Parallels (Beckett)

He spent ages adjusting the position of Billie Whitelaw’s hands on her upper arms, creating, whether he recognised it or not, a striking parallel with the picture of The Virgin of the Annunciation by Antonelle da Messina which had impressed him so much in the Alte Pinakotek in Munich forty years before. Yet while the face of the virgin is one of calmness and serenity, Beckett’s image is transformed into a tortured soul, her hands claw-like, her face full of pain and distress.

James Knowlson
Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett

Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter.

Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, film for the modern world:

From Kafka to Sebald – essays on narrative form in modernist fiction:

Maurice Blanchot and Fragmentary Writing by Leslie Hill – Preview:

Judith Butler – On Never Having Learned How to Live:

“Deleuze always insists on grasping the virtual , as it were ‘behind’ the actual.”

The HTMLGiant Beginner’s Guide to Deleuze:

Frederic Jameson on Realism and Utopia in The Wire:

Fascinating piece on memory by Jenny Diski:

Glenn Gould Explains the Genius of Johann Sebastian Bach:

Roberto Calasso interviewed by Lila Azam Zanganeh:

“Books are sublimely visceral, emotionally evocative objects that constitute a perfect delivery system.”

Remarkable colour photos from inside Nazi-occupied Poland, 1939-1940:

God’s Angry Man — Werner Herzog (Full Documentary):

Aldous Huxley’s Most Beautiful, LSD-Assisted Death: A Letter from His Widow:

The story behind Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album cover:

Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter.

New Inquiry review of Anne Carson’s Antigonick.

Yale Books: Extract from Joseph Brodsky: A Literary Life,

Lens Culture: Interrogations: terrifying real-life photographs from Ukraine.

In lieu of a field guide post: Snow Country by Kawabata Yasunari – “The novel suggests that both the purity of art and the ability to master one’s self can be derived from and conditioned by nature.”

Flowerville post: solstad/monikova: same but different.

Lauren Elkin essay: (The Quarterly Conversation): The Adversary: On Susan Sontag’s Journals (1964-1980). [Lauren Elkin’s site]

Derek Jarman’s film, Jubilee (1978 / Full)

David Winters’ review of Carl Cederström and Peter Fleming’s Dead Man Working.

One of the richest resources I’ve found. I’d heard rumours that these existed but they were surprisingly hard to track down. Download PDFs of out-of-print Loeb Greek and Roman classics.

Notes Towards a Theory of the Literary Magazine: Part One, The Textual Condition.

Lebanese artist, Zena Assi’s work brought to life in animation.

Prabuddha Dasgupta is a favourite photographer, whose work I got to know, I think, through Geoff Dyer. “An ongoing journal of memory and experience, based on the everyday… family, friendships, places known, spaces occupied, journeys remembered…revolving around the core of a pivotal love affair.”

Geoff Dyer writes about his favourite Hitchcock film: The Birds.

Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter.

Des Imagistes, Volume 1 Number 5, February 1914, includes HD, Richard Aldington, James Joyce, Ezra Pound [PDF]

After the Cold War: Eric Hobsbawm remembers Tony Judt.

Flowerville post: Why is Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle a good book?

Biblioklept post: Stoner, John Williams’s Sad Novel About an English Professor.

María Irene Fornés’s play Mud (Part 1 of 5):  A dysfunctional love triangle.

A satirical, wild and irreverent story of rebellion, Věra Chytilová’s classic of surrealist cinema is perhaps also the most adventurous and anarchic Czech movie of the 1960s.

Emily Books post: A review of Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai.

Conversational Reading post: Four Questions for Kate Briggs on Roland Barthes’ Preparation of the Novel.

Complete Review post: A review of Bruno Jasieński’s I Burn Paris.

Side Effects post: Toward a Phenomenology of What About Bob?

Svetlana Boym essay: Nostalgic Technology – Notes for an Off-modern Manifesto.

Side Effects post: The Agoraphobic Homeworld – “How can the world become a home—how can we be at home in the world?”

Anne Carson’s Antigonick

Antigonick is a strange book for Carson because, unlike Nox, or If Not, Winter, her translations of the complete fragments of Sappho, or Autobiography of Red, her luminous verse novel re-telling of the Greek myth of Geryon, to all of which Antigonick bears formal and thematic resemblances, it doesn’t fully open up the door to its source text for the reader. Instead, it demands prior knowledge of Antigone in order to really plumb the depths of the work. It’s not really a translation — it’s a re-imagining, what Carson’s Canadian contemporary Erin Moure calls a “transcreation,” with both text and images and the interplay between them transposing Sophocles’ language and themes. The problem is that the work comes alive in spectacular ways only when you put it next to a more traditional translation. (I used Robert Fagles’ with notes by Bernard Knox.) A classicist friend of mine commented that her undergraduates would find Antigonick a fascinating companion text to Sophocles’ play, and I bet that’s true, but I’m not sure it’s a strength. Antigonick strives to be a multi-dimensional artistic work, not a study of or a gloss on Antigone. This is the first book of Carson’s in which I feel her scholarly impulse barricades textual meanings. Usually it provides a generous way in.

Full Stop’s review of Anne Carson’s Antigonick precisely captures my sentiment.”Antigonick doesn’t ultimately work, but when you begin to give it the kind of scholarly reading it demands, you find it has moments of brilliance”.

a little notebook

You said it, my good knight! There ought to be laws to protect the body of acquired knowledge.
Take one of our good pupils, for example: modest and diligent, from his earliest grammar classes he’s kept a little notebook full of phrases.
After hanging on the lips of his teachers for twenty years, he’s managed to build up an intellectual stock in trade; doesn’t it belong to him as if  it were a house, or money?

Paul Claudel, Le Soulier de Satin Day III, Scene ii

A Doll House By Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen at the Grand Café (1898) by Edvard Munch

Ibsen’s A Doll House turns on a single sentence, Nora’s “We’re settling accounts, Torvald”. On that sentence the puerile Nora merges from her pupal cocoon and rejects her husband Torvald. Before that sentence the reader is accustomed to Torvald’s casual misogyny and pomposity. It is a sentence of deliverance, of the sort that lifts the hair on the back of your neck. Nora begins the dialogue that concludes this electrifying third act.

NORA: We’ve been married for eight years. Doesn’t it strike you that this is the first time that the two of us-you and I, man and wife-have talked seriously?
HELMER: Well-“seriously”-what does that mean?
NORA: In eight years-no, longer-right from the moment we met, we haven’t exchanged one serious word on one serious subject.

Michael Levenson, in Modernism, describes the impact that A Doll House had on Europe in the late nineteenth century. “Anecdotes abound of quarrels over dinner and demands by hostesses that guests refrain from discussing Ibsen”.

The event that thrilled and appalled Europe was Nora’s departure from her husband and sleeping children. But the shock of rupture needs to be placed within the speech conditions that prepare it. When the dialogue in the third act turns back on itself and confronts the disturbances of conversation, it lays out a challenge as radical as its final event, in some ways even more radical, Nora does not simply leave after speaking; she leaves because she speaks.

With repugnance, Ibsen was coerced to write an alternative ending for German theatre, a conciliatory conclusion that he later described as a “barbaric outrage”. In a letter to a newspaper Ibsen stated, “Those who wish to make use of the altered scene do so entirely against my wish.”

Paddling Palms and Pinching Fingers

From the first act of The Winter’s Tale, a favourite Shakespeare play that I’m slowly rereading, Leonte’s first jealous reaction to his wife’s apparent flirtation with the King of Bohemia:

Too hot, too hot!
To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods,
I have tremor cordis: my heart dances,
But not for joy, not joy. This entertainment
May a free face put on, derive a liberty
From heartiness, from bounty, fertile bosom.
And well become the agent. T’may, I grant.
But to be now paddling palms and pinching fingers,
As now they are, and making practised smiles,
As in a looking-glass, and then to sigh, as ’twere
The mort o’th’deer – O, that is entertainment
My bosom likes not, nor my brows.

Leonte’s poor brows, where he expects to sprout a cuckold’s horns at any moment. All that angst for a little paddling palms and pinching fingers.