Spring Break: London

With the time difference this post should come in right on schedule.

In five days we have seen Picadilly Circus, Harrod’s, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, The British Museum (home of the Rosetta Stone), The Tower of London, London Bridge, The Shard (the tallest building in the European Union), St. Paul’s Cathedral as well as the market at Camden.

All were unique and brilliant, adding a special touch to our vacation but my favorite part of the trip was the literary piece I saw at The National Gallery, our last stop.

All the artwork in The National Gallery is timeless and deserves attention but I was especially drawn to the “image as text” in Titian’s An Allegory of Prudence. The painting dates between 1550 and 1565. It features the face of an old man facing backward, the face of a man in his prime facing straight ahead and the face of a young man facing into the distance. Below the old man is an image of a wolf, while below the image of the man in his prime is a lion and below the image of the young man is a dog. I learned from the audio guide that the wolf represents wisdom while the lion represents strength and the dog represents eagerness in keeping with the Latin inscription at the top of the painting. It reads, “Learning from yesterday, today acts prudently, lest by his action he spoil tomorrow.” So it is a philosophical painting as well. It is believed that Titian painted himself into the allegory as the old man.

Tomorrow we head home, but only after one more continental breakfast at Richoux, which was established in 1909. I have enjoyed lovely starts to the day there, complete with classical music and a novel that will soon be revealed. The rest of the days have been dedicated to tourism, connecting with family, and making new friends.

I am returning with two souvenirs: a black and white painting of London that contains a splash of red in a tree and the signature red booth as well as a Tshirt that reads “Keep Calm I’m a Teacher.”

It has been a splendid holiday and I am looking forward to reuniting with Caesar in Charm City.

Neruda

I saw the critically acclaimed film Neruda at a Meetup at the Charles Theatre here in Baltimore on March 5, 2017.

It has been nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film as well as five other awards. Pablo Larraín directed the film.

Gael García Bernal plays the detective searching for the Chilean poet and statesman Pablo Neruda who has gone into hiding because of his communist sympathies. The film is set in 1948. Luis Guecco plays Pablo Neruda.

The film is highly literary in nature which is clearly revealed in the clues Neruda purposefully leaves behind and in the conversation between the detective and Neruda’s second wife. She explains to the detective that in planning his escape Neruda wrote the character of the detective and like every author he controls the destiny of his characters.

The detective asks her if Neruda wrote her character too and she simply answers, “No, I am immortal.” She is immortal because Neruda captured her in his poetry.

The poem most often referred to in the film is commonly known as “Poema XX.” I happily recognized it as the poem my Intermediate I students write about every semester. Their response papers never fail to capture the essence of the poem.

The original version of “Poema XX” and its English translation, can be found in a bilingual edition of Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. W.S. Merwin is the translator. The introduction is by Cristina García and the illustrations are by Pablo Picasso.

Pablo Neruda was born Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Basoalto in 1904. He died in 1973. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

 

Our Quotable Oscar

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was Irish. As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this weekend I would like to posit that his witty and wise words belong to lovers of great literature everywhere.

He was a playwright, novelist, essayist and poet. His works offer something for everyone.

He was born in 1854 and he died in 1900. He is buried in Paris.

My favorite work of Oscar Wilde’s is his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. The tale of youth and corruption was condemned as immoral by his Victorian critics.

Some of the most quotable passages from the novel include:

“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”

“To define is to limit.”

“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”

“Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is by far the best ending for one.”

“Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.”

Near the end of his life Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for homosexuality. He died penniless a few years later in France but like all great writers he lives on in the works he left behind.

The official Oscar Wilde website is: http://www.cmgww.com/historic/wilde/

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove is the New York Times Bestseller by Fredrik Backman, author of Britt-Marie Was Here. 

The first things the reader learns is that Ove is fifty-nine years old and a devoted SAAB owner. When the novel opens, he is buying an iPad and treating the salesman with great belligerence.

The second chapter brings the reader three weeks earlier when there is brief mention of a cat that becomes Ove’s constant companion later on.

Ove is a man of habit and he always starts his day with an inspection of the neighborhood. He notes repeatedly that “Life was never supposed to be like this.”

The reader soon learns of the death of his wife, which has left Ove suicidal.

But luckily for Ove his plans are about to be thwarted time and time again by the arrival of some new characters that come to slowly change his misanthropic ways.

The story comes full circle, told in a series of flashbacks where he reminisces about the good times and trials he shared with his wife and then is brought back into the present by one of his new friends.

The iPad turns out to be a birthday gift for the one of the neighbor’s daughters.

Ove dies peacefully at home in the company of Ernest the cat.

“More than three hundred people come to the funeral,” proving that anyone can fill the world with optimism (page 336).