Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

22
Apr

Literary giant Gabriel García Márquez dies in Mexico City at age 87

Written on April 22, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Literature

ggmGabriel García Márquez, the Nobel Prize-winning author whose novelOne Hundred Years of Solitude is considered one of the finest works of 20th-century literature, died on Thursday at his home in Mexico City. He was 87.

His death came just days after the Colombian author’s family acknowledged that he was in “delicate health” after the Mexico City dailyEl Universal reported that he was receiving palliative care. The Colombian government, however, had denied El Universal’s report that he was dying from lymphoma, a disease he had been suffering from for the past decade.

A private man, García Márquez complained about the media coverage during a stay at a hospital where he was treated, according to his son, for a respiratory infection in late March.

Besides One Hundred Years of Solitude, his greatest works includeAutumn of the Patriarch, Love in the Time of Cholera and The General in his Labyrinth.

Born in Aracataca, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, on March 6, 1927, “Gabo,” as he was known throughout his life, spent his childhood growing up in his grandparents’ house. The eldest of 11 children, he attended school in Barranquilla and received a scholarship in 1940 to continue his studies in Zipaquirá, where he graduated from the Colegio Nacional. He was selected to speak at the graduation ceremonies.

Influenced by Kafka and Joyce, he made his literary debut in 1947 with La tercera resignación (The Third Resignation). At the time, he was studying law and political science at Colombia’s National University.

But it was his 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude – about the trials and tribulations of the generations of the fictional patriarchal Buendia family – that won the most acclaim, and is perhaps considered his best work. It has been translated into more than 30 languages and is required reading for students throughout Latin America.

Continue reading in El País

17
Apr

‘Charlie Chaplin’, by Peter Ackroyd

Written on April 17, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Literature

chaplinPeter Ackroyd’s compact new life of Charlie Chaplin opens magnificently in the heart of south London in the last decade of the 19th century. This is a London rife with the “suspect pleasures” of gin and music halls; a London crammed with factories making biscuits, glue and pickles; a London of timber warehouses and slaughterhouses; a London reeking of smoke, beer and poverty. Young Chaplin’s existence in this world was never stable. No birth or baptismal certificates relating to him have ever been found. He was not even certain of the identity of his biological father, taking the name of a successful music hall singer who was, for a spell, married to his mother – herself a music hall artiste and later a mender of old clothes.

Chaplin’s childhood was perilous and often frightening, with disturbances and deprivation to rival Oliver Twist. Frequent flits from a series of rented rooms with a mattress on his back were a fact of his boyhood. There were periods spent in the Southwark workhouse, nights sleeping rough with his half-brother Sydney, a time at a school for the destitute. His mother’s mental illnesses meant that she was in and out of asylums and there was little interest from his “father”. John Doubleday, who made a sculpture of Chaplin a few years after the actor’s death in 1977, said he retained all his life the “undeveloped thorax of an underfed child”.

In Charlie Chaplin, Ackroyd makes it clear that humiliating childhood sensations relating to poverty and his mother’s madness stayed with Chaplin. These things and the psychological defences he employed against them perhaps explain his constant need for power and control, his terror of losing everything and even his brutal affairs of the heart that do him no credit at all. “To gauge the morals of our family by commonplace standards would be as erroneous as putting a thermometer in boiling water,” Chaplin wrote in his 1964 autobiography. Hmmm. Yet Chaplin’s boyhood sufferings were also inextricably linked to his monumental success. His ability to transform his early experience of hopelessness into a universal symbol is, for Ackroyd, the mark of his genius.

Chaplin’s journey from the London theatres smelling of “oranges and beer, of unwashed bodies and tobacco” to the moving picture industry was relatively swift. From a stage clog dancer, he progressed to the part of cat in Cinderella at the Hippodrome. His big break was the role of page in a celebrated West End production of Sherlock Holmes. From Holmes he graduated to Wal Pink’s Workmen in Repairs, a sketch in which a firm of rogue decorators called Spoiler and Messit worked their slapstick magic on a defenceless suburban villa. After this Chaplin moved to Casey’s Circus, a variety show. It was here that he discovered that the more serious he appeared, the funnier he became.

Continue reading in Financial Times

27
Feb

The Unexpected Professor

Written on February 27, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Literature

unexpectedJohn Carey has been, among other things, a professor of English at Oxford, a prominent reviewer and book-prize judge, and an ardent bee-keeper. He tells us that he considered writing a history of English literature but decided instead to write “something more personal – a history of English literature and me, how we met, how we got on, what came of it”. This, then, is his autobiography, but one in which books – books he read, books he wrote, books he admired, books he reviewed – play an unusually large part.

At times it feels like a series of free-standing disquisitions on individual books tied together with a fetching thread of reminiscence. He doesn’t just mention them: he quotes long sections, he discusses aspects of their language or imagery, he explores why they move or appeal to him. It is for the most part very skilfully done. We follow him into what we think is going to be the secret garden of personal revelation, only to find we are given a brisk tutorial on Browning’s dramatic monologues or the sound of Milton’s verse. As with a lot of teaching, we attend through the less exciting bits because we’re drawn to our teacher, curious to know what it all means for him.

The melding of the books and the life works particularly well when recalling the kinds of author who opened his mind when young – Chesterton, Shaw, Daudet, Horace (the whole book is a conscious tribute to a particular kind of 1950s grammar-school education, as these names suggest). But it starts to feel more contrived in later sections, above all when he remorselessly summarises the reviews he wrote of some 20 assorted books, mostly non-fiction. Perhaps this was meant to illustrate something of the randomness of the reviewer’s life, or Carey’s omnivorousness as a reader, but in practice it engenders much the same feeling as it does when someone gets you in a corner and starts telling you, at length, about books you haven’t read or films you haven’t seen.

The best bits, as so often in autobiographies, come when he writes with real affection – whether about playing as a child during the second world war, or about his happy marriage, or about gardening at his cottage in the Cotswolds that “seems deep in the country”. Or about his bees. These hardworking creatures prompt him not just to admiration – “almost everything about bees is amazing” – but to some of his most winningly poetic touches, as when he recalls “the sight of bees on the landing board waddling up into the darkness of the hives, the orange pollen-packs on their back legs shining like brake lights”. These are moments of pastoral when the groundedness of a more rural existence is invoked to show up the shallowness of literary London or the futility of academic politics; after all, he has found a better class of buzz.

Continue reading in The Guardian

12
Feb

Bearn y Salina ¿parientes lejanos?

Written on February 12, 2014 by Fernando Dameto Zaforteza in Literature

ventanaPor Fernando Dameto Zaforteza, sudirector de Humanidades en IE Humanities Center

Ayer en Versión Española, en un merecidísimo homenaje a la diseñadora de vestuario Yvonne Blake, proyectaron la película “Bearn o la casa de muñecas”. La figurinista explicó cómo Jaime Chávarri, director del film, le dijo que se inspirase en el Gatopardo, a lo que la presentadora añadió que la obra maestra de Visconti sobrevoló por todos los aspectos del rodaje. Esta influencia no es casual, de hecho es bastante frecuente  escuchar cómo se compararan ambas novelas o incluso la coletilla “Bearn es el Gatopardo Mallorquín”.

Las tres principales razones por las que se compara “Bearn o la casa de Muñecas” del mallorquín Lorenzo Villalonga (1897-1980) y “El Gatopardo” del siciliano Giuseppe Tomassi de Lampedusa (1896-1957) son que ambas fueron escritas en los años 50 del siglo XX, que la acción trascurre durante la segunda mitad del siglo XIX y que los protagonistas, Antonio de Bearn y el Príncipe de Salina, son considerados fin de race. Estas son las más recurrentes pero evidentemente no las únicas.

Tanto el autor palermitano como el palmesano provienen de estirpes nobiliarias con un fuerte arraigo en sus respectivas islas mediterráneas. Además ninguno de los dos fue escritor profesional, peor le fue a Lampedusa que murió sin poder ver su obra publicada. Villalonga, aunque en el ocaso de su vida gozó de cierto reconocimiento, nunca pudo vivir de la escritura y sus ingresos provenían de su dedicación a la psiquiatría. Lo más curioso es que ambos escribieron sus obras prácticamente a la vez, Lampedusa de 1954 a 1957 y Villalonga del 1952 al 1954.

Las dos obras trascurren durante la convulsa segunda mitad del siglo XIX y retratan episodios que marcaron la historia de sus respectivos países. En el caso del Gatopardo la unificación italiana. En el caso de Bearn la expulsión de la reina Isabel II y la breve Primera República Española, aunque el autor mallorquín muestra mayor interés por el segundo imperio francés o el pontificado de Leon XIII. Tanto Salina como Bearn interactúan con los personajes de su época, el primero siendo recibido en audiencia por el último rey de las Dos Sicilias, el segundo por el Sumo Pontífice. Es una pena, puestos a pedir, que no escogieran un momento histórico anterior, a fin de cuentas las dos islas mediterráneas comparten monarcas desde el siglo XIII, cuando pasan a formar parte de la corona de Aragón, hasta el tratado de Utretcht, aunque la Siciliana independiente siguió estrechamente vinculada a la Monarquía Hispánica hasta la Unificación Italiana. ¿Se imaginan a un Salina y un Bearn reflexionando sobre un mismo tema? Por ejemplo tratando el traslado de la corte de Carlos III de Nápoles a Madrid.

A pesar de ser obras corales, donde curiosamente en ambas novelas el capellán de cada casa desempeña un papel fundamental, el magnetismo que ejercen Bearn y Salina hace que acaparen todos los focos. El principal argumento para compararlas son sus protagonistas. Las dos describen las longevas vidas de nobles de rancio abolengo que les tocó lidiar con el fin de una era, de su era. Las transformaciones sociales del XIX ponen fin a una época, el antiguo régimen, que llevaba imperando desde el medievo. En todo caso, Salina y Bearn son muy distintos. El primero es físicamente imponente, autoritario, íntegro, protector y un poco fatalista. El segundo elegante, cínico, ilustrado, curioso y algo enajenado. Esto se debe a que Lampedusa basó su obra en la vida de su idealizado abuelo mientras que Villalonga inventa al personaje, de hecho en Mallorca no existen ni la casa, ni el pueblo ni el apellido Bearn, lo que le da una libertad de la que carece el primero. Parece que el personaje Señor de Bearn es una caricatura de su autor, crítico con la aristocracia y afrancesado.

La naturaleza de ambas obras difieren, los objetivos que persiguen sus autores son muy distintos. La nostalgia con que Lampedusa describe a su clase social, su vida, sus costumbres y el final de su poder, poco tiene que ver con la energía, el humor y conocimiento enciclopédico que derrocha Villalonga. Coinciden en que son excelentes novelas con magníficas versiones cinematográficas.

10
Jan

Amiri Baraka, radical playwright and poet, dies aged 79 in Newark

Written on January 10, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Literature

T437487_05Amiri Baraka, the radical man of letters whose poems, plays and criticism made him a provocative and groundbreaking force in American culture, has died aged 79.

Baraka, who had been in hospital since last month, died on Thursday at Newark Beth Israel Medical Centre, said his agent Celeste Bateman.

Perhaps no writer of the 1960s and 1970s was more radical or polarising than the man formerly known as LeRoi Jones and no one did more to extend the political debates of the civil rights era to the world of the arts.

He inspired a generation of poets, playwrights and musicians and his immersion in spoken word traditions and raw street language anticipated rap, hip-hop and slam poetry. The FBI feared him to the point of flattery, identifying Baraka as “the person who will probably emerge as the leader of the pan-African movement in the United States.”

Baraka transformed first to join the Beat caravan of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and then to lead the Black Arts Movement, an ally of the Black Power movement, that rejected the liberal optimism of the early 1960s and intensified a divide over how and whether the black artist should take on social issues. Scorning art for art’s sake and the pursuit of racial unity, Barak was part of a philosophy that called for the teaching of black art and history and producing works that bluntly called for revolution.

“We want poems that kill,'” Baraka wrote in his landmark Black Art manifesto published in 1965, the year he helped found the Black Arts Movement. “Assassin poems. Poems that shoot guns/ Poems that wrestle cops into alleys/ and take their weapons leaving them dead/ with tongues pulled out and sent to Ireland.”

He was as eclectic as he was prolific. His influences ranged from Ray Bradbury and Mao Zedong to Ginsberg and John Coltrane. Baraka wrote poems, short stories, novels, essays, plays, musical and cultural criticism and jazz operas.

Continue reading in The Guardian

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