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

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, New Post, New ……………


1395934_819307521440001_731432043320010750_n2014 started for me in the dying months of the previous year and the promotion to the position of Community Support Organiser, with the taking on of this position I found myself with the responsibility of managing the day services for adults with learning difficulties for the city of Canterbury & the surrounding areas. In practice this meant that I suddenly found myself responsible for about 30 – 40  service users & a staff group of 20 +, it also meant that I had to complete a Chartered Managers Institute -  Diploma in Leadership for Health and Social Care & Young People's services.


Although I had a year to 18 months to complete it, I wanted to get it out of the way as soon as was possible so  I set myself the task of completing it in as short a timeframe as was possible (9 months). Whilst this was going on my wife’s much needed knee operation suddenly gained an arrival date & I had to juggle my annual leave & accrued lieu time & also find alternate arrangements so that my daughter & I could support her, whilst still managing to get my daughter to & from school & to add to the accumulating chaos & disorder, we also moved home in 2014, which entailed bagging, boxing & moving all of our stuff from the cottage just outside of Minster where we had lived for about 17 years to our new apartment in the nearby seaside town of Ramsgate - all of this fed into the Big Black Hole of  what I came to call The reasons/Excuses why I didn’t blog in 2014.

Yet somehow in between reading Governmental white papers, local policy documents & a host of other paperwork headed “boring stuff I need to know to complete my Diploma”, I manage to fit in some reading that was just me related not me/work related. Here below is some of the ones I can recall


The Counsellor - (Screenplay) Cormac McCarthy  This is the story of a lawyer, the Counsellor, a man who is so seduced by the desire to get rich, he becomes involved in a drug-smuggling venture that quickly takes him way out of his depth – being that this is McCarthy, the ending isn’t Disneyland fairy tale.



The Vulture - Gil Scott Heron  A body lies on New York's West 17th Street between 9th & 10th Avenues. A crowd gathers, horrified, curious, staring at the corpse on the pavement. It is July 12, 1969, and John Lee is dead. This is the story of John Lee's murder in the words of four men who knew him. Yes it is that Gil Scott Heron



War & War – Laszlo Krasznahorkai  This begins on a dark train platform Korim is on the verge of being attacked and robbed; from here, we are carried along by the insistent voice of this nervous clerk. Desperate, at times almost mad, Korim has discovered in a small Hungarian town's archives an antique manuscript of startling beauty that  narrates the epic tale of brothers-in-arms struggling to return home from a disastrous war. This doesn’t do it justice at all, I love this writer & want to read anything by him, shopping lists, phone records, etc.

Wabi sabi

Wabi Sabi , The Japanese art of impermanence – Andrew Juniper  Developed out of the aesthetic philosophy of cha-no-yu (the tea ceremony) in fifteenth-century Japan, wabi sabi is an aesthetic that finds beauty in things imperfect, impermanent, & incomplete.


Behold the Man – Michael Moorcock  This is an existentialist tale about Karl Glogauer, a man who travels from the year 1970 in a time machine  to meet the historical Jesus of Nazareth. A Small Circus

A Small Circus – Hans Fallada A raw, vivid account of a town rife with corruption, greed and brutality. The book was first published in 1931 and written as Weimar Germany collapsed around him.

 Isle Of Dreams – Keizo Hino The island is a reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay where the city dumps its garbage . . . and yet, Shozo Saka, a middle-aged widower, does indeed find the place beautiful: gravitating more and more, since the death of his wife, toward the Island

10 Billion Days & a 100 Billion Nights - Ryu Mitsuse Ten billion days, that is how long it will take the philosopher Plato to determine the true systems of the world. One hundred billion nights--that is how far into the future he and Christ and Siddhartha will travel to witness the end of the world and also its fiery birth – Described as the greatest J-Lit Sci-Fi ever.

Ocean Of sound – David Toop Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds begins in 1889 at the Paris Exposition when Debussy first heard Javanese music performed. A culture absorbed in perfume, light and ambient sound developed in response to the intangibility of 20th century communications. David Toop traces the evolution of this culture, through Erik Satie to the Velvet Underground; Miles Davis to Jimi Hendrix and on to the likes of Brian Eno, Autechre & the rise of electronic music.

Ubik – Phillip K Dick  This follows the story of Joe Chip, a technician at Runciter Associates. When an explosion kills Joe Chip's boss, Glen Runciter, strange things begin to happen. Soon Joe realizes his boss did not die in the explosion, but he is in a state of half-life.

The Letter Killers Club - Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky   A secret society of self-described “conceivers” who, to preserve the purity of their conceptions, will commit nothing to paper. (What, after all, is your run-of-the-mill scribbler of stories if not an accomplished corruptor of conceptions?).

Blue Fox – Sjon This takes place in Iceland in 1883. It opens with a priest hunting a blue fox, then jumps backward to the days following up to the hunt. An herbalist buries the recently deceased woman with Down syndrome that he rescued from a shipwreck. It details their life together before returning to the present. This Is Sjon & it is beautiful, another writer who I’d read whatever his pen touched.

Collection Of Sand – Italo Calvino claims that 'the brain begins in the eye'. The essays collected here display his fascination with the visual universe, in which the things we see tell a truth about the world. With encyclopaedic knowledge and engaging curiosity. This just engages my obsession with Italo’ s world.

We - Yevgeny Zamyatin We is set in the future. D-503 lives in the One State, an urban nation constructed almost entirely of glass, which allows the secret police/spies to inform on and supervise the public more easily. It’s been stated that Orwell, Huxley & Vonnegut have used this as a model.

Remainder – Tom McCarthy The story of an unnamed narrator traumatized by an accident which "involved something falling from the sky". Eight and a half million pounds richer due to a compensation settlement but hopelessly estranged from the world around him, he spends his time and money paying others to reconstruct and re-enact vaguely remembered scenes and situations from his past. 

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami A young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. It is a story of love, friendship, and heartbreak for the ages.

Fear Of De Sade – - Bernardo Carvalho In the pitch-black cell of an asylum - possibly in 19th century France - an extended dialogue between the "baron" and a disembodied "voice" ensues. Arrested for a crime that he has no memory of, the baron swears his innocence throughout. In contemporary France a man and his wife push one another into increasingly violent and extreme situations in what is evidently a deeply twisted marriage.

I’m not sure if I’ll get around to writing about these books in more detail,  although there are a couple I would like to shout about hoping that someone will give them a chance & adore, love ,nay obsess about them like I do but there are so many books that I’d love to read & then sing about that it would probably be wise to start 2015 with a clean slate.