In Ireland it happens rather rarely that the sky is blue and the sea shines blue too, but yesterday this exactly has been the case and I took my first bath in the Irish sea. The water even if it looked like a very mediterranean water, was ice-cold, something around eleven degrees.When I came out of the water, my lips were blue. Blue are the blossoms of the hedge in front of my window, while I don’t know how they might be called, they are still named blue flowers, but obviously they don’t mind. In the train today, a man with blue eyes, but of an intense polar-bear like blue stood in opposite to me, when I finally succeeded to look away from his eyes, I noticed that he wore a dark blue suit, blue shoes, had a blue bag and his ear-phones were of course metallic-blue. The official color of Ireland is called St. Patrick’s Blue, but not only on St. Patricks Day you see an awful lot of green around here. Someone told me once the story of women living behind the blue lakes, who were famous for producing blue silk. But out of the blue I can’t get the story quite right. Blue ware the horses Franz Marc painted who died so soon in a war not that long ago. A friend told me when he visited Iceland , he saw ships whose flags were white with a blue swastika on it. I felt a blueish, cold anger.Blue is the smoke of the neighbor’s pipe and blue are the socks on the clothesline next to my door, two packets of blueberries says the grocer’s wife to me as I enter the shop, for 6 Euros, but I buy a carton of glenisk organic milk, of course the carton is blue.
The summer was nearly gone, had already packed its suitcases, but probably searched for a pair of matching shoes or was hiding from aunt autumn who as everyone knows tends to kiss everyone without asking like some aunts did when I was a child. The lake was silent and blank, a huge mirror and a world of its own. Nearby was a tennis-court where we no one ever saw practicing a game and in the old summerhouse where we lived close by the lake our only companions were the countless midges as well as the birds who were in truth the real owners of both the summerhouse and lake. Blackbirds bounced across the lawn in the morning, the robins wrestled with worms and a very proud pheasant strutted around slowly as to ensure that everyone including ourselves could admire him and all the green, brown, white and red feathers of him. And the feathers indeed, suited him tremendously well. The hedges around the house were running wild and neither you or I were eager to change those. I remember the old Japanese maple, the silent dark shadowed fir trees, the quinces full of yellow and sweet scenting fruits and the birch trees standing in groups seeming to hold each other by hand and whispering all day long. The lake was always bright and silent and even became more silent towards the end of the summer as it were its way to prepare for the arriving autumn and winter. The small wooden rowboat, painted red on the outside and white within had no name. You rolled your sleeves to the elbow and the hairs on your arms tinged golden in the course of the summer but you never took of your dark jacket and while you rowed us on the middle of the lake you seemed to sink deep into yourself, starting long and self-contained monologues without an beginning and often you did not find an end, listening to you in this small boat was as if one throws a stone in the lake, watching him silently sink deep and deeper but never see through to the ground. You tended to forget that I was with you and maybe this was the reason because you kept telling me all the stories you would have never shared with me otherwise. I still remember how I trailed my hand into the water, looking at your golden shimmering arms, half asleep and trying to concentrate on your words while yellow birch leaves and red maple leaves were blown from the trees and drifted down to rest upon the water as golden as your arms and the deep lake. It was many years later and far away from the summer, the lake, your golden hairs and your voice when I came across the story of Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester in Eliot’s Waste-Land, and it was than, when I remembered that you told the story different not depicting Elizabeth as so many did as an old harridan but telling me of a queen upon her white horse speaking to the troops at Tilbury fort, the possible murder of a wife and the cloud of suspicion upon the whole story of two lives. As well as this story was always a story of power, Leicester and the Earl of Essex holding the bridle reins of the queen and the queen’s horse was white and white towers, many of them would fall while the empire was built and white would not remain a color to depict history,but you who told me once the story T.S.Eliot told so remarkable well, never told me who was the woman you were so much in love with that she reminded you of queen upon a white horse. It was not me, that is sure but still I want to know, who she might have been, reminding you of A gilded shell. Red and gold. Weialala leia. Wallala leilala.
Read On, screams my sister into my ear, which is not very pleasant at all, but especially unpleasant when you sit in the bathtub trying to warm yourself up after a day in a freezing cold conference room, but it is much harder to impress my sister with other things than such laxnesses. You will end as an old spinster who writes poems no one will ever read or even worse as a cat lady, sitting around in an enormous old house, reading boring books, dipping cakes into her Breakfast tea. I could imagine much worse scenarios for my future than sitting around and reading, but my sister of course knows better and repeats the horrifying story of a friend’s friend’s friend’s sister who ended with a dubious pensioner who bets on horses and makes money on Ebay with old tennis rackets. Well, try I to interrupt her and to at least defend my books as not- boring but an older sister remains an older sister and so she screams even louder in my ears: you did not even call back B.’s friend L. who wanted to get to know you and could even get convinced to meet you up there ( this means the village where I live and which is for my sister the end of the known world ). Oh yes, L. say I, trying to remember, where I might find the receipt where maybe L.’s number still is readable. But my sister hurries on and with a voice not unlikely a priest on a funeral, she tells me that L. already found a wonderful woman who in opposite to me, not only lives in a city with a normal name, but has a normal profession too. What is she doing, ask I and my sister explains that the lady who so easily won L.’s heart is the proud owner of a dog parlor. I imagine B. and his new fiancé driving to the church within a carriage drawn by 16 poodles and remain quite silent, listening to my sister’s long speech concerning my coming life but leaving the bathtub with the very reassuring feeling that being a cat lady will do quite well for me.
To wake up early without any reason and to meet the sun without having arranged a rendezvous. To sit on the terrace, wrapped in the old orange shawl, bought many summers ago for more winters to come on a market close to Florence. To count the birds, than getting confused and to start again. To tell the cat my dreams and the cat is patient with me. The brown, old dog passes us a visit and the cat is very patient with him too. The neighbor chops wood and the town and the city as well as the lowlands and the lights behind seem to be very far away, disappearing beyond my neighbors strong back. To invite the children of the neighbors from the left-side to cake and hot chocolate because cake and hot chocolate before eight in the morning does no harm at all, to make coffee with the old coffee maker that my mother used even if I am the last person on earth who drinks filter-coffee, to walk bare feet along the kitchen and stop in the middle of the living room, exactly where the sun meets my feet, to listen to an old record while the scent of the lilies of the valley floats through the door, to open a book for a moment without reading and before setting the table for the guests on their way, to stand for a long moment in the door to look at the spring, who walks slowly upon the street under his arms a big brown bag full of tulips and daffodils, hidden under his coat, you might see the lilac and the strawberries growing red under this arms, he smiles shyly and somewhere the old gods start to sing of gardens near or far just as you want them to be.
I was twelve years old when a copy of 100 Years of Solitude fell into my hands. It was a copy borrowed by Ms. Burton, my piano teacher, an old English spinster with a back straight as a marble wall, who never smiled but sometimes discreetly coughed into her handkerchief, one of the last members of the colonial administration in Kenya where I grew up and borrowed this book without asking her, fascinated by its cover and than by its story, when I brought it back, discreetly hidden into piles of notes, she did not seem to notice but in the very next lesson she let me play a piece of Luis Antonio Escobar, trying to hide her smile in her enormous handkerchief. Gabriel García Marquéz would have liked her a lot.We will miss the great magician of literature badly. Here, Márquez meets Hemingway.
The art of translation as a piece of art itself, marvelously shown by Barbara Wright.
I was never a great reader of Thomas Wolfe, but I will never forget his intense and extremely detailed description of a food pantry in “ Look Homeward, Angel“. Fictitious dishes transforms literature into plates.
Una Mullaly is angry. Ireland is in need of much more constructive anger.
My sister is in an apparently good mood. This is has something to do with this good mood creating song. ( And no it is not another version of HAPPY.)
Some things are extremely difficult: making a perfect mousse au chocolate ( Oh, Dear , I can tell you ), reading Heidegger has never been a pleasure for me, because it was so hard to stay awake, getting up on your knees when falling still remains a difficulty of another dimension, as well as ensuring quality standards within supply chains or convincing my sister that a dark indigo is a color she should absolutely wear. But every year you can read in every magazine, those magazines often have totally absurd names GLAMOUR or JOY, one always wants to shout at them, they shall grow up as soon as possible and get real names, but however, every single spring those magazines trying to find the secret to get a bikini worthy body. The secret must be a very hidden one, because every year again the search begins. But some secrets are so heavy to solve that they are in fact really easy. Here, the fabulous Kaltmamsell explains the fastest and ultimate way to get a bikini body in only two steps and I do so too: Take off your clothes, get your bikini on. Done. Enjoy the sun, the sea, the summer and most of all enjoy yourself. Things can be so easy, sometimes. Oh, and I read everywhere, so do not wonder about that.
On a conference not very long ago, a colleague mentioned not without a little restraint that even if Europe is no longer divided than 25 years ago, the existence of a „Black Europe“within the European Union. Of course he sounded arrogant and presumptuous but in the very same moment we all gathered around him did know, which countries he meant and what the term meant by itself. Every day either in the newspaper or in the radio, we can read about Romanians leaving their country for a better life, not welcomed by our side of Europe with open arms but with mistrust and prejudices. We all know, even without consulting the newspaper or listening to the radio that the strawberries or apples or potatoes are harvested by men and women originated from the Black Sea and beyond. Let alone the work done in slaughterhouses, kitchens or hotels, where we better don’t even start to read further or listen to those who work in this places. But we tend to forget also the rich and enriching cultural sphere of countries such as Romania. An outstanding example is Panait Istrati, who wrote in French and Romanian, depicting the world before the outbreak of Wold War II in a region where so many people, languages and cultures could meet in one single street of a very small village. The stories he tells are full of life, where Jews and Greeks are neighbors, Turks and Serbians concurrents, Germans are engaged with Armenian women and if they sometimes do not share much with each other, they all have a fear of the coming things, which will inevitably destroy this world within Europe. It is the poet Ana Blandiana herself a child of the after -war period, widely read by every pupil in Ceaușescu’s Romania who began to develop in the 1980s a distinct language of critic, showing the powerful voice, that poetry can produce and express. After the revolutionary uprising in 1990 a circle of her and her intellectual friends became very active in the first transitional government. Blandiana became vice president for a short while and even more impressive left the politics when it became clear that the old elites would carry on as the new ones. The entanglement between poetry and politics which is astonishingly often to be found in Eastern Europe is nearly missing in the Western political sphere. An exception as so many offers Ireland, where Michael Higgins was not only invited on the queen’s dinner table but could have entertained the round by his own poetry, including an ode to a donkey. And Ana Blandiana still today remains a ambivalent figure, concerning her deep involvement within the political sphere. She is an example too, for women not only being well-known as an influential poet but as a woman with rain-making qualities, too. Whereas Mircea Cărtărescu, is the name of a younger generation, tired of politics and poetry ( maybe too many donkeys were to be found within ) and so is his language direct and unveiling, he himself a poet who speaks out loud. Many names of the lively cultural scene not only of Romania waiting to be discovered, translated and to be read as well as we have to think about the people who live among us, if we see them and hear them beyond the news.
It was great William Faulkner, who probably would have been very unhappy about the fact that his saying “ The past is not dead. It’s not even the past now, is ubiquitous quoted everywhere. But especially for Ireland it is inevitably true and this dear reader, I do not only say this out of the midst of a very small village, where the clocks tend to tick slower as elsewhere but with a very good reason. The Irish eat as if the 1970s and 1980s were still alive and in fact here they are. When you ever crave for a chicken Kiev, please book your next flight immediately, every pub on the country roads will serve this dish containing garlic for a lifetime with proud as well as you will find it served with piles of mashed potatoes even at Fallon and Byrne. And of course Chicken Kiev was the first dish introduced in Great Britain as a ready meal by Marks and Spencer and I swear to you, if you queue at Tesco or Supervalu you will see it in every second basket or if you make your way to my village, at the still existing grocer’s store you can have a try. And of course, dear reader you know your Faulkner much better than I did, when I came to Ireland, inviting neighbors and colleagues for a get together in my house, serving Risotto with mushrooms, a green salad containing dried tomatoes, naan- bread with hummus and lemon trifle, wondering more and more while everybody drank but nobody ate anything or even dared to try a bit of this or that. But then one of the gusts invited asked me shyly and not without blushing, if I did not have any Scotch eggs or cheese crackers? Scotch eggs, echoed I, wondering what this might be. And my vis- à vis gave me up as a totally hopeless case without any culinary understanding. In the village I live in, I am known since then as the women- who does- not- eat- pork- but- gave- us-salad- to-starve. Humm, you know what Scotch Eggs are, did I ask the grocer’s wife on the next morning, who knows everyone and everything and after a long minute of shocked silence, she told me the secret of eggs being wrapped in a sausage, coated in bread crumbs and baked. Oh dear, she said looking at me as I would be standing orphaned and alone in the world. But you dear reader, who secretly dreams of potatoes with baked- beans, waffles with bacon, sandwiches filled with tuna and corn or chicken, ham and egg- mayonnaise, grilled cheese toast and mushy peas, you will not be disappointed but warmly welcomed among us. No, you will not be starved here, tortured with couscous, carpaccio or yoghurt mousse on a variation of forest fruits, here you will be feed as if the good old times would have ever existed, parachute pants were ever stylish and Milli Vanilli could really sing. Be welcome and give my warm regards to the grocer’s wife.
A great book to leave Faulkner behind as quote deliverer and discover the great writer he has undoubtedly been, “ As I lay dying“ is a great start.
Mridula Chari explains what a nail clipper and cauliflower have to do with the upcoming elections in India.
The publishing house Persephone Books stands itself for a symbol of beautifully designed books with a special focus on woman writers of the early twentieth century.
What about Zambia? What do we know about Zambia? Kalaki’s Korner tell us what we otherwise would miss. And we would miss much.
Look at this, all painted on glass by David A. Smith says my sister, „Who?“ ask I, oh shame on you, says J. and is of course right.
The train stops in Modena. A place I have never been to before. Only one other traveller leaves the train with me. A noble man, suggest I because the people who wait outside of the train station lower their gaze as he passes by, accompanied only by a dog of indifferent colors. I decide to take a walk along the river but while crossing the central campo I see that the man and his dog obviously follow me and while I wander along the riverbank, I can see from time to time an ear of a dog flattering in the wind or the edge of a cloak, long and heavy passing by, always remaining in distance, but do I decide to look at the water, both dog and man also stop, the man looking in the deep, blue and green water as I do, the dog trying to catch flies. When I slowly return to the city, the man and his dog walk silent behind me, but while crossing the market where fishmongers and butchers offer me large and silver salmons and small but red mutton legs, I’ll lose sight of the man and his companion. Many hours later, sitting in a café drinking a juice of indefinite color, I recognize the man beyond a newspaper, while the dogs sleeps at his feet. A pale waiter arrives from time to time at the man’s table, lowering his gaze as the other inhabitants of the city did at the station, while offering the man, on a silver plate a large, white egg, that he cracks between his long and elegant fingers with no ring on them, to drink the egg yolk and egg white as it were a very good and very old wine, carefully placing the egg-shell in a nearby silver- basket. When I woke up, the man was opening as careful as ever his thirtieth egg, looking just over the edge of his paper in my direction, just as to reassure that I would look back at him, with my eyes both open.