Tag: Italy

Hemingway: Getting the words right

Thursday, 2 May, 2019

The backdrop for A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway is the Italian campaign of World War I. Published in 1929, it is a first-person account of an American, Frederic Henry, serving as a lieutenant in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army. The book became Hemingway’s first best-seller and made him financially independent. The unnamed priest in the novel was based on Don Giuseppe Bianchi, the chaplain of the 69th and 70th regiments of the Brigata Ancona, which fought on the Dolomite Front.

Here, the wounded Frederic Henry is visited in the field hospital by the priest, who comes from Abruzzo, “a place where the roads were frozen and hard as iron, where it was clear and cold and dry and the snow was dry and powdery…” The priest’s soporific talk turns to hunting:

“The peasants all called you ‘Don’ and when you met them they took off their hats. His father hunted every day and stopped to eat at the houses of the peasants. They were always honoured. For a foreigner to hunt he must present a certificate that he had never been arrested. There were bears on the Gran Sasso D’Italia but that was a long way. Aquila was a fine town. It was cool in the summer at night and spring in Abruzzo was the most beautiful in Italy. But what was lovely was the fall to go hunting through the chestnut woods. The birds were all good because they fed on grapes and you never took a lunch because the peasants were always honoured if you would eat with them at their houses. After a while I went to sleep.”

INTERVIEWER: How much rewriting do you do?

HEMINGWAY: It depends. I rewrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.

INTERVIEWER: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?

HEMINGWAY: Getting the words right.

A Farewell to Arms


Giovanni Bellini: Pietà di Brera

Wednesday, 17 April, 2019

One of the most elegant parts of Milan’s Centro Storico district is Brera. The streets are lined with upmarket food shops and hip fashion boutiques, and the cobbled alleys fill up at night with people enjoying fine Milanese dining at sidewalk restaurants and cafés. A must-visit is the fresco-filled, 15th-century Santa Maria del Carmine church and, soul saved, the next stop has to be the Pinacoteca di Brera, with its magnificent collection of Italian art spanning the centuries.

One of the great treasures of the Pinacoteca di Brera is the Pietà di Brera by Giovanni Bellini, which dates from around 1460. When it was first revealed, the pietà was accompanied by verses composed by Propertius, the great poet of the Augustan age. He speaks of the capacity of an image to provoke tears — and anyone looking at the faces of Mary and Christ here cannot be unaffected by the the mother and son drama being played out. The pain depicted by Bellini reflects all human suffering and solitude.

Pietà di Brera


And life slips by like a field mouse

Tuesday, 19 February, 2019

Ezra Pound Ezra Pound was one of the founding members of the imagist movement in the early 20th century. Imagism relied on the impact of concrete images presented in exact, everyday language rather than traditional poetic metre. This is imagism:

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass

Ezra Pound (1885 — 1972)

Note: Ezra Pound was born in Idaho in 1885 and moved to Italy in 1924. He admired Mussolini and when World War II broke out he stayed in Rapallo from where he broadcast a series of radio talks attacking President Roosevelt and the “Jewish bankers” he deemed responsible for the war. The US regarded the broadcasts as treasonous and Pound was arrested at war’s end and imprisoned in an outdoor compound near Pisa.

While jailed, Pound completed the “The Pisan Cantos,” a group of poems that Paul L. Montgomery of the New York Times called “among the masterpieces of this century.” Eventually judged to be mentally incompetent to stand trial, Pound was transferred to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he remained incarcerated until 1958 when Robert Frost led a successful effort to free the poet. Ezra Pound was awarded The Bollingen Prize for Poetry in 1949 and he died in his beloved Venice in 1972.

Many writers have made disastrous personal and political choices but few have faced up to their failings as clearly as Pound did during his final years of catatonic depression. His acknowledgement here of his failure is honest and poignant and tragic:

I have tried to write Paradise.
Do not move.
Let the wind speak.
That is Paradise.
May the gods forgive what I have made.
May those I have loved try to forgive
what I have made.


The tenth post of pre-Christmas 2018: October

Saturday, 22 December, 2018

On 25 October, here, we posted an entry about Siracusa, the home of the world’s best sandwich. Who knows, we might even get to see a live performance of this in 2019.

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Described by Cicero as “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all”, Siracusa (Syracuse) is one of Sicily’s most historic places. It’s mentioned in the Bible in the Acts of the Apostles 28:12 as Saint Paul stayed there, and its patron saint is Saint Lucy, who was born there. Her feast day, Saint Lucy’s Day, is celebrated on 13 December.

Today, Siracusa is home to a street-food artist who makes the very best sandwich in the world. Watch this.

Back on 19 September, our post here was about the affordable and delicious street food sold at markets and train stations and from ‘pojangmacha’ (carts) in most of South Korea’s urban areas. The featured Korean Egg Toast was made with remarkable efficiency and an almost Confucianistic solemnity, and while we’re warned today by our PC overlords about comparing cultures, we’re still allowed to express preferences and the making of this sandwich is Siracusa wins. It’s craft and art; it’s theatre with an enthusiastic audience; it’s loving, passionate, creative and, especially noteworthy, it nourishes a community that appreciates good food prepared with local ingredients.

Talking of the ingredients, one very thoughtful YouTube commentator has listed them:

Filoncino bread, olive oil, Parmesan, dried ciliegini (sweet tomatoes) with basil, fresh salad (radicchio + lettuce + lemon juice and lemon zest), fresh tomatoes, grated Caciotta, grated sheep Ricotta (the same he serves on a plate in the meanwhile). The one in the plate has been aromatized at the moment with fresh garlic, olive oil and oregano, more Ricotta, olives, red sweet onions and some more dried ciliegini.

The filling roll: Slices of a massive Caciocavallo cheese, mashed potatoes with parsley and oil, ham, more Ricotta, more sweet onions (with a drop of lemon this time), parsley.

Divine. Sublime. The way the ham is added is magical.

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Tomorrow, here, our review of the year approaches the end of this series with the eleventh post of pre-Christmas 2018. The subject is the author Frederick Forsyth and his subject is the thief Edward Snowden.


The fifth post of pre-Christmas 2018: May

Monday, 17 December, 2018

Our review of the year has reached that month the Romans called Maius in honour of the Greek Goddess Maia, who was associated with the Roman era goddess of fertility, Bona Dea. Anyway, the day dawned bright on 26 May, but by the time the three alpinisti, as they say in Italy, had reached the peak, it was shrouded in a fog that was both numinous and perilous. Still, we lived to tell the tale.

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The translation of the Gaelic Seán Sa Cheo means “John in the Fog” and it’s the title of a famous reel. The John here is John O’Rourke and, along with Tom Breen, he summited Galtymore today. Despite the fog, the hikers returned safely to base.

Seán Sa Cheo

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Tomorrow, here, the sixth post of pre-Christmas 2018 is from June and it’s all about the consequences of Joachim Löw’s fateful decision to exclude Leroy Sané from the German World Cup squad.


Leda e il cigno

Wednesday, 28 November, 2018

According to the Greek myth that inspired the great W.B. Yeats poem, Zeus took the form of a swan and seduced Leda on the same night she slept with her husband King Tyndareus. Recently, a brilliant fresco depicting the event was unearthed in Pompeii and the artwork is best described in the original Italian:

Bellissima e sensuale, il corpo statuario solo parzialmente coperto da un drappo dorato, la regina Leda sembra incrociare languida lo sguardo di chi la avvicina. Tra le gambe di lei, in una posa che non potrebbe essere più esplicita, c’è il potente Zeus che per possederla si è trasformato in un grande cigno bianco e che secondo il mito insieme con il marito Tindaro, re di Sparta, diventerà il padre dei suoi quattro figli, i gemelli Castore e Polluce, ma anche la bella Elena, nel cui nome si scatenerà la guerra di Troia, e Clitennestra, che diventerà la moglie del re Agamennone.

Leda and the Swan

Here’s how Pliny the Younger recalled the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 that destroyed Pompeii and preserved the fresco of Leda and the Swan:

“Ashes were already falling, not as yet very thickly. I looked round: a dense black cloud was coming up behind us, spreading over the earth like a flood.

‘Let us leave the road while we can still see,’ I said, ‘or we shall be knocked down and trampled underfoot in the dark by the crowd behind.’

We had scarcely sat down to rest when darkness fell, not the dark of a moonless or cloudy night, but as if the lamp had been put out in a closed room.

You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices. People bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore.”


Siracusa: home of the world’s best sandwich

Thursday, 25 October, 2018

Described by Cicero as “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all”, Siracusa (Syracuse) is one of Sicily’s most historic places. It’s mentioned in the Bible in the Acts of the Apostles 28:12 as Saint Paul stayed there, and its patron saint is Saint Lucy, who was born there. Her feast day, Saint Lucy’s Day, is celebrated on 13 December.

Today, Siracusa is home to a street-food artist who makes the very best sandwich in the world. Watch this.

Back on 19 September, our post here was about the affordable and delicious street food sold at markets and train stations and from ‘pojangmacha’ (carts) in most of South Korea’s urban areas. The featured Korean Egg Toast was made with remarkable efficiency and an almost Confucianistic solemnity, and while we’re warned today by our PC overlords about comparing cultures, we’re still allowed to express preferences and the making of this sandwich is Siracusa wins. It’s craft and art; it’s theatre with an enthusiastic audience; it’s loving, passionate, creative and, especially noteworthy, it nourishes a community that appreciates good food prepared with local ingredients.

Talking of the ingredients, one very thoughtful YouTube commentator has listed them:

Filoncino bread, olive oil, Parmesan, dried ciliegini (sweet tomatoes) with basil, fresh salad (radicchio + lettuce + lemon juice and lemon zest), fresh tomatoes, grated Caciotta, grated sheep Ricotta (the same he serves on a plate in the meanwhile). The one in the plate has been aromatized at the moment with fresh garlic, olive oil and oregano, more Ricotta, olives, red sweet onions and some more dried ciliegini.

The filling roll: Slices of a massive Caciocavallo cheese, mashed potatoes with parsley and oil, ham, more Ricotta, more sweet onions (with a drop of lemon this time), parsley.

Divine. Sublime. The way the ham is added is magical.


Pine Wood at Montenero

Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

The photographer George Tatge was born in Istanbul and now lives in Florence. He studied English Literature at Beloit College in Wisconsin and moved to Italy in 1973 to work as a journalist in Rome before focusing on photography, which he does mostly with a 5x7in Deardorff view camera.

That mid-West study of English Literature was repaid when his Italia Metafisica won the Ernest Hemingway Award sponsored by Lignano Sabbiadoro, a town in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of north-eastern Italy. The story goes that when Hemingway was exploring the lagoons around Venice, he discovered Lignano Sabbiadoro and fell in love.

Presences – Italian Landscapes is the title of a photo series by George Tatge currently on display at the Catherine and André Hug Gallery in the heart of Saint Germain des Prés. This is the beautiful Pine Wood at Montenero and it was taken near a famous Catholic sanctuary perched on the Livorno Hills in central Italy.

Pine Wood at Montenero


The Italian Puzzle

Friday, 17 August, 2018

The decision by the Lega Serie A to postpone Sunday’s planned games between Sampdoria and Fiorentina and AC Milan and Genoa is fitting. The Ponte Morandi was the main way to drive through the city and countless football fans have used it in the six decades since it was built. Football, which offers entertaining distraction in troubled times, cannot, this time, escape from the shadow of the collapsed bridge, and only its prompt restoration or replacement will satisfy Genoa now.

The contradictions that Italy presents to the world are bewildering. On the one hand, we have the tragic crumbling of a bridge completed in 1967 and, on the other, the Colosseum, which was built 1,938 years, ago continues to stand and astonish. Videographer Kirill Neiezhmakov from Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine explores the Italian puzzle in “Milan in Motion”. As he says: “With massive urban sprawl and a reputation for being the cold Lombard capital, Milan doesn’t feel like a quintessentially Italian metropolis, with settlers from all over the country making their home here, visitors will find all of Italy in one city.”


Shelley in Italy

Sunday, 8 July, 2018

On this day in 1822, the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned when his boat, the Don Juan, sank during a storm in the Gulf of La Spezia off the north-west coast of Italy. He was 30. Shelley’s ashes were interred in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome and his gravestone bears the Latin inscription, Cor Cordium (Heart of Hearts).

Plagued by health worries and pursued by creditors, Shelley and his wife, the writer Mary Shelley, escaped from England to Italy in 1818 and there he produced some of his best work, including Ode to the West Wind. Like many before and after him, Shelley was enchanted by Italy and remained under its spell until the end of his short, dazzling life.

To Italy

As the sunrise to the night,
As the north wind to the clouds,
As the earthquake’s fiery flight,
Ruining mountain solitudes,
Everlasting Italy,
Be those hopes and fears on thee.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)

Italy


Chesterton on Rome and Brussels

Tuesday, 29 May, 2018

“Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.” So said the English novelist and poet G.K. Chesterton, who was born on this day in 1874. It is hard, however, to imagine a Chesterton of our era saying, “Men did not love Brussels because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.”

In Rome, the feeling of love that was once directed towards Brussels, the seat of the European Union, has increasingly turned to hate. This is because the two Italian populist parties that won a majority of votes in the 4 March elections were prevented from forming a government by President Sergio Mattarella because they reportedly oppose the euro, and this heresy is regarded as the most grave of sins by the currency prelates in Frankfurt, Berlin and Brussels. As a result, Italy is about to become the battleground for two fierce tribes: The people who voted for populism and the elites who have prevented the elected populists from taking power. What happens in the coming days and weeks of their conflict will affect the future not just of Italy but of Europe.

 G.K. Chesterton