Weblog since 2004 on books, films, art and travel.
Subscribe to the RSS feed.

nonsense nursery syllables

Today I imagine the words of countless
Languages to be suddenly fetterless -
After long incarceration
In the fortress of Grammar, suddenly up in rebellion.
Maddened by the stamp-stamping
Of unmitigated regimented drilling.
They have jumped the constraints of sentence
To seek free expression in a world rid of intelligence,
Snapping the chains of literary decorum.


By riding words that are bridled and reined
Man has quickened
The pace of time's slow clocks:
The speed of his reason has cut through material blocks,
Explored recalcitrant mysteries;
With word-armies
Drawn into battle-lines he resists the perpetual assault of imbecility.
But sometimes they slip like robbers into the realm of fantasy,
Float on ebbing waters
Of sleep, free of barriers,
Lashing any sort of flotsam and jetsam into metre.
From them, the free-roving mind fashions
Artistic creations
Of a kind that do not conform to an orderly
Universe - whose threads are tenuous, loose, arbitrary,
Like a dozen puppies brawling,
Scrambling at each other's necks to no purpose or meaning:
Each bites another -
They squeal and yelp blue murder,
But their bites and yelps carry no true import of enmity,
Their violence is bombast, empty fury.
In my mind I imagine words thus shot of their meaning,
Hordes of them running amuck all day,
As if in the sky there were nonsense nursery syllables booming -
Horselum, bridelum, ridelum, into the fray.

From: 'On my birthday - 20' by Rabindranath Tagore (translated by William Radice).

revolutionary road

The Revolutionary Hill Estates had not been designed to accommodate a tragedy. Even at night, as if on purpose, the development held no looming shadows and no gaunt silhouettes. It was invincibly cheerful, a toyland of white and pastel houses...

Richard Yates' 1961 novel 'Revolutionary Road' is a rediscovered classic that easily beats, say, Updike's 'Couples' on the subject of American suburbia. A ruthlessly funny and ultimately tragic story of great dreams lost in self-delusion, it is reminiscent of 'The Great Gatsby' or even 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf'.

John and April Wheeler are a talented young couple (what today would be thirty-somethings) settling down in suburbia while insisting they can remain aloof from mediocrity. To escape the boredom of housewife and office life, they develop a vague, idealistic plan to move to Paris "for good", and spend endless evenings talking about it.

"You know what this is like, April? Talking like this? The whole idea of taking off to Europe this way? (...) It's like coming out of a Cellophane bag. It's like having been encased in some kind of Cellophane for years whithout knowing it, and suddenly breaking out."

Their destination is Paris because he has been there before and knows the language. The plan is for her to take a job while he will "find himself".

"You'll be doing what you should've been allowed to do seven years ago. You'll be finding yourself. You'll be reading and studying and taking long walks and thinking. You'll have time. For the first time in your life you'll have time to find out what it is you want to do, and when you find it you'll have the time to start doing it."

And that, he knew as he chuckled and shook his head, was what he'd been afraid she would say. He had a quick disquieting vision of her coming home from a day at the office -- wearing a Parisian tailored suit, briskly pulling off her gloves -- coming home and finding him hunched in an egg-stained bathrobe, on an unmade bed, picking his nose.

In reality, he doesn't speak French at all and his knowledge of Paris is based mostly on reading 'The Sun Also Rises' in high school. They know they are deluding themselves, but once they've announced their plans to the neighbors, they can't stop.

Soon the plan turns sour, and with it their whole marriage, which rapidly deteriorates into vicious tragedy. In the end the only idealism left is in the name of their street...

See also this series of Guardian articles.

de monet aux pixels

Claude Monet famously painted a whole series of Rouen's Notre Dame Cathedral at different times of day. Half a century later, Roy Lichtenstein made a Pop art version. Now Monet's and Lichtenstein's paintings are projected on the front of the cathedral at night, transforming the church itself into a giant painting. The effect is truly stunning.

Rouen Cathedral projection - From Monet to Pixels - 1

Rouen Cathedral projection - From Monet to Pixels - 2

Rouen Cathedral projection - From Monet to Pixels - 3

'From Monet to Pixels', created by artist Skertzò, every night until September. More images here.