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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Catalan Universe: Bishop Josep Torras i Bages

Bishop Josep Torras i Bages
1846-1916
(http://www.elcargol.com/index.php/raco-de-la-historia?start=1)
no copyright infringement intended


his words Catalunya Serà Cristiana O No Serà are engraved on the gate of Santa Maria de Montserrat


Venerable Josep Torras i Bages, bishop of Vic, was one of the main figures of Catholic Catalan Nationalism. To describe his convictions can be difficult, as he was strongly opposed to secularism, while also very straightforward against integrism,

In his La Tradició Catalana, from 1892, he emphasized rural life, family, religion and Catalan language as the pillars of Catalan identity, giving to land and language mystical dimensions. He was very interested in the study of the seny, a virtue often considered a Catalan cultural symbol: based on good sense and wisdom, seny was perceived by him to originate in the traditional Catalan rural farm (casa pairal or masia).


Front cover of Lo Verdader Catalá, 1843
(wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended


Now, to consider Bishop Torras an exclusively traditionalist thinker could be a mistake. He also considered that the Church should adapt to the spirit of the times and focus on moderation, and he developed these convictions in El Clero En La Vida Social Moderna, from 1888.

(Note: I used here the information from Wikipedia)

(Catalan Universe)

(Una Vida Entre Libros)

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A New New Movie: Inherent Vice


It’s the tail end of the psychedelic `60s and paranoia is running the day and Doc knows that love is another of those words going around at the moment, like trip or groovy, that’s being way too overused—except this one usually leads to trouble.

An adaption of Thomas Pinchon's Inherent Vice (2009), directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and starring Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, among others.

A cast of characters that includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, LAPD Detectives, a tenor sax player working undercover, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists... Part surf noir, part psychedelic romp—all Thomas Pynchon.

When private eye Doc Sportello’s ex-old lady suddenly out of nowhere shows up with a story about her current billionaire land developer boyfriend whom she just happens to be in love with, and a plot by his wife and her boyfriend to kidnap that billionaire and throw him in a loony bin…well, easy for her to say (http://youtu.be/wZfs22E7JmI).




trailer of Inherent Vice, 2014
(video by Warner Bros. Pictures)

drug use throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some violence



(Filmofilia)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sigismund Ivanowski: That Russian

Sigismund Ivanowski: That Russian
(AskArt)
no copyright infringement intended


showing Lenin seemingly under the control of Stalin, with what appears to be Napoleon's ghost looming in the doorway; inscribed Dreaming Lenin and Stalin, and titled That Russian; probably Napoleon was dreaming Lenin and Stalin (just asking)



(Sigismund Ivanowski)

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Sigismund Ivanowski: The Sculptress Caroline Ball Contemplating a Bronze

The Sculptress Caroline Ball Contemplating a Bronze
author: Sigismund Ivanowski
(Weschler's)
no copyright infringement intended



(Sigismund Ivanowski)

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Sigismund Ivanowski, Beware of Witches

Sigismund Ivanowski, Beware of Witches
welcome to my nightmares
(Franz T. Zumbachs Mysterious World)
no copyright infringement intended



(Sigismund Ivanowski)

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Sigismund Ivanowski

signature of Sigismund Ivanowski
(AskArt)
no copyright infringement intended


Sigismund Ivanowski (1875-1944) was a portraitist and illustrator who lived for most of his life in US. He used to sign his works with different aliases, based on slight spelling variations of his name: Sigismund De Ivanowski or Sigismund De Ivanowsky, Sigmund De Ivanowski or Sigmund De Ivanowsky. Sometimes the nobiliary particle was forgotten and he appeared simply as Sigismund Ivanowski (or Ivanowsky).

Ivanowski was born in Kuryłówka, a Ruthenian village belonging today to Poland (the region is known as Galicia, and is shared today between Ukraine and Poland). After studies in Warsaw, St. Petersburg (Imperial Academy of Arts; he also served during his stay there as court painter to Tsar Nicholas II), Munich (Akademie der Bildenden Künste), Paris (Académie Julian), and London (where he was the student of Whistler), he came to US, in 1902, where he activated in NYC. A 1907 interview by the New York Times states, the thing that impresses you at once about him is his vital energy.




(The Moderns)

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Vsevolod Pudovkin

Vsevolod Illarionovich Pudovkin
(1893-1953)
photo from 1920
(http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vsevolod-Pudovkin.jpeg)
no copyright infringement intended


developed influential theories of montage; his masterpieces are often contrasted with those of his contemporary Eisenstein, but whereas Eisenstein utilized montage to glorify the power of the masses, Pudovkin preferred to concentrate on the courage and resilience of individuals (wiki)

entered the world of cinema at the beginning of the 1920's, first as a screenwriter, actor and art director, and then as an assistant director to Lev Kuleshov (see for instance Kuleshov's The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West, where Pudovkin was beautifully playing the chief of crocks); then he went further on his own; in 1926 he directed Mother, considered on of the masterpieces of silent cinema; it was followed by other masterpieces (wiki)



(Filmele Avangardei)

(Russian and Soviet Cinema)

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Makar Chudra

Makar Chudra (painted in late 1950s)
artist: A. Epanshina
(http://www.kholui.net/gallery/M000/27814/)
no copyright infringement intended


go about and see the world, and when you have seen enough, lie down and die - and that's all

That's the philosophy of old Makar Chudra. When he starts to tell a story, you're in danger. Because this story goes into another one, and the chain is endless. And you forget about anything, and don't see anything around anymore, and seamlessly you entered  a space that's neither sky nor earth, it's in between, or rather beyond, and you get robbed by the beauty of Rada, who died long time before, killed, as she was too proud, but time have no meaning now to you, anymore, and you hear the sound of a violin handed by a gipsy, Zobar, the one who killed Rada, and was then killed by old Danila. Time has no more meaning to you, space exists no more, and slowly you realize what fate means, and, as the stories of old Makar Chudra go on, you understand that the only wisdom is this: go about and see the world, and when you have seen enough, lie down and die - and that's all.


It was Gorky's first short story, he published it in 1892. A movie was made by Emil Loteanu, in 1976, but I've already told you about it (Tabor is Returning).


Here is the text of the story:




(Maxim Gorky)

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Maxim Gorky



A friend of mine who passed away about twenty years ago used often to speak with great admiration about Gorky, about his novels and plays, and especially about his short stories. He was fascinated by the Gorkyan  universe, all those miserable people with so unexpected reactions in unexpected situations, that profane sainthood revealed in a world so humbled while so extraordinary - the world of his heroes, all those beggars, and thieves, and drunkards, townspeople and peasants, each one with his peculiar weirdness, with his past of smaller or bigger sins, often unknown to everyone else, while rotting in some hidden small corners of the soul.

Firstly I was a bit surprised that my friend admired Gorky at such extent, much more than any other Russian or non-Russian literary master. This friend had spent sixteen years in jail, as a political prisoner, condemned for anti-Communist activities. Actually he had spent in prison all his youth. He had been arrested by 1948 or 1949, and was freed only in 1964, when the Communist regime in my country decided a general amnesty for all political prisoners. A few years later we became friends, we were working in the same place.

And my friend explained to me that in his last years of prison, the regime had started to prepare the political prisoners for the amnesty that was to come. Among other things they were allowed to go to the prison library and read the books from there. This allowance was granted two or three years before the amnesty. And among the great authors, the only one present in the prison library was Gorky.




(Жизнь в Kнигах)

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Au Revoir Monsieur Grock (1950)

Grock in 1903
(source: wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended

The genius of clowning is transforming the little, everyday annoyances, not only overcoming, but actually transforming them into something strange and terrific. It is the power to extract mirth for millions out of nothing and less than nothing.

A French movie from 1950, it came to Bucharest sometime in the second half of the fifties. I was eleven or twelve and I liked it. Clowns always speak the language of children. Plus it was a French movie, with that special flavor only French movies from that epoch were having. It's more to say on this, about the epoch, and about the flavor, maybe some other time I'll try to do it. Add to this I was a Parisian by birth, and any French movie was for me a window open there. Meaning also a bit of nostalgia.

Grock (1880-1959) had been a famous clown of the first half of the last century. Born in Switzerland, speaking several languages, familiar with any conceivable musical instrument, adored by kids from Berlin to Paris to Madrid to London, with a very long career, the king of the clowns. And I remained with the memory of this movie about him. Not all details of course, most of them got erased throughout the years, but one scene at the end  never left my film universe. It's the last performance of the great clown, he is saying goodbye to the public, and an old friend approaches him, my boy wants to become a clown, please tell him not to do that. Grock takes the boy aside, parents never understand, look, I leave today the world of circus, and it's marvelous. I'll give it to you.

It was a movie I would have liked to watch it again sometime. I did it today. A movie that you enjoyed in your childhood is an old friend, who never betrays you, who's always faithful to you, and who keeps a full bag of memories from long time ago. Of course, I could see now that this movie is far from perfect (to put it mildly). It's essentially a film made by Grock, for Grock. But I don't want to be a judge, because it's a movie talking to the kids of the forties and fifties, not to an old man from the twenty-first century.And it brought to the old man that I am now, something very precious: a window open to the age that I had in the fifties, to the boy that I was then. Meaning also a bit of nostalgia.






(Cinéma Français)

A Story Retold: The Invention of Morel

illustration by Norah Borges
(source: the pointless weblog)
no copyright infringement intended


Para un perseguido, para usted, sólo hay un lugar en el mundo, pero en ese lugar no se vive. Es una isla. Gente blanca estuvo construyendo, en 1924, más e menos, un museo, una capilla, una pileta de natación. Las obras están concluidas y abandonadas. Es el foco de una enfermedad, aún misteriosa, que mata de afuera para adentro.

An Italian rugseller from Calcutta had told him about this place, the only possible for a runaway as he was: an uninhabitated island, but a human couldn't live there. A mysterious disease would kill anybody matter of weeks. His life was so unbearable that he decided to go there anyway.

Three constructions stayed on the island; the rugseller had mentioned them: the museum, the chapel, and the swimming pool; plus a mill in the marshlands, close to the shore. They had been built sometime in the twenties, by a group of white men who had left immediately after, abandoning everything.

The buildings were modern, with angular shapes, unadorned, some kind of a minimalist style pleasantly contrasting to their rather big size. Inside the museum, huge halls, their furniture in the same modern, minimalist style, lots of other rooms, larger or smaller, and a spacious library (he took from there a book with him, to read it later: a French edition, Bélidor, Travaux: Le Moulin Perse, Paris, 1737). In the basement there was a power plant, supposedly connected to the mill outside. Everything as waiting to be populated, but nobody present. The lack of any signal of life conjugated with this proximity, this potentiality of receiving guests anytime was giving a very strange impression. Was it this whole building complex waiting for humans or ghosts?


illustration by Norah Borges
(source: the pointless weblog)
no copyright infringement intended


The vegetation on the island was abundant, and the tides of the ocean were always swallowing the lowland. The summer came ahead of time, much ahead, and after a few days he woke up one morning in the sound of a music, mixed with echoes of human voices. He suddenly observed a bunch of people on the museum terrace, men and women elegantly dressed, dancing on the rhythms dictated by a phonograph, while some others were walking and talking casually. He ran immediately after a bush to stay hidden, and continued to watch them. There was an air of nonchalance that seemed to mark all of them. When had they come? And how? There was no ship in view. It was like they had emerged from within the insides of the island. Were they real? Was it a hallucination? It was possible, as he was so tired and hungry.

He was curios, while also frightened. What if these people had come to find and arrest him? He had a life condemnation to spend in a prison in Caracas. Was the Venezuelan police on his traces? Here? And in this way? Extreme caution was absolutely necessary for him. Or not?

And then he observed her.


illustration by Norah Borges
(source: the pointless weblog)
no copyright infringement intended

En las rocas hay una mujer mirando las puestas de sol, que tiene un pañuelo atado en la cabeza; las manos juntas sobre una rodilla; soles prenatales han de haber dorado su piel; por los ojos, el pelo negro, el busto, parece una de esas bohemias o españolas de los cuadros más detestables.

The woman was coming each afternoon, alone; she was sitting on the rocks, a book in hand, leaving the pages now and then to stare at the ocean. Sometimes she was looking at him, with the same discreet smile that she was contemplating the horizon. It was like she wanted to start to tell him something, slowly moving her gaze further, toward the sky, with the same smile, with the same intention of saying something, then, when the sunset was getting near, she was leaving the place, walking toward the museum.

As days went by, he realized that the woman's presence had become painfully necessary for him, her hours spent there on the rocks, book in hand, now and then leaving the pages, to gaze at the ocean, the horizon, seemingly observing him, seemingly trying to say something, then leaving the place, with the same smile, with the same imperceptible move of her lips, walking slowly toward the museum.

He forgot all risks and tried several times to talk to her. She looked like listening to him, with the same discreet smile, only moving her gaze further, toward the horizon.


illustration by Norah Borges
(source: the pointless weblog)
no copyright infringement intended


One evening he saw her walking in front of the museum, accompanied by a man. He came pretty close, taking advantage of the darkness: the man was insisting on something and she was clearly against. From bits of conversation it was impossible to understand what was their talk about, at least he heard distinctly their names: the woman was Faustine, the man was Morel.

He disliked immediately Morel: arrogant, obviously the opposite of a pleasant guy. Was this man her lover? No, that was impossible. Maybe in the past? In this case, clearly it wasn't any more. Though, what if it was something still between them?

Another question came quickly in his mind. Such a beautiful woman couldn't be alone. As simple as that! She had a lover, it was natural. Obviously she wasn't a nun. If not Morel, maybe somebody else from the group.

No, it was clear from the discussion that nothing could have been between Faustine and Morel. Though...

He went away, far from the museum, in the lowlands. Was this love, what he was feeling? He rejected the idea. There could be nothing between him and Faustine. It was like loving an image, an idea. That woman was not real, or she was from another universe. Though, he couldn't stop thinking. No, nothing could have been between Faustine and Morel, that was ridiculous. Or? How could he be so sure?


illustration by Norah Borges
(source: the pointless weblog)
no copyright infringement intended


Next morning he noticed a ship. The captain came on the shore and was greeted by Morel, the two starting immediately an animated discussion. A bit later the ship was no more. The visitors neither. The island was again deserted. What was all that? It could have been a hallucination, of course. He should be careful not to loose his mind.

Those days of summer had disappeared, it was again pretty cold. He started to read the book he had taken from the library, that Bélidor edition: it was a treaty about mills and their ways of running. He studied the book carefully, with that Leonardian Ostinato rigore that was also his life principle, and he started to understand the liaison between tides, mill and the power plant from the museum.

A bit of time passed and summer came again. And one day he saw Faustine, she had an umbrella with her, it was one of those summer rains. He tried to tell her something, she seemed to listen to him, while in the same time listening to the slow wind and to the gentle sound of rain.


illustration by Norah Borges
(source: the pointless weblog)
no copyright infringement intended


Then such periods of presence of the visitors followed by their absence came again and again. He realized that it was the rule of the island, this alternation of their presence and absence. It was linked in some peculiar way to the tides, and little by little he also realized that their discussions, their movements, were always the same. It was an endless repetition, like a theatrical play.

He finally understood that he was invisible for them, he did not need to stay hidden any more. Sometimes he was even staying in Faustine's room during night, sleeping on the floor, or rather remaining awake and protecting her sleep. She seemed to realize a tiny bit his presence. Or not? Sometimes he was talking to her, sometimes he was just thinking his words. And he slowly began to realize that his words and his actions were coming each time the same, like a theatrical play. Was he real, or just an image of himself (or of anyone else) from the past? Was he like Faustine, like all others, just a fruit of hallucination, just an idea? Just an image in perpetual repetition?

And what was Morel's role in all that? Oh, it was sure that Faustine didn't love Morel. Or she did?


illustration by Norah Borges
(source: the pointless weblog)
no copyright infringement intended


But I think I should stop here and not spoil the rest of the story.

Adolpho Bioy Casares wrote La Invención de Morel in 1940 and dedicated it to his friend and mentor Jorge Luis Borges. The book was illustrated by Norah Borges. It was published with a Prologue written by Borges. Men of letters discussed about liaisons between this novel and Wells' Island of Doctor Moreau, as well as Resnais' and Robe-Grillet's L'Année dernière à Marienbad.

Here is the text of the novel:




Al hombre que, basándose en este informe, invente una máquina capaz de reunir las presencias digregadas, haré una súplica. Búsque nos a Faustine y a mí, hágame entrar en el cielo de la consciencia de Faustine. Será un acto piadoso.



illustration by Norah Borges
(source: the pointless weblog)
no copyright infringement intended





An Italian movie was made in 1974, based on this novel. Anna Karina played the role of Faustine.




L'invenzione di Morel, 1974
(subtitles English, French, Spanish)
(video by baccarat1260)


Is it this story about immortality? Immortality that one gets with the price of his life? Immortality like a recurring paradise, like a circular week from one's life played for ever and ever? Are we allowed by gods to choose one image from our life and live it in eternity? Maybe Borges was making allusion at this when quoting Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the Prologue, the stanza from Sudden Light:


I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.





(Norah Borges)

(Bioy Casares)

(Italian Movies)

Labels: , ,

Joshua Bell Playing in the Metro

Joshua Bell playing at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in 2007
(photo: Michael S. Williamson for Washington Post)
no copyright infringement intended


The stunt was seven years ago, but no one will let him forget it.

Hey, did you hear about the famous violinist who played in the Metro and no one paid attention?

Yes, Joshua Bell must say. That was me
.










(Washington, District of Columbia)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Norah Borges: The Annunciation





(Norah Borges)

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A Drawing by Norah Borges

(El Blog de Arena)
no copyright infringement intended



Decía Norah Borges de su propia obra que:

«En mis cuadros he pintado jovencitos silenciosos que viven esperando el amor. Y el amor no les llega en mis cuadros, pero ellos lo están esperando. Eso pinto».
(quoted from El Blog de Arena)

I portrayed quiet youngsters who live waiting for love. And love does not come to them in my paintings, still they are there waiting. That's what I paint.



(Norah Borges)

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Norah Borges de Torre

Norah Borges de Torre (1901-1998)
photo from 1958
(wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended

Argentinian visual artist and artistic critic, sister of Borges; illustrated books by Borges, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Rafael Alberti, Victoria Ocampo, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Julio Cortázar, among others.




(The Moderns)

(Borges)

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Sudden Light ... and Pia de' Tolomei

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Pia de' Tolomei
oil on canvas, 1868-1880
Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, KS
(wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended

Pia de' Tolomei (Siena, ... – Maremma, XIII secolo) fu, secondo una tradizione legata agli antichi commentatori della Divina Commedia, una gentildonna senese identificata con la Pia citata da Dante nel V canto del Purgatorio.


Sudden Light

I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.

You have been mine before,—
How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallow's soar
Your neck turn'd so,
Some veil did fall,—I knew it all of yore.

Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time's eddying flight
Still with our lives our love restore
In death's despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?





Look in my face;
My name is Might-have-been;
I am also called No-More,
Too-late, Farewell


(Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

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D'Aiuto Cheesecake in Chelsea Got Out Of Biz

D'Aiuto Baby Watson Cheesecake in Chelsea
shared from the FB page of Pola Rapaport
no copyright infringement intended



(America viewed by Americans)

(New York, New York)

(Pola Rapaport)

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Monica Hesse: When No Gender Fits


Kelsey Beckham, 18, who identifies neither as male nor female, passes gender-specific bathrooms at a water park in western Michigan while hanging out with friends. How do you navigate the world when it is built on identifying with one group or another and the place that feels right is neither?

Monica Hesse in Washington Post:



(Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Washington Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two)



(A Life in Books)

Norwegian Journey

(Climbing in the Magic Islands)
no copyright infringement intended


Journeying to Norway, along the fjords, aiming Lofoten,  that's one of my dreams that will remain unfulfilled.

A splendid travelogue in today's NY Times: Norway the slow way




(Blogosphere)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Where O. Henry and Kuleshov Meet: The Great Consoler (1933)

Alexandra Khokhlova in the role of Dulcie
The Great Consoler, 1933
(https://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu/pioneer/aleksandra-khokhlova-2)
no copyright infringement intended


Великий утешитель (The Great Consoler or The Great Comforter) - the movie made by Lev Kuleshov in 1933 (Konstantin Kuznetsov being the DP) - takes two short stories written by O. Henry along with his prison episode and uses all this material in an extremely free way (say, a phantasy on O. Henry's themes) to build upon a very ellaborated cinematic structure.

About the prison episode: condemned for embezzlement, O. Henry had to stay in jail for three years, between 1898 and 1901. Fortunately it wasn't that hard: he worked in the penitentiary as a night druggist and wrote there fourteen short stories. He got them published while still in prison, using various pseudonyms (so his publishers were not aware he was jailed). One of these pseudonyms he would continue to use as pen name for the rest of his life: O. Henry (his real name was William Sydney Porter - or rather William Sidney Porter).


O. Henry in his thirties
impractical, lacking in desire for money and financial judgment
creative, humorous, a lover of human nature
mild, rather easy-going, idealistic, constant
source: Newcomb, A; Blackford, K.M.H.: Analyzing Character
(wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended

As for the two stories, the movie makes them written while in prison, but actually they came some years later: A Retrieved Reformation was published in the April 1903 issue of Cosmopolitan (yes, this women magazine is that old!), and An Unfinished Story belongs to his second collection of short stories, The Four Million, from 1906.

Here are the texts of the two stories:

A Retrieved Reformation is kind of a modern morality, one of those nice stories that are fit for Christmas period: a safecracker is released from prison and what follows is that a few banks around are robbed. Naturally he is the first suspect and a detective is on his traces. Meanwhile the guy falls in love for a rich banker's daughter and decides to become a honest citizen. When everything seems to turn finally well, an accident happens with the banker's granddaughter: she gets trapped inside the bank's new safe and someone has to break the locks. A dramatic dilemma for our ex-robber: if he opens the safe, everybody will realize who he really is (or rather who he was); if not, the little girl will die suffocated inside the thing. Add to all this that the detective is also there, waiting for the outcome. The guy takes the noble choice and breaks the locks, saving the girl. Then he gives himself up to the detective. Fortunately this one also changed himself into a nice person, so nobody gets harmed and everybody's happy. The thing is that the words and sentences are put in such a way that you can read the story in two different keys: a nice tale to emphasize all that's good and noble, or a grotesque farce where each player mocks the public and impersonates just the opposite of who he really is (probably the reading key you choose depends on your mood).

I love more An Unfinished Story (matter of taste): it's as delicate and ineffable as a cup of strawberry mousse, while fantasy (gently devised) and irony (nicely dozed) are mixed without known limits. It's the portrait of Dulcie, a young woman who worked in a department story, selling Hamburg edging, or stuffed peppers, or automobiles, or other little trinkets such as they keep there, and receiving each week six dollars of what she earned: the remainder was credited to her and debited to somebody else's account. Young, romantic, naive, living in a furnished room among other girls like her, exploited by the employer, always in shortage of money, always tracked by gentlemen trying to get her favors ... you got the picture. All this told as a story that's on going, no beginning, no outcome, just Dulcie in that furnished room, lacking money, hungry, romantic, hunted by so-called gentlemen.

This portrait is embedded in another story with apparently no connection: a dream the author has, that brings him to the ultimate times of Last Judgment (such a thing being possible just in dreams, as in our current times, we are told, the flames of Tophet don't frighten anymore and even the preachers have begun to tell us that God is radium, or ether or some scientific compound, and that the worst we wicked ones may expect is a chemical reaction). Well, what we do or do not believe today is one, a dream is different: Gabriel had played his trump; and those who could not follow suit were arraigned for examination... at one side a gathering of professional bondsmen in solemn black and collars that buttoned behind.

With this view of the professional bondsmen the author puts his dream suddenly on hold and passes to the story of Dulcie, to leave it equally sudden and come back to the dream. But now he understands who those professional bondsmen are: those who hired working-girls, and paid 'em five or six dollars a week to live on. Seemingly even setting fire to an orphan asylum or murdering a blind man for his pennies are easier sins! Really, when O. Henry starts fantasizing his irony has no limits.

Though, let me tell you this: for committing a murder, one gets a punishment here on earth, plus it could be some circumstances, while for exploiting the workers one is praised here on earth, there is a whole bunch of idiotic yesmen and sycophants who praise the exploiters and blame the exploited, so at least make the fucking bondsman punished sometime at the end of time.

Now about the movie: it follows two distinct plots in parallel. In one of them we find Dulcie, as nice, romantic, enthusiast, naive and poor as we already know her. The novelty is that in the movie Dulcie is reading (with great delight) the stories of O. Henry. In the parallel plot we find O. Henry himself, staying in prison and writing there his stories, embellishing in them the life, making life look nice, and keeping this way the illusions in his readers. Readers like Dulcie, readers like the inmates from the prison. He is their great consoler, great comforter. That is why he enjoys a privileged regime in jail, while all other inmates are treated like shit (if you excuse my French).

The story of Retrieved Reformation is embedded in the structure of the movie: it starts with the moment when the author begins writing it, it ends with the moment when Dulcie arrives at the end of it. So it is flowing between the two parallel plots of the movie, and it is made as a silent film (all the rest being sound movie - an exquisite cinematic choice: the epoch of sound paying here an accolade for the silent!). The story comes as based on a real case from prison, only exactly opposite: what happens in real life is that one of the inmates is ordered to break a safe where some documents got locked by accident. Apparently he hopes to be freed after that, but instead he is brought back to jail, where he soon dies. The writer had changed the outcome just to cheer up his readers!

A very ambitious cinematic construction: two parallel flows embedding between them a third one, each evolving distinctly while every now and then sending each other subtle signals of synchronization - a real symphonic work, calling in mind maybe some elaborate modern multi-threading computerized systems!

The same as with the story of O. Henry, this movie also can be read in two different keys. Apparently it is an anti-American propaganda film, as it takes place there and shows everything as rotten: jail, corruption, lack of perspective. But in the same time it subtly creates another tableau: it's the Soviet regime, a whole country like a huge prison, where artists get a privileged status for embellishing life in their works and helping this way to keep people's mood in control. There is a hint in the movie that supports this interpretation: at a certain moment one of the inmates exclaims: we are rotten in this prison for sixteen years! The movie was made in 1933: exactly sixteen years since 1917, when the Soviet regime had begun. Naturally, a Soviet movie made in 1933 could not give more hints to make us understand that it actually carried an anti-Soviet message! Maybe another hint in the end, when showing the riot of inmates: for a cine-viewer it calls in mind, derisively this time, some famous uprising sequences from Eisenstein et all.







(Lev Kuleshov)

(O. Henry)

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Robert Burns: Scots Wha Hae


Robert Burns wrote this in 1793 in the form of a speech given by Robert the Bruce before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, where Scotland maintained its sovereignty from the Kingdom of England (wiki)

Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome tae yer gory bed,
Or tae victorie.

Now's the day, an now's the hour:
See the front o battle lour,
See approach proud Edward's power -
Chains and Slaverie.

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha will fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn an flee.

Wha, for Scotland's king and law,
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or Freeman fa,
Let him on wi me.

By Oppression's woes and pains,
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free.

Lay the proud usurpers low,
Tyrants fall in every foe,
Liberty's in every blow! -
Let us do or dee.
(wiki)







Here is the rendering in English:

Scots, who have with Wallace bled,
Scots, whom Bruce has often led,
Welcome to your gory bed
Or to victory.

Now is the day, and now is the hour:
See the front of battle lower,
See approach proud Edward's power -
Chains and slavery.

Who will be a traitor knave?
Who will fill a coward's grave?
Who's so base as be a slave? -
Let him turn, and flee.

Who for Scotland's King and Law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand or freeman fall,
Let him follow me.

By oppression's woes and pains,
By your sons in servile chains,
We will drain our dearest veins
But they shall be free.

Lay the proud usurpers low,
Tyrants fall in every foe,
Liberty is in every blow,
Let us do or die!
(wiki)




(Robert Burns)

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Robert Burns

Robert Burns (1759 - 1796)
portrait by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
(wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended


known also as Scotland's Favorite Son, The Ploughman Poet, Robden of Solway Firth, The Bard of Ayrshire, or simply The Bard, he is the national poet of Scotland; best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a light Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland; also wrote in standard English, and in these writings his political or civil commentary is often at its bluntest (wikipedia)

this half-length portrait of Burns, framed within an oval, was to be engraved for a new edition of his poems; he is shown fashionably dressed against a landscape, evoking his rural background in Alloway, Ayrshire; Nasmyth, pleased to have recorded Burns' likeness convincingly, decided to leave the painting in a slightly unfinished state (wikimedia)




(A Life in Books)

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Irvine Welsh: Skagboys (an extract)

(http://www.irvinewelsh.net/books/info/?t=Skagboys)
no copyright infringement intended


Mark Renton has it all: he’s good-looking, young, with a pretty girlfriend and a bright future. But there’s no room for him in the 1980s and when his family starts to fracture, Mark’s life swings out of control. The way out is heroin. It’s no better for his friends – Spud Murphy is laid off from his job, Tommy Lawrence finds himself sucked into a life of petty crime, violence and the world of the psychotic Franco Begbie. Only Sick Boy seems to ride the current, scamming and hustling his way through it all


The copper stares at us in utter contempt. Nae wonder; aw he sees in front ay um is this mingin cunt, twitchin n spazzin oan this hard seat in the interview room. -Ah’m oan the program, ah tell um. -Check if ye like. Ah’m aw seek cause they nivir gied us enough methadone. They sais they hud tae fine-tune ma dosage. Check wi the lassie at the clinic if ye dinnae believe us.

-Boo-fucking-hoo, he sais, a mean expression oan his face. -Why am I not tearing up on your behalf, my sweet, sweet friend?

This cunt has cold black eyes set in a white face. If he didnae huv a dark pudding-basin haircut and his neb wis bigger, he’d be like one ay Moira and Jimmy’s budgies. The other polisman, a louche, slightly effeminate-looking blonde boy, is playing the benign role. -Just tell us who gives you that stuff, Mark. Come on pal, give us some names. You’re a good lad, far too sensible tae get mixed up in aw this nonsense, he shakes his heid and then looks up at me, lip curled doon thoughfully, -Aberdeen University, no less.

-But if ye check yi’ll find that ah’m oan the program…at the clinic likes.

-Bet these student birds bang like fuck! In they halls ay residence. It’ll be shaggin aw the time in thair, eh pal, the Pudding Basin Heided Cunt goes.

-Just one name, Mark. C’mon pal, begs Captain Sensible.

-Ah telt ye, ah say, as sincerely as ah kin, -ah see this boy up at the bookies, ah jist ken him as Olly. Dinnae even know if that’s his right name. Gen up. The staff at the clinic’ll confirm-

-Ah suppose prison’s like the halls ay residence, apart fae one thing, Pudding Basin goes, -no much chance ay a ride thair. At least, he laughs, -no the sort ay ride ye’d want, anywey!

-Just gie the clinic a quick phone, ah beg.

-If ah hear the word ‘clinic’ come out ay your mooth again, son…

They keep this shite gaun fir a bit, till a legal aid lawyer, whae’s been appointed for us, thankfully comes in tae end the torment. The polis leave n the lawyer gadge gies us the news ah want tae hear. It’s a stark choice: basically either jail (at least remand until it goes tae court) or rehab, in a new project, which ah huv tae sign up tae for 45 days, or ah’m charged wi the original offence. -It’s not the easy option. It means being drug free, he explains, -even your methadone will be stopped.

-Fuck...ah gasp. -Ah’m no sure tae definately get a prison sentence, am ah? No jist fir thievin a poxy collection tin?

-Nothing’s certain at all these days. It doesn’t look good though, does it? These were monies collected by an elderly shopkeeper for an animal welfare charity.

-Ye pit it like that...ah feel ma shoodirs hunch north in acknowledgement.

The boy takes his specks off. Rubs at the indentations they’ve left oan the side ay his beak. -On one hand the Government are encouraging the authorities to come down hard on drug use, on the other they’re acknowledging the growing problem of heroin addiction in the community. So there is the strong chance of a custodial sentence if you don’t co-operate with this rehab program. Your parents are outside, and have been informed of the situation. What do you want to do?

Decisions, decisions.

-Ah’ll sign up.


(Irvine Welsh)

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Irvine Welsh

Irvine Welsh in Leith, Edinburgh
photo: Murdo MacLeod
(The Guardian)
no copyright infringement intended


Scottish author, well known for his novel Transpotting (later made into a film); his work is characterized by a raw Scots language, and brutal depiction of Edinburgh life (wiki); acclaimed and often controversial (his own website); the same kind of writer as he is a drinker - binger familiar (speaking about himself in The Guardian); more about him on this blog to come (me)




(A Life in Books)

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Borges and Bioy Casares

Borges and Bioy Casares
(relación entre Borges y Bioy Casares)
no copyright infringement intended

The relationship between the two great writers is well known; it raised also passionate controversies, and to better understand the issue here is a link:




(Borges)

(Bioy Casares)

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Borges





(Una Vida Entre Libros)

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