This week marks the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the landmark Supreme Court decision that invalidated state laws restricting interracial marriage. Recently, we asked readers to share their experiences about being in a mixed-race relationship. We received more than 2,000 stories in just a few days.
Many people expressed profound ambivalence about the categories that drove antimiscegenation rules, while they described how their racial identity — or how others identified them — continued to shape their relationships and their social interactions. Some wrote about the resistance they faced from family and society, and others celebrated the particular richness of their lives. Here are some of those stories.
BARB AND MATT ROOSE
Married: Medina, Ohio, July 18, 1992
‘Luckily we were young, bullheaded and foolish.’
BARB: I’m African-American and my husband is Caucasian. We married when we were 19 and 20 years old and we’ll celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this year. We love that we get to celebrate such a milestone as the Supreme Court verdict celebrates a milestone too.
After we got engaged (which was mainly because I was pregnant) my then-boyfriend was asked by one of his family members: “Do you really love her or are you just trying to tick your parents off?”
We learned quickly that we couldn’t answer all of the questions that our families had. Luckily we were young, bullheaded and foolish, so we decided not to let other people’s issues with our marriage become our own. We had to focus on us. This meant that my husband had to sacrifice some of his relationships for a short season in order to marry me. Thankfully, they have since reconciled.
We made it a priority to make sure that our kids had friends of all races. Early on in our lives, we hung out with another biracial couple that looked like us, so that our kids saw black moms and white dads as normal.
As a couple, we learned to be upfront with each other about race. It didn’t start that way. Attraction led to confusion. Our life experience and cultural filters created a need for us to learn each other’s ways. Like, letting him, when he was my boyfriend, into my dorm room while I was relaxing my hair. I had to let him see me being fully me. Another time when my father-in-law and I went to a country music concert with his favorite artist — that was culture shock! But, it was the music of my husband’s experience and it helped me learn more about the people in my family.
It’s taken a long time to learn this, but we believe that our relationship is more important than one of us being right. We don’t want race to ever become a wall that divides us.
EILEEN LIN GOUTIER AND EDWIN GOUTIER
Married: Washington, D.C., May 30, 2016
Credit: Roxana Bravo
‘We learned that sometimes things just take time.’
EILEEN: I am Taiwanese-American. I moved to the U.S. during high school. My husband is a Florida-born Haitian-American. We both grew up in immigrant households.
For two seemingly different individuals, we share a love for food, family and passion for social and environmental causes. As much as our relationship seemed normal to both of us, we learned that it wasn’t for my parents and relatives. It took a year of argument, tears, anxiety, smiles and patience for my parents to finally accept our relationship. We waited for their blessing before we had our wedding. Unfortunately, my aunt, whom my family is very close to, decided to stop talking to me because she feels ashamed of me. We learned that sometimes things just take time for acceptance.
NATHAN WRIGHT JR. AND CAROLYN MAY WRIGHT
Married: Las Vegas, July 19, 1969
‘Many in the Black Power movement that my father helped lead for a time came to oppose interracial marriage.’
SUBMITTED BY CHI BARTRAM WRIGHT, THEIR SON, BASED ON HIS RESEARCH AND INTERVIEWS WITH HIS MOTHER: In July of 1967 — just one month after Loving vs. Virginia — Nathan Wright Jr., chairman of the Black Power Conferences in Newark, met Carolyn May, a blonde Long Island niece of socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post, who built Mar-a-Lago. As a publicist in Manhattan, Carolyn began promoting Nathan’s public speaking engagements.
My parents fell in love at a time when many in the Black Power movement that my father helped lead for a time came to oppose interracial marriage. My parents wed in Las Vegas to avoid attention, but soon found themselves back East defending their hearts to both blacks and whites, telling family, friends, and colleagues, “Love is colorblind,” and “The heart knows no color.” My mother recalls, “Very few white people understood why I would do such a thing. And so I lost a lot of friends and family that way. If they had researched Nathan, they would have found out that he was far more educated than they were, generally.” In his unpublished memoir, my father reflected on those days, “The black’s continuation through in-group marriage would seem to be inadvisable and errant in relationship to God’s purpose.”
In 1972, my mother completed a Master’s degree in Afro-American studies. I was born in August, 1974. Looking back, my mother tells me, “In the ’70s and ’80s in upstate New York, we knew we had to keep you in a private school to protect you from a wider society that was not always welcoming.” Indeed, I faced overt, aggressive comments from other black kids like, “You’re not really black,” and “You think you’re better than us.”
The same month that my parents met, my father testified on Capitol Hill, stating that Black Power “speaks to the empowerment of human life for fulfillment.” While Carolyn and Nathan hoped their marriage would provide them with that same empowerment, in reality they were ahead of their time, pioneers for radical integration, at a time when most were still digesting moderate civil rights.
DAVID L. GILMOUR AND ANULA KUSUM JAYASURIYA
Married: A small wedding in Cambridge, Mass.; an epic wedding in Sri Lanka; and another, large wedding in Cambridge, 1988 and 1989.
‘Race is only one element of difference.’
DAVID: I am white — indeed, raised to believe I was whiter than white since, as I was reminded frequently, my ancestors arrived on the Mayflower. My spouse is from Sri Lanka. She identifies as South Asian.
When you’re a couple, having different backgrounds simultaneously enriches and stresses your relationship. Race is only one element of difference, and, in my experience, a minor one. I’m only reminded that we are a “mixed couple” by others, when our appearance triggers some kind of reaction, most often — but not always — love, approval and sometimes what seems like a tiny bit of envy.
We now live in California, where mixed-race kids are relatively common. Our daughter has had to face the challenges of being biracial. She is accustomed to the consternation she causes when others can’t quite figure out “what she is.” She is often mistaken for a Latina, and has a traditional Sri Lankan first name that is often mistaken for African-American. But she has risen to meet those challenges, and is a strong, confident person who knows that above all she is unique.
JENNIFER AND JAMES HUTCHERSON
Married: Tybee Island, Ga. May 18, 2001
‘I’ve learned that most people are tolerant, but that is different from being accepting.’
JENNIFER: I am a white female, my husband is a black male.
I have learned that not only is “driving while black” a real thing, but also that riding with a black male will get you pulled over. I’ve learned to ignore disapproving looks from older white people in public places. I’ve learned to expect the surprise on people’s faces when I start a new job and put up photos of my family on my desk. I’ve learned that in a small town that is predominately white, people will use my husband as their proof that they aren’t racist because they associate with a black guy. I’ve learned that most people are tolerant, but that is different from being accepting. While we may have come a long way from the days of the Lovings, there is still a long way to go, especially in the South.
My husband is a police officer in a large city close to our tiny town. We have frequent heated discussions where I accuse him of being more of a cop than a black man. My older sons were called Oreos in elementary school; they have been racially profiled by police as adults. My teenage son who still lives at home seems to identify much more with the black side of our family and often makes disparaging remarks about things he sees “white people” do.
I have cautioned all of them to please be careful when in any situation with law enforcement. I tell them to keep their hands where they can be seen, just say yes sir and don’t do or say anything that could cause a misunderstanding. I wouldn’t tell them these things if they were white.
Having children (and nieces and nephews) that are black has caused me to view the world differently than I might have if I’d married someone of my own race. I think I am more enlightened, I think I see things from a perspective I wouldn’t have otherwise had.
STEPHANIE LARKIN NOOR AND SHAHJAHAN SINGH NOOR
Married: Baltimore, June 21, 2015
Credit: Shawn Hubbard
‘For some of them, it was their first interaction with a black person.’
STEPHANIE: I am an African-American woman, born in Ohio and raised in Auburn, Ala., as a Southern Baptist. My husband is Indian, born in New Delhi and raised in Baltimore. He is Sikh and has a full beard and waist-length hair, which he keeps tied up in a turban.
My friends tried to dissuade me from dating Shah. With deeply concerned voices, they asked me, “What will people say? What could you possibly have in common?” After three months of dating seriously, he invited me to meet his family. His extended family from India happened to be in town for their annual trip to the U.S. Imagine, one little black girl surrounded by 20 of his Indian cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents. It was intimidating, but I held my own, as they fired away questions (about my education, my parents’ professions, my hair, my being an N.F.L. cheerleader, my siblings).
After leaving that night, my future husband called me almost in tears. His aunts had asked things like, “Why a black woman? You can find a beautiful, smart Indian woman to marry!” Surprisingly, the eldest in the family, his grandfathers, Dada ji and Nana ji, were our strongest advocates.
Despite the negative chatter, Shah and I knew our love for one another would sustain us. All has now been forgiven, and the family has a lot of love for me. I learned that they were scared of the unknown; for some of them, it was their first interaction with a black person. Since then they have welcomed me into their homes with open arms. His extended family was present at our fairy-tale wedding, as were my friends. His family in India has made two trips to see us. We drink wine, chat about life, discuss home decor, politics and go shopping. Had Shah or I succumbed to the pressure, we would have missed out on the greatest love of all!
Shah and I don’t have children yet, but are planning to. We often have discussions like, “If we have a boy, will he keep his hair and wear a turban like his daddy? What race will our kids identify as? Should we take the kids to both gurdwara and church, or will that just confuse them? How often will we visit family in India? Should we raise the kids in India for a couple years?” Whatever happens, I’m sure they will be strong like their mom and dad and will be brave enough to handle anything that comes their way.
OLIVIA TORO AND MICHAEL SWIGERT
Married: Alexandria, Va., August 3, 2013
‘We have learned a lot about what it means to be allies.’
OLIVIA: My husband is white, and I am multiracial. I consider myself to be both Korean and a mix of indigenous, Afro-Caribbean and European descent that characterizes most people from the Dominican Republic.
We have learned a lot about what it means to be allies since we started dating and especially since we have been married. I remember one night, about two months into our relationship, when we were walking home late from a bar in D.C., we walked by some young African-American men sitting on their stoop. They called to me, and I ignored them because I ignore most men who call to me on the street. They called me a “chink,” and I continued to ignore them as we walked on. Then, I felt something hit me — a small rock. They were throwing them at us, and I wondered why. When I mentioned it to Mike, he said he’d flipped them off.
I felt outrage — not at those boys because let’s face it, they were kids — I was so angry at Mike. Never, in a million years, would I have felt safe antagonizing those boys by expressing my anger the way that he had. I realized how privileged he was to feel it was O.K. to do that without consequence. I didn’t mention it that night to him until after we were married. And when I did, he understood. He wouldn’t have understood if I had brought it up when it happened. It took eight years of conversation and real intimacy to bring this evolution about — my trusting him and telling him the story from my point of view, and his vulnerability in hearing it.
BONNIE AND ALLEN G. TRAVIS
Married: Greensboro, N.C., June 1963
‘My husband made a deal with the minister.’
BONNIE:When we wanted to get married, my husband made a deal with the minister and told me to not to bring up my race. In North Carolina, it was against the law for my husband (white) and me (Lumbee Indian) to marry. I dyed my hair red to try to fit in with my white friends. No one from either side of the families attended the wedding. And now, the families have no problems.
I’ve had many incidents of discrimination throughout my life. My mother never trusted a white man until close to her death in 2004, when my husband helped her and he finally gained her trust.
ALISON BARROWS-YOUNG AND DANIEL L. YOUNG
Married: Boulder County, Colo., November 24, 2004
Credit: Sheila M. Young
‘I sense disgust and hate from total strangers for the first time in my life.’
ALISON: My husband is black and his family is African-American. I’m white and my family is traced to the Mayflower and Eli Whitney. This is a second marriage for us both.
Since we first started seeing each other, I sense disgust and hate from total strangers for the first time in my life. Many white people have told me that my husband looks fierce. He doesn’t. We are often placed at the restaurant table closest to the kitchen; white ladies grip their purses and move closer to their companions when we pass. The police stop us for no reason. Today, I pay little attention to prejudiced people. Sometimes we even laugh about particularly racist responses to us.
My husband, our children and I all feel that the black community is more at ease with us than the white.
The racism against Obama was plain to us from the start but not to our white acquaintances. The racism surrounding Trump’s campaign was obvious to me but not to my husband; he could not take the man’s candidacy seriously. My youngest daughter and I rebuked him when he supported Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton at our state caucus, as we perceived her to be the more qualified and only viable choice for minorities. On election night, my husband had taken me to dinner to celebrate Hillary’s “inevitable win.” When Trump won the Electoral College we left our meals half eaten.
We have dropped associates that we once tolerated if they are overtly Republican or nonprogressive. We feel paranoid.
MISTINGUETTE SMITH AND RENEE BENNS
Married: Northampton, Mass., 2006
Credit: Andrea H. Burns
‘This understanding of marriage has deep historical and familial significance for me as a black woman.’
MISTINGUETTE: I am black and ethnically African-American. My partner is white and ethnically German-American.
We are both a “Loving” and a “Goodridge” family: We have been partners for 29 years but did not marry until 2006, after same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. Our choice to marry was informed by the history of what race and marriage meant to my enslaved ancestors, who struggled to have their antebellum marriages recorded. We have been surprised by the ways that our families are more accepting of us as a same-sex couple than they are about transracial marriage.
Choosing to marry after 17 years of extralegal partnership gave us striking clarity that marriage is not about love or commitment, but a political arrangement about ownership of property and the right to defend it. This understanding of marriage has deep historical and familial significance for me as a black woman that my partner had never had to consider.
JANET ELSE BASU AND BASAB KUMAR BASU
Married: Los Angeles, January 27, 1967
‘Our friends thought we were pretty brave, but in reality incidents of prejudice were usually subtle.’
JANET: I am European and my husband is Asian Indian.
We married six months before Loving v. Virginia. We were in California, where the law forbidding Caucasians to marry Asians was struck down in the 1940s. We and our friends thought we were pretty brave, but in reality incidents of prejudice were usually subtle and relatively rare. That’s partly because Asian Indians were so rare in the United States in 1967; nobody knew enough Indians to form an opinion.
We learned two important things about marrying across cultures: 1) From day one, you’ll have to try harder to understand each other; we could never take each other for granted. That gave us a big advantage. 2) Both of our lives were enriched, and the lives of our families as well.
When Basab died 50 years after we met, his memorial service was filled with our family and friends from all sides of the globe.
“The art of writing is the application of the seat of the trousers to the seat of the chair.”
The advice came from Sir Ted Willis (the most successful television writer in Britain) and what it means is just that you’re not working unless you’re working. If you’re thinking of ideas, you’re not working. You’re only working when you’re writing them down.
BBC Culture journalist Hephzibah Anderson interviewed prolific best-selling author Ken Follett during a special programme recorded live at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Mark Rylance, arguably the greatest stage actor of his generation, already has three Tonys, two Olivier awards and a TV Bafta to his name.
But he remains modest about the Oscar buzz around his latest film role as a Soviet agent in Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies.
“I try to ignore it, personally, but I’m aware that it’s going down well,” says the quietly spoken English actor, director and playwright.
“I’ve been working for a long time, but a lot of people don’t know me. I’m like a vintage car they haven’t seen before.”
In Bridge of Spies, Rylance plays real-life Soviet intelligence officer Rudolf Abel, who is arrested in 1950s New York and prosecuted as a spy.
Abel’s case is taken up by a principled insurance lawyer James Donovan, played by Tom Hanks, who wants to ensure Abel receives a fair trial.
Donovan is plunged into the middle of a Cold War crisis when the CIA asks him to secretly negotiate a prisoner swap involving Abel and the pilot of a captured US spy plane.
One surprising fact about the Abel is that he was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and was originally known as William August Fisher.
“The only person I met who knew about him was Sting,” Rylance says, explaining how he met the Tyneside-born former Police front man after filming was over.
“Sting knew that he was a famous Geordie Russian spy. He said, ‘I hope you’re playing him as a Geordie.’ I said the research I had was that he sounded Scottish. I dodged a bullet, because Geordie is a very difficult accent to do.
“I read that Abel and his father handed out flyers during the First World War trying to convince young English men not to sign up for it. So he’d obviously been involved very politically from a very early age before they then returned to Russia.
“I also read that he could never speak Russian without an English accent.”
Rylance was cast in Bridge of Spies after Spielberg saw him on stage in the hit all-male production of Twelfth Night, in which a cross-dressing Rylance played Olivia. His other best-known stage work includes Jerusalem and Boeing-Boeing. For 10 years, he was the artistic director of Shakepeare’s Globe.
This is Rylance’s biggest film role to date – other movies on his CV include Anonymous and The Other Boleyn Girl – and Rylance says he felt well prepared after playing Thomas Cromwell in the recent BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall.
“The 17-week shoot, playing a character who was so secret and quiet, was a very intense period of work,” he says.
“I gained a lot of confidence on that shoot about my ability to register in a camera. That made a big difference.”
The actor says that he doesn’t mind the lack of rehearsal time that comes with film.
“Often your first instincts and the mistakes you make are better than what your mind is planning,” he says. “You just have to throw yourself with faith into the director’s hands.”
In the theatre, he says, rehearsals should be about creating performances that can “grow and change” throughout the run.
“I don’t work with theatre directors who try and lock down a production for the press night and then you have to be the same every night. I just won’t do that,” he says.
“Rehearsal in theatre is more like preparing a football team to play a whole season.”
Bridge of Spies might be Rylance’s first collaboration with Spielberg, but it’s not the last.
The director was so impressed with Rylance that a week into filming he gave the actor a copy of the screenplay for his next project, a big-screen adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG.
“I thought he just wanted my opinion of it,” says Rylance. “I didn’t realise he was actually offering me the part of the BFG.
“I hadn’t read the book, but the script was wonderful. I had to change my plans a little bit to make myself available.”
The film was shot in Vancouver earlier this year and is now in post-production.
“It was motion-capture so my performance lives only in a computer,” Rylance says of his role, the titular Big Friendly Giant.
“I’ll be 24ft high and have big ears.”
Roles don’t come much bigger than that, but for now all eyes are on Rylance to see if his quietly powerful turn as a Soviet spy will add another statuette to his trophy cabinet.
Bridge of Spies is released in the UK on 26 November. The BFG is out in summer 2016.
A couple of months ago a young humble violinist fan waited for me backstage after driving all day from Detroit to Toronto to see our show with Gumbi, Phillipe, Armand and Joel. His name is Evan Garr. Gumbi said “Al you have to check him out. He plays your compositions like you can’t believe.” I am always interested and happy to hear but never did I expect this! Self taught Evan blew all of us away when he suddenly started to play my music after the show in my dressing room. After knocking us out I asked where he was going that night. He said he’d be driving back all the way to Detroit. I said wait, I reached in my pocket, gave him all the money i had in my pocket and told him to meet us in Montreal: “Your playing with us tomorrow night at the prestigious Montreal Jazz festival! I would be honored to introduce you and tell your story!” The emotions were massive! Needless to say once he started to play the place rose to their feet and were instantly blown away! So now we are very happy to announce and introduce Mr. Evan Garr who will be joining our lineup as our special guest for the October leg of ELEGANT GYPSY & MORE! We’re proud and happy about what’s to come!
Dates: 10/15 San Francisco, The Regency Ballroom 10/16 Santa Cruz, Rio Theater 10/17 Las Vegas, Sunset Station, 10/19 Denver, Soiled Dove, Tickets
10/22 Dallas – Majestic Theater 10/23 Austin, One World Theatre 10/24 TBA 10/26 Chicago, The Winery (sold out) 10/ 27 Chicago- Park West 10/28 New York City, BB King’s 10/29 New York City, BB King’s 10/31 Boston, Berklee, presale starts Friday 8/28
Una dintre cartile mele preferate. O placere sa o revad in randurile de mai jos.
„Atunci când citesc, nu citesc de fapt, iau doar frazele frumoase, le savurez ca pe bomboane, ca pe un pahar de lichior pe care-l beau încet, până când simt că ideea se răspândeşte în mine, ca alcoolul. Şi astfel, se resoarbe în mine, se resoarbe în creierul şi în inima mea, făcând să-mi pulseze venele până la rădăcina vaselor sanguine.”
Într-un spaţiu totalitar, fără libertate de mişcare, Hanta, personajul-narator, ne relatează trista sa poveste. Bun venit în pivniţa întunecată şi rece, plină de cărţi vechi şi şobolani, unde îşi duc existenţa o presă îmbătrânită şi un om menit să reducă la tăcere autori nepreţuiţi şi înscrisuri valoroase. Timp de 35 de ani Hanta a presat hârtie veche. În tot acest timp şi-a iubit munca, a salvat acele cărţi pe care le-a îndrăgit, şi şi-a frânt inima printr-o simplă apăsare de buton, conducând spre pieire restul volumelor.În timp de şobolanii duceau o luptă crâncenă pentru câştigarea unui spaţiu în pivniţă, Hanta era bântuit de fontomele cărţilor prăpădite.
Pentru Hanta, cărţile şi berea însemnau totul. Prin ele trăia, evolua sau decădea, iubea, evada din realitatea restrictivă şi copleşitoare sau se afunda în singurătatea prea zgomotoasă. Chiar dacă nu există o acţiune dinamică, cu răsturnări de situaţie, emoţiile protagonistului nostru sunt contagioase. Prin vocea sa, Hrabal a redat realitatea distorsionată a ţării sale natale Cehia, într-o perioadă întunecată. O ţară acaparată de comunism, războaie, tratamente inumane şi, nu în ultimul rând, afectată de cenzură şi controlul actelor creative, operele preţioase circulând multă vreme în samizdat. Acest lucru este foarte clar redat în următorul citat:
„Locuiesc într-un fost regat, unde a existat şi persistă încă obiceiul, chiar obsesia, să se comprime cu multă răbdare în minte gânduri şi imagini care aduc cu ele o bucurie de nedescris precum şi o tristeţe încă şi mai mare. Trăiesc între oameni care, pentru un pachet de gânduri comprimate, sunt capabili să-şi dea chiar şi viaţa.”
De ce citim? Cu ce rămânem din urma lecturii? Avem ceva de învăţat din cărţi? În romanul lui Habral vom găsi nenumărate răspunsuri pentru aceste întrebări, ba mai mult, ne vom simţi ca într-un carusel, purtaţi prin operele preţioase ale lui Nietzsche, Goethe, Schiller şi Kant. Scris într-un limbaj poetic, metaforic, romanul poate fi considerat un îndemn la lectură. Trăim într-o perioadă în care ne este permis să citim ce dorim, cât timp dorim, fără restricţii şi constrângeri. Nu mai trăim în contextul infernal al totalitarismului, copleşitor prin ură, teroare, discriminare şi cenzură, ci într-o societate structurată şi întreprinzătoare. Avem drepturi şi libertate de exprimare. Ar trebui să fim recunoscători pentru faptul că libertatea de creaţie nu mai este privită ca una dintre cele mai mari pericole la adresa regimului. Şi exemplul cel mai clar şi dureros ne este servit prin intermediul lui Hanta. Un om simplu, hotârat să facă faţă regimului, cu o dragoste măreaţă faţă de cărţi, dar infimă pentru a le putea salva.
Pentru a încheia într-o notă pozitivă, vă voi spune următoarele afirmaţii:Hanta iubeşte cărţile. VOI iubiţi cărţile. Si printr-o simplă asociere, VOI îl veţi iubi pe Hanta.
„Cerurile nu sunt umane, dar există ceva mai uman decât cerurile, compătimirea şi dragostea, pe care le-am uitat şi le-am rătăcit.”
There was a lot of background noise at the press center. I was excited and anxious, thinking that my time was limited and I wanted to ask just the „right” questions. As I approached him, still thinking about the powerful impression he made the night before, he smiled and invited me to sit next to him.
As I sit next to him, he tells me that he is amazed by the Romanian press and their questions, so I have a high standard to live up to, already. I reply, half-jokingly, that I hope I won’t be the one to disappoint him. Then I begin:
Alice Teodorescu: Let’s start with a tricky one first and we’ll see where it leads us… I was wondering if you could tell me how you would define mortality in relation to your art, as you tackle with a lot of huge subjects. Guillermo Arriaga: I think I will put mortality as a very important part of life. But it’s not about mortality, it’s about life. What I’m talking about is not death, but life, a life that has an ending. So if we want to be people that embrace and enjoy life, we have to know that it finishes and that’s why I talk about mortality.
A.T.: I’ve felt that you have to embrace death, not fear it. Be aware of it. And it relates to what you were saying last night, to risk, to go out there and live. G.A.:If you don’t risk, you begin to die…
A.T.: But talking about ending…as you finish the day, what is the final motivation for you to keep on doing what you are doing? G.A.: What is the final motivation? That my life is going to end. I have several skulls in my working place, from different materials. I bought one of bronze in Brazil. They all remind me that I’m going to die and that my work is going to survive me. Writing and doing films is an affirmation of life, because I am reproducing moments that I would not be able to repeat anymore. But they will go beyond me.
A.T.: What about these moments? You said that you could only write and create from your own experiences. How do you know a moment will become part of your art? G.A.: When it doesn’t go away. When it keeps knocking you and says I have to be told, I have to be told. There are stories that I have since I was 12 years old…
A.T.: They’re in the back of your mind… G.A.: No, they completely come back to the front of my mind.
A.T.: So, they keep pushing. G.A.: Yeah, they keep pushing.
A.T.: But, what about memory? Is it important in what you create? I mean, the retelling of those moments… G.A.: What is important in history in general, is not what happened, really, but how you perceive it. If there’s a car accident right now, outside, and we are 20 people watching it, there will be 20 perceptions. And how everyone perceived it, that is what’s worth it, more than the memory. I’m going to tell you about William Faulkner. Faulkner wrote a lot about lynching, and murders, and incest… and his brother said I don’t understand my brother, we live so happily, yes, there was lynching, but not that much, yes, incest, but not that much, so why did my brother perceive it like that?… we grew up in a very happy environment, what are we talking about?
A.T.: Do you think that the culture that you grew up in heavily influenced you and if you had grown up in another way, you would have been different? G.A.: I was telling a colleague of yours that the best thing that could have happened to me was to have grown up in the street I grew up. That definitely takes my perception of life and it’s the best thing that could have happened to me. And, yes, it’s not only culture, it has to do with the life experiences you have. Hunting has completely defined who I am and has completely defined my literature.
A.T.: I was actually wondering, when did you start hunting? How did it happen? G.A.: I wanted to become a hunter when I was like 5 years old.
A.T.: So, you knew.. G.A.: I knew. It’s funny, because my father is not a hunter. But the 3 male sons, we started hunting at some point in our life. And the 3 of us are much related to animals. One of them became a veterinary and he’s an expert in cows, the other one raised wild animals (like tigers…) and me as a hunter.
A.T.: It’s an impressing story. Well, I do believe that we are animals as well, as a species. And I’ve remembered just now that you said something about everyone finding his own tribe. Can you name your tribe? G.A.: My tribe is people that want to be out. My tribe is people that are not afraid to risk in their life. My tribe is people that like living intensely, fight intensely, love intensely… I think that it’s about people that don’t like monotony, they don’t like to be bored.
A.T.: And they don’t like to be lived by life, probably… Let me switch now to the creative part of life, as you said that you could write anywhere if inspiration comes… G.A.: It’s not about inspiration, it’s about sitting in front of your computer and trying to make it work. I had to adapt to write in many environments. But for me, the perfect environment is at night, in my studio, where I’m not disturbed, where I have all of my books… I, for example, use many photographs and paintings to write, sometimes I go and read some passages… So I, also, need my books. For me, my books, my films, are the blood of my work. If I lose my books… which I have bought all of my life, I have like 6000 books… (he pauses and gestures) That’s what feeds me.
A.T.: It’s really interesting that you say you use visuals for writing. After seeing the movies, I remember strong images and I remember it felt like visual poetry, if I may say so, and what remains with me, still, is a sense of very powerful emotions, like gripping my stomach. I was wondering if you are happy if people feel that way: G.A.: I’m very happy that people will feel things. There are even people that hate you when seeing 21 grams or Babel. They say, I hate the person who wrote this and then they meet me and they change their point of view.
A.T.: Well, it kind of happened to me as well. Not hate, but I’m really empathetic and movies like these follow me for months. G.A.: But, that’s better. There’s something called „the parking lot movie”, when you reached your car, you forgot about the movie. I don’t want my movies to be like that. I prefer to be hated…
A.T.: But to linger… G.A.: But to linger, exactly. Having a happy film where people will feel happy, but don’t remember it again, I don’t want that. I like to touch people, to change their perception and make their mind move.
A.T.: I can relate to that, but it’s difficult. I really admire you for wanting to tackle with this subjects that are considered taboo. And I’m really expecting to see Words with Gods. G.A.: I hope you like it.
A.T.: I hope, as well. I think I will, because religion is one of my favourite topics. G.A.: I can tell you, my colleagues did a great job and I’m very, very happy with the film. For me, there are masterpieces in some of those segments. Absolutely… they put everything they had, they weren’t just doing their job, they were doing something important.
A.T.: One last remark, I have a tattoo and I related to what you said that teenagers these days, because they’re in a protected environment, they need… G.A.: Scars. They need scars.
A.T.: Yeah… It lingers already and I’m thinking that maybe I need to get out there more. (I laugh a bit) G.A.: Yeah, because now youth is very protected. I don’t know about here, but in Mexico they are really protected now.
A.T.: No, in Romania as well. Maybe in the countryside it’s not that much… G.A.: But they have scars, they don’t have tattoos.
A.T.: True. G.A.: So people in the countryside, they live the hard life and they have more and more physical scars, but people who come from big cities, they live in an apartment, they go to school, they use the public transport, nothing happens, they need scars, so they get a tattoo.
A.T.: I’ve never put it in that perspective, but you opened my eyes… so thank you very much! G.A.: No, thank you! And you were up to the standards of the great Romanian press. A.T.: Thank you.
Do we write in order to heal? Is literature a form of therapy? – asked Ion Vianu, writer and psychiatrist, at the third meeting of the FILIT evenings, the special guest of which was the Nobel Prize laureate Herta Müller. “The Hungarian novelist György Dragomán told me that when he was 13 or 14 he was depressed and he decided to kill himself. He told his father it would be better if he died, and then his father gave him a book by Herta Müller and encouraged him to read it. «If afterwards you still want to kill yourself, then go ahead and do it». And Gyorgy Dragoman read it and changed his mind,” was the answer given by Ernest Wichner, a German writer and translator, the moderator of the evening.
Many things are therapy, a flower, a garden, anything that is beautiful can be therapy, added Herta Müller. “But in art, if something is beautiful, it is also painful. There isn’t just one side to it, it’s not just something that gives you joy. This pain is necessary, poetry does not end with its last word. It hurts, but it also helps me. It’s the same with writing. I’ve always believed that the sum of the two is zero: it hurts me as much as it helps me. This equation must exist, otherwise I don’t like the text,” explained the German writer.
In these circumstances, writing is a risk, but not writing is also a risk, as Herta Müller also found out, because she has often wondered what would have been best: to write or not to write? “Maybe it would have been better if I didn’t write. If I hadn’t started books and gone in this direction, I would have had a different life, with different friends. I would have worked somewhere, as a seamstress or in a stockings factory. I would have worked every day, I would have been tired, I would have seen what was going on around me and I would have found another way to express myself. I would have woven all this sensibility into a pair of stockings,” the writer said, musing about her alternative destiny. “But it wouldn’t have been visible in that pair of stockings…” Therefore, she concluded, it’s better that she works with words.
Anyway, all things are both sad and funny – this has always been Herta Müller’s belief. This is what her childhood was like. Sad because of her mother, who, returning home after five years in a labour camp for deportees, was sad for the rest of her life. But her childhood was also amusing, because, when retold on the stage of the National Theatre, it made the audience laugh. “I’ve always believed that my mother was old, although she was only 28. To me, at the age of five, it seemed I myself was very old, that I had already lived through so much, done everything. I was thinking what the heck I’m going to do until I’m 28.” But this feeling, which now seems amusing, came from the fact that her mother had “a very sad interior and exterior countenance”. She would eat in a rush and she had an obsession for potatoes, a luxury food in the labour camp. “I had to learn to peel the potatoes very thinly, and if I couldn’t do it, my mother would be very angry and hit me. It got to the point where I was afraid to eat together with her,” remembered Herta Müller. Her mother, like most of those who had returned from the labour camp, was never rid of the fear of starvation. She would eat with sadness, but also with joy. “These are such mixed up things, that you don’t know what is the percentage of each of these feelings,” added the writer.
“It’s impossible to be dry when it hurts”
Herta Müller told the audience that when she left her native country, she was so broken down, that all she could think about was what she had experienced in Romania. This is why, she says, she couldn’t have written about anything else. “Especially in the first years, when I knew that the Ceaușescu regime was still in power and that dozens of people I knew and loved had not managed to escape, I couldn’t write about anything else. It was that – or not writing at all.” However, the writer added, there’s nothing wrong in finding inspiration in your own experience, especially when it’s so powerful that it does not leave you undamaged. “Half of the world’s libraries are filled with books written by people who did not choose their topics, it was the topics that chose them.” Among these are the writers who have lived through the two World Wars, through the Gulag or the Holocaust.
Ion Vianu wished to stress he appreciates the extraordinary extent of the feelings Herta Müller conveys in her books. “She has a very acid side, very ironic, a serious and amusing side, but also a colourful one. She is a metaphor factory, my favourite writer.”
“It is impossible to be dry when you are in pain,” replied the Nobel laureate. “I want to oppose this pain through something that gives me joy. I don’t want to give in to pain. And I wouldn’t like the process if I didn’t have the possibility to see images. Through accurate observation, on the one hand you put yourself at the disposal of a reality, but you also evade it. I cannot explain this.” One way to evade was to set herself tasks, to observe things in the street – moles, for instance. “I’ve counted moles for hours, especially in summer. Or wooden walking sticks, an item that is no longer present in Germany, and is on its way to extinction in the rest of the world as well. This beautiful, cultural object is disappearing, unfortunately. Or pregnant women – I’ve always found something to count,” Herta Müller said, disclosing thus one of her “formulas”.
Also, in the times of the communist regime, jokes were such an evasion, an escape. They were, obviously, “both sad and funny”. “When you are depressed, jokes are good therapy. This activity gave me and my friends the joy to live. It is known that the best jokes have always been made in the worst of times.” And I don’t need a handkerchief, because I’m determined not to cry, as Herta Müller wrote in her latest book translated into Romanian.
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Scriem ca să ne vindecăm? Nu cumva literatura este și terapie? – a întrebat Ion Vianu, scriitor și psihiatru, la cea de a treia seară FILIT, al cărei invitat special a fost laureata Premiului Nobel pentru Literatură Herta Müller. „Romancierul ungur György Dragomán mi-a povestit că, la 13-14 ani, era depresiv și a decis că vrea să se sinucidă. I-a spus lui taică-su că ar fi mai bine să moară, iar tatăl lui i-a dat o carte a Hertei Müller și l-a îndemnat să o citească. «Dacă după aceea mai vrei să te sinucizi, poți să o faci». Iar Gyorgy Dragoman a citit-o și s-a răzgândit“, a fost răspunsul dat de Ernest Wichner, scriitor german și traducător, moderatorul întâlnirii.
Multe lucruri sunt terapie, o floare, o grădină, orice este frumos poate fi terapie, a completat Herta Müller. „Dar în artă, dacă ceva este frumos, te și doare în același timp. Nu există aici doar o latură, nu e doar ceva care te bucură. Această durere e necesară, poezia nu se termină o dată cu un cuvânt. Mă doare, dar mă și ajută. Așa este și la scris. Eu întotdeauna am crezut că suma celor două este zero: mă doare tot atât cât mă ajută. Această ecuație trebuie să existe, altfel nu îmi place textul“, a explicat scriitoarea germană.
În aceste condiții, să scrii este un risc, dar și să nu scrii este tot un risc, a aflat Herta Müller, care s-a întrebat de multe ori cum ar fi fost mai bine: să scrie sau să nu scrie? „Poate ar fi fost mai bine să nu scriu. Dacă nu m-aș fi apucat să citesc cărți și să merg în direcția asta, aș fi fost într-o altă viață, cu alți prieteni. Aș fi lucrat undeva, într-o croitorie sau într-o fabrică de ciorapi. Aș fi lucrat în fiecare zi, aș fi fost obosită, aș fi văzut ce se întâmplă în jurul meu și aș fi avut altă metodă de a mă exprima. Aș fi băgat toată această sensibilitate într-un ciorap“, s-a gândit scriitoarea la destinul său alternativ. „Doar că într-un ciorap nu s-ar fi văzut…“ Așa că este mai bine că lucrează cu cuvinte, a fost tot concluzia ei.
Oricum, toate lucrurile sunt triste, dar și amuzante – este credința constantă a Hertei Müller. Așa a fost și copilăria ei. Tristă din cauza mama ei care, întoarsă după cinci ani dintr-un lagăr de deportare, a fost tristă tot restul vieții ei. Dar și veselă, pentru că, iată, povestită pe scena Teatrului Național din Iași, această copilărie i-a făcut pe cei prezenți în sală să râdă. „Tot timpul am crezut că mama mea este bătrână, deși avea 28 de ani. Iar mie, la cinci ani, mi se părea că sunt deja la rândul meu foarte bătrână, că am trăit deja foarte multe. Mă gândeam ce dracu’ mai fac până la 28 de ani.“ Dar această senzație, acum amuzantă, a venit din pricina faptului că mama ei avea „o ținută exterioară și interioară foarte tristă“. Mânca în fugă și avea o obsesie a cartofilor, care fuseseră o mâncare de lux în lagăr. „A trebuit să învăț să cojesc cartofii cu coajă foarte subțire și, dacă nu reușeam, mama se enerva și mă bătea. Mi-era și frică să mănânc cu ea“, și-a amintit Herta Müller. Pe mama ei, ca pe majoritatea celor veniți din lagăr, nu o părăsise teama de a muri de foame. Mânca cu tristețe, dar și cu bucurie. „Sunt niște lucruri așa de complicate, că nici nu știi care sunt procentajele acestor sentimente“, a spus scriitoarea germană originară din România.
„E imposibil să fii sec când te doare“
Când a plecat din țara sa natală, a povestit Herta Müller, era atât de distrusă din punct de vedere nervos, încât nu avea în cap nimic altceva decât ceea ce a trăit aici. De aceea, a afirmat autoarea, nici nu avea cum să scrie despre altceva. „Mai ales în primii ani, când știam că în continuare există regimul Ceaușescu și câteva zeci de oameni pe care-i iubeam nu au scăpat, nu puteam scrie altceva. Mai bine nu aș fi scris deloc.“ Dar, s-a justificat într-un fel scriitoarea, nu este nimic greșit să te inspiri din propria experiență, când aceasta e atât de puternică încât nu te lasă nevătămat. „Jumătate din biblioteca lumii e plină de cărți ale unor oameni care nu și-au ales temele, ci temele i-au ales pe ei.“ Așa sunt scriitorii care au trecut prin cele două Războaie Mondiale, prin Gulag sau prin Holocaust, de exemplu.
Ion Vianu a ținut să menționeze că apreciază extraordinara întindere a sentimentelor pe care le transmite Herta Müller. „Are o latură foarte acidă, foarte ironică, o latură gravă și amuzantă, dar și o latură colorată. Ea este o fabrică de metafore, scriitoarea mea preferată.“
„E imposibil să fii sec, când te doare ceva”, i-a replicat laureata Premiului Nobel pentru Literatură. „Eu vreau să rezist la durerea asta prin ceva care să mă bucure. Să nu mă las învinsă de această durere. Și nu mi-ar plăcea, dacă nu ar fi această posibiltate de a vedea imagini. Prin observație exactă, pe de o parte te pui la dispoziția unei realități, dar te și sustragi. Nu pot să explic asta.“ Iar o cale de sustragere a fost aceea de a-și impune să observe pe stradă câte ceva – de exemplu, alunițe. „Am numărat alunițe ore în șir, mai ales vara. Sau bastoane, care acum în Germania nu mai există, iar în restul lumii sunt pe cale de dispariție. Acest obiect frumos de cultură dispare, din păcate. Sau femei gravide, tot timpul am găsit ceva de numărat“, a dezvăluit Herta Müller una dintre „rețetele“ sale.
Iar în vremea regimului comunist, bancurile reprezentau această fugă, această sustragere. Ele erau, cum altfel?, „și triste, dar și hazlii”. „Dacă ești depresiv, bancul e o bună terapie. Această preocupare ne-a redat, mie și prietenilor mei, bucuria de a trăi. Se știe că cele mai bune bancuri s-au făcut în timpurile cele mai groaznice.“ Și n-am nevoie de nici o batistă, pentru că nu vreau să plâng, cum a scris Herta Müller în cea mai recentă carte tradusă în România.
FILIT 2014 through the eyes of its guests. This edition in numbers
The second edition of the Iaşi International Festival of Literature and Translation (FILIT) is drawing to a close. The organisers estimate that the audience of the festival was of 35,000 (25,000 de spectators at the FILIT events and 10,000 visitors of the Bookfest book fair).
In total, almost 600 people (from abroad, from Romania and from Iaşi) were involved each day in the FILIT events: writers, translators of Romanian and international literature, cultural managers, literary critics, editors, educators, journalists, cultural bloggers and volunteers. Bookfest has meant another important deployment of forces, reuniting in its organisation around 100 people (the staff of the Association of Romanian Publishers, publishers, book sellers, logistics managers).
The FILIT guests came this year from 18 countries: Mexico, France, the Republic of Moldova, Iran, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Denmark, the USA, the UK, Germany, Poland, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Turkey, Sweden, the Netherlands, Romania. In total they travelled by plane 250.000 kilometres.
The celebratory spirit of the entire city, the extraordinary interest shown to literature by the young public, the size and the complexity of the festival, as well as the fact that it can easily stand on par with any of the similar events throughout Europe are just a few of the aspects noted by the FILIT guests. Here are some of the statements they made:
„ I’ve had a wonderful time at the festival. I’ve had a very big audience yesterday evening and a very enthusiastic audience and it’s the audience that makes the event I think. If you see them interested and if they’re enjoying themselves, then you project better.”
“The festival is of the highest level, in my opinion. It is an event not just of our national cultural scene, but, as far as I can see, this is one of the largest if not the largest such festival in the East of Europe. It’s a great success”.
“I’m glad to be here, in the capital of our Moldavia. FILIT is a large-scale event, there are very many writers here, and I am here with my friend, a great American poet, Edward Hirsch, and both of us are enjoying your hospitality”.
“I’m impressed this is the only second year of the festival and it seems – if somebody would told me that this festival had been going for ten years or twenty years I wouldn’t be surprised, because it seems to be very well organized.”
“It’s incredibly dynamic and I’ve never seen so many people and we don’t have quite so many people in festivals in Britain. You’ve had a NObel prize winner here yesterday, it’s amazing, it’s great.”.
Casa FILIT in front of the Palace of Culture involved the construction of a modular pavilion of approximately 1300 square metres, with a service personnel of around 50 people.
The Iaşi International Festival of Literature and Translation is an event funded by the Iaşi County Council through the Iaşi Museum of Romanian Literature. FILIT 2014 takes place under the high patronage of the European Commission Representation in Romania and has as its main partner the National Bank of Romania.
Andreea Chebac: How did you get inside of a teen’s mind for the book Maya’s Notebook? Was it hard? Isabel Allende: I have three grandchildren. When I wrote the book, the youngest one, Nicole, has gone through a very difficult adolescence. Fortunately, she didn’t get in trouble like Maya, but I always worried about her; she was wild, with no common sense, beautiful and had a boyfriend from hell. Her parents and me, as her grandmother, had to watch her constantly. Now she is 20, captain of her volleyball team at New York University, she is doing very well and she has a kind and smart boyfriend who adores her. My fears about Nicole inspired Maya. It was easy to get in the mind of the character because I was very close to my granddaughter.
AC: Why did you choose to present the dark side of youth? IA: I have three stepchildren, my husbands’ children with his first and second wife. Two of them have already died of drug related causes and the oldest, who is now 50 years old, is still doing drugs. His life is wasted, he looks terrible and for my husband’s sake, I pray that he will not die during his father’s life. I have seen the devastation of drugs to the addict and everybody around him or her. I needed to write about it. A teenager like Maya is constantly exposed to drugs, violence, prostitution, and petty crime, so it seemed quite natural that a girl in trouble would suffer those experiences in the novel.
AC: The book contains many descriptions of native ceremonies and celebrations. Have you seen them in childhood? How do you remember them? IA: Those ceremonies are mostly set in Chiloé. I have been there many times and I did a special trip to research for the ceremonies.
AC: The book contains the phrase: „Under the pretext of terrorism, the US government monitors our every movement”. Is this your personal opinion or just the opinion of the character? IA: It is my opinion.
AC: What made you address the issue of dictatorship and torture in a novel about a teenage girl? IA: Half the novel is set in Chile. Maya comes from Chilean refugees that had to flee from the dictatorship. There is a mystery about her grandfather. How could I not deal with those issues in the book?
AC: How did you create the plot of the book Maya’s Notebook? Did you have the outcome in mind or did it come to you in the process of writing? IA: I never have an outline when I start writing, not even with my latest book, Ripper, which is a crime novel. In Maya’s case I had a vague idea of the main character when I began the book and I knew that the girl would end up in Chiloé. I had done some research and as I was writing I continued to research, that was very inspiring. I didn’t have an ending in mind, usually I wait until I have told the whole story and then let the characters decide the ending.
AC: How did you get the idea of a book with your own quotes about love? IA: I suppose that those quotes are in my heart and my mind, they are part of my personality, so they keep up coming in different books.
AC: Are you considering publishing similar books, but with quotes on other themes? IA: Not for the time being. The truth is that I don’t know what I will write in the future, each book comes to me from some mysterious place. I don’t choose the story, it chooses me.
AC: What did you feel when you wrote Paula and The Sum of Our Days? Do you consider one of them to be your best book? IA: How can I judge my own books? That is the job of critics, professors and readers. Writing memoirs has been tricky for me because in both Paula and The Sum of our Days I exposed not only my life, but also the lives of other people, members of my family and friends. I had to be careful; on one hand I did not want to betray them and on the other I wanted the truth. There is a fine line between what is mine to tell and what is not mine to tell. I solved it by showing the manuscripts to everybody that was mentioned in the books for their approval. Only one person, one of my stepsons, did not want to be in The Sum of our Days, so I had to rewrite the book and eliminate him.
AC: I know that you start to write every new book at a certain date. Do you happen to have blockages? IA: For me it is easier to have a day to start because I can plan my whole year around the writing time. I need several months of silence and solitude to write a book. If I don’t fell inspired on that particular date, I just show up every single day in front of my computer for as long as it takes. Sooner or later the muse will visit me. The creative process is one part inspiration and three parts just work and discipline.
AC: Why are most of your main characters women? IA: I find them interesting, I know them well, I am surrounded by strong women and I have a Foundation to empower women and girls. Through the Foundation I have met many extraordinary women who have survived the most horrible experiences and yet they have not been broken. They stand on their feet, they become leaders and the struggle to save other women and girls from the fate they have endured. They inspire me.
AC: Are the magic and the inexplicable a part of life or just a part of literature? IA: I don’t how it is in Romania, but I come from Latin America and I live in California, where the mysteries of life and the universe are not only accepted but embraced. We do not have all the answers, we just have unending questions. Personally, I believe that there is spirit in everything that exists and open to the inexplicable.
AC: Why did you wait so long to write your first novel and where did all the need for writing go to until then? IA: Before becoming a writer I had been a journalist for many years in Chile. In Venezuela, where I lived as a political refugee after the military coup in Chile from 1975 to 1987, I did all sorts of odd jobs and ended up administering a school. I needed to support my family, so writing was out of the question; very few writers can make a living with their books. In l981 I started writing a letter to my dying grandfather, who was in Chile, and that letter became my first novel. I did not quit my day job until my third book, when I was sure that I could support my children with my writing.
AC: Can you reveal us something from you next book? IA: No, sorry. I never speak of book in progress.
AC: As a writer, what is your dearest memory? IA: Writing the first sentence of the House of the Spirits. I still remember it, more than thirty years later: Barrabas came to us by sea. Those words opened the door to literature and changed my life.
AC: It is hard to create funny characters ? IA: For me it is not so hard because I wrote humorous columns for magazines and newspapers for many years. I tend to have an ironic view of reality, that helps me to cope with the absurdity of people and the world.
AC: You wrote an autobiographical novel. How much do you think the public needs to know about the life of a writer? IA: Some readers like memoirs, others don’t. My memoirs have done well, so I assume that the readers are interested. I have no problem telling the public about myself and my life. It is not the secrets we share that make us feel vulnerable, it is the secrets we keep.
AC: How do you relate to criticism? IA: I don’t mind it. Anybody who does something public is exposed to positive and negative criticism. Why would I be an exception? Foto: Lori Bara
Author Isabel Allende is 71. Her husband is 76, her parents are in their late 90s and her dog, Olympia, is 16. So she’s confronting the issue of aging head-on and thinking hard about how to live passionately through the process.
“Society decides when we are old, usually at 65,” says Allende. “But really, we start aging at birth. We’re aging right now.”
She brings up some of the aging women she admires — Sophia Loren and Olga Murray, who at age 60 started working for the good of children in Nepal and now, at 88, has saved 12,000 girls from being sold into slavery. Also on her admiration list: the Dalai Lama. “The Dalai Lama is someone who has aged beautifully,” says Allende, “but who wants to be vegetarian and celibate?”
Allende asks, “So what have I lost in the last decades? People, places and the boundless energy of my youth. I’m starting to lose independence and that scares me.”
But there is also much that she has gained. ”Freedom. I don’t have to prove anything anymore. I’m not stuck in the idea of who I am, or who I should be … I feel lighter. I do not carry grudges, ambition, vanity, or any of the deadly sins that aren’t even worth it. It’s great to let go—I should have started sooner.”
That said, “For a vain female like myself, it’s very hard to age in this culture. Inside, I feel charming, seductive, sexy. Nobody sees that. I’m invisible. I hate to be invisible.”So how can she be sensual when she doesn’t feel desired? Her answers: To use her imagination and enjoy the sensory moments of life, like a hot shower. And how can she stay passionate? Her answer: She trains by saying yes to new experiences and practicing staying in love.
“In Spanish, the word for retirement is jubilación. Jubilation. Celebration,” she concludes. “I have chosen to stay passionate with an open heart and I’m working on it every day. Want to join me?”
Vinerea aceasta va invit la un atelier de limba romana organizat in Cracovia de Scoala CALITATE, cu care colaborez ca profesor de limba romana, si Institutul Cultural Roman din Varsovia (detalii mai jos).
Tema discutiei la care invit vorbitorii de limba romana (nivel intermediar si avansat) este uimirea, spiritul mirarii, si modurile sale de exprimare in limba romana. Daca tema vi se pare incitanta, sunteti asteptati in sala 53 a bibliotecii voivodale din Cracovia, de la ora 18.
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INSTITUTUL CULTURAL ROMÂN DE LA VARŞOVIA
ZIUA LIMBII ROMÂNE
30 august 2013 Biblioteca Publică Voievodală din Cracovia, str. Rajska nr. 1
În data de 30 august, la Cracovia, ICR Varşovia vă invită la un eveniment de promovare a învăţării limbii române, marcând totodată festiv Ziua Limbii Române. Împreună cu Şcoala de Limbi Străine „Calitate”, cu sprijinul Asociaţiei de Prietenie Polono-Române şi al Bibliotecii Voievodale din Cracovia, vom organiza ateliere de limba română – pentru începători şi semi-avansaţi, susţinute de lectorii Şcolii de Limbi Străine „Calitate”. Toţi participanţii la ateliere vor primi în dar un Ghid de conversaţie polon-român.
Ateliere de limba română
Atelier pentru începători – ora 18:00, sala 247 Atelier pentru semi-avansaţi – ora. 18:00, sala 53
Înscrierile se fac până la 28 august, prin intermediul unui formular aflat pe pagina http://www.calitate.pl Participarea la ateliere este gratuită.
Pe parcursul întregii zile, toţi doritorii vor putea participa la un concurs de cunoştinţe generale despre limba română. Formularele vor fi accesibile în holul Bibliotecii. Cele mai bune lucrări vor fi premiate cu cărţi, albume şi muzică, toate din România.
Regulament de concurs:
Participanţii la concurs vor completa formularele cu toate datele de contact solicitate. Formularele cu date incomplete nu vor putea participa la concurs. Formularele, având forma unui test-grilă, vor fi corectate după un barem unic. Răspunsurile corecte şi lista câştigătorilor vor fi afişate pe site-ul Institutului şi pe cele ale Partenerilor de eveniment începând cu data de 3 septembrie a.c. În cazul în care numărul testelor rezolvate corect va fi mai mare decât numărul premiilor prevăzute, câştigătorii vor fi desemnaţi prin tragere la sorţi. Premiile vor putea fi ridicate de la Biblioteca Publică Voievodală din Cracovia, ul. Rajska nr. 1 începând cu data de 4 septembrie până în 30 septembrie a.c.
The June 17-21 Krakow Poetry Symposium will bring together distinguished poets of several generations from the United States and other countries for 5 days of “International Poets in Conversation.” The Symposium is organized by the American Poetry Foundation and is an initiative of American poet Edward Hirsch and Polish poet Adam Zagajewski, who over the years have built permanent literary bridges between Poland and the United States. The United States Consulate General is pleased to join the Krakow Festival office and Jagiellonian University in supporting this significant event. The Symposium includes two poetry evenings: onWednesday, June 19 at 19:00 at Galicja Jewish Museum and Thursday, June 20 at 19:00 on the Stanislaw Wyspianski stage of Krakow Theater Academy. All events are open to the public. The results of the symposium (poems, translations, and reviews) will be published in “Poetry magazine”, the oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English speaking world.
The Romanian capital Bucharest is, this year, one of the organisers of the project “European Literature Nights 2012 – 2014”, alongside Brno, Dublin, Lisbon, Prague and Wroclaw. You can read more about the location, the authors, the books and the reading events planned for this year’s edition on the European Literature Nights site. Hurry up and book your seat in any of these great cities you might find yourselves in, or, why not?, take some time and dine out with a good book tonight. I will be back with my own impressions from my very own literature night, so stay tuned!
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What is the significance and aim of the ENL?
One night – many experiences: public readings of contemporary literature performed by well known personalities at attractive and unusual venues in cities across Europe.
European Literature Night builds on the concept of literature being a unique creative medium which embraces the voices of individuals along with the values of the society they live in. The umbrella project “European Literature Nights 2012 – 2014” aims to bring contemporary European literature to the general public in an innovative way through a series of public readings and accompanying events. Supported by a grant from the Culture Programme of the European Union, the project partners hope to deliver high level of impact to their audiences.Although it is Brno, Bucharest, Dublin, Lisbon, Vilnius, Prague and Wroclaw who are jointly co-organizing the project “ELN 2012 – 2014”, the other partner cities where Literature Night already took root are of no lesser importance for the event’s development.
ANDREA BOCELLI cântă la Bucureşti acompaniat de ORCHESTRA NAŢIONALĂ RADIO şi CORUL ACADEMIC RADIO, având-o ca invitată pe ANGELA GHEORGHIU
Abia revenită de la Shanghai, unde a reprezentat România participând la cel mai important festival de profil din China (Shanghai Spring International Music Festival), ORCHESTRA NAŢIONALĂ RADIO continuă seria evenimentelor de cea mai înaltă clasă artistică, răspunzând invitaţiei de cânta alături de ANDREA BOCELLI, în concertul extraordinar pe care celebrul tenor italian îl va susţine la Bucureşti. CORUL ACADEMIC RADIO se va alătura şi el evenimentului de anvengură oferit de binecunoscutul solist.
Sâmbătă, 25 mai, la Romexpo Bucureşti, Andrea Bocelli, considerat de mulţi cel mai îndrăgit tenor al lumii, va dărui publicului bucureştean un concert alături de invitaţii săi speciali: soprana Angela Gheorghiu, soprana Paola Sanguinetti, dirijorul Marcello Rota, grupul DIV4S, grupul CARisMA, Cezar Ouatu (reprezentantul României la Eurovision), Corul Radio şi Orchestra Naţională Radio. Melomanii vor avea astfel ocazia să asculte pentru prima oară live în România în interpretarea lui Andrea Bocelli piese care l-au consacrat, arii şi duete celebre din opere caTrubadurul, Rigoletto, Boema, Traviata ş.a., dar şi piese de pe noul album al artistului.
Evenimentul este organizat de Project Events şi European Events Service. Pentru mai multe detalii legate de achiziţionarea biletelor vă rugăm să consultaţi site-ul www.projectevents.ro.
Creată în 1928 din iniţiativa şi sub conducerea compozitorului Mihail Jora, odata cu momentul lansării postului public de radio, ORCHESTRA NAȚIONALĂ RADIO se afirmă prin concerte publice începând cu anul 1932. La pupitrul ansamblului s-au aflat maeştrii artei dirijorale româneşti, de la Ionel Perlea sau Constantin Silvestri, la Iosif Conta şi Horia Andreescu, precum şi figuri emblematice ca George Enescu, alături de un mare număr de dirijori străini. Stagiunile au avut de asemenea ca invitaţi o pleiadă de solişti vocali celebri, români sau de peste hotare:Montserrat Caballé, Angela Gheorghiu, Eliane Coelho, Ileana Cotrubaş, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti. În perioada mai recentă, Orchestra Naţională Radio s-a impus prin turneele întreprinse – Franţa, Italia, Germania, Spania, Elveţia, Rusia, Ungaria, Turcia, Bulgaria, Cipru, Grecia, Japonia, China – şi prin participările la festivaluri internaţionale, evenimente care i-au confirmat pretutindeni prestigiul. Dirijor-șef al Orchestrei Naționale Radio este, începând din stagiunea 2012-2013, Tiberiu Soare.
Fondat în 1940, CORUL ACADEMIC RADIO s-a impus în scurt timp ca o formaţie de elită, iar numeroşi compozitori români au scris lucrări dedicate corului, pe care acesta le-a prezentat în primă audiţie concertistică absolută. Acest ansamblu coral de excepţie a probat calitatea sa în lucrări din literatura muzicală românească şi universală, în marele repertoriu liric prezentat pe scena de concert, abordând un impresionant număr de lucrări în toate genurile muzicale. În prezent, Corul Academic Radio este condus de dirijorul Dan Mihai Goia.
În anul 1996, ansamblul a primit Premiul Uniunii Criticilor Muzicali din România. Corul Academic Radio este actualmente cea mai importantă şi mai valoroasă formaţie de gen din România, ducând peste hotare în multiple turnee faima cântului coral românesc.
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 1,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.
There are so many people I have been meaning to reverently mention here since Easter, people I met or learnt more about during inspiring events over this past month and a half, that I’d like to call on my good friend and fellow blogger Stefan‘s muse, that goddess called conciseness, and hope to remember them all.
Two special people prompted the writing of this post:
Mr Aleksander Semlak, who celebrated his 85th birthday yesterday, during a picnic organised with the care and culinary support of my Romanian students, along with the director of the only private School providing Romanian courses in the city, and Mrs Sylwia Wallis-Korzeniowska, founder and director of one of the most prestigious English Language Schools in Krakow. It is thanks to them, their wonderful spirit, and their forward thinking that I found myself encouraged to dream, once again, about something new.
It is a wonderful feeling to find yourself inspired to dream, wide awake, without limitations, and embrace novelty in the peaceful company of other dreamers, sparkles flying from one gaze to invisible stars (by day, mind you) and back to other dream gazers. Like any new look on the world, contemplating something new is a timeless delight. It can occur as casually as a sunny sky overturning a bad weather forecast, in spite of all odds. Every dream we allow ourselves to dream is another victory over all kinds of defeatism, like the times tainted with doubtful “why-s” and “what for-s”.
Something new always seems to come as a surprise,
as something worth putting on a smile for.
And so it was that May 8th could, and did, in fact,
Saturday morning, April 29th, could, yet didn’t smile at Sunday evening, April 30th, when I had the pleasure of listening to the brilliant double-bass player Avishai Cohen, whose show concluded the 18th International Jazz Festival in Krakow.
Nevertheless, it had plenty of time to smile afterwards, with its ears, as much as with anything else – as rhythm is and remains all-pervasive. As a matter of fact, it still smiles today, June 3rd.
Today, on what is deemed to be the international Day of Poetry, I happened to have a meeting with one of my students, Mariusz Walczak, who translated to me from Polish an interview with Zadie Smith taken after the Czeslaw Milosz Literature Festival, and published in the first issue of the book magazine “Ksiazki” in July, last year.
Zadie Smith and Alina Alens (Photo by Tomasz Wiech)
While discussing the questions, answers and several inevitable translation issues as we went through the interview, I was brought back to the meeting with Romanian writer Gabriela Adamesteanu in Krakow 7 days ago, on the occasion of the release of her novel, “Dimineata pierduta”, in Polish translation “Stracony Poranek”, albeit across three languages – Polish, English, and Romanian -, a linguistic reality I am by now familiar with, by force of circumstance.
Both authors happened to be, in 2011 and last week, at their second visit to the city of Krakow. As a temporary city resident since late 2006, I was fortunate to meet them both, exchange a few words, and offer each of them a copy of my book of poems “The Incomplete Fantasy We Call Love”.
To paraphrase Zadie Smith – via Mariusz’s translation that I am grateful for :), Thank you, Mariusz!, we live in a world that favours non-fiction/ the things that actually happen(ed), over fiction/ the things that occur(ed) in an author’s imagination, a world in which people have lost their patience for being guided into fictional worlds of sorts – all except, maybe, some educated elites within the contemporary reading public. Is it a stretch of the imagination to say that living in one’s head as a self-exploring writer nowadays is more than a risky business, verging on a kind of self-imposed social isolation?
Asked what type of literature she prefers to write, Zadie Smith gives a two-fold answer, saying that she writes articles, essays and reviews requested by various publications for practical reasons and with immediate results, whereas writing a novel is a much more unpredictable endeavour. That is because while writing a novel a writer can dive in and disappear for what can sometimes end up to be years. Gabriela Adamesteanu is, in her turn, well-known for her non-fictional review and article writing in the Romanian cultural press. When asked if her non-fiction writing sometimes blends into her fiction, she asserted that, even though the research for certain articles could work to the advantage of something she writes, the fictional worlds stand alone, uniquely anchored in the imagination, no palpable reality strings attached.
The greater part of the interview with Zadie Smith, as well as the greater part of the meeting with Gabriela Adamesteanu, rested in a talk on different aspects and qualities of literary speech, in other words, on the mechanics of the dialogue that the literary characters engage in. According to Zadie Smith, there are three categories of writers when it comes to the art of dialogue, which she does not see as an outdated strategy for building characters: there are writers like J. D. Salinger, who write sparkling, natural dialogues with ease and perfect intuition, writers whose characters tend to sound like themselves (in terms of humour, tone, concepts, phrasing and the like), which lends them a certain artificial quality, like the School of Saul Bellow, and writers like John Updike, for whom dialogue is nothing complicated, and who tend to always preserve and observe a certain thesis behind their characters’ speech. Each category of characters created by these three types of writers is different, some being kept willingly diverse, others remaining homogenous. In the case of Gabriela Adamesteanu, the characters of her novel released in Polish translation last week refuse to remain homogenous, and their language, the main topic of that and many other literary meetings, we were told, spanned the Romanian social hierarchy from its very top to its very bottom, in a manner that has made it such a daring challenge for any translator, and so true to the reality of the Romania of the inter- and post-war period, that the author herself confessed that when she thought of her book being one day translated into another language, that possibility was as far from reality (as she saw it) as astronomically possible.
In writing the text of the five scenes of the play “Born A Foreigner” for the Talking About Borders international drama competition, over two weeks before December 21st, 2011 – coincidentally a year before the Mayans predicted end of the world, I myself was confronted with the challenge of creating strong, independent characters with voices of their own, while prserving the intended meaning of their sentences. The most challenging character voice in the play was Wido’s, as he is a character whose English, the original language the play was written and meant to be acted in, is not very good, so that the risks involved in illustrating his linguistic limitations proved very high. “Is the character’s language that bad, or does this author have no clue about how to write?” became the question. As “Born a Foreigner” was written as a play, I decided to use correct language and, instead of inserting pauses and mistakes, I (subsequently) added introductory notes in which I advise the actor playing Wido to improvise and reduce the language of the character as he sees fit:
ACTORS’ NOTES:The language used by Wido, Alta, and Nomura in order to communicate is not their mother tongue. The original language of the play is English, which Alta and Nomura have a good knowledge of. Wido’s knowledge of this language (or the language the play is translated in), on the other hand, is more limited than the other two characters’. Therefore, the actor playing Wido’s part has to make use of pauses, hesitations, or mistakes and insert involuntary linguistic inaccuracies while communicating. The texts of the two scenes of Act 1 include the lines that Wido would have used if he had spoken English (or the language the play is translated in) well. Each of Wido’s lines is subject to alteration. As a result, Alta and Nomura’s lines may also undergo changes. Wido’s linguistic difficulties remain consistent throughout the play, throughout Act 1 and Act 4, respectively. In spite of language mistakes, the general impression conveyed by the two scenes of Act 1 is one of apparently successful communication.
Clever trick? Lazy writer who makes life hard for the actor who happens to play Wido and the director who happens to direct the play? May the audience decide. I am ready for any outcome, as I assume each of the writers passing through Krakow might be, should they decide to have their words performed on stage. When Gabriela Adamesteanu’s “Wasted Morning” was put on stage in 1987 by Catalina Buzoianu, it became a cultural centre of interest at a time when the Ceaușescu regime had entered its more repressive phase. I promise to be back with impressions from the first performance of “Born A foreigner”, in Poland or elsewhere there are still skin colour lessons to be learnt. For now, I am just passing through, from winter into spring, from circles of silence into other circles of silence, in this border-line fictional world of the blogosphere.
“The Caliph’s loneliness persisted despite the procession of virgins who filled his bed and were sacrificed each day. And because he never had anyone with whom to share his unhappiness, he kept his disillusionments secret.”
(Voices of the desert, p. 34)
Trapped by the eye of the camera, the eyes of her viewers, and her own sensuous beauty, Marilyn. Only the eyes visible, the livelihood of her tales the most valued of her talents, Scheherazade. Two different destinies, two different paths, exquisitely recreated in Simon Curtis’ movie, My Week with Marylin (2011), and in the literary rendition of Scheherezade, Voices of the Desert (2004), by Nelida Pinon.
Reality and myth confront one another and often clash with repercussion in both directions – that of the authentic ego (that can be touched) and the one created and maintained as an alter ego by the simple act of gazing or ear lending, most often in completely different ways, the image, legend or myth assuming a more pervasive aura than the human being behind it. Human physical frailty is key, as neither image – the one enticing viewers on the screen and the one enticing the Caliph from under the veil – can give measure to the two women’s complex nature.
“People always see Marilyn Monroe. As soon as they realize I’m not her, they run.” (quoted from the movie)
“Her heart is not always bound to the tales she relates. Her desire is to one day resume life outside the palace walls, to be free of the burden of storytelling.” (Voices of the Desert, p. 24)
It is through such rifts that personal discontent and suffering well up – even though each of thewomen do their best to keep them hidden from the world. And yet – fortunately, or, at times, less so -, their instinctive talents prevail in spite of physical adversity. In order to keep their image alive, each woman sacrifices something. With Marilyn, it is her need to be loved and find fulfillment as a mother and wife. Scheherezade, on the other hand, for whom the “Caliph’s cruelty shines before [her] eyes” (p. 30), wants nothing more than to stop the chain of cruelties he inflicts on women at the cost of her own life and, in storytelling, at the cost of her own individuality.
“[T]o lend credibility to her task, she tries to free herself of the signs of her individuality. Her deeper being is not at issue.” (p. 30)
Throughout the shooting of “The Prince and the Showgirl”, Marilyn struggles with the character she has to play, unable to perform any lines until she herself can find them credible. She, too, has to lose herself in the character she plays, abandon human subjectivity to an icon figure. Added to the daily delays and the constant need for repetition, her desire for perfection in performing prompts Sir Lawrence Olivier to confide in Colin Clark that “directing a movie is the best job ever created, but [that] Marilyn has cured [him] of ever wanting to do it again.” As Colin Clark tells Marilyn in a previous scene, “It’s agony because he’s a great actor who wants to be a film star, and you’re a film star who wants to be a great actress. This film won’t help either of you.”
On the human side, working with Marilyn did not help turn back time, either, in spite of Sir Lawrence Olivier’s hopes – and his own wife’s worst fears. However, when each return to acting – in plays and movies -, they prove to be more stunning than ever before.
In her turn, Scheherezade “felt distressed by the pressure of her talent. She didn’t care about praise[.] This did not stop her on certain occasions from swelling with pride, only to regret at once the arrogance that could poison her.” One way to alleviate this oppression and calm herself came from “the ancient practice of hiding lightly scented messages beneath the colorful pillows scattered about the house” (p. 25), notes that her sister, Dinazarda, tried to find and decipher, to no avail.
“As a whole, the notes, because of their cryptic nature, meant nothing. They were but papyrus, useful only for Scheherezade to elaborate some story ready to blossom under her wit.” (p. 26)
Telling stories hidden behind a veil and personifying female sensuality with innate talent. Could they be two sides of the same coin? And what should we call it?
My thoughts right now point to entrapment, or the burden of talent in a ungrateful world that enjoys talent in its multifarious forms, but fails to acknowledge it for its worth to society.
I’ll let you know if I find more coins in the drained fountain of our ages.
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“After his decision to sacrifice the young women of the kingdom in order to satisfy his hatred of the Sultana, the Caliph had felt safe. He had found a means of assuring the court that he was immune to woman, to that being with a body as sinuous as the lines of the Tigris and Euphrates, in whose veins he had found milk, honey, poison. But despite protecting himself, he had weakened before females and continued taking them into his bed as a necessary evil. That entity, full of meanings and ambivalence, at once beautiful and wicked, remained to him an indecipherable mystery, to which he had access only in the shadow of night, when, bewildered, he touched the smooth skin that evoked exhudations in his body.” (Voices of the Desert, p. 34)
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