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The Immoralist, by André Gide, translated by Dorothy Bussy

An important book I think raising issues which were of interest at the time. The question of attaining authenticity without hurting others is surely, however, still with us. Certain themes about boredom, ennui in French certainly occupied others at the time from Flaubert, Baudelaire and on to Camus. Thanks for posting!

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

1001 Books begins its summary of The Immoralist like this:

A thought-provoking book that still has the power to challenge complacent attitudes and unfounded cultural assumptions, The Immoralist recounts a young Parisian man’s attempt to overcome social and sexual conformity. (1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, ABC Books 2006, p.241)

The novella is prefaced by an attempt to explain that the ‘problem’ of the book existed before it was written.  It is then book-ended at the beginning by a pseudo-letter to the Prime Minister that asks what role in society a young man like the hero might have… and completed by that same friend’s awkward conclusion after the hero’s story has been told.  That story is narrated by Michel, who starts out as an austere young scholar and ends up as a defiant hedonist.

The translation, by Dorothy Bussy, uses the term ‘hero’ in the preface.  But it…

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Born January 14~ Berthe Morisot

Loving Berthe Morisot at the moment. Elegant era; her innovative independent style deserves more recognition. Wonderful artistry.

The Misty Miss Christy

Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot (January 14, 1841-March 2, 1895) was a French Impressionist painter.
Biography on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berthe_Morisot

Le Cerisier by Berthe Morisot
1891 / Oil on canvas / 60 3/5″x33″ / Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, FR

Berthe Morisot on WikiArt: https://www.wikiart.org/en/berthe-morisot

Further reading:
https://nmwa.org/art/artists/berthe-morisot/
https://mymodernmet.com/berthe-morisot-biography/
https://blog.bridgemanimages.com/berthe-morisot-portrait-of-an-artist/

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Born January 6~ Ruth Gikow

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Classics Literature Poetry

“Nostalgia” a poem by Boris Pasternak

To give this book a dedication
The desert sickened,
And lions roared, and dawns of tigers
Took hold of Kipling.

A dried-up well of dreadful longing
Was gaping, yawning.
They swayed and shivered, rubbing shoulders,
Sleek-skinned and tawny.

Since then continuing forever
Their sway in scansion,
They stroll in mist through dewy meadows
Dreamt up by the Ganges.

Creeping at dawn in pits and hollows
Cold sunrays fumble.
Funereal, incense-laden dampness
Pervades the jungle

.Boris Pasternak

Does this poem convey the feeling of nostalgia to you? Geographically widespread there is certainly a sense of some disorientation. From “cold sunrays”, which suggest a Russian winter, to Kipling’s jungle or the Ganges or even the desert. The heat finds it hard to penetrate into the hollows and even the sunrays seem to fumble on their way to the losses of funereal dampness.

The poem shows Pasternak’s knowledge of Kipling and perhaps the first stanza refers also to Blake’s “Tiger, tiger burning bright”. Both, of course are political poets and the possible symbolism here might be imperial. However, it is the voracious hunger for the irretrievable which pervades the beasts-

A dried-up well of dreadful longing
Was gaping, yawning

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Art and Photographic History Penwith

Ponderings on Nostalgia in paintings

Clearly, that which we personally find nostalgic, pertains to ourselves alone but are there paintings which evoke in general this kind of mood state in the viewer? One painting which possibly does is this Matisse. It is discussed in detail on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luxe,_Calme_et_Volupt%C3%A9

Matisse-Luxe.jpg

The fact that the title comes from Baudelaire is partly evidence to this state of mind-

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

This lines are from a poem called L’Invitation au voyage and certainly the second stanza has a definite cosy feel to it even when google translated into English-

Shiny furniture,
Polished by the years,
Would decorate our room;
The rarest flowers
Mixing their smells
With the vague scents of amber,
The rich ceilings,
Deep mirrors,
Eastern splendor,
Everything would speak there
To the soul in secret
His sweet native language.

Returning to the painting itself, the colours invoke a sense of delicious and delicate luxury, as does the seaside setting and the recumbent nude figures. The sailing boat with its gaff rig beneath the boughs of the tree, which itself offers a protective quality, suggests that the shore may be quitted should ennui prove too troublesome.

On a personal level, my interest in this technique was stimulated by a term we did in the third year with our art teacher, Charlie Mac, when he suggested we paint using pointillist technique to give our work a more lively quality. We did some nice work from the end of the harbour pier in Penzance. However in the above m, Matisse was following the suggestions of Signac and creating a seminal work of Fauvism. The wild beasts are here in a somewhat pussycat or kittenish era even Louis Vauxcelles, who used the term, the following year in 1905 might grudgingly admit.

Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolf and the power of sisterhood | Art UK

This portrait by Roger Fry of Virginia Woolf has I think a somewhat similar pointillist character. However, it evokes nostalgia because I can remember from childhood people dressing in warm woollen jumpers and staring pensively into the distance. This painting is on loan to Leeds Gallery from its owner.

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Film Literature Poetry

If you forget me -Pablo Neruda

 

“I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.”

This poem contains some moving imagery which reminds me of ice and fire. Glowing embers and decay which are capable of re-igniting. Images which are intangible and sadly to me at least it conveys ambivalence. He is dependent upon being loved and his memory depends upon this too. There is a deep fragility here which makes the poem more beautiful. There is also the strong possibility of exile under discussion. The ash appears to rise like a prayer towards Heaven like little sailing boats of childhood dreams.

Further discussion is at https://theculturetrip.com/south-america/chile/articles/the-most-famous-poems-by-pablo-neruda/

Neruda (2016) | Official Trailer HD - YouTube

 

 

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Thoughts on “The Western Canon” by Harold Bloom

Well, a fascinating and absolutely lengthy list which could understandably convert anyone to intensive analysis of short passages. I certainly wish I had read the Classics in greater depth years ago- esp. Greek drama. The few books that I have managed in French and German have become memorable. Interesting, that you met Bloom and I wonder how you might update the canon?

Stuff Jeff Reads

This is one of those books which was an impulse buy over 20 years ago, which I bought while wandering the aisles of a Borders Bookstore (that should put things into perspective). It has sat on my shelf all this time, waiting to be read, and I finally got around to it. One of the benefits of COVID for book nerds is that it forces us to read what we have and not wander aimlessly in search of more books.

While I was in college, Professor Bloom came and held a lecture at the community college I was attending; quite a coup for a small campus to get a speaker of his eminence. Very few people attended, but I of course showed up early and got to sit with him and have a one-on-one discussion about literature. His knowledge was formidable, to say the least.

In this book, Prof. Bloom…

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Paintings of 1920: Landscapes 3

Some very interesting paintings here from 100 years ago and the advent of Modernism.

The Eclectic Light Company

In this final look at a selection of paintings which were completed in or around 1920, I include more landscapes in more modern styles from around the world.

My first landscape artist is something of a misfit here, as he was on his journey to Surrealism at the time.

nashpcotswoldhills Paul Nash (1892–1946), Cotswold Hills (c 1920), oil on canvas, 49.1 x 59.2 cm, Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth, England. The Athenaeum.

Paul Nash’s view of the Cotswold Hills shows the rolling countryside near his family home in Buckinghamshire, England. Although it breaks from the military regularity and desolation of his war paintings, the shafts of sunlight are disturbingly reminiscent of those in his war painting of the Menin Road from just a couple of years before.

More popular among the landscape artists of the day were various degrees of Impressionism and post-Impressionism.

hillsspellofthesea Anna Althea Hills (1882-1930), Spell of the…

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Unexpected pleasures

Well, I wasn’t too sure about travelling as I like many others have been somewhat locked down. In the midst of packing the stress was a little relieved when an old friend told me of his birdwatching activities somewhere in Suffolk. He had seen some rare type of Artic traveller which no one else in his group had glimpsed. I asked him had he perhaps imagined this. Fortunately my voice modulation must have kicked in and he didn’t hear this question.

My cases were less heavy than expected and I was able to use the bus rack easily.The driver greeted me by name and I realised it was a friend and laconic poet who asked me my destination. He writes amusing and whimsical poems about his experiences at the wheel. A lady on board was telling of her success at University Challenge. She had worked out the origin of a Polish dog as being Pomerania. Upon arriving at the Station I had expected a phalanx of officials impeding any travel. Clearly, I have been reading too many novels like Anna Seghar’s Transit.

Instead I was in fact welcomed by Railway staff with coffee, biscuits and offered drinking water. This is totally unexpected and quite cheering too. Even the usually locked down waiting room was open. Here two elderly fellows were cheering each other like characters in a late Kingsley Amis novel. One was telling of his experiences at a recent wedding where one gentleman was surrounded by multiple ex-wives at the celebration table. Then he remarked of another jolly lady who spent some six hours at the event. “All that time” he related,”she had two glasses, one in each hand”. Hence, people are ticking over in their every day lives. We could do with Molly Panter Downes or her contemporary equivalent to record such matters.

Read Panter-Downes at Persephone Books

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Literature Poetry

“In Exile” and “Quarantine” – two poems by Eavan Boland

This poem may be found in Eavan Boland’s book of collected poems on page 157 and it is from her sequence outside history. It starts thus:-

The German girls that came to us that winter and

the winter after and who helped my mother fuel

the iron stove and arranged our clothes in wet

thicknesses on the wooden rail after tea was over,

 

spoke no English, understood no French.

We are in Boland’s childhood in Ireland and the political situation in Europe has isolated these girls and put them into linguistic isolation, perhaps similar to that experienced in childhood. This long starting sentence sets the lamenting pace with which this poem is infused. She continues to say that they spoke rapidly; “syllables in which pain was radical, integral; and with what sense of injury the language angled for an unhurt kingdom….I never knew

Renowned poet Professor Eavan Boland dies at 75 | Stanford News

 

The memory of these exile voices reminds Boland of her own exile from the darkness of Ireland and “the drizzle in the lilac, the dusk at the back door” but also of “the tinkers I was threatened with” She is imagining the guttural voices some forty years on and the sadness and pain mixed with these sounds as she reexperiences her loss of her homeland, now teaching in America.

These searing memories she recalls in a very different place-

Among these salt boxes, marshes and the glove-tanned colours of the sugar maples, in this New England town at the start of winter. ” She appears to miss the past and its pains and ends by saying memorably that; “Here in this scalding air my speech will not heal.I do not want it to heal”

This poem I find appealing to the sense we presently have of dislocation due to the Covid crisis. Trying to retrieve some sense of the normal everyday and usual social interaction. In a sense we have all become exiles and I hear Leonard Cohen’s “and all men shall be sailors then until the sea shall free them” There are reminders for me in this poem of the sense of loss of control which so many feel with Brexit and the separation from the cultural and political values which Europe aspires.