Dylan’s Nobel, a display of Jewish power

I swear I didn’t know.

I didn’t know; and that’s why when I heard about Bob Dylan’s Nobel prize in literature I was as puzzled as the next, thinking what the heck?, what were those guys at the Swedish Academy thinking about?, is it a joke, or a canard? But no; it was true, and Sara Danius at the Academy came up with that implausible explanation, rather a justification: “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition“. Oh, please!

For a few minutes me and my folks commented on it, wondering if there were really no better and worthier candidates out there who, besides, wrote real literature? And if it was about being so progressist, and about rewarding poetry, there were no better poets who would beat Dylan by a landslide? ‘New poetic expressions’? ‘Great American song tradition’? Give me  a break! Why should the literature jury at the Academy particularly care about the USAmerican song tradition? Whatever.

In any case, we reached to the hasty conclusion that the Swedish must be just bootlicking USA — like mostly everyone does.

Yet, for me, something didn’t tie in. I kept thinking that, if they were simply flattering ‘the great American nation’, there were other USAmerican authors, real writers, cultivated and praiseworthy artists deserved the Nobel in literature more than a — sure, yes, a remarkable one, but just a singer songwriter; just one more among the crowd. So, what was I missing? Continue »

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Ropa motera Exulans; una opinión

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Tarkovski revisited


I was only a teenager when — by suggestion of a friend under the intelectual fever that, in the early 80’s, stroke some middle-class sectors in Spain — I went to an unlikely cineclub in a not so advisable district of Madrid, rather distant from home, for watching a so-called “independent” movie titled Stalker, supposedly of the science-fiction genre and directed by some exotic and unknown (for us) Russian filmmaker called Tarkovski.

Needless to say that, used as I was to the livelier -when not frantic- action pace of USAmerican or European films that (then exactly like today — nothing has changed in this respect) almost exclusively filled our billboards and TV channels, I found it desperatingly slow, mostly boring and virtually incomprehensible. Besides, since I was expecting a “proper” sci-fi work, I was rather disappointed.

However, there was something indefinably interesting about it that outstood; not just the fact that it was different from any other movie I had watched before, but something else that I could not quite grasp; and despite my uneducated taste of those times and my little knowledge of the world — let alone the Russian soul, I had the feeling that it contained some message worth apprehending, and that some kind of art was involved worth being understood. Continue »

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17 moments of spring

seventeen-moments-of-springThere are so many TV series out there, one can’t watch them all; not even just the ‘best’ ones (supposing ‘best’ makes any sense when it comes to tastes). Unlike films, series are very much time consuming, and often addictive (actually, for the consumerism cultures we’re totally immerse in, such addictiveness is the ultimate goal of producers, and it is much preferred over quality), and unless you’re as sickly overcritical as I am, or have thrice my free time, you’ll be simply overflowed with the offer and just pick whichever serial is made the easiest for you to watch, or the ones more aggressively distributed and publicized.

And this is how, hadn’t you come across this post, you would miss one of the most and true unforgettable TV series ever: 17 moments of spring (Semnadtsat mgnoveniy vesny); an excellent twelve-chapter Soviet production from the 70’s directed by Tatyana Lioznova that relates, in a WWII historical background,  the vicissitudes of fictional character Colonel Maksim Maksimovich Isayev, a Soviet undercover agent infiltrated as an officer into Hitler’s SD under the name of Max Stirlitz. The plot covers seventeen moments spread throughout February and March 1945 (not really spring, but well), narrating how Stirlitz struggles to carry out a mission he’s received from Moscow: to ascertain whether some high-rank German officers are trying to secretly negotiate a separate peace deal with the allies in the Western front (that would allow the Germans to concentrate their forces in the East) and, in case affirmative, to try to foil any such agreement. Continue »

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Winter in Finland

After a last tantrum of unusual warm days for the season, this long autumn, child of burnt hydrocarbons, has finally given way to winter. Bright white days. Twenty five below.

Even before coming into contact with the air, my breath freezes inside my nostrils, causing an unpleasant feeling of dried up boogers. Eventually, a chance tear congeals in the corner of my eye as a rheum, or if I blink, it welds my eyelashes and I can’t then open my eyelids. Under the soles of the footwear and under the rubber of the tyres, the snow cries its loud creak of trampled grave. At night, the air humidity sublimates on the thinnest tree branches, coating them in a perfect, uniform frost layer like in the Christmas cards. At noon, after the weak warming up of a sunny day, that same frost thaws and falls from the branches in a myriad microscopic ice crystals sprinkled from above in a soft snowfall of sparkling diamond dust. The flowing water in the canal or by the wharf, that never freezes, constantly smokes a ghostly mist of boiling cauldron that vanishes into thin air only a few feet above the surface, evoking a fabulous landscape of enchanted swamps. And at dusk, the bluish white of snow and the whitish blue of sky blend together in a borderless horizon.

The lake, now lethargic, has finally silenced its otherworldly moans.

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That very Münchhausen

totsamyyThis Russian version of the renowned Munchhausen adventures is, by far, the best of them all, both in print and on stage — though perhaps ‘the best’ doesn’t mean much in this case, since a one-eyed person can always be the king in the blinds’ realm. No: The very same Münchhausen is far above other attempts to bring Raspe’s literary work to screen, and the script by Grigoriy Gorin is also far above the book.

Baron Karl Hyeronymous von Münchhausen was an interesting, real-life German personage from 18th century who, as history has it, used to entertain his audience with the exaggerated tale — nay, with blatantly impossible stories about his travels and adventures, though these were told in such matter-of-factly way that it would be quite unfair to designate him as a mere liar. Out of this baron and his tales, another no less interesting character surnamed Raspe, an ‘impudent scoundrel’, wrote and sent to print a number of editions of a book (whose authorship he wouldn’t acknowledge) under titles like Outrageous adventures of baron Munchausen that, in years to come, would became a classic in the genre of marvelous travels, in par with Gulliver or Crusoe.

munchausen One century and a half later, Raspe’s book was taken to stage, and throughout the following decades several films were made, the most relevant of which are a 1943 German production, a Czech animated version in 1961, this Russian movie for TV (Tot samyj Mjunkhgauzen), dated 1979, and an obscure Hollywood production from 1988 (Uma Thurman and Robin Williams in the cast). But, as I say, the Russian beats them all by a landslide, in every possible way: direction (by Mark Zakharov), scenography, interpretation and, most of all, the script: while the others, targeted to a children’s audience, barely reproduce some of the baron’s adventures, without aiming any further or deeper, Gorin’s script tells us a nicer, linear story meant for adults, and takes a more ambitious approach — though thankfully not pretentious, brilliantly playing with absurd or paradoxical ideas, more or less mindblowing, hilarious or dramatic, ultimately aimed to offer us a series of moral dilemmas. Continue »

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Konttori was the most celebrated nightclub in town,‭ ‬though certainly not the best, on top of overly priced:‭ ‬its long admission queue led the customers, past the bully bouncers, to a local ‬densely permeated by cigarette smoke,‭ ‬puddled with beer and carpeted in glass debris,‭ ‬with a narrow and stifling dance floor and the worst-tempered staff imaginable.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬inexplicably though it seemed to me,‭ ‬it was the chicks‭’ ‬favourite pick,‭ ‬and therefore also the guys’.‭ ‬After all,‭ ‬its reputation wasn’t altogether unjustified –‭ ‬or at least I used to get lucky there, my expectations were seldom disappointed.

That was my last night in Konttori. It was in fact my last night in town, as a few days later I was bound to leave the country for good.

‭Posted in one of the strategic corners,‭ ‬stout in hand,‭ ‬I was keeping a watch on the entrance door, checking on the  convex-gendered newcomers and on the chicks around, like a vulture in check for a prey. Continue »

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Capricho musical

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