Cultural Summary April 1-10

Val Thorens from above the clouds.

‘Culture’ might be a bit of a misnomer for what I’ve been doing since April 1st. However, there is such a thing as a skiing and snowboarding ‘sub-culture’ – and no, it’s not the wealthy people posing in their Chanel ski-suits and drinking Aperol in front of an open fire in their immaculate chalets. Skiing to me and my friends since high school is a low-budget, almost alcohol-free, very sporty and fun adventure, with a lot of talk about snow conditions, piste-bashing, skiing techniques and waxing and cutting edges. Sounds absolutely riveting, doesn’t it? Not everyone’s mug of mulled wine, but the upside is a view like the one above.

Sadly, I have to admit that for the first time I truly felt my age, as the altitude and exertions really got to me. I emerged like a warrior after endless wars in Troy: with a strained ligament, a pulled deltoid, throbbing headache, shortness of breath and a cold. Still, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! I mean: how inspiring is this?

Mont Blanc from the ‘other’ angle.

I did get quite a bit of reading done and, since I was skiing with Chinese and French friends, it was appropriate to read Chinese thriller Death Notice by Zhou Haohui and Sébastien Japrisot’s One Deadly Summer. Both have been adapted for the screen, but while the Chinese book is all heart-stopping action, the French book is languid, slow build-up of tension and a lot of personal emotion (the film stars a very young Isabelle Adjani). I have also embarked upon the Asymptote Book Club title for March, Domenico Starnone’s Trick, translated by Jhumpa Lahiri, a sensitive, amusing and slightly disquieting view of the less talked about aspects of the grandfather/grandson relationship.

I was planning to attend First Monday Crime at City University last night, but had to give up and go home early because of creaking bones. However, if you are a fan of crime fiction, this monthly event (twice this April – the next event will be on the 30th) is a must-see: great panels, super-nice people and lots of laughter guaranteed.

More exciting events coming up this week: the launch of the new edition of Poetry Review will take place at the Poetry Café in London’s Covent Garden on Wednesday 11th April. And on Thursday my older son and I will be attending the show we’ve been waiting for, dreaming and talking about, singing for the past year or so: Hamilton. Last but not least, my local writing group will be celebrating two years of existence on Sunday 15th with a feedback session and a festive meal.

I’ve also acquired some books in that short day that I was at Senate House library yesterday. I borrowed George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London to reread for the David Bowie Book Club in April. I also borrowed John Berger’s to reread for Shiny New Books’ celebration of 50 years of Booker Prize – Golden Booker Week in July. Serendipity again reared its spirited head and introduced me to Brian Aldiss’ Life in the West – mention an ex-spy  and hedonist and an academic conference – and I cannot resist! I also found an academic book entitled Tatort Germany: The Curious Case of German-Language Crime Fiction, so you can imagine I had to pick that one up! Finally, the ever-wonderful Europa Editions sent me Iranian-born, French-writing author Négar Djavadi’s debut novel Disoriental, described as at once a micro-history of Iran, a family saga and a woman’s personal experience of exile.

And finally, just ‘pour la bonne bouche‘, as the French say, here is one more picture to say farewell to winter. Give me snow over rain, I say!




12 thoughts on “Cultural Summary April 1-10”

  1. Ah, those gorgeous mountains! Creaks, groans, and so on or not, they are breathtaking and I can see why you enjoyed skiing. You’re very lucky, too, to be where you can get to First Monday Crime and the Poetry Café. Both sound wonderful.

  2. I’ve also acquired some books

    My, there’s a surprise.

    I recall well the Adjani movie you mention. I really ought to get round to tracking down the novel — thanks for the prod.

    1. Do I detect some chortling in the background, unconvinced by my power of restraint? Good job there wasn’t any bookshop in Val Thorens, or I might have had to leave my ski clothes behind to fit the books in the luggage.

    1. The funny thing is that I had only heard of Aldiss as a science-fiction writer, but this book, the first in the Squire Quartet, seems very different.

  3. Beautiful. I admire your skiing despite the threat of pain and feeling the creaks of aging joints and bones. I have never skiied, am a city person. The most exercise I do is walk to get a good pastry and coffee/tea a few blocks away.
    I am reading “Go, Went, Gone,” a very good book in so many respects. Two friends read it and recommended it; they have visited friends in German, both the GDR and the Germany of today.
    I went back to and reread your excellent review of it. It is a painful book to read as it forces readers to confront the very real pain and trauma of refugees to Europe and their mistreatment, when all they want to do is work and live. It’s more than sad.

    1. So pleased you liked Go Went Gone – it is so timely and thought-provoking, isn’t it? No easy answers there, simply more humanity required of all concerned.
      The funny thing is that I am quite a city person as well – and enjoy walking to the local coffee shop as much as you. But skiing is my passion and a sort of meditation as well!

  4. Hmmm, skiing scares me. But I did my share of mountain climbing and hiking while at college in New England, followed by vacations to Maine and Vermont.

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