You know those moments – those moments when a book speaks to you? When you read something that might have been written exactly for you to find it? Well, I had a rather peculiar moment of that kind, yesterday… Continue reading
Ages ago, I was dragged into one of those meme things… I must confess I always go very reluctantly about those. After all, why would anyone want to know ten things about me, or what music I have on my iPod, or where would I like to travel…
This one, though, was about writing – and when it comes to writing and reading, we’ve long established that I have no control whatever. So I did the meme on my Italian blog. It was about writing obsessions – those recurring themes one writes about again and again, intentions, obdurate passions – half guiding lights, half Trade Winds… we all have a handful of those, right? Continue reading
Obviously Scotland does this to me: it sends me on Jacobite tangents. Fictional tangents, mostly – because really, the moment you try a history book, the whole adventure loses much of its shine. Then again, seven decades of intermittent and unsuccessful attempts at restoring a royal line with the dubious aid of a foreign power were bound to be, on the one hand not terribly well organised, and on the other, perfect novel material… I mean: how can you have plenty of exiles headed by a handsome and charming prince, loyal clans, recurring bursts of violence, conspirations, secret messages, toasts to the King Across the Water, songs, divided families, spirited ladies, battles, and an ultimately doomed cause – and not expect an abundance of fiction? And of course, the foremost charm of the Jacobites is that of the doomed and defeated. Would we care very much about them, would we write novels, if they’d won? Continue reading
There are heaps of writing prompt sites, out there. Really: the Net is a-swarm with them – and, under other circumstances, I might have missed Writing Prompts…
And it would have been a shame – because, you see, I came across it via this prompt…
…And, while I don’t particularly think that London is a teenager, I was definitely hooked. I followed the link, and found the site’s page of prompts for history and social studies, filled with other equally interesting and unusual prompts.
The site’s author, you see, is a teacher, and uses these prompts in the class, but they are perfect for grown-ups too, I find – all the more because it’s not so often that one finds history-geared prompts. I’m most definitely giving a few of them a try – either for my own freewriting, or with my Scribblers group…
What about you, o Readers? What is, for instance, your city? And why?
I’ve been musing on first favourite poems – and, after some consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that my first favourite poem must have been Giovanni Pascoli’s Alexandros. Which is a tad strange because, as a rule, I don’t enormously like Pascoli – a late 19th/early 20th century Italian poet with a rather pathetic vein, only saved, in my admittedly biased view, by a keen interest in history.
Narrative poems, you know. Stories – the usual obsession. Continue reading
Some more Julius Caesar, do you mind?
The fact is that, because of Shakespeare in Words, I had a special thrill when, in Act 3.I, the conspirators bathe their hands in dead Caesar’s blood – half barbaric ritual, half preparation to face the angry and upset crowds outside. Very much like actors before a play, they plan to appear with bloody hands and swords, shouting “Peace, freedom, and liberty.” Continue reading
I told you about Bryher’s The Player’s Boy, didn’t I?
Well, to this lovely, melancholy novel my Paris Press edition adds a wonderful afterword, consisting of a letter that Bryher wrote to a friend to explain her fascination with Elizabethan literature and history. It’s a charming little piece about growing up, reading, cultivating one’s imagination, finding strength in literature and history, and being slightly eccentric… It’s well worth reading in its entirety.
My favourite part, though, has to be the final musing on the historian’s perspective: Continue reading
A little Saturday thought, from Milan Kundera’s The Curtain.
Something about history, and truth, and what – and how – is remembered or forgotten.
Something that goes very well with my own pet theory about the iridescence of history…
This is the most obvious thing in the world: man is separated from the past (even from the past only a few seconds old) by two forces that go instantly to work and cooperate: the force of forgetting (which erases) and the force of memory (which transforms).
It is the most obvious thing, but it is hard to accept, for when one thinks it all the way through, what becomes of all the testimonies that historiography relies on? What becomes of our certainties about the past, and what becomes of History itself, to which we refer every day in good faith, naively, spontaneously? Beyond the slender margin of the incontestable (there is no doubt that Napoleon lost the battle of Waterloo), stretches an infinite realm: the realm of the approximate, the invented, the deformed, the simplistic, the exaggerated, the misconstrued, an infinite realm of nontruths that copulate, multiply like rats, and become immortal.
A realm that, I might add, makes for wonderful hunting grounds, when you happen to write historical fiction…
Can you read French? If not, you may want to rely on some online translator, just this once, because Hervé Dumont’s Encyclopédie du film historique – that is, the encyclopedia of historical films, is a real treasure trove.
Right now, I think that all you can find in English is the Author’s Note, explaining what and why. Amongst other things, you’ll find that Swiss film historian Dumont quotes Stanley Kubrick’s notion that “one of the things the cinema knows how to do better than any of the other arts, is to bring to the screen historical subjects.” Continue reading