
Кров ворожу... отойді я
І лани і гори —
Все покину, і полину
До самого Бога
Молитися... а до того
Я не знаю Бога.

Поховайте та вставайте,
Кайдани порвіте
І вражою злою кров’ю
Волю окропіте.
І мене в сем’ї великій,
В сем’ї вольній, новій,
Не забудьте пом’янути
Незлим тихим словом.

Заповіт was translated in more than 60 tongues. Here are two renderings into English. I am sure there are also Romanian translations. I looked for them, without success so far. I tried then my own Romanian rendering.

voiced by Val Ulanovsky
(video, traanslation, photos by Michael Noel)

When I am dead, bury me
In my beloved Ukraine,
My tomb upon a grave mound high
Amid the spreading plain,
So that the fields, the boundless steppes,
The Dnieper's plunging shore
My eyes could see, my ears could hear
The mighty river roar.

When from Ukraine the Dnieper bears
Into the deep blue sea
The blood of foes ... then will I leave
These hills and fertile fields --
I'll leave them all and fly away
To the abode of God,
And then I'll pray .... But till that day
I nothing know of God.

Oh bury me, then rise ye up
And break your heavy chains
And water with the tyrants' blood
The freedom you have gained.
And in the great new family,
The family of the free,
With softly spoken, kindly word
Remember also me.
Pereyaslav, December 25, 1845
Translated by John Weir, 1961

At his death the poet was first buried at the Smolensk Cemetery in Saint Petersburg. However, fulfilling Shevchenko's wish, expressed in his poem , to be buried in Ukraine, his friends arranged to transfer his remains by train to Moscow and then by horse-drawn wagon to his native land. Shevchenko's remains were buried on May 8 on Chernecha Hora (Monk's Hill; now Taras Hora) by the Dnieper River near Kaniv. A tall mound was erected over his grave (wiki)

Când voi muri, să m-aşezaţi
Într-o movilă 'naltă
În mijlocul întinsei stepe,
În Ucraina mea scumpă,
Astfel să văd şi să aud
Foşnetul câmpiei fără sfârşit,
Şi Niprul, clocotind vijelios,
Zdrobindu-se de malurile lui stâncoase.

Iar când Niprul din Ucraina-şi
Varsă în marea cea albastră
Sângele vrajmaşilor,
Cu el voi părăsi aceste culmi şi stepe
Şi voi zbura-n înalt,
Spre-al Domnului lăcaş,
Şi-acolo rugi voi înălţa - dar pân-atunci
Nu ştiu nimic de El.

Înmormântaţi-mă, şi-apoi vă ridicaţi
Şi rupeţi-vă lanturile
Stropiţi cu sângele tiranilor
Libertatea ce-o veţi fi câştigat.
Iar în noua familie,
Marea familie a celor liberi,
Cu vorbe blânde, şi şoptit,
Să v-amintiţi şi de mine.

(Taras Shevchenko)


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Winslow Homer, Gloucester Harbor (1873)

I wish to thank here Deborah Schafer-v who shared this on Facebook for us.

(Winslow Homer)


Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer (1936-1910)
photo by Napoleon Sarony
no copyright infringement intended

Largely self-taught, Winslow Homer began his career working as a commercial illustrator. He subsequently took up oil painting and produced major studio works characterized by the weight and density he exploited from the medium. He also worked extensively in watercolor, creating a fluid and prolific oeuvre, primarily chronicling his working vacations.

(The Moderns)

(Napoleon Sarony)

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Donald Barthelme

At the crossroads of flash fiction and non sequitur you will find the micro-stories of Donald Barthelme: exceptionally compact, focusing on incident rather than narrative. Naturally, he had admirers and detractors, being hailed as profoundly disciplined or derided as meaningless.

(A Life in Books)


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Chronicle of the 1665 Plague (Pepys)

crowded 17thC London street
at the outbreak of the Great Plague
gouache on paper
illustration by James Field / publisher: NFER
no copyright infringement intended

The illustration tells the story of a young girl’s arrival in London at the outbreak of the Great Plague in 1665. A church can be seen in the distance. The shops along the street can be identified by their signs. A confectioner's in the foreground has the image of a sugared plum in front of it.

A bright comet came over London during the winter of 1664/1665, and people took it as a bad sign. What followed was a year long plague that took a terrible death toll: the worst epidemic in the history of the city. Samuel Pepys chronicled the evolution of the disaster in his diary. There are firstly the rumors about the plague in Amsterdam and the danger of coming to London through Dutch ships. It is then much  nearer, just over the Chanel, at Calais. There is the discussion about the comet. And then it's there, in the whole city, operating without mercy.  The end of the year brings the hope that the freezing weather will eliminate the calamity.

Monday 19 October 1663

... I took coach, and to the Coffee-house in Cornhill where much talk about the Turk’s proceedings, and that the plague is got to Amsterdam, brought by a ship from Argier; and it is also carried to Hambrough. The Duke says the King purposes to forbid any of their ships coming into the river ...

Thursday 16 June 1664

... The talk upon the ‘Change is, that De Ruyter is dead, with fifty men of his own ship, of the plague, at Cales ...

Wednesday 22 June 1664

... great talke of the Dutch preparing of sixty sayle of ships. The plague grows mightily among them, both at sea and land ...

Monday 25 July 1664

... I to the Coffee-house, but no newes, only the plague is very hot still, and encreases among the Dutch ...

Wednesday 1 March 1664/65

... I to Gresham College, where Mr. Hooke read a second very curious lecture about the late Comett; among other things proving very probably that this is the very same Comett that appeared before in the year 1618, and that in such a time probably it will appear again ...

Sunday 30 April 1665

... Great fears of the sickenesse here in the City, it being said that two or three houses are already shut up. God preserve as all!

Wednesday 24 May 1665

... Thence to the Coffee-house with Creed, where I have not been a great while, where all the newes is of the Dutch being gone out, and of the plague growing upon us in this towne; and of remedies against it: some saying one thing, some another ...

Wednesday 7 June 1665
This day, much against my will, I did in Drury Lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and “Lord have mercy upon us” writ there; which was a sad sight to me, being the first of the kind that, to my remembrance, I ever saw. It put me into an ill conception of myself and my smell, so that I was forced to buy some roll-tobacco to smell to and chaw, which took away the apprehension.

Saturday 10 June 1665

... the plague is come into the City (though it hath these three or four weeks since its beginning been wholly out of the City); but where should it begin but in my good friend and neighbour’s, Dr. Burnett, in Fanchurch Street: which in both points troubles me mightily. To the office to finish my letters and then home to bed, being troubled at the sicknesse, and my head filled also with other business enough, and particularly how to put my things and estate in order, in case it should please God to call me away, which God dispose of to his glory!

Thursday 15 June 1665

... The towne grows very sickly, and people to be afeard of it; there dying this last week of the plague 112, from 43 the week before, whereof but [one] in Fanchurch- streete, and one in Broad-streete, by the Treasurer’s office.

Thursday 22 June 1665

Up pretty betimes, and in great pain whether to send my mother into the country to-day or no, I hearing, by my people, that she, poor wretch, hath a mind to stay a little longer, and I cannot blame her, considering what a life she will through her own folly lead when she comes home again, unlike the pleasure and liberty she hath had here. At last I resolved to put it to her, and she agreed to go, so I would not oppose it, because of the sicknesse in the towne ...

Friday 30 June 1665

... Myself and family in good health, consisting of myself and wife, Mercer, her woman, Mary, Alice, and Susan our maids, and Tom my boy. In a sickly time of the plague growing on ... Consideration of removing my wife to Woolwich ...

Wednesday 5 July 1665

Up, and advised about sending of my wife’s bedding and things to Woolwich, in order to her removal thither ... I by water to Woolwich, where I found my wife come, and her two mayds, and very prettily accommodated they will be; and I left them going to supper, grieved in my heart to part with my wife, being worse by much without her, though some trouble there is in having the care of a family at home in this plague time, and so took leave, and I in one boat and W. Hewer in another home very late, first against tide, we having walked in the dark to Greenwich. Late home and to bed, very lonely.

Monday 17 July 1665

... So anon I took leave, and for London. But, Lord! to see, among other things, how all these great people here are afeard of London, being doubtfull of anything that comes from thence, or that hath lately been there ...

Saturday 22 July 1665

... Only, while I was there, a poor woman come to scold with the master of the house that a kinswoman, I think, of hers, that was newly dead of the plague, might be buried in the church- yard; for, for her part, she should not be buried in the commons, as they said she should ... I met this noon with Dr. Burnett, who told me, and I find in the newsbook this week that he posted upon the ‘Change, that whoever did spread the report that, instead of the plague, his servant was by him killed, it was forgery, and shewed me the acknowledgment of the master of the pest- house, that his servant died of a bubo on his right groine, and two spots on his right thigh, which is the plague ...

Monday 31 July 1665

... Proctor the vintner of the Miter in Wood-street, and his son, are dead this morning there, of the plague ... which grows mightily upon us, the last week being about 1700 or 1800 of the plague ...

This evening with Mr. Brisband, speaking of enchantments and spells; I telling him some of my charms; he told me this of his owne knowledge, at Bourdeaux, in France. The words these: Voyci un Corps mort, Royde come un Baston, Froid comme Marbre, Leger come un esprit, Levons to au nom de Jesus Christ.

Tuesday 15 August 1665

... It was dark before I could get home, and so land at Church-yard stairs, where, to my great trouble, I met a dead corps of the plague, in the narrow ally just bringing down a little pair of stairs ...

Wednesday 16 August 1665

... Thence to the Exchange, where I have not been a great while. But, Lord! how sad a sight it is to see the streets empty of people, and very few upon the ‘Change. Jealous of every door that one sees shut up, lest it should be the plague; and about us two shops in three, if not more, generally shut up ...

Wednesday 30 August 1665

Up betimes and to my business of settling my house and papers, and then abroad and met with Hadley, our clerke, who, upon my asking how the plague goes, he told me it encreases much, and much in our parish; for, says he, there died nine this week, though I have returned but six: which is a very ill practice, and makes me think it is so in other places; and therefore the plague much greater than people take it to be. Thence, as I intended, to Sir R. Viner’s, and there found not Mr. Lewes ready for me, so I went forth and walked towards Moorefields to see (God forbid my presumption!) whether I could see any dead corps going to the grave; but, as God would have it, did not. But, Lord! how every body’s looks, and discourse in the street is of death, and nothing else, and few people going up and down, that the towne is like a place distressed and forsaken ...

Thursday 31 August 1665

... Thus this month ends with great sadness upon the publick, through the greatness of the plague every where through the kingdom almost. Every day sadder and sadder news of its encrease. In the City died this week 7,496 and of them 6,102 of the plague. But it is feared that the true number of the dead, this week is near 10,000; partly from the poor that cannot be taken notice of, through the greatness of the number, and partly from the Quakers and others that will not have any bell ring for them ... As to myself I am very well, only in fear of the plague, and as much of an ague by being forced to go early and late to Woolwich, and my family to lie there continually ...

Sunday 3 September 1665

(Lord’s day). Up; and put on my coloured silk suit very fine, and my new periwigg, bought a good while since, but durst not wear, because the plague was in Westminster when I bought it; and it is a wonder what will be the fashion after the plague is done, as to periwiggs, for nobody will dare to buy any haire, for fear of the infection, that it had been cut off of the heads of people dead of the plague ...

Thursday 14 September 1665

... Then, on the other side, my finding that though the Bill in general is abated, yet the City within the walls is encreased, and likely to continue so, and is close to our house there. My meeting dead corpses of the plague, carried to be buried close to me at noon-day through the City in Fanchurch-street. To see a person sick of the sores, carried close by me by Gracechurch in a hackney-coach. My finding the Angell tavern, at the lower end of Tower- hill, shut up, and more than that, the alehouse at the Tower-stairs, and more than that, the person was then dying of the plague when I was last there, a little while ago, at night, to write a short letter there, and I overheard the mistresse of the house sadly saying to her husband somebody was very ill, but did not think it was of the plague. To hear that poor Payne, my waiter, hath buried a child, and is dying himself. To hear that a labourer I sent but the other day to Dagenhams, to know how they did there, is dead of the plague; and that one of my own watermen, that carried me daily, fell sick as soon as he had landed me on Friday morning last, when I had been all night upon the water (and I believe he did get his infection that day at Brainford), and is now dead of the plague. To hear that Captain Lambert and Cuttle are killed in the taking these ships; and that Mr. Sidney Montague is sick of a desperate fever at my Lady Carteret’s, at Scott’s-hall. To hear that Mr. Lewes hath another daughter sick. And, lastly, that both my servants, W. Hewer and Tom Edwards, have lost their fathers, both in St. Sepulchre’s parish, of the plague this week, do put me into great apprehensions of melancholy, and with good reason. But I put off the thoughts of sadness as much as I can, and the rather to keep my wife in good heart and family also ...

Thursday 26 October 1665

... The ‘Change pretty full, and the town begins to be lively again, though the streets very empty, and most shops shut ...

Wednesday 22 November 1665

... I heard this day that Mr. Harrington is not dead of the plague, as we believed, at which I was very glad, but most of all, to hear that the plague is come very low; that is, the whole under 1,000, and the plague 600 and odd: and great hopes of a further decrease, because of this day’s being a very exceeding hard frost, and continues freezing ...

(Samuel Pepys)


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Aimee Bender

Novelist and short story writer, with surreal plots and characters (wiki), labeled by literary critics as magical realist (wsj) (which makes me think at the paintings of Remedios Varo - like her, the personages of Aimee Bender slip between species, or are preoccupied by numerology). Here is her website.

(A Life in Books)


Tanguy on Steroids (Reading Jill Rapaport)

Yves Tanguy, Multiplication of the Arks
oil on canvas, 1954
source: (Art Now and Then)
no copyright infringement intended

Altogether the building could have been dreamed by a steroid-injected Yves Tanguy
(Jill Rapaport, Duchamp et Moi and Other Stories / A Green Light, page 81)

Well, some go even further than Jill: is Yves Tanguy a Dali on steroids, maybe? (Art Now and Then).

Now speaking a bit about Rapaport's A Green Light (Duchamp et Moi and Other Stories, page 77), it's there a Gothic fantasy, and an advancement of a horror story, and a bit of film noir, and some kind of botched sexual conquest with open ending,  and all this in a SoHo as dark and nightmarish as a steroid - injected Lucian Freud could be. It's New York at its best!

(Yves Tanguy)

(Jill Rapaport)

Labels: ,

Yves Tanguy at Washington National Gallery

I love this.

(Washington DC National Gallery of Art)

(Yves Tanguy)


Yves Tanguy

Yves Tanguy
1900 - 1955
no copyright infringement intended

(Surrealists and Stuff)


Surrealists and Stuff

To be seen when in London, if ever.

(Avangarda 20)

The Great Fire of London

Detail of the Great Fire of London, 1666
unknown author
Museum of London
no copyright infringement intended

This painting shows the Great Fire of London as seen from a boat in vicinity of Tower Wharf. The painting depicts Old London Bridge, various houses, a drawbridge and wooden parapet, the churches of St Dunstan-in-the-West and St Bride's, All Hallows the Great, Old St Paul's, St Magnus the Martyr, St Lawrence Pountney, St Mary-le-Bow, St Dunstan-in-the East and Tower of London. The painting is in the style of the Dutch School and is not dated or signed.

To understand the spirit of a place, you need to learn about its moments of fulfillment, also about its moments of trial. The Great Fire of London in September 1666 was such a moment of trial. The way inhabitants behave in such a situation tells a lot about what kind of people live there. Also, the immense damage puts violently an end to an epoch and marks a new beginning. Landmarks disappear, destroyed by the fire, taking with them a whole history. And the life of the city must start anew, with new plans to develop, with new fortunes to be built, with new rules inspired by the lessons of the catastrophe, with new buildings and new landmarks to begin their history, .

Samuel Pepys was a witness to the Great Fire and his entry in the Diary from Sunday 2 September 1666 is one of the greatest pages in English literature. The tempo of the narrative is irresistible, and the way he knows how to give the poignant details is hardly to be paired. He is announced by a maid about the calamity and firstly doesn't consider it of too great damage, till later when he realizes the proportions. He goes to the Tower to have am exact view, and the fire is advancing under his eyes. As a man of great responsibilities, he goes to the King and to the Duke of York to receive orders, then to the Lord Mayor of London, to find him overwhelmed by the situation, crying like a fainting woman - the fire overtakes us faster than we can do it. He goes then to other places to see and decide, meanwhile describing the movements of people, running from the fire, carrying their goods in carts or on their backs, sick people carried on their beds... boats on the Thames overloaded, a boat having a pair of virginals on top of the load, pigeons being fried from their cages, unwilling to leave, hovering about widows and balconies till it's to late and their wings are burned and they fell down. Details of apocalyptic force, Pepys at his best ! (as one commentator rightly puts it).

And his conclusion, the fire as only one entire arch of fire from this to the other side the bridge, and in a bow up the hill for an arch of above a mile long: it made me weep to see it.

Here is the text:

Sunday 2 September 1666

... Jane called us up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City. So I rose and slipped on my nightgowne, and went to her window, and thought it to be on the backside of Marke-lane at the farthest; but, being unused to such fires as followed, I thought it far enough off; and so went to bed again and to sleep. About seven rose again to dress myself, and there looked out at the window, and saw the fire not so much as it was and further off. So to my closett to set things to rights after yesterday’s cleaning.

By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down to-night by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all Fish-street, by London Bridge. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower ... and there I did see the houses at that end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side the end of the bridge....

So down, with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me that it begun this morning in the King’s baker’s house in Pudding-lane, and that it hath burned St. Magnus’s Church and most part of Fish-street already.

So I down to the water-side, and there got a boat and through bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire ... the Old Swan, already burned that way, and the fire running further, that in a very little time it got as far as the Steeleyard, while I was there. Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into lighters that layoff; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another.

And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconys till they were, some of them burned, their wings, and fell down.

Having staid, and in an hour’s time seen the fire: rage every way, and nobody, to my sight, endeavouring to quench it, but to remove their goods, and leave all to the fire, and having seen it get as far as the Steele-yard, and the wind mighty high and driving it into the City; and every thing, after so long a drought, proving combustible, even the very stones of churches, and among other things the poor steeple by which pretty Mrs. ––— lives, and whereof my old school-fellow Elborough is parson, taken fire in the very top, an there burned till it fell down:
I to White Hall (with a gentleman with me who desired to go off from the Tower, to see the fire, in my boat); to White Hall, and there up to the Kings closett in the Chappell, where people come about me, and did give them an account dismayed them all, and word was carried in to the King.

So I was called for, and did tell the King and Duke of Yorke what I saw, and that unless his Majesty did command houses to be pulled down nothing could stop the fire. They seemed much troubled, and the King commanded me to go to my Lord Mayor  from him, and command him to spare no houses, but to pull down before the fire every way. The Duke of York bid me tell him that if he would have any more soldiers he shall; and so did my Lord Arlington afterwards, as a great secret.

Here meeting, with Captain Cocke, I in his coach, which he lent me, ... to Paul’s, and there walked along Watlingstreet, as well as I could, every creature coming away loaden with goods to save, and here and there sicke people carried away in beds. Extraordinary good goods carried in carts and on backs.

At last met my Lord Mayor in Canningstreet, like a man spent, with a handkercher about his neck. To the King’s message he cried, like a fainting woman, Lord! what can I do? I am spent: people will not obey me. I have been pulling down houses; but the fire overtakes us faster than we can do it. That he needed no more soldiers; and that, for himself, he must go and refresh himself, having been up all night.

So he left me, and I him, and walked home, seeing people all almost distracted, and no manner of means used to quench the fire. The houses, too, so very thick thereabouts, and full of matter for burning, as pitch and tarr, in Thames-street; and warehouses of oyle, and wines, and brandy, and other things.

Here I saw Mr. Isaake Houblon, the handsome man, prettily dressed and dirty, at his door at Dowgate, receiving some of his brothers’ things, whose houses were on fire; and, as he says, have been removed twice already; and he doubts (as it soon proved) that they must be in a little time removed from his house also, which was a sad consideration. And to see the churches all filling with goods by people who themselves should have been quietly there at this time.

... walked, through the City, the streets full of nothing but people and horses and carts loaden with goods, ready to run over one another, and, removing goods from one burned house to another. They now removing out of Canning-streets (which received goods in the morning) into Lumbard-streets, and further; and among others I now saw my little goldsmith, Stokes, receiving some friend’s goods, whose house itself was burned the day after.
... I to Paul’s Wharf, where I had appointed a boat to attend me, and took in Mr. Carcasse and his brother, whom I met in the streets and carried them below and above bridge to and again to see the fire, which was now got further, both below and above and no likelihood of stopping it. Met with the King and Duke of York in their barge, and with them to Queenhith and there called Sir Richard Browne to them.

Their order was only to pull down houses apace, and so below bridge the water-side; but little was or could be done, the fire coming upon them so fast. Good hopes there was of stopping it at the Three Cranes above, and at Buttolph’s Wharf below bridge, if care be used; but the wind carries it into the City so as we know not by the water-side what it do there.

River full of lighters and boats taking in goods, and good goods swimming in the water, and only I observed that hardly one lighter or boat in three that had the goods of a house in, but there was a pair of Virginalls in it.

Having seen as much as I could now, I away to White Hall by appointment, and there walked to St. James’s Parks, and there met my wife ... and walked to my boat; and there upon the water again, and to the fire up and down, it still encreasing, and the wind great. So near the fire as we could for smoke; and all over the Thames, with one’s face in the wind, you were almost burned with a shower of firedrops. This is very true; so as houses were burned by these drops and flakes of fire, three or four, nay, five or six houses, one from another.

When we could endure no more upon the water; we to a little ale-house on the Bankside, over against the ‘Three Cranes, and there staid till it was dark almost, and saw the fire grow; and, as it grew darker, appeared more and more, and in corners and upon steeples, and between churches and houses, as far as we could see up the hill of the City, in a most horrid malicious bloody flame, not like the fine flame of an ordinary fire.

We staid till, it being darkish, we saw the fire as only one entire arch of fire from this to the other side the bridge, and in a bow up the hill for an arch of above a mile long: it made me weep to see it.

(Samuel Pepys)


Sunday, February 16, 2014

John Bunyan

John Bunyan
no copyright infringement intended

John Bunyan (1628 - 1688) was variously tinker, Baptist lay preacher, soldier, conscience prisoner, and above all a great writer. His Pilgrim's Progress is amazing, that's maybe the right term, amazing. As for his religious convictions, though he has been described both as a Baptist and as a Puritan, he himself preferred to be described simply as a Christian.That makes me think of people of faith who try to make a step further toward what's common in all Abrahamic religions.

(A Life in Books)


Friday, February 14, 2014

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor played on Bayan

Vitaly Dmitriev
no copyright infringement intended

Vitaly Dmitriev is a well-known Russian accordionist and bayan player, coming from a family of musicians: his father, Alexander Dmitriev, belongs to the elite of bayan artistry.

(The B A C H motif)


Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Terrible Vengeance by Gogol (Animated Adaptation)

no copyright infringement intended

Шумит, гремит, гуляет Киев.
На свадьбе сына Горобца.
В гостях и брат его, Данило,
С женою Катей. Нет отца.

Noise, rattles, Kiev's feasting.
At the wedding of Horobet's son.
His brother, Danilo, is there
Also his wife Katerina. But her father

With this wedding starts the story of A Terrible Vengeance (Страшная месть), part of the Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka (Вечера на хуторе близ Диканьки) by Gogol. It is a Gothic horror story based on the Cossack folklore. Katerina's father is actually an evil spirit who will kill everyone in the family (his son-in-law, Cossak Danilo, his daughter Katerina after trying several times to seduce her, their little son). Eventually the evil will be killed in turn, by a bogatyr.

An animated adaptation was made at Kievnauchfilm in 1988. Here it is:


(Russian and Soviet Cinema)