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Archive for the ‘Katmandu Valley’ Category

Creative Writing Critique (Satis Shroff): Fire in the Blood

Creative Writing Critique (Satis Shroff): FIRE IN THE BLOOD

Review: Irene Nemirovsky Fire in the Blood, Vintage Books, London 2008,

153 pages, 7,99 Sterling Pounds (ISBN: 978-0-099-51609-5)

Denise Epstein was 13 when her mother Irene Nemirovsky was deported to Auschwitz, where she eventually died in 1942. The daughter is now an octogenarian and was instrumental in helping her mother attain her place in the world literature. Irene Nemirovsky was a writer who could look into the souls of humans and make music with words. Her masterpiece Suite francaise was published in France in 2004 and was immediately awarded the Prix Renaudot.

The characters of Fire in Blood are  drawn from a rural French town in Burgundy, a wine-growing area where people are simple and stick together, want to retain their ‘peace’ and don’t like the police and the authorities. A place where all people show conformity and keep their mouths shut. Peace is a synonym for not wanting to be involved in the affairs of other people. The author’s attitude towards the characters has a universal appeal, for it could happen anywhere in the world in a closed-circuit society where outsiders are shunned and not generally accepted. Nemirovsky shows not only what people do to others but also what the passage of time does to us all. The characters aren’t flat and every character bounds into life and you an imagine the world that she creates in her 153 page novel still goes on with its own pace without much changes. The community itself shows a predatory behaviour of extreme cunning.

The major theme of Fire in Blood is love, poverty, arranged marriages and extra-marital affairs that lead to complications and new story developments. The protagonist Sylvestre also called Silvio tells the story in the first person singular and recalls stories in front of the fireplace about his beautiful, graceful cousin Helene and her daughter Colette, Brigitte Delos and Francoise, their marriages, happiness and boredom and the seasonal changes of the Burgundy countryside. Silvio speaks about impatient young people and the perfectly balanced older people at peace with themselves and the world, despite the creeping fear of death. The book is replete with the truths, deaths, marriages, children, houses, mills, dowry, haves and have-nots, stinginess, love-affairs, hatred, deception and betrayal.  Nemirovsky is an excellent story-teller and reveals her tale of flaws and cruelties of the human heart in an intricately woven story. She builds up suspense and you feel the catharsis when an innocent-looking protagonist tells her version of how a man was murdered.

The theme is traditional and familiar and is psychologically and socially interesting in intent.

Silvio tells about his childhood and about children asking their parents how they met, fell in love and married. He also mentions past loves, former grudges, inheritances, law suits and who-married-whom and why in the French provincial setting. The story plot is slow at the beginning but gathers momentum, and the climax is not the murder but how the author unfurls the story of the confession. In the end Silvio confides to the reader how much he still loves his dear cousin Helene, who’s married to Francoise.

The intellectual qualities of writing of Nemirovsky are her cheerfulness, sudden twists and power of observation which flow into the story making it a delightful read. She gives you the impression that her tale is linear, only to show you that there’s a twist that takes narration in another direction. Silvio, the Ich-Erzähler, says to Colette, who wants to involve him in her family drama: ‘Tell them you have a lover and that he killed your husband.. What exactly did happen?’

wit and humour and there’s rhythm in the tale.

Nemirovsky employs the stylistic device of symbolism to characterise the farmers and their hypocritical nature, how they mob people they don’t prefer to have around them and how they indulge in backbiting. A stingy 60 year old farmer marries  a lovely 20 year old woman and the gossips begin. Silvio remembers how Colette had once told him he resembled a faun: ‘an old faun, now, who has stopped chasing nymphs and who huddles near the fireplace.’

This is the confession of a man who had once fire in blood, and a meditation on the various stages of life, the passing of time, in which youth and age are at odds. A recurring theme is the seed from which problems grow: ‘Imagine a field being saved and all the promise that’s contained in a grain of wheat, all the future harvests…well, it’s exactly the same in life.’

Nemirovsky’s use of dialogue is very effective and takes the story forward.

Her literary oeuvre ranges from an extraordinary collection of papers,  Fire in the Blood, Suite francaise, David Golder, Le Bal, the Courilof Affair, All Our Worldly Goods.

The Germany titles are: Die Hunde und die Wölfe, Feuer im Herbst, Herbstfliege, Leidenschaft, Die Familie Hardelot, Der Fall Kurilow and Irene Nemirovsky: Die Biographie.

* * *

Irene Nemirovsky: COLD BLOOD (Satis Shroff)

Subtitle: Moaning in All Eternity

Six decades ago,

My life came to an end,

In Auschwitz.

I, Irene Nemirovsky, a writer

Of Jewish-Russian descent,

Died in Auschwitz.

I live now in my books,

In my daughter’s memories,

Who’s already an octogenarian,

Still full of love and fighting spirit:

For she fights against

The injustice of those gruesome days.

I was thirty-nine,

Had asthma,

Died shortly after I landed in Auschwitz.

I died of inflammation of my lungs,

In the month of October.

That very year the Nazis deported

Michael Epstein, dear my husband,

Who’d pleaded to have me,

His wife, freed from the clutches

Of the Gestapo.

They also killed him.

My daughters Denise 13,

And Elizabeth 5,

Were saved by friends

Of the French Resistance,

Tucked away in a cloister for nuns,

Hidden in damp cellars.

They had  my suitcase with them,

Where ever they hid,

Guarding it like the Crown Jewels.

To them it was not only a book,

But my last words,

That I’d penned in Issy-l’Eveque.

I wanted to put together five manuscripts

In one: Suite Francaise,

That was my writer’s dream.

I could put only

‘Storm in July’ and ‚Dolche’

Together.

I passed away early in August 1942.

Too early.

In my two books I’ve written

About the flight of the Parisians

From the victorious Germans,

The awful situation in an occupied hamlet.

Small people and collaborators,

Who’d go to extremes

To save their skins,

Like ants in a destroyed ant-hill.

It’s sixty years hence,

But my work hasn’t lost its glow,

Like the lava from an erupting volcano.

You can feel its intensity,

When an entire nation

Was humiliated and had to capitulate,

Losing its grace, dignity and life.

I was born in Kiew,

Fled to Paris via Finnland and Sweden,

After the Russian Revolution.

I was a maniac,

When it came to reading,

Had a French governess,

Went often to the Cote d’ Azure and Biarritz.

I studied literature in Sorbonne in 1919.

Shortly thereafter,

I began to write:

About my Russian past,

My wandering years.

The colour of the literature I wrote

Is blood from an old wound.

From this wound I’ve drawn

The maladies of the society,

Human folley.

I was influenced by writers,

From Leo Tolstoi to Henrik Ibsen.

An unhappy childhood,

Is like when your soul has died,

Without a funeral:

Moaning in all eternity.

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‘From the Land of the Gods: Art of the Kathmandu Valley’ & ‘Nepal in Black and White: Photographs by Kevin Bubriski’ March 14 – October 13, 2008

RMA is pleased to present two exhibitions focused on Nepal, ‘From the Land of the Gods: Art of the Kathmandu Valley’ and ‘Nepal in Black and White: Photographs by Kevin Bubriski.’ Both exhibitions open to the public on Friday, March 14 and run through Monday, October 13, 2008.
Taken together, the exhibitions offer a nuanced exploration of Nepal – its art, culture, religious belief systems, people and politics – spanning from 1200 to the late 1980s.

‘From the Land of the Gods: Art of the Kathmandu Valley’ draws from RMA’s permanent collection, exhibiting more than 50 of the museum’s finest examples of Nepalese sculpture, painting, and ritual objects. Emphasis is on highlighting the variety of forms and subjects, techniques and media, which emerged from Nepal’s creative matrix. The exhibition also touches on the main religious traditions of the
Kathmandu Valley, Hinduism (Shaiva, Vaishnava, and Shakta) and Buddhism, which have been integral in the artistic and culturally rich environment.
Historically, the kingdoms of the Kathmandu Valley comprised the political, religious, and cultural entity now known as Nepal. Located between India and the region of Tibet, the valley acts as a crossroads
of trans-Himalayan trade, the shared sacred site of various Himalayan religions, and one of the epicenters for much of Himalayan art. This unique position has fostered a tremendous amount of cultural, social,
and religious exchange in Nepal, thus establishing a living creative tradition that is one of the single most important influences in Himalayan art history.

‘Nepal in Black and White: Photographs by Kevin Bubriski’ presents more than 30 of Kevin Bubriski’s photographs, selected from his large body of work produced over the last 35 years of his visits to Nepal, beginning in 1975. The exhibition is composed of his black and white photographs, taken in the mid-1970s and mid-1980s. In addition, four of Kevin Bubriski’s color photographs will be on view in the lobby near RMA’s spiral staircase.

Kevin Bubriski’s first introduction to the country he would come to document over the years was as a Peace Corps volunteer working on drinking water supply pipelines in remote mountain villages. He carried
a 35mm camera with him everywhere he went, taking photographs that would form the beginning of the body of work he built up over the following years. In 1984, Kevin Bubriski returned to Nepal as a photographer. This time, he carried with him a 4″ x 5″ view camera, a tripod, and the trappings of a mobile professional set-up, traveling the length and breadth of the country for the better part of three years.

With unflinching clarity and sharp detail, the photographs in ‘Nepal in Black and White: Photographs by Kevin Bubriski’ show the changes that took place between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, especially the influence of Western society on a previously isolated culture.

In his words: „The realization that not only my camera but also the modern world was, in turn, making ever-increasing intrusions into even the most remote areas of Nepal compelled me to document a time and way of life slipping inexorably into the past“.

About RMA: RMA houses an esteemed collection of Himalayan art. The paintings, pictorial textiles, and sculpture are drawn from cultures that touch upon the 1,800 mile arc of mountains that extends from Afghanistan in the northwest to Myanmar (Burma) in the southeast and includes Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, and Bhutan. The larger Himalayan cultural sphere, determined by significant cultural exchange over millennia, includes Iran, India, China, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia.

The rich cultural legacy of this region, largely unfamiliar to Western viewers, offers an uncommon opportunity for visual adventure and aesthetic discovery. For young and old alike it is an environment in
which to encounter the unknown and find meaningful dialogue. It requires actively bringing to bear one’s previous experience, looking closely at the material at hand, discriminating carefully, and shaping
the imagination. The fundamental aim of the museum is to provide this adventure in learning through art.

Working to foster connections between visitors and the art is RMA’s diverse team of knowledgeable and professional guides who are always available on the gallery floors to answer questions, engage in
discussions, and help explore the art at any level. The guides work in concert with RMA’s ambitious schedule of exhibitions, education, and public programming, designed to provide multiple entryways to delve into Himalayan art.

FROM: Rubin Museum of Art (RMA), 150 West 17th Street, New York, NY
10011
Contact: Karen Kedmey
Phone: (212) 620 5000 x331Rubenstein Public Relations
Contact: Holly Jespersen
Phone: (212) 843 8071

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