But You Did Not Come Back: love letter to a lost father

<em>But You Did Not Come Back</em>: love letter to a lost father

Marceline Loridan-Ivens is one of around 160 living survivors of the 2,500 French Jews who returned after the war, of the 76,500 sent to Aushwitz-Birkenau. ‘I was quite a cheerful person’, she writes in the opening words of But You Did Not Come Back, her moving memoir addressed to her father. Aged fifteen when she and her family were rounded up by French police before being despatched to Auschwitz, she survived but her father did not return.

After seeing the acclaimed film Son of Saul, Marceline Loridan-Ivens’ slim volume has been the second journey back into the dark heart of Auschwitz that I have made in  recent days. Continue reading But You Did Not Come Back: love letter to a lost father”

Reading War and Peace as news arrives from Brussels

Reading <em>War and Peace</em> as news arrives from Brussels

This morning I was reading War and Peace, and had just reached this passage when news began to come through of the carnage in Brussels, and the casualties mounted. It’s the scene during the battle of Borodino when Prince Andrei is is hit by an exploding shell and suffers a terrible stomach wound. Lying in agony in the dressing station, he sees Anatole Kuragin, the man he despises for attempting to elope with Natasha to whom he was engaged; Anatole’s leg is being amputated.

The tent which serves as a dressing station is a scene of bloody horror. Everything changes, it seems, but nothing changes. Continue reading “Reading War and Peace as news arrives from Brussels”

The British: ‘a people living in shells, reticent, awkward, deeply suspicious’

The British: ‘a people living in shells, reticent, awkward, deeply suspicious’
Writing about FW Murnau’s silent film Sunrise in my previous post, I mentioned a poemcalled ‘Silent Cinema’ that I had come across.  It was by Arthur Tessimond (1902-1962), a poet about whom his current publisher, Bloodaxe Books admits on their website ‘almost all trace … has disappeared.’

Continue reading “The British: ‘a people living in shells, reticent, awkward, deeply suspicious’”

The Innocence of Memories: a story of love, obsession and a city

<em>The Innocence of Memories</em>: a story of love, obsession and a city

A city, Orhan Pamuk once told me, would be a museum for our memories if we live in it long enough.
Narration, ‘The Innocence of Memories’

Director Grant Gee’s last film was Patience (After Sebald), a film in which passages read from Sebald’s book The Rings of Saturn complemented images of the Suffolk landscape with absolute perfection. Now he has done something similar with Orhan Pamuk’s novel The Museum of Innocence, taking the viewer on atmospheric journeys, drifting through the deserted streets and alleyways of Istanbul at night, accompanied by readings from the novel and extra material also written by Pamuk. It’s a stunning film, perhaps the best invocation of the spirit of a work of literature that I’ve seen.  It also provides a guided tour of the Museum of Innocence itself, established by Pamuk in Istanbul to house real objects that trace the fictional love affair described in the novel. Continue reading The Innocence of Memories: a story of love, obsession and a city”

Alice in Wonderland at the British Library: a ‘sacred text’ and reinterpretations

Alice in Wonderland at the British Library: a ‘sacred text’ and reinterpretations

There was another fascinating exhibition on at the British Library when I went there last week to see West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song. The Alice in Wonderland exhibition, on until April 2016, marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s story.  I recently finished reading The Annotated Alice, a deeply engrossing labour of love edited by Martin Gardner, so I was irresistibly drawn to a captivating exhibition that explores the enduring attraction of Carroll’s book. Continue reading “Alice in Wonderland at the British Library: a ‘sacred text’ and reinterpretations”

West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song at the British Library

West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song at the British Library

Passing through London on our way back from the David Jones show in Chichester, I decided to take a look at the current exhibition at the British Library: West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song. It’s an ambitious survey of literature, art and music from the great African empires of the Middle Ages to expressions of rapid cultural and political change across West Africa in recent decades. Continue reading “West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song at the British Library”

The Mighty Dead: Adam Nicolson on Homer

<em>The Mighty Dead</em>: Adam Nicolson on Homer

I should make it clear at the outset that I have read neither the Iliad nor the Odyssey, so I came to Adam Nicolson’s latest book, The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters, perhaps like many in the same boat: keen to understand why these mighty poems still exert such a powerful hold over the modern imagination. Continue reading The Mighty Dead: Adam Nicolson on Homer”