As someone has commented on You Tube underneath the above, “Wonderful , soulful, expression of Imperial Russia from many aspects just before the Black Curtain of the war that aesthetically affects us into our era!” There are even colour photographs of that strange era in Russia before the Revolution that show the huge contrasts in wealth and also the peaceful landscape which is evoked like a distant Edwardian Summer. Serov died in 1911 having left behind masterpieces of portraiture including his own famous self-portrait. His style was realistic and is still much beloved by the Russian people.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentin_Serov
I have just discovered this film which looks good too-
Not for the first time, I’m reminded of the Lenin quote which this blog began with in April: ‘There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen’. So much has occurred this week that recent events such as the 18th government U-turn (the third national lockdown announcement), and Trump’s shocking attack on American democracy dwarf other important development earlier in the week, such as the 17th U-turn, changing policy to not reopen schools after all. This, when some schools had already been made to admit pupils for one day, leading to anger and confusion for teachers, parents and children, not to mention a likely rise in cases.
Education Minister Gavin Williamson came in for much opprobrium, most eloquently and succinctly expressed by Rafael Behr in the Guardian. ‘Not much is constant about Britain’s handling of the pandemic, but one rule applies throughout: there is…
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!
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…
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 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.
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.