Thursday, April 1, 2010

Behind the Seen


The tomb room of Rumi (Konya, Turkey)

اینجا پُشت مُشت های رندان

Another April Fool is the great Russian composer and pianist, Sergei Rachmaninoff (April 1, 1873 - 1943)…

Rachmaninoff was a superb composer for his instrument, the piano and his concerti are known as monstrously difficult but vast works full of “big, fat chords.”

Photo of Sergei, 1922 - after his resettlement in the US…

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano concerto no. 2 in C minor, op. 18, I. Moderato, Vladimir Ashkenazy, pianist, André Previn & London Symphony Orchestra (1972).

(via perfectible)

Huge hands of Russian piano virtuoso Sergei Rachmaninoff, 69, w. his wedding ring on right hand in accordance w. Russian convention, at his New York, apartment, 1943

Photographer: Eric Schaal, LIFE


Milan Kundera, the famous Czech dissident writer who is best known for his novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, was born April 1, 1929…

Kundera has lived in exile in France for many years. He is an important figure in European intellectual life, thanks not least to his ability to spot and critique the tragic, yet often grotesquely humorous sides to totalitarianism…

A publicity shot of Kundera from Faber Books…


Samuel R. Delany (b. April 1, 1942) is a great science-fiction, fantasy and erotica writer. He is also one of the sharpest critics and essayists around, operating in the cross-field of cultural and literary studies, with a special contribution in Queer studies and theory.

“Samuel Delany was born and grew up in New York City’s Harlem. The Lambda Book Report chose Delany as one of the hundred men and women who have most changed our concept of gayness in the last century. A novelist and critic, he is a recipient of the William Whitehead Memorial Award for a lifetime’s contribution to lesbian and gay literature. Delany’s books include Atlantis: Three Tales (Wesleyan University Press), Dhalgren (Vintage Books), as well as the best-selling Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (New York University Press).” (Source)


Toshirō Mifune, the great Japanese actor who played the lone swordsman in a number of Kurosawa films (and in a host of other lesser Samurai epics), was born April 1, 1920 (d. 1997).

You might not recognize Mifune out of Samurai costume, but here he is…


April 4, 1928 is the birthday of autobiographer, poet and activist Maya Angelou…

Alone by Maya Angelou

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

(Photo of Angelou, 1994 by Dave Allocca, LIFE)


French writer and film director, Marguerite Duras, April 4, 1914 - 1996…

Duras was the author of a number of autobiographical fictions, including the celerbrated volume, The Lover (a story from colonial days in Vietnam about a very young French girl and her affair with an older Chinese businessman), which won her the Prix Goncourt in 1984 and became a succesful film…

“Men like women who write. Even though they don’t say so. A writer is a foreign country.” — M.D.


A fine day for the thinking man’s movie director as April 4 is also the birthday of dissident Russian film maker Andrei Tarkovsky (1932 - 1986). Although he only directed 7 feature films in his career which was cut short by cancer, at least three of them are masterpieces: Andrei Rublev in 1966, Solaris in 1972, and Stalker in 1979. If you like your film stark, brutal and occasionally cryptic - go Tarkovsky.


Martin Luther King, Jr. - dead since April 4, 1968, but never forgotten…

He freed a lot of people.

Photo - Grey Villet, 1955 (LIFE)


Gone 13 years today: Allen Ginsberg, American poet - d. April 5, 1997, age 70…

(Photo by Lee Balterman, Chicago 1968 - LIFE)


Charles Baudelaire by Nadar

Charles Baudelaire - poète maudit - April 9, 1821 - 1867…

The Fountain of Blood

A fountain’s pulsing sobs—like this my blood
Measures its flowing, so it sometimes seems.
I hear a gentle murmur as it streams;
Where the wound lies I’ve never understood.

Like water meadows, boulevards are flooded.
Cobblestones, crisscrossed by scarlet rills,
Are islands; creatures come and drink their fill.
Nothing in nature now remains unblooded.

I used to hope that wine could bring me ease,
Could lull asleep my deeply gnawing mind.
I was a fool: the senses clear with wine.

I looked to Love to cure my old disease.
Love led me to a thicket of IVs
Where bristling needles thirsted for each vein.

(Translated by Rachel Hadas)

Title page of Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal, 1900 ed.

The Sick Muse

My poor muse, alas!, what’s wrong with you this morning?
Your hollow eyes are peopled with nocturnal visions,
And I see madness and horror, cold and taciturn,
Reflected, one after the other, upon your face.

Did the green succubus and the pink goblin
Pour out for you fear and love from their urns?
Did nightmare, with a despotic and obstinate fist,
Drown you in the depths of a fabulous Minturnes?

I would that your breast, exhaling an odor of health,
Be frequented always by forceful thoughts,
And that your Christian blood flow in rhythmic streams,

Like the numerous sounds of antique syllables,
Ruled over, in turn, by Phoebus, father of songs,
And the great Pan, lord of the harvest.

(Trans. by Cat Nilan)


مارک اِسترَند

Former poet laureate of the USA, Canadian-born Mark Strand, b. April, 11, 1934…

The Coming of Light by Mark Strand

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.
(this post was reblogged from lumpy-pudding)

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (d. April 11, 2007) - we miss you, but so it goes…


Samuel Beckett (Directing Waiting for Godot, Riverside Studios, London) — John Minihan, 1984

Today is Samuel Beckett’s birthday. He was born April 13, 1906.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
— Samuel Beckett


birthday of extremely influential and eccentric French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan (April 13, 1901 - 1981)…

Check out the thinking pose of young M. Lacan (sitting)…


Today is the birthday of Mr. Renaissance Man - scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer - Leonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 - 1519)

Above: Detail of an angel from The Virgin of the Rocks, 1483-1486 - Oil on canvas (The Louvre)


The literary bookends of Book Day are Shakespeare and Cervantes - one was born April 23, the other died on that day…

William Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564, but the birthday is traditionally celebrated today, on St George’s Day, April 23… Actually, today is also the day of Shakespeare’s death, April 23, 1616 - but note that this date is according to the Julian calendar, which was replaced by the Gregorian calendar in most of Europe in 1582. Therefore Shakespeare and Cervantes did not in actuality die on the same day in 1616, but 10 days apart!

On matters of birth the Bard did not have much to say - but on death, oh death:

“Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once.”
— Julius Caesar (II, ii, 32-37)

Above: A painting called the Ashbourne portrait which was (mis)identified as a portrayal of Shakespeare in 1847, and which currently hangs in the Folger Shakespeare Library…

Miguel de Cervantes (October 9, 1547 – April 23, 1616), Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright. His magnum opus, Don Quixote, considered the first modern novel by many, is a classic of Western literature…

What say you, Don Miguel, of Death? - “Well, there’s a remedy for all things but death, which will be sure to lay us flat one time or other.”

And of Book Day? - “From reading too much, and sleeping too little, his brain dried up on him and he lost his judgment.”

More, Don Miguel? - “A closed mouth catches no flies.”


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