Friday, 28 October 2011

Haydn to Nothin'

   The only fiction I seem ever to read is “The Journal of Edwin Carp”, to the extent that I've almost memorised it. However, I've recently discovered a way of expanding my reading without straying from my obsession; I came across a copy of Richard Haydn's masterpiece that was translated into French by Henry Muller.

I intend to search the Internets for versions in other languages; surely others have translated this important work?

Whether other versions are any good is another matter. Literary translations can never be exact, they can only detract from or improve on the original, and given that I think “The Journal of Edwin Carp” is perfect I suppose I am doomed to disappointment. Here is an extract, it describes a scene where Maude, Carp's fiancée of eleven years, helps out in Carp's boarding house;

“The happy willingness with which she performs her self-imposed duties is a joy to behold. Indeed, yesterday, when I entered the kitchen and discovered her ironing our paying guests' personal laundry, I was so affected by her flushed, smiling face that I could not refrain from taking her in my arms and kissing her. My impulsiveness caused her to scorch Mr. Murke's dickey. Fortunately it is reversible.

This is rendered by Henry Muller as;

“La bonne volonté avec laquelle elle s'adonne à ces travaux fait mon bonheur. Et, pas plus tard qu'hier, en entrant à la cuisine et en la voyant repasser le linge personnel des hôtes, je fus si touché par son souriant visage que je ne pus empêcher de la prendre dans mes bras et de l'embrasse. Ce geste impulsif provoqua une brûlure sur le caleçon de M. Murke; il est fort heureusement réparable.”

Muller obviously felt that plastron (in this case “replaceable shirt-front”) lacked the comic potential of “dickey” and so replaced it with caleçon (under-shorts) incurring in doing so the inevitable and detrimental loss of “reversible/réversible. A valiant effort, but the result could never be as good as the original whose comic brilliance, intensifying as it does in the last sentence - down to the very last word - is inimitable.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

On nature's shelf

Decades ago I would gaze in wonder at my classroom's nature shelf.

 Since then institutions seem to have given up on me (hopefully for good, though we know that the first involuntary dribble and relatives you've never heard of do what's best for you), but I still stare at nature shelves, especially my own,

and their occupants, careful not to over-salivate, stare back at me.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Points of View

 Inspired artwork by Jacque-Louis David, Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry and Frank Cotham.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Terra cognita

May you be big as three hills,
Too big for the crows to see.

Children will climb your slopes,
Tumble down your flanks.
Exhausted, they will sleep on you,
Your pulse their pulse.


Thursday, 13 October 2011

Art Life Death

“The Alchemist” by William Fettes-Douglas (1822-1891)

 “The Naturalist” by Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885)

   I find these two paintings very reassuring, I suppose they're meant to reassure, portraying, as they do, stereotypes. I like the apparent disorder found in both the scholars' rooms, it's somehow easy on the eye, or at least it is on my eye – especially the lower one, I think the setting is superb.

   Spitzweg was immensely popular in Germany and, despite his sympathetic portrayals of Jewish subjects, he was a favourite of Adolph Hitler who collected his work.

   Above is a self-portrait by William Fettes-Douglas (c 1845). The long nose and incipient sneer look to me as if they belong to a younger version of the languorous fellow pictured below.

   In fact this brilliant portrait, “The Yellow Scale” by František Kupka (1871-1957), was painted in 1907, 16 years after Fettes-Douglas's death. It's most likely inspired by images of Baudelaire merged with aspects of Kupka's own physiognomy.

   František Kupka could not have survived as an artist without the art-collector and industrialist Jindřich Waldes, a friend who supported him for twenty years until, in 1938, the Hitlerian regime sent the Jewish Waldes to Dachau concentration camp. 

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Malplaquet House

   Malplaquet House is in London's East End. It was named after the eponymous battle fought in 1709 that resulted in a Pyrrhic victory for the Duke of Marlborough and his gang against the French and their gang (the 'victors' lost over 21,000 men, twice that of those who retreated to fight another day).

   The house has had a chequered history but is now owned by Tim Knox and Todd Longstaffe-Gowan who have decorated it almost perfectly. I say 'almost' because a discerning eye would appreciate that it needs more old taxidermy.

Photo; Barry Lewis

Look at that; a nice Cape buffalo with turtle skull and assorted whale vertebrae.  

Fine Warthog skull on the extreme right, I think that's a Zebu top left.

An impressive pair of Gannets, and an interesting gallinule next to the egret.

A successful landing

An excellent Himalayan Tahr

Behind the Ostrich skeleton is the Zebu head again and under that a Razorbill, and under that a Golden pheasant, and under that- it's difficult to make it out even with my magnifying glass -  

- ah, now I see, fascinating...