Dario Fo, the 20th century jester (1926-2016)

lazzi_sberleffi_dipinti

From the cover of Dario Fo a Milano: lazzi, sberleffi e dipinti (S950.c.201.296)

Writing this blogpost about Dario Fo, I am filled with emotion. Back in August, nearly two months before his death (and when he already knew his illness was terminal), the 90 year-old Italian actor, playwright, theatre director, stage designer, songwriter, painter and political activist performed on stage for two hours and finished the show singing. I was lucky enough to see him perform when he was “only” in his late 70s, and I still remember his incredible vitality and wit, his eyes shining with youthful enthusiasm, his humanity, irony and cutting words causing simultaneous laughter and deep reflection. Continue reading

Svetlana Aleksievich and Chernobyl : the October 2015 Slavonic item(s) of the month

The 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Svetlana Aleksievich’s books bring together the narratives of witnesses to some of recent history’s most disturbing events.  The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster was the subject of her book Chernobyl’skaia molitva (Chernobyl prayer; C203.d.7984 (in Russian) and 429:4.c.95.5 (in English).  This post looks at Aleksievich’s book and others on Chernobyl.

eawe

Chernobyl, in capital letters (ЧЕРНОБЫЛЬ), shown in a 1969 map of Ukraine (Maps.276.96.23).  The nuclear town of Pryp’iat’, famously evacuated after the 1986 disaster, would only be established in 1970.

Svetlana Aleksievich’s name had been discussed in terms of Nobel recognition for some time, and the 2015 prize was awarded to her “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”.  In Chernobyl’skaia molitva, Aleksievich writes “this book is not about Chernobyl, but about the world of Chernobyl.  Thousands of pages have already been written and hundreds of thousands of metres of film recorded about the event itself.  What I am concerned with is what would be called “missed” history … I write and collect the feelings, thoughts, and words of everyday life … Chernobyl [for my subjects] is not a metaphor or a symbol: it is their home.”  This is her approach to all her work; her documentary prose provides a stark and compelling picture of events through its use of the voices of the ordinary people caught up in them, the “polyphonic” quality which won her the Nobel prize.  War has featured prominently in her writing so far, with women’s and children’s accounts of the Second World War and soldiers’ experiences of the Soviet-Afghan war accounting for three of her books.  These are among the nine books the University Library currently has by her; these are mainly in Russian (Aleksievich is a Russophone Belarusian writer*), but the number in English will doubtless rise thanks to her Nobel fame. Continue reading

Reymont, recognition, and relegation : the November 2014 Slavonic item of the month

201411_Chlopi

Front cover of v. 1 of a 1931 edition of Chłopi, Uc.8.6564

In November 1924, the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to the Polish prose writer Władysław Reymont, the second of four Polish-language literature laureates to date. To mark the award’s anniversary, we look at the University Library’s Reymont holdings, consider our scant acquisitions in recent decades, and search for Reymont in the card catalogue.

Ninety years ago this month, Władysław Reymont was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  The Swedish Academy always explains its choice.  In Reymont’s case, this was given in some brevity: Reymont was recognised “for his great national epic, The peasants“.  He is one of nine laureates, so far, for whom the Academy has “singled out a specific work for particular recognition” (see the Nobel literature fact page and Reymont’s Nobel page), and the second Polish-language literature laureate, following Henryk Sienkiewicz’s award in 1905. Continue reading

The little-known Nobel laureate

A selection of older Modiano novels in the UL

A selection of Modiano novels in the UL

Since the announcement on October 9th of the 2014 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, much has been written in the media both here and across the Atlantic attempting to answer the question “Who on earth is Patrick Modiano?”. He is a well-known author in his native France, having won both the Grand Prix du roman de l’Académie française in 1972 and the Prix Goncourt in 1978, but is much less renowned in the English-speaking world, perhaps because only a few of his works have been translated into English. Continue reading

RIP Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez passed away on April 17th 2014 at the age of 87. He was unquestionably Colombia’s greatest writer – his country’s president even described him after his death as “the greatest Colombian who ever lived” – and one of the most important of all Spanish language (and indeed world) authors. His influence and importance on the Latin American and world stage cannot be overstated, nor the full scope of his work easily summarised. Continue reading