Saturday, February 21, 2015

An Addendum to the “Knee – Jerk Reaction”

A Knee-Jerk Reaction

Adore = admire, be crazy about, be gone on, be mad for, be nuts about, be serious about, be smitten with, be stuck on, be sweet on, be wild about, cherish, delight in, dig*, dote on, esteem, exalt, fall for, flip over, glorify, go for, honour, idolize, prize, revere, reverence, treasure, venerate. Yes I love this Collection of tales ‘n’ whimsy, this was a reread, I read some of these stories a good few years ago as Cosmicomics & this complete collection, with all Italo Calvino’s tales gathered up for our delight, doesn't disappoint - in fact this is one of the most joyful books I've read in a long time, just love it.



The Addendum

I started this book in the closing days of January, thinking that this was a reread of a book that I had first read & adored sometime in my teenage years, I realised rapidly that what I had actually read was Cosmicomics which makes up part of this books & gives the book it’s title. On finishing The Complete Cosmicomics, I went on Goodreads to shout, sing & kind of express my love for this wonderful collection of …. what? Of Hooey, giddiness, Fables, applesauce, flapdoodle, song and dance, yes! Song and dance, as in the sense of implausible stories, and yet this is still not correct because whilst reading this collection of tales, I believed every word that Qfwfq said to me, Oh yes did I mention that this beautiful anthology of tomfoolery is narrated by an unknown entity answering to the name Qfwfq. Perhaps I should start this again but with the relevant background information.

The Facts? ( Wikipedia) image

The Complete Cosmicomics came out in 2009  & collects almost all of the Cosmicomic stories by Italian postmodern writer Italo Calvino.

The single volume collection includes the following:

  • The 12 stories that comprise Cosmicomics
  • The 11 stories that comprise t zero (also published as Time and the Hunter)
  • 4 stories from Numbers in the Dark and Other Stories
  • 7 stories newly translated by Martin McLaughlin (available for the first time in English)

Translator Martin McLaughlin explains the origins of the seven new stories in his introduction to The Complete Cosmicomics:

A little-known third collection – La memoria del mondo e altre storie cosmicomiche ("World Memory and Other Cosmicomic Stories") (1968), a volume not available commercially in Italy – offered 20 fictions in all, 12 from the previous two collections [Cosmicomics and t zero] and eight new pieces (seven of these new items are translated here for the first time into English; the other new 1968 tale, the title story, was translated by Tim Parks as "World Memory" in the 1992 volume Numbers in the Dark). 


 The Truth?

At the beginning, way before the Big Bang and all that loud kerfuffle that came & followed it, all matter was focused in a single point, there was no space, no time, all these came later as witnessed by Qfwfq. In fact in various guises he was around & either inadvertently created or was a part of everything, he remembers being a Mollusc, remembers the earth when there wasn’t an atmosphere, he tells the tale of when the moon used to come so close to the earth one could jump up and collect moon milk & how it moved away.



All of these stories start with some scientific fact, theory or concept, that may or may not have since been found to be pure hokum and from there Calvino works his magic, creating journeys of scientific discovery & fairy tale from exactly the same set of words, yes I don’t know what I mean either, an example is that the picture above relates to the tale “The Distance of the Moon,” and this is based on the premise stated by Sir George H. Darwin that at one time the moon was a lot closer to the Earth, from this Calvino creates a tale of unrequited love that has more pathos than anything I’ve read in a while and yet they also have an absolute joy about them. This is a writer playing with words like Lego bricks, like a child building something merely to delight in knocking it down, there’s a playfulness that just makes me smile, makes me grin & whilst I maybe sat on a chair at home or someplace else inside I’m Dancing Dancing Dancing, to the wonderful tunes of  Qfwfq and his producer Italo Calvino.


Qfwfq, is as old as the universe and has taken various forms and is described as "not surprised by anything", and characteristically "not at all sentimental about being the last dinosaur"

Italo Calvino, (1923 - 1985) was an Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952–1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If on a winter's night a traveler (1979).

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Such barghests of the minds design

Dark Things, Poems by Novica Tadić

Dark ThingsAnomie (Anomy), in societies or individuals is a condition of instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values or from a lack of purpose or ideals. The term was introduced by the French sociologist Emile Durkheim, in his influential work “Suicide” (1897). When a social system is in a state of anomie, common values and meanings are no longer understood or accepted, and new values and meanings have not developed. According to Durkheim such a society produces in many of its members, psychological states characterised by a sense of futility, lack of purpose, emotional emptiness and despair – Striving is considered useless because there is no accepted definition of what is desirable.


Although Durkheim’s concept of anomie referred to a condition of relative normlessness* of a society or social group, other writers have used the term with reference to the individual. In this psychological usage anomie relates to the state of mind of a person  who has no standards, or sense of continuity or obligation & that has rejected all social bonds.

Someone Whispered To Me In A Dream 

Someone whispered to me in a dream
that on this Earth, there’ll be no
more water, only blood.

We’ll drink each other’s blood
as we have always done
and won’t dream of it anymore.

Over dried out springs,
bones of dead animals and last humans
will pile up.

Young hyenas with our faces
will titter and fight
around their gnawed and dry remains.

The individual may feel that their community leaders are indifferent to their needs, that society is basically unpredictable, lacking order and that goals are not being realised, leaving them with a sense of futility & that they are no dependable sources of support.

May I open the door into the world of Novica Tadić

About The Knife

I think well about the knife,

think, think.

For you covered in feathers,

I am permitted to be a monster.

Because of the curse of drink,

I collided with a fence, fell down,

And became a quarrelsome and desperate man

Ready to jump into the fire._


My blood wouldn’t let me rest.


Mercy walked away from me.

Now, quickly, you do the same

In his introduction to “Dark Things” Charles Simic, writes that “Tadić is a poet of the dark night of history” going on to say that his protagonist, like the condemned Christ, in some painterly depiction of Ecce Homo is surrounded by an enraged mob, who although wretched themselves


A Straitjacket

Is being woven

And cut to measure

On you.

This theme appears to haunt Tadić, like some personal barghest and as such it is this weltschmerz that inhabits all his work, the meek & mild are merely badly abused playthings of the powerful, who themselves are wretched and played upon by those more powerful. There are great but no good, this is a world where the hand not seen carries a dagger and the hand seen is not raised in salutation but merely to club you or holding some other means of doing you down. Dark Things is a world of folk/fairie tale, but one devoid of hope or moral compass, a world where Prince Charming, is no handsome hero out to save the heroine, his motif, if defined would be his own will regardless of harm, his name a term of abuse, a sarcastic tag hung upon him by those with the power to do little else but snipe from behind masks of ill intent.

Armful Of Twigs

Armful of dry twigs
I carry to the fire
through busy streets.

I can't see the stake,
don't know who is being
burnt alive or why.

Flames rise in the glow
beyond the ecstatic crowd
singing, shouting and firing guns.

(This dream, I am not
bound to forget.)

Don't sway like that, O my curtain.

On a more personal note, I first came across this writer sometime in the early 1990’s through a wonderful anthology of East European poetry called “Child of Europe”, this had a fantastic collection of poets/poetry such as Tomaž Šalamun, Gojko Đogo & Sylva Fischerova, but for some reason Novica Tadić, was the poet that stayed with me, one that I kept returning to in particular the poem “A Conversation” which doesn’t appear in this collection, however I’m posting it here because it was the reason I went on to buy the book.

A conversation

One of the Cyclopes

Met me in the street and


---------where was my

where was my

where was my

other eye little eye


I don’t have it

I don’t have it

I don’t have it

It never


This for some reason resonated with me, baffled me no end, I kept trying to find why this rung true for me and the closest I could get was to do with hope or lack of it, that the other eye that was being constantly denied represented a hope that couldn’t be acknowledged, but was there - it had just never opened from beneath the sealed eyelid, never had a reason to open. This is probably nonsense and nothing like what Novica Tadić had in mind when putting those words on paper, he was just writing his response to a world gone mad, in fact Charles Simic states in his introduction that “if Hieronymus Bosch had gotten around to writing poems, they would sound like Tadić’s, He also said that the only way to write realistically about the Balkans is through Surrealism.


Novica Tadić was born in 1949 in a small village in Montenegro, but lived most of his life in Belgrade dying there 2011. The author of fourteen previous collections of poetry, he was considered the most respected living Serbian poet and linguistic “heir” to the late, great Serbian poet Vasko Popa. The author of many celebrated collections, including The Object of Ridicule, Monster, The Unknown, and Dark Things, Tadić has won almost every major Serbian literary award, including the prestigious Laureat Nagrade. In the last two decades, he served as editor of several Serbian literary magazines, and his books of poems have been translated into more than two dozen languages.

Prior to the publication of Dark Things (BOA, 2009), only one full-length collection of his poetry had previously appeared in English: Night Mail: Selected Poems (Oberlin College Press, 1992), this was also translated by Charles Simic.

People Went By

People went by in waves,

Stared at and admired

All sorts of things in shop windows,

And bought a few.


The one dressed in black

said to the one with a briefcase.

“Why do I need that?”

And didn’t wave away his hand

as ordinary mortals do

when they deny something

to themselves.


As years pass,

I find that little tableau

more and more bewitching

and appealing.


A day will come

When I’ll only

think about that.

Dušan "Charles" Simić  1938) is a Serbian-American poet, translator, essayist and was co-poetry editor of the Paris Review. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1990 for The World Doesn't End, and was a finalist of the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for Selected Poems, 1963-1983 and in 1987 for Unending Blues. He was appointed the fifteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 2007

Charles Simic

BOA Editions

* Normlessness, Durkheim never uses the term normlessness, American sociologist Robert K. Merton studied the causes of anomie, or normlessness, finding it severest in people who lack an acceptable means of achieving their personal goals.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Homage To Life ~ Jules Supervielle


Jules Supervielle was a French poet, dramatist, and short-story writer, born on the 16th January 1884 in Uruguay. T.S. Eliot said of him and Saint-John Perse, "There are no two poets of their generations of whose permanence I feel more assured" and Rilke who greatly admired him stated that Supervielle was "a great builder of bridges into space".

Born in 1884 in Montevideo, to a father from Béarn and a Basque mother - this same year, he and his parents returned to France on a family visit. Whilst there a tragic accident occurs - his father and mother die brutally, either by drinking poisoned by tap water or as victims of cholera, leaving Jules to initially be raised by his grandmother.

In 1886, he returns to Uruguay, with his uncle Bernard and is raised by his aunt and uncle as if he was their own son.

1894 his uncle and his aunt settle in Paris, where Jules will receive all his secondary education, by 1889 he has discovered writers such as Musset, Hugo, Lamartine, Leconte de Lisle and Sully Prudhomme and he starts to write poems in secret. 1901 he publishes in account of author a plate of poems entitled Brumes du passé, although based in France he returns to Uruguay for his summer holidays. From 1902 to 1906, Jules continues his studies, from the baccalaureat to the licence of literature, he then completes his military service although his fragile health makes his experience of life in the barracks difficult.

Homage To Life

It’s good to have chosen 
A living home 
And housed time 
In a ceaseless heart 
And seen my hands 
Alight on the world, 
As on an apple 
In a little garden, 
To have loved the earth, 
The moon and the sun 
Like old friends 
Who have no equals, 
And to have committed 
The world to memory 
Like a bright horseman 
To his black steed, 
To have given a face 
To these words — woman, children, 
And to have been a shore 
For the wandering continents 
And to have come upon the soul 
With tiny strokes of the oars, 
For it is scared away 
By a brusque approach. 
It is beautiful to have known 
The shade under the leaves, 
And to have felt age 
Creep over the naked body, 
And have accompanied pain 
Of black blood in our veins, 
And gilded its silence 
With the star, Patience, 
And to have all these words 
Moving around in the head, 
To choose the least beautiful of them 
And let them have a ball, 
To have felt life, 
Hurried and ill loved, 
And locked it up 
In this poetry.

In 1907 He gets married to Pilar Saavedra,  between 1908 and 1929 they will have six children. After years spent travelling in 1912 he sets down roots in Paris where apart from visits to Uruguay he will remain the next two decades. During this period he will be conscripted using his linguistic abilities for the ministry of war, he will also publish his first important collection of poetry Débarcadères (1922) and his first novel L'Homme de la pampa (1923). By 1925 he is fully immersed in the literary Scene, associating with the likes of the great German poet Rainer Maria Rilke and has also published what is considered one of the major collections of French-speaking poetry of the 20th century Gravitations, this is followed up in 1931 by the publication of his first important collection of fantastical short-stories: L'Enfant de la haute mer,  and his first major play, La Belle au bois.


One day the Earth will be

just a blind space turning,  

night confused with day.  

Under the vast Andean sky  

there’ll be no more mountains,  

not a rock or ravine.  

Only one balcony will remain  

of all the world’s buildings,  

and of the human mappa mundi,  

limitless sorrow.  

In place of the Atlantic Ocean,  

a little saltiness in the air,  

and a fish, flying and magical  

with no knowledge of the sea.  

In a car of the 1900s (no road  

for its wheels) three girls  

of that time, pressing onwards  

like ghosts in the fog.  

They’ll peer through the door  

thinking they’re nearing Paris  

when the odor of the sky  

grips them by the throat.  

Instead of a forest  

there’ll be one bird singing,  

which nobody will ever place,  

or prefer, or even hear.  

Except for God, who listening out,  

proclaims it a goldfinch.  

Translation: Moniza Alvi


With the outbreak of the 2nd World War, Jules Supervielle finds himself back in Uruguay in exile for seven years with some serious health issues (pulmonary and cardiac problems) and by 1940 bankrupt. Although this has little impact on his literary output with his plays being taken up by the top directors of this period & Jules devoting himself to translation (Guillen, Lorca, Shakespeare, etc.), he will also receive several literary prizes. In 1944 he makes a series of conferences at the University of Montevideo on contemporary French poetry and in 1946 returns to France, having been named cultural correspondent to the legation of Uruguay in Paris and publishes his first mythological tales under the title Orphée. He continues to write and publish his works now back in france, putting out a autobiographical account entitled Boire à la source in 1951 & also a poetry collection Naissances. During this period  he is suffering from the after effects of his earlier health issues and in 1959 publishes his last collection of verse Le Corps tragique, on the 17th May 1960 he dies and is buried in Oloron-Sainte-Marie, but not before being elected Prince des poètes ("Prince of poets") by his peers.


Rain and the Tyrants

I stand and watch the rain

Falling in pools which make

Our grave old planet shine;

The clear rain falling, just the same

As that which fell in Homer's time

And that which dropped in Villon's day

Falling on mother and on child

As on the passive backs of sheep;

Rain saying all it has to say

Again and yet again, and yet

Without the power to make less hard

The wooden heads of tyrants or

To soften their stone hearts,

And powerless to make them feel

Amazement as they ought;

A drizzling rain which falls

Across all Europe's map,

Wrapping all men alive

In the same moist envelope;

Despite the soldiers loading arms,

Despite the newspapers' alarms,

Despite all this, all that,

A shower of drizzling rain

Making the flags hang wet.

Translation: David Gascoyne

In October of the same year The New French Review (La Nouvelle Revue Française) prints a special number paying homage to him and From 1966 to 1987 there is publication at the editions Gallimard (collection "Poésie") of his principal poetic collections.

In 1990: The city of Oloron-Sainte-Marie creates the Jules-Supervielle prize; amongst the prize winners, you’ll find the names of  major contemporary poets, such as - Alain Bosquet, Eugène Guillevic, Henri Thomas, Jean Grosjean & Lionel Ray.

Whisper in Agony

Don't be shocked,
Close your eyes
Until they turn
Truly to stone.

Leave your heart alone
Even if it stops.
It beats solely for itself
from a secret inclination of its own.

Your hands will spread out
from the frozen block
and your brow will be bare
as a great square between
two occupied armies.

Translation: Douglas Messerli

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Hidden Camera - Zoran Živković

349654You come home from work & find an unmarked white envelope, you open it and are invited to a film screening that night, do you go?

This is how Hidden Camera starts.

The narrator goes to the screening to find that only one other person is there for the viewing. As the film progresses he comes to realise that it is him on the screen sitting on a bench eating his lunch, and that a rather beautiful women who joins him on the bench, is the other individual at the screening.

End of film lights go down.

The women vanishes replaced by another unmarked envelope, inviting him to a second-hand bookshop.
This becomes a series of increasingly bizarre journeys involving a zoo, a sewer, a churchyard & a hospital, each with its set scene that the narrator attempts to fathom meaning from. This is a strange book, but strange in an ordinary way, by this I mean that for all the bizarre happening's within its pages you except it all, as does this book's protagonist, making this appear as though a dream and yet despite this nothing revealed is certain -  all is down to perspective, as if viewed from a different angle a different dance/dancer would appear.

Making this tale a cerebral one, by which I mean that it is predominantly of the mind & if I go back to the perspectives idea, seen from a different angle the narrator is just a lab rat sent around some arcane maze on the whim of some scientist with no intent to answer any questions, in fact it not even to formulate them, leaving any questioning/ interpretation to you as you follow this journey that may only exist within the mind of the narrator , he is your only reference point and an insecure neurotic one at that, none of which assists you in the interpretation of this book. Although to be fair, this is of little concern as you turn the pages readily investing your time in hope of divining some meaning from this mystery, or your way out of this maze.

Zoran Živković
Zoran Živković ( Зоран Живковић) born October 5, 1948 is a writer, university professor, essayist, researcher, publisher and translator from Belgrade, Serbia. He has won several literary awards for his fiction. In 1994 his novel The Fourth Circle won the "Miloš Crnjanski" Award. In 2003, Živković's mosaic novel The Library won a World Fantasy Award for Best Novella. In 2007 his novel The Bridge won the "Isidora Sekulić" Award. In 2007 Živković received the "Stefan Mitrov Ljubiša" Award for his life achievement in literature.

In 2005, Belgrade TV station Studio B produced The Collector (Sakupljač) TV series, based upon Živković's mosaic novel Twelve Collections.

In 2007, notable Serbian film author Puriša Đorđević directed the film Two (Dva), based on Živković's fictional themes.

Two of Živković's stories were produced as radio broadcasts by the BBC: "The Train" (2005) and "Alarm Clock on the Night Table" (2007).

The prestigious US literary magazine World Literature Today brought a special section on Živković's writing in the November/December 2011 issue.

Since 2007 Živković has been a professor in the Faculty of Philology at the University of Belgrade where he teaches Creative Writing. (Wikipedia)(Wikipedia)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Death of Marco Pantani:

A Biography by Matt Rendell

This book should should be filed under the heading

" Don't meet your heroes".

The way Marco Pantani, danced up the hills is the way I taught my daughter to ride, that spirit, that certain grace, the way he appeared to transcend the limits of what a bike/rider was capable of, the way he didn't even appear to need the bike, he just danced, & whenever old Ma Gravity starting slapping riders down, he grabbed her by the hand and made this old lady the belle of the ball - dancing with her to the summit of every climb.
It now turns out his dancing was more like a 1990s rave scene with Marco as the chief protagonist gurning and gyrating influenced by a cocktail of chemicals prescribed and otherwise .

I know the word on this generation of riders was out there, I know that my view is misty-eyed and foolishly romantic, but Pantani seemed somehow to transcend the machinations of the sport - he was there to dance, sometimes with a fellow cyclist but predominantly just him, the mountain and that old lady.
Again, I know the evidence was out there - but there's knowing & knowing and this book brooks no quarrel, as it dissects every aspect of Marco's worlds, leaving you with no doubts, nowhere to bury your head ("preserve us from the ostriches"). Despite this I still love how he made me feel watching him ride, just ....... it's now slightly sullied, made muddy by what I know.
This book broke my heart & did so with a knowledge & love that made me think it broke the authors as well. "

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Je Suis Charlie

At the moment the idea that "the pen is mightier than the sword" comes across as bravado, cliché -  but time & time again some bully sticks their head up for their 15 minutes of fame only to fade into the shadow of obscurity from which for whatever reason they slinked out of. Yet those who chose in whatever way to record, witness or report  remain forever within our hearts & minds. Just think of the writers, artists, poets & journalists who have lived on through their writing, their art. The pen may not be mightier than the sword at the point of contact but long after the bullies wrapped in their disguises have faded into a footnote on some historic report Charlie & all the Charlie's past and future will live on 

Je Suis Charlie - I Am Charlie