Love is all around


A page from L’art d’aimer de la séduction à la volupté (S950.a.201.1093)

Saint Valentine’s Day, or the feast of Valentine, has its origins in the celebration of the life of Saint Valentine (Valentinius), a third century Roman saint. The feast day (February 14) is now, of course, related to the tradition of courtly love which has its origins in the middle ages. The history of Saint Valentine is uncertain, among the UL’s earliest works including a history of Saint Valentine is: Opus eruditissimum diui Irenaei episcopi lugdunensis in quinque libros digestum, in quibus mire retegit & confutat ueterum haereseon impias ac portentosas opiniones, ex uetustissimorum codicum collatione quantum licuit emendatum opera Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ac nunc eiusdem opera denuo recognitum, correctis ijs quae prius suffugerant (3.10.29).

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The Skizzenbuch

image_3The Skizzenbuch, a delightful early work by Franz Kugler (1808-1858), has recently been added to the University Library’s collections (8002.c.43). Franz Kugler is mainly known for his contributions to art history. His main work the Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte (Acton.c.50.506), first published in 1842, is one of the earliest art survey texts with a global perspective. Kugler was a key figure in the development of art history as an academic discipline, and one of the first persons to hold a chair in art history at a university.

The Skizzenbuch however, published in 1830 by G. Reimer in Berlin when Kugler was only twenty-two, demonstrates his talents as a poet, composer and artist.

rudelsburgIn the Skizzenbuch Kugler published a collection of his poems, a few of which he set to music; one ‘Rudelsburg: an der Saale hellem Strande …’ became a popular song. In the Skizzenbuch this poem is accompanied by an engraving by Kugler’s artist friend Robert Reinick. Kugler’s poems are mainly observations on his travels, recalling people and landscapes he had encountered. Some describe paintings he encountered, some are addressed to fellow artists such as Schinkel or members of the young artists’ circle in Berlin, others deal with architecture and buildings. There is also a drinking song for students. Kugler also set to music poems by Ludwig Uhland, Heinrich Heine, Clemens Brentano, Wilhelm Wackernagel and the dedicatee Adelbert von Chamisso. Continue reading

Slavonic item of the month : May 2014

This month, we look at a 2011 set of poetry by Lev Rubinshtein printed on hundreds of index cards, replicating Rubinshtein’s own kartoteka (card catalogue) approach to the physical recording of his poetry.  The piece starts off with a reflection on this year’s Victory Day and Rubinshtein’s role as a dissident figure in modern Russia. 

Cards from Lev Rubinshtein's Chetyre teksta iz Bol’shoi kartoteki (2014.6.85-88)

Cards from Lev Rubinshtein’s Chetyre teksta iz Bol’shoi kartoteki (2014.6.85-88)

This month saw Victory Day on May the 9th, originally the Soviet annual celebration of the end of World War II and still celebrated by many post-Soviet states, Russia primary among them.  Given the appalling military and civilian losses caused by the Eastern Front and its attendant atrocities, this day of celebration is always painfully underscored by the unparalleled cost of victory.  For many in Eastern Europe, memory of the war has the awful added dimension of a particularly complex relationship with the Soviets and Nazis.  The continued turmoil in Ukraine has shown both how little the ghosts of the 20th century seem to have been put to rest and also how quickly people jump to exploit them, using sweeping generalisations and heightened emotional language to cause further division and mutual resentment.

The 2014 Victory Day was therefore a source of concern and nervousness for many, with the emphasis on WWII history having been a major factor in the stirring up of public opinion over the Ukrainian upheaval and the incorporation of Crimea into Russia.  On the day, news agencies focused on the prolonged Red Square military parade and Putin’s visit to Crimea.  With headline-grabbing political posturing and extreme public opinions on offer, there was little appetite in the press to focus on the more thoughtful and sober marking of an emotional and difficult day of remembrance by ordinary people.  And this is where Lev Rubinshtein comes in.

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Where is 21st century Latin American fiction heading?

A screenshot of the collaborative online translation project “Palabras errantes” presented at the seminar.

A screenshot of the collaborative online translation project “palabras errantes” presented at the seminar.

What are the new trends in Latin American fiction? Can we go beyond the general conviction that, after the ‘60s “boom”, Latin American fiction experienced a steady decline both in the quality and quantity of literary works produced? How are researchers, librarians and publishers reacting to this in the UK? These and many more questions were answered at the seminar 21st Century Fiction from Latin America  held on Wednesday 12th of February 2014 at Senate House, London.

The panorama of 21st Latin American fiction is hugely vast and exciting, as was evidenced by the very stimulating contributions presented at the Seminar. Here we mention some of them. Continue reading

Mexico’s greatest poet (but not according to him)


Image taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Less than two weeks after the death of his close friend Juan Gelman, a fellow Cervantes Prize winner and near neighbour in the Condesa district of Mexico City, the great Mexican writer José Emilio Pacheco passed away on January 26, 2014.

 Whilst Gelman (having very personal experience of the horrors of right-wing dictatorship) was outspoken in his left-wing allegiances, Pacheco was much more politically ambiguous and ambivalent in his writing. His most popular work, the novella Las batallas en el desierto (classmark: 9743.d.1564), looked back on a fictionalised adolescence during the post-war presidency of Miguel Alemán (1946-1952) – a period of great optimism, growth and development in Mexico’s history. However, rather than straightforward nostalgia, the story reveals the seeds of corruption and inequality that would come to trouble the country’s growing population throughout the 20th century. Continue reading