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Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

“During the late Thirties, some of Britain’s most distinguished architects, artists, musicians, film-makers and others, many of them Jewish, arrived on our shores with their meagre belongings having escaped from the Nazi threat in continental Europe. Many of them made their homes here and went on to leave a lasting mark on our intellectual and cultural life. Britain reaped a rich reward for its tolerance. . . .

“Among them were two refugees from Vienna, Walter Neurath and Eva Feuchtwang. . . .

“They met in London during the war, fell in love, and in 1949, 60 years ago, they pooled their passions, and set up a new art publishing imprint that would straddle the Atlantic.

“They named it Thames & Hudson, after the rivers of London and New York, and their aim was to publish reasonably priced books on art, sculpture and architecture, in which words and pictures were integrated and accessible to all. They wanted their books to educate, inform and entertain as a ‘museum without walls’. . . .

“Setting out to rebuild British culture Thames & Hudson has grown into a hugely successful company, and it remains one of Britain’s last family-held publishing dynasties.” (more @ Times Online)

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killingfieldHolocaust deniers aside, the world is not ignorant of the systematic Nazi slaughter of some six million Jews in World War II. People know of the gas chambers in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen; many have heard of the tens of thousands shot dead in the Ukrainian ravine of Babi Yar. But little has been known about the hundreds — perhaps thousands — of smaller killing fields across the former Soviet Union where some 1.5 million Jews met their deaths.

“That is now changing. Over the past few years, the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and research center in Israel has been investigating those sites, comparing Soviet, German, local and Jewish accounts, cross-checking numbers and methods. The work, gathered under the title ‘The Untold Stories,’ is far from over. But to honor Holocaust Remembrance Day, which starts Monday evening, the research is being made public on the institution’s Web site.” (more @ NY Times)

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“In “Defiance,” a clunky but well-meaning action film set during World War II and starring Daniel Craig, the Bielski brothers save hundreds of fellow Polish Jews by battling Nazis in the Belarussian forest. Directed by Edward Zwick and based on a true story, the movie, released around New Year’s, tried among other things to counter Hollywood’s usual tales of Jewish helplessness during the Shoah.

“Whether it did, or instead implied that Jews who didn’t fight bore a measure of responsibility for their own fate, became a matter of some passing debate in America.

“But the film provoked a different sort of fuss shortly before it arrived here some weeks later. Movie critics in Poland wondered whether Hollywood would ever get around to showing Polish partisans as heroes, as opposed to anti-Semites. . . .

“As Europe diversifies, nearly every nation and culture on the continent seems to battle for victimhood status. Poles have especially good reason to see themselves as long oppressed, having been fought over and occupied for much of the last century by vicious regimes. Shifting political power struggles during and after the war, among other complications of Polish Jewish history, led some Polish Jews at certain points to side with Soviets against Nazis and Polish partisans. The whole moral morass, essential to Polish identity, tends to be lost on outsiders, many of whom unthinkingly regard the country, throughout most of the last century at least, as just a Jewish killing field.” (more @ NY Times)

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cartoon-protest“Prints of the Danish cartoon depicting Islam‘s Prophet Mohammed as a suicide bomber in 2005 — much to the chagrin of the international Muslim community — will now be sold by the Denmark Free Press Society for $250 each. One thousand copies are to be printed and sold, with each having a designated number and signature by the artist, Kurt Westergaard, who has been in hiding due to numerous death threats. . . .

“The controversial cartoons caused riots throughout the Muslim world in early 2006, resulting in a number of deaths, property damage and a general wounding of diplomatic relations between east and west that has still not fully healed.” (more @ Huffington Post)

“Westergaard, 73, is one of 12 cartoonists whose drawings of the Muslim prophet were first published in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005, sparking controversy among Muslims worldwide.” (more @ Straits Times)

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alhambra“One of Spain’s most enduring historical mysteries is close to being solved as experts decipher and translate more than 10,000 Arabic inscriptions adorning the walls of the Alhambra palace in Granada.

“The intricate Arabic inscriptions carved into the ceilings, columns and walls inside the imposing hill-top fortress have long fascinated visitors. They contain everything from snatches of poetry and verses from the Qur’an to clever aphorisms, pious wishes and boastful slogans.

“There are so many of them, however, that nobody has ever managed to study each and every one. Now a team of researchers armed with 3D laser scanners and digital imaging software is slowly working its way around the complex recording, transcribing and translating every inscription.

“‘There is probably no other place in the world where studying walls, columns and fountains is so similar to turning the pages of a book,’ said Juan Castilla, of Spain’s Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), who heads the team.” (cont’d @ Guardian UK)

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sontag“Authorities in Sarajevo plan to name a city square after the late U.S. author and activist Susan Sontag, who, during the Bosnian war, staged Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot there. . . .

“Sontag’s insistence on staging the existential play in the besieged city drew attention to the country’s civil war. The Washington Post dubbed Sontag’s production ‘Waiting for Clinton.’

“‘Beckett’s play, written over 40 years ago, seems written for, and about, Sarajevo,’ noted Sontag at the time.

“The writer died in 2004 at age 71 from leukemia.” (more @ CBC News)

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schindlerpapers“A list of Jews saved from the Nazi death camps during World War II by the German industrialist Oskar Schindler has been found in research notes at an Australian library and will go on public display on Tuesday.

“The list of 801 Jewish men was found among six boxes of papers that belonged to the Australian author Thomas Keneally who wrote the book ‘Schindler’s Ark’ that was the basis for the Oscar-winning film ‘Schindler’s List‘ by Stephen Spielberg. The 13-page, yellowing, document was found tucked between research notes and German newspaper cuttings by a researcher at the New South Wales Library in Sydney sifting through the boxes of manuscripts acquired by the library in 1996.” (more @ Reuters)

RelatedSchindler’s List found in Sydney

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PD*27902069“A German pastor who sought to teach children the Easter message by fashioning bibilical scenes out of specially adapted Playmobil figures has been ordered by the toy maker to dismantle his creations.

“Rev Markus Bomhard, 38, an evangelical preacher from Eschborn, Hesse, glued breasts on to his ‘Eve’ character and even recreated the Passion in plastic, depicting the Crucifixion by using a hairdryer to melt and mould the Christ figure’s hands to a cross.

“But the montage attracted the wrath of Germany’s favourite toy company, which produces the Klicky figures used by the pastor, after a series of pictures were published on the internet.” (more @ Daily Telegraph UK)

Meanwhile . . .

In Great Britain, “A nightclub leaflet showing the late Pope John Paul II holding a bottle of beer and dancing with a blonde woman has been banned.

“The Advertising Standards Authority branded the flyer offensive and ordered it to be removed [sic] a complaint by the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) on behalf of angry Poles and Catholics. . . .

“It was distributed to promote a night called Berserk at Club Fire nightclub in Ipswich.” (more @ Daily Telegraph UK)

[Update: (4/9/09) I’ve decided to leave empty the now-broken link where the image of the lecherous Pope leaflet appeared in my post. When the Daily Telegraph updated the article yesterday they apparently deleted the image, no doubt at the request of some “higher authority.” Commentary enough, I think, on the power of  “angry Poles and Catholics.”]

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gonzalez-cartoon“A Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an official close to the case said.

“The case, against former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and others, was sent to the prosecutor’s office for review by Baltasar Garzón, the crusading investigative judge who ordered the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The official said that it was ‘highly probable’ that the case would go forward and that it could lead to arrest warrants.

“The move represents a step toward ascertaining the legal accountability of top Bush administration officials for allegations of torture and mistreatment of prisoners in the campaign against terrorism. But some American experts said that even if warrants were issued their significance could be more symbolic than practical, and that it was a near certainty that the warrants would not lead to arrests if the officials did not leave the United States.

“The complaint under review also names John C. Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who wrote secret legal opinions saying the president had the authority to circumvent the Geneva Conventions, and Douglas J. Feith, the former under secretary of defense for policy. . . .

Spain can claim jurisdiction in the case because five citizens or residents of Spain who were prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have said they were tortured there. The five had been indicted in Spain, but their cases were dismissed after the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained under torture was not admissible.” (more @ NY Times)

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Update

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Wall built from gravestone fragments, Remu Shul (Synagogue) cemetary, Kraków, Poland.

The Remu [also: Rema, Remuh] synagogue (acronym for Rabbi Moses Isserles) is located in Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter of Krakow, and was founded in 1553 by Israel Isserles.  The Remu was considered to be the ‘Maimonides of Polish Jewry’ and was known for his universal outlook, his extensive Talmudic and secular knowledge, his manner of study, and his humility. . . .

“The adjacent Remu cemetery was used until 1799, and contains the graves of the Remu and his family. . . . After [World War II], the cemetery was restored and pieces of broken headstones which could not be matched were used to make a memorial cemetery wall.” (more @ New Cracow Friendship Society; Full photo; May, 2008)

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I’ll not be posting to the NSRG this weekend when I’ll be visiting Washington, D.C. in order to view, in advance of my May trip to Naples, the exhibition, “Pompeii and the Roman Villa: Art and Culture Around the Bay of Naples,” at the National Gallery of Art. The exhibition, which includes recent discoveries on view in the United States for the first time, as well as finds from excavations dating to the mid-18th century, closes this Sunday. 

The New York Times review of the exhibition can be found here.

A slideshow, “The Treasures of Pompeii,” can be found here.

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“On the eve of national strikes, the French have found a new way to show their dislike of [President] Nicolas Sarkozy: by reading a 17th century tale of thwarted love that the president has said he hates.

“Mr Sarkozy, a man often ridiculed in France for preferring fitness to literature, has frequently expressed his disdain for ‘La Princesse de Cleves (The Princess of Cleves), a novel by Madame de La Fayette which was published in 1678 and is taught in most French classrooms.

“Now, French readers have adopted the book as a symbol of dissent: as Mr Sarkozy’s popularity falls, sales of the book are rising.

“At the Paris book fair this week, publishers reported selling all available copies of the novel, while badges emblazoned with the slogan ‘I am reading La Princesse de Cleves’ were a must-have item that sold out within hours. . . .

“Public readings of the work have proliferated at universities like the Sorbonne in Paris, hit by protests over government reform plans, and at theatres.” (more @ Daily Telegraph UK)

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bookerprize“The Man Booker International Prize was announced in June 2004 and recognises one writer for his or her achievement in fiction. Worth £60,000 to the winner, the prize is awarded once every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. In addition, there is a separate prize for translation and, if applicable, the winner can choose a translator of his or her work into English to receive a prize of £15,000. . . .

“The Man Booker International Prize differs from the annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction in that it highlights one writer’s continued creativity, development and overall contribution to fiction on the world stage.  Both prizes strive to recognise and reward the finest fiction.”

The 14 authors on the 2009 contenders list are:

Previous winners of the prize are Ismail Kadare of Albania and Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. (more @ Man Booker Prizes)

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“More than 9,000 books are missing from the British Library, including Renaissance treatises on theology and alchemy, a medieval text on astronomy, first editions of 19th- and 20th-century novels, and a luxury edition of Mein Kampf produced in 1939 to celebrate Hitler’s 50th birthday.

“The library believes almost all have not been stolen but rather mislaid among its 650km of shelves and 150m items – although some have not been seen in well over half a century. . . .

“The library records all of these items as ‘mislaid’ rather than gone for ever, still less stolen. Despite well-publicised recent cases – such as that of Edward Forbes Smiley III, convicted in the US three years ago of stealing more than 100 maps from institutions including the British Library, and Farhad Hakimzadeh, an Iranian collector jailed in January for cutting maps, illustrations and pages from priceless volumes in the British Library and other collections – the library is convinced that almost all the missing texts are still somewhere within its walls.” (more @ The Guardian)

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vampire“Matteo Borrini, an anthropologist from the University of Florence, said the discovery [of a woman’s skull with its mouth agape and a large slab of rock forced into its mouth] on the small island of Lazzaretto Nuovo in the Venice lagoon supported the medieval belief that vampires were behind the spread of plagues like the Black Death.

“‘This is the first time that archaeology has succeeded in reconstructing the ritual of exorcism of a vampire,’ Mr Borrini said. ‘This helps … authenticate how the myth of vampires was born.’

“The skeleton was unearthed in a mass grave from the Venetian plague of 1576 – in which the artist Titian died – on Lazzaretto Nuovo, which lies around 2 miles northeast of Venice and was used as a sanatorium for plague sufferers.

“The succession of plagues which ravaged Europe between 1300 and 1700 fostered the belief in vampires, mainly because the decomposition of corpses was not well understood, Mr Borrini said.” (more @ Daily Telegraph UK)

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DEU Obama Fingers“Sprehe, a company that has all manner of frozen delicacies on offer, has come up with a new product it calls ‘Obama Fingers.’ Far from being real digits, though, the ‘fingers’ in question are ‘tender, juicy pieces of chicken breast, coated and fried,’ as the product packaging claims. . . .

“‘We noticed that American products and the American way of eating are trendy at the moment,’ Judith Witting, sales manager for Sprehe, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. ‘Americans are more relaxed. Not like us stiff Germans, like (Chancellor Angela) Merkel.’ . . .

“For Americans in Germany, though, there is a risk that the product might be seen as racially insensitive. Fried chicken has long been associated with African-Americans in the US — naming strips of fried chicken after the first black president could cause some furrowing of brows.

“Witting told SPIEGEL ONLINE the connection never even occurred to her. ‘It was supposed to be a homage to the American lifestyle and the new US president.’ she said.” (more @ Spiegel Online; via Newser)

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shakespearebooksIn The Guardian, Jeanette Winterson, after a recent visit, recounts a bit of the history of Shakespeare and Company, Paris’ renowned Left Bank bookstore, first opened in 1913 and since 1962 owned by George Whitman. No visit to Paris is complete without a visit to this venerable literary institution which always recalls for me New York’s recently closed literary landmark, Gotham Book Mart 

“Way back, in 1913, the original Shakespeare and Company was opened by a young American called Sylvia Beach. Her shop in rue de l’Odéon soon became the place for all the English-speaking writers in Paris. Her lover, Adrienne Monnier, owned the French bookstore across the road, and she and Beach ran back and forth, finding penniless writers a place to stay, lending them books, arranging loans, taking their mail, sending their work to small magazines and, most spectacularly, publishing James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922 when no one else would touch it.

“Hemingway was a regular at the shop, and writes about it in his memoir A Moveable Feast. . . . It was Hemingway, as a major in the US army, who at the liberation of Paris in 1945 drove his tank straight to the shuttered Shakespeare and Company and personally liberated Sylvia Beach. ‘No one that I ever knew was nicer to me,’ he said later, rich, famous and with a Nobel prize.

“But after the war, Beach was older and tired. She didn’t reopen the shop that had been forced into closure by the occupation. It was George Whitman who took over the spirit of what she had made, but not the name – until 1962, when Beach attended a reading by Lawrence Durrell at the bookstore and they all agreed that it should be renamed Shakespeare and Company.

“George took in the beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. Henry Miller ate from the stewpot, but was too grand to sleep in the tiny writers’ room. Anaïs Nin left her will under George’s bed. There are signed photos from Rudolf Nureyev and Jackie Kennedy, signed copies of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.” (via Books, Inq.)

A New York Times article offering a brief history of Gotham Book Mart can be found here:

PHOTO: A December 1948 party at for Osbert and Edith Sitwell (seated, center) drew a roomful of bright lights to the Gotham Book Mart: clockwise from W. H. Auden, on the ladder at top right, were Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell, Charles Henri Ford (cross-legged, on the floor), William Rose Benét, Stephen Spender, Marya Zaturenska, Horace Gregory, Tennessee Williams, Richard Eberhart, Gore Vidal and José Garcia Villa. (Photo: Gotham Book Mart)

RelatedThe Gotham Book Mart’s Final Chapter?

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“It opened nearly three years ago at an army drill hall in Edinburgh and has toured the world from New York to Sydney. But the play Black Watch only reached London last year – allowing it entry to the UK’s most prestigious theatre awards. Last night it walked away with four.

“The National Theatre of Scotland‘s story of the now amalgamated regiment came away with the most Olivier awards for an individual production, including best new play and, for John Tiffany, best director. . . . An unforgettable play based on interviews with soldiers who served in Iraq, it also won for sound design and choreography.” (more @ The Guardian)

A complete list of 2009 Olivier Award winners can be found here.

The New York Times review from the first of Black Watch‘s two runs at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn (2007) can be found here.

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[As much as I admire Black Watch — which I saw during both of its New York runs — I was disappointed that Tracy Letts’s August: Osage County, which I also attended twice, and which won both the 2008 Tony Award for Best Play and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, did not win the Olivier best new play award. My sense is that the war-tested Scottish regiment enjoyed a bit of a home field advantage in London over Letts’s dysfunctional and hard-drinking Oklahoma family.]

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PD*27420284“Professor Stanley Wells, Chairman of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and one of the world’s leading experts on Shakespearean studies, today announced the discovery of a portrait of William Shakespeare, which he believes is almost certainly the only authentic image of Shakespeare made from life.

“The newly discovered picture has descended for centuries in the same family, the Cobbes. It hung in their Irish home, under another identification, until the 1980s, when it was inherited by Alec Cobbe who was a co-heir of the Cobbe estate and whose heirlooms were transferred into a trust. In 2006 Alec Cobbe visited the National Portrait Gallery exhibition ‘Searching for Shakespeare’ where he saw a painting that now hangs in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington. It had been accepted as a life portrait of Shakespeare until some 70 years ago, but fell from grace when it was found to have been altered. Mr Cobbe immediately realised that this was a copy of the painting in his family collection. . . .

“Up to now only two images have been accepted as authentic representations of what Shakespeare may have looked like. One is the engraving by Martin Droeshout published in the First Folio of 1623. The other is the portrait bust in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon; the monument is mentioned in the Folio and therefore must have been in place by 1623. Both are posthumous – Shakespeare died in 1616. The engraver, who was only in his teens when Shakespeare died, must have had a picture, until now unidentified, to work from. Professor Wells believes it to be the one he has revealed today and that it was done from life, in about 1610, when he was 46 years old.” 

The portrait will be on exhibit at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon beginning April 23 (which may be both the anniversary of his birth in 1564 and of his death in 1616). (via NY Times)

A video report on the painting’s discovery was featured on the CBS News “Early Show” and can be found here.

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UpdateShakespeare Unfound(ed)?

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books“In Woody Allen’s clever 1983 mockumentary ‘Zelig,’ the title character lies about having read ‘Moby-Dick’ so he can fit in with the crowd – kicking off a career as a face-changing human chameleon.

“Turns out there are a lot of Zeligs around: a recent survey found that more than two-thirds of respondents admitted to lying about having read classic books, with George Orwell’s ‘1984’ topping the fib list.

“The survey of more than 1,300 readers by the UK-based organizers of World Book Day, placed Leo Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ and James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ at Nos. 2 and 3 of the book that inspired the most lies.

“Breaking at least one commandment, 24 percent of those surveyed said they had lied about reading The Bible, which placed No 4. People didn’t only pretend to read old-time tomes: President Obama’s ‘Dreams from My Father’ made the list, at No. 9.” (more @ NBC New York)

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