Showing posts from February, 2012

Albrecht Dürer: Diary of a Journey to the Netherlands (July, 1520- July, 1521)

Anno 1520 On Thursday after St. Kilian's Day, I, Albrecht Dürer, at my own charges and costs, took myself and my wife from Nuremberg away to the Netherlands, and the same day, after we had passed through Eriangen, we put up for the night at Baiersdorff, and spent there 3 crowns, less 6 pfennigs. From thence on the next day, Friday, we came to Forchheim, and there paid for the conveying thence on the journey to Bamberg 22 pf., and presented to the Bishop a painted Virgin and a "Life of the Virgin," an "Apocalypse," and a florin's worth of engravings. He invited me to be his guest, gave me a toll-pass and three letters of introduction, and settled my bill at the inn, where I had spent about a florin. I paid 6 florins in gold to the boatmen who took me from Bamberg to Frankfurt. Master Lucas Benedict and Hans the painter sent me a present of wine. Spent 4 pf. for bread and 13 pf. as tips. Then I journeyed from Bamberg to Eltman and showed my pass, and they le…

The Tragedy of Fate and the Tragedy of Culture: Heinrich von Kleist’s The Schroffenstein Family

On 21st November 1811, on a lake’s edge near Potsdam, a 34 year old Kleist shot himself dead in a suicide pact with his terminally ill lover. He left behind him just under a decade of intense literary output which has established him as one of the most important writers of the German romantic period. On the bicentenary of his death, Kleist scholar Steven Howe explores the importance of his first dramatic work and how in it can be seen the themes of his later masterpieces.

Heinrich von Kleist is without doubt one of the most challenging figures in German literary history. In a career lasting a little under a decade, from 1802 through to his premature death in 1811, he produced a remarkable body of creative work that radically called into question the prevailing intellectual, aesthetic and ethical orthodoxies of the age. Today, Kleist is perhaps most familiar, certainly to British audiences, as the dramatist behind the violently tragic Penthesilea and the brilliantly enigmatic The Princ…

Library of the Convent of San Marco in Florence


E M Forster: What I Believe

I do not believe in belief. But this is an age of faith, where one is surrounded by so many militant creeds that in self-defense, one has to formulate a creed of one’s own. Tolerance, good temper, and sympathy are no longer enough in a world which is rent by religious and racial persecution, in a world were ignorance rules, and science, who ought to have ruled, plays the subservient pimp. Tolerance, good temper, and sympathy — well, they are what matter really, and if the human race is not to collapse they must come to the front before long. But for the moment they don’t seem enough, their action is no longer stronger than a flower, battered beneath a military jackboot. They want stiffening, even if the process coarsens them. Faith, to my mind, is a stiffening process, a sort of mental starch, which ought to be applied as sparingly as possible. I dislike the stuff. I do not believe in it, for its own sake, at all... My lawgivers are Erasmus and Montaigne, not Moses and St Paul. My tem…

Anthony Trollope: On English Novelists of the Present Day

In this chapter I will venture to name a few successful novelists of my own time, with whose works I am acquainted; and will endeavour to point whence their success has come, and why they have failed when there has been failure.

I do not hesitate to name Thackeray the first. His knowledge of human nature was supreme, and his characters stand out as human beings, with a force and a truth which has not, I think, been within the reach of any other English novelist in any period. I know no character in fiction, unless it be Don Quixote, with whom the reader becomes so intimately acquainted as with Colonel Newcombe. How great a thing it is to be a gentleman at all parts! How we admire the man of whom so much may be said with truth! Is there any one of whom we feel more sure in this respect than of Colonel Newcombe? It is not because Colonel Newcombe is a perfect gentleman that we think Thackeray's work to have been so excellent, but because he has had the power to describe him as such, …

Poland's 1996 Nobel Laureate poet Wislawa Szymborska has died

Poland's 1996 Nobel poet Szymborska dies at 88

Her personal secretary says that Poland's 1996 Nobel Prize-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska has died. She was 88.
Michal Rusinek said Wednesday that Szymborska died "quietly, in her sleep." She resided in the southern city of Krakow. The Nobel award committee's citation called her the "Mozart of poetry," a woman who mixed the elegance of language with "the fury of Beethoven." Szymborska has been called both deeply political and playful, a poet who used humor in unforeseen ways. AP
On Death, without Exaggeration

It can't take a joke,
find a star, make a bridge.
It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming,
building ships, or baking cakes.

In our planning for tomorrow,
it has the final word,
which is always beside the point.

It can't even get the things done
that are part of its trade:
dig a grave,
make a coffin,
clean up after itself.

Preoccupied with killing,
it does the job awkwardly,