Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Well. There is One Story I Don't Understand

Jewish. Kabbalistic. Mystic. Void. Numerology. Ukraine. And Brazil. These are the categories that inspired Clarice Lispector's life, living and writing. Inspired and determined partially - but not completely. Next to that, she was one-of-a-kind and original.

Saturday I finished Benjamin Moser's book 'Why This World. A Biography of Clarice Lispector' (2009). I read this biography because I want to understand why Clarice (1920-1977) is so popular in Brazil. I encounter quotes from her books quite often from my Brazilian friends.

To be honest I still don't understand. It must be her strange- or foreignness. Above all, her writing is very quotable just like Nietzsche. Why Clarice? Because in her works one finds the full range of human experience. She is like a mirror. As she said, "I am all of yourselves." (page 5)

Jewish mystics: "The name of the thing is the thing, and by discovering the name one creates it. (...) The point where the name of a thing becomes identical to the thing itself, the "word that has its own light," is the ultimate reality. The discovery of the holy name, synonymous with God, was the highest goal of the Jewish mystics." (page 155)

For Clarice her writing didn't bring what she wanted, which was peace. "My literature is in no sense a catharsis that would do me good and is useless as a form of liberation." (page 260)

Was she a hermetic? Clarice: "I understand myself. Well, there's one story I don't understand, 'The Egg and the Hen,' which is a mystery to me." (page 278)

Moser: "Much of Clarice Lispector's subsequent fame, her enduring popularity among a broad public, rests on this thin book, in which she managed to bring together all the strands of her writing and of her life. Explicitly Jewish and explicitly Brazilian, joining the northeast of her childhood with her Rio de Janeiro of her adulthood, "social" and abstract, tragic and comic, uniting her religious and linguistic questions with the narrative drive of her finest stories, 'The Hour of the Star' is a fitting monument to its author's "unbearable genius"." (page 372)

Did you know ... that singer Maria Bethânia threw herself at the feet of Clarice exclaiming, "My goddess"?
Did you know ... that singer Cazuza read her book 'Água viva' 111 times?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rescuers of Mankind

Summer holiday 2014 is getting closer. Less than 2 months to go. This year I'll have a five week holiday :) We will go to Le Marche in Italy near Ancona in a big house with our own swimming pool. I have selected the books I want read in my holiday:

In the weeks left I want to finish Moser, 'Why This World. A Biography of Clarice Lispector' (2009) and Cayetana Stuart y Silva, 'Yo, Cayetana' (2011).

Next week, before 1st of June, I want to visit the exhibition 'The Crimea - Gold and secrets of the Black Sea' at the Allard Pierson Museum (Amsterdam). I want to see with my own eyes this 'Brooch with Dolphin.' Made of rock crystal and gold between 1st century BC and 1st century AD on Crimean peninsula. Did you know that for the ancient Greeks dolphins were considered as helpers or rescuers of mankind (source)?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Or Otherwise Ruined

Three years on a tiny spot on planet Earth a long time ago:
  • Year 1066. Battle of Hastings. William the Conqueror from Normandy conquered England
  • Year 1204. Battle of Bouvins. The Angevins lost Normandy
  • Year 1217. Battle of Lincoln. French lost foothold on England
For 150 years the English Channel was an internal waterway for the 'homo sapiens' who had land, houses etcetera in both countries we now call "France" and "United Kingdom". Back then it was one country for William the Conqueror and his successors: the Angevin Empire.

I read Richard Brooks' book 'The Knight Who Saved England. William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217' (2014). A lovely book. It was full of a lot of tiny but new detail about a period I only knew roughly.

I read it because I wanted to have more background information on Knight William Marshal (1147-1219) before reading his biography 'History of William Marshal'. This book was written in 1219 and its manuscript was lost for 600 years. In 1861  it was sold at Sothebys. In 2002-2006 the Anglo-Norman 'History' was translated in English by S. Gregory. Direct access to the world and words of a knight from the 13th century. WOW! I am very curious about their worldview.
As a younger son - he had a couple of older brothers - William spent 22 years as a household knight before he stepped into the upper reaches of the nobility by marrying Isabel of Clare, countess of Pembroke and Striguil. In his 18-year tournament career he had taken over 500 knights. It made him rich. 

Knights were a "multi-purpose cavalry: complete warriors, inured to wounds and hardship, as useful for reconnaissance and dismounted action as for the charge. Fortified by their armoured protection and class solidarity, knights constituted the most potent military force of their day."

Battles or sieges were only a minor part of a knight's career. Raiding was the daily reality of war. Raiding to destroy or gain the feudal property of their enemies. Why? To undermine their authority.

In 1066 William the Conqueror from Normandy conquered England. He and his successors had land on both sides of the English Channel. In 1204 the English lost Normandy. (In 1453 at the Battle of Castillon they also lost the rest of France, with the exception of a few tiny spots ;) .) In 1217 the French lost foothold on England. William Marshal was personally involved in most of its battles back then. He personally saved England from the French at the battle of Lincoln and Sandwich in 1217 and preserved the Magna Carta. The King became limited in his exercise of power: "No free man might be imprisoned, dispossessed, outlawed, banished, or otherwise ruined without lawful judgement. "

William is buried in Temple Church (London). When he died he was loved by friend and foe alike. Langton (1150-1228) called him the "Best knight that ever lived". Joining wisdom, prowess and loyalty.