Friday, April 28, 2006

Maria del Rosario Cayetana Fitzjames-Stuart

X Duquesa de Berwick, X Duquesa de Liria, X Duquesa de Jérica, III Duquesa de Arjona; Marquesa XVI El Carpio, XVIII de Coria, XIV de Eliache, XX de la Mota, XVII de San Leonardo, XIX de Sarria, XVII de Villanueva del Río, XI de Tarazona, XX de Villanueva del Fresno, XX de Barcarrota, XVII de la Algaba, XI Marquesa de Osera, XI de Moya, IX de Almenara, XVIII de Mirallo, XVII de Valdunquillo, XVII Marquesa de Oraní; Condesa XIX de Andrade, XVII Aranda, XVI Ayala, XIV Casarrubios del Monte, XIV Fuentes de Valdepero, XI de Fuentidueña, XVII de Galve, XVIII de los Gelves, XXII de Lemos, XVIII de Lerín, XIX Miranda del Castañar, XVII Monterrey, XX Osorno, XVIII de Palma del Río, XXIV Ribadeo, XXIII de San Esteban de Gormaz, XI de Santa Cruz de la Sierra, XX de Villalba, 11th Earl of Tinmouth, XI Vizcondesa de la Calzada, 11th Baron of Bosworth; Condesa-duquesa de Olivares, XVIII Condestablesa de Navarra, Condestablesa de Aragón, Mariscala de Castilla, 20 veces Grande de España

Goya's portrait of Cayetana, Duchess of Alba (upper right square)
Thanks to the special intervention of Ambassadorial powers this blogger of yours has found himself on a pleasant Friday morning strolling in the driveway of an imposing English-style garden at the heart of Madrid, about to enter the palatial home of the Duchess of Alba. When one knows that it can take up to two years to be able to be one of the weekly privileged few who ever visit the Palacio de Liria, is it not about time that the Right Honourable Reader aknowledges what this blogger of yours has been achieving on His behalf? I thought so, too.
What can one say after being exposed to a truly Ancien Régime ducal private house?.. No NationalTrust-like museumification of a grand estate here... No second division Old Masters but the real thing - Ticianos, Rubens, Rembrandts, Velazquez, Goyas..even a Fra Angelico, for goodness' sake!.. no curios or hispanorama in the Library but real historicallly over-the-top documents such as the log-book of Cristóvão/Cristobal Colombo/Colon with a handwritten sketch of La Hispaniola (better known as Santo Domingo) on that very 5th December 1492 it was discovered (and with it America)..
Personally, I enjoyed in particular a letter by the (1st) Duke of Wellington, dated 1809, and written in French (!), stating that he did not believe that either Soult or Ney would be invading Portugal but even if so, Beresford and the Portuguese armies would stand in their way...
I must confess my ignorance but I had no idea that the bombardment of Madrid by Franco's airforce had included the Palacio de Liria as one of its (surely un-deliberate?) targets ... Heroics were performed at the time to save from the fire those uber-valuable art objects... Do my children have the slightest idea that things like these did "really" happened in the Madrid they are now familiar with?... I'll have to check...

Maria Teresa Gonzalez

One of my favorites at Matte Gonzalez's exhibition

(O well, no time to do it now, I guess I will have to blog about feminine vs masculine painting when the long-weekend will be over ... Dazvidania.. )
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D. Manuel

Castle of Montemor-o-Novo, the main altar of an abandoned Church
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Saint Mary of Belem

Upper Gallery of Main Auditorium of the Belém Cultural Center, Lisbon
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Max Ernst

Art Gallery near Calle san Pedro, Madrid, April 2006
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Thursday, April 27, 2006

H.R.H. Prince Phillip

Name dropping...

( Rats! I should have talked to Her!.. )

Last week Malinka and I were indulging a high-protein supper after the motorway diet of Red Bull and Paprika Pringles. That very same day the photo of Queen Elizabeth was all over the place with the obligatory "Happy Birthday, Your Majesty" splashed in the front pages. Also very big in the news was the inauguration of a Casino in Lisbon, the most recent venture of the Macao-linked Chinese billionaire Stanley Ho. After the excellent red wine, served in successive half-bottles ( Dão Conde Santar 2000, if the Right Honourable Reader is thinking about doing some wine-shopping of his own soon), I proceed to try to embellish as much as possible my own sole encounter with Mr Ho, for Malinka's benefit. After a while, as it has been happening from time to time, Malinka and I agreed that this particular story has the stuff good blogs are made of.
But surely, an anxious Right Honourable Reader is already asking himself, that blogger who claims to be ours is not going to reveal private conversations with third paries, is he? And even involving Royalty? (The tone switching from anxious moral-high-groundish disbelief to incredulous envy-tainted criticism) . The Right Honourable Reader should not worry, though, this blogger of yours will never pursue kiss & tell activities, nothing that will be libelous or defamatory will be divulged in these premices. Simply a matter of something one does not do period.

Nevertheless, one tends to believe that a very short story depicting the episode where this blogger of yours was trying his utmost to impress patriotically H.R.H. the Prince Philip with the size of some wild animals in Portugal can be safely brought to blog light.

Shell I continue? No objections? Good! The story, then.
The dinner had finished, almost drowning with Glory the sparkling dining rooms of the Embassy. A State Visit has a well established routine, and the visiting Head of State always reciprocates the Banquet at Buckingham . ( "Our" own dinner at Buckingham Palace happened the day before and my dashing diplomatic uniform attracted the attention of a rather blue-bloodish celebrity.. but that would be a case of almost kiss and tell all..). This time the Return Banquet had taken place at the Embassy itself; and the topography of the beautiful Belgrave Square building imposed a ground-floor-meal-followed-by-a-first-floor-afterdinner-cigars&drinks routine.
I was upstairs already (not important enough to seat at the U-shaped dining table downstairs I had just finished dinner in the Small Room with some sort of Equerry or Lord-in-Waiting and a few other over-spillers). Guests had started to arrive at the Sitting Rooms, after ascending the very theatrical marble stairs. Princess Diana was one of the first to arrive and she did look around with his gazelle-like eyes, evidently open (either by human curiosity or by the self-discipline imposed on State occasions ) to mingle with the aborigins. This aborigine of yours had no courage to cross the ballroom and declined such portentous encounter with History.
A little later the room started to get filled up with ascending guests, all flushed and in their best moods after the historical Porto Vintage "Quinta do Noval Nacional". Little groups were being formed and getting dismissed shortly after. In one of them I happened to stay standing in front of Prince Philip. Furious at my very recent timidity that had prevented me from sharing some words with the most beautiful woman present (after the Duchess of Kent) I decided not to let go the obvious invitation from Prince Philip to have an aborigine saying something. I made a quick reasoning (in less than a trillionth of a second) and decided to speak of a theme that would amuse the then President of the World Wildlife Fund. I had heard that he had read about or been in the Convent of Mafra, so I opted for mentioning the enormous rats that have been striving in the basements of the huge Monastery for the last couple of centuries. How do you impress a Royal Highness with rats? With the short time available to think, make decisions and talk I calculated that only hyperbole would do. ( As any of my countrymen who have done National Service knows, all the attempts by the military who occupy most of the areas of the Monastery to get rid of the rat infestation are doomed to fail. With the large corridors where to exercise and with plenty of food from the military barracks, the rats had grown heroically in size and numbers. To eradicate them by the usual chemical ways one would have to evacuate the town).
Back to the Sitting Rooms, upstairs, at the Embassy. I follow on the word Mafra and say to Prince Philip. "I am sure you've heard about the rats in the Convent of Mafra. A quarter of a million. And big as cats." His Royal Highness made an interested smile (in my own assessment at the time, the Prince had probably been told the first thing that genuinely interested him during the whole evening). "As big as cats?" - His tone was dream-like with a hint of pleasure.. At that moment SnobsteaksEater, a senior colleague,elbowed me. I was closing the "circle" of people around the Prince and in my enthusiasm I had not noticed that another important guest was trying to join us . I gave way, as they say in The House, and Mr. Stanley Ho (who else?) entered that little schoolyard-like circle. We all went our different ways after that, and I hope no-one has ever told the WWF about the amazing size of the Mafra Convent rats..

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Will Keith Kellog

Organic goat milk yoghurt with "special K" and raspberries,
"Sanguine" freshly pressed orange juice,
"Lavazza" double expresso

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Paul Bowles

Bowles wanted "the best of both worlds" ? ...

Biographic texts about Bowles and books on Tangiers found at home

In Tahar Ben Jelloun's "Partir" which I've just finished reading (as the Right Honourable Reader has been made to know through this blog) I came across some thinly veiled references to Paul Bowles, the American writer of "The Sheltering Sky" fame (turned into a film by Bertolucci with John Malkovich in the leading role). He lived in Tangiers with his wife Jane in a peculiar arrangement that reminds one of another famous gay-lesbian marriage, the one of Virginia Woolf.

What is interesting in Ben Jelloun's reference is the "view-from-the-opposite-side", a bit like "The Crusades as seen by the Arabs" written some decades ago by Amin Maalouf.

Here, in a letter dated 24 june 1951 from the father of one of the main characters, TBJ writes:

“on parlait aussi à l’époque d’un écrivain américain installé là depuis plusieurs années, et qui vivait, disait-on, avec un garçon marocain analphabète, tandis que son épouse s’était installée avec une femme du peuple. Tanger était comme un cirque (…) »

And here the comment is more acerbic:

' Comme disait un vieux concierge de l’immeuble où vivaient un écrivain américain et sa femme: « Ces gens-là, ils veulent tout, des hommes et des femmes du peuple, des jeunes, en bonne santé, de préférence de la campagne, ne sachant ni lire ni écrire, les servant le jour puis les niquant la nuit. Service complet, et entre deux petis coups, une pipe de kif bien bourrée pour que l’Américain écrive ; Il leur dit, raconte-moi ta vie, j’en ferai un roman, tu auras même ton nom sur la couverture, tu ne pourras pas le lire mais ça ne fait rien, tu es écrivain comme moi, sauf que toi on dira c’est un écrivain analphabète, c’est éxotique, je veux dire étrange, mon ami ! Il lui dit ça sans parler d’argent, parce qu’on ne parle pas de ça, quand on est au service d’un écrivain, enfin ! Les gens ne sont pas obligés d’accepter, mais je sais, la misère, notre amie la misère nos mène vers des lieux bien tristes. (…) "

Rather interesting stuff, one would say..

For Bowles' own point of view try this one:

Claudio Coello

Calle Claudio Coello, Madrid, April 2006

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Tahar Ben Jelloun

For next time you drink mint-tea...

No glamorous expats here...
Reading this book should be mandatory for anyone who tries to understand this crucial phenomenon in today's Europe of large fluxes of Maghreb immigration. Literature is not Sociology, nor a collection of fictional biographic vignettes can replace statistical analysis, but for the human dimension of what it means to try to reach our shores this book is a precious jewel.
The desperation to quit the Moroccan soil experienced by the youth spending time in the cafés of Tangiers fantasizing about "burning" those last 14 kilometers that separates them from Spain is something that has no longer anything in common with the natural wish we all share for a better life. If you are not touched or moved with the lives depicted here you are ready to vote for the latest Lepenist variant.
Tangiers is not only Paul Bowles, nor William Burroughs, nor Peggy Guggenheim or Malcolm Forbes parties. Neither necessarily only Tahar Ben Jelloun's view-point. But you have to keep your mind open for both faces of the RichWest/North-meets-PoorEast/South coin or everything will become simplistic, crude, de-humanised.
Morocco (in the Tangiers-Marrakesh-Essaouira axis) is not just the exotic playground for expats (sometimes with sad sexual-tourism connotations, as the book depicts too). There is also an internal reality for the local inhabitants to deal with between themselves that TBJ does not try to evade. (It's easy to blame the globalization or the infidels for all the troubles..)
This blogger of yours is not an idealistic "naïf" and takes seriously the need for visas and for policies, in both shores of the Mediterranean, to deal with migration pressures. But one needs books like this from time to time to prevent our hearts to become sclerotic and stone-like..

Anton Pavlovitch Chekhov

A "Seagull" in a City of happy seagulls..

The Teatro da Cornucópia bringsChekhov's "A Gaivota" to Lisbon
One tries to enlighten one's children (WaltzingM, LittleSeal and Frödo) by taking them to some non-Multiplex entertainment from time to time. Last Saturday we went to Lisbon to see the foremost Russian playwriter, taking with us Malinka, one's private consultant on Russian affairs, plus intra-amniotic Timotchka) .
As Stanislavsky first said, you need a purpose-built tremendously naturalistic acting for a Chekhov play to stand upright. If concentration, direction or talent is lacking the almost plot-less plays just crumbles to the floor. I rush to say that this version, directed by Luis Miguel Cintra, stands its ground with flying colours...
I had almost forgotten about the very special endless warm light of the Russian Summer... An invitation to indolence and philosophical speculation that one can experience today almost in the same fashion as in those long afternoons described by Anton Pavlovitch...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Luís Miguel Cintra

Extended family...

This great photo from the "Seagull" that's currently on show in Lisbon was taken by Paulo Cintra Mattos Gomes, whom I 've known for ages from high school times.. He was in the same classroom of my brother TottusTus and was first cousin of Manuel Cintra.. who was in my classroom of the dear old Liceu Camões... Manuel is the younger brother of the great actor/director Luis Miguel .. who was in the same University classroom of Mané who...
Portugal is like a matchbox, as we say... all matches closely bound ...

Anton Mosiman

Home-made "amuse-geules" are just so much better...
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Giaccomo Casanova

An Hero for Our Times?

The latest movie product of Casanova Industries Inc. ..

The latest film starring Casanova, by Lasse Hallstrom, was another attempt at convincing us that if only Giaccomo had been able to pursue his supposed true love his polygamous serial infidelity would have ended. In the most recent BBC series it was Henriette who could have performed that miraculous rehabilitation of Casanova, in this film the therapeutic role belongs to a Francesa Bruni, a hyper-clever feminist with good looks (a kind of XVIII century Naomi Wolfe). Does that do justice to the "historical" Casanova, the one we know from his "Histoire de Ma Vie"? It does not really matter. The more "approaches", the more twisted angles that serve as pretexts to re-visit the archetype of the Free Man, the better. He is the true scapegoat of our times. According to many, if divorces figures are what they are, if men prefer pollinating to committing, if seduction has such a luciferous fame - it all comes to the unrestrained anti-social pleasure-seeking Casanovesque behaviour of most men when left to fend for themselves in the real sexual world. So, one as to turn him either into a pathetic figure (like Fellini has done, possibly out of Middle-Italy envy for Venetians) or into a morally-acceptable flawed character capable of redemption if only... Enjoy.

Guy Fawkes

A Neo-Machiavelian Neo-Leninist with a fancy mask..

"V for Vendetta", a movie which is trash with a twist...
The Right Honourable Reader will have to excuse this blogger of yours who has been a bit lazy lately. Instead of a full text about "V for Vendetta" I'd rather settle for a quick list of points for further speculation:
- Demonizing Guy Fawkes is part of the anti-Catholic ideological foundation of the modern (post-Henri VIII) English/British State. In constitutional terms the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland cannot be a Roman Catholic. What are the religious views of our political leaders is, in most of our countries, politically irrelevant, but in Britain whenever a public figure is suspected of converting to the RC Church there's a kind of juicy voyeurism attached. ( Most recent examples: was Diana, the Princess of Wales, about to convert? Is Tony Blair attending Catholic Mass?). Ironic then that the hero of the political liberation of Britain from dictatorship - in the film and in the graphic novel it's based upon - is none other than a Guy Fawkes figure.
- Ironic too that one has to blow the Houses of Parliament, the symbol of the sovereignty of the People, in order to regain that same sovereignty. (Fantastic special effects' scene and almost worth the trip to the local cinema) . The original "Papist" plot was to kill the political targets expected to be in the Parliament building while here we have it as a kind of fun fair pyrotechnics to thank the masses for attending the meeting (like in the closing events of marketing-saturated electoral campaigns). Does not make sense.

D. Joao V

When the screen of your GPS-derived motoring assistance device is full of (Atlantic) Oceanic Blue... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 11, 2006



How to date the perfect ...

I went briefly back to Pedraza for the milk sucking lamb dégustation with some of the usual suspects (this time Persepolis, Honorary Caliph, Malinka, and Honorabile) plus a young visitor from Little Cuba, Miami, US of A.

The conversation was in cruise speed after the morcilla plates had been left empty and when the time had finally come for the crispy blonde skin of the cordero lechal to be spoilt by the cracking fork. (Hereby producing a neat sound akin to the almost metallic echo of the crème brulée flat crust being smashed by an inquiring spoon).

Almost inevitably there is a moment when the subject discussed could be loosely labelled “relationships”, to use the Industry term. How boy meets girl; how a recently acquired bachelorhood (in a mature man) is such an aphrodisiac commodity in the world of ladies of a certain âge; how a recently acquired divorce (in a woman) is such a high mountain to climb before attaining again the plateau of matrimonial bliss; how girl meets boy. That prompted our Cuban-American co-guest, Aguillera, a major in Sociology from UCLA, to talk about the latest craze, even among teenagers, of “profiling” oneself for the Matchdotcom sites where you can date electronically.

We agreed that apart from technology there is nothing radically new here. The preliminary profile is the modern equivalent of the brief description of a prospective dating friend one makes to the benefit “of the other side”. The chatting on the net is very much like the draft self-CVs one does when engaging dialogue for the first time. And then there is the actual moment of truth when your e-mail or Match-dot-something correspondent suggests a non-virtual real life encounter (still pre-dating, to use American terminology).

Does it take a lot of or any courage at all to suggest the fundamental shift from a virtual to a real life relationship. I defended that when one was an adolescent-to-young-male it took a hell of nerve and guts to probe the dancing/dating availability of that girl on the other side of the room. Always ready to find fancy pseudo-Sociological terms I called it the “Crossing the Ball Room Ability” (COBRA). A guy has to have some COBRA in him or he will never get there on time to snap the multi-propositioned girl. In those yesteryears of Alfa males prowling for females you really were putting yourself on the line each time that you would, so to speak, cross the ballroom.

The Caliph said he was good-looking enough in his youth to snake himself into really beautiful, grade AA+ girls, and even boasted of award winning beauties, no doubt an indirect tribute to the excellence of the lamb and accompanying wine…

Persepolis told us of a charming, rich and boarding school-educated young fellow who went all the way, in Internet first, from chatting to a possible marriage in S.Petersburg. The chemistry of the words exchanged for months in a row was not enough though to overcome the disappointing reality (the photo was very flattering indeed and there was a little son on the ground, who had never been e-mail- mentioned before).

Malinka was not convinced about the supposedly exceptional merits of the direct physical approach and insisted that the courage to turn a virtual relationship into a fixed meeting with a time and a place was in fact a form of COBRA itself.

To summarize the argument, there was in the end a consensus that one has to overcome the fear of rejection if one wants to achieve anything. Too much worrying about face saving will never get you near the peaks. One has to be daring and self-confident when engaging the “Enemy”. Some falls might be ridiculous and real ego-bruisers but in the end Audaces Fortuna Iuvat.

Eusebio da Silva Ferreira

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Frederico Torrentera

Larger than life biography....

I really liked this book, a biography of a XVII century multi-faceted genius, Frederico Torrentera. A Castillian hero who had the courage to go against accepted truths (regarding pleasure, Faith or the colonization of the American Indies). I had never heard about him before, I must confess, although there was a exhibition on his life and works a couple of years ago in France. When I returned home I rushed to Google to find more about the man. Nothing! Only the Cauvin book and the Cauvin-organized exhibition! He really got me... A pure fictional biography that one wants to believe that it's about a real life person. Now I've spoilt the surprise for the Right Honourable Reader. A mean vendetta against Mr Patrick Cauvin for having fooled me.

Silvio Prodi

Gambling Rules of Democracy...

Toss it: Heads or Tails?

The result of the Italian elections seem to confirm a theory I have been trying to sell for many years: that voting is an aleatory event. I'll explain briefly. When you are thaught statistics or probabilistic calculus the very first lesson is about what happen when you toss a coin. If you do it 10 times you might have 8 "heads" and 2 "tails", if you toss it 100 times you might end up with, say, 45 "tails" and 65 "heads" but if you repeat it 1 million times you are going to have 500 000 "heads" and 500 000 "tails". What is the probability of getting "heads" when you throw a coin? One in two. 50%. And likewise the probability of getting "tails" is the same. 50% is the magical number that keeps coming whenever there are two choices and there is no exogenous bias. Just let "chance" play without constrains and in the end you have that magical number.

Every time you have a big election (say above 10 million votes) and you have only two choices (Silvio B., or George B., Romano P. or Al. G) what do you get in the end? 49.82 versus 49.73? Right, it's the dear old 50% figure lurking again!

Bottom line is: if you want the numerical legitimacy conferred upon a democratic choice you should have at least three voting options ( and that includes avoiding second round of elections with just two candidates left). Otherwise is just a matter of chance that decides who's going to be your political leader for the next couple of years.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ammaria Mounassib

Ammaria est la Directrice de "La Perle d'Ourika", un hôtel-restaurant au km 58 de la route que, partant de Marrakech, s'engage dans l'Atlas voisin. C'est au Début Setti Fatma, dans la vallée de L'Ourika. Elle m'a offert des dattes et a fait un voeux.. Inch Allah!
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Revisiting an old demon...

"At Home" ...
Can a blogger who has indulged in reporting about evening events and a party or two cross the red line of writing about his own “at homes”? For just the pure writing pleasure of reviving a three-dimensional play the prohibition stands.. But what if there was a serious point raised in between the pilau rice Uzbek-manner (“plof” as they say in Russia) and the pears cooked in Porto with vanilla ice-cream? Wouldn’t a serious blogger be too strict on himself if he would refrain from reporting to the wide right honourable reading world about it?

A bit of context first, then. The large dinner table is a perfect circle, conducive, as the host hopes (sometimes in vain), to widespread debate, thus avoiding the pitfalls of multiple simultaneous small one-to-one or one-to-two private conversations. Herr Ingenier was there, with his gentle manners and his gentle Garbo, carrying with utmost eccentric elegance the lights of Old German-ness. The HassebladPortraitist, who had spent part of her schooling youth in Barcelona, speaking therefore both Castilian and Catalan, was in belligerent political spirits. The Honourable Caliph of Moraleja, always ready for a fight, jumped on the occasion, despite the warning glances from his peace-keeping charming wife, the Gajhar Princess. The Transalpine Homologue somewhat subdued in the beginning of the discussion managed to score some points further on. Malinkarusskaya was naturally keeping an eye on the progress at table of plof consumption (of her cooking authorship) but she lend her acquiescence to her husband’s forays into recent Russian history.

What was the point of contention? - the Right Honourable Reader is entirely reasonable upon insisting on being answered. In Political Therapeutics should one wake up sleeping demons in order to conjure the past? Or should political corpses better be left untouched in societies’ cupboards?

Is the Transición in Spain, after the death of Franco, a necessary exercise of mass amnesia, for the better welfare and prospects of the democratic Spaniards, or has the Civil War still to be revisited at some point to better address grievances that long for their respective catharsis?

Herr Ingenier reminded the presents, including the bellicose defender of the amnesiac status quo that without contemplating the tragic and distasteful content of their historical cupboard the German post-war generations would not have been able to build an healthy democracy .

The Honorabile said much the same. This blogger of yours couldn’t resist his usual tirade about how the therapeutic grief-work of the Revolution remains to be made in Russia, with evident consequences for the solidity of the foundations of the democratic building in that country (for so long prone to bouts of enforced amnesia).

She would have none of it. The “deal” in the Transition period, leading to the Constitution, was that both Rojos and Nationalists would bury their accusations, their witnesses, their corpses and would not bring them to the light of political day again. And what some of the new big players of the power game were trying to do was tantamount to breaking that “deal”. All a bunch of tragic PandoraBox-openers, magic tricks apprentices of politics, salt-rubbers on Civil War wounds who might stir again hates and brother-against-brother fights.

What the Truth Commission did in South Africa cannot be valid for other political azimuths, one wonders? The HasselbladPortraitist might have a point in the "let’s forget it all and start a new" attitude when the economy is flourishing and the people never had it so good. But what if some particular constituency feels its idiosyncrasies were not properly addressed (specially since various “Nations”, “ Nationalities” and “Autonomies” have managed in the mean time to claim the right to indent the constitutional status quo of 1978). Would it not be better to speak out freely about the last years of the Republic and about some alternative non-Euclidian non-transitional-orthodox views of recent past?

Can one advocate active loudly revisionism of the post-Revolution times in Russia (for the sake of enlightening the crucial young generations who will decide what to do about the relationship between Russia and Europe) while prescribing a silent follow up of the gentlemen’s agreement of the post-Franquismo?

The need to bury one’s cupboard corpses properly was near consensual by the time the last laps of Chekhovian vodka and Malt-derived spirits had arrived.

With so much worrying about enlightening the youth, the masses and the politicians, the Honorabile Homologue recalled, with his customary elegant eloquence the etymology of the word “Lucifer”. The One that bears Light. Weak souls should abstain from dinning out...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Frank Rijkard

The New Cathedrals, Luz (Lisbon) and Camp Nou (Barcelona)

(With many thanks for the blog correspondent who send me the Lisbon photos)
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Glaoubi Pasha

Leaving the Foundhouk, in the Old Medina of Marrakesh..
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Jenny von Westphalen

A portrait of a Marx worshiper...

Jenny Marx, née von Westphalen
What are the various ways by which the Right Honourable Reader finds himself with a book in his hands? - if this blogger of yours might ask. A nicely crafted front cover on a stand of a cosy bookshop? Check. An eloquent admiring review in previous week's Spectator? Check. A successful google-engined research about an author or subject that ends up in an Amazon-dot-com purchase? Check. A recycled offer from a family member with no time for less obvious suitable gifts? Check. A volume that falls accidentally from an hazardousous shelf on a mammoth-like bookstore? Check. An unexpected discovery at your Father's library (whose long nurtured shelves you could have swear it have ceased to be able to surprise you)? Check. Even, God forbid!, a book someone was foolish enough to lend you?! (While it has been known in Society, for ages, that one never lends one's books, guns or women). What other circumstances can explain that you find yourself reading this particular book and not any of the two you brought among your luggage (the hardback-of-the-moment and the soft-cover with valium-like sleep-inducing properties)? Well, I will not tease the Right Honourable Reader anymore. Another less obvious path to bookdom is through crime. Yes, I am afraid that these are the right words... To steal a book. "Where from?" "With deliberate criminal intent?" "With quick fingers and unclouded conscience? " Now, now, let us calm down and recover our spirits.. Will the Right Honourable Reader allow this blogger of yours to explain himself before being submerged by these accusing inquiries? Thank you.

I am talking about the most innocent form of non-authorized book acquisition, the chance encounter with the contents of the bookshelves in your rather grand hotel room. Elementary, Honourable Watson! What do you do when you spot a dozen or so books in your own room, there to lend some cultural legitimacy to the tadelakt walls? You peruse them, half expecting a sand-filled swimming pool bestseller or a gallery of rejected literary nobodies. Sometimes they are just books abandoned by previous room guests to their fate after the last page was turned and read. There is even an unwritten etiquette in these situations. You might help yourself of any book, and take it home if you had not finished it by the end of your stay, as long as you contribute yourself to the replenishment of the book stocks of your hotel room.

Those were, in fact, the circumstances surrounding the couple of delicious hours spent in the over-indulgent atmosphere of a marrakchi paradise reading about the life of Mr and Mrs Karl Marx. No better environment to read about Engels substantial inheritance, Karl's gains in the City, acquiring undervalued bonds, or about the writing of Das Kapital then to be sprawling on a white fluffy sofa, a glass in hand, with a small battalion of diligent smiling servants waiting on you.

The book was "Jenny Marx ou la femme du diable" by Françoise Giroud. The writer, famous for having founded the Parisian weekly "L'Express" might have developed a case of gender-envy for being always looked at as the female face of a journalistic reality that had in Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber (JJSS) its most obvious icon. She wrote, among other works, a couple of precious little biographies of famous muses of famous men. Being from the Beaux Quartiers herself, these books are all about grand blue-blooded ladies of great beauty. Alma Mahler, Lou Andrés-Salomé (the great love of Nietzsche) and Jenny Marx née Baroness von Westphalen.

Madame Giroud, the utmost example of a Parisian elegant and successful Feminist, is propagating the low self-esteem female tosh that beyond every great man one always find a great woman! She talks about the deep affection of Jenny for Karl Marx as " a love of a terrible kind, the one that enchains a woman to a man of genius". Is this the same Françoise Giroud who, in tailleur Chanel, was building patiently the case for a third force between Gaullisme and the Left? Why this vertigo for sugary Bibliothéque Rose fantasizing? Does one really needs a Simone de Beauvoir for each Sartre, a Frida Kahlo for each Diego Rivero?

I apologize to the Right Honourable Reader, I got a bit carried away. The book must not have been that bad, now that one thinks of it. Highly recommended 174 pages, in fact. Otherwise why would I've taken it with me when I left the hotel? Why is it next to my laptop, sleeping peacefully, as I write this bloglines?

Guy de Maupassant

The room Cardinal at the Rhoul.
Marrakchi tadelakt walls meet French boudoir paintings

Jorge Ryder

Self-imposed Champagne-drinking exile as the big Five O had arrived...

"La Perle d'Ourika" (High Atlas, Marrakesh region, lunch-time, 30.3.2006 )

In the Urika Valley, the toast with rosé bubbly smuggled in from home was the highlight of an historical biographical journey...

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Naguib Mahfouz

Insider's view on what was pre-Nasser Cairo life really like..

One of the books I indulged while laying by the colonnaded pool at the Rhoul Palace, in a peaceful Nirvana-like hot afternoon in Marrakesh, was Mahfouz' "La Belle du Caire". In this respect I have to confess to the Right Honourable Reader that this blogger of yours has in department of Literature-in-Fancy-Places been moving slowly from Western Imperialist to Orientalist and more recently to Anti-colonialist. I will explain myself in a second.

Take enormously exotic places with palm trees, decadent enough and with huge romantic appeal: what names present themselves to one's memory? Tangiers? Right. Casablanca? Fair enough. Cairo? For sure. Damascus? You bet. Alexandria? Right, fair enough, for sure and you bet. But from whom do we take our literary clues about those places? Paul Bowles and William Boroughs gave us beat-generation gay Tangiers. Murray Burnett, the play-writer of "Everybody comes to Rick's" , later re-named "Casablanca", served us spy & refugees Casablanca on a plate. Ondatje gave us the British war partying Cairo. T.H. Lawrence, "of Arabia", took us, with the help of David Lean, to a peterotoolish version of Damascus. Forster and Durrell moulded our Alexandria.

What have all those novels and fictional cities in common? Almost no aborigines. Mr Bowles might have had a Tangerine male lover and promoted the works of his friend but almost all the relevant characters on his novels are "European" ( a category that in the Imperial white world-view includes the Americans). Boroughs did just the same. "Casablanca" has not one Moroccan main role (although we have secondary characters of almost every European origin). Forster was in love when in Alexandria but could not persuade himself to write about it (in that case we would have had an Egyptian fellow immortalized). Durrell had at least the Hosnani family, you might remark. But they were Copts, and oh! so Europeanized.

My point is that we, novel-lovers, have come to acquire a biased view of those places. Cosmopolitan but strangely without almost any trace of representatives of the autochthonous population. Now, is this some kind of near-Marxist comment on the absence of the local proletariat? No, Sir! It's only that when one reads Maphouz (the Alexandria depicted in "Miramar", or the Cairo described in "La Belle du Caire") the city sounds so much more alive and authentic. All very nice but where are the Europeans in there? - the Right Honourable Reader might ask yourself with an ironical smirk. Point taken, but my plea is less fundamentalistic than you think. I propose that for each Anglo-Saxon Alexandria one should read an Egyptian Al-Yksandria. For each Foster a Malouf, for each Durrell a Edward al-Kahrrat, for each Lawrence a Souef or a Samia Serageldin.

Slowly the great Lit Cities will become four-dimensional, moving holograms of people of all complexions in landscapes with terracota walls, dusty alleys and reclined palm trees.