Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cormac Mc Carthy. The road- All the pretty horses, Child of God and Outer dark

I had given The Road, a post apocalyptic novel by Cormac Mc Carthy to a friend of mine. When he gave it it back he said : it is sooo dark... After climate change a father and son walk through scorched America. The only thing moving are the ashes and the people looking for food. Violence and unerring humanity. It is shocking yet beautiful. So off to the bookshop I went and got myself All the pretty horses the first book of the Border trilogy. I am floored by the language, the precise terms for types of soil, potholes and other standing water, but also life and death, love and notwithstanding pain some men live by their own rather masculine honor code. He tells a grand and epic story, expressed in even grander landscapes reflecting the mental states of some of the protagonists. Pain, love, loyalty. My love of language made me circle the words I had never read before... quiet a few gems are to be found on each page. And yes the story of young men, kids almost and the trials and tribulations of first love... In a way this is a unique coming of age novel. I had read before Child of God, for me this was the hardest to read: the degradation, the grotesque, killing and preying upon people in normal situations like chance encounters in the woods, in stores. The images of East Tennessee show the depressed area and the de-posessed... Yet I go on reading mesmerized by the dignity of some, the touch of humor and the strength and mesmerizing beauty of his language. Mc Carthy shows the worst of a human being yet elicits compassion.
Just one sentence: The lamp in the floor gutters in the wind and the wind moans in th flue.
Outer dark begins with the birth of a child from the incestuous union between a brother and a sister. The brother takes away the child and she won't stop looking for it in the wild Appalachian lands around the turn of the century. Moving and chilling is this wandering to find a child. three strangers turn it into an apocalypse... It is quiet a read bringing redemption n a strange way as a kind of parable.

Blood on the moon and Cormac Mc Carthy and the rest of the West

I was tired, so I switched on the TV and fell in a western black and white movie: Blood on the moon. I watch in fascination. The type casting and what to show and what not  was a pleasant surprise and also the bar fight, or the more serious encounters of fists and guns. The beauty was that it was all shadowy, so the violence was mostly unseen, yet the "bruiteur", the person responsible for the sound, did a wonderful job, making us hear the punches rather than seeing them. Also the women were smart, had common sense and were strong willed. Of course falling for the drifter who gets involved in the local dispute between an Arizona cattle rancher and local homesteaders. These disputes till go on, less violently but about water there are still issue between ranchers and the local population. In this psychological western Robert Michum is doing a great job being the good guy with dubious principles, just as Robert Preston. It truly is a film noir, where Michum from starting as a hired gun against a cattleman, falls for his strong willed, intelligent, brave yet maligned daughter and so Michum turns out to be the good guy after all. Yet that was not all on my lazy day. I turned also to Cormac McCarthy's All the pretty horses. I am always impressed by his precise writing, circle the words I don't know in his text, his language being rich and wonderful. More about that when I have finished the book...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Dress rehearsal...

I have been mulling over the dress rehearsal for the bachelor's degree dance in the Singel. Two renown choreographs and the people from Ultima Vez helped the young dances on their way. As usual WIM Vandekeybus works with power, the strength of the body and complex relationship body mind and body. I must admit that I was deeply impressed with what the dancers gave to the audience. Serialize movements, falls, shots punctuating the the movements, impressions of a mass grave on stage... To me the first part was the War in Syria... the randomness of life and death. Od course a work of art, and it definitely was one, is open to different interpretations and so I felt free to accept my feeling about the performance as a  possible reading. The physical hardness of the mouvements and the scenes are going to one's core. There is a couple for instance where the girl wants to touch the boy. He says: Ne touche pas! Don't touch... and hits her on the arm. She reaches, he hits her, in a rhythm that is chilling. She starts hitting back... What an insight in the escalation of violence...
To me the first part was an anti war statement and the seccond part a suggestion to think about personal violence.

There was a welcome break and  under the guidance of Emanuel Gat. Totally different:more romantic, more gentle it seems... Yet the girls, the woman are thrown arond, thrown away by the male dance partners... Women behaving doll-like, strangely surreal.
Worthwhile. two dancers got hurt and might not dance on opening night.

Thanks for making me feel and think.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

VERS 1984-2014

A friend and colleague Karel Sergen launched this fun and serious project. Bar Van Loo had sugested to find one's own audience for an original selection of thirty years of poetry. So Karel mailed out an extended overview of his work and asked his friends poets to choose one poem and write a short commentary like one would send a tweet. The publisher P Leo Peeraer of 'Uitgevery P' accepted the challenge to publish this book, and unbeknown to all the poets who send in their favorite poem they were considered co-authors of the book and received it as a gift. The celebration of this project was the reason we drove with four people from Antwerp to Saint Remy-Geest, the beautiful village just over the language border. I was again impressed by the place. I was even more impressed by the careful preparation of the program for the day. Karel is form the Dutch peaking part of Belgium and lives in the French speaking part since quite a while. I was impressed that the local dignitaries were bilingual. The authors speaking and reading were bilingual too and so is the book. Bernard De Coen, in close collaboration with Karel made a great and wonderful translation into French.

Everything breathes beauty and caring and even a deluge couldn't stop the festivities. In three different spots the poets who had chosen their 'favorite' read it for the audience. Everybody had a great time. I felt hopeful because of the inclusiveness of the whole day. On the picture right you see Karel (left) and Bart (right). French and Dutch, Japanese and English, all together. Hilde Keteleer is reading and I must thank her for letting me use her pictures. I love the attention to detail, the edible flowers, the great people there and the beautiful together of poetry and language.Even old chairs became poetic objects with a haiku.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

    Freedom of ewpression - PEN International

    As a member of PEN-Flanders I repost here the point of view of PEN International which I do fully subscribe:

    Egypt:  Al-Jazeera journalists must be released
    23 June 2014

    Harsh prison sentences handed down today to three Al-Jazeera (English) journalists must be overturned and the journalists freed immediately, PEN International said today.

    Correspondent Peter Greste, and producers Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed were sentenced to seven, seven and ten years respectively on charges of having links to a “terrorist organisation” and “spreading false news”.

    PEN International believes that their arrest and imprisonment is part of an escalating crackdown on dissent in Egypt, in which journalists, writers, civil rights activists, and independent or critical voices are amongst those targeted for their reporting or peaceful activism.

    “These sentences signal a death knell for freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary in Egypt” said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

    “The international community must respond swiftly, not only on behalf of foreign journalists, but on behalf of the citizens of Egypt, for whom democracy is in grave danger.”

    Al Jazeera correspondent Peter Greste, an Australian national, Mohammed Fahmy, who has dual Canadian and Egyptian nationality, and Egyptian national Baher Mohamed were arrested on 29 December 2013 following Interior Ministry accusations of illegally broadcasting from a hotel suite.

    Peter Greste, who has worked for the BBC, is accused of collaborating with “terrorists” by talking to Muslim Brotherhood members. Al-Jazeera Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy and producer Baher Mohamed are accused of the more serious offence of membership of the Brotherhood.

    Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based TV channel, has said the men were merely reporting the situation in Egypt. Since 25 December 2013 the Egyptian authorities have labelled the Muslim Brotherhood – the political group that the Al-Jazeera journalists are accused of supporting - as a terrorist group.

    According to diplomats and rights campaigners who observed the trial, no credible evidence was put forward to support the verdict. The three journalists are planning to appeal their convictions.

    PEN calls on Egypt’s interim government to immediately and unconditionally release all those held solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, in accordance with the international treaties to which it is bound.

    For further information please contact Cathy McCann at PEN International Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email:

    Thursday, June 12, 2014

    The new system ransacked

    Five o'clock  the new speaker phone system worked and looked good. About five hours later a troubled young, swanky oriental man walked from the Harmony Park kicking at cars, breaking windows, making serious dents, screaming. People called the police and by the time he arrived at our front door at least four calls had gone out to the police. Thus at a certain point four police cars were in front of the building. The one which arrived first just happened to drive by and saw that something was seriously wrong. The heavy glass pane at the entrance was kicked at and the new speaker phone system was demolished in a frenzy. I don't know what addled the young man, nor what troubles he had. The neighbors recuperated as many of the parts that were laying around as possible. I realized that these police vans go through a lot of wear and tear since the people they transport are often in an 'acting out' phase. The police never got violent, nor aggressive with the young man, so it was a job well done. I hope he'll be all right after sleeping off what ever it was...

    Monday, June 9, 2014

    Kathe Kollwitz and her contemporary artists

     Jan is architect and my preferred partner to visit exhibitions. He doesn't only look at the objects shown but notices the relationships of the objects to their environment and comments on how they are placed. The statues on the black pedestals are by Kollwitz, those on the natural wood are by 19 contemporaries some working in different styles. Avant-garde as in the work of Jean Arp, pi├Ętas as the one by Ivan Mestovic' a sculptor whose work I have admired because of the large Prophet - preacher in Split in Croatia, Emiel Jespers, Zadkine....

     Kathe Kollwitz's son fell in Flanders fields on the first day of World War I. She then created the statue 'The grieving parents'. And spoke out against war and violence. Many of the pieces shown at the Bream Pavilion in the Middelheim museum in Antwerp are militant. The artists show us that war brings suffering, that it is filled with mass and personal  suffering. This composition of artists and work shown is a true pacifist statement.  I find the small statue with women and children wave at husbands and fathers who are going to war very moving. The women had to keep the family together, feed the children, work and make money... They also lost their jobs after the war because work was for returning soldiers in all war torn countries. I love the light in this pavilion. The war in sculptures is to me deeply moving and a fitting reminder to work for peace. Some sculptors created work in the trenches with the material the enemy fired at them applying all their craft to turn battle field objects into civilian objects. Another great exhibit at the Middelheim museum.