25 April 1945-2015: literature and history on the 70th anniversary of Liberation Day

On 25 April this year Italy celebrates the 70th anniversary of Liberation Day, now a national holiday commemorating the end of the Nazi occupation and of the Second World War.

21 April 1945, Liberation of Bologna – American tank taken from Wikimedia commons

21 April 1945, Liberation of Bologna – American tank taken from Wikimedia commons

The Nazi occupation of Italy followed the armistice between Italy and the Allied armed forces on 8 September 1943. Whilst the German army was fighting to get control of the main cities of the Italian peninsula, the antifascist movements, which had been secretly operating against Mussolini’s regime for over 20 years, gathered under the umbrella of the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale or CNL (National Liberation Committee). The CNL eventually represented the Italian Resistance movement: all the partisan forces active on mountains, in the countryside and in urban areas, for a total of 70,000-80,000 people by May 1944. These groups were all moved by different ideologies – communists, monarchists, socialists, liberals, republicans, anarchists, Catholics – but they were all antifascist. They took the form of underground movements in cities and of guerrilla on mountainous regions and carried out actions of various kinds such as sabotages, armed attacks, occupations of villages and small cities, with the support of civilians and of the Allied forces through air supply dropping operations. Continue reading

Eisenstein’s Ivan : sensory thinking from Machiavelli to Disney

Professor Joan Neuberger (University of Texas at Austin) gave the final CamCREES seminar of the 2015 Lent term.  She spoke about the film cycle Ivan Groznyi (Ivan the Terrible) and the particular influence Walt Disney and his work had on its director and screenwriter Sergei Eisenstein.  This post explores the University Library’s Eisenstein holdings, including a book of his drawings.

Sergei Eisenstein (the anglicised version of Eizenshtein is used here), the subject which started off the first seminar of the 2014 Michaelmas term, reappeared in more detailed focus as the subject of the last of the 2015 Lent term seminars.  This time, it was his work on Ivan Groznyi which was under examination.  Eisenstein, the screenwriter as well as director, planned three films on Ivan the Terrible.  Only the first two were ever produced, and only the first of these released in his lifetime.  Professor Neuberger talked about interpretations of Eisenstein’s Tsar Ivan before moving on to Disney’s influence on the films and the film-maker.


Cover and internal page of Eisenstein’s screenplays for the first two Ivan Groznyi films (415.d.94.41)

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Indice Histórico Español now available online

The journal Indice Histórico Español (IHE), founded by famous historian Jaume Vicens Vives in 1953 is now freely available online here: http://revistes.ub.edu/index.php/IHE/index

The IHE is an essential resource for anyone interested in the history of Spain and Latin America. It contains thousands of reviews about recent publications on the subject spanning 127 issues (1953 to 2014). The latest issue available online is no. 125 (2012).

The full text content of this journal can now be accessed via the link in the ejournals@cambridge A-Z listing.

The journal is also available in print at Cambridge University Library (classmark P582.c.21, vol, 1 to present). Indice Histórico Español

Sonia Morcillo

Trial access to ‘Krokodil’, ‘Russkaia literatura’, and the Dostoevsky Research Series

Three new East View e-resources have been made available on trial, including the backfiles of the satirical magazine Krokodil and the literary journal Russkaia literatura.  In addition, we are also trying out a Russian e-book set, with trial access to the Dostoevskii : materialy i issledovaniia.  Feedback is keenly sought by Friday 1 May, to slavonic@lib.cam.ac.uk.


Krokodil front covers – screenshot from the East View database.

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Another view of Waterloo

This guest post, written by Dr Jaap Harskamp (formerly Curator of Dutch & Flemish collections at the British Library, who is now working on the University Library’s early Dutch books) marks the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, in advance of the opening (on Friday 1 May) of the University Library’s exhibition on the subject.

 From 1814 until April 1818 Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond, and his family lived in an eighteenth century mansion in Brussels where he was in command of a reserve force protecting the city from an invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte. It was here that three nights before the Battle of Waterloo the Duchess of Richmond gave a ball to which many officers of the allied English, Prussian and Dutch armies (including the Prince of Orange) were invited. The occasion inspired various artists. Robert Hillingford captured the splendour of the occasion in his painting ‘The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball’. Thackeray made dramatic use of the event in Vanity Fair. Byron dedicated a section of Childe Harold to ‘The Eve of Waterloo’. There, with the ball in full swing, a messenger brings word to Wellington that Napoleon is advancing towards Brussels. The news comes as a shock on a festive occasion that, until that fateful moment, had been all smiles and sparkling white teeth. Continue reading

French-speaking literature and literary prizes outside of France

When we think of French literature, the first names that spring to mind are those of the great metropolitan writers such as Proust or Balzac. But “la francophonie” is not limited to mainland France ; besides overseas territories and parts of Belgium, Switzerland and Canada, French is widely spoken in North West Africa, where France used to be the colonial power. Morocco, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mauritania, Togo among others still have French as their official language, and l’Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie comprises 80 member states from all over the world. When speaking of French literature, one should not forget the contribution of writers from overseas, and that many a book written in French may in fact have been penned by an African author.

Examples of Haitian and Congolese prizewinners

Examples of Haitian and Congolese prizewinners

French-speaking countries and overseas territories’ contribution to French literature is not recent: XIXth century writer Alexandre Dumas was the son of a mixed-race former slave from Saint-Domingue ; in 1921 Batouala, written by René Maran, from Martinique, was the first novel penned by a Black person to be awarded the prestigious French literary prize Goncourt ; and the XXth century poet Saint-John Perse was born and spent his childhood in Guadeloupe. One important movement in French-speaking literature is “la Négritude”, founded in the 1930s by Martinican poet Aimé Césaire and Senegalese poet and politician Léopold Sédar Senghor. Contemporary writer and Nobel-prize winner Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio is Franco-Mauritian, and Haitian author Dany Laferrière has recently become a member of the Académie Française. Continue reading

Italian medieval and early Renaissance art

No matter how hard we try to be consistent in collecting, by following our collection policy, meeting the needs of the academic community and remaining abreast of current publications, we have to face the fact that there are inevitably gaps in our collections, gaps perhaps from previous decades, gaps which can be very hard to fill. It is a joy indeed, therefore, when an academic, seeking to slim down his own collection of books, makes us the very generous gift of items he no longer needs.

Professor Nigel Morgan, of the Department of History of Art, has done just that. He has most generously donated to us material he has gathered over the years, which he knows we are missing and which will be of interest to scholars using the Library. The wealth of material donated, on medieval and early Renaissance art, comes in a variety of languages. Most of the items are in Italian; some in English; some in German; some in Spanish; with a few in French. Notable among the English items are 10 volumes of the set “A critical and historic corpus of Florentine painting“, published in Florence, begun in 1984 by Richard Offner and later reprinted. Offner’s research on Florentine art culminated in this project, a description of Florentine renaissance artists, methods, and workshop production, and it is wonderful to have acquired these important volumes.

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