Tuesday, 18 May 2021

 




A Word On Statistics






 Out of every hundred people,


those who always know better:

fifty-two.


Unsure of every step:

almost all the rest.


Ready to help,

if it doesn't take long:

forty-nine.


Always good,

because they cannot be otherwise:

four, well maybe five.


Able to admire without envy:

eighteen.


Led to error

by youth (which passes):

sixty, plus or minus.


Those not to be messed with:

four-and-forty.


Living in constant fear

of someone or something:

seventy-seven.


Capable of happiness:

twenty-some-odd at most.


Harmless alone,

turning savage in crowds:

more than half, for sure.


Cruel

when forced by circumstances:

it's better not to know,

not even approximately.


Wise in hindsight:

not many more

than wise in foresight.


Getting nothing out of life except things:

thirty

(though I would like to be wrong).


Balled up in pain

and without a flashlight in the dark:

eighty-three, sooner or later.


Those who are just:

quite a few, thirty-five.


But if it takes effort to understand:

three.


Worthy of empathy:

ninety-nine.


Mortal:

one hundred out of one hundred

a figure that has never varied yet.”



Wisława Szymborska







Note: The "Luci di Nara"  or "The light of moon" is a sculpture, characteristic of Igor Mitoraj's work. In the photo above, it is installed outside The British Museum (1991). 

Sunday, 16 May 2021

  




The Three Oddest Words





" When I pronounce the word Future,

the first syllable already belongs to the past.

When I pronounce the word Silence,

I destroy it.

When I pronounce the word nothing,

I make something no nonbeing can hold. "



Wisława Szymborska





Sunday, 21 March 2021

 




Nothing Special




nothing special

boards paint

nails paste

paper string


mr artist

builds a world

not from atoms

but from remnants


forest of arden

from umbrella

ionian sea

from parkers quink


just as long as

his look is wise

just as long as

his hand is sure -


and presto the world -


hooks of flowers

on needles of grass

clouds of wire

drawn out by the wind


·


Zbigniew Herbert






Note: The artwork is a Study for the Head of "Poetry" (1895 - 1899) for the composition "The Apotheosis of Bavaria" by Nikolaos Gyzis. 

Friday, 25 December 2020

Thursday, 8 October 2020

 




Ascending Figure


 



This year's Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded to an american poetess and essayist for "her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal."

Louise Elisabeth Glück – one of the purest and most talented contemporary litterateurs in her field. She is distinguished for the linguistic and technical accuracy of her poetry, her sensitivity and insight  into matters of loneliness, family relationships, divorce and death. She is also noted for her "classicizing of gestures" - i.e. the frequent reworking of Greek and Roman myths in order to speak of destructive inter/personal relationships, existential despair and the agony of self. 

A poetess with an extensive body of work and many highly prestigious awards for it, Louise Glück is currently an adjunct professor and Rosenkranz Writer in Residence at Yale University. Once, she said: "Writing is a kind of revenge against circumstances: bad luck, loss, pain." It applies to reading, too. After a series of unconventional and controversial choices that seemed somehow superficial, the Swedish Academy are back on track with this timely and insightful selection for the current circumstances. 


 





Notes: You can read a random compilation of Louise Glück's poems here. / You can watch the Nobel Prize announcement here. / The portrait of the poetess is illustrated by Niklas Elmehed, the Swedish artist responsible for the official portraits of the Nobel Prize Laureates

Saturday, 3 October 2020









Atonement,

the French way






Sixteen years after her father's death, Annie Ernaux begins to write a novel about him. For some reason, "deciphering these memories is an urgent need for me..." she says. 

"A Man's Place" (translated by Tanya Lesley - Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2020) is shorter than a novel but it certainly has all the characteristic of the kind. The narration begins with the success of the French author in state exams for her appointment in public education. It goes on  with her father's death and in the next 94 pages the author describes many short events of his life - being the son of a sharecropper in Normandy, he started work as a cowboy and then in a factory. After getting married, he decides to open his own little store. So he becomes the owner of a grocery-coffee shop. Together with his wife, they work hard and despite the many adversities, at a time when the advent of supermarkets puts their business at serious risk, they manage to get out of poverty and sent their daughter to university. Always keeping her distance from her aging father, she studies, gets appointed to public education as a philologist, gets married and has a child who is just as distant - on a visit to her parents' home for the holidays, mother and son are walking past the room of the sick grandfather, when the little body asks the author: "Mommy, why is the gentleman beddy-bye?"




It could be a highly melodramatic novel, even a tragic one – a daughter's memories of her father is quite good material. Especially when this father was born, raised and manned in primitive conditions. However, Ernaux chooses to keep a record of her family's ethnology with meticulous accuracy and objectivity. This neutral style has established her as one of the most important contemporary writers in France and the greatest registrar of truth. "It's the writer's job to tell the truth," she said in an interview. "Sometimes I don't know what exactly it is, but the truth is what I'm looking for." 

I tried to discern the truth she is looking for in this book. It could just be the understanding of the ever winding maze of the father-daughter relationship, but that's not all. It is something deeper that oozes out - her father's inner strength and his (in fact, theirs - her parents') insistence on overcoming any hardships they came across and keep on progressing. And this, coming from people completely deprived of childhood and education, to say the least, is the definition of life. A life that you can rightly say has been worhtwhile - the exact point that makes the book contemporary.

There is, however, something even deeper that. I cannot identify it at once. I read the epigram on the front page again. It is a quotation by Jean Genet "May I venture an explanation: writing is the ultimate resource for those who have betrayed." And there lies her truth, the urgent need that led the author to "A Man's Place". It is the unacknowledged guilt about her own social development and, perhaps even more, the non-reactive, observational attitude she held towards her father as a child: "... I was repulsed, convinced  (by the memories of her living with her parents) of their  insignificance. And if they survived, it was only through humiliation. I gave in to the desire of the world I live in, of a world that forces you to forget the memories of a humble life as it is something that shows bad taste. "


"A Man's Place" was first published in 1983 (in France), causing sparking debates and criticism, but the following year won the Prix Renaudot. That was the beginning of many distinctions that followed for the author and the conquest of her personal style. With this distinctively still, emotionless way of writing, she composes here an eloquent portrait of her father and his time – no coincidence that she is also considered the most important chronicler of French society of the last 50 years. She even goes further than that: she extends her personal experience, as she did in "The Years", into universal matters – generation and class alienation, mourning for parents and their gradual erasure from memory. Even if it was generated by an unpleasant feeling, Annie Ernaux should be really proud of this portrait - an elegant, perfectly written narrative. Insightful, touching (against her efforts), memorable.



*










Notes: The photographes show the café épicerie of the author's parents and her father himself. They are drawn from "Quatro" (Gallimard, 2011). // The greek edition of the book was also published in 2020. You can read about it,  in Greek,  here. You can read about her novel "The Years", also in Greek, here

Friday, 29 May 2020












Not the first time




...for the case of George Floyd. There have been plenty of identically similar ones in the past. That of 22 year-old Oscar Grant has been turned into a biographical drama film in 2013. It was the feature directorial debut of Ryan Coogler and it won many awards – two of them in Sundance Film Festival (Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film) and one in Cannes (Best First Film). 

Art awakens, they say. It does, indeed – the film  got praises, opened up discussions and caused controversies about the limits of dramatisation and the accuracy of the real event, was among the top ten lists for the best films of that year. This is the furthest the awakening got.  It did not change any attitudes, regulations or laws, nor did it bring this tragic and painful history to a halt as not to repeat itself. 

Oh well? 

This needs to be the last one. 









Note: You can read about the case od Oscar Grant here. // The New York Times follows the case of George Floyd closely. The latest update says that the former Minneapolis police officer seen on video using his knee to pin down George Floyd has been taken into custody and charged with third-degree murder while the investigation of three other officers at the scene of the incident is ongoing. You can watch the Live Updates here