Thursday, October 31, 2013
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
by Krzysztof Jurecki
Zbigniew Dłubak, Autoportret, ca. 1950, © Fundacja Archeologia Fotografii/Armelle Dłubak
Self-taught art theoretician, painter and photographer. His primary goal was for the latter two to gain recognition as two separate forms of artistic expression. Born on on the 26th of April,1921 in Radomsko, died on the 21st of August, 2005 in Warsaw.
During the Second World War, he studied photography and painting on his own in an informal setting. Even after he was taken as a prisoner of the Mauthausen concentration camp, he organised exhibitions of art at the camp. After the war ended and he was released from Mauthausen in1945 he returned to Poland, where he took an active part in the reconstruction of Polish artistic life after six years of foreign occupation. He became one of the cofounders of the art group Grupa 55. Between 1947 and 1949 he participated in the art work promoting the modern views of The Club of Young Artists and Scientists in Warsaw. Between 1953-1972 he was the editor-in-chief of the Fotografia monthly. In 1948 he was one of the organizers of the Contemporary Art Exhibition in Kraków. He cooperated with several Warsaw galleries - Krzywe Koło, Współczesna, Foksal and Remont, later with Wrocław’s :Permafo: and Seminarium-Foto-Medium-Art. In the years of 1965-1975 Dłubak worked a lecturer at the National Film School in Łódź and at the Higher School of Fine Arts in Łódź. Together with his students and alumni he founded the Warsaw Seminary group, which functioned between 1975 and 1981, striving to explore the theory of the rendering process
In the late forties he eagerly and successfully created works that referred to surrealism and abstraction (geometrical and allusive), less often to constructivism. During the time of social realism he tried to withdraw from artistic life, however he did make works that were inspired by this growing trends and wrote texts on photography exhibitions. During this period he also photographed his own series of anti-aesthetic urban landscapes.
Inspired by his own theories of existence and a short she'd story he'd written Dłubak executed a series called Existences 1959-66. These photographs were documentary in nature, drawing cutes from American photography from the Farm Security Administration era. In 1967 he presented hisIconosphere series, which became an important stepping stone in Polish photography on the road to breaking down the concept of artistic photography. He initiated a series of Exhibits of Subjective Photography in 1968 and the exhibition Photographers in Pursuit in 1971. In 1970 he began studying the symbolism of the body within Gestures series. He later became interested in the concept of contextual art, promoted mainly by Jan Świdziński. In the early 1980s he began living in Meudon outside of Paris, where he worked extensively on his art, before returning to Warsaw for the last years of his life.
In 1983 he began producing a series that blurred the lines between photography and painting. He worked on the Asymmetry project for several years and its ultimate shape was presented in 2003 as the artist’s individual exhibition at the Zachęta Art Gallery in Warsaw. The show corresponded with the constructivist explorations of Władysław Strzemiński and his Theory of Vision.
Dłubak’s portfolio of photography and painting was also presented that year against the works of Grupa 55 in 2003 at a show entitled Zbigniew Dłubak and Grupa 55 at the Museum of Art in Łódź. Dłubak is considered a great authority in post-war Polish photography , with his avant-garde practice shaping the inspiration for many generations of artists since the end of '50s through today.
Author: Krzysztof Jurecki, Museum of Art in Łódź, March 2004. Updated: August 2005. Translated by Jagoda Dziadek, January 2011.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Ilustration by Triunfo Arciniegas
I LIKE LOOKING AT PEOPLE´S LIVES
by Alice Munro
by Alice Munro
I like looking at people’s lives over a number of years without continuity. Like catching them in snapshots. And I like the way people relate, or don’t relate, to the people they were earlier.... I think this is why I’m not drawn to writing novels. Because I don’ see that people develop and arrive somewhere. I just see people living in flashes. From time to time.
“An Interview with Alice Munro”
Canadian Fiction Magazine, 43 (1982): 74-114.
Monday, October 28, 2013
The 100 best novels No 6 / The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (1759)
The 100 best novels
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
by Laurence Sterne
Laurence Sterne's vivid novel caused delight and consternation when it first appeared and has lost little of its original bite
Monday 28 October 2013
Tristram Shandy and its author, Laurence Sterne, are so intensely modern in mood and attitude, so profanely alert to the nuances of the human comedy, and so engaged with the narrative potentiality of the genre that it comes as something of a shock to discover that the novel was published during the seven years war. In other words, it appeared during the annus mirabilis of that prototype of international warfare that saw stunning British military victories in India, Canada and the Caribbean, and established the first British empire that would send the English language around the world. Some of the raw ebullience of the national mood is mirrored in the slightly mad pages of this uniquely entertaining novel.
"Shandy" is a word of obscure origin meaning "crack-brained, half-crazy". Tristram himself says he is writing a "civil, nonsensical, good-humoured Shandean book". As such, it became a huge bestseller in the 1760s. Sterne became a celebrity, and made a fortune, fulfilling a deep ambition. "I wrote, not to be fed but to be famous," he once said. Success had come late. Born in Ireland in 1713, Sterne spent much of his life as a country vicar near York. (In the novel, Parson Yorick is an ironical self-portrait.) His work had the difficulties often associated with original work. The first two volumes of Tristram Shandy were rejected by the London publisher, Robert Dodsley, but, when privately printed, quickly sold out.
Like all subsequent bestsellers, Sterne and his book became the subject of fierce literary argument. The novel was obscene, preposterous and infuriating, the opposite of what a novel should be. The author was a "coxcomb", a vain and deplorable impostor, deficient in the good taste of a true artist. The notorious Black Page (between chapters 12 and 13 of volume I) was a silly stunt. And so on. Dr Johnson expressed the critical consensus when, in 1776, he boomed: "Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last."
But the good doctor was wrong. Tristram Shandy is odd; and it did last. Furthermore, it continues to exert a great influence on successive generations of writers. In the 1980s, magical realists such as Salman Rushdie rediscovered Sterne. Peter Carey, the Booker prizewinner, even acknowledged an influence in the title of his novel, The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith.
The secret of Sterne's hold on his readers is that Tristram Shandy is a comic tour de force whose humour, of observation and incident, explodes on to every page from the hilarious moment, in chapter 1, when Tristram Shandy is almost not conceived in a bizarre episode of coitus interruptus. An abrupt vitality is Sterne's great contribution to the art of the novel. Adopting Fielding's omniscient third-person narrative, he cheerfully set about subverting any authorial omniscience by humorously reflecting on how little he, the author, knew of his characters or their predicaments. The critic Christopher Ricks captures Sterne's playfulness when he describes Tristram Shandy as "the greatest shaggy dog story in the language".
So what is it about ? The short answer is that it is about 600 pages (in my Penguin Classics edition), and that, despite its title, it fails to give the reader much of the life or any of the opinions of its hero. Shandy himself only gets born in volume IV. Much of the narrative is taken up by Unce Toby, a veteran of the wars against Louis XIV, and his obsession with siegecraft. When, at the end, Tristram's long-suffering mother asks, "Lord! what is all this story about?" Parson Yorick replies, "A COCK and a BULL – and one of the best of its kind I ever heard."
A Note on the Text:
The first two volumes were published in 1759 in York by Ann Ward (at Sterne's expense) having been turned down by Robert Dodsley. When the novel became a runaway success, Dodsley rushed out a second edition, with illustrations by Hogarth in April 1760, and then published volumes III and IV.
Sterne took a close interest in his publishers, and for the last volumes moved to Becket and De Hondt to get better terms. He enjoyed publishing his work serially, small octavo volumes of fewer than 200 pages. The full-length Tristram Shandyconveys none of the delight that the 18th-century reader could expect, collecting the novel, volume by volume from year to year.
Other Sterne Titles:
A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768)
by Alice Munro
Fiona lived in her parents’ house, in the town where she and Grant went to university. It was a big, bay-windowed house that seemed to Grant both luxurious and disorderly, with rugs crooked on the floors and cup rings bitten into the table varnish. Her mother was Icelandic—a powerful woman with a froth of white hair and indignant far-left politics. The father was an important cardiologist, revered around the hospital but happily subservient at home, where he would listen to his wife’s strange tirades with an absent-minded smile. Fiona had her own little car and a pile of cashmere sweaters, but she wasn’t in a sorority, and her mother’s political activity was probably the reason. Not that she cared. Sororities were a joke to her, and so was politics—though she liked to play “The Four Insurgent Generals” on the phonograph, and sometimes also the “Internationale,” very loud, if there was a guest she thought she could make nervous. A curly-haired gloomy-looking foreigner was courting her—she said he was a Visigoth—and so were two or three quite respectable and uneasy young interns. She made fun of them all and of Grant as well. She would drolly repeat some of his small-town phrases. He thought maybe she was joking when she proposed to him, on a cold bright day on the beach at Port Stanley. Sand was stinging their faces and the waves delivered crashing loads of gravel at their feet.
“Do you think it would be fun—” Fiona shouted. “Do you think it would be fun if we got married?”
He took her up on it, he shouted yes. He wanted never to be away from her. She had the spark of life.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
By Alice Munro
I am convinced that my father looked at me, really saw me, only once. After that, he knew what was there.
In those days, they didn’t let fathers into the glare of the theatre where babies were born, or into the room where the women about to give birth were stifling their cries or suffering aloud. Fathers laid eyes on the mothers only once they were cleaned up and conscious and tucked under pastel blankets in the ward or in semi-private or private rooms. My mother had a private room, as became her status in town, and it was just as well, actually, seeing the way things turned out.
I don’t know whether my father saw my mother before or after he stood outside the window of the nursery for his first glimpse of me. I rather think that it was after, and that when she heard his steps outside her door she felt the anger in them but did not yet know what had caused it. After all, she had borne him a son, which was, presumably, what all men wanted.
I know what he said. Or what she told me he said.
“What a chunk of chopped liver.”
Then, “You don’t need to think you’re going to bring that into the house.”
One side of my face was—is—normal. And my entire body was normal from toes to shoulders. Twenty-one inches was my length, eight pounds five ounces my weight. A strapping male infant, fair-skinned, though probably still red from my unremarkable recent journey.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
BOYS AND GIRLS
My father was a fox farmer. That is, he raised silver foxes, in pens; and in the fall and early winter, when their fur was prime, he killed them and skinned them and sold their pelts to the Hudson's Bay Company or the Montreal Fur Traders. These companies supplied us with heroic calendars to hang, one on each side of the kitchen door. Against a background of cold blue sky and black pine forests and treacherous northern rivers, plumed adventures planted the flags of England and or of France; magnificent savages bent their backs to the portage.
For several weeks before Christmas, my father worked after supper in the cellar of our house. the cellar was whitewashed , and lit by a hundred-watt bulb over the worktable. My brother Laird and I sat on the top step and watched. My father removed the pelt inside-out from the body of the fox, which looked surprisingly small, mean, and rat-like, deprived of its arrogant weight of fur. The naked, slippery bodies were collected in a sack and buried in the dump. One time the hired man, Henry Bailey, had taken a swipe at me with this sack, saying, "Christmas present!" My mother thought that was not funny. In fact she disliked the whole pelting operation--that was what the killing, skinning, and preparation of the furs was called – and wished it did not have to take place in the house. There was the smell. After the pelt had been stretched inside-out on a long board my father scraped away delicately, removing the little clotted webs of blood vessels, the bubbles of fat; the smell of blood and animal fat, which the strong primitive odor of the fox itself, penetrated all parts of the house. I found it reassuringly seasonal, like the smell of oranges and pine needles.
Henry Bailey suffered from bronchial troubles. He would cough and cough until his narrow face turned scarlet, and his light blue, derisive eyes filled up with tears; then he took the lid off the stove, and, standing well back, shot out a great clot of phlegm – hss – straight into the heart of the flames. We admired his for this performance and for his ability to make his stomach growl at will, and for his laughter, which was full of high whistlings and gurglings and involved the whole faulty machinery of his chest. It was sometimes hard to tell what he was laughing at, and always possible that it might be us.
Friday, October 25, 2013
Carla heard the car coming before it topped the little rise in the road that around here they called a hill. It’s her, she thought. Mrs. Jamieson—Sylvia—home from her holiday in Greece. From the barn door—but far enough inside that she could not easily be seen—she watched the road where Mrs. Jamieson would have to drive by, her place being half a mile farther along than Clark and Carla’s.
If it was somebody coming to see them, the car would be slowing down by now. But still Carla hoped. Let it not be her.
It was. Mrs. Jamieson turned her head once, quickly—she had all she could do to maneuver her car through the ruts and puddles the rain had made in the gravel—but she didn’t lift a hand off the wheel to wave, she didn’t spot Carla. Carla got a glimpse of a tanned arm bare to the shoulder, hair bleached a lighter color than it had been before, more white now than silver-blond, and an expression that was both exasperated and amused at her own exasperation—just the way Mrs. Jamieson would look negotiating this road. When she turned her head there was something like a bright flash—of inquiry, of hopefulness—that made Carla shrink back.
Maybe Clark didn’t know yet. If he was sitting at the computer, he would have his back to the window and the road.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Photo by Harry Callahan
When Grace goes looking for the Traverses’ summer house, in the Ottawa Valley, it has been many years since she was in that part of the country. And, of course, things have changed. Highway 7 now avoids towns that it used to go right through, and it goes straight in places where, as she remembers, there used to be curves. This part of the Canadian Shield has many small lakes, which most maps have no room to identify. Even when she locates Sabot Lake, or thinks she has, there seem to be too many roads leading into it from the county road, and then, when she chooses one, too many paved roads crossing it, all with names that she does not recall. In fact, there were no street names when she was here, more than forty years ago. There was no pavement, either—just one dirt road running toward the lake, then another running rather haphazardly along the lake’s edge.
Now there is a village. Or perhaps it’s a suburb, because she does not see a post office or even the most unpromising convenience store. The settlement lies four or five streets deep along the lake, with houses strung close together on small lots. Some of them are undoubtedly summer places—the windows already boarded up, as they always were for the winter. But many others show all the signs of year-round habitation—habitation, in many cases, by people who have filled the yards with plastic gym sets and outdoor grills and training bikes and motorcycles and picnic tables, where some of them sit now having lunch or beer on this warm September day. There are other people, not so visible—students, maybe, or old hippies living alone—who have put up flags or sheets of tinfoil for curtains. Small, mostly decent, cheap houses, some fixed to withstand the winter and some not.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Monday, October 21, 2013
The 100 best novels: No 5
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (1749)
ow many readers, if they are honest, discovered some of the greatest novels through film or television? Gatsby? Pride and Prejudice? The English Patient? Dr Zhivago? I first got interested in Tom Jones having seen John Osborne's famous adaptation, starring the young Albert Finney as the eponymous hero. That's an exceptional film. Classics often don't make good films, or only do so – such as Oliver! – through a process of reinterpretation.
Tom Jones, however, might have been made for the screen. Never mind its numerous chapters and teeming cast of misfits and scoundrels, the central character is an attractively unbridled young man of fierce temper and unrestrained sexuality who pursues true love through contemporary Britain in a sequence of scandalous and hilarious adventures. Published in the mid-18th century, Tom Jones is a classic English novel that captures the spirit of its age and whose famous characters – Squire Western, the chaplain Thwackum, the scheming Blifil, seductive Molly Seagrim and Sophia, Tom's true love – have come to represent Augustan society in all its loquacious, turbulent, comic variety.
The secret of Tom Jones was to be intimately connected to its contemporary audience. By the 1740s, the English novel was attracting new kinds of reader and, in turn, new kinds of writer. Not only was there an explosion of print media and a booming middle-class audience, there were innovative novelists for whom this popular new genre offered the prospect of a decent living. Many would continue to starve in Grub Street, but some had begun to make money. Samuel Johnson, famously, sold his over-earnest romance, Rasselas, to pay for his mother's funeral.
Henry Fielding was typical of this new generation. Born in 1707, he was a wholly 18th-century man. With a classical education at Eton, family connections and a good career in the law, in which he is sometimes credited with laying the foundations of the Metropolitan police, he turned to fiction partly to fund an extravagant lifestyle and partly to engage with a stimulating contemporary audience.
Fielding was writing at a time of intense social and political change and took up his pen in response to the crises of the moment. Until the repressive Licensing Act of 1737, he had enjoyed a reputation as the author of satirical burlesques. When the Jacobite uprising (the '45) threatened the Hanoverian settlement, Fielding sprang to the defence of George II, and edited the True Patriot.
In hindsight, the English novel was an obvious new arena for his imagination, but it was literary rivalry that pushed him, in middle age, on to the path of fiction. In 1740, Samuel Richardson's Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, the tale of a young woman who becomes a great lady and finds true happiness by defending her chastity, was the London sensation of the season, an early bestseller. Fielding's response to Pamela was complicated. He admired its success, scorned its sententious moralising, and attacked it in an anonymous parody, Shamela (1741). Thriving on the competition with Richardson, Fielding next completed his first novel, Joseph Andrews (1742), which began as a further parody of Pamela before finding its own narrative voice. After this debut, following the dramas of the '45, Fielding began work on his masterpiece, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling.
For Coleridge, this long novel was, withOedipus Rex and The Alchemist, one of "the three most perfect plots ever planned". It was also highly original and deeply comic. Fielding broke away from Richardson's epistolary technique of "writing to the moment" to compose his narrative in the third person. This engaging picaresque tale about the adventures of Tom, a high-spirited bastard, rollicking through England, was an instant hit, selling some 10,000 copies at a time when the population of London was only around 700,000.
One conservative critic denounced Tom Jones as "a motley history of bastardism, fornication, and adultery", which can't have done sales any harm. Samuel Johnson, more measured, thought that such novels were a dangerous distraction "to the young, the ignorant and the idle…", offering merely "the entertainment of minds unfurnished with ideas". However, for better or worse, this mass audience represented the future of the genre, and inspired Fielding's opening credo, which was to provide "an entertainment" for public consumption. "The author", he wrote in his first chapter, should provide "a mental entertainment", where "all persons are welcome for their money". Quite so.
A Note on the Text:
Fielding had read parts of Tom Jones to friends and circulated privately printed episodes from the novel in the autumn of 1748. The official publication date was 10 February 1749, though Fielding's bookseller, Andrew Millar, began distributing copies a week earlier, playing the role of publisher in an age when such a profession did not exist. The first edition was exhausted at once; second and third editions followed on 28 February and 12 April. The fourth edition came at the end of the same year and it's this text that remains the basis for modern editions.
Three other Fielding books:
The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews (1742); A Journey from this World to the Next (1749); Amelia (1751)