Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Life of Dante by Bendict Flynn

Benedict Flynn describes in his short story the life of Dante Alighieri - the Italian poet of Dark Ages. The book reveals the dark side of the life of Dante - his conflicts with Florentines, his banishment from beloved city of Florentine, his passion for Guelphs and their struggles with Ghibellins. For those who do not know - Guelphs were papacy supporters against Ghibellins - the Roman Emperors supporters. Later - the movement divided into two factions Black and White Guelphs, and Dante was unfortunate to be White, while Black were in power, the power that, among other things was used to expel Dante for life long exile in Verona and finally in Ravenna.
The short book suggests that these misfortunes in Dante life, were actually the breeding ground for Dante's "Divine Comedy".

Nice little book ...

Notre-Dame de Paris - Aftermath

This book, probably read by millions of people, has so many senses, so many meanings, that it is hard to say, which is the one, the most important, the key meaning. There is love for Paris, love for Notre-Dame, love for love ....

But the thread I want to tell about in this review is that of morbid love. It is represented by the lust of Claude Frollo - the priest, to the young girl. The lust that ultimately takes her to her death under Paris's gibbet. The lust, that was not true love, that brings only unhappiness, grief and finally the death. And this thread of the book, the slow and deep analysis of this morbid feeling is what gives the book its universal meaning - how often we meet such cravings in our life - even if not in us, but around us....

And there is also a counter-tone, the tone of true, deep and unspoken love. Love that does not search for its fulfillment, for its satisfaction - the love of Quasimodo for Esmeralda. The love of ultimate care for the dead body of living soul - the love that seeks for its end in death - but the death in the eternal embrace of her body, thrown into Montfauçon - the common grave for people lost like her - in the dark ages of Paris ...

All - read this book, Victor Hugo is one of the greatest ....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Orhan's Pamuk Istanbul - The city has no centre other than ourselves ...

This was long reading - started in June, finished in October ...It is not for the book being uninteresting, it is because of its melancholy and for the sometimes strange desire to be with me for long time ... So I was reading it in ... sauna, in planes flying over Europe, on those sleepless nights I sometimes experience.

Orhan's Pamuk "Istanbul - Memories and the City" let us understand this great city much better and much deeper than in any tourist’s guides. The main reason for this is the great courage which the author shows when writing about its own beloved city. He dares to call some period of modern Istanbul history the "turkification" of Istanbul, and when describing the remainings of the city great past, he shows us that almost all of them are just dilapidated ruins.
However, there is no doubt that he loves the city, loves Turkey - and this love is even greater by his ability to see its shadows and dark side.
The best of this book is in showing the relation between our lives and the places we live in. There is no question that to live in a place like Istanbul, rises this relation to the highest levels. Let's cite Orhan: "Was this the secret of Istanbul - that beneath its grand history, its living poverty, its outward-looking monuments and its sublime landscapes, its poor hid the city's soul inside a fragile web? But here we have come full circle, for anything we say about the city's essence, says more about our own lives and our own states of mind. The city has no centre other than ourselves."

Another fantastic part of the book describes specific melancholy, called "Hüzün" in modern Turkish ( ḥuzn in Arabic). This very concept, the idea of failed life, the lost of something, defines deep meaning of Istanbul's character during the most of XX and XXI century - after the demise of Ottoman Empire, and subsequent westernization, secularization and modernization.

It was one of the greatest books I ever read, and I recommend it with all my heart.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Notre-Dame de Paris

After so many visits in Paris, I finally started reading Victor Hugo "Notre-Dame de Paris", which in many translations is called "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame" or (in my native language) "The Bell-ringer of Notre-Dame". So many people read the book, so to write one more "typical" review does not make too much sense. What makes this book great, is the atmosphere of middle-age Paris, and almost physical imaginative power. Listening to this book today, made me first time ever walking around Paris' Cité for hours and to contemplate the cradle of the one of the largest and the most important cites of the world...

And, like the sign from heaven, when I entered the cathedral itself, there was a movie played on a huge screen - a movie about Notre-Dame history - in which Hugo's book was described as one of the most important events.....

And the very next day I visited The Archeological Crypt the most astonishing place on the Île de la Cité.

It's really amazing to be so many times on the big plaza at the cathedral and finally after years no notice the huge underground crypt, that shows ruins of old Paris, and the passage of time. Everything thanks to Victor Hugo, at elast in my case.

For all who love Paris - that's recommended reading.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Moses und Aron

After posting reviews of the radio programmes.... writing about an opera is not so unusuall - is it?

Well, "Moses und Aron" by Arnold Schönberg is something worth writing about and worth to recommend to everybody interested in modern music. First of all, libretto and music is by one of the giants of XX century music - the man who laid the ground to atonal, or rather, twelve-tonal music. "Moses und Aron" is partially tonal, but the atonality is also very important there and forms a large part of the score.

Second, the libretto is, of course based on biblical theme, literally on the story of Aaron being involved in Golden Calf blasphemy, while Moses was on Mount Sinai with G-d.

The Opera, particularly in the realization I saw - by Vienna State Opera, uses this theme to present the unending dillema of theory versus practice, idea versus reality, True G-d versus politheism. Aaron is after practicality, reality while Moses after ideas, theory and virtues.

The incredible images on screens of TV sets palying the central role in Act II of the Opera, show what the authors of this staging, take as "modern day" politheism. Later, in the interview, Reto Nickler, the stage director, explains this explicitly: the modern politheism is a focus on appearances, on the unrealism of media, particulary of TV, it is in the bigotry, in the egoism, in the acts of those who kill people in the name of god....

Moses und Aron is a great opera, and I do advice to everybody, like me, who did not like opera so far - to watch, to listen, to experience it....

See: the images from the opera.