10 Birthdays and A Funeral

'We have to make a birthday tea for 10 and a funeral tea...'

20 March – a big day in cultural history: 43 BC – Ovid “Take your fill of amusement, but cast the veil of modesty over your peccadilloes. Never make a parade of your good fortune, and never give a woman a present that another woman will recognise.” [The Art of Love] “Death is not accustomed to injure genius, and greater fame arrives after we have become ashes…” [Epistle to an Envious Man]. 1828 – Henrik Ibsen “SOLNESS: Human beings haven’t any use for these homes of theirs. Not for being happy in. And I shouldn’t have had use for a…

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Those Barren Leaves

By Aldous Huxley (1925) “Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books; Or surely you’ll grow double: Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks; Why all this toil and trouble? … Enough of Science and of Art; Close up those barren leaves; Come forth, and bring with you a heart That watches and receives.” [William Wordsworth, The Tables Turned (1798)] Huxley’s sojourn among the leisured and treasured and their hangers-on, impoverished chancers all, stationed above the Tyrrenhian Sea, whilst as “clever but ephemeral”* as all his books, is still a hoot, a wiry satire of cultural elites who talk…

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Watership Down by Richard Adams

Nuthanger Farm. Visited by the rabbits on their odyssey.

“Bright eyes, burning like fire…” O sorry, where were we?  I was lost in contemplation of the ugly film animation of this story – I don’t think that the term “bright eyes” appears at all in the classic children’s book. And these rabbits wouldn’t like the fire simile at all. The rabbits of Sandleford Warren have got to get out of there.  Led by intrepid Hazel and little Fiver (a seer, no less) a small but feisty party sets off for a new home which is way way too far off, across too many hazards.  On the way we learn that pet rabbits become lazy and dull, that to…

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My Brilliant Friend (by Elena Ferrante)

February 13, 2018 | Posted by Lesley Jakobsen | Fiction, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WRITING & LITERATURE |

Children of Naples

In a ragged post-war Neapolitan suburb, families send their children to school under sufferance. But two young pupils –  pointlessly enough, girls – exhibit well above-average intellectual ability.  But which one of the pair is the brilliant friend?  Studious, pragmatic Elena, or the mercurial, nihilistic Lila? The girls’ time and place is particularly dangerous.  “Our world was like that, full of words that killed: croup, tetanus, typhus, gas, war, lathe, rubble, work, bombardment, bomb, tuberculosis, infection.  With these words and those years I bring back the many fears that accompanied me all my life.” But then again, it is an all-too familiar child’s world of not quite-real, misunderstood…

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Lost in Translation

February 9, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Fiction, Poetry, WRITING & LITERATURE |

(Thomas Bernhard, 9 February 1931 – 12 February 1989) ‘Lost in Translation‘ is an average film, but an excellent phrase. The Bridge between languages is (to cite another poor film) A Bridge Too Far, where literary translation is concerned. L may be close to mastering Classical Greek but this does not solve the problem of children in England who have to take a test on The Iliad. Whether translation be ‘faithful’ or ‘loose,’ the rules of language suggest that most literary translation will be something else than the original.  If you don’t believe me, try reading The Odyssey by Alexander…

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