Cultural Summary 25 March 2018

An extrovert week is followed by a more introvert one, perhaps also coloured by the tumultuous events at work. Students occupied part of our building and impeded access to workspace, training rooms and even fire exits, and we had all the excitement of megaphones, human chains, trying to reason with them and then being evacuated and finding refuge in the library. While I have every sympathy with their fear that universities are becoming too similar to businesses, I am not fully clear what their aims are or how we could help them achieve those. But it does bring back memories of idealistic younger days when we protested against Communism and (sort of) won that battle, and of course there are parallels with the March for Our Lives movement in the US. I hope that this younger generation will achieve something before they get too disillusioned by the inertia and selfish interests of the older generations.

March 20th was the International Day of the Francophonie, so I spent the evening reading some French poetry, which was perhaps my first poetic love (Verlaine, Rimbaud, Baudelaire). I have a slim volume which is a good introduction to more modern poetry published by Gallimard: Mon beau navire, ô ma mémoire: Un siècle de poésie française (1911-2011). Gallimard has equivalent anthologies for each century, and this one features both well-known poets (such as Apollinaire, Paul Eluard, Aragon) as well as many poets that I am less familiar with.

This week I discovered the Norwegian crime series in 6 episodes Eyewitness on Walter Presents/All 4. Two teenage boys witness a crime at a sand quarry just outside their town and vow to keep it a secret, with all sorts of repercussions on their community and on themselves. It’s got great build-up of suspense and pacing throughout and manages to also be a love story, a tender mother and son/foster parents and child story, and to show how fallible and flawed even police detectives can be. Recommend, if you can access it. I very seldom binge watch, but I watched all 6 episodes over the course of just 2 nights.

I also succumbed to some bookish temptations. Upon hearing the sad news of the death of Philip Kerr, I borrowed one of the post-WW2 Bernie Gunther books from the library Prussian Blue, to see how Gunther copes with a post-Nazi world. I stuck to Germany when I ordered another novel by Jenny Erpenbeck, whose Go Went Gone I so enjoyed. This time it’s Heimsuchung (translated by Susan Bernofsky as Visitation), about a century of German history seen through the ‘eyes’ of a piece of land outside Berlin and the people who lived on it. Last but not least, the Japan Society left a comment on my review of Japanese novellas, and drew my attention to a dual language anthology of contemporary Japanese writing that they have just published. Heaven’s Wind is translated and edited by Angus Turvill and might help me get back into reading Japanese in the original once more. There will be a Book Club meeting dedicated to this volume on the 9th of April at the Japan Society headquarters in London.

There will be a break in my cultural events for the next two weeks, as holidays and the mountains beckon. However, if you are in France and not skiing, then you really should go to the wonderful Quais du Polar crime festival in Lyon, which this year takes place between 6 and 8 April. It will be my first time since 2012 that I won’t be able to make it, but I am sure Emma from Book Around will tell us all about it.

Happy Days in Lyon

France, Norway, Germany and Japan (plus I’ve just finished reading a crime novel set in South Afrida): where have you been ‘transported’ this week?

Teenagers and Drama Queens

Teenagers of both sexes can be such drama queens –  I remember how important and raw and overwhelming EVERYTHING seemed back in those years. The hates, the loves, the passions were all so much more immediate and colourful! So, my thirteen year old has only just become a teenager but is displaying all of these strong feelings. Or rather, the feelings are often getting the better of him.

This sometimes leads to some amusing situations, such as when he is required to write a poem for his French class on the subject of melancholy. His efforts seemed to me worthy of a bloodthirsty and world-weary Baudelaire:

MĂ©lancolie

Dans la ville c’est bientôt le soir.
MĂ©lancolie, la bile noire,
seule la tristesse comme Ă©motion.
Tout le monde est donc en dépression.

Un autre homme tombe mort
Il faudra enterrer son corps
Le cimetière est déjà plein.
VoilĂ  la fin de mon refrain.

English translation (sadly, without the sound effects they were required to create):

The city soon turns to dusk.
Melancholy, that black bead,
sadness the only emotion.
Everyone is in deep depression.

Another body falling down.
We’ll have to bury his corpse.
The cemetery is already full.
And that’s the end of my refrain/song!

Messy teenage bedroom, from alamy.com
Messy teenage bedroom, from alamy.com

And now that my internet connection appears to have come back (hush, softly, I don’t want to jinx it!), I’ve been enjoying the #Teensin5words hashtag. Some of them will resonate with many of us, whether we are currently parenting teens or not:

Stomp stomp stomp stomp SLAM!

You were never my age!

Shut up! I know everything!

Too late for Plan B.

I’m linking this up to Open Link Night at dVerse Poets Pub, although it is not really my poem. But it’s a good way to end a horrendous week (or two, or three) without internet or phone, after not being able to read any of the wonderful poems there!